Riding a Bike Shouldn’t Be a Scary Proposition
Last year, as he was biking home from work, two cars struck a Denver bicyclist at the intersection of West 26th Avenue and Wadsworth Boulevard. The bicyclist was wearing a helmet, which probably saved his life. But his injuries left him permanently unable to move his lower body or hands. In February 2019, a Colorado jury awarded that rider more than $52 million, one of the largest civil judgments in the state’s history.
According to a report on Colorado Public Radio, many Denverites are interested in bicycling around the city but fear having to share the road with speeding vehicles that would be a little too close for comfort. But last year, Avi Stopper and other bicyclists came up with an idea to take the stress out of city cycling: the Bike Streets Project.
Low Traffic, Low Speed, Low Stress, Fewer Accidents
To encourage biking, the Bike Streets Project provides a “low-stress” bike map that features low-traffic, low-speed side streets in Denver. Stopper wants to stop your stress, not your excitement.
“The idea is to turn your adrenaline rush from riding on big arterial streets into an endorphin rush, a really wonderful, pleasurable experience where you’re riding on these low-stress streets. You’re experiencing the neighborhoods around you and you don’t have to be an incredibly competent bicyclist to do it.”
To test the map, Stopper biked to 12th Avenue and Clayton Street in the Congress Park neighborhood of Denver. Traditional bike maps would suggest riding down 12th Avenue, which is marked by sharrows (shared-lane markings on roads to be shared by motorists and cyclists). But Stopper believes that arterial streets are uncomfortable for most bicyclists, especially inexperienced ones. So the Bike Streets map recommends heading south to 11th Avenue, a quieter street.
Red Is for Walk, Green Is for Trails
According to KDVR, Colorado “is ranked sixth in the nation for bike-friendly states.” But many Denver streets are narrow, and bike lanes and city-endorsed bike routes often run alongside car traffic. For many bikers, the worry of being involved in a car-bicycle accident keeps them off the bike altogether. So they ride on sidewalks–even though, as in many other metropolitan areas, in Denver it is often illegal to ride a bicycle on the sidewalk.
Regular bike commuters may not mind the mixed traffic, but casual riders often won’t take the chance.
Now the Bike Streets map offers these riders color-coded guidance to the easier-going alternatives. Red means sidewalks you can walk your bike on; green means bike and park trails, with little automobile traffic; blue means side streets and bike lanes; purple means sidewalks where bike riding is allowed; black means standard bike lanes plus high automobile traffic.
Stopper knows that the map is no substitute for improvements in bike infrastructure. And he doesn’t expect experienced cyclists comfortable with busy traffic to change their routes. But he also knows that “the vast majority of the population is never going to ride on big arterial streets.”