Jeffco’s county commissioners will have to see a large public demand for bike lanes to be installed along West Bowles Avenue for them to take away any motor-vehicle traffic capacity in South Jeffco.
The commissioners heard a feasibility study last week on installing bike lanes along West Bowles from C-470 to Grant Ranch Boulevard, which is the last intersection before the eastern border of the county.
Adding bike lanes on Bowles was part of the bicycle-pedestrian plan approved by the commissioners in 2012. The county’s transportation department determined that bike lanes on West Bowles would not significantly reduce traffic flow, even though lanes of traffic would have to be sacrificed in places.
Yet Commissioners Faye Griffin and Don Rosier expressed skepticism that reducing traffic capacity would be a wise decision. Casey Tighe was the only commissioner who commented positively about the proposal.
“I get really tired of the fact that bicyclists are telling us what to do with the roads that they don’t ever help pay for. You’re taking away from the capacity of cars that pay for the road,” Griffin said. “I don’t want the plan to be thrown out. I want it to be set aside and to look at another area.”
Rosier said he doubted the demand exists for bike lanes along Bowles. Bikers use Deer Creek Canyon Road now despite the high volume of car traffic there, Rosier said. He asked why Bowles should be any different.
“What I’m concerned with is that I hate the fact that we’re taking away from capacity,” Rosier said. “When you look at the situation, I rarely ever see anybody riding their bike along Bowles, if ever. So I have to ask, ‘What’s the problem statement?’ ”
Despite the negative reception from two commissioners, Rosier and Tighe voted to move forward with public discussions on the proposed plan.
Dave Evans, chairman of Bike Jeffco, an advocacy group that has worked with the county on its bike plan, was glad to hear the county was considering bike lanes on Bowles. He said lanes on Bowles would create an east-west corridor for both commuter and road bicyclists to travel.
And Evans said that a lack of bike traffic on Bowles at present doesn’t mean there isn’t demand for bike lanes.
“It’s six lanes of high-speed traffic. We have no safety protection on there right now,” Evans said. “Even the most avid enthusiast would think twice about riding a bike on Bowles.”
Evans said comparing Bowles to Deer Creek Canyon Road isn’t accurate, because motor vehicles on Deer Creek Canyon Road travel at much lower speeds. He also disagreed with Griffin’s comment that cyclists don’t pay for roads.
“Every cyclist I know owns at least two (motor) vehicles. We’re paying our fair share of taxes,” Evans said. “By using our bicycles, we’re using the road less, so we’re not wearing them out as much.”
Current traffic volume on Bowles
Current traffic volume on the six lanes of West Bowles ranges from 17,000 to 31,000 vehicles a day. The county’s study found that a six-lane road can handle about 46,000 vehicles a day. A four-lane road can handle about 35,000 vehicle trips a day.
The proposed bike lanes, which would take away a lane on certain sections of Bowles, would decrease westbound traffic flow only at Bowles and Wadsworth, and only during the peak afternoon hours, the county’s study predicts.
Jeffco Transportation and Engineering Director Kevin French said the county’s study used the Denver Regional Council of Governments’ projected 2035 traffic study and found that the projected demand could still be handled while allowing for bike lanes.
“We wouldn’t have even considered this idea if the numbers hadn’t worked out,” French said.
Adding the bike lanes
• C-470 to Zang Street and Wadsworth Boulevard to Pierce Street: Since these sections of Bowles currently have three 12-foot lanes in each direction, the county would reduce the lane widths by a foot and create a 4-foot-wide bike lane on one side of the road.
• Zang Street to Wadsworth: This section of Bowles has three 11-foot lanes in each direction. The county would remove one lane from each direction, creating a 4-foot-wide bike lane with a 5-foot buffer in each direction, leaving two 12-foot lanes of traffic in each direction.
The county’s bicycle-pedestrian plan did not allocate funds to build trails or make changes specified in the plan. The goal was to provide direction as to where streets could be made more pedestrian- and bicycle-friendly as road improvements are made.
Contact Ramsey Scott at email@example.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22, and follow him on Twitter @RamseyColumbine.