Bike/car ‘sharrow’ lanes on fast track for Colorado Avenue
Idea came from Tim Leigh, now councilor-elect
Tim Leigh just got elected to City Council, but the city is already planning to implement an idea he'd offered earlier this year.
It's to turn the right-hand lanes of Colorado Avenue into “sharrow” lanes - meaning they must be shared with people on bikes.
According to Nick Kittle, the city's public works team leader, the change will likely become visible within 60 days, when city crews paint sharrow symbols - 3 ½-by-8-foot in size - onto the pavement at 250-foot intervals between intersections. “It looks like it's going forward,” he said.
Sharrow lanes are allowed by state law (approved by the state Legislature two years ago), but these would become the first in Colorado Springs.
Leigh sees his plan as providing multiple benefits - improving safety on a route that is commonly used by cyclists, appealing to younger people in general and giving the city a “bicycle-friendly” aspect before the state's international bike race in which Colorado Springs will host the Prologue event Aug. 22.
Leigh's entire planned route actually starts at Union Boulevard (next to Memorial Park, where the street is Pikes Peak Avenue). It was to continue through the Westside into Manitou Springs. However, Manitou City Planner Dan Folke said this week that the city has “declined to participate,” for lack of right of way and a preference for cyclists to use itscreekside trail.
Neither Public Works nor Leigh had contacted prominent Westside entities, such as the Historic District Merchants of Old Colorado City business group(HDM), the Old ColoradoCity Security & Maintenance District or the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN).“I can't go to every meeting,”Leigh said, when asked about it. His own philosophy,which he's shared during the political campaign, includes a concern that issues can be over-studied, thus stifling action. Besides, he added of the ColoradoAvenue sharrow, “Everybody loves this idea.”
This opinion was supported by interviews this week with Bernideen Canfield, the HDM director; and Jim Heikes, chair of the district advisory committee.
An opposing view was found in talking to OWN President Welling Clark. He was not happy that the city was going forward without having discussed the plan with neighborhood groups along the route (such as OWN). “Nobody talked to the people who would be affected by it,” he said. In addition, Clark pointed out that Pikes Peak Avenue (paralleling Colorado) has long been the city-designated bikeway through the Westside and suggested that putting a sharrow on Colorado Avenue would just lead to traffic congestion.
Canfield, when she heard about the idea for the first time (from the Pioneer), responded, “Wow, that's interesting, I'm all for it. If it's good for tourism, it's good for everybody.” Another plus, she said, would be if the sharrows slow avenue traffic down “that would get truckers back on Highway 24.”
Heikes offered the hope that sharrow lines would help get cyclists off the Old Colorado City sidewalks. “It's terrible, with them and the skateboards,” he said.
According to Kittle, how soon the sharrows get painted onto the avenue in Colorado Springs depends on Leigh. The newly elected councilmember has been “selling” sharrow shares (199 in all) for $106 each. His plan is to raise $21,094 that way - an amount the city will match with $18,000 worth of labor, equipment and materials.
Leigh said this week he now has “about $8,000 in the bank,” but has verbal commitments from about 200 people. “I'm just waiting for the money to come in,” he told the Pioneer April 6. “Say good things so we can raise the rest of the money.”
Leigh's proposal is actually not the first sharrow plan to come forward in Colorado Springs. A $110,000 plan, including a 20 percent match from city funds, to put sharrow lanes on West Uintah Street has been wending its way through bureaucratic channels for close to three years.
According to interviews with Leigh and Kittle, the way that the Colorado Avenue sharrow plan has gone from dream to nearreality so quickly started with Leigh calling Kittle and telling him what he envisioned. For Kittle, it was “good timing,” he said. “We were having a discussion with the city bicycle advisory committee about applying for a grant for sharrows. I told Tim it would be an acceptable route and meets the need of what we want to do.”
The bike committee agreed, and the above-described funding arrangements were worked out between Kittle and Leigh.
While Leigh has been fundraising, Kittle and other staffers have been meeting with the city's bicycle committee to fine-tune the plan and develop an “education campaign,” as Kittle put it. “People are going to see these [sharrow symbols on the pavement], and they've never seen them before. We want to get the word out.”
Also, Kittle recently drove the avenue to verify that sharrow lanes would be safe. He was impressed by the number of cyclists. “I saw people riding on the sidewalk, in a ditch, in the middle of the lane, all over the map,” he said. “A sharrow says this is the path you should be riding in. We have to make it friendly for everyone.”
Leigh, a real-estate agent who has built homes on the Westside and raised a family here, first brought up the idea in January when he was an announced mayoral candidate. He later decided to seek an at-large council seat, saying he didn't need to be in the top chair to move his ideas forward.
But he also indicated in talking to the Pioneer that the sharrow idea came to him because of his interest in recreational cycling and his experience with the sometimes-tight space between moving cars and parked cars while pedaling along Colorado Avenue. Speaking before the election, Leigh said it didn't matter if he won - he would still work on the plan. “This isn't about Tim Leigh,” he said. “This is about the community.”
Westside Pioneer article