Mystery sharrows on avenue explained
About three weeks ago, the Traffic Division of the local Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) office installed three sharrow markings on either side of Colorado Avenue between Ridge and Columbia roads.
But nobody else knew about it, not even Dave Watt, CDOT's resident engineer for this area.
So when a citizen asked government authorities this week why a sharrow - a double-arrow with a bike symbol - was stamped into that particular part of the roadway, the better part of a day went by before the answer emerged.
The city, which covers the incorporated areas on most of the north side of that part of the avenue, denied having done it. So did the county, which takes in the unincorporated areas on most of the south side.
That left it to the state, which has maintenance responsibility for the road itself... or else a rogue group working “under cover of darkness,” as one official half-seriously suggested.
As it turned out, the markings, which clarify a bike's legal right to share a traffic lane, were installed because that part of Colorado is the gap between two segments of the Midland Trail. Explaining the Traffic Division's rationale, Watt said. “We're trying to let motorists know that cyclists may be using the road there and to give a little direction to cyclists as to where the trail connects again.”
Although he didn't know about the work, officials in the division actually got the idea from Watt, he pointed out. He said he had talked to them about it after some citizens suggested the idea during side conversations at a recent public meeting on what's called the Westside Avenue Action Plan (which will guide future reconstruction of the avenue west of 31st Street).
The question never actually came up for group discussion at an action-plan meeting, he agreed.
Welling Clark, president of the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN), said he was disappointed about the lack of public process. “The public needs a say in what happens to them,” he said.
Clark plans to go to his board “for advice and a recommendation.” He cited a survey on the subject done last year by OWN, the city-recognized advocacy group for the older Westside. The survey responses showed strong support for separating bikes from cars as much as possible - for example, Pikes Peak Avenue instead of the busier Colorado Avenue - but “sharrows encourage bicyclists to ride where the markings are,” he said.
What will happen to the Columbia-to-Ridge sharrows long-term is unknown. The west-of-31st project, expected to start in 2015 with funding from the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority (RTA), could have marked bike lanes for that stretch, based on staff proposals; and RTA funds will cover the completion of the Midland Trail.
Westside Pioneer article