Slower going for Westside sharrow lanes
City Council wants second look; Bicycle Advisory Committee likes plan for 30th Street but not Colorado Avenue
The brakes were applied twice this week, at least slightly, to City Engineering staff's plans to begin stamping sharrow markings on two Westside streets in May.
First, Scott Hente, City Council's new president under the “strong mayor” charter change, said April 26 he wanted the matter to come back before council at its May 9 meeting. Before that announcement, staff had been planning that same day to install their first sharrows and kick off a “media campaign,” Nick Kittle, city public works team lead, informed council April 25.
But Hente said he wanted to hold off to see how the public process is going, including a May 2 public meeting on sharrows set up by Engineering with the Council of Neighbors and Organizations (CONO) and the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN) Also upcoming is a May 3 meeting of the Citizens Transportation Advisory Board (CTAB).
Kittle's announced implementation schedule additionally called for sharrows to be marked May 16 on 30th Street from Colorado Avenue to Centennial Boulevard and May 30 from Prospect Lake along Pikes Peak/Colorado Avenue up to 30th Street .
The goal, Kittle said, was to have the markings in before June, because that is Bicycle Month. It is not known now if those dates will be met.
Sharrows, also known as “shared lane markings” or “shared travel lanes,” would be in keeping with state and national laws allowing a double-arrow with a bike symbol to be stamped at intervals in righthand traffic lanes on selected streets, with the point of the arrow 4 feet from the right edge of the road or the nearest parking space. Sharrows are supported by many cyclists because they clarify their legal right to that part of the lane, explained Al Brody, a long-time leader in the local cycling community.
Hente's comments came after council discussed sharrows at its April 25 and 26 meetings - although it was not on the agenda either time - and heard conflicting reports about the public process and review actions by city advisory boards. On April 25, Kittle told council that CTAB had “basically supported” the sharrow plan, but on April 26 CTAB member Dave Munger said the group had never voted on it. Munger was also peeved because Kittle's initial misinformation about CTAB had caused City Councilmember Bernie Herpin to criticize the body for not spreading the word to neighborhood groups.
Munger's comments regarding process also didn't square with Kittle's. The public works chief told council April 25 that the May 2 meeting is part of a concerted “public outreach” by the city and neighborhood groups, but Munger (also president of CONO) said he believes there are several outstanding questions. While asserting that he approves of the sharrow concept, he told council, “I don't think May 9 is achievable. There are a lot of uninformed citizens.”
The second application of “brakes” on the sharrow project occurred at the April 26 Bicycle Advisory Committee (BAC) meeting, which endorsed the plan for a 30th Street sharrows (initiated by Engineering) but not for Colorado Avenue (initiated by now-City Councilmember and regular cyclist Tim Leigh). The general attitude of the committee, which is advisory to CTAB, was that 30th Street meets the sharrow criteria by being a key north-south bicycle commuter route with a speed limit under 35 mph and no room for a traditional bike lane.
Colorado Avenue, on the other hand, was described as too busy a street to really work well with sharrows, although Tim Roberts of City Engineering argued for it because of the connectivity with 30th Street and the number of cyclists who ride Colorado.
Dave Krauth of Traffic Engineering said that the main reason the city had begun planning to sharrow the avenue was because Leigh had pledged to raise about half the costs.
A surprise at the BAC meeting was provided by Brody, who has a lead role in the sharrow media campaign. He said that based on information he had, he wasn't expected to start the campaign until June 1 (after the first sharrow stampings were in) and even then it was only geared for 30th Street. This account contrasted with what Kittle had said at council, that his team was close to starting a publicity effort, but the local media had started writing about it before he had a chance. (Leigh commented that it was probably his fault for spreading the word on his own. “I was looking for more expedience than process,” he said.)
Speaking at the BAC meeting, Jan Doran, former CONO president, criticized city staff for not working with area citizens. “I'm very troubled by the lack of process,” she said. “If you lay down markings and then go educate people, you're asking for trouble.”
She also had no sympathy for the city's complaint about the media. “We should have been out ahead of the media,” she said. “I hope at the May 2 meeting you will maybe say you put the cart before the horse and now you want to hear what the citizens have to say.”
Munger also spoke to the BAC, concluding with several questions that he thinks need to be answered before the sharrows go in. Two of these were how the markers “fit into the city's strategic vision for transportation” and “is this the best way to use the city's limited resources?”
According to staff, the costs for the 30th Street sharrows are to be covered by funds from the city's $4-per-new-bicycle fee and a Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) grant. The Colorado Avenue work is to be funded by Leigh's fundraising and city “in-kind” contributions (materials and labor).
In answer to a question, Krauth said staff will monitor how the markings are working after they go in.
Krauth said that putting in sharrow markings on streets is much the same as painting school-crossing symbols in school zones - which he said his staff did without public complaint four years ago. He disagreed with an audience member's suggestion that the placement of sharrows will encourage more cyclists to ride farther in from the road's edge than they do now.
During the council discussion April 25, newly elected Councilmember Lisa Czelatdko (who represents District 3, which includes much of the Westside) praised staff for its efforts in reaching out to the public. “I'm looking forward to the May 2 meeting to have this wonderful dialog,” she said.
Westside Pioneer article