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Boulder's Big Bike Experiment

With words like “right sizing” and “road diets” Boulder’s latest Living Laboratory project sounds like the next fast food fad. But no, it’s the controversial new plan to remove vehicle lanes from several major four-lane roads and convert them into extra large bikes lanes that is coining those phrases.

Introduced in 2013, the Living Laboratory project was created with the intent “to help people of all ages and abilities to increase their trips by bicycling, walking, and riding the bus.” They are basically doing real life experiments on the roadways in the hopes of finding the easiest and most effective ways to get around in Boulder. Part of the evaluation is YOUR input. Each “experiment”, or facility treatment as they call it, has a duration of 12 to 18 months and within that time they will be collecting qualitative and quantitative analysis involving feedback from the community that uses and is affected by it. If the project works it will then become adopted as permanent.

Sounds great right? The controversy lies in the increase in traffic from outlying communities such as Gunbarrel, Broomfield, Longmont, and beyond where people are now forced to live as Boulder’s residential limit is reached and the housing becomes more and more scarce. Taking away two full lanes from some of the most traveled roads in Boulder - Folsom Street which just finished, Iris Avenue which starts in August, and 63rd Street scheduled for September - causes concern for bigger traffic buildups and an even longer rush hour commute. In addition, city transportation planners say that it will make bike travel safer and more appealing for older people, women, and families with children which begs the question ‘Is that demographic going to make a difference in reducing traffic, especially during rush hour, by riding bikes?’

Local resident Jon Balas, according to the Daily Camera, says “If you know how to be a cyclist on the road and educate yourself, it's safe.” However adding a wider lane doesn’t necessarily equal teaching safety or educating people to be better bikers.

Yet the argument is that more people will ride their bikes to work if the bicycle lanes were made safer and wider, giving bikers more confidence to share the road with traffic. The hope is that it will decrease the amount of cars on the road and increase alternative modes of transportation. Transportation planners say that it should reduce vehicle crashes as well since they will be adding a shared turn lane in the middle as opposed to turning left from the lane of traffic as it currently stands.

The re-striping of the roads has begun. Be sure to voice your opinion and help shape the future of Boulder’s roads. To share your experience with the Folsom Street Living Lab, email Council@BoulderColorado.gov. We'd also love to know your thoughts and if it has affected you, either positively or negatively, so drop us a line on our Facebook page with your story. 

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