Why put bike lanes on Cascade?

Update: Here is a printer friendly version of this flyer if you’d like to make copies and distribute yourself.

We were grateful to the Gazette for hosting a panel on bike lanes and giving those of us who are skeptical more of a venue to discuss the issue. But of course an hour discussion isn’t enough time to address every factor, and there are a lot of points we feel the City still hasn’t explained or, in some cases, acknowledged. This graphic is a summary of some of those points. You can also share the graphic on Facebook from here.

1. <1% of Springs Commuters bike. US Census Data shows that 90% of springs commuters drive, about 1% use public transit, and less than 1% bike.

2. People don’t want to bike next to cars. The City of Colorado Springs published a report in February 2017 called “State of Bicycling in Colorado Springs.” Figure 16 of this report (page 37) summarizes the responses people gave when asked “Please indicate why you cannot or do not want to bicycle in Colorado Springs.” Of the top 6 reasons, 4 had to do with not wanting to bike next to cars:

  • Drivers are inattentive
  • I don’t want to bicycle close to cars
  • Speeding traffic
  • Too much traffic

The 2 remaining reasons were “There’s no safe routes to where I want to go” and “There’s no direct route to where I want to go.”

The City and cycling proponents claim more people don’t bike because Colorado Springs lacks connected bike infrastructure. But of the top reasons people say they don’t bike, “no direct route” was last. In fact even if we assume “no safe route” means “no bike amenities exist” as opposed to “on-street bike lanes don’t feel safe,” that still means people who don’t want to bike bring up not wanting to be next to cars 2.6X as often as they bring up not having sufficiently safe or connected bike infrastructure. See Figure 16 for the numbers.

Figure 16 reasons not to bike

3. Cascade is too busy for bike lanes. In the same report linked above, Figure 1 on page 18 shows the kind of bike amenities needed to attract people who are interested in cycling but concerned about safety. Cascade Avenue is currently 30 mph and sees approximately 8800 vehicles per day (according to City data presented by SOS North Nevada), meaning the recommended design would be a physically separated bike facility (not an on-street bike lane).

Figure 1 page 18 Cascade
Figure 1 from page 18 of “State of Bicycling in Colorado Springs” report.

In other words, the City’s own polling and report shows that people don’t bike primarily because they don’t want to bike next to cars, and that a road like Cascade is best suited to physically separated bike facilities, not on-street bike lanes. Yet the City put bike lanes directly on Cascade anyway and now claims this change will attract a substantial number of new cyclists.

4. If you build it, they still won’t come. As we’ve discussed before, even the top bicycling cities in the country don’t see a lot of cyclists. Bicycling.com ranked Seattle and San Francisco the #1 and #2 biking cities in the country for 2018. These cities have inherent advantages for cycling that Colorado Springs will never have, such as fewer square miles to cover (Seattle is about 87 square miles, SF is only 47, Colorado Springs is 195!) and better weather (Seattle sees one tenth the annual snowfall of Colorado Springs; SF sees zero snow). They also have significantly more built out bike infrastructure. Despite all these advantages, even in Seattle and San Francisco only about 3% of commuters bike (see US Census Data).

5. Cycling has decreased nationwide. Seattle bike commuting has hit a 10-year low. US Census Data similarly shows a 7-year low for San Francisco. In fact US Census Data shows that nationwide bike commuters as a percent of total commuters have seen zero net growth since 2008 and in fact has been decreasing since 2013. (To view this info, go here and search for table B08301 for the United States; you have to view the table separately for each year, with data available from 2006 through 2017.)

6. Cascade was already safe before bike lanes. CS Indy gave an extensive report on 2018 traffic fatalities in Colorado Springs; Cascade was not on the list. The City’s “State of Bicycling in Colorado Springs” report (linked in #2 above) listed bicycle crashes and bicycle injuries per mile in Table 3 on page 28. Cascade had the fewest crashes per mile and had fewer total bicycle crashes and fewer bicycle crashes resulting in injury than Nevada had. And as we’ve discussed for a long time now, Colorado College’s own data shows that risks to pedestrians crossing at Cascade are exceedingly low. The City frequently brings up safety as the reason for narrowing Cascade and, separately, for adding on-street bike lanes, but the reality is that Cascade was not dangerous to begin with in general, and that cyclists would be safer on roads with less traffic (such as Tejon, which already has blocks of bike lanes to the south that could have been connected to go further north).

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