Construction is anticipated to begin in late September to improve cyclist safety at certain busy intersections across the City, which will soon become components in the east-west oriented cycling route known as the Pitkin Bikeway.
Minor street closures and delays are expected to occur during the construction, which will be complete by the end of November. Intersections affected will be Taft Hill Road at Clearview Drive, Shields Street at Springfield Drive and Pitkin Street, College Avenue at Pitkin Street, and Lemay Avenue at Pitkin and Lory Streets.
Tessa Greegor, manager for the City’s bicycling-advocacy program FC Bikes, said that several of the affected intersections receive notable bicycle traffic from Colorado State University faculty, staff and students.
The project, which will include new bicycle lanes, dedicated traffic signals for bicyclists, new road striping and sidewalk modifications, intends to help bicyclists cross heavy-traffic streets with greater ease and comfort. It will follow the plan laid out in the 2014 City of Fort Collins Bicycle Master Plan, which intends to help the City accommodate an increasing population of bicyclists and is in effect until the year 2020.
Via the Bicycling Master Plan, the City intends for one in five people to ride a bike by the year 2020, yet for there to be fewer bicycle-related crashes than today.
Greegor said the improvements are intended to connect low-stress streets into a network that will encourage cycling and help make crossing high-traffic roads safer. The Bicycle Master Plan defines low-stress streets as low-speed and low-volume streets with comfortable crossings, paved trails and protected bike lanes.
Some of the intersections, such as those at Lemay and Shields, do not currently have any type of traffic signal, which Greegor said acts as a “major barrier” to those interested in traveling by bicycle.
“Watching people (crossing) at that intersection without a light is pretty scary … it’s not a safe-looking thing for people to be doing,” Greegor said.
According to a report by the City’s Traffic Operations division, 80 percent of bike crashes occur at intersections or driveways. There have been on average 4,005 reported traffic crashes each year in Fort Collins, out of which bike crashes make up 4 percent, or about 160 per year.
The bikeway project manager, Dan Woodward, said the intersection improvements are part of an effort by the City to get more people to ride bicycles around town.
“We are basically just trying to reach that interested-but-concerned rider who isn’t necessarily comfortable riding on arterial streets, but is still interested in biking around town,” Woodward said.
The new lanes at the intersections on Taft Hill, Shields, and Lemay will follow a “toucan” design, which are so named because the lanes are intended to make crossings easier for both pedestrians and bicyclists so that those “two can” safely cross at the same time.
Another safety measure Greegor said that the plan incorporates is the introduction of traffic-calming strategies. The bikeway project will restrict the options of vehicles exiting the minor streets that the bikeway crosses, allowing only right turns in order to reduce potential conflicts with bicyclists and pedestrians.
“One of the advantages with this design is we’re not setting up any conflict points (with traffic),” Greegor said.
The project will be mainly funded through the Transportation Alternatives Plan federal grant, which will provide $593,000, and the remaining 30 percent of the funding will come from the local Building on Basics Bicycle Plan Implementation funds, for a grand total of $901,250 for the improvements. Building on Basics is a community capital improvement plan passed in April 2015 that dedicates a 10-year quarter cent tax renewal to community improvement efforts and supports affordable housing and sidewalk improvements in addition to bicycling infrastructure and intersection improvements.
According to those involved with the project, the City’s efforts to better the road for bicyclists are ongoing, despite Fort Collins having already been designated a Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists each year since 2003.
“We will have an initial network by 2020, however this plan is also a long plan for a full build that goes far beyond 2020,” Greegor said. “Fort Collins is one of five platinum-level bicycling communities… and it’s been working to improve conditions for cyclists since the ‘70s and ‘80s.”