Almost a year after a scathing audit of Denver’s plan to expand bike lanes to improve mobility around the city, city government is committing more funding to the project.
The plan called Denver Moves was approved in 2011. At the time, it called for 270 more miles of bike lanes to be added to the existing 68. The estimated cost of the plan was $119 million.
But when the Denver Auditor checked in four years later in 2015, the city had only invested about $2.8 million and the city had only built 68 miles of new lanes.
“We had completed 26 percent of the goal with only two percent of the funding,” said Denver’s Urban Mobility Manager, Emily Snyder.
The audit said the city would never reach its goal without a better plan to fund the project. And a year after that audit, the city showed it was willing to invest more.
The 2016 budget included $2.2 million for Denver Moves, nearly double the amount spent in the plan’s first four years.
“Goals are supposed to be visionary they’re really setting that long term stretch – that vision that we want to see for the city so that we continue to push ourselves,” Synder said.
So far this year, the city built 10 miles of new lanes, with plans to complete another 10 before the end of the year. The original goal of Denver Moves was to increase the number of residents both biking and walking to work.
When the plan was conceived in 2011, six percent of people fell into that category – four percent walked, two percent biked.
Today, Snyder said, eight percent of people walk and bike to work: five percent walking, three percent biking. The original goal of the project is to encourage 15 percent total to bike and walk to work by 2020.
But Snyder said Denver Moves has been revised much since 2011. The plan now requires about 70 more miles of bike lanes.
Another change: the types of bike lanes. When the plan began, many of the new lanes planned were called “sharrows”, not a specific lane for bikes, but rather a small symbol which was meant to remind drivers they needed to share the road with bikes.
But as time went on, many users complained those lanes weren’t effective. So the city aimed to provide more protected bike lanes, where some sort of barrier exists between traffic and bikes.
The problem, those lanes are much more expensive, causing the implementation to take longer.
“An average bike lane costs $17,000 per mile,” Snyder said. “An average protected bike lane costs $400,000 per mile.”
Denver Moves also calls for all households to be within a quarter of a mile from a bike path that is easy to use. As of 2016, 53 percent of households are considered to be that close to a path.