Good Idea: A Bike Path Between Denver and Boulder

2009 October 27
by David Schlichter

(10/30/09: See important update at bottom)

It goes without saying that The Good Life Denver supports Denver’s efforts to decrease its environmental impact and increase the use of more environmentally friendly methods of transportation.  We view bicycle use as a critical way to decrease our environmental impact, improve air quality, alleviate traffic, improve physical fitness, and save money.  Here in Denver, we have some pretty solid credibility when it comes to our active lifestyles and environmental values.  Denver was recently named the most active/athletic city in America by CNN Headline News and and 9th most sustainable city in America by the National Resources Defense Council.  Though we have a lot to be proud of, we shouldn’t settle with what we have achieved.

The environment, the economy, and public health are all three in states of emergency.  With these crises in mind, we propose the creation of a bicycle path between Denver and Boulder.  Yes, one can currently ride between Denver and Boulder, but to do so requires riding on dangerous roads with little to no shoulder and no bike lanes, sidewalks, and/or poorly maintained roads.  With both Denver and Boulder’s goals of becoming more environmentally friendly, attracting new residents, lowering the alarming recent incidences of pedestrians and bicyclists being hit by motorists, and maintaining our reputations as cities which support highly active lifestyles, why wouldn’t we create a bicycle path between the two cities?

When created, the path would be used for commuting and recreation.  Denver and Boulder are about 30 miles apart (depending on the route layout and biker skill, between 1.5-3 hrs), which is a perfect length for a 60-mile round-trip visit between the two cities.  Picture it: you grab a friend on a Saturday morning in Denver, ride traffic free to the Boulder Farmer’s Market, enjoy a nice lunch, pick up some fresh local produce, take in Pearl St., and, when you’re ready, ride back.  Or, if you’re too tired to ride back, thanks to RTD’s bike-n-Ride program, you can throw your bikes on the bus and catch a ride back.

Even better, currently RTD is planning its FasTracks expansion effort approved by voters in 2004, which includes the Northwest Rail Corridor, a commuter rail line extension to run between Denver and Boulder.  Cities all over the nation and the world use rail lines as prime locations for new bicycle paths, and Denver and Boulder should be no exception.  By pairing the bicycle path project with the FasTracks expansion, cyclists of all ability levels could feel comfortable on the ride as there would be many options for them to hop on a train if they feel tired.  The problem with this plan is that the FasTracks project has turned into a fiscal disaster, and future funding of the program is in jeopardy.

Most commuters would probably not commute between Denver and Boulder via bicycle in both directions; rather, they would choose to ride one-way either in the morning or afternoon and, thanks to the bus (or potential train), would take the bus for the other direction.  The really hardcore would commute both ways.  The dedicated bike path (not bike lanes or sidewalk–an actual bicycle path) between Denver and Boulder would be a great way to decrease traffic, improve air quality, improve safety, improve public health, save money, attract visitors and new residents, and improve Denver and Boulder’s reputations as highly active and green cities.

We’ve put in a call to Karen Morales, Public Invovement Liaison for the Northwest Rail Corridor expansion project, and we will let you know what she says.  In the mean time, we would love to hear your feedback.  Write a comment!

Proposed routes:

  • Along the proposed FasTracks Northwest Rail Corridor between Denver and Boulder
  • Along the southwest side (mountain views throughout the ride) of I-25 and US-36

10/30/09 update:

We’ve got Good news and bad news, and ways for you to turn the bad into Good.

The Good:  Karen Morales left us a message saying that a bike path is not a part of the FasTracks Northwest Rail Corridor project, but that there is a bikeway as part of the US-36 corridor project.  The bikeway is exactly the type of bikeway that we are advocating for, as it is dedicated, direct, safe, and alongside bus and lightrail stops.

The bad: The project is extraordinarily expensive and, according to CDOT, the project couldn’t happen until 2035–if at all.  CDOT applied for federal funding for the project in September, which would enable the project to move forward more quickly.

We, at The Good Life Denver, would love to see this project completed in the near future–not decades from now.  That is why we support the work of 36 Commuting Solutions, a nonprofit dedicated to enhancing mobility along the US-36 corridor

How you can get involved:

  • Submit a comment in favor of the design of the bikeway online or at a public meeting.  The Environmental Impact Study of the US-36 project was released today and now is followed by a 45-day public comment period.
  • Visit 36 Commuting Solutions’s Take Action page for ways to support the federal funding grant for the US-36 project.

Let’s make this Good idea a reality!

The Proposed US-36 Bikeway.

The Proposed US-36 Bikeway. Source:

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