North Broadway Reconstruction: An Open Letter to the Transportation Advisory Board

Dear members of the Transportation Advisory Board,

I live in the Holiday Neighborhood, and have been following the planning process for the North Broadway Reconstruction Project as it draws to a close. I attended the city’s public open house on the project in early June, and have several concerns that I hope you will pursue with city transportation staff during your July 8th meeting.

While the current plans for North Broadway improve some conditions for people who walk, bike, and access the bus along this corridor, they do not go far enough to meet Boulder’s ambitious transportation and climate goals. If we want to provide viable alternatives to private car travel, this project – and any that follow it – must do better.

Throughout the planning process, transportation staff have heard about bicycle infrastructure from members of the bicycle advocacy community. As someone who rides frequently in this corridor, I echo their concerns. When I made a serious commitment to substitute biking for car trips 18 months ago, I knew very little about safe street design. I rode in the existing 4-foot wide painted bike lanes without realizing how dangerous they are. But over time, I have used them less and less, choosing instead to ride on the sidewalk, or on longer, meandering routes on quieter streets. I avoid Broadway entirely when pulling a child trailer, and I can’t imagine allowing my children to bike there until they are approaching adulthood. When I do muster the courage to ride in Broadway’s bike lanes, it’s often because I feel the need to make a statement: people on bikes deserve to be here. But a sustainable transportation plan cannot expect this level of dedication from casual riders – the very people our goals depend on activating.

The street design preferred by city transportation staff takes small steps to address bicycle safety, but does not eliminate the primary dangers. The portion of Broadway being reconstructed is identified as part of Boulder’s ‘Low Stress Walk and Bike Network’, which envisions connecting destinations with low traffic/low speed streets, or protected bike and pedestrian corridors. A plan with slightly wider on-street lanes with painted buffers makes a mockery of this concept. People riding bikes southbound will remain directly adjacent to car traffic as it enters town and speeds downhiil, while the northbound bike lane sits in the door zone of on-street parking (which already reduces visibility for drivers entering the street). If Broadway is intended to be a low stress route, bicycle riders should have physical protection or separation from car traffic.

Broadway is also an important transit corridor, and most adjacent neighborhoods participate in the RTD Neighborhood EcoPass program. In the Holiday Neighborhood alone, all 336 households receive EcoPasses through the master HOA. Many residents ride the bus regularly, and we could encourage more to do so by making area bus stops – particularly those serving inbound routes – safer and more inviting. I am disappointed that the reconstruction plans do not mention any specific improvements for riders. At present, none of the bus stops in the corridor have lighting, seating, or shelter. As a woman and caretaker for young children, these facilities would make my wait for the bus more comfortable. And they would certainly improve the experience for other riders. To be fair, city staff did not rule out such improvements, but it’s concerning that they are not included at this late stage in the planning process.

As a resident of the neighborhood, I obviously have a personal interest in the outcome of this project. But I’m also concerned that the North Broadway reconstruction will set a precedent for transportation investment citywide. Even with a healthy budget, it will take decades to build the transit, bike, and pedestrian infrastructure required to meet Boulder’s transportation and climate goals. Given the city’s current shortfalls and maintenance backlog, we shouldn’t expect a second chance to get it right in any given place. Many newer developments in North Boulder have the population density to support walking, biking, and transit use, and residents are generally receptive to these mobility choices. So if we fail to construct North Broadway to the standard of green and people-centered transportation we claim to value, we are missing a singular opportunity. I can’t imagine it will be easier elsewhere.

I appreciate your support for community and environmental values in Boulder’s transportation policies, and hope you will continue to prioritize them as you review this project.