The following Guest Opinion by Community Cycles Executive Director Sue Prant was published in the Daily Camera on October 1, 2022.
On September 15th, Boulder City Council voted no to streets for people and yes to private automobiles by reversing the street closure of west Pearl. This from a city council where 8 of the 9 members ran on a reformist platform of making Boulder safer and more pleasant for people who walk and ride bikes, consistent with our Transportation Master Plan’s direction to “prioritize the pedestrian.” Council received more than 600 emails supporting the closure.
But there is an opportunity for Council to redeem itself and to live up to campaign promises. It is a situation that is much more deadly than west Pearl.
As Martha Roskowski’s op-ed on September 22nd laid out, CU and its partner Limelight are proposing to route large numbers of motor vehicles across an existing unsignalized crossing of the Broadway multi-use path at Grandview on University Hill as part of construction of a conference center.
Limelight’s own study says that auto crossings of the path at Grandview will go from 70 a day to 150 to 175 peak-hour crossings and a total of 1150 per day, a 16-fold increase. This is a potential serious conflict almost every 20 seconds with the many path users who use this vital connection.
Community Cycles has been working on this issue for quite some time, including a letter to Council alerting them of this deadly situation.
On June 14th, Community Cycles staff and volunteers along with representatives from the city’s Planning and Transportation Advisory Boards, Council members Matt Benjamin and Bob Yates, city Transportation and Planning staff and CU and Limelight representatives toured the site. At that time, and during the ensuing months, Community Cycles has continued to make suggestions on how to make accessing the new CU Conference Center safer. The solution to this issue is actually rather simple. CU and Limelight could use the signaled intersection at University to access 13th street, directly in front of the conference center entrance. Vehicles accessing the new hotel garage could continue north on 13th directly into the garage.
But so far CU and Limelight have rejected this solution. According to a recent Daily Camera article, construction on the conference center is set to begin before the end of the year. This project has a long list of negotiations and long-standing memoranda of understanding between CU and the city that limit Transportation and Planning staff’s ability to make any substantive changes at the site. It seems pretty clear that the only answer to this is political.
That’s where Boulder City Council comes in. To be fair, Council members Matt Benjamin and Rachel Friend stood up for the west Pearl street closure. We would expect them to do the same if this Grandview crossing on the Broadway bike path came before council. But the fact is these CU projects aren’t like regular development projects- they don’t need to go before the Planning Board or Council. There is no process–zero!– for public input, and yet decisions are being made about public streets that affect public safety.
Community Cycles is calling on Council to step in, assert the City’s control over its own streets, and force CU and Limelight to relocate the main conference center entrance to University. Council, this is your opportunity to show you do, in fact, support bicycle and pedestrian safety.
Someone will be killed if we allow 1150 private automobiles a day – many driven by out of town conference goers who aren’t used to seeing people biking and walking in large numbers- to cross one of the city’s busiest paths at an unsignalized intersection on a downhill grade, all while trying to merge onto one of our city’s busiest streets, Broadway.
Council, it is your job to, at the very minimum, keep us safe. Recently you have shown little vision for freeing Boulder from its deference to the automobile. The least you can do is try to prevent us from getting killed as we walk or bike on the paths you encourage us to use.
For the rest of us, if you’d like to voice your opposition to this deadly crossing of the Broadway bike path, please sign the petition at https://actionnetwork.org/
Executive Director, Community Cycles