BOULDER, Colo. — New physical barriers separating bike from vehicle lanes in Boulder have been installed along a busy stretch of roadway in what the city described as the first of its kind to be implemented in the United States.
The tall concrete curbs installed along a protected bike lane on Baseline Road between 30th Street and Foothills Parkway provide a physical barrier between vehicle and bicycle traffic.
"We certainly have a beautiful network of off-street bike paths, but that was sort of low hanging fruit. It’s expensive. We are now really getting to the point where we think drivers and the city as a whole are ready to sort of share the space," said Tila Duhaime with the City of Boulder's Transportation Advisory Board.
The tall curbs replaced stripped barriers and were decorated by local artist Talia Swartz Parsell, the city announced.
“The designs are vibrant, abstract paintings that reflect Colorado’s mountainous landscape along with local native flower and butterfly species,” artist Talia Swartz Parsell said in the news release. “Each of the curb sections transitions from morning to night, with the color and light of each painting reflecting this change. My hope was to bring more color, vibrancy and nature back to this concrete corridor and hopefully beautify people’s commute.”
The transformation is part of phase one of Boulder’s Baseline Road Transportation Safety Project which aims to enhance safety protections for pedestrians, cyclists and motorists.
"When you just have a strip of paint to separate you from fast moving traffic, that's very dangerous," said Mike Mills, a member of the Community Cycles Advisory Board.
Boulder crash data showed there have been 18 crashes involving bicyclists at the intersection of Baseline Rd. and 32nd St. since the start of 2017.
Liana Bradley has noticed the new barriers are slowing traffic, yet creating more noise for her neighborhood.
"I've noticed a lot more honking on our street. And I've been frustrated just turning right out of my street," said Bradley.
Alexis Foster, who lives nearby, said she is worried the new design may cause crashes, not deter them.
"You have to come to basically a complete stop to make that turn because it's so sharp now," said Foster.
However, cycling safety advocates said forcing drivers to slow down can save a life when sharing the road.
"I'm hoping that the basic idea that there is room for everyone, and it can be comfortable for everyone, whatever mode you're on, should be sort of the standard design for the city," said Duhaime.
Phase one of the project has moved forward with city funding and Boulder expects to expand safety enhancements along busy Baseline Road with a second phase of improvements in 2024 with federal funding.
The $3.2 million in additional federal funding would further enhance safety from 30th street to Foothills Parkway with more bike lane protection, upgraded pedestrian crossings and floating bus islands, the city said.
Boulder is implementing the tall concrete curbs based upon similar designs in Toronto.
Along with the new curbs, the project will enhance other bike lanes with flexible posts, striped buffers and green bike lane markings.
Baseline Road in Boulder is one of the city’s most-traveled roadways and has a higher number of injury crashes when compared to other streets, the city said.
As Boulder moves into phase two of the project it is seeking input from the community on potential designs.