John from Denver writes, “What's driving you crazy? At the westbound Third Avenue stop sign where Rio Grande meets Osage, there’s a bike lane and a parking lane on the right but everyone thinks it’s a turn lane so you have a bunch of people that have the right blinker on that use that lane and then you have others that don’t use that lane so you end up with this awkward two cars trying to turn right almost having accidents. It drives me crazy that there isn’t a sign that says not a right turn lane or that they don’t just make it a right turn lane. Over the 15 months I’ve been using that commute, I’ve never once seen anybody on a bike.”
That section of 3rd Ave., between Kalamath Street and Osage Street/Rio Grande Street is one of many Denver streets that have been transformed to accommodate a bike lane. The problem here is the way the city marked the new bike lane along westbound 3rd Ave. The bike lane is situated in a way to allow for cars to park next to the curb. That puts bike traffic between parked cars and one lane of vehicle traffic. Incidentally, parking is not allowed on the eastbound side of 3rd Ave., only the westbound side.
After watching the intersection for a couple of hours on two different days, I believe the problem mostly stems from drivers who ignore the roadway markings and cross over the bike lane to make the right-hand turn. That leaves a space open for drivers who are using the right lane correctly to be in the position to be in conflict with the other driver.
Drivers turning right should use the one through lane on 3rd Ave., stop at the sign at Osage and then make that right turn when safe to do so. I do think it would help if the city painted ‘no parking’ stripes on the westbound side of 3rd Ave. between the “No Parking Any Time” sign and the intersection at Osage to make it clear drivers shouldn’t be turning there. The ‘no parking’ stripes are painted on the eastbound side of 3rd Ave east of Rio Grande. Only drivers who are going to a curb parking space or bus drivers merging over to accommodate passengers at the bus stop just before Osage are permitted to cross the bike lane lines.
I asked the city about this turn and Nancy Kuhn, the marketing and communications director for Denver’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure told me, “The fix might be to add signage that clarifies that is a parking lane on the far right, or eliminate parking on that approach to the corner. It’s on the radar for an engineer to take a look.”
The really perplexing issue here is that while a bike lane was painted on both sides of 3rd Ave. between Kalamath and Rio Grande/Osage, there are no other bike lanes on any of the streets that connect to this section of 3rd Ave., nor in the immediate area— not on Kalamath, not on any other part of 3rd Ave. east or west of this one, not on Osage nor on Rio Grande.
“Over the next year, DOTI is evaluating both current and proposed bike facilities to ensure alignment around the city’s most recent design standards,” Kuhn said.
As the city expands the number of bike lanes, it would help drivers if the city made street markings clearer to follow for all users. I see a similar issue turning right from northbound Lincoln Street onto 7th Ave. The way the city painted the new bike lane, the right turn is very sharp if a driver follows the lane markings as laid out. One other thing to keep in mind— while there may be only few bike riders who use that section of 3rd Ave., (I saw one during my time there) keep an eye out for one as you make that turn, especially if they want to continue west on 3rd Ave.
By the way, DOTI is asking the public to weigh in on the current bike infrastructure as they continue to build and expand it. You can share your comments and ideas on an interactive map featuring both existing and proposed bikeways. This is an opportunity to offer specific insights on locations and infrastructure improvements. The online survey is open through December 15, 2023.
Denver7 Traffic Expert Jayson Luber says he has been covering Denver-metro traffic since Ben-Hur was driving a chariot. (We believe the actual number is over 25 years.) He's obsessed with letting viewers know what's happening on their drive and the best way to avoid the problems that spring up. Follow him on Facebook,Twitter or Instagram or listen to his Driving You Crazy podcast on any podcast app including iTunes, iHeartRadio, Spotify and Podbean.