Denver to speed up development of 125 miles of bike lanes, adding high comfort bike facilities that will serve as “backbones” for future bike lane buildout, focusing on city core

Alayna Alvarez, Colorado Politics Jan 17, 2020 Updated Jan 20, 2020

By 2023, Denver plans to complete its development of 125 miles of bike lanes largely in the northwest and central Denver regions. 

Following a sluggish start, Denver is switching its bicycle program into high gear to help keep its promise of installing 125 miles of bike lanes by 2023.

Mayor Michael Hancock on Thursday announced the new three-pronged approach, alongside Denver Transportation and Infrastructure Director Eulois Cleckley.

The accelerated plan will coordinate striping bike lanes when streets are paved; install “high comfort” lanes that include physical barriers to separate cyclists from cars; and “significantly” expand the bike network in the city’s most densely populated areas, like northwest and central Denver, to increase the number of households within a quarter-mile of a high comfort bikeway.

Most of the new bike lanes will be “high comfort” lanes, as the city describes them, meaning they provide more separation between cyclists and cars with plastic posts, curbs or other treatments.

The 125-mile bikeway commitment aligns with Hancock’s Vision Zero initiative to end traffic deaths citywide. Last year marked the deadliest year on Denver streets since 2000.

The city currently has 196 total lane miles of on-street bike lanes, according to Heather Burke, a spokeswoman for the streets department. The new bike lanes will be funded in part by voter-approved bonds worth $18 million. Money from the city’s capital improvement program will also help.

Piep van Heuven, policy director at Bicycle Colorado and head of the Denver Streets Partnership, which advocates for better walking, biking and transit, applauded the mayor’s initiative. She compared Denver to Austin and New Orleans, which have committed to building around 70 miles of bike lanes in the same period of time. She also mentioned New York, which has committed to building 250 miles.

Infrastructure like this “saves lives,” she said.

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Hancock on Thursday said that the “reality is we’re ushering in the bicycle revolution in Denver, Colorado,” Denverite reported. “I grew up in the city. We didn’t have bike lanes. We rode our little Huffys without bike lanes, protected or striped. And today we get a chance to see a city committing to creating comfort lanes for people to ride their bikes.”

DOTI Speeds Up Implementation of its Bicycle Program With Bike Lane Buildout

Jan 16, 2020

High Comfort.

Safer Streets Save Lives.

Significant Buildout.

The phrases above aren’t just random words. 

To Denver’s new Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DOTI), they represent just some of the benefits of the rapid build-out of 125 miles of bike lanes by 2023.  The announcement was made January 16 at West 35th Avenue and Irving Street in Denver. Denver says: here’s how we’re going to do it:

  1. We’re going to coordinate striping bike lanes when we pave the streets.
  2. We’re going to add high comfort bike facilities that will serve as “backbones” for future bike lane buildouts.
  3. We’re going to focus on the city’s core.


Most of the bike lanes that will be installed by 2023 will be considered high comfort bike facilities.  Just take a look along West 35th Avenue in West Highland.  That local street is being transformed into a neighborhood bikeway, which are shared streets that we optimize for use by people traveling on two wheels and on foot.  These are streets with lower speeds and traffic volumes that we design to make riding a bike a comfortable option for all ages and abilities.


Some features of our neighborhood bikeways include new signage that designates the roadway as a neighborhood bikeway, pavement markings that orient bikes and remind vehicles that the road is shared, and roadway improvements that discourage speeding and makes the street safer for everyone.


A significant buildout of the bike network will occur in the city’s core where population densities are higher.  This will significantly increase the number of Denver households within ¼ mile of a high comfort bikeway, a primary goal of the Denver Moves: Bikes plan.

This aligns with DOTI’s commitment to Vision Zero, and our message is clear.

Safer Streets Save Lives!

map of denver moves: bicycle implementation plan

Freedom to Drive speaks out against: Some critics aren’t sure a “revolution” is best for the city. “I have no idea why they’re taking this extreme route,” said Sara Almerri, the public affairs director for the Freedom to Drive Coalition. “Denver is not creating new bike lanes. They’re taking them out of driving lanes.” Although some people would like to walk or bike to work, she said, most residents cannot do so because the city is sprawling, making cost-efficient and timely transit more difficult. “It’s highly irresponsible and detrimental to the city’s economic vitality, national reputation and quality of life if the city insists on adding bike lanes at the expense of motorists,” she said.  

Roughly 2% of Denverites are bicycle commuters, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau data.

The program was first announced in 2018 and went into effect last year. So far, the city has only created 12.5 miles, or 10%, of its planned bike lanes, according to DOTI spokeswoman Heather Burke-Bellile.

“Denver experienced an early winter last year, so installation schedules got pushed back on some of our 2019 bikeway projects,” she said.

This year, the city anticipates installing about 36 more miles and is currently finalizing the mileage for subsequent years. Burke-Bellile said, by this summer, the city will have “a clearer picture” for next year.

Denver will still need to complete more than 60% of its bikeway project in two years if all goes according to the city’s plan.

The new bikeways will be partly funded by $18 million in voter-approved bonds, as well as through the Denver’s capital improvement program.

The bike plan is intended to align with the Vision Zero Action Plan, Hancock’s five-year initiative to end traffic-related deaths and injuries by 2030.

Through better processes and collaboration, improved street design, safe speeds, a culture of safety, and improved data and transparency, we will save lives,” the mayor wrote in 2017.

More than 70 people died on Denver’s roadways last year, the most fatalities on the city’s streets in nearly 20 years.

Some critics are skeptical the city’s bikeway commitment will help lower those numbers — or be honored at all.

“This makes good press,” said Brad Evans, founder and leader of Denver Cruiser Ride, an organized bike-riding group, “but it does little to create a connected and protected network for bicycle users.”