Embrace Bikes, Embrace Business

In discussing Take Back The Boulevard (TBTB), the initiative seeking to improve various elements along Colorado Boulevard to make the street more safe and pleasant, it is not unusual for residents to be divided. Do we make more intersections signalized or add bike lanes to reduce speeding? Do we reduce number of travel lanes or increase amount of parking to make the street more pleasant? The community organizations that have spearheaded TBTB (Collaborative Eagle Rock Beautiful, the Eagle Rock Chamber of Commerce, the Eagle Rock Community Preservation and Revitalization Corporation, the Eagle Rock Neighborhood Council, the Eagle Rock Valley Historical Society, Occidental College, The Eagle Rock Association, and the Twentieth Century Women’s’ Club of Eagle Rock) have tried very hard to please all parties and incorporate all needs in pursuing a better Colorado Boulevard that functions for everyone. 

However, while the general idea of improving safety through reducing speeding seems to have near unanimous support, there’s one notable conflict that emerges in almost all discussions of TBTB. All to often it seems neighbors break out into a “bike lanes vs car parking” debate, as though these are two ideas that can only work against each other. It appears to some as an either/or proposition: either we provide bike lanes, or we provide more car parking through converting parallel parking to angled parking, by reallocating superfluous travel lanes on Colorado and achieve the goal of reducing speeds.

The two methods of reducing speeds along Colorado, bike lanes or additional parking, are thought of as incompatible to some, perhaps due to an expected tight budget. It seems unlikely that the community will be able to scramble together funds to acquire land to provide a public parking lot along Colorado Boulevard, so Eagle Rock can really only try reconfiguring the public right-of-way on Colorado through low-cost measures to improve safety and hopefully encourage commerce. Also, while building a public parking lot sounds like a worthwhile effort, it seems to fall outside of the main purpose of TBTB and a long-standing community desire to improve safety on Colorado Boulevard. So what do we do?

Re-envisioning Colorado Boulevard to be safe and pleasant for all, the community will need to collectively address the many concerns stakeholders, like: how can we improve safety? how can we improve parking? how can we make our street friendlier? how can we reduce speeding? These are just some concerns that have been raised in conversations, and of course tacked on to all the community’s concerns is “how can we get the money to make any of these changes?”

To residents and businesses alike looking to improve commerce while improving safety I would humbly suggest this– embrace bicycles! Bike lanes are not necessarily an opposition to more parking or better business. Let’s examine why…

On Colorado Boulevard we could convert one travel lane in each direction to bike lanes– and what would this likely accomplish? Well much of what community members have voiced a desire to improve:

  • Improve safety: It is well-documented that road diets and car lane removal improve safety for all users. By converting one travel lane in each direction, we would put Colorado Boulevard on a “road diet” and likely see fewer crashes and less risky behavior by motorists.
  • Reduce speeding: Road diets have also been shown to reduce speeding without adversely affecting normal traffic flow during peak hours.
  • Reduce noise pollution: By reducing speeding and further separating motorized traffic from sidewalks by adding a bike lane between the two, the street would be quieter and more conducive for relaxed strolling, outdoor dining, socializing… Also, since bike lanes are likely to reduce unnecessary speeding, the street will be quieter simply because cars will not be going as fast.
  • Improve business visibility: The faster cars go, the less visible things in periphery become to drivers. By reducing speeds and calming traffic through a road diet, motorists will be able to  more easily, and safely, glance at the buildings lining Colorado Boulevard. Moving slower means not only will businesses be more visible, but motorists will also not be as pressured to speed through Eagle Rock’s increasingly thriving business corridor. This means motorists can more easily stop and visit a business if they feel so inclined. Also, businesses can look more appealing– people passing by may observe more people dining outdoors since eating outside will likely be more pleasant option from expected reduced noise pollution.
  • Improve parking: Having a bike lane, Colorado Boulevard is likely to encourage more people to cycle to local destinations. Bike lanes increase the subjective and physical safety while simultaneously reducing the stress of bicycling. More people biking of course means fewer people driving, and fewer people driving means there are more parking spaces available for those who still choose to drive. Not to mention most destinations along Colorado Boulevard already offer free, convenient bike racks to accommodate customers that arrive by bicycle. Customers that arrive by bicycle need not worry about feeding any parking meters or wondering if they’re blocking a resident’s driveway.
  • Choices, opportunities, potential: By providing a bike lane on Colorado Boulevard, residents of Eagle Rock will have bicycling be an increasingly safe and viable option. No longer will residents feel forced to drive to a destination less than 2 miles away when there is an attractive bike facility. Parents may be more willing to let their children cycle to destinations.
  • Improve traffic flow: Speeds along Colorado Boulevard can vary greatly– by reducing the number of lanes, a more consistent pace can be established  for motorists and actually improve through-put.

Even if a small portion of people switch to bicycle for a handful of trips throughout the week it will benefit local businesses, perhaps more than they realize.

First off, it’s worth repeating that more people bicycling to a local businesses means fewer people driving to that businesses which means there will be more car parking spaces available for those that still choose to drive.

Secondly, it turns out, according to studies and experience, cyclists are better customers than motorists, who knew?

So are you convinced yet? Even today, without any bicycle infrastructure along Colorado Boulevard, people are still bicycling, and businesses are benefiting from having bike parking

Four Cafe

A bicycle parked to a bike rack at Four Cafe

Three bikes parked to the single bike rack in front of Four Cafe

The Coffee Table

Two bicycles parked at a bike rack in front of The Coffee Table

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Two bicycles parked using two bike racks at Pete’s Blue Chip Burger

A bike parked at Pilates

Even businesses without bike parking benefit from bicycling customers

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Two bicycles parked to a pole between The Best Flowers and Swork

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A bicycle leaning against the exterior of One’s Liquor

A bike parked to hand-railing in this Colorado Boulevard strip mall

It may not be obvious as bicycles are small and subtle, but if one looks closely, one will notice that people do indeed already cycle to local businesses. Maybe residents and businesses who desire additional parking along Colorado Boulevard could benefit from embracing bicycling– people who arrive at businesses by bicycle do not use any curbside car parking. But when curbside space is allocated to bicycles, as it is at the intersection of York Boulevard and Avenue 50, more customers can be accommodated than if the space is used to park a single car as demonstrated below and in this post on Flying Pigeon LA

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Five bicycles parked using the same amount of space used to accommodate one car

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4 thoughts on “Embrace Bikes, Embrace Business

  1. I think this is a generational shift: one wouldn’t have seen any bikes parked on Colorado even five years ago. Let’s embrace the future. Besides, I have never found it so difficult to park when driving to Colorado, except perhaps for Casa Bianca, but then I park a few blocks away and walk.

  2. My city, Richardson, Tx, has converted a lot of right lanes into bike lanes and it has worked very well – especially for drivers as it has “calmed” traffic. The only problem from a bicyclist’s point of view is that left turns are extremely dangerous from a right-hand bike lane.

    Great shots, btw.

    Thanks for sharing.

    • Thanks, I wish the US would embrace 2-stage lefts, it seems to be the only way to encourage more people to cycle. Interesting to see what’s being done in Richardson

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