BROOMFIELD — As Bike to Work Day grows, cyclists and law enforcement officers are hailing a key but little ballyhooed facet of a revamped U.S. 36: a 12-foot-wide bikeway that will stretch from Westminster to Boulder.
The bike path will include 2-foot- wide shoulders and run adjacent to U.S. 36 between 80th Avenue in Westminster and Table Mesa Drive in Boulder, where it will join up with existing trails.
The bikeway — which will be about 15 miles and is part of the $497 million U.S. 36 Express Lanes Project — will be one of the most unique in the country because it closely shadows a major highway while almost completely eliminating conflicts between bicycles and cars.
"One of the things we know is that some people are worried about safety and they have concerns about mixing bikes and cars on the roadway," said Steve Erickson, spokesman for the Denver Regional Council of Government and organizer of Wednesday's Bike to Work Day. "But having a lane like this protects everyone. And that will make a huge difference for a lot of people."
Added Colorado State Patrol spokesman Nate Reid: "A bikeway like this could save lives."
Most cyclists and motorists adhere to the rules of the road, and there is little problem mixing the two. But deadly accidents happen on busy Colorado roadways where cyclists and motorists hug narrow lanes and shoulders.
"To get riders on their own dedicated area is good for them and good for motorists," Reid said.
The bikeway should open by late 2015 or early 2016 as part of the completion of the Phase II portion of the widening of U.S. 36.
The work includes the reconstruction of general purpose lanes from Federal Boulevard to Table Mesa Drive and the addition of tolled express lanes in each direction for enhanced bus services and vehicles with three passengers or more.
The bikeway is a key part of the project because it gives commuters one more way to commute to work, said Amy Ford, spokeswoman for the Colorado Department of Transportation. "Typically, a bikeway or bike path is its own distinct project, but this is truly a multimodal system," said Ford. "This whole corridor is all about choices of transportation, and this bike path provides that choice for people who want to ride their bikes to work or anywhere else."
The bikeway — which will be built on six-inch concrete — will be maintained by local jurisdictions' crews, who will sweep, stripe and do snow and ice removal.
Most at-grade crossings at major intersections have been eliminated when possible, said Ford. The only at-grade crossings are at Sheridan Boulevard, 88th Avenue and Church Ranch Boulevard.
The bikeway will be especially popular along the U.S. 36 corridor, which boasts heavy participation by companies on Bike to Work Day, said Erickson.
Organizers expect 30,000 riders to participate Wednesday, beating the 27,000 who took part last year. Breakfast stations will serve thousands of cyclists food and drink, with some going as far as adding services like tune-ups and massages, Erickson said.
New this year are water and aid stations, offering help through the heat of the afternoon ride home, he said.
The idea is to get as many first-time cyclists involved as possible. "We want people to try to see for themselves how easy, fun and healthy this choice can be," said Erickson.
Monte Whaley: 720-929-0907, email@example.com or twitter.com/montewhaley