Boulder City Council on Tuesday is set to signal initial approval for updates to street designs supported by cyclist and pedestrian advocates, but more consequential transportation changes could be in store next year.
Those pushing for tweaks in infrastructure specifications of features installed during private development and public road projects believe they will add more safeguards against vehicle collisions with bikers and walkers.
The updates ready for possible approval this month include traffic-calming measures, such as raised street crossings in more circumstances, along with pedestrian refuges in medians, adding bike lane width and adjusting curb cuts to be more conducive to vehicle turns at 10 mph or slower.
The changes are being considered after a series of crashes this fall — including one involving a 10-year-old student in a south Boulder crosswalk and another on Arapahoe Avenue that seriously injured a cyclist — heightened sensitivity to vehicle collisions with pedestrians and cyclists.
“The transportation-related changes being proposed in this … update are in response to several years of community concerns regarding current transportation-related design and construction standards,” city staff stated in a memo to Council.
The city’s transportation design and construction standards were adopted in 1998 and underwent a major update in 2000.
In total, there are 11 proposed updates, specifically:
- Installation of raised crossings where a right turn bypass island is present
- Adding language to provide more flexibility on considering acceleration/deceleration lanes on collector and arterial roads.
- Ensuring street access and curb cut width templates are for a 10 mph-speed for the largest vehicle expected to use the access on a daily or routine basis.
- Requiring minimum bike lane widths of 6 feet for lanes alongside vehicle parking and 6½ feet for those without parking, with 2-foot wide buffer areas for buffered bike lanes and 3-foot wide vertical buffers for separated bike lanes.
- Requiring city transportation director approval for spacing of new or relocated traffic signals.
- Mandating medians are least 4 feet wide, and extending medians and including space for pedestrian refuge in them where possible.
- Removing references to daily vehicle counts for residential streets.
- Adding design standards for separated and buffered bike lanes consistent with National Association of City Transportation Officials guidelines.
- Requiring energy-efficient street lighting and increasing setback distance from the curb for poles.
- Implementing guidelines for transit stop designs.
- Revising curb ramp standards to meet Americans with Disabilities Act specifications.
But that list is short of sufficient to properly improve safety and boost the appeal of walking, cycling and other mobility options as alternatives to singe-occupancy vehicles, according to Community Cycles Advocacy Committee member Kurt Nordback.
Bumping the minimum sidewalk width in residential areas from 4 feet to 5 feet should be done, too, Nordback said.
He also is hoping the city will require improvements to sidewalks more often, especially when homes are demolished and replaced by new high-end, single-family dwellings, a process he said is often able to receive approval without going through a site review, during which sidewalk improvements can be necessary to move forward.
“If you tear down a single-family house and you, by right, build a brand new single family-house, and you spend $1 million on it, usually you don’t have to upgrade the sidewalk and to me that seems crazy,” Nordback told the Boulder Planning Board last month.
The Planning Board also recommended Council consider adopting the “20 is plenty” philosophy, and lower residential speed limits from 25 to 20 mph. It also suggested, after a motion by member Harmon Zuckerman, increasing residential sidewalk width to 5 feet as Nordback requested, and to add criteria for alternative residential design to attend to “pedestrian safety, utility, multi-modal use and walkability.”
Simply decreasing speed limits won’t be enough, Nordback said; doing so has to accompany changes to the design of streets that promote a certain vehicle speed. That could be done with narrower driving lanes or more vegetation and trees along curbs, among other methods, he said.
“It can mean a lot things,” Nordback said. “There are a lot of different ways to achieve that. It’s about encouraging safe speeds on residential streets in general.”
City staff has a second phase of design and construction standards updates, as well as consideration of street speed limits, on its list of future work items, according to the memo.
Council is set to hold a second reading and public hearing on the changes currently on the table on Dec. 17.