Guest Opinion published 12/4/96 in the Boulder Planet

Traffic circles of hell exemplify city's misguided policy

I thank letter-writer C. Kliger, whose building lost resident parking on 13th St. when bike lanes were striped on last month for not taking the bait offered by Transportation Division to again divide neighbors against cyclists. We have a Division which takes the cake -about the same portion of the City budget as the Defense Department is of the Federal budget- by getting citizens to fight over crumbs.

The classic example of how The Division works is their multi-year promotion of traffic circles, which the Camera's front page story of 10/30/96 says "have pitted neighbor against neighbor":

In 1988, North 9th Street residents started asking for several 4-way stop signs to slow traffic. The Division said 4-ways wouldn't work, although the one at Maxwell and 9th worked OK. Bolder Bicycle Commuters and most cyclists opposed the circles, medians and neckdowns the Division proposed, as these things violate national (AASHTO) and Boulder (Transportation Master Plan 1988, pg. 2-20) standards of 14-foot minimum lane widths for streets designated as bike routes. Many neighbors went for it since the Division refused them stop signs or raised crosswalks.

After 6 years and over $10,000 of studies, reports and acrimonious meetings, 9th Street got a circle, a median and a set of neckdowns, costing some $120,000. Some go the wrong way around the circle and accidents have increased. Last month 4-way stops were installed on 9th at Dellwood and Forest, finally solving the problem!! The "test" traffic circle at 17th & Pine is THE most dangerous intersection in town as measured by calls to the Close Call Hotline (441-4272). The test circle at 15th & Pine is 3rd worst. May these be the deathbed of the Division's concrete chicanery, not of some child on foot or bicycle!

Bolder Bicycle Commuters members persuaded the Division NOT to stripe bike lanes on 13th from Balsam to Forest, thus preserving some 20 parking spots. There is little traffic north of Balsam on 13th and we don't feel threatened there. (13th St. residents deserve the same resident parking as the better-organized -and politically connected- Mapleton Hill and Whittier neighborhoods they're sandwiched between.)

Bolder Bicycle Commuters also persuaded the Division NOT to take parking for a bike lane on Sunnyside, a 2-block street immediately west of Broadway and south of baseline that is shared with the Broadway bike route, also because it is not needed. We were unable to convince the Division NOT to build the million-dollars-worth of tunnels under Mohawk and Gilpin.

It is sad that so much of Boulder's business community buys into the image the Division creates of cyclists grabbing for every inch of turf. Let's remember that Boulder has ONE good continuous E-W bike route (the Creek Path) and ONE decent continuous N-S bike route (Broadway-13th-15th-Broadway). While we fight over crumbs, the Division takes the cake as the biggest part of the bloated City bureaucracy. Ken Hotard of the Board of Realtors, also in the 11/13 Planet properly condemns City government for growing faster than the City. Our city government has 1,800 "full-time equivalent" employees, while Fort Collins with 10,000 more people has only 1,100! These extra employees of course vote for the City Council which pays them, Council hires more, and the vicious cycle keeps grinding away. This is like the council's self-appointment process which citizens just ended at the polls, demanding to elect their own representatives by passing 2B.

The business community would be wise to join with environmentalists. If young, athletic, compact, sunny Boulder fulfilled its potential as a cycling town (biking for 25% of all trips like Davis, California or 40% like big, rainy Amsterdam, instead of our measly 12%), people would see that it is not primarily growth which makes our lives congested and polluted, but unnecessary over-use of vehicles. But the Division can't build an empire on cycling. They are set on a wasteful "system" of tangled, weaving bus routes, which run emptier (an average of some 5.5 passengers on a 45-passenger bus) than single-passenger autos! Citizens voted against their $250-million Transit Tax 2-1 in 1994, but the parasitic Division is doing polls and focus-groups, honing their propaganda to wear us down.

The Division and City government as a whole slavishly re-enact what caused 18th-century philosopher Rousseau to observe: "Keeping citizens apart has become the first maxim of modern politics."

Bolder Bicycle Commuters holds monthly public meetings and can be reached at 449-7439.

Evan Ravitz was voted "Best Activist" by readers of the Camera and is a member of Bolder Bicycle Commuters.