The Last 4224 Feet: A walk down the Future L Line Extension

While much of the focus on the conversation of light rail expansion is being given to the B Line, the long delayed Boulder extension is not the only part of FasTraks, an initiative voters passed to expand light rail systemwide in 2004. The L line, a line that currently connects LoDo to both Five Points and the RiNo Arts District, has also been unrealized. A great recent piece for Denverite by Kyle Harris details the history behind the long stalled line.

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Proposed L line Extension

The 4224 feet, or .8 miles, that the rail would run down was something that I wanted to profile for this piece, showcasing what is, and what could be. Unlike my reviews of light rail line and bike friendliness, I mostly focused on the neighborhoods and what a built at L line could look like. Additionally, rather than bike, I opted to walk during this journey.

The Current End (30th and Downing)

The Northeast Corner of 30th and Downing

30th and Downing as an intersection has always seemed like a hodge podge of buildings that scream Denver in different ways. Within the block radius of the station itself, The Black Western Museum, a Gem Market, and a Beer Spa exist the serve the community in their unique ways. Adjacent to the east and west of these businesses are largely residential neighborhoods.

The station itself evokes the same energy of the end of the B-Line. For me, a strong feeling of “now what?” Is something I feel as I walk along it. Heading north towards the next proposed station, I thought about the large width of the current road, seeing the possibility of the train paralleling it in a similar that it does to Welton.

33rd and Downing

33rd street intersects at a perpendicular angle to Downing. As I crossed at 33rd Ave on the right side of the street, the suburbs turned into another small shopping center.

An Aerial view of the shopping center

To me, the large parking lot seemed like the logical place to put a station. With a dollar store, a butcher shop, and a Chinese place, the small center seems ripe for transit to flourish there. Going northbound, the street began to narrow a tad, with the street becoming suburban for a short period of time.

Besides the shopping center, the development on the other site of the street intrigued me. Between that and the center, it seemed like 33rd and Downing could be a substantive area with transit oriented development if the expansion was completed

35th and Downing

Moving further down the street, I began to leave the residential neighborhood behind. To my right, a gas station stood across from a tire shop. Noting the irony of either becoming a light rail station, I continued down the block.

As I headed further down the street, the landscape became more barren, feeling like the predecessor to a major revitalization. To me, the defining aspect of 36th and Downing was a large, dirt field with dead plants.

While the station is supposed to be positioned at 35th Avenue, this felt like a natural place to put the station. Perhaps this may be reevaluated as work begins on the expansion.

38th and Blake

While the station itself is well known, the two paths leading to it give off distinctive feelings. Going straight on Downing takes you past a mixed use development and construction. To me, it made logical sense that, if the tracks were to go down this route, they would parallel the road until its end. Instead of taking this route, I decided to go right at the Walnut Street intersection.

Ending its suburban stretch with two dilapidated motor homes, Downing’s residential turned into Walnut’s commercial strip. A liquor store and a brewery/pizza place along with a large apartment complex were things that stood out to me the most on Walnut, along with one of my least favorite intersections in Denver at 38th.

The one way that I could see the L line ending here would be if it was elevated above traffic, using the current unused field by the 38th and Blake Station as a way to come into the station from the north. Most likely, however, I can see the route going straight from the end of Downing to 38th and Blake from the south.

Final Thoughts

For me, the overwhelming theme while going down Downing was how, beyond the absence of the L line, how many underutilized parts there were. From the mostly parking lots of the shopping centers, to the field just north of 36th Ave, it seemed to me to be a place that can be a boon both for the businesses that exists along it, and any future businesses that decide to take up shop there. Perhaps this is why recently RiNo Art District started to circulate a petition advocating for its completion. Whatever the case, the L line remains an unfinished project of RTD, hopefully one that comes off the shelf soon.

Featured Image is a mural at 37th and Downing by Gamma. You can find Gamma’s art online here.

Rolling to RTD Part 8: The R and H Line

Introduction

As we near the end of this series, I wanted to knock out one of the more unfamiliar light rail lines to me. Aurora’s R line and the H-Line, which bisects with other light rail lines, seemed to be the best bet.

Methodology

For this round of RTD Reviews, I ended up starting at the northernmost station on the R Line, the Peoria Station. While most of the stations were covered, I did not make it to the Dayton Station out of fear of the sandstorm erupting around me. Instead, I vouched to get to this station on 12/12. From the Nine Mile Station, I rode the train all the way back home.

Peoria Station

The most northern station of the two lines, Peoria had a lot of positives that I respected. Though riding to it from the west was a bit of a challenge, the secured and unsecured bike facilities that it had were a welcome aspect to it. Route accessibility from the west seemed a lot better, and had some public art that I enjoyed.

Fitzsimons Station

Taking a mix of side streets and a section of the Sand Creek, I made it to my next stop. Fitzsimons was fairly unremarkable, and seemed to cater fairly exclusively to the students at the Anschutz Medical Campus given its proximity to it. The one redeeming factor to the station given its lack of bike parking and secure storage is that the immediate area around the campus is fairly bikeable. I didn’t take a ton of pictures around the station due to the fact it didn’t really seem to have much to offer on its own. Taking side roads to Colfax, I didn’t realize that the true adventure was about to begin.

Colfax Station

As you can somewhat see in the photos, the haboob started around the time that I made it to this station. Similar to the overpass stations along the E-line, the Colfax Station boasted bike parking on its surface level. While I wanted to take the elevator down to ground level, two men had used it as a shelter during the storms to duck away from the storms, requiring me to take my bike down a flight of stairs.

Bike Parking at the bottom of the Colfax Station

Wanting to get home as soon as humanly possible, I braved the dust storm and headed south along a small path on the toll gate creek.

13th Ave Station

When I reached 13th Avenue Station, I realized I would be in the fight of my life against this dust storm. 13th avenue brought back parallels to stations along the N line: small parking lots with adjacent neighborhoods. While there was bike parking at the station, photographing it came second to option 1: survival and literally riding out this storm. Leaving the 13th Ave Station brought me into a route that would turn distinctively more surburban, with the next station off of a portion of the High Lane Canal Trail.

2nd and Abilene

A station marked by a parking lot to the north and the beginning of large parking lots and big box stores on my route, 2nd and Abilene didn’t have any bike parking on it officially. However, the saving grace was the fact that it was off of a major regional trail and the fact that the lot to the south of us had some bike parking. Heading even further south gave me flashbacks to my adventures along the southernmost parts of the E-Line: large hills, large parking lots, and a seemingly endless supply of cars.

Bike Parking at a lot near 2nd and Abilene

Aurora Metro Center Station

After climbing hills and a fair amount of sidewalk surfing, I reached the Metro Center Station. Adjacent both to a large shopping mall and several municipal buildings in Aurora, it had a decent amount of bike parking, though accessibility by bike was somewhat of a challenge coming from my previous destination. It did appear, however, the there was access close to Aurora’s City Center Park. There is also a large bus terminal close to this station as well.

Continuing my journey southbound brought me to a frontage road that I paralleled in neighborhoods due to the high speed and high volume on it.

Florida Station

Getting to the intersection of the H line, I reached Florida Station. Flashbacks to my E-line experience intensified, as I saw the parallels of highway crossing overpasses and very little bike parking. The most remarkable part of the station for me was the 2 way protected bike lane just to the east of it, probably one of the better demonstrations of how such a bike lane can work.

Going towards my penultimate destination of the day proved to be incredibly suburban, though the layout started to change getting close to it.

Iliff Station

Iliff had a lot of similar trappings to transit oriented spaces along both the D and E Lines. Close to developments and walkable spaces, Iliff had a decent amount to offer pedestrians. Riding a bike, however, was frustrating, as there was no sort of parking immediately nearby nor any sort of safe route or bike infrastructure on the roads outside of a small southbound trail to it.

9 Mile Station

Adventuring through another concrete jungle until reaching the Cherry Creek trail, I reached 9 Mile on the border of a sunset. While it is readily accessible via the trail. coming from the north side closer to 285 is something that is a lot more hazardous. There is some bike parking, though the station has parking for over a thousand cars as well. Ending my journey through the haboob at this station, I took the H line home since it was a Sunday night and I had an obligation at my apartment.

Dayton Station

Author’s Note: While I specified this earlier, this route was NOT done on 12/5/2021, the day that I did all the preceding stations. It was ventured to on 12/12/2021.

The last stop along my journey was Dayton. Using the Cherry Creek Trail, High Line Canal, and suburban streets at a nearby development helped me to get to this last stop on both the R and H-Line before it begins to parallel to E Line.

The station itself is similar to other overpass stations, with some bicycle parking near the small drop off lot in the neighborhood and a bridge and elevator to the station itself. There is a path that leads to the various biking trails in Cherry Street State Park, and the neighborhood is close to the Hampden Heights trails and the major arterials mentioned above.

Final Thoughts

Save for a couple of adventures along major trails, the H and R lines were an adventure into some of the most suburban elements of the metro area. It was fairly remarkable that a large majority of the stations had some form of bike parking, though accessibility for people riding a bike was hit or mix. A lot of this could be solved with bike infrastructure such as the two way protected bike lane near the Florida Station, and other traffic calming measures. Overaly, however, the adventure through the Aurora suburbs was a mixed to good eperience.

Featured image is of a public art piece at the Peoria Station

Rolling to RTD Part 7: The G-Line

Introduction

Due to the fact that we have had a relatively mild and dry winter, I have decided to continue this series, hoping to finish it up by the New Year. During this episode, we will be adventuring to Arvada and Wheat Ridge via the G-Line.

Methodology

Similar to previous adventures, I opted to take the route that Google took me on, with common sense variations along the way. I did not cover stations that had already been covered, and took the Wheat Ridge/Ward Train back.

Clear Creek/Federal Station

After braving the car centered infrastructure to the south, the Clear Creek and Federal Station was very much a relief. With a small park, bicycle parking, and adjacency to the Clear Creek Trail, it felt like a fairly central place to put a station.

With nearby bike lanes, it felt comfortable compared to the adventures through Denver Northside neighborhoods to get there. Taking the Clear Creek Trail west for a spell helped me get to my next route.

60th/Sheridan-Gold Strike Station

The station near the beginning of the Gold Rush in Colorado, Gold Strike Station felt incredibly like a suburban station that wouldn’t be out of place along routes on the N line, with a medium to large parking lot and a neighborhood adjacent. There is some bike parking around, but the lot seems to be the biggest draw to the station, despite being half used at the time that I headed up to it.

Olde Town Arvada Station

I will openly admit that I may be slightly biased. Besides Littleton Downtown during the Criterion, Olde Town Arvada is my favorite suburban downtown area, with most streets along the main drag completely closed off to cars. The station itself shines too, with bike parking and one of the few bathrooms in the entire RTD system. While I want to keep this blog focused on the stations and accessibility, I would be remiss not to show some of the highlights of Olde Town.

Heading from Olde Town was hard, given that I felt blessed in probably the most accessible suburban downtown in the metro area.

Arvada Ridge Station

Heading from Old Town, I accessed Arvada Ridge from a somewhat highly trafficked side road. The biggest saving grace of this station for me was the large amount of bike racks and being near mixed used properties. It felt like a place that was partially under construction and still developing its identity as transit oriented.

Continuing down the same road led me to my final destination.

Wheat Ridge/Ward Station

The Wheat Ridge/Ward Station had a very “coming soon” feeling to it. With apartments and a parking garage under construction, it feels somewhat premature to judge it. There was, however, bicycle parking and the road reaching it started to thin out after leaving the other station. Similar to the Lone Tree City Center Station, time will tell how effective it is.

Construction near the Wheat Ridge/Ward Station

Final Thoughts

The G line is anchored by two downtowns ultimately: Union and Old Town. While Union hasn’t changed much, Arvada’s transformation of the core of Old Town to being completely car free is an inspiration. Bike wise, having parking at every single station was very much a boon for me, and using side streets and the Clear Creek trail was significantly more comfortable in regards to what I had to do along other suburban RTD corridors. I would venture to say the G line may be the most accessible by bike second only to the W Line, which has a literal bikeway on it.

During our next adventure, I will tackle both the R and H Line. Until then, stay tuned.

Featured image is of barricades near a parking garage in Arvada separating the carless street from the cars.

Rolling to RTD Part 6: The N-Line

As I continued my journey through RTD, I realized that it would make more sense to venture up the N-Line instead of the W Line for a couple reasons. First and foremost, it would act as a contrast to the south suburbs and southernmost point of Lone Tree. Second, a Broncos game at Mile High would mean that the train would be crowded right when I would get on at the end of the day, whereas the N-Line was dead on my way back into Denver. With this change of plan, I started my journey towards the N-Line

N Line Map
The N-Line

Method

Similar to previous adventures, my goal was to take the most straightforward and bike able route to each of the stations. If a route took me in a place that had high traffic, I would try and find a serviceable detour.

48th and Brighton/National Western Center

As I navigated through the detours that construction near I70 presented up towards Northside, I realized this was going to be a bit of a challenge getting out of Denver. Historically located in an area of Denver where bike infrastructure is scant, it was a welcome change to have a raised bike lane along Brighton Boulevard

The station can be accessed by bike if you take the ramp, and has a decent amount of bike parking. Getting from the station to my next destination, however, would be somewhat of a trek.

Commerce City and 72nd

After a journey that led me through Riverside Cemetery and along frontage roads to the South Platte Trail, I arrived at the Commerce City and 72nd Station.

The station had similar amounts of bike parking, with a bit of industry that felt off putting for the station, and caused a cloud to occasionally come over the station. Buses seemed to go along the route of the N line, and a large parking lot was the anchor for the whole station.

What followed after this station was a diversion that took me through a gravel-y area that I partially blame for my front tire getting a flat after the ride itself. After navigating further up the South Platte River Trail towards the station, I began my first bout of paralleling a road, where my journey would pause once again.

Original Thornton & 88th

Taking the adjacent road through a large high school campus and then to an adjoining trail, Original 88th and Thornton had the benefit of being near a few accessible places from bike trails and the streets.

There is some bicycle parking available near the bus terminals, with a large parking lot adjacent to the bike parking, and a ramp that leads up to the station.

As I headed up towards the next station, I got some relief due to a multiuse path that lead partially up there. The rest of the adventure there was through suburbia and across a couple of major intersections, which were relatively low stress.

Thornton Crossroads & 104th

Adjacent to a shopping center on one side and suburbia on the other, Thornton Crossroads and 104th Station acts as the prototypical RTD station, with some bike parking and a large parking garage. While there is a navigable route from the neighborhood, getting to the station from the other side would require navigation that would take a rider across at least across one major intersection or across an unpaved section of gravel, the latter which I took towards our next station.

Northglenn & 112th

After taking a multi-use path and having to parallel 112th Ave for a decent amount of time, I got to our penultimate stop along the line.

The Northglenn and 112th was one of the rarer stations that had wayfinding for a bicycle from the street adjacent to it. Bike parking was there, with a medium sized parking lot adjacent to it

Heading anywhere within the immediate vicinity of the area requires someone to go through either suburbia or along the major artery of York Street. As such, I took a suburban route to make it to my final destination.

Eastlake and 124th

Getting to Eastlake and 124th was a mix of using a road through suburbia and crossing a somewhat hard to navigate three way intersection. The final stop along the rail was near a small business district to the right, and an empty lot to the left.

Bike parking was available around the area, and it felt very walkable.

Final Thoughts

For me, the closest parallel to the N-Line in content and the surrounding was not necessarily the E-Line, But the D-Line. It went through several neighborhoods and suburbs, though the overall feel of the line was overwhelmingly suburban whereas there were still urban elements of the D-Line.

Bike-ability along the line was fairly decent, with the adventures along paths, bike lanes, and suburban streets lessening my worries of getting from place to place. Parking a bicycle was about on par with the E-Line, which is to say that it was adequate at best. Overall, if I was someone that was in the Northern Suburbs along the N line north of the Commerce City station, it would be a good choice to make the trip downtown.

Taking a Break

Due to a few different life circumstances and the fact that Daylight Savings time is imminent, I will be taking a break of undetermined time from the series. In the meantime, I will be writing on and off about other subjects related to urbanism. Stay tuned.

Featured Image is a processing facility for Brannan Sand and Gravel Adjacent to the N-Line

Rolling to RTD Part 5: Denver Tech Center to Ridgegate Parkway

As I ventured into the Tech Center on my first journey, I knew that the characteristics of the latter half of the trek down the E-Line would be cumbersome enough that it would take a second day to complete. Similar to the first part, I ventured down doing the recommended route along Google Maps, which largely paralleled the highway along frontage roads, exploring the stations that I saw along the way.

Orchard Station

The second of the core 3-4 stations that make up the Tech Center, Orchard Station had a lot of the themes I would find along the route: pedestrian overpasses over I25.

Picture from an overpass of the Orchard Station

From the east side of the Tech Center, there were some paths and a small amount of bike racks on the non-train size of the station, with some near the bus stops. As I made my towards the next station, I realized my journey would change, with the core roads being moderately trafficked at their best, congested and highway adjacent at their worst.

Arapahoe at Village Center Station

This station has two separate aspects to it: one is a bus terminal that has routes to several of the suburban parts of Centennial. The second component of it is the actual station. Immediately around the bus side of the station, it was pretty bike-able given that the it is separated from the parking lot. The station is a little unique in regards to walkability partially because of its closeness to Fiddler’s Green, a large outdoor amphitheater with mediocre sound quality that hosts national acts.

Bike racks were plentiful, and the ramp leading up to the main road was a good feature. As I went southbound, I thought that this was the best station along the route so far.

Dry Creek Station

In some ways, Dry Creek Station had a lot of the good aspects of the preceding station. A small separated bus terminal from the main parking lot, a major overpass to reach both sides of the Tech Center, and a decent amount of bike racks on each side were defining characteristics that acted as a mirror to the last station.

The bit that put it over the top was an inside area to wait underneath the station. While protection from the elements was relatively uniform from Orchard to Arapahoe at Village Center station, this felt like something made for the worst of winter in the metro, and was something that I really enjoyed about this station. Taking a street on the end of the Tech Center that went past the giant Ikea, I believed that this may have surpassed the Arapahoe Station, and may be the best of what I would experience.

County Line Station

County Line was proof of my hypothesis in a lot of ways. Having two levels of overpasses for the highway, it felt harder to navigate the area easily as a rider. The station small bit more difficult to navigate, and had a smaller amount of bike facilities than the previous station

The one saving grace of the station was the fact that it was close to the multiuse C470 trail, which helped as I went to my next destination.

Lincoln Station

In comparison to County Line, Lincoln Station was tiny. As a station that is completely outside of the Tech Center and closer to the suburbs of Lone Tree, the station seems built more for suburbanites headed to work, with not much beyond a parking lot and the odd bike rack or two.

The one thing I noticed as I headed to and from this station was the smaller amount of density when it came to housing and commercial real estate, really starting to see it once I got to a section of housing that was being developed. The last two stations on my journey south would see this trend continue, but not before one last sign of civilization.

Skyridge Station

Out of all the stations that I visited during my ride, this station had the most amount of residential density surrounding it. The amount of transit oriented development was impressive, along with the lack of a major parking lot nearby.

With wide ramps, ample bike parking, and literally being adjacent to Train Station road, Skyridge has a large amount of potential for folks in the Lone Tree area that want to live nearby and don’t necessarily want to car commute to work. As I rode from a heaven of a station, I didn’t realize the hell that I was getting into.

Lone Tree City Center Station

While Skyridge was accessible to people from every angle, Lone Tree City Center was the least accessible along the route. With the only way to get there being a frontage road, pedestrians have no access to the station. There is no parking here for bikes, cars and bused and no buses that ran to me, making this station absolutely baffling and useless to me. The explanation is that transit oriented development, including a huge city city, is planned for the location, which justifies the fact it is seemingly nowhere.

Ridgegate Parkway

After having to cross under I25 on the road itself, I reached the final stop on the destination. flanked by a 1,300 space parking lot and some bike parking. It seems built primarily to be a park and ride for now, but is also planned to be part of the city center being planned for Lone Tree. It will be interesting how things developed; but, similar to the last station, it is still very half formulated.

Concluding Thoughts

The latter half of the E-Line is starkly divided into two categories. From Orchard to Lincoln it is a cacophony of several elements: The density of the large office park that is the Denver Tech Center, large outlets, and suburbs. Skybridge to Ridgegate is a story of change, as development will make the nature of the stations transform over time. Overall, however, I felt like a lot of the area was difficult to navigate around, with the aspect of I25 being the anchor both a detriment to the stations and to the line as a whole for different reasons. One improvement, which parallels what happened along 36, would be some sort of separated bikeway that leads to the various stations and connected with the c-470 bikeway. Until then, however, it would be a fool’s errand to visit a decent amount of these stations by bike unless immediately next to them in some regards.

In the next chapter, I will be taking the W line bikeway out to Golden. Stay Tuned

Featured image is art along the E-line

Rolling to RTD Pt. 4: The Southeastern Line from Denver to the Tech Center

As we continue our journey to light rail stops throughout the metro, I figured it would be prudent to split the southeastern line into two distinctive parts, given the length that it covers.

A section of the E-Line

For this part, I focused on going from the Louisiana-Pearl station, ending at Belleview so I could talk briefly about the Tech Center. From Belleview, I took a ride back to 10th and Osage.

Lousiana Pearl Station

Located near Platte Park, Louisiana Pearl reminded me of the Pecos Junction station, minus the parking. It has two tiers of levels, and is located near a large amount of car traffic.

Some bicycle racks were located nearby, as were the typical elevators that allowed me to descend to the station at ease. The biggest problem with this station is the junction it is at having a minimal amount of wayfinding for someone on a bike, a feature that made it one of the more perilous journeys on my path.

University of Denver Station

As I journeyed down Buchtel towards University Station, some minor trails and bike lanes appeared. It still paralleled traffic, but having them felt like a minor pat on the back.

The station itself has some odd bike parking facilities closer to some of the bus stops along the way. Additionally, as a university campus, there are some areas that are more or less bikeable due to the nature of the paths through them. That being said, with wide roads just to the east, I knew my challenges along this route had just begun.

Colorado Station

Colorado Station is a stop that I am intimately familiar with. Being a major point of transit prior to riding my bike, I experienced it as a pedestrian several times with frustration, having to walk over Evans and I25 to reach it.

The station itself is accessible by elevator, though gets overwhelmed by crowds. There are some bicycle facilities, secure and racks. and a pedestrian bridge into the Virginia Village area. That being said, the terror of having to cross Evans to the south, particularly when it came to getting groceries, was a thing that made this particular station terrifying to me when it was my regular stop.

Yale Station

As I crossed Evans and navigated through both high and low stress neighborhoods, I made it to the Yale Station, making its home right above I25.

The access point for bikes reminded me of many of the Southwestern Suburb stations; that is to say it is a ramp going up.

There are some bike racks along the bottom level, but accessing the station from the street was a minor challenge, as there was not a lot of wayfinding or nearby bicycle facilities. From Yale, I crossed under I25, making my way towards Monaco.

Southmoor Station

The last major station before the northernmost tip of the Denver Tech Center, Southmoor is surrounded by a large parking lot with some bike racks near the bus stations. Acting as a second hub similar to Colorado Station, it has a bike lane adjacent to it on Monaco that leads further down into the southeast suburbs of Denver.

A ramp acted as the facility that I used to get to the station, calling back to my experience at the Westminster Station, minus the nearby park and parking garage. There were two elevators at the bottom, acting as my way up to the station.

I continued my journey southbound, heading into the last station technically in Denver, Belleview

Belleview Station

While many of the surrounding buildings are technically in Glendale and the feel of the area is equivalent to the Tech Center, Belleview Station is at one of the most southern points in the area

Belleview to me felt like a natural dividing line, with a mix of bicycle facilities including trails and unprotected lanes leading me to it, and the clear lack of them immediately surrounding the area. The station has parking for bikes, with a semi-large parking lot and construction going on nearby.

Final Thoughts

Finishing this stretch of the tour of light rails was one of the more difficult challenges of my biking career. Given that the E and R-line to an extent parallel I25, car culture was bountiful and reinforced by the large parking lots at or nearby a majority of stations. As my journey southward continues, I am expected a lot more of the same. Join me next week when I adventure to the southeastern most tip of RTD light rail.

Featured Image is of the “entrance” to the Tech Center

My Bike Commutes To Work, Ranked

In the spirit of Bike to Work Day, I have decided to rank all of the commutes I have had by bike with jobs that I have had over the years. Note: I am only counting commutes that I did fairly consistently, not ones that were one-offs or primarily relied on other forms of transportation.

5. Commute from Metrolink Station to United Way in Camarillo, CA (2014-2015)

Though it is technically the shortest of the commutes, it also required me to do the most amount of work off my bike. When I got to the station, I had to climb up a large set of stairs, carrying my cheap mountain bike with me and work from campus. The fact that it was along a frontage road in a heavily warehouse district meant there was a fair amount of car traffic, and was not maintained too well.

4. Commute from Graduate Housing to the Fanning Institute in Athens, GA (2016)

While this is one of the shorter commutes I have had, topping in at 15 minutes, the lack of any bike facilities, the large volume of car/bus traffic, and the humidity make this one closer to the bottom. The one nice thing about this route was drivers were slightly more charitable to me closer to campus that puts it above the one at the bottom.

3. Lincoln Park Neighborhood to the Art Museum (2019, 2020-2021)

With a fairly middle length commute, a decent amount of car traffic, and varying levels of snow maintenance, commuting from Lincoln Park to the Art Museum was the bike commute that I did the most. The middling aspect for me is the fact there were no real separated facilities from cars unless I was taking the 14th Avenue bike lane.

2. South Denver to Denver Art Museum (2017-2018)

Though it was the longest of my commutes over the years, going from the Ventana to the DAM was a nice meditation before the day began, helped me lose weight, and got me into riding. Along the Cherry Creek Trail, snow is maintained fairly well, and has just a couple of the same issues of the commute from Lincoln Park

1. Lincoln Park to Downtown Employer (May 2019-Aug 2019)

Even though the job did not work out perfectly, the route was nearly perfect save the short amount of time I had to spend on Colfax. It was mostly along the Cherry Creek trail, and involvement along the streets had at least some level of protection.

What are your favorite bike commutes over the years? Sound off in the comments below!

*Featured Image is a Protected Bike Lane near the Denver Art Museum*

Rolling to RTD Part 3: The Northwest Rail

Perhaps one of the most controversial aspects of RTD rail happening right now is in regards to the Northwest Rail. A line that is expected to go to Boulder, the B-Line has been delayed several times since the initial buildout of rail started under Fastracks.

However, I don’t want to speak much to the controversy, suffice to say this was one of the shorter yet most daunting trips I have made along a light rail corridor. The area that I covered along this shift is highlighted in violet.

The Approach

Like the previous two posts, I decided to take the most direct and bikeable routes when I could, with a slight exception made to check out bicycle infrastructure in the Northside. I chose to leave for this trip on Monday afternoon shortly before five as a way to gauge what it would feel like to ride in rush hour traffic, and took every opportunity to use the facilities (elevators, ramps, etc) to get my bike from point A to point B at the stations.

41st and Fox Station

After taking a route that led me unto Inca, I used an elevator to get to the bridge, which led over to the main platform of the 41st and Fox Station

The one thing that I noticed over on the Inca side was how transit oriented the station was. There were several recent developments that had sprung up that made it walkable on that side, and it felt comfortable accessing it from the adjacent multiuse trail.

On the other side, there was an almost completely empty lot, a contrast that felt incredibly striking next to dense housing. While there was a small amount of bicycle parking near the front and lanes adjacent, the surrounding environment still felt very hostile to riding. From here, I worked my way to the Pecos Station

The In-Between: A Quick Word on the Northside

Before I begin, I just want to make a quick note: I have not lived in any neighborhoods or communities during my time in Denver that are considered to be part of “Northside” and have ridden through it a handful of times. This is what I experienced in my time riding through.

Passing under I70

The biggest takeaway from my experience in regards to the neighborhood was that it was largely shaped by the highways that were forced through it, including I70 and I25. Bike lanes were scarce, and neighborhood streets were not as developed nor paved as those in other neighborhoods in the metro area.

I cut across a dirt lot at Lincoln and 48th that was adjacent to train tracks, taking it as a way to detour some of the more treacherous parts of Pecos. As I rode upon one of the heaviest sections of Pecos through construction and an overpass, I thought to myself “how could I manage this if I didn’t own a bike?” This rhetorical question ate at me as I crossed over to the next station.

Pecos Junction Station

The station was right on the other side of the Pecos overpass. To reach it, I took a relatively moderately trafficked road to another mostly empty empty parking lot with a small bike rack in the front. Similar to the Fox Station, there was an elevator I could take down to the main track.

As I left the station and headed towards Westminster, the concept of induced demand swirled around in my head. While I had a bike rack at most stations that could generously fit up to 6-7 bikes, lots like this can store dozens to hundreds of cars. I often wonder what it would be like if housing and more bike facilities existed at places like this versus empty lots. The inaccessibility to pedestrians hurt me the most regarding this station, with it being treacherous to navigate by foot to it from Pecos because of car traffic.

I wondered this as I headed north towards Westminster

Westminster Station

After descending from the overpass to an underpass to Westminster, I got to the first trail I had seen since leaving the Fox Station. The Dry Creek Trail was absolutely lovely with all of the flowers along it.

This station has a special place so far in this series, as one of the only ones that has a direct path to it from a trail.

With some bike facilities including lanes and parking on both sides of the station, along with elevators and a direct trail up to it, it felt very accessible by bike, and mirrored some of the stations in the Southwest Suburbs. Thought frequency of trains was considerably less than I wished it to be heading home, it was nice to have the lovely views in and around the station.

Final Thoughts

Though this episode was shorter than others, the vastness of the parking lots really defined these stations, which felt to me like a waste of space since they were sparsely used by vehicles. With recently passed policy that encourages RTD to develop affordable housing, it seems like the 41st and Fox and Pecos Junction lots should be at the very least considered for the program to help fight the housing crisis in the metro area and give people more options to live near transit.

Featured Image is the RTD Platform at the Westminster Station

Rolling to RTD Part 2: The Southwest Suburb

In 2013, The City of Littleton did a rebrand of its logo and created a new slogan. This slogan “Anything But Little”, could also encapsulate my experience exploring the ins and outs of the Southwest Line, which spans 8.7 miles from Broadway to Mineral Avenue down in Arapahoe County. For this post, I would like to have a narrative in regards to not only the stations, but the journeys to them.

Disclaimer: As a high bike theft city and region, bicycle parking in the Denver Metro area is a risk. Be cautious when you do, and do it at your discretion and comfort level

The Approach

Starting a little further up at 10th and Osage, I planned my route parallel to the rail, starting in the early afternoon on a Sunday. When I reached Mineral, I took the train to Littleton Downtown Station due to the fact I had a birthday related thing to go to.

The Southwest Line

10th and Osage Station

A station that acts as a fork between Union Station and Lower Downtown, 10th and Osage is fairly approachable by bike. I took the 13th Ave Protected Bike Lane until I hit the nearby park, La Alma Lincoln Park, and turned left unto the street itself.

The streets immediately around the station have scant bike infrastructure, with a mix of sharrows and unprotected bike lanes surrounding it. As a station that see high traffic in peak hours from the workers at the nearby Denver Housing Authority and riders heading both north and south, 10th and Osage was fairly low traffic on that Sunday. Along with this, the accessibility of bike parking was an attribute that made the experience at the station an overall positive experience for me.

Alameda Station

Heading away from the downtown core, I took a mix of bike lanes and side streets to the Alameda Station. The station provides bike parking, and has some unprotected bike lanes nearby. Accessing it from Alameda, however, is something that can be difficult at times, including that Sunday due to heavy afternoon traffic along the streets. With the construction finally completed on that corner, however, it is significantly easier to access the station. However, I would recommend going through the parking lot adjacent to the station, as it has some helpful bike facilities in it and acts as the end of the unfinished Broadway Bike Lane

The Street facing away from Alameda Station

I25 and Broadway Station

As the actual beginning of the line, I25 and Broadway portended a lot of what was to come. From a difficult to navigate parking lot, a ton of street traffic along the station, and a lack of bike infrastructure for parking nor navigation, I felt nervous getting to the platform. However, as a station it acts moreso as a hub for other buses and trains, and had some of the best facilities for waiting in extreme weather conditions, which I appreciated.

Evans Station

Entrance to the Evans Station

Heading into southwest Denver, I noticed that bike infrastructure had almost completely disappeared outside of signs designating a street as a “bike highway”. Sidewalks began to narrow, and roads widened significantly, with the main road heading down to Evans Station being my main artery.

Compared to the Broadway and Alameda Station, Evans felt hidden behind the large development in front of it. A couple of bike lockers and bike racks served as a place for storage, but beyond that the station had a entrance that, if uninitiated, a person could easily miss.

Streets immediately nearby had no bike infrastructure, though they were fairly low traffic when I arrived at Evans Station. I stopped at the station as a brief resting point, contemplating what crossing into Arapahoe County would bring me.

Englewood Station

As I entered Englewood Station, I learned quickly Arapahoe County would be a different level of intensity. Car traffic was up, partially due to the passing of time, but also owing to the fact the station is situated near a large shopping center and many attractions on South Broadway.

The station itself is extravagant, serving as the anchor to the library and the Museum of Outdoor Art. Bike parking is plentiful, while riding in the immediate vicinity is difficult due to the bottleneck of the road nearby.

Due to the elevator not being in service, getting to the station required me to ride up a ramp wide a small sidewalk in front of it (pictured above, right). To me, positioning the ramp near the main bus terminal of the station didn’t make much sense, as having it parallel to the stairs would help with ease of access. Nonetheless, I was impressed by the large pedestrian features that the station had, and enjoyed some of the surrounding art despite having some difficulty with nearby streets.

Oxford/City of Sheridan Station

Moving southward, I began to see some small signs of infrastructure. A sharrow reminded me of the lip service much of the Front Range gives to bicycles, and I headed towards Oxford.

Oxford was a station that seemed like a near copy and paste of Evans Station, minus the bike racks in front. It felt small, with a ramp similar to Englewood as a way for bikes to get to and from. The one plus of this station is the fact infrastructure around it seemed to be slightly more robust than the preceding station. However, lack of open bike parking made this station one that seemed unfinished in a sense.

Littleton Downtown Station

After a journey that prompted me to get on the South Platte River Trail via a Santa Fe frontage road, I ended up at Littleton Downtown.

The navigation from the Platte River trail to a small creek-side trail was fairly direct, with entrances to the station from practically all directions. Car traffic was higher, as the station intersects with many of the major thoroughfares of the city and has a large parking lot. The only way to access the station without carrying my bike was a narrow ramp that was somewhat difficult to navigate

While I have often used this station to visit relatives in Centennial, the one thing I noticed upon arriving was the lack of a card reader adjacent to the pay kiosk. Though there was another card reader below, I realized it could possibly render confusion for a first time rider.

Overall, the station a bit of a mess from an accessibility standpoint, with a person having to walk across the parking lot to access it.

Littleton Mineral Station

As I ended my tour, I reached the most congested and difficult part. Mineral is near a major road, and styles itself after other stations that are more park and ride oriented. The one saving grace it had was some decent bike facilities, both racks and lockers. It still left a bad taste in my mouth, as I had to sidewalk surf a good portion of the way to the station.

Final Thoughts

The biggest takeaway from this journey was seeing the bike infrastructure shift once I reached Arapahoe County. It was based more on side streets and trails more so than Denver County, which was more physical and road based. Arapahoe county tended to have a lot of ramps as an accommodation for bikes to get to raised stations, of which I had not encountered any similar in Denver proper. Infrastructure at most of the stations save Oxford had some sort of accommodation for locking up, vs the downtown stations that were mixed in this regards. Overall, they were fairly easily navigable to, with car traffic being the major concern as I went south.

Next week, I will be exploring the sections along the Northwest B Line

Featured Photo is the Alameda Station.

Rolling to RTD Part 1: The Urban Core

WARNING: There is a NSFW Image near the end of this piece

As I begin this series, I wanted to explore the light rail stations closest to the Central Business District, Five Points, and all of the area east of I25. With these stations compromising a large number of the “core” RTD ridership, it seemed important to see what facilities are available to make them bike-friendly or not. Outside of Union Station, which I will save for a later blog where I talk about both it and Civic Center Station, I explored all stations in the black square below.

Disclaimer: Given the history that Denver, particularly the Downtown area, has had with bike theft, I would exercise extreme caution in regards to locking up your bikes at many of these stops given the closeness to recent bike thefts and hot spots for bike thefts. On a personal level, I try to have line of sight when I am downtown and have a bike locked up.

The Area Covered in this post

Methodology

I started at the station closest to my home, which happens to be the 18th and California Station. From there, I took a ride up the L Line, doubling back until I reached the Central Business District. From there, I headed to the Auraria Campus to check out the two Light Rail stations there, following the path of the lines until I hit Union Station

18th and California

I began my journey at the last stop on the D and H Line and the second stop on the L line. In the realm of downtown stations, this one was a tad scary to get to due to high traffic levels and lack of any bike facilities on 18th Avenue.

Accessing this station was not too difficult for me fortunately given it was curbside, and didn’t have any major barriers to getting to it.

20th and Welton

Following Welton Street northbound, I stopped at the 20th and Welton station, noting how similar it seemed to the 18th and California station. The major difference between 20th and Welton and the 18th and California station is the fact that Welton itself has a bike lane that terminates at 20th, making the station more accessible. However, like 18th and California, there truly aren’t any facilities or nearby places to lock a bike to.

25th and Welton

As I ventured further towards

As I ventured further towards Five Points, the major traffic along Welton started to disperse a tad. I also began to notice that, despite not being near the light rail stations, there were more places that I could lock up along the path of the rail.

When I reached 25th and Welton, the first impression that I had was that the density of the residential properties nearby, along with seemingly low traffic side streets, would make this a great station for people to walk or bike to from nearby. 25th and Welton felt like the beginning of a less car traffic oriented station, and felt “comfortable” to reach.

Mirroring my comments in regards to the 25th and Welton Station, 27th and Welton had a lot of the same pros. My one concern with this station comparatively is that it doesn’t really have any covering or shelter to wait under, which could easily make it frustrating to wait at in the midst of winter or the worst of summer heat.

30th and Downing

The 30th and Downing Station, across the street

The L line terminates in the midst of Five Points at 30th and Downing, which acts as a hub for the reason. While the intersection is a little difficult to navigate and car traffic is significantly more pronounced here, there are some amenities including a pedestrian signal that make it a little more navigable too.

A Pedestrian Crossing across the street from the 30th and Downing Station

This is the first station along my journey that also had dedicated bicycle infrastructure for locking up. Unfortunately, due to high traffic volume and lack of bicycle infrastructure, it was one of the other scary stations to get to without some level of sidewalk surfing.

18th and Stout

Using the bike lane on Champa to get back down to 18th, I was impressed about the places to lock my bike near the courthouse. The station also seemed significantly more pedestrian friendly than its Northbound equivalent along 18th and California, with a large area with trees and benches to sit around waiting for the train. While traffic is heavier down here by nature, the closeness to the Champa bike lane made it feel more navigable than other downtown station.

16th and Stout

Using Champa as an artery, I got to the 16th and Stout Station, walking my bike a short distance along the 16th Street mall. The large amount of access by pedestrians is one of the biggest takeaways that I got from this station. Along with being caddy corner to a large pedestrian mall, the station is next to two heavily frequented drug stores on that same mall. Though non-pedestrian traffic was less around this area, the lack of any secure bicycle facilities nearby save what was around the Mall itself was something that concerned me, along with being required to dismount along the mall for good safety purposes.

16th and California has a lot of the same drawbacks as its sister station on Stout. Lack of bike facilities, a lot of foot traffic and un-rideable streets make this a difficult stop for bicycle riders. That being said, the stop itself is never particularly crowded given that its a place that a lot of people get off on their way to downtown, which gives it a hair of friendliness to bicycle riders above the Stout Stop

Theatre District Convention Center

Situated directly under the Colorado Convention Center, the Theatre District/Convention Center stop is possibly my favorite in all of Lower Downtown. From a nearby protected bike lane on 14th to navigate to, bicycle parking located at the station, and a covering above it that prevents the worst of the elements during the summertime and winter. With all of these ingredients, it works out to a good station that has moderate to high foot traffic depending on the time of day.

The protected bike lane near the Theatre District/Convention Center station.

Colfax at Auraria Station

Heading southbound from Lower Downtown, I took a pathway through the Auraria campus to make it towards Colfax at Auraria.

While there is no bike parking immediately around the station, the campus has several racks that a person can hook their bike up to as a way to secure it. Additionally, a bike parking facility on the Auraria campus requiring key card access is available to use as well by students.

Though the station is easy to get to on the mostly pedestrian campus that also has fairly delineated sections for bicycles, getting to the station from Colfax, given that it is a major artery for car traffic, is something that I would not recommend unless you are coming from a street directly across from the station.

Auraria West

After visiting Colfax at Auraria, I headed west towards the Auraria West Campus. With some bike parking in the station, streets that had token sharrows and little traffic along them, and a fairly easy way to exit and enter the station, the Auraria West station felt like the more accessible of the two Auraria stations.

Empower (Or whoever owns the naming right when you read this) At Mile High Station

Taking the street adjacent to the Auraria West station led me along the path to Empower Field at Mile High.

Out of all the stations that I had visited over the course of this ride, Empower field was by far the least accessible by bike. With turnstiles and low level fencing, there was really only one way to get in or out by bike.

Despite there being some places to lock up my bike and low level traffic (though, to qualify, I didn’t do this on a game day) Empower Field was lacking, mostly seemingly like a place for pedestrians to use to get to Mile High while bicycle riders could use the nearby S. Platte River Trail.

Ball Arena/Elitch Gardens

Pepsi CenterElitch Gardens.JPG
Photo credit to Jeffrey Beall

Going through a largely empty parking lot situated next to a street that saw little traffic, I made it into the Ball Arena/Elitch Gardens station.

While there was a lot of bike parking near the Arena and some near Elitchs, what really stood out to me is the fact that the ticket machines were separate from the station in a way. Though there was proper signage in regards to the tickets, it seemed like it was tucked away and would be confused for someone being at the station.

The station itself provided a decent way for bike riders to access the Elitch Gardens side, with an elevator that was big enough for a bike.

After I finished at this station, I took route through Elitchs and headed towards Union.

Final Impressions

While a lot of the core downtown stations were great when it came to pedestrian traffic, the lack of bicycle lockup facilities like bike racks and other types was something that erred me. Access to the stations was decent to great almost everywhere save a couple examples above, and it seemed like I could get around fairly easily with dismounting for a couple blocks being my worst fear besides car traffic.

For my next blog, I will be covering the remainder of the southwest line that ends at Mineral Station, stay tuned.

Featured image is the Empower Field Station from a different angle.