Choosing a Running Shoe Infographic

If you implement a running program at your company as part of your wellness program, you might want to also offer guidance and resources about running to those employees who begin taking up the sport in earnest. Because shoes are one of the main items of gear needed for running, some advice on picking out the right shoe can be a great place to start. There are so many factors to consider in picking out a shoe that it can seem overwhelming to a new runner. So to help summarize the process, we did some research about choosing a running shoe and put together a simple infographic with the basic information someone might need to pick out the right shoe for them. Feel free to use this in your own programs, share it on your own social media channels, or grab the embed code below to post it on your own website. 

Click the infographic to get an enlarged image:

Choosing a Running Shoe

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Using Stationary Bikes to Design Bike Trails

Stationary Bike ScreenAs I ride my bike through some of the grades, curves, and alignments along the bike paths in my area, I often wonder if the person who designed them rides a bike. Because I can't imagine anyone who rides regularly making some of the design choices I encounter. This got me wondering if the designer would have still made those same choices if they had to first ride their design before building it. Of course, up until recently this really would not have been possible. But thanks to newer technologies, this type of design tool could probably be implemented today, and here's how I'm thinking it could be done.

Let's say I am given a project with the goal of designing a bike facility. This route could consist of a shared use path or an on-road facility or a combination of both. I would begin with a fairly traditional approach of analyzing potential alignments. Then after choosing one or more proposed routes, I would arrange to have these alignments surveyed, bring them into a CADD program like Autodesk Civil 3D, and start developing my design for each alternative. At this point, the final alternative would be chosen by analyzing the route for impacts, costs, public opinion, access to specific destinations, property acquisition issues, and other typical factors we usually consider when finalizing a design. The downside of this approach is that the actual performance of the facility can never be assessed. It is just assumed that if the engineer followed the same design criteria for each alternative, they would all perform in a similar manner. However, based on specific environmental conditions or design choices, this might not necessarily be true. Then it is not until the route is built and the money is spent that the users realize there are some issues with the design. So how can we use newer technologies to overcome this inability to assess our design before actually building it?

During the stage in which we analyze the alternatives, we could export a 3D model of our design. Then we could upload it to a stationary bicycle that has a screen display of our route. The computer on the bike would then pick up the design parameters such as slopes, lengths of segments, curves, etc., and then program the bike to react to those parameters. So if I have designed too steep of a slope for too long of a distance, it will become very obvious as I actually bike that route. And while this could be done simply to analyze only the design of the path, other models such as terrain, trees, intersections, and buildings along with environmental conditions such as wind, sunlight, and perhaps even traffic flow could also be added to allow for a more detailed analysis of how the environment impacts the path. In addition to having the engineer bike their own design, potential users of the path who span a whole range of abilities could also bike the design and offer input and comments.

So how close are we to being able to do this? I suppose that is a question for the companies manufacturing stationary bicycles. I know they can take a route and project it on the screen as you can see in the photo at the beginning of this post. And I know they can adjust the bike for grade/resistance. But can they read essentially what would be metadata about the images being displayed and use that to control the grade? I don't know with the current bikes, but I am sure if it's not possible now, it could definitely be programmed to function in this manner. As for exporting a file from Civil 3D that could integrate with a stationary bike in this manner, I would think based on how innovative Autodesk has always been that company would have no problem figuring this out.

And even though my main thought in all this was to help us design better bike facilities, it also made me wonder if something like this could lead to a whole new industry for civil engineers in which we design virtual bike experiences for stationary bikes too! 

 

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Improving Bicycle Path Design

Over the last year or so we've logged significant mileage on our bikes. While one outcome has been the expected increase in personal fitness, another has been better awareness and insight into design of bicycle facilities. Most of the paths along which we ride have been in place for many years so were probably designed under older guidance, but I am still not sure that all of the issues we've noticed have yet been addressed by more recent bicycle design manuals. So I wanted to share a few of the problem areas we have identified to see if anyone else has figured out or has any comments for some best practices or guidance to improve these aspects of design:

Tree impacts to the path

Root Damage on Bike Path

A lot of off-road paths are lined by trees. This can create a few issues that could cause a cyclist to fall and possibly be injured. This can occur in the colder climates because trees drop leaves that can pile up and become slippery if not cleared. Trees also drop seeds such as acorns or walnuts. Hitting these the wrong way could cause a cyclist to lose balance and fall. I know of at least one agency that regularly sends out a small sweeper about once a week to clear debris, particularly in the fall and that maintenance activity appears to keep the path in that area fairly clear.

Trees can also cause damage to the path from roots. As you can see in the photo here, someone has marked areas of the path where trees have caused the path to heave. If a cyclist did not see these bumps, they could lose balance and fall.

The tree's proximity to the path can also cause a potential for problems. As shown in the photo, trees are often located very close to the pavement. If too close, the trunks of the trees can also grow into the pavement. One day when we were riding in another area of this trail, we saw a cyclist miss navigating a curve and hit a tree that was very close to the path. He fell and fortunately was not hurt. But it made us wonder if there should be a clear zone for bike paths similar to the concept used for roadway design. The Washington State Shared-Use Path Design Manual does call for a horizontal clearance of two feet (page 1515-5). 

Roadway approaches

A lot of the trails we ride follow a river so quite often we end up having to navigate steep slopes when the path changes course away from the river. There have been a few instances where it seemed the designer could have mitigated the slope by lengthening out the transition, but instead took the shorter route which resulted in a slope almost steep enough to require us to dismount and walk our bikes. We've also wondered why when a bike route we follow is moved onto streets, the steepest street in the area is chosen for the route. One of the roads we ride along is so steep we definitely have to get off our bikes and walk them a block or two until the route turns down another, flatter street. I realize the calculation for bike level of service does not take into account grade – probably because it was developed in Florida along flat routes – but if I have to get off my bike, I am no longer able to use it as a bike route which would seem to mean a complete failure of that bike facility. So I definitely believe grade should be incorporated into the Bike LOS calculation. 

The other problem with steep slopes is that they require a lot of energy and momentum to ride up. And because many paths we bike along seem to have been designed with a steep slope immediately adjacent to an intersection with a road, we end up going up the slope approaching the road at a high rate of speed and with a lot of momentum then have to slam on the brakes immediately as we hit the road. I always wonder how we appear to the cars that are approaching the crossing. I would think it looks like we are not going to stop. The other problem with this design is there is usually no flat area at the top of slope at the road intersection. So as you wait for the cars to go by, you are sitting on that steep slope which makes it even more difficult to start moving again and quickly pedal across the road. A better design would seem to be to pull back the slope slightly and allow for a flatter area at the top where the path intersects the road. The question would be what distance would work best here? Another consideration would perhaps be to give a widened area at these intersections to allow for several users to queue while they wait to cross.

The other area where slopes seem to cause problems is at stream crossings. On the paths where we ride, there are many of these crossings and usually the downgrade is very steep on both sides of the bridge. So the ideal approach would be to ride fast down the hill and across the bridge so we have enough momentum to assist in making it up the hill on the other side. Unfortunately most of the designs have brought the slope down almost to a "V" at the edge of the bridge instead of designing in a gradual vertical curve. And because the joint where the asphalt path meets the bridge is not always smooth, we end up having to reduce our speed to make it over this severe change in grade that might also have a bump. So the only distance we have to build up speed again is across the short bridge which usually isn't enough.

Sight distance

It seems that there is some guidance out there for sight distance, but that doesn't help riders on paths that were built with no thought to this design consideration. Perhaps on older facilities, agencies responsible for the paths could go back and assess their facility and add in striping or signs to let cyclists know there are potential sight distance problems in a specific area.

 

Adjacent surfaces

Surface material of areas adjacent to bike paths can cause damage to the path or unsafe conditions for users of the path. For example, one trail we ride is located next to a gravel parking lot near a school. After riding through here a few times, we've gotten to the point where we now remain in the road through this section because there is always a lot of gravel on the path. This appears to be due to the drainage design and grades of the road, lot, and path in this location. As water flows from the road and across the lot, it picks up gravel from the parking lot. Then as the water flows across the path, the gravel drops out onto the asphalt, possibly because the path looks like it could be a localized low area. The gravel on the path is difficult to ride over and can cause instability to a cyclist which can result in them falling and possibly getting injured.

Gravel along bike path

Path Material

Path material is definitely an important component of a bike path. There is a path we ride along, or I should say used to ride along, where the agency decided to place asphalt grindings over the crushed gravel that was initially placed as the surface. Grindings are definitely a material that should never be used for a shared used path or even a dedicated bike path. There are usually few fines in it unless it has been processed to have fines added which usually isn't the case. So riding along a path made with grindings ends up somewhat similar to the experience of riding on marbles. We also came across another path where an agency had placed sand. Riding in sand is also not very easy. So as you can see in the photo below, people appear to avoid it by walking their bikes through the grass which is exactly what we did. The FHWA provides some guidance on surface materials for shared-use paths as part of their Designing Sidewalks and Trails for Access Part II of II: Best Practices Design Guide.

Bike Path with Sand

 
 
 
Signage
 
Another issue we noticed along many bike paths is a lack of directional signage. One day last year, I decided to go on a 30+ mile bike ride that took me along many routes with which I was not familiar. One particular route required me to transition between trail and roadway several times. Unfortunately it was difficult to navigate using my phone since it was having battery issues and didn't make it through most of the trip leaving me stranded with no map. Fortunately there was another cyclist who knew exactly where to go to get off one trail, make our way through a maze of streets and connecting trails and manage to end up where two main trails picked up again. And he was nice enough to realize I was lost and needed his guidance. Just a few well placed signs would have really helped me find my way because I really can't go biking on a regular basis hoping there will be a nice person there who knows the way and will help.
 
 
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Happy New Year 2015!

Happy New Year 2015

We are starting out the new year of 2015 still a little overwhelmed by everything that happened in 2014. This was due to several factors including an increased yet exciting work load at our primary jobs and some major changes we were making in our personal lives leaving little time to hop online and share with all of you. So because of this, as regular readers might have noticed, there have been few posts made to the site since June of last year.

We want to thank all of you for being patient with us while we were going through these changes. Hopefully they have increased our knowledge and abilities so that we can bring a new and better offering to all of you over this new year.

So what happened in 2014?

The Book! First, we’d like to review the status of the goals we set at this time last year. One of the most exciting of these was to begin writing a book that will offer information and guidance about city engineering. This effort was started about mid-year. And as each chapter is completed, an excerpt or synopsis will be posted online on the Public Works Magazine website. The first article was published last fall, Establishing the City Engineering Position, and the next one is due to be online soon. So if you’ve ever wondered about how to establish and run a city engineering department, make sure you stay tuned for the release of each article. And when the book if finally completed and available for purchase, I’ll announce it here.

WATERCON! Next, as planned, I was able to attend WATERCON in March of last year. It was incredibly informative as always. As part of this, I did set up a small demo of a WATERCON conference site in Unity3D you can check out over on the WATERCON blog site along with the other resources. However we were not yet able to develop the remaining Unity3D offerings we had planned and will most likely extend that goal into the new year along with the development of an Android app for PROWAG which we were also not able to make time to create. But with PROWAG still not yet adopted, this goal could also be extended into 2015.

The Curve Balls!The surprising, yet very positive, upsets in our careers last year were lessons in how goals can easily be redirected. As mentioned above, while we did manage to make a few of our planned goals a reality, most of our accomplishments ended up not planned at all causing us to change direction mid-year:

Not long after 2014 launched, both of us had the opportunity to be involved with the update of our agency’s ADA Transition Plan. As part of this initiative, I had the opportunity to become the ADA coordinator for my area at work. If you’ve been reading this blog for years, you would best understand what this meant to me. Accessibility and ADA related matters have long held a strong professional interest for me. (A few years back I developed a 3D ADA Toolkit for Local Government and have been working on other related resources for some time.) This opportunity allowed me to attend the Annual ADA Symposium in June of last year which was highly informative and helped to solidify my understanding of this topic. And I’ve been able to teach a few ADA courses alongside some of the professionals I’ve known and respected for a long time.

I was also asked by my co-workers to become more involved with our employee health and wellness and was allowed to became a member of our health committee. We organized bike rides after work and worked on several other programs the group regularly offers. Personally I started running regularly with their encouragement and ended up becoming significantly more fit as a result of their support and influence.>

Finally both of us were able to take more active roles in our agency in bicycle planning and design. This is still somewhat of an emerging trend in civil engineering. So while the efforts have taken over the year considerable time and commitment, we are excited to be actively engaged in our agency’s activities in this area.

So, dare we plan for 2015?

Even though 2014 was a good lesson in proving we cannot completely predict the future, we still believe it is helpful to have some type of plan. The key is understanding the plan should be flexible enough to respond to changes if necessary. So here is what we are starting out with as a general framework for 2015:

Finish that book! >Yes, we hope to finish the book on city engineering so that you can have your very own copy by the end of the year. That is a huge goal, but one we are most focused on accomplishing.

Finish developing an online PROWAG related course! Last year I also started setting up an online training course for learning PROWAG. The opening video for the course is below. When complete, the entire class will have 57 short modules designed to level someone from an accessibility apprentice to a PROWAG Master.

Develop and offer employee health and wellness resources! Because of my involvement in employee health and fitness, I’ve become more aware of just how much employers are focusing on this issue. So drawing on our own knowledge and experience, we’ll be setting up an online resource to begin offering health-related information to both employers and employees. As this goal develops, we'll keep you posted here.

So that’s it! While we would like to pursue many more goals, we will have our hands full just meeting the ones listed here. Keep stopping back to check our progress as we will try to keep you up to date on the status of each of these goals.

 

Finally we wish all of you a healthy and success-filled new year!

 

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Using Augmented Reality to Visualize Engineering Designs

This week I experimented with using an augmented reality app at a public meeting to display this simple visualization of one of our projects.

3D model of a project using Augmented Reality

My experience was that it did seem to help with explaining or showing people not only an overall snapshot of how the roadway will look when finished, but it also helped show specific design and operational details that were difficult to describe. So I figured I'd post a quick explanation of the software I used to create the model and which app I used to host and display the visualization in case anyone else is interested in trying something similar out at their own meetings.

To begin, I would have liked to just export the project directly out of CAD and into the program where I assembled the 3D model because this allows for a more accurate representation and saves some steps. I've done this before using AutoCAD, and it was very straight forward and easy. Unfortunately we use Microstation at work instead of AutoCAD and so far I have been unable to find a way to get this to work with that software. The main problem seems to be that although it has 3D export capability, the program will not allow me to export something with a thickness so everything ends up flat. And it won't let me expand my export in the "Z" direction even if I import it into other 3D programs. I've spoken with a representative of the company, and as I've indicated in previous posts, he said Microstation is not interested in supporting this because they don't see a need for engineers to use this type of feature – as he put it "we're engineers, not gamers." So because of this, I had to create the 3D objects in other programs and use a PDF of the plan view as a guide in placing the objects. Also because of this and my time constraints I only modeled a portion of the project where there were no complex shapes.

So the program I used to create and assemble the 3D objects is Opensimulator. It's a free, open source program that runs as a web service and allows you to create and texture 3D objects then export them as models. You can set up Opensimulator on your own desktop by using something like SimonaStick or you can run it by installing it on your computer and connecting it to a service that allows you to access the interface with the use of a viewer. I used the second option and connected it to a service called OSGrid then used the Singularity viewer to log in and build. The main difference between building with this method and one that would use a more traditional 3D program like Blender is that building in Opensimulator is much more intuitive because you create using an avatar or 3D representation of yourself. Opensimulator has also greatly simplified the creation and texturing of objects.

Here is an "aerial view" of what my "build" looked like inside OSGrid right before I exported it as a 3D model.

As a side note, what is nice about building in Opensimulator is that you can use your avatar to walk through the project and get a feel for how it will function. If we were also building a streetscape, the use of an avatar helps assist in placement of elements. And from what I understand, if I had an Oculus Rift device, I could have put it on and immersed myself in the design as if I was actually there. This is something I hope to also eventually try as a design tool once I get a chance to buy one of those devices.

The only elements in the photo above that I could not create in Opensimulator were the cars and curbed medians. As you can see from the attribution note in the photo, the cars were 3D models I downloaded from the Kator Legaz website then uploaded into Opensimulator using Singularity. And I also uploaded a median that I created in Blender because I wanted the top to be curved like a regular curb is – Opensimulator does not allow for the creation of something like this so I had to use Blender then import the 3D model into Opensimulator. For all the graphics or textures applied to the models, I created them using a graphic software package then uploaded them into Opensimulator. There are many graphics programs that I use, but if you are looking for a good, free program, you can always use Gimp.

Once everything was assembled, I used the export 3D model feature in Singularity to create a Collada file of my build. Then I used my account on Augment to upload the model so I could access it and view it using the Augment app on my iPhone and iPad. Having the model available at the meeting made it convenient to show people what it will look like when built. For example, when I was having trouble explaining how the inlets impact the bike lane, I was able to just use this model to show someone how the inlets effectively reduce the bike lane from 7.5 feet in width to 5 feet if people do not want to ride over the inlet. Overall I would say having the model did enhance the ability to share our project with the community, and I hope to be able to build upon this experience to create more complex and detailed models in the future. If you want to check out the model yourself, you can access it here:

3D Model of Protected Bike Lane

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A Bike Sharing Experience in Chicago and Denver

Divvy Bike Share System

Because I am involved in cycling as both a user and as a designer, I try to make an effort to check out bicycle facilities whenever I can. Over the last month, I had the opportunity to try out the bike share program in both Denver and in Chicago. This allowed me to tour some of the bike facilities in each city and get a feel for what it is like to bike in each community. For those of you who might be interested, I've shared both experiences below. Because this was only my second time biking in Chicago and my first in Denver, I want to clarify that my viewpoint is more as someone biking for the first time in a large city. I realize people who regularly bike in Chicago and Denver would most likely have a completely different outlook on it. 

Chicago Bike Share Trip

While I'd previously taken a tour of Chicago's bicycle facilities using a Divvy Bike, which is the bike share system Chicago offers, it had been as part of a large group. While that experience had been very positive, I realized that riding with a group of about 20 or more people is much different than riding alone. So I had been looking for the chance to one day try navigating the roadways by myself. My opportunity came when I was scheduled to be in Chicago for the day. I took the commuter train into Chicago to Ogilvie Station, and then used my phone to find a Divvy Station. I ended up getting a bike from the station at Madison and Halsted since I decided to ride up Halstead to my first appointment.

Checking out a bike was fairly easy. Because I am not yet a Divvy member, I needed to use my credit card to purchase a day pass. After making the payment, I received a slip of paper from the kiosk with a code. To unlock the bike I wanted, I had to punch this code into the keypad for that specific bike. This unlocked it, and I was able to pull out the bike I had chosen. Now I had 30 minutes to get to where I was going and check the bike back into another station. Fortunately the route I had chosen was easy to follow, and there was a Divvy Station at the same location where I had my first appointment. So I started to ride north on Halsted towards my destination. 

While Halsted is designated on maps and signed along the roadway as a bike route near Madison, there are no dedicated bike facilities here. So as I rode my Divvy bike north along the road, it was in the right lane along side the cars. This photo from Google Street View offers a good idea of how this layout functions.

Google Street View of HalsteadRight before Hubbard, I noticed construction had closed off a major portion of the right lane. Because this area is under an overpass for I-90, the lane was rather restricted so instead of swerving around the construction out into traffic more, I chose to get off the bike and cross the area of construction as a pedestrian on the sidewalk. Once I got to Hubbard, I got back onto the road and continued north. Eventually, after I crossed the river, I saw there was a dedicated bike lane for me to ride in. It was not buffered and was located between the travel lane and a parking lane which occasionally would become a right turn lane. After crossing Division, this bike lane moved to the curb line and was buffered from the travel lane. After traveling a short distance north of Division, I had to weave over to my final destination on Clybourn by riding along roads with much less traffic. When I reached Clybourn just north of Division, I checked in the Divvy Bike and went to my appointment.

My meeting at that location lasted about an hour or so, and my colleagues decided we would meet at their office in the loop to go over another topic. Rather than drive with them, another person and I decided to ride to their office so we could continue to check out the bike facilities. So I picked up another Divvy Bike by putting my credit card in the kiosk, getting the paper with the code, and typing it into the keypad. We rode south from Clybourn, along Division east, then south on Orleans eventually winding our way over to Wells which started out as a two-way street then turned into a one-way street running south. There was a dedicated bike lane along Wells from where we entered down to just south of Hubbard. This lane was located between the vehicle lane and a parking lane and was sometimes buffered on the parking side and other times on the vehicle side. As we got down into the Loop, or as my riding partner said, "the belly of the beast," we ended up in a shared lane marked by sharrows. Our final destination was near Wacker and Monroe so I dropped off the Divvy Bike at a station on Franklin just south of Madison. And because the rest of our day was to be spent near this location, we walked to the remainder of our appointments.

The Chicago Experience

Overall, my experience that day riding a bike in Chicago was positive. It had been very easy to find a Divvy Station, the stations were conveniently located in areas where I needed to go, and there were a wide variety of well-connected biking facilities that I could easily locate through the use of Google maps and signage along the routes. Also, I felt very comfortable as a rider. The drivers of vehicles were very respectful and gave me plenty of room. This was even during my morning ride which was between 7:30 am and 8:00 am  – a time that would be considered "rush hour" in this area. I also felt safe and comfortable riding in a shared lane in the Loop where there are many pedestrians and many different types of vehicles.

A few additional thoughts I had from that trip were the following:

  • It would be helpful to have some easy way to track my time on the Divvy Bike without having to remember exactly when I picked up the bike and then check my phone constantly for the time.
  • I noticed that if a station is on a one-way street, you really can only pick up a bike there if you are going to travel in that same direction. I realize some people bike in the opposite direction to traffic, but that is not encouraged. From what I understand a cyclist should try to bike in the same direction as the vehicles.
  • Although I didn't have too much trouble finding a station, I wish there was a very easy way to locate them instead of having to zoom to a map on my phone.
  • The absolute worst part of the entire experience was dealing with the surface on Halsted. It was full of potholes and in very bad shape which made riding not only uncomfortable, but unsafe since I had to constantly swerve around the holes.
  • The Google map showing the bike facilities is extremely helpful.
  • I definitely want to go back and try biking some more in Chicago!

 

Denver Bike Share Trip

In order to try out biking in Denver, I had to go early in the morning in order to fit it into my day. So my trip started at 5:30 am and ended at 6:30 am which was not really a time I would consider to be facing true "rush hour" traffic. Like Chicago, Denver has a great bike share system called B-cycle. Checking out the bike was super easy. I just had to put in my credit card and tell the machine which bike I was taking. Also, I saw a sign saying Wednesdays were free so since I was checking it out on Wednesday, I think I might have been able to ride for free that day. (I haven't yet gotten my credit card statement so can't yet verify if that was the case or not.)

Denver B-cycle Kiosk

It had also been easy to locate a station at 14th and Welton near my hotel and the Convention Center. And by picking up a bike here, I could get onto 14th street which ran one-way to the southeast in the direction I needed to go. I rode in a dedicated bike lane on 14th that was located intermittently between either the vehicle lane and the curb or the vehicle lane and a parking lane. There was at one point construction blocking the bike lane, but because there were so few cars I could easily move out into the vehicle lane around the barricades.

Barricades blocking the bike lane in Denver

I rode along 14th to Bannock then took Bannock south to Speer. There was a dedicated bike lane along Bannock that was similar to the one along 14th. Again, I experienced little traffic. The problem was when I got to Speer I wanted to get onto the Cherry Creek Trail which is an off-road facility. There were no signs directing me to the trail, and I quickly realized it was below the roadway so I needed to find a way to get down there. As I crossed the bridge on Bannock over the trail I noticed there seemed to be a path down to the trail further to the west along Speer, but because Speer was busy by now with traffic, and there were no bike facilities, I decided to just take the sidewalk along the west side of Speer to this connection. Other than having to walk this distance, the other problem was that there were sprinklers spraying water onto the sidewalk so I had to wait until they changed direction before I could begin walking.

Cherry Creek Trail in Denver

Once I got onto the trail, I rode north. It seemed to be a great facility with nice views of the creek, and I saw a lot of cyclists who appeared to be using it to most likely commute to work. I had to be careful though because they were riding at a high rate of speed and not all of them would announce they were passing. There was also one point where the trail split and one direction was only for pedestrians and the other for bicyclists. This was not well marked so I had inadvertently started down the pedestrian one a short distance before seeing a painted symbol on the ground telling me I wasn't allowed to go that way. After going back to the split, I continued on and went up a connection to get back to Speer at Arapahoe. There really were no facilities here and Speer was again very busy at this location so I did feel uncomfortable riding in this area. I rode north on Arapahoe back across the creek and up to 14th Street. Once I got to 14th, I could enter the dedicated bike lane there and return to the Convention Center where I checked the bike back in and then back out again.

Because it was only 6 am at this point, I decided to try to ride again along 14th, but this time try to visit the Botanic Gardens. Looking back at the map now, I realize I probably should have ridden to Bannock and then across 12th Street which is listed as a "bicycle friendly road" on Google. But I wanted to try to go across 16th since it had a dedicated bike lane. This is where the whole trip fell apart. I rode again along 14th but instead of going to Bannock, I somehow got mixed up in the area of the Capitol where all the roads converge and ended up on Colfax. Because I was worried about the 30-minute time limit on the bike, I ended up going to the bike station at Sherman and 16th to exchange bikes. But even though I was finally on 16th, by now I realized I would have little time left to make it to the Botanic Gardens. Unfortunately I also could not see a good way to get back to the Convention Center from here. So because 16th was one-way in the opposite direction I needed to go, I rode back to Colfax then over to Lincoln and north along Lincoln which turned out to be a very busy road with little to no room for bikes. I was extremely uncomfortable riding here because the vehicles rode very close to me as if I was not even there.

Fortunately when I got to 18th Street, I recognized the area from previous walks I had taken and knew I could turn southerly on 18th and make my way back. So I only had to endure one more block of no bike facilities along 18th until I could get to Tremont which had a dedicated lane. I then took Tremont until I reached 15th, then rode in the dedicated lane on this one-way street until I found a street leading back to 14th near the Convention Center where I could return the bike to the station.

Dedicated bike lane on 15th street in Denver

The Denver Experience

Overall, I am very happy I cycled through Denver, particularly in the downtown area on a variety of bike facilities. The main thing I learned by doing so was that you can have incredible facilities, but the cycling experience can still be very poor. I have to think the reasons I was so uncomfortable biking in Denver was due to a lack of directional signage, drivers that rode too close to me, missing connections between bicycle-friendly roads and trails forcing me onto busy roads with little to no room for bikes, and way too many one-way streets that were not always laid out in a grid pattern making simple navigation confusing and difficult. As a designer, I think this is really important to keep in mind because it shows the biking experience is not solely dependent on the type or design of the facility.

I also wanted to share that my outlook seemed to match that of a young gentleman I had spoken with my first day in Denver. He had been my waiter at the restaurant where I chose to eat lunch, and when he sat down to chat with me, I had taken the opportunity to ask him about biking in Denver. He told me he was originally from Minnesota which he believed to be a great place to bike. He said biking in Denver was not as comfortable. His opinion was that the drivers there are not as courteous with the cyclists as they are in Minnesota. This is definitely the same impression I had gotten in just the short time I biked through the downtown.

Here are some final thoughts, comments, and advice on biking as a visitor in Denver:

  • Avoid the Capitol area.
  • Spend a lot of time before your trip planning your route – if you don't and are downtown you risk getting lost or confused by all the one-way streets and grid patterns that are set at different angles to each other.
  • If you are using the bike share system, pick out the station where you will exchange bikes. If B-cycle offered some way to map out a 30-minute riding perimeter around the station where you picked up a bike, it would help to know which station you should try to drop it off at.
  • I wish there was some way to easily find the B-cycle stations without having to constantly check my phone.
  • I wish there had been more directional signage or better maps to help cyclists find the best connections between all these facilities. I tried using the city's online map, but it was so hard to see and navigate around on a small phone screen.
  • I'd recommend not riding at rush hour if it's your first time riding in Denver.
  • The Google map showing the bike facilities is extremely helpful.
  • I definitely want to go back and try biking some more in Denver – maybe this time along the river trail!
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