Having spent years cycling all over Denver, I've accumulated a list of fun and safe ways to get between neighborhoods on two wheels. Discovering some of these cycling corridors came via suggestions from Google Maps, the city's bike map or this handy open source map (the last two showing dedicated trails and streets with bike lanes). But not all of the suggestions from those resources are actually that great in practice.
What follows is a short list of the handiest routes I've used to get around on a bike. Send suggestions and questions about bike routes in your neighborhood to firstname.lastname@example.org or in a comment on this post and we'll try our best to accumulate them for a future post. Remember, no matter how safe you feel, you should always wear a helmet, make hand signals to communicate with drivers, and use reflectors and lights when riding at night.
Rivers: The backbone of Denver's bike infrastructure
Use the Cherry Creek Trail and the South Platte River Trail. Yes, the clouds of gnats buzzing along the riverbanks can be annoying during the spring and fall, but the trails following these two rivers are the superhighways of Denver's bike infrastructure. Whenever possible, I use these trails, even if they aren't the most direct routes. The trails also intersect at Confluence Park (REI), which is a convenient jumping-on point. Below you can see which neighborhoods the trails pass through.
Getting to/from Denver's northside (Highlands)
Forget 15th Street. It has a wack bike lane in the middle of the bridge going over I-25 into Lower Highland, and it's dangerous. Even drivers aren't sure what to do there.
Instead, if I'm going to or from West Highland, I like to take another bridge over I-25: East 23rd Avenue. Heading north or south in that part of town, I'll take Perry Street, which is a shared road but not busy and fairly wide.
If I'm going to or from Lower Highland, I'll take the 16th Street pedestrian bridge. There is an offshoot from the South Platte River Trail and a roundabout ramp for cyclists that goes over I-25. Just be mindful of pedestrians and give them the right of way.
Finally, there's a cool trail that goes underneath I-70 and heads north/south along Inca Street if you're going to or from Sunnyside. All of these routes can be seen below.
Connecting Cherry Creek and the South Platte River through Speer and Baker
There really is only one safe way to get between the river trails as you get farther south in Denver, and that's using an elevated bike/walkway on one side of West Alameda Avenue as it passes underneath the train tracks. But that pathway is the only section you'll want to bike along Alameda, which is otherwise dangerous and busy. When traversing the other sections of the Baker and Speer neighborhoods, stick to Cherokee Street and First Avenue. See the map below.
Getting between RiNo and the South Platte
Similar to Alameda Avenue, an elevated bikeway on one side of 38th Street goes under the train tracks. Perpendicular to that, both Blake and Larimer streets have bike lanes when you need to pedal around RiNo.
I try to avoid cycling in downtown unless it's necessary. It's worth bypassing downtown and putting in a little extra distance on the Cherry Creek Trail if that's a possibility. But if you must pedal in and around downtown, there are four streets that I've found to be safest, and all have bike lanes. Going north/south along the downtown grid, use 14th and 15th streets. Going east/west, use Lawrence and Arapahoe streets.
Getting between Lakewood and the South Platte River
The Lakewood Gulch is great if you're in northern Lakewood.
If you're trying to access some of Denver's southwest neighborhoods, I like to use Florida Street, which has a bridge over the South Platte and bike lanes. And even farther to the south, the Bear Creek Trail is a cool option to access the southern parts of Lakewood.
The Marion Street Parkway is a beautiful and fun ride heading between the Cherry Creek Trail and Washington Park.
Yes, Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard has bike lanes, but I think drivers go way too fast on the road, so I try to avoid it. Instead, when going between Park Hill and downtown, I tend to use either East 23rd Avenue or East 26th Avenue.
This may be my least favorite neighborhood to bike in because it's so dense, there are so many one-way streets, and both cars and cyclists seem to roll through stop signs all the time. But if you must traverse Capitol Hill, use 16th Avenue if you're north of Colfax Avenue and 11th Avenue if you're south of Colfax. Which is also to say (perhaps without needing to), don't use Colfax...ever!
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