Jefferson County adopts first-ever bicycle plan with proposed (unfunded) routes

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Editor's note: This is the fifth in a series of reports about biking and bike safety in Denver and beyond.

Watch out, Denver, the suburbs are taking cycling seriously, too! We've reported on the dramatic rise of cyclists in Denver, and it turns out the healthy debate this news has sparked is also happening in Jeffco, which adopted its first-ever bicycle plan last month.

The bicycle plan, with an accompanying pedestrian plan, was formally adopted on June 13th by the Jefferson County Planning Commission and lays out what currently exists in the bike network and what new lanes and routes are proposed for consideration.

An important caveat: These are proposals, with no associated funding. Rather, it's a road map that bike advocates hope the county will take into consideration when it does have funding, or when it looks to build new roads. Neither county officials nor Jeffco cycling advocates had specific mileage numbers on proposed or existing bike infrastructure, but Dave Evans, chair of advocacy group Bike Jeffco, says he estimates the plan lays out roughly a few hundred miles of new lanes and routes.

You can view the map here and see the existing routes versus proposed ones.

"We see this as a blueprint for the next twenty to 25 years," Evans says. "What we tried to do is come up with a kind of network of major routes to promote bike usages for recreation...and for transportation."

And it's about time, Evans says. "Jeffco is falling behind other counties in the development of bicycle facilities."

Of course, it's quite a different ballgame in Jefferson County, which is much more suburban and sprawling than the urban parts of Denver.

"When Jefferson County was developed...it was developed as a suburb," says Jeanie Rossillon, director of development and transportation for the county. "And retrofitting everything to work for bikes is very difficult. So that's why we need the plan, and that's why I need to tell people it's not going to change overnight."

Still, the new map provides a strong foundation for future planning, she says.

Page down to read more about Jeffco's plan and see a full version of the map. "We got a lot of requests to have bicycle facilities," Rossillon says. "But what was interesting about it...[was] how many different bicycle interests there were. For example, there was me pulling my daughter along...but there was also these road people with the spandex. Well, they didn't want the same facility. So it took a long time to figure out how we can address all of these different types of users."

There's especially been increasing interest in cycling on the county's canyon roads, such as Golden Gate Canyon Road and Deer Creek Canyon, she notes, adding, "We need to be looking at alternative modes of transportation, and this is one of the steps to do that."

With the increase of cycling, there are always concerns with upticks in collisions. These kinds of plans are often put in place to try to make the roads more navigable for cyclists.

"This is a big step in trying to identify safe spaces for bicycles and pedestrians in a more comprehensive fashion," says Kevin French, director of transportation and engineering for Jefferson County.

Still, Evans says he wants to be sure the plan actually leads to new infrastructure.

"We hope this is something that won't just sit on the shelf and collect dust," he says.

See the full map.

Jefferson County Bicycle Plan

More from our Environment archive: "More cyclists in Denver -- and record numbers of bicycle thefts"

Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin. E-mail the author at Sam.Levin@Westword.com.

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