After quite a bit of work on the part of City staff, and with a great deal of public input, the Fort Collins Bike Plan was unanimously approved by the City Council in 2014. Rather than calling for grand schemes that would cost the City a great deal of money, the new plan called for creating a series of “low stress routes” that in large part already existed. The key to making them truly effective, however, involved making improvements at some key stress points and adding signage so that riders could easily find their way from one end of a low stress route to the other.
The Remington Bikeway is the first of these low stress routes to receive wayfinding signage. So I recently hopped on my bike, jumped on the bikeway, and traveled from one end to the other. … well, from one end until the point when I lost my way. But more on that in a bit.
The most basic sign that you’ll see along the route is the one shown above. It doesn’t give any directions. It just lets you know that you’re still on the bikeway. When you’re traveling along and you’re starting to wonder if you missed a turn, seeing this sign helps you know that you’re still headed the right way.
Sometimes, in order to stay headed in the right direction, you have to make a turn. (Hmmm, that sounds like something from a self-help book.)
The Remington Bikeway, despite it’s name, does not only exist on Remington. So it’s important to watch for signs that might indicate a shift of direction. Some signs clearly indicate a change. On other signs, however, there can be a lot going on. So you have to be sure to scan quickly for the route you’re looking for, even if it’s the route you’re currently on.
The first mistake I made in following the route was missing the mention above, two thirds of the way down the sign, indicating that I needed to turn right on E. Oak Street. All I had paid attention to was the top half of the sign, which seemed to indicate to me that I was headed the right way and would soon be approaching Old Town Square. Of course, once I hit Mountain Avenue, I had no idea how to proceed in order to stay on the bikeway. Since I’m a local, I knew what to do to connect up with the route again on the other side of the Square, but if I had been a visitor, I probably would have wandered around a bit, confused, until I happened upon the sign on Linden Street.
The wayfinding signs include directions to other bikeways, bike trails, parts of town (such as Midtown and the Civic Center), schools, libraries, and some City run entities (like the Lincoln Center and the Downtown Transit Center). What you won’t see is a sign for New Belgium or other breweries, restaurants, museums, or other places that tourists might be looking for. Privately owned businesses were left off of the signs.
That doesn’t mean these signs can’t still be quite useful for local businesses. On the same webpage where there might currently be directions by car from a couple of different directions, I can now envision directions also being given for bicyclists coming from various parts of town. (“Take the Remington Bikeway north until you reach the Mountain Bikeway. Turn right and follow the Mountain Bikeway until you reach Link Lane….”)
The Swallow Bikeway ended up being the end of the line for me. As I traveled south on Tulane, I saw that the Remington Bikeway turned left. But after heading left on Swallow, I traveled up and down the street looking for the next sign to indicate my way and I couldn’t find it. (I was so intent on looking, in fact, that I nearly went through a stop sign. *sigh* On a positive note, I ended up at the Nelson Milkhouse, which I’d never taken the time to stop and look at before.)
As I gave up and headed back towards home, I noticed that there’s a sign for the Swallow Bikeway that includes the turn onto the Remington Bikeway. I suspect that there must be an east bound sign that’s similar. But I didn’t see it during my trip. Both signs, despite being for different bikeways, have the same overall look and feel, which is really helpful when traveling around town. You can just keep looking for that green and blue instead of having to note different colors or styles for different routes.
Speaking of which, there were times when I found the coloring to be a little hard to read. When I stopped to take photos, the flash on my camera made the signs stand out really well even in dim light. But given that my bike light points straight ahead, it’s possible that it wouldn’t reach wide enough to shed light on these signs if I were traveling at night. And on the cloudy day when I was pedaling about, there were times that the ambient light was dim enough that I had to be fairly close to read the signs.
Despite a couple of first time oopsies on my part, in general this route was pretty easy to follow, was incredibly helpful with pointing out smart places to turn to connect up with east/west routes, and it was a fairly easy ride with only one significant hill. As the City continues to add signage and improve iffy connection points along routes, Fort Collins is going to become significantly more bikeable
As these signs start going up around town along bikeway after bikeway, hopefully people will take interest, check out the routes, and start to see that they can get pretty much anywhere in town using a comfortable, low-stress route. When I talk to people who are positive about biking but don’t often do it themselves, the biggest obstacle I tend to hear is that the roads just aren’t safe. And when I ask them which roads they’re talking about, they mention Shields, Drake, Horsetooth, etc. In other words, they assume that they need to use the same streets on a bike as they do in a car. And since they use those streets in a car, they know the crazy stupid stuff people do and they don’t want to take any chance being a vulnerable user in those places. But these bikeways provide an alternative. And once people realize that there ARE low-stress ways to get to where they want to go, that’s going to encourage a whole slice of the population to hop on their bikes. And once those people hop on, that will hopefully have a ripple affect as their friends and family begin to see new possibilities as well.
As much as I want to push for protected intersections, more education, and different signage along busy roads where bicyclists really should be taking the lane, I’ve got to admit that having a built-out system of routes that will start to get people around town comfortably is a HUGE step towards creating the Fort Collins that we long to see. I believe it will increase ridership, which becomes a form of protection and education in its own right. (Studies show that the more cyclists use the streets, the safer the streets tend to be.)
Protected intersections are really just a way to capitulate to the fact that cars own the streets. They add safety against a bully that we’ve decided we can’t get rid of, so we need to add a little body armor to protect against him. But if we can reach a tipping point where riding a bike becomes the norm and taking your car is only for special trips, then we won’t need those protected intersections. Bikes and public transit will rule the roads. That’s our true goal. That’s what’s going to increase safety, reduce pollution, and build a stronger economy. I’m eager to see the city that Fort Collins will become as the bikeway system is rolled out.