Despite the fact that we live in a city that’s known for its wide streets, there are some roads that are just plain skinny. Both Mulberry and Shields through the Old Town area fall into that category. While College Avenue is wide enough for two lanes in either direction, center parking, and diagonal parking along the sides, both Mulberry and Shields through Old Town can barely fit two lanes in either direction (even cars have to use the gutter at times). This makes for extremely uncomfortable travel for any cyclists that need to use these streets. And it’s not always possible to just pop over to a parallel but less trafficked road.
So as part of the Old Town Neighborhoods Plan, there’s been a lot of talk about how to make north-south and east-west passage through the area a little smoother. (The Remington Greenway is a great north-south route on the east side, but there’s no similar north-south route on the west side.) One solution is to right-size the streets in order to more comfortably include turn lanes for cars and bike lanes for bicyclists. But this solution will only be used for short sections of the roads.
There is a road that runs parallel to Mulberry that can be used from City Park to Riverside — Magnolia, just one street to the north. So the City planners are considering using wayfinding signs to help cyclists find that alternate route. Unfortunately the section of Magnolia right between the Old Town neighborhoods, through downtown, is probably the trickiest bit to navigate due to Canyon, which slices through at an angle, making for a wide, uncomfortable intersection, and also because of the diagonal parking along Magnolia near the post office. This section of the street falls under the Downtown Plan, and there are some preliminary ideas for Canyon that could include making that tricky intersection much more comfortable for peds and bicyclists by adding some pedestrian islands and slowing motor traffic.
Using Magnolia as an alternate route doesn’t work west of Jackson Street because the street ends at the park. So the plan at that point is to route bicyclists through the southeast corner of City Park, and then to right-size Mulberry from City Park to Taft (which is the western edge of the Old Town Neighborhoods Plan area). Cars frequently travel faster than the 35 mph speed limit along that stretch and with the curve in the road around Sheldon Lake, motorists often stray outside of their lane. Right-sizing will provide left hand turn lanes for motorists where they don’t currently exist, and will allow for a bike lane on the north side of the road where there currently isn’t one.
A similar plan is in the works for Shields between Magnolia and Laporte. Right-sizing the street will provide more space for sidewalks (which are currently not much more than curbs. Fitting a wheelchair or stroller on the pavement is an exercise in balance and aim.), allow for bike lanes which don’t currently exist, and will also provide a left hand turn lane for motorists, all of which should not only encourage more multi-modal travel, but provide a smoother flow of traffic as well.
To find out more about the Old Town Neighborhoods Plan, check out the City of Fort Collins website, which is updated regularly with new information, surveys, and meeting times and dates. You don’t have to live in an Old Town neighborhood to participate.