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West side N. Shields where it connects up with the Poudre Trail.

West side N. Shields where it connects up with the Poudre Trail.
(Tire tracks were from landscaping equipment that was finishing up work on the project.)

New and improved North Shields has been open for travel for a couple weeks now, and with sidewalks where previously there were none, and bike lanes where there previously wasn’t even a shoulder, the improvements are a huge boon for non-motorists. But there was one oversight in the original engineering plan. Where the Poudre Trail connected to the street, there were no curb cuts (ramps) for a bicyclist to smoothly ride from the street to the trail and vice versa.

I wrote about the lack of curb cuts in a post entitled Update on N. Shields – Progress! (and a couple of oopsies) and I followed through by contacting both the Fort Collins Parks Department (which overseas bike trails) and the Larimer County Road and Bridge Department (since the trail to street connections were located outside of city limits). I received a follow up call within 24 hours, but the gentleman that I talked to wasn’t the guy on the project, so he said he’d refer me to the project manager. Eventually the manager got back to me via email and replied that curb cuts were left out for safety reasons. (They didn’t want cyclists cutting across the street.)

It took me awhile to puzzle out (and I only eventually got to this understanding thanks to a comment on Facebook by a fellow cyclist) that the engineers had in mind that trail users would all be driving to the new parking lot, then riding to the trail from there. They don’t seem to have envisioned that people would be using the combination of the street and trail as a means of commuting to places like Lincoln Middle School or other nearby businesses.

I enlisted the help of a few other cyclists and we tried again. I wrote an explanation back about why I thought curb cuts were necessary. Bruce Henderson, president of Bike Fort Collins – our local bicycle advocacy non-profit organization, also sent in some thoughts. Within a few days we heard back. The project manager asked the engineers to design some curb cuts and within a few weeks they were installed. (This required tearing out the brand new curbs that were there and replacing them with curbs that sloped down to the street for bicycle passage.)

Yay! I think this is a great example of the value of speaking out. We don’t all see with the same eyes and it’s easy to overlook something on a project, especially if it deals with an aspect of the project that you’re not personally familiar with. It’s only by others speaking to those forgotten aspects that they’ll be dealt with.

If you see things within the city that you’d like to comment on, I’d encourage you to use Access Fort Collins. (You can get to it by going to the city website and clicking on the big button in the upper right corner.) I usually get a response within a week when I use this tool.

If you see things within the county that you’d like to comment on, contact the Road and Bridge folks at Larimer County.

By speaking out, we’re letting the builders of our local infrastructure know that we’re here, that we care, and that we want to help them build the best multi-modal system possible.

East side N. Shields where it connects up with the Poudre Trail.

East side N. Shields where it connects up with the Poudre Trail.