Plan for CU conference center may pose risk to bicyclists, pedestrians
By Martha Roskowski
Every day, hundreds of people bike, skate, roll, walk or run on the Broadway bike path and sidewalk between University and Boulder Creek. It’s a big hill — tiring going up, exhilarating going down — and one of the busiest stretches of path in the whole city. Soon, it may be the most dangerous.
In late October, CU and developer Limelight are slated to break ground on a new conference center with a 250-room hotel and parking structure on the northeast corner of Broadway and University. The current design calls for the primary vehicle access to cross the Broadway path at Grandview, partway down the hill. Today, few cars use this access, but regular path users can testify that every vehicle turning on or off of Grandview feels like a threat. Most drivers simply don’t look for people on the path, going either up or down. Instead, they focus on finding a gap in traffic to make the turn on this busy section of Broadway.
Today, Grandview at Broadway sees about 70 cars a day. The new development is projected to increase traffic to 1,150 cars a day, a twenty-two-fold increase, with 150 to 175 cars an hour at peak times. That’s one car every twenty seconds turning across one of Boulder’s flagship multi-use paths with limited sight lines and no traffic signal for safety. Many of the drivers will be visitors unfamiliar with the intersection.
Quite simply, someone will likely die if this design goes forward. It may be a CU student on a skateboard, a teacher biking home, a mom on an e-cargo bike loaded with kids, a runner training for their next race. There is no crossing of a multi-use path in Boulder that comes anywhere close to this configuration: steep hill with many fast-moving bikers and skaters, heavy volume of turning traffic, unsignalized.
It’s also likely to cause traffic headaches on Broadway. Imagine all those cars making the move onto Broadway during busy times and when the hill gets slick in the winter.
I think most people can understand the problem with this design. And yet, Limelight Hotels (a brand of Aspen Skiing Company) and CU seem to think it will be fine. In response to concerns raised by Community Cycles, CU says they are looking at some design tweaks. No tweaks are going to fix this debacle. City staff, meanwhile, say they can only suggest changes to CU.
The most infuriating part is there is a clear alternative: It’s completely feasible to meet all the motor vehicle access needs to the new facilities off of University, using 13th and 15th Streets. That would mean traffic from Broadway — constituting most of the trips by conference center visitors — would cross the Broadway multi-use path at the signal-controlled intersection with University, a far safer situation. Grandview could then be closed completely, except for emergency access, at Broadway, resulting in a net safety gain for people walking, biking and driving.
I can’t say why CU and Limelight aren’t embracing this safer design. The agreement between CU and Limelight isn’t public. Grandview and Broadway are city streets, but because the conference center is a CU project, no public process has been undertaken. I’m guessing this is the first time that most in Boulder have heard about the design.
I’ve lived in Boulder for most of the past 45 years, and I’ve watched it change from a place of vision, exuberance and innovation that walked the talk on environmentalism and actively prioritized transit, walking and biking. Last week, I was saddened by the decision to turn West Pearl back over to cars. The Grandview design isn’t just sad, it’s potentially bordering on negligent.
A group of us calling for vehicle access to be relocated to University has started a petition. If you care, please add your name. People, let’s change this.
Martha Roskowski is a CU grad who has worked in transportation for years and frequently uses the Broadway path. Roskowski is writing in a personal capacity. She lives in Boulder.