The reconstruction of North Broadway is nearly complete, including a new bike lane that some residents had higher hopes for. Credit: John Herrick

Following two years of near-constant road work, the North Broadway reconstruction between Violet Ave. and U.S. 36 is nearly complete. A new traffic signal hangs above the intersection at Yarmouth and a concrete path dips under the busy road at Fourmile Canyon Creek. 

The $11 million project also includes a highly anticipated bike lane. The 5-foot-wide path is separated from passing vehicles by “mountable curbs” designed to provide a greater level of protection for the hundreds of cyclists who ride the road on any given day. North Broadway previously had a simple painted line to indicate the bike path. 

But the half-mile-long bike lane has not lived up to some residents’ expectations. 

Since it was opened to cyclists in December, snow and ice has piled up in the parking spots, resulting in drivers parking their cars in the bike lane. Cyclists must swerve into traffic to avoid them. Some residents argue the city should have made the bike lane wider and more protective, specifically in light of its commitment to make streets safer for people on bikes. 

In response to these concerns, the Transportation Advisory Board, a five-member board that advises the Boulder City Council on transportation issues, met this week to hear from city officials about what could be done to improve the bike lane. 

Some wanted to know whether parking could be removed to effectively widen the lane, among other possible changes. 

But based on response from city officials, the bike lane is unlikely to be altered anytime soon. 

Natalie Stiffler, the city’s interim director of transportation, said city officials are discussing ways to make the bike lane “feel safer.” This includes enforcing parking restrictions and, potentially, prohibiting on-street parking during winter storms in order to plow. 

Stiffler was not involved in the design of the bike lane, which dates back to 2014, when the city applied for a federal grant to reconstruct the roadway. Several city officials involved in the planning of the North Broadway project, including the project manager, no longer work for the city. 

The safest bike lanes are those that are separated from car traffic by curbs, landscaping or other barriers, similar to the projects underway along 30th St. or Folsom St. But in 2019, when the city was finalizing its plans for the North Broadway project, it sought to balance “competing desires from community,” Stiffler told the board. That included both keeping on-street parking and making the road safer for cyclists and pedestrians.

“That resulted in what some might see as a less-than-ideal final design,” she said. “As we move forward with projects like this, we will collectively have honest conversations that address the questions of tradeoffs.”

Board member Rebecca Davies, the city ratings program director at the Boulder-based nonprofit cycling advocacy group PeopleForBikes, said she is concerned the road is less safe for cycling than it was before the reconstruction. She asked whether the city could remove parking spaces, at least temporarily.

Stiffler said eliminating parking would require a “community engagement process,” taking time away from other priorities. Nixing parking would likely face pushback from businesses, which, according to city officials, wanted to keep on-street parking as part of the reconstruction.

The North Broadway project, which began in the spring of 2021, has already gone over budget — from an estimated $8.6 million in 2019 to more than $11 million. The city also missed its latest deadline to complete the project by the end of 2022. 

“I just view it as a really unfortunate missed opportunity. It really got off on the wrong foot,” Board chair Alex Weinheimer, a transportation planner with the Texas-based firm Traffic Engineers, Inc., said during the meeting. 

“We’re left with the unfortunate reality of living with this street for the next 40 years, or needlessly spending money that we didn’t need to to fix it and interrupt people’s lives.” 

Lessons learned: first and last such project

In the summer of 2019, city officials started gathering community feedback on designs for the North Broadway construction project. The city said the project would  provide “long-term pavement maintenance” and “feasible safety and multimodal enhancements” between Violet Avenue to U.S. 36. 

None of its proposed design options included a separated bike lane. One proposal included a version of a protected bike lane that would have placed car parking between the traffic lanes and the bike lane. But city staff said this would be the most expensive alternative, costing up to $1.5 million. 

Later that summer, the city pitched its ideas to the Transportation Advisory Board for review. Due to cycling safety concerns, some suggested scrapping the proposal and coming up with a new one that included a protected bike lane. They argued the city’s proposed designs didn’t match up with the vision laid out in the 2014 North Boulder Subcommunity Action Plan, which envisioned North Broadway as “walkable, bikeable, human-scaled main street.” 

But city officials said revising the design would cost time and money. They said the city needed to advertise the project for construction by August 2020, or it would risk losing federal grant money. Changing the scope of work would also need approval from the Colorado Department of Transportation, they said. 

Given the time and money constraints, the city and Transportation Advisory Board settled on the concept of a “raised, buffered bike lanes with mountable curbs” separating cyclists from cars. Several board members described it as “light protection” for cyclists. Others referred to it as a “protected” bike lane (though technically it is not).

Nearly a decade after the project was first considered — with new city staff and transportation planners inheriting the problem they didn’t create — some are seeing the experience as a learning opportunity for future projects. 

Board member Tila Duhaime, who used to work for Transportation Alternatives, a nonprofit New York-based organization advocating for cycling and pedestrian safety, said protective bike lane infrastructure is still evolving. The North Broadway bike lane, she said, was an attempt to use vertical rather than horizontal separation from cars. It will probably be the last. 

“If there is a silver lining, it is that we’ve learned a number of lessons,” Duhaime said. “We’re all trying to make life better. Sometimes in seeking new solutions we don’t grab the best one.”

John Herrick is senior reporter for Boulder Reporting Lab, covering housing, transportation, policing and local government. He previously covered the state Capitol for The Colorado Independent and environmental policy for He is interested in stories about people, power and fairness. Email:

Join the Conversation


  1. My first reaction to this situation based on the article is “how pathetic.” Why is government so slow and backwards all the time? How hard can it be to install an effective bike lane? How could removing parking be a solution? Why not remove the cars too? I bet if Apple got involved there would be an effective solution. What about a curbed barrier with shrubs? That would feel safer. Maybe the road needs to be a few feet wider. I just can’t believe this is so difficult for a small local government to effectively tackle. And we are supposed to prioritize cyclists.

  2. If the City builds projects that take this long, only resulting in 1/2 mile of protected bike lanes, which are apparently not that protected; it’s a fool’s errand to think the city will ever get the rest of Broadway down to Iris, with its traditional bike lanes and speeding stressed out drivers, built.

  3. It’s a rare opportunity to build infrastructure from scratch and the city failed. They have ignored all recent evidence of how roads and parking like this negatively affect people, businesses, environment. The long term economic impact of this will add up to millions over time as those businesses remain fly by locations. Cars for the win, again.

    1. The city failed miserably. Such a wonderful opportunity that was squandered. The city’s response – whoops and oh well. Lovely.

  4. Total disappointment was my reaction after traveling along North Broadway for the first time in years. While I have not ridden it on a bicycle yet , it seems to be less safe for cyclists. Also, apparently rebuilding that portion of Broadway meant destroying the section of Broadway to the South to the point that it needs to be repaved at a minimum. I can only hope that the City does not repeat this on 19th Street, where they are on another “improvement project”.

  5. Why is the surface of the new road so rough? It is a new concrete road but it feels like a 10 year old surface. At a minimum it needs to be planed. If it were an asphalt surface the contractor would be required to re-do the job. For $11 million this is the best we can do?

  6. Since we’re going to have to live with a disappointing bike lane, I’d like to see signage all along the curbside warning parked drivers to look before opening street side doors. The biggest danger I see here is that somebody is going to ride in the bike lane and get doored and fall into traffic. That’s a pretty likely possibility the way the lane and parking are positioned. And yes, even the new asphalt is lumpy.

  7. I just read an article on “design thinking” in the MIT Technology Review. This quote struck me as something that could have contributed to the NB bike lane debacle:

    “[Design thinking’s] roots in the agency world, where a firm steps in on a set timeline with an established budget and leaves before or shortly after the pilot state, dictated that the tools of design thinking would be at the start of the product development process but not its conclusion – or, even more to the point, its aftermath.”

    Does anyone know if the city hired an outside design firm (likely one with no transportation experience?) to help with the conceptualization?

  8. The current bike lanes are so much better than before, and I’m happy with the compromise ! It’s better than 99% of anything else out there! There is no such thing as a perfectly safe bike lane. Also, a lot of the discussion centers around what “feels” safe. That seems wrong. These new uber-engineered bike lane concepts give the illusion of safety, while offering only marginal actual benefit. Cars turning across the path of cyclists is still one of the most dangerous things to us cyclists. Let’s focus on that.

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