Fort Collins Opens Its First Official Low-Stress Bikeway

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Photo credit: City of Fort Collins

By Joe Gilpin and Tom Natwick, Alta Planning + Design

How do cities better serve residents in providing bikeways that will appeal to a wider spectrum of their residents, be safer and induce more use? The vast majority of bicycle involved crashes occur at intersections along collector and arterial streets; by focusing on prioritizing local streets and on separation along busier streets a bikeway network can be more inviting and increase bicycle use and safety. There have been several past mentions on this blog about low-stress bicycle corridors and intersection crossings. In 2016, Alta led the design for the Pitkin Low-Stress Bikeway, beginning with concept design and progressing through 100% construction documents, adhering to CDOT guidelines. The project is finishing construction in June 2017. Fort Collins has been planning low-stress bikeways over the past several years. This is the City’s first official low-stress bike corridor (neighborhood greenway) project as recommended in the bike plan.
 
The entire east-west Pitkin corridor is a little over four miles long with four significant arterial crossings that previously required an adventurous spirit and sometimes much patience in crossing. In addition to intersection crossing treatments, Alta developed bikeway specific wayfinding signage, a multi-use path at the transition into the campus of Colorado State University (CSU), corridor signing and striping, and traffic signal design.

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Photo credit: City of Fort Collins

The multi-use path is a key feature outside of the intersection improvements transitioning from a dog-leg intersection to campus. The design of the path has had many design iterations with challenges arising from utilities, existing large trees, lighting, and truck turning to name a few. With successful coordination between the adjacent property owner and the City, the solution is intuitive and formalizes much of the dangerous and erratic bicycling behavior previously exhibited by residents accessing CSU at this intersection.

Alta and the City identified four major intersections critical to the function of the bikeway. After exploring and laying out multiple concepts for the intersections, Alta used several public meetings and in-depth discussions with staff to narrow the design to full signals with Toucan crossing features.

Toucan crossings are a type of crossing that provides signal guidance for pedestrians and bicycles crossing the major roadway. When no bicycle or pedestrian traffic is present on the minor roadway, a mainline red-yellow-green signal head gives a green indication to mainline vehicular traffic. When a call is placed by minor roadway pedestrian/bicycle traffic, mainline traffic is given a yellow, then a red indication, and the bicycle/pedestrian traffic is given a “walking man” and/or green bicycle signal indication.

Toucan crossings are configured with a “pork chop” or other similar channelizing median at each minor leg to restrict minor roadway vehicular movements to right-out and to consolidate the bicycles/pedestrians to one crossing. With the aid of favorable traffic counts for a toucan (meaning few through and left turns at these intersections due to the difficulty of crossing these arterials) and being the favored City and public option, Alta proceeded with toucan crossings.

Examples of well-functioning toucan crossings can be found in Palo Alto, Berkeley, Tucson, and Salt Lake City. Each varies in dimensions, signal layout and style, signage, and grading. An essential phase of the design period leading up to 75% from the 30% preliminary design was to agree on a layout that would be replicable through-out Fort Collins, while also satisfying bicycle/pedestrian users, the traffic department, and the maintenance team.

Out of this collaboration several key features emerged. The team decided on providing bicycle specific signals with push buttons in 6-in raised center medians, with a 2-in raised through bike lane storage area, and a “painted pork chop” median. The plowable features of the median allow for a year-round maintenance solution while still delineating the bike lane. The painted median provides flexibility for the City to observe vehicle compliance and add channelizing modifications if necessitated.

Go to the profile of Alta Planning + Design
Photo credit: City of Fort Collins
Go to the profile of Alta Planning + Design
Photo credit: City of Fort Collins

Alta has also completed work on a few other intersection improvement projects in Fort Collins including a methodology tool to determine the most appropriate intersection crossing treatments for existing and future bikeway crossings within the City. The tool considers factors such as major street volumes, lane configurations, peak hour turning vehicle volumes, adjacent signal distances and corridor signal progression.

Alta is now working on an a different low-stress corridor for the City along Hampshire Rd and Ponderosa Drive that will utilize additional Toucan and other intersection crossing treatments when complete. These improvements plus, many others that the City of Fort Collins is currently developing, will help the city shine with its acceptance as one of 10 cities nationally into the ‘Big Jump Project’ led by People For Bikes. Fort Collins is setting a great example about what it means to be a ‘Platinum level Bicycle Friendly Community.’