SPOTLIGHT On 100th Avenue in Westminster, Colorado

An update and a call to action on a section of road used by many cyclists to go between Arvada and Boulder.

Article by: Megan Hottman, The Cyclist-Lawyer.com, and Tim McAndrew, CyclistsHaveRights.org, edited by Michael P. Colchin (OmegaEditing@juno.com)

When a cyclist wants to ride between the Golden-Arvada area and Boulder, the dilemma is: what route between these areas is the least-dangerous and the most bicycle-friendly?
The three choices are:

  • Highway 93 which has newly constructed shoulders with dangerous rumble strips (for cyclists), commonly much debris on the shoulder, high traffic volume, high speed limits, and incessant winds;
  • Indiana Street which has a slightly lower posted speed limit (though motor-vehicle traffic typically travels well over the speed limit on this road), no wide continuously paved shoulders appropriate for road bicycles, and blind spots at the crest of each hilltop; or
  • An indirect zig-zag route that includes: Alkire Street, West 100th Avenue, Simms, and Highway 128 which meanders through Golden, Arvada, unincorporated JeffCo, Westminster, and Broomfield. These roads have lower posted speed limits and typically, lower vehicle traffic volume. See Google Map.

Most cyclists choose option #3. The extra distance required to travel this route is seen by cyclists as an acceptable tradeoff for the perceived lower traffic risk it offers. Because of the lower volume of vehicle traffic and lower speed limits, it is typically considered less intimidating than the other options.

However, a fatal incident in October 2011 proves that even this route is dangerous. Sidney Johnson, who was celebrating his birthday, was commuting home from work on a beautiful Tuesday afternoon, when he was struck by a motor vehicle on 100th Avenue in Westminster and killed. Link to original articles:
- http://303cycling.com/fatal-bike-accident-westminster
- http://303cycling.com/cyclists-have-rights-appeals-to-westminster-for-ro...
- See also - “Issues report” originally filed in May 2010: http://www.seeclickfix.com/issues/39123

Since his death, Mr. Johnson's daughter, Kirstyn, and Tim McAndrew, an active cycling advocate, have been working to get the city of Westminster to improve conditions on 100th Avenue.  Their organization, CyclistsHaveRights.org, worked with city engineers to put together an estimate of the cost of adding shoulders to both the eastbound and westbound lanes of the road. City engineers included it in their 2013/2014 budget submission to the Westminster City Council. Other members of the cycling community, including cyclist Mike Raber of Bike Jeffco, appealed to the City Council during the two-month-long public comment period to include the project in its approved budget.

Notwithstanding this very focused and dedicated effort, the City Council denied the request for improvements on this section of road. The Council stated, among other reasons, "that the requested four foot shoulder would not be sufficient for safe travel of cyclists and motor vehicles." While the city admitted that six foot shoulders would be better, they said they did not include this improvement in "the current proposed five year Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) project list due to...other higher priority projects.” (include link to file of actual letter).
Asked about her feelings on the decision, Kirstyn Johnson said:

"Over the past 16 months, since my father was hit and instantly killed by a car on 100th Avenue, I’ve had numerous people mention in my presence how they would’ve never been caught riding on that road in the first place. Each time I’ve heard that, I became infuriated. First and foremost, my dad was a very safety conscience cyclist. We rode on 100th Avenue to avoid busier streets, such as Indiana Street. He was a defensive cyclist, and would do everything he could to alert motorists that he was on the road.
However, this comment highlights a bigger issue. If people have known this road is unsafe for cyclists, why hasn’t anything been done to improve it? My dad definitely wasn’t the only cyclist riding on this road.

A call to improve bicycle safety on this road was originally initiated in May 2010 on SeeClickFix (http://seeclickfix.com/issues/39123-beautiful-route-needs-a-bike-lane). It is my opinion that if a city is aware of certain areas within their boundaries that pose risks to members of the community, it is their responsibility to see that the necessary improvements are made. I understand that budgets are always tight, and that there are numerous areas that need improvement. However, when someone loses his or her life because of inadequate roadway infrastructure, then improvements need to be made."


Tim McAndrew adds, "One would think a senseless death would spur the city to do whatever it could to take immediate preventive measures. But clearly this was not the case."

While this defeat was extremely disappointing to Johnson, McAndrew, Raber, and other cyclists who use this route to commute and ride recreationally, it has strengthened the determination of CyclistsHaveRights and Bike Jeffco to continue to lobby for this potentially life-saving street improvement. “We are now focused on rallying the residents of Westminster to get involved," said McAndrew. He believes one reason the city may not have perceived the importance of the proposed safety improvement was due to the lack of Westminster residents who participated in the plea to the city.

"Because we are residents of surrounding communities, we felt our voices, although heard, didn't carry nearly as much weight as they would have had we been Westminster residents… Which is why we are asking Westminster cyclists in particular to contact City Council members to let them know how important safety improvements on 100th Avenue are to them,” McAndrew stated.

Here's how you can help:

(1) If you're a Westminster city resident, contact each of your City Council members and the Mayor and explain to them how unsafe it is for cyclists on 100th Avenue and courteously but assertively make in appeal to add this project to the current proposed five-year Capital Improvement Plan.

(2) If you work in Westmoor Park, Interlocken or along the Wadsworth corridor between 100th and 120th Avenues, encourage your employer to write a letter to the Westminster City Council and Mayor stating that bicycle-safe roadways are necessary for your employees who commute to work by bicycle. Emphasize that it is important for your business because it helps to attract the best talent and enables you to stay competitive. As an employee, write a letter explaining why it is important to you to be able to safely commute by bicycle to your place of employment.

(3) If you ride through the area as a recreational cyclist, send an appeal-for-action letter to Westminster’s City Council. Let them know how unsafe you feel on 100th Avenue. Be sure to add how much you contribute to Westminster as a consumer (e.g., shopping, movie theatres, restaurants, etc.).

Also, please “like” CyclistsHaveRights on Facebook and attend a Bike Jeffco meeting held the second Tuesday of the month at the Jefferson County Administration Building (a.k.a. the “Taj Mahal”) in Golden to stay informed of progress on this issue.

While it may seem to be only a short section of road, 100th Avenue is the most commonly-used route for cyclists traveling between Boulder County and Jefferson County. Shoulders on this section of 100th Avenue would be the first step in creating a continuous link of safe roads for cyclists who travel on this route. It would be money well-spent by the city of Westminster because it would provide a huge improvement in traffic-safety for the community.

News Item: 

2 Comments

Thank you Amy for publishing

Thank you Amy for publishing this article. As I rode 100th Ave today, it made me sad to think of Sidney losing his life because the city doesn't see the perils of the combination of bad things intersecting on this roadway. Hopefully this article will enable us to muster the support need to get the city's attention and make the much needed improvements to make this road safer for cyclists, pedestrians and motorists alike.

Westminster City Council Link

I am so disappointed to have read that the improvements requests were denied. As a long-time Jeffco resident, I have ridden this stretch countless times. COUNTLESS. It's the gateway to Boulder. We recently moved from Arvada to Golden. My husband has literally begged me not to ride this stretch. Now that we've moved, I actually take my chances more often on hwy 93 for time purposes. Mmmmm. Rumble strips and semi's.

*By the way, we moved to Golden to be in a more bike/pedestrian friendly city. Westminster would be wise as a city to reexamine the short-term and long-term effects of this decision.

When my husband and I first heard about this tragedy, our hearts broke for Kirstyn and her family. This could be any one of us. I too, always get the "That's so unsafe. Why would you ever want to ride THAT road??!?" Why? Because it's a beautiful stretch of farm-land. Because it gets me to Flagstaff. It gets me to Sunshine. It gets me to Longmont, to Louisville, to Superior. Often times it gets me there ravenously hungry and ready to spend money to fix that. And best of all? It gets me to those places WITHOUT MY CAR. I ride it because I'm a Colorado cyclist and I don't want to ride on a sidewalk. If we keep crossing places off to ride as cyclists because they are "too dangerous", we are going to cross ourselves out of any place to ride.

Kudo's to our CO cycling advocacy groups for rallying. I am deeply thankful that we're not giving up. Speaking of, here is the link to the Westminster City Council emails.

http://www.ci.westminster.co.us/CityGovernment/CityCouncil.aspx

Please take a second and just write a letter. Better yet, attend a MEETING!! Let's quit crossing ourselves off our bikes and out of our communities and instead take them back.