Map of Ride

The ride review is on hold while safety considerations are being made.

Glen lives in the Golden Gate Canyon area and has some concerns with safety for bicyclists and motorists He is interested in advocating for some safety improvements with the county.
On Tue, Jun 11, 2019 at 7:40 AM Glen Denning wrote:
My thanks to Molly for suggesting I contact the two of you.

I am writing to tell you about a bicycle safety problem in Golden Gate Canyon and ask for your input regarding a plan to improve it.

A few weeks ago I was driving uphill around a blind corner just west of Mount Galbraith Park as I encountered a bicyclist well into the lane travelling in the same direction. He was doing about 4 mph and I was doing the speed limit of 35 mph. At that moment, oncoming traffic, the narrow 12-foot lane and the lack of any shoulder all lined up to prevent me from passing the bicyclist safely. I had to use maximum braking for about 2½ seconds, coming to a complete stop about 10 feet behind the bicyclist. The long interval of squealing tires probably made the bicyclist think he was about to die: he was visibly shaking as he tried to walk his bicycle off the road. Almost immediately after stopping and as soon as the oncoming traffic passed, I had to accelerate rapidly so the one-ton pickup just 10 seconds behind me – who had no idea I was stopped dead in the road just around a blind corner – would not hit me.

I’ve lived in Golden Gate Canyon for about three years now, and this near-miss is one of three *just this spring* where I suddenly had to engage maximum braking from the speed limit to avoid hitting a bicyclist who appeared in the uphill lane just around a blind corner. I’ve had a few encounters in the previous years, but never so many so close together in time.

I called the State of Colorado and spoke to one of the traffic engineers responsible for bicycle safety. He informed me that Golden Gate Canyon Drive is Jefferson County Road 70 (Co Rd 70) from Colorado Hwy 93 up to the Gilpin County line. Although he can’t make any changes to Co Rd 70, we did talk for a while about ways to improve safety. He started with this: “If drivers would just follow the cautionary speed signs, they’d have enough time to react to bicyclists in their lane.” I responded that admonishments are completely ineffective . . . if you want to improve safety, structural changes that modify the circumstance are the only way to reliably improve safety. We continued talking and came up with several possible ways to improve safety:

– Systems that detect a bicyclist in a segment and following drivers
– Reducing the 24-foot road (which consists of two 12-foot lanes and no shoulders) to two 10-foot lanes and a four-foot uphill shoulder

Both these solutions have impediments. The alerting signs are expensive and getting power to them in the canyon makes them even more so. Regarding narrower lanes, Co Rd 70 was re-paved last year and a rumble strip center line was cut into the pavement. This makes moving the center line very expensive. There is also a lot of large truck traffic (dump trucks, moving vans, trailers, etc.) for which a 10-foot lane is extremely narrow. With those things in mind, I’m considering approaching the county to ask them to help improve bicyclist safety in their portion of Golden Gate Canyon. Here are the things I’d want to talk about:

1) Speed Study: while the speed limit is 35 mph for almost all of Co Rd 70, most vehicles in the canyon travel at 40 – 45 mph. JeffCo built Co Rd 70 in 1939. Although modern vehicles *can* drive at 40, 50 or 60 mph and more in the canyon, the limited sight lines around sharp corners make it very dangerous to do so. The road wasn’t built to maximize the capabilities of today’s vehicles, but many drivers push the limits of their vehicle every time they drive up or down the canyon.

As you know, speed makes a huge difference in the outcome of a vehicle – bicycle crash. I believe a speed study will help illuminate the very serious danger bicyclists face in the canyon.

2) Lane Width Reduction: I would propose *evaluating* the effect of a 10-foot uphill lane with a 2-foot shoulder. A delineated shoulder area would give bicyclists the possibility of refuge from a vehicle that can’t stop in time as they approach from behind around a blind corner. Narrower lanes also have the psychological effect of slowing down motorists. The downsides are at least two-fold: large trucks or trailers may not be able to stay in a 10-foot lane and marked bicycle lanes often reduce the lateral distance that motorists pass by bicyclists. While this measure might slow traffic down and prevent outright collisions, it might also severely limit large vehicle traffic and prompt many more very close auto / bicycle passing events.

3) Slow Vehicle Alerting: I would propose identifying critical blind corners for which slow vehicle alerting systems should be installed on the uphill lane. This would warn drivers that a slow vehicle was just around a corner with poor sight lines and give them time to slow to a safe speed. I can imagine the installation of each sign being *very* expensive, so this would take some time to budget and implement.

4) Signage: The advisory speed signs on Co Rd 70 (e.g., yellow sign with an icon for a twisty road and 20 mph recommended) are sparse and inconsistently placed. There are segments several miles long containing many blind turns *and* lengthy straights that are signed only at the beginning with an advisory speed of 20 mph. Nearly all drivers ignore these signs: they are too far removed from any problem corner and they make no sense on the lengthy straight segments they encounter before the next advisory sign.

I would propose adding *credible* advisory signs on specific uphill corners where vehicles at the speed limit would need to slow down so they could stop in time behind a bicyclist. In addition, I would also propose adding a caution sign at the bottom of the canyon and at frequent locations going up the canyon that warn motorists of the likelihood of encountering bicyclists and other slow-moving traffic around blind corners. Finally, I would suggest a sign that alerts motorists that the back end of long vehicles and trailers track inside the front wheels and may overlap onto the shoulder of inside corners (where bicyclists may be). This last suggestion is probably pie-in-the-sky, but I frequently see commercial truck and van drivers dropping their wheels off the pavement on inside corners, so I know it’s needed.

I am interested in your feedback and suggestions on who to talk to at JeffCo.

Glen Denning

 

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