Streetfilms: Contra-Flow Biking in Boulder

Here’s the first Streetfilm from Clarence Eckerson’s trip to Boulder, Colorado, recent winner of the League of American Bicyclists’ Platinum status designation. This vid shows off a three-block contra-flow bike lane, connecting the Pearl Street pedestrian mall to a greenway network.

Where in NYC might contra-flow lanes be useful?

  • Jason A

    “Where in NYC might contra-flow lanes be useful?”

    Queensboro and Williamsburg bridge approaches!

  • Larry Littlefield

    Forsythe Street in Manhattan; Prospect Park West in Brooklyn.

    I think that lane is wide enough for bike traffic in two directions, or close to it. You just go left to pass, like you do on a two-lane rural highway in an automobile.

    I’d like to see a two-way separated bike path at those two locations.

  • In our recent petition regarding Bennett Ave in upper Manhattan to CB12, contra-flow bike traffic came up. Besides Bennett, which is one-way going downtown, Broadway is the only street running NS in the valley between Ft George and Ft Washington from 181st to roughly 194th. Many uptown-bound cyclists already ride against traffic on Bennett in order to avoid the dangers of Broadway, but this practice creates hazardous interactions with other street users who aren’t expecting contra-flow traffic. In our petition we noted redesigning bennett for bi-directional bike traffic as one of the two options for improving this dangerous situation.

  • Connecting the ferry terminals downtown to the greenways. It’s almost impossible to navigate the end of South Street, at Whitehall, successfully — yet the allegedly continuous greenway passes through there.

    I second Forsyth. It could easily be the safest route to/from the Manhattan Bridge with a little forethought.

    Bridge approaches in general.

    Johnson Street, between Adams and Jay.

    Lafayette Ave, between Flatbush/Schermerhorn and Fulton. Otherwise there’s no good connector from Fort Greene to Boerum Hill.

    West Broadway, between Grand and Walker. This was actually proposed in an old NYCDOT study, but never implemented.

    Park Row, getting to the Brooklyn Bridge from downtown.

    Greenwich Ave, between W 13th and 8th Ave.

  • I agree with Larry about a two-way, physically separated lane on Prospect Park West, one of which would be contra-flow, of course, though I’d also like to see PPW and 8th Avenue turned into two-way street for cars, too, at which point the “contra” lane would no longer be so.

  • My criticism of the video is that it did not offer any explicit rationale for a bike lane being contra-flow. Is the idea to support bi-directional cycling on a one-way street? In which case, it does make sense to make the contra-flow lane a segregated facility.

  • I would love contra-flow bus and bike lanes on all the Avenues. Yes, this has not worked in the past, it can easily work now with singage and the correct PR campaign. Get two for the price of one.

  • IIRC, Paris has contra-flow lanes which are not physically separated, just striped.

    Can anyone confirm that the “Bike Boulevards” in Portland and other cities are at least occasionally bi-directional bike facilities on one-way streets? I believe that’s the case.

  • Is the livable streets movement (and commuting cyclists) better served by supporting bi-directional cycling on one-way streets (via a segregated contra-flow or bi-directional lane) or by simply making one-way streets bi-directional for all vehicular traffic (bikes and cars)?

    I’d love to hear others’ opinions on this topic.

  • This looks great. Of course its form can be used on any street, not just in a contra-flow design. We’re working on a design for a California city with very wide (100′) streets that are currently one-way. We’re proposing two-way streets, with one-way bike lanes going with the traffic on each side of the street. As in this photo, the lanes are separated from the sidewalk and the street and introduce two additional rows of trees. We also put parking outside the bike lane and trees, and a median with trees in the center — altogether, therefore, 3 new rows of trees.

  • Andy B from Jersey

    Hmmm…. Doesn’t NYC already has contraflow bike lanes? Isn’t that the reason why there on the left side of the road?

    Oh wait. I’m sorry! They’re actually not intended for retrograde traffic?


    I often see people riding their bikes down them as if those left side bike lanes were intended for contraflow traffic. It does seem to be the natural thing to do. You see, anyplace else in the world (with very few exceptions), where there is a bike lane on the left side of a one-way street, it is usually intended only for retrograde bicycle traffic.

    So don’t blame that German (or the Dutch, Wisconsin, Danish, Colorado, etc.) tourist for riding down that bike lane in the wrong direction. It’s just what those crazy people do on a left side bike lane in those wacky places where they are from.

  • Eric

    The lane is nice, but it really makes me sad to see all those people wearing helmets who have been duped into thinking that they are somehow safer with them.

  • Andy B, the bike symbol is upside down if you’re going against traffic. I don’t think anyone can seriously be under the impression that they are supposed to go the wrong way; they probably just don’t know which parallel street (if any) has a bike lane in the direction they want to go, and are under the (mistaken) impression that going the wrong way on a street with a bike lane is safer than going the right way on one without.

    Well done on speaking out against the machinations of Big Helmet, Eric. Cycledom shall not be incarcerated in a cell of plastic and foam!

  • I was in the vicinity of the contra-flow lane for quite sometime while filming and being out and about in Boulder. I thought for sure it would be used by cyclists to go the wrong way and not use the road. Well, I only saw that once in about 100 cyclists or so.

    It really is amazing that in the best U.S. cycling cities, there are so many amenities for cyclists that traffic laws are usually followed. Davis, Calif; Portland, Oregon; Boulder; even Berkeley – to some extent – are examples of well behaved cyclists in regards to the law. Why? I think it is because some of their needs are catered to and when you bike around you feel there are options that have been developed with you in mind. Cyclists know the safest, sanest routes and they use them and are happy there.

  • Chris in Sacramento

    What’s striking is the QUALITY of the facility. Good pavement, buffers, decent width, curves to discourage speeding on this short bikeway, connectivity, trees for shading… So many communities seem willing to install bike facilities that are barely functional or uninspiring.


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