Comments Against the Urban Trails Master Plan

Grand Junction Planning Commission Meeting, August 13, 2013

by Tom Burrows

[Here are the comments I presented in a speech to the GJ Planning Commission. This is based on my prepared statement and includes most of my ad-libbed material as I remember it.]


I second the remarks being made by the other speakers in favor of property rights. My own property has been threatened by the trails people; but due to unanimous opposition from all the people on my street to a destructive trail through our yards, I've been told we're off the hook. But who knows?

I would only add that just because the Colorado Supreme Court has ruled that the trails people can legally covet people's property and publicize their desires, this doesn't make it right.

But the main thing I wanted to talk about here is a problem with a large portion of the Plan that should invalidate it because it is creating even more safety problems [in addition to the canal issues] and is actually counterproductive to the stated purpose of the Urban Trails Committee.

Remarks on the Plan's Unusable and Unsafe "Bike Lanes"

Of the places where I've lived, Mesa County is the worst for road cycling and bicycle commuting. This is due to misguided planning by trails activists who don't understand something called vehicular cycling, which is the key to peaceful co-existence of bikes and cars. Instead, they treat cyclists as semi-pedestrians riding toys.

I've written a paper with more details on these issues ("Improvements for Bikeable Streets and Roads in Mesa County"), which can be found at my web site here:

Here are just a couple of examples:

  1. Drive up and down Monument Road a few times and you'll lose count of all the times you have to swerve into the oncoming lane to get around bicyclists who are not using the "bike lanes," which were installed for them (at great expense). Presumably this is because, like pretty much all of the marked bike lanes in the county (including the much-touted 29 Road), they fill up with debris and become shunned by cyclists. Bikes depend on passing car tires to keep the road surface swept clean. By contrast, wherever there is no marked bike lane, the entire road surface is squeaky clean and usable by all. Drive around the area and you'll see what I mean.

    Yesterday I drove down 29 Road from Patterson to Highway 50, and then on home via Riverside Parkway. During the whole trip, all the so-called "bike lanes" were gravelly while all the auto lanes were clean.

  2. Bike lanes in the residential neighborhood just north of downtown Grand Junction invite cyclists to ride directly into opening doors of parked cars. Creating worst-practice bike lanes like this is, in my judgement, downright criminal.

From gravelly bike lanes that force cyclists into the narrow auto lane to the opening-car-door traps, the Urban Trails Master Plan is a showcase of "Bike Paths of Doom"—perhaps well-intentioned, but done with no actual knowledge of cycling safety.


With respect to the Urban Trails Master Plan, I have three suggestions:

  1. To improve bikeability of our streets and roads: Scrap the plan, reverse past decisions as needed and undo or cease the ill-conceived, unsafe practices the Urban Trails Committee is recommending.

  2. Distribute copies of Effective Cycling, by John Forester, to the local road designers. I spent many years in DuPage County, IL commuting by bicycle using Forester's cycling techniques—on the kind of roads he recommends (wide lanes, no markings). His ideas work. For examples of what happens when his advice is ignored, just look at the useless and unsafe bike lanes around here I've been talking about.

  3. Encourage cyclists who don't know how to ride properly in traffic (or are afraid to do so) to read the same book. It's what made bicycle commuting possible for me—at least where I used to live.


[Some thoughts I composed after the meeting:]

I had already understood that the Urban Trails Committee has a questionable attitude on property rights and is more interested in land grabbing and empire building than their stated purposes.

What was really showcased in the meeting was that, from drowning risks in the canals to worst-practice Bike Lanes of Doom, the people on the Urban Trails Committee have no knowledge of or concern for public safety or even human life. Anything said to them on these safety-related topics seems to go in one ear and out the other. They try to cover up the fact that all their major functions have gone wrong with respect to safety; and they try to make themselves seem respectable by throwing around the classic central planner's slogan: "It's for the children."

In the past (and to some extent, in my remarks above), I've been giving the perpetrators of this area's failed, unsafe bike lanes too much credit for meaning well but merely being incompetent. As a result of what I have seen in this meeting, I now conclude that the situation with the Urban Trails Committee is that we have outright malfeasance.

To the three suggestions above, I would now add a fourth:

I would also note that the arguments presented at the meeting in favor of the Plan fell into three categories:

  1. Those who brushed aside the Plan's safety problems. (To be charitable, they may have just been unaware of them. E.g., most bicyclists are clueless about bike safety and bike traffic engineering best practices, and wouldn't know what to ask for.)

  2. Moochers who simply want to play on other people's property.

  3. Those who made generic remarks about the importance of physical fitness, which has nothing to do with the topics of commandeering people's land and constructing unsafe public recreational facilities.

Tom Burrows,

An electronic copy of this article can be found at