Thursday, October 15, 2009

Route profile: 16th Street/Avenue

16th Street Mall and 16th Avenue are collectively known as the Teenybopper Mallrat Route.

One of Denver's stranger bike routes, notable for running along the spine of the city, but at the same time not really taking you anywhere.

Access to the mall is limited to one day out of the week; and 16th Avenue has a bike lane but is not part of the Grid, and eventually comes to an abrupt stop after a couple blocks.

The route starts at one end of the city at the northwest end of the 16th Street Mall, either at Union Station or at National Velvet.

Now, unless it's Sunday, you cannot ride on the 16th Street Mall. This is one of's Big Four rules, right up there with No Riding On The Sidewalk. Bike here 85.7% of the time, and you'll get a ticket.

On Sunday though, you can cruise right down the middle of the road. It's an interesting 1.5 mile ride that's not without its own unique joys and frustrations.

At the southeast end of the mall, your route crosses Broadway and becomes E 16th Avenue.

16th Avenue is not listed on the City of Denver bike map as a "grid" route, or even as a local bike route, but simply as a "road with a bike lane."

So even the city recognizes that it's kind of special.

Personally, I have a tendency to forget about 16th Ave until I cross it coming from the north or the south, and I see a bike lane, and I think to myself, "Oh! An E/W bike lane! I need to go east … might as well use this convenient bit of infrastructure!"

So I turn onto 16th and cruise along, slowly progressing through the the stop signs that litter the route, until suddenly it dead ends at East High School.

Near the school, there is suddenly eleven or eight fleets worth of cars parked on the street, and there are always—regardless of the time day, morning or afternoon—handfuls of kids milling about outside.

Enough to make you want to point out to them that there's no such thing as education by proxy. Being at the school doesn't count. You gotta, you know, go inside and learn stuff.

Anyway, so suddenly you dead-end at the high school. You options for continuing are, to the south, Colfax Ave; and to the north, 17th Ave.

Neither of these streets are safe to bike on.

That leaves you the option of, to the north, continuing past 17th into and through City Park or, to the south, riding on the sidewalk on Colfax for one block before cutting back up to a safe side street.

Of these options, one is illegal (sidewalk-ridin') and one is inconvenient (the winding route through City Park takes you out of your way.)

So this route is interesting. It takes you from East High School to the far end of 16th Street Mall, and not really anywhere else.

But in doing so, you get really close to the real heart of the city.

Just off this route is City Park, Civic Center Park, the Central Library. Cheeseman Park is a short ride to the south. It runs parallel to all the wondrous crap on Colfax and it runs right through all the wondrous crap on the 16th Street Mall, including Skyline park. At the northwest end, you can get on the S. Platte River trail just north of the confluence with the Cherry Creek trail.

So from a wider perspective, I suppose it's quite a well connected hub.

But since all it literally does is connect a high school to a strip mall, I shall henceforth call this the Teenybopper Mallrat Route.

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