Pedal down Central Park Boulevard bike lane, and you’ll see a series of stencils of dogs cycling.
“What the heck does this symbol mean?” reader and Central Park resident Kathy Holmes asked. “As a cyclist, I had to ask myself if I was riding in the correct lane, as it appears these lanes are for dogs riding bikes… So, what the heck? Who came up with this symbol? I’m just asking!”
The symbols had been painted on the road for a few months, she said. We wondered: Was it a prankster? A renegade employee in the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure? Someone else?
We reached out to DOTI for an answer.
Spokesperson Vanessa Lacayo said DOTI is in the process of adding safety features between Montview Boulevard and East 36th Avenue, along Central Park Boulevard. That includes a 3.5-mile protected bike lane.
“During the planning process, the community decided they wanted to create their own, custom bike icon,” she wrote Denverite. “The dog icon you see there now was designed and voted on by the Central Park community. The Northeast Transportation Connections is another partner that jumped in and will help maintain the decal.”
DOTI introduced us to Geoff Horsfall, the president of Central Park United Neighbors, Central Park’s registered neighborhood organization. He helped lead the community process that resulted in the new symbols.
“For me, it’s kind of this weird, frozen-in-time thing resurrected,” Horsfall said.
The project was announced in late 2019. Back then, the neighborhood was still called Stapleton, after the Stapleton International Airport, which once stood where the neighborhood is now. Many in the community objected to the name; after all, the airport’s moniker honored former Denver Mayor and Ku Klux Klan member Benjamin Stapleton, who led the city from 1923 to 1931 and again from 1935 to 1947.
The registered neighborhood that eventually became Central Park United Neighbors was called Stapleton United Neighbors, or SUN.
When DOTI approached the neighborhood group about adding a protected, dedicated bike lane, the department explained it wanted to engage the community in the project and solicit input.
The board of the neighborhood group took inspiration from the RiNo Art District’s use of the rhino on bike lanes and Portland Oregon’s various creative bike lane characters and decided to drum up a symbol that would reflect the community.
DOTI “gave us a lot of guidelines and parameters about what would be acceptable and not, so that it could still be recognized as a bike-lane symbol and not something else or mistaken for something else,” Horsfall said. “We organized a friendly competition to submit your bike lane design within DOTI’s specifications.”
SUN announced the contest around January 2020. People submitted various ideas, including a pilot riding a bike, to honor the airport, and of course, the dog — a symbol of the many canines walking parks around the neighbood.
“The voting closed at around late March, early April of 2020, which was just of course when the pandemic descended, and so you know, dogs and bike lanes quickly left people’s priority list,” Horsfall said. “And not only have we gone through a whole pandemic since then, but we renamed our community to Central Park since then. It feels like a whole lifetime ago in a lot of respects.”
But one board member, Brad Revare, shepherded the project to completion. When he announced the dog stencil was going down, Horsfall was baffled. “The dog stencil?” he asked. Then it clicked.
“And so, it was kind of fulfilling in a weird way to see that thing come back to life,” Horsfall said. “It was kind of this fun intersection of local government and nonprofit and residents all kind of working together to do something which is great.”
While the stencils have been painted, the bike lanes are still in the works, said Lacayo.
“This was something new for us – the end result was really great,” she said. “We are just waiting on rubber posts before we can call the project complete – hope to have those in soon. Once those are in, I believe the community wants to host an organized ride to celebrate the new route and dedicate the icon.”
Who knows: Maybe the biking dog icons will inspire a new form of recreational transportation, suggested Holmes. “Perhaps residents of Central Park are teaching their dogs to ride safely!”