Aspen extends one-way street experiment
September 24, 2008
ASPEN ” Downtown Aspen will have a one-way street through the winter, and possibly a dedicated zone for small cars along the three-block stretch.
The Aspen City Council on Tuesday agreed to extend its experiment on the one-way thoroughfare on Galena Street to Cooper Avenue through the ski season.
In June, officials converted Galena Street from Hopkins Avenue around the Paradise Bakery corner onto Cooper Avenue to Hunter Street into a one-way path to make way for more parking spots by creating angle parking as opposed to parallel. The experiment was scheduled to end this month.
Concerned about pedestrian and cyclist safety, as well as the effect of a “canyon” of large SUVs parked at an angle, council members directed Tim Ware, director of parking, to come up with a plan to make one side of the street devoted to small cars.
“I feel like I’m in a metal alley,” said City Councilman Jack Johnson, adding he noticed this summer that the SUVs and vans with bike racks attached to the rear parked in the area were the size of “semis.” “It’s a degraded visual experience and it’s a degraded driving experience.”
Former mayor Helen Klanderud said the one-way street isn’t pedestrian friendly.
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“You feel like you are walking into a tunnel,” she said, adding the town’s streets were designed to be wide to visually take in the natural surroundings. “To me, it feels cramped.”
The parking department conducted a survey of all the businesses on the one-way streets shortly after Labor Day. The majority, or 81 percent of the businesses, gave a favorable response to keeping it as is. The main sentiment from businesses was that the city should install more signs in the area.
Klanderud said visitors coming into the downtown core from Independence Pass this summer found it difficult to navigate their way to the other side of town, especially on Saturdays when the Farmers’ Market closes a portion of Hunter and Galena streets.
She said better signage is needed.
Klanderud also said if the goal of the one-way street was to create more parking, it’s a “180 degrees” from the city’s stated goal of reducing traffic.
“Do not enter” signs also send a negative message to visitors about the area, which is heavily used by pedestrians, Klanderud said, adding the old idea of extending the pedestrian mall off Cooper Avenue perhaps should be resurrected.
Mayor Mick Ireland and Johnson said they liked the concept of extending the mall, but the suggestion didn’t gain traction on Tuesday.
Neither did the idea of making more streets in the downtown core one-way.
City Engineer Tricia Aragon said a more detailed study needs to be done before any other considerations are made. She added that she supports keeping the one-way through the winter as an experiment.
The Aspen Police Department reported that no accidents occurred on the one-way streets this summer.
The one-way idea surfaced this past spring from the Commercial Core and Lodging Commission (CCLC) in an effort to increase the number of parking spaces in the downtown area. The CCLC earlier this month voiced support for keeping the one-way street and suggested that Hyman Avenue become one-way as well.
Aragon said she’s concerned about the effects the one-way street has on other parts of downtown, specifically intersections where pedestrians and cars interact frequently, such as Hunter and Cooper, and Hunter and Durant.
“It has pushed traffic to Hunter,” she said, adding the winter season will give a good indication if the one-way negatively affects traffic flow or pedestrian safety.