Aspen looks at future for bikes, pedestrians in town
The Aspen Times
Aspen’s bicycle and pedestrian master plan has resulted in extensive trail improvements from the Aspen Business Center to east of Aspen, but the city hasn’t revisited the plan since 1991.
More than 20 years later, the city is taking a fresh look at interactions among pedestrians, bicycles and automobiles, seeking public input on how it can improve transportation. On its website, the city is fielding comments using interactive mapping, with suggestions posted for intersections all over town. On Monday, officials held an open house at the Limelight Hotel, where residents provided feedback on the master plan.
Soraya Khalje, general manager at Ute City Cycles, said traffic has gotten so bad in town she no longer has any desire to drive. She considers herself a bicycle advocate, citing environmental and health benefits.
“The less cars on the road, the safer our community is, the cleaner our community is,” Khalje said. “It’s getting to a point where it’s just not fun to drive downtown and find parking. You park just as far away as your house was, so what’s the point?”
The master plan has been on the city’s radar for some time. In 2012, the Aspen City Council listed the concept in its top 10 goals, vowing to create a program implemented over five years, addressing Main Street, Mill Street, Gondola Plaza, Galena Street and pedestrian transit access points. This summer, the city spent $616,000 on restructuring the intersection in front of Gondola Plaza, resulting in a rolling crosswalk similar to the sidewalk outside the Wheeler Opera House.
Next on the city’s radar is one of the major choke points in the town’s trail system, Castle Creek Bridge. The city has spent $57,000 on narrowing potential solutions to one conceptual design, which the city council is expected to consider in January. The design calls for a multi-use trail system running from Cemetery Lane, across Castle Creek Bridge, to Seventh Street and into the West End.
If council supports the design, construction could begin in late 2015 or early 2016. Parks and Recreation Manager Jeff Woods said the city would look to minimize construction impacts by working at night or in the offseason. Additionally, he said it’s unlikely the bridge would see major closures.
“There’s no way we could close that bridge,” Woods said.
In 2012, the League of American Bicyclists designated Aspen as a silver bike-friendly community, but the goal, according to the Engineering Department’s Tyler Christoff, is to earn gold or platinum. In the 2012 audit, bicycle amenities were listed as lacking in Aspen. Christoff said the city is up for reapplication in 2016.
Khalje said she’ll pay more attention to problem intersections around town, where “even as a pedestrian you feel a little bit unsafe.”
“The less cars on the street, the better,” Khalje said.
Christoff said in the past 50 years, planners have moved away from designing infrastructure that caters to automobiles to designs that support all user groups. The Castle Creek Bridge project will embrace this idea, he said.
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The Wheeler Opera House will remain dark into 2021, with current COVID-19 public health orders in place. Meanwhile, the masonry work on the exterior of the building will continue into July.