Bikers hoping to smooth the road
GARFIELD COUNTY Road bikers hope to patch a rocky relationship with Garfield County this summer.The bicyclists say the county uses rocks that feel like boulders to them on road resurfacing projects. Some cyclists have mounted an effort to convince the commissioners to spend a little extra money, if need be, to buy smaller rock for the maintenance projects this summer.Missouri Heights resident Jim Githens said many Garfield County roads are “unacceptable for cycling.” For example, the county used 3/4-inch screened rock for resurfacing on lower Cattle Creek Road last summer. Rock that size creates a safety issue as well as comfort problem for cyclists, Githens said.”It’ll shake you off your bike almost,” he said.Other roads that have become nearly unmanageable for cyclists include the Crystal Springs Road, which climbs into Missouri Heights, just as Cattle Creek does; the road to Spring Gulch past the 7-Eleven in Carbondale; and the road between Harvey Gap and Rifle Gap reservoirs.The rock size is particularly tough on road bikes – light, skinny-tired bicycles that usually aren’t as forgiving as mountain bikes, which have large tires and often shock absorbers.Githens started lobbying county officials in February to use a surface on county roads that accommodates all users. Githens drew on his experience as a construction manager for Aspen Earthmoving to help make his pitch. He is comfortable discussing technical aspects of road construction and is also an avid cyclist.In a detailed letter to the county commissioners, Githens said he supports the preferred resurfacing technique, called chip seal, when it is “done right.” Often, he warned, larger rock is harder to seal when it isn’t compacted enough or too little emulsion is used. That creates a rough, uneven surface. Also, the loose rock is a skidding hazard for all users, and it causes broken windows and chips paint on vehicles.Githens said he believes smaller rock could be used for the chip-seal work without a huge additional expense for Garfield County.Garfield County resident Paula Stepp, another cyclist, hopes to organize cyclists to attend a county commissioners meeting to lobby for a smoother surface on county roads. She said a number of her favorite rides on county roads are now “teeth-chattering” because of the rough surfaces.Usually, a freshly chip-sealed road is rough for a few months but gets smoother as traffic compacts it, Stepp noted. That isn’t happening now because of the size of the rock in use, she said. “Sweet Hill,” between Carbondale and Spring Gulch, never became smooth after it was chip-sealed two years ago and it remains barely rideable, according to Stepp.The condition of Garfield County roads “is a pretty common topic in cycling conversation,” Stepp said.Garfield County Commissioner Trési Houpt said she gets calls “all the time” from cyclists and pedestrians with complaints about the surface of county roads: “People are not happy with the size of the aggregate we’re using,” she said.Houpt supports the idea of using a surface that suits all users, especially since changes in demographics in some parts of the county are increasing the numbers of cyclists using the roads. Recreation is an important part of road use in the eastern side of the county, around Carbondale and Missouri Heights, as well as the Battlement Mesa area, where there are numerous retirees, she said.”When we grow as a county, our needs change a little bit,” Houpt said.She thinks she has found a solution that represents “the best of both worlds.” She supports continued use of 3/4-inch rock for the base in chip seal and topping it with 3/8-inch rock for a smoother surface.Garfield County administrator Ed Green said the county put its summer chip-seal projects out for bid recently, assuming 3/4-inch rock would be used. At Houpt’s request, the county put out a second request for bids for an overlay of finer gravel on the chip seal. Those bids are scheduled for review reviewed by the county commissioners in early June, he said.If the bids for the smoother overlay come in at a significantly higher price, the county government will have a tough time justifying the expense, Green said.Cyclists might continue facing a rocky road, politically as well as physically.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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Photographer Dede Reed discusses her solo exhibition “Reflections” at The Art Base in Basalt.