Bikes and pedestrians over cars envisioned for busy downtown Aspen corridor

Latest plan for Galena Street is dedicated bikeway, parallel parking with open house this week

A rendering of Galena Street looking south toward Hyman Avenue. A proposal is being considered to add a dedicated bike lane and shift to parallel parking.
Courtesy image

A plan to transform Galena Street and Cooper Avenue that prioritizes pedestrian and bike safety with a dedicated bikeway, the elimination of angle parking and space dedicated for other uses in the right-of-way will be floated by the business community this week.

The upcoming living lab this spring and summer is part of the city of Aspen’s overall safety and mobility in the downtown core plan in which incremental changes are being made over time.

That includes permanently keeping Hyman Avenue from Monarch Street and Mill Street to Hopkins Avenue a one-way route, just as Galena Street is from Hopkins and Cooper avenues to Hunter Street.

That one-way route on Hyman was designed to be a temporary, living lab but feedback from the public, particularly users of the Wheeler Opera House, said they like the change, City Engineer Trish Aragon said.

“It’s related to the safety and mobility plan and is part of that whole package of looking at the downtown,” she said.

One block to the east, Galena Street and Cooper Avenue became a one-way from Hopkins Avenue to Hunter Street as an experiment that has lasted 13 years.

New modifications for that corridor have been presented to Aspen City Council in recent months by city engineers.

In August, they presented to members of the Aspen Chamber Resort Association and got mixed reviews.

Members of the business community expressed concern over the potential loss of 44 parking spaces and how that would impact customers coming into their stores.

The latest plan devised by the engineering department provides a “parking availability program” that would maintain available spaces throughout the commercial core.

The program would include measures like targeting a percent of available spaces, construction vehicle parking limitations, variable time limitations based on demand and location in the core, and modifications to maximum parking times, among other steps.

A valet program, dedicated drop-off and pick-up zones, bolstering free Downtowner and Galena Street Shuttle services and reclassifying dozens of nearby residential and carpool spaces to paid spots also are being considered.

“We heard that there is an understanding that there are safety concerns on one hand and then on the other, that there is a concern for parking access to businesses, so it’s a balance between them,” said PJ Murray, project manager in the city’s engineering department.

Details of the program will be rolled out in an open house from 9 to 11:30 a.m. on Wednesday, with a presentation at 10 a.m. by the city engineering team to members of ACRA, with a Q&A session following.

That gathering will be held in the new council chambers in Aspen City Hall, accessed from Galena Plaza.

Another big change planned is converting Hyman Avenue between Galena and Hunter streets into a one-way route so motorists can no longer turn left from Galena.

That specific intersection was the location where a 5-year-old girl was killed by a motorist in 2020 as she walked across the street with her family.

Acknowledging that bicycles are disconnected from the downtown core and are not given accommodation on many streets, the Galena corridor is envisioned to remove the high likelihood of an accident as cars parked in angled spaces cannot see cyclists approaching.

“It’s to allow more balance in the right of way and benefit the pedestrians and bikers and decrease the use for parking,” said Pete Rice, division manager in the engineering department.

That’s why the plan incorporates parallel parking instead of angled, which reduces the number of spots in the corridor from 86 to 42.

Once city engineers receive feedback from the business community, a broader survey will likely go on the municipal government’s online platform in December.

That information will get compiled and be brought back to council in early 2022 for a final sign off of a living lab for the spring and summer.