City plants the seed for pedestrian safety on Aspen’s walking malls |

City plants the seed for pedestrian safety on Aspen’s walking malls

Planters used this past summer for outdoor restaurant seating used to delineate roads from pedestrian malls

A man walks by planters near the information kiosk in downtown Aspen separating the road from the pedestrian mall on Wednesday, Dec. 16, 2020. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

The city of Aspen has placed planters at key locations in the downtown area where vehicle-pedestrian conflicts could occur, and hopefully prevent accidents like the one that happened last Christmas Eve in which a woman was hit by a car on the Cooper Avenue Mall.

The planters are not meant to be actual barriers to stop a vehicle but to give people a sense that there is a difference between the roadway and the pedestrian mall, City Manager Sara Ott said.

“These are to give people visual clues that we each have our own space, whether you are in the car or whether you are walking,” she said. “This is just to provide that visual vertical cueing because during a snowstorm it’s really hard to tell where the curb line is in that area.”

The planters are placed in two locations where the road and the pedestrian mall connect — on Mill Street and the Hyman Avenue Mall and Galena Street and the Cooper Avenue Mall.

Tragedy struck at the corner of Galena and Cooper on Dec. 24, 2019, when a woman drove her Range Rover onto the mall and struck an equestrian working for the horse-drawn carriage operation stationed across from Paradise Bakery.

The victim suffered a broken leg and the driver was charged with careless driving causing bodily injury.

“I don’t want to see anything like what happened last year happen again,” Ott said.

She reiterated that the planters are not crash-rated but a temporary solution to what will eventually most likely be permanent barriers.

They were used to protect outdoor restaurant seating this past summer to accommodate COVID-19 capacity restrictions for local businesses, and are being repurposed.

Pete Rice, division manager in the city’s engineering department, said the pedestrian team placed the temporary barriers on the malls just before Thanksgiving as an experiment.

“We took a baby step,” he said. “This is the first step to see how it works.”

He plans to make a presentation to Aspen City Council on Jan. 28 regarding pedestrian safety in the downtown core.

“There has been a big push on bike and pedestrian safety by council this year,” Rice said. “We will ask them what do they see, and we’ll point out the (areas of concern) that are on the radar.”

As the city continues to design an overhaul of the pedestrian malls in the downtown core, bollards could be installed underground and used above ground when needed.

“We need to perhaps build the infrastructure underground for whatever it is the community 20 years from now wants to see above ground to address these kinds of situations,” Ott said.



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