Move over, cars: Bikes getting their own lane in downtown Aspen

Dedicated bikeway will be installed on Galena Street, Cooper Avenue

Downtown Aspen’s main thoroughfare is going to see some big changes in the next week or so with a dedicated bike lane running along Galena Street and Cooper Avenue.

By the end of the month, a “living lab” will be installed on South Galena Street from Main Street to Cooper Avenue and Cooper Avenue to Hunter Street that will remain through September.

City officials said they will use that time to temporarily test the project and make modifications prior to any permanent safety and design improvements.

The changes are at the direction of Aspen City Council, which decided earlier this year to modify the road to improve the safety of pedestrians and bikers by giving them a dedicated lane to travel in and to slow traffic down.

The experiment will eliminate the left turn from Galena Street onto Hyman Avenue.

It also will feature parallel parking spaces for better sight lines, a counter-flow protected bikeway to minimize the potential for unpredictable interaction between cars and cyclists, and curb extensions at intersections that shorten crosswalk distances for pedestrians.

“The city of Aspen engineering department has been working with businesses in this area to listen to all concerns and identify how to make this area even safer,” said Pete Rice, division manager of the city’s engineering department. “This living lab is the culmination of research, outreach and engineering best practices.”

The new parking configuration impacts 44 spaces out of 86 that are in the corridor.

The city plans to mitigate the loss of those spaces by reclassifying 47 parking spaces, either currently in the commercial core area or adjacent to the core boundary, from residential to commercial.

Business owners in the area have expressed concern to city officials throughout the planning process over the past year about the loss of parking spaces and what they perceive as social engineering of the downtown core.

City officials said that data will be collected at four intersections on a three-block stretch over a 12-week period.

An outreach team also will collect information from residents and business owners, conduct sidewalk surveys and hold monthly pop-up events during the lab.

In August, a survey will be available online asking users to share their experiences and observations.

Rice said his department is planning for the changes to be implemented on June 27, given that all the pieces fall into place.

“It’s really hard to find contractors right now,” he said. “I want to make sure this is done right and done all at once.”