New city map plots car accidents
The city of Aspen’s engineering department has plotted every car-related accident in town since Jan. 1, 2015 on an interactive map publicly available on the Internet.
“I thought it would be nice to know where our most dangerous intersections are and … if there’s something we can do to make them safer,” said Trish Aragon, city engineer. “The map has been a great tool not only for staff but for the community to see what areas are safer than others.”
Jordan Gray-DeKraai, a project manager in the engineering department, began entering the information in December and said she updates it every week using accident reports supplied by the Aspen Police Department. The map became available to the public last month, she said.
The map tracks and individually marks accidents between vehicles, vehicles and pedestrians, vehicles and bicycles, vehicles and parked vehicles, single vehicle accidents and bikes vs. parked cars. In addition, Gray-DeKraai was able to get information about accidents where no reports were filed and information was only reported by phone, she said.
Based on the information gathered, the department wants to choose a particular problem area each year and try to make safety improvements to it, Gray-DeKraai said.
In what likely won’t come as a surprise to most locals, three of the top five most accident-prone areas in town fall along a roughly two and a half-block area on Main Street from just east of Mill to Aspen streets, according to the map.
The most dangerous is the area around Main and Monarch Streets, which logged 29 accidents in the last year and four months. For that area, Gray-DeKraai used accidents that occurred on Main from about midway between Mill and Monarch to midway between Monarch and Aspen, and from the alley just north of Main on Monarch and the alley just south of Main on Monarch, she said.
Roughly the same parameters were used to come up with the 19 accidents in the Main and Mill area, the third-highest total, and the 15 accidents in the Main and Aspen area, the fifth highest total, Gray-DeKraai said.
Gretchen Born, supervisor of the Aspen Police Department’s community response officers who usually deal with accidents, said she was not surprised by the high accident rate at and in between those intersections. The area includes the Hotel Jerome at Main and Mill, which operates a valet service very close to that intersection, as well as the parking lot at Carl’s Pharmacy, which is located close to the Monarch and Main intersection and frequently causes problems, Born said.
“I think there’s just a high presence of movement there,” she said.
Born said if she had her druthers, she’d move the Hotel Jerome’s valet service further west on Main Street.
“It’s not set up to be conducive for valet,” Born said.
In addition, Main and Mill is the town’s major intersection and main entrance to the downtown core, so it gets a lot of pedestrian traffic as well, she said. Parking on the street in those areas can also cause accidents, Born said.
“We’ve found that close to 40 percent of accidents (in town) can be attributed to head-in parking areas,” she said. Specifically, people backing out of those spaces frequently cause accidents, Born said.
The intersection in town with the second-highest number of accidents is the roundabout just west of town, which has logged 27 accidents since January 2015. Confusion about right-of-ways and heavy traffic flow help create accident issues there, Born said.
The intersection with the fourth-highest accident rate is Highway 82 and Truscott Place, where 16 accidents have occurred in the last year and four months, according to the map. That area gets a lot of stop-and-go traffic, which cause rear end accidents to occur, Born said.
Aragon said the map hasn’t yet prompted the engineering department to identify a specific safety improvement project because it’s relatively new. However, the city has been fielding complaints from bicyclists and pedestrians in recent years about the lack of safety between 7th and Hallam streets, across the Castle Creek Bridge to Cemetery Lane, she said. So at the beginning of April, the city began a “living lab experiment” in the area that temporarily modifies the layout of the area to try and make it safer for bikers and walkers, Aragon said. The experiment runs through the end of July, and information gathered will be implemented in Hallam Street design changes in 2017, according to the city’s castlecreekbridge.com website.
The intersections of Hallam and 8th streets and Highway 82 and Cemetery Lane appear on the city’s list of top 10 accident sites with 13 accidents each.
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