Pedestrian and bike priority coming to a neighborhood near you

City of Aspen pedaling toward next phase in pedestrian and bike safety plan for the downtown core

A cyclist takes the pedestrian and biker roadway on Hopkins Avenue in Aspen on Thursday, May 6, 2021. (Kelsey Brunner/The Aspen Times)

Dedicating a seven-block thoroughfare in Aspen’s West End for just pedestrians and bicyclists later this month is part of a bigger plan to increase overall safety in the downtown core for those who are walking or riding a bike.

“Bikes have been left out of our core. We cut them out on the (pedestrian malls), we cut them out on Galena when we made it a one-way,” city engineer Trish Aragon said. “Our next step is to see how we can add that layer back in, how we can add that connectivity in our downtown.”

Aragon and her team in engineering are scheduled to go before Aspen City Council on June 21 to get direction from elected officials on where the next areas of focus should be.

Giving bikes and pedestrians priorities in the streets could be approached intersection by intersection, or more holistically with dedicated corridors.

The dedicated pedestrian and bikeway along Hopkins Avenue runs eight blocks from the west into town, where it abruptly ends at Garmisch Street.

“From there, you are on your own,” Aragon said, adding cyclists feel comfortable for seven or eight blocks on a dedicated road for them but then when they hit the downtown core, there are no indicators for how to travel, and vehicles take the priority.

She noted that the city and Pitkin County’s network of bike trails is extensive outside of the downtown core but there is no solid system inside of the commercial zone, which is what an updated plan is attempting to address.

“We have this great network that comes into town and then once it gets into town, it just kind of falls apart,” Aragon said. “We updated the 1990s plan in 2016 and 2017 and now we are focusing on what to do next, and that focuses on town, and how we can convert our streets and utilize them to continue this bike trail network.”

The plan, which has hundreds of recommendations in it, is being implemented incrementally per council’s direction.

For the past six years, the city has taken measures that center around giving pedestrians and cyclists priority, including painting sharrows on the roadways.

Sharrows, first introduced to the United States in Denver in the 1990s, are not bike lanes, but rather markings on the road that signal cyclists and vehicles must coexist in the same lane.

Dedicated bike lanes have been added as well, like the one on North Mill Street leading to Main Street.

Also in 2019, a second bike and pedestrian dedicated route was added to Hallam Street in the West End.

The next one to be added as a pilot program beginning Memorial Day weekend is seven blocks from Garmisch to North streets along Lake Avenue. It will run from Garmisch by the Red Brick school, one block on Francis Street, then one block on First Street, then to Lake Avenue around Triangle Park to North Street for the last four blocks.

Like the other two routes, it’s designed to only allow cars to travel for one block.

Some neighbors along those routes serve as enforcers of the rule, confirmed Pete Rice, division manager in the city’s engineering department.

When the Lake Avenue route is implemented, there will be community resource officers and parks and open space rangers present to inform motorists they should be traveling on Main Street when heading out of town.

The new pedestrian and bikeway will be in place for the summer and the city will be taking feedback at on whether it should become permanent.

Rice said the dedicated bikeways have increased ridership twofold in recent years, based on counts from the city’s open space and parks department.

“On the Hallam Street stretch they were getting 2,100 counts a day in July (of 2020) and in 2017, it was 1,000 on just that bikeway alone,” he said. “If you make it easier for them to bike, they are going to bike.”



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