City council eyes bike dismount on ped bridge | AspenTimes.com

City council eyes bike dismount on ped bridge

John Stroud
jstroud@postindependent.com

A bicyclist and her dog make their way over the Grand Avenue pedestrian bridge, amid a few construction workers and other pedestrians. Glenwood City Council is weighing a possible dismount rule for bicyclists using the bridge.

A symbiotic relationship between walkers and bicyclists on the Grand Avenue pedestrian bridge during the three-month detour, with more people using alternative means to get around Glenwood Springs, has not been without the occasional close call.

But whether it's a situation that warrants some action by the city to prevent serious incidents, or whether action might discourage good commuter behavior, is a question before Glenwood City Council tonight.

Some council members have suggested that maybe the city should extend its downtown bike dismount rule to the pedestrian bridge.

The new pedestrian bridge, completed in the spring as part of the larger Grand Avenue bridge project, crosses from Seventh Street over the Union Pacific tracks, the Colorado River and Interstate 70 to the historic Hot Springs district. Its design included several bicycle-friendly features, such as elevator access from Seventh, a special trough for people to wheel their bikes up and down the steps, and a much wider platform than the former ped bridge.

"The bridge was designed with bicycles in mind, but when there are high volumes of people, it's important for bicycle riders to be aware of other people," Assistant City Manager Jenn Ooton said.

The city has gone to great lengths during the three-month bridge closure, when bicycling, walking and taking the bus have been highly encouraged, to ensure that people stay safe on walking routes, she said.

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"This is an opportunity to extend that conversation," Ooton said, adding city staff does not have a recommendation on the matter, but Council wanted to broach the subject.

Currently, the city requires bicycle riders, skateboarders and other nondisabled people using wheeled modes of transport to dismount on downtown-area sidewalks. When it comes to the pedestrian bridge, though, it's mostly a matter of unwritten courtesy for users to play it safe.

"I do have my own concerns about the level of pedestrian activity on the new bridge, especially with tourists and families with little kids," City Councilor Shelley Kaup said. "But I'm interested to hear where the discussion goes and what people have to say."

Members of the ad hoc bicycle trails ambassadors group that formed during the bridge detour to help point the way for bike commuters and keep people safe on city paths, for one, think a dismount rule on pedestrian bridge is a bit onerous.

"We've been paying pretty close attention to the bridge through all of this and have done enough observation to say that's just not necessary," said Steve Smith, one of the founders of the group.

"We did notice the first couple of weeks in August when more people were out on their bikes and a lot more people were walking that a few people were speeding down the bridge to the north," he said. "But by the third week that had fallen off and people were paying more attention and being careful of pedestrians."

During the detour, Smith said he and his fellow ambassadors counted an average of 20 bikes an hour on the pedestrian bridge. That number peaked at about 30 to 40 per hour, putting the total number of bicycle crossings on the ped bridge since the detour started at close to 18,000, Smith said.

"There have been a handful of misbehaviors," he said. "But to have a universal dismount rule would punish and unnecessarily delay 95 percent of the riders who are being safe."

Smith said he and others may have some suggestions for City Council on some structural improvements, signs and other ways to enhance biker safety education.

Kaup agreed it may just be a matter of increasing awareness and said she's open to ideas. While the number of pedestrians and cyclists will likely drop after the new bridge opens and as winter weather approaches, Kaup said she is more worried about safety during the busier summer tourist season next year.

The regular Glenwood City Council meeting begins at 6 p.m. tonight in the Council Chambers at City Hall, 101 W. Eighth St.

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