Carroll: Riding between the lines
For a few days last week, I was at some Interstate 70 truck stop for work. Before I left, Aspen’s trees were gray, and the town was lifeless.
When I returned Friday, signs of spring had arrived. Not just in the form of the symphony of jackhammers that hums all offseason long but also in the lushness of the trees and landscape that make this place so stunningly beautiful.
The most noticeable change, however, wasn’t the scores of bulbs blooming in the grass. No, it was on the streets of Aspen. As part of the city’s efforts to make Aspen more bicycle friendly, and to ease the tension between motorists and cyclists, our government has created bike lanes on select streets and avenues throughout town.
My favorite ones show two arrows along with the illustration of a bicycle. The arrows tell cyclists which direction they should be pedaling on the select streets. In fact, cyclists are supposed to go the same direction as motorists. Who knew?
And on some streets, such as Garmisch, not only are cyclists told which direction they to need ride their two-wheelers, but they also get the benefit of having their own designated, and narrow, lane. I try to bike to work when I can and occasionally make the ungraceful trek through the Hunter Creek backcountry, but staying between the white lines on Garmisch might be my biggest challenge yet.
But let’s not get so testy. Last year, the League of American Bicyclists named Aspen a “silver bike-friendly community.” Aspen is just one of 214 municipalities with such a distinction in the United States, so we should be proud of that.
“The city of Aspen celebrates bicycling and bicycle culture in myriad ways. We’ve always been a bike-friendly city, but to obtain the silver designation as a bicycle-friendly community and to make it official is something that will tell the world how much we promote alternative forms of transportation, including the bicycle,” said Mayor Mick Ireland in May 2012, when the award was bestowed upon Aspen. “In addition, getting the silver designation allows us to celebrate our accomplishments and also look toward the future as to how we can continue to grow in our bike-friendliness and achieve even more as a community.”
But silver is so 1890s Aspen. This is 2013 Aspen, and we need to go for the gold. And according to the League of American Bicyclists, “It is essential (for Aspen) to increase the number of bike lanes and bike-specific signage along these roads to allow bicyclists of all skill levels to reach their destinations quickly and safely.”
These recommendations, as outlined in an April 9 memo to the City Council, which identified improving bicyclist-pedestrian safety as one of its top 10 goals for 2012-13, paved the way for the new bike lanes and arrows.
And since Aspen is notorious for having an affinity for white lines, why stop with the lanes and arrows on the streets? While we’re at it, I have a few suggestions where arrows may also keep people in their place to the benefit of pretty much everyone else, not just cars and cyclists:
• The aisles of City Market — There would be a lot fewer pickups on Aisle 7 if shoppers would just stay in their lanes. These shopping lanes make the city’s new bicycle lanes look wider than Glenwood Canyon. As for the disaster known as the City Market parking lot, however, unfortunately no amount of white lines and arrows can help.
• The front lobby of the Isis Theatre — Perhaps it’s just me, but the ticket line often bleeds into the refreshments line, creating utter chaos, especially when the cinema’s brain trust opts to show two blockbuster films within minutes of each other.
• Aspen High School’s track — While the city of Aspen has designated bicycle lanes, the high school track remains an oval slab of asphalt, with no lanes to speak of. Can you imagine if the football program got that kind of love — or lack thereof?
While I’m not a fan of the new bike lanes, I’m sure they’ll grow on me in due time, just like the new traffic-signal system that went up last year. These are good problems to have.
In the meantime, kids, please don’t run in the hallways. If you do, beware the installation of indoor speed bumps.
Rick Carroll is editor of The Aspen Times. He takes comments, complaints, questions and news tips at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Last week, The Aspen Times ran an article about limiting home size in Aspen and Pitkin County. One might think that climate change is finally poking at the Aspen bubble.