Give living lab a chance

One of the things that make Aspen special is our very unique and rich history. But, we don’t seem to learn from it at times. Our greatest success downtown during the skiing era has been our Hyman and Cooper pedestrian malls, beloved and coveted.

The malls were vehemently opposed by many core business owners into the late ’70s. When the city moved forward with creating the malls along with the support of many residents, the net loss of over 100 parking spaces proved to increase business, like pedestrian-friendly areas have done in almost every town they land. There’s ample parking within walking distance and pedestrians and cyclists tend to roam, linger and shop in a safer more relaxed environment. Winning!

It was reported our living lab displaced five parking spots, converting parking from angle to parallel, improving safety on several fronts. As a local biking in town for 40 years, the past 26 as a cycling instructor, I’ve ridden the living lab a lot and have felt much safer with the dedicated bike lanes and separation. Surveys regarding safety, which everyone was welcome to participate, revealed serious safety concerns which scared and prevented people from riding their bikes or walking, doing something healthier for themselves, the environment and our downtown experience. The majority demanded action!

Let’s give the living lab a chance before we slay it, directing anger at city staff and council. This is the same attacking we witnessed when attempting to extend the highly used Hopkins Avenue pedestrian/bikeway into Restaurant Row. As often happens, a vocal minority tries to derail progress, even when it’s just an experiment. People have been hit by cars downtown getting injured and killed. Being more ped/bike friendly has historically proven to be a win-win-win for walkers, bikers and businesses.

Erik Skarvan