Letter: Bike, pedestrian concerns in Crystal River Valley

Bike, pedestrian concerns in Crystal River Valley

Some residents have expressed concerns since the Crystal River Valley caucus endorsed the construction of a bicycle and pedestrian trail along the Crystal River Valley. The trail will extend to the top of McClure Pass as part of the West Elk Scenic Trail to Crested Butte. Gov. John Hickenlooper’s “16 in 16” trail proposal included this trail and added impetus to restarting this project. Links to the 2004 West Elk Scenic Trail Study are at

Last year, a caucus member commented that the Highway 133 shoulders are hazardous for bicycle riders. None of the bicyclists I talked to considers these safe, nor are they safe for pedestrians or usable by parents with children. The revised caucus master plan states: “The trail shall be designed for user safety, wildlife and habitat protection and consider best science, other available information and input from landowners along proposed routes.”

The existing, recently built stage south of Carbondale is nicely separated from Highway 133. The next step is to determine what rights of way are available from this completed portion to McClure Pass both adjacent to and off the highway. If off-highway rights of way are used, these will not be paved.

A report on National Public Radio ( noted that 40,000 bicyclists are hit by cars each year in the U.S. and 700 are killed. Vehicle speeds matter: Bicyclists will not survive a 50- or 60-mph collision. In Holland, bicycle paths adjacent to roads are permitted if the speed limit is around 33 mph. In Sweden, the city speed limit is lower: car-to-bike-rider collisions at around 20 mph are stated to have only a 10 percent mortality rate.

My ordered list of threats to our highly valued wildlife is:

• Highway 133 — half of our wildlife must cross Highway 133 to get to the river to drink water.

• Past and future growth of high-speed car and truck traffic along Highway 133.

• Population growth — current Pitkin County zoning would permit an approximate doubling of the number of dwellings in the Crystal River Valley — more people, dogs and fences.

• Predators: hunters, fishermen, mountain lions, coyotes, foxes, etc.

• A bike and pedestrian trail adds little or nothing to these risks.

Some worry the trail would devalue their property or involve a taking of private property. Experience with the Truckee River bicycle trail near Reno, Nevada, indicated an opposite effect on property values and owner rights. Finally, in our valley, nearly 85 percent of the land is federal wilderness or Forest Service land — this beauty should be shared.

Mark Hilberman