Aspen’s elected officials plan to change the downtown parking experience

The new bike lane and parking area on Galena St. as seen Sunday, July 10, 2022, in downtown Aspen. (Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times)
Austin Colbert/The Aspen Times

Aspen’s elected officials are rethinking the bike path and parallel parking experience that runs through the heart of downtown.

Aspen Mayor Torre received support from his colleagues on Tuesday to consider modifications to the living lab along Galena and Cooper avenues that was installed in late June and is expected to remain in place through September.

“The idea of ​​a living lab is that every day is an opportunity for you to experience it and make changes if you think they’re necessary or warranted,” Torre said during the meeting. board regular. “I see improvements we can make.”

City officials have received a steady stream of complaints in recent weeks about the removal of 44 corner parking spaces in this three-block neighborhood, as well as the dedicated bike lane and parallel parking configuration.

Torre said he wanted to consider moving the WE-cycle bike-sharing station, as well as replacing the designated loading area on Hyman Avenue with a parking lot, whether for the disabled, the free 15-minute increments or for bicycles.

He said he also wanted the council to consider lowering the speed limit by 20mph in town, partly in response to the proliferation of e-bike use and poor cycling etiquette.

“What we’re seeing with bikes is there’s no more pedaling, and we’re seeing bikes in our city with small motors,” Torre said, adding that he wants the city to investigate. on the current law on the books which allows cyclists to ride through stop signs and yield only to oncoming vehicles. “So whether it’s the living lab that’s going on there or the rolling stops that we see and even the speed limit, we see a different condition there.”

The law allowing bikers to yield to stop signs became state law in April, and City Attorney Jim True said he should investigate whether Aspen could opt out.

“I haven’t reviewed the law to see if it’s considered a statewide issue and precludes our ability to act as a self-governing charter community or not,” he said. declared.

Councilor Rachel Richards said she also wanted future discussion to address what will happen this winter when the living lab is finished and what these streets will be restored to.

Councilman Skippy Mesirow said he would appreciate a refresher on the aims of the experiment and any data to confirm that the safety measures put in place are proving effective, although observations are still being made by staff. from the city.

Under the guidance of the council, the city’s engineering department made the changes in a bid to improve pedestrian and bicycle safety in an area where a fatal pedestrian-vehicle crash occurred two years ago years and where near-misses between cyclists and cars are frequent.

But the bigger issue for Mesirow is enforcement while acknowledging that the Aspen Police Department is understaffed.

“Things like changing rider behavior and rules and speed limits are great to consider, but I think as long as they’re enforceable,” he said.

Torre said he would like to have the conversation about the living lab as early as next week during one of two scheduled working sessions.

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David H. Henry