Bike, bus and walk
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See a complete photo album of the Vail Valley Transportation Triathlon at CoPIRG’s Facebook Page. Find out more about the organization’s work and see their transportation toolkit, which offers suggestions for better multimodal transportation in Colorado at http://www.copirgfoundation.org.
VAIL — The gray skies and steady drizzle on Monday morning didn’t dampen Danny Katz’s enthusiasm as he readied to load his commuter bike onto a rack of a town bus.
“Days like this are actually a great way to show how an area’s transportation system works. You should be able to get around by bike, bus or foot even on days that aren’t warm and sunny,” he said.
Katz is the director of the Colorado Public Interest Research Group, is a statewide transportation advocacy group. CoPIRG has been traveling to towns and cities around Colorado doing “transportation triathlons” — Katz takes a tour around town bicycling, walking and using public transit, documenting his progress in photos. The goal is to bring attention to the local benefits and challenges of safe and efficient biking, walking and transit infrastructure and services.
“We document the good and the bad and give an outsider’s view of transit in the area. Hopefully, that encourages improvement from there,” said Katz.
Ellie Caryl of ECO Trails, Jared Barnes of ECO Transit and Nadine Davis of the Vail Valley Vixens bike group aided Katz’s “triathlon”. He began at the Vail Transportation Center, taking the bus around town, then riding down through Dowd Junction to Eagle Vail. From there, Ellie Caryl of ECO Trails gave him a driving tour of Avon and its bus system, pedestrian system and bike sharrows on the roads. He biked to Edwards to see the trail connections to the school campuses and ended the morning biking Vail’s in-town recreation paths and walking around the villages.
Touring the valley
So how did the Vail Valley do as a multimodal community?
Pretty good, says Katz.
“There’s a lot of connectivity here. Each town had its own little bus service, and it’s pretty easy to navigate on bike,” he said. “There are definitely parts where you lose connectivity (with the paths) and have to go on the road, but ECO Trails seems to have plans for almost all of them. There are a few holes, but it looks like they’ll get filled.”
He noted that Eagle County faces some significant challenges when it comes to building bike and pedestrian paths.
“There’s not a lot of room to build, and often your choices are to put a path between the interstate and a creek, which comes with all sorts of infrastructure challenges,” he said. “
Overall, the valley was quite pedestrian friendly, especially Vail, and signs and bus systems were easy to read, he said. (Although, he admitted he missed a few buses in Vail before he found the right one).
“Any places for improvement would be making sure there’s complete connection for the recreation paths, which is in the works,” he said. “Clearly the valley is recognizing the importance of transit.”
So far this fall, Katz has completed similar triathlon tours of Colorado towns that include Denver, Boulder, Lone Tree. He visited Steamboat Springs on Wednesday and has plans for Fort Collins, Greeley and Colorado Springs in the coming weeks as well.
Caryl said it was helpful to hear an outsider’s perspective on the local transportation system.
“I was happy to hear his perspective as an urban dweller. He said he thought we were in pretty good shape,” she said.
ECO Trails has plans to close 19 miles worth of gaps in the Eagle Valley recreation trail in the coming years. The highest priority sections to fill will be in Eagle Vail and from Dowd Junction to Minturn. Great Outdoors Colorado is looking for a project, and completing a path between Wolcott and Eagle might be a possible contender, Caryl said.
Also coming next year, Eagle County will be working to make pedestrian crossings on Highway 6 safer. A study that will be conducted next year will evaluate where people cross and where safer crossings are needed.
Assistant Managing Editor Melanie Wong can be reached at 970-748-2927 and email@example.com. Follow her on Twitter @mwongvail.