Cycling to school in Edwards gets easier
September 30, 2016
EDWARDS — If you have a kid in a local school, you know that drop-off and pick-up times can be something of a circus. A new pathway project in Edwards hopes to quiet a bit of that commotion and help kids, parents and others stay a little safer.
On Friday Eagle County and Eagle County Schools unveiled a new Safe Routes to School initiative, a small network of paved paths that will help kids and parents get to, from and between the five schools along Miller Ranch Road. Those paths are off the roadway and will be plowed through the winter so kids can walk or bike without sloshing through roadside snow.
School Board member Shelly Jarnot's family has three kids. One of those kids is at Battle Mountain High School, with the younger kids at Berry Creek Middle School.
Jarnot said she's looking forward to having the paths open.
“We have a truly interconnected area.” Tammy SchiffEagle County Schools
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One of her children at the middle school takes high school math classes and has to walk between the schools. That child will take full advantage of the new paths, Jarnot said.
"It'll be great," Jarnot said. "I'm sure (the paths) will be used by dog-walkers and other people, but the primary purpose is for students."
Long road to funding
The paths themselves total several hundred feet, but it was a long road to get the project approved and funded.
Taylor Ryan of the Eagle County engineering staff said the process started in about 2008, when locals learned about grants available through the federal Safe Routes to School program.
The school district and county officials joined with neighbors to talk about and then design a pathway network with the county taking the lead role.
While Friday was the grand opening of the paths, Ryan said there's still a bit more work to do. A few signs need to be installed, some providing direction to users, with another four providing flashing beacons to motorists. Those should be installed in the next few weeks, Ryan said.
Everyone involved in the project expects the paths to see a lot of foot and bicycle traffic.
"We expect heavy usage by students who live in Miller Ranch, Miller's Creek, the Reserve, Riverwalk and even Homestead," Ryan said.
Beyond paving, the paths had to meet the requirements of the Americans with Disabilities Act. Making the paths easier for disabled people to navigate also means cyclists won't have to jump curbs on the way to school.
"It's a big deal — this is going to make it so much more walkable for students from Miller Ranch and Singletree," Eagle County Schools communications director Tammy Schiff said.
Those paths will correct a problem in many of the valley's neighborhoods — few sidewalks. That puts cyclists and pedestrians in roadways, which can be several feet narrower in the winter.
Given that many of the students attending the Miller Ranch-area schools don't have bus service, better pedestrian access is likely to take a number of cars off the road around those schools.
Some district schools are easily walkable, particularly the schools in Eagle.
"Now we have a safe zone for kids in the Miller Ranch area," Schiff said.
An Edwards resident, Schiff said the new paths will make her cycling trips a little easier.
"We have a truly interconnected area," Schiff said.
Jarnot praised the partnership between the county and the school district that got the paths built.
"With all the schools there (traffic) can be interesting at 8 a.m.," Jarnot said. "This will help."
Vail Daily Business Editor Scott Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930, email@example.com and @scottnmiller.