Narrower path has some worried in Vail
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado – Some residents in the Intermountain neighborhood in West Vail are concerned about the town of Vail’s realignment of the recreation path along the South Frontage Road.
Earlier this summer, the lane stripes were redrawn along the road to make room for another bike lane on the north side of the road. In order to add the lane, the south-side recreation path lane had to be narrowed.
Sara Newsam, a 30-year Intermountain resident, said the new configuration puts the many people who use the path in danger.
“Everything is so narrow now,” Newsam said. “The biggest issue is safety for everyone who uses the path.”
The realignment, which received a $7,500 grant from Eco Trails as part of its trail safety and maintenance projects, was completed purely for safety reasons, said Gregg Barrie, of the town’s public works department. The project cost about $12,000 total.
There used to be a 10-to-11-foot lane on the south side of the road that switched mid-road from the south side to the north side. Barrie said that configuration was wrong in that it was asking bikers, who are considered roadway vehicles, to ride against traffic.
“That is a very dangerous situation,” Barrie said.
The new configuration means bikers are sharing a narrower space with everyone – families, people walking their dogs, children on bicycles, joggers and skateboarders, Newsam said.
“It’s not just the bike riders’ safety we need to be concerned about,” Newsam said.
Vail Town Councilwoman Kim Newbury said council members have gotten quite a few e-mails and phone calls from Intermountain residents about the change.
While many cyclists seem happy about the change, pedestrians feel like they’ve lost some of their space, Newbury said.
Newbury suggested the Town Council hold a public meeting about the issue so residents can weigh in on it. There needs to be four council members that agree before it can get scheduled for a future meeting.
“We’re definitely not turning a deaf ear to that neighborhood,” Newbury said. “We need to look at our options.”
Mayor Dick Cleveland responded to a letter Newsam sent to the town by saying the new alignment is more intuitive and puts cyclists and pedestrians on the correct sides of the roadway.
“I understand that change is sometimes uncomfortable, but my experience is that people will adapt quickly,” Cleveland wrote.
Councilwoman Susie Tjossem said in an e-mail response to Newsam that the council asked town staff to look at whether widening a section of the path that is heavily used by pedestrians would be possible.
“Staff should be returning with a recommendation later this fall,” Tjossem wrote.
Intermountain resident Pat Needham said the community doesn’t dispute the fact that the new lanes are an improvement for bikers, but said the community just wants the town to consider the joggers, walkers, children and pets that also use the path.
Vail Homeowners Association Executive Director Jim Lamont said public safety should be a priority and that the Intermountain area isn’t the only area where there’s danger for users of the recreation paths.
“The path between Lionshead and Vail Village is a clear example of how many types of vehicles you can get on that thing,” Lamont said.
Lamont said the “huge conflicts on the bike paths” are community-wide and the town should set aside money within its budget to address path safety concerns.
He also said the town’s increased marketing efforts to get people here in the summertime, with biking as a big part of the draw, are concerning.
“If we can’t handle the people that are here, what are we doing attracting more people?” Lamont said.
Barrie said there could be some opportunity to make some changes to the Intermountain striping when the Colorado Department of Transportation gets around to repaving the road, which it owns and maintains.
That repaving, however, was supposed to happen a year ago and still hasn’t been scheduled, Barrie said.
The pavement on Intermountain’s South Frontage Road isn’t in good condition, which is another reason Newsam and other residents are concerned about the narrow path on the south side.
“It’s scary,” she said.
Newsam said the people of Intermountain will continue to press the town to come up with a safer solution for everyone who uses the path.
Community Editor Lauren Glendenning can be reached at 970-748-2983 or firstname.lastname@example.org.