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Shedding light on safety

Matt Zalaznick

Everybody knows this pastoral little ski valley is urbanizing. But that means more than big boxes and affordable housing projects – what about sidewalks? A lot of people in valley walk, whether by choice or necessity. But there are still some perilously dark spots along some very busy stretches of road. Highway 6 through Eagle-Vail and Avon, for instance. There are a lot of pedestrians that are awfully hard to see on either side of the Beaver Creek roundabout. At one point, just west of the roundabout, there’s barely any sidewalk, the turn lane chokes off the road, and people trudge back and forth to work in Avon and on the mountain.The county has done a decent job building recreation paths. But the path west of the roundabout, which runs down along the river toward the Sun Ridge apartments, is forbiddingly dark. There is no path east of the roundabout until one over by Wal-Mart. And in other parts of the valley, the paths just aren’t where people walk because they’re not the shortest distance between home and work. These people may have been convinced to leave their cars at home, a good thing for our beloved blue skies. But why should they take the long way to work?And drunken driving is a problem around here. But in some cases, the dark narrow shoulders of Highway 6, where cars often too often speed faster than 50 or 60 mph, discourages some folks from walking. The solutions, sidewalks and some streetlights, are obvious and probably not as expensive as an airport interchange or a gondola from Avon to the top of Beaver Creek Mountain. Sidewalks bother some people because they remind them of the soul-sapping suburbs they left behind. But perhaps the valley has to urbanize a little to avoid urbanizing even more. More sidewalks, more hospitable walking routes, may keep more cars and SUVs in our garages and condo parking lots. Street lights are the source of that dreaded urban scourge called “light pollution.” But the valley has to face reality. Vail, Edwards and Eagle aren’t drowsy little ski towns in the middle of nowhere that shut down at the end of the work day. They make up, in the words of those who study population trends, a “micropolitan.” People here are on the move 24 hours a day. This may run against the grain of the wilderness ethic, but a pedestrian trudging along the road at 11 o’clock at night is a little more important for drivers to be able to see than a faint constellation. Vail, Colorado


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