Letter: Paving paradise?
Like anyone who has walked, biked, ridden a bus or driven along U.S. Highway 6 the past few summers, there’s been some “extra time” to think (often regulated by someone flipping a Slow/Stop sign). The last few months’ flurry of slurry in particular begs the question: What are we trying to build here?
The old Route 6 is a perfect example of the failure of 1950s-era planning. A wide, four-lane road, running straight with a long line of sight, means that drivers will drive as fast as they feel they can without damaging their cars — and they will increasingly zone out at speeds around 50 mph as mothers with kids, dog walkers and bikers dash across the road like video game frogs.
Even the new “road diet” along the EagleVail commercial zone, while a small step in the right direction, leaves a large difference in rate of travel between cars and pedestrians, which combined with many entrances and exits and now four ways to look when crossing them. Riding a bike to school with a 2-year-old toddler still leaves you white knuckled.
Survival rate of collisions under 20 mph is around 90%, but that drops to 50% at 30mph. But you can’t just put new signs up. The roads are designed to make drivers go fast. What we really should be asking is “What kind of community do we want here?“ and design roads around that.
Many of us moved to the mountains to escape the monotony of soulless car-centric suburbs (me!) or the noise and traffic of busy U.S. cities (me too!). So why do we continue to expand our roads in width and speed? We’ve known since Robert Moses’ ill-conceived New York projects in the 1920s that more, wider roads just create more traffic. That’s been proven in traffic study after study, proven around the world. What are we doing blindly following these outdated planning guidelines and ideas?
There are all sorts of designs to humanize neighborhoods in practice around the world. These include narrowing streets, limiting view corridors, installing pinch points and raised crosswalks, planting trees, and more generally making an effort to distinguish the characteristics of I-70 and a neighborhood street. This doesn’t just apply to 6, 24 and Vail frontage roads, which have unfortunate CDOT restrictions — it applies all the way down to your local neighborhood street. You can’t complain that drivers are going too fast when you build a 50 foot wide highway for them in between houses and the playground across the street.
It’s time to rethink, instead of just repave, and build a mountain community on a human scale.