Vail Daily column: Avon is reviewing street changes
I joined the Avon Town Council almost four years ago, and in that time much has been accomplished. One of the first actions taken when I joined council in November 2012 was the creation of the town’s first strategic plan. The two-year plan has since been updated and is a very important document, determining what the town will be working on and how the resources of the town will be deployed.
One of the most important programs in the strategic plan is to increase safety in our commercial core for pedestrians and bicyclists. Councilor Megan Burch brought to our attention the highly recognized work of the consultant team from Blue Zones, who have been successful in working with communities around the world in shifting the emphasis on streets from high-speed, vehicle-dominant avenues to shared bicycle, pedestrian and vehicle ways. Their work in Avon last year, with members of the community and in public sessions, yielded that changes to Beaver Creek Boulevard could meet our safety objectives, increase on-street parking, add beautification elements and, as a result, build a notable avenue in the town core. This was not a rash decision but one made thoughtfully with the help of our consultant, community input, and a great deal of discussion and planning. We all can see how successful the recent safety and landscaping improvements have been to Avon Road.
The town wanted to test the proposed redesign this summer and we are all now able to experience the recommended changes prior to any final design decision. The travel lanes on West Beaver Creek Boulevard have been reduced from a width of 12 feet to 11 feet and we can see the change has had a positive impact on slowing vehicles, which is a major goal of the redesign.
Speed signs do not do nearly as good a job. I am hearing drivers feel they do not have enough room with the lane reduction. In reducing the width, the town learned that the same improvements, which have been made on La Jolla Boulevard in San Diego, where lanes were reduced from 12 to 10 feet, had a great positive impact in achieving reasonable speeds and actually improved travel times. The new on-street parking design on West Beaver Creek Boulevard also adds to traffic calming as drivers are more cautious moving through where parking is designated.
The added protective bicycle lanes have also been questioned. Why add bike lanes when no one bikes, I am asked. What we have learned is that bike ridership can be expected to increase when safe biking lanes are included on a roadway. It is a primary goal of the town to increase and support dedicated bike ways in Avon. In addition to the efforts to make West Beaver Creek Boulevard safer for bikers, additional crosswalks have been added to make crossing the street safer for pedestrians. This was a high priority that resulted from our work sessions with the community.
Other comments related to the experiment on West Beaver Creek Boulevard have questioned the closing of one of the Post Office entrances. This has been proposed to reduce bike and pedestrian conflicts and duplicative areas of crossing activity. We understand that fewer street and driveway entrances can increase safety. The painted leaf bulb outs are intended to provide pedestrians safety areas for crossing the street and greatly reduce the distance across travel lanes.
These areas are intended to have landscaping installed as part of the project. I have heard positive feedback on these design elements.
The town is highly committed to reviewing the proposed redesign with the community and hearing your comments. We have set up a walking tour of West Beaver Creek Boulevard on Thursday. The tour begins at 1 p.m. from the Post Office. In addition, a work session will be hosted by the town’s consultant Design Workshop to discuss the redesign on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. in Council Chambers. Town Council members will be in attendance. A final decision by the Town Council on the improvements is tentatively planned for Sept. 27.
I sincerely hope you can attend a walking session as well as our work session so that council includes your thoughts in its decision. These changes are big and we appreciate the patience of the community in driving, walking and biking the changes. I welcome you to visit this link — http://www.avon.org/documentcenter/view/14163 — to learn more about the Avon design process, objectives, and where other cities have found success in making streets more pedestrian and bicyclist friendly.
Jennie Fancher is the mayor of Avon.