Steamboat Springs On Jan. 1 as I sat eating lunch at my favorite local eatery along the Yampa while reading Mike McCollum's Steamboat Today article "Keeping county air clean," I found myself wondering how serious the city and county are about Yampa Valley air quality. Then, I seemed to have my answer.
In the span of time it takes to consume a modest lunch, I witnessed no less than three cars parked within my view; all unoccupied, all idling.
In light of the article's attempts to raise awareness of the clean air issue, I took note of the amount of time these drivers left their polluting cars running. The shortest was eight minutes. A car left running more than one or two minutes spews significantly more CO2 and uses more gasoline than restarting the engine, and diesel exhaust adds particulate toxins that interfere with the lungs' ability to transport oxygen.
I wish I could report these careless drivers were an anomaly, but sadly, it's quite the contrary. If I could pedal my roughly one-mile daily commute without seeing at least one idling vehicle, then that would be an anomaly - summer or winter. Yet I see no effort on behalf of either the city or county to regulate tailpipe emissions in this valley (where, incidentally, mitigating air quality becomes even more challenging).
Then, in our community leaders' insistence on 1950s solutions to 21st-century challenges, I read about sprawling housing developments, which irrefutable evidence shows worsen traffic congestion, and spending taxpayer money on frivolous things like sidewalks instead of bike paths (useful to both cyclists and pedestrians).
Maintained for cross-country skiing, a bike path network would provide a solution for many in-town residents for winter commuting. I've lost count of the number of people who have told me they are too scared to commute by bicycle in the winter but would be thrilled to ski around Ski Town USA. To run a snowplow over the Core Trail just for me and the other nine or so hardcore, crazy winter-bike commuters seems illogical, especially considering most of us would willingly trade the bike for skis - a more fitting tool for winter transport. The result for valley residents would be less traffic congestion on our limited roadways, healthier citizens and cleaner air.
OK, I'll admit to being more acutely aware of my cardio-respiratory system than most folks, but I think we can all agree we'd prefer our lungs remain capable of transporting oxygen to the alternative. If you're still skeptical, then I suggest you go find someone dying from emphysema and ask them if they have any regrets.
The time is now Steamboat, before all we're left with are regrets.