Steamboat Springs We have received a number of requests via email from bicyclists to reconsider the decision made Tuesday, June 24, to re-stripe Routt County Road 36 from the existing 9-foot driving lanes and existing 5-foot identified shoulders to 10-foot driving lanes and 4-foot identified shoulders. We have independently come to the conclusion that we are not willing to reconsider that decision at this time. Commissioner Stahoviak was in the process of preparing a statement outlining her reasons for taking this position when Commissioner Monger asked to review the statement, and add his comments so that a joint statement could be issued.
The decision we made June 24 was not made lightly. Nor was it made based on the concerns expressed by one individual (who, we understand, was actually speaking for some of her neighbors, also). Our decision was made based historical discussions regarding C.R. 36, citizen comments that we have received over the years, the types and volumes of traffic that use the road, our personal observations of the road, and our belief that the narrowing of the driving lane has not "calmed" vehicular traffic and caused it to slow down. We both indicated at the hearing that the only way to cause speeders to obey the speed limit is through enforcement of that speed limit by the Routt County sheriff. We also both stated at the hearing that more appropriate signage directed at vehicular and non vehicular traffic would be appropriate.
We do not believe that the one-foot change in the width of the lanes on C.R. 36 is a "step backward" regarding Routt County's intentions to, whenever possible, make our roads safer for all users. In response to requests from the bicyclist community several years ago, we reduced the size of the chips placed on our roads when they are chip-sealed. Whenever we are considering the reconstruction or paving of a county road, we make every attempt to widen the road to allow for safer multi-use of the road. For many years, we have championed the continued widening and reconstruction of Colorado Highway 131 to make it safer for bicyclists to use. Every time we have reconstructed a section of C.R. 14 or C.R. 129, we have included additional shoulder width to make those roads safer for bicycle use. Our decision take the identified shoulders on C.R. 36 from 5 feet to 4 feet still allows for safe, separated non vehicular use on that road.
We are both still unclear as to how the decision to create 9-foot driving lanes on this road several years ago occurred. Our road and bridge staff has not been able to provide us with the record of a formal decision by the county commissioners to create those narrow driving lanes and neither of us recall having that discussion or making that decision. In 1995, the county had planned to widen C.R. 36 to 30 feet of pavement, with an 11-foot driving lane and 4-foot identified shoulder on each side of the road. The intent of this road-widening was to create a safer experience for all users of the road. The members of the public, including bicyclists, that attended a hearing on Aug. 29, 1995, adamantly opposed widening of the road. The Strawberry Park Group recommended keeping the driving surface of the road at 22 feet (two 11-foot lanes) and adding enough pavement to ensure a 2 1/2- to 3-foot paved shoulder on each side for non vehicular traffic. In the end, the road was widened slightly when it was overlayed to create a total paved width of 28 feet, which is what we have today. In our opinion, errors made by the striping contractor several years ago created the 9-foot driving lanes and 5-foot shoulders without any direction from the Board of County Commissioners.
Since receiving requests to reconsider our decision, Commissioner Stahoviak spent several hours researching information regarding road width, lane width, and the creation of separate bicycle lanes as part of a paved roadway. It quickly became obvious to her that this is an area that requires much more discussion on the part of the Routt County Commissioners and our citizens in order to create a broad policy regarding how we attempt to accommodate mixed uses our on county roads. It will take time to have this discussion in a thoughtful, well-informed manner and it is our recommendation that we convene some public meetings in the fall/winter of this year to consider such a policy.
The following is some of the information gleaned by Commissioner Stahoviak's research that pertains not only to the decision regarding C.R. 36, but is food for thought in future discussions:
- 12-foot lanes are the ideal minimum when providing strictly for motor traffic. An engineering guideline that was reviewed stated that 12-foot lane widths are desirable on both rural and urban roadways, but, in rural areas with low traffic volumes, the use of 10-foot lanes is acceptable. We do not believe that C.R. 36 is a low traffic volume road but were willing to compromise at the 10-foot width.
- 9-foot lanes are appropriate on low-volume roads in rural and residential areas. In our opinion, C.R. 36 is not a low-volume road. Its average daily traffic not only includes the residents that live on the road, but those traveling to destinations along the road Buffalo Pass (C.R. 38), Whiteman School, USFS lands and the Strawberry Park Hot Springs.
- Many cyclists as well as motorists are proponents of wider pavement on roads that carry substantial traffic as a way to minimize the potential for conflict. Thirty- to 32-foot total pavement width is optimum for shared use of roadways. In hindsight, we should have, contrary to public opinion at the time, widened C.R. 36 in 1995 to allow for a surface that would safely accommodate all users.
- Although it has been stated by many that narrowing the driving lane of a road will cause motorists to slow down, empirical studies in Howard County, Md.; Beaverton, Ore.; and San Antonio, Texas suggest that vehicle speeds are as likely to increase as decrease with creation of those narrow lanes through striping. One explanation is that centerlines and edge lines used to narrow the road define the vehicle travel path more clearly, creating a gun barrel effect.
- There is a body of evidence that advocates that striping bike lanes does not create better conditions for cycling or improve safety compared to the same pavement space without striping.
Routt County has a very diverse population and, as county commissioners, we have always attempted to find a middle ground that is acceptable to the majority of our citizens without compromising the health, safety and welfare of our community. We feel that is what we did regarding C.R. 36. We know from comments we have received throughout the years and those we have received recently, that there are differing opinions about how the commissioners should address multiple uses on our county roads. The goal for all of us should be to bring those differing opinions together in an effort to educate, communicate and compromise.
We, as Routt County commissioners, will continue to work toward the safest possible options for multiple uses of our county roads and will make decisions based on resources available to improve and maintain our countywide road system, taking into consideration the views and opinions of all our citizens.