Photo by John F. Russell
Cyclist John Ward rides his bike in one of the recently created bike lanes on Oak Street in downtown Steamboat. The city is undertaking a number of initiatives to make Steamboat Springs more bike- and pedestrian-friendly.
Steamboat Springs The city of Steamboat Springs is making the most of a strapped budget in an effort to maintain the "Bicycle Friendly Community" designation it received two years ago from the League of American Bicyclists.
A new bike lane has been painted on Oak Street in Old Town Steamboat, and it has been very well received by local cyclists.
"It was just a step we could do at very minimal cost," said Public Works Director Philo Shelton, who noted the bike lane matches a downtown streetscape plan approved by the city last year. "It kind of tells people where they need to be and helps them share the road better."
Deputy City Manager Wendy DuBord said the Steamboat Springs City Council has set a goal of making downtown Steamboat more pedestrian friendly. A news release from Routt County Riders bicycle club notes that the group recommended the bike lane and said it soon will be followed by a similar lane on Yampa Street. The group also is working to build new trails on Emerald Mountain.
There are a number of other pedestrian and bicycle improvements planned or under way in the city, and the Routt County Board of Commissioners is scheduled to begin discussions later this month about multiple uses of county roads.
"I think everything has been well received," said Robin Craigen, of Routt County Riders. "We all know that it's long overdue."
June is Colorado Bike Month. Locally, June also is Routt County Riders' Bike to Work Month. Bike to Work Week is June 21 to 28, and Bike to Work Day is June 24.
The city's construction of a new sidewalk on 13th Street is under way. When completed, it will connect U.S. Highway 40 to the parking lot for West Lincoln Park. A paving project on Whistler Road also is under way, and Shelton said the city may stripe a bike lane there, too, if there's any money remaining from the project. The city plans to create a crosswalk with a flashing sign at Maple Street and Amethyst Drive this year.
Last month, Open Space and Trails Supervisor Craig Robinson said a 3,054-foot extension of the Yampa River Core Trail in southern Steamboat could begin by July.
City engineer Janet Hruby said the city also has received grants from Great Outdoors Colorado and the Colorado Department of Transportation for a new pedestrian bridge across the Yampa River that would connect West Lincoln Park to the Core Trail. Cars, bikes and pedestrians now must share the 13th Street Bridge to cross the river in that area. Shelton said the bridge will be designed this year but won't be built until next year at the earliest.
Shelton said the city also has received a CDOT grant to conduct a "Share the Road" marketing campaign that has paid for a banner over Lincoln Avenue, as well as media advertisements.
Hruby said she would like to say the city is doing more in the way of pedestrian and bicycle improvements but that city budget cuts have erased funds available in the city's capital improvements plan for such projects.
"We have no money in our CIP, so we're scrapping together what we can," she said.
Hruby said continued improvements are needed for the city to maintain its silver designation from the League of American Bicyclists, which recognized the city in 2007 and noted that Steamboat "has a strongly integrated off- and on-road bicycle system, featuring some of the best single-track in the country."
After a controversial decision last year to widen traffic lanes and thus shrink the broad shoulders enjoyed by cyclists on Routt County Road 36, the Routt County Board of Commissioners pledged to hold more extensive discussions with Routt County Riders and others about multiple uses of county roads. The first two discussions have been scheduled for 6 p.m. June 29 and 6 p.m. July 6.
Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush said the commissioners will receive information from county staff and take public comment about particular roads and concerns. At the second meeting, Mitsch Bush said the commissioners will have had time to evaluate information and will talk more specifically about what policies they could adopt.
Craigen said he is working with Routt County Riders members to identify specific issues and hopes the county will adopt policies that allow for "mutually respectful use of our county roads."
"I think a lot of people are interested in this and want to ride bikes more," Craigen said. "But, quite frankly, people are afraid of county roads."