Photo by John F. Russell
Cyclist Sam Zimmerman rides along Routt County Road 33 on Monday morning just outside of Steamboat Springs.
Steamboat Springs The Routt County Commissioners are steering in the direction of drafting policies influencing future road projects to make them safer for multiple forms of transportation - motorists and bicyclists alike. The next step comes July 6 when the commissioners host a second public meeting on the subject.
"We have to get down to meat and bones," Commission Chairman Doug Monger said before an audience of more than 50 people Monday night. "From now on, whenever we fix a road, we need to fix it to certain standards so that it will include the things all of us need on those roads."
Monday night's meeting was billed as an open discussion on the shared uses of county roads, one that would take into account the needs of pedestrians, people who move livestock on county roads, bicyclists, and to a limited degree, snowmobiles.
Not everyone in the audience was a cyclist, but virtually everyone who stood up to address the commissioners closely identified with a perceived need to make Routt County's roads more bicycle friendly.
"The cycling community is here in support of the Routt County Commissioners' efforts to make country roads safer," Routt County Riders President Robin Craigen said. "The county master plan calls for a multi-modal system highways and pathways (that will make) movement throughout the Yampa Valley safe and efficient. It sounds great, but I don't think it's where we are today."
The commissioners couldn't help but lament the failure of a 2007 bond issue that would have created a local funding source for road improvements.
A comment that resonated with the commissioners first was made by cyclist Stuart Handloff and then repeated often throughout the two-hour session.
"Good roads for cycling are good roads for everybody," Handloff reminded the commissioners.
"I'd never thought of that idea before," Commissioner Diane Mitsch-Bush said. "I thought it was a very good one."
She also expressed enthusiasm for the remarks of Linda Kakela who has lived along Strawberry Park Road (Routt County Road 36) for 50 years and enjoys the many bicyclists who pedal that route.
"Would it be possible to explore designating County Road 36 as a local scenic by way?" Kakela asked. "It links downtown Steamboat with the historical sites at Perry-Mansfield and the hot springs."
Commissioner Nancy Stahoviak had some specific goals for the July 6 meeting. She wants to obtain more detailed cost figures from Road and Bridge Director Paul Draper on sweeping county roads of gravel and debris to make them safer for cyclists.
"We're cutting back on road maintenance already, so we need to prioritize," sections of roads for sweeping, she said.
Second, Stahoviak wants to confront the touchy subject of registering all bicycles in the county in much the same way that motor vehicles are.
"We need to have a discussion about the pros and cons," she said. Finally, Stahoviak wants to clear up any confusion among motorists and cyclists about the role of the white stripes along the perimeter of county roads known as the fog line.
Draper said the fog lines were created as a guide for motorists and not to denote formal bicycle paths.
However, Stahoviak said she's convinced many motorists see them as boundaries for bicyclists.
Monger said one of his primary goals is to help move drivers and cyclists beyond the divisiveness that underlies the issue in Routt County.