Our View: Improvements needed for pedestrians

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Editorial Board, February 2009 through May 2009

  • Suzanne Schlicht, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Mike Lawrence, city editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Paul Hughes, community representative
  • Gail Smith, community representative

Contact the editorial board at (970) 871-4221 or editor@steamboatpilot.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

At issue

Pedestrian safety

Our view

Proposed highway improvements have potential to address serious issues relating to pedestrian safety in Steamboat.

— Highway improvements and a shift in our driving mentality are needed to make Steamboat Springs a more pedestrian-friendly community. Such efforts could prevent future tragedies while also fostering a healthier, more welcoming community for residents and visitors.

As it stands, several of Steamboat's busiest intersections also are the most dangerous for pedestrians. Pine Grove Road and U.S. Highway 40, where 77-year-old resident Bob Bear was fatally injured by a pickup last week, is considered by local law enforcement officials as one of the worst in the city in terms of car accidents. Unfortunately, it's also the most logical intersection for pedestrians to cross U.S. 40 to access our city's two grocery stores, the Yampa River Core Trail, Fetcher Pond and other popular destinations between downtown and the ski area.

The alternative - crossing at Anglers Road and U.S. 40 - isn't much better. Steamboat Springs Police Capt. Joel Rae said the Anglers intersection, as well as Hilltop Parkway at U.S. 40 and Third Street at Lincoln Avenue, rank as some of the most dangerous intersections in our city. Consider other pedestrian-unfriendly intersections such as Downhill Drive at U.S. 40, Elk River Road at U.S. 40 and many of the numbered cross streets through downtown, and it's hard to imagine why residents or visitors would feel empowered to walk to their destinations instead of jumping behind the wheel of a car. The less motivation we give for people to walk or bike, the more traffic we see on our streets.

Fortunately, it appears some needed improvements may be coming. A consultant group studying changes to U.S. 40 is reviewing proposals for 10-foot sidewalks along the highway, as well as a pedestrian overpass or underpass at Elk River Road and U.S. 40. Both improvements would be substantial and beneficial. More immediate improvements include the "bumping out" of sidewalks at downtown Steamboat intersections, thereby decreasing the distance from one side of the street to the other.

Similarly, developer Brian Olson is proposing a pedestrian underpass along Fish Creek that would take walkers and bicyclists from his future City South development near Staples and Alpine Lumber to the other side of U.S. 40 without having to navigate the dangerous intersections.

Those proposed improvements should be supported by city officials and the community at large, but they're also potentially years away from execution. In the interim, there are other steps the community and its residents should take to improve pedestrian safety:

- Obey the law: Motorists must yield to pedestrians in marked and unmarked crosswalks. That means that when a pedestrian steps off the curb at Sixth and Lincoln or 10th and Lincoln, for example, motorists are required by law to allow them to cross. Cars in adjacent lanes cannot pass and overtake a car that is stopped to allow pedestrians to cross the road.

The same goes for pedestrians. When crossing at a signal, obey the "walk" and "don't walk" commands. Pedestrians also can't jump off the curb and expect motorists to see them and stop for them.

- Increased signage: Cities such has Boulder have made concerted efforts throughout the past decade to be more pedestrian-friendly by installing signs that flash when pedestrians are present and remind motorists of the state law. Such signs would be a welcome sight in our community.

- Increased enforcement: The Steamboat Springs Police Department and Routt County Sheriff's Office should ramp up enforcement of the law as it pertains to motorist and pedestrian issues.

Most important, our community should embrace a cultural shift in our driving habits. We always should be aware of our surroundings, and we should never hesitate to safely come to a stop and allow pedestrians to cross the street in front of us. As a community, we spend a lot of time and money selling ourselves as a friendly Western town. Perhaps it's time our behavior behind the wheel lived up to that reputation.

Comments

2007 5 years, 5 months ago

Perhaps dangerous intersections should not permit right turns on red and should have large "no right turn on red" signs.

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Fred Duckels 5 years, 5 months ago

The buck has been passed on addressing our traffic infrastructure for decades. Steamboat is the laughing stock in transportation circles,CDOT included. We have in our midst many social engineers that propose a smoke and mirrors approach,mostly centered around public transportation. This is one solution but a rather small one. The new highway study west of town proposes a four lane highway from Steamboat II to 13th st. Lincoln at the present cannot handle the existing traffic from a two lane road when the economy is cooking. At the 700 discusions consultants indicated that we can expect public transportation to decrease traffic by 5%. Many were disappointed,but that is all that Boulder has attained. With the new data in from the studies it will most certainly show that Lincoln will be overwhelmed and an alternate route is probably necessary. I have been involved with a committee that has been studying this matter and we are part of the CofC transportation group. There is research to form a transportation entity to provide leadership and logistics to help solve our area transportation problems. This must be left to engineers to bring reason to the situation,where we are all traffic experts. I would assess most of Lincoln as a death trap, It will not meet fire, ambulance, police, standards or any traffic interuption. We must step up in our time and look ahead to give those following us,options for the future. I have watched towns drop the ball on traffic and it gets very ugly.

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