Photo by Matt Stensland
Steamboat Springs resident Ruben Garcia commutes from work Thursday afternoon along Elk River Road.
Steamboat Springs City engineer Janet Hruby said cycling patterns on Routt County Road 129 initially seemed backward to state transportation officials.
The first batch of data from a new, in-pavement bicycle counter installed just north of U.S. Highway 40 on both shoulders of C.R. 129, or Elk River Road, showed heavy northbound traffic in the morning and heavy southbound traffic in the evening. That’s the opposite of conventional wisdom that would expect commuters to travel toward Steamboat Springs for work and then away from it, toward homes outside the urban center, after the day was done.
The Colorado Department of Transportation must not have known about Moots Cycles and SmartWool, among others.
Hruby said that kind of data, about where and when cyclists are riding, and how often, is the purpose of the new bicycle counter on C.R. 129.
A second bicycle counter is on the west end of the Yampa River Core Trail, near Riverfront Park.
Both were installed in late September, Hruby said, through funding from CDOT and Kaiser Permanente. The health services provider gave CDOT $50,000 to boost its bicycle and pedestrian counting program.
Hruby said no city funds were used for the counters, but they could bring dollars to town. Hruby said the counters would provide specific data about cycling on the Core Trail and C.R. 129 that could be used to gauge the need and scope of future bicycle-friendly improvements, such as Core Trail expansions or shoulder upgrades on C.R. 129.
“All of that (data) helps with requests for funding and grants,” she said.
Steamboat Springs Public Works Director Philo Shelton said Hruby and Routt County Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush were instrumental in bringing the bike counters to Steamboat. Communities across Colorado recommended more than 100 locations for bicycle counters, according to a CDOT news release. Six communities were awarded counters in the latest round of CDOT’s bicycle and pedestrian counting program.
Bicycle counters also have been installed in Durango, Boulder, Broomfield, Arvada and Aurora.
Hruby is a member of Routt County Riders’ board of directors and serves with Mitsch Bush on Routt County’s multimodal transportation committee. The two also serve on a pedestrian and cycling committee through the Steamboat Springs Chamber Resort Association.
All those groups and others, Hruby said, are involved in efforts to boost Steamboat’s bicycling community and access.
She said within a month or so, CDOT’s traffic control division will begin sending regular reports of the data it collects remotely from the bicycle counters.
“That’s the neat thing — it’s real-time, and we can have it quickly,” Hruby said. “This will be a way to have real data to help people understand what the demand really is, and hopefully, it’ll help us get more funding.”