Photo by John F. Russell
A bike sits in front of a light post Friday morning in downtown Steamboat Springs. Tracy Barnett, of Mainstreet Steamboat, is looking for feedback about an idea to claim some parking spaces downtown for bike racks, like some other communities, instead of forcing people to use light poles and tree trunks.
Steamboat Springs In an effort to continue to the Bike Town USA push, Mainstreet Steamboat Springs Manager Tracy Barnett has an idea to add more bike racks downtown for two-wheeled commuters.
Barnett, who runs the organization that promotes the downtown business district, in her weekly newsletter proposed claiming some downtown parking spaces to put bike racks. She said it’s common in Durango.
“Mostly, I was testing the waters to see what kind of reactions we’d get,” she said. “I’m getting mostly positive and kind of creative ideas. I was just asking basically about the idea of taking a parking space — probably mid-block, I’m not sure — and putting racks in that space.”
As more residents use bicycles to ride downtown to work, shop or stop by restaurants and bars, the racks are starting to fill up and people are finding solutions that aren’t necessarily ideal, Barnett said. She said it’s not uncommon to see several bikes chained to a tree or light post.
Barnett worried that those bikes may not be good for the trees or any other apparatus they’re tethered to.
Steamboat Springs Planning Director Tyler Gibbs said the city is looking at design standards for downtown furnishings, including benches, trash cans, flower barrels and bike racks. He said the city’s Community Development Code wouldn’t prohibit bike racks in parking spaces.
“We’d have to work with public works and downtown businesses if that’s the best solution to accommodate more bikes,” Gibbs said.
Public Works Director Philo Shelton said as long as the bike racks didn’t interfere with snow plowing and could be moved during winter, he didn’t see a problem with the idea.
City Planner Bob Keenan said the bike racks would require a revocable permit from Mainstreet, basically a temporary permit for private improvement on public right-of-way. He said the permit, which can be revoked by the city at any time, includes a provision to indemnify the city.
Rex Brice, owner of Steamboat Restaurant Group restaurants including Mazzola’s Majestic Italian Diner on Lincoln Avenue, said he wouldn’t mind exploring other opportunities for bike racks before taking downtown parking spaces. But he said if one space could fit 10 or so bikes, losing one spot may not be a big deal.
“It’s intriguing. I wouldn’t mind looking at it,” he said. “I question taking parking spaces, but when you look out of the box like that, sometimes it’s surprising when you make a change that at first seems unpopular and counterproductive and then down the road ends up working.”
Barnett said she’s working with the city to find out whether business owners or community members could sponsor downtown street furnishings because there’s not a lot of money in Steamboat’s budget to pay for them.
Along the same lines, this year’s Leadership Steamboat class is soliciting donations from local business owners to pay for permanent recycle bins downtown.
Barnett said it’s not uncommon for someone to call the city’s Parks, Open Space and Recreational Services Department to sponsor a bench, and they’re trying to create a system for people to do that.
The bike rack idea is really just in its initial stage, Barnett said. She said there could possibly be a trial run somewhere if there’s enough support.
“It’s just wish list stuff,” she said. “If not enough people think it’s worth wishing for, it will go lower on the list.”
To reach Jack Weinstein, call 970-871-4203 or email jweinstein@SteamboatToday.com