A local business owner presented over 1,000 signatures Tuesday to Aspen City Council from people who are against the new dedicated bike lane and parallel parking configuration on a two-block stretch in the downtown core.
Kenny and Robin Smith, owners of Meridian Jewelers located on the 500 block of Cooper Avenue, presented the signatures that have been collected at several businesses along the corridor since the living lab was implemented in late June.
“If there is a constant creep in eliminating parking from the core, we’re seeing a lot of pain and negative feedback and frustration about that right now,” Kenny Smith said. “In one week, we got 1,019 signatures, which I feel is a pretty significant expression of discontent for what people are seeing on the street. … There are a lot of names that you guys will recognize on there and it’s a lot of people who primarily bike or walk to the core.”
He also pointed out that with the elimination of 44 parking spaces in that area, which were replaced in outlying zones of the downtown core, doesn’t accommodate elderly and handicapped people who want to shop and dine in town.
“I feel like what we are saying is that if you can’t walk or ride your bike in the core, you’re not welcome,” Kenny Smith said.
At the direction of council, the city engineering department implemented the experiment, which is set to last until Sept. 26, to improve pedestrian and bike safety.
Last year the city did a community survey in which the majority of 400 respondents said they wanted more safety measures downtown for pedestrians and cyclists.
Council’s desire and direction to staff for the past several years is to prioritize pedestrian and bicyclists and find ways to reduce the number of cars coming into town.
Mayor Torre, anticipating public comment on the topic during Tuesday’s regular meeting, told those in council chambers that he and his colleagues are listening.
“The project’s goals were to develop a holistic plan to incrementally improve safety and mobility in Aspen’s downtown core by balancing priorities for all users, that’s pedestrians, bikes and cars,” he said. “This is a living lab, which means it is an experiment and a trial and this council is open to the community’s input and we want to know what you think, any improvements that you see that can be made.”
Joe DiSalvo, an Aspen resident, co-owner of a business downtown and the Pitkin County sheriff, told council the city has created unsafe conditions to a point where he crashed to the ground on his bike last Friday when a group of people walked off the sidewalk and into the bike lane without looking.
One of the problems is that the parallel parking spaces are now located several feet away from the sidewalk and people are forced to walk across the dedicated bike lane to get to their vehicles, DiSalvo said.
“It’s a preventable accident,” he said. “As sheriff I don’t have a product that I can hold in my hand, my only product is safety and I look at that living lab and it’s not the model of safety, it’s exactly the opposite. …
“This is your opportunity to make these changes now.”
Other observations from people are that pedestrians are using the bike lane and painted yellow barrier lines in front of the parking spaces to walk in the road, and cars just continue to circle the block looking for a place to park.
“I personally think it makes the downtown core unsafe,” said Pat Degelo, who has a custom clothing tailoring and alterations business that serves several clients downtown. “I think it’s not as safe because now the cars are driving around and around and around.
“If your goal was to decrease emissions, it’s increased now because the cars are driving around and they just want to park because this is America, a driving nation,” she continued. “Everybody’s in a car, especially tourists.”