Commissioners divided on making smooth roads for bikers
GLENWOOD SPRINGS, Colo. The Garfield County commissioners are divided over whether or not to accommodate bicyclists on county roads, with the deciding voter yet to show his hand.Commissioner Larry McCown made it clear Monday that cyclists have to take what they can get when they wander off bike paths and sidewalks.”There’s a difference between a bike trail and a county road,” he said.Commissioner Trési Houpt previously said the county needs to create a smoother surface when it reconstructs or overlays county roads.Commissioner John Martin sidestepped the fray at a commissioners’ meeting and he couldn’t be reached for comment after the proceedings. The topic will emerge again later this month when the county commissioners review bids to see if it will cost more to use smaller gravel to resurface roads.Some cyclists are applying pressure to use the smaller rock. They complain that the county’s contractors have recently used 34-inch gravel in chip seal, where the gravel gets compressed in a sealant. The larger rock doesn’t compress well so it creates a bumpy ride for all users. It’s particularly rough on bikers.”A lot of roads in Garfield County are less than friendly to bicyclists,” said Bruce Christensen, mayor of Glenwood Springs and an avid cyclist. The size of rock that the county uses “takes years” to wear down to a friendly surface, he said.Chris Harrison, who works at Ute City Cycling in Carbondale, said the county road from Carbondale to Spring Gulch is “virtually unrideable” in places because of the condition of the surface. The vibration is particularly wicked while heading downhill, he said.Cattle Creek Road, which leads into Missouri Heights, is also rough on riders, Harrison said.Christensen said Garfield County should be mindful of the road surfaces because cycling is a big tourist draw for the entire Roaring Fork Valley. A survey by the Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association showed that 12 percent of respondents said they came to town for cycling. That trailed only skiing.He noted that Ride the Rockies, an annual tour of Colorado that attracts more than 2,000 riders, is coming through the Roaring Fork Valley this year and will use numerous Garfield County roads. It would be good business if those visitors had an experience that made them want to return, he said.But McCown warned that the county has much more than the comfort of cyclists to consider when it comes to road maintenance. Bicyclists are “fair weather riders,” he noted. They ride primarily in the warm weather months. The roads need a surface that is safe for motorists when winter strikes, McCown said. The larger gravel that cyclists despise provides a significant traction factor, he said.Garfield County public works director Marvin Stephens said some roads receive asphalt, which creates a much smoother surface, when traffic levels warrant. “I think the whole general public will enjoy the road,” he said.But as more costly asphalt gets used in some areas, that reduces the overall amount of miles the county can maintain, according to McCown. He warned that the county might have to let some paved roads deteriorate to gravel that is treated with magnesium chloride.Christensen said that Garfield County voters approved a 1 percent sales tax increase some years ago that is partially allocated to road maintenance. He suggested the county has ample revenues to handle road maintenance in a way that accommodates cyclists.Houpt supports a compromise. She wants to use the 34-inch gravel for the road base during resurfacing projects, then top it with 38-inch gravel for a smooth surface.Bids for alternative resurfacing techniques are due in later this month and will be reviewed by the commissioners either on June 11 or 18.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Glenwood Springs Police Chief Joseph Deras lamented his department’s inability to maintain a constant presence downtown during a virtual public forum Monday night.