Carbondale prioritizes safe corridors |

Carbondale prioritizes safe corridors

Ryan Summerlin
The Carbondale Bike, Pedestrian and Trails Commission presented the town council with map of priority routes Tuesday evening. The effort was launched after a pair of assaults on women walking through Carbondale at night last summer, and many women demanded that trustees take action to make the streets safer.

Carbondale trustees have approved a priority map for safe routes through town, its impetus originating with a pair of assaults against women walking through town at night last summer.

And the board has directed town staff to begin a couple of infrastructure upgrades hoped to improve community safety.

The Board of Trustees first sent the issue to the Bike, Pedestrian and Trails Commission, suggesting that, first, routes be identified to prioritize — given the town’s limited funding to make upgrades.

A map crafted by the commission and community members at public meetings identifies routes as “priority routes,” “night time routes” and “important future connections.”

When the town does have the money to spend on improved lighting, repairing old sidewalks and making better pedestrian and bike connections, this map will point to the streets where they could be most used.

The map is, however, only the first step in what’s going to have to be a multi-sided approach to making the town’s streets safer for pedestrians.

We “believe there is no one-size-fits-all solution to make pathways safer after dark (e.g. lighting),” Darryl Fuller, commission chair, wrote in a memo to the trustees.

Fuller and the commission have also recommended a number of other steps: conducting a lighting audit, specifically along the priority corridor, incorporating the safe routes into existing commercial maps of the town, initiating more public education on where those routes are, increasing patrols and offering self-defense classes.

One of the main ideas is that getting more pedestrian traffic on particular routes would do more to improve their safety than even added lighting would.

In terms of immediate infrastructure upgrades, the town already has money budgeted to add lighting on the east side of Colorado 133 from Village Road to Cowen Drive and connecting sidewalks along Gianinetti Park where there is existing lighting on the street.

The town will also work on Eighth Street, where the sidewalk is narrow in places, has disconnected segments and frequently has vehicles parking where pedestrians are supposed to walk, according to a commission memo.

Though the assaults last summer created a sense of urgency, the priority list the Bike, Pedestrian and Trails Commission developed has been in the works for years, Fuller said. And the map the commission developed incorporates not only public safety concerns but also general improvements that the town’s plans have contemplated for years.

The selection of these specific routes were motivated by the desire to “improve conditions for walking and bicycling in town as well as specific recent events that triggered citizen concerns about safe pedestrian travel in town after dark,” according to the commission’s memo.

For after-dark safe routes, it was determined pretty early on, which Fuller called a “surprise finding,” that town shouldn’t invest in making Rio Grande Trail a safe route. Though it’s a main thoroughfare during the day, it’s so secluded, enclosed by fences and dark that pedestrians are avoiding that route after sunset, said Fuller.

Trustee Ben Bohmfalk echoed that concern, saying that, with the budget the town is working with, it would take years to light the trail and it still might not be the safest route.

Mayor Dan Richardson pushed to create a GIS map of the safe routes on the town’s website, though he noted that budgetary constraints will keep that from happening immediately.

Trustee Katrina Byars also encouraged the board to stay involved with long-term efforts to make the Rio Grande Trail a safer night route, given that it’s highly promoted in the daytime.

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