Community maps safe routes in Carbondale
Safe ride home
Call 970-963-2662 anytime in Carbondale for a safe ride home from the Carbondale Police Department.
The first concrete product in Carbondale’s public safety discussions is taking shape in the form of a draft safe routes map.
Calls for improved public safety followed two incidents this summer of assaults against women walking through Carbondale at night, one of which was a sexual assault, according to Carbondale police. Neither woman knew her attacker.
Gene Schilling, Carbondale police chief, has said assaults of that kind are rare in town, and police have only seen two such cases in nearly three years.
After the town council lagged in adding a public safety discussion to its agenda, a dozen impassioned Carbondale women crowded the boardroom in August and urged the board to move quickly on the issue.
When the matter did come before trustees, they quickly realized they lacked discretionary money in the proposed 2017 budget that could go to such a project.
The town is already planning to pull about $500,000 out of reserves, which will mostly cover infrastructure maintenance.
“There’s just not much wiggle room in budget right now for major investments in capital improvements or infrastructure,” said Trustee Ben Bohmfalk.
As the board has mulled the issue, the approach has evolved a bit. While the immediate thought was to add more lighting in town, the town is looking to a more multifaceted approach now, said Bohmfalk, also the board’s representative on the Bikes Pedestrians and Trails commission.
“Lighting is going to play a role. If you have a designated safe route that’s completely dark, it’s not going to feel safe.” But it’s not the singular fix, he said.
“Much of the desired improvements are going to have to wait, but there’s a lot we can do now, like mapping these priority routes and increasing public awareness,” said Bohmfalk.
But a couple of problem spots are potentials for improvement next year. The Village Road sidewalk, which winds away from the street and into the dark Gianetti Park is planned to be extended alongside the street, which is already lit.
And the town might be able to improve lighting on the northern section of Colorado 133 where one assault occurred this summer, said Bohmfalk.
Given the town’s tight resources, Trustee Heather Henry proposed designating the main spine for safe routes where the town could focus its very limited resources.
The trustees kicked the discussion back to Carbondale’s Bikes, Pedestrians and Trail Commission, which led a community brainstorming session on safe routes Nov. 7 night.
Andrea Korber said improvements to lighting or sidewalks would have to be phased in because they’re so expensive, so it’s important for the town to prioritize what areas to improve first.
Estimates for sidewalk, for example, have been as much as $200,000 per block, she said.
More than a dozen Carbondalians put their heads together to start prioritizing routes through town, drawing from their firsthand experience of precarious streets at night.
A draft map prioritized Carbondale’s streets and trails into “primary corridors” and “secondary corridors.”
The draft map’s primary corridor runs along Colorado 133, Rio Grande Trail, County Road 106 west of town into Main Street, Village Road connecting to Eighth Street, Snowmass Drive and the northern half of Meadowood Drive.
The secondary corridor includes Cowen Drive, Hendrick Drive, the southern half of Meadowood Drive and a route that runs from Holland Drive to North Bridge Drive, River Valley Ranch Road and Crystal Bridge Drive to Colorado 133.
The east side of Colorado 133 near the Roaring Fork Transportation Authority Park and Ride came up again as a place to improve lighting. Currently, only the west side is lit, and the area sees high pedestrian use by bus riders disembarking and making their way into town.
As in previous trustee meeting, many community members were skeptical of improvements to the Rio Grande Trail. Henry and Bohmfalk have said the trail wouldn’t be make for a good safe route, partly because areas are fenced in, leaving a victim nowhere to flee.
While it’s an essential corridor, if you’re looking for a safe route at night, no amount of lighting will change that corridor, said Bohmfalk. “And that’s important to know because it would be a very significant investment to improve.”
Eighth Street becomes an important route from the Park and Ride if Rio Grande Trail isn’t being used, said Darryl Fuller, chair of the Bikes, Pedestrians and Trails Commission.
Some approaches are free, like spreading awareness that the Carbondale police will give you a ride if you feel unsafe walking through town.
The safe routes could be marked in some way, with wayfinding signs or special decals on the street, said Korber. Some also thought an educational campaign, through Facebook or the schools, is going to be necessary to spread awareness about where these routes are and what the signifiers mean.
Visit tinyurl.com/saferoutes81623 to add your perspective on safe routes through a town survey on community safety.
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