Mulhall column: Adding irritation to gridlock
I grew up in a house on Grand Avenue, so I know a bit about its history, including how we cemented its role as the northern-most stretch of Colorado Highway 82.
Before my time here, mature cottonwoods lined Grand’s two lanes from about 14th to 22nd streets, give or take a block.
In 1961, the city felled the cottonwoods to widen Grand to four lanes, two in each direction.
In the 1970s, the city widened Grand once again, condemning portions of front yards, business parking and park space to allow for a roomy center turn lane.
Prior to the pouring of a concrete Grand Avenue earlier this century, our town was known throughout the land for, among other things, potholes.
Back in those days, a tattered ribbon of subtly north-facing asphalt was the ruin of many a ride. Glenwood mechanics could align front ends and replace tie rods in their sleep. Digging up Grand’s asphalt and pouring concrete in its place solved the pothole problem.
After the concrete resurfacing, Grand Avenue became a gloriously bump-free ride, and it remained so until the bridge project, which widened the lanes spanning the Colorado River and all but permanently tabled any alternatives for routing Highway 82 through Glenwood.
On Wednesday, I read a PI article that quotes the city engineer as saying, “We’re going to expand those sidewalks and the bike lanes and press the vehicles in. We’re going to narrow those lanes and just make it so that drivers are less comfortable driving.”
For all the effort Glenwood Springs has made to accommodate traffic on Grand Avenue, the city now proposes adding bike paths and narrowing traffic lanes to “make driving more difficult.”
All in favor of adding irritation to gridlock, please raise your hand.
In fairness, the article focuses on Colorado Department of Transportation’s crash data for Glenwood Springs and shows that our incident rates are higher than other Western Slope communities.
You don’t need to be a transportation expert to know this. We have a state highway for a Main Street. You could say the cited incident rates are a consequence.
It’s not a stretch.
To address high crash data, Glenwood’s city engineer proposes constructing medians, narrowing vehicle lanes, widening sidewalks and creating bike lanes.
Adding bicycles to the right lane competition between RFTA buses and vehicles strikes me as a particularly bad idea.
RFTA buses generate their own, never-talked-about congestion on Grand Avenue. If they weren’t helping many folks adapt to the present economic conditions, they’d be an outright menace.
My views aside, adding a bike lane to Grand’s vehicle and bus traffic may lead to outcomes not mentioned in the traffic-calming playbook.
Of course, the real objective of that playbook — at least as it’s usually applied — is to reduce, or ideally eliminate, gas-powered vehicle traffic.
Glenwood has an interesting history with traffic calming measures — who can forget the concrete planters on Midland?
Unless a vehicle is electric, hugely economical or part of a John Kerry motorcade, it contributes to global warming, or so the narrative goes.
Contrasted with high-occupancy and sustainable-energy vehicles, single- or even multi-occupant gas-powered cars are simply not what’s needed to make Glenwood resemble Zermatt, or at least demonstrate that Glenwood’s down for the struggle in the fight against global warming.
The article mentions the term “road diet,” which apparently means “narrowing a road to make drivers less likely to speed and to add room for pedestrians on sidewalks.”
Perhaps what’s meant by “road diet” is not the narrowing of vehicle driving lanes per se, but rather the reduction of gas-powered vehicles on the road. If you drive a small-enough vehicle, like many electric vehicles and smart cars, even a narrow lane is roomy.
On a lane-narrowed Grand Avenue, only folks in something larger than a roller skate will drive bug-eyed judging distances. Rear-view mirrors don’t last very long on cars parked along Grand with lanes the way they are now.
Perhaps what’s really wanted is to keep Highway 82 aligned exactly the way it is while creating an incentive for people who drive Grand Avenue to downsize their vehicles.
Or just quit driving.
Mitch Mulhall is a husband, father and longtime Roaring Fork Valley resident. His column appears monthly in the Post Independent and at PostIndependent.com.
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