Directionally-challenged drivers on Yampa Street could cost cyclists a dedicated bike lane
STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Cyclists in downtown Steamboat Springs might lose a new dedicated bike lane on a stretch of Yampa Street if more cars don’t start parking correctly near Workman Park.
City officials said this week less than half of drivers are correctly backing into a set of new reverse-angle parking spaces near the park.
The city started adding the spaces, which allow drivers to easily see cyclists approaching when pulling out of a space, on Yampa in 2013 as a way to make the street safer. The use of the spaces has also increased the parking capacity on some parts of the busy street.
Public Works Director Jon Snyder said when a driver parks incorrectly by pulling front-first into the back-in spaces in the morning, it often sets off a chain reaction where other drivers will follow suit.
However, while only 48 percent of drivers have been parking the right way near Workman Park, the city has had more success getting more than 80 percent compliance in the reverse-angle spaces that were added further north on Yampa in front of Mountain Tap Brewery.
Snyder speculates the new spaces are seeing the lower compliance rate because they are not used as much by local residents and workers who are more familiar with the spaces.
“It’s entirely dependent on what the first couple of cars do,” he said. “I think the ones down by Mountain Tap are used by tenants of the building that are more familiar with it.”
The city has been tracking the compliance rates in the parking spaces since they were completed last year as part of an improvement project on Yampa.
Snyder said the city has not been issuing citations to drivers who disobey the parking signs and pull in front-first.
“We still kind of consider this the education campaign,” he said. “If we don’t see improvements (in getting compliance), we’ll probably have to go back to the original parking spaces.”
That would mean a dedicated bike lane that has been painted would be removed and replaced with an arrow indicating bicycles share the traffic lane with vehicles.
In 2016, the city continued adding reverse-angle spaces on Yampa despite concerns from some elected officials that the spaces had not made the street safer as intended.
Councilman Scott Ford specifically was concerned that if compliance did not improve, the city could add to the pedestrian and biker safety problems on Yampa instead of alleviating them.
The back-in spaces are meant to increase safety by allowing drivers to see the road and the bike lane in front of them when they are pulling out.
But when cars just pull into the spaces front first, it can make it more dangerous for the cyclists using the bike lanes.
The new spaces also allow the city to increase the number of parking spaces on Yampa Street.
City officials plan to decide what to do with the new reverse angle spaces in the spring.
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Steamboat Springs Planning Commission members will hold a non-voting discussion Thursday on where they would recommend establishing zones restricting or prohibiting short-term rentals, known as overlay zones.