Spoke Talk: Care, caution and construction
For Steamboat Pilot & Today
You’ve heard the old adage, Colorado has two seasons: winter and construction. The summer of 2021 has led us all to believe that orange cones are multiplying throughout the Yampa Valley like a certain well-known virus, blanketing the streets in neon barriers. Combine this with the intermittent Glenwood Canyon closures on Interstate 70 and the rerouting of freeway traffic down a 25 mph stretch of Main Street, and you’ve got a recipe for madness.
For the most part, riding a bike can be a quicker and more efficient means of transportation across town when construction traffic is peaking. Zipping up the Yampa River Core Trail is generally a more positive experience than zipping into a merge, and you tend to get honked at a lot less. Right now, however, someone is pointing out the fact that we’ve also had Core Trail closures this season with bridge and underpass repairs. To add to this, the act of riding a bike through a construction site can be rife with danger (did anyone see the CDOT signage on Main Street, “motorcyclists use extreme caution”?). After a deadly accident involving a cyclist in a construction zone this past month, we’ve been asking ourselves what could be done to prevent this from occurring, again.
One sticking point in our discussions has been that there are a multitude of contractors and agencies in charge of construction zones across town, meaning that lines of communication between their management and the public could be a spiderweb. As their work progress is constantly evolving, safe passage for cyclists through each zone is changeable and fluid. This leads us to believe that much of the awareness we would want to raise around certain zones being “sketchier” for a cyclist at certain times in the season is something we would likely want to rely on word-of-mouth (or social media or quick news alerts) in order to propagate.
As we make proclamations about whether or not a road corridor is suitable for a cyclist’s safe passage, it’s important to keep in mind whether your judgment of the scenario is focused on the actual objective safety for a cyclist or whether you are more concerned with cyclists slowing down your already-delayed commute by “getting in your way.” One positive example of what has been done to ease passage for cyclists and pedestrians during high-traffic times and in work areas is the blinking billboard on Colorado Highway 129 that warned motorists of “HEAVY PED AND BIKE TRAFFIC ON ROAD.” We would like to see more examples of multimodal-minded safety precautions for two-wheeled commuters, occasional signage that alerts motorists to their presence and more thorough identification of surface-level hazards like loose gravel or slick metal.
Overall, we just need to keep looking out for each other on the road. The human form is a fragile one, and propelling it at high speed down a paved corridor is inherently somewhat dangerous. Keep your head on a swivel, and keep a loving eye out for all commuters as we complete the next project and improve our transportation infrastructure.
This was motivated by, and is dedicated to, the cyclist who passed away shortly after an accidental fall in a work zone on Steamboat Boulevard in early August. May her friends and family find peace.
Laraine Martin is executive director of Routt County Riders.
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