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Boulder County cyclist-motorist group presents ideas for canyons

The Daily Camera: Boulder County cyclist-motorist group presents ideas for canyons

New signs, clean shoulders and increased enforcement among recommendations

By Laura Snider Camera Staff Writer
Posted: 10/26/2009 08:04:28 PM MDT

After several months of work, Boulder County’s new Cyclist-Motorist Working Group on Thursday will present its draft recommendations for increasing safety and decreasing tension on the winding roads that lead up to Jamestown and Ward.

The group -- which is made up of avid road bikers, mountain town residents, frequent canyon drivers and staffers from the county Transportation Department and the Sheriff’s Office -- formed in early August after long-standing tensions between cyclists and drivers escalated over the summer.

"I was really pleasantly surprised by how well folks worked together," said George Gerstle, the county’s transportation director. "We got a lot of good insight into low-cost things we can do."

The list of recommendations ranges from paving bicycle pullouts to adding patrols by law enforcement during the busiest days. The group also suggested adding new signs that are aimed at encouraging good canyon etiquette for both riders and drivers. "Share the Road, Share the Responsibility" and "Commit to Courtesy, Share the Road" were a couple of the suggested sign slogans, but the group is open to other proposals.

"It would be great if people can come and give us their ideas and reactions," Gerstle said.

Some of the group’s simpler recommendations, such as keeping the shoulders clear of debris, have already been taken up by the Transportation Department. But other suggestions, such as accelerating the timeline for widening the shoulder on Lee Hill Drive to its intersection with Olde Stage Road, will require approval by the county commissioners or other local governments.

In all, the group outlined more than three dozen possible improvements.

"They fall basically into three categories," said Jonathan Bartsch, the group’s facilitator, "physical improvements, outreach and education, and the role of law enforcement."

Friction between bikes and cars -- especially in the area of Lefthand and James canyons -- heated up this summer after the state passed a law that gives cyclists more rights on the road, including a 3-foot berth when cars are passing and the ability to ride in the middle of a lane if the shoulder is unsafe. But the summer’s increased tensions didn’t keep the new group from working together, Bartsch said.

"I think it’s gone remarkably well," he said. "We really focused on what in Boulder County can we do to effectuate a change, reduce frustrations and increase safety. It’s about practical strategies for improving the experience in the canyons."

 

Some suggested improvements:

On Thursday, members of the Cyclist-Motorist Working Group will present a draft of possible improvements. Here are just a few of the group’s suggestions:

  • Create paved bicycle pullouts to give cyclists a place to rest and congregate out of the stream of traffic.
  • Install signs on mountain roads that remind people to share the road, suggest stretches of road where it may be safer to ride single-file and outline good canyon etiquette for both cars and bikes.
  • Add more bike racks in Ward and Jamestown away from busy areas.
  • Increase patrols in the canyons by sheriff’s deputies on busy Saturdays and Sundays.
  • Train "outreach ambassadors" to help educate cyclists and motorists about how to travel more safely on canyon roads.

To read the full list of suggestions, visit bouldercounty.org/transportation/CyclistMotoristWorkingGroup.htm.

If you go

What: An open house to discuss the recommendations of Boulder County’s Cyclist-Motorist Working Group, which is tasked with improving safety on the area’s canyon roads

When: The open house is from 5 to 8 p.m. Thursday. Working group members will give a presentation at 5:45 p.m. followed by a discussion session at 6:15 p.m.

Where: Altona Grange Hall, 9386 N. 39th St. in Longmont

Fore more information: A full list of the draft recommendations can be found at bouldercounty.org/transportation/CyclistMotoristWorkingGroup.htm