City backs off from sharrow-designated routes... for now
Plan is to develop local guidelines first; council could vote on concept May 10
Plans to designate parts of Colorado Avenue and/or 30th Street for sharrow lanes have been dropped - at least for the present.
But the topic of sharrows in general will go before City Council at its formal meeting Tuesday, May 10 starting at 1 p.m. at City Hall, 107 N. Nevada Ave.
According to Mary Scott of City Public Communica-tions, putting sharrows on the formal meeting agenda will provide an opportunity for public comments (unlike at informal meetings, such as the one May 9).
Council will have in front of it a recommendation, passed by the Citizens Transportation Advisory Board (CTAB) at its May 3 meeting, to approve sharrows “at appropriate locations.” CTAB did not suggest any locations, but its recommendation goes on to state that they must meet “criteria as determined by the traffic engineer.”
“I think the really strong message is we're not going to rush this,” Scott said.
Follow-up meetings, including the May 24 Bicycle Advisory Committee meeting, are also intended to invite public comment and help staff develop criteria specific to Colorado Springs. “I'm hoping by that point we can at least take an initial look at local guidelines,” Scott said. “We want to be sure we're looking at the unique nature of Colorado Springs. But honestly, we have a lot of work to do.”
Asked if such information had existed when staff initially designated Colorado Avenue and 30th Street, she said no. “But now, “staff has realized finally that they got the cart before the horse,” Scott said. “I think they got caught completely by surprise. They thought sharrows were just another street marking. They were surprised that people were so concerned.”
The word “sharrow” is short for “share” and “arrow.” Guidelines allowing them exist at both the state and federal levels. A sharrow marking consists of a double arrow with a bicycle symbol. Such markings can be placed on the right side of traffic lanes to show where cyclists are recommended to ride. The consistent argument heard from city staffers, as well as bicyclists, is that it's already legal to ride 4 feet to the left of parked cars (to avoid being hit by doors opening suddenly), so marking sharrows there makes perfect sense.
Until the issue was publicized in the media a few weeks ago, staff had planned to mark them on both Colorado and on 30th this month, with the goal of having them in before bike month (June) as well as readying the city for the international bike race that will have its Prologue event here in August.
But after City Council heard some questions from citizen leaders at its April 26 meeting - more about priorities and lack of public process than about opposition to the sharrow concept - council agreed by consensus to have Engineering hold off on its lane-marking schedule.
Then, at a public meeting May 2, even before public comments were taken, Traffic Engineer Dave Krauth and Public Works team leader Nick Kittle gave a PowerPoint presentation that showed cross-outs on the previously announced marking dates for Colorado Avenue and 30th Street.
During the May 2 public comments, several cyclists talked about their desire for safety and respect on the road, and it was made clear that 30th and Colorado Avenue are popular for riders who want to go places in a direct manner. “You [motorists] might have to wait behind a bicycle before you can pass it,” pointed out Al Brody, a long-time community cycling leader. “That's the law.”
Part of the cost of stamping sharrow markings on 30th Street were to be paid with funds from the city's $4 excise fee on each bicycle sold.
Allen Beauchamp, president of the Colorado Springs Cycling Club, said that Colorado Springs is the only city he know of that charges such a fee.
Some citizens at the meeting had reservations about sharrows, particularly about the streets that staff had initially chosen. Gene Orner, a Westside resident for many years, called it “absolutely insane” that the city had picked 30th Street, which has no shoulders and several curves where it passes the Garden of the Gods. “You can't see oncoming traffic,” he said, and asked why the city hasn't paved the entirety of the Foothills Trail paralleling 30th in that area. “If a good bike path is there, bicycles won't be on the road as much,” he said.
Welling Clark, president of the Organization of Westside Neighbors (OWN), said he has heard from merchants who are concerned what sharrows would do to the traffic flow on Colorado Avenue. “The guidelines are going to be critical,” he said.
Other concerns were more general.
Dave Munger, president of the Council of Neighbors and Organizations (CONO), questioned why marking sharrows had become a priority for the city instead of dealing with traffic congestion.
Walter Lawson, a citizen who participates regularly in local matters, suggested that the city attorney research what legal liabilities the city might be facing if it has sharrow lanes.
Several people asked to see research supporting staff and cyclists' claims that sharrows are an effective traffic tool.
One of these, District 3 City Councilmember Lisa Czelatdko, suggested that staff look at what's worked for sharrows in other cities. In response, Krauth said that several cities have developed such criteria.
Another elected official at the meeting, County Commissioner Sallie Clark (also a Westside resident), noted that cyclists' had been critical of the design and/or condition of Foothills Trail paralleling 30th and the Midland Trail paralleling Colorado Avenue. She called for local governments to examine where the regional bike-trail system needs improving.
Westside Pioneer article