By Nancy Roen
For the past three years, at one time or another, I have navigated our town with crutches, poles, stationary and wheeled walkers, and at best, with unsteady steps. Right now, a neck injury is making street crossings difficult, because I cannot look right or left without turning my whole body. But moving more slowly through the days, seasons, rhythms and vibes of our town has also provided unexpected pleasure. I have come to appreciate how mostly walkable and accessible Carbondale is and how helpful and considerate most people are. I’m also more aware of the few inconsiderate people and of what doesn’t work well.
Pedestrians are all around us, as are kids on striders, preschoolers bobbing and weaving while learning to ride, strollers, (usually) leashed dogs, skaters, skateboarders, whizzing cyclists and startled wildlife making their way across busy human thoroughfares. Safety is a dance requiring constant awareness from everyone, scanning the terrain for the unexpected, slowing and ceding to one another. Distraction and impatience often lead to serious consequences. Safety measures help, but understanding each other’s needs and taking care of each other can keep us much safer. Any system works better when people use it considerately.
The Carbondale Age-Friendly Community Initiative (CAFCI) has evaluated safety hazards related to traffic and is beginning its “Dangerous 133?” campaign. This summer, CAFCI will be asking for community input to identify problematic areas. By sharing your experiences, you can help make Carbondale a safer place for everyone.
Traffic lights at crosswalks, especially flashing ones, are often either ignored or approached too quickly by vehicles. I once pushed the button for the northeast crosswalk at the roundabout and was about to step down when three motorcycles abreast roared through just to pull into the gas station.
Crosswalks on the northwest and northeast roundabout corners are particularly unsafe, because cars come into the curve too fast. Walking west across 133 does not allow one to see the second car and has led to close calls caused by unseen cars speeding through the crosswalk.
Northbound vehicles approaching the flashing light at Hendrick Drive move fast, making it risky for cyclists, children going home after games and dog walkers heading to and from the park.
The Village Road light does not allow enough time for crossing by pedestrians from the bus station, visitors with heavy suitcases and backpacks or cyclists on the Rio Grande Trail. That crossing is particularly dangerous for residents from Heritage Park Care Center, just a block away.
In short, Highway 133 as a whole needs rethinking. Using the dedicated sidewalk along one side and the trail on the other is unpleasant, even intimidating. Delivery vehicles come close to curbs and walkways and large, fast-moving vehicles spewing pollution, causing wind shear and creating an unpleasant din. We need a much lower speed limit and traffic-calming strategies to make that road safer.
Eighth and Main
Heavy traffic comes through this intersection and crossing on foot is perilous, because pedestrians depend on vehicles to yield. I’ve seen many close calls there and experienced one myself. All vehicles were stopped at the intersection as I started walking in the southwest crosswalk with my walker and small dog. As I reached the middle of the street, a car coming west drove straight through the lane, barely missing my dog and walker. This problem might be mitigated with a crossing signal.
Rio Grande Trail
The Rio Grande Trail poses particular challenges and dangers. All manner of vehicles from bicycles, e-bikes, skateboards, skaters, strollers and the like require pedestrians to be on high alert. Cyclists often go too fast, failing to announce until the last second, if at all. This is startling not only to pedestrians but also to dogs, who may bolt, become entangled in their leashes and cause accidents. Cyclists riding abreast while conversing are especially problematic. All this could be mitigated if cyclists traveled more slowly inside town limits. Traffic-calming devices could be used to encourage cyclists to slow down.
Although Carbondale is a fairly walkable town, it is not always safe for people dealing with physical injuries or impairments or who just walk more slowly. The Town has committed to increasing and enhancing non-motorized transport. Although improvements won’t happen overnight, attending to the most dangerous crossings along Highway 133 would be a good first step. Highway 133 is supposed to be a medium-speed highway, and it cuts our town in two. If we gave up our obsession with fast-moving motor vehicles, Highway 133 could become a pleasant boulevard joining old to new.
Mature Content is a monthly feature from the Carbondale AARP Age-Friendly Community Initiative (CAFCI). This article kicks off the public input part of our “Dangerous 133?” campaign. Look for us all summer at public events beginning First Friday, May 5, and visit us at www.agefriendlycarbondale.org