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Town moving forward on safe streets issue

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By John Colson

Sopris Sun Staff Writer

As the Town of Carbondale grapples with angry citizen demands for increased street safety, an advisory committee to the Board of Trustees will hold a public meeting on Nov. 7 to gauge citizen feelings about which are the most heavily used pedestrian routes in town and how to make them safer at night.

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The meeting, scheduled for 6 p.m. at Town Hall (511 Colorado Ave.), is being hosted by the Bicycle, Pedestrian and Trails (BPT) Committee, in partnership with Land + Shelter consultant Andi Korber.

According to an outline and statement about the meeting, issued by Trustee Ben Bohmfalk (liaison to the BPT committee), the meeting’s main purpose is to present a draft map of potential important “safe routes home,” questions about which streets people typically use more than others, and what people are hoping to see the town do in the way of making the streets more user-friendly and safer.

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The genesis of the meeting goes back to last summer, following a couple of late-night assaults on women along streets that have little or no street lighting — one a sex-assault attempt against an adult women, the other (according to police) a non-sexual assault against a female minor.

A group of residents, mostly women who said they have long felt unsafe walking the nighttime streets in certain parts of town, showed up at a trustees’ meeting in late August to protest what they felt was a lack of action by town officials in response to the attacks.

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Stung by the criticism, and by accusations of a lack of interest on the part of town officials, the trustees called for increased police presence in areas where a lack of lights keeps the streets dark at night, free self-defense courses to be offered at the Carbondale Recreation and Community Center, and turned the matter over to the BPT committee for review and recommendations.

At the upcoming meeting, Bohmfalk’s statement declared, “The town would sincerely like your input on how you walk and where you go to help further study this issue and identify any priority actions, improvements or programs we can put in place.”

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In addition, the statement continues, “We’d like to hear where you feel safe, where it feels iffy, and where you feel unsafe.”

One example of an area where pedestrians and cyclists feel unsafe at night, according to members of the public as well as trustees, is the Rio Grande Trail through town.

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Although there was some initial discussion of adding lights to sections of the trail that have been dark at night, trustees were somewhat surprised to hear from residents that the trail is considered a scary place to walk or bike at night regardless of lighting.

It was that realization that largely spurred town officials to begin the search for “safe routes,” as identified by the public, and suggestions about how to make the streets safer.

Among the ideas that have been brought up, according to Bohmfalk’s memo, have been:

• Additional patrols by police and citizens in areas where a lack of lighting contributes to darkened streets and trails;

• Additional lighting in certain areas;

• Better promotion of the police department’s “safe ride home” program (call 963-2662 for a ride from an officer);

• Creation of a cell-phone “app” that allows a user to “ping” the police department with a distress call by a single tap of a button;

• And “safety call stations” that record video surveillance when activated.

“If you support or oppose any of the ideas above, or if you have other suggestions for improving pedestrian safety at night, the town welcomes your input,” Bohmfalk’s memo concludes, urging members of the public to show up at the meeting or, if that is not feasible, take an online survey available at tinyurl.com/saferoutes81623.

Bohmfalk also encouraged residents to contact him directly at bbohmfalk@carbondaleco.net.

Published in The Sopris Sun on November 3, 2016.

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