Cyclists — and really, most anything with wheels — must now take to their feet when entering Mountain Village’s network of public plazas, paths and breezeways in the town’s center. An ordinance that will make the Village Center a pedestrian-only dismount zone was passed unanimously by town council at Thursday’s meeting and will take effect June 15.
Roller blades, skateboards and Onewheels are included in the new law, though wheelchairs and other rolling conveyances used by the disabled are exempt. Customers of retail bike shops in Mountain Village will be able to test ride bikes in designated test zones, but must adhere to a 5 mph speed limit in those areas.
“Our focus is on education,” Mountain Village Police Chief Chris Broady said of his department’s plan to enforce the law. The department is also authorized to make adjustments to the dismount zone as it sees fit once the ordinance goes live.
The decision was speedily reached by council, as the affected bike businesses, local law enforcement and other town officials had hammered out details that took into consideration the needs of the bike retailers and renters, as well as pedestrian safety concerns.
“We understand that people are coming and spending a significant amount of money on either tours or purchasing a new bike,” town assistant attorney Jim Mahoney said at April’s town council meeting. “Not being able to test it all in the Village Center is problematic for those businesses.”
In her monthly Mayor’s Minute column, Laila Benitez said the dismount zone encompassed about one city block.
“The town has worked extensively with Telluride Ski Resort, local bike shops and the Parks and Recreation team to craft a mapped plan with bike bypass and test-ride zones, which aims to balance the needs of pedestrians, bicyclists and merchants,” she said.
Broady is considering designating test zones with chalk and was hoping to avoid additional signage.
“We’re trying to make less signs in the plaza area,” he told council members.
He noted that enforcement of a dismount zone would be more straightforward than enforcing a 5 mph speed limit. “You’re either on your bike or off your bike,” he said at the April meeting.
Driving the ordinance was council’s desire to increase pedestrian safety, especially during busy times like the farmers market and the various concerts and other events that take place in Heritage Plaza, Sunset Plaza and the Telluride Conference Center Plaza. This summer there are 40 events scheduled so far and more vendors will be operating, adding to increased foot traffic.
Currently, police patrol the Village Center about two hours every day. That will be increased now that the dismount zone has been approved.
In other council business, finance director Kevin Swain laid out and sought further direction on council’s financial goals as they take their first steps toward crafting a 2020 budget. Among them are building a reserve fund for the eventual expansion of the water/sewer plant at Society Turn. Mountain Village is “on the hook for 35 percent” of the plant’s upgrade, said council member Dan Caton. Swain suggested a 5 percent base rate increase, but some on council thought a higher percentage increase would be needed, given there is no firm figure for the plant’s upgrade costs.
“Ten percent is less jarring than 70 percent,” said council member Dan Jensen, referring to the steep rate increase that went into effect this year for Telluride water and sewer users. “Seventy percent was a shock to the community.”
Other goals council wanted on the table as it moves forward with budget sessions included Village Court Apartments expansion, a cyber security plan, town shop expansion and a plan for a 3 percent merit-based compensation adjustment for staff.
Jensen reminded staff and fellow council members of a vow officials had made to local high school students who had made an appeal for help finding a safe after-school and weekend hangout.
“We promised the high school kids that we’ll look at dedicating resources to funding a space,” he said. “Our teenagers need more places to go and things to do.”
Town Manager Kim Montgomery said she’d arranged to meet with her counterpart in Telluride, Ross Herzog, to further talks on the subject. Currently, the teens have a temporary, shared space with the Telluride Ski & Snowboard Club for limited hours on Fridays and Saturdays.
Jensen also lobbied council to commit some kind of financial support to help the medical center find a new home, this time as it’s proposed at Society Turn near the wastewater treatment plant. The land is owned by Genesee Properties, which has dedicated a portion of its as-yet proposed development to medical center officials.
Like a teen hangout, Jensen said, “I don’t care where it is, I just want to see it happen. Budgets reflect values. The region needs to support the medical center at Society Turn.”