Guest editorial: New-look Lower Park Avenue is safer
Over the past several weeks I have read letters to the Park Record editor and comments suggesting that the new lower Park Ave configuration is unsafe and/or poorly implemented. As a full-time resident of lower Park Ave for 11 years, I thought I would offer my observations. There is no doubt in my mind that the new lower Park Ave configuration is safer and more efficient for those who use it to drive on, ride buses on, bike on, scooter on, skateboard on, walk on, and all the other ways Parkites and tourists are getting around these days. The only constituency I can think of who are losing out because of the new lower Park Ave configuration is those that want to park on it.
First, I have not measured, but I believe the new configuration provides more room for cars to drive because the bike lane that replaced parking on one side of street is narrower than a parked car – particularly, full-sized trucks that often line the street. Under the old configuration, I regularly observed buses having to stop to let cars pass before they could proceed because of the cars parked on the street. Furthermore, now bikers, scooter riders, skateboarders, etc… have a dedicated lane to ride in and are not in the street being chased by cars. I would guess both before and after the new configuration 100 plus, maybe many more, folks a day ride up lower Park Ave not in a car and they have used and will continue to use Park Ave even though there is a bike path, which is fairly crowded itself, less than 500 yards away near Poison Creek. It makes no sense to me how the street can be less safe with more room for cars to drive on and a dedicated lane for those not in cars, and I would argue it is in fact more safe for all than it was.
Lower Park Ave is a residential street, much like the rest of Old Town. There are two or three businesses on it. The street is lined with homes, the library, and parks. People are out in front of their homes, tourists and residents are out walking, walking their dogs, and kids and adults are crossing the street going to the library, the parks, the skatepark and Main Street. Yet, I would guess that at least 95% of the traffic on lower Park Ave is drivers using it to access Main Street from highway 224. Needless to say, striking a balance between these uses is difficult.
If making lower Park Ave safer is the goal, I would suggest getting rid of the new configuration is not the answer. I think there are two things that should happen while keeping the new configuration to make lower Park Ave safer. First, paint a yellow centerline down the whole street. Perhaps there is some science I am unaware of as to why this has not been done, but I think a center line down the whole street would more clearly guide drivers as the lanes bend slightly around the library and keep them to one side further south on the street closer to Main Street. Second, reduce traffic on the street by continuing to encourage drivers on highway 224 going to Main Street to use Deer Valley drive, a four-lane highway. I do not think lower Park Ave is designed to accommodate the amount of vehicular traffic and others currently using it.
I applaud the City for making lower Park Ave safer and more efficient for all that use it.
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