How pedestrian and cyclist friendly should Grand Teton National Park be? That's the question as park officials wind down the public comment period on their preferred transportation plan. Cyclists and automobiles are not the most compatible in the park. Roads are narrow and windy, and motorists often draw their eyes off the road to the mountains. In recent years two cyclists have been killed in automobile collisions in the park.
Park officials want to give cyclists and pedestrians more protection by developing a network of multi-use paths and adding bike lanes to some sections of road. Some groups, most notably the National Park Conservation Association, don't think the park is going far enough.
Read on to see what's at stake.
Under the park's preferred alternative -- alternative 3 -- 23 miles of multi-use paths would be created in the park. Plus, another 16 miles of four-and-a-half-foot-wide bike lanes would be built from North Jenny Lake to Colter Bay Village. This alternative also calls for a pilot transportation system.
At the NPCA, officials want the park to get behind alternative 4, which, in addition to everything called for in alternative 3, would create seperate multi-use pathways along the full length of the Moose-Wilson Road. This road roams through rich wildlife habitat. There are bushes lush with berries that lure black bears, and beaver ponds that moose enjoy. The current road is very narrow, and in my mind there's a question as to whether it could be widened or a pathway installed parallel to it without infringing on environmentally sensitive lands.
In addition to those two alternatives, park officials say they also have several transit proposals they want to test along the Moose-Wilson Road. These range from making the road one-way and creating windows when only cyclists and hikers could use the road to implementing a public transit system.
What's the best solution? I'm not sure at this point, although both alternatives 3 and 4 would be a marked improvement over the current situation. However, alternative 4 would impact 4,100 -- yes, 4,100 -- more trees along the Moose-Wilson Road than alternative 3. The key question is whether the Moose-Wilson corridor can safely be expanded to allow for separate routes for motorists and bikers without impacting critical habitat.
The current public comment system runs until August 25. Check out the Grand Teton transportation plan and let park officials know which alternative you favor and why.