Published in the Colorado Daily 5/92

THE TIGHTROPE by Evan Ravitz

Boulder: A Question of Balance

City Council deserves congratulations for reaching an honorable compromise on the 13th Street issue. The parking on the West side of the street from Spruce to Walnut will be converted to a bike path so Southbound cyclists won't have to take the 14th Street detour anymore.

And Council promised to consider closing the street to cars entirely (and perhaps "malling" it, as discussed since at least 1975), as part of the ongoing redesign of Downtown. We pedestrians and cyclists need to make sure the City follows through, since the Planning Department ignored and then (unfairly) fought this, originally their own plan, in the last year.

I am not against access for cars, or the tourists they carry. I earn my living as a tightrope walker on the Mall 100 feet from 13th Street and tourists are a big part of our audience. But let's not forget our bicycle and foot- crazy locals: Daily Camera interviews with tourists all last summer showed that the tourists loved seeing the colorful, even weird, people of Boulder.

There's a balance downtown needs- between the transportation needs of tourists and locals. Yet here too, the easier alternate transportation is for locals, the more parking left for tourists. Planning Department's portrayal of a conflict between economic vitality and the needs of cyclists and walkers will prove false. I have been amused to be lectured about balance by so many, not only non-tightrope-walkers, but, apparently at least, non-walkers!

The beautiful environment and fascinating residents of Boulder are the goose that laid the golden egg that the Mall is for the merchants. Tourists can get beer and burgers, pizza and ice cream in every town in America. They can see the Rubber Duckies, Easter Bunny, Santa Claus and other characters that the City supplies in every bathtub and tourist trap.

Up until 2 years ago, the City spent thousands on legal and police action to reduce our homegrown eclectic circus of entertainment to mostly music, magic and juggling. The locals are bored with what's left, and far fewer come than a decade ago. Many find the traffic and pollution repellent as well, and access is difficult for those on foot, on bicycles, with baby carriages or rollerblades. That's less local color for the tourists to see.

Partly as a result, business is down, but only in the downtown part of Boulder (according the the Boulder Business Report.) Boulder's elite needs to remember that the best things in life are free, and these include clean air and outdoor entertainment.

I'd like to quote a petition for closing 13th signed by many of Boulder's most famous runners and tri-athletes: "Pollution-induced asthma is a very real concern to professional athletes and is epidemic. Boulder is no exception and unless the air quality is improved Boulder will quickly lose its reputation as the country's most desirable place to train."

These folks are like canaries in a coal mine- they breathe more than us- and we should heed their warning, as well as Chief Niwot's, which was not just that the whites would always come back to the beauty of Boulder Valley, but would destroy it.

Let's not. Please help keep our city focused on a kinder, gentler, more breathable future. A Murdoch University (Australia) study of 32 international cities showed that: "High gasoline use is closely linked to the degree to which the city provides automobile infrastructure in the form of roads and car parking."

So you may want to come and perhaps speak at a hearing before the Planning Board June 4 at 7:30 at the City Council Chambers (SW corner of Broadway and Canyon.) Another huge parking structure is under consideration for the hospital at the SW corner of Alpine and Broadway.

Bolder Bike Commuters, which spearheaded the 13th Street fight, has its monthly meeting Monday June 1 at 6:30 at Morgul Bismark Bicycles, 1221 Pennsylvania on the Hill.

You can always write the City Council at Box 791, The Daily Camera at Box 591, and the Colorado Daily at Box 1719, all in Boulder CO 80306.