In the fall of 2020, Growing Up Boulder consultant, Darcy Kitching, worked with Crest View Elementary families to help the City Of Boulder learn more about their use of Sumac Avenue. The city was looking to improve the travel experience on Sumac between Broadway Avenue and 19th Street. This work built upon previous engagements with Crest View Elementary and Centennial Middle School regarding 19th Street. The goal for both streets was to provide a high-quality travel experience by improving pavement conditions, fixing drainage issues and installing sidewalk to increase user safety. Family input was considered in the design process from selection of a conceptual alternative to preliminary design.
Why this Corridor? This project’s impetus spurs from the desire to address various infrastructure needs, including deteriorating pavement conditions and the need for improved storm drainage. This stretch of Sumac Ave is a prioritized corridor, as an important East-West connection in the North Boulder street network. The street also provides access to Crest View Elementary School and other nearby schools for students, parents and teachers/staff, and lacks continuous sidewalks currently. Understanding the existing travel experience for students accessing area schools was crucial and identifying the needs/issues as a pedestrian and cyclist helped inform design objectives and alternatives presented at the Community Open House.
Stories Shared in the Photo Booth at Crestview Open House
November 21, 2019
Susanne: I moved to Sumac Avenue in 2000 [15th and Sumac]. I had a toddler and was pregnant. We moved here from Gunbarrel for the school, and to be in town. I was surprised that there were no sidewalks. After we moved in, I realized it would be hard for my kids to get to school in a safe way. I joined some of the Safe Routes to School meetings - I wasn’t working, so I got involved in advocating for sidewalks. I called the city, and sidewalks were not on their radar at all. That was very frustrating. I tried really hard - I talked to my neighbors and found that people didn’t want a sidewalk on the street. Especially the old-timers. When the street was annexed into the city, the residents said they wanted to keep the rural character of the street. If we wanted a sidewalk, I learned that the homeowners would have to pay for it. So, I gave up. My husband or I would walk or bike with our kids everyday, but when they got older (fourth and fifth grade), they went by themselves. It was a little scary! They definitely biked or walked just about every day. Now, the patchwork and the potholes and the drainage problems - it’s just such an unkempt street. It’s frustrating to me that we have this “ghetto” street in such a wealthy town. Now, my kids are in college. I’ve been working on this almost 20 years.
Katerina: We bike from the intersection of Lucky’s [about 14th] and Quince - we try to bike everyday. I have two kids, and I’m part of the neighborhood bike pool. We have a system with parents to pick up and drop off the kids everyday. We’ve done it for four years now. I actually reached out a year before we started at this school because it seemed like a dangerous route, and my goal was for my kids to be independent after a couple of years to bike by themselves. I contacted the city a couple of times. I feel like there should be a painted crosswalk at every street you cross, but there’s not. The biggest danger is Sumac. We cross Quince at 17th and come up to Sumac. We call it the “Quince Highway.” It’s so dangerous. There have been several times we’ve had to just cross our fingers and hope it’s going to work out. That seems to be the biggest one, and obviously also Sumac, with drop off and pickup. I was hoping for a crosswalk with a flashing light on Sumac and Quince, but right now there’s nothing. We did a traffic program for a while with just volunteers, and it has gotten better, but people still do U-turns in Sumac after dropping off or picking up. Being the biggest public school in Boulder, I was surprised that we still don’t have enough sidewalks and crossing lights. People are very active coming here - lots of bicyclists and walkers. I know there’s signs on Sumac, but the yield sign doesn’t do much when people are traveling 50 miles per hour. So, all the way from 15th Street and the intersection between Quince and Orchard - there is no protection. Boulder is growing. I think sidewalks, speed control, and flashing lights - those are very important.
Lisa: We love to bike to school. We find it harrowing crossing from 17th onto Sumac. With the glare of the sun in the morning, it’s hard for everyone. Our oldest has graduated from Crestview, but he still bikes to Centennial. In the last 2 to 4 years, we’ve definitely seen an increase in bicyclists and walkers at Crestview, which is great. So, helping people feel safe doing that is important. And a lot of people feel like parking is such a pain in the butt that they’d rather bike. It’s faster. Having greater sidewalk width and better drainage is important - my son almost took a spill today because ice had built up along the edge of the street. Also, some kind of buffer between the sidewalk and the road would be helpful - taller than the existing curb. Having some kind of a landscaped buffer between the sidewalk and the road would be great.
Olive [fifth grade]: Sometimes the road is a little bumpy, and sometimes people run into each other on the sidewalk. I come from 17th. I’d like to see the road repaved and a little bigger sidewalk. I walk everyday.
David [Olive’s dad]: There are a lot of cars on Sumac in the morning, so I’m a little worried about kids crossing at 17th every day. I’d like to see a raised crosswalk to help drivers take notice and slow down a little.
Key Project Takeaways
- Nearly every participant in the Sumac Stories project said they would like to have a sidewalk or multi-use path down the length of Sumac Avenue, from 19th to Broadway (possibly, an extension of the existing wide sidewalk on the north side of the street between 17th Street and the school entrance). As acknowledged by Principal Hollene Davis, Crest View students and families are very active and many walk or bike year-round.
- Street design and maintenance are important to families. Several parents said they want to see better drainage so pools of water don't collect along the edge of the street and cause issues for kids, and they want to see better buffers between walkers/bicyclists and drivers (i.e., a planted buffer or raised barrier between the street and sidewalk).
- Vehicle speed is a concern for families. Several participants said that Sumac serves as a convenient cut-through from 19th to Broadway for drivers, and that drivers routinely exceed posted speed limits. Narrowing the street with a wider sidewalk or multi-use path could help deter speeding and increase student safety.
- Families would like to see safer crossing areas on Sumac. A few parents mentioned that they had advocated for a RRFB pedestrian-activated signal at 17th Street and Sumac, and others asked if a raised crosswalk at that intersection might help drivers see students better and act as a speed hump to slow drivers.
- Drivers would like better parking options. While Crest View does have a significant population of students who walk or bike to school every day, many are driven by parents or caregivers, and congestion on Sumac at drop-off and pick-up times is a concern. One parent said she doesn’t feel comfortable parking in front of houses on Sumac. Having more sanctioned parking areas along the street, or even a volunteer-staffed hug-and-go lane (which they did have in the past), could help.
- Area connections that promote walking and bicycling are important to families. Some families travel to Crest View from Quince, which also feels unsafe and not accommodating to active modes.