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Coming soon? The Holiday Inn spur trail

You can look, but you better not touch this recently built one-tenth-mile extension of the Animas River Trail behind Natural Grocers and Holiday Inn Express. (Action Line)

Dear Action Line: Why is the river path/easement behind Natural Grocers still closed? It was my understanding that the improvements were a condition of building the hotel. Yet, the hotel has been open for almost a year and still no access. This is especially hard for strollers, wheelchairs, etc., that can’t climb the gross stairs by the pot shop. – Diana

Dear Diana: Yeah, those aren’t the prettiest stairs in the world, are they? Even walking them is dangerous. Miss a step going up and you’ll tear a knee open on those sharp metal traction spikes. And they’re steep. Miss a step on the way down and … cannonball!

The Animas River Trail spur in question begins at the south end of Iris Park. The main trail heads over to the west side of the river on a bridge, while the spur goes along the east side of the river behind Natural Grocers and Holiday Inn Express Durango. The spur, while mostly finished, is fenced off on both ends, and there is apparently work remaining on the south end.

Exactly how this spur will be used is a bit unclear to Action Line. Those exiting the south end can hike back up to Camino del Rio and have quick access to two used car lots, for whatever that’s worth. It will certainly be handy for hotel guests. Those who want to get more directly to Natural Grocers, however, will have to walk up a hotel driveway.

Anyway, the city arranged a deal with the Holiday Inn owners about three years ago to acquire that strip of property for the spur trail. The developer offered to pay for the spur because of its benefit to guests.

According to the city of Durango, construction is still on tap to finish this Animas River Trail extension, seen here next to Holiday Inn Express Durango. (Action Line)

In September 2020, the Holiday Inn opened for business, but exterior work had not been completed. That included work on the river trail spur and adjacent landscaping, said Scott McClain, assistant director of Durango Parks and Recreation. The city let the inn open with the agreement that the exterior work would be completed this summer.

The contractor is working up a list of exterior projects it still needs to complete. When the spur trail will finally be ready to open is a bit unclear, but one would assume it will be high on the list. One would assume. Because a deal is a deal. Right?

Dear Action Line: Driving south in the 3400 block of Main Avenue, I signaled to make a right-hand turn from the right-hand lane. I checked my rearview mirror to see the traffic behind me slow down. As I began the turn a bicyclist sped by me in the bike lane as fast as the traffic in the left-hand lane. I never saw him coming! My wish is that you will identify the laws and liabilities should a worst-case scenario occur in this circumstance – Ron Pond

Dear Ron: As a cyclist, I would like to stick up for my kinfolk. Unfortunately, as a driver I cannot in good conscience always do this. Some cyclists (I’m sure no one I know …?) are not very thoughtful or smart. But before proceeding with the answer, let’s make one thing clear:

Whether a cyclist is in the right or not, as drivers it is our moral obligation to protect them – even from themselves – as best we can. Whoever is at fault in a vehicle-bicycle accident, the cyclist, unfortunately, always loses. Big time.

Action Line chatted with Ron Wysocki, officer with the Durango Police Department, for some insight into rules of the road.

Once a vehicle is ahead of a cyclist, or if it was ahead in the first place, the vehicle has the right of way. If the vehicle is turning right, a bicyclist must yield, Wysocki said.

It gets a little tricky when the vehicle is passing a cyclist just before it is about to turn right. Sometimes, it takes judgment to gauge whether your vehicle can pass the cyclist safely before the turn.

“It’s basically driver etiquette,” Wysocki said. “Whoever’s there first.”

For more about this and other situations, check out the website colobikelaw.com, or consult Colorado Revised Statutes 42-4-1412. It says a bicyclist should ride as far as possible to the right unless, A) turning left, B) overtaking a slower vehicle, or C) avoiding a road hazard.

As to who is liable, hopefully this answer suffices. Drivers obeying the rules shouldn’t be liable, but those who are driving carelessly likely will be.

To summarize:

Drivers, make sure you signal. And when passing a cyclist, the law says you must give them 3 feet of space, and that it’s OK to cross a double-yellow while doing so.

Bicyclists, don’t be idiots. And – a pet Action Line peeve – don’t impede traffic by riding two or more abreast. That just antagonizes folks and tests their already-thin patience.

In this specific case, Wysocki agreed that, if you’re a cyclist passing a right-turning vehicle on the right, “That’s just a death wish, yeah.”

Email questions and suggestions to actionline@durangoherald.com or mail them to Action Line, The Durango Herald, 1275 Main Ave., Durango, CO 81301. This space left intentionally blank.