Opinion: Cars hijack campus open spaces

Traffic congestion builds up by Benson Earth Sciences.  (Adam Bell/CU Independent)
Traffic congestion builds up by Benson Earth Sciences. (Adam Bell/CU Independent)

The problem passes us each day yet we rarely take notice: Cars dominate the design of our surroundings, but in Boulder we have resisted suburban sprawl. Perhaps the best part of this town, besides its views and food, is the small-world feel. You walk to buy groceries, to go out at night and to get to class. Unlike car-dependent cities like Los Angeles or Denver, Boulder has focused on building a pedestrian environment. Looking within the city, the CU-Boulder campus does pedestrian traffic differently, but we could be better.

The Recreation, Open Space & Athletics Task Force Report, written to inform the decisions made in the Flagship 2030 plan, describes the preservation of open space as a “primary concern as the main campus approaches ‘build out.’” But there is one major campus feature that gets in the way of this task: parking. Roads and parking lots are noisy and dangerous breaks in the interconnected feel of main campus.

Perhaps more than preserving the beauty of campus, cars congestion between classes. Kittredge is circled by a road, Wolf Law is surrounded by parking on both sides of the building and students walking out of Benson Earth Science have to cross the street to get to their next class. 

The current Land and Facilities Plan recommends improvements to the pedestrian quality of campus, specifically “the potential to close streets and incorporate additional bike lanes and bike parking.” Imagine the removal of Pleasant St., which divides the space of Macky Auditorium from Norlin quad. All the space from the UMC to the northernmost edge of campus would become entirely pedestrian.

There are several ways to eliminate the need for students to bring their cars that other universities have successfully implemented, all outlined in former Boulder Mayor Will Toor’s book “Transportation and Sustainable Campus Communities.” First, year-long parking permits could be eliminated. Freshmen bringing their cars often find them unnecessary but feel they need to get their money’s worth because they purchased a year-long permit. Second, providing short-term car rentals could resolve most students’ needs. By converting spaces currently used by students into faculty and staff parking, we could reclaim other areas for open space use.

People come before cars. The Boulder campus is defined by consistent architecture, materials and open spaces that weave buildings together. Car space breaks the flow of our most valuable asset: our campus. In a review of the “50 most architecturally successful campuses in the country,” CU-Boulder is ranked fourth, but why shouldn’t we be number one? 

Contact CU Independent Staff Writer Adam Bell at Adam.w.bell@colorado.edu. 

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