In one hour on Saturday, 150 cyclists cruised along the narrow road that twists through Deer Creek Canyon in Jefferson County — a popular route known for both its scenery and palpable tensions between cyclists and motorists.
The strife between residents who drive the canyon roads and bicyclists began more than a decade ago, fueled by everything from aggressive motorists who honk and crowd cyclists, to discourteous cyclists who ride more than two abreast and urinate in front yards. In an effort to ease those tensions, Bike Jeffco surveyed and counted cyclists who passed through the canyon Saturday.
But some residents say the survey asked the wrong questions and will do little to improve conditions for people who live and drive in the canyon.
A total of 881 cyclists and 1,412 motorists passed through the checkpoint in Philipsburg, located along South Deer Creek Canyon Road, from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m., according the survey. The busiest hour for cyclists was from 10 a.m. to 11 a.m., when 150 cyclists passed through Philipsburg — 137 motorists went through during the same time period.
This is the second survey the group has done in Deer Creek Canyon. The first was completed in 2009.
Bike Jeffco chairman Dave Evans said he is optimistic that the information collected Saturday will help to improve conditions for residents and cyclists. Bike Jeffco works with the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office and county commissioners to educate both sides of the conflict.
"We have an image problem," Evans said. "When you look beneath the helmets and the Lycra, there are real people and we like the canyon for the same reasons residents like the canyon."
The group is still combing through the 342 surveys completed by cyclists, which asked questions about whether they felt safe riding in the canyon and where they started their ride. Several cyclists said they want more shoulders along the road, areas to pull off and portable bathrooms.
But Candy Vallado, who has lived in Deer Creek Canyon for 40 years, said the survey was geared toward cyclists' needs and should have asked questions about whether cyclists follow traffic laws.
"Whatever the bicyclists want they generally get," Vallado said. "The bicyclist think once they are behind the hogback, they are in a park. They are not in a park."
Like many residents, Vallado said she has struggled with cyclists who stand in the roadway, use lawns as latrines or shout as they ride down the canyon. The cyclists' conversations can echo for miles, she said.
Vallado and her neighbors have asked that cyclists be required to register and post small license plates on the back of their bikes. Having a registered plate would help residents report cyclists they believe are breaking the law.
But Lt. James Lucas, the Sheriff Department's cycling and resident liaison, said that he does not believe license plates are a viable solution.
The Sheriff's Department has dedicated overtime shifts on Saturdays and Sundays to deputies patrolling popular canyon roads, including Deer Creek Canyon, Lookout Mountain, Coal Creek Canyon and Golden Gate Canyon. Deputies have stopped and ticketed both motorists and cyclists for stop sign and lane violations and speeding, Lucas said.
The department has started tracking the number of citations issued in the canyons and is expecting the tallies sometime in the next two weeks.
Jordan Steffen: 303-954-1794, email@example.com or twitter.com/jsteffendp