The city of Black Hawk banned cyclists from most of its streets in January, but the deed went largely unnoticed until earlier this month, when the first cyclists were ticketed for riding their bikes through town.
Black Hawk’s city manager, Mike Copp, told the Denver Post that the ban was enacted for safety reasons — the town’s narrow streets didn’t leave enough room for buses and trucks to give bikes the mandatory 3 feet while passing without sending vehicles into the lane of oncoming traffic.
No accidents preceded the ban.
Excuse me while I pick my jaw up off the floor.
The average Boulder cyclist is much more likely to ride the stretch of the Peak to Peak Highway between Ward and Raymond on any given weekend than the stretch through Black Hawk. But the ban resonates among cyclists here because of the what-if factor.
Oh yeah, and because it’s just offensive that a Colorado town would have the audacity to ban bikes outright.
Maggie Thompson, assistant director of Bicycle Colorado, a statewide cycling advocacy organization, said people are fired up about it — it’s the principle.
“‘Could this really be happening in our state?'” she said. “That’s where the befuddlement and anger comes from.”
The what-if factor might seem a little far-fetched here in Boulder. But just to clarify it, I asked George Gerstle, transportation director for Boulder County, if a ban on bikes could ever happen in our mountain communities.
“I can speak for the rural county roads,” Gerstle said, “And absolutely not.”
Gerstle said the county has been doing everything it can, particularly in the mountain canyons lately, to reduce tension between cyclists and motorists. Based on the feedback the transportation department has heard from the mountain communities, they’ve accelerated the process of adding a bike shoulder on westbound Lee Hill Drive, he added.
Adding a bike shoulder is addressing a safety concern. It takes time, money and discussion in the community. Banning bikes is not addressing a safety concern. It’s a lazy way out. And it might be illegal in Colorado.
Thompson said that attorneys reviewing the Black Hawk situation think there are valid legal grounds for challenging the ban. They’ve found attorneys to work pro bono for the ticketed cyclists, who will take their case to court in August. What’s more, Bicycle Colorado is already examining avenues for banning the ban in the state legislature.
“We’re prepared to do what we need to do to pass a state law prohibiting that from happening in the future,” she said.
Bicycle Colorado is organizing a rally to end bike bans in Colorado on Tuesday from 5:30 to 6 p.m. on the west steps of the state Capitol. At least two state senators will be there to speak on behalf of the rights of cyclists.
It’s easy for cycling to be a solitary sport, on or off the road. It often takes an event like this to get us to band together to get something done.
We all enjoy the access we have year round thanks to the hard work of a few. If you’re not already a member of Bicycle Colorado, Boulder Mountainbike Alliance, or larger organizations like the International Mountain Bicycling Association or the League of American Bicyclists, join or volunteer. Or show up Tuesday night at the capitol with your bike in one hand and a sign in the other.
As Thompson said, “Let’s not let them get away with this, because who knows where it will happen next.”