By Alan Prendergast
By Michael Roberts
By Michael Roberts
By Amber Taufen
By Patricia Calhoun
By William Breathes
By Michael Roberts
By Melanie Asmar
The agenda? Bike safety.
The group is here to discuss how the city can launch an effective educational campaign focused on bike safety — and the discussion quickly turns into a philosophical debate over how a city can actually create safer streets, who bears responsibility in crashes, how and why there are tensions on the road, and what kind of messaging can encourage safety without demonizing bikes or cars.
Sander, the city's former marketing director who is now heading the bike-safety effort, tells the group that they should stick to a focused goal of starting some kind of campaign. A cyclist himself, he proceeds to tell a story about another cyclist biking the wrong way on Blake Street and cutting in front of him. "Certainly bicyclists are as much to blame as motorists for the increase in accidents," he says. "And today's meeting is about, is there a role for a public-safety campaign and how could we use a public-safety campaign as a rallying cry to get everybody to focus on how their behavior might affect what's going on on the streets?"
The attendees have colorful printouts from cities such as Portland, Minneapolis and San Francisco, which have already launched advertising campaigns focused on cycling and sharing the road. The major impetus for the meeting, Sander explains, is that more and more cyclists are commuting to work and in downtown — and perhaps as a result, the city is seeing a record number of crashes.
Scott Christopher, a law enforcement liaison with Bicycle Colorado, offers an even bigger-picture view, one that explains just how important it is that Denver be bike-friendly. "We are also seeing growth in the number of cars out there," he says. "To kind of frame it, we've got a lot of people that love where we live and more people coming into where we live.... This is a great place to live. We want to retain businesses and residents here, and we want to attract new ones, and this is a big part of the pot."
This larger context is key: The number of cyclists is booming when compared with the city's overall population. Metro Denver has a population of nearly 2.9 million and a growth rate that has consistently outpaced the national rate. By 2020, Denver's population is expected to increase to more than 3.2 million, according to the city's Economic Development Corporation. More residents means more drivers and cyclists — and more conflicts on the road. But if the city supports cycling in a meaningful way, Christopher notes, bikes could be an important part of the solution to the challenges that will arise from the city's overall growth.
The fact that the city is taking a close look at safety is a good sign, says Snyder of Public Works. "It's a symptom of where we're at," she explains. "We're kind of a victim of our success."
According to a recent DPD report, auto-bicycle accidents have increased 13.2 percent over the past ten years. This report, prepared for the Mayor's Bicycle Advisory Committee by the DPD's data analysis unit, notes that the city's Traffic Engineering division says that motorists are at fault in slightly over 50 percent of the auto-bicycle accidents. The report also shows that the top three neighborhoods for auto-bicycle crashes through August of this year have been Five Points, Capitol Hill and Civic Center.
Another useful finding is that the number of crashes was much higher this summer compared to previous summers. In June, for example, there were 45 accidents compared to an average of 27 in years prior. And this May, there were 37 accidents compared to an average of 20 in earlier years. Through August 23 of this year, there have been 163 reported auto-bike accidents, which is slightly higher than during the same time period last year. But the number of bike violations involved in an accident has grown dramatically: In 2007, there were 53 total violations, which rose to 88 in 2010 and 116 in 2011. This year through June, there have already been 82 violations associated with accidents. (There can be more than one violation per accident.)
Bike fatalities are still relatively rare in Denver. According to data going back to 2004, this city has averaged 1.6 bike fatalities a year. There were two in 2010, one in 2011, and one so far in 2012.
But there are important caveats to these stats. First, many auto-bicycle collisions go unreported, since cyclists may not make an official report if they aren't seriously injured. And although the number of cyclists in the city is rising dramatically, studies show that, in general, the more cyclists there are, the more the per capita rate of crashes declines, because bikes have a stronger presence on the scene and drivers are more aware. For that reason, some bike advocates aren't that concerned with the net jump in crashes.
But they are concerned about the focus of this campaign. Hayden, the MBAC chair, says he doesn't want the effort to concentrate on requiring bicyclists to stop at stop signs, although technically that's the law. That places unnecessary blame on cyclists and discourages folks from biking — which ultimately is bad for safety.
Hayden is one of the more critical voices at the safety campaign meeting, frequently reminding others at the table that infrastructure is not yet where it needs to be — which makes it all the more important that the campaign doesn't waste money emphasizing the consequences of cyclists breaking traffic laws.
Unfortunately, this article only reinforces many of the biases that are held by many, if not most, motorists. Of course there are a minority of bicyclists that feel the rules of the road to not apply to them. However, most bicyclists understand the unique dangers that face them when riding on the road and take the appropriate precautions. However, these types of accidents still occur no matter how safe you are riding your bike. Our law firm represents many cyclists and their families that have been injured or killed while following the rules of the road. These accidents are far to frequent and they destroy the lives of not only the cyclists but their loved ones as well.
If you are a cyclist and are not sure if or how the laws apply to you, feel free to check out our website. Quick food for thought: you can receive a DUI on a bike C.R.S. Section 42-4-1301.
Please be safe out there!
I love biking but the issue I find is that too many bicyclists ignore the rules of the road, ride with headphones, ride at night without lights or improper lighting, ride under the influence, run lights or stop signs, ride the wrong way down one way streets. Denver is a great city for biking but for their own safety, like motorcyclists they are forced to be a bit more vigilant. I've been stopped for a burned out tail light but never seen a bicyclist stopped for riding at night without any lights. I have too many friends who think that using their bike for transportation to avoid a DUI is a great thing.
Responsible bicycling is as important as responsible driving. If police enforced rules of the road on bicyclists as fast as they do cars many problems might be solved. Sharing the road responsibly is important. Bicycles are great for health of people and the air we breathe and over crowding of cars but riders have to be as responsible as drivers if the sharing is going to work.
Hi, my name's Ann. (shake hands.) I ride a bike. I'm just trying to get where I'm going. I don't run red lights unless the sensor's broken and the light won't turn green for me. I occasionally ride on downtown sidewalks - at walking speed - because I'm terrified of downtown rush hour traffic. When I do this most pedestrians aren't aware there's a bike behind them, because I'm not trying to pass them. If the sidewalk's crowded, I walk my bike. I don't want to hit anyone and never have, and would much rather ride in the street, but sometimes it's just too dangerous. I always wear a helmet and don't ride with headphones. One time, if I had had headphones on, I probably would have been t-boned and killed by a driver who motored straight through the red light at 45 mph. When I drive I'm very aware that I'm controlling a ton of steel capable of injuring or killing, and try to drive accordingly. I've never gotten so much as a speeding ticket.
Am I your enemy? Should I really be the target of such vitriol?
"We have plenty of bike paths - stay there."
But the places cyclists need to go aren't on bike paths. They need to go to the businesses and residences where everyone works and lives, and very few are on a bike path. At some point you have to use the street to get to your final destination.
"Rush hour is bad enough - don't clog it up further."
If we had dedicated cycling facilities, we wouldn't clog it up. We'd free up space by reducing the number of cars sharing your car lane. The majority of cyclists are also drivers, and when they're on their bikes they're not in cars in front of you. This also means the majority of cyclists DO pay gas taxes. Also bicycles cause orders of magnitude less damage than cars and heavier vehicles, and creating more space to move people by adding a bike lane is far cheaper than adding more car lanes. The problem is there's not a place where bikes *belong* at the moment. Create that - as the article talks about - and things get much, much easier for everyone.
Here's a website that might help explain some cyclist behavior that can be mystifying if you don't ride regularly. I wish this were part of standard driver's education.
The real problem is that bicyclists seem to think that they are sacred cows. They are exercising, and therefore closer to the right hand of God. Get a grip. Be defensive. Cars are bigger. And use common sense as to where and when you ride. We have plenty of bike paths - stay there. Rush hour is bad enough - don't clog it up further.
There is ZERO enforcement of the scumbags who ride bikes on sidewalks. The DPS is appartently only useful when it comes to beatdowns.
The mayor and police chief are dunces.
Every one of these anti bike posts seem to just blame the cyclist. As if all motorist in this town are just driving around following all the traffic rules and it just the angry swarming cyclists that are breaking all the rules. I don't disagree that cyclist sharing the road need to follow the rules but so do the motorist.
Daily I look out my window of my office and see cars that just don't bother to stop at the stop sign at the street corner. Most drivers seem to not know what the big white stop line painted in front of cross walks means. I see drivers all the times the just roll up into the cross walk to stop. If they bother to come to a complete stop at all.
Here is a pop quiz for all you motorist? When making a left hand turn onto a two lane road what lane are you always supposed to turn into? No it's not what ever lane you feel like. It's the left hand lane. Conversely if you are making a right hand turn you need to pull into the closest lane on the right hand side of the road. How often do you see motorist follow that rule?
Currently on 6th Ave and I-25 there are section of the road that are stripped with solid white lines and signage that says "No Passing Stay In Lane". Almost every time I'm passing through one of those sections I see people ignore both the strips and the signs.
My point bringing this up is there are lots of motorist in this town that are either ignorant of the traffic rules or just blatantly ignore them. That isn't an excuse for cyclist behaving badly but no cyclist ever ran a red light or stop sign and killed the driver of a car.
I sometimes commute 18 miles to work and love the fact that I can do this on 17 miles of bike paths. Of course I choose to ride 17 miles on bike paths and if it was 17 miles on Denver's roads I may not enjoy bike commuting so much. I have biked to work in every city I have lived in including Portland (great), San Diego (terrible), Coventry (good) and Sydney (not so good). Denver is good but there is a definite need for education for bike riders and car drivers. Both equally to blame in my opinion. But we have to continue to encourage people to bike; I think we are where Portland was in the mid 90's
we'd like to publish some of these comments in our print edition -- ideally with your full name. if that's okay, e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ass hat hipsters with no brakes riding down the middle of busy streets when there are bike lane streets a block away..
Owners of cars pay for registration once a year on their cars to help cover the cost of maintaining roads. If bicyclists expect to be able to take up the same space as a car on the road then they need to start paying yearly registration fees as well to help pay for the roads - otherwise, get the F outta my way!
Mr Peterson contributed to his own demise. He was riding the wrong way on a very busy street at 2am - he was probably drunk too - and ran a red light to boot. Don't feel sorry for him at all. Bikes need to follow the same rules as cars and stay to the right hand side of the road - period, end of story - or become road pizza.
The wailing complaints of motorists that I always see on these blogs fall under two categories; inconvenience and jealousy. Inconvenienced because they have to slow down and pay attention. Jealous because bikes can break the law more easily (run a stop sign, ride on sidewalks, etc.) and get away with it. wah. Dan Peterson is dead. Before the accident he was breaking the law (riding the wrong way without lights) and paid more of a price than any ticket you will ever pay. Before the accident, his killer was breaking the law too, driving a stolen car. You probably have a choice...you're not breaking the law when you see a rider, but you can choose to then, and pay the price yourself. Bike riders don't bother me. I'm not in a hurry. I had one just miss the back of my car the other day (ran a stop sign). My passenger was outraged. I just shrugged it off, because I wasn't breaking the law, would've stopped and called the police if there was a collision, then sought compensation from the rider for all damages. (By the way, you are required by law to report a vehicle/bicycle collision). Calm down. And counter your jealousy with the belief that the rider you see today weaving in and out of traffic will pay for it someday, they all do. Or you can run them down or get into a fight and pay yourself. They're not going away. And you don't want to be the one paying for their stupidity. Calm down.
An article about bike safety with a picture of the chair of the Mayor's Bicycle Advisory Committee and a bike planner from the UK riding around Denver without helmets on - brilliant! I am an avid bicyclist and this illustrates the problem perfectly, many bicyclists need to be educated (including the advocates apparently) on how and where to ride on the streets safely. Riding down one-way streets (13th and 14th specifically) that do not have bike lanes when there are streets with bike lanes only several blocks away (12th and 16th) does not make any sense.
Perhaps we need some reform to traffic laws (treat a stop sign as a yield, stop light as stop sign, etc) and then people will be more likely to follow them.
Cyclists should signal. Cars should also signal.
Some specific infrastructure changes could also make a big difference. The bike map is great, but too few people use it. The story pointed out one of my biggest pet peeves which is the piecemeal nature of our cycle infrastructure. I go from bike lane to sidewalk to unmarked bike route to within about a quarter mile at one point on my commute. It took close map reading and multiple passes on the bike before I was confident that I was doing it right; most cyclists can't or won't take that kind of time.
Wow, I agree with poster Mike!
These bicycles are never useing lights at night. How can anyone see them. I don't agree with not stopping! However, who sees these bicycles out at all hours of the night with no lights on?
The problem here is the Bike Riders are driving around stoned and drunk....... and so are the car drivers!!!
@mkmccalmont thanks! Almost nothing gets more crazy passionate comments than articles about biking...
what a total crock, please dont lump us pedestrians in with the cyclists.
get the cyclists to follow the traffic laws, stay off the sidewalk, and be halfway aware of their surroundings, and the safety problem will solve itself.
Currently they ride anywhere they can, think they own the road, the sidewalk and the bike trail. Pedestrians are nothing more than interference for them, most will purposely graze pedestrians who arent yielding the sidewalk, or get rude and offensive.
Then they bait drivers and tick them off too, Screw denver cyclists, they suck.
Why the city of denver is becoming a "bike city":
This new generation of bicyclists are annoying and dangerous. With their feeble lights they should not be on the streets at night. It's just plain ignorant.
And the last thing anyone wants to deal with when they are going up the mountains is having to deal with passing them. Most of us want to experience the serenity and beauty of the mountains, not a hundred goofy people on their bikes on one of those bike tours or what ever they call them
Now--a question: How to instill safety with the morons who ride bikes--weaving in and out of traffic, maybe come up with a license--say $50 to ride the bikes, and another $100 or so for licenses FOR the bikes--hey, we can make a lot of money. And of course, require liabilty insurance!
Start handing out traffic tickets to those cyclist who, ride the wrong way on a one way, ride their bikes on the sidewalks of downtown Denver and nearly run YOU down while you are walking. Put police of bikes and start handing out tickets, once they have to start paying for their actions and attitude, maybe then there will be respect for Traffic Laws that apply to ALL vehicles YES a Bike is A VEHICLE!!
'There are plenty of bike paths - stay there' tell you what, go and get a map of bike routes, and then pretend your car is a bicycle that can only use those routes. Try to create your route to work using only those bike routes. I think you get the idea...
So we cycle on the road, we get motorists shouting at us to use the sidewalk, we cycle on the sidewalk, we get angry pedestrians.
@SxPxDxCx I would agree with what you have said; however, I would also add one more grievance: cars (especially taxis) who think the bike lane is a parking space.
@propylene22 What a ridiculous statement. Akin to "Old-ass fogeys with bad attitudes, driving on bike-filled streets, when there is a perfectly good Interstate a few blocks away." Bikes belong on the same streets as cars -- that's the law. Drivers need to just grow up and accept that fact. BOTH need to follow the laws.
@bugsycook Holy shit, did your parents have any kids that lived?
@bugsycook Roads cause a lot more wear and tear on roads than bicycles do.
@bugsycook don't feel sorry for him at all? What is wrong with you?
@CO_Native It depends which part of 13th and 14th you're riding on. If you're riding around Speer and Broadway, there is a bike line.
@CO_Native I ride 13th and 14th Avenue because the lights are timed. It takes me half as long to get where I want to go on those streets than it does 16th Avenue.
@bill generalize much? I'm sure that there are bad cyclists out there but I doubt any of them "bait" cars. Most of the time I stop but sometimes I roll a stop sign. car drivers say that about stop signs, but not red lights. cyclists say that about both. What we really out to do is turn 12th into a cycling only rode and do the same with washington.
Yeah, those horrifically fit people damn them. The road isn't for all Americans, it's for those that want to go skiing. 'America...where at least I know I'm free'.
I have to pay $150 for a permit to wear a coat over my lawfully carried firearm (it is free to carry it openly) which is a constitutionally protected natural right. Biking on city streets is a privilege and since they are not paying taxes via gasoline I agree a permit is a great idea. Actual enforcement of traffic laws is another.
Build infrastructure where it's safe to ride a bike, and you won't have to worry about bikes being on the roads. @Harley101
Traffic laws, and road infrastructure in this city, has been built around the motorized vehicle, not the bicycle. You build something for one use, it's tough to impose another mode of transport on that same infrastructure and laws, hence you have the situation we have now. Cyclist levels are rising, but the infrastrucuture or training (for drivers and cyclists) isn't there.
@Michael564 Seriously there are streets that bike have no business being on. Anything with upwards of 4 lanes and 45+ speeds. Bikes on these roads are just creating a hazard to themselves and everyone else. I rode my bike as my only method of transport for 3 years. It's not hard to get where you're going on side streets, and is usually much faster than taking the main thoroughfares.
@joem Are they "timed" because you ride 30 to 35 mph and keep up with traffic or is it because you weave between the cars stopped at the lights making those same cars pass you several times before they get off 13th or 14th? How many "close calls" have you had on 13th or 14th?
Who will pay for this?
"Hey neighbor, let me forcefully take the money you have earned to fund infrastructure only I will use since I am too stupid to follow traffic laws"
You are a lovely human being.
If it's much faster than using main throughfares, why do cars use main throughfares? Why does anyone?!
Let me guess....Romney?