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Reader: Are cyclists the enemy?

"On a Roll," Sam Levin, October 11

A Vicious Cycle

I am both a bike and car commuter downtown from Stapleton. There are no direct bike trails between Quebec through Park Hill to downtown. While biking the recommended bike/street routes, I've witnessed some of the most horrible behavior from cyclists who whiz by without warning, who disregard any and all traffic rules and who basically feel the road is theirs for the taking.

As a pedestrian downtown, I have lost count of the numbers of times people on bikes have almost hit me or other pedestrians running red lights or riding on sidewalks. Therefore, I am a cyclist who feels that it is not so much a problem of cars as it is cyclists who follow no rules except their own. Mix that with planners who have ill-conceived notions of "reclaiming" what is a road originally built for automobiles, and voilà — the resulting recipe for disaster should not leave anyone surprised at this problem.

Even worse is the lack of common sense for bike riders who go out riding at 2 a.m., usually with little or no reflective markings, and then wonder why they are hit — if they live to ponder such a question. People who flee the scene of a hit-and-run are of the lowest level of human, to be sure. But that aside, where does the responsibility for safety lie? In my opinion, it lies with the cyclist who 1) obeys traffic laws 2) signals early and often and 3) uses lots of reflective or bright clothing.

Moreover, I think Denver will become a lot more friendly to cyclists when cyclists start to take a little more responsibility for their own safety and the safety of others, and the city gets its head out of the sand and realizes that streets aren't made to be "reclaimed" for bike trails. Maybe a better approach is to solicit corporate sponsorships or a bike tax for more bike trails. Whatever it is, I don't think the current one as proclaimed by "Emily the bike girl" is working very well.

Ben Norseman
Denver

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," people say. 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.

 The website cyclingsavvy.org/hows-my-driving/ 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.

Ann Haebig
Denver

Editor's note: For many, many more comments on cycling in Denver, go to the comments section following the online version of "On a Roll" at westword.com.

"It's a Mall World After All," Westword staff, October 4

16th Street Maul

Your cover story on the 16th Street Mall had us in stitches. Idiot canvassers seemingly in the thousands ("Are you FOR Clean Water??" "Do You LIKE Children??"). Outdated architecture, hideous parking scenarios, gift shops that time forgot, the mausoleum known as the Tabor Center, and the largest collection of panhandlers west of the Mississippi. We'd rather have elective oral surgery than spend a day at the 16th Street "Mall."

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