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Denver cycling accidents on track for all-time record in 2012

Editor's note: This is the fourth in a series of reports about biking and bike safety in Denver and beyond.

Update: After we reported yesterday that the number of bike-related accidents jumped from 2010 to 2011, the Denver Police Department sent us new statistics for 2012 -- and it's looking like this year is on track to be a lot worse.

This year, through July 8th, there have already been 228 accidents, which nearly matches the total number of collisions throughout the entire year in 2011, and already has surpassed 2010 as a whole.

The statistics aren't broken down by type, so they could refer to bike-pedestrian, bike-bike or bike-auto accidents. In 2011, DPD had 239 on record, and in 2010, the total came to 202. Assuming that more cycling accidents will continue to take place over the summer and into the fall -- especially since there are more cyclists on the road in Denver -- we can expect the city to not only break its record on bike accidents by year's end, but shatter it.

See our earlier coverage below.

Original post, 10:25 a.m. July 9: As cycling in Denver increases dramatically, there's one growing pain that is causing concern for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians alike: the rise in collisions.

At Westword, we've chronicled the rapid growth in Denver commuters biking to work -- which the city has pushed along with increased spending on bike infrastructure throughout Denver. At the same time, police are also giving out more tickets to cyclists, and there has been a record number of bike thefts on the street.

But there's another major problem: Cyclists, pedestrians and drivers are struggling to figure out how to coexist with each other in the streets -- and on the sidewalk. Last month, for example, ex-Denver City Councilman Doug Linkhart collided with a pickup truck when he was cycling on Bike to Work Day.

"It's time for a comprehensive public education campaign...[on] how to coexist safely on our roadways," says Piep van Heuven, executive director of advocacy group BikeDenver. "The reality is most of us in Denver have been on a bike. We walk places. And most of us have a car."

DPD officials say they are still putting together statistics for 2012, so we don't have anything on bike-related accidents this year. But between 2010 to 2011, there was definitely a jump.

In 2010, there were 202 bike-related accidents. Last year, that number rose to 239. These stats aren't broken down by type, so they could be bike-pedestrian, bike-bike or bike-auto.

We'll let you know when we get the numbers for 2012. But in the meantime, there's growing worry among cyclists and city officials alike about clashes involving cyclists. At a recent Denver City Council meeting, when a member mentioned Linkhart's accident, several others raised concerns about accidents they'd heard about.

On one side of the debate, some are concerned that cyclists carelessly and regularly break laws -- running through stop signs, ignoring red lights -- and put others and themselves in danger in the process. On the other side, some cyclists say drivers are uneducated about cycling and do a bad job of sharing the road with bikers -- as they are legally required to do.

"Sadly, I think it is common to talk to bicyclists that have a story about having a crash with an automobile," says van Heuven. "It's also common to hear people talking about...an incident with a person on a bike that is not following the law."

Dan Grunig, executive director of statewide advocacy group Bicycle Colorado, points out that in some cycling rankings, the state has actually done very well in this area. The League of American Bicyclists has ranked Colorado number four in its 2012 list.

The ranking, based on a comprehensive survey, says, "Practically all of Colorado's state traffic laws related to bicycling are national models."

In general, Grunig says, the bike laws in the state treat cycling seriously: "Colorado recognizes that bicycles are equal.... They have the same rights and responsibilities."

Follow Sam Levin on Twitter at @SamTLevin. E-mail the author at Sam.Levin@Westword.com.

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