Bicycle ban in Black Hawk fought by political pedal power

Bicycles don't usually do too well on steps -- but they certainly made an impression yesterday in front of the Capitol, where approximately a hundred pedaling fans gathered to protest a bike ban in Black Hawk. Bicycle Colorado, which sponsored the event (and supplied photos here and below) fears that if the Black Hawk ban stands, more could follow.

"The idea behind the event was to let it be known that people in Colorado aren't going to stand for bike bans," says Bicycle Colorado assistant director Maggie Thompson. "It's not so much about Black Hawk specifically as it is about the precedent their ordinance sets.

"If other not-so-bike-friendly cities pick up on the same idea, it could really effect the view of Colorado as a bicycle-friendly place in the eyes of the world."

Bicycle Colorado executive director Dan Grunig spoke at the event, and he had some high-profile support from the likes of Senator Chris Romer, outfitted in some natty biking togs, and Senator Greg Brophy. Their presence underscores the political muscle of BC.

"As Colorado's statewide bicycle advocacy organization, we work on legislation in the state, work with the departments of health and transportation, and work on issues that we believe have statewide impact," Thompson says.

Like, for instance, the Black Hawk ban, which was passed by the community's board of aldermen in January due to concerns about the safety of bicyclists on streets frequently clogged by motor vehicles heading to the area's many casinos.

According to Thompson, Bicycle Colorado only learned about the ordinance in June, when word reached staffers about bike riders being ticketed simply for heading through town. Shortly thereafter, "Dan went to a meeting up there, and during the public-comment section, he asked if they were planning on reconsidering the issue, and if they were interested in some input from members of the bicycling community. And they said they considered the issue resolved and weren't interested in revisiting it."

The Bicycle Colorado crew has a different viewpoint. "We're working on this from a three-angled approach," Thompson notes. "First, we'll be calling on the board of aldermen to reconsider the ban" during their next session, slated for July 14. At that time, she reveals, BC members will present petitions they've collected "from bicyclists in Colorado, and bicyclists from all over the world who come to Colorado" protesting the prohibition.

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Secondly, she continues, "we've identified a handful of bicyclists who've received tickets for bicycling through Black Hawk. We've connected them with some bicycle-friendly lawyers who are representing them pro bono to fight those tickets." These attorneys have agreed to follow through with the cases at the appellate level if their arguments are rejected by the court in Black Hawk.

In addition, Bicycle Colorado plans an assault on the legislative front. "We believe the law in Colorado was interpreted incorrectly in this situation," Thompson allows, "and we think we need to clarify what kinds of abilities a municipality has to prohibit bicycles in the state of Colorado. We've identified some bicycle-friendly representatives and senators" -- like Romer and Brophy, perhaps? -- "who we work with on a regular basis. We're doing our homework and are preparing to figure out what the next step might be legislatively."

Because Black Hawk is on an internationally known bicycle route outlined by Montana's Adventure Cycling Association, the ban is getting press from media outside Colorado, including the Guardian newspaper in London. Thompson hopes such ink will sway the Black Hawk officials.

After all, she says, "it's scary to think that folks in the U.K. or Germany who might be thinking about visiting the U.S. to bicycle might hear that Colorado has a bicycle ban and buy tickets to go to California or Utah instead."

Page through below to see more protest photos:

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