Denver Cruiser Ride launches safety campaign, tells cyclists to follow laws

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Don't be a salmon, don't be a ninja, stop at red lights and carry a noisy bell. These are some of the messages behind a new bike safety campaign for the weekly Denver Cruiser Ride -- one encouraging cyclists to ride with traffic and use lights. As Cruisers founder Brad Evans summarizes: "Don't be stupid."

As part of the weekly e-mail alerts sent out for the well-known Wednesday night group ride in Denver, Evans has started including links to a "Denver Cruiser Safety Campaign."

"We've promoted these rules since the very beginning," says Evans, who founded the Denver Cruisers in 2004. "Now that the ride's bigger, we have to do it louder."

Every Wednesday night, hundreds -- Evans stopped counting at 500 -- participate in the Denver Cruisers group ride throughout the city, in costumes based on specific themes, such as celebrity night.

Citywide, more Denver residents are hopping on bikes, causing an overall increase in collisions. And likewise, the Cruiser Ride has at times struggled with safety concerns (and sometimes with a reputation for being a rowdy, dangerous bunch).

That's why Evans -- who earlier this summer was dealing with a major trash problem -- decided to launch a campaign encouraging good safety habits. And he wanted to promote a message that maintained the fun, light tone of the Cruisers, which has its last ride of the season tonight.

The Cruisers' safety page, now linked in weekly e-mails, features the following:

Why Promote Safe Bicycle Riding? The honest answer to this was that we never planned on becoming advocates for safety -- in fact, in the very early years of the DCR, the goal was nothing more than to have fun with friends on bikes. As the ride grew, it became increasingly apparent that a "code" of sorts was going to have to be implemented in order to encourage an atmosphere that didn't appear as a pell mell, anarchist free for all on the streets of Denver each and every summer's Wednesday night.

The page includes links to other parts of the site, with one page explaining how to be a good cruiser (obey stop signs, stay off sidewalks, ride with traffic) and another explaining how to be a bad cruiser -- with a list of "SEVERAL SIMPLE WAYS THAT YOU CAN DESTROY THE FUN WE HAVE EVERY WEDNESDAY."

A lengthy waiver also acknowledges the serious risks that come with bad behavior.

Continue for more messages of the safety campaign. This latest safety effort, launched about a month ago, focuses on a few simple rules that riders must remember.

Here's one example.

"This is an added-visual campaign," says Evans. "We try to make it as fun as the Denver Cruisers rather than be iron-fisted about it."

At a certain point, Evans says, he felt an obligation to do something proactive regarding safety.

"We saw a void in the marketplace about bike safety," he says. "We think this is important."

Evans says he personally tries to set a good example: "You will never ever see me run a red light on Wednesday nights. We have not told or encouraged anyone to run red lights."

And cyclists do get ticketed for that kind of behavior, he says.

"Just don't be stupid," he adds. "There's no law against being stupid.... [Be] respectful."

Safety is important, but so is good infrastructure for bikes, Evans adds.

"There's a bunch of people on bikes on Wednesday nights," he says. "If we were a real city, we would have a way to deal with that."

He adds: "Bikes don't belong on the sidewalk in Denver, and bikes don't belong in the streets."

Over the past five years, the city has more than doubled bike infrastructure, from sixty miles of lanes and sharrows (markings designated for cyclists) to 137 miles today.

Safety will continue to be important as more and more Denver residents ride bikes, Evans notes.

"Bikes are here and they are not going anywhere," he says.

More from our Things to Do archive: "Photos: Rock 'n' Roll Marathon Denver hosts record-setting performance"

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

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