Bicyclists in Denver want to stop getting killed by cars, so they’re taking to the streets, on bike, to make a statement and maybe cause some minor gridlock.
Tonight, Wednesday, July 31st, the Denver Cruisers will ride the streets of Denver in protest; on a cruise to memorialize two cyclists who recently lost their lives to traffic accidents in Denver; on a mission to end the unnecessary bloodshed.
And on Friday, August 2nd, a group known as Critical Mass will be out there too, riding for the same cause.
“The point of this exercise on Friday isn't to go out and cause a traffic snarl, though that might be a side effect,” Says John Riecke, who helped organize Friday’s ride with Critical Mass. “The real point of the ride is to get out there on the streets and show what it's like to bike in safety, with large numbers of people around you, with fresh air, having conversations; to have a good time and show what it's like to bike on the streets without fearing for your life.”
Just days ago, Alexis Bounds, a 37-year-old wife and mother was riding in a bike lane on South Marion Street, when a garbage truck made a blind right turn at 20 miles per hour, smashing into Bounds and killing her. She was the fourth Front Range cyclist to lose her life in a traffic accident this July, alone.
In Boulder, days before Bounds’ accident, a cyclist was struck along Arapahoe Avenue, in a hit-and-run incident that left the man, Andrew Bernstein (a local cycling journalist) in critical condition. The driver, who left Berstein to die on the side of the road in the rain, has yet to be found.
It’s incidents like these that have riled up protest rides like the Denver Cruisers’ (which starts tonight at 7 at the Gin Mill on Larimer), and Riecke’s Critical Mass ride on Friday (which also starts at 7, but will meet at the Denver Skate Park).
It seems obvious that changes need to made. Denver’s roads are only getting busier, between increased vehicle traffic, e-scooters, bikes and peds, the roadways, the bike lanes and sidewalks of the Mile-High City are becoming crowded places.
But, fortunately, there are ways to relieve some of that pressure; ways which could make everyone safer.
“If we want safe biking then we have to have safe and strict infrastructure in order to make that happen,” says Riecke. “I don't know that drivers are any more callous than they used to be, it's just that there are more drivers and more bikers.”
That’s undeniable. And when cyclists are safer, so are drivers. It’s a win-win situation for everyone, if the city installs infrastructure to accommodate for it’s growing cycling population.
But this issue doesn’t fall solely on the shoulders of the City bureaucrats. Both motorists and cyclists can help make the roads a safer place and in a lot of the same ways: by paying more attention, properly yielding, understanding the rules of the road better, following them consistently and watching for one another more acutely.
And, greater numbers of bikers on the streets could help too, suggests Riecke.
“You have to really overwhelm the system … there’s safety in numbers,” he says.
And, truly, the more bikes on the street, the more pressure there is in on the City if Denver to build the necessary infrastructure to keep them safe and separate from motor-traffic.
If you’re interested in joining the Critical mass ride on Friday, with Riecke, check out the Facebook page and let them know if you’re coming.
Tonight’s ride with the Denver Cruisers will pass by a vigil ceremony on South Marion Street, where Alexis Bounds lost her life. It’s sure to be a powerful moment, as friends and family of Bounds mourn, beside the “ghost bike” placed at the scene of the accident, with hundreds of cyclists pedaling past, glowing, flashing and glittering in their cruiser regalia.