When Streets Aren’t Designed for Safe Biking, People on Bikes Get Hurt

The driveway and section of Colorado Boulevard where the bike rider was killed. Image: Google Maps
The driveway and section of Colorado Boulevard where the unidentified bike rider was killed. Image: Google Maps

The man killed on his bike yesterday evening near the intersection of Colorado Boulevard and Colfax Avenue was riding on the wrong side of the street when a driver hit him, according to early reports from the Denver Police Department.

“The preliminary investigation indicates that it appears the biker was riding southbound on a northbound lane on Colorado,” said DPD spokesman Sonny Jackson.

A driver exiting a gas station hit the cyclist and stayed at the scene, Jackson said.

It’s not clear why the man chose to ride his bike against traffic, but both Colfax and Colorado are designed without any dedicated space for biking. Maybe he was scared to bike with traffic behind him on such a fast street without protection, or maybe he was heading toward the median during an apparent break in traffic, because bike riders aren’t allowed on the sidewalk. We don’t know because he can’t tell his story.

But there is no doubt that people on bikes are more likely to observe traffic rules when the street accommodates them with safe space to travel. Redesigning streets to calm speeding traffic, with good walking and biking infrastructure, makes them safer for everyone. If the victim had a safe, efficient way to get where he was going, would this crash have happened?

The medical examiner hasn’t released the victim’s name and an autopsy report will probably take several weeks, according to the coroner’s office.

  • OrangeFree

    The guy was riding illegally against traffic, but sure, blame the street design and not his actions for what happened.

  • John

    Colfax Ave. and Colorado Blvd. are not designed for ANY biking, safe or otherwise. Just trying to safely cross those streets is a long wait and a chore for both peds and cyclists.

  • Dan

    Mr. Sachs,
    I understand you really like biking but wow, – not everything is the fault of the the engineers. Can people not following the rules possibly be to blame?

  • Sarah

    That particular intersection is terrible for peds and cyclists. In addition, the connectivity in the area is very poor. You basically “can’t get there from here” around there without being right in heavy traffic or on the sidewalk. For example, to get from the Sprouts on Colfax and Garfield to Park Hill, you can either go to 12th to cross Colorado at another bad, but marginally better, intersection, to 17th, which is also very bad, or west to Steele, into City Park and over to Montview. If you don’t know the area, you wouldn’t even know about those options. My guess is this guy was a “utilitarian” cyclist, a low income guy who needed his bike to get to work and who probably didn’t know any better than to be on the sidewalk on the left side. So, how about a little compassion? And what if he had been a pedestrian? I’ve been in this situation many times. Drivers are turning right, so they only look to their left for oncoming cars, not left to check for peds. If the guy had been on foot, the driver would have been at fault.

  • BobBobson

    While I respect the viewpoint that perhaps Colfax and Colorado should have better (or any) accommodations for bicyclists, I can’t help but think in the meantime, bikes shouldn’t use those roads if they are that unsafe. You’re just tempting fate. And you really shouldn’t use them improperly, like riding against traffic.

  • Mike McDaniel

    This is why I will continue to ride on sidewalks in certain situations where the streets are a sketchy option.