Why Is Denver’s “Alt Weekly” Peddling Anti-Bike Propaganda?

Clearly, the cyclists in this town have gone too far. Photo: David Sachs
Clearly, the cyclists in this town have gone too far. Photo: David Sachs

America’s urban weekly papers usually pride themselves on providing a perspective that veers from the establishment. In Denver, the establishment transportation paradigm centers on driving, parking, parking, and driving. And Westword, Denver’s longtime alt-weekly, just ran a story kowtowing to the car-centric status quo.

On Saturday, in what we can only assume was a desperate bid for clicks, Westword published a piece on its homepage with the headline, “Reader: Bicyclists Need to Be Careful and Obey the Rules of the Road.”

Okay, we’ll bite.

“Few things are as controversial as cyclists,” starts the piece, which no one wanted to attach their name to (the byline is “Westword Staff”). So it has been decreed: The moment you get on a bike, you are a controversial person.

Westword staff relied on an unimpeachable authority for their clickbait: Westword commenters. That’s why we’re treated to pearls of wisdom like this one from “Klay,” who writes: “Those motherfuckers seriously believe they own the road. Take that shit out on a county road or something. Not the middle of a city.”

Maybe random online comments do merit publication in an alt-weekly, because, if you think about it, “bikes don’t belong in cities” is an alternative perspective.

There’s also some pro-bike banter to achieve the journalistic holy grail of fairness and balance, setting up the inevitable conversation starter on Twitter, where Westword teased the article this way: “Are cyclists a problem in Denver?”

Great question. Stay tuned for future installments in this gripping series from Westword. Are dog owners a problem in Denver? Are vegetarians a problem in Denver? Are children in strollers a problem for Denver? Westword’s just asking, folks.

Apparently it still needs to be said that people who bike aren’t a homogeneous tribe — people from all walks of life ride bikes. And because this is Denver, which in 2014 averaged 1.55 cars per household, it’s safe to say that many people who bike also drive. Maybe some are “trying to save the planet,” as the anonymous collective at Westword declares, but most are just trying to get from point A to point B.

If there’s one thing all cyclists share in common, it’s that none of them want to die on their way.

But the closest Westword comes to addressing the genuine public safety problem of Denver’s inadequate bike infrastructure is warning people on bikes to stay out of neighborhoods with high rates of bike crashes, and to “avoid those critics that are hostile to cycling” — the same critics Westword is knighting as authorities on the matter.

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