Cyclist Crash on Trail Shows Need for More Bike Infrastructure
A bicycle rider is in critical condition after a high-speed, head-on collision with another cyclist who was also injured Tuesday evening on the Cherry Creek Trail, according to the Denver Post. But as more downtown workers choose to bike, bicycle traffic on the Cherry Creek Trail has grown and the crash highlights the urgent need for more safe, low-stress bike routes.
“The reason it’s congested is because it’s so comfortable that people use it,” said Jack Todd, a spokesperson for Bicycle Colorado about the trail, which runs along the creek with tall retaining walls on both sides that separate it from auto traffic. “We need bike infrastructure on more streets throughout Denver to give people choices to get around.”
The segment of trail where the crash happened should measure 12-feet wide, said Todd, citing the Denver Moves Bike & Pedestrian plan. But it is just 10-feet wide.
The Elevate Denver bond, approved in 2017, provides $431 million for transportation projects and $152 million for the Parks & Recreation department, which maintains the Cherry Creek Trail. But Scott Gilmore, deputy manager of the department, says there are no plans to widen the trail near the location of the crash.
“We would like to widen [it] as much as possible, wherever we can,” he said. But last night’s crash will not accelerate changes in that area because it is part of a vast trail system that his department oversees, which has a long list of needs. “We have 80 miles of trails. Remember that.”
Traffic on the trail often includes a mix of scooters, electric skateboards, pedestrians, joggers, casual bicyclists and spandex-clad athletes. Cyclists often move fast on the trail, and speed was likely a factor in last night’s collision.
William Latimer, one of the victims, had no pulse and stopped breathing after the crash. He has been a long-distance biker for decades, according to the Post. Moments before the collision, he passed Mick Testa, who was also riding a bike and said Latimer was traveling at excessive speed.
“I was probably going 10 to 13 mph,” said Testa. “I don’t know how fast [Latimer] was going. But he was going way too fast.”
Many people bike at high speeds on the trail, said Testa, especially bike athletes who often travel at frighteningly excessive speeds.
“It’s scary when they go by you,” he said. “Their bike, and their body, is like a deadly weapon.”
In recent weeks, Parks & Rec started a controversial campaign to raise awareness of the speed limit on the trails. Park rangers can now be spotted holding up radar guns and using hand signals to urge cyclists to slow down.
“They’re not out there to give tickets,” said Gilmore. Rangers have issued just two citations this year, he says. “The speed limit is 15 miles an hour. The collision that happened yesterday night, those are the tragic things that we want to try to make sure that aren’t happening.”
This morning, a ranger clocked a cyclist zooming down the trail at 29 mph. But some bike activists say the city should instead focus enforcement on drivers, whose multi-ton vehicles threaten lives.
This afternoon, shortly after Streetsblog’s interview with Gilmore, a cyclist in spandex shouted his opinion of a ranger with a radar gun.
But even with high speeds on the trail, Todd, of Bicycle Colorado, says the crash shouldn’t scare off people who want to bike on the trail, especially after today’s Bike to Work Day festivities.
“This is an anomaly. The Cherry Creek Trail is one of the safest pieces of infrastructure in Denver, maybe in Colorado,” he said. “It’s a safe way to get through Denver, whether you’re going to work, the grocery store, or beyond.”