Cyclist Crash on Trail Shows Need for More Bike Infrastructure

Park Ranger Eric Knopinski uses a radar gun to clock the speed of a cyclist on the Cherry Creek Trail.
Park Ranger Eric Knopinski uses a radar gun to clock the speed of a cyclist on the Cherry Creek Trail.

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. 

Scott Gilmore, the deputy manager of the Parks & Recreation, talks to reporters Wednesday on the Cherry Creek Trail.
Scott Gilmore, the deputy manager of the Department of Parks & Recreation, talks to reporters Wednesday on the Cherry Creek Trail.

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.” 

Park Ranger Eric Knopinski uses a radar gun to clock the speed of a cyclist on the Cherry Creek Trail.
Knopinski aims a radar gun at a cyclist Wednesday.

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.

“Bullshit.” 

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.” 

 


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  • LazyReader

    A cyclist hits another cyclist…….. Government must step in and make sure this never happens again. You cant legislate away stupidity….But I guess you can put padding on every sharp corner. Uncultivated and rude behavior is gonna crop up on any form of public infrastructure. Bike trails were publicized as peaceful, tame alternatives to the carnage ridden streets, big surprise the people that took advantage of that pipe dream act the same no matter what they ride. A A-hole on four wheels is the same on two wheels.

    • Roads_Wide_Open

      agree…more infrastructure won’t cure stupidity. It’ll just spread it around.

      • TM

        You’re already doing a fine job of spreading stupidity around.

        • Roads_Wide_Open

          no, just being realistic. “You cant legislate (or control) away stupidity”

          • TM

            You can design infrastructure to be safer. It’s not that hard. People do a great job of it in many places.
            You’re just making excuses.

    • Brian Schroder

      I agree that people shouldn’t speed on the bike path excessively. And it’s the only place where I have had a head on bike collision. (The other cyclist was drunk late at night and swerved straight into me.) However, the fact remains that it has never been wide enough to accommodate, both runners, walkers and cyclists for some time. No one should be using it for triathlon training or to get someplace fast. And there’s the problem, there’s a need for a wider faster protected bike route. Take a lane from Speer Blvd. Take it now. Take the lane!

      • JZ71

        As a cyclist, you already have the legal right to take a lane, ride in a lane, on Speer. And if you’re going the same speed as the vehicles, nobody will complain. But, just like vehicles, when you’re “up top”, you gotta stop for the traffic signals, something you don’t have to do on the trail, thus the conundrum . . .

        • Brian Schroder

          Exactly, road bikes going fast enough to keep up with cars should be up top on Speer where if you’re fast enough you can make the lights.

          • Wranger

            Riding on Speer, even for a fast cyclist, is crazy. I don’t care if you can keep up with traffic, there are way too many lanes and cars to be safe.

        • garbanzito

          Speer is a horrible choice for a cyclist, even a fast one; i believe Speer’s limit is 30 mph, but most drivers exceed that if they can, and there is aggressive lane-jockeying plus an abundance of simply bad drivers; almost no cyclists can ride comfortably at 30 or 40 mph, much less in that kind of traffic; that said, i often ride a short stretch of Speer to link Bannock to Bannock — and even though that traffic is usually slow because of signal timing, it’s by far the scariest section of my ride

          • Wranger

            I sometimes ride on Broadway, but only from 7th to 5th where there isn’t another good option to get across Cherry Creek and into the Baker neighborhood. However, when do, I stay in the bus lane and go as fast as I can to get the hell off Broadway as soon as possible since, just like Speer, it’s a very scary section to ride. At least Denver Health shortened my time on Broadway last year when they opened a new driveway to their parking garage, which I use to cut down to Acoma or keep going to Bannock. Roads like Speer, Colfax, Broadway, Federal, etc. are not safe for any cyclist.

        • TM

          Idiot. Speer is an insane place to try to ride a bike. You will be constantly harassed by drivers, up until the point where one of them hits you and you die.

  • james

    The other factor at play could be lighting. I see lots of cyclists ride with out lights and have nearly collided with them by turning right in front of them, cause I didn’t see them coming at all. This is common with athlete types, since lights would weigh their rigs down. But honestly I see this more with just casual riders, or should I say, I don’t see them…

    • mckillio

      Agreed but ironically this happened while it was light out.

  • mckillio

    Playing devil’s advocate here…If this were a car crash, what would streets blog have to say about it? It certainly wouldn’t be “Driver crash on road shows need for more car infrastructure”. We would be talking about making the lanes narrower to force people to drive slower.

    My counter argument to that would be, and it may have had zero to do in this instance, that we need to have more dedicated lanes/paths for bikes because it’s quite possible that the biker “had to” get around some pedestrians. And anyone that’s been on the trail would tell you that the mixing of the two is certainly not good and that the separated parts are much better.

    So yeah, let’s get a protected bike lane on Speer, it might not even require taking away a car lane. There are so many lanes and they might be wide enough so that we can make them narrower and get the necessary width from that.

    • Brian Schroder

      I think Speer actually has smaller lane widths than the rest of Denver streets from Downing to Colfax to reduce traffic speeds. Not that it’s very effective.

      • TM

        The width of the individual lanes don’t make as much difference when there are 4 or 5 of them. Road still feels very wide to a driver and very comfortable to go fast.

        • Roads_Wide_Open

          I assume you don’t drive a lot in urban areas then. I can see this being the case in suburban locations and highways, but not urban.

          • TM

            I walk, bike, and sometimes even drive along this particular road every single day. I am well aware of how people behave when driving on it.
            Speer is 4 lanes one direction, even if the lanes were only 10 feet (and I think they are 11) that’s still 40 feet of clear space. Very comfortable to drive well above the posted speed limit.
            Extremely different environment than a single 10 foot wide lane, it results in extremely different driver behavior.

      • mckillio

        Way to dash that idea. 🙂

  • Alexandra Isabel Latimer

    The woman swerved into my dads lane! That is the reason for the crash! She went over the middle line. This is not a speed issue, no one even knows what speed he was going but everyone knows she went into his lane. If a car crosses the center line and goes against traffic, you don’t blame speed you blame the freaking car that went over the line!!

    • Wranger

      I’m sorry to hear about your dad. This is a terrible crash and I wish him the best.

      • TakeFive

        Definitely!

      • Alexandra Isabel Latimer

        Thank you. We are really scared and with him in the ICU. He is showing signs of improvement and we are really hoping that will continue. I just want to be able to talk with him again. Hoping progress will continue and we can remove breathing tube. He has brain damage (although not sure to what extent. He has no brain shearing though or structural damage thank god!!), broken ribs and every face fracture u can imagine.

  • Wranger

    Speed can certainly be a factor on our trails but I think unsafe passing is an even bigger factor. Put the two together and it’s really bad.

    I have had so many close calls because people can’t be bothered to slow down and wait a few seconds for a gap so they can pass safely and sanely. Usually the unsafe passers are bikers already going too fast, whether they are out for a roadie workout or just some dude trying to get somewhere quickly (I’m not being sexist, it’s just about always a dude), and they squeeze between the two sides of traffic, acting as if there is a secret middle passing lane on the narrow 10 foot wide trail.

    Too many times I have felt the breeze of these guys’ handlebar ends as they fly past me with very little room to spare. They need to keep in mind that while they may be comfortable riding close to others in a roadie racing pack, most other trail users are not.

    • TakeFive

      Well said.

    • Emmeaki

      This happens to me all the time walking down the street. Just as I step slightly to the left or right, a bike or scooter goes whizzing past. No bell or warning at all. At any given time, I could have been knocked down and killed or injured because of these fools! If they want to make a law that people have to wear helmets, they need a law that bikes and scooters have to have horns.

      • Wranger

        There isn’t a law requiring helmets, or horns, in Colorado. Motorcycle riders don’t have to wear helmets in Colorado, even on highways driving 70 MPH.

        • Emmeaki

          Wow! I’ve lived in other states and things are different. Horns should be mandatory.

          • Wranger

            I don’t think horns should be mandatory because that’s one more thing that can keep people from riding bikes. Helmet laws have been proven to decrease ridership time and again without making riders safer (more bikes makes all bikers safer).

            However, I personally think having a horn is super important. I use an Orp horn that has a quieter chirp and a really loud, obnoxious horn that drivers almost always hear, even with their windows up (and when you use the horn, the light flickers, too). It has saved my life more than once and is great for those times when you can’t tell if drivers see you, or you can see that they aren’t watching for you. It really gets their attention.

      • Doug

        Colorado law requires cyclists to provide an “audible signal” when passing a pedestrian. This could come from a bell, horn, or by the ubiquitous “on your left” heard so often on our trails. There’s no need to mandate bells or horns — that doesn’t mean they’ll get used, and just using your voice if often more effective anyway.

  • Dvornyaga

    Sounds like the accident happened in a place that needs more warning signs to slow down and to watch for blind corners,so with all the traffic on that trail Denver needs to do something about safety.People who rent bikes and scooters don’t understand basic safety rules,compared to someone like Mr Latimer who is a seasoned cyclist

    • JZ71

      No, more warning signs are not “the answer”. You can’t fix stupidity with more signs! Too many people going too many different speeds in a congested area WILL result in crashes. Unsafe passing is the core issue, but nobody wants to be told to slow down!

  • TM

    I’d like to see the path on both sides of the creek where one side is for walking and the other for biking extended farther upstream.
    Yes people should slow down and wait to pass safely, but there’s not even room for two people to walk or ride next to each other without blocking the whole path. The existing path just isn’t wide enough.

  • Snapperhead

    I’m so tired of America’s speed-loving culture. Compare us to bicycle-focused cities in Scandinavia, where everyone rides at an average of 8 mph, wearing work clothes, without helmets, and without official bike speed limits, and nobody gets hurt. Meanwhile in America, we have people trying electric scooters for the first time, flying around at 25 mph. And we have middle-aged guys in colored spandex imagining they’re in The Tour de France, pumped up with adrenaline, flying down roads at 30 mph, weaving in and out of cars. We have automobile drivers that see a sign saying 55 mph, and then immediately go 71 mph, like some sort of video game. Is it really worth saving an extra 5 minutes of your day to quadruple your risk of injury or death? Life is not a race. Roadways are deadly zones, not arenas for daredevil games. Everyone needs to get back to walking or taking public transportation. A nation full of wannabe racers makes America’s roads the deadliest in the world.

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