Safety and bike bans

Last night I repeated the news of the bike ban in Black Hawk, Colorado. You’ll recall that city officials cited ‘safety’ as the reason. So let’s look at bike safety in Black Hawk.

The US National Highway Traffic Safety Administration keeps traffic fatality statistics for every US county in the Fatality Analysis Reporting System or “FARS.” For the years 2004-2008, there were a total of 3 traffic fatalities in all of Gilpin County, where Black Hawk is located.

The NHTSA specifically tracks pedestrian and bicyclist fatalities. Were any of these fatalities pedestrians or bicyclists? Nope — there have been a total of ZERO bicycle fatalities and ZERO pedestrian fatalities in 2004 through 2008.

Injury statistics for Colorado don’t seem to be readily available online. The Colorado State Police lists 16 injury accidents for Gilpin County for 2008, but there’s no information on if the injured party was a cyclist or not. Somebody would probably need to file a Colorado Open Records Act request with the city of Black Hawk to get his information. Gilpin County traffic injury rate is about the same as the state as a whole, so it doesn’t appear cycling is any more or less dangerous than in the rest of the state.

We know this already, of course, but the evidence shows that “safety” is just an excuse.


Jeff writes, “Since cyclists are banned from using certain public roads, that means they aren’t obligated to pay the taxes that go toward the upkeep of these roads, right?” I wonder how many town residents give a rip. It’s less than two miles long, after all, which isn’t a bad distance to walk.

Another Rocky Mountain casino town — Central City, CO — opened their own four lane highway using city funds in 2004 to whisk Front Range gamblers to their historic town and bypass Black Hawk. While the Central City Parkway was initially closed to cyclists, after some study and testimony, the city opened the road to bicyclists 10 months after the road’s grand opening to motor vehicles. This parkway connects cyclists from the popular Peak-To-Peak Scenic Byway directly to I-70, allowing them to bypass Black Hawk completely.


  1. Playing devil's advocate, though, and knowing the town of Black Hawk somewhat, I have to say that there are not any roads that I am aware of in that town that I would want to ride a bike on. I'm a big time bike rider and I ride everywhere. But Black Hawk is a very small town in a steep section of the mountains, with very heavy traffic because of the casinos. It seems feasible to me that it may *not* actually be safe to ride a bike in Black Hawk. I'm guessing that there are no bike accidents on record because so few people have actually attempted to ride a bike there. Which then begs the question, “Why make it illegal if no one does it anyway.” Maybe someone actually tried it at some point, and then the powers that be figured they needed to legislate against such insanity?

  2. I lived in Colorado a few years, cycled Peak-to-Peak several times, and have been through Black Hawk a handful of times.

    I realize Black Hawk is isolated and only 'avid' hard core cyclists will actually pass through that town. Riding a bike in very heavy traffic may seem dangerous, but the danger comes from the cars and those huge motorcoaches, not the bikes. There's plenty of room for a bike on the road, and it's not as if anybody is doing 50 mph on those narrow streets (at least when the traffic is heavy). Take the lane for safety, and the only risk is getting the local politicians angry enough at you to pass a bike ban.

    We know at least 8 people moseyed through town on a bike last Saturday, since they were ticketed. I'm curious how many motorists are ticketed by the local PD for speeding and other traffic infractions.

  3. When I lived in Denver, the Peak to Peak Highway was by far my favorite ride, offering great climbs through some of the most scenic area's in the state; it wasn't unusual to ride past deer or elk, or even the occasional black bear or bighorn sheep.

    In those days – a little over 20 years ago – Blackhawk was a charming, if somewhat rundown, old mining town where a hungry cyclist was always welcome at the local diners. But the last I time I visited, it had been transformed into hideous version of itself, with everything that had once made it charming torn down and replaced with garish gambling halls that made the lowliest Indian casinos look like the Vegas Strip.

    While it broke my heart to see what the lovely neighboring community of Central City had become since they allowed gambling, at least they had the sense to preserve the facades of their historic Old West buildings.

    Normally, I would suggest that cyclists boycott Blackhawk entirely; however, I'd like to think that we have enough taste to avoid it anyway. Frankly, I saw no reason to set foot in it before this, and I'm sure as heck not going to do it now.

  4. I'd love to see cyclists do something to show an economic impact of excluding them… but perhaps it is like speed traps — they feel it will be a revenue source.

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