Black Hawk bans bicycles – again

Alternative bike route provided to busiest streets

By Lynn Volkens

Bicyclists wanting to connect from Central City to Highway 119 will now have to do it along a circuitous route to bypass a stretch of Black Hawk’s Gregory Street. On April 24, 2013, the Black Hawk city council amended their Model Traffic Code to establish an alternative bike route and prohibit bicycles from riding on Gregory Street below its intersection with Bobtail Street. Bicyclists are also prohibited from riding on Black Hawk, Main and Selak Streets. The city had previously banned bicyclists from these streets, including Gregory Street in its entirety through Black Hawk and, in 2010, had begun ticketing bicyclists who ignored the “No Bicycles” sign to ride on through. Three of the ticketed riders had sued, losing their case in the lower courts but appealing it all the way to the Colorado Supreme Court where Black Hawk’s bicycle ban was overturned earlier this year. That Court found that Black Hawk could not, per the Colorado constitution, ban bicycles from designated streets unless the city provided an alternative bike route within 450 feet of the banned route.

The city’s new alternative bicycle route eliminates bicycle traffic from Black Hawk’s core commercial area. Starting from the western entrance to Black Hawk, it diverts bicyclists off Gregory Street at Bobtail Street. Riders connect via Bobtail to Miners Mesa Road and from there to Highway 119, via Mill Street. They can then travel back north along the eastern edge of Black Hawk on Highway 119 and continue along the Peak to Peak Highway to Nederland and beyond. Except on paths or portions of roads designated for the exclusive use of bicyclists, the cyclists are required to ride single file. On designated exclusive use paths, they are allowed to ride no more than two abreast.

Bicycle Colorado, a cyclist lobbying organization who had fought Black Hawk’s previous bike ban, was contacted prior to enacting the new ban. Black Hawk’s attorney, Corey Hoffmann, said he had sent the group a copy of the draft ordinance and had invited them to attend the council meeting in which it would be addressed. No one had attended, but Hoffmann said the group had acknowledged that cyclists slow down when going uphill to Central City and requested a dedicated bike lane on that portion of Gregory Street. They had also relayed concerns regarding adequate signs to the bike route and subsequent enforcement should a cyclist miss a turn and end up in a prohibited area. “Drivers need to follow traffic signs,” Black Hawk alderman Jim Johnson, responded.

Black Hawk Mayor David Spellman recalled that Bicycle Colorado “wanted to disparage Black Hawk and say unsavory things about Black Hawk, and through their website, sent their message around the world – they can do the same thing with this.” Cyclists who enter the prohibited areas will be ticketed. “There will be no warning tickets issued,” Spellman stressed. Hoffmann suggested a copy of the approved ordinance be sent to Bicycle Colorado “and have them notify their people.” The council agreed. “Word travels quickly when they want it to,” the mayor concluded.

Additionally, Black Hawk has enacted a permit requirement for all bicycle events involving more than twenty riders. A draft of that ordinance and invitation to attend the council meeting had also been extended to Bicycle Colorado, said Hoffmann. They had sent word that “they’d prefer it be more than twenty people,” Hoffmann said, “but they understand that Black Hawk thinks that number is appropriate, and they aren’t here to argue about it.” The city has not yet determined the cost of the event permit. Depending on the size of the event, there may be additional costs to the organizers, including crowd control, law enforcement, emergency medical responders, public works personnel, portable bathroom facilities, etc.

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