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New Law in Black Hawk, Colorado Bans Bicycles

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no bikesAn unusual traffic law enacted in Black Hawk, Colorado is stirring up quite a fuss among cycling groups.

P. Solomon Banda, who covers crime and the courts for The Associated Press, explains:

The gambling town of Black Hawk has prohibited touring bicyclists from pedaling while in town, becoming what’s thought by cycling advocates to be the only city in the nation with such a restriction.

Bicycle advocacy groups are gearing up to challenge the law, which they say is illegal.

Black Hawk is not only a small town, but an old town. Many of the streets date back to the horse and buggy era and are narrower than most drivers are used to. Still, it seems odd to have a law making cyclists dismount and walk their vehicles through town. While detering accidents is the stated reason for the law, the interesting thing is that there have been no accidents involving bicycles leading up to it’s passing.

The bike ban is even making news overseas. Helen Pidd, staff reporter for The Guardian UK, covers the story:

[Michael] Copp [Black Hawk City Manager], who does not cycle himself, said the council passed the ordinance after the town experienced a surge in traffic – buses, delivery trucks, and motorists – following a law that increased the maximum betting limits from $5 to $100 once it chose gambling as its raison d’etre.

The ban applies only to the narrow 19th century thoroughfares in a town that is lined with historic buildings and new casinos, not the few residential streets. Cyclists riding in on Colorado highway 279, a main route through the town, would have to dismount and walk about 400 metres, Copp said.

Terry Jessup, an Edward R. Murrow Award-winning journalist at CBS 4 in Denver, notes one crucial detail about the situation:

The ban is a direct result of a state law passed last year that said motorists have to provide 3 feet of space when they pass a bicyclist.

The timing of the law is somewhat odd, coming hot on the heels of a Congressionally commissioned report — Assessing National Trends in Bicycling and Walking — that shows a sharp increase in people walking and cycling, according to The Associated Press. Additionally, the federal government recently set aside $1.2 billion to make American communities more cyclist- and pedestrian-friendly.

Image by Mykl Roventine on Flickr, used under its Creative Commons license;.


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