Boulder County - Letter to the Cycling Community




October 10, 2013
Dear Boulder County Cyclists and Cycling Community:

We are writing to ask for your patience and cooperation as Boulder County continues its extensive flood recovery efforts. We know that cycling opportunities throughout the county have decreased due to the sheer magnitude of damage to our roadway system caused by the historic September flooding.

We also know that these extenuating conditions have been frustrating and have adversely impacted the way you live, travel, and recreate.

Since the flood, it has been the county’s priority to help our most impacted residents gain safe access to their homes. We’ve done this by working to repair affected roads as quickly as possible. In order for our crews to work to restore road access to all users, we have asked both motorists and bicyclists to limit their use of county roads west of the foothills.

Despite our public pleas, however, we continue to experience traffic congestion that is impeding our road work in these heavily damaged areas.

We are asking for this limitation on all modes of travel so that local residents, emergency responders, utility providers and road maintenance work crews can engage in essential rebuilding activities

In addition to this request, we are also particularly concerned about unsafe cycling conditions that will continue as extensive road repairs are made throughout our mountain communities.

These unsafe conditions include:
• Increased volumes of heavy construction and road maintenance equipment along our compromised roadways
• Steep drop-offs along many roadways from washed-away ditches
• Destroyed, damaged or washed-away roadway shoulders that typically serve to separate vehicle and bicycle travel, allow pull-offs by cyclists, and enable safe passing by vehicles
• Persistent debris on roadways from existing and recurring rock slide activity

While these conditions are experienced by both motorists and bicyclists, bicyclists are much more likely to have their safety compromised by them. For this reason, the county has temporarily closed several roads to cycling while we work to restore our roadway infrastructure. We recognize this may not feel fair, but we believe these closures are necessary until our roads can properly function for all modes of travel.

Like you, we wish cycling opportunities could return to their pre-flood status more quickly. The county has invested considerably in developing its bicycle facilities, both on roads and regional trails, and is committed to encouraging bicycling and building roads that are safe for all users. We know how important this activity is for residents and visitors and how it adds significant value to our area.

Until we reconstruct the damaged roads so they are safe for all users, we encourage cyclists to use the east county roads that are open, or to take your bike on the bus or drive up Boulder Canyon with your bike and take advantage of the Peak to Peak Highway and stop in for lunch or coffee in Nederland.

As the weeks continue, we will keep you informed of roadway conditions on our website at http://roads.bouldercountyflood.org.

In addition, we will continue the discussion with you about how the county can help create safe, enjoyable cycling opportunities in Boulder County during this most unusual time.

As we go forward together, we thank you again for your understanding and patience.

Sincerely,

George Gerstle
Director

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23 Comments

Today I disobeyed the sign.

Today I disobeyed the sign. The road is in good shape, mostly repaired to the same level as before the flood up to poormans at least. I'd say there's actually less traffic than usual on the road, I went at 2pm on a Thursday. Nobody yelled at me. A couple of Open Space/Boulder County vehicles drove by without a second glance. The fear of getting caught motivated me to get one of my fastest times yet.

Also note that Sunshine is not listed as closed: http://maps.bouldercounty.org/roadclosures/

It's screwed up to block bikes and not other recreational/nonresident traffic (at least on sunshine). I feel like a little bit of a tool saying it, but I'd be into some social disobedience.

Reasonable access to county roads.

Dear Mr. Gerstle,

It is reasonable to place some traffic limitations on county roads that are damaged and unsafe. However, I know of no basis why, for example, the county would completely prohibit bicycle access to a road such as Sunshine Canyon on a Sunday morning. An inspection of the road by car reveals no significant damage that would endanger cyclists, and very little traffic on a Sunday morning.

I thus request an explanation as to how the county can justify denying a particular group (cyclists) access to the road, especially during a low usage time such as a Sunday morning, when apparently every other type of transport is allowed.

This request is made with consideration of our legislature’s “long-standing recognition of bicycling as a protected mode of transportation within Colorado.” In short, access of our citizens of roads while on bicycles cannot legally be restricted without very good and sound reasons, which do not exist here.

Please note that the Supreme Court of Colorado has spoken on the issue of access by cyclists to public roads. The rights that cyclists have to roads was discussed at length by the Colorado Supreme Court in the 2013 decision Webb v. Black Hawk striking down that city's prohibition against bicycle traffic. In the words of the Supreme Court:

“Cities across the state have worked hard to accommodate and promote
bicycle commuting. Strongly endorsing bicycling as a mode of transportation, our General Assembly has declared that “[i]t is in the best interest of all Coloradans to promote transportation mode choice by enhancing safety and mobility for bicyclists . . . on or along the state highway system.” § 43-1-120(1)(a), C.R.S. (2012). Further, state law requires transportation planning to accommodate the needs of bicyclists “as a matter of
routine.”

“In 1921, the [Colorado} legislature introduced the first ‘rules of the road,’ . . In the rules, bicycles were included within the definition of “vehicle,” subjecting bicycles to the same traffic regulations as automobiles. . .

In 1973, the General Assembly directly addressed bicycles, enacting explicit language that would formally establish the specific rights of bicyclists . . . Every person riding a bicycle upon a roadway where bicycle travel is permitted shall be granted all the rights and shall be subject to all the duties and penalties applicable to the driver of a vehicle . . .”

The court's decision several times noted the state legislature's longtime efforts to promote and protect cycling as a viable mode of transportation.

In the words of Bicycle Colorado executive director Dan Grunig "Everybody has to realize that bikes are the same as cars and have a right to be there. . . .The Supreme Court ruling really affirmed the share-the-road law the state has passed. This may make Colorado's laws some of the most bicycle friendly in the nation because they have an affirmation from the Supreme Court."

In sum, under Colorado law, bicyclists are afforded all the rights and responsibilities of other vehicles on our roadways and those rights cannot be taken away without a very strong legal justification.

Such justification may exist on certain select roads at certain times, but such justification has not been provided for e.g. closing Sunshine Canyon on a weekend.

Please carefully consider this issue and provide a full explanation for each road closure that is selectively applied to cyclists. Also, please publicly provide all related documentation and studies that support each such decision.

Finally, please provide a public and updated site for cyclists to know exactly which roads are open at exactly what dates and times.

Thank you for your consideration.

Kay Rice

If they are going to close

If they are going to close the roads, they should be closed to ALL recreation uses. No leaf viewing for drivers up from Denver. Did the 10,000 visitors to Estes Park get there through Trailridge road? Likewise, if you lice in the mountains and want to come down to your kids soccer game, nope, sorry, that's recreation at a time when roads are unsafe.

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