Safety advocates seek to stop bicycle fatality trend

Kailyn Lamb (article and photo by Kailyn Lamb)

On the north side of the street where South Marion Parkway curves into East Bayaud Avenue in Denver, stands a bicycle painted completely white. The bike is under a tree, with stacks of bouquets piled next to it and a circle of electric votive candles around it.

The ghost bike stands at the intersection where Alexis Bounds was killed on July 24 while riding in a designated bike lane. In the street, someone has written “another slain cyclist” in green paint.

During July, Colorado added several of these memorial ghost bikes to its streets. Like crosses, or the blue city signs that read “Please drive safely,” followed by a victim’s name, they are a physical memorial — a testament to the lives lost on Colorado roadways. 

For Brad K. Evans, the founder of Denver Cruisers, a monthly bike event organization, and former candidate for a seat on the Regional Transportation District’s board of directors, the ghost bikes are a stark symbol. 

“We need a better conversation about the safety of our streets,” he said. “It’s essentially a gravestone.”

In the metro area including Adams, Arapahoe, Broomfield, Denver, Douglas and Jefferson counties, 35 pedestrians and cyclists have died so far this year, according to data from the Colorado Department of Transportation as of Aug. 20. A majority of those fatalities happened in Denver where 10 pedestrians and two cyclists were killed. On Aug. 9, Denver also reported its first electric scooter death when Cameron Hagan died as the result of an accident earlier this month. 

But it’s not just a problem in Denver, or even Colorado, said Megan Hottman, a lawyer who focuses on personal injury cases for cyclists as well as safety laws for bikes and pedestrians nationwide. This upward trend in deaths is happening across the country, Hottman said. In 2017, 52 bicyclists and pedestrians were killed in the metro area. That number rose to 60 in 2018, according to data from CDOT.

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