Denver, CO

Walker-bicycle collisions not uncommon in Denver

David Heitz

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This interesting sculpture is right off an Aurora RTD station.Andrew Coop/Unsplash

Walkers are a voting bloc.

There are all sorts of groups that represent pedestrians. That’s because in our busy world, pedestrians frequently get mowed down in busy streets.

Not only do thriving megalopolises like Denver have cars everywhere, but if you’re a pedestrian you must also watch out for scooters, bicycles, and other hazards on wheels.

Walkers are a special group with their own special interests. While cities like Denver have ample walking and bike paths, pedestrians and cyclists often must share a narrow strip of the road.

When I saw that several bicyclists staged a “die-in” last week, I felt their pain. Motor vehicle-bicycle crashes in Denver are through the roof. People are dying. Three people died in auto-bicycle crashes last week alone.

But I also could not help but note that nothing was said of bicycle-pedestrian crashes, which also happen quite frequently. In fact, it’s difficult to find statistics on such crashes in Denver. A 2012 report by the Denver Council of Governments showed no data available on bicycle-pedestrian crashes.

The internet is full of law firms dispensing advice about what to do if you’re in a pedestrian-bicycle collision. Velosurance writes, “The modern approach to ruling such cases in many jurisdictions recognizes that in many cases both the cyclist and the pedestrian may be at fault. For example, if a cyclist hits a pedestrian who suddenly stepped into the bike lane outside of an intersection, the cyclist can claim that pedestrian breached his duty of care.

“It may also turn out that the cyclist was riding with incorrect tire pressure or failed to maintain the bike resulting in increased braking distance. This would be considered negligence on the cyclist’s part and the cyclist may be required to bear some of the responsibility.”

What is duty of care?

You may be violating your duty of care, according to Velosurance, if you are a cyclist who is:

· Riding a poorly maintained bike

· Running a red light or a stop sign

· Distracted riding (i.e., using a cellphone)

· Failing to yield the right of way

· Not obeying directional or traffic control road markings

· Riding under the influence

· Not having proper lighting while riding at night

· Not wearing safety equipment (helmet) when required. Colorado has a law mandating children 16 and under wear bicycle helmets.

If you are a pedestrian, you may be violating duty of care and be at fault if you:

· Ignore traffic signals at intersections

· Not use marked crossroads

· Not walk in designated areas (i.e., sidewalks or, in the absence of sidewalks, the side of the road facing oncoming traffic)

· Cross roadways despite oncoming traffic

· Intoxication

The International Federation of Pedestrians at its recent conference declared that “speed kills” and adopted an opinion paper calling for 20 mph speed limits in urban areas worldwide. Many cities around the world, including in Germany and in Spain, already have implemented such limits.

Most cyclists in Denver fly down the North Platte bike path at speeds that fast or faster. When I was experiencing homelessness, some rude bikers would sideswipe me and say, “Get a job.” Others would become angry when I did not hear them coming up behind me at such a high rate of speed.

Most were courteous, and rang a bell on their bicycle while exclaiming, “Passing on your left” far in advance of any possible collision.

Basic math explains how slowing down reduces accidents. With more stopping time, both parties have more time to get out of the way.

Bicyclists running down pedestrians in New York

For whatever reason, the issue of cyclists running down pedestrians isn’t discussed much. In a recent New York Post story, the headline said it all: “NYC bicyclists are killing pedestrians and the city won’t stop it.”

“Mayor Bill de Blasio has aggressively pushed a bike-friendly agenda, adding about 100 miles of dedicated lanes for cyclists amid a spike in rider collisions, but he’s done little to address the danger that bikers themselves pose,” the newspaper blasted. “Since 2011, bicyclists have injured more than 2,250 pedestrians — including at least seven who died — according to stats from the city Department of Transportation and published reports.”

The Post reported in August 2019 that two pedestrians already had been killed by cyclists that year in New York.

“The latest was Michael Collopy, a 60-year-old Chelsea resident who was plowed into by a cyclist while standing in a bike lane in the Flatiron District on July 31 and died a week later. The bicyclist fled.

“He was one of the good ones in the building, a nice person,” said Jay, a doorman in West 23rd Street apartment complex where Collopy lived. “He was always full of jokes.”

Also killed was Donna Strum, 67. The post said she was “smashed into by a cyclist on April 24 while crossing West 57th Street near Sixth Avenue. She was in the crosswalk.

“An unidentified 40-year-old cyclist ran a red light and struck her, fracturing her skull. She died on May 4. The biker told cops that his gears malfunctioned, and his brakes failed. Cops issued him a summons and he was released.”

Denver is currently building its much touted 5280 trail, which will allow walkers and bicyclists to travel more easily and safely throughout the city. Let’s hope the trail leaves plenty of space for walkers and bicyclists to interact safely.

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I have been in the news business more than 30 years, spending much of my career at some of the best newspapers in the country. Today, I specialize in Denver local news, health reporting, social justice issues, addiction/recovery/mental health news, and topics surrounding homelessness and human trafficking.

Denver, CO
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