No More Black Hawks: Bicycle Colorado Pushes “Open Roads” Bill

By Carolyn S on January 31, 2011

imageBlog contributed by Alliance intern, Camie Rodan

When the small town of Black Hawk banned bicycles from its streets, it prompted an international outcry from cyclists and active transportation advocates. This week, Colorado advocates will continue a legislative push to protect the rights of bicyclists on their public roads.

According to the Active Outdoor Recreation Economy, cycling is the second most popular activity in Colorado and a major contributor to a $10 billion dollar economy. As the advocates at Bicycle Colorado rightly point out: “Colorado can’t afford to ban bicycling in its communities.”

Unfortunately, the Centennial State made headlines for stifling bicycle tourism when the city of Black Hawk passed an ordinance that outlawed bicycles on the alleged grounds of rider safety. Even though the main thoroughfare is part of the popular Great Parks South Route, no alternatives were provided, causing cyclists to go 55 miles out of the way. Bicycle Colorado led the charge in raising awareness about the dangerous precedent and even participated in a lawsuit to have the measure overturned (their motion was denied in October).

Now, they’re taking their efforts to the state capitol.

Last week, Bicycle Colorado alerted its members about the Open Roads Act (HB 1092). Sponsored by State Representative Andy Kerr, the Open Roads Act aims to provide bicyclists relief by restricting bicycle bans like the one in Black Hawk, helping to ensure bicycle access to public roads across the state. Under the act, limited bicycle prohibitions are allowed only if local authorities provide a nearby alternative route. According to Bicycle Colorado: “The goal of the bill is to provide Colorado citizens and visitors with the ability to travel to jobs, schools, stores and attractions by bicycle without restriction from using public streets.”

“Banning bicycle travel on every street in a community penalizes people that choose healthy, affordable, pollution-free transportation,” says bill sponsor Representative Kerr.

“People travelling in Colorado by bicycle shouldn’t be turned back by ‘Road Closed’ signs at every entrance to a community,” adds Senator Greg Brophy, another co-sponsor. “Americans should have to the freedom to travel.”

The bill is now in the Transportation Committee and could come to a vote this week.

But, the Open Roads Act isn’t the only bill bicycle advocates are advancing this session. The Mountain Bike Safety Act (SB 36) aims to define the innate risks of mountain biking and to reduce the liability of landowners. State Senator Greg Brophy sponsors the bill and says, “I hear from landowners around the state who want to open trails, but are concerned about liability and insurance. This bill protects them while providing more opportunities for people to get outdoors and enjoy all that Colorado has to offer.”

Because landowners fear potential lawsuits due to the dangers presented by mountain biking, they are refraining from hosting trails on their land. As a result, mountain biking is often limited to multi-use trails. By barring lawsuits that can result from these inherent dangers, the act will help expand mountain biking areas, easing the use of multi-sport trails and inviting residents and tourists alike to bring their bikes for an exhilarating ride on Colorado trails.

Stay tuned for updates on both these bills on Bicycle Colorado’s legislative priorities page.

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