Monday, August 31, 2009

Worst bike route in Denver

This is the worst stretch of bike path in Denver.

It's Route D9, along 38th Street, between Lafayette Street and Arkins Court. There are posted signs here indicating that D9 continues on the sidewalk.

There are three problems right away with this.

  1. It is otherwise illegal to ride on the sidewalk! This is another case, along with prejudiced traffic lights, where the city is not consistent in its message or in its standards when it comes to cyclists.

  2. Riding on the sidewalk generally agreed upon to be a very dangerous thing to do. Pedestrians aren't expecting to see you, and motorists pulling out of driveways, alleys, and parking lots can't see you.

  3. Lastly, this particular stretch of sidewalk is particularly nasty. It's always covered in debris and broken glass, and at one point it goes under an overpass where it's dark and spooky. You're guaranteed at that point to encounter broken glass, chances are very good you'll have to ride around some cardboard boxes somebody was sleeping on earlier, and I've more than once had to stop and get off and walk around somebody either walking on that very narrow bit of sidewalk or actually still sleeping on the cardboard.

Last week, I was riding along on this sidewalk after a long ride on the river trails when what is happening in the above illustration happened to me. This old purple Buick in a driveway inched toward the sidewalk ahead and to my left, and then stopped. The windows were tinted and the sun was glaring, so I couldn't see the driver very clearly, but the car had stopped and I was close and in plain sight so I assumed they saw me.

Apparently they didn't, for when I was almost at the car, it lurched forward to turn across me and enter traffic. I could see that its Trajectory Of Lurch intersected my own forward trajectory just a couple feet ahead of the two of us, so I pulled hard on my brakes and yelled, "STOOOOOOOOOOOOOP!"

The car did stop, and I bumped gently into it with my front tire, which wedged neatly between the back of the front right tire and the front of the front right wheel well. The driver had her hood sticking out slightly into traffic, and so put the car in gear and starting backing up. I hollered again, "Wait, wait, wait!" as I kind of hop-scooted along with her to prevent my front tire from binding up in the wheel well and getting all kinds of messed up.

She stopped and I extracted myself, backed up, swung around and continued across the front of the car to the other side -- the driver's side -- where I stopped. The lady jumped out and apologized effusively, saying she hadn't seen me because she was looking the other way at the oncoming traffic.

We both assured each other and ourselves that we and our prospective vehicles were okay, and that there were no hard feelings anywhere, and then we continued on our own separate ways.

That, folks, is why riding on the sidewalk is bad!

Don't do it. It's against the law.

I resolved at that moment not to do it even when the posted signage indicates that I should.

I will from now on be observing a self-imposed Mandatory Detour around that stretch of D9. Because it's dangerous and shouldn't be ridden on.

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