Wednesday, February 16

Black Hawk, Colorado: Welcome, But Leave the Bike at the Door

Black Hawk. Bike Ban.

They sort of go together these days. The Black Hawk ban of riding bicycles on public roads within city limits has spawned a lot of press, mostly negative, since its going into effect this past year.

Oddly, I have seriously failed to address the matter here on the Pavement's Edge. "What?!" You scream incredulously. It's true. I live a mere 27 miles and change from the well known casino town and I've just avoided chiming in on it because I have felt like the ban hasn't really affected me directly, though it most definitely affects one item on my cycling tick list: Ride the Peak-to-Peak Highway.

Before I get too far along in my rant to come, let me explain that I am anti-gambling. This traditional value I hold dear is most definitely going to bias my opinion about the entire matter.

Anyway, Black Hawk (pop. 118 in 2000) deemed it necessary to ban riding a bicycle within city limits on public roads for the welfare and safety of cyclists. Of course they failed to take a few things into consideration. First, walking a bike along a public highway pushing a bike is far more dangerous than riding the @#$%! bike. Second, let's just be frank, it's not about "protecting" cyclists. It's about the money. I'm sure some bigwig involved in Black Hawk's illustrious gambling industry got hung up behind a cyclist and stormed into Boss Hogg's office demanding the city ban all bikes from roads. Boss Hogg, being the fine upstanding crooked politician he is decides its best to keep the guy with deep pockets happy and screw those @#$%! cyclists. They’re just @#$%! liberal hippies from Boulder who are always pushing for tax reform.

But of course they can’t come out and say it that way. So Roscoe P. Coltrane comes up with this idea that the purpose of the ban can be to ensure the "safety of the cyclists on the dangerous narrow roads in town." Yeah, that'll work!

Of course what makes roads unsafe? Not bikes. CARS! @#$%! Cars!!! If only bikes were on the road there would be no such thing as a rollover crash, the jaws of life or flight for life. Plain and simple. So Black Hawk took a car problem and solved it by banning bicycles.

But of course this gets us back to the point that a person walking a bike along a road has a wider profile than a person riding a bike. They're going to be moving slower and have less control of the bike, so in effect, forcing cyclists to get off their bikes and walk is increasing the danger to cyclists.

Maybe the Black Hawks thought if they banned people riding bikes in town it would eventually dissuade cyclists from even coming within 20 miles of town. Well, not so much. Black Hawk is situated between the Peak-to-Peak Scenic Byway and the Central City Parkway. CCP allows better access to the PTP from Idaho Springs as the southern terminus of the PTP kinda peters out into no-man's land. On one side you have Highway 6 (yeah, the same one) which is Clear Creek Canyon and already off limits to bikes (truly a safety concern with all the shuttle bus traffic full of gamblers) and the only other option is US 40 over Floyd Hill along I-70. If you've never seen Floyd Hill just imagine the worst climb in your state and times that by three. In a car.

So the best option for those wanting to ride the PTP and perhaps string it together with the nearby Mount Evans Scenic Byway is through Idaho Springs and over the Central City Pakrway. Of course cycling is prohibited on the CCP just outside of Central City proper. Seems like there is a pattern. And it's not three lemons. Or is it.

An interesting note about Gilpin County (where Black Hawk is located): when you peruse the handy dandy Trails Illustrated map for the area (Central City-Rollins Pass) you see a lot of little bike icons along the roads through the national forest to the north and west of Central City (county seat) and Black Hawk (partner in crime). So you decide you’re going to head up into the high foothills to do some mountain biking (or hiking, or skiing, or bird watching) and when you turn on Apex Road you see a bunch of signs that inform you that parking along county roads is prohibited. You drive further and see more signs. After you totally fail to find a trailhead you wonder where the access to the public land is. Yeah, they don’t want that either.

There is a small treasure of forested 10,000 foot peaks immediately east of the James Peak Wilderness Area. Unfortunately there is little to no access. But of course if you continue on up the rough and rocky road you eventually wind up in Elk Park. It is a nice little alpine meadow with amazing views of James Peak and the surrounding mountains along the Continental Divide and it provides a small amount of safe public access to the area. Wow, I love it up there!

I wonder how the residents truly feel about mountain bikers in the national forest near their land? I think I can guess.

What it all boils down to, as I stated recently in a post is: "You're inhibiting my God-given right to go anywhere I want as fast as I am comfortable going and I don't like it," and in the case of whomever got this ugly ball rolling in Black Hawk: "And I have the money, power and influence to get rid of you."

So it all boils down to a strong sense of selfish entitlement. My road. My rights. I pay taxes. Blah, blah, blah.

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