Bicycle commuters in Denver seem to be disproportionately targeted by the Denver Police for riding on the sidewalk when they are unable to give their side of the story.
The Denver Municipal Code in Section 54-576 prohibits riding on sidewalks with 4 exceptions and none of these applied to either of our cases. While I agree in general that riding on the sidewalk is not usually a good idea and is illegal in Denver, I encourage the law enforcement community to take all reasonable efforts to talk to all the witnesses (including the cyclist) and look at all circumstances before issuing a citation.
I was at the Denver Traffic Court recently representing two bicycle commuters that ended up having their tickets for “Riding on Sidewalks” dismissed. In both scenarios, the cyclists were not given the opportunity to explain what happened. We were able to obtain video from a loading dock that showed that they cyclist was riding in a protected bicycle lane until a car started to ride in his path.
My office was able to easily obtain this video. The investigating police officer made no effort to get available video while he was on the crash scene. In addition, the investigating police officer made no effort to talk to the cyclist who was struck by the car. Since there are always two or more sides to a story it makes sense to talk to all parties involved and all witnesses.
In the second case, the bike commuter was riding on the right side of Lowell Blvd. headed South when the car driver accused him of riding his bicycle on the sidewalk. The motorist admitted not seeing the cyclist until she hit him but claimed that he had to be on the sidewalk based on where he ended up after impact. That seems to be the common theme in these cases. Motorists are blaming victims when they do not see them. Cyclists generally ride on the road where it is safe to do so and makes for a better ride. Cyclists, given the chance, take all opportunities to get out of the way of motorists, and it may seem that they veer to the right or towards a sidewalk but that does not automatically mean that they were biking on the sidewalk.
Lauri and I discussed the basic premise of victim blaming in a recent video you can watch here.
Denver Municipal Code Prohibiting Bike Riding on Sidewalks
The Denver Municipal Code in Section 54-576 prohibits riding on sidewalks with 4 exceptions and none of these applied to either of our cases. Here’s the statute:
Sec. 54-576. – Riding on sidewalks.
Riding bicycles or electrical assisted bicycles upon or along sidewalks, whether on public property or private property opened for use by the general public, shall be unlawful except:
When the operator or rider thereof is a uniformed city employee or uniformed state employee or uniformed federal employee, which are working as part of their official duties and are riding a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle or a police officer riding a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle that is a marked or unmarked official police bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle or while engaged in the discharge of his or her official duties; or
When the operator or rider of a bicycle thereof is engaged in the delivery of newspapers;
Where the sidewalk is part of a designated bicycle route; or
When the operator or rider thereof is preparing to dismount and park the bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle at a location on the block on which the bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle is being operated, or the operator has just mounted and has not yet crossed a street or alley.
Bicyclists shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians on the sidewalk.
Riding electrical assisted bicycles upon or along sidewalks shall be unlawful, except as provided for in this section above.