Cyclists take to streets in critical mass calling attention to three deaths in one week
DENVER – It’s been a brutal week for cyclists on the Denver subway streets.
Three cyclists were hit and killed by drivers last week, and members of the Denver cycling community say it’s three too many.
They want changes to make the streets safer.
Dozens of cyclists took to the streets in a critical mass race Sunday afternoon, to call attention to the dangers of distracted driving, speeding and being impaired.
“We are here today because we will not accept a world where three people are killed in a week just for riding a bicycle,” said Allen Cowgill, critical mass organizer.
Cyclists gathered at a Denver skate park near 19th and Little Raven to remember the victims.
12-year-old Sean Stephenson was killed on May 14 as he was crossing backlit to West Ken Caryl and Chatfield.
Two days later, championship runner Gwen Inglis was struck and killed by a driver, who apparently veered into a designated cycle lane on West Alameda Parkway in Lakewood.
“And a 60-year-old man from Boulder, whose name we don’t yet know … was killed on Thursday while shopping on his way home,” Cowgill said.
From the Skate Park, cyclists took to the streets.
Their goal is to let drivers know that cyclists are also on the road and that drivers should exercise caution.
Rob Toftness, co-founder of the Denver Bicycle Lobby, told Denver7 that it is essential that drivers pay more attention.
“You are piloting a 4,000 to 6,000 pound missile, so (the cyclists) might be making a mistake,” he said, “but you have a gun, so you have to be more careful.”
Many of those who participated in the critical mass race knew one of the casualties.
Gary Harty knew Gwen Inglis.
“She and her husband were the most wonderful people,” he said. “They were great runners.”
Harty told Denver7 that speeding, distracted driving and impaired driving are the leading causes of death for vulnerable people.
He thinks the streets need to be redesigned.
“In Lakewood, there are several east-west avenues where the posted speed limit is 35,” he said. “The default speed limit is 40 to 45. You add the distractions, they’re not just in your pocket, but now they’re built into the dashboard.”
He said if the streets were a little tighter it would be easier to enforce the speed limits.
Cowgill said the speed limits should be lowered.
“We know that a 20 mph speed limit means that a pedestrian, or a person on a bicycle, has a 90% chance of surviving an accident,” he said. “We know that a 40 mph speed limit means the same person riding a bike has only a 10% chance of surviving this crash. If we had lower speed limits, if we had tracks more protected cycle routes, we would not be here today. “
Harty said he had been involved in bicycle safety education for 40 years and always believed he could avoid getting hit.
“And then I was hit by a motorist turning on a red light,” he said. “It’s painful.”
Denver Bicycle Lobby co-founder Rob Toftness said he too believes the speed limits should be lowered.
“Someone’s safety is never overcome by your convenience,” he said.
Toftness told Denver7 that people behind the wheel need to understand that cyclists are people too.
“A person on a bicycle is a mom, a teacher, a doctor, a cook or a child,” he said. “A lot of times when you’re behind a windshield you can get angry or experience a moment, and you can forget about it.”
He said every driver should be aware.
“You’re piloting a 4,000 to 6,000 pound missile,” he said, “so maybe (the cyclist) made a mistake, but you got a (4,000 pound) gun , so you need to be more careful. “
Cowgill asked the other riders to contact their city council representatives and ask them to support safer infrastructure, that is, protected cycle paths.
“Ask them what they are doing to make our streets safer,” he said. “We’re spending $ 50 million (to redo) the I-25 and Broadway interchange. Fifty million dollars could build a whole network of bike lanes of protected bike lanes in the city of Denver, or Boulder, or Lakewood, or Littleton. We really need your help to change the conversation so that we can get this infrastructure safe, because right now it’s not happening at the rate we need, to prevent these deaths from happening. “
Critical mass runners gathered outside the Denver City and County Building, where they staged a “die-in”, lying in the street, in silence, for three minutes. One minute for each victim.