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Cyclists, residents discuss road safety in Deer Creek Canyon

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Tensions persist over narrow lanes, number of bikers on canyon roads

By Daniel Laverty

Nearly 100 concerned cyclists and Deer Creek Canyon residents joined Jeffco County Commissioner Donald Rosier at the Sampson Community Club building in Littleton last Wednesday to discuss safety on the canyon’s roads.

“The issue here is safety,” Rosier told the packed house. “Nobody here is happy with the way things are now, and that’s why we’re here tonight.”

Deer Creek Canyon is an ideal place for cyclists because of its well-maintained roads and desirable climbs, but crowding on weekends and the canyon’s blind curves have posed safety challenges for motorists and cyclists. 

“We’re looking at everything,” said Lt. James Lucas of the Jeffco Sheriff’s Office. “We’re trying to make it safe for cyclists, motorists and residents.”

Lucas presented a slide show on state laws related to motorists and cyclists. He highlighted the “3-foot rule,” which allows a motorist, when safe, to cross a double-yellow line while passing a cyclist to allow 3 feet of space between the two vehicles.

Rosier then started a dialogue with the audience. Residents complained that cyclists ride side by side — and too fast or too slow. They also repeated an oft-heard complaint that some urinate on private property.

“There’s no restrooms for them to use, so they end up peeing on my property,” one woman said. “I wouldn’t go to their house and pee on their driveway.”

Residents also said a lack of law enforcement in the canyon lets cyclists “get away” with illegal activities. Under state law, a bicyclist must follow the speed limit and is treated like any vehicle.

Joe Porter has lived in Deer Creek Canyon for two months.

“I’ve almost killed seven people in the last two weeks,” he said. “It’s not that we don’t want to share the road; it’s that this is our only road … to get to church, work and school.”

Porter said cyclists travel at speeds up to 30 mph around blind curves and that his property would be a perfect spot for law enforcement to catch speeders.

“Set a speed trap on my land, and you can pay off the county’s debt in three days,” Porter said. “(Cyclists) don’t care how fast they’re going, and it makes it unsafe for (residents).”

A cyclist who said she bikes Deer Creek Canyon three or four times a year suggested limiting the number of cyclists allowed on canyon roads at any one time.

“You could come up with a metering system,” she said. “Allow 12 cyclists to go down the canyon at one time and allow 12 to come up.”

Many residents nodded with approval.

“That’s a great idea,” Rosier said. “The metering option has never been brought to my attention.”

Nate Reid of the Colorado State Patrol said the relationship between motorists and cyclists is delicate.

“I know it’s frustrating for motorists,” Reid said. “(But) going too fast or rushing things can cause a crash.” 

Along with metering the canyon, another popular suggestion was starting a volunteer ambassador group. The group would be in charge of handing out literature to cyclists and motorists to educate them on safety.

Dave Evans, chairman of Bike Jeffco, had many suggestions to ease tension between the two groups.

“We need to expand the shoulders of the road (on curves),” Evans said. “There need to be places for cyclists to rest. There should be informative, historical signage along the roads to highlight the rich history of the canyon.”

Rosier and Lucas thanked everyone for their input and said their suggestions were noted and appreciated. 

“Obviously, we can’t make everyone happy,” Rosier said. “We have to look now at low-cost solutions that will make this better.”

Rosier added that he would start working on solutions immediately and would keep residents updated.

 

Contact Daniel Laverty at Daniel@evergreenco.com or at 303-350-1043. Follow him on Twitter at @LavertyReports. Check www.ColumbineCourier.com for updates.