The bicycle ban imposed on most city streets in the small gambling town of Black Hawk, Colorado, is legal, according to a municipal court judge.
The ruling means that the three ticketed bicyclists who fought their tickets in court, with the help of pro bono attorneys and the nonprofit Bicycle Colorado, will probably either pay their fines or appeal the cases.
Bicycle Colorado announced the judge's decision on Wednesday.
Black Hawk city council enacted a law in 2009 to make it possible to ban bicycles on certain streets for safety reasons. Early in 2010, the city erected “no bicycling” signs on nearly every street in town and police started issuing $68 tickets to folks riding their bicycles.
When news of the bike ban came to light this past June, neither the city manager or police chief could recall a collision in town involving a bicycle. However, city manager Bill Copp explained that the narrow streets, with heavy bus and car traffic to the city's casinos, makes bicycling dangerous.
The bicycle ban brought out a chorus of opposition; Black Hawk boycotts were announced and Bicycle Colorado held a rally which drew hundreds to the State Capital steps.
Black Hawk 3
Three ticketed cyclists — Jamie Webb, Jeffery Hermanson, and Mickey Jeronimus — decided to challenge their tickets in court. They were represented by pro bono attorneys who sought to dismiss the tickets in Judge Ronald W. Carlson's courtroom beginning in October. Bicycle Colorado made Judge Carlson's decision available here.
The attorneys for the three maintained that the bicycling ban passed by city council in January 2010 conflicted with state law on a number of grounds.
In one case, the attorneys argued that one of the closed streets — Gregory Street — is the only connection between Colorado State Highway 119 and Central City, a town west of Black Hawk. That connection makes the issue a matter of state and local law.
“Bicycles may be walked”
Although the judge says there may be a conflict because of a lack of alternate route through the city. “However, it is not impossible for a cyclist to comply with both as bicycles may be walked through the city streets. …”
The attorneys also cited state laws that give bicyclists the right to use the same roads as motorists. The judge, however, said that statute also requires that bicyclists ”when using streets and highways within incorporated cities and towns, shall be subject to local ordinances regulating the operation of bicycles and electrical assisted bicycles…”
The attorneys made a few other arguments, all which the judge shot down in denying the motion to dismiss the tickets.
Two other bicycling bans were imposed or proposed in the US this year.
Garden City, Idaho, erected signs ordering cyclists to dismount on a 1.5-mile stretch of a bike path along the Boise River. A bicycling group has filed a lawsuit to win the right to ride their bicycles on the bike path.
In St. Charles County, Missouri, a county councilman proposed banning bicycles on a number of curvy roads. That proposed bill died after a series of public hearings.
This Black Hawk bicycling ban sets dangerous precedent. If it succeeds, it could give an easy option to other cities whose leaders are either too lazy or stupid to make roads safe for bicycle transportation.
Bicycle Colorado gave credit to the pro bono attorneys.
“Bicycle Colorado thanks Andrew Shoemaker and Paul Schwartz at Shoemaker Ghiselli + Schwartz LLC for their pro-bono representation of the defendants in this case. In addition, Brad Tucker at ColoBikeLaw.com, Rudy Verner at Davis Graham & Stubbs LLP, and Duke law student Gael Hagen also have contributed volunteer resources and expertise.”