DENVER — The gambling town of Black Hawk has prohibited touring bicyclists from pedaling while in town, becoming what's thought by cycling advocates to be the only city in the nation with such a restriction.
Bicycle advocacy groups are gearing up to challenge the law, which they say is illegal.
"The danger here is the precedent," Dan Grunig of Bicycle Colorado, an advocacy group, said Thursday. "We don't believe it's right or legal and we want to make sure it's addressed before it's spread any further."
Black Hawk began enforcing its ordinance and issuing $68 tickets on June 5, five months after it passed the law requiring bicyclists to dismount and walk their two-wheelers through the town of about 100 residents. Black Hawk City Manager Michael Copp said eight citations have been issued so far.
"At this point the council has no intention of repealing the ban," Copp said. "They believe their actions are what's best for it's citizens in Black Hawk, which are casinos and their patrons."
Copp, who said he's not a bicyclist, said the council passed the ordinance after the town experienced a surge in traffic – buses, delivery trucks, and motorists – that followed a law that increased the maximum gambling betting limits from $5 to $100. Copp said there were no accidents that prompted the ordinance, just concern over conflicts between motor vehicles and bicycles on streets built in the 1800s that were designed for horses and carriages.
Black Hawk's ban comes around the time a report commissioned by Congress found an upward trend in people walking and bicycling for transportation. The federal government last year earmarked $1.2 billion to help communities become more pedestrian and bicycle friendly, according to the recently released report titled Assessing National Trends in Bicycling and Walking. The report also found that 11.9 percent of all reported trips were taken by foot or bicycle, up from 7.9 percent 20 years ago.
Charlie Zegeer, Director of the U.S. Department of Transportation-funded Pedestrian and Bicycling Information Center at the University of North Carolina, said communities concerned about safety provide alternate routes. Cities in Europe that were built centuries ago have also made accommodations, Zegeer said.
"It's a matter of priorities," he said.
An outright ban on being able to ride a bicycle through a community is unheard of in any other community in the country, Zegeer said.
Black Hawk's bicycle ban only applies to the narrow thoroughfares in town that are lined with historic buildings and newly built casinos, not the few residential streets. Bicyclists riding in on Colorado 279, a main route through the city, would have to dismount and walk about a quarter mile, Copp said.
Grunig's group, which claims 7,000 members statewide, has appealed to national groups to help.