As I drove up Foothills Parkway, traffic slowed to a crawl. The culprit? A pack of cyclists. Which logically makes no sense. There’s a substantial bike lane on Route 36 several feet wide that more than accommodates a cyclist without infringing on the flow of traffic. But what’s that saying — “give them an inch, they’ll take a mile.” Nowhere does that apply more than to the cycling community around Boulder, Colorado.
A Sense of Entitlement
Full confession — I’ve never been a big fan of road cycling. Like most people, I’ve been riding a bike since I was a little kid. My boyfriend bought me a spanking new road bike right after I graduated college. But even then, I rode my bike on asphalt bike trails. Riding with cars whizzing by at 60 miles per hour kind of scares me. These days I own a mountain bike, and ride exclusively on dirt forest service roads or single track mountain bike trails.
But in Boulder County, it doesn’t really matter if it’s on the road or on a trail. When it comes to cyclists, there is a sense of entitlement that they own the right of way. Everyone else should just get out of the way. Think I’m generalizing and being hard on cyclists? I have several specific examples.
Rules of the Road
The Department of Transportation has been very accommodating to cyclists in Boulder County. Many of the roads have been built with an ample shoulder or even a bike lane. Highway 36, the road from Boulder to Lyons, is a prime example of this. And yet cyclists routinely abuse this by riding in packs instead of single file.
For my job with Boulder County Parks, I had to tow a trailer on Route 36 and was forced to drive across the center line to get around a group of cyclists riding three across. They didn’t care that they put me in a very dangerous situation. They just cared that they could chat with each other as they rode.
Routinely, the RTD N Bus has to try and veer around cyclists in Boulder Canyon on blind curves because they insist on riding on a windy mountain road with no shoulder. And on Flagstaff Road, bicycles will pass cars who are driving the 15 mile per hour speed limit on a double yellow curve. It’s a bicyclist’s world, and why should they bother to follow the rules of the road?
Once while driving my car in downtown Boulder, I had a bicyclist ram into my rear bumper. I got out to talk to the offender and he accused me of wrongdoing.
“Hey, you just hit my car!”
“No, I didn’t, you hit me!”
“I’ve been sitting here at this intersection stopped for the last two minutes, waiting to make a turn. How could I possibly hit you if the car wasn’t even moving!”
With that, he flipped me off, and sped off through the red light.
I drive in constant fear through the streets of Boulder, in fear that some cyclist is cycling behind me who will not stop at the stop sign, and when I make the right turn, I will hit them.
Zero Trail Etiquette
And it’s not just confined to the roads. On trails in the area, that same sense of entitlement runs rampant. When downhill mountain bikers are supposed to yield to other trail users such as hikers, instead they bomb down the trails at breakneck speed. People in their way are forced to jump off the trail to avoid being smeared by a bike.
The problem has gotten so bad in some of the county parks, that they are forced to designate certain days as “no biking days” at Betasso Preserve. One day, while working for the county, I hiked down the trail to check a trail counter. A mountain biker yelled at me, “Get out of the way, you’re not even supposed to be here, it’s biker day!”
Unique to this Area
The strange thing is this sense of entitlement on the part of cyclists seems to be unique to this area. While living in Lake Tahoe, cyclists, motorists and hikers all seemed to be able to get along with each other. In the Grand Junction area, where mountain biking is incredibly popular, I never witnessed the hostility and rudeness I routinely see here.
It makes me wonder, where did this attitude come from and when did it start? And more importantly, is there anything that can be done to instill a little empathy to others who share the road or trail?