If you live in central Denver, then you’ve probably encountered, or at least heard about, the roads that have recently been closed to through traffic. Along with several other large cities, at the beginning of the month, Denver closed several streets in order to make more room for people to safely walk, bike, run, and exercise while staying safe and following social distancing guidelines.

Overall, I support this idea. The idea of making changes to improve road safety for pedestrians and cyclists is near and dear to my heart. Unfortunately, last week when my son and I were riding our bikes up 11th Avenue, we couldn’t help but notice that cars, bikes, and pedestrians are treating these road closures in conflicting and potentially dangerous ways.

If you encounter these road closures in your car or plan on making use of them as a pedestrian or cyclist, here are some of my recommendations on how to best treat the situation.

For Drivers

Share the Road - sign with bicycle

Are you making a delivery, moving, picking someone up to take them to the doctor, or parking your car because you live on that street? No? Then don’t drive on these roads! They’re clearly marked with barriers to prevent you from accidentally driving on them.

As mentioned in this Denverite article, these are the roads that you should not drive on unless you have a very valid reason for being there, and “because it’s the fastest way to get to my destination” is not a valid reason.

Denver streets closed to support social distancing:

  • E. 11th Avenue from Lincoln Street to Humboldt Street
  • Byron Place from Zenobia Street to Stuart Street
  • Stuart Street from 24th Avenue to 21st Avenue
  • E. 16th Avenue from Lincoln Street to City Park Esplanade

Even if you have a valid reason for driving on these closed roads, with the increase in bikes and pedestrians you will need to be extra cautious. Don’t assume a cyclist will stop at a stop sign (even though they should) or that a pedestrian will be on the sidewalk rather than in the middle of the road.

If you’re a motorcyclist the rules set forth for other motor vehicles on the road still apply to you.

For Bicyclists and Pedestrians

Runner wearing earbuds

Having the road to yourself while you’re on a bicycle is a liberating feeling. Happily there are tons of paths and trails in the Denver area where bicyclists can ride without fearing a collision with a car. However, these recently (and temporarily) closed roads may provide cyclists with a false sense of security. While technically cars are not permitted to drive on these roads, many still do – as we’ve seen.

Don’t bike like the stop signs and stoplights don’t exist. You still need to stop and then proceed when it’s safe or when the light is green.  Be on the lookout for cars and always make decisions based on the assumption that drivers don’t see you.

Pedestrians also need to watch out for cars. Make sure your headphones are at a low-enough volume that you can still hear what’s going on around you. Do you remember several years ago when a man was hit by a plane on a South Carolina beach? He was listening to music on his headphones, and he might have been able to get out of the way had he heard the plane coming. The chances of being hit by a plane are almost nil, but the chances of being hit by a car or even a bicycle that you didn’t hear are much greater.

Both bicyclists and pedestrians should also be aware that there’s a whole lot of day drinking going on right now, which could potentially lead to more drunk drivers. Drunk drivers are responsible for nearly 30% of all fatal car collisions in the United States, and when you’re on your bike or your feet, you aren’t protected by your own vehicle, so the chances of serious injury or death are even greater.

Here at the O’Sullivan Law Firm, we love seeing people out on their bicycles, walking and running, and making the most of this beautiful spring weather, even as we’re staying home most of the time to keep our communities as safe and healthy as possible. Please be safe out there. Enjoy, but don’t let your guard down. And as a driver, please respect these closures and the bicyclists and pedestrians who are making the most of them.

Questions, comments, concerns? Contact us today.