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What's Driving You Crazy: In Denver, are runners allowed to use the bike lane?

Bike lane
Posted at 5:17 AM, Jan 12, 2021
and last updated 2021-01-12 07:40:08-05

Stephen from Denver writes, “What's driving you crazy? I cycle to work in Denver and I usually take 12th, east of Cheesman Park, because the bicycle lanes are wide and clearly marked. But almost every time I cycle, I meet a runner in the bicycle lane, going against the direction of travel. That forces me out of my lane and into the flow of traffic to avoid them. Can they do that? Especially when there's a perfectly good sidewalk on each side of 12th? Thanks, Baffled Bicyclist.”

The numerous bike lanes around Denver are designed for people on bikes and not for people running or walking.

Denver municipal code 54-543 refers to just this issue. It says about walking along roadways in part (a), “Where sidewalks are provided, it shall be unlawful for any pedestrian to walk along and upon an adjacent roadway.” As you mentioned, there is a perfectly good sidewalk on both sides of 12th Avenue so, according to Denver code, it is technically illegal for those pedestrians to be in the bike lane and not on the sidewalk.

Christine Downs with the Denver Police Department tells me, “Safe travel requires that everyone, whether motorist, bicyclist, pedestrian, etc., know and follow traffic laws. If your viewer would like to address this specific issue with police, we encourage him to contact their local police district station.”

MORE: Read more traffic issues driving people crazy

Even though the bike lanes are officially designed for bikes only, I highly doubt a Denver police officer would kick someone out of it but hopefully give the runner a warning. In reality, Denver’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure is just happy anybody is using the bike lane for any purpose except for driving a car or parking a car in it.

In really, the only option for you is to do what you already do, ride for a short time in the traffic lane, which obviously is a bit dangerous at times depending on what street you’re on. You could also try to educate the runner when you ride past them about the law (be careful when you do that). I would not recommend giving the runner or walker a little kick in the back side as you ride by — even though you could easily get away since you are on a bike and they are on their feet (jokes!).

Incidentally, where sidewalks are not provided, any pedestrian walking along and upon a highway or street shall, whenever practicable, walk only on the left side of the street or highway or its shoulder facing traffic which may approach from the opposite direction.

Denver7 traffic anchor Jayson Luber says he has been covering Denver-metro traffic since Ben-Hur was driving a chariot. (We believe the actual number is over 20 years.) He's obsessed with letting viewers know what's happening on their drive and the best way to avoid the problems that spring up. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or listen to his Driving You Crazy podcast on iTunes , Stitcher , Google Play or Podbean.