DENVER — Mike Hughes was walking near the Denver City and County Building this week when he saw a vehicle parked in the bike lane. Whether it was a mistake in a very wrong place, or a particularly brazen purposeful violation, he couldn’t say.
Either way, though, the irony was too great not to share. He snapped a picture on his iPhone, and shared it to “r/Denver” on Reddit.
Within just a few days of posting the picture, it had received more than 750 “upvotes” on the platform, along with more than 270 comments — and counting.
The amount of interaction initially shocked Hughes — who, by his own telling, is used to getting only a handful of comments on his social media posts. He was, however, glad to play a part in the ongoing conversation on the biking infrastructure in Denver.
“I think the picture, somehow — and it’s response, which was far more than I would have imagined — I think it’s an example of the loss of courtesy, the rise in selfishness, the sort of inappropriate way that we behave toward each other,” Hughes said. “It’s may be a little signal that, hey, we’re better than this.”
Many comments and messages echoed these sentiments, saying cyclists encounter bike lane violations of this type constantly.
Hughes, who serves as executive director of the West Corridor Transportation Management Association, works with employers in the Denver area to encourage workers to carpool, bus, or bike more to work. As such, he is keenly aware of the barriers — physical and cultural — that can exist.
“Bikes are an important part of the long-term solution to air quality and to congestion, but also to just making Denver more livable,” Hughes said.
We asked the City of Denver how often it is enforcing against vehicles parked in bike lanes, and were told between 600 and 1,000 citations have been issued each year since 2019. The city acknowledges that it’s officers can’t be everywhere to find infractions, even as cyclists see them regularly.
One recurring complaint Denver7 received from several cyclists was an inability to report violations over the weekend, when many occur. The city’s Right of Way Enforcement (ROWE) phone line’s automated system would prompt them to call back during the work week, they said, when the car is usually no longer in the bike lane.
Vanessa Lacayo, a representative for Denver’s Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DOTI), said its online reporting form is the best way to report issues over the weekend, when there are fewer operators for its dispatch line. Lacayo also said the city is working to address concerns of blocked bike lanes and rider safety.
“We have agents out over the weekend to enforce parking and address other encroachments in the public right of way, including blocked bike lanes,” she said. “This summer, we’ll be exploring new technology to help broaden our efforts to keep bike lanes clear and make it safer for riders.”
Hughes, for his part, said he would like to see more enforcement in this realm. At the same time, he acknowledges that city resources are often spread thin as officers try to monitor multiple things. For now, he hopes conversations, like the one his picture started, can educate drivers.
“My hope is that they say to themselves, ‘I didn’t understand how much impact it would have by me doing that.’ And then, not make that same mistake,” he said.