Colorado governor John Hickenlooper was at Interbike in Las Vegas yesterday to announce that he plans to spend $100 million over the next four years to build bicycle infrastructure in Colorado. Hickenlooper went on to say that he wants Colorado to be the #1 bicycling state in the nation. Hickenlooper’s plan would add to Colorado’s already impressive bicycle infrastructure lineup and solidify the state’s bicycling bona fides.
Not surprisingly, the governor’s plan does not sit well with some legislators in the Centennial State. State senator Randy Baumgardner, a Republican from rural Hot Sulphur Springs, laments the fact that this money is being earmarked for bicycling when the state’s highways are crumbling. Specifically, he stated:
“I think that if people love to ride their bicycles then that’s their right to do that, but everybody is crying for our roads to be fixed and the same people who ride their bicycles ride the highways also and they also want them to be fixed.”
In spite of the fact that Baumgardner’s argument could also be applied to people who “love to drive their cars,” I think he raises a valid point…one worthy of debate. Instead of spending $100 million on infrastructure right away, perhaps the state could choose to enforce existing traffic laws and throw the book at motorists who intimidate and harrass the many cyclists who ride on Colorado’s roads…guys like this, for example.
The driver in the video, 75 year old James Ernst, eventually pleaded guilty to three counts of harrassment as was sentenced to twelve months probation, but likely only because video was rolling and his actions were so patently offensive. Every cyclist who logs serious miles has similar stories, some of which end tragically. In most cases there is no conviction.
If Baumgardner is sincere in his desire to improve roads for all users, including cyclists, then he needs to stand up and say so. He needs to support laws that discourage the type of behavior exhibited by James Ernst and countless other motorists from coast to coast. He needs to say that he supports the rights of ALL road users, not just motorists.
Absent that, Hickenlooper’s plan deserves serious consideration by all Coloradans…whether they cycle or not.