On September 14, I was riding my e-bike home from work when I had my worst cycling experience in Denver.
Commute from Westword office at 1280 Lincoln Street to my apartment in Uptown, I was traveling north on Pennsylvania Street between 16th and 17th Avenue around 5:20 p.m. when a driver behind me revved his car and drove very close to me.
That really ticked me off. And as I continued to drive north, I noticed the car, a silver Kia Sportage, had stopped at the intersection. I caught up to him and yelled something like “What the hell are you doing?”
The front and rear passengers rolled down their windows, revealing a male driver and two female passengers, all of whom appeared to be older teenagers or young adults. They insulted me, then the passenger in front threw a paper cup filled with water at me, while the woman behind threw a crumpled bag of chips at me. After we exchanged a few words, the driver drove the Sportage through the intersection.
I followed, since I was going home in the same direction. Then the car stopped. I pulled out my phone to take a picture of his California license plate when suddenly the driver put the car in reverse, backed into my bike, stopped and then backed into my bike again.
I shouted, “Whoa, whoa, whoa, stop, stop! What the hell are you doing?!” A man walking his dog also yelled at the driver to stop. The driver then took off, heading north on Pennsylvania Street.
Even though I wasn’t injured and my bike seemed to be fine, I felt pretty shaken up. I got the phone number of the man who saw what happened, then called 911 to report the incident.
The next day, I walked to Denver Police Department District 6 Headquarters to file a report. An officer told me that my report would be saved in the system and if a car with that license plate was intercepted, the report would be displayed. I had a feeling there would be no investigation into what happened, but I was still glad I filed the report.
The next day I received a call from a DPD officer letting me know that the car that had backed up was actually a stolen vehicle and that officers had found it abandoned late on the night of September 14th. The cop told me it was a good thing the driver and his passengers didn’t have guns earlier in the day, and I agreed with her.
I see this incident as a learning experience. As someone who uses my e-bike to get to and from work every day and also to get around town, I can get quite annoyed with some riders. Some act like reckless idiots, others drive like crazy assholes; either way, I’ll sometimes turn them off or tell them to fuck off. It’s a bad habit, not because the people receiving those swear words or those birds don’t deserve them; they do. It’s a bad habit because these people could easily decide to do much worse. It’s an indictment of the society we live in, but I realize that I have to accept it and stop interacting with drivers. It’s just not worth it.
I also view this incident as a reminder that the City of Denver needs to work harder and faster to build its network of protected bike lanes. Denver’s multi-use trails are lovely, but cyclists really need to be able to get from point A to point Z and everywhere in between without having to cycle right next to a car that could be stolen…and whose driver has nothing to lose.