Colorado High Court Overturns Town Ban of Bicycles

Yahoo Contributor Network

The Colorado Supreme Court on Monday overturned the City of Black Hawk's ordinance that banned bicycles on certain streets. The high court stated that, according with state statutes, the city cannot ban bicycles on streets unless it provides alternate bikeways. Here are the details.

* According to court's opinion, written by Justice Gregory J. Hobbs, Jr., in January 2010, Black Hawk enacted an ordinance that banned bicycles on nearly all of its streets, stating that "such traffic is incompatible with the normal and safe movement of vehicular traffic."

* In June 2010, petitioners Jamie Webb, Jeffrey Hermanson and Michaleen Jeronimus were completing a long-distance bicycle ride beginning and ending in Golden. They ride required the trio to pass through Black Hawk on a route that connects Central City with the Peak-to-Peak Highway.

* While riding along Gregory Street, in the casino town of Black Hawk, the bicyclists were pulled over and ticketed for violation of the city's ordinance against bicycles.

* The petitioners filed a motion to dismiss the traffic charge in Black Hawk Municipal Court, the opinion stated, arguing that the ordinance conflicted with state statute requiring alternate bicycle routes when bikes are banned from public streets. The bicyclists also argued that the ban was not a reasonable exercise of the police powers and that it violated the Colorado and U.S. Constitution.

* The municipal court rejected the bicyclists' arguments, stating that Black Hawk -- as a home-rule municipality -- could regulate such matters and had not constitutionally enlarged its authority through the ordinance. Further, the court found that the city had relied on a traffic study and that the study provided a basis for the enforcement of the ordinance as a valid exercise of the city's police power.

* The Gilpin County District Court later upheld the Black Hawk municipal court's ruling.

* However, the opinion noted, the Supreme Court found that the ordinance conflicts with state law, which requires the city to accommodate bicycle traffic.

* The Supreme Court found that the matter was not merely a local concern -- which would fall under the authority of a home-rule municipality -- but of mixed state and local concern, meaning that home-rule regulation may coexist with state regulation as long as there is no conflict. If there is a conflict, the opinion stated, then state statute supersedes the conflicting local regulation.

* The court found that, by inhibiting bicycle travel on the only route between a state highway and another city, the matter went beyond a local concern. In addition, the court opinion stated that the ordinance would likely cause future bicycle tours to bypass the area entirely, harming nearby communities that rely on tourism.

* "Despite Black Hawk's contention," the opinion stated, "we find no constitutional support allowing a home-rule municipality to ban bicycling from outside to inside and through its city limits."

View Comments (71)