Executive Director Chris J Johnson




On the morning of Wednesday, March 11th, 12 year old Lincoln Middle School student Michael (not his real name) was riding his bike to school for the first time. Reports vary on whether he was in the bike lane or sidewalk, but he was, by all accounts, traveling against traffic. And was hit and seriously injured by an eastbound car who didn’t see him. Michael was taken to the hospital in an ambulance and treated for his injuries. He was also issued a ticket.

Last month, Bike Fort Collins unveiled our Chain Reaction program. Chain Reaction was conceived as a collaboration with local justice and law enforcement agencies to develop a more substantive and constructive approach towards curbing traffic violence in our community.

For some in the advocacy community, one of the big priorities of the movement is harsher sentencing for offenders in traffic related offenses. This is, in fact, one of the original demands of the growing “Vision Zero” movement.

As the movement has grown, a tension has been exposed between the core Vision Zero principles and advocates for transportation equity. Transportation equity is the belief that safe multimodal (walk, bike drive, public transportation) access from neighborhoods to schools and jobs and parks and healthcare and community centers should be basic rights, not amenities. These advocates point out that calls for increased “toughness” of law enforcement tend to disproportionately affect poor and minority populations. This takes many forms, from “pretextual traffic stops” to tickets that burden low income drivers and more.

Bike Fort Collins wants safer streets for all, but we believe that the role of law enforcement and the justice system must be smarter, not just tougher. We believe that in many, if not most cases, education and engagement are more constructive than incarceration or fines that sting poor residents more than others who commit the same offenses.

In the past few weeks, Fort Collins has seen at least two bike versus car crashes involving young cyclists who were found at fault and issued tickets.

Reports vary regarding the exact circumstances, but we do know that there are learning opportunities for all involved here. Regarding this as simply a failure of an individual, or even of just his parents, shrugs at responsibility all of us bear in the struggle for safer streets. We must do more. Bike Fort Collins and our Safe Routes to School partners are reminded of the stakes of our work. Our goal is to make Northern Colorado a place where every student can easily follow a safe, low stress route to school, and one where every student- and every parent- is equipped with the tools and resources to ride safely and confidently on those routes.

We are concerned about the message that ticketing 12 years olds sends.  And we hope to encourage  local law enforcement to connect students and families with the resources available to them via the Safe Routes program. We believe that this is ultimately the smartest path towards achieving the city’s goal of 50% of local students riding and walking to school. This month’s YGR Live will include a conversation with the leaders of our Safe Routes to School program. Please join us to hear what we hope to do and see how you can get involved.

Bike Fort Collins vision of “More Bikes – Safe Streets – One Voice” demands that we work with families to teach the next generation of safe, confident cyclists, to work with our public leaders to create a community that builds streets for all people, not just for cars, and that we call on our network to work together to make bikes available to any students who need them.

If you’d like to help Bike Fort Collins get Michael back on two wheels, and help us make bikes available to more local students,  I would love to hear from you at chris.johnson@bikefortcollins.org.

Chris J Johnson

Executive Director

Bike Fort Collins