On Wednesday, August 18, three bicyclists that received tickets for riding their bikes in Black Hawk appeared in court for arraignment and pled not guilty based on an invalid ordinance. This initiates the legal process to determine the validity of the bike ban.
At the hearing, the defense attorneys moved to dismiss the charges and submitted a legal brief arguing that bike ban violates state law and is unconstitutional. Primary among the arguments are that the bike ban ordinance violates state law because it prohibits cycling on the access road connecting Black Hawk to other communities, and that it is unconstitutional because it treats Black Hawk citizens differently from visitors.
The judge ordered a comprehensive briefing schedule and set a hearing for oral argument on the matter for October 20 in Black Hawk.
The case is being heard in Black Hawk’s Municipal Court, which holds court once a month on the third Wednesday of the month under Judge Ronald W. Carlson. In Colorado, city court judges are hired by the city council, so it’s a hopeful sign that Judge Carlson is even willing to hear this case.
Maybe he’s bemused by the 39 page brief submitted by defendants’ counsel for a traffic ticket.
The Motion to Dismiss is a fascinating read. Besides the comprehensive list of the Colorado statutes the city of Black Hawk violates through their bicycle ban, some of the highlights include:
- The constitutional argument the defendants make is apparently under the equal protection clause, rather than any free travel common law argument, because Black Hawk residents are permitted to use their bikes on town streets if that’s how they need to get around. The law treats residents and non-residents unequally.
- The original bike ban ordinance passed in July 2009 states the law was passed based on findings that local streets are not safe for cyclists. Only after the city began getting some heat on the issue did they try to cover their bases by ordering an engineering study after the fact.
- The ‘bicycle safety’ engineering study performed by Stolfus & Assocates for Black Hawk is itself questionable, according to the brief. The bike safety report used Federal Highway Administration methodology for determining the “bike friendliness” of a community that makes no finding on the safety of a road.
Props to Colorado cyclists for funding this defense. I’m sure St Charles Missouri cyclists are watching this closely.http://www.cyclelicio.us/2010/black-hawk-bike-ban-court-case/