It feels like yesterday. The first night ride into work. I remember the odd feeling as I powered down the Cherry Creek Trail, listening to Nine Inch Nails on the lowest possible volume while remaining completely vigilant of my surroundings. As “Copy of a Copy” hummed quietly from my pocket, I dodged sprinklers, the spare piece of trash, and had possibly one of the most interesting free sightseeing experience in the Metro-Denver area after 9:00 PM.
The initial couple of miles was decidedly suburban and terrifying. While most people fear cycling downtown. The stretch of area between the 11th Avenue Cherry Creek Trail and work is decently marked for a bike lane in the Golden Triangle area. The stretch from Dahlia to E Kentucky avenue, however, was a nightmare. A corridor that is steadily increasing in traffic, it boasted 4 way stops at the top of large hills, a traffic light halfway through that seemed to take an eternity to turn, designated parking past the light, and a protected pedestrian lane from Dahlia to Cherry at Kentucky (about a block) that cyclists were supposed to go in (spoiler, its against state law to go through). Even though this part of my commute only took about 12-13 minutes, it was always a very harrowing 12-13 minutes, with the closest encounters with cars happening along this stretch.
Glendale to 1st and University
Once I reached the trail at Exposition Ave and S Cherry Creek Street, it became a no-brainer. The trail is incredibly well marked, with stops along the way to get off to your end destination. While signage is a lot less defined on the Glendale section of the trail, it picks up past the Cherry Creek Mall once 1st and University is crossed. The most memorable part of this section is immediately after the mall, where a rabbit that I nicknamed “First,” seems to appear around 9:20 PM. this section of the trail comprises another 2-2.5 miles of the entire ride.
1st and University to 11th and Speer
The most difficult turn of the route takes place around University and 1st. A sharp right with narrow mixed lanes where cyclists are encouraged yield to pedestrians, there is a raised surface at the bottom that acts as an impromptu “speed trap” to slow down riders. However it often ends as a “wipe-out point” if you approach it too fast, so braking was a big component of my time going down it. At night, there weren’t too many people going down it, but it was harrowing when a cyclist was going in the opposite direction and they had forgotten to put on lights.
After I reemerged on the other side of University, I would pass by the Denver Country Club to get back on the core of the trail. Like the turn under University, it was a mixed use pavement section, but it was incredibly frustrating to have to take a detour around the club and then get back on the trail. While I will elucidate my thoughts on the country club later on in this blot, the biggest frustration was a stoplight right at the entrance of the club at 1st and Gilpin, where I would be stopped at times to wait for one car to cross the intersection. After passing this light, it was a straight shot all the way to 11th and Speer.
From Downing to 11th was the most interesting stretch of people watching. From professional cyclists with interesting lights, to late night Lime and Ofo riders for the brief period when they were allowed until the ban, to a large homeless population that used the trail as refuge, it was an experience. This was always that stretch of the trail that, if anyone said “hey” I would keep peddling. I can’t think of anytime I would want to have a random conversation with a stranger on a trail after 9:30 PM on a weeknight. After passing 11th and Speer, I would take a right and turn off at the ramp. This section was the longest, topping in around 2.5 to 3 miles.
11th and Speer to Work
Once I reached the end of the trail, I reached the shortest section of the trail (1> mile). I would usually go down to 10th and Speer, go a couple of blocks through a protected bike lane, take a left unto Bannock and go a couple blocks up. Nothing too remarkable about this section outside of who I may have saw at the bars and restaurants along the way.
The night route to work, while cumbersome at the beginning, became a sort of meditation before the shift. It gave me the energy to get going, while keeping me cool until mid-June when the heat began to pick up and sun starting setting later. When I have my brief sojourn into the nightshift world next week, the fond memories of the Cherry Creek Trail and anticipation of riding it again will get me through.
Featured image is of a map of the route, showing major neighborhoods in the Denver Area. Initial section of trail is blacked out to protect privacy.