The Death Rides: Biking to Haunts and Horrors throughout the Denver Metro

Death is hidden from us in this city and region.

If I were to tell someone that there were over 20 different cemeteries, memorial gardens, and monuments honoring the dead in the City of Denver proper, I would imagine some would not believe me. The story of Cheesman Park/Denver City Cemetery is the epitome of hiding death, with thousands of bodies transferred from the former site at a rate of $1.90 a casket. Most of the major cemeteries in the area are private or semi-private, making death even more shrouded from the average person.

As we enter a month where many believe the veil between the land of the dead and our world is lifting, it feels appropriate to explore where death lies.

This series aims to uncover death throughout Denver, giving access to a world that usually isn’t seen on an average bike ride. While some will be rides through cemeteries proper, other haunts and areas of interest will be explored throughout the next couple months. Welcome to The Death Rides.

Featured Image is the author’s bike posed in front of the Fairmount Mausoleum

A Denver man went to Red Rocks without using a car, Here is how he did it.

Jake Pelton is the quintessential adventurer. Loving to ride a bike, catching a good concert, and caring about his environmental impact, Jake always looks for the opportunity to challenge himself to be a better person and have great experiences.

Recently, Jake decided to attempt a trip to Red Rocks to see indie groove band Goose. The catch? He would only use public transportation and his bike.

The Approach

“Going into the trip, I felt pretty good” Jake told me, noting that the weather seemed to be cooperating and his bike was tuned up. Drawing on experiences from others, Jake realized that, though the route wasn’t ideal, it was rideable and seemed like it would work out well.

The Trip

Conceding that there were a few hills to climb up once the W line reached Jefferson County Government Center, Jake noted that there were many special moments on the bike ride itself. “The first great moment was biking over the crest of Dinosaur Ridge and catching the first sight of Red Rocks… I got to soak in the natural beauty of the area.”

As he rolled towards the park, Jake felt a deeper connection to the natural beauty of the space, contrasting it with drivers that would have to wait in long lines in order to find parking. The next great joy that he had was getting to ring his bell at drivers as he passed by them, getting a sort of priority when it came to both parking and traffic.

In total, the trip took an hour and a half from catching the 5:13 W Line at Union Station to parking at the upper lot at

Coming Back and Lessons Learned

The one major issue with the trip was having to ride all the way back to Denver, which Jake noted took a little bit over an hour. For him, the largest issue was connectivity. “I had hopes of catching the W Line train heading eastbound back to Denver, but on Thursdays the last one runs at 10:56pm. On Fridays and Saturdays, the last train runs at 12:56am so it would be possible to catch a full show and still make the train” Jake opined, stating overall that there need to be more connections to Red Rocks without having to use a car. “As a Denver mountain park managed by Denver Parks & Recreation, [Denver Should] work on creating more options for concert-goers to get there without having to drive.” saying that having an experience like his would be great for people who could leave the car at home.

Featured Photo is a shot of Jake’s bike ride to Red Rocks, courtesy of Jake Pelton

Pedaling to Parks: Globeville Landing

Park Address: 3901 Arkins Ct. Denver, CO 80216

Neighborhoods/Area of interest Served: Platte River Trail, Globeville-Elyria-Swansea, River North Art District, Cole, Layton, Curtis Park

A pit stop along the Platte River Trail with a Disc Golf course and several amenities, Globeville Landing Park feels like a juncture between several competing interests and points of interests that make it interesting.

History

Globeville Landing started its life as a section of a Superfund site. The EPA and the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment worked jointly on a project to remove much of the contaminated soil in the area, completing a fair amount of the work from 2003-2006. The largest controversy in its existence was a major project the began in 2017, where a $300 Million dollar flooding project that led to the exposure of the remaining garbage and contaminated soil began. The projects main goal as well was to eliminate a flooding area for Central I70 expansion project, a project that would increase pollution in the neighborhoods and required the demolition of at least 56 homes.

A City Draft for the initial Globeville Landing revamp, 2017

The park expansion was completed in 2019, resulting in the creation of several active play areas and a picnic area.

Impressions Today

Globeville Landing in 2022 both felt like a great area for children and families to do things and an area of several interlocking tensions.

For me as someone who rides a bicycle, the biggest source of tension was where the park is situated along the South Platte River Trail. South of the trail is one of the most trafficked areas in Denver: Confluence Park and the entrance to the Cherry Creek Trail. North begins the entrance to what I have called The Blight Loop, one of the most notorious rides in Denver.

Tension continues in several ways as you take a look around the park. From the characteristic industry of Northside represented by the Pepsi Bottling Plant and the Western Stock Show complex, to the construction of buildings throughout River North that promise housing for some, and represent gentrification for others, to the RTD line going to the northernmost suburbs in Denver right next to a highway, it feels like you are at the center of several different Denvers.

The biggest thing that attracts me to the park is the sense of peace that it gives in the midst of a long ride. It acts as a rest stop for me, a middle place between the crowds of Confluence Park and the area by REI and the smells and horrors along of the blight loop.

Ways to get there by transit: The 12, 44, and A-Line Bus drop off near the park.

Ways to get there by bike: The Park is right off of the South Platte River Trail

Featured image is the entrance to Globeville Landing Park

Pedaling to Parks: Sunken Gardens

Park Address: 1099 Speer Blvd. Denver, CO 80204

Neighborhoods/Areas of interest Served: Santa Fe, Speer, Golden Triangle, Lincoln Park, Baker

Acting as an isthmus between Speer, 8th Ave, and 11th, Sunken Gardens feels like a pass through park more than anything else when you are going through it.

For me, there is value in that regard, but Sunken Gardens has both some interesting history and hidden treasures in the current day that make it one of my favorite parks to ride my bike to.

History

Sunken Gardens Park was bought by the City of Denver back in the late 1900’s. Over the course of the next 20 years, there were two major renovations, the first part of the effort by then Mayor Robert Speer’s dedication to the “City Beautiful” movement. Pictures from the era show the efforts of this beatification: an incredibly flowery garden area that once had a pavilion similar to Cheesman Park.

The rich features, such as the pavilion and the pool, would be taken out over the years. While it is unknown why the pavilion was demolished, the pool was filled in the midst of a polio scare, and many of the features of Sunken Gardens, notably the garden itself, were taken out over the years. The park was added to the National Register for Historic Places, and is in the midst of a renovation in relation to the buildout of the 5280 Trail and the 2021 Sunken Gardens Park Masterplan.

Impressions Today

Going through Sunken Gardens by bike in 2022 was an experience that I would liken to going through an abandoned mall: Some pockets of familiarity with oddities from another time.

Going at a low speed due to the narrow, cracked paths, the remnants of the lake, gardens, and the pavilions were evident in the field that overwhelmed the eye of the park. There wasn’t a ton outside of that, save a basketball court tucked away along the border of the park and an unused playground due to the weather being above 90 degrees on that day.

One of the charming aspects of the park, surprisingly, is this feeling of abandonment. From the steps that would formerly lead to the pool, to a plaque that has been taken down, It feels to an extent like nature is slowly reclaiming the park.

Despite being nearly 13 acres large, the park has a small, intimate feeling. Whereas similar sized facilities like Confluence and Commons Parks are densely packed on any day of the week, Sunken Gardens at the most had about 19-24 people from a rough count. With small crowds, a large open feel, and a feeling of comfortable abandonment, Sunken Gardens Park is a great space for solace and a break in the midst of the hustle and bustle of the city.

The central open field of Sunken Gardens Park, with indicators of the former Pavilion and Pool area

Ways to get there by Bus: The 1, 52, and 83L stop close to the park.

Getting there by Bike: Sunken Gardens runs parallel to the Cherry Creek Trail, with the best options to cross Speer at 11th and 8th into the park.

The Park Cropped From Google Maps

Featured Image is the south entrance of the park.

To Help Foster the E-Bike Revolution, RTD Must allow them on their Trains and buses

In less than a month, RTD will embark on a grand experiment when it comes to being a completely fare-free system. While this may be a good thing that will increase ridership, similar to the fare free February that Utah has had, there is one policy change RTD can make to increase ridership during

As I type this, the city of Denver is in the second round of round of E-bike Rebates, with 2,000 rebates available today until next month. From anecdotal evidence, it appears that the website had crashed, possibly indicating that all of the rebates available have been taken at this time and definitely indicating interest.

Beyond the generally accepted belief that cities should prepare for the growth of E-Bike use by using best practices such as creating more bike lanes, low stress routes, and increasing secure places to park a bike, e-bikes should be allowed to be used on public transportation. Currently, RTD bans electric bikes, stemming from the fact that earlier models of the bikes had internal combustion engines that were gasoline based. Given that the technology has evolved since this policy was put in place, a carve-out should exist for E-bikes that are battery powered, which constitute the majority of E-Bikes sold today.

With the influx of E-bike ridership and a fare free RTD, changing this rule could be a gamechanger both for individual E-Bike riders wanting to explore more of the Front Range and RTD as a whole in creating a new group of riders. If you are interested in changing this rule, consider signing the following petition to get the ban rescinded.

Happy Monday, and hope to see you out on the trails.

*Featured photo is of Shalon Bowens with her Momentum LaFree E+ eBike outside her home in Denver’s Central Park neighborhood. Bowens received the bike for free last October. Photo Credit to Sam Brasch of CPR News*

Introducing Pedaling Through Parks

Imagine, for a minute, a typical recreational bike ride that you take in Denver. Do you remember trails such as Cherry Creek and Platte River, or do you think of the difficult stretches that make life miserable, such as heavily trafficked streets or bad infrastructure?

For me, I think of the best places for activities throughout Denver: parks. While some of the closest large parks to me like many folks in the Capitol Hill are Cheesman Park and City Park, there are several other smaller parks that have some of the same charm I love in both of these parks, and have traits that are great beyond this..

In the spirit of this love, this blog series will mostly be a love letter to these more neighborhood based parks vs the larger regional ones, with posts coming out roughly once a week in regards to the series. It will be a little less analytical than the Rolling to RTD series, but will include bike-ability as a measure that I will factor into this love.

Stay Tuned.

Featured Image is a Section of Alamo Placita Park

Rolling to RTD Part 10: The A-Line

After a four month Hiatus from the series due to winter and various other commitments, I have returned for the final chapter of Rolling to RTD, where we discuss riding along the A-Line.

Methodology

Starting from my apartment in Cap Hill, I rode along a route that was a mix of google maps and using multipurpose trails in Aurora. Full disclosure, I did not ride completely out to the airport and the final stop there, though I have in the past and will discuss it more and the implications of not doing so later on. I did not end up going to the Peoria Station because I had previously been to it when I covered the R-Line.

38th and Blake

Having passed by it several times, the 38th and Blake station is familiar to me. With a parking lot and bike parking on the side closer to the Platte River Trail, and construction currently defining the side closer to RiNo, the station is probably the most bike able station along the route with an unprotected bike lane along it.

Access to secure bike parking as well was another plus for the station as well. As I left the station, I realized that things would only become more and more treacherous on my route.

40th and Colorado

The route towards 40th reminded me of one thing I always feel when I ride in Northern Denver: I am pretty much alone. With no infrastructure along Smith Road, I mostly stuck to the sidewalk and parking lots of buildings to get to 40th and Colorado.

Immediate access to the station was not much better, with the only infrastructure nearby being sharrows.

The remainder of the station was a mix of a larger parking lot, a small bus terminal area, and bike parking that was not secure were elements of it. Between navigating car traffic and large, fast roads on the way and few options when arriving, this station would not be a great choice for bike commuting at all.

Central Park

Central Park made me feel slightly more optimistic. Packed with people heading to the Rockies Game right before I took this photo, Central Park had a little more bike parking, both protected and unprotected, and a larger terminal. The one thing of note to me after going to this station and comparing it directly to the previous two. While the parking lots seemed to get larger, the amount of bus connectivity also increased, making it feel a little more of a multimodal hub than the previous two stations.

40th and Airport

After a long detour through the Sand Creek area in Aurora, I arrived at 40th and Airport Station. A station notorious for being one people heading towards the airport gets off at accidentally, 40th and Airport was fairly accessible by bike.

With a slightly larger amount of unprotected bike parking, a trail that led directly there from the airport underpass, and some cool art nearby, the 40th and Airport station was surprisingly a lot more accessible than I thought it would be. That being said, it has a fairly large parking lot, and the route beyond the immediate path to the station requires a lot of sidewalk surfing to be remotely safe.

61st and Pena

The penultimate stop before the airport, 61st and Pena has an “unfinished” feel to it. The station itself has a lot of construction going on, with a major project looking like a vacant lot and a few projects that have sprung up since I moved here in 2016.

Though there are bike lanes around the stations, there is no bike parking, which discouraged me. Additionally, like the previous stations, a large parking lot, albeit covered this time. As I headed to the end of my adventure, I worried what would come towards me next

Authors Note: I did not make it out to the airport for this ride due to a mixture of exhaustion, going down an incorrect road, and fear of the high propensity of traffic because of vacations. The below section is based off of a trip I previously made to the airport from Pena. The below picture is roughly where I ended the ride.

Airport Station

Getting to this station via 56th is, as I have noted previously, the least accessible station on the map. There is no bike parking on the platform, and only unprotected bike parking that I was unable to near the parking garages. That being said, given the massive amount of people that go through the garage in any given period, I wouldn’t trust my bike there for an extended trip, and would recommend leaving the bike at an earlier station and riding in for safety purposes.

Final Thoughts

The biggest theme that I felt throughout my experience on the A-Line was the following: incompleteness. Beyond the fact that I did not complete the ride in its entirety, there were a few other elements that added to the feeling of incompleteness: the construction along some of the major stations, lack of bike parking, and the incomplete path to Pena all added to this. However, the potential of a built out A-line with more robust bike paths and trails could change RTD, and I will be interested in seeing how built out housing along the line will affect it.

Featured image is of a statue dedicated to Federico Pena, former Denver Mayor who was instrumental in the creation of Denver International Airport.

The Cheapest Meal In The Front Range: A Review of the Bike Ride and Security at Dicks Sporting Goods

Last Memorial Day Weekend, I took a trip up to Commerce City to go see a Rapids Game with a couple of friends. Starting my journey near Station 26 in North Park Hill, I navigated by path through the Central Park/Northfield area.

The thin bike lane along Central Park looked like a death trap, especially with the high amount of traffic on that 2PM ride up to the rendezvous location. Parking at the art show that we were going to immediately before was also a pain, with 1 bike rack nearby and myself having to lock to a pole.

Thankfully, it was a fairly short ride to the park from the Northfield/Central Park art fair. The one issue that we noticed was the light have any sort of lead for bicycles, so using the multipurpose path to the stadium was a risk crossing the street.

The stoplight in front of Dick’s Sporting Goods

Perhaps the most intense part of the ride was the worry that there would be no security at the official bike parking lot, The Burgundy Lot. When we got there, there was not a guard. Additionally, the racks were no rooted anywhere, making it so it could be easy to carry them elsewhere. Thinking the guard was late, we went over to the Centennial 38 tailgate.

The Burgundy Lot AKA bike parking.

For me, the highlight of my experience was the Centennial 38 Tailgate. For $10, you can have all-you-can-eat and drink experience. The community was really cool and tight, with everyone from a guy making Megadeth references to a friend wearing a shirt, to a lady dancing and drinking from a full bottle of wine, it felt like a crew that I would be part of. I had about 3 slices of pizzas and 4 beers before we wandered back to the bike parking.

When we arrived, we saw there was no one dedicated to watching the lot. After talking to a security guard, they said that there was someone that was supposed to be watching it, and let us know that he would watch the bikes until he was relieved by another guard. Knowing that, we went into the game, watching as the Rapids lost to Tennessee.

When we left the game, it did not appear that there was dedicated security there. We also appeared to be the only ones parked there. Thankfully, nothing had been stolen, but we were left wondering if things were safe at the lot or not, and managed by a guard the entire time. We rode back around 9:00 PM, with small bike lanes and less cars defining the trip, along with a stop light that was impossible to reach without leaving the sidewalk.

Overall, I would love to know and see a security guard managing the bike lot at all times. As someone that used to work security, I know the fear of losing a bike is both real and has manifested when said bikes aren’t being watched. Though the booster organization Centennial 38 made things worthwhile in the end, lacking security would lead me to hesitate next time I go up there.

To buy Tickets for the Rapids game, go here.

To learn about the booster organization, Centennial 38, go here.

Featured Image is of the Burgundy Bike Lot

Will the Front Range Meet the Moment? The State, the City, and the Future of Summers

As I ran around the State Capitol Last Monday night, I got into a meditative state. Jogging past the evening commute made me think how Denver and the Front Range had changed over the past two years. From fairly car free roads to clear skies and no traffic deaths at the beginning of the pandemic, to two of the worst summers for air quality and traffic as it wore on, it has been a rollercoaster. Right now, however, feels like a fork in the road for the region. At the State level, a bill to make RTD free for the month of August due to the high volume of Ozone Action Days caused by both fires and increased car usage is inching through the legislature at the tail end of the session. On the city level, hints of change are in the air, with the Office of Climate Action, Sustainability, and Resiliency providing instant rebates to residents that purchase E-bikes from participating locations, and Denver Streets Partnership putting forward a measure to fully build out Denver’s sidewalk network in nine years vs. the estimated 400 years at current funding rates. Coupled with this, city election season has come into full swing, with council candidates declaring nearly weekly at this point, and climate activist Ean Tafoya declaring for Mayor this past week on a bold platform to restore dignity to public transit and expand options for current users

For me, the closest moment that I can think of to this late November of 2019, when I wrote about the several different events, including the retirement of Dave Genova, the loss of B-Cycle, and the creation of the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DOTI) as launching points for change in the Denver Metro Area’s relationship with alternative transit options. While none of us could predict the effect that the COVID-19 pandemic would have on Genova’s successor Debra Johnson and her tenure at RTD, the results of the Micro Mobility pilot and subsequent contracts awarded to Lyft and Lime, and the mixed record DOTI has had as a citywide department, it feels like the events at this juncture are a lot more optimistic than what things were like 2 1/2 years ago.

My View Outside Yesterday Evening

As I finish this piece, I am looking out the window into another remarkable yet hazy Colorado sunset after a short meeting. Though particle pollution appears to be going up, along with high ozone days seeming to stretch far into the future, I have significantly more optimism than I had in both Spring of 2020 and 2021 about the summer ahead, and believe that brighter days are ahead if we as individuals, a city, region, and state make the right decisions now.

*featured image is a photo of the Capitol taken by the author.

We need more events that normalize bicycle riding in Denver

Back in 2018, one of the greatest music festivals I had ever experienced came to Denver. Velorama was a celebration of bicycle riding in the State of Colorado, and made riding a bike feel normal. From having a bike corral for bicycle parking, to several events inside including a bike relay with the founder of Great Divide Brian Dunn, it was a celebration to both the competitive nature and the fun of riding a bike.

No photo description available.
Me With Brian Dunn, Circa August 2018

For me personally, the highlight of the event was seeing Matt and Kim, and giving someone in the crowd a beer who was celebrating their birthday. However, the normalization of riding a bike was something that I noticed this particular event had the ability to do.

While there are several standing events and group rides that normalize riding a bicycle, most notably Denver Cruisers, the act of riding a bike is something that is completely foreign to most Denverites. Most recently, we celebrated a bicycling holiday when Winter Bike to Work Day came around this past Friday, as a reduced number of booths had events around central Denver near the Bannock Shared Street primarily and near the newly minted 23rd Avenue protected bike lane. However, these events are few and far between. The next Bike to Work Day event, COVID willing, will likely be in June. Between February and June, the biggest reminder that we have people that ride bikes in Denver will unfortunately be in regards to cyclists that are victims of car crashes and the occasional bike lane opening.

This is something we as a city absolutely need to work on.

While I agree that infrastructure needs to be improved before bicycling can become something that is popular and accepted in the city, activating people that could ride bikes is something that is invaluable as well. The model that I often think of as a vegetarian is meatless Mondays, a phenomenon practiced both by school systems and individuals that forgo meat once a week. Why not encourage a day without cars every week? Given that emissions from cars was one of the biggest drivers of pollution on the Front Range in 2021, wouldn’t it be a boon to reduce car usage and encourage other modes of transportation? Perhaps hosting more events like Winter Bike to Work Day and its cousin in the summertime would drive ridership up. When more riders exist in a system, it makes it so that there are significantly more stakeholders who would care about infrastructure, and fight to improve it. In a city like Denver that is at a crossroads when it comes to bike infrastructure, having more people fighting the good fight is absolutely invaluable, helping to build a more bike-able city for the masses.

Featured Image is of Matt and Kim at Velorama in 2018