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Fear, Loathing, and Greenwashing at the Denver Auto Show

As I entered the exhibition space for the Denver Auto Show, I recalled a quote from Hunter S Thompson when entering an-antidrug conference in Las Vegas “If the Pigs were gathering in Vegas for a top-level Drug Conference, we felt the drug culture should be represented.” Approaching the entrance to the show, I adopted that attitude, but with a sense of compromise that Thompson didn’t necessarily have during his time as a reporter for Rolling Stone magazine in the 1970’s.

Entering the Denver Auto Show

The show was primarily on the second floor of the Convention Center, where I had seen the Oddities Exhibition back in October. When I first entered the hall I was overwhelmed: Vehicles from major dealers and companies throughout the front range were represented, and people could get in and out of the vehicles to test out the “feel” of them.

My first major stop was the Forney Transportation Museum Booth. Located just south of 70, The Forney Transportation Museum houses everything from steam engines to bicycles. I asked the two men behind the desk how conservation worked in regard to the older cars, and awed at some of the living history in front of me.

As I moved south past the section that Nissan was hosting, I came across a merch booth advertising itself as the “mancave” With various car decals and flags along with tin signs, it played deeply into the stereotypes that masculine men like three things: beer, cars, and “girls”.

Despite this section of the showroom being mainly occupied by men, the rest of the show floor was fairly diverse: Families, single dads, and people of all races and backgrounds were represented, a testament to the car dependency in Colorado and this company writ large.

After leaving the mancave, I thought to myself “I still haven’t seen any comically large vehicles yet”. That changed as I headed west towards the test drive track.

Myself, a 6’1″ person, in front of a giant Jacked Chevy

This particular behemoth behind me was a testament to the increasing size of trucks over the past 40 years with the decreasing size of where you would store groceries/supplies from errands/etc.

To give another angle of this monster vehicle, find the water bottle that I got into the show near the bottom wheel of the car. The one thing that gave me hope, however, is that most people walked up to the vehicle and laughed or gawked at how comically large it was. In a generation. though, it could be a standard, one of my biggest fears.

As I was in the midst of completing my loop. I took a gander of the EV test drive track. This particular section of the floor was dedicated to EV’s and preaching the “Good Word” of them.

This section of the floor also had the one E-Bike for the entire floor. I talked to the owner of the bike, with him feeling like the odd booth out of the rest of the convention. Apparently, the model was merely $899, though it would not qualify under the E-Bike rebate since the company is based out of Arizona.

The last major place I went to at the show was the Toyota presentation stage. With the two hosts having the charisma and acting abilities of middle school drama students, they went through a jeremiad highlighting Toyota’s commitments to manufacturing in the USA, sponsorship of the US delegation to the Olympics, and the highlighting of multiple new additions to their fleet. The one that really gave me a small glimmer of hope was the C+Pod, a car that is fairly big in Europe but has not penetrated the American market as of this writing. The mobility devices displayed were also a welcome addition to the ever increasing sized vehicles that are typical to car manufacturers. That being said, like the EV trend, it gave off this feeling of greenwashing to me, or pretending to be environmentally friendly while polluting and causing ecological damge.

The Toyota C+Pod

Final Impressions

As even the head of the Colorado Automobile Association gets more bearish on car usage in the long term, the Denver Show felt like an alternate world, where the single occupancy vehicle is a necessity to be a full fledged member of society. When I was walking back home, I noticed that, even though the convention stressed that the parking nearby would be difficult, lots merely 10 minute walking distance from the convention center were half full around 12:30, during peak hours for the show.

Between the half full lots, the convention floor roughly the size of a mid sized show, and the exclusion of several popular brands including Tesla and Subaru, the show felt half baked even on its own merits. Judging from someone who exists within the transit world, it seems like its fading into irrelevancy as a show, though time and the actions of our leaders will ultimately be the signal of the relevance of cars in Denver and Colorado as a whole.

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Bike Lane Smell Test

How can you tell if something is actually a bike lane or not? You can point at a building and call it an apple, and be wrong. You can point at paint on the ground and call it a bike lane, and you’d again be wrong.

If a car can park in it, it isn’t a bike lane. Here are some examples that your City will refer to as a bike lane, but that in fact are not bike lanes:


You can tell these aren’t bike lanes because cars can park or drive in them, or people accessing their cars will obstruct the flow of bike traffic. Note how these drivers are perfectly okay blocking the single lane of bicycle traffic instead of taking up one of the multiple car travel lanes. They completely cripple the throughput of the bicycle infrastructure instead of temporarily reducing the throughput of the car infrastructure. If given a choice, drivers will always do this, which means this isn’t a bike lane but instead an auxiliary parking lane:


Sort of a bike lane

These bike lane meet the bare minimum requirements needed for something to be called a bike lane. The only requirement that they meet is that they are physically delineated from the road, but not by much. These plastic bollards get crushed easily, and the concrete separates can also be skirted if your car has a high enough suspension, or if the start of the bike lane is not narrowed, allowing cars to drive right into it. So a distracted driver will be able to run right through this bike lane and squish you.


This bike lane is much better than the previous ones, because it’ll protect you from careening vehicles, and makes it clearer that cars should not be in there. But it still leaves you close to traffic, with cars whizzing closely by, which is unnerving. Hard to relax and enjoy this ride:


Real bike lanes

Ultimately the below bike lanes are the best, and are really the only infrastructure worth being called bike lanes. They’re separated far from cars giving you protection, as well as letting you relax and feel safe. This relaxation thing is the key. A bike lane might be physically safe, but it needs to also be mentally safe. The mental safety makes the bike lane more accessible to vulnerable road users that may avoid biking because they’re already under enough stress in other parts of their lives.

The goal should be to build bike lanes that are so comfortable that you’d feel okay riding with your young babies, like this guy. If you’re not, then the street designers need to go back to the drawing board because there is still work to do.


This is a picture of the Chicago’s bike trail along the lake. Notice how we call this a bike trail and not a bike lane. The best bike lanes will basically be bike trails that navigate the urban environment, instead of being set aside in a park. To find the space for something like this in an urban environment, we’ll need to start reclaiming some roads from cars. Right now, cars can go on every single road, but bikes can go on only a few, if any. This imbalance needs to shift, and when it does, that’s where we’ll find the space for good bike-trail-lanes.


Bikes and cars can’t share the road. It doesn’t work. Drivers continue to bully, harass, and kill cyclists, no matter how many signs your Department of Transportation puts up, or how much paint they put down. Serious bike lane projects need to reclaim road space from cars and turn it into space for bikes, where cyclists are protected from this abuse by real infrastructure.

Safe Streets advocates, like myself, need to stop fighting over table scraps and start demanding real infrastructure. Mayor Hancock is touting his 125 miles of bike lanes build out, but the majority of that is paint. So he’s really building like 5 miles of bike lanes, but then is able to pull of this great feat of gaslighting, because advocates don’t control the definition and acceptance criteria of a bike lane. We’ve let the bureaucrats define it. They paint a bicycle on a sidewalk and call it a bike lane. They’ll put up a sign that says “bike lane” and do nothing to alter the roadway at all. These people even have the audacity to put some paint on the ground and say this lane is for biking and parking. I’m not talking about a bike lane that people park in illegally, but in Denver we legitimately have road space that counts as a bike lane, but where it is also legal to park. So when a car is there you have to merge with traffic to pass it.

Once people have a safe place to ride, they will ride. But if you lay down some paint and ask them to trust that drivers won’t run them over, we’re never going to make progress.

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Difference Makers in Denver Mobility: Luchia Brown

To begin our blog series, we would like to highlight heroes in the community that have been there for the cause of multi mobility. These difference makers are the people that make Denver a great place to ride and make our city better for all.

Our first difference maker is Luchia Brown. A volunteer on behalf of a multimodal vaccination clinic located in the Denver Design Center last weekend, Luchia sat down with me to discuss her experience.

Loren Hansen: Walk me through how you got involved volunteering at the Denver Design District vaccination site.

Luchia Brown: Maggie Thompson, from Jolon Clark’s office, reached out to me originally to help coordinate distribution of flyers to Baker residents announcing the clinic. I saw that they were still short-handed on volunteers as the day approached, so I signed up and conscripted my husband and my ward to help out that day. My job was helping at check-in.

LH: What was the overall mood at the site? If you have worked at others in the past, what was the mood in comparison to others? 

LB: The mood was generally happy; however, someone forgot to bring the box where all the used sharps went, so we were delayed about 45 minutes while someone had to go get them. That wasn’t too fun, but once we got going, things went quickly and we caught up by about 10:30am.

LH: How impacted was the site throughout the day? What was the general amount of bicycle riders to transit users to cars to pedestrians?

LB: Most of the sign-ups were for the early morning and toward the end of the day. It was pretty slow during the middle of the day. In he beginning, many people walked over from West Washington Park. (Many of the volunteers, including my group, rode their bikes to the site.) A few people showed up on their bikes to get their shots. A few showed up from the Alameda light rail station, which caused us to put a sandwich board sign over at the station. The site itself was fantastic in its ability to accommodate multi-modal arrivals. A lot of people wanted to park their car and go to the walk-up site to get their shot rather than idle in their cars.

LH: Are there any memorable moments that happened throughout the day? 

LB: A couple that are similar. The security guard who works the area didn’t have his shot, so we got him and then he called his wife and friends to come down. Another guy showed up from a nearby construction site, then he called all his co-workers to come over and get their shots. The Blue Bonnet restaurant sent their employees over to get their vaccine. We had about 400 appointments and roughly 200 walk-ups. A good chunk of the walk-ups were from the Spanish speaking community, which was heartening.

LH: How efficient was the site throughout the day? If you could change things to be better, what would it be and why?

LB: The site itself was incredibly efficient. The only issue I saw was with the data collectors. They showed up late and then tried to get people who had already registered online to provide more info on paper. When they held up the line, we just let people through because people getting their shots was more important than them getting their data. They also had their own technical issues and finally relented and just collected people’s names who had already registered to check them off later.

LH: If you could have future sites similar to the Denver Design District, where would you want them to be and why?

LB: It seems like we’re getting past the point of needing massive vaccine clinics. We had 1000 appointments but only filled 400, even after heavy promotion. Having smaller clinics at various light rail stations would be helpful. Also, I’ve been hearing that if you got one of the shots at one location, you will be able to get the second one somewhere else as long as the person has their CDC vaccine card that shows which vaccine they got.

To find a vaccine site near you, check out the COVID-19 website for the state of Colorado here. The Toyota Camry Lot at the Ball Center vaccination site is known to be bicycle friendly.

*Featured image is a sign leading to the vaccination clinic*