Highway 82 boulder almost hits cyclist

Joel Stonington
Glenwood Springs, CO Colorado

ASPEN ” A mountain biker narrowly averted disaster Sunday when a massive boulder hurtled onto Highway 82 near Aspen, knocked him down and destroyed his bike.

The boulder, estimated at 20 feet cubed, landed with enough force to crush pavement on the upvalley lane of Highway 82 and narrowly passed in front of the mountain biker, who was headed toward Aspen from the Independence Pass winter closure gate, located just east of Difficult Campground, according to the Pitkin County Sheriff’s Office.

“It’s scary to see a boulder that size come off a hillside and come that close to hitting someone,” said Joe Bauer, a patrol director with the sheriff’s office. “He got sprayed and cut by debris as it came down.”

Though the man was hospitalized, Bauer said the injuries were not life-threatening. A motorist passing by gave the victim a ride to the hospital. The biker’s name was not recorded by the sheriff’s office.

“In my almost 20 years with the sheriff’s office I have never seen a boulder of that size come down,” Bauer said. “The front tire of the bike was pretty mangled. That was real close to a tragic accident.”

A Colorado Department of Transportation geologist is in the area looking at places where boulders have recently hit Highway 82. On Saturday, two SUV-sized rocks landed on Highway 82 near Carbondale, slowing traffic but causing no injuries and minor damage to the highway.

CDOT spokeswoman Nancy Shanks said there is a possibility that highway workers will need to blast more rock down onto the highway if there is a chance of more falling rocks. Shanks said the recent spate of moist weather, which makes the boulders and rocks slippery, is the suspected reason for the falls.

Though the boulders that fell near Carbondale can be moved relatively easily by crews, the rock that nearly hit the biker will need to be blasted away with dynamite.

“It’s only in Colorado that you have cyclists in December,” said Shanks. “What a community.”

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