Learning the rules of the road in Steamboat | SteamboatToday.com

Learning the rules of the road in Steamboat

Learning bicycling laws can help curb problems in town

— A warm sun towered over Steamboat Springs on Friday afternoon, and it seemed to beckon bicycles by the thousands.

They crowded the few dry trails on the city's most popular riding spot, Emerald Mountain.

They streamed into the city's downtown district, truly bustling with the sounds of tourism for the first time this summer. They scurried up and down the sporadic open sections of the Yampa River Core Trail and they packed the racks in front of happy-hour hot spots.

Cycling season was in full force Friday afternoon in Steamboat Springs, which, according to local biking proponents, makes this the perfect time to review the laws associated with road riding to help smooth the always semi-contentious encounter between vehicles of the two-wheel variety and those of the four-wheel variety.

Common sense

Barkley Robinson said he logs thousands of miles every summer, and plenty come on his road bike. All those miles, and he said he's never had a close or scary encounter on a road.

His advice for staying safe on the highway starts with one simple rule.

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"Be predictable. A lot of times cars don't know how to react around cyclists either, so just riding responsibly and being predictable helps cars deal with those situations.

"Using common sense and not doing anything that seems out of line, just trying to share the road, really helps."

Highway hubbub

Routt County Riders President Michael Loomis said bike laws become a hot topic every spring as conflicts, unheard of in winter months, rack up.

The most common issue, he said, is road cyclists riding on highways, often side-by-side, or two abreast.

"The trails aren't open yet, and a large number of people are on the roads riding," he said. "For drivers, that's the thing that drives them up the wall the most, people riding two abreast."

The actual Colorado law doesn't help clear the issue up extraordinary well, as it's both legal and illegal to ride two abreast.

Title 42, article 4, part 1412, Section 6A says, "persons operating bicycles on roadways shall ride single file; except that riding no more than two abreast is permitted" when it doesn't impede normal and reasonable movement of traffic, or when riding on paths or parts of roadways set aside for bicycles.

So, riders can be two abreast on local roadways, essentially until a vehicle tries to pass.

"If a car comes up, move over and let them go by," Loomis said. "A lot of drivers think you're never supposed to ride two abreast, but that's not true either."

Downtown danger

Nowhere in Steamboat are bikes more prevalent on roads than downtown. Unfortunately, it's not the easiest place to ride a bike.

"On Lincoln Avenue, it's tight," Robinson said. "It's very tight, and you're dealing with parked cars with doors opening. It's a tough road to ride on."

Robinson said Yampa and Oak streets, which run parallel to Lincoln one block on either side, can provide better options for many riders. Oak Street is one of two in town that has a marked-off biking lane. Yampa, meanwhile, is bordered by the Core Trail for much of its length, and is generally not nearly as busy as Lincoln.

Riders don't have to take those roads, however, and given that the downtown speed limit is 25 miles per hour, many choose not to and instead try to keep up with traffic.

"I'm moving as fast as cars can go down there," Loomis said. "I'm not impeding anyone. I have a right to be on the road if I'm not impeding anyone or breaking any laws."

Not breaking any laws includes stopping at all stop signs and stoplights, like any vehicle, and not dashing up on a sidewalk, across a crosswalk and back to the street to skip a line or a red light.

Know the signs

Following the rules of the road also means signaling turns.

It's not complicated.

A left turn is signaled by sticking an arm straight out to the left, essentially pointing out the turn.

A right turn is signaled by either sticking the left arm out and bending it upward 90 degrees at the elbow, or by sticking the right arm out and again pointing out the turn.

According to the law, a "signal of intention to turn right or left when required shall be given continuously during not less than 100 feet traveled by the bicycle before turning," so, stick those arms out.

Moving over for drivers on a highway, stopping at stoplights and signaling turns might seem like small things, but bikers say they can make a big difference.

"Respect is earned. If you're going to earn respect, you have to show respect," Loomis said. "Follow the laws. Ride in the lane you're supposed to be in. If you want to be respected by motorists, you have to show respect for the laws."

To reach Joel Reichenberger, call 970-871-4253 or e-mail jreichenberger@SteamboatToday.com

Basic bicycling law

■ Ride single file when riding two abreast impedes traffic. Don’t ride more than two wide.

■ Obey all traffic laws such as stoplights and stop signs.

■ If impeding traffic, stay in the far right lane, or on the shoulder if it is paved.

■ Signal turns. Start 100 feet before the turn and turn left by sticking the left arm out, or right by sticking the left arm out and bending the arm upward at the elbow, or by simply sticking the right arm out.

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