State Patrol gives cyclists hotline

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Colorado bicyclists have been given access to a State Patrol hotline that will allow the riders to report aggressive or threatening drivers from their cell phones.

Colorado State Patrol Master Trooper Ron Watkins said the hotline has existed since 1998, but was mostly a tool that motorists used to report other reckless motorists.

Now the Colorado State Patrol is giving cyclists and pedestrians the opportunity to take advantage of the hotline.

"We encourage anyone to call in someone who is driving recklessly. Chances are if you're calling that person in, so is someone else," Watkins said.

The number cell phone users call is Star CSP or *277. An area code is not necessary. Those who want to use the hotline but don't have access to a cell phone can call (303) 239-4518 to report an incident.

Every time someone uses the hotline, the caller is routed to the nearest Colorado State Patrol dispatch center, which is in Craig for Routt County residents.

The caller will be asked for a vehicle license plate and description, driver description, direction of travel and what and where the incident occurred, Watkins said.

If a trooper is available, he or she may be dispatched to contact the driver or the report may be entered into an aggressive driver database.

If a driver is not immediately contacted, the complaint will be filed against the driver and kept on record. If the driver receives three complaints, the car's registered owner will be sent a warning letter notifying the person of the complaints and encouraging the driver to rectify the behavior. If additional complaints are received against a specific individual, a Colorado State Patrol trooper will then contact the driver and take whatever action the trooper thinks is necessary, Watkins said.

Watkins said the hotline began in 1998 when the State Patrol began receiving too many 911 calls from residents reporting reckless driving. The hotline is designed to alleviate involving another jurisdiction's communication center and officers.

On average, the Colorado State Patrol's Denver dispatch center receives about 100 calls a day from residents using Star CSP, Watkins said.

"It's a huge thing," he said.

Routt County Riders Vice President Robin Craigen agrees.

"I think anytime the authorities take the cyclist's side, instead of the motorist's, it's a good thing," he said. "This is positive because it recognizes the rights of cyclists to use the roads."

Routt County Riders is a bicycling club that hosts weekly rides, events and races and advocates cycling safety and rights.

Craigen said he is eager to see whether Routt County cyclists take advantage of the hotline, especially because he recognizes the issues between cyclists and motorists.

"There are definitely a few people out there who don't think we should be taking up the roads," he said.

Regardless, Craigen said cyclists and motorists need to respect each other, especially when things can get a little tight on some of the county's roads and highways.

"It seems like this hotline will give us a chance to feel less threatened when someone comes barreling up on us at 70 mph, tooting the horn and slamming on the brakes," he said.

Bicycle Colorado member and Steamboat resident Lisa Spector said she was excited to find out that the Colorado State Patrol was expanding its hotline use for cyclists.

"It's neat that the state troopers are supportive of this," she said. "It's a good community service."

Spector said she has been riding all over the county and finds Elk River Road one of the scariest roads in the county.

"For (cyclists) what is most scary are RVs and big trucks. Oftentimes you see the RV trains -- the RV pulling the car, pulling the boat, pulling the bike," she said. "I know people who won't even ride Elk River Road in the summer because it's too dangerous."

In general, Spector said she thinks most drivers are courteous of road bikers because the drivers understand how vulnerable a person on a 20-pound bike is.

It's the drivers who "never give bicyclists room" whom Spector is concerned about.

"There's no reason to have that aggression against cyclists. We're just out getting some exercise and having a good time."

-- To reach Alexis DeLaCruz, call 871-4234

or e-mail adelacruz@steamboatpilot.com

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