Our View: Cycling safety a 2-way street


Editorial Board, February 2009 through May 2009

  • Suzanne Schlicht, general manager
  • Brent Boyer, editor
  • Mike Lawrence, city editor
  • Tom Ross, reporter
  • Paul Hughes, community representative
  • Gail Smith, community representative

Contact the editorial board at (970) 871-4221 or editor@steamboatpilot.com. Would you like to be a member of the board? Fill out a letter of interest now.

— Each spring - particularly in recent years - seems to bring with it increased conflicts between cyclists and motorists. Sadly, Routt County is off to an early start this year, with at least two accidents between cyclists and motorists in March alone. We hope that trend doesn't continue through the summer and fall.

The issue is now receiving statewide attention, too, thanks to a proposed Senate bill making its way though the Legislature in Denver. The bill's pro-cycling sponsor, Sen. Greg Brophy (R-Wray), said his intention was to codify safe and common sense behavior between cyclists and motorists. Rep. Randy Baumgardner's (R-Hot Sulphur Springs) amendment only muddies existing state statute, which addresses the times when cyclists may ride two abreast.

The bill, among other things, would require motorists to give cyclists a 3-foot berth when passing them; allow motorists to cross a solid centerline to pass cyclists; allow cyclists to ride on the left side of the road on one-way roads; and make driving toward a cyclist in a dangerous manner a careless driving offense.

Baumgardner's amendment would prohibit cyclists from riding two abreast in areas where lanes are 12 feet wide or smaller.

It strikes us that some of the bill's provisions actually would encourage potentially dangerous behaviors, such as passing on solid centerlines. Many of the provisions also seem difficult, if not impossible, to enforce. And will cyclists be required to carry tape measures to determine the width of the lanes they're riding in?

Although Brophy's intentions may be good, his bill - with or without Baumgardner's controversial amendment - isn't.

And that leads us to this: Is the issue with existing laws or with the motorists and cyclists who neither understand them nor obey them?

State law gives cyclists the same rights and duties as motorists, with a few exceptions worth noting. As cycling season approaches, it's worth reminding cyclists and motorists of the law.

- Any person riding a bicycle shall ride in the right-hand lane. When being overtaken by another vehicle, such person shall ride as close to the right-hand side as practicable. Where a paved shoulder suitable for bicycle riding is present, persons operating bicycles shall ride on the paved shoulder. These provisions shall apply, except under the following situations:

- When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction

- When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway

- When reasonably necessary to avoid hazardous conditions

- Persons operating bicycles on roadways shall ride single file; except that riding no more than two abreast is permitted when riding two abreast will not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic. Persons riding two abreast shall ride within a single lane.

- Every person riding a bicycle shall signal the intention to turn or stop; except that a person riding a bicycle may signal a right turn with the right arm extended horizontally.

- A person shall not ride a bicycle upon and along a sidewalk or pathway or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk where such use of bicycles is prohibited by official traffic control devices or local ordinances.

Most cyclists and motorists are courteous, responsible users of the road. It's the minority of each who create distrust, dislike and potentially fatal situations on our local roadways. The Colorado Department of Transportation and other organizations seek to promote responsible behavior through initiatives such as CDOT's Share the Road campaign, a worthwhile initiative.

But conflicts between cyclists and motorists will continue to exist so long as members of each group fail to obey existing laws and show mutual respect for one another. A human life is too much to put at stake over something as simple as sharing the road. Please, drive and ride with care.


jk 8 years ago

Storm, Do you have any idea what it takes to add shoulders to roads? Are we just supposed to ask Obama for a few billion dollars of that stimulus money so you and your biking buddies can have a safe road to ride on?? I have a better idea you rally the biking clubs together go down to Ace buy a bunch of brooms and go around sweeping the shoulders of all your favorite cycling roads. Corey, those 7 points stated above seem pretty clear to me. Everyone be safe out there and beware its gaper day.


dave mcirvin 8 years ago

Obviously an overwhelming number of cyclists are also motor vehicle drivers. The majority of popular Routt County roads in close proximity to town have very inadequate shoulders. They spattered with significant gravel making it less safe for two wheel travel. How about some input into remedying the shoulders by having some of them being machine swept (or air blown) on an intermittent basis and strongly consider paving some much needed shoulders. Perhaps becoming more cyclist friendly and attracting more mountain and road cyclists may be one of the solutions to the perpetual Triple Crown contraversy and any resurgence of dreams/nightmares for a superfluous $34.2M rec center.


Corey Piscopo 8 years ago

This editorial does not make much of an argument as to why the bill is a bad idea other than saying that existing laws are ok, 3 feet is hard to measure without a tape measure and motorists have to go over the yellow line to give cyclists a safe distance? Existing laws are vague and fail to make clear what rights cyclist's have as legal road users. This is a conversation taking place in legislatures across the country because cycling continues to become hugely popular for exercise, competition, and as a form of alternative transportation. Drivers, cyclists and law enforcement need clarity. Law enforcement officers can visually estimate the speed of a vehicle or deteremine if a vehicle is following too closely, why not be able to guage whether a vehicle has buzzed a cyclist or failed to yield when passing conditions where unsafe? The existing laws do not make clear the conditions when cyclists are impeding traffic, do not make clear that harassing or threatening someone on a bike with your vehicle is illegal and do not describe how a driver should operate when passing a cyclist. This bill would answer those questions while making clear that riding more that two abreast is illegal.

Lastly, it is unfortunate that the Pilot continues to write articles and attract comments that portray the issue as an argument with angry parties on both sides and injured cyclists scattering the roads. If your ride smart and with courtesy for motorists you will likely get courtesy and safety in return. That means no riding with headphones in both ears, being predictable on your bike, moving to single file when the road conditions require, obeying stop signs. From my experience riding daily all over Routt county over the past two years I have had minimal encounters with motorists. I stay right, ride with courtesy, anticipate cars approaching and in return drivers give me three feet or more whether it be on elk river rd, twenty mile or highway 40. When I wave to thank them, they wave back. A major problem from my perspective, and what this bill seeks to address, is those drivers who purposely seek to endanger lives or will not yield until it is safe to pass.


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