Spoke Talk: Routt County cyclists on the road again

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Robin Craigen

— With the discovery that riding on snowpacked trails also is a lot of fun, bike season never really ended for me when winter arrived last year. I biked Emerald Mountain a few times and even rode up Why Not to Thunderhead and back for a couple of moonlit hill climbs. It almost made up for the lack of powder.

With the arrival of spring, it’s time to venture out on the road bike to build conditioning for a summer of biking in Steamboat. There’s nothing like 60 degrees and blue skies to bring bikes back onto the roads. And in Routt County, you rarely ride alone for long. Each day I get out, I see more riders, which is motivation in itself.

On a recent lunchtime out-and-back along River Road to Hilton Gulch, I passed 12 other riders just grabbing a workout and enjoying few minutes of two-wheeled freedom. I also saw a couple of cars. That’s not unusual — seeing more bikes than cars. That’s what can make some of the county roads such a pleasure despite the uneven surfaces and nonexistent shoulders.

With the arrival of more bikes, there’s an increase in traffic, heightening the need for greater awareness between all road users. In Routt County, this means everything from small family cars to oversized trucks, RVs and ranch equipment. There’s not a lot of room when we all are in the same place at the same time. But in general, there’s a lot of room if we use our heads. Here are some reminders for all road users:

■ Ride as far to the right as possible

Cyclists: Keep to the right of the roadway — as far as you are comfortable.

Motorists: Be aware — the chip-and-seal surface is smoother about 2 feet to the left of the fog line, so don’t be surprised if that is where you see people riding. They are not doing it to annoy motorists. The right side of a freshly chip-and-sealed road like Routt County Road 14 is a rough and dangerous place with loose chips and a bone-jarring surface that a cyclist is not required to ride. You just have to hope that they can and will.

■ No bike lanes in Routt County

Cyclists: If a shoulder is wide and smooth, then that’s a good place to be. Let traffic flow by unimpeded when you can.

Motorists: The white line on the right side of the road is a “fog line.” It does not designate a bike lane. There are no bike lanes on our county roads.

■ Be considerate

Cyclists: The law allows riding two abreast. Riding more than two abreast is likely to create tension with drivers who feel entitled to that space. In most cases, one cyclist or two is not a big difference when overtaking, but three is likely to make motorists mad, and we don’t need that. Play it safe on curvy sections and ride single file.

Motorists: Look ahead and expect to see cyclists. When you do, please slow down for a second and give them a chance to give you some room. Lying on the horn or revving your engine isn’t going to help anyone get along better.

■ 3 feet to pass

Cyclists: You are more vulnerable — give space where you can.

Motorists: The law requires an overtaking vehicle to give at least 3 feet to pass. On our county roads, this means that you will have to look ahead to make sure you can see that oncoming traffic is clear before passing. When you are overtaking a cyclist, please be patient and use this as a rule instead of trying to squeeze by with oncoming traffic present. Forcing a cyclist into the gravel or the ditch on the side of the road could land someone in the hospital — or worse.

■ It’s OK to cross the yellow line to pass

Cyclists: Not you ...

Motorists: If it is safe to pass, the law allows you to cross the yellow line in the middle of the road to pass a cyclist. It is more important to give 3 feet than to try to squeeze by in a tight passing situation.

■ Try it – it’s fun!

Cyclists: You know what I’m talking about.

Motorists: Routt County looks different by bike — you can see it and feel it, and it will make you feel good. On two wheels, you will see the world from a new perspective, and this can only be a good thing.

Here’s to a great summer of biking!

Robin Craigen is the vice president of Routt County Riders and owner/president of Moving Mountains Chalets.

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