Our View: Cycling safety a 2-way street
April 1, 2009
Steamboat Springs — 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.
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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.
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