Thursday, May 7, 2009

To Error on the Side of Caution

What do we need to know about the new bicycle safety bill

A recent incident in Boulder on May 4th involving a cyclist threatened by a gun-toting driver (who received a felony menacing charge) makes me grateful for those who worked so hard to pass the new bicycle safety bill in Colorado. It also has me thinking we now face a period of reeducation of drivers and cyclists regarding the new state law to take affect this year. We know that cyclists can be cited for reckless driving (without incurring points on their driver's licenses), but most importantly what do we need to know to keep safe from obnoxious drivers and not be obnoxious ourselves - especially when wearing our sponsor names on our kits.

The Usuals – what we all know
  • We must obey all traffic laws
  • Heeding traffic signs and signals (event those pesky stop signs)
  • We need to use hand signals before turns and stops (either arm for a right turn by law is acceptable)
  • Colorado law does not prohibit riding on sidewalks but some municipalities do
  • Lots of eye contact is not law, but smart
Lane Positioning in the Current Law
The current law says bicyclists shall ride as far right as "practicable," using paved shoulders when present, but they may move left when preparing to make a left turn or to avoid road hazards.

Lane Positioning in the New Law (SB 148)
The new law says the bicyclist shall ride far enough to the right "as judged safe by the bicyclist" to facilitate passing by overtaking vehicles. It also says cyclists may ride on the left side of a right-turn lane if they do not intend to turn right.

Here are the highlights of the new Law:

The bill gives motorists more freedom to safely pass a bicyclist by allowing them to cross the centerline when safe to do so. By allowing three feet passing distance, it creates a safer environment on the road.

Clarifying language gives bicyclists the ability to ride as far right as is safe. Also on one-way roads with more than one lane, bicyclists may also ride as far left as is safe.

The bill clarifies that bicyclists may pass one another or ride side-by-side if they are not impeding the normal and reasonable movement of traffic.

Language in the bill makes throwing an object towards a bicyclist a class 2 misdemeanor and driving towards a bicyclist in a dangerous manner a careless driving offense.

Recent Articles

A recent article in the Denver Post by John Meyer makes me a little uneasy and wanting to discuss this idea more before trying it in Larimer county. Meyer writes, "The new law helps clarify that bicyclists need to give themselves a little buffer to the right," quoting Dan Grunig executive director of Bicycle Colorado. "Don't hug the curb, don't hug the fog line. It's better to be in that track where the right wheel of the car goes, because that's where people will see you — especially coming to an intersection."

Sometimes bicyclists should "take the lane" by moving to the center of it. "A bicyclist may take the travel lane when traffic is slow and the lane is narrow, there is no shoulder or bike lane, when approaching an intersection, or if you are moving at the same speed as the flow of traffic," according to CDOT's Bicycling Manual. "Moving to the center of the lane establishes your position and prevents motorists from passing until there's enough room."

In a separate article in the Boulder Daily Camera on May 5, 2009, by Heath Urie, Grunig was again quoted. If a motorist does threaten a rider’s safety, Grunig said, “the best thing to do is get the license plate number and a rough description of the car. If it’s something criminal, you file a report. But you also must be able to identify the driver.”

If drivers are acting aggressive, but not necessarily criminal, he said, riders can dial *CSP on cell phones to log a complaint with the Colorado State Patrol. Drivers who tally several complaints will get a letter or a visit from the State Patrol about their aggressive behavior.

Grunig said cyclists are encouraged to report problems but not make them worse by reacting to drivers with obscene gestures or yelling. “I think you have to use common sense,” he said. “You just don’t know who that other person is. The best thing is to play it safe and play it cool.”

CDOT's Bicycling Manual can be viewed online The Bicycle Colorado website has links to Colorado statutes governing bicyclists and Senate Bill 148.

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