On the Road: Bicyclists and drivers share responsibility
Summer is in full swing and bicyclists are out and about the Roaring Fork Valley. Whether you are an amateur road racer training for your next event or simply enjoying a cruise on the Rio Grande Trail, make safety a priority.
Bicycle laws are an overlooked section of Colorado Revised Statutes. You might be surprised by what you are about to read. What exactly is a bicycle in the eyes of the law? Per statute, a bicycle is defined as the following: “A vehicle propelled by human power applied to pedals upon which a person may ride having two tandem wheels or two parallel wheels and one forward wheel, all of which are more than 14 inches in diameter.”
Note the use of the word “vehicle.” Colorado law defines bicycles as vehicles, and subsequently states: “Every person riding a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle shall have all of the rights and duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle.”
So what does this mean? Bicyclists are not exempt from obeying traffic control signals, traffic control devices or lane designations. It also means motorists must share the road and treat bicycles as moving vehicles. Seem silly? Perhaps — until you find yourself in a jury trial involving a bicyclist killed as a result of careless or reckless driving. In May 2017, a 25-year-old female was sentenced to 12 years in prison for striking a 35-year-old bicyclist in Boulder County while drunk. She also fled the scene of the crash.
Colorado passed the “Three Foot Law” several years ago. The statute states the following:
• C.R.S. 42-4-1003 (1)(b): The driver of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicyclist proceeding in the same direction shall allow the bicyclist at least a 3-foot separation between the right side of the driver’s vehicle, including all mirrors or other projections, and the left side of the bicyclist at all times.
The following statues are some of the big points for bicyclists:
• C.R.S. 42-4-1412 (3): No bicycle shall be used to carry more persons at one time than the number for which it is designed or equipped.
• C.R.S. 42-4-1412 (4): No person riding upon any bicycle shall attach the same or himself or herself to any motor vehicle upon the roadway.
• C.R.S. 42-4-1412 (5): Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic shall ride in the right hand lane.
• C.R.S. 42-4-1412 (6): Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles. Persons riding bicycles two abreast shall not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic and, on a laned roadway, shall ride within a single lane.
I am often asked about nighttime bicycle operation and equipment. Colorado law requires a white forward lamp visible 500 feet to the front, and a red rear reflector visible 600 feet to the rear. Side reflectors are also required.
Consider wearing reflective clothing and a helmet at all times. Make eye contact with motorists. Don’t assume they see you. As discussed in previous articles, distracted driving is rampant. Use appropriate hand signals for turning and changing lanes. Finally, never operate any type of vehicle under the influence of alcohol or other drugs. Ask yourself: “is it worth the loss of a life?”
Trooper Kefren Tester is a seven-year veteran assigned to the Colorado State Patrol’s Vehicular Crimes Unit in Glenwood Springs, which is responsible for investigating fatal and felony crashes throughout the state.
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