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Old 04-15-09, 06:11 AM   #1
HammyHead
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Bill to give cyclists more room (Colorado)

Bill to give cyclists more room on the road nears final votes



Proposal would allow bikes two abreast, in the middle of mountain roads
By Heath Urie (Contact)
Tuesday, April 14, 2009

The Bicycle Safety Bill
- A bill that would modify Colorado’s bicycle laws is nearing final votes in both chambers of the state Legislature. If it passes, Senate Bill 148 would:

Require drivers to give cyclists at least three feet of space when passing

Allow vehicles to cross double-yellow lines to pass riders safely

Allow cyclists to ride two abreast in most situations

Prohibit cyclists from riding two abreast on highways with lanes less than 12-feet wide

Specifically prohibit the harassment of cyclists

Increase the penalty for throwing objects at cyclists

Allow cyclists to ride on the left side of one-way streets

Allow cyclists to cruise in the center of lanes when riding on the shoulder isn’t safe

DENVER — In the eight years that Boulder resident Chuck Coyle has been riding his bicycle professionally, he’s been nearly hit by cars, screamed at by drivers, “brake checked” along the edge of the highway and had objects thrown at him from passing vehicles.

“It’s a lot more dangerous than people think it is,” Coyle said of the sport. “You feel like you’re in danger of getting run off the road and being seriously injured.”

Those dangers, Coyle said, have the cycling community excited that a bill aimed at clarifying cyclists’ rights and better protecting riders from aggressive drivers could reach Gov. Bill Ritter’s desk within the next month.

Lawmakers in both chambers of the Colorado Legislature have approved versions of Senate Bill 148, but are working to hammer out final details. Known as the Bicycle Safety Bill, the measure would make major changes to how drivers and riders interact on the road.

Provisions of the bill would require drivers to give cyclists at least three feet of space when passing; allow vehicles to cross double-yellow lines to pass riders safely; allow cyclists to ride two abreast in most situations and specifically prohibit swerving at or otherwise harassing cyclists.

Coyle said the changes would give clarity to “a lot of confusion about the laws.”

“I think people don’t get it,” he said. “We’re out there trying to work and get fit, not to cause problems.”

The bill’s sponsor, state Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, said the changes would make common courtesy into law.

“It really is a big leap forward in safety and common sense,” Brophy said.

He said some of the biggest changes would be requiring drivers to give cyclists a wide berth on the road, and make “very, very clear that you can ride two abreast as long as you’re not impeding traffic.”

Another change affecting mountain roads in particular, he said, would be to allow riders going as fast as traffic to ride in the middle of the lane — rather than navigate gravel and other obstacles on the shoulders.

“For the cyclist coming down Boulder Canyon ... right now they’re supposed to ride as far to the right as they can,” Brophy said. “That might not be the safest place in the road at 50 mph.”

For cyclists like Teresa Foley, 27, of Boulder, knowing she could ride on safer parts of the road is particularly appealing.

“I would love it,” Foley said, “especially being able to ride in the middle of the road.”

But the proposal has its detractors.

“It’s going to be terrible,” said James Healy, 23, who recently moved to Denver from Boulder. “They’re all over the roads now.”

Healy, who was enjoying a beer on the Pearl Street Mall next to a group of bicycle taxi operators Tuesday, said he thinks most drivers would agree with him, unless they’re cyclists too.

Robert Shires, 37, of Boulder, said he rides frequently but understands the frustration of some drivers.

“I see a lot of cyclists break the law,” he said. “They give the rest of us a bad name.”

Dan Grunig, executive director of Bicycle Colorado, said the rules are designed to temper emotions on the road.

“The goal is to create a safe environment,” he said. “These are pretty simple changes that improve everybody’s safety.”

Grunig said his advocacy group is asking each of its 7,000 members to call their local legislators and urge them to approve the bill.
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Old 04-15-09, 07:40 AM   #2
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Another change affecting mountain roads in particular, he said, would be to allow riders going as fast as traffic to ride in the middle of the lane — rather than navigate gravel and other obstacles on the shoulders.

“For the cyclist coming down Boulder Canyon ... right now they’re supposed to ride as far to the right as they can,” Brophy said. “That might not be the safest place in the road at 50 mph.”
Colorado law currently requires cyclists to ride "as far to the right as practicable", and makes pretty generous allowances for circumstances where a cyclist would ride in the middle of the lane. So the proposed law seems to be duplicating laws that are already on the books.
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Old 04-15-09, 08:00 AM   #3
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Colorado law currently requires cyclists to ride "as far to the right as practicable", and makes pretty generous allowances for circumstances where a cyclist would ride in the middle of the lane. So the proposed law seems to be duplicating laws that are already on the books.
Well, yeah....but what's new....well, kinda? How many duplicate gun laws are there? Although, when I read the bill a couple of months ago...and then immediately wrote my congressman in support of...I interpret the language of the bill as putting more legal responsibility on the driver, which is really how it should be. The reason for that is because a driver is much more dangerous to the rider than vice versa. Many countries have laws that automatically fault drivers in any car vs. bicycle accident unless it is shown the cyclist disregarded the law. Supposedly, some law enforcement agencies are opposed to the bill because they think it will be hard to enforce. But in my experience actually being in law enforcement myself, you cannot enforce a law unless you know it is being broken anyway, no matter what the law is. So with that argument, you may as well not have too many laws anyway, it's a silly position to take.
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Old 04-15-09, 09:39 AM   #4
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What are the penalties for throwing stuff and harassment of riders?
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Old 04-15-09, 06:11 PM   #5
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Parts of it at least are not just difficult....but literally impossible to enforce. Who's going to have a tape measure out for 3 feet? Even if an officer was nearby it's very difficult to judge 3 feet. I mean, how do you discern between 2' 10" and 3' 2"? It seems pretty nebulous, and more like an arbitrary determination. So what's the point? All it will do is fuel more discord.....esp. if a driver gets ticketed when there is a discrepancy in their "measuring".

The majority of incidents I've had with people buzzing or not giving enough room were ironically in relatively rural areas and at times when there isn't a lot of witnesses/officers on the road. They typically go by so fast it's difficult to get a license or a definitive description (esp. at night!), and it's your word against theirs even if you did.

Not trying to be overly cynical here. I think there might be some good steps, and at least the cyclist is being recognized in this manner. Just trying to be realistic about some of the enforcement. The bottom line is that I don't think it will change all that much as far as typical behavior patterns. Look at how many people break the motorist laws now and don't get caught. I think the people who respect cyclists already do these things, and the ones who don't probably won't be swayed to alter their conduct even with some stepped up enforcement. I think the anti-cyclist sentiment is sadly that strong.
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Old 04-15-09, 08:27 PM   #6
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yeah, it is duplicating it, but the sheriff up here is a moron and doesn't believe in cyclists' rights. This helps clarify things for him.
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Old 04-16-09, 05:40 AM   #7
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Most of this bill sounds good, but I'm a bit confused with some of the language. At one point the bill grants cyclists the right to ride two abreast when the lane is too narrow to share with a motor vehicle,
"(c) RIDING TWO ABREAST SHALL NOT BE DEEMED TO IMPEDE THE
NORMAL AND REASONABLE MOVEMENT OF TRAFFIC UNDER
CIRCUMSTANCES THAT INCLUDE, BUT ARE NOT LIMITED TO, THE
FOLLOWING:
(I) THERE IS NO CONFLICTING TRAFFIC AT THE TIME; OR
(II) THE LANE IS TOO NARROW FOR ONE BICYCLE AND ONE MOTOR
VEHICLE TO TRAVEL SAFELY SIDE-BY-SIDE WITHIN THE LANE."

but later it says,

"NOTWITHSTANDING ANY PROVISION OF LAW TO THE
CONTRARY, ON A STATE HIGHWAY WITH LANES LESS THAN TWELVE FEET
WIDE, BICYCLISTS SHALL NOT RIDE TWO OR MORE ABREAST."

So you can ride 2 abreast if the lane is narrow unless it is a state highway with narrow lanes?
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