Sharing the road works for bikes and cars

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By The Staff

Do Colorado roads sometimes feel like the Wild, Wild West? A new law seeks safer roads and happy trails for all, here in Jeffco and throughout Colorado.

Gov. Bill Ritter signed into law Senate Bill 148, the Bicycle Safety Bill, clarifying our state’s rules on how bicycles and motor vehicles share public roads. Sponsors Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, and Rep. Michael Merrifield, D-Manitou Springs, worked with fellow legislators to find common-sense approaches that enhance road safety for everyone. The new law takes effect on Aug. 5.

In Colorado, bicycles are considered legal vehicles and have the same rights and duties as other vehicles. In fact, many communities restrict bicycles from riding on sidewalks, so don’t be surprised when you see bikes on the road — that is where they belong.

In order to make this new law a real success, all of us — whether we drive or pedal — need to understand its key provisions.

First, the law gives motorists greater freedom to safely pass a bicyclist. If there is oncoming traffic, a driver should simply wait until the coast is clear. Then the law allows them to cross the center line if needed to keep at least 3 feet of separation from the bicyclist. This keeps everyone safe while keeping traffic moving.

Next, the legislation addresses the greatest risk to a bicyclist — not being seen by a motorist. Often the safest place for a bicyclist to ride is where motorists already are looking. This is why you sometimes see bicyclists in the lane rather than hugging the edge of the roadway out of sight. If bicyclists are seen earlier, a motorist has plenty of time to ease up and safely pass or just pause until it is safe.

Also important in the bill is stating that bicyclists need to move to single file if they are impeding the normal and reasonable movement of traffic. The bicycle community works hard to educate riders to ride single file first and side-by-side if clear. Sharing the road works both ways.

Finally, the bill includes restrictions on throwing objects or swerving dangerously toward a bicyclist. These are dangerous behaviors that could cause a bicyclist to crash and rightly should be enforced.

From kids biking to school to adults riding to work and to people getting out for exercise, bicyclists come in all ages and types. Protecting people on our roads and ensuring they are treated with respect ensures that roads will serve the needs of the public for generations to come. The more than 7,000 members of Bicycle Colorado are committed to this goal. The new Bicycle Safety Law takes an important step toward helping create safer roads by updating Colorado traffic laws and creating a safe and welcoming environment for all road users.

Dan Grunig is executive director of Bicycle Colorado, a statewide nonprofit devoted to bicycle safety and education.