Your Turn 

I want to ride my bicycle

A former colleague, a bicycle police officer for the city of Seattle, once advised: "Never mess with someone who has more lug nuts than you do."

Sage words when shared between cyclists. However, when expressed by a motorist such as Jeff Hall -- who recently wrote a letter to the editor in which he warned cyclists to "stay out of the way" ("Face it bicycle riders: Cars have more sheet metal and outweigh you by at least 2,000 pounds.") -- such words underscore the deadly attitude cyclists face on every ride.

While he mentions rules and laws, Mr. Hall's attitude obviously does not discriminate between law-abiding and non-law-abiding cyclists and therein lays the problem.

Yes, Mr. Hall, cyclists in Colorado are privileged to be considered legal street vehicles with similar rights and responsibilities as other vehicles. And I can assure you, both as a cyclist and as a former director for one of the nation's largest cycling advocacy organizations, that cyclists who disobey the law are issued citations by police officers with points taken against their driving license.

You mention the "rules of the road" more than once in your letter, but how familiar are you with these rules? Colorado Statute 42-4-1412 states: "Any person riding a bicycle shall ride in the right-hand lane ... except: (a) When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction; (b) When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway; (c) When reasonably necessary to avoid hazardous conditions, including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, pedestrians, animals, or surface hazards."

So, yes, Mr. Hall, cyclists can pass on the left and cyclists can ride on the street rather than on the shoulder if there is good cause. (I find that less that 50 percent of the shoulders and bike lanes in Colorado Springs are rideable due to gravel, debris accumulation or broken glass -- and I guarantee you cyclists are not throwing those beer bottles!)

Additionally, you might want to familiarize yourself with the text of Senate Bill 41, which includes amendments applicable to motor vehicle drivers made by the House Transportation Committee. "The driver of a vehicle proceeding in the same direction as a bicycle shall only make a right turn if the vehicle is at least one hundred feet in front of the bicycle at the time that the turn is started." And, "The driver of a vehicle overtaking a bicycle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left thereof at a safe distance and shall not drive again on to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken bicycle."

It appears to me that passing at a safe distance -- as opposed to your expectation that a cyclist "stay out of the way"-- might serve you better by keeping you out of jail.

And finally, as for the frustration you expressed toward cyclists who "cut to the front of the line at a red light," take comfort in knowing that this cyclist respects your wishes. However, my reading of Colorado State law is, given a bike lane or a defined shoulder, this is not necessarily an illegal action. Sidewalks and trails are also the domain of law-abiding cyclists.

Perhaps, Mr. Hall you should hop on a bike! Before you do, check out the Bicycle Colorado Web site at http://bicyclecolo.org/ site/intro.cfm, because your suspicion that the law applies to cyclists as well as motor vehicles is correct, and I (like you) wish more cyclists and motorists would follow the law.

If you join us, you could help reduce the $69.5 billion our country loses annually in lost fuel and productivity resulting from traffic congestion. You could also help us increase the number of bicycle and pedestrian trips taken in the United States from 6 percent to, say, 28 percent -- as one sees in the Netherlands.

Perhaps you can help spur an awareness of bicycling issues that will reduce the U.S. fatality rate of 21 cyclists killed per 100 million trips to something more on the order of what we also see in the Netherlands: 1.6 cyclists killed per 100 million trips.

I know, given your strong feelings, you will want to be part of the solution. Happy cycling.

Scott Campbell is an avid cyclist who lives in Colorado Springs.


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