Cyclist sets the record straight on bicycles and cars

On September 8, the Courier published an opinion by Trooper Gary Cutler of the Colorado State Patrol on bicycle/car interactions. Trooper Cutler got the main point exactly right: “just think about it this way; would you want someone doing that to you? Follow that philosophy and your actions will almost always be right.” As a dedicated cyclist, I wholeheartedly agree.

I also follow the advice of my father on who has the right of way where, especially when I am mixing it up with 5,000 lb vehicles: “you can be dead right.” So I ride on shoulders where possible – they’re simply safer. But I am not required to ride on shoulders, contrary to Trooper Cutler’s assertion. His article otherwise displays a bias toward motorized vehicles and does not recognize that bicycles have all the rights (and responsibilities) of any other vehicle.

In fact, the Colorado Supreme Court has made clear that “Our legislature has thus recognized bicycle traffic within a broad regulatory framework. . . and continues to grant Colorado bicyclists ‘all the rights and duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle,’ and subjects bicyclists to both state and municipal regulations and fines. § 42-4-1412(1), C.R.S. (2012). Webb v. City of Black Hawk, 295 P.3d 480, 488 (Colo. 2013).

A few errors in Trooper Cutler’s analysis need to be corrected:

Cutler: “state law requires cyclists to ride as far right of the pavement as safely as possible.”

State law: “A bicyclist shall not be expected or required to:

(I) Ride over or through hazards at the edge of a roadway, including but not limited to fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or narrow lanes; or

(II) Ride without a reasonable safety margin on the right-hand side of the roadway. C.R.S. § 42-4-1412(5)(b).” As a cyclist, my safety margin increases the faster I go. So I am not going to be even within three feet of the edge of the pavement when I am going over 20 mph, as I frequently am.

Cutler: “If there is a shoulder, the rider is required to be on the shoulder and not in the lane of traffic.”

State law: NO, completely wrong: “If the right-hand lane then available for traffic is wide enough to be safely shared with overtaking vehicles, a bicyclist shall ride far enough to the right as judged safe by the bicyclist to facilitate the movement of such overtaking vehicles unless other conditions make it unsafe to do so.” C.R.S. § 42-4-1412(5)(c)(I).  This means the cyclist is entitled to be in the right hand travelled lane, not required to be on the shoulder, AND if the lane is not wide enough, in the cyclist’s judgment, to allow cars to pass in that lane with safe room, the cyclist can ride in the middle of the lane, forcing cars into another lane to get around. So don’t get angry when that happens, I’m just trying to keep those of you who think you can squeeze by from running me off the road to do so.

Cutler: “When they are in the lane of traffic, though, they are also required to ride single file.”

State law:  NO, NO, and NO. I get yelled at more times than I can count about this. State law expressly allows riding double file: “(a) Persons riding bicycles or electrical assisted 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.

(b) Persons riding bicycles or electrical assisted bicycles two abreast shall not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic and, on a laned roadway, shall ride within a single lane. .”  (Note, single lane, not singe file).”  C.R.S. § 42-4-1412(6).

So yes, by all means, the best solution is to obey the golden rule and do unto others as you would have them do unto you. I am going to be on a nice wide, clean, smooth, and well-maintained shoulder, if available. I am not going to be riding two abreast and taking up a full lane unless traffic is light and has ample opportunity to pass. But know that Colorado law gives cyclists the right to the full right hand lane of traffic, just like any other vehicle. Pull out into the other lane to pass. And cyclists, always be aware that you can be dead right. So let’s all get along, and wave to each other rather than flipping each other off.

Erich Schwiesow

Vice President, High Valley Cyclists


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