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Publish Date: 7/11/2005

A group of bike riders heads north on 75th Street into Hygiene on Thursday evening. New cycling laws allow cyclists to ride side by side as long as they don’t block traffic. Times-Call/Lewis Geyer

Cycling law now allows side by side

A new state law allowing cyclists to ride side by side on roadways as long as they don’t impede cars allows a more common-sense approach to the rules of the road, a local cycling advocate says.

The law, which took effect July 1, makes clear that cyclists and motorists are equally responsible for safety on the road, Longmont bicycle blogger Richard Masoner said.

Under a quirk in previous state bike laws, two cyclists riding abreast on the shoulder could be found liable if they were struck by a vehicle that veered off the road, he said.

“There was a liability issue in Colorado where a cyclist could be blamed for an accident they did not cause,” Masoner said. “Even if there was plenty of room, it was still illegal for cyclists to ride side by side.”

Masoner, who commutes on his bicycle and estimates he rides 4,000 miles each year, said he hasn’t noticed an increase in cyclists riding abreast since the law became active July 1.

“Most cyclists have been riding that way anyway,” he said. “It was common practice, and the previous law wasn’t reflecting that.”

The new law includes several additional common-sense amendments to state cycling rules. Cyclists may ride across crosswalks instead of dismounting, unless a local law requires that they walk across. They may now signal a right turn with an outstretched right arm, rather than a bent left arm.

A cyclist injured in an accident also may request a police report of the incident, even if a motor vehicle was not involved.

Colorado’s new law is similar to cycling rules in most other states, Masoner said.

The law will force transportation officials to re-evaluate many road signs, such as the ones in Lefthand Canyon urging cyclists to ride single file, Boulder County alternative transportation coordinator Tim Swope said.

“It’s quite possible most or all of those signs will come down,” he said.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing, he said. Signs telling cyclists to ride single file tend to incite motorists’ anger at bicycle riders and do little to promote cycling safety, he said.

Law enforcement should find the new rules more reasonable than the previous version of the law, Boulder County sheriff’s Lt. Phil West said. Until July 1, cyclists could legally ride abreast on a roadway only when motorists could see them from more than 300 feet away, West said.

Proving that a motorist’s line of sight was 300 feet was sometimes difficult, but the new guidelines are sensible, he said.

“It’s probably going to be a good thing, by and large,” West said of the new law. “Instead of saying, ‘They were within 300 feet of approaching traffic,’ we can say, ‘They had traffic backed up five deep.’”

Boulder Democratic Sen. Ron Tupa, who carried the bill in the Senate, said last spring that the measure represents the most significant revisions to Colorado’s bicycle-safety rules in the past 20 years and clarifies cyclists’ rights and responsibilities.

“Cyclists are some of our most vulnerable citizens on the road, and this bill helps police and drivers protect them,” he said.

Times-Call staff writer John Fryar contributed to this report.

Brad Turner can be reached at 720-494-5420, or by e-mail at bturner@times-call.com.

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