Bicycle Safety and Following the Law

We’re huge proponents of the use of more bicycles for city commuting and we believe the City of Denver and other municipalities in the State should do more to keep bicyclists safe. At the same time, there are many laws on the books that bicyclists choose to ignore, sometimes understandably and sometimes not so understandably.

A recent opinion piece published in the Denver Post argues that the rules for bicyclists should be and are different than those for motorists. Take for example two long standing laws that apply to bicyclists: not riding on sidewalks and obeying traffic signals. It’s easy to understand why a cyclist might prefer to ride on the sidewalk near a busy one way street with no dedicated bike lane–the necessity tends to point to a lack of dedicated infrastructure for bicyclists. On the other hand, if bicyclists choose to flagrantly disobey all major traffic signals they are likely putting themselves and others on the road at risk.

The opinion’s author demonstrates the attitude many seasoned bicyclists have about traffic signals:

Then some cyclist goes and runs a red light. And sometimes, he’s me. I’m that guy who frequently (if not flagrantly) runs the red at 15th and Court downtown, then blows through the stop sign at 10th and Washington (and Clarkson, too, if I’m lucky) every afternoon. That rubs some folks in four-wheeled vehicles the wrong way.

The author suggests that the lack of enforcement of traffic laws on bicyclists means that those laws don’t apply and that norms that bicyclists have developed deserve some recognition:

But in the absence of enforcement, Denver has developed its own bike culture — and it’s not necessarily one that jibes with law. It’s at this point that reasonable people ought to begin a conversation about whether maybe, just maybe, our laws are out of touch with reality.

Flagrant disobedience in this case doesn’t seem like the solution, bicyclists and motorists should feel safe sharing the road with each other. The State and municipalities should work together to make bicycle safety a priority in Colorado by clarifying the law with regard to rules that bikers must follow and providing more dedicated infrastructure for bicyclists. Not doing so just continues to put the safety of us all at risk.

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