Ride a bike in Colorado? You still need to stop at red lights

February 8, 2017 Updated: February 8, 2017 at 11:16 am
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A bill that would have made it legal for Cyclists to pedal through intersections died in committee. Photo by Ryan Jones, The Gazette.

It's not like cyclists follow intersection laws, anyway.

Republicans on the Senate Transportation Committee, however, put the brakes on a bill that would have made it legal for them to pedal through intersections, as long as they yield to traffic and pedestrians.

The bill died on a 3-2 party-line vote.

Lakewood Democrat Andy Kerr presented Senate Bill 93 to give bicycles more legal latitude in navigating an intersection, even though legislative analysts note that the conviction rate for the crime is very low.

Cyclists theoretically could get ticketed for a class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense and pay a $150 fine. But between January 2014 and January 2017, a total of 44 Coloradans had been convicted, so less than 15 a year, according to the bill's analyst.

Breckenridge, Dillon, Aspen and Summit County already have passed stop-as-yield laws for cyclists, Kerr said.

Kerr and cyclists tried to convince the committee the law would make roads safer, but the County Sheriffs of Colorado and the Colorado State Patrol disagreed.

"The Colorado State Patrol is dedicated to bicycle safety, which is why were are opposed to this bill," Dave Hall, legislative liaison for the patrol, told the committee.

Sure, most cyclists have the cognitive ability to decide whether it's safe to coast through and intersection, but not all do, he said. If cyclists perceive that it's OK to blow through an intersection, they might be even less likely to closely assess the risk.

Dianna Orf, speaking for the Associated Governments of Northwest Colorado, called the proposal "an extreme safety problem" just by sending a confusing public message on right-of-way safety for cyclists.

"I shudder to think how we would teach children on bicycles to judge whether its safe to roll through at a safe speed or not," she said.

Those in favor of the change noted that cyclists starting at a red light with cars are at peril, and they unnecessarily slow down traffic from a standing start.

Those with clip-in pedals especially have troubles with frequent stops. Also, bicycles and riders don't have enough weight to trigger a red light sensor.

Dave Lehmann, vice chairman of the Grand Junction Urban Trails Committee, said the bill placed responsibility for safety on the cyclist.

"It's at least as safe or safer than the current situation," he said, citing safety data form Idaho, which stop-as-yield has been law since 1982. "It facilitates safe cycling at no cost to the taxpayers."

He asked how many motorists would want to cut off their engine to engage their emergency break at every intersection, the equivalent of what the law demands of cyclists.

Greg Brophy, an avid cyclist and former state senator, called the change in law "a good, conservative, commonsense approach."

He said it would save time for motorists who aren't waiting behind cyclists to start. He cited philosopher and statesman Edmund Burke who held that what happens in society naturally should be noted.

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