Cyclists ride on Manitou Avenue toward Highway 24

A pair of cyclists ride Manitou Avenue toward U.S. 24 with the city of Manitou Springs and Iron Mountain in the background. Cyclists can now treat stop signs as yield signs in Manitou Springs, a rule that could be adopted by the state next year.

A change in the rules of the road for cyclists in Manitou Springs allowing them to treat stop signs as yield signs could become a state law next year. 

Manitou Springs adopted the change in their traffic code last month following advocacy by the cyclist community that it will promote safety. A similar measure that would allow cyclists to roll through stop signs was reviewed by the state Transportation Legislation Review Committee this fall and could be introduced next session.

If adopted statewide the law could improve safety for cyclists and provide consistency, said Jack Todd, a spokesman for Bicycle Colorado, a group working on the statewide measure.

Intersections are the most unsafe area for cyclists and allowing them to treat stop signs as yield signs allows them to get out of the intersections faster and prevent crashes, he said. Under the state law, bicyclists would still have to follow rules that govern who has the right of way and may only treat a stop sign as a yield sign when the coast is clear, he said.

The benefits of the measure have been proven by other states, including Delaware where it was adopted in 2017, Todd said. The number of crashes involving cyclists at intersections fell 23% from 82 to 63 in the 30 months following the passage of the law, according to Bike Delaware. 

Idaho pioneered the rule in the 1982 and also saw success in reducing crashes, Todd said. 

The law was appealing in Manitou because improving safety could help make cycling a more attractive option for residents and help reduce congestion, said Cory Sutela with Ped and Cycle Manitou Springs, known as PaCMan.

"You feel really trapped when you have to go by car and you are just stuck in traffic," he said. 

Other Colorado towns that have adopted the rule include Thornton, Englewood and Aspen. 

The law might not be a good fit for Colorado Springs where a specialized law for cyclists might not sit well with drivers, former Colorado Springs City Councilman Don Knight said. 

"I think all that is going to do is aggravate the animosity that does exist between bicyclists and car drivers," he said. 

During his time on council he fielded numerous complaints about inconsiderate cyclists and looked into requiring the license plates for bikes so that they could be held more accountable, he said. The licenses did not prove to be a viable option. 

Ed Snyder, a vocal opponent of bike lanes a few years ago, found the proposal to allow cyclists to roll through stop signs a bit hypocritical if local authorities want cyclists to be treated as vehicles in other ways. 

"I can’t stand hypocrisy and the government is just rife with it," he said.

Bike Colorado Springs is not advocating for the city to adopt the measure, focusing instead on changes that could have a greater impact on safety, such as protected bike lanes and appropriate detours for cyclists and pedestrians if their rights of way are blocked by construction, said Jerry White chairman of the groups' advocacy committee. 

"We’re working on other things where we think we have a higher likelihood of success," he said. 

Contact the writer at mary.shinn@gazette.com or (719) 429-9264.

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