New drivers feel liberated when they receive a license. With the independence of operating a vehicle, however, comes responsibility. Colorado requires classroom and behind-the-wheel training to get a license. Accordingly, drivers are instructed on the laws at an early age. The same cannot be said of cyclists.
Oftentimes, new riders take the Denver bicycle laws for granted because cycling seems simple. At an early age, most cyclists learn the dos and don’ts. Some newer cyclists, however, are forced to learn the laws through a combination of trial and error. No wonder drivers and cyclists grow frustrated each spring when they encounter an influx of novice riders peppering the roadways in metropolitan Denver. Suddenly, the empty lanes of winter become overrun with cyclists unfamiliar with traffic laws.
Before getting into the content of this blog, I find it necessary to expound I am not suggesting beginner cyclists should be ashamed of ditching their keys for a bike. Nor am I arguing newbie riders should be fearful of making a mistake on a bike. To the contrary, I have continuously encouraged people to join the popular “movement” of cycling. I love it when commuters jump on their two-wheel modes of transportation. The seemingly uncomplicated activity allows people to feel like children again, temporarily supplanting the bored, sad, unhealthy person that used to drive two hours to work every day.
The purpose of this blog is to reach those who have not yet learned Denver bicycle laws. I believe if cyclists took a few considerations to heart, the roadways would be a safer place for us all. Each day, there are far too many accidents that could have been avoided. As a Denver Bike Accident Attorney, I have represented countless bike riders who suffered serious damages as a result of not knowing the laws. In what follows, I will highlight some of the important tools for all cyclists to know when riding.
Watch for Drivers
In recent times, it seems motorists have become more accommodating in their attitudes towards cyclists, revealing what appears to be a reduction in radical anti-cycling zeal. This could be the result of the mass propaganda aimed at drivers to “share the road.” Alternatively, perhaps cyclists have started to comply with traffic laws at higher rates. Whatever the case may be, it seems that the roadways are becoming a safer place for cyclists and motorists alike.
There are, however, some problem children among us. I am referring to the outraged riders who trample the public roadways on $20,000.00 bikes wearing Lycra from head to toe, with the exception of a haughty futuristic little plastic hat and uproarious goggles. These cyclists ride with a fervent conviction they are a target because they are vulnerable. With this rationale, they believe they are somehow empowered to take it out on everyone on the roads. There is nothing like resentment to bolster the self-esteem and make the hours go by quicker.
Of course, the aforementioned hypothetical cyclist is more of an idea of an attitude than an actual person. Instead of skintight articles of clothing, the cyclist could be disguised as a friendly pedi-cab driver, accompanied by tourists speaking a foreign language, or a BMX biker pulling gnarly tricks throughout downtown. The point is cyclists and motorists must share the road. If we are going to create a safer community, we have to get away from the idea of “us” versus “them.” Cooperation works better than confrontation. It is time to ditch the fist (or finger) for a waive. Can’t we all just get along?
Get a Bike Light
It is surprising cyclists continue to believe they are visible to other road users at night, despite not having lights. I conducted a poll recently, documenting hundreds of cyclists in Denver, and found over 60% of riders rode after dark without a front light. Think about it from a different vantage point. Would you expect drivers with a small cars to operate without headlights? Absolutely not. One of the reasons vehicles are equipped with headlights is so that others may see us! How is this concept any different for cyclists?
While lights help other road users see cyclists, they are also necessary for the cyclist to see their path as well. Streetlights might be enough at times for a rider to navigate a path but there are not nearly enough lights to illuminate every single pothole or sewer lid. Bike lights will help cyclists see their paths.
When I see cyclists without lights, I feel they are being unknowingly irresponsible or they have not thought about the consequences of not being visible to other cars. The law is clear: cyclists must equip their bikes with lights in front and a rear-blinking light in back. I know that rear lights are not cool, but if you have such a problem with your self-image, I would suggest you grow a pair.
Get a Bike U-Lock
If your bike costs more than $42.00, you should invest in a nice lock that comes with a U-Lock and a cable. The U-lock is best for everyone, offering the highest ratio of security to portability. Unconventional devices like folding locks are intriguing, but so far none offer the security of a good U-lock. Chains may offer another addition in security but they often weight three times as much and still relent to power tools.
Hal Ruzal, the dreadlocked cofounder of the NYC bike shop Bicycle Habitat, locks an $800 bike with a $100 lock. After putting some 350,000 miles under his tires, predominantly in New York City over the last 30 years, he has had only one bike stolen, when he used an un-hardened chain lock instead of a U-lock. For more information about bike locks, visit this great site.
Stop at Red Lights
How are we still discussing this? Some motorists grow so infuriated because of cyclists on the roadways. The most important reason why they are so upset is because of the issue of predictability. More explicitly, they simply cannot know what a cyclist is going to do when they encounter a red traffic signal or stop sign. Some blow through. Some yield. Some stop.
Taken from a different angle; when a cyclist stops and then proceeds through a stop sign, it takes a lot longer to clear the intersection. Every time a cyclist stops, they lose kinetic energy and have to work harder upon starting off in order to accelerate and restore that energy. In fact, at the typical riding speed of 15 miles per hour, one stop-start is equivalent to biking an additional 300 feet. In that sense, cyclists who stop 15 times on their commute to work add about a mile to their ride each morning. It is therefore no surprise that some try to cut that by running what they consider “wisely-selected lights and stop signs.” I have also head motorists complain, “why the hell didn’t he just go through. I was waiving him anyway.” They do not realize cyclists cannot see them waving through tinted windows and sun glare.
Share the Road
Cyclists dangle the fragile meat and bones that constitute their bodies in front of a 3,000 pound Car-2-Go or a 25,000 pound bus, hoping neither nicks them because the results would be catastrophic. A bike weighs on average less than 25 pounds and does not wrap around the rider. Further, there are no seat belts or airbags. Cyclists do not have crumple zones. Their bodies are their crumple zones.
I once read a study which suggested regular cyclists – as in frequent, not ordinary or non-constipated – could expect an injury serious enough to require medical attention once every 8.3 years. Ignoring the Rules of the Road can be seriously dangerous, if not deadly. The laws were passed to help make commuting more convenient for everyone. Do hard and fast rules exist in cycling? No. The red light that is simply stupid to run at rush hour is equally as idiotic to run at three in the morning. There is no difference between riding along a deserted sidewalk instead of one crowded with pedestrians for miles.
The people in this world who are reckless and unaware of their attitudes are the problems, whether they are cyclists or motorists. Does it really matter what they are on? If a person is a jerk, they are a jerk,. Blanketing disrespectful drivers with all drivers and annoying cyclists with all cyclists simply confuses the issue. The real issue is working together to appropriately share public space.
Contact Our Denver Bike Accident Attorneys
I hear it all the time. “I did not know that was a law!” It is usually the people who try to follow the law who end up violating it because they assume they know what the law is! The Denver bike accident attorneys at Bowman Law care about public safety and the community as a whole. We disseminate information on Denver bicycle laws in an effort to help avoid collisions.
For more information, contact our Denver bike accident attorneys today at 720.863.6904 or email us for your free consultation. Our lawyers handle a wide range of personal injury cases, including Motor Vehicle Accidents, Bicycle Accidents, Pedestrian Accidents, Slip & Fall Accidents, and Dog Bites & Attacks. We service Arvada, Aurora, Boulder, Broomfield, Denver, Commerce City, Lakewood, Littleton, Thornton, Westminster, Wheat Ridge, and other parts of metropolitan Denver, Colorado.
Owner and Managing Attorney
Jerry Bowman, J.D., M.A., Owner and managing attorney of Bowman Law LLC, takes his responsibility to the legal profession seriously and dedicates his time and effort to providing quality and competent legal representation to clients in Denver and throughout all of Colorado. He holds an MA in Political Science from Wayne State University and earned his law degree in two and a half years from Michigan State University College of Law.