Now how do we keep ’em in their place?

Colorado cyclists await the governor’s signature on a re-write of some of their bicycle traffic laws. The rewrite does not eliminate the FTR law, it simply makes the wording more accessible to the less-literate among us.

The reworded law has provoked this response from the Boulder County Sheriff:

“It will be very difficult or impossible to enforce anything against the cyclists,” Pelle said.

He said language that allows cyclists to ride in the middle of mountain roads or two-abreast, for example, could lead to increased conflict between riders and drivers.

“There’s really nothing now that requires them (cyclists) to yield or move over,” Pelle said. “This bill gives them full access to the road.”

On the county’s open highways, he said, cyclists would not be required to use the special shoulders added specifically to separate riders from traffic.

“Under the old statutes, if a bicycle lane or bicycle path was provided, cyclists were required to use it — and now they’re not” if the bill passes, Pelle said. “Boulder County spent million to build bike lanes.”

Read, Boulder sheriff decries ‘bicycle safety’ bill approval. Notice the sidebar, What the bill would do, shows the degree to which we are failing in basic literacy. This reporter, like so many others, has substituted the word “possible” for “practicable.” The existing law says “practicable.” One would think reporters had access to dictionaries. But I digress.

Within the context of the FTR law, the new language is an improvement. However, clarifying the language of a discriminatory law still validates its premise. The Sheriff’s attitude shows how far we need to go to establish bicycle drivers as a normal, accepted and respected part of traffic.

The public way does not exist for the exclusive use and convenience of motor vehicle drivers. Bicycle drivers really don’t want to have a line of cars stacked up behind us. Most of us try to avoid situations where that might happen and try to accommodate faster traffic when we can. In the rare event it does happen, it certainly isn’t the end of civilization. Perhaps the end of civilization (or at least civility) is the insistence on catering to the misperceptions of selfish, impatient and careless people. The reality is, our presence rarely causes delay to anyone, while motorists are constantly delayed by other motorists.

There’s something wrong with a paradigm that accepts motorist-caused traffic jams as a fact of life, but treats nearly-zero-impact bicyclists like interlopers.

There’s some other odd stuff in the new law. Have a look:

Existing law

New law

18 replies
  1. andrewp
    andrewp says:

    Keri: Other than the FTR issue, is there anything else that you don’t like in the new law? I’m happy to see increased penalty for harrasing a cyclist; I would just like the sentence to be a bit stiffer (3rd degree felony, loss of license, etc.).

    I’m shocked that Boulder’s sherriff would be so out-of-touch with the bicycling community that I understand to be pretty vibrant. Think they need to elect a new sherriff who is a little more enlightened to the situation ….

  2. Eric
    Eric says:

    He’s not out of touch. When more cities and counties build more lanes, they will begin clamoring for new laws to require cyclists to use them.

  3. Dennis
    Dennis says:

    I’ve never understood why so many European cities create separate roads for cars and trucks especially going into cities?

    Why do the Europeans have so many pedestrian only districts (where it’s possible that even cyclists are required to dismount) much like Lincoln Road in Miami Beach? Lincoln Road used to be the busiest commercial district until the advent of malls but malls are dieing now.

    If you review the video link that Kevin Love provided of the dutch bicycle path, you see so many near crashes of bicycles and pedestrian traffic has ground to a halt. Why is that?

    So many times while jogging or walking my dog on Cady Way I’ve had to lecture bicycle riders about riding on the incorrect lane for “peds” when bicyclists, roller bladders and skateboarders have their own dedicated lane. Do you realize how nasty people can get when you point out that they are doing the wrong thing?

  4. Keri
    Keri says:

    Do you realize how nasty people can get when you point out that they are doing the wrong thing?

    Yeah! Try talking to a wrongway cyclist! Vicious creatures, they are.

    You’re so right. Bike drivers and pedestrians don’t mix well. Reduced speed and courtesy is a compromise cyclists must accept when they choose a multi-use facility.

  5. Dennis
    Dennis says:

    Might be a multi-use facility but the paths aren’t and they are clearly signed that way.

  6. Dennis
    Dennis says:

    Besides, have you ever seen a Yorkshire Terrier on a leash walk in front of a bicycle that’s on a pedestrian path.

  7. Dennis
    Dennis says:

    How about wonderful public transportation like an elevated rail line with bicycle and pedestrian paths below (kind of like that link Kevin Love sent of the canceled construction of a road with the remaining pylons still in place and a path nearby)?

  8. Kevin Love
    Kevin Love says:

    Dennis wrote:

    “If you review the video link that Kevin Love provided of the dutch bicycle path, you see so many near crashes of bicycles”

    Kevin’s question:

    I didn’t see anything like that on the video. Where were each of these near crashes? The video has a timer running; at what minute and second did they take place? I suspect that you may be misinterpreting what you saw, but I may be wrong. Let me know where and I’ll take a close look.

    What I do know is that The Netherlands is the safest place in the entire world for a cyclist. In 2007, per km travelled, the death rate in the USA was 5.3 times that of NL, and the rate of injury in the USA was a whopping 26.8 times higher than in The Netherlands.

    That may be one of the key reasons why Dutch parents send their children to school on bikes, but in very few parts of the USA would I allow my children to cycle to school.

    Source of death and injury rates is Figure 10 on p. 506 of “Making Cycling Irresistible: Lessons from The Netherlands, Denmark and Germany.” The text may be found online at:

    The article is well worth reading for lessons to apply in the USA today. In particular, the measures outlines in Table 1 on p. 512 to engineer out the two greatest causes of death and serious injury which are:

    1) Intersections
    2) Dooring

  9. Kevin Love
    Kevin Love says:

    One thing that I like in the new law is 42-4-1412 “A bicyclist shall ride far enough to the right as judged safe by the bicyclist…”

    One thing that I’m not seeing is anything that legally requires motorists to drive defensively and puts the liability for any crash squarely on drivers by assuming that they are negligent unless they can prove otherwise. Thereby allowing the cyclist to sue for damages and win easily. One example is from Ontario’s “Highway Traffic Act” as follows:

    Onus of disproving negligence

    (1) When loss or damage is sustained by any person by reason of a motor vehicle on a highway, the onus of proof that the loss or damage did not arise through the negligence or improper conduct of the owner, driver, lessee or operator of the motor vehicle is upon the owner, driver, lessee or operator of the motor vehicle. Highway Traffic Act, Royal Assent EIIR 52, c. 31, Sched. 10, s. 3.

  10. Dennis
    Dennis says:

    Can somebody please help me? I would like to take a small child in a Burley trailer behind me in a bicycle lane but the lanes are barely wide enough.

    Can somebody please give me some pointers on assertive riding and taking the lane from car drivers?

  11. Keri
    Keri says:


    If you want to build confidence, my offer stands to ride with you (when I get back from Dallas—I’m here through Sunday).

    If you can tell us your start and destination points, maybe we can help find a good route for you to use.

    I agree that the bike lane leaves little room for a trailer, it gets you pinched onto the side of the road. It is perfectly safe to assert yourself in the lane. Some people put a flag on the trailer for a little added visibility.

    Mighk pulled one of his foster kids in a trailer. He might have some additional advice.

  12. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    I saw that Cycle Dallas has referenced that wonderful video of Keri riding a “regular-person” kind of bike, but I’m surprised at his comment regarding “middle-aged” describing Keri. My sister started a remark to me the other day with “At your age…” but I let her live anyway!

  13. Steve A
    Steve A says:

    Fred, Fred, Fred, by now I’d think you were seasoned enough by now not to believe everything you read on the internet!

    I also suspect PM considers everyone between legal drinking age and Social Security as “middle-aged.” We’ll have to see if he explains himself…

  14. Keri
    Keri says:

    The middle-aged thing a comeback against a certain paternalistic facilities ideologue who claims vehicular cycling is only for young, skinny white men. I’m only one of those 4 things. And yes, though I may look like I’m 12, I am technically middle-aged.

    But I have been carded three times this year!


  15. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    I had the absolute pleasure of meeting the legendary Keri at Bikes and Beans Bordello during my LCI seminar. I’ll agree that she qualifies for a couple of her adjectives. I prefer slender and young from the list, but I’m probably beyond middle aged.

    Keri, it’s your smile that causes you to get carded, in my estimation.

  16. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    “It will be very difficult or impossible to enforce anything against the cyclists,” Pelle said.

    It is not difficult to enforce appropriate violations “against” cyclists.

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