Proposal worries cyclists |

Proposal worries cyclists

Baumgardner: 2-abreast amendment protects all road users

Cyclist Matt Pronovost didn't let the wet weather, or traffic, stop him from rolling along Yampa Street on Monday morning. Pronovost says he commutes to and from work year-round. A bill currently being debated in the Colorado General Assembly would change the way cyclists interact with motor vehicles.
John F. Russell

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— State Rep. Randy Baumgardner has angered some cycling groups with an effort to curtail riders’ ability to ride two abreast on state highways, but the Hot Sulphur Springs Republican said his amendment is for the safety of all road users, including cyclists.

Critics say Baumgardner’s amendment to Senate Bill 148 is a blight on legislation intended to improve roadway safety for cyclists. Baumgardner said Monday that the criticism is overblown and that his provision – which would prohibit cyclists from riding two abreast in areas where lanes are 12 feet wide or smaller, or where there is a solid yellow line against cyclists – is not intended to be as restrictive as some fear.

State law currently allows cyclists to ride two abreast when doing so “will not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic” or when they are “riding on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.” Cyclists also must stay within a single lane when riding two abreast.

“The bottom line is, I’m concerned about (cyclists’) safety. That’s the only reason I ran that amendment,” said Baumgardner, who represents House District 57, including Routt County.

The amended version of the bill passed the state House last week but still awaits a final reading. The bill also must be reconciled with an unamended version passed by the state Senate in February.

“I wish we could have had a conversation in advance of the amendment because I think the way it’s worded is going to make it tough for people to understand,” said Bicycle Colorado Executive Director Dan Grunig, who thinks a strict reading of the amendment would improperly prevent one cyclist from passing another. “That’s just not reasonable.”

Brian Weiss, a cyclist and Lakewood personal injury attorney who specializes in bicycle accident cases, agreed that the amendment technically would disallow one cyclist from passing another.

“I’m having trouble understanding the benefit of” the amendment, Weiss said.

Baumgardner disagreed and said the amendment would not prevent one cyclist from safely passing another.

“Passing someone is passing someone. Riding two abreast is riding two abreast,” he said. “They can pass each other as long as the road is clear. : We’re not taking common sense completely out of this.”

But the whole point of the bill, primary sponsor Sen. Greg Brophy said, was to specifically codify safe and common sense behavior between cyclists and motorists rather than create the type of confusion Baumgardner’s amendment seems to have produced.

“It creates a less clear situation, for sure,” Brophy, a Wray Republican, said. “It wasn’t a very well thought out amendment in my mind.”

Brophy said he hopes to “fix” the amendment when the two versions of the bill are reconciled in conference committee.

Other provisions

As written, S.B. 148 includes provisions that also would:

– Require motorists to give cyclists a 3-foot berth when passing them

– Allow motorists to cross a solid centerline to pass a cyclist

– Allow cyclists to ride on the left side of the road on one-way roads

– Allows cyclists to ride on the left-hand side of a dedicated right-hand turn lane even if they are not turning right

– Make it a Class 2 misdemeanor to throw objects at a cyclist

– Make driving toward a cyclist in a dangerous manner a careless driving offense

“Overall, I think the bill would be good to make it safer for cyclists,” Weiss said.

Citing lawmakers, The Denver Post reported last week that cycling deaths and injuries have increased in Colorado in the past two years. In Routt County, at least two cyclists have been involved in accidents with motor vehicles already this year, and one remains hospitalized.

County Sheriffs of Colorado opposes the bill, thinking it actually reduces safety and would be difficult or impossible to enforce.

“It moves the cyclist to what we consider unsafe positions on the highway,” Executive Director Don Christensen said.

Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall, however, has broken with the statewide organization and supports the bill.

“I think more leeway needs to be given to bike riders, particularly in this county,” said Wall, a Democrat.

All three Routt County Commissioners agreed with the enforceability concerns raised by Christensen. Commissioner Doug Monger said he was offended by the “one-sided nature” of the bill, noting that the provision on projectiles would not apply equally to a cyclist who threw something at a motorist.

“What’s good for the goose is good for the gander,” said Monger, who fears the legislation may stir up animosity between cyclists and motorists.

Commissioner Diane Mitsch Bush disagreed. She said that although enforcing the bill would be a challenge, she hopes it will at least send a clear message about acceptable behavior.

“I think one of the things the bill does for me is make people understand people can be very seriously injured or killed,” she said. “I think it’s really important to have the rules be very clear.”

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