Steamboat Springs City Council moving forward on bicycle safety stop

Jim Weishaar rides his bike along Yampa Street in Steamboat Springs. (John F. Russell/file photo)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Steamboat Springs City Council voted 4-3 to move forward on a bicycle ordinance in which bicyclists would be allowed to treat stop signs as yield signs and stop lights as stop signs when there are no cars in an intersection, a maneuver known as a “safety stop.”

Under the proposed ordinance, bicyclists could conduct a “rolling stop” at a stoplight and move at no faster than 15 mph through a stop sign.

“Everybody benefits, including people in cars,” said Ian London, a member of the Routt County Riders board of directors, who first brought the idea to council in January.

The three council members who voted not to move forward with discussions on the ordinance — Heather Sloop, Kathi Meyer and Robin Crossan — said they did so because they were concerned about the safety of cyclists, particularly for young children riding small bicycles that cars may not see.

“My concern is, as the weather starts getting warmer, there are more and more children riding their bikes and watching adults practice these things,” Sloop said. “When you see something, you do it, especially if you’re a kid, and kids may not be doing it safely.”

In response, Routt County Riders Executive Director Laraine Martin said if the ordinance passes, her organization is prepared to educate children and parents about how to follow it safely and correctly.

“The kids are certainly at the top of our mind,” Martin said. “Sometimes, it’s a little more difficult to reach them, but we have email lists, we have social media outlets, and we’re working on getting more involved with the schools and with Winter Sports Club.”

Sloop said she is concerned about busier streets such as Lincoln Avenue and Yampa Street.

“I’m struggling with Lincoln Avenue lights, and bicycles going through lights,” Sloop said. “I don’t believe we have an education component that is strong enough to support this at this time.”

Steamboat Police Chief Cory Christensen said he conducted research in other communities that have implemented such a measure and found they reported very few bicycle accidents.

“Every study I’ve looked at makes it safe for bicycles to quickly get out of the intersection,” Christensen said.

Council members in support of the measure — Lisel Petis, Michael Buccino, Sonja Macys and President Jason Lacy — all said they believed the research surrounding safety presented by Routt County Riders and city staff was compelling enough to move forward with the ordinance.

“From my perspective, just because we allow a policy like this to exist doesn’t mean all of a sudden bikers will throw common sense to the wind and just go in front of cars,” Petis said. “This is only allowing them to commute to and from places faster, which I think is in support of our goals around environmental sustainability and making biking a more accessible opportunity for people in our town.”

Lacy said he supported moving forward because of data showing bicyclists were actually safer after cities adopted such an ordinance.

“Our number one job we’re here to do is to help promote safety for the community,” Lacy said. “When we have studies that show this kind of a change promotes more safety, I have a hard time arguing with that.”

Council took an informal vote to move forward but will still have to pass two readings of the ordinance before it is enacted.

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