Bike Laws as Pedestrians or Vehicles

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Est. Reading Time: 2 minutes
Photo by Adrian Williams on Unsplash

Written by Andrew Zimmerman

It’s that time of year again when many take to the outdoors for fresh air and exercise, be it hiking, biking, running, or whatever you’re into. Along with these outdoor activities comes some risks.

If you’re a cyclist who chooses to ride on the road with automobile traffic, the risks can be especially high and costly. First of all, you should be informed as to the applicable Colorado laws governing cyclists and vehicles.

Note that there are both specific laws for cyclists and specific laws for motorists, however, cyclists should be aware that a bicycle is counted as a “vehicle” as defined in Colorado Statute 42-4-1412: “Every person riding a bicycle shall have all of the rights and duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle…”

Statistics gathered by the City and County of Denver for 2008-2012 reveal a trend of increasing cyclist/automobile accidents. It was found that 52 percent of incidents resulted in some kind of bodily injury, while four of them resulted in fatalities. In a state like Colorado and a city like Denver with a high number of cyclists, Denver has one of the lowest bicycle fatality rates among large cities in the nation. Specific numbers and statistics were not available for Longmont.

So what do you need to know? A good place to start is the Colorado Statue 42-4-1412 as it explains the rules and regulations governing bicycles and traffic. For example, did you know that when a bicycle wants to make a left turn, that they are supposed to stay as close to the right-hand curb until the left turn is made?

I had the opportunity to speak with Sergeant Eric Lewis of the Longmont Police Department to get some local law enforcement perspective on this topic.

Lewis pointed out that as far as the City of Longmont goes, the majority of bicycle/automobile accidents happen because the bicycle is transitioning from a sidewalk/pedestrian zone, to a roadway, without dismounting as is the local ordinance, which is different than the State law. Unfortunately, as per Sgt. Lewis, the details and examples for a “bicycle dismount” are not clearly defined, thus leaving some gray area that has caused problems.

Photo by Match Sùmàyà on Unsplash

For anyone who rides a bicycle in or near automobile traffic, be forewarned that when a bicycle is being ridden on a sidewalk, for example, it is considered a pedestrian and needs to follow the applicable laws for pedestrians. If the bicycle is being ridden on a roadway then it is considered a vehicle and needs to abide by traffic and driving laws.

Ultimately it is up to each of us to be informed and responsible. Sgt. Lewis stated that the City of Longmont Police Department encourages citizens to “be mindful and aware.” The laws are well documented and available for all to review. We all know that when a bike and car are involved in an accident everyone loses and, typically the cyclist is injured as humans and bicycles are no match for a moving vehicle.


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16 COMMENTS

  1. Your statement on left hand turns is misleading at best, wrong at worst. The code you site says
    “A person riding a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle intending to turn left shall follow a course described in sections 42-4-901(1) , 42-4-903 , and 42-4-1007 or may make a left turn in the manner prescribed in paragraph (b) of this subsection (8).” It’s in paragraph b where they describe making a left by staying in the right lane until you’ve crossed the intersection and then joining the traffic in the direction you wanted to go But in the sections described in paragraph a, left turns are made from the left lane just as you would in a car.

  2. Bikes have full rights to the road as cars do. If you want to take a left, slowly transition into the left turn lane at your discretion. .. The idea you need to wait till the last second is dangerous and inaccurate.

  3. I strongly encourage the author of this article, and all journalists, to stop calling crashes “accidents.” These are CRASHES. Accident implies that nothing could be done to stop it, which is completely inaccurate in just about every single crash, and only serves to dismiss the responsibility of drivers (and cyclists and pedestrians, but usually drivers) in these incidents.

  4. While I’m fully supportive of reminding cyclists of the applicable laws, why do you not also run annual articles reminding drivers of of “share the road” laws? This is not us v. them. Stories like this tend to (often by omission) reinforce a divisory mindset, usually in favor of automobiles. There are bad actors in both groups.

  5. You left the most important part out of this paragraph, which is “a bicyclist shall ride far enough to the right as judged safe by the bicyclist to facilitate the movement of such overtaking vehicles unless other conditions make it unsafe to do so.”
    So what do you need to know? A good place to start is the Colorado Statue 42-4-1412 as it explains the rules and regulations governing bicycles and traffic. For example, did you know that when a bicycle wants to make a left turn, that they are supposed to stay as close to the right-hand curb until the left turn is made?
    Here is the link to the whole statute.
    https://codes.findlaw.com/co/title-42-vehicles-and-traffic/co-rev-st-sect-42-4-1412.html

  6. Thanks for the article. FYI–Statistics for Longmont bicycle accidents ARE available through LUH. There’s a group there that even helped out the Holiday Bike Program and gave away free helmets. Also, could you run an article on the complete disregard of stop signs when people who drive turn right on red? A young girl was killed because of this a few years ago. Her name was Peyton Knowlton.

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