About six months ago, I wrote about Colorado passing a "cyclist's Bill of Rights." This bill was an attempt to clearly define cyclist's rights on the roadway. The major items included specifying a three-foot buffer zone for cars passing riders, allowing cyclists to use the full lane if the shoulder of the road was deemed unsafe and allowing car drivers to cross a double yellow line to pass cyclists.
You would have thought that this would have gone a long way in easing the tensions between car drivers and cyclists. Unfortunately, the new law has had the opposite effect and the fallout has been big enough that the Boulder County transportation department decided to form a working group to study solutions to the problem.
The working group, The Boulder County Mountain Canyon Cyclist Motorist Working Group, includes both cyclists and car drivers, especially those who live in the canyons around the city of Boulder where the problems seem to be the most prevalent.
At the first meeting both the car drivers and cyclists expressed their concerns.Car drivers were concerned that cyclists were not staying on the shoulder of the road while descending. Cyclists responded that sometimes the shoulder has lots of debris and they deemed it to be unsafe. Drivers also expressed concerns that they were afraid to follow a cyclist down a hill for fear of not being able to stop fast enough if the rider crashed.
One of the most interesting comments was made by one canyon resident who didn't want to see safer conditions as it would only encourage more cyclists to ride in the canyons.
As a result of that first meeting, the Boulder County transportation department came up with several possible solutions. They suggested doing more regular maintenance on the shoulder of the roads to keep them clean, posting more signage to alert both cyclists and car divers to behave more responsibly and paving more pullouts to allow cyclists to congregate off the roadway when the stop to regroup.
A second meeting of the working group was convened and the public was invited as well to discuss the proposals. Unlike the first meeting, car drivers were more strident in their anti-cyclist sentiment. Here is a summary of several of the comments made by the canyon residents:
"Canyon residents don't want their tax dollars spent to do anything to make things safer for the "biker fringe element. It would just encourage us to ride more."
"More than one canyon resident said, 'If we hit a cyclist, they are headed for the ER or worse, but we drivers are just as traumatized as they are.'"
"We use the canyons to go to work, while cyclists are just rich folks at play who don't really need to be there."
The working group is still trying to figure possible solutions to the problem. One thing that we cyclists can do at all times is to ride responsibly. There is no need to cause an escalation in the tension which exists.