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19943 Views 36 Replies Latest reply: Jun 16, 2008 12:07 PM by Gale Bernhardt 1 2 3 Previous Next
Gale Bernhardt Legend 73 posts since
Jun 12, 2007
Currently Being Moderated

May 21, 2008 12:31 PM

"Sheriff to boost bike law ticketing" - What is the correct interpretation of "the law"?

I have been getting many, many emails on this subject. I've decided to start a community discussion board on the topic. For those of you out of the loop, the easiest way to begin is with a newspaper column. Out of the Ft. Collins Coloradoan regarding "[Sheriff to boost bike law ticketing|]":


The column says:



Bicyclists who ride Larimer County roads, consider this your warning: Sheriff's deputies are about to start ticketing riders who ride two abreast.



The warning comes following a rise in "contacts" between traffic deputies and bicyclists, particularly in the southern part of the county, near the Boulder County line.



Under state law, cyclists must ride single file if "riding two abreast would impede the flow of traffic."



Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden said many bicyclists on Larimer County roads are unaware that his office will enforce the two-abreast rules.



He said his office interprets the rules to mean that cyclists move into single file if a vehicle is approaching from behind, and riding two abreast "could" impede the flow of traffic.



"If you ride double file, we're going to give you a ticket," Alderden said.



"So far, the deputies have been issuing warnings. That is going to stop in the very near future. Every spring, this comes up."



Alderden's longstanding policy has prompted at least one formal complaint from a Boulder County cyclist, who was stopped and warned last weekend while riding two-abreast in Larimer County.



In an e-mail message distributed widely to the Boulder County cycling community, the rider called the deputy "hostile" and said she felt unwelcome on Larimer County roads.



"He ran our IDs and then told us we had the choice to turn around and go back to Boulder or get a citation if we continued to ride in Larimer County," wrote the woman, a teacher who asked not to be named. "He stated several times that he does not appreciate people from Boulder choosing to ride in Larimer."



Alderden said the deputy "could have been more tactful" but largely confirmed the rider's account.



"We have had a number of confrontations between our agency and bicyclists, particularly from Boulder," he said Friday. "A number of them cop an attitude. Basically, what we have is a disagreement between some bicyclists and our agency's interpretation."



Boulder County Sheriff's spokesman Cmdr. Phil West confirmed that many bicyclists flout the two-abreast traffic law and said North Foothills Highway between



Boulder and Lyons has long been a major complaint area.



He said bike racers this year have partnered with the Colorado State Patrol to organize Wednesday evening competitions that adhere to state law.



"We used to have the pack riders on the North Foothills Highway," West said. "That was a weekly complaint area, multiple offenses, multiple complainants. That has been ameliorated to some extent by having a sanctioned ride on Wednesday nights, staffed by state troopers."



West said the Boulder County Sheriff's Office has no specific plans to enforce the two-abreast law, although special patrols have been tried in the past.



"The sense is that the situation hasn't improved, and it hasn't gotten any better," West said. "We continue to receive complaints. People continue to flout the law."



Another road that's a problem area shared with Boulder and Larimer counties, West said, is North 75th Street in Boulder County, which connects to Woodland Road and permits access to Weld County Road 23.



A few years ago, a local resident upset about cyclists obstructing his access deliberately ran over a riders' bike, then returned home to await arrest, West said.



"Fortunately, the bicyclist got out of the way in time," West added.






The Sheriff has followed-up with his blog comments:





Cyclists and Dodge City

By Sheriff Jim Alderden


Don't you just love this time of year, when the birds, boats and cyclists come out? Well, two out of three ain't bad.



Tis the time of year for countless walking, running and cycling events that positively or negatively affect each of us. Then there's the inevitable conflict between the motorists and cyclists using roads that are in disrepair and aren't fit for either. The Sheriff's Office and other law enforcement agencies are tasked with keeping the peace and enforcing the laws. The end result is that nobody is happy with us.



First, let me address the numerous events that impact traffic flow and raise the ire of the affected neighborhoods. All of these events require a permit. There are several stages of review. Many of these cross jurisdictional lines and require approval from the municipalities that they traverse, the county and the state. In the case of the county permits, they are NOT issued by the Sheriff's Office but from the Commissioners. In addition to the Sheriff's Office reviewing the plans for the events, the Health Department, Road and Bridge, Parks Department, Engineering and the appropriate ambulance, hospital and fire departments all review the plans and either approve or impose conditions. In the case of the Sheriff's Office, we REQUIRE notification of affected residents, a traffic plan, certified traffic control personnel at key intersections, and volunteers at other locations. If the event is a race, we require either full or rolling road closures. Again, we are charged with making the event as safe as possible, but can't deny a permit just because it inconveniences people. That's a balancing act for the County Commissioners.



The Sheriff's Office no longer assigns personnel to these events except in the most extreme circumstances due to staffing shortages, other high priority events that dictate deputies be assigned to work overtime, and the liability associated with these events. When we do, the event must pay the costs associated with the services provided. I don't remember the last time we assisted with one of these due to the volume of other off-duty work where the services of a sworn deputy are needed. (As an aside, to the person who groused on the Reporter Herald RH line about the Sheriff's Office escorting a group of cyclists on Glade Road on Saturday, May 10, the Sheriff's Office was NOT involved in this event and we definitely did NOT have a car escorting the cyclists either on duty or on overtime. This event was a collegiate event hosted by Colorado State University, so I suspect that the lead car may have been a CSUPD car.)



Second, let me address the issue of cyclists in general and our enforcement practice. I've recently received a deluge of e-mails from the cycling community of Boulder after a group of them encountered a deputy who gave then the "don't let the sun set on your behind in my county" speech or something akin to that. What the rider claimed was that the deputy offered the option of either returning to Boulder County or receiving a ticket for the alleged violation (more on that in a moment). That may be what they heard, but the deputy is adamant that isn't exactly what was said. Apparently there was some dialogue (argument) about the interpretation of the applicable statute and the cyclists were advised that we were going to enforce the law regarding impeding the traffic flow in our county. The deputy continued by stating that perhaps they should return to Boulder County where they indicated they could ride two abreast, or be cited if they continued to do so here. It really wasn't a "get out of Dodge" ultimatum but "if you stay in Dodge, be prepared to follow the rules or suffer the consequences." Perhaps he could have been more tactful, but anytime you get to even suggest something to deal with Dodge City, its okay in my book.



Actually, we have a bonus point system when ticketing individuals from Boulder. So far, the deputy in question has won a toaster oven and is close to earning a rod and reel combination. (Just kidding!)



Now to the real issue and the reason for the contact in the first place. We have been receiving complaints about cyclists hogging the road in the southern part of the county so we have stepped up our presence. Not surprisingly, many of these cyclists cop an attitude when stopped. Also not surprising, many of the cyclists with attitudes are part of the Boulder cycling community. Now, I've had some fun making fun of Boulder in the past (all warranted by the way) and some will say this is just another attempt to bash Boulder, but this is what has been reported to me. Many have taken to not carrying identification, so when asked to identify themselves for purposes of determining if there are any outstanding warrants (which we always check), it isn't unreasonable to determine their county of residence. (Another warning - When issuing a citation for a violation, if we can't verify the identification of the cyclist, they WILL be taken to jail pending identification and their bicycles impounded. This isn't a threat. Its the way we operate.)



The dispute is over interpretation of C.R.S. 42-4-1412(5): "Any person riding a bicycle shall ride in the right hand lane. When being overtaken by another vehicle, such person shall ride as close to the right-hand side as practicable. Where a paved shoulder suitable for bicycle riding is present, persons operating bicycles shall ride on the paved shoulder...." Also at issue section (6)(a) "Persons operating bicycles on roadways shall ride single file: except that riding no more than two abreast is permitted in the following circumstances: (I) When riding two abreast will not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic..." Many feel that they can ride two abreast as long as vehicle approaching from the rear can get around them, even if the motorist has to go into the oncoming lane of traffic. Our reading of the statute doesn't require that traffic actually be impeded, only that it the cyclists riding two abreast would impede the normal flow of traffic if vehicles had to swerve into the oncoming lane, especially when there is a double yellow line as is the case in many of the winding roads favored by the cyclists. Further, section 6 doesn't negate the requirement of section 5 to ride on the paved shoulder or as far to the right as feasible when being overtaken. While riding two abreast, one of the pair isn't as far to the right as possible. When being overtaken, in order to get as far to the right as possible, they must ride single file if there is only one lane in that direction. If there is a paved shoulder, they should be riding on the shoulder, not in the traffic lane, regardless of whether or not they are impeding traffic.



The arguments offered by the cyclists are similar to those made by many motorists when blowing stop signs. "There were no other cars coming, so why should I have to stop?" - "They could still get around us, so what difference does it make?"



I believe in minimal enforcement to achieve the desired result. Our deputies have been giving verbal warnings, as was done to the Boulder cyclists. The warnings haven't been heeded. I don't expect my deputies to have to debate the point any further. We will begin issuing tickets for these violations, whether the offender lives in Larimer County, Boulder, or Dodge City.



To the motoring public, this does not mean its open season on cyclists. We also have received some complaints about motorists throwing objects at cyclists or harassing them. We will be equally aggressive in defending the rights of the cyclists to share the road as long as done legally and responsibly.



May 20, 2008

  • Rookie 1 posts since
    May 21, 2008

    I wrote back to this original story last week in disbelief of the confrontation between cylists and the Larimer County Sheriff. I have since had some discussions with drivers who tell me they attempt to come as close as they can to cyclists, who are out in the road. Once again, I'm in total disbelief. I spend most of the summer on two wheels, motorcycle and bicycle. I have had the misfortune of being run over on both a bicycle and motorcycle, by large, four wheeled, motorized vehicles. It hurts and it has changed my life, however I still ride and will always ride. I have had many "incidents", with elderly drivers, drivers on the phone, and those who just don't see me! Being a veteran of close encounters of the two wheel/four wheel variety, I like to question them and bring my presence to their attention, when I can catch up to them. Most of the time, they don't have a clue, I was even there. I think the Sherriff wants everyone safe and when you see cars around, ride single file. There are many angry, clueless drivers on the road and staying out their way could very well save your life. Who wants a ticket, anyway?

  • omabikeryder Legend 289 posts since
    Jul 9, 2007

    I don't live in Colorado, but I had the pleasure of riding in that area last year over Memorial Day weekend.  I could not believe all the bike traffic heading north out of Boulder, is that the area the sherriff was talking about?  I noticed signs for Road Races on Wednesday evenings.  I have been riding several years, and recently started commuting regularly, getting along with cars a lot bigger than you is a balancing act.  I'm ALL FOR BIKERS RIGHTS, but I think the sherriff has a point.  He also has a great blog or post wherever you got it, I'd vote for him.  Riding two abreast is not smart!  One of the riders is farther into the traffic lane than is necessary, and you just torque off drivers.  You won't win an argument against a car, and you won't win an argument with a law enforcement officer.  I guess if you want to make an issue of it, wait until they do issue a citation and fight it in court.  On another note, what's with all the riders I saw riding up in the mountains with no helmets?

  • shobha's uncle Rookie 1 posts since
    May 21, 2008



    I thought that you and others might be interested to read the response I sent to the Sheriff (like one of the others who posted here, I noticed that he doesn't have a way to respond directly to that blog.  Hmmmm.).  Anyhow:



    Dear Sheriff Alderden,


    I've just read your column "Cyclists and Dodge City" posted yesterday.  As a cyclist AND a motorist who spends considerable time on county roads, I am naturally very interested in this topic.  My enjoyment of cycling and driving is affected by the behavior of others on the road, but when I am riding my bike, my LIFE depends on the behavior and attitude of drivers.


    In my opinion, your column was unnecessarily car-centric.  Yes, large groups of riders spread across the road are annoying and in violation of a state law.  Are they a risk to the driver?  No.  What is the cost to the driver?  A minute of time, at most.  The response of many drivers to having to wait even a few seconds to pass a cyclist safely is often (a) not to wait, putting the cyclist at risk or (b) to drive very close to the rider and yell or honk, also putting the cyclist at risk.  I rarely ride in groups and yet often encounter those behaviors.  It is interesting to think that these drivers never behave the same way when their progress is more substantially impeded by a farm tractor, vintage car, or other slow-moving vehicle.


    The vast majority of drivers and cyclists use the roads safely and respect the rights (and lives) of others.  I'm grateful for that.  However, it is clear that some cyclists and some motorists need to improve their behavior and attitudes on the road.  Thus, I would have expected your column to be more balanced: "we all need to get along".  As written, though, your column served to inflame the rage of motorists who already dislike cyclists.  I don't appreciate that, and am angered that a respected county official has made my time on the road less safe.


    Furthermore, your citation of Colorado Statute 42-4-1412 was incomplete, focusing on the perceived errors of the cyclists rather than the full law.  For example, Section 5 clearly includes three exceptions:

    (a) When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction;

    (b) When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway;

    (c) When reasonably necessary to avoid hazardous conditions, including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, pedestrians, animals, or surface hazards.

    By omitting these, you give motorist the impression that riders must ALWAYS be fully to the right -- and from that, many have the perception that they are entitled to abuse cyclists who are not to the right.  I was once purposefully nearly hit by a driver who was livid that I was in the center of the lane as I prepared to turn left at an intersection.  Your column serves to bolster his opinion that he was correct. 


    I wish that more drivers would remember that cyclists are not anonymous nuisances but fathers, mothers, wives, husbands, and children.  I doubt that the rage and abuse that I have sometimes experienced from drivers would happen if they had thought that it might be their son on the bike instead of a stranger.  I encourage you to spend a few hours on county roads on your bicycle to learn firsthand what is experienced (and to fix flat tires in your efforts to ride to the right in a litter-strewn shoulder).  And PLEASE work to protect the safety of ALL citizens of the county -- motorists and cyclists alike -- by encouraging mutual understanding and respect for the law rather than promoting an "us vs. them" attitude.



    Ken Reardon


  • Dave Newman Amateur 8 posts since
    Jan 8, 2008

    A new article on this topic is on the front page of the Coloradoan today: Cyclists, sheriff confer on road rules

  • MelissaE Community Moderator 39 posts since
    Jun 7, 2007

    My favorite part of the column is the highly profound statement by Cmdr. Phil West "The sense is that the situation hasn't improved, and it hasn't gotten any better."

  • MotiveForcer Community Moderator 448 posts since
    Jul 9, 2007


    As a committed rider here in Michigan and a ride leader for usually three rides a week I've been forced to become acquainted with the laws here in Michigan which are remarkably similiar to yours in Colorado.  As a clinical psychologist I'll reserve for another time the distressing aspects we've all encountered by motorists and the intentional malicious contacts reported by the riders earlier in this thread leave me stunned even though I've heard similar tales before. 


    As recently as three Sundays ago I had a run in with a local officer who nearly hit our group as he went passed. I yelled, as it is not in my nature to be silent in these situations and even the "Ride of Silence" does not seem to serve the need to evoke change, and he rolled down the window and a discussion ensued as he told me we needed to be  within six inches of the white line, to which I informed him that he was mistaken as to the law, and that we were supposed to ride single file to which he was also mistaken. 




    I asked him to pull over.  He wondered why I yelled and I as calmly as possible explained that when my cohort's lives and mine are at stake we tend to get animated. I told him I would forward the law to him which we did via the League of Michigan Bicyclists, and that in the future if he wants to speak with cyclists he should pull around us and wave us over.  We would be happy to comply.  I wondered also why it was my job to inform the police of the law!  I suggested to the LMB to forward copies of the law to every municipality in Michigan.  Perhaps that will help if it happens.




    He said he could not get around us as to the fact that there was a double yellow line. I said, "Then don't! Wait for it to clear out. Follow patiently and we will wave you on when it is peaceful."  




    Now, we had moved over to the left a bit because, [[despite the fact that we live in Oakland County, Michigan which at least until recently was the fourth most affluent county in the US, our roads here in the suburbs of Detroit are pretty poor],] there were some sloppy rough patched spots that precluded us from being to the right. Our new statutes here clarify that aspect that we stay to the right dependent upon the road conditions, debris, road kill, as similar to your laws in Colorado.  




    Mmy take on it is this. I'm the EXPERT as to what determines what the road conditions are and SO ARE YOU! This has to be your mindset.  I presume most of you who are involved in this discussion ride thousands of miles yearly and have done so for years.  What I'll do as well, and for some unknown reason many of our roads have no shoulder at all even though the construction mandates in this county require shoulders of 3 to 4 feet as I understand it, is that if a road is relatively narrow and there is an oncoming car I will hold my lane so that an approaching car cannot pass. I am in fact deliberately impeding traffic because I know, as do you, that that driver is going to try to squeeze through.  Now if the road is wider then I won't do this action.




    Now here is the key. When I do this, I'll hold my hand out as if to communicate that I don't wish for them to pass until safe. When the oncoming car passes by then I'll wave the trailing car on.  Rarely do we get grief when we do this.  I believe that drivers get upset when they think we are not cognizant of their presence. Should we have to be? No, but it is polite and in the long run will up our reputation.  While I think that the real problem is that the roads need to be wider, which here in particular would make them last longer minimizing physical wear from the edge due to temperature shifts in the freeze times, the real issue is with the people responsible for building the roads and not the people who use them. 




    THe question becomes  how to communicate our needs?   Why not march into the Sheriff's office while wearing a suit and discuss this with him, laws in hand?  Go to the papers again and again. I presume that at least one local politician rides a bike and is supportive of the cause.   The previous letters combine to create the most intelligent and thoughtful discussion of any issue I've every encountered on the internet.  This particular Sheriff seems cavalier at best but perhaps he can be seduced to see it from the perspective of a rider on a sixteen pound bike facing impending doom when contact is made with a Dodge RAM! 




    Thank you for your thoughtfulness and my best to all of you for safe riding.




    E.J. Levy

    Directeur  Sportif: MOTIVE FORCE-Loose Spokes

    VP:  Cadieux Bicycle Club/Team o2

    Ride Leader: Wolverine Sports Club
































  • MotiveForcer Community Moderator 448 posts since
    Jul 9, 2007


    I forgot to ask...  Did the sheriff respond to Ken Reardon's thoughtful and detailed letter?



    Best to all,






  • V1 Cyclist Rookie 1 posts since
    May 23, 2008


    My 2 cents: Although the anti Cycling under-tone is obvious and un-called for coming from an elected position, I'm not opposed to law enforcement cracking down on obvious disregard for public laws and safety(bikes and cars), nor will I pretend that all of the letters sent by the cycling public have been tasteful. Where this gets muddy is when cyclist is general are being singled out and denied the basic rights to the road. The impeding of traffic in  many cases is not the cyclists fault. Vehicles that slow down, give room and pass on the left side of the road shouldn't be viewed as impeding traffic. Motorists should use caution when passing slow moving vehicles in all situations. If impeding traffic warrants a citation, then I suppose we should be citing all slow moving vehicle, tractors, mopeds and 80 year old ladies who make other vehicle(including bikes) pass on the left hand side of the road. Mo torist that slow down to the posted speed limit or to a safe passing speed and then pass where there is a dotted yellow line, is not impeding the normal flow of traffic....._its called driving safe_. Cyclists are to ride as far to the right as is permitted and safe. There are times where this is not possible especially if the road has gravel, pot-holes or hazards that make it unsafe to ride on the shoulder. I hope that when cyclist are riding single file and being safe, they are not cited, harassed or singled out because motorists slow down, take caution and allow room. This is not impeding traffic. Its the same thing motorist do when passing slower vehicles or tractors. For some reason, when it is a bike and not a tractor.....motorist and law enforcement place cyclist at blame. again, I too am sick of seeing groups of riders hogging the road. I'm equally sick of motorist that hog the road, assault cyclists and show disregard for human life. Cyclist that ride with V1 will be asked to leave the group if they do not follow the basic rules of the road. But I will also encourage cyclist to report all signs of road rage and intimidation tactics by motorist. (this includes honking their horn, giving less than 3 feet of space and or yelling threats out of their window) The fact is....There are stupid cyclist and there are Stupid motorists that ruin it for all parties involved. Add to the mix a Sheriff who uses law enforcement concepts and tactics from the early 1900's....well, now we have a modern day western with  Lyrca clad Bandits riding around on their Carbon & titanium steeds.  Let the riding begin.  



    B Green V1



  • MotiveForcer Community Moderator 448 posts since
    Jul 9, 2007


    V1's response is somewhat arbitrary and devisive in my mind.  We need to do a better job I suppose to educate riders as to their responsibilities and obligations on the road and to defer to traffic when safe to do so.  Using a term such as "lycra clad bandits" feeds the mindset of the hostile auto drivers who don't think riders are entitled to be on the road.  I don't condone hogging the road though if a rider does so it might be out of a lack of understanding of the obligations to other traffic.  However, as I stated, in my previous email, there may be scenarios where a rider may block oncoming traffic because his safety is at risk if he allows a "tight squeeze" for a car to get by.  Group rides that V1 considers to "hog" the road should be aware of their obligations as well.  Is it better for a pack of riders to take up a whole lane, the space a car would occupy or string out over a quarter mile where there is no place for a car to pass.  Different roads and different riders vary the scenario from ride to ride. Being considerate, whether driving a car or riding a bike is the key.  As the critical mass folks state, we aren't impeding traffic, we are traffic.  Without being hostile we are entitled to be on the roads.  Being helpful to the drivers is our responsibility and all ride leaders need to get the word out.  I have "ride followers" on our rides who take control of auto management where possible but few think to do this.  Perhaps our cycling magazines would be receptive to an article on this topic.



    By the way, the standard 3 feet that V1 quoted as the clearance is not universal.  Here in Michigan the amount is vague and I'm in the process of trying to learn if we have a standard.  Of course, three feet is woefully inadequate as any rider knows.  How drivers get educated regarding cyclists is deficient as well.  Here it would be up to the Secretary of State who monitors the drivers tests and so on but there is no question on the test regarding cyclists.   I've heard other states have a wider window. Nevertheless, I'll stay out in that lane with my hand holding drivers back until I think I have enough room for the car to pass. 


    So, we are probably agreed that there are three types of drivers.  Courteous and careful, incompetent, and malicious.  Two of them are dangerous. We can be left to debate which two but if we do an outreach perhaps we can diminish the numbers of the malicious and somehow eliminating the incompetent or improve them might be a challenge. 



    We should attempt to minimize the name calling however and address the issues at hand. Our safety counts on it and these are our communities (and roads) as well.



    EJ Levy









  • Dave Newman Amateur 8 posts since
    Jan 8, 2008


    Team Evergreen's newsletter reports that Bicycle Colorado is working on the issue. The following is from page 6 of the Team Evergreen Bike Beat Newsletter for June 2008: "Bicycle Colorado asks bicyclists to refrain from letters and emails at this time to give discussions the chance to progress toward a positive solution for the entire community."



    While I don't generally like back-room deals or closed negotiations, I believe Bicycle Colorado was able to negotiate productively with the Colorado State Patrol last year when the CSP threatened to shut down any large rides in the state, so I'm hoping that Bicycle Colorado can accomplish something good here too.



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