More discussion of this issue is presented in the Bull Sheet, a newsletter from the Sheriff's office which I believe is written by a public information officer. She tries to pass the Sheriff off as a joking humerous kind of guy, but I believe there is an anti-cyclist bias apparent in Alderden's jokes and comments.
The Bull Sheet can be found here: http://www.co.larimer.co.us/sheriff/Bull_Sheet/BullSheet.htm (be sure you look at the one for May 28th).
Thanks Dave. I have to believe that any human resource advisor, media training person or legal advisor would tell anyone in a leadership position, government or otherwise, that this type of humor is an inappropriate way to respond to the serious concerns of another person or group of people. It only serves to make people more angry and feel like they are NOT supported.
I also have to believe that if a citizen made similar "joking" comments about Sheriff Alderen or any of his patrol personnel (giving away toasters for doing something bad to the law enforcement), the Sheriff would not be appreciative of it and would likely find it threatening.
There are so many good law enforcement personnel out there, it is unfortunate some people may use the Sheriff's comments and attitude as a representation of the entire group. If his comments were really meant as a joke then the explanation/apology should come directly from him, rather than the media person. I believe the words would go much further coming directly from him.
Gale, in regards to your beliefs about co-workers, I think you're living in a dream world. We're still the Wild West here &, at most companies I've worked for in Colorado, no one challenges The Boss. I'd actually find it hard to believe if someone in The Sherrif's employ did tell him his comments were inappropriate. Still, like you, I do enjoy dreaming about a world of alternatives...
Although I'm encouraged reading the Senator's comments regarding The Sherrif's interpretation of the statutes, I find the new laws somewhat at odds with actual practice on a bicycle. Perhaps the Senator had intra-city-only riding in mind when he penned the bill? Let's take, for example, the Sunday morning group rides. How many times is subsection 7 violated in total by the group? And how is that section addressed whenever arm warmers are removed or some food is eaten? How many left turns are executed according to subsection 8(b)? (Where would I find sections 42-4-901(1), 42-4-903 & 42-4-1007? A Google search was fruitless.)
Like many, I'm angered by the flagrant breaking of laws by cyclists. And, as gas prices climb & nice weather is upon us, I see more infractions executed by cyclists every single day. I've lived in Northern Colorado for over 20 yrs & I've bicycle commuted for about 19 yrs. (Over 3,200 miles of bicycle commuting last year alone.) This year already is by far the worst I've experienced for observed disregard of traffic laws. But that's not just with new riders, who can be temporarily excused for their ignorance. Racer-types have been at fault for years, & the bigger the group the more defiant the infractions. Guaranteed. As a commuter, I'm constantly wondering when someone's going to take their frustrations out on me for something stupid a wannabe racer did.
Just like the many good law enforcement officers out there, I realize there are many law-abiding cyclists. Unfortunately, a single rogue rider can brand hundreds of careful cyclists with the "juvenile delinquent" moniker & give drivers the incentive to force their own views of traffic laws upon the rest of us. If you're a cyclist & you're on the road, you're an example of the entire cycling community. Like it or not, that's an inescapable fact. Act like an educated adult & the next cyclist benefits. Act like a spoiled child (regardless of who's "right") & the next cyclist becomes a target. And if I'm riding like an idjit, that next cyclist in a driver's sights might be someone you know.
OK. I live in Michigan but our situation here is analogous almost to the letter for you folks in Colorado. The bottom line however is the safety of everyone on the road. AGREED? Now, if we accept that premise, in general, following the rules/laws of the road are hopefully designed to protect everyone. From that point on, getting everyone to understand that if a cyclist makes a mistake on the road or if a driver makes a mistake it is unlikely to result in the bodily injury or death of the driver. At the same time it may very well result in the death of the cyclist. That said, are the laws really designed for the safety of cyclists? Debatable most of you would agree. In Michigan, last year, the laws became a little more cycling friendly, for example, giving the letter of the law a more general description of how far to the right a rider must be. If there is debris or broken down pavement we are not obligated, as the old law implied but really didn't state, that you had to ride within inches of the white line. We are entitled to ride two abreast here but we ride single file out of consideration to drivers if we can. That said, if the road is narrow and there are oncoming cars then I will assert myself into the lane a bit to prevent the overtaking car from passing at that moment because, no doubt, at least a sizeable minority will try to "squeeze through." Most of you have experienced this. So, obey the law and get killed... Now, I understand that in Colorado the cars are obligated to give three feet of clearance. How many of you would agree that three feet is an adequate window. I don't. So, in that case, you comply with the law and the driver doesn't and your risk is high. No, I'll leave it to the game theorists to describe it but our risk is huge. The driver's risk is low, at least in terms of their personal risk. I don't know if the courts tend to carry a heavy gavel but with the Sheriff's behavior I presume not. It generally is not the case here as well.
Now, in the previous letter we were lectured about the inadequate riders out there. On that point I will agree. I lead several rides a week and on one in particular we stress learning about pack riding, pacelining, and interactions with autos and anticipating their mistakes or perceptions. On this topic I've never read an article or in "club rules" but we talk about communicating our intentions and needs to the drivers. For example, if a pack is riding along a windy country road and a car approaches from behind, and at that moment the potential for a car to be approaching is high, then it would be inadvisable for the car to pass. If the cyclists, as a group were a car, only a reckless driver would pass. A pack of cyclists who may be in a line create another scenario altogether. So, what we do is we stress that the last rider, upon cues from riders up front, will hand signal not to pass, simply by putting out one's arm with palm open. This serves two purposes at least. One, it informs the following car that it is not safe to pass. That is, not safe for him. Second, it informs the trailing driver that the cyclists know he exists. When the lane is peaceful to pass , we will wave him on. Simple but, since we initiated this the amount of honking and buzzing from passing cars has diminished dramatically.
My point is this, the focus should be on safety. The Sheriff should have that as his concern, all drivers should too and certainly the cycling community should never stop stressing this point. How many questions are on the license exam in Colorado that deal with the auto/cyclist scenarios. None here in Michigan. Perhaps we will get it initiated soon but driver's awareness of cyclist's needs is woefully inadequate and the Sheriff's behavior is clearly indicative of that fact. A uniform and universal education of drivers and cyclists needs to be initiated or at least upgraded. Let's ask the Sheriff how we can go about doing this in his county. Bring him into the loop because the alternative is further confrontation and again, we are the ones that are at risk if there is even a little mistake by a driver or a rider.
Well, upon reflection and discussion with a few knowledgeable riding cohorts I want to amend my previous statement. First, apparently we do, on some sort of rotating basis have questions that appear on our driver's license exams. I've not personally witnessed it nor heard of it from anyone despite the fact that until know I've raised this point many times. Reportedly it appears now and then. Perhaps a universal posting of it would be of help.
Secondly, while some feel that it is up to the police to "direct traffic" and that if it is unsafe for the oncoming cars to pass that we should assume control of the lane, I personally still feel that we should hold traffic back with a hand signal which, and I'll repeat, let's the trailing autos know we know they are there and shows that we are not inconsiderate. Now, I've been advised that the arguement can be made that by waving them on to pass when the riders feel that the road is "peaceful" up ahead we are assuming a responsibility that we otherwise should not. So, I'll leave it that we should hold them up from passing while we assume the lane and, if they do pass us under safe review of the road ahead, wave nicely at them or thumbs up as in "thanks" to their patience. We do that anyway, right?
One of my other riding rules: Wave hello to every passing police officer, everytime.
E. J. Levy
You are correct to an extent, when you say I live in a dream world. There are situations where the behavior of people can be corrected, but it is seldom (if ever) done by people that can apply no consequences. I believe that the Sheriff is directly accountable to the County Commissioners. He is also an elected offical, who is now serving his last term in office. He is term-limited and finishes in 2010, I'm told. Will any feedback make a difference? Perhaps we'll see soon. See the reply to MotiveForcer.
Both you and Greg make some good points - safety and education of cyclists and drivers being top on the list. Seems with gas prices going higher and higher, there will be more issues with cyclists and drivers. When this issue was relatively new, I sent a note to Bicycle Colorado and asked for help. I'll paste that note below. I'm told others have written to Bicycle Colorado and asked for help as well. Some people have volunteered to be part of the educational solution.
First, I believe, we need to have an interpretation of the law. I'm hoping we don't need a court case to have this resolved. I am told that both Bicycle Colorado and Senator Brophy are trying to schedule meetings with Sheriff Alderen to come to some kind of common understanding. I don't know when these meetings are scheduled to occur - or if they are even scheduled at all.
Assuming people can come to an agreement of the interpretation of the law, then we need an educational process for the general public. One of you on the blog suggested beginning in the school system and I think that's a great idea. I think we also need education of the general public. While cycling questions may or may not be on a driver's license test, I suspect bicycle questions are the least of a new driver's worries. Both groups, drivers and cyclists, need a better understanding of the law.
Even after these steps are completed (if they do actually get completed), I suspect there will still be problems with cyclists, drivers and some law inforcement individuals. Hopefully, the problems will be less. Whether that happens or not is yet to be seen - but we can't throw up our hands and say that the issues are hopeless, or hope the issues will simply go away if we let the dust settle.
Date: Mon, 19 May 2008 10:13:23 -0600
From: Gale Bernhardt <email@example.com>
Subject: Trouble or Opportunity?
Greetings Bicycle Colorado Staff ~
I'm assuming you have been made aware of the trouble brewing in Northern Colorado with some recent interactions between the Larimer County Sheriff's office and cyclists. In the case you are not aware, please see this column:
The sheriff has made an interpretation of the law and has told the public that if cyclists are riding two abreast, they will be ticketed. This kind of public statement placing all cyclists "in the wrong" for riding two abreast, in any situation, has brought some hostility.
While I do not support big packs of riders blocking an entire lane of traffic and treating county roads like a closed Tour de France route, I also do not believe riders should be forced to ride single-file when cars can safely and easily pass cyclists riding two-abreast. Or, if when riders recognize a "car back" they move to single file to allow the car to pass. Perhaps I am interpreting the law incorrectly, but I don't believe that riding two-abreast in Colorado warrants the issuing of a ticket.
I believe we need some help in Northern Colorado, and perhaps state-wide, to help everyone safely share the roads. Both cyclists and drivers need some education, especially as we head into the busy summer months. Newspaper articles, ads? Short commercial segments on TV?
My question is, can this be an opportunity for Bicycle Colorado to help educate BOTH cyclists and drivers on the interpretation of the law and how to appropriately "Share the Road"?
In advance, thanks for any help you can lend to the situation.
I read these posts and some of them sound like a bunch of little kids. When the issue is safety, which is why people are required to ride single file, how can anyone argue with that ? Speaking as both a motorist who has come up behind cyclists riding two abreast, and not being able to safely get around them, as well as a cyclist who has ridden both double and single file, I don't see how cyclists can take it upon themselves separate the two, taking an advocacy position for whatever role they happen to be playing in the moment. Riding two abreast on a road in traffic where there is no safe way for a motorist to get around them is just selfish and inconsiderate. Likewise, motorists who find entertainment in harrassing cyclists who are riding single file and observing traffic laws is just mean and dangerous. So there, sadly, we have two examples of human nature. Let's fix human nature, and we can fix this problem. I find it incredibly annoying to come up behind cyclists who not only ride two abreast, but the outside rider is sometimes almost in the middle of the lane, oblivious or not even caring about the fact that cars are backing up behind him. If one lightly touches their horn to let these cyclists know cars are behind them, they clearly get defensive and hostile. "Share the road!" they yell. Sharing doesn't mean taking their alloted space out of the middle, or forcing cars to travel at their average speed of 15mph.
Riding buddy Ryan Lewandowski sent me a story link from our pals at VeloNews. Read the full story by clicking here. For the introduction:
Legally Speaking with Bob Mionske - From Tombstone to Dodge
By Bob Mionske
Posted Jun. 3, 2008
This past week, I received several emails from cyclists in Colorado regarding enforcement of the two-abreast law by the sheriff of Larimer County. This is the first time in recent memory that I've received so many letters on a bicycle law issue before I've written a column on the issue. Clearly, Colorado cyclists are unhappy with the Sheriff, who, as you will see, fancies himself to be something of a latter-day Western lawman in the mold of his childhood hero, John Wayne. So this week, by popular demand, we'll be shifting our attention from Tombstone to Dodge.
Recently, we've been warned through our local newspaper, The Coloradoan, and the county that county law enforcement will begin ticketing riders riding two abreast and jailing those without identification. Citing multiple driver complaints and the safety of cyclists, the Sheriff's office has decided to interpret cyclist law in Colorado in an extremely stringent manner. I read this morning that is getting involved in the issue.
I'm curious for your thoughts in response to this and advice on what really is legal in our state (I know what the law says - what does it mean in practicality?).
Fort Collins, Colorado
Thanks to everybody who wrote me with a "heads up." When I saw the number of letters about the Sheriff's blog, it was apparent that there was something going on in Colorado that I needed to take a look at. It was also apparent that Colorado cyclists don't take infringements of their rights laying down, and for that, we should all tip our cycling caps to them. But having done that, we have to ask, who's right here? The Sheriff, or the cyclists? Thankfully, the Sheriff has been kind enough to put his thoughts on the law (and cyclists, and Boulder) on his blog for all to see, so it's actually fairly easy to determine whether his interpretation of the law is in accord with what the law actually says. So without further ado, let's see what all ruckus is about.
The Sheriff of Larimer County is Jim Alderden, who is currently serving his third term "" after divine intervention in the November 2005 election. While divine intervention got the credit for keeping him in office, it was NRA dollars that got him there in the first place. Flanked by life-sized cardboard cut-outs of his childhood hero, Sheriff Alderden first made headlines when he repaid his debt to the NRA, , to anybody who wanted one. (The revelry didn't last long, though, when the permit recipients discovered that the Sheriff had also entered their names into a criminal database.) Likewise, with the Duke at his side, Sheriff Alderden repaid his debt for divine intervention when, with the help of his childhood hero, he turned his sights on the First Amendment's separation of church and state.
Having duly run the First Amendment out of town, the Sheriff next turned his sights on a gang of desperadoes-or should I say "desperoadies"-who rode into town like they had a right to be there, or something. Their crime? They rode in two abreast on their carbon fiber steeds. However, while the Sheriff does take credit for staring them down at high noon, he says they were never told to "get out of Dodge." Not that it helped his deniability any that he said with so many winks ("anytime you get to even suggest something to deal with Dodge City, its okay in my book") that the townsfolk thought he'd developed a facial tic.
Nevertheless, the Sheriff denies that cyclists were given the "don't let the sun set on your behind in my County" speech, so let's take him at his word and assume that the cyclists were only given the "if you stay in Dodge, be prepared to follow the rules or suffer the consequences" speech.
So what are the rules in Dodge? In "[Cyclists and Dodge City|http://www.co.larimer.co.us/Sheriff/bulls_Eye/BullEye.htm]," Sheriff Alderden discusses three separate legal issues-his interpretation of Colorado's two abreast law, Colorado's law on showing I.D., and the rights of cyclists-so it would be useful to examine his interpretation of each of these issues in turn. Because the legal issues raised by Sheriff Alderden require some analysis, we'll be taking a look at them both this week and next. In next weeks column, we'll be discussing Colorado's law on showing I.D., and Sheriff' Alderden's take on protecting the rights of cyclists. But first, we'll kick things off this week with a look at Sheriff Alderden's analysis of Colorado's two-abreast law....
barbixy, I think you have misunderstood the disagreement. The sheriff, as near as I can tell, is interpreting the law to prohibit riding two-abreast even when no vehicles are present or when it is possible for vehicles to pass safely (e.g. when there is a passing zone with a dashed yellow line).
As for safety, different people are often comfortable with different levels of risk. Some people won't ride on the road at all because they think it is too risky. Those of us who ride on the road have a higher tolerance for risk. Among that group, some have a higher tolerance for risk than others, leading to disagreements about what is safe. You seem to think there is only one understanding of what is safe and what is not, and you suggest that those riders who do not agree with you on your understanding of what is safe are not concerned about safety. The problem is not that those riders are unconcerned with safety, but that they have a different understanding of what is safe and what is unsafe than you do.
Of course there are selfish and inconsiderate cyclists who will not single up when they should, but that doesn't give the sheriff justification to harass all cyclists with an incorrect and biased interpretation of the law.
I believe there is an reaction for every action. In all my years of encounters with law enforcement, most of them take their job very seriously, as in, enforcing laws IS their job. I competed in the Solvang Century ride year before last, and was astonished to see numerous cyclists being ticketed. Also numerous pedestrians, numerous motorists and anyone else who even looked like they were thinking of breaking the law. There is a documented history of Solvang law enforcement 'harassing' cyclists on organized rides. In spite of the huge revenues realized by businesses in Solvang from these events, after doing some investigation, I found out the action for the reaction on the part of law enforcement. The nail that stands up gets pounded down--Japanese proverb. In the case of Solvang harassment, come to find out from discussing with local bike shop people, that the event promoter refuses to limit the number of entrants, resulting in over 4,000 cyclists descending upon Solvang for this event. This number of riders creates a huge traffic snarl for hours as they all pass through town at the start of the ride, as well as on the return leg. This creates a great hazard and inconvenience for local traffic and residents, and this is reflected in their negative and unfriendly attitude toward cyclists. When you look at this situation from the viewpoint of the locals, the lens changes colors.
Laws are created for a reason, not just to harass people. It is a law EVERYWHERE that cyclists must ride single file, if it poses a risk to the safety of either motorists or cyclists. On narrow mountain roads with blind curves, what would be the case ?
Everyone seems to want their particular situation to be an exception to the law...however, without respect for and adherence to laws that apply to everyone, there is anarchy. What would you say if motorists started demanding to be able to drive in the bike lane and cut corners on the shoulders, around blind curves?
I've been an avid cyclist for a number of years. I've noted more than a few people killed by cars, and not only because it was the driver's fault. Single file riding is for safety. When cyclists are killed by motorists, the cyclists are up in arms. When cyclists are asked to respect laws passed for the safety of all using the road, they're up in arms. Sounds like situational ethics to me, self-serving bias and a no-win situation for all concerned.
What does the 'attitude' of persons enforcing those laws, have to do with any of it? Everyone has an attitude of some kind, the 'attitude' of the cyclists is thumbing their noses at the law. If the cyclists don't like the law, they're voters aren't they? Except that would mean the entire country would have to change the law requiring cyclists to ride single file.
Riding two abreast and becoming indignant when required not to, is about ego, since ego is tied to position. In this case, its not about safety, harassment or anything else. As well, the ego of law enforcement then becomes involved, because their position is to enforce the law. Action = reaction.
One question I have is, this situation of cyclists being ticketed seems to have been precipitated by numerous motorist complaints. If there were no safety issue for motorists, and no inconvenience of having to slow down and follow people riding 15mph until an opportunity to pass presented itself, why were there numerous motorists complaining? that's what I'd be looking at.
The fact remains, that despite the claim of experience, Barbixy is misinformed as are many law enforcement personel. In addition, it does not take much to anger drivers. I've been buzzed on the shoulder of country roads with no oncoming traffic and thereby not inhibiting anyone's progress. Keep in mind that we are traffic. If roads are built with bike lanes then there is less of an issue. If not, then the people of that region are saying that they expect cyclists to ride where they are now obligated to do so and that the cars that follow will slow down, wait patiently, and pass when they have a safe opportunity to. Isn't that what we should expect? It is not a fact that we are obligated to ride single file. It might be considerate at times but it is not the law in Michigan and from what I'm reading not the law in Colorado either though it is interpreted differently by many.
So, if a car is traveling at a slow rate of speed, the trailing car will pass when safe to do so. How is that different from cyclists? If cyclists are lined up single file on a narrow road that line is longer than if two abreast. It might be safer for cars to pass a clump of riders than a long string. All to be discussed. But no one should think that the law, and I try to respect it, is inherently geared towards safety. As far as I'm concerned, that is the priority. HUMAN LIFE.
barbixy, I don't think anyone has said they want to be an exception to the law. What is wanted is for the sheriff to enforce the law without allowing his personal attitude against cyclists to influence his enforcement of the law in a way that results in unjust enforcement. The sheriff's attitude is important precisely because he has allowed it to influence how he enforces the law.
Your story about the Solvang century and your question about why the motorists are annoyed raise an irrelevant point. People are annoyed by many things every day. That doesn't mean that those things are illegal, or that the police should spend extra efforts dealing with them. It also doesn't justify the sheriff's use of an incorrect interpretation of the law. For example, I am annoyed by horseback riders who leave piles of horse poop on my favorite mountain bike trail, but it's not illegal, I don't expect the police to be out there ticketing them for it, and I especially don't want the police to ticket the horseback riders on the basis of the law that requires dog owners to clean up after their pets in the city. This discussion is about how the sheriff interprets and enforces a law, not about what annoys other people.
As I said earlier, the question of safety isn't as clear-cut as you seem to think, and if you're comparing a big century ride with 4000 riders going through Solvang to a much smaller group of riders way out in the country, then I think you're making an improper comparison. I don't believe a small group of cyclists like the ones the Larimer County sheriff is targeting is a serious safety risk for a driver of a motor vehicle who is trying to pass them. The motorist is obligated by law to pass safely. Even if the cyclists are doing something illegal, that obligation still holds. The cyclists are not forcing the driver to do something unsafe, and if the driver has just a little patience, it is very likely that there will soon be an opportunity to pass safely, even if the cyclists are taking the entire lane. In my opinion, the problem isn't that the cyclists are putting the motorists at risk, the problem is that the motorists are impatient, and unwilling to share the road with cyclists whether the cyclists are obeying the law or not.
The thoughtful voice of reason. Refreshing to read Mr. Newman's reply. I'm sorry I can't vote for you!
Even the Solvang story is of course absurd. Thousands of riders coming to a town and they get ticketed. If the community was not mean spirited, they would think to hold a fair and capitalize on the influx of customers at their restaurants and stores. They could embrace the cyclists, have events for their children stressing health and "green thinking" for example. I'm sure that even a large group of riders does not create much of a terrible imposition on a weekend day Re: From the senator that wrote the law that a few moments of restraint could not be afforded them by the locals in a big hurry to the hardware store. The tenor of peoples attitudes can be modified by thoughtful leaders and media folks. The police could be asked to lead riders out of the start en masse and create a community event that all could embrace. Find ways to make it better and bring us together. This is the challenge for all of us.
Thank you again for your comment and stressing that safety is the priority.