Is it just me or have there been tons of bikes around lately? When Ride the Rockies comes through the valley you have to be on your toes. No going 45 MPH through town, or gliding through late yellow lights.
Folks around here are pretty courteous on the road. Most of us ride bikes and some of us drive trucks. Still, I have seen a little rage and there’s no shortage of aggressive truck traffic.
I had dinner with some Ride the Rockies participants in early June and they told harrowing tales of logging trucks hogging to hogging trucks swerving. They were coal rolled by diesel pickups on Highway 40 and abused and endangered on purpose.
Some drivers hate bikes. They get righteous and enraged at the sight of a bike on the edge of the road. Some bicyclists take advantage and roll through stop signs or skip lights entirely. It only takes a few bad apples on both sides before rules and regulation and enforcement come swooping in.
Some argue that we need less government. In many ways that sounds really good. I don’t want to go through hoops to remodel the bathroom or pay taxes for distant Afghan bombing raids. We need less government when it comes to horrible waste and destructive behavior but every once in a while a good argument can be made for some adult supervision (even if the government is the adult in this scenario). Can anyone say banking industry?
Sometimes individuals do not act in the best interest of the community at large and that’s when we need those rules and regulations. Otherwise, why would Colorado have a law designed to protect the rights of bicyclists? What? Now cyclists need rights? Who’s next? Skateboarders?
The law requires drivers to give cyclists at least three feet of space when passing. Not one foot. Not two feet. But three whole feet between 5,000 pounds of hurtling steel, foam, gas and plastic and a fragile human on a 15-pound titanium road bike.
“The driver of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicyclist proceeding in the same direction shall allow the bicyclist at least a three-foot separation between the right side of the driver’s vehicle, including all mirrors or other projections, and the left side of the bicyclist at all times.” – Colorado Law.
There’s more, like don’t accelerate back onto the edge of the road to spew rocks at an unsafe distance after passing. Those are listed as Class A traffic infractions.
This is difficult for some of us. Are we going to be required to carry yardsticks? How will we eat, text, fiddle with the music, get stoned, pet the dog and keep the pickup truck on the pavement at 75 miles per hour, 36-inches or more from bikes?
The fine for violating the personal space of a bicyclist is over a hundred bucks! I know I can’t afford that. I can barely pay my cable bill, my car payment, my G-5 data connection and all the other stuff. Now the government wants my hard earned cash just for getting a little close? Do I look like I’m made out of money? Besides, what’s the government going to do with my $110? Waste it on more government I can promise you that.
The government is not going to stop there. Throw something at a cyclist and face a class two misdemeanor. That means a fine of between $250 and $1,000 and a potential sentence of three to 12 months in jail. Lock ’em up. Throwing shit at bicyclists out of the window is way worse than using a private email server.
Do we really need this law? This may surprise you, but the answer is yes. I have been hit in the back with a pint sized dark liquor bottle while I was peddling my merry way down the street.
At the time I thought to myself, “Cute.” And, “There ought to be a law!” And now, more than 25 years later, there is.
Now drunks and litterers have to be selective of when they throw their trash and bottles out the window. They wouldn’t want to be mistaken for bicycle antagonists on top of everything else. Being busted for drinking and driving or littering or drinking, driving, driving too close and littering would be complicated.
I’m convinced that the rule of law is what makes society civilized. We must have rules and they must be enforced. We could have remained comfortably stuck in the stone-age without rules. Maybe bopping each other on the heads with clubs, mistreating women, throwing trash over the fence and out the windows and riding way too close to bicyclists. Now we limit that kind of behavior. We’ve “evolved.”
Seriously, helmets off to Republican Sen. Greg Brophy and Democratic Rep. Mike Merrifield for working together, hand-in-bipartisan hand to make this a law in 2009.
Steve Skinner reminds you to wear protection and watch out for swerving livestock trucks. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.