Before singing “Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah!” about Colorado’s new bike safety law, consider a few things. The primary component of the law prescribes a three-foot passing distance between motorist and rider. A defined separation when passing is a good place to start, a reference point for drivers anyway—more concrete than “share the road.”
But if you get “buzzed” on a lonely county road, as happened to me recently, there probably won’t be any witnesses. And unless you’re Steve Austin, forget about seeing their tag number. Then there’s the enforcement issue but that’s for another article. What the law obviously can’t do is legislate a driver’s attitude. That’s where you, we, come in. Every time we hop on our bikes, we’re ambassadors for the sport whether we want the gig or not. And we can immediately impact drivers’ perceptions on our next ride.
First, we should recognize some potential distinctions. Some drivers may not like the way a guy (it’s way easier for ladies to pull off) looks in spandex. I know, how dare they? But unless they grew up on Headbangers Ball, a man in tights may seem an oddity. Others haven’t even ridden a bike since Kennedy was president and don’t understand why anyone would when there are cars to drive. Some don’t think we should even be on the road. And the minority of cyclists who regularly break the law make our ride that much tougher. Hard cases, yes, but slowly and individually, we can alter perceptions with our behavior, one driver at a time.
Some Written and Unwritten Rules of the Road—Take Notes
• Don’t run red lights. If you want respect on the road, follow the rules.
• Probably the biggest driver complaint I’ve seen in articles about the new law: don’t run stop signs. If a car’s already there and isn’t going to let you go first, just stop completely. It takes you another five seconds to clip out. If a car was there first and lets you go, give a nod of thanks.
• If a driver screams at you for any reason—just wave. Screaming back, as I’ve found, only ruins your ride and may get you into more trouble. Sometimes they’re only looking for a response. Sometimes they just don’t like your spandex.
• If a driver exercises patience instead of pulling out in front of you, give a nod of thanks.
• If a driver waits to pass you safely on a narrow road—wave thanks.
• If you see a police officer stop and ask them if they’re aware of the new law.
• Acknowledge pedestrians on less traveled multi-use paths. They’re drivers too. I stopped the other week to warn a lady about a large snake on the path ahead.
• Put aside any feelings of entitlement. It’s not healthy for the rest of us who are considerate and obey the law.
Here are some provisions of the new bike safety law:
+ Allow the cyclist at least a three-foot separation between the right side of the driver’s vehicle, including all mirrors and other projections, and the left side of the bicyclist at all times.
+ Cyclists may ride two abreast as long as they do not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic.
+ Drivers will not, “in a careless and imprudent manner,” drive gratuitously close to a bicyclist.
+ For a full copy of the new law and other Colorado cycling tips, go to Bicyclecolo.org.