Members of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club cycling program take a training ride along Routt County Road 14 on Tuesday afternoon. A bill headed for Gov. Bill Ritter's desk would require motorists to give cyclists a 3-foot berth when passing them.

Photo by Matt Stensland

Members of the Steamboat Springs Winter Sports Club cycling program take a training ride along Routt County Road 14 on Tuesday afternoon. A bill headed for Gov. Bill Ritter's desk would require motorists to give cyclists a 3-foot berth when passing them.

Cycling bill rolls to Gov. Ritter's desk

Safety proposal approved, 57-7, in House and, 29-5, in Senate

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Bill Ritter

— A state bill that codifies interactions between cyclists and riders crossed the finish line in the state Legislature on Monday and awaits consideration by Gov. Bill Ritter.

After a three-month ride through the legislature, Senate Bill 148 - which includes a provision requiring motorists to give cyclists a 3-foot berth when passing them - overwhelmingly was approved in a 57-7 vote of the House and a 29-5 vote in the Senate. Rep. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, and Sen. Al White, R-Hayden, voted in favor of the bill.

S.B. 148 includes other provisions that would:

- Allow motorists to cross a solid centerline to pass a cyclist

- Allow cyclists to ride on the left side of the road on one-way roads

- Allows cyclists to ride on the left-hand side of a dedicated right-hand turn lane even if they are not turning right

- Make it a Class 2 misdemeanor to throw objects at a cyclist

- Make driving toward a cyclist in a dangerous manner a careless driving offense

County Sheriffs of Colorado opposes the bill, thinking it actually reduces safety and would be difficult or impossible to enforce.

"It moves the cyclist to what we consider unsafe positions on the highway," Executive Director Don Christensen said last month.

But Dan Grunig, executive director of Bicycle Colorado, disagreed and said the legislation would formalize safe and common-sense behavior that cyclists and motorists already follow, but that technically may be illegal under current traffic laws.

"I think this is a bill that's going to make roads safer for cyclists and motorists because it gives clear rules for their safe interaction," Grunig said Tuesday.

A request for comment from the governor's office about whether Ritter, a cyclist, intends to sign the bill has not yet been returned.

"Our impression is that he has a favorable impression of that bill," Grunig said.

Routt County Sheriff Gary Wall said last month that he also supports the bill.

"I think more leeway needs to be given to bike riders, particularly in this county," he said.

Cycling deaths and injuries have increased in Colorado in the past two years. In Routt County, conflicts between bike riders and motorists have been increasing in recent years, and at least two cyclists have been involved in accidents with motor vehicles already this year. One was hospitalized.

During conference committee, a controversial amendment offered by Baumgardner was removed from S.B. 148. The amendment would have prohibited cyclists from riding two abreast in areas where lanes are 12 feet wide or smaller or where there is a solid yellow line against cyclists. Cycling groups and the bill's sponsors opposed the amendment.

The final version of the bill passed by the General Assembly allows cyclists to ride two abreast but says they must move into a single file line if they are impeding the "normal and reasonable movement of traffic."

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