A blog for (semi) athletic middle-aged men (and women) holding on to (the last vestiges of) their youth
by training for and competing in running, cycling, swimming and triathlon events!

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Bicyclists Beware: Road Rules Favor Four Wheels

When it comes to the road...cars rule. As much as Colorado boasts being "bicycle friendly," the fact is that the laws favors our four-wheeled friends. I learned this lesson the hard way today, when Officer Friendly* of the Castle Rock Police Department politely explained why I was lucky he didn't cite me for "failure to yield" to the car that I so rudely crashed into on Saturday.
*Names have been changed to protect the identities of those who protect and serve.

It's an important lesson for all cyclists, so thought I'd share what I learned:

First, every cyclist knows that bicycles have to follow the rules of the road, just like all other vehicles. As Officer Friendly graciously clarified, it was my responsibility to yield to the car turning in front of me, just as I would if I had been driving a car. I get that. However, apparently cars and trucks don't have to treat bikes like other vehicles. For example, cars can pass us on a residential street and turn in front us without yielding -- even though we are in a designated bike lane. I don't get that.

Second, a bike lane is not really a traffic lane. A car turning across a bike lane has no obligation to check to make sure that lane is free of bike traffic. However, if a bike wants to turn left across a lane of traffic we must, of course, check to make sure that lane is clear. In other words, if I had passed the car in the bike lane, signaled, then turned left in front of the car, I would have been at fault when the car ran over me. I get that. But if the car passes me and turns right in front of me causing me to crash, I am at fault. I don't get that.

By the way, according to the police report (above) there was only one "vehicle" involved in this accident. So, is a bike a vehicle or not? Not...according to the report. Apparently we are both "Traffic Units" (TUs) but not all traffic units are created equal. This seems like a vehicular double standard.

I don't harbor any ill will towards the driver and certainly don't blame Officer Friendly. As he courteously reminded me, his job is to enforce the laws as written, and those laws, at least in Colorado, don't favor cyclists. The bottom-line is, regardless of who was at fault, I'm the one sitting around with my right arm in a sling. In a car vs. bike collision the car always wins. So the only real rule to follow is: let the bicyclist beware.

On a lighter note, my favorite part of the accident report is found in the final lines of the accident description: "TU1 (me) struck TU2 (the car) in it's front right driver side door, mirror and bumper (it was actually the passenger side) with its front portion (my left knee). This caused the rider of TU1 to fall its bicycle [sic]. TU2 remained on all four wheels (wouldn't it be a great story if I had knocked the car over on its side!)."

Somehow Officer Friendly's sterile description just doesn't capture the drama and violence of my body hurtling through the air, crashing to the ground shattering my collar bone and skidding across the pavement! Somebody needs to teach these guys a little creative writing.



  1. Daren: I read your blog this morning and am just stunned to learn about the laws governing cars and bikes. How totally ridiculous. From what Denise told me, this isn't the case in California. When she took her driver's test she quickly learned that in California right of way belongs first to pedestrians, second to bikes, and third to cars. Colorado, as an "outdoorsman" state needs to figure this out! I assume that you continue to feel better each day? You are on the top of my mind all of the time -- I just can't get the picture of you colliding with that car and hurtling over it out of my head. I am so grateful that you weren't injured even more severely or even killed. I just shudder when I think about it. I love you so much!! Mom

  2. Mom, for the most part I am feeling better every day, though I woke up very sore this morning. Must have been the way I slept. Still taking it very easy...giving my body time to heal itself.


  3. I think I would check up on the officer's comments about who has to yield. In the last couple years, CO law has changed in regards to bikes. I don't know about who has to yield to whom but if the bike lane was designated as such, the other driver might have failed to yield when changing lanes. There is a column in velo news called legally speaking where they talk about bike law. - Terrance

  4. Thanks, Terrance. I will definitely check out the laws regarding bike lanes, but Officer Friendly's explanation was that the bike lane ends at the intersection and resumes on the other side.

  5. In case anyone was wondering how to interpret the codes around the edge see this document:


    for example box q, 12=improper passing on right


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