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Rules of the Road: What's Legal and What Isn't for Cyclists in Colorado

Rules of the Road: What's Legal and What Isn't for Cyclists in Colorado
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This week marked the death of legislation that would have allowed cyclists to treat red lights and stop signs as yields at intersections with no oncoming traffic. Because the so-called "Idaho stop" bill failed to escape the state Senate's transportation committee, bike riders who roll past stop signs even when the route is clear will be breaking a state law that's already filled with plenty of oddities and quirks.

To show you what we mean, we've assembled a rules-of-the-road cycling quiz drawn from statutes shared on coloradobikelaw.com.

As you'll see, some things that you probably thought were perfectly legal aren't. And that's not to mention rules that most casual cyclists never considered, like how long, exactly, two-wheeled travelers are supposed to signal a turn and whether the law requires them to say something as they pass a pedestrian.

Put yourself to the test below.


click to enlarge THINKSTOCK FILE PHOTO
Thinkstock file photo
Question 1: Is it legal to give someone a ride on your bicycle?

Answer: Not in Colorado — unless your bike is specifically made for multiple passengers. The key passage in the statute reads: "No bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle shall be used to carry more persons at one time than the number for which it is designed or equipped."

Question 2: Can cars legally give bikes a tow?

Answer: Sorry — that's expressly forbidden. The statute on this topic reads, "No person riding upon any bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle shall attach the same or himself or herself to any motor vehicle upon a roadway."

click to enlarge THINKSTOCK FILE PHOTO
Thinkstock file photo
Question 3: Are cyclists ever permitted to use the left lane?

Answer: Yes, under certain specific circumstances. Here are three of them: "A. Preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private roadway or driveway; B. Overtaking a slower vehicle; or C. Taking reasonably necessary precautions to avoid hazards or road conditions."

click to enlarge THINKSTOCK FILE PHOTO
Thinkstock file photo
Question 4: How long are cyclists supposed to signal a turn?

Answer: The statute interprets this question in terms of distance — at least 100 feet — rather than time. It reads, "A signal of intention to turn right or left when required shall be given continuously during not less than the last one hundred feet traveled by the bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle before turning and shall be given while the bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle is stopped waiting to turn." But there's one exception: "A signal by hand and arm need not be given continuously if the hand is needed in the control or operation of the bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle."

Question 5: Is it okay for two cyclists to ride side by side?

Answer: Not usually, as is stressed in this passage: "Persons riding bicycles or electrical assisted bicycles two abreast shall not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic and, on a laned roadway, shall ride within a single lane." But bike lanes are considered a different story: "Persons riding bicycles or electrical assisted bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles."

Continue for the rest of our Colorado rules-of-the-road bike quiz, with more surprising revelations.

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Michael Roberts has written for Westword since October 1990, serving stints as music editor and media columnist. He currently covers everything from breaking news and politics to sports and stories that defy categorization.
Contact: Michael Roberts