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Above the law? Says who?

Whether it’s an unsuspecting pothole, equipment failure, or an unaware motorist, while on the road, we cyclists are at great risk for injury.  These injuries can be fatal, but can be prevented with caution, awareness, and obeying the law.

The Ghost Bike: A symbol of a cyclist fatality, in memory of Dan Peterson who died on July 22, 2012.

The Denver Police Department is cracking down by issuing more tickets to cyclists. You may wonder, “Why waste their time?” The reason: your safety. As of July 8, 2012, there have been 228 accidents involving cyclists this year. Many of these accidents were caused by cyclists who were reckless and disobeyed the laws. As cyclists, we are not above the law.

I have to admit that I’m one of those cyclists that become angry when I see fellow cyclists run stop signs and red lights. I don’t agree with the mentality that some cyclists have in wanting the benefits of sharing the road, but not abiding by the rules of the road. I’m sure there will be those people who disagree with me, but in the interest of keeping the number of cyclist involved accidents down, please know, understand, and follow the laws.

I want to highlight three violations that I see most often, and the ordinances in the City of Denver that specifically apply to cyclists.

Sec. 54-565. – Application of traffic laws.
Every person riding a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subjected to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle by the traffic rules and regulations of this city applicable to the driver of a vehicle, except as to special regulations and except as to the provisions of laws and ordinances which by their nature can have no application.
(Code 1950, § 522.11; Ord. No. 685-09, § 8, 11-23-09)

Sec. 54-567. – Obedience to traffic-control devices.
(a) Any person operating a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle, shall obey the instructions of official traffic-control signals, signs and other control devices applicable to vehicles, unless otherwise directed by a police officer.

(b) Whenever authorized signs are erected indicating that no right or left or U-turn is permitted, it shall be unlawful for any person operating a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle to disobey the direction of any such sign, except where such person dismounts from the bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle to make any such turn, in which event, such person shall then obey the regulations applicable to pedestrians.
(Code 1950, § 522.12; Ord. No. 685-09, § 9, 11-23-09)

Sec. 54-576. – Riding on sidewalks.
(a) Riding bicycles or electrical assisted bicycles upon or along sidewalks, whether on public property or private property opened for use by the general public, shall be unlawful except:

(1) When the operator or rider thereof is a uniformed city employee or uniformed state employee or uniformed federal employee, which are working as part of their official duties and are riding a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle or a police officer riding a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle that is a marked or unmarked official police bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle or while engaged in the discharge of his or her official duties; or

(2) When the operator or rider of a bicycle thereof is engaged in the delivery of newspapers;

(3) Where the sidewalk is part of a designated bicycle route; or

(4) When the operator or rider thereof is preparing to dismount and park the bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle at a location on the block on which the bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle is being operated, or the operator has just mounted and has not yet crossed a street or alley.

(b) Bicyclists shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians on the sidewalk.

(c) Riding electrical assisted bicycles upon or along sidewalks shall be unlawful, except as provided for in this section above.
(Code 1950, §§ 522.19-1, 522.19-2, 852.5; Ord. No. 464-02, § 1, 6-17-02; Ord. No. 685-09, § 18, 11-23-09)

For a complete list of ordinances, Denver Bike Laws of all City of Denver traffic regulations for cyclists.

For a handy place to find rules of the road in Denver, visit http://www.denvergov.org/bikeprogram/BicyclinginDenver/BikeLawsandBikeSafety/RulesoftheRoad/tabid/438256/Default.aspx, and always ride safe.

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By Brian Dougherty

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