Opinion: Bike Law Enforcement Benefits Everyone

July 9 2012, 10:40 AM

Quick show of hands: How many of you, while driving around Denver, have been on the receiving end of a one-finger salute from an angry bicyclist? Me, too. I've sent a few out as well, because contrary to what some would have us believe, cyclists can, occasionally, be wrong.

Last week, the Post ran a story about how local police are stepping up the enforcement of bicycle laws. I actually symapthize with the cyclist cited in the article who was ticketed $65 for not coming to a complete stop at an intersection; as long as a bike isn't impeding auto traffic or near-missing pedestrians, who cares?

The problems arise when cyclists do impede traffic and almost hit pedestrians, which happens pretty frequently, especially downtown. It usually goes unpunished, and if police are going to keep up this enhanced prosecution of bike laws, offenses like these deserve closer scrutiny. As Denver strives to become a bike-friendlier place— a terrific ambition for any city—some cyclists have taken this as an open invitation to do whatever the hell they want, as if going the two-wheel route magically confers a Teflon-coated nobility upon the rider.

A guide to Colorado bicycle laws can be found here. Whether you ride a bike or not, read it. The main takeaway should be that bicycles must follow, with a handful of exceptions, the same rules as any other vehicle. This means cyclists can't ride on sidewalks, or the wrong way along a one-way street, or in the middle of automobile lanes while blocking cars behind them.

Think of it this way: If a motorcycle can't do it, a bike probably can't, either. Unfortunately, plenty of cyclists violate these laws all the time, and they generally greet any objections with a reaction that ranges from an indifferent shrug to an indignant eff-you. Using urban congestion as an excuse no longer flies; we now have bike lanes running through many downtown streets, as well as the car-free Cherry Creek bike path. Use them. The vehicle's nimbleness makes cutting a few blocks over no big deal; it's one of the main reasons you bought the thing in the first place.

As I said, the attempt to encourage more bicycle riding is a worthy one, and cyclists have legitimate complaints about the over-aggressiveness and outright hostility they see from many drivers. If someone wants to propose more draconian penalties for hit-and-run offenders who victimize cyclists—an unconscionable act of cowardice—I'll be the first one to sign the petition. But "share the road" doesn't mean give it over to the bikes; it means share the road.

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