Legally Speaking - Talking in Dodge
The response to From Tombstone to Dodge has been tremendous, some favorable, some not-so-favorable. So although I intended to discuss two more issues this week that were raised by Larimer County Sheriff Jim Alderden in his The Bulls Eye blog entry “Cyclists and Dodge City," I thought I’d share some of the letters with you. I will return to the issue of I.D. requirements in Colorado, and the Sheriff’s promise to protect the rights of cyclists, in next week’s column.
With that, let’s start with a favorable response… (
I was the sponsor of the two abreast bill and I think your analysis is very good.
The bottom line is that the Sheriff is wrong, as you note, and we hope to convince him of that on Monday.
Greg Brophy (Colorado State Senator
Dear Senator Brophy;
Thank you for your kind letter. As you know, attorneys expend a lot of time and effort pondering legislative intent, and it’s not often that one gets to hear directly from the bill’s author that the analysis wasn’t too far from the mark.
For Legally Speaking readers outside of Colorado, Senator Brophy is referring to a meeting that took place on Monday, June 9, between Sheriff Alderden, State Senator Greg Brophy, State Representative Don Marostica, Jeff Morell from Bike Fort Collins, and Dan Grunig from Bicycle Colorado. Although Sheriff Alderden continues to maintain that his interpretation of the statute is correct, despite arguments to the contrary, both sides expressed satisfaction that the meeting was productive, with agreement from all parties that better enforcement of the traffic laws would benefit cyclists and motorists. One note of caution for Colorado cyclists emerged from the meeting, however: while Sheriff Alderden has instructed his deputies to “be very cognizant of violations and to take appropriate action” against aggressive drivers, he has also issued the same instructions regarding violations by cyclists, including stop sign violations. To read more about the meeting, you can visit Bicycle Colorado’s Larimer County Update Page.
And some responses were not-so-favorable….
Much though I love reading your column, this week’s was a low point.
I am guessing you disagree with concealed carry permits? While Sheriff Alderden does indeed sound like a flamer, I question whether his issue of CCW permits (or for that matter, support from the NRA) matters in his interpretation of bicycle law. I have to plead guilty to being one of the carriers when legal; too many incidents over the years.
I live in Harris County, and until the state-wide CCW was passed you had a better chance of making it alive playing Texas Survivor (driving from the state border to Austin in a pink car with bumper stickers saying "I’m from New York, I’m Gay, and I Came to Take Your Guns Away”) than getting the city or county law folks to sign off on any kind of permit. That was one of the issues that got Ann Richards defeated - referenda said people wanted to at least vote on it, and she vetoed them.
I think there’s a fundamental difference in perspective here—between those who feel that until someone breaks the law they should be accorded every freedom, and those who feel like that someone should have to prove they are eligible before they are accorded it.
You may also note that if the CCW is statutory, infringing that legal right is as reprehensible as infringing riders’ rights - or your right to speak on either subject.
Although I agree with your assessment of his bicycling law errors, I feel the tongue-in-cheek aspects of the initial paragraphs, bluntly, failed miserably. Sorry, sir, but that’s the way it reads from here.
Still, I enjoy your columns and hope you get a Houston gig.
D. P., (Houston, Texas
Excellent article on the issue of riding two abreast in Colorado, and the Sheriff’s strange response.
Yeah, perhaps a simple NAMBLA reference was enough to get your attention. So perhaps can you see why the reference to the NRA got mine? I guess I should be used to it after reading VeloNews all these years, from the People’s Republic of Boulder.
In any case, I still admire your work, but the article seemed very atypical of your normally well-written legal analysis. It is possible for the Sheriff to just have plain old bad judgment. The political slant has nothing to do with it. (Regards,
Dear S.G. and D.P.;
(I don’t think I slammed the NRA and/or gun owners (many cyclists carry guns when they ride, and many more when they’re not riding). I just reported on his previous news-making background as a lead-in to his latest controversy. Whether one is pro-gun control or anti-gun control, the Sheriff managed to anger everybody the way he handled the CCW permits, first by issuing CCW permits to anyone who wanted one (the previous Sheriff had limited CCW permits to people who needed one, due to threats, rather than to people who wanted one because, as he put it, they were “afraid of life.”), and then by quietly entering their names in a criminal database.
So a big thumbs down on the politics, apparently.
Or maybe I spoke too soon?
Hi Bob, (
I would like to take the time and thank you for your article, as well as all your articles on this matter. Being that I have been hit by six vehicles over the course of moving on two wheels makes me a bit sensitive to these sorts of things.
I just wanted to point out that it may be appropriate to mention to those upset by the actions of this sheriff that he is an elected official and so his interpretations are generally swayed by the electorate that placed him there. Perhaps, this electorate could also be reminded about their abilities as citizens of the Fort Collins in this upcoming election to take the time and review other potential candidates and then go vote.
After all, it appears voter apathy amongst the cycling community is quite possibly the root cause to all this in the first place; as it is in most communities.
(Thanks, (R. L.
I often say that one of the real strengths of the cycling community is that we cut across all demographics—liberal, conservative, young, old, rich, poor—and thus, we can’t be segregated into the little boxes those other labels put us into. That gives us a strength at another kind of box—the ballot box—and if we exercise that strength, there’s no force that can withstand us long.
"Legally Speaking" readers may have gathered from last week’s column that Sheriff Alderden is a conservative Republican—and they’d be right. And yet, Colorado State Senator Greg Brophy and Colorado State Representative Don Marostica are also both Republicans, and both are strong advocates for cycling. It’s a perfect example of what I mean when I say that cycling cuts across all demographics. If we exercise our power at the ballot box, as you suggest, the Sheriff Alderden’s of this world will have to become more bicycle-friendly, or they might just find themselves on the next stagecoach out of town. (
(I’ve enjoyed all your legal advice on cycling although, as a friend of mine says, "You have to be careful not to be dead right." I’m one of the many Denver riders I’m sure you’ve heard from lately, and thought I’d offer one more piece of information for you.
This weekend I went for a ride up Deer Creek Canyon road from Chatfield State Park, a very popular Denver foothills ride. This section of road reflects, in my opinion, the attitude toward cyclists in Colorado. At many points along the road are signs reminding "Cyclists - Share the Road" and "Cyclists - Ride Single File". In addition, a portable electronic road sign was added near the parking lot at Chatfield State Park that displayed the warning "Cyclists - Share the Road" and mentioned that law enforcement would be present.
Now this is a narrow, winding canyon road, and the possibility of being hurt riding two abreast, especially on the uphill, is very evident. So I understand that the State Patrol is trying to keep cyclists safe, but by placing all the emphasis on cyclists seems to remove the responsibility for safety from cars and motorcycles.
C’est la vie. (Thanks for writing a great column. (
Great article. I live in Colorado and FYI - the police have and continue to give out tickets to cyclists in Littleton, Jefferson County, Colorado - specifically on Deer Creek Canyon Road for at least the last five or six years for not riding close enough to the right, riding two abreast (even when coming around to trade-off pulls!) and not having ID. There are half a dozen police cars patrolling the road and/or sitting on the side of the road all weekend, every weekend. They even have radar guns on cyclists on the descents.
I know many people that have received tickets and warnings for all these violations over the years (including unlucky friends that I have been riding in a group with that came around to take a turn pulling). On any given Saturday or Sunday there are at least several hundred people riding this very popular climb. (
J. G. (Littleton, Colorado
Thanks so much for your informative article on the two abreast law. I must say that the interpretation of this law by the sheriff of Larimer county seems to be rather absurd, and I know a number of people who have received tickets up there, many of which seem to be for perfectly reasonable, and based on your article, law abiding behavior.
However, I have often seen large groups of cyclists (20 plus riders) who seem to feel that they don’t have to obey any traffic laws. They ride two or more abreast in dangerous situations, entirely obstruct the flow of traffic and blow through red lights and stop signs. It is this type of behavior, by a few cyclists, that elicits the type of extreme response that we are seeing by the Larimer county sheriff. I’m not sure what drives this type of behavior, but it isn’t beneficial for cyclists. As cyclists, we need to advocate for our rights, but we also need to be responsible citizens. More than anything else, being courteous to others will help us be respected both by the law and the rest of our community.
Personally, I’m only capable of riding one abreast. If another person happens to be next to me, that’s his or her own business.
How would Sheriff Cowboy interpret the regulations when it comes to horses having “to share the road”? Cowboys who expectorate on the sidewalk? Looking at him sideways? Assembling without a permit in the town square? Taverns that serve watered down whiskey?
He should ask: “WWDD?” What Would the Duke Do? (
J. D. (Rancho Cucamonga, California
Since Cancer killed The Duke, maybe we should give Sheriff Alderden a membership to Team Duke. Then he could focus on helping cyclists and other athletes fight cancer, just like Lance Armstrong.
Even The Duke was a cyclist. (W.B.
Thank you for your extremely well written article. It strikes me as thoroughly researched and comprehensive. This morning, the KCOL morning show "with Keith and Gail" was discussing the latest hot topic…cyclists and motorists. Their forum was the law…their interpretation as well as their guest’s, Sheriff Alderden.
To me the Sheriff was not being genuine in some of his comments, particularly in light of his posts on The Bull’s Eye Larimer County blog. I believe he brings a bias but was trying to present a disposition of not having one. I’m sending KCOL an email requesting they ask you to be a guest.
Thanks and Best Regards,
F. I. Fort Collins, Colorad
That’s it for this week; next week, we’ll be discussing Colorado’s law on showing I.D., and Sheriff’ Alderden’s take on protecting the rights of cyclists, as promised. Until then, keep legal, keep safe and keep riding.
(Research and drafting provided by Rick Bernardi, J.D.)
I’d like to thank everybody who has contacted me to request my appearance at their event. I will be speaking as extensively on "Bicycling & the Law" this year as my practice will allow, and will make plans to appear before any club, bike shop, or other engagement that is interested in hosting me. If you would like me to appear to speak at your event or shop, or to your club or group, please drop me a line at firstname.lastname@example.org (and if you would like to contact me with a question or comment not related to my speaking tour, please drop me a line at email@example.com). I’m looking forward to meeting as many of my readers as possible this year.
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