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Driver who targeted cyclists gets probationary sentence

The Durango Herald: Driver who targeted cyclists gets probationary sentence

by Shane Benjamin
Herald Staff Writer
Article Last Updated; Friday, December 04, 2009 12:16AM

A Bayfield man who used his pickup to run bicyclists off the road was given probation Thursday after pleading guilty to reckless endangerment and felony menacing.
Todd Grooms, 41, wasn’t facing any jail time after signing a plea agreement with the 6th Judicial District Attorney’s Office.

But he faces up to three years in prison if he violates the terms of his probation.

Grooms was arrested Aug. 1 on suspicion of using his white Dodge pickup to run cyclists off the road on Florida Road (County Road 240) and County Road 501, near Lemon Reservoir and Vallecito Dam.

Grooms apparently became upset that cyclists were taking up too much of the road, so he yelled at them, drove within 6 inches of them and gunned his truck toward them.

In one instance, Grooms stopped his truck in the middle of the road, exited his vehicle and confronted a group of cyclists. He had a sidearm holstered to his waist.

Grooms eventually drove away, but he passed the cyclists a second time and made an obscene gesture.

No one was injured during any of the incidents, but several cyclists feared for their safety and were forced off the road along a 10-mile stretch of roadway.

Grooms thanked prosecutors in the courtroom and declined to comment for this story outside the courtroom.

As part of his probation, Grooms must obtain a substance-abuse evaluation, abstain from alcohol and drugs, complete an anger-management course, complete 50 hours of useful public service, receive a mental-health evaluation and not possess firearms.

The felony menacing charge will be deferred - or dropped from Grooms’ permanent record - if he successfully completes the terms of his probation.

Deputy District Attorney Reid Stewart said victims were not asking for jail time, but they wanted Grooms to receive anger-management counseling.

Other than a drunken driving conviction in 2000, Grooms did not have a criminal history.

Grooms suffers from a mental condition that requires medication, but he was not on the medication at the time of the incident, Stewart said.

District Judge Jeffrey Wilson oversaw the case.

A courtesy bicycle law went into effect Aug. 5 that requires drivers in Colorado to give bicyclists 3 feet of space when passing.

Drivers can pull halfway into the oncoming lane to pass a cyclist, even if there is a solid yellow line, as long as there is no oncoming traffic.

The bill requires bicyclists to keep right unless they are passing or avoiding a road hazard. Cyclists can switch to a left turn lane if they are turning left, or ride on the left side of a right turn lane if they are not turning.

Cyclists can ride two abreast as long as they aren’t slowing traffic or taking up more than one lane.