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Yield to bikes on sidewalks

The Longmont Times-Call: Johnnie St. Vrain: Yield to bikes on sidewalks

Johnnie St. Vrain
Posted: 08/30/2011

Dear Johnnie: Does Longmont or the state of Colorado have a law about riding bicycles on the sidewalks in the business section of town?

I was making a right turn into a restaurant on Main Street the other day. I looked before I drove across the sidewalk where it crosses the driveway and there weren't any pedestrians. I started my right turn and a bike that was on the sidewalk, going the same direction I was going veered to keep my car from hitting him. The young man, in his early 20s, proceeded to give me a good chewing out, as if he didn't have any responsibility to watch for moving vehicles. He did not appear in my rear-view mirror and I didn't see him when I looked over my shoulder.

I already know that bicyclists are to observe the same traffic laws as vehicles; including stopping at stop signs. I have been told to report a bicyclist who is not stopping at signs or traffic signals. How does one do that since bicycles don't have license plates or a way to identify the rider? -- DS

Dear DS: There are no laws restricting the use of bicycles on sidewalks on Main Street, so long as the cyclist yields to pedestrians and does not ride at a speed "greater than reasonable and prudent under the existing conditions."

I checked with Longmont traffic Sgt. Mike Bell, who told Johnnie that the driver of a vehicle is required by law to yield to bicycles using sidewalks.

"In the case described by this reader, the bicyclist was lawfully on the sidewalk and the vehicle (reader) is required to yield," Bell wrote to Johnnie. "As drivers of vehicles, we must remember to stop and check for pedestrians, including bicycles, before crossing any sidewalk. This means that when we are entering a street from any place other than another street, we must stop and check for pedestrians before crossing the sidewalk and before entering the street. When we are entering the driveway from the street we are required to be equally vigilant. This is sometimes difficult when the bicyclist is going the same direction as the reader describes, but the law still requires the vehicle to yield."

I understand how difficult that can be on the motorist. Bell noted that a person walks at about 4 feet per second but that a bicycle travels at about 20 feet per second. So a bicycle can appear "from nowhere," which is what happened to you.

So, DS, you and other drivers must take extra precaution when turning into a driveway or pulling onto the street, keeping your head on a swivel. All of this does not excuse boorish behavior on the part of a cyclist, even if the law's on his side. It serves motorists, cyclists and pedestrians to keep an eye out for one another, regardless of who's right. Being right doesn't undo the injury and damage brought on by a collision.

As for reporting a cyclist who breaks the law, Bell suggests calling 303-651-8501 when the violation is occurring. Of course, you'll want to pull over first.

Bicycle license stickers are too small to read from any distance, so the best thing to do would be to provide a description of the bicycle, the rider and the direction of travel.

Dear Johnnie: Does the city make any extra effort to keep bicycle routes cleaned up? There are several that need a street cleaner, with Boston Avenue being high on my list. -- Hates Flat Tires

Dear Hates Flat Tires: The city sweeps arterial streets nine times a year, collector streets six times a year and residential streets three times a year. The bike paths on those streets are swept at the same time as the streets.

That information came from Bill Powell, customer service and marketing manager with the city's Public Works & Natural Resources Department. Powell told me that Boston Avenue was last swept between Aug. 10 and Aug. 12.