Sharing the pavement in Eagle County
July 13, 2010
EAGLE COUNTY, Colorado – Motorists and cyclists might have collided in two separate instances July 3, but locals say people typically share the road in Eagle County.
Both accidents on July 3 involve motorists hitting cyclists and then leaving the scene of the accident. Colorado State Patrol Trooper John Lent said cyclist-motorist collisions are uncommon, especially on the same day, but there are a lot of things both cyclists and drivers can do to avoid such collisions.
One driver, Marty Erzinger, a high-profile financial advisor from Denver, was booked at the Eagle County Detention Center shortly after the Edwards accident, which caused serious bodily injury to the cyclist, Steven Milo of New York, according to a Colorado State Patrol statement.
Erzinger’s attorney, Richard Tegtmeier, said the District Attorney’s Office and Colorado State Patrol officers are still investigating the incident and the potential charges, which include careless driving causing bodily injury and failing to remain at the scene after an accident involving serious bodily injury, a felony.
Tegtmeier said he presented information that should prove Erzinger didn’t flee from the scene of the accident, although a Colorado State Patrol statement on July 3 reports that Erzinger was contacted in Avon.
The statement shows that the accident happened on Interstate 70, although Lent said Tuesday that the accident was actually on Highway 6 near Arrowhead.
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District Attorney Mark Hurlbert said he expects to file charges July 27.
The other case involved a silver Subaru hitting cyclist Kerry White along Highway 6 near Wolcott. The driver fled the scene and White’s injuries were minor. Tips to the Colorado State Patrol helped locate a vehicle that the State Patrol later seized.
The evidence collected from that car appears consistent with the hit-and-run accident involving White, said Sgt. Marshall Schwarz.
“We have a person of interest in that case,” Schwarz said.
Sharing the road
The collisions bring to light the sometimes-dangerous nature of motorists and cyclists sharing the roads throughout Eagle County. Local bikers say the roads are generally safe, but they could always be safer.
“It’s getting better,” said Dominique Mohrman, owner of Colorado Bike Service in Eagle-Vail. “But we have a long ways to go.”
Mohrman said the transient nature of the valley – both with new residents and tourists coming and going – make it hard to keep everyone educated about sharing the roads.
“Cyclists always need to remind themselves to be very cautious,” Mohrman said.
Mohrman said the declining construction industry in Eagle County has made the roads safer for cyclists. She said her biggest fear has always been big trucks on the roads.
“It’s a big help since construction business has gone down,” she said.
One thing many cyclists notice is that some drivers just don’t think cyclists belong on the roads, although state laws contend that they do belong.
“They’re allowed to be on the roadway,” Lent said. “Governor Ritter did put a new law in place regarding a 3-foot right-of-way for people on bicycles.”
The law says vehicles must give cyclists 3 feet, even if it means cars have to move into the oncoming lane of traffic in order to give a cyclist the right amount of space.
Cyclists also need to take responsibility for their actions, Lent said.
“Sometimes for their own safety, they need to use the bike paths and other recreational trails open to them,” he said.
Those paths aren’t always safer than the roads, cyclists say. Frank Mitchell, owner of Moontime Cyclery in Edwards, said the recreation paths are more dangerous than the roadways.
“I have far more people coming in here telling me they crashed on the bike path than people on the road,” Mitchell said.
He said parents walking with strollers or people walking their dogs present more likely collisions on recreation paths.
“I will virtually never ride on a bike path,” Mitchell said.
Mitchell said Eagle County roads are pretty safe, especially compared to most urban areas, but the safety depends on both drivers and cyclists.
“It really does go both ways,” Mitchell said. “People have to be conscious.”
Another thing that wouldn’t hurt would be wider shoulders on the roads, he said. There are a lot of places throughout the county where cyclists are forced to ride right on the white line or within the traffic lanes.
“I’ve had some really close calls with trucks on Highway 6 where I’ve ended up in the gravel,” Mitchell said