Vail Law: New law clarifies rules of the road |

Vail Law: New law clarifies rules of the road

Rohn Robbins
Vail, CO, Colorado

NA little slack on the Vail Valley’s and Colorado’s roads, please. That’s what Senate Bill 148 hopes to achieve. A little peace between motorists of the hydrocarbon persuasion and those propelled by their own muscles. I like to think of it as the “harmony on the roadways” bill. More formally, though, it’s known as the “Act Concerning Revisions to the Rules Governing the Safe Interaction of Bicycles with Other Vehicles on Roadways.” Sheesh!

Notwithstanding its convoluted mouthful of a name, what the bill does is clarify certain rules governing bicycle/car interactions. Significantly, the bill clarifies the rules governing bicyclists riding two abreast, and those pertaining to cyclists staying to the right-hand side of the road. It creates the equivalent of the halo rule in football about cyclists on the roadways, allows bicyclists to ride in the left lanes on some occasions, and prohibits the harassment of cyclists. I’m dusting off my Trek and oiling up the chain!

Not surprisingly, the bill’s sponsors in the House and Senate were themselves bicyclists who saw the need for just a bit more sanity on the asphalt byways of our gorgeous but all-too-often dangerous state.

Specifically, the bill provides that on roads with not more than one lane of traffic in each direction, a driver shall not pass a bicyclist moving in the same direction and in the same lane when there is oncoming traffic unless the driver can simultaneously allow oncoming vehicles at one-half of the main-traveled portion of the roadway and allow the bicyclist at least a 3-foot separation between the right side of the driver’s vehicle, including all mirror or other projections, and the left side of the bicyclist at all times.

Theoretically, at least, there should be no more wild-eyed, heart-thumping, knuckles-going-white-on-the-handlebars brushbacks.

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Similarly, when a bicyclist is allowed to ride on the left side of a roadway, a driver must allow 3 feet of separation between the right side of the bicyclist and the left side of the motor vehicle. Essentially, in all circumstances, the three-foot halo rule protecting cyclists will apply.

Stiffer penalites

Aggressive driving directed at cyclists is discouraged by an enhanced set of penalties. The law provides that the driver of a motor vehicle shall not intentionally unnecessarily close to a bicyclist or in a threatening or dangerous manner toward or near a bicyclist. A driver violating this provision commits a careless driving offense and may be subject to the assessment of substantial points and fines.

Focusing on the cyclists, the law provides that any person operating a bicycle at less than the normal speed of traffic shall ride in the right-hand lane subject to the following conditions:

If the right-hand lane is wide enough to be safely shared with overtaking vehicles, a bicyclist shall ride far enough to the right as judged safe by the bicyclist to facilitate the movement of such overtaking vehicles unless other conditions make it unsafe to do so.

A bicyclist may use a lane other than the right-hand lane when preparing for a left turn, overtaking a slower vehicle, or taking reasonable and necessary precautions to avoid hazards or road conditions.

Upon approaching an intersection where right turns are permitted and there is a dedicated right-turn lane, a bicyclist may ride on the left-hand portion of the right-turn lane even if the cyclist does not intend to turn right.

A bicyclist shall not be expected or required to:

Ride over or through hazards at the edge of a roadway, including pedestrians, animals, poor surfaces or narrow lanes, or ride without a reasonable safety margin on the right.

Riding abreast

Cyclists may ride two (but not three or more) abreast on the shoulders where they do not impede the normal, reasonable movement of traffic. If there is an insufficient shoulder, the cyclists must ride single-file. A faster cyclist may pass two cyclists riding abreast on their left so long as doing so does not impede the normal flow of traffic.

Any person who throws any object or substance at a bicyclist or who harasses or taunts a cyclist commits a class 2 misdemeanor which can subject the violator to up to 12 months in the pokey and a $1,000 fine.

While the law, which takes effect Aug. 5, interjects some much-needed clarity and sanity into car-and-bike interactions, it’s still an asphalt jungle out there. Be safe. And share the road.

Rohn K. Robbins is an attorney licensed before the Bars of Colorado and California who practices in the Vail Valley. His practice areas include: business and commercial transactions, real estate and development, homeowners’ associations, family law and divorce and civil litigation. He may be heard Wednesday nights at 7 p.m. on KZYR radio (97.7 FM) as host of “Community Focus.” Robbins may be reached at 970-926-4461 or at his e-mail address:

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