Back to top

Biking Guidelines and Laws for Denver and Colorado

Are you a bicyclist or motorist or pedestrian in Colorado and specifically Denver?

Probably.

So, read this

It's a guide to the bike laws in Colorado/Denver and also to best practices to be a safe rider and a safe driver. Bike accidents are bad. Worse still are cars that don't see bicyclists or that ignore the bicyclists legal standing on the road. Bikes are ILLEGAL on the sidewalk in Colorado unless they are going the same speed as pedestrians. Bicyclists are in the road because we're following the law and because it's the safest place to ride.

Thanks.

Category: 
People Involved: 
timeline: 
Location: 

Comments

Sidewalks

I almost hit a biker yesterday. Not because he was in the street, but because he was flying up the sidewalk as I was coming out of an alley. If he had been in the street I would have seen him. I can't stand all the bikers that ride on the sidewalk here in Denver. I am from Philadelphia where you can get a ticket for riding on the sidewalk. Please bikers, go play in traffic.

the thing is

Bikers want to be in the street. 2 days ago a drivers in a car honked at me, yelled at me, and swerved her car at me.

So, we're not allowed on the sidewalk and not in the street. We need more folks like you who are drivers who advocate for bicyclists in the street.

Maybe you'd be willing to put something like these stickers or this one on your car?

bike support

I really don't support bikers here. I do acknowledge them as having a right to the road, but I noticed that in the city of Denver, the majority of bikers don't obey the traffic signals such as stop signs and stop lights. I resent that because if I hit one of them while driving because they disobeyed the signs, I believe I would still be responsible. Therefore, I would more biker eduacation that they need to obey the same rules that cars do.

Re: Support

Tara,

To respond to your scenario regarding the fault of the driver, you would not be held responsible if a cyclist knowingly ran a red light (or broke some other law). Because the cyclist is entitled to the same rights (with a few limitations) as motorists, he or she is also faced with the corresponding duty to follow the same traffic laws as the motorists. Therefore, if a cyclist runs a red light and crashes into your car, it would be the cyclist's fault. Plus, in many cases of cyclist/motorist conflict, the motorist is exonerated whether or not it was his fault. Trust me, the system tends to work in your favor.

Thank you for acknowledging a cyclist's right to the road, but what many cyclists just don't understand (or just don't care) is that cyclists have the duty to follow traffic laws. I am glad you also realize this.

I teach bike education for BikeDenver to new and advanced cyclists. In my classes I not only stress the cyclist's duty to follow traffic laws as being paramount to their safety but also as a very important component in justifying their rights to be on the road. A cyclist should not be prepared to claim his or her right to the road if that person is not willing to follow traffic laws. Simple.

I am working very hard to change the culture you have mentioned. Please help my spreading the word about BikeDenver's new bike education program.

Eric Bunch MEd, LCI

Bikers

I agree. I almost hit a woman on a bike the other day because she was going down the wrong way on a one way street. I am tired of bikers being in the way during rush hour they do not have the same speed of a car and sometimes they like to double up in one lane in front of a lot of cars who can not move over to pass them. I am sorry but bikers are constantly in the way of cars, make the roads bigger or make a strictly bike lane, which some streets have. I honestly think bikers are safer on the side walk, instead of competing with 800 pound automobile that is going 20 to 35 mph.

You are in a car stupid. you

You are in a car stupid.
you really think youll get hurt? no! its the bicyclist who is going to get hurt. A car is NOTHING compared to a bike. think about it, how would you like it if you were walking down the street and then suddenly hit by 200 hundred pounds of human and steel going 20-30mph? (both parties go to the hospital)

oh, but if a bicyclist hits your car going 20-30 mph you get a dent,(bicyclist goes to the hospital, not you) cry me a river its called insurance, BICYCLISTS ARE LIABLE TOO.

bicyclists are rude for a reason, because like me they are tired of dealing with your crap.

you don't know what its like to have people throw firecrackers and trash and try to run you off the road. i don't do that to you when im driving. if i did that to you, well you would be rude too. try riding a bike with a bunch of asshole drivers, then tell me your opinion on bicyclists.

If a bicyclist chooses to run a red light then its HIS fault. if a woman is going down the wrong way on a one way street, its HER fault. bicyclists doubling up taking up one lane.... yes its they're stupid PLEASE yell at people doubling up in lanes, they screw it up for good bicyclists

Actually...

"bicyclists doubling up taking up one lane.... yes its they're stupid"

Actually, the law supports us on this. If we're taking the lane, we may ride two abreast assuming we remain in the same lane. We still should not "impede the flow of traffic," but it's entirely legal to do. See Colorado Revised Statutes 42-4-1412, paragraph 6 at http://www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/colorado/

Bikes riders are becoming very dangerous

Yes you are NOT responsible if you hit a biker that blows through a stop sign or stop light. Today I hit a biker that blew through a stop sign hauling ass and she was very lucky she didn't get killed and only broke her wrist possibly her arm. I was going about 25 to 30 miles per hour when I hit her. The police and medics were totally cool with me but said that it was no way my fault since I didn't have a stop sign, I had the right away and she failed to stop and just blew through the stop sign and went right in front of me and I could not stop in time. I hope she gets a huge fine to teach these bikers they don't own the damn streets and rules are rules they must follow just like cars and vehicles. These damn bikers think they own the streets and they try and tell you the drivers to stop even though they are the ones that have the stop signs and think they can just blow threw them.

Please, bikers, go, play in

Please, bikers, go, play in traffic?? I understand, you'd rather have a biker dead than your poor self spooked by a fast bike..I"m from Philly too and can't stand the fact that bikers have to fight for their life in the busy streets every time they go for a ride! Please, be a little mindful of the dangers that the bikers face, not just selfish yours!!!

riders

I don't like the bikers either simply because most of the ones I come across on the rural roads are discourteous & rude. They refuse to ride single file so traffic can pass them safely, they get irritated that we haven't given them a huge margin when we do pass. Sorry I didn't put a wheel in the ditch so your pelaton could get its workout!!!

Maybe if they followed some of the rules of the road people wouldn't be so belligerent to them.

Re: Riders

Anonymous (if that is your real name...hmm...),

I agree that cyclists should follow the rules of the road and should ride in single file in most cases. In fact, it is not just courtesy, it is the law.

CO 42-4-1412 (6)(a) States:

Persons operating bicycles on roadways shall ride single file; except that riding no more than two abreast is permitted in the following circumstances:

        (I) When there is no motor vehicle traffic approaching from the rear within a distance of three hundred feet and the sight distance on the roadway at the time and place and under the conditions then existing is a minimum of three hundred feet to the front and to the rear of the bicyclists; or
        (II) When riding on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles. 

However, by stating that you dislike bicyclists because of this problem is a bit unfair. This is akin to saying that you don't like one particular ethnic group because of some ridiculous stereotype. Consider the fact that groups like the ones you mention, while rude, make up a very small percentage of cyclists in the world.

Seriously, how often do you actually encounter this problem? My guess is that you see many cyclists who you don't even really think about... the rude ones just stick in your mind. Just like when hundreds of automobiles pass me without any sort of conflict, the jerk who yelled, "get on the [expletive] sidewalk," is the one who stands out. But the difference is that I don't claim to dislike every motorist on the road as a result. I don't seek out blogs about motorists and say, "You know I really don't like drivers because they never give me enough space and they always yell crap out their windows at me."

But, let it be known that I think cyclists breaking the law should be ticketed just as aggressive motorists should face consequences as well.

Eric Bunch MEd., LCI

unfortuanately, since I live

unfortuanately, since I live in a rural area outside Boulder co which is racing bike central, I run into it alot. The guys communting to work are fine, I give them a wide berth, they are usually following the rules & doing their bit. It is the packs that make me angry & I never see a cop pulling them over.

We drivers thank you, Eric B!

Or at least this driver does anyway. You are so right that it's unfair to lump cyclists together and label them all as rude and unsafe. The trouble is, that if a motorist hits even one of them, I'm sure we all agree it's too many.

I have since run off to Vermont (where two lanes are still enough!), and never did a lot of driving on Denver city streets when I lived in the area. But until I moved away in 2007, I drove the back roads between Castle Rock and Monument, Larkspur and the Pike National Forest, plus back and forth to work in the Tech Center pretty much every day for 8 years. So my concern is not so much the sidewalk or traffic signal issues, as the curves and the hills (and there are plenty!) on the two lane back roads. To suddenly find yourself practically on top of a bicycle (or bicycles) in the middle of your lane as you round a curve or crest a hill is frightening, to say the least. And it probably scares them too.

Honestly, as a driver and a taxpayer, I would be glad to pitch in my fair share for wider roads with marked bike lanes everywhere, so we all have room to drive and bike safely. But since that's not likely to happen any time soon, in the meantime, thank you for teaching safe bike riding habits, like staying over to the right. I will post your web address on my blog and encourage my Denver friends to check it out.

Patricia Rider Bermon
Riders on the Road

bike laws are different.

For years, most of us have been treating stop sighns as "yield" signs. It's not as easy to come to a complete stop and start up again when there's no traffic around. In a car, it's a simple function of pedals. Also, bicycles don't have turn signals so everyone has to adapt to that. The question is this: Is a bicycle more like a car or like a pedestrian? I think we are a sort of hybrid. Pedestrians jay-walk all the time and use their own judgement rather than carry turn signals. Some motorcycles have turn signals - some don't. We all need to just recognize the differences and be as safe as possible.

To Ron: Just so you don't get

To Ron:
Just so you don't get confused, you are required to use the same hand turn signals that a vehicle with no turn signals does:
Left hand bent up - turning right
Left hand straight out - turning left
Left hand bent down - stopping

These apply even to cars that have a light out.

Laws get broken on both sides

Laws get broken on both sides of the fence. Tempers get flared all the time from both Drivers and Cyclists. At the end of the day if an accident occurs, the driver is faced with an inconvenience while the cyclist could be dead on the side of the road.
Being delayed for 10-30 seconds in your daily driving commute is really not the end of the world. Just take a breath and yield some space and give the cyclist a break.

Handisgnals, but...

I'm 4 weeks new to the Denver area and have mostly riden in the street as I see others doing. Today on 16th I even had a bus driver tell me that I should be in the street. So I've just come back from 3 hours or riding lost around Denver and I have two questions. Hand signals sound like a revolutionary old idea, but with the instability of a bike, and the roughness of some of the roads, are they Always best? Second, what are these D-# signs scattered around?

welcome to biking in Denver

Hey Jeremy,

I suggest you head over to the bike denver maps page and get yourself a map. That's what the D-# signs refer to.

Regarding hand signals, I do them when there are cars around but will often put both hands back on the handlebars for a moment if I see a rough spot.

Sidewalk riding is LEGAL (most places)

The statute reads:
A person riding a bicycle upon and along a sidewalk or
pathway or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk shall yield
the right-of-way to any pedestrian and shall give an audible signal
before overtaking and passing such pedestrian. A person riding
a bicycle in a crosswalk shall do so in a manner that is safe
for pedestrians

sidewalk riding

So I'm a cyclist who usually rides on the street, in the right hand lane as far right as possible. I pulled up onto the sidewalk, because there was absolutely no buffer between myself and traffic, and rode for one block on the sidewalk. I had a green light and a walk signal and rode in the crosswalk to cross the street. I was hit broadside by an suv who, in my opinion, was not watching where he was going. He and I were headed in the opposite direction, both of us had a green light, and he turned left and hit me dead on. I am not only lucky to be alive, but no serious injuries either. Of course the police arrived at the scene, and adding insult to injury, they gave me the ticket for riding on the sidewalk! I said that was unfair because a left turning vehicle must yield to oncoming traffic and pedestrians. Did I mention that I had the walk signal? The police threatened me with jail and treated the motorist like the victim! I obey the rules of the road and ride in traffic as much as possible, but I believe at this location the sidewalk is the safest place to ride as long as there are no pedestrians present. I am going to contest the ticket because there was not only no bike lane, no bus lane, or even parking on the street, but no shoulder as well. I thought we were to have the same rights as pedestrians. It's true that we can't ride on street or the sidewalk. What's a cyclist to do?

sad state of affairs

My sense is that cyclists are often treated as third-class citizens while pedestrians get to be second class and cars first class.

Thanks for sharing your story. Hopefully it will help policy makers, politicians, and police to understand the need for better treatment for cyclists.

I was pulled over by a cop

I was pulled over by a cop who noticed me riding on the sidewalk on E. Colfax at midnight. I'm sure it was a routine check in that neighborhood and I did have my violin strapped on my back. I was only half a block from the gig I was supposed to play, but he detained me for about 15 minutes - asked me about my employment, my annual income, my reasons for being there, ran my ID for a background check, etc. I felt that his treatment was invasive and un-necessary, but I just went along. Cops have every right to question "suspicious" characters.

Before letting me go, he explained that bicycles have the right to ride within 3 feet of the parked cars in the street. That's our 'right of way'. Well I can't always do that. I've been nearly creamed by parked drivers who suddenly open their car door to get out. I don't notice them until the last seconds and they don't notice me at all. Obeying the cycling laws can be an accident waiting to happen, so be careful everybody. We deal with the ignorance of the cell phone drivers and the insolence of the cops, but bottom line is "Keep pedaling and get there safely."

Ron, The law allows you

Ron,

The law allows you enough space from parked cars to avoid the infamous door zone. As the cop may have explained, you are safer in the street than on the sidewalk. He is wrong by quantifying that distance. In fact, you are legally allowed to control an entire lane of the road if it is 1) too narrow to share, 2) if parked cars create a dangerous hazard, 3) if there is other debris on the side of the road that creates a dangerous situation.

You can avoid the door prize 100% of the time. You cannot, however, avoid 100% of turning cars not expecting to find you on the sidewalk.

bike laws

Thanks. With all the one-way streets, it takes a lot of adjustment and planning my routes, but it can be done. There are areas where I feel uncomfortable being on the street. Drivers can be rude, honk, or rev their engines, but I just need a thicker skin. It's all about safety, exercize and conservation. Right?

biking

Ron,

You are right: it does sometimes take some extra planning to find the right routes to suit your confidence level. Everyone is different regarding the types of road they are comfortable with. I can usually hop on the really busy primary collector streets and feel fine. Sometimes I'll even ride the arterials like Lincoln or Colorado (as a rule I avoid them though). The great thing is that with Denver built on a grid, there is usually an easy way to get anywhere on a calm street. And you are right, the one way streets present a host of other problems. Although you probably already have a good handle on your typical routes, the BikeDenver website has some good maps and links to the Denver bike route system. These are great tools for route planning should you need them.

It does suck that motorists can be rude to cyclists. I have found that when riding confidently, deliberately and predictably that I have fewer run-ins with motorists. They seem to respect me when I follow laws and act like a driver of a vehicle (that is what you are anyway albeit smaller and slower).

Bike speed on sidewalk

Hi there,

In your original post, you say "[b]ikes are ILLEGAL on the sidewalk in Colorado unless they are going the same speed as pedestrians."

However, when I read through the Colorado law governing bicycles (http://colobikelaw.com/law.php), I can't seem to find such a stipulation. The closest requirements I can find say:

-"A person riding a bicycle upon and along a sidewalk or pathway or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing such pedestrian. A person riding a bicycle in a crosswalk shall do so in a manner that is safe for pedestrians."

-"No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and ride a bicycle, walk, or run into the path of a moving vehicle which is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard."

How were you able to jump from this, to your assertion that bikes are illegal if they are going faster than pedestrians?

Re: Sidewalk Riding in Denver

This is from Denver's traffic code:

Sec. 54-576. Riding on sidewalks.

(a) Riding bicycles or electrical assisted bicycles upon or along sidewalks, whether on public property or private property opened for use by the general public, shall be unlawful except:

(1) When the operator or rider thereof is a uniformed city employee or uniformed state employee or uniformed federal employee, which are working as part of their official duties and are riding a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle or a police officer riding a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle that is a marked or unmarked official police bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle or while engaged in the discharge of his or her official duties; or

(2) When the operator or rider of a bicycle thereof is engaged in the delivery of newspapers;

(3) Where the sidewalk is part of a designated bicycle route; or

(4) When the operator or rider thereof is preparing to dismount and park the bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle at a location on the block on which the bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle is being operated, or the operator has just mounted and has not yet crossed a street or alley.

Thanks for that info. I

Thanks for that info. I understand that bikes can be a nuisance on sidewalks. One sped by me when I was walking and really startled me. I think it's up to the discretion of the police if they want to detain you over that. I think their efforts would be more useful if they cracked down on auto drivers using cell phones, but bikes are easier to bust.

Other bikers

1st I would like to thank Greg for giving great advice and letting bikers know the law. It does not help though when 90% of the idiot bikers out there do not follow the laws or rules of the road. I commute by bike every day and ride every weekend and not one time in 5 years have I been hit. I have seen over a dozen bikers tagged and all were in the wrong. If you get tagged I bet its your fault. Running stop signs, red lights, riding down a one way in the middle of the road are all examples of idiots that I have seen hit. Greg, How can Denver teach these so called bikers the law cause they drive me bonkers?
I have am tired of bikers complaining about cars! Now I will be first to say drivers are morons on there phone, putting on make up,working on there little techy mimi computers but if you are following the rules and being aware of your surroundings then you will be safe. If your wearing headphones and can't hear or on the damn phone on your bike, I want to hit you. I wish the police would issue tickets to cyclist for running stop lights cause in my commute I see 10 or so every day. I rarely get honked at or agrresive driver cause im following the law and signal and stop when I am supposed to. If they do , you bet I let them have it and tell them they are wrong. If you are riding like an idiot and you get honked at then shut up and take it cause your the moron.Greg, let me know if you have any suggestions or need help spreading the word cause I have had it with bikers and its even worse now with the commuter bike rentals, which is great except nobody knows how to ride within the law.

Who can I start writing to

Who can I start writing to have the sidewalk law changed?

This city is full of driver's that can't handle the responsibility of driving in general and the last place I want to be is sharing a road with them when I don't feel safe to do so.

I am an avid mountain biker and I am used to yielding quite a bit when I'm not on a dh bike park. Yielding to horses, peds, etc etc. I have been riding mostly on the sidewalk and I have never had an issue where i've almost collided with a ped more than I'd have just walking on my own legs.

Was this law enacted due to careless bicyclists?

Here's the reality of this controversial discussion:

If a cyclist will not obey traffic laws, and refuses to ride in a safe, considerate manner, they should simply avoid riding a bicycle. Absolutely likewise for motorists. The main issue here is awareness, education and proper conduct for all who are entitled to occupy the streets, as well as simple cohabitation and cooperation. Regardless of your vehicle choice, if you can't (or refuse to) handle this then please simply stay off the road.

People are going to make mistakes and that's not what I'm referring to. What I am talking about is anyone on the road that is either ignorant of their responsibilities or plainly has a bad attitude about them. Anyone that falls into these categories should know it is your responsibility to change or get off the road.

This comment comes from an avid driver, motorcyclist and bicyclist so, believe me, there is no bias here. Everyone just calm down and share the road.

Sidewalk riding, among other things.

Reading the discussion here, I'm seeing that most people saying we should ride on sidewalks simply don't understand the premiss for the law banning sidewalk riding. Permit me to give a lengthy overview.

  1. Vehicles pulling in and out of driveways expect pedestrians. Cyclists move at a much faster pace and may not be visible in time for the driver to stop and allow them to pass by. I've tried riding on sidewalks and crossing at crosswalks, and when I did I had far more near misses than when riding in the street.

  2. Cyclists are far more visible to cars when we're riding in the streets. Drivers pulling out of driveways or intersections expect traffic in the street, and usually yield accordingly to cyclists there (although there still are a few idiots who misjudge cyclist speed and try an beat them through the intersection- an error all too common).

  3. Bicycles are classified as vehicles (and have been since before cars existed(, and are entitled to all the rights and privileges as cars.

4, If we take the lane, it's usually to avoid a hazard. I'll leave the bike lane at certain intersections and take the traffic lane, generally when there's no right turn lane and I don't want to get right hooked. I'll also take the lane for visibility... if I can't see a driver's face when they're waiting to pull out in an intersection, they certainly can't see me. I take the lane to be visible.

  1. Sure, we're often slower than cars, but in many cases not by much. Is the extra 1-2 minutes it takes to find a clear way of passing a cyclist really worth ignoring at the risk of someone's life? Don't be in such a rush. We're simply trying to do the same thing you are... getting from point A to point B.

  2. Sidewalks are meant for pedestrians... cyclists pose not only risk to the pedestrians by riding on the sidewalk, but we also have to contend with people walking dogs and the risk of getting tangled in a leash- not all pedestrians rein in their dogs when a cyclist announces their presence.

  3. Most bike paths have 15MPH speed limits. For the avid cyclist, that's too slow. We need to train in places where we can gather greater speeds. I frequently reach speeds in excess of 40mph.

  4. I'm not letting cyclists off the hook either. I'm well aware that some cyclists fail to follow the laws of the road. they're a minority, but because they're the ones who end up being noticed, they create a bad name for all of us. Don't generalize. Most of us are law abiding citizens.

  5. I firmly believe cyclists need to be cited more. Moreover, cited cyclists ought to be required to attend a bicycle laws and safety course. Too many just aren't aware of the laws and how they apply to them.

  6. headphones... I'm a cyclist who hates other cyclists wearing headphones while riding (which is illegal). they can't hear me warn them that I'm about to pass, and I've been forced to pass on the wrong side of the road during some events. They can't hear vehicles coming up on them. It's a rude, inconsiderate, and dangerous behavior that needs to stop.

Check out this video...

I wanted to let you know I

I wanted to let you know I appreciate your website Eric. I bike Denver pretty regularly and must be honest I don't always follow the traffic rules. I am trying harder to abide the laws because when it comes down to it I am the one who will be hurt in accident. On the other hand I think a point should be made to the drivers who are mad at bikers on this page. Car drivers do not own the road. Period. I pay taxes so that I can use the sidewalks and roads as a pedestrian and cyclist. I do not need to be yelled at for biking where I am legally obligated to do so. Second of all, car drivers are so disconnected from the fact that the car they are driving is very heavy and can hurt, maim, or kill someone. When you get angry road raged out drivers this is not a good combination. I think a lot of the anger by drivers comes because of the stress involved with driving. Driving is stressful, especially in Denver, which is why I stopped doing it. You don't hear too much about bike rage from biking bu,t I tell you what, asshole drivers who are mad because they are late to work is a reality. Finally the point that a lot of drivers are bringing up about bikers not following traffic laws goes both ways. I see car drivers breaking traffic laws on a regular basis. The only difference is when drivers break traffic rules they just might kill someone. I know no one on here has never broken a traffic law, so all you high and mighty car drivers complaining might need to give yourself a reality check.
-Evan

Add new comment