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More rights for bicyclists

Ed and Robin Hildenbrand took a short bike ride Saturday: It was only about 40 miles and three hours long.

By Rachel Carter and John Fryar The Daily Reporter-Herald Colorado, USA

But it was the Hildenbrands' first ride under Colorado's new bicycle-safety laws, which took effect July 1.

State law now allows cyclists to ride two abreast on roads, ride their bikes on crosswalks, use their right hands for right turn signals, and file accident reports, even if no car was involved.

Avid cyclists welcome the changes after years of fighting for more rights on roads.

"We've been working toward this for a decade now," said Dan Grunig, executive director of Bicycle Colorado, a Denver-based cycling advocacy organization.

The updated law reflects practices and laws in other states and is especially significant because bicycle tours are an important part of Colorado's economy, Grunig said.

Robin Hildenbrand, president of PEDAL, or Peoples' Efforts to De-emphasize Autos in Loveland, knows local cyclists welcome the changes.

"We've been wanting this for a long time," she said. "There will always be issues with motorists, but this will help. If they're not educated to this new law, then there will probably be even more issues."

Riding two abreast helps tired cyclists when they pedal against the wind, and also will allow cyclists to socialize with friends on long rides, Hildenbrand said.

"People in cars can talk to each other on long rides, but when you're on a bike, it's harder if you're one behind the other," she said.

Cyclists also no longer will have to dismount to cross crosswalks or use the bent left arm to signal a right-hand turn.

"We used to have to do the bent left arm to signal a right-hand turn," Hildenbrand said. "I don't know how many times I've had a car wave at me while I was signaling to turn right."

Boulder Democratic Sen. Ron Tupa, who carried House Bill 1218 in the Senate, said last spring the changes are the most significant to Colorado's bicycle-safety rules in the past 20 years and clarify cyclists' rights and responsibilities on roads.

"Current laws in Colorado concerning bicycle use on roadways are not protecting bicyclists or road users," Tupa said in a statement about the bill while it was pending in the Senate.

"This measure is a common-sense update of our traffic laws, which would help protect the health and safety of the thousands of bicyclists in the state," Tupa said.

"Cyclists are some of our most vulnerable citizens on the road, and this bill helps police and drivers protect them," Tupa added.

House Bill 1218 was introduced in the House by then-Rep. Greg Brophy, a Wray Republican who himself is an avid cycling enthusiast. Signed into law by Gov. Bill Owens in June, the measure was approved by a 41-21 House vote and a 27-6 Senate vote.

Bike Law

Among the provisions of the new bicycle-safety law that took effect Friday:

- Cyclists can ride two abreast, rather than single-file, on roadways whenever the side-by-side cyclists "will not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic." Previous state law only allowed such side-by-side cycling when there were no motor vehicles less than 300 feet behind the cyclists, and when the cyclists could see 300 feet to their front and rear.

- Cyclists, who previously had to dismount and walk their bicycles through crosswalks when traveling bike paths or sidewalks crossing roadways, can now ride their bikes on the crosswalk - as long as there are no local ordinances requiring the cyclist to dismount, and as long as riding in the crosswalk is done "in a manner that's safe for pedestrians."

- Cyclists now can use an extended right arm to signal an upcoming right turn. Previously, cyclists had to use a bent left arm to signal a right turn.

- After an injury accident - regardless of whether it involves a collision with a motor vehicle - a cyclist can ask law-enforcement authorities to compile an accident report, a provision of the new law that cycle-safety advocates say will help officials identify and address cycling hazards.

- John Fryar

http://www.lovelandfyi.com/region-story.asp?ID=1166

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