2 abreast

2Abreast & Sharrows

We received another great question from a local bike educator about riding 2 abreast and sharrows! 

(Photo used with permission by the folks over at Bike Fort Collins -check out their cool test  here ).

(Photo used with permission by the folks over at Bike Fort Collins -check out their cool test here).

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"The issue was a motorist had an interaction with two people who were riding double wide on a road with two lanes going in the same direction.  The cyclists were in the right-most lane and there was a sharrow on the roadway in the lane where the cyclists were riding two abreast.  The motorist pulled over to have a discussion with the people on bikes because the motorist thought it was against the law for the cyclists to ride two abreast on the roadway (they were impeding traffic in one lane).  The cyclists said to the motorist that their interpretation of the law was that it was legal for them to ride two abreast and impede traffic for the narrow stretch because a sharrow was present.  In the area where the cyclists were riding, an individual cyclist would likely need to take the lane regardless.  Does riding two abreast in that scenario constitute something lawful or illegal?  An individual cyclist would likely need to impede traffic for a period in order to pass through the area that was too narrow to share with a motor vehicle.  In addition,  does the presence of the sharrow have any legal implications?  Does it indicate that riding two abreast for a stretch of road is legal?"

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First, please refer to my previous blog post about riding 2abreast, generally.  

Second, let's talk about what a sharrow is and what it means! 

Wikipedia defines a shared-lane marking or sharrow as a street marking installed at locations in Australia, Canada, Spain, or the United States. This marking is placed in the travel lane to indicate where people should preferably cycle.

The US Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices says shared-lane markings may be used to:

A. Assist cyclists with lateral positioning in a shared lane with on-street parallel parking in order to reduce the chance of a bicyclist impacting the open door of a parked vehicle;

B. Assist cyclists with lateral positioning in lanes that are too narrow for a motor vehicle and a bicycle to travel side by side within the same traffic lane;

C. Alert motorists of the lateral location bicyclists are likely to occupy within the traveled way;

D. Encourage safe passing of bicyclists by motorists; and

E. Reduce the incidence of wrong-way bicycling.

See also, NACTO's discussion of when and where sharrows should be used.  (NACTO is a non-profit association that represents large cities on transportation issues of local, regional and national significance).

Third- so does the presence of a SHARROW indicate cyclists may ride 2 abreast, if it (as (b) above indicates), demonstrates that the lane is too narrow to share with a car? 

Short answer: no.  A SHARROW is painted on the roadway - but it is not a separate facility or "built for the exclusive use of bicycles" as a bike lane or bike path would be.

C.R.S. 42-4-1412 refresher:

(6)(a) Persons riding bicycles or electrical assisted bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.

 (b) Persons riding bicycles or electrical assisted bicycles two abreast shall not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic and, on a laned roadway, shall ride within a single lane.

 So then -other than alerting motorists that the roadway is too narrow to share and that they may encounter a bicyclist riding in the center of the lane, what else is important to know about sharrows? 

Well -they change the liability analysis on the part of the city or municipality that installed them.  (See Boub V. Township of Wayne for further discussion on the issue of "permitted/intended users of the road" discussion.

Conclusion:

Although a sharrow serves to alert motorists that a cyclist may be in the middle of the traffic lane (basically just painting the law that a lane too narrow to share means the cyclist may take the lane), it does not change the analysis of WHEN cyclists may ride 2-abreast in a roadway in Colorado.   

With regard to the specific question posed above, it is unclear whether the 2 riders were "impeding traffic" or not -we don't have enough info to answer that.  If there was just one motorist behind them who was inconvenienced, the answer would likely be no, they were not impeding traffic.  

 

 

Riding 2-abreast: when and where it is permitted?

A friendly bike educator sent us the following inquiry:


"Hi, Megan:

We have been teaching the Bicycle Friendly Driver course to hundreds of people in Northern Colorado and it has been really well received.  A student in a class the other day brought up a point about side-by-side riding.  He went away and did some research and then wrote the following to me.  I’m hopingyou might be able to provide some clarification so that we are providing accurate information.

 Here’s what the person wrote:

-One of the behaviors cyclists do that upsets car drivers the most is riding side-by-side.  I felt the way this was conveyed in the class was a bit confusing, and might fuel the contention. 

    -What I heard you say was that if cyclists are being overtaken by faster traffic, they need to ride single-file.

    - What I had learned was that if cyclists were impeding the flow of traffic from behind by riding side-by-side, they needed to merge into single-file.  In other words, if there is a clear view ahead to allow cars to stray out of their lane to give a pair of cyclists a minimum of 3 feet, then it was Ok to ride side-by-side.

    -In reading the Statute [ ] it says:

        “Persons riding bicycles or electrical assisted bicycles two abreast shall not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic and, on a laned roadway, shall ride within a single lane.” 

I’m not sure what that means.  If one cyclist is on the shoulder and their buddy riding next to them is just inside the traffic lane, are they riding within a single lane?  When is it Ok to ride side-by-side?I appreciate any info you can provide!  Thanks, Megan.


First let's start with an analysis of the statute and its actual language.  We don't get to question why the legislature does what it does, we have to live with the actual words contained in the law.  Often times, a strict reading of the law can provide answers, but not always.  

C.R.S. 42-4-1412(6) addresses when cyclists may ride two abreast:

(6)(a) Persons riding bicycles or electrical assisted bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.

(b) Persons riding bicycles or electrical assisted bicycles two abreast shall not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic and, on a laned roadway, shall ride within a single lane.

Reading the two sections together, I conclude the following:

-Cyclists may not ride MORE than 2 abreast, unless they are somewhere exclusively for bikes (which would really only be a bike lane).  Anywhere else, 2-wide is the absolute legal max. 

-Cyclists may only ride 2 abreast IF they are not impeding the normal/reasonable movement of traffic. If the cyclists riding 2 abreast ARE impeding traffic, the implication here is that they ride single file!

What does "impede" mean for purposes of this section?  I'll share some thoughts i've learned from law enforcement:

a) I know it when I see it.  Impeding = cyclists 2 abreast are causing traffic congestion, cars are backed up, there is a traffic jam/chaos; or

b) many sheriffs offices have a loose standard of 5 or more cars backed up behind the cyclists riding 2 abreast = impeding traffic.

Next- The Statute Definition section defines roadway:

(89) "Roadway" means that portion of a highway improved, designed, or ordinarily used for vehicular travel, exclusive of the sidewalk, berm, or shoulder even though such sidewalk, berm, or shoulder is used by persons riding bicycles or other human-powered vehicles and exclusive of that portion of a highway designated for exclusive use as a bicycle path or reserved for the exclusive use of bicycles, human-powered vehicles, or pedestrians. In the event that a highway includes two or more separate roadways, "roadway" refers to any such roadway separately but not to all such roadways collectively.

Now - to address the questions asked above:

-Being overtaken by faster traffic does not, by itself, mean riders need to go single file.  Riders need to single up if their riding side-by-side is impeding traffic. 

-If an overtaking car is able to pass the 2-abreast cyclists safely with the 3-foot passing distance, this is not impeding traffic.  If the riders become aware of vehicles behind them unable to pass, then the cyclists would be well-advised to single up. 

-What about one cyclist on the shoulder and one in the roadway? Well -let's reference the definition above.  Roadway EXCLUDES shoulder.  The statute governing 2-abreast riding refers to roadway.  Therefore reading the two together, if one cyclist is on the shoulder and one is in the roadway, this legally = one cyclist on the roadway (as the law would disregard the cyclist on the shoulder for purposes of the 2-abreast analysis).  The same would be true if one rider is in the bike lane and one is in the roadway.  Though legal, this is not always advised- it is preferable for the 2 riders to ride side-by-side in the bike lane, since that is an established place created for them to ride, and it therefore frees up the traffic lane for cars.  NOTE however: there is no legal requirement that mandates cyclists MUST ride in a bike lane where it exists.  

My suggestion: If a rider is so new or inexperienced as to be uncomfortable riding closely to a cyclist next to them, it is advisable to simply ride single file.  We are looking for a pretty tight two-by-two formation in application of this concept to make it possible for cars to pass (and to give 3 feet!).  Practice riding close side-by-side with your mates in parks or quiet streets or bike paths, to develop this skill.  Most bike lanes and shoulders are wide enough for two cyclists to ride next to one another and then you can remain social with your riding partners without needing to be in the roadway at all!