Colorado Cycling

Lumber Truck Driver Cited with Careless Driving As Result of Cyclist's Video

But -Plea Deal Results in Defective Vehicle Charge…

A missed opportunity for justice—that is how cyclist Jonathan Wirth feels about the plea deal offered to the driver of a tractor trailer who violated the three-foot rule. The initial charge of careless driving was dismissed in Lafayette Municipal Court. Instead, the prosecutor reached a plea deal with the defendant on the lesser charge of a defective vehicle, which is a two-point violation. “How was that justice?” asks Jonathan.

This is why our office advocates to district and city attorneys to stop offering plea deals. Both Boulder and Jefferson County DA Offices have shown their commitment to holding drivers accountable and have been getting positive results for cyclists. Find out more about how DAs in Boulder and Jefferson Counties are handling cycling cases.

Here’s what happened to Jonathan. On April 9, 2019, he was commuting to work in Boulder County when the truck driver buzzed him within twelve inches of his rear pannier, coming even closer to his left shoulder. The wind created by the truck pushed Jonathan to the left and right and eventually forced him off the road into the dirt. He was not injured but was fearful for his life and felt the driver completely disregarded his safety.

Jonathan is not new to cycling. It was not his first time on a bike or even riding this stretch of State Highway 7 (East Baseline Road) in Lafayette, CO. He used to race both road and mountain bikes and is currently a level 3 National Interscholastic Cycling Association mountain bike coach at the high school where he teaches. He understands the rules of the road and strategies to stay safe. Jonathan wears a neon yellow jacket while riding his bike and is very visible.

As Jonathan was going to work that day, the paved shoulder he was riding on ended. Before taking the lane, he looked over his shoulder and saw a tractor trailer approaching. With his left arm, Jonathan signaled a downward swinging arm motion indicating to the driver to move over into the empty left-turn lane. He even made eye contact with the driver. 

Jonathan thought that the truck would move over, out of the lane, to safely pass him as all others cars had done on past rides. He was wrong—the driver came dangerously close to him. Jonathan felt like he was being pulled under the truck and was blown off the paved road. After collecting himself, Jonathan followed the truck on his bike and saw it turn into a gas station.  He approached the truck while the driver was inside the station and took photos of the company logo and license plate number. He learned that the truck belonged to a wood supply transfer company located in Lafayette.

The close call was captured on Jonathan’s Cycliq6 HD tail light camera. He is very thankful that he had his camera on his bike and plans to install a front-mounted camera as well to capture traffic in front of him. Since Jonathan had video footage, he decided not to confront the driver.

Following the incident, Jonathan took action. He contacted the company and was informed that they would send the information “up the chain.” On April 10th, the next day, he went to the Lafayette Police Department and filed a police report as well.  Jonathan showed Officer C. Hayford the video footage. In the incident report, Officer Hayford noted her observation of the incident from the footage as a “large semi truck with a trailer driving at a high rate of speed past Wirth.” On April 11th, Officer Hayford spoke to the driver by phone. According to the report, the driver thought that Jonathan was signaling his intention to get into the left-turn lane by sticking his left arm straight out to the side. When it became apparent that this was not the case, the driver started pulling into the left-turn lane. He told Officer Hayford that he thought he had given Jonathan enough room but also stated that he was unable to start moving into the left turn lane until he was nearly next to Jonathan due to oncoming traffic. 

As the video shows, he clearly did not give Jonathan the required three feet when passing as mandated by Colorado law.

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The law (C.R.S 42-4-1003 (1) (b)) states that motorists must give a bicyclist at least a three-foot separation between the right side of the driver’s vehicle, including all mirrors or other projections, and the left side of the bicyclist at all times when passing. 

It is important to remember that in states where there is a 3-foot law, there is likely to be a provision that allows motorists to cross a solid double yellow centerline when passing to give cyclists the minimum required distance—as long as it is safe and clear of oncoming traffic.

Actual signage in Boulder County thanks to Cyclists4Community and Boulder County Government

Actual signage in Boulder County thanks to Cyclists4Community and Boulder County Government

If there is oncoming traffic, drivers must slow down behind the cyclist and wait to pass. Do not attempt to shoot the gap between the cyclist and the oncoming car. You must give the cyclist three feet no matter what!

Following her conversation with the driver, Officer Hayford called Jonathan and informed him that the driver had a different version of what had happened. Jonathan asked for him to be cited anyhow. The driver was summoned to appear in court. 


Jonathan was willing to take a personal day from teaching to attend the court hearing and ask for his rights. As a result of the plea deal, he did not get that opportunity. 


He believes cyclists should be able to ride on all Colorado state roads. Jonathan has contacted the Colorado Department of Transportation the past four years about this section of road. They are currently in the planning stage of widening it.

If you are involved in a similar situation, we encourage you to file a report with local authorities and the Close Call Database. You can sign up for free via STRAVA. You will get notifications when other riders update the database concerning incidents in your area. The mission is also to gather information about repeat offenders in hopes that information can then be provided in comprehensive form to law enforcement.  You can also call the Colorado State Patrol Aggressive Driver hotline or your state’s equivalent. In Colorado, dial *277 (*CSP).  The hotline has been approved for use by motorists to report drunk or erratic drivers, and it has been approved for use by cyclists to report motorist aggression.

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Check out our blog post for more information on crossing the centerline to pass a cyclist.

You can also get some of our 3-foot law stickers by sending a request with your address to connect@hottmanlawoffice.com.

"I wasn't hit, but I was {harassed/yelled at/honked at/buzzed/menaced/threatened/ ____}... what can I do!?"

The truth is, being harassed, buzzed (passed so closely from behind, that the hair stands up on your arm and neck), yelled at, incessantly honked at, had objects thrown at you (beer bottles and fireworks among the most common), or any other variety of these types of behaviors, is REALLY, REALLY SCARY to a cyclist out riding their bike.  Some days it feels like motorists see a cyclist as the "dog they want to kick" after a bad day - when they take out their life's frustrations and anger and unhappiness on us - as we sit there next to them in the bike lane, or to the right side of their car on the roadway, just trying to get to or from our home or office, just minding our own business ...we are vulnerable and often unaware until the venom is directed our way. And man, is it unsettling.

Does this outweigh our true love and enjoyment of cycling?  HELL NO!  But do we need to discuss this?  Yep!  

At least weekly, I receive a text, email or message, such as the 3 texts below, received from friends within the past few weeks:

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So - what can you do?  Many folks choose to vent their experiences on social media, and while it feels really good to get the support of your community in response, the reality is that these posts don't do anything to solve the actual problem.  Instead, here are my suggestions for actual conduct - actual response - actual behavior - which we hope can begin to curb these behaviors.  At the very least, they serve the purpose of tracking these motorists and notifying authorities, in the event this person ends up threatening or hitting or killing a cyclist in the future.  

Does it take time and effort to report these motorists?  Yes.  Is it time well spent if you felt threatened?  Yes.  Authorities cannot take action with social media posts/vents (and they won't). Save the information below in your phone for future use:

1) Call Colorado State Patrol Aggressive Driver hotline (or your state's equivalent).  Here, it's *277 (*CSP) on your phone.  The hotline has been approved for use by motorists to report drunk or erratic drivers, AND it's been approved for use by cyclists to report motorist aggression.  They will want license plate numbers, vehicle description, driver description - as much info as you can provide (video or cell phone photos are a bonus!).  

CSP claims that it collects this information and once a driver has been reported 3 times, will visit the driver AND issue a citation where appropriate.  This is something well worth your time.  

2) Call your local law enforcement authority (especially if this happens within a City).  You can simply call 911 if you don't know it, and ask the dispatch to connect you to the local jurisdiction NON-emergent line.  Take the time to give them your statement, all of the information you collected, and they may even ask you to remain on scene so they can come and take your statement in person.  I've seen some local authorities then contact the motorist, if still in the area, or attempt to locate them to have a discussion and/or issue a warning or ticket if they feel it is warranted.  

3) When you get home, visit the Close Call Database, and enter all information in that you can.  This is not a law enforcement website - it is privately run by a cool guy named Ernest, who is doing his best to collect this information, and if you sign up for it (free) via strava, you'll also get notifications when other riders update the database concerning incidents in your area.  The mission is also to gather information about repeat offenders in the hopes that information can then be provided in comprehensive form to law enforcement.  

4) If you do believe that sharing the photos of the vehicle/driver/license plates will serve your social media circles, feel free to post them as a general "heads up" to your friends.  I have seen these posts come full circle, where someone else knew the person in the photos and sometimes those ties result in good outcomes.  (For example the driver is mortified to learn that their boss' best friend saw a post about them harassing a cyclist on FB).  

Finally - you've heard me preach this before, but camera footage makes documenting these incidents even easier, and makes law enforcement's job easier as well, if the video clearly shows the license plates, vehicle, and driver... identification becomes less of an issue and videos don't lie.  Be Proactive.  Don't just vent online.  Make the calls above.  It matters! 

BLOG ADDITION (8/7/17): I sought some input from one of my most trusted law enforcement resources and he's given me permission to share his email here: 

I agree with you Megan. When a cyclist feels threatened, harassed, or endangered they should report it to the law enforcement agency with jurisdiction. That itself can be a challenge – municipalities are pretty clear cut – but on roads in the unincorporated areas it could be the Colorado State Patrol or County Sheriff. Every situation is different and the outcome will vary depending on the facts. The more evidence you have the better result of the outcome. In other words if you have video clearly showing the location, vehicle description, license plate, driver, etc. it is much easier for the officer/deputy to take action – whether it be educating the driver, summons, etc. Even if you don’t have video it shouldn’t preclude you from calling – just remember it’s your word against theirs. Just be aware if we do write a summons there is the potential for you to be called as a witness in court. While it is our job to sort through the stories, it can be difficult and/or impossible, to determine the facts in some cases. I can’t promise every deputy or officer will respond in a manner that you want but I can tell you in Boulder County we are working hard to move the needle to reduce the tension (or maybe better said in a Boulder way – increase the harmony) between cyclists and motorists.

Megan mentions the Close Call Database and I encourage you to use it either when you don’t have enough information to file a report or even when you have a police report filed so the data can be collected there as well. Ernest is doing awesome work in this arena and we all need to support it. I’m also aware the City of Boulder has a similar database for reporting close calls. And while posting to social media feels good at the time it is usually not productive in educating the violators. Also key to remember everything you post is eternal.

Now, It sounds like I’m pro-cyclist and you should call on every aggressive motorists right? Well I am a road cyclist but also a motorist. I give the same speech to the motorists about cyclists who violate the law. We are supposed to share the road – so it’s a two way street. I tell motorists to call and report unsafe or illegal cyclists as well. I encourage you to self-police your fellow cyclists when you see them break a law. This weekend I was riding up to Carter and a cyclist blew through the one-way section against a red light. Bad enough, right – but he literally rode past 6 or 7 motorists patiently waiting for the light to turn green. I yelled at him as he went by at 25 mph. What I should have done is follow my own advice, blown off my ride, turn around and catch up to him, and educate him on the damage he just did to our sport.

Thank you for reading.

— Commander Lance Enholm, Boulder County Sheriff’s Office

Trial Victory: Denver District Court

On April 4, 2013, D.K. was out riding his bike…straight ahead, in broad daylight, in a bike lane, at well below the speed limit (uphill, in fact).  He had no traffic control device ahead, just the wide open road, as he made his way back towards home following a hospital visit to a friend. 

At a road perpendicular to the one D.K was on, a man sat in his pickup truck, stopped at a stop sign.  D.K., a very experienced cyclist, and law enforcement official as well, glanced at the truck, noted it was stopped, and continued riding. 

Suddenly and without warning, the truck left the stop sign, and t-boned D.K., striking him on his side, causing him to land on the ground.  Immediately, the driver apologized, said he did not see D.K., and that he was at fault for leaving the stop sign and hitting D.K. with his truck.  In fact, the driver, Mr. H., was kind enough to load up D.K.’s bike (damaged and not capable of riding) into his truck bed, and he gave D.K. a ride home.  The driver was so remorseful and felt terribly.  The two stayed in touch, with the driver calling now and then to check on D.K.

D.K. experienced shoulder pain, knee pain and foot pain right away.  He did not feel it warranted a visit to the E.R.  Instead, he made an appointment with his ortho doc (a doc who’d treated him previously for knee issues) at Panorama Orthopedics.  He also saw this doctor for his shoulder injuries, and he visited his Podiatrist for his foot injuries.  Over the course of the next three years, D.K. tried PT, injections, and conservative treatment to heal his injuries.  The two primary ones that persisted were in his foot and shoulder.  Eventually, he required foot surgery and shoulder surgery.  He faces surgery to the other shoulder in the near future. 

Now, D.K. believed, as many people do, that the driver’s insurance company, State Farm (SF), would be reasonable and would work with him on the resolution of his claims.  He negotiated a settlement with them for his damaged bike (which they retrieved from him), and he kept them informed as his medical treatment progressed.  Finally as the end of his three-year Statute of Limitations (SOL) neared, he tried to resolve his bodily injury claims with SF and realized that they had absolutely no interest in being reasonable. 

He contacted our office approximately 6 months before his SOL ran.  In order to preserve his claims, we sent an offer of settlement to SF, to try and resolve the case outside of litigation.  Imagine our joint surprise when they offered a paltry $8,000.  This, when their own driver admitted 100% fault, and where D.K.’s medical expenses at that time exceeded $30,000.  We filed suit. 

During the discovery phase of litigation, depositions were taken.  Again, the driver admitted 100% fault and said there was absolutely nothing D.K. did to contribute to the collision, nor was there anything he could have done to avoid it.  During litigation, D.K.’s shoulder injury and pain deteriorated to such a point that he had to undergo shoulder surgery, which added to his medical bills, and also resulted in several weeks of lost income.  Despite these actual economic damages, SF advanced an offer that was less than 1/3 of his bills and wages.  The case was set for trial. 

Insurance companies will usually file what’s called a “statutory offer of settlement” in situations like this, which means they make a formal offer, which is good for 2 weeks, and if not accepted, it automatically expires.  The bigger effect of this action is that the burden is now on the Plaintiff (and his counsel) to obtain a jury verdict above that amount.  As such, if the jury comes back with a verdict at that offer amount or below, the Plaintiff can be held accountable to pay the defense trial costs.  This can include defense expert fees, such as doctor’s time and deposition costs, and more.  On average, these costs range from $20,000- $25,000.  As you might expect, it has the (intended) effect of placing immense financial pressure on a Plaintiff who is gearing up for trial; as not only is a jury hard to predict, but if the jury comes back at a low number, the Plaintiff can technically “win” the trial, but still end up paying through the nose for defense trial costs. 

Needless to say, the weeks before trial as a Plaintiff, and as a Plaintiff’s attorney, are incredibly stressful.  As trial approaches, the risks of an unknown jury verdict become very real.  It is truly an “all hands on deck” approach to being as prepared as possible. 

Sadly in this case, in the two weeks prior to trial, D.K.’s elderly and ailing mother passed away.  He had difficulty processing all of the emotions, feelings and stressors in his life – while still recovering from his shoulder surgery and being out of work.  It was truly a testament to his moxy and fortitude that he was able to focus and stay in the game as we went to trial. 

Trial was held in Denver District Court at the end of March.  The pro-cyclist jurors were stricken from the panel, as were the anti-cyclist jurors.  We were left – as is usually the case – with a neutral and somewhat unknown jury.  As the trial unfolded, we felt our case gaining momentum.  This became particularly so, when the defense called its client (its State Farm insured) to the stand.  Once again, the driver said he was 100% at fault, and really the only way for D.K. to have avoided the collision would have been to not ride his bike that day or to have taken another route.  Incredibly, defense counsel seemed to argue with his own client/insured, as he insisted that, “well, shouldn’t the cyclist have made eye contact with you?  Don’t you think he was foolish for assuming you’d seen him?  Don’t you think cyclists have a duty to be careful, too?”  To which, the driver repeatedly insisted that he was the sole cause of the collision.  (Keep in mind, State Farm’s answer and position the entire time, was that D.K. had contributed/caused the collision, and they wanted the judge to ask the jury to apportion fault on this issue). 

At this point the jury was clearly frustrated that the issue of fault was being beaten to death.  (We were too).  Sadly outside of the jury’s presence, the judge did ask defense counsel for any proof whatsoever that D.K. had contributed in any way to the collision, and defense counsel again asserted the issue of “Failure to make eye contact.”  The judge correctly pointed out that this was not a legal requirement and finally – for the first time in the 4 years since the crash - put the issue of fault to rest.  The Jury would be tasked only with determining damages. 

As part of their case in chief, defense also called their hired doctor, a physiatrist, to testify that none of our client’s injuries were related to the crash, and that neither surgery was necessitated by the crash.  His position was that our client – a man in his early 60s, who is an active cyclist, swimmer and law enforcement officer – led an active life that caused degeneration in his feet and shoulders.  The jury told us afterwards his testimony was totally disregarded because his positions were so outlandish.  Meanwhile, we called D.K.’s shoulder and foot surgeons to explain the injuries, their causation, and the need for the surgeries. 

In the end, the jury returned a verdict for a large portion of our client’s medical bills and lost wages.  They discounted some of them given the large lapses in time and medical care, which we knew going in was one of our biggest hurdles.  Then again, don’t patients trust their doctors?   If our doctors say, “rest, give it time, give the injections a chance to work, stop swimming, stop riding, stop doing pushups, ice, rest and give it more time,” don’t we typically trust our doctors?  D.K. certainly did. 

Ultimately, D.K. and his wife had several very hard decisions to make, going into litigation and going into trial.  Insured by State Farm themselves, they could not believe an insurance company with a driver/insured claiming total fault, would take such a defensive, denial stance.  D.K. and his wife kept hoping State Farm would do the right thing.  These are honest, hard working people who have saved to eventually retire.  They did not want to gamble their savings on having to possibly pay defense trial costs!  Yet this is the leverage disparity that injured parties find themselves facing when they decide to fight back.  It truly does feel more like a David and Goliath situation than it does a fair judicial fight. 

The final numbers were that D.K.’s verdict was approximately $100,000 above the best offer advanced before trial by State Farm.  Even more so, the defense doctor was exposed for what he is – hired testimony.  He earns millions each year providing “medical opinions” for the insurance industry.  One can only cringe and imagine how many deserving Plaintiffs his testimony has caused to be short-changed or even left hung out to dry with no recovery.  We hope that future juries will disregard him as ours did.

My hat is off to my client D.K. and his wife.  It takes an immense amount of courage to take on the system and a giant like State Farm, as they did.  We asked them to “Trust us” and of course we did all that was in our power to ensure a victory, but every lawyer will tell you that juries are loose cannons and one never knows what they will do during deliberations.  We certainly cannot ever promise a client a “sure victory.”  There is no such thing.  In this case though, our client was served well by the jury and by the process.  We are thankful and grateful for this outcome, and for the opportunity to serve him and his wife – two amazing, incredible humans. 

From L: Co-Counsel Rich Kaudy, Megan Hottman, D.K., and co-counsel Cajardo Lindsey. #TeamWorkMakesTheDreamWork 

From L: Co-Counsel Rich Kaudy, Megan Hottman, D.K., and co-counsel Cajardo Lindsey. #TeamWorkMakesTheDreamWork 

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!