Earlier this week I had the awesome opportunity to present my law enforcement bike law education talk to the Larimer County Sheriff's Department. The two biggest concerns they vocalized (the same as all the other LEO departments I've worked with) were:
1- large cycling group rides that take up the entire lane/road and cause all kinds of traffic mayhem; and
2- cyclists failing to yield to emergency vehicles like law enforcement, fire trucks, and ambulances -especially when lights and sirens are on!
Let's focus on the second issue for now - because time after time, I've heard this complaint from Law Enforcement and it causes me serious concern. The officer who raised the issue this particular time, shared a story where he was responding to a call in his marked patrol car, with lights and sirens on. He drove up behind a cyclist who paid him ZERO attention (and the officer did not believe the cyclist was wearing headphones). The officer stated the road was a single-lane road with blind turns, and because the cyclist failed to stop or move off the side of the road, the officer was reduced to an 8-10mph speed until he had a clear chance to go around the cyclist.
Let's phrase this another way: if you or a loved one are the victim of an emergency, do you want help to be delayed because a cyclist would not pull over, as we are instructed to do when we drive our cars? Of course not. Let's break this issue down, so we are all clear on why cyclists - like motorists -must move over and allow emergency vehicles to pass.
"...In summary, when emergency vehicles are approaching on a non-divided highway, all vehicles are required to move to the right side of the roadway and stop, clearing a path for the emergency vehicle to have the right of way. On a divided highway, those vehicles traveling the same direction as the emergency response vehicle are required to pull over to the right and stop until the vehicle passes." (read more here).
Penalty: Move over or get a ticket (typically cited as careless driving).
Does this apply to bicyclists?
Answer: YES! The law above specifically references vehicles. It does not say motor vehicle, it says "all vehicles." Bicyclists are vehicles under the law (not just in CO but every state). Here in Colorado, C.R.S. 42-4-1412 states that bicyclists shall have all the same rights AND DUTIES as the operator of a vehicle.
Therefore -bicyclists are required to move over and stop when approached from behind by an emergency vehicle. This is yet another reason to avoid the use of headphones because wind noise in the ears alone can make it hard to hear vehicles approaching from behind. Keep those ears open and eyes and head up and alert. You do NOT want to be the cyclist that prevents an officer, EMT or fire fighter from getting to an emergency, nor do you want to receive a ticket!
(Check back on our blog on 12/14 and 12/22, for two more blog posts addressing specific questions we've been asked!).