thecyclistlawyer

Empowering Cyclists Through Education

Cyclist Takes Action for the Better and Safety of all Cyclists

If bike lanes are designed for use by cyclists to keep them safe from vehicles and other hazards, why do cyclists constantly have to deal with delivery trucks or ride-share vehicles parked in bike lanes, piles of snow shoveled into the bike lane, or trash bins blocking a cyclist’s path? Even traffic cones or construction signs are set up in bike lanes. What gives?!?

A campaign called Things in Bike Lanes, which was launched in Denver in 2018, encouraged the cycling community to take photos showing blocked bike lanes in an effort to raise awareness about safety issues and to help officials better understand, monitor, and begin to address these issues.

At one of our recent cycling law education classes, attendee Randy Limmer brought up a safety issue concerning blocked bike lanes on Lucent Boulevard in Highlands Ranch. Construction barrels and cones had been blocking the bike lane on Lucent between Town Center Drive and Plaza Road for approximately two years due to the construction of the UCHealth Highlands Ranch Hospital.

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Lucent is a very heavily traveled road by motorists attempting to gain access to E-470. Randy says that the arrangement of the barrels and cones was typically quite random and caused different levels of blockage of the bike lane, which is one of the key feeders for cyclists from Highlands Ranch to the E-470 trail, Chatfield State Park, and Deer Creek Canyon.  

Randy has lived in Highlands Ranch since 2003 and commutes to work by bike and tries to complete 100 bicycle commutes annually. He also tries to put more miles on his bike every year than miles on his car.

On the Sunday after Thanksgiving in 2017, Randy was heading out for a ride and as usual traveling on Lucent Boulevard heading north to the E-470 bike trail. Being a Sunday, the motorist traffic was very low, and it was a beautiful day for a ride. As he approached the construction barrels and cones in the bike lane, Randy checked for vehicle traffic in the lane furthest to the right of three vehicle lanes noting that it was clear. He extended his left arm to let motorists know that he was moving left into the lane. As he continued in the right vehicle lane, a motorist came up behind him and honked the horn continuously. Randy looked back to see the driver who appeared to be very upset.

Based on his quick review of the situation, he decided to go right back into the bike lane and stop before the next construction barrel to let the motorist proceed. Unfortunately, based on his speed of 20-25 miles per hour (it’s downhill in this area) and the angle that he was able to accomplish around the barrels, his front tire and wheel got stuck in a very large expansion gap in the concrete road between the vehicle lane and bike lane.

His front wheel stopped, but his body kept going. Randy ended up in the right vehicle lane and the honking car swerved around his body on the ground. Fortunately, a young woman in the next vehicle stopped behind him and blocked additional vehicle traffic until he could gather his composure, stand up, and get out of the road.

He ended up in the ER and received many stitches, mostly in his left knee and others on the top of the knuckles on both hands. The front wheel of his bike was bent, and his saddle had a couple of tears.

Randy has recovered from his injuries and is back on his bike commuting to work, riding trails and recently participated in his twelfth MS150 ride with his company’s team at Johns Manville. Before the MS150, Megan spoke to the employees at Johns Manville about bike safety issues and laws.

From left to right: D. Marquez, R. Limmer and Megan

From left to right: D. Marquez, R. Limmer and Megan

Following the class, Randy says he felt empowered. He contacted the construction superintendent at the hospital, and all the construction drums and cones were removed from the bike lane. “This is a big win for all Highlands Ranch bicyclists. Thanks for the encouragement,” says Randy.

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 Randy has worked in a manufacturing environment his entire career and says this has made him quite a safety nerd. His friends and family call him ‘Safety Bob’. He loves the nickname and is very proud of the impact that he has had in both his work and personal life.

“The end result is good, but I am disappointed in myself for not acting sooner,” says Randy.  His advice is to act quickly when it comes to cyclist safety. “I waited too long to act and hundreds if not thousands of cyclists were impacted by this situation over the years.”

We say...better cycling starts with all of us. Well done, Randy!

 

The inconvenience of cycling

Slow down, indeed.

Slow down, indeed.

This morning, I rolled out of my house around 7:10am to make it to my chiropractor appointment at 7:30am.  Of all the steeds in my stable, I chose the E-Bike to get there, and wore “normal” clothes, (as in, regular pants and jacket, not a cycling kit).  I had a bright red jacket on, my bike is bright red, and this time of year it’s full-on daylight at this time of the morning. 

I chose (fairly) lightly-traveled, low-speed limit roads plus a large portion of bike path to get from home to my destination.  It was, however, still rush-hour.  (Insert typical cyclist rant about a motorist buzzing or side-swiping…)

Today is day 4 of my #carfreeweek … I committed to riding and not driving this week, Tuesday through Sunday. (Monday was raining so I went for 6/7).  This means my car is locked in the garage for 6 days, no matter what. Between weather and schedule, this week presented the perfect opportunity to ditch the car keys for a week.

Keep in mind, I own a perfectly lovely vehicle.  I absolutely love my Toyota 4runner.  LOVE IT.  I can throw the bikes, dogs and anything else in the back, it drives through any kind of snow or conditions, I feel safe it in, it has a wonderful sound system and sunroof.  She’s black and looks totally badass when she’s all cleaned up.  (She’s nicknamed Black Mamba (you Kill Bill fans will get it)).  I like my car a lot. 

So …it occurred to me this morning, after several large trucks and SUVs (all carrying just one person, the driver, by the way) buzzed me closely, giving me far less than three feet, (and one hothead Cadillac-guy took a curve super hot, nearly side-swiping me), that it’s ironic how motorists view me on my E-bike doing 20mph, as inconvenient.  That I should have the audacity to force them to slow their roll for a moment, to pause behind me when there is an oncoming car, and to give me the three-feet I am allowed by law… that these gestures (also known as safe and courteous driving techniques) would be so inconvenient to passing motorists that they choose instead to risk my health and bodily safety so that they can maintain their over-the-posted-speed-limit-speed … is ironic. 

Because- I am the one inconvenienced.  I left my wonderful 4runner home in the garage – the vehicle that would have carried me most safely, and most expeditiously, to my destinations today. The 4Runner would have provided me heated seats this morning, A/C later today, and commercial-free bass-bumping beats via satellite radio.  The 4runner would’ve ensured my hair was unfussed (unmussed? whatever you know what I mean) and I was sweat-free when I got to where I was going.  Make-up perfect, clothing unwrinkled.  I mean, clearly, the car is THE convenient way for me to transport myself. 

And yet.  I chose to sweat, rock helmet-hair, take longer to get where I was going, be cold this morning and hot later today, tunes-free with chilly air blowing in my ears.  I am the one inconvenienced by my decision to ride instead of drive. 

In so choosing, I made a few other choices, too:

I decided to reward my body and brain with restorative movement – to get my blood pumping, to burn some calories, to absorb some Vitamin D and move my body.  That means I am decreasing the odds I will be a burden to our health care system; the chances are lower that I’ll need pills to sleep, pills to wake up, pills to feel happier, pills to lose weight, or expensive hospital stays to combat the ill effects of being overweight, under-exercised, and to cope with deteriorating health.  My ride means I am investing in my health in a way that does not contribute to our burdened healthcare providers, hospitals, and insurers.   

Countries around the world are only starting to tabulate health care savings due to bicycling. Denmark, which plans to expand its bicycle highway network after such a project in Copenhagen’s suburbs was judged a success, estimates the country saves €40 million annually ($53.3 million) on health care costs. That is ... an impressive sum in a nation of 5.6 million people.
— https://www.triplepundit.com/story/2013/how-bicycling-cuts-health-care-costs-businesses/59121

I decided not to impose any wear and tear on our roadways.  A human on her bicycle inflicts approximately ZERO negative influence on our roadways.  Whereas, my 4runner and any other vehicle beats up our streets and leads to them, over time, needing expensive repairs and upgrades- today, I did not beat up on any concrete or asphalt.  The streets did not suffer as a result of my need to transport myself. 

It would take 700 trips by bicycle to equal the damage caused by one Smart Car.
— https://streets.mn/2016/07/07/chart-of-the-day-vehicle-weight-vs-road-damage-levels/

I decided to exhale Co2 – aka, produce substantially less CO2 than driving:

Traveling 2 miles (3.2 kilometers):
By car: 0.88 kg CO2
Walking: 0.039 kg CO2
Riding a bike: 0.017 kg CO2
Walking or riding a bicycle does reduce the production of CO2 relative to driving.
— https://www.globe.gov/explore-science/scientists-blog/archived-posts/sciblog/index.html_p=186.html

I decided to burn fat and not fuel.  Stating the obvious here. (And, yes, it’s an E-bike, so it was charged, which does use electricity, so alright there’s that). 

I decided to spend $0 – I didn’t have to pay for fuel, or a car wash, or vehicle maintenance to ride my bike today.  I simply rode. For free.  On a bicycle that does not depreciate or require of me the upkeep that my vehicle does.  (Wanna be a millionaire? Check this out).

I chose happiness over convenience.  Even with the close calls, riding my bike still makes me –and leaves me –happier than when I drive.  Road rage inside a vehicle is a thing.  I don’t experience that on my bike.  (Perhaps I should, since I am far more vulnerable and I experience far more close calls which would really have serious implications for me than close calls in my car).  But –as it stands, the bike makes me happy. 

I see something cool every single time I ride.  Birds.  Grass.  Flowers.  Dogs with their heads hanging out the back window of the car they are riding in. A motorist with their window down, waving at me. A horse, donkey, you name it. 

This state of hyper-stress has contributed immensely to the staggering growth of serious health issues we face today. Many turn to medications for stress and anxiety and mindlessly consume large amounts of caffeine, sugar and refined junk just to get through another day.

Mindfully taking the opposite approach, slowing down when we can, becoming unhurried can benefit and enhance our lives physically, spiritually and mentally. And we just might accomplish more.
— https://www.mindbodygreen.com/0-11668/why-you-need-to-slow-down-for-better-health.html

So, motorists perceive me on my bike as an inconvenience.  But instead, I did drivers a favor today; I didn’t contribute to traffic mayhem.  That massive I-70 closure this morning that forced traffic into alternate routes?  Yeah … I wasn’t a participant in that.  I actually removed a car from the traffic jam.  I got sweaty and my hair was messed up.  I showed up to work engaged, awake, alert, friendly, happy, and motivated.  I burned calories, I thought about things (this article, for one), I processed some stress. 

My ride made me a better human, a better member of your community, and a better employer/lawyer/friend/daughter/dog-momma.  I asked a runner to take my photo and I got to talk to a stranger for a minute.  Not bad, inconvenient bicycle, not bad.

I chose inconvenience today (and every day) when I pick my bike over my car.  I don’t expect thanks or appreciation from motorists, but I do demand and deserve respect as an equal road user.  Instead of seeing cyclists as inconveniences, motorists, I’d appreciate it if you kept these things in mind next time you see me on the roadway. 

Want to Change Your Commuting Habits? How about an E-Bike?

A Change of Heart

GUEST BLOG BY HUDSON LINDENBERGER

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Hudson Lindenberger is an award-winning writer and editor based in Boulder, Colorado. He believes that life is full of interesting stories, and his goal is to tell as many of them as possible. As a full-time freelance writer, he is always searching out and following interesting paths while maintaining a smile on his face. Hudson is the father of two adult daughters, an active outdoorsman, and an avid traveller. You can learn more by visiting http://hudsonlindenberger.com.

“You bought an electric bike?” My buddy cried out incredulously. “What’s next? You going to start wearing a beret and smoking cigarettes?” He sat back snickering over his beer looking dubiously at me. I can’t say that I blamed his attitude, just a little while ago I was him, I was the guy mocking people on electric assist bikes.

When I moved to Colorado two decades ago, I was like most new residents, the chance to get outside and into adventures was intoxicating. I first moved to Nederland—that funky, flaky town perched above Boulder. During my three years there, my closet swelled with day packs and hiking shoes as I explored the Front Range. Upon moving into Arvada, I found myself going on bigger trips. The tops of high peaks called, and overnight trips beckoned. Very quickly, I had a full array of camping gear. Like most Coloradans, my gear addiction had started.

My move into Boulder a decade ago really allowed me to dive deep into the outdoors. I started climbing, skiing, and trail running whenever possible, but my true passion became cycling. I became a spandex wearer and started to shave my legs. My garage became cluttered with bikes of all sizes for my family. There were cruiser bikes, mountain bikes, cyclocross bikes, and road bikes. Whenever possible, my wife and I would jump on our road bikes and roam the hillsides and flats surrounding my town.

I had become an avid cyclist, and I loved it. The effort of climbing hills and blasting down their backsides was wonderful. I could easily spend a few hours out with friends working up a sweat and having fun. But when I saw people zipping by on electric bikes, I would turn my nose up at them. “Fake riders, cheaters, earn your miles,” were just a few of the phrases that came out of my mouth.

When the chance for my wife and I to relocate to France popped up three years ago, we decided to go for it. It had been a dream of ours to live abroad, and we figured Lyon, France sounded like a great spot to try it. Pretty soon we boarded a plane with two large bags each, two road bikes in travelling cases, a dog, and a cat. There was no way we were going to the land of Le Tour without bringing our bikes.

Within days of our arriving, we were out exploring our new home on our road bikes. Living in the hilltop village of St Cyr au Mont D’Or just outside of Lyon proper, we had plenty of places to explore. The French cyclists embraced the crazy Americans and the drivers were courteous—not like here in the States. While we got used to the more relaxed lifestyle in France, we also started to notice that there were a lot of electric bikes around. The mailmen rode them to deliver the mail, old ladies rode them into town, commuters used them to get into and out of the city, and large groups of older men ripped through the trails on them.

Gradually, my attitude started to soften. My interest was piqued. When we took a trip to Copenhagen in the summer, my wife and I decided to rent ones while we were there. They actually have an electric bike share program throughout the city. It only took one day of exploring the city for me to be hooked, it was a blast. I remember thinking what was my problem with electric bikes? All around me I saw people commuting throughout the busy metropolis on bikes of all shapes and sizes, both electric and not. Instead of streets packed bumper to bumper with stinky smelly cars, there were bikes zipping up bike lanes, down alleyways, and on streets.

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When we left to head back home, I decided that I wanted to get an electric bike when we got back to Boulder. Sure, I had a good cruiser bike waiting here, but truth be told, I rarely rode it. In the summer it made me a sweaty mess, and in the winter I did not want to deal with the hassle of it. Instead, I did most of my commuting in town in my car. I had good intentions of riding it more, but just could not find the motivation to do it.

… Instead, I was another car clogging up the streets of Boulder.


As most residents of our state know a lot of people are moving here. In fact, only four states have had a higher percentage of growth since 2010. There are currently 5.7 million people living inside our borders with roughly another 75,000 arriving each year. It is phenomenal growth and one that is taxing our infrastructure. Roads are getting more crowded and are falling apart quicker. I used to be able to drive across Boulder at rush hour in 10-15 minutes when I moved here, now I am lucky to make it in 30 minutes. More cars lead to higher pollution levels, angrier people, and more accidents. Regardless of what our elected officials do, the reality is the system is slowly getting swamped.

But imagine if we could get more people riding bikes. Instead of adding to the congestion of heading to work, the gym, or grocery in their car, they hop on their bike. The latest statistics show that biking is growing. Last year, 47.5 million Americans said they rode a bike at least once a month, that is 12.4% of our population. Of those riders, almost 25% of them are adults between the ages of 30-49.

One way to encourage more people to bike is to improve the infrastructure and incentivize people to ride more. Electric bikes are perfectly poised to draw more people out of their cars and onto a bike. Look at China for example. In 2000, there were 300,000 electric bikes sold, by 2016 that number was up to 33 million a year. Across Asia, electric bike sales are soaring, and they are starting to quickly infiltrate Western Europe, the number two market for them. In America, they are just starting to appear in cities and towns, especially areas with high densities of young working adults looking for a way to break free of their cars.

Within days of buying my electric bike, I quickly changed my habits. I started jumping on it for any errands in town. Meeting people for a cup of coffee was a breeze and shopping for groceries became simple once I added on pannier bags. Best of all, whenever I arrived anywhere, I was not a sweaty mess that had to sit down and cool off before meeting anyone. My wife (she bought one too) would go out to dinner on them. If I wanted to have one more glass of wine, I might have it since I was not crawling behind the wheel of a car.

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When winter arrived, I would just toss on my windproof jacket and gloves and head out, provided the roads were clear of snow. I actually found myself monitoring the weather forecast to know if I could leave the car parked. My weight dropped, I felt great, and best of all, I could zip to anywhere in town often faster than I ever would have in a car. After six months, my bike’s odometer showed that I had logged almost 500 miles and close to 36 hours of ride time. That’s all entirely inside the city, time I would have been in my car. Plus, I still get out on my road and mountain bikes when the weather cooperates.

So, it’s safe to say that my attitude about electric bikes has changed. I have become an advocate of them. They could be one of the solutions to the problems that our state, country, and planet are dealing with. Transportation overcrowding and the subsequent issues that that causes. Electric bikes won’t solve everything, but they could help.

An additional note from Megan:

Last December I too joined the #ebike revolution and invested in a Stromer from my local bike shop (C3 Bike Shop in Golden). I LOVE riding this bike -I can run legitimate errands averaging over 15mph and not be exhausted or fatigued for my cycling training/intervals. I can ride in nice dress clothes and not break a sweat, arriving at my destination “put-together” instead of a hot sweaty mess.

In addition the extra “oomph” will make it possible for me to hook up my doggie-specific Burley (once the snow melts) and tow my 55# dog, Phoenix, in the back, while my other dog Ramsey runs alongside (or rides with her sister). This combined weight would not be feasible for me on a regular bike, but with an E-bike, #allthingsarepossible.

Comment below if you’ve got an ebike, tell us which one you got, and what you love about it!

The Cycling Community Can Move Mountains!

A Positive Blog Post - By Maureen 

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The Cycling Community Can Move Mountains!

Bike advocacy is everyone’s job, and sometimes it takes a village to move a mountain. Our incredible cycling community came together to support a fellow cyclist involved in a close call with a driver. The community pushed for change to make the roads safer for everyone and got results!

Here’s what happened.

What was supposed to be a fun group training ride turned into a frightening experience that left cyclists demanding action.

Helen Gardner, Manager of Big Ring Cycles, was training for a charity ride in Golden, CO this past July when a vehicle came within inches of the group of cyclists, which included a child on a tandem bike with her father and a disabled man in a trailer being pulled by Helen.

The group was riding single file on a two-lane road with Helen second in line. There was an oncoming car approaching in the opposite lane. Helen heard some of the cyclists behind her calling out to a driver who had just passed them.

As Helen passed through an intersection, she looked over to her left and saw a vehicle directly next to her, a vehicle being driven by a student driver. It was just about four inches from her. The vehicle was so close that Helen could have reached into the window and easily touched the driving instructor in the passenger seat.

The teenage driver looked terrified and was white knuckling the steering wheel.

Helen raised her hand to the instructor, pointed behind her at the trailer and said “This is not how this works!” At that point, the driving instructor started banging on the window and yelling at Helen.

“I was speechless. I couldn’t believe that just happened,” said Helen. “Was that really a driver’s ed teacher who yelled at me through his window with somebody else’s child in the car?”

As soon as the oncoming car in the opposite lane drove by, the student driver sped up and pulled away.

One of the cyclists in Helen’s group followed the car to get the vehicle information and take a picture of the license plate. Luckily, no one was injured, just a little shaken.

What should the driver have done? Waited…waited behind the cyclists until the oncoming car had passed. Then, the driver could have passed the cyclists safely giving them the required three-foot separation according to Colorado law. See C.R.S. 42-4-1003 (1) (b) for more information.

If a driver drives his or her vehicle unnecessarily close to, toward, or near a bicyclist, he/she is committing careless driving, which is a class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense.

The day after the incident, some of the cyclists on the ride posted about the incident on social media and contacted the driving school. When Helen contacted our office to discuss her options, our advice was to call the Jeffco Sheriff’s Department to report the incident.

Helen did just that and was told that if she filed a complaint, the driver would be issued a ticket. Helen felt bad for the student driver and didn’t feel it was his fault.

The sheriff’s department told her that another course of action would be to use social media to voice her concern, so she posted an account of what had happened on Facebook. Helen wanted to address the incident and make sure that it wouldn’t happen again. It didn’t sit well with her knowing that students were being taught that it’s OK to buzz by a group of cyclists.

“My next concern became this guy who is out in public teaching future drivers, teaching young people to drive. He clearly does not know the laws. He clearly doesn’t know the rules of the road, especially when it comes to keeping cyclists and his drivers safe,” Helen said.

The cycling community took to social media. Her story was shared over and over by the cycling community, she received support and encouragement, and many people took the time to review the driving school following her post. “The cycling community here was really impressive,” said Helen.

She eventually contacted Ben Pyatt, owner of the Arvada Driving School, by email and expressed her concern. She wanted him to know that a slap on the wrist was not sufficient.

Ben emailed her back the next day. He acknowledged that he was aware of the incident, apologized to her and was very sorry that it had happened. He informed her that the driving instructor had resigned his position after being with the school for over 14 years.

“We do take our business seriously, and learning to share the road with cyclists is a very important part of what we teach our students.   My oldest son is a professor at Regis University and rides to work 2 -3 times per week from Arvada to Regis University.  He often shares the negative interactions that he has with some motorists. His safety while cycling is always on my mind,” said Ben.

Overall, Helen was happy with the result and felt like the situation had been resolved. “I really just wanted an acknowledgement of what happened and I wanted an action for what happened. I felt relieved and like a resolution had been made.”

Our office contacted Ben and offered to provide a safe cycling/driving class to the driving instructors.

“We had Megan give her presentation on cyclists’ rights to reinforce how to expect to interact with cyclists as a refresher to our instructors. All of our instructors said that it was very worthwhile, ‘time well spent’.  Megan did a great job,” said Ben.

He also donated $900.00 to support Helen’s upcoming charity ride which supports inclusion for athletes with disabilities. Find out more about Helen and Noah's Big Adventure ride.

“Megan is one of those people that you love to know, love to have a connection with and hope that you never have to use as a cyclist,” said Helen. “I was so thankful for her guidance and support and her gentleness for handling the situation but for also taking the time to go and to educate these people on my behalf using her own time. I am forever grateful because I think we made a difference and I am happy about that.” 

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