three foot law

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.

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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