Education

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!

Bike Crashes and Brain Injuries

A Collaborative Blog Post by Hottman Law Office and Colorado Concussion Clinic

My Own Experience

In May 2017, I was on a group charity ride. We had been riding together for three days at that point, and the group was dialed and very skilled.  As we rounded a bend at mile 90 of a 120-mile day, we were on a slight downhill going at a pretty good clip. Someone in front of me rolled over a stick that was just the right shape and size...it shot out from under their wheel and under my front wheel.  As I rode over it, my bike went out from under me as though I had ridden my road bike over a wet root. I went down before I knew what was happening and crashed hard. Two riders behind me crashed into me/landed on me.

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My bike broke in eight different places.  As I lay in the road, I had immediate pain to my lower back and, of course, plentiful road rash.  While my helmet showed damage from hitting the ground, I did not have head "pain,” but my neck did become very sore over the next few days.  I did not see a doctor right away or seek medical care, which was a huge mistake. My roommate on the trip pointed out that I was repeating certain things over and over to her.  I was incredibly emotional—crying easily and without provocation.

Instead of being smart by packing it up and going home to rest and recover, I used a neutral support bike to do the last day—a 90-mile ride into the heart of downtown Manhattan, NYC.  The only thing on me that was mine was my sunglasses and shoes—everything else was new/borrowed. I willed myself through the ride feeling not at all like myself, pretty out of my head, and in a great deal of pain.  

Once home, I noticed I could not muscle my way through work, emails, or my daily agenda.  My head felt tired. I wanted to sleep and avoid bright lights. My mental endurance would wear out midmorning. I also noticed on short, easy bike rides that I would "bonk" mentally—similar to the sensation we have all experienced when we do not eat enough calories on a hard bike ride.  Except I was feeling this often and after very easy effort. My first real road ride post-crash stands out. I was still healing up the road rash, my low back still really hurt, but I felt I was ready to ride with friends. On a very fast downhill, my rear wheel rolled over something that caused an immediate and fast flat tire.  I braked carefully but in a very panicked way as the thought of going down again was more than I could bear. I became a sobbing mess and told the group I was riding back home. I cried most of the way and could not get control of myself. When I turned around to see that they had been following me at a distance (worried about me as good friends do), I really fell apart.  

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I never saw a neurologist or doctor for my head issues and really wish I would have.  Since I pushed so hard to get back to work and riding so soon, I felt the delay of my symptoms for many months.  I did not feel totally like myself again until that November or December. Had I rested, I am sure it would not have taken so long.  

In addition, five weeks after the crash when my low back was still hurting so badly, I was having trouble walking, so I saw a doctor and got an MRI.  This is when we learned that I had fractured my sacrum, the bone on the back of my pelvis. I had also torn the labrum in my right hip. Given the nature and extent of these injuries, there is no doubt in my mind that I had suffered head trauma which impacted me for many months.

As a result of my personal experience, all of the emerging literature out there on concussions, as well as the experiences we have had with clients, (who both have and have not received care for their head injuries), we recommend all of our clients seek help for head trauma as soon as possible after they have been hit by a car.  Too often adrenaline protects us for awhile, and then the ER focuses on orthopedic injuries, and the trauma to our brains goes unnoticed/unaddressed.  That is why we will suggest everyone take the Symptom and Symptom Scale Questionnaires provided by Colorado Concussion Clinic (buttons below) and encourage you to read Sarah Brittain’s article for valuable information on concussions.

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Why Concussion Care Matters

Sarah Brittain runs Colorado Concussion Clinic, a venture created to fulfill a need for evidence-based comprehensive concussion care.  Sarah has a Master's Degree in Communication Science Disorders from the MGH Institute of Health Professions. Her clinical work has focused on treating clients’ cognitive deficits secondary to acquired brain injuries. For more information, visit www.healmyconcussion.com.

Any orthopedist will tell you that a broken arm requires four to six weeks in a cast to heal. Heart surgeons give their cardiac patients six weeks to begin to feel better and up to six months to feel the full benefits of the surgery. According to many professionals, an injury to the brain, our most complex organ, should take ten days.

I hope you can appreciate the absurdity of the ten-day timeline given above. I will absolutely concede that a number of people with concussive injuries heal within that ten-day time frame, and that is certainly the hope, but many do not. Symptoms that persist beyond ten days should be addressed by trained professionals to maximize recovery. Early treatment is key for better outcomes.

A common misconception of concussion (a term now synonymous with mild traumatic brain injury - “MTBI”) is that complete rest leads to recovery—a recommendation not based on current scientific data. In fact, research actually shows that complete rest beyond the first 24-48 hours is detrimental to healing. Research shows that moderate activity is imperative to healing from concussion. There is, however, a caveat: too much activity can set you back in your recovery.

Let me take a step back here. What is a concussion? What are the signs and symptoms? The following definition is taken from the American Congress of Rehabilitation Medicine:

A patient with mild traumatic brain injury (aka concussion) is a person who has had a traumatically induced physiological disruption of brain function, as manifested by at least one of the following: 1. any period of loss of consciousness; 2. any loss of memory for events immediately before or after the accident; 3. any alteration in mental state at the time of the accident (e.g. feeling dazed, disoriented, or confused); and 4. focal neurological deficit(s) that may or may not be transient; but where the severity of the injury does not exceed the following:

• loss of consciousness of approximately 30 minutes or less;

• after 30 minutes, an initial Glasgow Coma Scale (GCS) of 13–15; and

• posttraumatic amnesia (PTA) not greater than 24 hours.

In layman's terms, if you don't “feel right” or you feel “out of it”, you likely sustained a concussion. It is important to note that nowhere in the definition does it say you had to have a direct blow to the head. In fact, quite the opposite is true. You can sustain a concussion without hitting your head.

Below are some of the most common real world signs and symptoms of concussion, grouped into the following categories: physical, cognitive, emotional, and sleep.

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Alright, so you think you have a concussion. Now that you know you probably should not rest and avoid everything, what should you do? Like I said, a percentage of the concussion population will recover within ten days. If you are one of those people, that is great. You can likely resume your activities, although you should take care to avoid hitting your head again. But if that is not the case, please read on.

I equate concussion treatment to early intervention for school children. Any child that is struggling with learning to read will get some intervention (in most schools), because it is unclear if the child will eventually catch up with his or her peers, or fall further and further behind. Investing time and therapy in early intervention has been shown to lead to better outcomes compared to those who took the “wait and see” approach.

The same is true of concussion. Early intervention goes a long way and the evidence is beginning to show it reduces the chances of having persistent post-concussive syndrome.

What might this intervention look like? Well, it depends on who you are and what your symptoms are. Are you an athlete now having trouble with dizziness and balance? Let's sign you up for some vestibular physical therapy. Are you having trouble at work and keeping up with tasks? A good cognitive therapist can help you with that. The list goes on and on. There are skilled treatments for each of these issues.

Words of caution: With concussion being a hot topic today, many health practitioners are quick to say, “Oh yeah, I can fix that!” Buyer beware—Just as you wouldn’t trust your mechanic to fix both your car and your dishwasher simply because they are both machines, you probably do not want your physical therapist who is treating your shoulder injury to treat your vestibular issues. Physicians and therapists in concussion rehabilitation are specialists, and you may need a team of these experts to get fully better. Do your due diligence and research your providers, and do not be afraid to ask questions! Is there research and are providers using evidence-based practice? If not, then it is likely too good to be true.

Concussions are a serious injury and not something to be ignored. Early treatment is key for improved outcomes and reducing the risk of developing persistent post concussive symptoms. Don’t sit at home in a dark room for days...be proactive in your recovery!

The Latest on Distracted Driving

The Latest on Distracted Driving

Current Proposed Legislation, Penalties, & Apps to Limit Distracted Driving

By Maureen & Megan

The Wednesday Memorial from January 22, 2019

The Wednesday Memorial from January 22, 2019

The Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) reports that distracted drivers cause an average of 40 crashes each day in Colorado. In a survey conducted by CDOT in 2017, 89 percent of participants reported driving distracted in the seven days prior to completing the survey. Sixty-seven deaths in Colorado in 2016 involved distracted drivers. If that number does not seem high to you, think of it this way instead. Every day, family and friends of those 67 people who died are dealing with loss and grieving for a loved one.

Nationwide, 3,450 people lost their lives due to distracted driving in 2016. Earlier this month, Arizona police officer Clayton Townsend was struck and killed by a distracted driver during a traffic stop. The motorist, Jerry Sanstead, crossed two lanes of traffic before colliding with the pulled-over vehicle and then Officer Townsend. Standstead was booked on suspicion of manslaughter, aggravated assault with a deadly weapon, and endangerment. He is out on a $100,000 bond. The Maricopa County Attorney's Office will now have to decide what charges to file against him. Townsend, 26, leaves behind a wife and 10-month old child.

In Colorado, lawmakers are working to improve the safety of all road users, whether motorists, cyclists, or pedestrians. A bill aimed at further decreasing distracted driving in Colorado was recently introduced to the Senate on January 24, 2019. Senate Bill 19-012 - the hands-free distracted driving bill -  is now under consideration by the Senate Transportation & Energy Committee. (Click here to take action).

Photo Credit: Bob Carmichael - Courtesy of Cyclists 4 Community

Photo Credit: Bob Carmichael - Courtesy of Cyclists 4 Community

SB19-012 would prohibit drivers of ALL ages from using wireless telephones while driving. Current law only prohibits individuals younger than 18 years of age from using wireless telephones.

The proposed bill also extends the existing provision of the use of wireless telephones to include all mobile electronic devices.  These are handheld or portable electronic devices used for amusement, transmitting wireless data, or voice communication between two or more parties, e.g.  pagers, electronic games, laptop computers, or tablets. Also included are wearable mobile devices with a touchscreen. Think watches that monitor your heart rate, daily activity, movement, etc. For a complete list of mobile electronic devices, click here.


Images below courtesy of the Colorado Department of Transportation - #CrashNotAccident

Penalties for distracted driving would also increase under SB19-012 as follows:

Source: Colorado Legislative Council Staff Issue Brief, Number 17-28, July 2017

Source: Colorado Legislative Council Staff Issue Brief, Number 17-28, July 2017

  • First violation - $300 and 4 points - a class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense

  • Second violation - $500 and 6 points - class 1 misdemeanor traffic offense

  • Third or subsequent violation - $750 and 8 points - class 1 misdemeanor traffic offense


Distracted driving is a global problem. Countries such as Canada are implementing tougher penalties. In Ontario, convicted distracted drivers will have their license suspended for three days on a first offense, seven days after two convictions, and for 30 days for third and further convictions. Fines would increase as well with drivers paying up to $3,000 for third or subsequent convictions.

One way to limit distracted driving is to use a cell phone blocking app or device. Drivers are prevented from making or accepting calls, texting, or accessing the internet while the vehicle is in motion.

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If you own an iPhone, check out the “Do Not Disturb While Driving” feature in your phone’s settings. Phone notifications are withheld while driving, and an automatic response will be sent to the person trying to reach you.

Apple CarPlay features Siri voice control and allows you to make calls, send and receive messages, listen to music, and get directions while keeping your hands on the steering wheel and your eyes on the road.

Android Auto offers drivers hands-free voice control using Google Assistant. The Assistant can help you get step-by-step directions, call phone numbers from your contacts, chat with your favorite apps, read your messages aloud, and text back.

There are plenty of apps on the market that help prevent distracted driving and help parents monitor their teen driver’s cell phone use. Check out the Drive Safe Mode or LifeSaver apps. LifeSaver blocks all phone usage and lets parents know that their child arrived safely. The app locks the phone once the vehicle starts moving. It gives drivers iTunes rewards for safe driving. Check out more apps here.

CDOT is working to bring awareness to driving safely on Colorado’s roads. Their digital message boards focus on distracted driving, seat belts and work zone safety. The messages are designed to grab the driver’s attention, and they get people talking. Maybe you have even noticed some of the messages directed at distracted driving.


Looking to the future, autonomous vehicles or self-driving cars may be part of the solution to making roadways safer. Many collisions are preventable and are a result of distracted drivers who text, talk on a cell phone, or enter data into a navigation app, etc. There are lots of pros and cons to autonomous vehicles. An argument for autonomous vehicles is certainly that 81 percent of the estimated 5.5 million car crashes that occur in the United States every year are caused by human error. Computers could reduce the number of collisions each year. There is also no chance for a computer to be distracted, which is a leading cause of crashes every year.

Currently, testing of driverless cars is only allowed in five states: California, Florida, Michigan, Nevada, and Washington. Experts predict that the first commercially available semi-autonomous cars could be on the road in the next one to two years. (More here).

A big piece of the distracted driving battle is making sure no cyclists are driving their cars (or bikes) with phones or devices in hand.  We have all seen it - cyclists sitting up on their bikes two-handed texting on their phones with their faces in their screens.  It is up to us in the cycling community to perfect our behavior and do this right, and lead by example.


CALL TO ACTION FOR CYCLISTS:

If cyclists driving cars cannot put down their own phones, how can we ask motorists who ARE NOT cyclists to do so?  We cannot lambaste "those motorists" for driving distracted while exhibiting the same behaviors. It always helps our causes and battles when we can say cyclists are doing everything we can as a group to improve our own conduct.

We have more information on distracted driving and what you can do to make the roads safer for all users in our blog post Take the Pledge:  April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month. Don’t put others at risk. Put your mobile electronic devices down while driving or just turn them off.


Safer Roads Through Advocacy and Education

A collaborative blog post by Hottman Law Office and FC Bikes

We can all agree that education is key in making the roads safer for everyone. One of our missions at Hottman Law Office is to get more people on bikes through advocacy and education.

It is a mission that we share with the City of Fort Collins and FC Bikes. They are working hard to encourage bicycling as a viable and healthy means of transportation for Fort Collins' residents, employees and visitors of all ages and abilities. Jamie Gaskill, Program Specialist at FC Bikes, acknowledges the need for continuous education for all road users. One reason she gives is Colorado’s growing population which means more people riding and driving. Colorado has experienced rapid population growth throughout the past decade. The U.S. Census Bureau estimated Colorado’s population at 5.6 million in July 2017; that’s an 11.5 % increase from 2010.

Another reason Gaskill cites is the increased emphasis on Vision Zero - the goal of having zero traffic-related fatalities. Colorado’s statewide initiative, which began in 2015, is called Moving Towards Zero Deaths. Fort Collins was the first city in Colorado to adopt this initiative.

There is also an emphasis on making Colorado the best bicycling state in the nation. In September 2015, Governor Hickenlooper announced a four-year plan and slated 100 million dollars to help make Colorado the best state for biking in the nation. The objective is to make bikes more accessible and riding safer by adding bike lanes and improving driver education.

Hottman Law Office and FC Bikes are helping to make the state better for bicycling in a number of ways.

In 2016, Fort Collins launched a bike share program with 100 bikes. Since then, 23 bikes stations have been added around town, and the bike share fleet is now at 250 bikes.

FC Bikes is participating in a three-year initiative with PeopleforBikes called the Big Jump Project. The goal is to create a safe, connected, comfortable and vibrant environment for bicycling in northwest Fort Collins. FC Bikes is achieving this through infrastructure improvements such as the new Mulberry Protected bike lane pilot project that was recently installed. FC Bikes is also doing neighborhood-based outreach and engagement to bring residents what they need in order to get more people on bikes.

In addition, FC Bikes works to celebrate bicycling and encourage new ridership. Events such as Bike to Work Day and Winter Bike to Work Day are community-wide celebrations of bicycling in Fort Collins. FC Bikes organizes Open Streets events which allow community members to experience roadways with minimal motorized traffic and can encourage people to try bicycling or bicycle more often.

FC Bikes offers a great selection of educational classes, information and opportunities for both motorists and cyclists:

  • Bicycle Ambassador Program – Become an ambassador of safe cycling in northern Colorado.

  • Bicycling Education Classes and Presentations – Sign up for an adult or youth education class and learn about safe cycling practices.

  • Rules of the Road – Learn the laws regarding safe passing, helmets, distracted driving, sidewalk riding and much more.

  • Bicycle Friendly Driver Program – Get educated about the best and safest ways to share the road with people on bicycles. This 1 1/2 hour class discusses common crashes and how to avoid them, why bicyclists ‘take the lane’ and what motorists should do in response and how to navigate bicycle related infrastructure such as sharrows, bike boxes, and green lanes.

They are also partnering with Fort Collins Police Services in a program called Ride Smart Drive Smart which is designed to educate both cyclists and motorists on how to safely and lawfully share the roadways, encourage smart riding and driving behavior and enforce laws for safety. As part of this initiative, the Fort Collins Police Services staff received educational workshops from Hottman Law Office and will also attend the Bicycle Friendly Driver trainings starting in March 2019.

Megan presents to a full house of cyclists at Full Cycle Bike Shop in Boulder every June.

Megan presents to a full house of cyclists at Full Cycle Bike Shop in Boulder every June.

Hottman Law Office is committed to providing education and advocating to make the roads safer for everyone. It is why we offer classes about Colorado cycling laws to both motorists and cyclists at local bike clubs, driving schools as well as to law enforcement personnel. Most recently, we have been offering workshops to cyclists on how to handle their insurance claims in personal injury cases.

Our Bike Ambassadors and the Golden Police Dept.

Our Bike Ambassadors and the Golden Police Dept.

This year, we partnered with the Golden Police Department and our Bike Ambassador team to put together informative safety videos on group riding, taking the lane, headphones, the right hook, and lots more. Visit the Golden Police Department’s Facebook page for more information.

Check out more of our educational videos here. The Let's Ride Safe // Let's Drive Safe video addresses ways that drivers and cyclists can ride and drive safely.

Hottman Law Office has hosted a Bike to Work Day station every year since 2012 and organizes a group ride in June to Lookout Mountain to bring together the cycling community:

Our website offers information on cycling laws, crash advice, commuting tips and how to handle aggressive drivers. Topics we have covered on our blog relevant for both motorists and cyclists include:

Megan presented her safe cycling talk to the PEDAL Racing and PEDAL bike shop team earlier this year.

Megan presented her safe cycling talk to the PEDAL Racing and PEDAL bike shop team earlier this year.

Justice for Cyclists: Boulder County DAs Push for Results in Cycling Cases

By Maureen & Megan

Vehicular assault - Leaving the scene of a crash involving serious bodily injury - Failure to notify police of a crash. These are some of the initial charges brought against two drivers in collisions with cyclists in Boulder County. In both cases, the cyclists were seriously injured and required surgery.

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Boulder cyclist Travis Lechner was on a group training ride in Longmont, CO in December 2017 when he was struck by a pick-up truck going at least 45 mph. Travis was making a left-hand turn when the driver attempted to pass him on the left, crossing a double yellow line.

A witness told police that Travis had signaled before turning left.

The collision sent Travis flipping up over the truck, landing in a ditch approximately 50 feet down the road. He was transported by ambulance with multiple injuries including a broken clavicle and wrist, a concussion, fractured ribs and multiple abrasions.

His left shoulder was completely shattered.

Travis shown with DA Adrian VanNice, fellow cyclist (L), and Megan (R)

Travis shown with DA Adrian VanNice, fellow cyclist (L), and Megan (R)

An off-duty police officer riding in the group of cyclists canvassed the area following the crash. He happened to find the truck that met a witness’ description and called police. The driver, who was drunk at 10 am, neither had a valid driver’s license nor insurance. He was arrested and taken to jail. This was his second DUI.

Travis’ injuries required surgery to his wrist and shoulder. Unable to care for himself following surgery, he stayed at his coach’s house for over a month. His wrist was in a cast and he had to wear a sling, which completely immobilized him. The first night following surgery to his shoulder, Travis woke up in the middle of the night in the worst pain he had ever experienced. “It hurt about 10,000 times worse than getting hit by a car. I have never been in so much pain my whole life.”

He missed almost two months of work due to his injuries and suffered financial damages. He was not able to drive, lost fitness and training time on his bike, and could not sleep most nights due to the sling he had to wear as well as sleeping upright at a 45-degree angle. He needed help doing everyday tasks such as showering, getting dressed and cooking.

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Like Travis, 17 year-old Riley Sheehan was also struck by a driver in Boulder County who then fled the scene. It was March 7, 2018. Riley, an elite junior cyclist who rides for LUX Cycling Team and USA Cycling, was training in preparation for three international races in Europe at the end of March.

He was riding on the far right of the shoulder on U.S. 36 when he heard the sound of an engine. It was a truck going 45-50 mph. The driver tried to get around two lanes of traffic by passing on the right using the shoulder. That’s when he crashed into Riley, launching him into the air.

The driver then ran over the bike and left the scene of the crash.

Riley hit the ground so hard that his clavicle broke, causing a section of the bone to penetrate into his chest muscle. His helmet broke in five different places when his head slammed into the ground. He suffered a concussion, enduring a headache and nausea and had scrapes and bruises all over his body. “I felt so angry that someone would hit me and then leave me by the roadside.”

Witnesses reported that a red truck had been driving aggressively prior to the crash. One witness followed the driver and attempted to get him to return to the scene. The witness told the driver that he had his license plate number and that police had been called. The driver yelled at the witness and sped away, leaving the scene again.

The license plate traced back to a red Ford F-150 owned by a Greeley resident.  Officers observed damage to the front right side of the truck when they arrived at the driver’s house. He was arrested by Colorado State Patrol on suspicion of vehicular assault, leaving the scene of a crash involving serious bodily injury, failure to notify police of the crash, reckless driving, passing on a shoulder, failure to obtain a valid CO registration within 90 days of becoming a resident and driving with expired plates. The driver had moved from Texas to Colorado in 2014 but still had Texas plates.

Too often these collisions are treated as ‘just accidents,’ but that diminishes what my family and I have been through.
— Riley Sheehan addressing the Court, at the driver's sentencing hearing

Riley had to undergo surgery to repair his broken clavicle. In the days leading up to the surgery, he was in extreme pain and could not sleep. Further surgery will be required to remove the stainless steel plate and screws. Riley still does not have full range of motion and can feel the metal plate every time he moves his right shoulder.

The experience has been painful, frustrating, depressing and draining both physically and emotionally. Riley missed school, training and racing opportunities.

His life and physical body are forever altered, leaving him to question his bike racing future.

Riley’s family with Fred Johnson, Chief Trial Deputy, 20th Judicial District Attorney’s Office

Riley’s family with Fred Johnson, Chief Trial Deputy, 20th Judicial District Attorney’s Office

When it came time for the drivers’ criminal case sentencing hearings, both Travis and Riley, along with his family, attended and addressed the court. They took part in the process, and it made a difference. Travis and Riley wanted to emphasize to the court, the district attorneys and to the defendants that what happens in these cases matters very much to the victims as well as to the cycling community as a whole.

Riley’s mom spent well over 100 hours filling out paperwork, documentation, getting medical referrals and going to appointments with Riley. His dad had to miss work as well.

Travis felt that it was important to attend, so that people see there is more going on. It is not just a bike that got hit on the road. “I think it’s important we show up and people know that we’re paying attention. We want to be seen and heard,” said Travis.

Fred Johnson, the DA in Riley’s case, believes that community members are an integral part of the criminal justice system:

One of our most important functions is making sure their voices are heard.  Victims at a sentencing hearing are the persons most affected by the crimes committed, and their input is extremely important to us as prosecutors and to the judge deciding the sentence.  When the crime implicates a specific community’s interest and safety such as the cycling community, it’s important for members of that community to attend sentencing hearings so the court can hear their perspective directly and consider it in reaching a just result.
— Fred Johnson, Boulder DA

The Boulder DA’s Office took these cases seriously and made very severe punishment recommendations to the judge.

Boulder County is a unique community and a great place to ride with an avid cycling community. The safety of the cycling community is very important to us as an office and we strive to enforce the laws in a way that maximizes the effectiveness of those laws in ensuring safety on the roads.  We take violations of the law that hurt cyclists extremely seriously, especially when a driver flees the scene in an effort to avoid responsibility. This disregard for the safety and well-being of the victim is especially egregious because it puts the victim’s life and physical safety in further jeopardy,” said Johnson.

The driver in Travis’ case pled guilty to driving under the influence and reckless vehicular assault. He received a suspended sentence of one year in the Boulder County Jail and must complete 200 hours of community service and three years of probation as well as serve nine months of jail-work release.

In Riley’s case, the driver pled guilty to both felony counts - leaving the scene of an accident causing serious bodily injury and vehicular assault. He was sentenced to three years of probation, with 90 days of jail, 120 more days of jail on work release, and 200 hours of community service work.  Conditions of probation included no driving until probation is completed and the court approves it, substance abuse and mental health evaluations with any recommended treatment, and completion of a bicycle driver’s course.

Our office plans to keep showing up at sentencing hearings. It matters. It makes a difference. It counts! #ShowUP. #CrashNOTaccident

The Dangers of Social Media in Your Personal Injury Case

By Maureen & Megan

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Social media has become part of everyday life for many people. First thing in the morning, you reach for your phone to check your Facebook, Instagram or Twitter accounts. You post vacation photos, share pictures of your new home or use these platforms to update friends and family or to voice your opinion. Social media is how we communicate nowadays.

However, we must be extremely careful with what we communicate on social media. Employees have been fired for posting disparaging remarks about their employers. Posts that breach confidentiality agreements have led to loss of settlements. Then, there are the photos of someone bungee jumping all the while claiming a serious injury.

That might sound extreme or even ridiculous, but there are plenty of personal injury cases that have been lost for this very reason. Any photos or posts that you have created - whether related to your case or not - can or may be introduced by insurance companies or defense counsel and used as evidence against you.

Do not post anything about your case - injuries, recovery, your equipment, etc. - until it is concluded. Every comment, photo or tag can only harm your case. Do not post old photos or old content as a “place filler” either during this time, as they can be damaging, too.

The list of cases where plaintiffs are losing good cases because of something they posted online is endless. Judges are forcing production of private online content ­from dating sites, family history sites like Ancestry.com and others like Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, etc.

(For example - Girl Costs Father $80k with FB post).

(Also -Tinkering with FB account costs Plaintiff over $700k).

After having a couple of our clients’ cases substantially undermined by their social media posts, our law firm now has a zero tolerance policy when it comes to clients posting anything to social media until their case is closed. This is so that we can achieve the maximum success and obtain maximum monetary outcome on our clients’ behalf. Any post-whether crash-related or not- threatens a client’s case. The point is: it simply isn’t worth it.

The reality is that most cards are already stacked against plaintiffs when we face insurance companies with unlimited resources. Insurance companies and defense counsel will go to great lengths to investigate you. They focus their investigations on social media posts and will often place people under surveillance. Anything you put on the Internet is not private and is absolutely going to be discovered by the insurance company we are working against.

While your account may be marked "private" now, the insurance company defense team will request the contents of your accounts, and they will get them. More and more courts across the country are ruling that there is no expectation of privacy for things shared on the Internet, and the judges are ruling that these socials must be produced­, private or not.

When you broadcast things online, the insurance company is going to find that post. Our firm has seen that become exhibit #1 at trial.

Social media that can be discovered also includes posts made by others who tag you in a post or photograph. To prevent this from happening, set your privacy settings so that tagging is not allowed or permission must be granted before tagging can be done.

Do not accept future friend requests from people you do not personally know. Insurance companies, their attorneys and private investigators will try to gain access to your social media in order to obtain information that can be used to defeat or damage your case.

Be advised, deleting social media posts is not an option while your case is being handled. You cannot take anything down that you have created on the Internet. It has been ruled by numerous courts across the country that when you create a social media post and then delete it, it is considered spoliation of evidence. It will likely result in hardship to your case and possibly financial penalties.

There is no post that will add value to your case, only posts that will detract. Online content posts offer zero upside for the client, or case or recovery. It is almost always 100% downside.

So, when your lawyer advises you to take a break from social media during the pendency of your case, please listen! Social media posts will be used against you to negatively impact your case and will result in the the loss of thousands of dollars. They can even cost you the entire case!

Don’t want to take our word for it? Here are just a few examples of what other lawyers have to say:

Example 1

Example 2

Example 3

Example 4

Example 5

PODCAST EPISODE: HERE.

A Close Call -The Importance of Bike Cameras

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“Education and awareness are always the way to go and the results can be most rewarding for all. I hope this helps everyone become better bike ambassadors on the roads, paths and trails.”

Guest Post by Gerry Stephenson – Cyclist, Commuter, and Bike Ambassador

*Gerry uses the Cycliq front and back bike cameras.

Hi, my name is Gerry and I have been cycling since 2001. Presently, I commute to and from work about eight to nine months a year and have been doing so the last four to five years. My route varies from 10-12 miles and includes both road and bike paths. When I ride, I always try to be a safe rider and educate others when it makes sense.

While commuting home on June 29th, 2018, I was riding north on a neighborhood street approaching a T-intersection. It was late afternoon; traffic was very light. I noticed a car and a fire truck preparing to come on the road behind me. The car passed with plenty of room before the intersection and my impending right turn. However, to my surprise, the fire truck driver decided that they had enough room to pass me only to turn right in front of me with clearly not enough space. I had to brake hard to avoid being hit. It should be noted that the fire truck had no flashing lights or sirens on at the time.  

Footage captured from Gerry’s Cycliq bike camera.

Footage captured from Gerry’s Cycliq bike camera.

I did not attempt to confront the driver or squeeze in to the right of the truck. I did swear and was very upset at this close call. Knowing that I had this entire incident recorded with my Cycliq bike cameras (front and rear mounted cameras), I chose to wait until I got home and review the video and decide what to do. Cooler heads always prevail, and my focus is always on educating others, be it drivers or cyclists, in times like these. After reviewing the video, it was very clear that the fireman was at fault for not allowing me the three-foot rule, and I felt that they did not realize the actual size of the vehicle they were driving.

I emailed the fire department and very politely explained what had happened and included the video of the close call. I never once mentioned that I wanted the driver of the fire truck reprimanded or charged. What I asked for was an apology, and that this video be used to show and teach the department to be mindful of cyclists. Later that evening or possibly the next day, I received an email from the fire department apologizing and promising to add this video footage to their department training. This incident was reported by the liaison to the fire department commander as well.

First response from the fire department’s liaison:

“Hi Gerry,

First let me send you my apologies for the incident with our department, I have notified the Lieutenant and Battalion Chief on duty the day of your incident and the Chief of Staff is aware and corrective actions will be taken.

I will make sure the Chief gets your video and we will be sure to use it as a training piece in our driver/operator program so this never happens again.”

 Second email from the liaison:

“I believe a lesson learned/corrective action is being written, then it will go to the whole Department, then I believe the Fire Chief will send it to you.”

My Email:

“Hi, I truly appreciate your timely response and apology. I try my best to be very viable and obey all the rules of the road while cycling and all I ask in return is that all drivers do the same. So that you know I have a great contact for training in the matters of cycling and traffic laws. Her name is Megan Hottman; she is a lawyer that helps educate everyone on the laws of Colorado. She has done many classes all over the state for law enforcement and the cycling community. If you are interested I can put you in contact with her. Thank you again.”

 A couple of weeks later, I received another email confirming that the fire department had in fact updated their training for the entire department and would be sharing this training with other towns.

“Here is the ‘Lessons Learned’ that was made from your incident. It has been made required training for all crews on our department and was reviewed by all the command staff.”

The following is an excerpt from ‘Lessons Learned’:

Background: In June, a fire truck was responding non-emergent to a commercial fire alarm in a neighboring district. While proceeding northbound on Main, fire truck passed a bicyclist as both were approaching a T intersection. Fire truck Engineer determined that, at the current speed, he could safely pass the bicyclist, and proceeded to do so. The pass and lane change were made into the right turn lane. Upon review of the video provided from the cyclist perspective, it appears that clearance was closer than intended.

Generic Corrective Actions:

1. A general review of the Colorado state laws regarding passing of a cyclist.

§ 42-4-1003. Overtaking a vehicle on the left

1. The following rules shall govern the overtaking and passing of vehicles proceeding in the same direction, subject to the limitations, exceptions, and special rules stated in this section and sections 42-4-1004 to 42-4- 1008:

a. The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left of the vehicle at a safe distance and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle

b. The driver of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicyclist proceeding in the same direction shall allow the 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.

c. Except when overtaking and passing on the right is permitted, the driver of an overtaken vehicle shall give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle on audible signal and shall not increase the speed of the driver's vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.

2. Be diligent in making sure that the perspective and safety of the cyclist is given a greater regard.

·      Always be aware of the size of, and space needed for the engine to maneuver.

·      Be sure to maintain constant Situational Awareness (SA) while driving apparatus and avoid becoming complacent about driving responsibilities due to mental focus on the incident the apparatus has been dispatched to.

·      If there is any question as to the safety of a pass, yield to the cyclist, and do not pass.

Note: The name and city of the fire department in this incident have been omitted at their request as well as any public sharing of the video.

Is Lane Splitting Unlawful?

Is Lane Splitting Unlawful?

By Maureen & Megan

No matter who you ask, it’s a controversial practice! Motorcyclists say it’s safer than sitting in traffic and eases traffic congestion. Cyclists maintain that it gets them ahead of traffic at intersections so they can be more visible to cars. Motorists argue that it’s dangerous and risky.

Lane splitting, also referred to as stripe riding or white lining, is the practice of riding a bicycle, motorcycle or any other two-wheeled vehicle between rows of slow-moving traffic driving in the same direction. Lane filtering refers to riding between lanes going in the same direction in stopped traffic. 

California is currently the only state that allows motorcycle lane splitting. 

So, what does this mean for cyclists? We received the following inquiry from a cyclist about lane splitting/filtering:

‘Is any part of the CO Law applicable to lane filtering or splitting? 

For example, is it legal for a cyclist to ride between stopped traffic in their lane and parked cars on the right or to ride between two lanes of stopped traffic?”

There is no statute in Colorado that specifically prohibits cyclists from lane splitting or lane filtering; however, the conclusion has always been that since it’s not legal for motorcyclists, cyclists should not do it either.

Furthermore, a cyclist has the same rights and duties as the driver of any other vehicle, so they should follow the same rules when it comes to overtaking and passing another vehicle on the left or right.

"The law says you cannot overtake a vehicle traveling in the same lane and direction, with certain exceptions.  Lane splitting has two major concerns.  #1) as cyclists, the law requires you be given 3-feet when being passed.  Should it not be the same for a cyclist passing a motor vehicle?  #2) we already have a problem in Colorado with motorists not expecting cyclists to be where they have the right to be (think right-hook turns). The concern is if lane splitting is permitted, how many accidents and incidents of road rage will we have until the motoring public comes to terms with this mentally and in their driving behavior?" says Frank Barr, Police Officer for the City of Golden.  

Chances are, if a cyclist chooses to pass between lanes of cars, or pass up the right side (where there is no bike lane), if a collision occurred- for example, if a car in the right lane suddenly decided to make a right turn having no idea a cyclist has pulled up alongside them, the cyclist will be found at fault, or half-at-fault.  Anytime a cyclist does something to deprive themselves of the 3-foot buffer- like pulling alongside the right side of stopped cars, between the car and a curb, if a collision occurs, the cyclist is going to share some blame.  

Consider the following scenarios that could cause a cyclist serious injury or death if lane splitting or filtering forward:

  • Cyclist is riding between two lanes of moving traffic when a motorist switches lanes unexpectedly and crashes into the cyclist
  • Cyclist gets doored when riding between traffic lanes when a passenger opens car door to exit vehicle
  • Cyclist stops on the passenger side of the vehicle in the driver’s blind spot and is right-hooked by a turning vehicle at an intersection after filtering forward

When approaching an intersection, it is recommended that a cyclist takes the lane instead of lane splitting or filtering forward. League Certified Instructor Gary Harty prefers to take the lane and wait his turn at stop lights especially if there are only two or three cars ahead of him. “I don’t like to go ahead of the first car because I may not be visible and would be setting myself up for being right hooked,” he says. 

Harty prefers to control his lane when turning left. If he is going straight, he will position himself next to the white line, either left or right of the line, the side with the least amount of traffic. “I understand both sides are legal and defend against right hooks. If traffic is slow I would like to control the thru lane.”

Cutting through traffic with rows of cars on both sides doesn’t give a cyclist adequate space either, especially considering that motorists have to give cyclists three-feet when passing. 

Denver has 130 miles of bike lanes

Denver has 130 miles of bike lanes

“In a perfect world, you would have a minimum of four feet between you and parked cars on your right to prevent being doored and another three feet on your left between you and the projections of the moving vehicles on your left.  If you give yourself three feet in which you occupy space, this is a total of ten feet minimum between parked cars and the moving traffic lane.  I can’t think of any place in this area where that space exists.  Our bicycle infrastructure has not reached that level yet. Therefore, if a cyclist is going to ride into that space that is much less than ten feet, there is a great deal of risk involved and potentially a conflict with CRS that states you should pass slower vehicles on the left,” says Harty.

As bicycling becomes more of an accepted form of transportation across the country, cities are working to make improvements to bicycling infrastructure. According to its website , the City of Denver has:

  • more than 100 miles of multi-use trails.
  • 130 miles of bike lanes.
  • 39 miles of sharrows, and almost 400 miles of signed bike routes. 

Denver’s Bicycle Program is improving on-street facilities and creating connections between Denver's neighborhoods and destinations. Bicycle traffic signals, green pavement marking, designated bike lanes, bikeways, buffered lanes and green bike boxes are being installed around the city.

Green pavement markings in Denver notifying motorists of the presence of bicyclists

Green pavement markings in Denver notifying motorists of the presence of bicyclists

Bike boxes and bike lanes make it possible for cyclists to avoid lane splitting/filtering to get ahead of vehicles at intersections. Cyclists position themselves ahead of cars in the bike box and have priority to move into the intersection when the light turns green. Motorists must wait behind the green bike box at the white stop line. This gives cyclists priority to move through the intersection.

Bike box at 11  th   and Speer in Denver

Bike box at 11th and Speer in Denver

People for Bikes has been working hard to add these green lanes and boxes with their “green lane” projects- which provide funding to cities to make it possible for the addition of this infrastructure.  These lanes and the bright green paint make it much safer for cyclists and allow them to move to the front of an intersection legally.  (Read more here: https://peopleforbikes.org/green-lane-project/).

 

Expanding and improving bicycling infrastructure to make bicycling more accessible and safe will take time. In the meantime, use caution when you are cycling and don’t put yourself in a situation where splitting the lane or filtering forward could result in injury.

Colorado's New Stop-As-Yield Legislation

By Megan & Maureen: 

SB18-144

Bicycle Operation Approaching Intersection

Concerning the regulation of bicycles approaching intersections.

On May 3, 2018, Colorado Governor Hickenlooper signed into law SB144, or what’s commonly referred to as the Idaho stop, also known as a safety or rolling stop or “stop as yield.” In effect in Idaho since 1982, the law allows cyclists to treat a stop sign like a yield sign and a red light like a stop sign. In 2017, Delaware adopted a limited stop as yield law.

Interestingly, the new Colorado law isn’t actually a state law – it’s recommended language, which each individual city or county may now adopt at its option.

C.R.S § 42-4-1412.5 provides a statewide standard on the regulation of bicycles approaching intersections which local governments can choose to implement:  Idaho stops were already legal in Aspen, Breckenridge and Dillon, as well as Summit County, prior to the passage of this new law.

(1) At intersections with stop signs, a cyclist should slow “to a reasonable speed and yield the right-of-way to any traffic or pedestrian in or approaching the intersection.” The cyclist may then turn or go through the intersection without stopping.

A reasonable speed is considered 15 mph or less. Local governments may reduce or increase the reasonable speed but will be required to post signs at intersections stating the lower or higher speed limitations.

(2) At red traffic lights, cyclists are required to completely stop and yield to traffic and pedestrians. Once the cyclist has yielded, they may “cautiously proceed in the same direction through the intersection or make a right-hand turn. A cyclist may not go through the intersection at a red light if an oncoming vehicle is turning or preparing to turn left in front of the person.”

The law further states that a cyclist may only make a left-hand turn at a red traffic light if turning onto a one-way street. The cyclist must stop and then yield to traffic and pedestrians before turning left. NOTE: It is not legal for a cyclist to make a left-hand turn onto a two-lane road (one lane in each direction) at an intersection with a red traffic light.

This law does not give cyclists the right to blow through intersections: they still have to yield. 

Megan Hottman (@cyclist_lawyer) on Instagram: "Round 2 filming bike safety/motorist awareness #PSA videos today with the #bikeambassadors and..."

(Example see video at right: our friend Katie running a stop sign (part of a cycling video series the City of Golden is making-don't worry, this was a controlled intersection!)

At all other times, cyclists must comply with the rules set forth in CRS §42-4-1412 and 42-4-221 regarding the operation of bicycles and other human-powered vehicles.

The main argument for the Idaho stop appears to be that it increases safety for cyclists.  Senator Andy Kerr, who authored Senate Bill 18-144, is a cyclist himself. He maintains that the most dangerous time for a cyclist is when they are stopped at an intersection.  Colorado’s local bicycle advocacy group, Bicycle Colorado, was also strongly in favor of this new rule and was actively involved in its passage.

If a cyclist is not waiting at an intersection, they are less likely to be hit by a car. The faster they can get through the intersection and out of the way of motorists, the better. Additionally, when a cyclist can proceed through an intersection and get out in front of traffic, there is less chance of getting hit by a vehicle making a right-hand turn.

A study by Jason Meggs titled ‘Bicycle Safety and Choice: Compounded Public Cobenefits of the Idaho Law Relaxing Stop Requirements for Cycling’ found that a year after the Idaho stop law was implemented, cyclist injuries declined by 14.5 percent in Idaho. Meggs further stated that there is no evidence that fatalities increased as a result of the adoption of the law in Idaho.

“I'm an ‘Idaho Stopper’ who approves this change in traffic laws that favors cyclists. As a threatened road user group, cyclists need the added protection of bike-specific laws that promote safer cycling like the Idaho stop and 3-foot passing.” (Richard H.)

Another argument in favor of the law is that it legalizes what most people already do. A study by DePaul University’s Chaddick Institute for Metropolitan Development found that only about 1 in 25 cyclists come to a complete stop at stop signs. Two out of three cyclists go through red lights when there's no cross traffic. (See also- CU Study).

The most prevalent response as to why cyclists break the rules of the road was “personal safety,” with more than 71 percent of respondents citing that as a reason. Saving energy came in second for bicyclists (56 percent) followed by saving time (50 percent). Increasing one’s visibility was the fourth-most-cited response (47 percent) for bicyclists breaking the law. The authors noted that an overwhelming majority of bicyclists break the rules, but suggested they did so in situations where little harm would come to themselves or others.
— Aaron Johnson, a PhD student in sociology at CU Boulder : https://www.colorado.edu/asmagazine/2017/08/04/biking-bad

It has also been argued that it takes significant energy for a cyclist to start again after having to stop at stop signs/traffic signals.  The DePaul study suggests that “when cyclists sense there are no immediate safety risks, their desire to maintain forward momentum and conserve energy almost always exceeds their desire to strictly adhere to traffic laws.”

We solicited comments and feedback via our Facebook page and share below, some of the varying thoughts we received:

“I think it's a good thing for cyclists, codifying what a lot of people, frankly, were doing anyway. It doesn't absolve cyclists of a responsibility to ride safely, but just acknowledges the realities of bike riding.” (Brandon R.)

The new law could also improve the flow of traffic and reduce congestion by getting cyclists and motorists through intersections more quickly.

Another argument: traffic signs and signals were not created with cyclists in mind. Cyclists often have to wait at traffic lights until a motor vehicle triggers a sensor to change the light: 

“I approve of this, especially the red stop light law. So many times I come across stupid stop lights that won't change unless they detect a car. This will allow cyclists to proceed without fear of a ticket.” (Kerry N.)

Not everyone is in favor of the new law. Opponents argue that bicyclists should follow the same rules as motorists. They further maintain that bicyclist behavior will be even more unpredictable and dangerous:

“All users of the road have to abide by the same set of rules. Confusion will abound and accidents will occur.” (TJ R.)

Many worry that the new law should be implemented statewide and will lead to confusion for both drivers and cyclists since counties and municipalities can decide whether to adopt the law:

“The opt-in aspect is disappointing and will create significant confusion for motorists, cyclists, and law-enforcement. Imagine if Denver opts-in but Lakewood does not. So east of Sheridan you can use the Idaho stop, but west of Sheridan doing so will get you a ticket. Someone driving through Lakewood who sees a cyclist getting a ticket for rolling a stop sign will assume that behavior is not permitted anywhere. So when a cyclist does it in front of them in Denver, they're going to get angry and annoyed at the cyclist for (incorrectly) believing the cyclist is breaking the law. While I understand the need to add that piece in order to make the legislation palatable for the state legislature to pass it, the inability to have a uniform law that would improve cyclist safety is disappointing.” (Kathryn W.)

Some suggest that the law may create even more tension between motorists and cyclists:

“As a cyclist, I think it makes a lot of sense, but motorists aren't likely to see it that way. So, if widely used, I think it is going to inflame the notion that cyclists are an elite group who believe ‘the rules don't apply to them’ (because many motorists will be either unaware of the change or just dislike it). I also think you are safest on a bike on the road when you do predictable things - meaning that you act like a car. When you move in between being-like-a-car and following some pattern that drivers aren't used to, that is when people make mistakes because something happens they weren't expecting.” (Greg M.)

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We ran an informal poll of Golden-area cyclists to ask them if they were in favor of this rule, or opposed to it.  While some who live out of city limits did accidentally vote, the overwhelming majority voted in favor.

 

 

 

 

 

Moving forward, the challenge will now be to educate motorists, cyclists and law enforcement about the new law – if, and when, cities and counties decide to adopt it.  As of now, cyclists must still stop at stop signs and red lights until this language is adopted in their jurisdictions. And of course a cyclist always has the option to remain stopped at the red light until it turns green.  

We'd love your feedback/comments- what do you think about your local city or county adopting this legislation?  If you have a strong opinion, we recommend you let your local city council members know -chances are, they are debating this very issue right now! 

Take the Pledge: April is Distracted Driving Awareness Month

By Maureen & Megan

Cyclist John Kirby was riding in the bike lane in Parker, Colorado in November 2017 when he was hit and killed by an alleged distracted driver.

(A special thanks to our friend Russell, for posing for this photo.  Don't worry, the car is not in motion!). 

(A special thanks to our friend Russell, for posing for this photo.  Don't worry, the car is not in motion!). 

According to the arrest affidavit, the driver became distracted when she “looked down to push the off button on the vehicle’s stereo,” to turn off an incoming call. That’s when she veered into the bike lane hitting Kirby.

Any activity that could divert a driver’s attention away from the primary task of driving is distracted driving. This includes the use of cell phones and electronics and eating or drinking. If, while driving, you are entering information into your navigation system, changing radio stations or typing a text message, you are distracted.

It’s negligent, unsafe and puts others at risk, especially cyclists on roadways.

Not surprisingly, distracted driving is on the rise nationwide, especially with more people using cell phones. According to The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 3,477 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes due to distracted driving in 2015.

The Colorado Department of Transportation reports that:

  • Distracted drivers cause an average of 40 crashes every day in Colorado.
  • Sixty seven deaths in 2016 involved Colorado distracted drivers.

Our office has handled numerous cases where distractions involving a cell phone were either strongly suspected or were absolutely involved in causing the collision. 

One of Megan’s most common practices is to check social media for photos the at-fault driver has taken on their phone while in the car (has anyone else noticed this bizarre trend of taking selfies of oneself sitting in the driver’s seat with the seatbelt on?).  Megan has used these photos to argue that the driver frequently used, touched, messed with, and operated a phone while in the vehicle. 

Photo 2.jpg

There is no question that juries punish this behavior with larger verdicts.  Interestingly though, there seems to be a trend where jurors, cyclists, society at large, “tsk-tsks” this behavior and yet, it seems so prolific that “everyone is doing it.”  Why do we shame others for the very conduct we ourselves do? 

One issue that seems to arise is the use of map apps or directions to get to a destination. 

There are two solutions to this that would remove the phone from a driver’s arm’s reach:  One, use the car’s built-in NAV system and don’t use the phone for directions.  Two, type the destination into the phone and set it to an audible turn-by-turn guidance format.  Then, stash the phone back in the backseat or trunk where you cannot reach it. 

Numerous studies and statistics show that once the phone is within eyesight of a driver or user, it is almost impossible to resist the urge to check it, touch it, use it ...  The phone is an addictive device for most users.  Therefore, to ensure you are never a distracted driver, it needs to be out of sight each time you operate your vehicle. 

Several laws in Colorado are aimed at distracted driving:

C.R.S. § 42-4-239 states:

Photo 3.jpg

A person under eighteen years of age shall not use a wireless telephone while operating a motor vehicle.
A person eighteen years of age or older shall not use a wireless telephone for the purpose of engaging in text messaging or other similar forms of manual data entry while operating a motor vehicle.

Forty seven states make text messaging illegal while driving.

C.R.S. § 42-4-1411 addresses the use of earphones:

 It is against the law to operate a motor vehicle while wearing earphones that include a headset, radio, tape player, or other similar device which provides the listener with music, radio, or recorded information and which covers all or a portion of the ears.

Do these laws do enough to protect cyclists?

In January and February 2018, bills aimed at decreasing distracted driving throughout Colorado and protecting vulnerable road users did not make it out of committee or were voted down during the Colorado legislative session.

Senate Bills 18-140 and 18-049 would have made careless driving a class 1 misdemeanor and increased the penalties imposed for distracted driving.

“Keep pushing car companies to produce technology that makes steering and texting at the same time impossible.”
— Tim Blumenthal, People For Bikes

What we can do to make the roads safer for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians:

  1. Take the pledge to drive free of distractions. Whether you do this online or privately, pledge to drive without texting, checking social media, changing the radio station, multi-tasking or any behavior that is going to take your eyes off the road.
  2. All cyclists, while operating their motor vehicles, should be distraction-free.  If we want to set the example and make roads safer for us when we are riding, then our call to action when we are motorists is to put those phones in the backseat or truck (as many in Canada do, given the harsh penalties there for even touching one’s phone). 
  3. Check out the National Safety Council pledge here or the “It Can Wait” campaign here if you want to make your pledge official.
  4. Advocate for laws that will impose tougher penalties for distracted driving. Speak up for laws that will make cycling safer and provide better infrastructure for cyclists.
  5. Get involved with a bike organization such as PeopleForBikes, whose aim is to make riding better for everyone. They represent all types of cyclists and work at city, state and national levels to improve bike infrastructure and provide support to bicycle advocacy groups on a local level.  Membership is free so SIGN UP! 
  6. Pull off to the side of the road if you need to make a call or just turn your cell phone off while driving.
  7. Be a role model. If you are a parent, put down your phone while driving when your kids are in the car. Don’t call or text your kids if they know you might be driving. Set a good example!
  8. If you are interested in your state’s distracted driving laws, the Governor’s Highway Safety Association has put together a state-by-state chart here