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Ride Smart Drive Smart: Rules of the Road
Ride Smart Drive Smart is an education, enforcement and encouragement initiative developed by FC Bikes in partnership with Fort Collins Police Services. The initiative is designed to educate both cyclists and motorists how to safely and lawfully share the roadways, encourage smart riding and driving behavior and enforce laws for safety.
Check out the tips in our downloadable Ride Smart Drive Smart brochure (link to brochure) and see more tips below. Also look for the Ride Smart Drive Smart van around town where we will be doing field education and events. Learn more ways to Ride Smart and Drive Smart in our bicycling classes (link to classes page) offered year-round.
Colorado State Bicycle Laws
All laws mentioned below were current as of August 2012 and may be subject to change.
Safe Passing Laws
Colorado has codified a three foot passing requirement in three rules to address the variety of circumstances in which a bicyclist may be overtaken by a motorist. These circumstances are:
- Passing oncoming vehicles
- Passing to the left
- Passing to the right
In each case the motorist must maintain at least a three foot distance between the side of their vehicle facing the bicyclist, including all mirrors or other projections, and the bicyclist being overtaken.
Sources: Colo. Rev. Stat. §§42-4-1002; 42-4-1003; 42-4-1004
Colorado has no helmet law. It is legal for all persons of any age to operate a bicycle without wearing a helmet unless otherwise provided by a municipal regulation.
Share the Road license plates
Colorado, in conjunction with Bicycle Colorado, offers Share the Road license plates. For more information on such plates please visit: http://bicyclecolo.org/articles/share-the-road-plate-info-pg764.htm
Source: Colo. Rev. Stat. §42-3-226
Vulnerable Road User Laws
Colorado does not define who is a "vulnerable road user," but has several statutes aimed at protecting bicyclists specifically. These include:
- Any person who knowingly projects any object or substance at or against a bicyclist commits a class 2 misdemeanor.
- Any driver of a motor vehicle who, in a careless and imprudent manner, drives the vehicle unnecessarily close to, toward, or near a bicyclist is guilty of the offense of careless driving, which is a class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense. If the careless driving results in serious injury or death then it is a class 1 misdemeanor traffic offense.
Sources: Colo. Rev. Stat. §§18-9-116; 42-4-1008.5; 42-4-1402
Distracted Driving Laws
Colorado currently has the following laws aimed at distracted driving, subject to limited exceptions:
- Persons less than eighteen years of age from using a wireless telephone while operating a motor vehicle.
- Persons eighteen years of age or older are prohibited from using a wireless telephone for the purpose of engaging in text messaging or other similar forms of manual data entry or transmission while operating a motor vehicles.
- No person shall operate a motor vehicle while wearing earphones, which is defined as a device which provides the listener with radio programs, music, or other recorded information through a device attached to the head and which covers all of or a portion of the ears.
Sources: Colo. Rev. Stat. §§42-4-239; 42-4-1411
Where to Ride
Colorado has some of the most specific laws regarding where a bicyclist should ride, and just as importantly, where a bicyclist should not be obligated to ride in the nation. The general rule is that:
If the right-hand lane then available for traffic is wide enough to be safely shared with overtaking vehicles, a bicyclist shall ride far enough to the right as judged safe by the bicyclist to facilitate the movement of such overtaking vehicles unless other conditions make it unsafe to do so. A bicyclist may use a lane other than the right-hand lane when:
- Preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private roadway or driveway;
- Overtaking a slower vehicle; or
- Taking reasonably necessary precautions to avoid hazards or road conditions.
A bicyclist shall not be expected or required to:
- Ride over or through hazards at the edge of a roadway, including but not limited to fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or narrow lanes; or
- Ride without a reasonable safety margin on the right-hand side of the roadway.
Source: Colo. Rev. Stat. §42-4-1412(5)
Colorado provides that no person shall drive any vehicle other than a bicycle, electric assisted bicycle, or any other human-powered vehicle upon a sidewalk or sidewalk area, except upon a permanent or duly authorized temporary driveway.
In addition, when a person is riding a bicycle upon a sidewalk, pathway or crosswalk the bicyclist shall:
- Yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing such pedestrian in a manner that is safe for pedestrians.
- Not ride a bicycle where such use is prohibited by official traffic control devices or local ordinances. A person riding a bicycle shall dismount before entering any crosswalk where required by official traffic control devices or local ordinances.
- Have all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances.
Sources: Colo. Rev. Stat. §§42-4-710; 42-4-1412(10)
Mandatory Use of Separated Facilities
Colorado does not require that bicyclists use any lane or path other than a normal vehicular traffic lane.
Bicycling Under the Influence
In Colorado, bicycles are defined as vehicles. Colorado's law prohibiting driving while under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substances is written so that it applies to all vehicles and therefore applies to bicyclists. Bicycles should not be operated while intoxicated and operating a bicycle while under the influence of alcohol or other controlled substances may result in severe punishments.
Sources: Colo. Rev. Stat. §§42-4-1301; 42-1-102
Authorization for Local Regulation of Bicycles
Colorado provides that its traffic laws shall not be deemed to prevent local authorities, with respect to streets and highways under their jurisdiction and within the reasonable exercise of the police power, except those streets and highways that are parts of the state highway system, from regulating the operation of bicycles and requiring the registration and licensing of same, including the requirement of a registration fee, consistent with state traffic laws.
Source: Colo. Rev. Stat. §42-4-111
Colorado requires that no person open the door of a motor vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic. In addition, no person shall leave a door open on the side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.
Source: Colo. Rev. Stat. §42-4-1207
Treatment as a Vehicle
In Colorado bicycles are vehicles according to the statute that defines vehicles and a person riding a bicycle has all of the rights and duties of the driver of a vehicle as provided in Article 42-4.
Source: Colo. Rev. Stat. §§42-1-102(112); 42-4-1412
Source of Laws
The laws regulating the operation of bicycles in the state of Colorado are generally found in the Colorado Revised Statutes (Colo. Rev. Stat.), available here http://www.lexisnexis.com/hottopics/Colorado/.
Although it is legal to ride in most parts of the City, there are sections that are posted as Dismount Zones or No Ride areas and can be identified by official traffic signs.
- Bicycles are not allowed on College between Laurel St. and Harmony Road.
- Bicycles are not allowed to ride in the Downtown Dismount Zone.
- Bicycles are not allowed to ride in the Colorado State University Plaza Dismount Zone.
- Rules and Regulations that govern bicyclists vary from the City of Fort Collins and Colorado State University.
- When crossing railroad tracks ride perpendicular to the rails
- Be predictable to others around you
- Ride defensively
- Wear a helmet
- Keep control of your bicycle by keeping both hands on the handlebars
- Use hand signals when turning