First Published in the Fort Collins Coloradoan Feb. 7, 2011
My favorite story of the law and bicyclists in Fort Collins is of the time 1½ years ago, when a Fort Collins police officer stopped the then-National Collegiate Cycling champion and issued a warning for what the officer thought was an illegal left turn.
The national champion, experienced bicycle commuter and experienced bike handler was headed to work on North College Avenue, turning north from the right-most left turn lane on Cherry Street. The officer handed him a pre-printed form from www.Colobikelaw.com. The form explained how a cyclist should make a left turn by keeping to the far right, crossing with the light and repositioning himself on the far right side of the intersection to await the through light.
The officer didn’t realize that the form he handed out mentioned two other legal left turn options available to the cyclist, one of which includes the use of the left turn lane, the choice of this expert cyclist.
The option identified by the police officer is the technique that we teach 12-year-olds, inexperienced cyclists or anyone in a busy intersection. At Cherry Street and College Avenue, there are two left-turn lanes, and experienced cyclists should use the right-most left-turn lane, which leads them right to the bike lane as they complete the turn.
Other oft-repeated anecdotes among cyclists are those involving officers responding to minor bike-car crashes in which the officer asks the cyclist, “Would you like me to file a report?” The correct answer to this question in all cases is, “Yes, absolutely.” But this is a question that shouldn’t even be asked in a bicycle community like ours.
Since 2007, the San Francisco Police Department has used a 10-minute training video to instruct police officers on the rights and responsibilities of bicyclists. Produced in cooperation with the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, the video informs officers that cyclists should avoid the “door zone” near parked cars and that cyclists should take and “own the lane” on narrow streets. The video further clarifies that bikes belong in traffic, not on the sidewalk. The film explains that officers are required to file an incident report when cyclists report aggression by a motorist or any time a bike-car crash results in injury or property damage. Officers should not dissuade a cyclist from making such a report.
Pueblo and Longmont have done, or are doing, similar trainings. League Cycling instructors in Fort Collins could conduct trainings with Fort Collins Police Services. It would take just 20 minutes to show officers the film, “Bikes Belong In Traffic – SFPD Training Video,” available on www.youtube.com, followed by a brief question and answer session. That should be enough to address recent revisions to Colorado Bicycle Law, dispel “safe” bicycling myths, explain what to expect from safe cyclists and identify dangerous bicycling behaviors in Fort Collins.
When can we start?