Colorado has detailed laws concerning the rights and responsibilities of bicyclists on public roadways. The primary statute, Colorado Revised Statute 42-4-1412, is easy for laypeople to understand and is recommended reading for bicyclists (and responsible drivers). Recognizing that local ordinances will sometimes supplement or supersede state law, here are the basic rules of the road in Colorado:
Basic rights and responsibilities: Bicyclists have the same basic rights and responsibilities applicable to motor vehicles when using roadways. They have to stop at stop signs (unless local law allows rolling stops). They should generally ride in the right-hand lane with the flow of traffic (or in the left-hand lane of a one-way street). They are required to ride far enough to the side as they judge safe to facilitate the movement of overtaking vehicles. They are allowed to use lanes other than the right-hand lane to make a left turn, overtake slower vehicles, or reasonably avoid hazards or road conditions. They can ride on the left side of a right turn lane even if they don’t intend to turn right. They are not required to wear helmets.
Overtaking a bicycle: Motorists must give bicyclists at least three feet when overtaking, measured from the furthest projection on the vehicle such as a side mirror. If you can’t give a bicycle three feet, then don’t pass.
Riding when it’s dark: When bicyclists ride between sunset and sunrise, or at any time when they are not discernible at a distance of 1,000 feet due to insufficient light, they are required to have, at a minimum: (1) a light on the front emitting a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet; (2) a red reflector visible from 600 feet; and (3) reflective material of sufficient size and reflectivity to be seen from 600 feet in front of the low beams of a motor vehicle.
Riding abreast: Bicyclists can ride two abreast if it does not unreasonably impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic. Because riding two abreast will disrupt most roads, bicyclists should usually ride single file. The exception is paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicyclists where bicyclists are technically allowed to ride as many abreast as they want.
Signaling: Bicyclists are required to signal before they turn or stop. A turn signal must be given continuously during the last 100 feet before turning except that a signal need not be given continuously if the hand is needed to control or operate the bicycle. The signals may be made with the left arm as follows: horizontal = left turn; extended up = right turn; extended down = stop. Alternatively, the left and right arms may be extended horizontally to each side for left and right turns.
Riding on sidewalks and crosswalks: Bicyclists riding on a sidewalk, pathway or crosswalk must yield to pedestrians and are required to give an audible signal before overtaking and passing a pedestrian. A person walking a bicycle is a pedestrian. Bicyclists, like all vehicles, must yield to pedestrians in crosswalks who are within the half of the road on which the bicycle is traveling.
Fun stuff I used to do as a kid that is illegal: The law prohibits such things as using a bicycle for more persons that it was designed (no carrying your brother on the handlebars) and “attaching” a bicycle to a motor vehicle. It also requires bicyclists to keep one hand on the handlebars at all times. Basically, you’re not allowed to do everything I used to do as a kid.
Be safe out there!
Noah Klug is principal of The Klug Law Firm, LLC, in Summit County, Colorado, emphasizing real estate, business, and litigation. He may be reached at (970) 468-4953 or Noah@TheKlugLawFirm.com.