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Surcharge enhances bikes as transportation

The Coloradoan: Surcharge enhances bikes as transportation

Increased emphasis on safety evens playing field with motorists

JANUARY 8, 2010

The Fort Collins City Council took the right turn Tuesday by approving a $35 surcharge on traffic tickets issued to bicyclists.

 

In an effort to promote accountability and to even the playing field between motorists and bicyclists, the surcharge would be applied to tickets that would be considered worth a one-point or more violation on a driver’s license had the ticket been issued to a motorist. The new surcharge takes effect next week.

Refreshingly, the move for increased enforcement on bicyclists is coming from leaders within the bicycle community themselves, who have had to deal with the perception that bicyclists ignore traffic laws with impunity.

Bicycle advocates are correct that if they want the community to embrace the concept of bicycles as transportation, then cyclists must be held as accountable as motorists.

"Far too many cyclists flagrantly disregard the rules of the road, and that reflects badly on the rest of us," Jeff Morrell, of the advocacy group Bike Fort Collins, told the Coloradoan. "We feel this is a step in the right direction."

City officials say they have seen an increase in the number of complaints about bicyclists not obeying traffic laws.

In addition to the surcharge, Fort Collins Police Lt. Jim Szakmeister, who supervises the traffic unit, said he sent a memo to his officers reminding them to enforce all traffic laws, regardless of whether they involve motorists or bicycles.

Currently, motorists who violate the laws must pay a surcharge; that money is used to fund two traffic enforcement officers. The additional surcharge on bicyclists is expected to generate about $7,000 a year, which will be used to offset costs of enforcement.

Bicycles are healthy, environmentally responsible and inexpensive modes of transportation and recreation. But bicyclists and drivers of motor vehicles alike must understand that rules of the road exist to keep all safe.