‘Detriment to local … community not to obey the rules of the road’
By Shane Benjamin Herald Staff Writer
Monday, September 05, 2011
Durango resident Anne Carine pedaled her bike through a red light this spring at College Drive and Main Avenue.
It earned her a $105 ticket.
“I thought I was going to get a warning,” she said. “The price of the ticket was a little outrageous.”
Police said bicyclists have to follow the same rules as motorists. If officers see an infraction, they’ll stop the cyclist and decide whether to write a ticket or issue a warning – the same as with motorists, said Lt. Ray Shupe, with the Durango Police Department.
“(A bicyclist’s) duty is the same as a driver,” Shupe said. “So if they’re coming up on a red light, they need to stop for it. The same with a stop sign.”
The police department was unable to provide numbers of citations issued to cyclists, saying its records system does not separate bicyclists from motorists.
Durango Municipal Judge David Turner estimates he oversees six or seven traffic violations per month involving bicyclists. That number stays fairly steady throughout the year, he said.
“It’s generally stop-light violations,” Turner said. “It’s generally downtown at night.”
The Herald spent one hour Tuesday at Ninth Street and Main Avenue. Fifty-eight bicyclists passed through the intersection from 11:30 a.m. to 12:30 p.m. Of those, 15 stopped for red lights and three pedaled through red lights. Two turned right on red lights without coming to a complete stop. The others either hit green lights or walked their bikes across the intersection at the appropriate time.
Bicycle advocates agree cyclists should follow the rules of the road in every instance – no excuses. But some admit the rules are often broken, and some even admit to being the scofflaws.
Diane Shaline, who works at Mountain Bike Specialists on Main Avenue, said she always stops for red lights and typically slows down for stop signs.
“Truthfully, I do roll through stop signs,” said Shaline, a bit bashfully – noting that her husband works for the Durango Police Department. (Fear not, Shaline. During a ride-along last summer with the Durango Police Department, the Herald witnessed a bike patrol officer roll through numerous stop signs.)
Shaline said she has ridden with some people who brazenly violate stop signs and red lights.
“It’s amazing how many people – they don’t even think twice about it,” she said. “But if they were in a car, they would stop.”
Drivers tend to remember the misbehaving cyclists and stereotype the entire riding community, she added.
Cyclists who flout the law give the whole riding community a bad name, said Gaige Sippy, who is race director of the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic but was speaking only as an avid cyclist.
The outlaw cyclists make it hard to demand respect and courtesy from motorists, he said.
“You’re asking them to do one thing, but you’re not doing it yourself,” Sippy said. “I really think it is a detriment to the local cycling community not to obey the rules of the road.”
Sippy said he has watched nine out of 10 cyclists blow through a stop sign in west Durango.
“If we want the respect we are requesting, we’re going to have to operate from the capacity of we need to follow all the rules,” he said.
Carine, who received a $105 ticket for biking through a red light, said she has learned her lesson. She now stops for red lights and stop signs.
“The fine worked,” she said. “I absolutely stop at every stop sign and put my foot down.”
Cyclists and motorists have certain responsibilities when it comes to sharing the road:
- Bicyclists have all the rights and duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle and can be penalized for violating traffic laws.
- Ride in the right lane, except when passing another vehicle, preparing for a left turn or avoiding hazards. Always ride with the flow of traffic, never against it. Ride on the paved shoulder whenever possible.
- Ride single-file. Ride two abreast only when you are not impeding traffic (front or rear) or when all cyclists are on the shoulder. On curving canyon roads, play it safe and ride single-file.
- Obey traffic laws, signs and signals. Use hand signals to indicate left or right turns, slowing or stopping.
- Use a headlight, taillight and reflectors at night.
- Make eye contact with drivers. Never assume drivers see you or that you have the right of way. Expect the unexpected; your first responsibility is to avoid a crash.
- Always wear a helmet.
- You also need to obey traffic laws, signs and signals.
- The Bicycle Safety Act requires drivers to give cyclists at least 3 feet of space when passing. It also allows drivers to cross the center line – when it is safe to do so – to pass a bicyclist. If you cannot pass a cyclist safely, take a deep breath and wait to pass until it is safe for you, other motorists and the cyclist to do so.
- Throwing an object toward a bicyclist is a misdemeanor, and driving toward a bicyclist in a dangerous manner is a careless-driving offense.
- Make eye contact with cyclists. Never assume that they have seen you. Your first responsibility also is to avoid a crash.
– Lt. Ray Shupe, Durango Police Department