The Coloradoan: Fort Collins council OKs bicyclist surcharge
Traffic violations committed on bike would carry $35 fee
BY TREVOR HUGHES • TREVORHUGHES@COLORADOAN.COM • JANUARY 7, 2010
Bicyclists caught running red lights or riding on the wrong side of Fort Collins roads face a new “traffic calming” surcharge.
The City Council on Tuesday approved adding a $35 surcharge to traffic tickets issued to cyclists.
The surcharge would apply only to tickets that would be considered a 1-point or more moving violation if they had been issued to a motorist.
Motorists already pay the surcharge, which Fort Collins police say pays the salaries for two traffic-enforcement officers. The new surcharge is estimated to generate about $7,000 in additional fines. The new city law takes effect in eight days.
Some members of the city’s biking community have been calling on police to increase enforcement on riders in order to reduce some motorists’ perception that they flout the law with impunity.
“Far too many cyclists flagrantly disregard the rules of the road, and that reflects badly on the rest of us,” said Jeff Morrell of the advocacy group Bike Fort Collins. “We feel this is a step in the right direction.”
City bike coordinator Dave “DK” Kemp said consistent enforcement of traffic laws helps remind everyone that bikes and vehicles must share the road by following the same rules.
“The important thing is that we’re recognizing bicycles as traffic, as a legitimate form of transportation,” Kemp said. “It’s another step in accepting bicycling as a viable form of transportation.”
Fort Collins police Lt. Jim Szakmeister, who oversees the department’s traffic unit, said residents this summer were calling regularly to complain that cyclists were not being held to the same traffic laws as motorists. That prompted Szakmeister to send a memo to all patrol officers reminding them of their obligation to enforce traffic laws on any violators – bicyclist or driver.
“They should stop them, just as they do with motorists,” Szakmeister said. “They can warn them; they can ticket them. But don’t just ignore it.”
Szakmeister said more cyclists are taking to the roads, as encouraged by city officials and local riding advocates. He said the department would use the surcharge to help offset the additional costs of enforcing traffic laws on bicyclists.
“With encouraging more biking in the community, with more cyclists being out there … it’s incumbent on everyone to bicycle or operate their motor vehicle in a lawful manner,” he said. “We have to all learn to get along.”
Szakmeister said the police department lacks the ability to tally how many bike riders were ticketed for traffic violations last year. And in response to a question, he said he didn’t believe his memo would necessarily prompt police officers to crack down on bike-riding violators.