Road rules apply to cyclists, too

‘Detriment to local ... community not to obey the rules of the road’

A bicyclist appears to cut off pedestrians as he rides on the sidewalk along Main Avenue. Police say bicyclists must follow the same rules as motorists. If officers see an infraction, they will stop the cyclist and decide whether to write a ticket or issue a warning. Enlarge photo

SHAUN STANLEY/Durango Herald

A bicyclist appears to cut off pedestrians as he rides on the sidewalk along Main Avenue. Police say bicyclists must follow the same rules as motorists. If officers see an infraction, they will stop the cyclist and decide whether to write a ticket or issue a warning.

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.”

shane@durangoherald.com

A bicyclists goes through a red light on Main Avenue. Bicycle advocates agree cyclists should follow the rules of the road in every instance – no excuses. But some admit the rules are often broken. Enlarge photo

JERRY McBRIDE/Durango Herald

A bicyclists goes through a red light on Main Avenue. Bicycle advocates agree cyclists should follow the rules of the road in every instance – no excuses. But some admit the rules are often broken.

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