Durango’s winter Bike to Work Day is taking place next Friday. Unfortunately, a bill that would make it safer to do so was killed last week on a 3-2 party-line vote by members of the Senate’s Transportation Committee.
Committee Chair John Cooke, a retired sheriff, joined the vote to keep the bill from advancing; he did a disservice to all communities, like Durango, that prioritize cycling not just for recreation but as a safe, healthy, efficient mode of transportation.
Senate Bill 93, “Operation of Bicycles Approaching Intersections,” was based upon an Idaho law that would allow a person riding a bicycle or electrically assisted “e-bike” passing through an intersection to treat a stop sign as a yield sign, and a red light as a stop sign. Stopping and starting, and losing momentum in intersections, are most commonly where cyclists get hurt.
It is notable that Chairman Cooke was formerly in law enforcement. Historically, police and sheriff’s departments have not favored changes to the laws that treat bikes as vehicles. This is a reinforcement against changes to current laws – bikes should not receive special consideration.
Colorado’s pedestrian right-of-way laws dictate when vehicles have to stop for and yield to pedestrians. Why not a law to encourage more people to experience a swifter ride to work? The irony is that defeating the law will not result in changed cyclist behavior. The Idaho law was put in place because riders had been breaking the law for years.
If you ride a bike in town, you may have experienced waiting for the light at U.S. Highway 550 and Animas View Drive to change in the absence of cars (it doesn’t), or dealt with the numerous stop signs on the north-south bike route on the west side of town.
This bill was a common-sense piece of legislation and the Legislature was the place to address it. Dillon and Breckenridge passed stop-as-yield laws in 2011. Summit County passed a similar law for its unincorporated areas in 2012.
Durango has an updated draft multi-modal plan under review. Perhaps the final version should include establishing our own version of SB 93?