Though La Plata County cyclists are all too familiar, participants in a post-election gathering at Fassbinder Park in November were surprised by something most had never before experienced: Young men revving their modified diesel pickups on the street next to them.
This practice, known as “rolling coal,” results in plumes of black, choking smoke engulfing the immediate surroundings. Those assembled peacefully that day were a mix of residents, including seniors, children and their dogs.
If Sen. Don Coram, R-Montrose, has his way, rolling coal may become a practice of the past, but not without some extra effort. Last week, Sen. Coram’s bill, HB 1102, “concerning a prohibition against engaging in a nuisance exhibition of motor vehicle exhaust in a manner that would harass and obstruct the view of another driver, bicyclist, or pedestrian,” met its demise in the State Veterans and Military Affairs Committee on a 3-2 party-line vote with Republicans voting against the measure.
The vote was a significant rebuke to over a dozen witnesses – representing law enforcement, truckers, public health officials, cyclists and citizens with respiratory issues – who testified in favor of the bill. The Colorado Municipal League, representing 269 communities in the state, indicated this is a statewide problem.
La Plata County Sheriff Sean Smith, who could not be present, made sure his support was known. It was members of our local sheriff’s department that chased down the young men who rolled coal on the bystanders back in November – giving warnings only – since that is all they could do.
This bill would remedy that and give law enforcement a tool to discourage the practice by making it a Class A traffic infraction punishable by a $100 fine.
Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, R-Sterling, a farmer, said it would unfairly target agricultural and commercial vehicles and lead to “California-type” emissions restrictions. Sen. Coram is undeterred and has vowed to bring it back, an action we support because of its public health and safety implications. He has introduced amendments to the bill that exempt both types of vehicles and addresses intent rather than emissions.
We hope to count this effort as one of the legislature’s accomplishments this year.