DENVER - Drivers, move over. And cyclists, stay in line.
The state House has given initial approval for a bill that requires drivers to respect a 3-foot buffer zone when passing bicyclists. But representatives also tacked on an amendment to prevent cyclists from riding side-by-side on some roads.
The bill would allow drivers to cross halfway into an oncoming lane of traffic, if it's safe, in order to pass a bike.
The sponsor of Senate Bill 148, Rep. Mike Merrifield, , D-Colorado Springs, said the bill legalizes the common-sense behavior most drivers already show by crossing yellow lines to give cyclists room.
"Most truckers do this. Those who do not place the lives of cyclists at risk," said Merrifield.
The current law doesn't have a standard for how close cars can get while passing bikes. Merrifield's bill sets the standard at 3 feet. In exchange, cyclists would have to ride as far to the right as safety allows, and cars could swerve into the oncoming lane for a few seconds in order to pass.
Opponents tried unsuccessfully to delete the part of the bill that allows drivers to cross the yellow line.
"I think this bill's an accident waiting to happen," said Rep. Marsha Looper, R-Calhan. "Double yellow means you should not be passing, period. End of story."
However, critics amended the bill to forbid cyclists from riding two abreast on two-lane roads divided by a solid yellow line. Rep. Randy Baumgardner, R-Hot Sulphur Springs, sponsored the amendment.
Cyclists had won the right to ride side-by-side a few years ago, and Baumgardner's amendment partially takes back that law. It applies only when lanes are 12 feet wide or narrower. That includes most state highways, said Baumgardner, a former Department of Transportation employee.
The measure, SB 148, passed Thursday on a voice vote. If it passes its final vote in the House next week, it will go back to the Senate to see if senators agree with Baumgardner's amendment and other technical changes.