Bicycle Ambassador Program
Third-hand information is never considered evidence in courts of law. Such stories are considered hearsay, or unsubstantiated rumors. The following story is just that, but it’s a good story because it illustrates two rules every bicyclist needs to follow: Always yield the right of way to more vulnerable users of the road and “ride cool.”
The scene: a stretch of two-lane road with no bike lane and no shoulder. Not even an unpaved shoulder. Beyond the paved road, there is an immediate drop-off into a drainage ditch. No sidewalks, either. A runner is jogging along this road on the far left side, facing oncoming traffic. It’s not a busy road, and this shoulderless stretch does not go on for long, so the runner is being reasonably safe. The runner is just caught in an uncomfortable situation.
Along comes a bicyclist from the opposite direction, riding properly in the far right of the travel lane, which is broad enough to share with faster moving traffic, and heading directly at the runner. The runner and bicyclist see each other and both realize they will either crash head-on with each other or pass too close for comfort. Rather than interrupting his workout and easing down the ditch embankment to make room for the cyclist to pass, the runner shouts some words to the cyclist. Instead of scanning over his shoulder, signaling and then moving to the left into the faster moving travel lane, the bicyclist maintains his far right position and, as he squeezes by the runner, slugs the runner on the shoulder — Smack! — and then continues to pedal down the road.
Other than assault and battery, what other laws or rules of the road were broken here?
The pertinent law, in this case, is Colorado Statutes Title 42, Article 4, Part 8, section 807, which is titled, simply “Drivers to exercise due care.” The term “drivers” means operators of vehicles, which includes bicycles, because, according to legal definitions, bicycles are vehicles when operated on streets. Even if the pedestrian isn’t using the road properly, a vehicle operator must exercise due care, which includes avoiding a collision with the pedestrian. Another way to state this law is: Always yield to more vulnerable road users.
Clearly the law excludes slugging a pedestrian (or runner)!
Bicyclists, we all need to remember that we are all better off if we “ride cool.” It is not a law, but bicyclists need to chill out and ride cool. If you’re feeling used and abused by aggressive motorists, take a deep breath, relax.
Encountering another vulnerable road user should be a pleasant experience. If you encounter a pedestrian (or runner) on the road, exercise due care by formulating a plan, scanning over your left shoulder to check for traffic, and signaling/negotiating a move to the left to give the more vulnerable road user a margin of safety, if necessary, and smile! You’re alive. You’re on a bicycle. Life is, basically, very good!
Frank Schwende is a bicycle advocate and board member of Bike Fort Collins.