As a motorist, have you ever wondered why those scofflaw bicyclists brazenly ride in the middle of the road as if they own the lane? As a bicyclist, have you wondered why those arrogant motorists boldly cross the double yellow line to get around bicyclists?
Motorists and bicyclists often blame each other for doing things that appear to be illegal – partly because the rules of the road are nebulous and often misunderstood, and partly because we typically don’t take the time to learn and understand them.
Bike Fort Collins (BFC) is on a mission to make the roads safe for all users by educating both motorists and bicyclists on safe navigation, regardless of our mode of transportation. The Legal or Not challenge is one way BFC is spreading the word – providing an interactive quiz/game that engages people in a fun way, and creates a conversation about some of the most important yet misunderstood laws as they pertain to bicycles on the road. According to BFC Vice President Dot Dickerson, the program was developed five years ago as a way to provide an interesting way of educating all road users about the rules of the road. “I wanted to point out the key bike/car interactions that had most of us scratching our heads saying –“I didn’t know that!” She then staged a photo shoot on local roads, with six examples illustrating potential infractions, each with the headline – “Legal or Not?”
The current scenarios include some of the following hot topics: For motorists – give three feet of space to bicycles when passing; crossing the double yellow line is okay in order to provide the three foot buffer when passing (if there is no oncoming traffic). For bicyclists – riding two abreast is okay if the pavement is marked with “sharrows;” riding the wrong way in a bike lane or on a sidewalk is not okay (and is the leading cause of bike/car crashes). To see all of the current scenarios and to try the quiz yourself, visit the BFC website and see how you rate: http://bikefortcollins.org/safe-cycling/legal-or-not
Although an estimated 6,000 – 8,000 people have participated in the quiz over the years, the challenge is to keep it fresh, and come up with new scenarios while still keeping the initial group of six messages alive for those new to the Challenge. With the relatively high turnover of people in Fort Collins, particularly CSU students, it’s important to continually repeat messages and make them easy to understand.
BFC is currently developing a new set of photos and scenarios to do just that. The new set will include some of the things that are problematic and have been causing accidents or injuries, such as riding on sidewalks, and navigating roads by bicycle when the lane gets narrow.
Do you want to learn more about all the rules of the road? The complete Fort Collins Traffic Code (which mirrors the Colorado Code) can be found on the Municipal Code website: https://www.municode.com/library/co/fort_collins/codes/traffic_code .
Sylvia Cranmer is Chair of the City’s Bicycle Advisory Committee, member of Bike Fort Collins, and a member of the Larimer County Bicycle and Pedestrian Education Coalition (BPEC).