Reducing Motorist/Cyclist Tensions

Bicyclists and Motorists Seek to Reduce

Tension on Boulder Mountain roads

In the Fall of 2009 the Boulder County Transportation Department and the Boulder County Sheriff’s Office organized a group of cyclists and mountain community residents to help identify steps for making mountain roads safer for all. An increase in bicycling along the narrow and winding mountain roads and canyons has caused tension between motorists and bicyclists. Mountain residents and others who use the roads for commuting are frustrated by bikers, while bicyclists feel threatened on curvy mountain roads. The Boulder County Canyon Biking Working Group’s charge is to identify ways to address the issues that cause such frustration.

The Working Group has identified ways to help reduce frustration and improve safety on the narrow and heavily trafficked Boulder-area canyon roads  that are set forth in the final plan. The Group is comprised of community representatives from Boulder mountain canyons and the surrounding area, along with individuals representing a variety of bicycling interests.

The final plan identifies problem areas and solutions to reduce what he referred to as the ‘seasonal cycle of conflict’ when each spring, as the weather gets warmer, both the number of bicyclists and tension increase.  Working Group participants used aerial maps to highlight specific problem areas in the mountain canyons – including Left Hand, Lee Hill, Olde Stage and James Canyons.

The plan includes physical improvements to the roads, facilities for bicyclists, communication strategies that promote respect and a shared responsibility by both drivers and bicyclists, and ways to improve mountain community/cycling relationships. A committee of the Working Group  is continuing to meet to develop an outreach plan for cyclist/motorist education.

The Sheriff’s Department asked that, in areas where it is dangerous for motorists to pass cyclists, groups of cyclists should break down into single-file clusters no larger than 3-4 riders with enough space for motorists to pull in between clusters as they pass them sequentially. This is courteous and in our self-interest since motorists forced to pass long strings of riders can cause head-on collisions, which will probably involve any riders they are passing. They can also bump riders off the road when they are forced to pull over unexpectedly.

The Sheriff’s Department is enforcing all laws pertaining to cyclists, which have the same rights and duties as motorists and more. See Colorado Statute 42-4-1412. In particular, cyclists are encouraged to unclip at least one foot and touch down at every stop sign and red light. This also protects the riders behind you since it forces them to at least slow down and pay attention. Many people riding in a group have a bad habit of mindlessly following the rider in front of them. They may follow you through an intersection in a situation where you have time to cross, but they do not. This will also go a long way towards improving the attitudes of motorists towards cyclists. Remember, cyclists have the most to lose. HONOR THE STOP!

Cyclists have a lot to lose by being discourteous and unsafe. Statewide legislation is proposed to give county governments authority to ban cyclists from county roads. Bicycle Colorado is working to prevent this expansion. Bike bans are not the way to improve road safety. See http://bicyclecolo.org/page.cfm?PageID=1042 for more information on this issue and ways you can help.

For an update, see Working Group Progress.  For additional information on the Working Group, contact George Gerstle, Boulder County Transportation Director at 303-441-3955. You can also contact the Club’s Safety and Advocacy Committee at [email protected] .