Cyclists, motorists share thoughts on canyon safety

Residents, motorists, and cyclists that use Boulder County’s canyon roads recently participated in a survey on how to make the roads a safer and more cooperative place to live, drive and cycle. The survey, which garnered 2,454 responses, asked users to identify as either cyclists, motorists, or both. The largest group (39 percent) identified as both.

Generally, those who drive exclusively are older and have been using the canyons longer than those who only bike. The most popular destination among users is restaurants.

Pressing issues

The top three issues among drivers were: pack of cyclists to the left of the white line, single cyclist to the left of the white line, and cyclists going fast downhill in the middle of lane. For the drive/bike group, the number one and number two issues were: pack of cyclists to left of white line. And the third most important issue: cyclists stopping in road.

On the cyclist side, the number one issue for both bike and drive/bike groups: motorist passes too close and too fast. Second, motorist drives in such a way to impede my riding. Third, motorist is rude toward me.


Overall, average interactions between the two users are low; however, interactions that do occur are very memorable and fuel the overall perception of increasing tensions.

Single-file riding

Almost all (93 percent) of survey respondents agree that single-file riding is necessary in unsighted areas.

3-2-1 law

Most people (58 percent of respondents) do not know about the law. Both the bike and

drive/bike groups claim a smaller percentage of not knowing this law, but they both win the majority.


For the drivers, both the “Rude cyclists are everywhere” and “Rude motorists are everywhere” statements got the most support (more than half). Both the bike and drive/bike groups disagreed with the statements. On the “Rude motorists are everywhere” statement, individuals from both the bike and drive/bike groups claimed they agreed.

Perceived tensions

Roughly 70 percent of respondents in all three categories perceive increasing tensions.


The “road code” survey was developed by the Boulder County Mountain Canyon-Cyclist-Motorist Working Group. The group, organized in the fall of 2009 by the county’s Transportation Department and Sheriff’s Office, collaborated to develop practical ideas for making mountain roads safer and to increase cooperation among users.

Among its recommendations to improve safety on Boulder-area canyon roads, the working group directed that a plan for education and outreach to all users of the canyons be put in place. Thus, the survey was designed to help the group better understand how to educate and inform canyon users about how to improve safety and reduce tension between cyclists and motorists through a code of signage and regulations. Upon completion and approval, the code would be implemented on the roads of Left Hand Canyon, James Canyon, and Lee Hill Drive. If successful there, the code could be adapted for implementation in other areas of Boulder County.

Summary provided by the Canyons Working Group.