Give them some wheel room

By: Tim Ciesco Email
By: Tim Ciesco Email

A new state law aimed at keeping Colorado bike riders safer went into effect Wednesday.

It requires drivers to keep their distance when passing bikes on the road.

All over our area, you'll frequently see bike riders in the road and you're almost guaranteed to see cars passing them.

Now, if drivers decide to pass, they'll have to give the bikes three feet of room as they go around them or face the consequences.

To say Bryan Milck loves biking is an understatement.

He owns The Bike Shop on North Avenue and says he rides an average of 8,000 miles on his bike each year.

Over those miles he's had plenty of close calls with cars while riding in the street.

Milck says, “You see enough people out there and some of them are courteous and some of them aren't."

A trend many local bikers say they've come to accept.

Rider Rick Castellini says, "Some people would go by and they'd either honk or be real close or spray their windshield wiper fluid at me."

But they're hopeful a new state law in effect today will make those drivers reconsider how they deal with bikes in the road.

Senate Bill 148, also known as the bicycle safety act of 2009, requires drivers to give bikes three feet of space while passing them.

Anyone caught not following the rules will be given a hefty ticket.

"You could be cited and the fine is $100 and then there could be additional surcharges tacked onto that as well,” says Grand Junction Police Department Spokeswoman Kate Porras.

While some drivers say the new law makes perfect sense, "Hopefully the biggest thing is that it will make more people aware that bicycles are out there and that they need to give them room,” Castellini says.

Others are concerned about how it will be enforced.

Motorist Joanne Feather says, “Yesterday we had a biker pass us and there's no way we could give them three feet. It was a narrow street and a car was coming."

Law enforcement officials say officers will use their best judgment.

"It's tough to say exactly what is three feet and what's not, but it's obvious when someone blatantly disregards the law. That's specifically what our officers will be looking for,” Porras says.

The new law also makes throwing things at bike riders a Class Two misdemeanor.

While it requires a lot of drivers, officials say they also want to remind bike riders they have responsibilities too.

They should stay all the way to the right of the road where possible and not obstruct traffic while they’re riding.

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