Cyclist Shares Valuable Insight Following Collision

“Bikes for me bring unfettered joy and energy to my life. Over the last three months during my surgery and radiation treatment, if I can even only get out for 30 minutes I find myself renewed and optimistic. If I was a doctor I would write you a script to get out and ride every day.” — Jay

“Bikes for me bring unfettered joy and energy to my life. Over the last three months during my surgery and radiation treatment, if I can even only get out for 30 minutes I find myself renewed and optimistic. If I was a doctor I would write you a script to get out and ride every day.” — Jay

It has been more than two years since Jay Middleton was seriously injured in a collision while riding his bike in Morrison, CO, but he is still recovering from his injuries. Jay is dealing with chronic knee pain and recently received a three-week course of injections to treat the pain. Cyclists who have been injured in collisions often deal with the after effects of their injuries long after their case is settled, the driver is sentenced, or their medical treatment ends. If Jay wants to continue to lead a healthy, active, outdoor lifestyle, he will probably have to get injections the rest of his life.

Riding bikes has been a huge part of Jay’s life and identity for the last 25 years. He has raced on the road, mountain bikes, and cyclocross. He is an avid bikepacker, bike commuter, mountain biker, and has recently been using his bike to raise money for cancer and COVID research. This year, Jay was diagnosed with neck and oral cancer and continued to ride his bike throughout radiation treatment.

On July 13, 2018, Jay was traveling eastbound through downtown Morrison on his road bike. It was late morning, around 10:00 am, sunny, and there were blue skies. Jay was running both front and rear flashing lights on his bike and wearing a fluorescent yellow helmet. Nervous about riding too far to the right, Jay had taken the lane, as dooring is a risk by drivers who are parallel parked along that section of road. He was traveling at the same rate of traffic which was 20-25 mph.

A driver in a Honda CRV facing eastbound was leaving a parallel parking spot and made an illegal U-turn out of the parking spot. The driver’s U-turn cut Jay off causing him to collide with the front left side of the vehicle. Jay and his bike were catapulted over the hood of the car and into oncoming traffic in the left lane. 

Fortunately, the driver coming in the opposite direction was attentive and traveling at a safe speed. She was able to stop and avoided hitting Jay. She then called 911.

Paramedics tended to Jay at the scene. He had lacerations on his knees, hands, and elbows as well as bruising. An MRI later revealed that Jay had a torn meniscus in his right knee. He underwent several months of physical therapy for his knee before he and his orthopedist decided that surgery would be the best way to correct the damage. 

The Colorado State Patrol cited the driver, who admitted fault at the scene, with Failing to Yield Right-of-Way When Turning Left in Front of Approaching Traffic. Since this crash happened before May 29, 2019, it was not yet possible for law enforcement to cite the driver with Colorado Revised Statute 42-4-1402.5, which makes careless driving causing serious bodily injury to a vulnerable road user a class 1 traffic misdemeanor. Since the passing of the law in early 2019, we are slowly seeing law enforcement cite drivers with this traffic violation more often and district attorney offices elevating charges against drivers.  Find out here how to get a serious bodily injury charge filed. 

Jay does not feel that the outcome of the criminal case against the driver was just and fair. The driver had numerous traffic violations and got away with a slap on the wrist.  “Cars can be lethal weapons and using one comes with great responsibility.  When misused by drivers, they should be treated and punished as such,” says Jay.

Here’s what Jay wants every cyclist to know if involved in a crash. He actually made the list shortly after his collision of things he wish he had known:

  1. If possible get out of the flow of traffic. Nothing worse than getting hit by a car and then getting run over by one.

  2. Call the police.

  3. Take lots of photos (your bike, the car that hit you, license plate of the car that hit you).

  4. Do not admit fault.

  5. Get a copy of the police report, the driver’s insurance information, and the name and phone numbers of any witnesses.

  6. Get in touch with a lawyer to discuss your case. I live in the Denver area and reached out to Megan Hottman, aka The Cyclist Lawyer. Before COVID, she provided free monthly seminars for cyclists involved in collisions. Before she became my lawyer, that seminar alone armed me with information that allowed me to rightfully collect full value for my damaged property as well as alert me to several other rights I did not know I had.

  7. When claiming property damage, do not forget to include sales tax. That alone netted me several hundred extra dollars because I was on a pretty pricey bike.

  8. Seek medical treatment and document your injuries as well as all costs (e.g. medical, travel to and from the doctor, time taken off of work, etc.).

  9. Just because you feel better, does not mean you are. I did several months of physical therapy and thought I was good to go. Snowboard season, increased miles on the bike and excessive kneeling at work revealed that my right knee wasn’t healed. So the lesson is, do not sign anything from the auto insurance company until you are 100% sure you are done with your medical treatment. You have three years to settle your case, and this is where a lawyer may prove to be very helpful.

  10. Do not post anything about your wreck, your recovery, or anything that deals with your wreck on social media. Ask your friends and family to do the same. Social media content can be used in court. This means if you post something you cannot take it down, because that is just like destroying evidence.

  11. Report it to your auto insurance. You often can get reimbursed for some of your medical costs from your own auto insurance even if you are not at fault.

Jay was surprised how hard the driver’s insurance company was willing to work to avoid paying out damages for medical and pain and suffering. At the end of the day, they refused to negotiate in what he felt was a reasonable manner, even though the driver admitted fault. In the end, they paid out more than double what he had asked for on his own. “Megan was able to negotiate a much higher settlement. I think the insurance company was counting on me backing down,” explains Jay.

He was back riding after just a couple of days but with great trepidation. Every car that passed too fast or too close caused anxiety and anger to flare up.  Since the collision, Jay has invested in more brightly colored cycle clothing.  He still runs front and rear flashing lights on his bike. Jay actively participates in People for Bikes email writing campaigns and is a long-time member of the International Mountain Bicycling Association.

We hope that you are never injured in a crash or need to contact an attorney, but feel it is important to share the lessons that our clients have learned following their crash and during recovery. Hopefully, recent laws that provide more protection to vulnerable road users and stiffer penalties will cause motorists to drive more carefully around cyclists! 

-Written by Maureen

Are Bike Helmets Required?

Answer: … it depends (says every lawyer, ever, about any question asked). ;)

This is a wonderful review of this topic thanks to our Content & Communications Manager, Maureen. We hope you find it helpful and that you’ll share it with any new(er) cyclists you may know!

Bike ridership across the country is up, as many people are looking for alternative ways to stay fit with many gyms and fitness centers closed due to COVID-19.  Biking has also become an acceptable social distancing activity and an alternative mode to public transportation. Many families are turning to the bike to get outdoors with their kids, as many pools are closed and playgrounds have been roped off.  People are dusting off their bikes, fixing them up, and heading outside. 

Bike shops can hardly keep up with the demand for new bikes. “Basic adult bicycles, known in the industry as ‘leisure’ bicycles, have seen double and triple-digit sales increases,” according to The NDP Group, a market research company in Port Washington, New York.  Adult leisure bike sales were up 121% in March. 

Denver has seen a significant increase in bicyclists on trails. South Platte Park reported a 93% increase in bikes on the South Platte River Trail.  It is incredible, truly a dream come true for cycling.  We are excited to see so many more bicyclists.

If you are new to biking or getting on the bike again after a long hiatus (welcome back!), it is important to know the bicycling laws in your state. Even if you are an experienced cyclist, you might need a refresher or learn about recently passed laws (SB20-061) that make biking safer.  Check out the Bicycling Manual - A Guide to Safe Bicycling from the Colorado Department of Transportation for rules of the road. You can also get more information on state and local laws for Colorado and Arizona on our website under Cycling Laws. If you live outside of Colorado, visit your motor vehicle department’s website. 

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Recently, we got a question about helmet laws, specifically for children in Colorado:

“Could you tell me what the Colorado laws are for young children and bikes? In the Netherlands, they start biking with their children in trailers at six to eight weeks, but in the US the general consensus seems to be to wait until your child is a year old. I am wondering what the laws are around biking and helmets for young children.”

There is no federal law in the U.S. requiring bicycle helmets for any cyclist. Helmet laws vary by state and even local jurisdiction and are mostly limited to children, usually under the age of 18 in many states.  In 21 states and the District of Columbia, bicyclists are required to wear a helmet depending on their age. For example, in Pennsylvania, it is a state law that all cyclists under the age of 12 must wear a helmet, while in Delaware, the age requirement is 18. Twenty nine states do not have a statewide law regarding helmet use. Colorado is one of these states with one exception:

Bicycle Helmet Laws by State - www.iihs.org

Bicycle Helmet Laws by State - www.iihs.org

Currently, the law in Colorado (C.R.S. § 42-4-1412(15)(b)) only requires bicycle helmets when a cyclist is operating a class 3 electric bike, which is defined as “an electric bike offering motor assistance only while the rider pedals, up to 28 miles per hour.” All riders or passengers on a class 3 electric bike under the age of 18 must wear a protective helmet specifically designed for bicyclists. The law goes on to say that the protective helmet must conform to the design and specifications set by the United States consumer product safety commission or the American Society for Testing and Materials and must be properly secured on the cyclist’s or passenger’s head with a chin strap while the class 3 electrical assisted bicycle is in motion.

If you are in the market for a bike helmet, consider some of the following advice from our Bike Ambassadors:

Fit and Budget -  Fit is definitely important to several of our Bike Ambassadors.  Ben says fit is greater than everything else.  “It's great to have a budget, but the $100 helmet might fit better than the $50 one, even though you were only planning on spending $50.  Vice versa. You might want the coolest, newest, $300 helmet, but the $100 one might fit you better, and that's what you should go with.  Go to a local shop, try a ton on, and pick whatever fits best.”

Marieke agrees and says a helmet that fits well is a helmet that you will wear. “I like to try my helmet on before I buy it, make sure that it doesn’t wobble too much or sits lopsided. What happens when you shake your head? It also should not be too tight because nobody wants a headache. I like a light helmet, so that I notice it as little as possible. There are many helmets out there, and everybody has a different head shape. Try something that works best for you. My experience is that the cheapest deal is not necessarily the best fit (unfortunately), but it is worth spending the extra money so that you will actually wear it.  Another note is that I always hang it on my handlebar, so that I don't forget to put it on when I go out for a ride.” 

Drew says, “Fit is most important. The helmet should be snug, and you should be able to see your skin move when you rotate the helmet - it should still be comfortable.  Make sure to try the helmet on with a cap as well if you wear one when riding.  Every company has a slightly different shape helmet, so give a few a try to find what's most comfortable for you - your local bike shop should be able to help with fitting as well!” Drew recommends splurging on a helmet because your head is the most valuable thing you take riding with you every single time. He says you can always save elsewhere. Finally, make sure you always buckle your helmet, and that the buckle is snug under your chin;  it should not be able to slip up and over your chin.

Safety standards -  Mel emphasizes to make sure your helmet meets safety standards. Many out there do not. The Consumer Product Safety Commission has guidelines.  “Fit is important, but matters not if it won’t protect you in a crash,” explains Mel.

  1. MIPS - Multi-directional Impact Protection System -  Both Megan and Drew brought up this system, which is found inside the helmet, generally between the comfort padding and the EPS (a high-quality foam used to reduce energy). It is a brain protection system. Drew says, “MIPS technology (or Spin with Poc) are really cool and have been shown to have some benefit limiting rotational trauma (which can cause a lot of serious concussions) so it's worth checking out. These helmets are usually more expensive (and MIPS is licensed to a wide range of companies) and is absolutely not necessary, but is a nice feature.”

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Learn more about MIPS and see some video demonstrations of this incredible technology, here: https://mipsprotection.com/

Helmet Light - Think about a helmet light if riding at night in addition to any lights on your bikes.  It will make riding more fun and make you more visible.

Helmet Replacement - Replace your helmet frequently. Drew says not to let your helmet languish in your garage for years. Technology improves and various foams break down in the elements. Also, replace your helmet after a crash, even if there are no visible signs of damage.

Consider buying the right helmet for your riding style/discipline. Helmets for mountain biking are different from helmets for road biking. If you’ll mainly be riding on roads, consider a high-visibility helmet.


Check out this helmet fact sheet put together by the Center for Disease Control for information on what to look for and what to avoid when buying a helmet for your child or teenager.

 Cycling is on the rise and soaring in popularity. We hope it stays this way and encourage you to spend as much time on your bikes as possible. There are so many benefits:  biking helps boost mental health, keeps you active and fit, and gets you outdoors. Keep on biking!

The Scariest Day of My Life

A Long Road to Recovery

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Delores Marquez fell in love with cycling several years ago. It was the one thing that she did for herself, and it made her feel good. She started out very slowly and admits that she was a bit timid at first.  Delores always had a fear of getting hit by a car or having a serious crash. She had never ridden outside of bike lanes or trails. Many times, Delores would put her bike in her car and drive to the trails to prevent being close to cars. 

Lately, though, Delores had started feeling comfortable riding in her neighborhood in the bike lane, because it had recently been upgraded. The bike lane leads directly into trails that Delores used for all of her rides. She was thrilled because she felt extremely safe and enjoyed the beautiful ride through her neighborhood.

She became more confident riding through intersections. In the past, Delores would get off her bike and walk across the street. Now, she felt more secure staying on her bike and riding through intersections when it was safe.

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Cycling also supported charities dear to Delores and causes such as Bike MS: Colorado 2020, a fundraising ride to benefit people affected by Multiple Sclerosis. Delores has raised close to $650.00 in donations this year and signed up for the MS150 in June 2020. She was excited for the ride and training hard so that she could join her company’s team at Johns Manville.

Just as Delores started gaining confidence and racking up the training miles, she was seriously injured when a motorist ran a stop sign at an intersection where she had been riding in the bike lane. Although Delores is hopeful that she will be able to ride the MS150, her injuries and pain may keep her from doing what she loves. “I pray I can do it as I haven’t had much training and the pain from my injuries makes me very sore when I do get on an indoor bike,” says Delores. She has only ridden her bike outdoors about six times since the day of the crash.

May 28, 2018 was the scariest day of my life. Daily, I wonder how I was saved from this near-death experience,” she says. The crash happened at 9:40 am in Denver at W. Dartmouth Avenue and S. Raleigh Street. Delores was going southbound on S. Raleigh Street and had just stopped at a four-way stop. Another driver stopped at the same time as Delores and waved her to continue on. Delores started to pull forward on her bike when the driver of another car traveling eastbound on W. Dartmouth, who was upset that he had to wait, swung around around the first car, ran the stop sign, and crashed into Delores. 

The driver, who was traveling eastbound on W. Dartmouth took the right of way and struck Delores with such force that her body and bike flew directly onto his car hitting  the driver’s side window which caused it to shatter. Her body then ripped off the driver’s side mirror before landing on the road all while still clipped into her bike.

“I can’t explain in words the terror I felt when I knew I was going to get hit and there was nothing I could do about it. I screamed for the driver to stop but he wasn’t looking at me. My first thought was how do I prevent myself from going underneath the car. I didn’t want to leave my children without a mother. All I could do was pray,” recalls Delores.

She does not know how many times her body and bike hit the car.  As soon as her head hit the window and the glass shattered,  the car sped up and she kept getting hit. Delores thought it was never going to end. 

“When I did land, the pain that I felt was indescribable. I screamed out for help. I remember thinking, at the minimum, I am paralyzed and will have brain damage. Going in and out of shock I don’t remember much after the crash due to the pain radiating through my body. I had such fear running through me thinking about what my life and my family’s life was going to be like. I just lay in the street, and there was nothing I could do but be at the mercy of God and medical help,” she says.

Delores was transported to Swedish Hospital by ambulance complaining of severe back pain.  She had a broken tailbone and a fractured sacrum.  Her hips and thighs were really sore.  Her ears were ringing.  She could not turn her neck and had a mild concussion.  Delores had cuts and bruises all over her body.

The driver stayed at the scene. Denver Police initially cited him with Failure to Yield Right of Way at a Stop Sign, C.R.S. 42-4-703(3). A second charge of Careless Driving Resulting in Injury, C.R.S. 42-4-1402(1),(2)(b) was later added. The driver pleaded guilty to the latter charge and was ordered to complete 80 hours of community service and pay $319.50 in fines and fees. The Failure to Yield Right of Way charge was dismissed.

The outcome of the criminal case does not feel just and fair to Delores at all and surprised her. One and a half years later, she is still suffering, while the driver only had to do community service. “Careless driving causing bodily injury should have been serious bodily injury. I know his sentence is not enough to deter him from doing this to someone else or change his driving behaviors. He also had a prior record that included traffic violations. This was not taken into consideration,” she explains.

Delores has a long recovery ahead of her. She does not know when or if she will ever be physically, mentally, and emotionally pain free. The crash changed her life forever and that of her children, too.  “I don’t know what the future holds, but I am blessed to be alive and walking,” she says. 

Following the crash, Delores had glass and asphalt all over her body. She could not talk at the scene. When paramedics put her on the spinal board, all of the glass and asphalt became embedded into her body. 

The crash took her independence. She became fully dependent on medical help and devices for the very basic needs such as using the bathroom, getting out of bed, taking a shower, getting dressed, walking, sitting, driving, sleeping, and hugging her children. Essentially, any type of movement caused severe pain. No type of medicine helped with the pain. Everything she did required some type of medical accommodation.

Delores has had sleepless nights due to the pain, nightmares, and flashbacks. Every time she hears a siren, gets to a stop sign or a red light, or sees a cyclist, she is frozen in fear; fear that she is going to get hit or hit someone. This is the kind of fear that will never go away. She has daily headaches/migraines, cognitive and memory issues, and skull pain. 

Her entire 2018, following the crash, was taken from her. Delores was unable to participate in any activities that required movement. She had to cancel dozens and dozens of activities with her children, activities that Delores and her children had planned for months and years. 

As a board member of her company’s volunteer program, Delores oversees more than 30 volunteer events that serve hundreds of people in need. She had to find help for these activities that she normally leads for her company. This is her passion, and it was taken from Delores. 

She had to rely on her children and family to be her caregivers, and that made her feel sad inside because they should have been enjoying their summer, activities, and school.

Delores is at some type of therapy or doctor’s appointment each week. She has missed an immense amount of work which will continue through the healing process. Her company has been very understanding and accommodating, but she feels she has let them down. 

The one thing that Delores wishes she had known before the crash and now wants cyclists to know is to make sure they have enough insurance coverage on their auto policies.  “I wish I would have had medical pay on my auto insurance. I also wish I had higher limits,” explains Delores. She encourages cyclists to review their insurance policies to make sure they are fully covered in the case of a crash. Please check out this post on our website that explains what insurance you need as a cyclist. You will find out about medical benefits (MEDPAY) and uninsured motorist/under-insured (UM/UIM) coverage. It also discusses your options for insurance coverage if you do not own a vehicle. 

Delores is still in the process of healing and doing a lot of medical therapy to try to get to a place of manageable pain. Her goal is to get back on the bike without fear. In addition, she wants to be a support system for someone who has been injured in a crash and help them through the process mentally, physically, and emotionally.

“Many victims of crashes don’t get the appropriate healing and many just give up riding,” she believes. 

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Delores also wants to be more involved in advocacy groups in order to be part of the change. She is already off to a great start. Delores asked Megan to speak to company employees at Johns Manville to give her bike safety presentation. 

This past February, Delores also testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee at the State Capitol in favor of the bike lane bill. “I thought I would be safe riding in a bike lane because the city put them there for us to ride vs. the traffic lane. If we are going to continue getting bike lanes, then the city needs to protect us in those lanes. Motorists have to watch out for the cyclists,” she said.

“I want to empower law enforcement, and I want motorists to know that they will be cited if they don’t yield to cyclists who are lawfully riding in these lanes in Colorado.” 

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This year’s Bike MS: Colorado 2020 is scheduled for June 27-28. Delores is taking her training indoors for now and doing Zwift workouts. She really wants to ride in the MS150 ride for all of the people with MS as she knows several who are suffering from the disease.

Delores also sees it as a personal challenge to get back on the bike and is determined not let the crash take riding away from her. 

JUST last weekend she rode 52.67 miles -she was on roads with cars nearby- and she said she’s one step closer to conquering her fears and putting this behind her!

Delores, we are so proud of you, and wish you all the best and are rooting for you!

Yield To Bicycles In Bicycle Lanes - Law Takes Effect on July 1, 2020

Help Us Spread the Word!

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Senate Bill 20-061, also known as the bike lane bill, is now law in Colorado and takes effect on July 1, 2020. Signed into law by Governor Polis on March 20th, 2020, C.R.S.42-4-714 requires motorists to yield the right-of-way (ROW) to a bicyclist in a bike lane. It also creates a new traffic offense for failing to yield to a bicyclist or other authorized user in a bicycle lane.  Failure to yield will result in a class A traffic offense and is punishable with a $70 fine and three points assessed to the driver’s license.

According to Colorado Revised Statutes 42-1-102 (10.3), a bicycle lane is defined as “a portion of the roadway that has been designated by striping, signage, or pavement markings for the exclusive use of bicyclists and other authorized users of bicycle lanes.”  It is important to note that bicycle lanes do include an intersection if the bicycle lane is marked on the opposite side of the intersection. So yes, motorists must definitely yield to bicyclists riding in the intersection.

By law, bicyclists in Colorado must stop at intersections where there is a stop sign or stoplight regardless whether there is a bike lane or not. Only Aspen, Breckenridge, Dillon, Thornton, and Summit County have adopted the so-called safety stops in Colorado. The safety stop, also known as the Idaho stop, rolling stop, or stop-as-yield, allows cyclists to treat a stop sign as a yield sign, and a red light as a stop sign. It is up to each municipality to decide whether to adopt Colorado's stop-as-yield legislation.

If a motorist fails to yield to a bicyclist or other authorized user in a bicycle lane and the result is a crash, the motorist should be cited with careless driving, a class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense, and punished as described in C.R.S. 42-2-1402 (2)(a).

Furthermore, if a motorist fails to yield to a bicyclist or other authorized user in a bicycle lane and the result is bodily injury to another person, the motorist should be cited with careless driving, a class 1 misdemeanor traffic offense, and punished as described in C.R.S 42-4-1402 (2)(b)

Prior to this law, there was nothing on the books in Colorado to make it mandatory for motorists to yield to cyclists in bike lanes. We needed legislation that placed the obligation to yield ROW squarely and firmly on motorists about to turn across a bike lane or at an intersection where a bike lane exists. “It has always been my belief that a motorist must yield to a cyclist in a bike lane before turning into the bike lane or crossing through it,” says Megan. 

After handling bike cases for ten years, as well as having a personal interest as the result of her own crash, Megan saw a need for a law to protect cyclists in bike lanes. 

Last fall, Megan reached out to Senator Mike Foote, who in 2019 sponsored Senate Bill 19-175  to protect vulnerable road users, including cyclists. Megan expressed her concern to Senator Foote that there were no laws in Colorado to protect cyclists in bike lanes. Senator Foote, a cyclist himself, agreed. 

Both Megan and Senator Foote also felt that there was an uneven application of the law statewide when it came to how/if drivers are cited. Sometimes the driver gets cited, sometimes the cyclist gets cited, sometimes nobody gets cited. Senator Foote said the goal of this bill was to clear that up.

Hottman Law Office has seen law enforcement and insurance carriers investigating bike lane crashes in varied and inconsistent ways. We have heard crazy arguments such as “Even though the cyclist was riding lawfully in the bike lane,

  • They were going too fast for the conditions (even though well under the speed limit).

  • They were not dressed brightly enough (even though it was broad daylight and they had blinkie lights on).

  • The cyclist still should have made eye contact before proceeding straight.

  • The car made it to the intersection first, so it is the cyclist’s fault.

  • Since traffic was stopped to the left of the bike lane, the cyclist should have stopped as well.

  • Cyclists should have to anticipate and yield to cars turning right across the bike lane to access the driveway.

  • The cyclist should have anticipated they would be overtaken.”

Cyclists are encouraged to use bike lanes instead of riding on sidewalks. They are there for safety reasons. Cities all over Colorado are adding bike lanes to make cycling safer.  In 2017, Denver voters approved a 10-year, $937 million bond, which is called the Elevate Denver Bond Program, to improve Denver’s infrastructure. The program dedicated $18 million to the design and construction of 50 miles of neighborhood bikeways and protected bike lanes, so-called high comfort bikeways.

Unfortunately, the fact of the matter is, cyclists are often injured or killed while riding in the lane that is actually supposed to protect them. 

To add insult to injury, cyclists are often blamed or even cited for causing a crash in the bike lane. There are near misses happening all over the state. Senator Foote has been the victim of those near misses several times. Drivers will accelerate in order to make the right-hand turn, so that they do not have to wait for the cyclist to get through the intersection.The driver misjudges how fast the cyclist is going and cuts off the cyclist. The cyclist has to brake really fast and may end up falling off the bike, or the cyclist runs into the car. 

On Monday, February 3, 2020, Senator Foote, Megan, several of our former clients who had been hit in the bike lane, law enforcement, Bicycle Colorado, AAA Colorado, as well as members of the Colorado cycling community testified in front of the Senate Judiciary Committee about the need for SB20-061 to make cycling safer in Colorado. 

One of those cyclists hit while riding in the bike lane was Delores Marquez. She was riding in her neighborhood on her way to a bike trail when a driver ran a stop sign. Delores landed on the hood of the car, and her head hit the windshield. The driver accelerated, and Delores’ body continued to be hit by the car. She had a broken sacrum and tailbone, a severe concussion, and several other injuries. Delores went through two surgeries and almost lost her life due to complications during one of the surgeries.

I thought I would be safe riding in a bike lane because the city put them there for us to ride vs. the traffic lane. If we are going to continue getting bike lanes, then the city needs to protect us in those lanes. Motorists have to watch out for the cyclists,” she said. “I want to empower law enforcement, and I want motorists to know that they will be cited if they don’t yield to cyclists who are lawfully riding in these lanes in Colorado.

Dennis King was also hit while riding in a bike lane. As a retired law enforcement officer and now a part-time campus police officer at the Colorado School of Mines, he stated that passing the bill into law would help law enforcement officers cite drivers correctly.

The bill itself, I think, would be a valuable tool as an officer to give us something to do, that when we get into these encounters between a car and a bicycle, you would have a new option, a new tool. You’d have something we didn’t have before,” he said. 

Skyler McKinley, Director of Public Relations and Government Affairs at AAA Colorado, testified on behalf of AAA in support of the bill. He explained why both motorists and cyclists should want the bill, as it clears up what is an oversight in the law.

It clarifies how bicyclists and motorists are required to act when bicycle lanes are present. Specifically, it gives drivers more information about what they are supposed to do when they see a bicycle lane. They don’t have that information right now, and that’s what creates conflict, and it creates tension,” explained Skyler Mckinley.  “That oversight has really burdened drivers at the safety expense of people on bicycles.”

Teri Vogel, whose husband Chuck Vogel was hit and killed by a driver on July 4, 2019 while riding his bike, encouraged lawmakers to pass the bill due to the need for clarity for law enforcement. Terri advocated not only in support of the bill for bicyclist safety but also for motorist behavior.

I feel that if there are laws put into place and guidelines that help both the motorist understand their duty, their ownership, their responsibility while also helping law enforcement officers know how to act and what to enforce, then everybody comes out better.”

The bill passed with a vote of 3-2 in the committee and then in the Senate.

On February 20, 2020, we were back at the State Capitol testifying, this time before the House Judiciary Committee along with the bill’s co-sponsor Representative KC Becker. It passed 11-2 in the committee and then passed in the House.

Now, we are asking you to spread the word about this new law. Tell anyone and everyone, even if they are not cyclists, because, most likely, they are motorists who need to know! It is time to educate your neighbors, co-workers, family, and friends. If you have a teenager who is learning to drive, let them know that they must yield to bicyclists in bike lanes. If you know a law enforcement officer, update them on the new law. Share the news to your social media sites. Let’s get the word out!



 

 

Be Part of the Change - Become a Bike Advocate!

Everyday People Can Affect Change in Their Community

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Amy Kenreich has not always been a bike advocate. In fact, she says that she fell into bike advocacy almost by chance in 2017 when she helped organize a bike rodeo at her childrens’ elementary school. The rodeo was a success with both kids and adults showing up to have fun on their bikes. This got her thinking. Why weren’t more people riding their bikes to the grocery store or to a coffee shop on a regular basis? 

About this time, a friend of Amy’s encouraged her to apply to the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Committee (MBAC). Amy felt that Denver had some problems to solve with its bike network, and that family biking was under-represented on the committee. This led her to apply, and she now serves on the committee. Amy is advocating for change to make cycling safer in Colorado and has been a strong supporter of adding protected bike lanes to S. Marion St. Parkway.

In 2017, Denver voters approved a 10-year, $937 million bond, which is called the Elevate Denver Bond Program, to improve Denver’s infrastructure: namely, roads, sidewalks, parks, recreation centers, libraries, cultural centers, public-owned buildings, health and safety facilities. The Elevate Bond Program dedicates $18 million to the design and construction of 50 miles of neighborhood bikeways and protected bike lanes, so-called high comfort bikeways. The S. Marion St. Parkway High Comfort Bikeway project is one of 500 projects included in the bond program. It will add a protected bike lane on S. Marion Street from E. Bayaud Avenue to E. Virginia Avenue. South Marion St. Parkway links to other bikeways (Downing St Path, Cherry Creek Trail, Washington Park Loop, E Exposition Ave, S Franklin St), provides routes to schools (Steele Elementary, South High School, DU), and makes parks accessible according to the City and County of Denver. 

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A Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG) survey of Metro-Denverites (2018), concluded that 59 percent are interested in riding their bikes on Denver streets but are concerned. However, 75 percent indicated that they would ride a bicycle if they had the option of a network of high comfort bikeways according to the survey results. A high comfort bikeway includes a horizontal buffer, a vertical element such as flexposts or planters, and high visibility markings of conflict areas such as intersections. The protected bikeways provide a buffer between the cyclist and passing traffic.

Studies show that protected bikeways have many advantages. Among them are:

  • Reducing/eliminating dooring issues

  • Providing greater safety, reducing number of collisions, resulting in fewer injuries

  • Reducing/eliminating parking and loading conflicts

  • Promoting more biking and less driving

  • Reducing traffic congestion

  • Boosting economic growth

Amy had a difficult time understanding why anyone would oppose a protected bike lane, especially in front of an elementary school. She lives four blocks away from this project and often takes her kids to the playground at Steele Elementary. She also rides S. Marion Street Parkway to reach the Cherry Creek Trail. 

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When Alexis Bounds was struck and killed, it made Amy mad and terrified. “Because I have been on the MBAC and because I know about Vision Zero, I just couldn’t sit by and do nothing,” she says. 

First, she attended a meeting where discussions were held about the protected bike lane on S. Marion Street Parkway. “Unfortunately, the first public meeting turned into an ‘us vs. them’ debate between neighborhood bicyclists and residents who live in the tower apartment buildings at the base of S. Marion Street Parkway,” she says.

The arguments that Amy heard against the S. Marion Street Parkway Bikeway were: 

  • It is a beautiful street, and I think the protected bike lane will ruin that. 

  • I think it is fine the way it is (even after Alexis’ death).

  • It could interfere with Steele Elementary school loading.

  • Marion has a historic designation, and it is against those guidelines to put in vertical separation.

  • I think this will make cyclists go even faster, and one of these days they are going to run over my elderly mother.

  • I think it will interfere with loading at my building.

  • I think it will prevent emergency services from accessing my building.

Amy says that it was especially frustrating to keep up with the mis-information: 

  • But cyclists break the law! (Actually cyclists and drivers break the law at the same rate.)

  • “Our” street is perfect the way it is. (No one person owns the street in front of their home.)

  • It will lower my property value. (False, according to the National Association of Realtors)

  • It will remove parking. (No plan ever included removing parking.)

Soon after, Amy received an invitation to meet with District 6 City Councilman Paul Kashmann. In preparation for their meeting, Amy conducted an experiment at the Washington Park playground. She took her kids there along with some paper and markers. While they played, Amy spoke to parents and caretakers about the planned protected bike lane. There was an overwhelmingly positive reaction to the project. She left the playground with letters from parents and drawings from children.

Amy brought some of her favorites to Kashmann to illustrate the support for the project and also to highlight the obvious—who this protected bike lane was really going to protect. “In my opinion, the voices opposed were forgetting about some of our most vulnerable road users—children trying to get to school,” explains Amy. 

When she learned that there was a petition circulating against the project, Amy decided to reach out to the person orchestrating it. She met with the concerned neighbor in her home, and together they watched the street below from the woman’s balcony near the top of the north tower. As the neighbor pointed out bicyclists who rolled through the stop signs, Amy also saw cars roll through them without stopping. Her goal was to listen to her nieghbor. “I truly thought that if she met me—one of those cyclists she described as irresponsible—and if I listened to her, that she would see the humanity of the issue at hand.” 

Amy also wanted to make sure she heard and understood the neighbor’s perspective. If nothing else, this was an opportunity for Amy to learn where she was coming from and correct any inaccuracies. 

Over the summer, Amy met one-on-one with more people opposed to the project and joined a stakeholder meeting held by the Department of Transportation and Infrastructure (DOTI). She spoke to many more people who were in favor of the project. She begged each one to come to the next public meeting.

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As time went on, Amy got more and more involved. She had the opportunity to speak to one of the local news stations about the project. Amy rode her two children over to the Steele Playground, and she and her friend, Tenly Williams, told the reporter how excited they were for the students who want to bike to Steele Elementary and for all the commuters who would ride through this area to reach the Cherry Creek Trail path. The majority of students at Steele live within a 1.5 mile radius of the school. 

Amy and fellow bike advocate Adam Meltzer were invited to speak at the East Washington Park Neighborhood Association meeting. They put together a one-page handout that collated the major project info and corrected the “fake news” floating around about the project. Her goal that night was to provide facts and answer questions. The short presentation turned into a 2.5 hour question/answer session.

On the morning of Alexis’ death, Amy was part of a Denver Streets Partnership video that was made to promote the benefits of the project. “I was in shock 24 hours later when I returned to S. Marion Street to talk to a couple of news stations about the crash,” says Amy. The petition organizers were on the scene, too. Amy’s message was quite different from theirs. One of them told a reporter, “I just don’t think they need that protection” while standing on the corner where Alexis had been killed.

The next day, Amy got an email from some of the petition organizers explaining that if only the city would put in a stop sign, this tragic “accident” could have been prevented. At that point, Amy had to ask them for some space. It was more than she could handle. 

Later in the fall, Amy presented a quick update at the Steele Elementary PTA meeting. She did not get many questions, and it seemed that most people either did not have a strong opinion or were content with the project plans. 

Finally, with the help of Tenly Williams, Amy designed some flyers advertising the second public meeting and sent them out to other bike advocates to place on bikes throughout the area. 

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Early in November 2019, the city held a second public meeting about this project. The design was at 60 percent at that time, and they again collected feedback from attendees. The room was full; this time the crowd included a majority of people who were in favor of the project. The city is currently finalizing the design and construction is planned for 2020. 

Amy encourages people in Denver to follow the Bicycling in Denver page. For a list of upcoming public meetings, check out News and Updates. “One of the best things you can do is attend these meetings and make your voice heard,” says Amy. Another way you can help is to submit feedback on the same site. DOTI really does read and tally up all comments that come in on a project. For the S. Marion St. Parkway Bikeway project, the city showed a slide of all the types of feedback that came in, and it clearly showed that the number one priority was the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians. “Your voice matters, and it doesn’t take much time to make sure it’s heard.”

Another site to watch is the Denver Bicycle Lobby. They post the Denver bike lane public meeting dates on their site and also host meetups and organize efforts to support bicycle advocacy in Denver. 

I have learned quite a bit working on the Marion project and plan to use that knowledge to help other communities make their streets safer for vulnerable road users by supporting similar projects.”

Bike lane bill: senate judiciary committee

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Today was the first of what we hope will be many steps in the passage of this bill.
The committee passed it 3-2 after many of our clients testified about having been hit in bike lanes and why we need this bill. We also heard from bicycle advocates, a representative of AAA Colorado, who said motorists need this law as well (because clarity helps combat confusion!), and a young man from Longmont who was hit in a bike lane and THEN received the citation for it.

It was a hugely successful afternoon - the first of many steps, but one that gave us tremendous hope!

Also , can we talk about how gorgeous this building is ??

More Protection for Cyclists in Bike Lanes

Lawmaker Proposes Legislation - Cyclists Advocate for Protected Bike Lanes

On Monday, February 3, 2020, Senator Mike Foote will address the Senate Judiciary Committee about legislation he is sponsoring to require drivers to yield to bicyclists in bike lanes. Senate Bill 20-061 will make it possible for law enforcement to cite drivers who fail to yield to a bicyclist in a bike lane. Failure to yield would result in a class A traffic offense and would be punishable with a $70 fine. The law would take effect on July 1, 2020, if passed.

If the driver fails to yield to a bicyclist in a bike lane, and this results in a crash or in bodily injury, then this is considered careless driving and punished under the careless driving offense.

Senator Foote also sponsored SB19-175 (Serious Bodily Injury Vulnerable Road User Penalties) in March 2019 which was then signed into law by Governor Polis on May 29, 2019. That same day, Megan was seriously injured when a 19-year old driver crashed into her while she was riding in a bike lane in Arvada. (More HERE).

After handling bike cases for ten years, as well as having a personal interest as the result of her crash and her investment in bike advocacy/activism, Megan saw a need for a law to protect cyclists in bike lanes and to give law enforcement something to work with when it comes time to cite a driver who hits a cyclist riding in a bike lane: “It has always been my belief that a motorist must yield to a cyclist in a bike lane before turning into the bike lane or crossing through it,” says Megan. 

Last year, Megan reached out to Senator Mike Foote and expressed what she saw as a really big hole in the law, not just in Colorado but in most states, where we have the addition of bike lanes for cyclists to use but no laws to protect them.  

Senator Foote agreed, so he and Megan partnered to draft SB20-061. She will be at the Capitol to speak to the Senate Judiciary Committee about the need for this bill to be passed into law to protect cyclists. Alongside her will be Ali Clerkin, who was hit by a driver on May 9, 2016, while biking in the bike lane on Marion Street at E. Bayaud Avenue. It was around 8:00 am, and Ali was wearing a helmet, normal street clothes, and white athletic jacket, making her clearly visible. The street curves to intersect with Downing Street and the bike lane follows this curvature. 

Ali was following this curve of the road in the bike lane; there is also a dotted line where cars can cross over to continue straight to a smaller intersection.

It was at this point that a pick-up truck went through the dotted bike lane line to cross over to the other side and hit Ali on her left-hand side.

“I was just beginning to ride with the curve when a green truck came barreling through the bike lane to move straight through to the smaller intersection (Marion and Bayaud). The truck hit me around the front passenger side. I felt my head and left side of my body hit the car. I fell to my left and hit the ground, where I immediately felt the pain in my left arm,” explains Ali. Since she landed on her left side, most of the ‘blow’ was to that side only.

An ambulance transported Ali to the hospital where doctors told her that she would need surgery. Her shoulder was dislocated, and her upper left arm, elbow, and hand were broken:

  • Humerus fracture (in at least 2 places) - x-ray, CT scan, surgery

  • Elbow fracture - x-ray, CT scan, sling and brace for isolation

  • Wrist (carpal) fracture - x-ray, CT scan, stint for isolation.

According to the police report, the driver was not cited due to conflicting statements and no witnesses. The driver stated that he saw Ali in the bike lane but that she swerved over into the side of the truck all of a sudden. However, the driver indicated to police that he “was probably crowding the bike lane a little bit” and saw Ali in the bike lane and “probably should have moved over a bit.” 

Ali was very disappointed to learn that although she had been severely injured, the driver would not be punished. “There essentially was no accountability placed on him,” she says. “This is mostly because there was no further investigation completed by the Denver Police Department. When the police officer got to the scene, the driver already had his story fabricated that I swerved into his truck and that I only had a dislocated shoulder.” Ali firmly believes that a follow-up investigation should always be done as mental/psychological injury cannot be seen right away regardless if there is serious bodily injury or not.

When Ali followed up with the officer, he asserted that he could not undeniably prove what occurred in the crash in a court but believed the driver to be at fault and thus assigned the driver as Traffic Unit #1 in the report and cited other incriminating comments that the driver told him.

Since the driver did not have to appear in court, Ali was deprived of the chance to seek justice in a traffic case and never had a chance to see the driver punished. Ali was clearly in the right and the driver at fault. Our firm obtained the driver's full policy limits and then also made a substantial recovery from Ali’s own auto insurer as well—all indicative that the insurers accepted fault on behalf of the driver and did not apportion fault to Ali.

As a result of her injuries, Ali had to take sick time, go on short-term disability at 70 percent pay, and was not able to return at a full time capacity immediately. Her husband became her caretaker and accompanied her to all doctors’ visits and the surgery. He woke her up every four hours throughout the day and night to administer pain medication for the first two weeks, ran errands, did all the cooking and cleaning, and drove her to her appointments. He also did physical therapy with her two to three times a day. 

Beyond the physical injuries, the crash took an emotional toll on Ali. The missed work and specifically the timing inhibited her career growth; the position above her was vacated, and she was filling the role and attempting to prove herself worthy of the promotion when this crash happened. 

It has also been difficult for Ali to get back on a bike again. The first time riding her bike was on the two-year anniversary of the crash. “I truly have lost my appetite to ride because overcoming the anxiety does not outweigh the joy I once felt when riding,” she says.  She has only ridden a handful of times, more as a mental health initiative. She rode on dedicated paths without cars or on the sidewalk. (Read more HERE).

Ali is also more afraid to drive in a car. Since the car hit her from behind/in her blindspot, she is constantly afraid that she will miss seeing someone and hit a person, biker, or car. 

One of the main things that Ali learned is that simply riding in the bike lane does not provide an impermeable shield from cars to bicyclists. She believes that in order to make cycling safer, physically separated bike lanes are necessary to make it harder for cars to impede the bike lane.

Community volunteer and bike advocate Amy Kenreich agrees. She has been involved with the Mayor’s Bicycle Advisory Committee (MBAC) since 2017 and has been speaking to both residents and cyclists in support of the S. Marion Street Parkway Improvements project. The city is currently finalizing designs, and construction of a protected bike lane is planned for 2020. Although Amy heard a lot of positive feedback from part of the population, there are many people, especially residents, who oppose adding a protected bike lane. Amy says that most of the arguments against the protected bike lane stemmed from one theme: “Not In My Back Yard.” “Sometimes people are simply opposed to change,” she says.

“I had a really difficult time understanding why anyone would oppose a protected bike lane in front of an elementary school. I live four blocks away from this project. I take my kids to the playground at Steele Elementary often, and I also ride this street to reach the Cherry Creek Trail. When Alexis Bounds was struck and killed, it made me mad and terrified me. Because I have been on the MBAC and because I know about Vision Zero, I just couldn’t sit by and do nothing,” says Amy. 

Amy encourages people in Denver to follow the Bicycling in Denver page and to check out “News and Updates” for a list of upcoming public meetings.

One of the best things you can do is attend these meetings and make your voice heard.  Another way you can help is to submit feedback on the same site. DOTI (Department of Transportation and Infrastructure) really does read and tally up all comments that come in on a project. For the Marion project, the city showed a slide of all the types of feedback that came in, and it clearly showed that the #1 priority was the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians. Your voice matters, and it doesn’t take much time to make sure it’s heard,” emphasizes Amy.

Another site to watch is the Denver Bicycle Lobby. They post the Denver bike lane public meeting dates on their site and also host meet-ups and organize efforts to support bicycle advocacy in Denver. 

Please advocate for safer cycling with us on February 3rd at the State Capitol in supporting this bill. Here are the details:

State Capitol

200 E. Colfax

Denver, CO 80203 

The hearing will be on the third floor in room 352 - Senate Judiciary.  

Time: 1:30 pm. 

Distracted Driving: Think Twice Before Picking Up Your Phone

Crash Turns Injured Cyclist’s Life Upside Down

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Chris Farney is a cycling advocate who helps neighbors, local kids, and coworkers with bike mechanic work.  He advocates for safety and awareness of cyclists when talking to people day to day. Chris tries to educate everyone that he meets about the local laws. He attends city bicycle friendly planning meetings and participates on committees to help start a local free bike share in Saint Joseph, Missouri.  He races mountain and cyclocross for his local bike shop but enjoys MTB the most. Chris has a hand in building and planning the singletrack network.  

From 2005-2011, he was a part-time bike commuter, but started riding every day, anywhere he needed to go after starting his first job. After surviving a Colorado winter with his car never leaving the garage, he sold it to buy another bike.  Chris has been a car-free bike commuter since September of 2011. He owns eight bikes and rides seven of those regularly.

Chris’ six-year-old son is also a bike enthusiast. His fourth word was “bike” and his life has followed accordingly.  At 16 months, he was scooting around on a balance bike. Chris and his son spend most of their time together riding bikes in any weather, season, or terrain.  

Bikes are Chris’ life. Everyone knows this about him, but few understand how time off from the bike truly affected him.  

On June 7, 2017, a 19-year-old driver hit Chris with the left front end of her SUV when she was making a left turn.  Chris was on his way back to the office from a ride during his lunch hour. As he was coming down a hill, he noticed a white SUV sitting at a stop sign about three to four blocks ahead of him. 

As Chris was coming to pass the SUV on his right at the stop sign, the SUV pulled out into the intersection in front of him.  Chris was going about 30 mph. He remembers trying to swerve around the SUV and was almost out into the oncoming lane, but the car just kept coming.

He remembers thinking that if the driver would even just tap the brakes and slow down a little, he could get clear and swerve around the entire front of the car. In the moment before the driver hit Chris, the car only seemed to speed up like the driver never saw him at all. In his mind, Chris was thinking “How could they not see me? I’ve been coming down this hill, completely unobstructed view with no traffic in front of me, and I’ve seen them for at least the last 4-5 seconds!” 

As a daily cyclist, Chris is used to riding defensively and has avoided many crashes where people “didn’t see me” when he still had the right of way.  He has a bright green backpack with a Rando-style slow moving vehicle reflector on the back of it. This was not a situation where he did not expect to be seen.  

Chris is convinced that the driver was using her cell phone while waiting at the stop sign, then looked up, thought it was clear, and went.  He believes that she never saw him at all.  

What would Chris say to the driver or any other drivers about cyclists/safety? “Please understand the gravity of the situation of simply pushing your foot forward to propel a 6,000-pound-projectile of metal and glass forward, and how it could affect people around you if you aren’t being 100 percent attentive to where that 6,000-pound-projectile goes.”

The impact caused Chris to flip over the hood, landing down the street.  He flew 50 plus feet through the air. Chris was wearing a helmet, but luckily his head never hit the pavement. 

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“The next thing I know I’m lying a ways down the street on my right side, and it’s like everything from my waist down hurts and is numb at the same time.  I instantly knew my cervical spine was intact, as I could move my head, and I was holding my head up off the street while lying on my side,” says Chris. At first, it was like the wind had been knocked out of him.  A witness called 911 and told him to lie still.  

Chris looked down at his legs and saw that his right foot was bent in, and he could not move it.  Initially, he could not really move anything, and it crossed his mind that his whole right leg was either broken or paralyzed.  Then, a paramedic ran Chris through tests, and he was able to slightly wiggle his toes. Paramedics put him in a neck brace and put him onto a stretcher.  

He realized that it was very painful to put any weight on both feet, but especially the right one, and it hurt a lot to put weight on his left hip/buttock.  Chris was then transported to the hospital by ambulance for multiple areas of road rash to his body, deep cuts to the top of his right foot, and a large patch of black tire marks from the car’s front tire impact. An EMT suspected that Chris had multiple broken bones and internal injuries due to the nature of the crash. 

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In the ER, Chris had an ultrasound of his abdomen, then x-rays of his cervical spine, pelvis, left femur/knee, right and left foot and ankle. Chris also had a CT with contrast of his abdomen. He suffered seven broken bones between both feet (four on the right and three on the left).

His bike was totaled.

A police officer talked to Chris at the emergency room shortly after he arrived. Chris later found out that the driver was not ticketed, as she had followed all traffic regulations—she came to a full stop. The police officer told Chris that he could not give the driver a ticket just because she did not see him and went on to state that a ticket was not necessary to assign fault, as the police report clearly did that. 

No ticket. No legal consequences. No points or fines. No change in the driver’s behavior. 

Three months after the crash, Chris was finally able to get back on the bike.  “I was so thankful just to be back on the bike again, three months off it was an eternity for me, I think I actually cried a few tears of joy on the first bike ride.” It took him a few weeks of riding to get comfortable again on the bike.  He got very apprehensive when cars were at stop signs waiting for him to pass, wondering if they would remain stopped when he passed in front of them. “It certainly does mess with your head. Every time I’m cruising down a hill at 30 mph, my mind goes back to thinking about how it would feel to get launched through the air over the hood of a car again,” he says.

Chris missed out on a lot of time on his bike and could not attend bike events as a result of his injuries.  He missed approximately 60 days of riding, 60 days that he would have ridden his bike had it not been for injuries sustained in the crash.  He missed racing in an MTB race called the Meltdown, Gravel Worlds, which he had participated in the last three years, and a 100-mile MTB race in Missouri called the Ozark Trail 100 which he won last year.

He was not able to ride on a family vacation to Winter Park and had planned to do the Breck 100 MTB race in Breckenridge while he was there.  He could not participate in cyclocross season, as the doctor did not allow him to run. Chris has raced competitive cyclocross for the last six years, and this was the first year he was not able to race a season of cross.  

In addition, his injuries kept him from going on a bikepacking trip with his friends.  “Most importantly, I missed the camaraderie and social aspect of going to these events and meeting with people that I have formed friendships with over the last few years. I missed the camping and riding with my good friends,” says Chris.

The crash affected his home and work life, too.  For the 10 weeks that he was limited with his weight bearing status, his wife and co-workers had to drive him to/from work and anywhere else he needed to go.  He was unable to participate in daily parenting duties such as carrying his two-year old to bed or getting up at night to help the kids; duties that he and his wife typically share.  

While recovering, Chris missed out on a lot of fun with his kids and friends that summer. He typically rides around the neighborhood with his son in the evenings. Chris says that it was very difficult having to tell his son every evening that they could not do that or do their Saturday morning ride to the bike shop.  He was unable to swim with his kids in the pool or the lake for the first six weeks after the injury. He went to the playground down the street with his son a few times but was unable to play with him there. 

He could not go to an MLB game with his friends, because he could not walk or sit in a hot stadium as that would cause too much swelling in his foot. 

Going through all the doctors’ appointments and dealing with the extra trips and appointments caused Chris a great deal of stress, although he says it was more stressful not being able to exercise or move like he is used to. This affected his attitude, sleep, and mood. “Exercising is a big part of my life balance, and after the crash I was way out of balance,” says Chris.  

In order to make cycling safer, Chris believes that stiffer penalties for endangering or injuring bicyclists or pedestrians are needed. He would like to see the minimum driving age raised a year or two.  “Teenagers aren’t able to vote, but they can pilot a huge hunk of metal around people and cyclists/pedestrians willy nilly? Seems crazy. If kids didn’t have cars, they would bike/walk more, too. They would think about solving problems in our communities regarding transportation from a young age,” says Chris. 

According to a report by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, cyclist and pedestrian deaths rose in 2018 compared to 2017.  There were 51 more cyclist fatalities in 2018, which is a 6.3 percent increase.  This is the highest number since 1990. That is 859 too many cyclist fatalities. Experts say that distracted drivers and bigger vehicles could be the reasons.

Chris feels that distracted drivers are the number one issue and that we need to keep trying to fight that. Texting while driving means you are distracted.  “I see people scrolling through their newsfeed and driving all the time. That’s insane.  I don’t know how to solve the distracted driver issue.  I think that’s the biggest safety threat to cyclists that has come up big in the last 5 years.” 

For the latest on distracted driving legislation in Colorado, check out this blog post

How to Get a Serious Bodily Injury Charge Filed

Colorado Cyclists Can Push for Application of New Vulnerable Road User Law in Their Cases


Have you been the victim of a crash after May 29, 2019, involving serious bodily injury (SBI)? If so, here is what you need to know in order to get the charges that the driver will face elevated to Careless Driving Involving Serious Bodily Injury (SBI) to a Vulnerable Road User (VRU).

First, Governor Polis signed Senate Bill 19-175 into law on May 29, 2019, which increases the penalties for careless driving resulting in SBI to a VRU. The bill also provided a definition of a VRU which does include cyclists. Senator Mike Foote and Representative Dylan Robert sponsored the bill which was strongly supported by bike advocates, such as Bicycle Colorado, who worked directly alongside lawmakers to draft the bill.  Bike advocates who pushed for this bill believed it would be an automatic sentence and added tools to district attorneys’ tool boxes in terms of sentencing recommendations/options in addition to assessing points to the driver’s license.  

The new law, C.R.S. 42-4-1402.5, makes careless driving causing SBI to a VRU a class 1 traffic misdemeanor according to Jennifer Tibbitts Knudsen, Traffic Safety Resource Prosecutor with the Colorado District Attorneys' Council. It allows the court to require a convicted driver:

  • To attend a driver improvement course.

  • To perform useful public service not to exceed 320 hours.

  • To pay restitution.

Upon a conviction of the VRU charge, the Department of Motor Vehicles must assess 12 points against the privilege to drive, says Jennifer. 

Second, according to C.R.S. 42-2-1601 (4)(b), SBI is defined as “injury that involves, either at the time of the actual injury or at a later time, a substantial risk of death, a substantial risk of serious permanent disfigurement, or a substantial risk of protracted loss or impairment of the function of any part or organ of the body, or breaks, fractures, or burns of the second or third degree.”

Next, Jennifer explains that if there are felony charges in cases of careless driving causing serious bodily injury to a vulnerable road user, the following language would be used in the charging documents: 

Defendant unlawfully drove a motor vehicle in a careless and imprudent manner without due regard for the width, grade, curves, corners, traffic, and use of the streets or highways and all other attendant circumstances and the defendant’s actions were the proximate cause of serious bodily injury to a vulnerable road user; in violation of sections 42-4-1402.5(2) and 42-4-1402, C.R.S.

When law enforcement officers write a ticket, both sections (42-4-1402.5(2) and 42-4-1402) of the statute must appear as follows:

Infliction of Serious Bodily Injury to a Vulnerable Road User 42-4-1402.5(2) and 42-4-1402, C.R.S.

Now that we have gone over the law and explained SBI and VRU, what can you as the injured cyclist do to get the new law applied to your case if you sustained serious bodily injury as the result of a careless driver? Here is a guide with steps we recommend in order to get the local city attorney or DA to refile the summons using the new VRU law:

  1. You will need to provide police with a signed SBI form from your doctor proving that you sustained SBI. Often, the police officer will ask the ER doctor to sign the form if injuries warrant SBI. Police will sometimes follow up with the victim and ask for provider information or even medical authority. If this is not the case, then you need to contact the police officer/department for a blank SBI form. It will usually have the police letterhead on it. You will need to push for it, as the police department often does not pursue the SBI form once the ticket is written. You may need to get your SBI form signed by one or more doctors.  Once you have the form from your doctor, ask police to reissue the ticket and cite the driver with the new VRU law. Ask police to send you the updated summons and then look up the next court date in the case. To look up when the case is next set for hearing use this link: https://www.courts.state.co.us/dockets/

  2. Now that you know when and where the case will be heard, you need to find out which DA is handling the case and get in contact with him/her ASAP. Tell them you do not want them offering any plea deal, and that you want the driver to plead guilty to the VRU charge (and lose their license), or that the DA needs to take the case to trial if the driver refuses to plead guilty to the VRU charge.

  3. If the DA indicates any intent to offer a plea deal, like reckless driving at eight points or careless driving at four points, speak up. As the victim, you get to speak up about your wants and desires for justice.

  4. Several court hearings/continuances may then take place, moving the case out a few months—this is normal. The driver may elect to hire an attorney to represent him/her. The attorney will discuss the case with the DA and see if a deal can be made.

  5. Eventually, there will be a sentencing hearing (unless the DA loses at trial and the driver gets off "not guilty"). You need to attend the sentencing hearing and tell the judge what you want. Usually, you can ask for community service hours, or say you want their license revoked—as a few examples. If you end up negotiating settlements with the driver's insurance company for your bike equipment and bills, etc. then you cannot also pursue restitution as part of the sentence (you cannot double dip).

    Honestly, we care most about the driver's license revocation and a lot of community service. A bike-friendly driver course with Bicycle Colorado is also a priority.

    HERE IS A REAL-LIFE, RECENT EXAMPLE:

    Dan Collier was recently seriously injured in a crash and has been fighting to have the charges against the driver who hit him elevated.  An avid cyclist, Dan has ridden tens of thousands of miles.  He has crashed before, been hurt, and has gotten back up each time. He would spray his wounds with his water bottle, do trailside repairs to his bike, and always ride home.  Dan says that this crash did not seem different until later.  

    On Sunday, September 8, 2019, at about 3:39 pm, Dan left home to ride the Santa Fe Trail north to the Greenland Open Space, do a lap around Kipp's Loop, and return home.  At 5:35 pm, he was on the return trip and stopped at the intersection of Second Street and the Santa Fe Trail in Monument, CO. 

    At the crosswalk, Dan pressed the button to cross the street. The cars to the left of him came to a full stop at the red light, and he was given the go signal by his light. Dan started crossing as a gold-colored Subaru to the right in the distance appeared to be slowing down. As he got halfway across the street, Dan saw that the Subaru was not stopping. He banked hard left to try and get away from him, but it was too late, and Dan was hit. The driver did not slow down at all. Dan is quite certain that the driver was entirely unaware of him until the moment of impact.  The driver made no effort to brake or swerve.

    Dan hit somewhere between the front quarter panel and side mirror. The car grabbed his front wheel, shoved him parallel, and he rode the side of the car until quickly being slapped forward into a sharper left turn by the side mirror.  The bike then kept rotating hard left without him banking with it. He was forced 90 degrees left by the force of the hit, and the bike rotated perhaps 180 left. This wheeled him a few feet away from the car before slamming him onto the pavement.  The driver said that he "took Dan out with his side mirror."

    For several minutes after the initial impact, Dan was sitting in the street with the wind knocked out of him, trying to catch his breath.  After he stood back up, Dan really thought that he was going to just ride home. “Shock can do that, and that is what the responding officer saw.  I was not visibly injured, and I might have even said that I wasn't badly injured, and that is why the driver was originally charged with just running the red light,” he says.

    Dan had pain on his right side and under his right arm that very well could be the mirror smacking him followed by the impact with asphalt. He landed on his right side, because that was where all of the injuries were (palm-sized bruise on his right hip, road rash on his right elbow, and fractured ribs on his right side). 

    An ambulance transported Dan to the hospital where he stayed for four days. It was in the ambulance that the pain really started to set in, and Dan realized this time was more serious than any other.  In the ER, he found it more comfortable to stand, so he stood for the IV, walked to his X-ray, and walked to and from the CT. It was almost an hour later when he passed out. Then that night, Dan was convulsing in pain as each of the nine or more rib fractures triggered muscle spasms that fed off each other's pain signals, clamping down tighter and tighter and producing new pain and tighter clamping.

    Police originally charged the driver with "failure to obey traffic control signal," because they did not realize the seriousness of Dan’s injuries. The driver admitted that he had been fiddling with his radio, was not watching, and that was the reason he ran a red light and hit Dan in the marked pedestrian crosswalk. The driver continued for at least 30 feet before stopping.

    After leaving the hospital, Dan wrote to the responding officer for help in getting a copy of the incident report.  Dan felt that the officer’s initial attitude was that his part, in this case, was done. He had filed his report and moved on.  

    Dan had been looking around for a personal injury attorney to help with his case since every aspect was brand new to him.  He says, “I was not interested in the vengeance motivation advertised by some and was turned off by the lack of passion the others had.  Then I found ‘The Cyclist Lawyer’ via an Internet search. Megan Hottman herself was willing to talk to me on the phone and provide a lot of basic information.  This included the reference to the Colorado Vulnerable Road User Law that neither I nor the other attorneys had heard of.”

    Dan went to his next available point of contact since he felt that the officer had washed his hands of the case.  “Monument is a small town, and their website offered the email address of the police chief. I wasn't planning on going that high up, but that was the point of contact I had available, so I sent an email there with an apology in case I was overreaching,” Dan says.

    Quickly thereafter, the original officer called Dan.  He stated that they had never heard of the Colorado Vulnerable Road User Law that Dan had cited. However, he and his sergeant reviewed it and concluded that this new law was entirely applicable here, that the driver would  receive a new summons with the upgraded charges, and they would add this law to their FAQ sheet so that this is more commonly known to their department.

    Monument Police asked Dan to provide them with an SBI statement signed by a physician as part of their investigation. He requested this from the records team at Memorial Hospital and later from his primary care physician, as Memorial Hospital took several weeks to provide him a statement. On November 8, Dan submitted a statement from his physician to Monument Police.  Coincidentally, Memorial Hospital came through that same week with their SBI statement explaining that he had at least nine fractures across six ribs and a hemopneumothorax.

    After Dan submitted the SBI statements, Monument Police assured him that they had issued a new summons and, indeed, charged the driver under the new VRU law. The driver picked up the revised summons.

    The next step for Dan will be to look up the new court hearing date and get in touch with the DA handling the case. He will need to tell him/her that he does not want any plea offer, and that he wants the driver to plead guilty to the VRU charge (and lose his license). Another option would be that the DA needs to take the case to trial if the driver refuses to plead guilty to the VRU charge.   

    Dan’s life is very different now than before the crash. He cannot bike, lift anything substantial, or generally be of much use around the house. He used to race competitively back in the 1990s (before getting married, kids, and job), and biking is still essential to his well-being.  Now, he goes to work and then needs to come home and rest (heating pad and over-the-counter pain relief). On the day of the crash, Dan was out for a 25-mile ride at a vigorous intensity, because that is the minimum that he needs to not feel sick from lack of activity. “Walking around the block just doesn't cut it, and that's about all that I can do now,” he says.

    We will keep an eye on this case and provide updates.

A sample SBI form.

A sample SBI form.