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.

We Broke The World Record !

The Longest Static Cycling Class Guinness World Record is Now 28 Hours!

Ryan Avery, Breaking History at L, and Michael, Guinness WR official, R

Ryan Avery, Breaking History at L, and Michael, Guinness WR official, R

Forgive me if this blog post is a bit rambling, semi-intelligible, and with random gushes of emotions (tears on the keyboard causing inherent typos) … we are fresh off the finish of our 28-hour-long cycling class which culminated yesterday (Dec 2) midday. From there, it’s been a haze. How in the world did it get to be Dec 3? We essentially stepped into a time warp and are just now re-acclimating to planet Earth. Brain cells are sluggish and the body is …well. It’s about like you’d imagine after pedaling around 90-100rpm for 28 hours. (That’s 151,200 pedal revolutions if you’re counting!).

Yes- the riders’ bodies are all wrecked today. 25 of us pedaled for 28 hours on spin bikes and today we take stock of the carnage... It pales in comparison to the feels of SUCCESS, FINISHING, NOT GIVING UP, TEAMWORK, the amazing support from our VILLAGE, the love from FAMILY AND FRIENDS, and the overwhelming emotion of achievement.

WE were ALL scared of this goal. We were ALL scared of its unknowns.

None of us had ever been on a spin bike more than a few hours.

Most of us had never ridden a regular bike for even half of that time.

We rushed towards something that scared us a lot - and we said “HELL YES, LET’S DO THIS!”

I will tell you one of the best feelings in the world is to take an idea and make it real, with real people, for a real cause! The thing that surprised me the most was every single one of us finished and we all had things that we had to push past and get through! Every single one of us in the room were tested at some point throughout the 28 hours which made the attempt and the record all that much better! I am proud of the leadership Megan showed, I am proud of every single person in that room, and I am thankful for every volunteer who showed up and made this world record happen! There was a six hour stretch where I was in so much pain I thought my knee had a knife in it and I didn’t know how I was going to get through the ride. With the help and support and love from everyone in the room I can say with complete certainty that was the reason why I kept peddling! Keep dreaming BIG, doing BIG, and of course... keep Breaking History!
— Ryan Avery, Rider, World Record Holder, & Host of Breaking History
Surprised: everyone finished. Highlight: the actual structure of “classes” and how quickly the instructor was able to change to avoid injuries. Lowlight: the entire class starting to bonk at the same was alarming but it only(thankfully) lasted 15 min on the minimum. Advise: don’t tread lightly into over12 hr anything endurance without a structured plan and allow time to train your body. Lastly: do not do these 12+ hr endurance adventures without a true friend; that endearment goes a long way when one truly gets in a bind. Love is the most powerful endorphin we can tap into; I say use it!!!
— Cheryl Gaiser, Rider & World Record Holder

Images by Natalie Starr:

Are there words to describe how we all feel right now? I’m not sure there are ... To take on a GIANT goal with so many unknowns (that candidly scared me a LOT), to add a lot of public attention and press and buildup to it, (thereby risking a giant public failure if we weren’t successful), to ask 100 people (riders and volunteers) to donate their time and energy to this big thing with no guarantee of success, to pair it with a really important cause that means the world to me and to the most important people in my life, and to put it all out there and risk it all in such a big, public, insane way…. Well.
Let’s just say my word right now is jubilant!
— Megan Hottman, Instructor, World Record Holder & The Cyclist Lawyer

My pre - and post - event photos:

Just because the event is over, doesn’t mean our fundraising is! We are still going for our $100,000 goal and our fundraising site will be up into January. Please consider donating to our effort:

http://peopleforbikes.org/breaking-history

Knowing that this WR attempt was going to be quite the feat, I spent a lot of time riding my
bike in preparation. I felt ready to reach deep into the tank, but I was not prepared for how big a role my fellow riders would play in my success. While I was the only one that could physically turn my pedals, I was floored at how quickly our group came together and truly became family after 28 hours of cycling together.
— Thomas Stott, Owner, Elevation Running, World Record Holder
Mantra’s.....I loved that we had them up on the mirror, mine was “trust your journey”. A tie for me is “passion is contagious”. I think we proved both of those over the 28 hours. You believed in us and we believed in you on the journey we where all about to go on together for 28 hours as a team, there was much energy, passion and quite frankly love in that space the there was no doubt we where going to finish the journey together. We were all feeding off each others’ passion to raise money, make cycling safer and set a Guinness World Record. I made some amazing new friends, Tim, Heather and I-Ling, among others. It reminded me that I needed to get out of my comfort zone more often socially. I loved seeing everyones’ family members come in to see them, hi five, hugs etc. So good. We did something incredible for the greater good and the best part is we where all really giving without expectation ...... sure we were going to set a world record, but it was all bigger than that.....and we knew it. I teared up several times in the early morning hours thinking about what we where doing and what it was all for and meant.......
For me the Hardest part was 1:30am, I was having some GI issues similar to you I imagine, I managed them with some Waterloo as well as Chicken and Stars Soup, one of my go to endurance event foods, Favorite Songs .....I love the Remix stuff, Armin remix of Jump and Faithless, can’t get no sleep.......and the Cyndi Lauper Time after Time Remix, to be honest :)
Thanks again for everything, life changing event and that is an understatement.
— Andrew Christman, Owner, Pedal, World Record Holder
I want to share how impressed I was with this event and team. My words feel so inadequate. Megan and Ryan, I love the planning side of big events as well as the execution. I thought that you were just phenomenal in both. To everyone else, never having met a single one of you beforehand, I am humbled by the camaraderie and teamwork displayed. The encouragement and pats on the back- both literal AND figurative- before, during, and after the ride blew me away. Thank you. I was there to represent SRAM, but if that’s true, it was simply the most incredible business trip of my career! It was way more.
— Dave Schweikert, SRAM, World Record holder
When I arrived for my volunteer shift on Monday morning, I really wasn’t expecting to see all 25 riders still on their bikes, but not one rider had dropped out! Amazing...since they had already been riding for 24 hours and were still going strong. I think this was a result of great leadership, athleticism, positive attitudes, willpower, teamwork, and camaraderie. It was very exciting to watch and awesome to see the team break the world record. Congratulations!
— Maureen Massidda, World Record Volunteer

Jeffco DA’s Office Declines To Charge Driver with New Vulnerable Road User Law

By Maureen Massidda, Content & Connections Director

Judge’s Hands Tied at Sentencing Due to Plea Deal

“It’s really shameful that laws were not appropriately applied and sentencing guidelines watered down in this instance.” R. Hill

“People get punished more for hitting other cars than they do for hitting people. Disgusting.” Mc Crowell

“She caused a permanent head injury to a cyclist, and she gets community service? Not enough.” M. Willimas

“As a cyclist who's also been hit, this is frustrating and pisses me off that the purpose of the new law was ignored. Can’t she at least be made to repaint bike lanes or forced to log those hours riding a bike in traffic to hopefully increase her awareness and that hitting a cyclist is a big deal?” D. Miller

“There’s no lesson in that sentence. What I don’t understand is if there is a new law on the books why was the old law used?” P. McCarthy

Outrage, disappointment, and disbelief. Those are just some of the sentiments cyclists are expressing via social media channels after the Jeffco DA’s Office decided not to charge a driver with Colorado’s new VRU law, aka, careless driving resulting in serious bodily injury (SBI) to a cyclist, which by definition is a vulnerable road user (VRU). Instead, the DA’s Office offered the 19-year old driver a plea deal charging her with careless driving resulting in injury, a mere 4-point violation.

The driver walked out of court without losing her driver’s license. She is headed off to vet tech school in Las Vegas, NV where she will be able to keep driving her car around cyclists and other vulnerable road users. She will not have to take public transportation, ride a bike, or walk to get around. Her life will not be impacted like that of the cyclist she hit.

However, every aspect of the cyclist’s life has been disrupted following the crash:  work, sleep, health, training, and social activities.  The cyclist, our very own Megan Hottman, sustained serious bodily injuries to her left knee and a concussion. Her injuries required two MRIs, numerous appointments with specialists, and months of physical and vestibular therapy. She missed time from work and training due to her injuries and could not race the Transrockies Run for which she had been training since January. Doctors diagnosed her with post-concussive symptoms after headaches and nausea forced her to leave work repeatedly. Megan, who had perfect vision before the crash, now wears glasses due to visual disturbances from this collision. Her relationships suffered due to her erratic moods (typical in a brain injury) and inability to process information and emotions. The impact of these injuries is lifelong and will be part of Megan’s life going forward. 

If you have met Megan, you know that the bike is more than an avenue of recreation for her; it is her primary form of transportation. She rides her bike to work, the bank, doctors’ appointments, yoga, and the store. Her car sits in the garage for weeks at a time. She has ridden thousands of miles across the country, including the Midwest, Nebraska, Kansas, Missouri, rural North Carolina, downtown Manhattan in the heart of New York, and all over Colorado, including downtown Denver. Alone last year in 2018, she rode 10,000 miles on her bike.

On the day of the crash, May 29, 2019, Megan was commuting from work to her home on her e-bike, with a stop at the bank around 3:00 pm. Less than a mile from her house, on a road she uses daily, she was doing everything right: riding in the bike lane, wearing a white helmet, in broad daylight, not wearing headphones, looking over her shoulder for traffic, obeying traffic rules, etc. 

Photo taken by Arvada PD Drone

Photo taken by Arvada PD Drone

From behind, Megan became aware of a red Subaru approaching and glanced to her left to see the car’s turn signal on as the vehicle drew even right next to her.  Megan saw the driver looking ahead, not to her right, so Megan hit her brakes aware that the driver was about to make a right-hand turn directly in her path. The driver was 100 percent unaware that Megan was in the bike lane to her right.  

Megan was upset but relieved that she had been able to avoid a crash. She was then surprised by a second car immediately on the bumper of the first car. While Megan managed to avoid the first car, she was unable to take any evasive action when the driver of the second car turned right into Megan’s bike. This driver did not have her turn signal on. Megan had no chance to avoid her, and her left arm hit the right side mirror, breaking it off of the car. The bike went right, and Megan fell to her left “highside,” landing on the ground on her left hip and thigh.

Immediately, Megan felt the impact on her left femur bone. Her left forearm hurt from the mirror impact, and both knees also hurt, likely as a result of both hitting the top tube of the bike.  Megan remained on the ground perfectly still. The driver got out of her car, and Megan yelled at her to call the police. She could hear her fumbling for her phone and was saying “I’m so sorry, I’m so sorry.”  Megan yelled back that she had to check bike lanes for cyclists before turning right. 

She could hear people stopping and getting out of their cars coming over to check on her.  One of the first people on the scene was an off-duty EMT. He came over and asked Megan what hurt, did a check of her left hip, and then pushed on the area that hurt.  

In the moments after the crash, something occurred to her that she never thought about in all these years of representing injured cyclists:  “I felt ashamed, embarrassed, alone, and vulnerable there on the ground. I cried. I was aware of five or ten people standing over me.  I could see cars pulling over and stopping and heard sirens approaching. I was aware of the “Scene” taking shape around me. I wanted to disappear. It felt so awful,” says Megan. 

One thing that surprised Megan was how many spectators wanted to move her bike and belongings from the point of impact (POI).  Knowing they were trying to help, she politely declined. Again, and again, and again. She wanted the scene preserved and rightfully so- Arvada PD later brought out their drone to conduct overhead and scene investigation and measurements.  Had either the bike, or the car, been moved prior to that, there would have been no way for them to do their diligence in this regard. (So- note to bystanders, don’t move things at the scene, please, unless instructed to do so by the authorities on scene).

A fire truck arrived and blocked off the road.  Several Arvada PD cars came, followed by an ambulance. Paramedics put her on a stretcher and loaded her into the back of the ambulance.  They took her vitals and checked her leg to see if there was any bruising or a bone sticking out.

As soon as Megan could get her phone, she texted her ortho doctor and set up an appointment for the following morning. Knowing that she had made an appointment, paramedics released Megan from the ambulance. 

Ironically, on that that very day, just a few hours earlier, Governor Polis had signed Senate Bill 19-175 into law which increases the penalties for careless driving resulting in SBI to a VRU. 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.”

 When local bike advocates and lawmakers proposed this law and got it signed into law, the intent was to revoke the privilege of driving from someone who hits and harms a cyclist, so that they may be forced to ride a bike, or walk, or use public transit to get around for a period of time. “Until drivers lose their privilege of driving, and have to ride bikes or walk to get around, the driving behavior towards cyclists doesn’t change,” says Megan.  Of course the law is also intended to punish the driver, and to cause some mild inconvenience in their life, a mild fraction of the inconvenience and pain the collision caused to the injured cyclist.

The DA has a low burden of proof (BOP) to utilize the VRU law: They need only prove (1) careless driving (same as they would normally do for a four-point careless charge) (2) plus SBI (doctor signs a form saying injuries were serious bodily injuries, a term of art as defined by statute) (3) plus VRU (cyclists are defined as VRUs so this is met automatically). 

The facts in this case are clear in our opinion:

  1.  Arvada police cited the driver with careless driving causing injury.

  2. Megan’s doctor provided a signed SBI statement confirming that her injuries rose to the level of serious bodily injury. He checked TWO boxes, noting fracture and impairment of the use of the knee.  

  3. Cyclists are defined as VRUs, so Megan was a VRU.

Yet, the DA’s Office decided not to charge the driver with the new law or take this case to trial. We take serious issue with that. Megan asked the DA’s Office to elevate the charge against the driver using C.R.S. 42-4-1402.5, the VRU law, which if convicted, would mean the driver loses 12 points on their license, and the Department of Motor Vehicles would revoke their license for a period of time. Instead, the DA’s Office offered the driver the four-point careless charge causing injury as a plea bargain.

Wondering why? This decision was made because DA Office staff members disputed Megan’s SBI despite the SBI form signed by her orthopedic doctor.  He would never put his professional credibility on the line if he did not read the statutory definition of SBI and agree with it. The staff was adamant that if the case went to trial on the VRU charge, they would “not prevail” on the element of SBI with the jury due to some remarks in Megan’s medical records that reference “normal knee.”  This overlooked the other pages and comments about the diagnosed tear in Megan’s knee, as well as the MRI findings which also diagnosed the tear in her knee.  

Due to the lesser charge of careless driving with injury, County Court Judge Harold Sargent was limited in his sentencing options. He did not have the authority or ability to take the driver’s license away.  He could only choose between fines, restitution, community service, or jail (which was not requested here). He ordered the driver to 50 hours of community service (Megan had asked for 200), nine months of unsupervised probation, and required her to take a road safety class. The judge assessed four points to her license.

Bike Jeffco strongly supported passage of the Vulnerable Road Users Bill. We thought it could help make our streets safer for cyclists and pedestrians. Its desired impact can’t be realized if it’s not applied in cases it’s designed for.
— Charlie Myers and the Bike Jeffco Board of Directors

It is disappointing and frustrating that the Jeffco DA’s Office is not on board with using the new law to protect cyclists and punish drivers who hit, harm, or kill them. Just one week before Megan’s case, in another case in Jeffco County, the DA’s Office offered the driver a plea deal. Our client suffered SBI including spinal fractures, a broken shoulder, and damage to his internal organs.  The DA’s Office decided to charge the VRU 12-point, but then offered the 8-point reckless charge to the driver. No license revocation.  No real setback. A mere $100 fine and 100 hours of community service.   

Megan has volunteered her time and energy to train Jeffco Sheriffs, Golden PD, Arvada PD, as well as providing a webinar on cycling law and safety to the DA Statewide Council. She sat on the 1st Judicial District Board and worked for a District Court Judge in Jefferson County.  She lives in Jefferson County, owns and operates a business there, and owns residential and commercial property in Jeffco. 

“I really felt like living and working here and being so involved in this community would count for something,” says Megan.

During sentencing, Judge Sargent addressed the driver.  He reminded her that she was very lucky she had not KILLED Megan, and that if she had, they’d be having a very different discussion.  He told the driver that she was not paying the degree of attention that Megan and other cyclists deserve. He asked how many cyclists have to be hit before drivers understand that cyclists use bikes as transportation and stated that we have to protect a vulnerable group. When addressing the community service he had ordered, Judge Sargent said he wanted the driver to find something meaningful and something that will benefit others in the cycling community. He told the driver that she cannot change what she did, but that she can change the future and have an impact. She can be the person who can tell others how easily cyclists can be hurt or killed.

Unfortunately, we do not believe that the driver’s behavior is going to change with just four points and 50 hours of community service. She will move on and forget all about this event, but Megan surely will not. “I don’t believe in this country we are going to have a change in driving behavior until drivers lose their privilege of driving for a period of time, whether it’s 30 days or six months. Someone who has to get around by bike, or get on the bus, or ride the light rail is going to be really careful how they drive around cyclists. It’s for that reason we have the new law,” said Megan when addressing the Court.

Imagine ten years from now. This driver will likely not recall any of this. However, if she loses her license at age 19 for several months, this lesson will stick with her for a lifetime. Maybe she will even tell her friends and family. And as a result of her losing her license, a lot more people would drive more carefully around cyclists. Driving is a privilege, and she should have lost it.

That is what we want, need, and demand from this county to make cycling safer.

We need DAs to stop giving plea deals to drivers. Charge the full 12-point violation or take it to trial. Period. This is the only way drivers lose 12 points, resulting in their driving privileges being revoked. We have a new, amazing law, and it is not being used.

A lot of people representing a variety of perspectives worked incredibly hard to craft and pass the Vulnerable User Law. This is a good law and it is very much needed in Colorado. Failure to implement the law undermines the efforts of those who worked so hard to pass it and more importantly, undermines the rights of the people the law is intended to protect.
— Pete Piccolo, Bicycle Colorado

This was an avoidable crash. It was not an “accident.” 

Drivers need to be held accountable!  And for the first time ever, we have a new law to accomplish that here, for any crash that occurs on or after 5/29/19.  

 Click here to view 9News’ coverage of the sentencing hearing.

TRANSCRIPT:

(UPDATED: TRANSCRIPT IS POSTED-CLICK BUTTON AT RIGHT). Our request for cameras in the courtroom was denied (because we were not notified of the hearing plan by the DA until 6:00pm the night before, and these requests require 24 hours processing time).

ELECTION 2020:

There are several DAs throwing their names in the ring to run for the 2020 Election of Jeffco’s new DA, now that Pete Weir’s 2 term limits prevent him from seeking re-election.  Stay tuned as we tell you which DA we believe will enforce this law and protect cyclists in 2020 and beyond.  

SUBMIT YOUR COMMENTS:

In the meantime, if you have a comment you’d like to submit to the Jeffco DA’s office, you can send it here: 

https://www.jeffco.us/FormCenter/District-Attorney-40/Contact-the-District-Attorneys-Office-138

 

Finally — a note from Megan: to those who believe that only pushing for more bike infrastructure is the way, and that focusing on punishment is not effective. First, stop twitter-trolling and go do something productive.  Second, actually get involved doing something, join a committee, donate money to groups like Bicycle Colorado and People for Bikes, attend meetings, vote in city council planning sessions and so on; get off your computer or smartphone and take some demonstrable action (otherwise, we don’t want your opinions). Bike infrastructure doesn’t magically appear. Third- it’s not mutually-exclusive. We can attack bike safety on both fronts, at the same time: put in more bike lanes and protected bike paths, AND also punish drivers who harm cyclists. BOTH.