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

Help Us Spread the Word!


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!



Bike lane bill: senate judiciary committee


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.