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Legal Review: Cyclists to Proceed at Red Lights as Colorado Lawmakers Consider Bill

In most states, cyclists must follow the same traffic rules as other road users while on the road. These rules include stopping at a stop sign or a red light.

This requirement will soon be a thing of the past in Colorado when the legislature finalizes work on a bill that aims to allow cyclists to proceed at a red light when the road is clear.

This law is not unique to Colorado. It was first introduced in Idaho, which explains its name, “Idaho law.” Other states such as Arkansas, Oregon, Delaware and Washington, D.C. adopted this rule through house bills that received bipartisan support across the states.

Changes You May Expect

Under “Idaho law,” cyclists must slow down to 10 mph when approaching a stop sign and proceed if the road is clear of vehicles and pedestrians. By passing this law in Colorado, the Senate will negate the need for a cyclist to come to a complete stop as other vehicles do at a red light. However, the cyclist is required to stop for a moment to check if the road is clear before proceeding. If there are pedestrians or vehicles, the cyclist will have to stay put until the road is clear.

While the bill has received much support among lawmakers in the states where this law is operational, some lawmakers still view this bill as dangerous, and that it exposes cyclists to undue danger. According to Rep. Richard Holtorf, the bill is unsafe and called for a staying of laws requiring cyclists to stop as other vehicles do. However, according to Rep. Matt Gray, a supporter of the bill, other states that have adopted this bill would not have done so if the bill was unsafe.

It Is Safe and Inexpensive

Statistics show that the bill does not pose any more danger to cyclists. In the states where this law is operational, statistics do not show an increase in accidents involving cyclists after implementing these laws. Available data shows a reduction in accident rates in those states.

Local campaign groups such as Bicycle Colorado have been the power behind this bill. According to Bicycle Colorado, director of communications Jack Todd, intersections are the most dangerous places for cyclists, pedestrians, and people using wheelchairs. Todd believes that implementing this law will allow cyclists time to get out of the potentially dangerous situation.

Other Cities Consider the Law

In 2015, cycling advocates in London suggested that the city adopt the Idaho model, citing that it was much easier to implement instead of using technology to turn red lights green for cyclists when they approach a red light. The technology involves using radio frequency identification tags attached to the bike. As the bike approaches a red light, the radio frequency communicates with the bike automatically and turns the red light green for the cyclist. London is yet to pass laws allowing cyclists to ride through a red light.

“Regardless of the law, cyclists are safest when they pay attention to their surroundings and maintain a safe speed on the roadway,” says injury lawyer Amy Gaiennie of Amy G Injury Firm. “If the law goes through, bicycle riders should be sure to be extra cautious in intersections and anywhere they may encounter hidden vehicles or pedestrians.”

Even with the creation of these laws, cyclists still remain quite vulnerable while on the road, which calls for extra caution for cyclists while enjoying the privilege. Moving forward, other jurisdictions will have to weigh vulnerability concerns along with the merits of giving cyclists individual discretion in their decisions to ride.

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