Feb '11: Rubbing Elbows

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Ellen's picture

Rubbing Elbows: On the Street, Sidewalks, and Bike Paths: Peds, Bikes, Boards, Animals, and Cars on the Street

I. Examples of what can happen when someone in this mix is reckless:
(1)Examples from Group:

  • Turning right in a car and not seeing bikes as they come up on the sidewalk behind you and hitting the bike. Luckily no injury and cyclist made happy with $20 to fix bike.
  • Getting full body injuries from a car hitting you when they turn right in front of you when you have the right of way in a bike lane. Insurance did not pay.
  • Almost hitting a skateboarding going the wrong way against light in left lane when turning left in a car. Only saved because car windows down and heard the board coming.

(2) Details: Lighted intersection in Boulder and the bottom of a hill. Me in a car waiting to turn left. See an opening after light turns green and start to inch up. Summer so windows down and hear this horrible grating sound. Can't tell where it is coming from, so I stop and look around. Skate board flying down the hill to my left against traffic. I would have hit him if I hadn't heard him.

(3) Details: Turning right in car mid-block of busy four lane city street into side street. Checked the sidwalk over my right should and saw nothing, so execute turn . As I'm turning, I see a bicyclist come up to my right on the sidwalk and slam on his brakes shaking his fist at me. He had arrived so fast, I had not seen him when I had looked.

II. The Problem: Accidents that cause injury
From Longmont City Council report, data gathered for 2007-2009 "... About 73% of pedestrian crashes and 48% of bicycle crashes result in injury or worse. Bicycle and pedestrian crashes account for 3.5% of all crashes, yet caused 18.3% of injuries and 28% of fatalities."1
Cyclists and Cars in crashes

  • "71% of bicycles were riding 'against traffic' on sidewalks"
  • "72% of bicycle crashes were in an intersection or intersection related, 18% of crashes were at a driveway or alley access, and 10% of crashes were mid-block."
  • "The most common causes of bicycle crashes are inattention and failure to yield on the part of both bicyclists and motorists."

Peds and Cars in crashes

  • "In 2009 there were 17 pedestrian crashes, which is our lowest annual total since 1998"
  • "The two most common pedestrian actions were crossing at an intersection and crossing at a
    location other than an intersection, with each comprising about 37% of pedestrian crashes."
  • "Pedestrian crashes at intersections have been increasing in recent years."

Who was being reckless? Multiple persons?
Who had right of way? Pedestrians always have right of way (except when jay walking). Bikes and cars must yield.
What does the law say? Law (state and city) doesn't always cover all the specific issue, but most.

III. Law

Motorized bicycles, skateboards. Bicycles, sleds, tobaggons.
Every person riding a motorized bicycle where motorized bicycle travel is permitted or riding or leading an animal upon a roadway have the rights and duties and penalties applicable to the driver of a vehicle except for specific equipment requirements that are noted in Section 220 of the code. 2

In addition, no person shall use the highways for traveling on skis, toboggans, coasting on sleds, skates, motorized skateboards, or similar devices. Can't use local or state roadway as a sled or ski course. You can't ride a motorized skateboard on any roadway or street. You can only cross a roadway in a crosswalk when on roller skates or riding in or by means of any coaster, toy vehicle, or similar device and you are given the rights of a pedestrians. ”

Where suitable bike paths, horseback trails, or other trails have been established on the right-of-way or parallel to and within one-fourth mile of the right-of-way of heavily traveled streets and highways, riding on the highway or roadway may be prohibited.

Municipal Code 802 says that car drivers must yield to pedestrians at intersections, but pedestrians are not to suddenly launch themselves off a curb into oncoming traffic. Also, pedestrians crossing where there is no crosswalks or intersection must yield to cars.

Cyclists must yield to pedestrians. The same rules that apply to car drivers apply to them, except when they are riding on sidewalks and in crosswalks at which time they are to make themselves known to the pedestrian before overtaking.

IV. Controversy State Law Lets Bikes Ride in Crosswalks & not dismount
"We know that many of the accidents that occur at these crosswalks involve cyclists, and I worry about the safety of cyclists and I worry about whether it's reasonable to expect motorists to always see cyclists in time to stop," -- David Driscoll, avid cyclist and a member of the Boulder Transportation Advisory Board, which makes recommendations to the City Council.3

State law used to require riders to dismount at crosswalks. According to Dan Grunig, executive director of Bicycle Colorado, the state's largest nonprofit cycling advocacy group, the law was changed in 2005 because some riders hit by cars in crosswalks were being partially blamed for the accidents when they didn't dismount as required. Unfair to riders who otherwise were in a protected zone. The victim was getting blamed.


  • Distinguish between mid-block crosswalks and crosswalks at intersections.
  • Dismounting your bike does not mean that you are looking. Some pedestrians don't look, either.
  • The point is, to slow down and look and make an informed decision.
  • Low-peak times when no one is coming you use common sense to judge the relative danger of crossing against a light or mid-block with no crosswalk. Peds jaywalk.

Mid-block crosswalks are generally dangerous, with or without a light, and should be eliminated OR an alternative established like an underpass within a block or that crossing. Or make it easier for bikes and peds to get to a safer crossing situation. Design the streets and sidwalk to channel them in that direction.

Conclusion: Defensive driving, biking and walking.

V. Peds- Guidelines for Safety, Longmont City

  • Crosswalks are the safest place to cross streets. If there is no marked crosswalk, cross at the corner.
  • Never step off a curb suddenly. Although pedestrians have the right of way, yield to traffic closest to you and start crossing only when it is safe.
  • Cross directly from curb to curb, taking the shortest route possible. Be predictable when walking across streets. Obey pedestrian traffic signals.
  • Wait to cross the street until the "walk" symbol appears. As long as you enter the crosswalk with the "walk" signal, you may take as long as necessary to finish crossing. Traffic must continue to yield to you.
  • Watch for turning traffic when crossing at any intersection.
  • Make eye contact with drivers before stepping off the curb. Thank them for yielding to you with a friendly wave.
  • Motorcycles and bicycles must yield to pedestrians. Pedestrians should be aware of bicycles and motorcycles, just as they are of cars.
  • Most vehicle/ pedestrian accidents happen at night. Wear light-colored or reflective clothing when walking at night and carry a flashlight. "4

VI. Bikes- Guidelines for Safety, Longmont City

  • Stop at all stop signs and red lights. Set a good example by putting your foot down on the pavement to indicate a complete stop.
  • Yield to pedestrians at all times. This includes when you cross the crosswalk. When passing a pedestrian you must give them an audible signal - a bell or by calling out "passing."
  • Do not ride on sidewalks in business or commercial areas.
  • Be careful when riding across intersections from paths or sidewalks. Motorists do not expect you! Do not assume that you can go through the intersection because you have the green light! The safest thing to do is slow down considerably and look for cars before leaving the curb.
  • Ride responsibly. If you drive your car safely, why not be sure to do so on your bike?
  • Equip your bike correctly. Headlights and red rear reflectors are required if riding after sunset.
  • When riding in the street, be aware that many motorists are not used to driving around cyclists. Some of them honk because they are afraid of hitting you. In this situation, be courteous. Gestures and name calling are inappropriate. Instead, wave and smile.
  • Wear your helmet! Head injuries are devastating and wearing a helmet can prevent head injuries.
  • Be aware of changing road conditions. A little rain can make a BIG difference in the slickness of a road surface.
  • Keep your bike well-tuned.
  • Encourage new cyclists to ride safely. Show them safe routes and teach them how to make riding a weekly or daily habit rather than an annual tradition.5

VII. Winter biking: Be Visible and Predictable (The Buzz on Safe Winter Riding)

  • When snow and ice have accumulated in the bike lane, ride to the left, out of the bike lane. Ride in a straight line about two (2) feet to the left of the accumulated ice and snow.
  • Do not hug the piled up ice and snow on the right because you might weave left to avoid the accumulated snow and ice and into the path of a car and be unpredictable to passing motorists.
  • Caution at Intersections: Icy patches. Scan over your left shoulder for oncoming traffic before swerving to avoid., Prepare to stop and let traffic pass before proceeding.
  • Caution at Intersections: sand accumulations. Slow down and avoid leaning your bike as you make any turns.6

VIII. Bike Paths
Bikes must give right of way to pedestrians, but there is also a rule of respect for others who use the bike path.

  • Bikes: when riding on paths or sidewalks, be aware of pedestrians. Slow down; stop if necessary. Let them know that you are passing.
  • Peds: No guidelines found. Translate what we've learned about peds on streets.
  • Peds with Dogs: Clean up after your pet.6
  • Horses: No guidelines found. Same guidelines should be applied as for dogs? Horse diapers.

IX. Common sense?

  • Just because you have the right of way, it doesn't mean you shouldn't look out for danger and be defensive.
  • Keep your eyes open for traffic.
  • Keep to the right when possible.
  • If walking two or more abreast on a path, split up when you see oncoming traffic. Don't make them figure out how to get around you.
  • Don't let your dog wander across a bike path on a leash. Keep to the same side of the path as your pet.
  • Clean up after your horse immediately.

X. End Notes:

  1. 2009 Crash Report , Public Works and Natural Resources Department data presented to City Council, February 1, 2011 http://www.ci.longmont.co.us/city_council/agendas/index.htm
  2. http://www.ci.longmont.co.us/city_clerk/model_traffic/index.htm
  3. http://www.dailycamera.com/ci_14688659#ixzz1E9CrzqWG
  4. http://www.ci.longmont.co.us/public_works/transportation/walking.htm
  5. http://www.ci.longmont.co.us/public_works/transportation/BikingRulesofth...
  6. Buzz Feldma, http://www.bicyclelongmont.org/
  7. http://www.ci.longmont.co.us/pwwu/storm/scooppoop.htm


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