Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Clear Up Confusion on Bicycling in Old Town Fort Collins

By Rick Price
First published in the Fort Collins Coloradoan May 14, 2012

Last week a passenger in a car on College Avenue shouted at me to get off the street.  When the car stopped at a red light at College and Laporte Avenue I pulled up beside it and asked the occupants if they had spoken to me.  The young male passenger said, “yeah, get the [expletive] out of the road or at least keep to the right.”  
Photo compliments of Preston Tyree.
 I explained that College Avenue was too narrow to share and that diagonally parked cars constituted a hazard for bicyclists so I needed to stay at least six feet away from them, hence in the middle of the lane.  I also mentioned that his shouting at me constituted harassment and that I was going to report the license number of the car to the Colorado State Patrol.  The driver pleaded with me not to “put this on his license.”  I explained that since he was the driver he was responsible for the behavior of his passengers.  In reality you can shout anything you want at a bicyclist in Colorado as long as you don’t throw anything.  But I made my point.

There is still plenty of confusion about where we can ride our bicycles in Old Town Fort Collins.  Maybe it is time the City and the Downtown Business Association took steps to clear this up, especially for those who work in Old Town and who are in a position to help educate others.

When I mention the dismount zone to cyclists on the sidewalk in Old Town I’ve often had reasonable people ask me if I want them to “ride on College Avenue?”  When I say “yes,” they are incredulous and explain to me that it is illegal to ride on College.  We need to bust this myth once and for all:  it is illegal to ride on College Avenue only between Harmony Road and Laurel Street.  North of Laurel it is perfectly legal to ride on College and between Magnolia and Maple Streets it is actually safe since the speed limit is 25 miles per hour and College is, for all practical purposes, a parking lot.  You are safer pedaling College Avenue here than you are bicycling across the parking lot at Foothills Fashion Mall.  Admittedly you need to practice basic principles of vehicular cycling but you can learn these at www.BikeEd.org.

The City could help this situation in two ways: 1) publish a single panel flyer to explain where and how to bicycle in Old Town; 2) pass an ordinance, similar to ordinances in Los Angeles and Independence, Missouri, where it is illegal to harass “any person riding a bicycle, walking, running, or operating a wheelchair” by shouting or otherwise directing “loud or unusual sounds toward such person.”

Yes, it would be difficult to enforce such an ordinance.  But the publicity alone would go far to make Old Town a safer place to ride a bicycle.  

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