A case study on cyclists’ positioning at intersections with turn lanes

We learned of a cycling case currently pending in Denver County Traffic Court, and it has us all scratching our heads here at 303cycling…

A few months ago, a cyclist was hit and injured near the intersection of East Tufts and DTC Blvd in Denver.

The cyclist was riding to work and was headed southbound on S. DTC Blvd. This intersection has 4 lanes: a dedicated right turn lane, a turn/through lane, and two dedicated through lanes. The cyclist intended to proceed straight through the intersection towards his workplace.

Pursuant to C.R.S. 42-4-1412(5)(a)(III), a cyclist is to ride in the right-hand lane, except “upon approaching an intersection where right turns are permitted and there is a dedicated right-turn lane, a bicyclist may ride on the left-hand portion of the dedicated right-turn lane even if the bicyclist does not intend to turn right.”

According to the police report, the cyclist in this case was riding exactly where the statute instructs –he was on the far left side of the dedicated right-turn lane.

A car approached the cyclist from behind at a stated speed of 30mph, overtook him and squeezed into the same lane with him (violating the 3-foot law) and then proceeded to turn right (attempting to go westbound on E. Tufts). The result was that she sideswiped the cyclist, knocking him over, and he sustained a broken clavicle and other injuries, as well as damage to his bicycle.

Interestingly, Denver Police issued a citation to the cyclist –for careless driving. Notably, Denver Police did not cite the motorist, despite her obvious violation of the Colorado 3-foot law (C.R.S. 42-4-1003). Arguably, she also violated Denver Municipal Code sections 54-200 (Multiple Turns), 54-208 (Turning Movements), and 54-228 (Denver’s 3-foot rule when passing cyclist).

The cyclist’s position also complied with Bike Denver’s instructional bike map, which includes a section called “on-street bikeways.” It states, “Use appropriate lane. Avoid being in a right turn-only lane if you plan to proceed straight through.”

We spoke with TheCyclist-Lawyer Megan Hottman, attorney for the cyclist. She stated, “My client was following the rules and laws. The motorist was not. It is difficult to imagine how a cyclist could be at fault when he is overtaken by a motorist from behind, who then passes and proceeds to turn into him. I’m not sure there’s anything my client could possibly have done to avoid this collision.”

Hottman informed us that the careless driving charge against her client was dismissed, but an added charge of “unlawful lane use” (54-234) is pending. She states that the City Attorney also wants to add a charge of “Application of Traffic Laws” (54-565). This section essentially says that cyclists shall have all the rights and duties applicable to drivers of vehicles.

Update -Just heard that the city attorney is adding 5 new charges to the cyclist?!?!

We look forward to hearing more about this case, and hope that the Denver County City Attorney’s office will do the right thing and either dismiss the charges against the cyclist, or issue a citation to the driver for her driving violations (or both).

News Item: 


Looks like you don't get it

Looks like you don't get it Mr. DTC.

Bike rider = exactly where should have been

The car was behind and in the same lane as the cyclist.

Fault is of the driver in the vehicle.


"According to the police report, the cyclist in this case was riding exactly where the statute instructs –he was on the far left side of the dedicated right-turn lane.

A car approached the cyclist from behind at a stated speed of 30mph, overtook him and squeezed into the same lane with him"

this is outrageous - the onus

this is outrageous - the onus is/should be on any road user to operate their vehicle safely. it doesn't matter if someone else is or isn't in the 'wrong' lane, that's not a license to hit them at 30mph. failing in that responsibility is more serious than being in the wrong lane, if that was even the case at all. what are these idiots in the attorney's office smoking?

Ride in the lane that goes stright

I agree "The onus is/should be on any road user to operate their vehicle safely." Not only that but every road user, cyclist or driver, is responsible for whatever they drive into or run over. This needs to be drilled into the heads of every one who uses the road. Instead what we have are drivers who feel they own the road and anything going slower then them, car, cyclist, pedestrian or animal should get out of their way. That being said the cyclist should have been riding in the middle of the right turn optional lane no matter what the statute said. The driver of the car is responsible for hitting the cyclist and should have to pay for all the damages and legal liabilities.

First of all, I agree with

First of all, I agree with everyone that the driver should have been cited. Regardless of what the cyclist was doing, sideswiping him should have been cited for what it was: reckless driving and violation of the 3-foot law.

That said, I'm not sure I understand what the cyclist was doing on the left side of the right-turn only lane:

I assume he came south under I225 - rather than exiting I225 - and therefore, should have been positioned on the right side of the second-to-leftmost lane once the two two-lanes of DTCblvd and I225 offramp merged. Therefore, in order to be at the left side of the right-turn-only lane just before Tufts, he would've had to cross one full lane (the right-turn-optional lane).

Why would you move right across the right-turn-optional-lane if you intended to go straight? You're already ideally positioned to continue straight past Tufts. From the perspective of a driver, it looks like you were trying to turn right, but then changed your mind at the last minute.

I'm not trying to defend the driver. However, I'm not sure I agree that the cyclist is strictly a victim in this case.

Driver in the Wrong

Everyone seems very reactionary here: regardless of what the facts might be, the driver needs to be cited. Imagine yourself doing this: driving your car down the eight lane road in DTC and planning on making a left turn where there are two left turn lanes, one dedicated, the other optional. You get into the optional one as the dedicated one is being used by a cyclist. Very kind of you. As you make your left turn (within the speed limit and looking around you) you notice the cyclist not turning left as one would assume but instead riding straight for your door. Now what do you do? The consensus here is that the driver should never have turned left since there was a cyclist in the dedicated left turn lane and he should have assumed that the cyclist would break the law (the argument that the cyclist is allowed to do this is absurd). What about cyclists at a four way stop? Do cars have to assume that cyclists will not stop at stop signs and be cited for hitting a cyclist running a stop sign? I am all for avoiding accidents at all costs but why is it a crime to assume that the other vehicle (the bike in this instance) will follow the law?.

I was thinking about this

I was thinking about this unfortunate situation as I was riding out east yesterday. I think one of the biggest challenges we all face here is the incredible inconsistency of both bicycling infrastructure and the understanding and enforcement of vehicle code by the random patchwork of state, county and municipal systems you're likely to ride through on any given 50 mile day.

Most of the marked bike shoulders in Lafayette (for instance - see Baseline near the 95th intersection for a good example) are all on the far right side of all the travel lanes, including the right turn lanes. There's not even one of those dotted-line "merge" markers. So what's the inference here? To me the intent of that municipality is quite clear - bikes are consigned to a "second class" vehicle status in that particular sector of Boulder County and their preference is that we'd huddle in the gutter until the extreme last minute, then risk being right-hooked by traffic turning into any one of the heavily populated subdivisions serviced by the right turn lanes.

It's the same way up on the (newly constructed) Sheridan Parkway out in Weld / Broomfield County, with the added bonus of clearly marked "bicycle" stencils on the shoulders, and no provision for escaping the right turning traffic (again, it is clearly implied by the location of the marked shoulder that bikes have no right to the "travel" or "turn" lanes). Dillon east of 287 varies dramatically from brand new wide paved shoulders, to absolutely nothing - the white line is essentially a centimeter away from a ragged drop onto a steep gravel embankment, with no warning and little clue that the "bike route" is ending. And this is on a busy, narrow 2-lane road on a very steep hill (and you can bet I won't take that route ever again).

As an extra cherry on top, when a municipality goes to the trouble of stenciling bicycle markers on a shoulder (or on a MUT), it seems to make the drivers feel even more entitled to tell you to "get off the road" because by golly, my tax dollars are paying for all that fancy stuff (I have a great deal of rage for that terrible MUT "ride your bike counterflow-on-the-sidewalk-we-double-dog-dare-you" configuration on Arapahoe Rd in east Boulder between Foothills and 55th for just this reason, but that's a whole other category of infrastructure idiocy).

So with such patchy understanding, infrastructure, and enforcement from community to community, and county to county (where a community like Blackhawk can somehow arbitrarily trump Colorado state vehicle altogether and just ban bikes), I really am not sure from a legal standpoint if there's any way to argue this effectively? (no idea, my legal background is all in corporate law).

Anyway just my $.02.

I would like to point out

That the article does not say where my client says he was riding- that's because the case is still Pending and it would not be appropriate for us to volunteer facts about his conduct until it is closed. The article was trying -I think -to say that the police report on its face shows the cyclist was riding in a place on the road that the law permits. So if the report shows law compliant behavior, why were charges filed? Careless driving when the report puts the cyclist in a law compliant position makes no sense. That was the point.
We will update the story once it's closed with details about what my client actually did and I think that will shed a lot of light on the comments posted thus far.

Lets try this tip from Bike

Lets try this tip from Bike Denver

1) Follow the Rules of the Road

point 1 Ride with traffic and obey the same laws as motorists.
point 2 Use the rightmost lane that heads in the direction that you are traveling.
point 3 Obey all traffic control devices, such as stop signs, lights, and lane markings.
point 4 Always look back and use hand and arm signals to indicate your intention to stop, merge or turn.

As a not dumb cyclist, I take my lane, do not ride in the gutter or sidewalk, and make sure I don't put myself in a situation where I would get hit by a car if I were driving in a car.

Be predictable. If there is an extra optional turn lane and you are in the dedicated turn lane expect to get hit.

Captain Obvious