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: 


riding in the dedicated right turn lane

I face this issue every day in my commute: double lane turns, with the inside lane dedicated and the outside lane optional. I do not think that the law was intended to allow a cyclist to ride in the dedicated lane when there is also an optional lane. More to the point, anyone who does this is a bit insane. Having a right to do something and risking death while doing so are two different things. I ride in the middle of the optional turn lane, often infuriating drivers and receiving one-fingered salutes and accompanying commentary but I am alive. I will live with that!

right turn lanes

I want to make clear that my comment does not mean that cars allowed to plow over cars and violate the 3 foot law simply because a cyclist may or may not be following the law. Not citing the driver is bizarre, particularly for Denver. Larimer makes more sense.

A question came up during a

A question came up during a ride a few weeks ago; Does bicycling make you a better driver? My experience has been that I am much more aware of the road around me when I'm behind the wheel. I can anticipate other drivers and know where to look for potential trouble. This skill was developed on a bike.
If this is the case, I might propose that courts require drivers, like this lady who ran the bicycle off the road, to spend some time on a bike to better understand the safety concerns unique to bicyclists. Of course, she could end up being more of risk to the general well-being than it's worth.
There's a frustration on the part of drivers and commuters with respect to bicycles, and until they are made aware of the reasons why we do what we do as bicyclists, then the frustration will continue to fester. And, bike riders need to continue following the rules of the road and make sure we are doing our part, and not contributing to the frustration.

Bikers are generally OBNOXIOUS!!!

Share the road?..... how about ride where its SAFE! Roads were and never would be built only for the use of bikes, they were built for CARS! There are MANY places where bicyclists can ride off the road safely, I know, I use them. I live in an area in Utah where books actually publish "great riding roads" while it may be pretty, these roads are so twisty, turny that I do not allow my children to walk on the shoulder. On roads that are wider and have a dedicated walk/bike lane (there are no sidewalks) when I walk with my children, or push my baby in a stroller and "get in the way" of bikers, they make the snidest, rudest comments! They are driving into MY neighborhood (cause they can't afford to live there) and put ME and MY CHILDREN at risk?! I would have to say that it has taken any sympathy or empathy I have for any biker away. My opinion? STAY OFF THE ROAD, YOU ARE CAUSING PROBLEMS!! Or here's a thought, bike in your own neighborhood, and STAY OUT OF MINE!

I used to work in DTC and

I used to work in DTC and commuted by bike through this exact intersection 2-3 times a week. Never did I ride in the dedicated right-turn lane with the intention of proceeding straight through the intersection. I always rode in the optional right-turn lane. This is the manner in which I proceed through any double right turn lane intersection.

I have to disagree with 303Cycling's position on this accident. C.R.S. 42-4-1412(5)(a)(III) does not state anything regarding the situation described. C.R.S. 42-4-1412(5)(a)(III) applies only to the situation where there is A dedicated right-turn lane. It does not address the situation where there is a dedicated right-turn lane AND and optional through/right-turn lane. You must read the plain language of the statute to interpret it. If the statute were intended to apply this particular situation, the result would be absurd. It is illogical that drivers turning right in an optional right-turn lane would have to yield to cyclists riding in the dedicated right-turn lane who may be proceeding directly across a lane of traffic to continue through an intersection.

I believe that as a cyclist, you must always think about how your actions will be interpreted by drivers and you must make intelligent choices despite what the rules allow you to do i.e. use reasonable care while operating your bike. Riding in a dedicated right-turn lane with the intention of proceeding across an optional right-turn lane in order to continue straight through an intersection creates a very confusing situation for drivers. I think the cyclist got caught in an unsafe and confusion situation here and made a mistake.

I agree with you 100%. I got

I agree with you 100%. I got involved with this discussion on the Facebook page:
I'd also like to point out this statement in the article:
"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.” "
This contradicts itself and the rest of the article. The entire article is about a cyclist who went straight while in a right turn lane, the exact opposite of what Bike Denver reccommends.
The article doesn't mention if the driver was or wasn't signaling, so it's hard to say that she was actually commiting a lane violation. The mention of her violating the 3-foot-law is laughable. If the bicyclist had turned right like 99% of drivers would have anticipated, he would have had plenty of space. She turned into the optional turn lane, he rode straight and collided right into her.
It's tragic that he got hurt, and I wish this situation hadn't happened, but that doesn't mean that he's blameless. I'm not against biking, or bicyclists. In fact, I ride my bike to work most days. I see carelessness, violations, and bad judgement on both sides all the time. The best thing about this article is the title; it's a case study. But the authour immediately jumped to the side of the bicyclist. The CRS regarding biking laws, particularly at intersections with an optional turn lane, should be reconsidered and that's what case studies are for. Maybe this discussion will cause that change, and bicyclists in the future won't be injured because they're following a rule that they think makes them safe, when in fact, it confuses drivers and makes them less-so.