Legality of Motorpacing in Colorado


Megan Hottman of www.TheCyclist-Lawyer.com

By Megan Hottman of www.TheCyclist-Lawyer.com
In response to some of the comments in this previous article on GoVelo Sports Motorpacing

Most counties in Colorado have adopted the “Model Traffic Code for Colorado” (i.e. CO Title 42) for regulation of vehicles and traffic. You can easily google the MTC to read it. Section 1008 governs following too closely, and section 1008.5 governs crowding or threatening a bicyclist. 1401 and 1402 govern careless/reckless driving. 1412 governs operation of bicycles. 1501-1504 govern motorcycles. (Both 1412 and 1504 discuss attaching oneself to another vehicle, so I don’t suggest as a cyclist holding onto the scooter that’s motorpacing you).

The reference to following another vehicle closely states: “The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon and the condition of the highway.”

Notice the code section refers specifically to “the driver of a motor vehicle.” (In Colorado a bicycle is treated as a vehicle for legal purposes –See C.R.S. 42-4-1412(1), “every person riding a bicycle shall have all of the rights and duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle under this article…”). One could argue that a cyclist is a vehicle, not a “motor vehicle” and therefore cannot be guilty of following too closely. One could also argue that since the driver of the scooter and the cyclist are working together, and are obeying the laws, staying over to the right side of the road, and able to communicate with one another, that they are acting, “reasonably and prudently.”

If you are pulled over by a cop who does not buy these arguments, you may be cited/found guilty of a Class A traffic infraction ($15 to $100 fine, plus court costs and 4 points against your driver’s license).

Note: scooters over 50cc require plates, insurance and a motorcycle endorsement on the drivers license. So –don’t motorpace using a larger bike without these things, or else your fines and penalties will be much larger if you’re pulled over. Also note that while helmets are not required in Colorado, it won’t hurt your cause to have the scooter-driver wearing an approved motorcycle helmet (but- one that allows them to hear the cyclist well), and of course the cyclist should also be wearing a helmet. The scooter-driver wearing a bright reflective vest will also help, as would an orange flag on the back of the scooter.

The more the scooter driver and the cyclist look and act SAFE and IN CONTROL, the better the chance they will not be ticketed. What I mean by this is that if the scooter and cyclist are all the way to the right side of the road, if they are constantly aware of cars coming from behind and from the opposite direction, if they yield to traffic and generally conduct themselves in such a way as to avoid disrupting vehicular movement (versus causing a backup of cars behind them), then the police will probably not be too concerned with the activity. It goes without saying that, the less traffic on the road, the better, so choose routes that are on side roads or country roads where traffic will be minimal.

I do NOT recommend motorpacing behind a motor vehicle. My analysis above changes completely. I think drafting behind a car is dangerous because the driver cannot hear the cyclist, and also because traffic is less likely to understand the dynamic- so it is more likely that cars would not pass or would be upset by a car traveling at a speed under the speed limit. It is also harder for other cars to pass a car on narrow roads because the car will take the entire lane, whereas a scooter can squeeze over to the right. I think police are highly likely to ticket a cyclist and/or driver for motorpacing with a vehicle due to safety concerns. It is harder for other cars to see a cyclist following a car closely, so the risk to the cyclist increases significantly when he/she is sitting on the bumper of a car. Bob Mionske covers this topic here:

http://velonews.competitor.com/2007/01/news/legally-speaking-with-bob-mi...

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10 Comments

Thanks for the article.

Thanks for the article. Wondering if you have, or could, do the same analysis for wearing headphones while cycling? I thought it was illegal to wear headphones when driving or operating a motorcycle- if so wouldnt it also be illegal to wear while riding a bike if they are held to same standards? Also, what about in a civil matter involving a bike crash - could operating a bike while wearing headphones change the outcome or award of damages in a civil case? Just curious.

the headphone thing is even

the headphone thing is even worse recently as the current fad (students are back, sigh) is for those giant over-the-ear headphones rendering the wearer completely insensible to their surroundings. I see at least a half dozen examples of this daily (yes, I do live near campus, why do you ask?). They also preclude helmet use owing to their size, and are often paired with some species of jankety unsafe fixed gear conversion.

I've taken to avoiding the bike paths altogether in favor of surface streets with bike lanes. I'd rather take my chances with the drivers since there's a smaller incidence of pure randomness, and I can (usually) predict when a car driver is about to do something dumb.

response to headphone inquiry

1411. Use of earphones while driving.

(1) (a) No person shall operate a motor vehicle while wearing earphones.
(b) For purposes of this subsection (1), “earphones” includes any headset, radio, tape player, or other similar device which provides the listener with radio programs, music, or other recorded
information through a device attached to the head and which covers all of or a portion of the ears. “Earphones” does not include speakers or other listening devices which are built into protective headgear.
(2) Any person who violates this section commits a class B traffic infraction.

illegal for motor-vehicle; but not all vehicles ?

I notice a very distinct wording in "motor vehicle". It is my understanding that bicycles are expected / upheld to all laws concerning vehicles, but not ones specifically stating motor vehicles as a bicycle is legally recognized as only a vehicle and not motor vehicle. One major difference between the two being that a motor vehicle requires permission to operate on public roads.

At least that is my understanding after reading through the CRS multiple times and reading Bob Mionske's book.

If my understanding is correct; then wearing earphones while operating a vehicle (not motor vehicle) is not specifically outlawed.

Earphone police?

Sure, I get it. Riders who don't like earphones, don't like it when other riders wear earphones.

Aside from the legality of wearing earphones (I'm not sure if it is legal), as an adult, do I really need my mother as well as all of you telling me not to wear my earphones? I'm going to wear them for one reason: I like listening to music while I ride. Done, end of story.

Tom I think you are making a

Tom I think you are making a broad assumption here. I wear ear phones some times and also like to listen to music. I do it when I am riding by myself. I do not really care what other riders do, up to a point. It does drive me nuts all the A$$ clowns I see wearing head phones on group rides, like say the Bus Stop ride in Boulder.

It bothers me for 2 reasons, first people have become so socially retarded they cannot talk to others these days. We no longer talk, we text, we are friends on Facebook, we tweet, but god forbid we talk to other humans, even people we do not know. This is my own personal ax to grind, but man racing is full of socially retarded people. Secondly it is dangerous to the whole group. I could care less what risks you take on your own, got for it, enjoy the ride, fine with me. But once we get into a big pack, riding quickly, packed tightly tougher, and on public roads, IMO head phones have no place. Part of the safety in a pack is your senses, including hearing, like your ability to hear a rider coming up next to you, or a car doing the same, or someone saying something like "on your left". If you have the music on to the point you can hear the music, you have diminished your ability to be safe. There was pro in CO a while ago who was totally death in one ear and it was pretty easy to tell which on, based on how he rode, he just did not have the same sense for other riders on his death side.

Just an observation, but often some of the worst riders on a ride like the BS ride are the ones wearing head phones. Maybe there is a correlation, maybe there is not.

Also, in addition to hearing

Also, in addition to hearing impairment I peronally think riders should be focused and riding defensively at all times (just like automobile drivers should as well) and music is just too distracting. I am not going to be anyone's "mother" and I dont tell riders I pass not to listen to music. I just think riders should be aware of the dangers they are creating for themselves and other riders and the negative image it creates in the mind of auto drivers and the public - again - just my opinion- since the majority of riders now listen to music, I am in the minority and sad to say probably "old school."

"Motor" pacing behind another cyclist

Great synopsis of the issues dealing with motorpacing behind a two-wheeled, motorised vehicle. The funny thing is I really don't see how this is any different, from a legal standpoint, from riding in a paceline or peloton. Heck there are more than a few people in Boulder that could effectively "motor" pace a less conditioned athlete with similar effect and I highly doubt they'd ever be questioned. If the issue really boils down to following too closely, then any type pack riding would technically be illegal. I think it's cool as long as they obey traffic laws and show respect to other road users - just like ALL cyclists should!