By Mike Raber, Board member of Bike Jeffco
There is a lot of misunderstanding about the recently passed amendment to the Colorado Safety Stop statute, so I am providing clarification.
The Colorado Bicycle Safety Stop law was enacted in 2019 as an opt-in statute for municipalities and counties to implement on a voluntary basis. The amended law changed the existing law effective statewide on April 13, 2022 when Governor Polis signed the bill. It has been shown to assist in reducing bicycle automobile collisions at intersections in those municipalities and counties where it was implemented. 8 states in addition to Colorado have adopted Safety Stop laws statewide with positive results for reducing collisions. Colorado State Patrol and Colorado Department of Highways statistics for the last several years document over 70% of bicycle & motor vehicle collisions happen at intersections. Collisions don’t happen between bicyclists and motor vehicles when bicyclists can cross an intersection when there is no traffic and it’s safe to proceed, this is what the 2019 statute provided for. Due to the confusion on where the 2019 statute was and was not adopted between municipalities and counties, the law was amended on April 13, 2022 to make it effective statewide to eliminate this confusion.
Additional pedestrian road crossing safety measures were added in this 2022 statute, but the bicycle provisions are basically the same as they were in the 2019 statute.
Here is the short version of what the law says regarding bicycles proceeding through a controlled intersection:
At red lights, a bicyclist must always come to a complete stop and stay stopped if traffic is present. A bicyclist can only proceed thought the red light after stopping if it is safe to proceed. This applies to right hand turns, proceeding straight through an intersection, or turning left onto a one-way street which goes left. A bicyclist cannot proceed through a red light when turning left at a standard intersection.
At stop signs a bicyclist must stop if traffic is present, then proceed when clear after stopping. A bicyclists can treat the stop sign as a yield sign and proceed through the intersection if no traffic is present and it is clear to continue without stopping. The cyclist’s speed riding though the stop sign should be 10 mph or less, but municipalities and counties can raise the ride-through speed up to 20 mph if they post signage indicating that at the intersection.
The Colorado Safety Stop law of 2019 and modified in 2022 took into consideration infrastructure issues on our roadways that do not accommodate bicycle transportation. There are hundreds of thousands of traffic signals that do not detect bicyclists and therefore do not change when appropriate. While these signals can be upgraded to detect bicyclists, the cost usually exceeds $20,000 per intersection and take months or years to implement, so upgrading traffic lights has not been a timely solution to the intersection collision problem.
Allowing stop signs to act as yield signs when no traffic is present complements the Quiet Streets initiative being adopted in many municipalities to encourage bicyclists to ride traffic quiet side streets rather than higher speed traffic streets. The challenge with cycling quiet side streets is that they usually have stop signs every two blocks which has been a discouragement to riding those routes prior to the Safety Stop statute being adopted. With the implementation of the Colorado Safety Stop statute, no stop signs need to be removed or changed, and bicyclists can cycle quiet streets while maintaining forward motion when no traffic is present.