The data is clear: Pedestrians and cyclists throughout Colorado are in danger. In recent years, pedestrian and cyclist deaths have increased significantly. In 2017 and 2018, 92 and 90 pedestrians were killed, respectively, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT).
Sixteen cyclists were killed in 2017, and 22 were killed in 2018. Both pedestrian and cyclist traffic deaths have hit all-time highs for the state, and, without doing more, the rate of pedestrian and cyclist deaths will likely increase in 2019.
Fortunately, the State of Colorado is taking steps to reduce traffic fatalities. To better protect pedestrians, cyclists, and roadside workers, Gov. Jared Polis signed SB 175, which increases the penalty for injuring cyclists, pedestrians, and others.
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SB 175 Increases Criminal Charge for Careless Driving
SB 175, Serious Bodily Injury Vulnerable Road User Penalties, which was signed into law on May 29, 2019, increases the level of the criminal charge for certain careless driving offenses. If a motorist’s careless driving seriously injures a “vulnerable road user,” it is now a Class 1 misdemeanor.
A vulnerable road user is defined in the law as:
- A pedestrian;
- A person engaged in work upon a roadway or upon utility facilities along a roadway;
- A person providing emergency services within a right-of-way;
- A peace officer who is outside a vehicle and performing their duties in a right-of-way;
- A person riding or leading an animal;
- A person lawfully using a bike, electric bike, tricycle, other pedal vehicle, farm tractor or other farm vehicle, skateboard, roller skates, in-line skates, scooter, moped, motorcycle, off-highway vehicle, animal-drawn wheeled vehicle, sled, electric personal assistive mobility device, wheelchair, baby stroller, or nonmotorized pull wagon on a public right-of-way, crosswalk, or shoulder of the roadway.
Penalties for this Class 1 misdemeanor can include fines, incarceration, a driver improvement course, up to 320 hours of community service, restitution, and a one-year license suspension. Class 1 misdemeanors can be punished with fines between $500 and $5,000 and between six and 24 months in jail.
What Else Is Colorado Doing to Protect Cyclists?
Before making major changes, CDOT is utilizing community-involved studies to determine appropriate strategies to protect vulnerable road users. These studies are taking place in Kremmling, Buena Vista, Salida, Woodland Park, and other areas. What may come of these studies depends on the results, but Colorado is considering bike highways, slower speed limits, narrower lanes, and bike lanes.
Denver is already working on several new high comfort bikeways and hopes to have many completed by 2020. The proposed sites are:
- Green Valley Ranch Road from Tower to Picadilly Roads
- Clayton Street from 40th to 52nd Avenues
- S. Marion Street, E. Virginia to E. Bayaud Avenues
- N. Crown Boulevard from E. Albrook Drive to E. 56th Avenue
- City Park Esplanade from 16th to 17th Avenues
- E. Princeton Avenue from Eastmoor to Tamarac Drives
- Central Park Boulevard from Montview Boulevard to 36th Avenue
- W. 23rd Avenue from Speer to Federal Boulevards
There were also several completed projects in 2018, including additional and improved bike lanes.
Another step Colorado took to improve cyclist safety was to enact the Stop-as-Yield law, also known as the Safety Stop law. The state law gives individual communities the right to allow a certain maneuver many cyclists use to keep themselves safe. Instead of coming to a full stop at stop signs or red lights, many cyclists come to a rolling stop, review the intersection, and proceed when it is safe to do so.
This does not give cyclists the right to run stop signs and red lights in Colorado. The law regarding traffic signals and signs as well as the right of way remains in effect. But communities can choose to allow cyclists to perform rolling stops, which can help cyclists become more visible to vehicles and get out of their way faster.
Were You Struck by a Vehicle While on Your Bike?
If you were hit by a car while riding your bike in the Denver area, you should contact an experienced Denver personal injury lawyer right away. The negligent driver may or may not be charged with a crime. This depends on the information the police gather and the prosecutor’s discretion.
Whether or not they face a crime or are convicted, you may have a strong claim for compensation. Jennifer Donaldson can guide you in pursuing a financial recovery through an insurance claim and personal injury lawsuit. To learn more about your legal options after a car-bike crash, contact Donaldson Law, LLC at (303) 458-5000.