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Driving You Crazy: When passing a bicyclist, shouldn't the driver behind them yield to oncoming traffic?

Passing bike rider
Posted at 5:43 AM, Oct 10, 2023
and last updated 2023-10-10 11:53:50-04

Steve from Bellvue writes, “What's driving you crazy? Driving on Rist Canyon Road, and plenty of other 2 lane roads in Colorado, I am continually forced to brake and pull to the right when an approaching vehicle pulls into my lane to pass a biker or walker. Don’t get me wrong, I have no problem with bikes or pedestrians. I am happy to give them plenty of space and always do but isn’t it the vehicle that has an obstruction that should yield?”

I see this all the time too, especially on Daniels Park Road in Douglas County. All of a sudden, there is someone in my lane going around a bike rider. While that is the right move to make, considering Colorado’s 3-foot rule, the driver passing the bike rider needs to also yield to oncoming traffic.

Since you are up in Larimer County northwest of Fort Collins, I talked to the Larimer County Sheriff’s Office about what is the right way and wrong way to handle these situations. I specifically asked Traffic Safety Unit Sgt. Sam Roth, how should drivers handle passing bike riders or pedestrians on any roadway? He told me, “First, it is OK to pass a bike rider on a two-lane roadway across the double-yellow line, as long as it is safe to do so. But slow down when approaching a bicyclist or pedestrian in or near the roadway, only pass when safe to do so, and give the pedestrian or bicycle enough space.”

I followed up asking if these recommendations change on a mountain road like Rist Canyon? Sgt. Roth said, “No, the recommendations do not change, but cars should not be leaving their lane to pass a bicyclist around a blind curve and may have to wait for a wider part of the road or one with better visibility.”

When I talked to Brad Tucker, founder of the website ColoradoBikeLaw, he told me these confrontations, if not approached safely, could result in a life-or-death scenario. “If the passing can’t be done safely, then the motor vehicle driver must slow down and wait until they have time and space to safely pass the bicyclist. While that might possibly cost the driver a few seconds of time in reaching their final destination, failing to do that creates a dangerous and unacceptable risk to everyone involved.”

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Roth told me if there is a crash or incident in these situations, who would be at fault would all depend upon the circumstances of the crash. Typically he said, the driver that was in the incorrect lane would be at fault, but he added that it is difficult to provide a blanket "yes" or "no" answer as each crash is unique and circumstances can vary.

“If a LCSO deputy sees someone pass a bicyclist or pedestrian unsafely, they will definitely take enforcement action as we receive complaints of this nature from time to time,” Roth said.

Driving You Crazy: When passing a bike rider, shouldn't the vehicle that is behind them be the one to yield?

Denver7 Traffic Expert Jayson Luber says he has been covering Denver-metro traffic since Ben-Hur was driving a chariot. (We believe the actual number is over 25 years.) He's obsessed with letting viewers know what's happening on their drive and the best way to avoid the problems that spring up. Follow him on Facebook,Twitter or Instagram or listen to his Driving You Crazy podcast on any podcast app including iTunes, iHeartRadio, Spotify and Podbean.