DENVER — One day after loved ones tearfully remembered their friend who was killed cycling in Lakewood and the driver was sentenced to prison, the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) announced the installation of new bicycle safety signs on state roadways.
The signs are going up around the state to remind drivers of Colorado's "Three-Foot Law," which requires drivers to give bicyclists at least three feet of space between the widest part of their vehicle — typically the side mirror — and the widest part of the bicyclist. Colorado is one of 35 states that have a statute in place requiring the three-foot clearance.
CDOT is partnering with Bicycle Colorado, which works to ensure bicyclists are as safe as possible on the roads, to raise awareness through June — which is Bike Month in Colorado — and beyond.
The new signs will replace the current ones, which read "Share the Road," and will clarify motorists' legal obligation when sharing the road.
CDOT Executive Director Shoshana Lew said these highway signs will remind drivers they are legally required to keep a safe space between their vehicle and any bicyclists on a shared roadway.
“Studies indicate that regulatory signs for the three-foot law are much more effective at enhancing safety. They also help make it clear that drivers bear the responsibility for safely passing a bicyclist," she said.
Sign installation is underway along State Highways 74 and 93. More are on the way for State Highways 14, 34, 36, 7, 257, 550, and more.
Piep van Heuven, the director of government relations for Bicycle Colorado, thanked CDOT for the new and improved signage.
“Words matter, and these signs leave no doubt about what is expected of drivers when passing bicyclists on any roadway — three feet of space, and no less," she said. "It's exciting to see CDOT leading on best practices in bicycle safety signage."
According to CDOT data released earlier this year, 15 bicyclists died in both 2020 and 2021 on Colorado's roads. A study by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration found that pedal-cyclist fatalities increased by 5% between from 2020 to 2021 nationwide, which it called a "relatively large" tick up in percentage.
Since Bicycle Colorado's creation, it has changed laws, created hundreds of miles of new shoulders on state roads, and tightened penalties for hit-and-run crashes, among other accomplishments.
Thursday's joint announcement between Bicycle Colorado and CDOT came just one day after a sentencing hearing for a man accused of driving into a beloved bicyclist.
On Wednesday, an impaired driver who veered into a national cycling champion in May 2021, killing her, was sentenced to prison. Gwen Inglis, 46, died after the driver veered into her while she cycled with her husband on W. Alameda Parkway near S. Indiana Street in Lakewood. The driver pleaded guilty to a DUI vehicular homicide in April. During victim impact statements at the hearing, Inglis' friends and family remembered her spirit and love for the community, while also asking for change and protection for bicyclists.
Their pain has been felt around the Colorado community for years.
On May 30, a driver struck a 35-year-old bicyclist in Fort Collins and fled, leaving him in the road with serious injuries. Police are still looking for the driver, but found the vehicle. Last September, a 78-year-old bicyclist died in Longmont after a crash. A bicyclist was injured in a hit-and-run crash in Littleton in June 2021. A 36-year-old driver pleaded guilty to a hit-and-run crash that killed a Parker cyclist on the Fourth of July in 2019. A driver in Logan County hit a bicyclist and fled the scene in November 2020, leaving the rider with serious injuries. The driver of a dump truck hit and dragged a mother of two in Denver, killing her, in July 2019. An afternoon crash between a driver and a bicyclist ended with the rider dead in Boulder in May 2021. Just a few days prior, a 12-year-old on a bicycle died after he was hit in Jefferson County.
The list goes on.
Following Inglis' death in 2021, plus two other cyclist deaths in the same week, athletes across the Denver metro took to the streets on a Sunday afternoon in May to draw attention to the dangers of distracted driving, speeding and driving while impaired.
"We're here today because we will not accept a world where three people are killed in one week just because they're riding a bicycle," organizer Allen Cowgill told Denver7 that afternoon.
Denver Bicycle Lobby Co-founder Rob Toftness told Denver7 that day that drivers need to understand bicyclists are people too, and they have family and friends expecting them home safe.
"Someone on a bike is a mom, a teacher, a doctor, a cook, or a child," Toftness said. "Oftentimes, when you're behind a windshield, you can get angry, or experience a moment, and you can forget that."
Earlier this year, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg pushed a broad-based government strategy aimed at limiting the speed of cars and redesigning roads to better protect bicyclists and pedestrians.
He said over the next two years, the U.S. Department of Transportation will offer guidance, along with $5 billion in grants to states, to try and lower speed limits and design roads in a safer way, with dedicated bus and bike lanes and better lighting and crosswalks.
CDOT is reminding both bicyclists and drivers of the rules of the road as part of this announcement:
- Bicyclists must:
- Ride as safely as possible on shared roads (CDOT recommends wearing a helmet, though it is not legally required in Colorado)
- Follow the rules of the road by riding on the right side of the road
- Only ride side by side on single-lane roads when it does not impede traffic
- Use hand signals before turning, merging or stopping if possible
- Use bike lights and reflective clothing if riding in the dark
- Not ride with headphones or keep the volume low
- Maintain their bike by checking the brakes, lubricating the chain and checking the tire pressure
- Drivers must:
- Maintain at least three feet, if not more, from bicyclists on the road
- Keep an eye on bicyclists on the road
- Avoid any distractions
- Get around a bicyclist on the road only if the oncoming travel line is fully visible and free of traffic (this also applies to when crossing a double yellow line, which is legal when passing a bicyclist)
- Understand that bicyclists can take up the full lane at any times to avoid obstacles, be more visible, or prepare to turn left
To learn more about sharing the road, visit Bicycle Colorado's website here or CDOT's website on its Bicycle and Pedestrian Program here.