Steve Skinner

Some people argue that we need less government, not more. In many ways that sounds really good. I don’t want to go through arduous hoops to remodel the bathroom or pay taxes for distant Afghani bombing raids. We need less government when it comes to horrible waste and destructive behavior but every once in a while a good argument can be made for some adult supervision (even if the government is the adult in this scenario). Can anyone say banking industry?

Sometimes individuals do not act in the best interest of the community at large and that’s when we need those rules and regulations. Otherwise, why would we have laws designed to protect the rights of bicyclists? What? Now cyclists need rights? Who’s next? Skateboarders?

One of those laws states that, “The driver of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicyclist proceeding in the same direction shall allow the bicyclist at least a three-foot separation between the right side of the driver's vehicle, including all mirrors or other projections, and the left side of the bicyclist at all times.”

Maybe you've seen cyclists peddling along with a pool float noodle attached to the back side, sticking out three feet on the left side. This gives drivers a visual indicator. Hit the noodle and you are too close.

It's three feet. Not one foot. Not two feet. But three whole feet between 5,000 pounds of hurtling steel, foam, gas and plastic and a fragile human on a 20-pound titanium road bike.

This is difficult for some of us. What, are we going to have to start carrying around yardsticks? How can we text, eat, check our look and keep the Suburban on the road at 75 miles per hour, never mind three feet away from anything?

Lots of drivers have good reason to be upset with bikes on the road. There are rules for bikes as well and they are often ignored.

Like the rule that states, “No bicycle shall be used to carry more persons at one time than the number for which it is designed or equipped.”

Just last weekend I saw a mom riding with her kid on the handlebars. We've all done it but that was before we knew better and before there was a law. Mom was not wearing a helmet but she did have one on the kid.

I was attending a workshop on bicycle rules and safety. The woman doing the presentation showed slides of her on her bike — and I am not making this up — without a helmet. I know people who have died and been seriously ding donged because they were not wearing helmets. If it's not against the law people are going to do it, even if it's against common sense.

Still, we need laws to protect bikes because an obnoxious, righteous driver is far more dangerous to a biker than a righteous biker is to a motorist. Some drivers go out of their way to teach bicyclists a lesson … coal rolling … coming too close … texting … cutting them off … vengefully punishing.

Throw something at a cyclist and you could face a class 2 misdemeanor. That means a fine of between $250 and $1,000 and a potential sentence of three to 12 months in jail.

Do we really need a law for this? This may surprise you, but the answer is yes. I have been hit in the back with a bottle while I was peddling my merry way down the street. At the time I thought to myself, “There ought to be a law!” And now, 35 years later, there is.

Drunks and litterers have to be selective when throwing trash or bottles out the window. They wouldn’t want to be mistaken for bicycle antagonists on top of everything else. Being busted for drinking and driving or littering or both would be bad enough. Someone needs to draw a line.

I’m convinced that the rule of law is what makes society civilized. You have to have rules and they must be enforced. I’m pretty sure mankind would have remained comfortably stuck in the stone age without a few rules. We’d still be bopping each other on the heads with clubs, mistreating women, throwing trash over the fence and out the windows and riding way too close to bicyclists. Now we limit that kind of behavior to celebrities, rednecks, third world countries and war zones.

Bike riders have to be vigilant and do their share and remember rules like, “When riding two abreast [do not] impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic.” Break that rule and someone's likely to run you off the road.

Steve Skinner reminds you to wear protection out there. Reach him at nigel@sopris.net.