Cycling Laws in Denver

“And then he hit/knocked me right off my bike”

We hear this statement pretty regularly. The story goes that a cyclist is just riding along minding his own business when POW, they got their clock cleaned by a car pulling out of an alley. But, the cyclist gets the ticket and has to pay for the damage to the car. All because they were riding their bike on the sidewalk.

Lots of people ride on the sidewalk. And lots of people have no idea that it is illegal. But, the law is very clear about it:

Sec. 54-576. Riding on sidewalks.
(a) Riding bicycles upon or along sidewalks, whether on public property or private property opened for use by the general public, shall be unlawful except when the operator or rider thereof is a uniformed city employee riding a bicycle or a police officer riding a bicycle is a marked or unmarked official police bicycle while engaged in the discharge of his or her official duties, or when the operator or rider thereof is engaged in the delivery of newspapers or where the sidewalk is part of a designated bicycleroute. Bicyclists shall yield the right-of-way to pedestrians on the sidewalks, and shall leave the sidewalk or dismount if necessary to yield such right-of-way.
(b) Riding motorized bicycles upon or along sidewalks shall be unlawful.
(Code 1950, §§ 522.19-1, 522.19-2, 852.5; Ord. No. 464-02, § 1, 6-17-02)

Taken straight from here.

So, tell your friends. Tell your neighbors. Yell self-righteously at the dude who almost mows you over every morning when you are walking to the corner store. But, most of all, lead by example whenever possible.

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25 Responses to “Cycling Laws in Denver”

  1. David C says:

    It kills me when cyclists ride on the sidewalk(Short distances along Speer are understandable, though). Unfortunately, it’s unlikeley that anyone who reads this blog rides on the sidewalk. I want to yell at those people, bu I don’t want to come across as anti-cyclist. Maybe I’ll start, though.

  2. Josh G. says:

    I’ve lived in Denver for three years, and other than the few places around town where it’s posted illegal to ride on the sidewalks (Cherry Creek North, 16th Street Mall, etc) I had no idea that it was illegal. That is until I was stopped along Park Avenue two weeks by a bike cop who gave me a ticket. I think if there are no bike lanes, and no shoulders, cyclist should be allowed to ride on sidewalks. Not all of us get a kick out of dodging traffic. Maybe a better inforcement of traffic laws relating to the space motorist should lawfully give cyclist?

  3. Tom Lane says:

    The big deal is it’s really dangerous — for the cyclist. Coming into an intersection, at bicycle speed, from a sidewalk is something no turning motorist is expecting or looking for. Sidewalk riding cyclists are accidents waiting to happen. We need to be seen by motorists and that means being on the street. Lots of the time that means being well into the trafic lane to stay out of the “door zone” of parked cars on the side of the street. We can choose our routes to minimize obstructing the flow of trafic and my experience with Denver motorists, at least close in to downtown, has been really positive.

  4. egg says:

    Yes but when you ride on the street please try to look up designated bike routes and don’t just ride down any street because you can, complete injustice to bikers when some moron rides down middle of the right lane on Colorado Blvd or equivalent street.

  5. cb says:

    I saw that still has a ton of those spoke cards that they drew up with the city police. They have a pretty picture on the front and cycling laws on the back.

    In fact, I just grabbed mine. They only list four rules:

    1) Obey all lights and signs
    2) Stay off the sidewalks
    3) Ride on the right side of the road.
    4) No riding on the 16th Street Mall, except on Sundays.

    Next time you’re at an event with bike parking, grab some spoke cards and keep ‘em handy so you can hand them out to sidewalk-cyclists.

    It’d require you to stop and have a conversation, but it’d be a much nicer gesture than just yelling over your shoulder in passing.

  6. Beth says:

    I’m constantly telling my friends to stay off the sidewalks! They think its safer but it really isn’t. When you’re on your bike you are traffic so behave accordingly. And I agree with choosing good roads to bike on. Put alittle thought into the best way to get to your destination and everyone will be safer.

  7. Natalie says:

    Good afternoon,
    I want to share with our family and friends the incident that happened on May 31. My son, Alex the cyclist in the below article was hit by a drunk driver into a 6 foot rod iron, metal fence that now carries his imprint, who attempted to leave the scene. Alex is currently in the recovery process, but still struggles physically and emotionally with the trauma that was inflicted on him (his helmet and a flock of angels protected him). I would like to sincerely express to our family and friends that as we go through the court process we would like to invite everyone to the court hearings as this is a time we need you to support us through this process. I am currently in the process of advocating with Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD), The Center, Colorado Anti Violence Group and cyclist to also gain their support in this process and hope you all will join us. Thank you so much for supporting Alex and our family, I will continue to keep you updated as the court hearings are scheduled.
    Salvagetti’s saw the condition of the bike please, please ware your helmet.
    Love Natalie, Alex , Mark, Jacob and Markie
    Denver DA: Woman used car as weapon while driving drunk
    By The Denver Post
    Posted: 06/23/2009 04:02:05 PM MDT
    Updated: 06/23/2009 04:21:53 PM MDT
    Marla Martinez-Guerra (Denver DA)The Denver District Attorney’s Office leveled numerous felony charges against a 28-year-old woman accused of using her car as a weapon while she was drunk behind the wheel last month.
    Prosecutors say Marla Martinez-Guerra got into an argument with another person, then used her car to hit that person’s vehicle. She then tried to run over several people assembled nearby in the 1900 block of Lawrence Street on May 31.
    Martinez-Guerra then sped off, then crashed into a bicyclist and another vehicle, according to the charges.
    She faces three felony counts of criminal mischief, one count of vehicular assault, four counts of criminal attempt to commit second-degree assault, one count of leaving the scene of an accident resulting in serious bodily injury, one count of leaving the scene of an accident with property damage and one count of driving under the influence.
    She was released on $150,000 bond.

  8. Kevin Boulas says:

    Thank you for bringing this topic up. I am a bicyclist, but I’m also a driver and a pedestrian. Bicyclists need to ride on the streets – with the flow of traffic. My mother- and father-in-law were waiting on a sidewalk to cross the street when they were plowed into by a bicyclist, knocking my father-in-law down. I had a woman come flying out of nowhere off the sidewalk to shoot through a downtown intersection – I almost hit her and of course was flipped off and screamed at. And I have actually walked through a temporary pedestrian walkway (with the flow of traffic) to have two cyclists coming the other way; the last one told me to F**k off.

    As a bicyclist, if you are on a bike and aren’t good enough to ride in the street, then don’t ride in the city. We keep talking about “sharing the road” and yet we act as though we have no responsibilities – you share the road with us, but we won’t share it with you, and we’ll take to the sidewalks and won’t share them with pedestrians. Learn the rules of the road, and obey them – if we want our share of the road, we have to accept our share of the responsibility. Perhaps if we were riding where we should be riding, drivers and cyclists would begin to understand what to expect from each other – it won’t prevent every terrible accident from occurring, but it will prevent those that occur because no one knows what to expect as we maneuver the streets together.


  9. ez says:

    Bicycles are legal to operate on all streets save interstate and where explicitly posted. The Bicycle Safety Act recently went into effect which includes stiffer penalties for harassing cyclists and the ability to ride two abreast where you will not impede the normal flow of traffic (as in a four lane road).

    That said, I’ve been honked at, cursed out, spit on, chased by a car, screamed at, and had trash thrown at me for riding in the street.

    It’s amazing how selfish and immature many adults are.

  10. michele says:

    My young daughter is still learning to ride her bike without training wheels..we practice at the park and take the sidewalk the whole way. Illegal or not, it’s safer for us! if you saw the cars speeding by our main street you would probably understand.. i will not put my daughter or myself at risk. we stop for peds and stop at every alley and street intersection. Safety First : )

  11. Brian says:

    My dog almost got hit by some genius hauling ass on the sidewalk today. If you need to jump on the sidewalk here and there that’s cool, just don’t ninja creep behind me, that’s what bike bells are for!
    Also, I know a lot of people who have gotten hit by a car while blasting through an intersection from the sidewalk. STUPID! Stay visible and ride confidently while suspecting everyone wants to hit you!

  12. MK says:

    Bicycles are legal to operate on all streets save interstate and where explicitly posted. The Bicycle Safety Act recently went into effect which includes stiffer penalties for harassing cyclists and the ability to ride two abreast where you will not impede the normal flow of traffic (as in a four lane road).

    That said, I’ve been honked at, cursed out, spit on, chased by a car, screamed at, and had trash thrown at me for riding in the street.

    It’s amazing how selfish and immature many adults are.

  13. Tom says:

    I just had a few quick questions for the pros: are drivers allowed to harass bikers? if not, how can I get em in trouble for it? Why are some drivers so hostile?
    Today some guy swerved in front of me and when I subsequently smashed into his rear bumper he flipped me off and drove away honking before I could get his license plate number…what can I do about this? I have protective gear and lights is there anything else I can do to protect myself on the road (other than life insurance :D )?
    Any info is greatly appreciated.
    P.S. I may have a front wheel for you guys to repair/replace if I can’t re-true it myself

    • Scott says:

      Drivers are not technically allowed to harass cyclists, but they do. But, I’ve been guilty of taunting cars, too (especially Hummer H1s). There is a hotline to report dangerous drivers. More about that here.

      Drivers are hostile for lots of reasons.People generally get hostile towards ANYONE not just moving along with society. That means not just choosing a route, but a responsible one that doesn’t impede traffic. Just because you can be there doesn’t mean it is a good choice. 13th and 14th one ways are my favorite streets to pick on. It is dangerous and silly to ride on them, unless you are literally able to hold 30 mph. The choice to go to 12th or 16th opens up the lanes for cars that are faster and allows you to not be relaxed and enjoy.

      Picking a good route and not getting involved in the other commuters emotions it the best way to not get hurt and not get messed with. But we are in a city and stuff happens.

      GOOD LUCK!

  14. Paul says:

    As both a cyclist and a pedestrian in the DU area, I encounter an astonishing amount of biker on pedestrian accidents. Riders in the DU area are agressive on the sidewalks and on the streets as well. Many of the residents in the area, including myself have reported this to both the Denver police district 3 and the DU school police department, neither of which have done anything to help the problem. Myself and 3 other people where walking down the sidewalk under the pedestrian bridge at DU only to be charged by a person on a mountain bike, who told us to F*** off and that we where in HIS way. After this incident the police in the area have still not taken any action. What are we supposed to do in this situation. As law abiding cyclists ourselves have considered neighborhood sidewalk blockades to keep cyclists off of our sidewalks and out of our front yards. SHAME on you DU and Denver police for doing nothing and perpetuating a dangerous situation.

  15. Robbie says:

    Bikes on sidewalks, or to use BikeSnob’s parlance: salmon.

    However, I disagree with not riding on streets such as 13th Ave, 14th Ave., Colo. Blvd, Colfax, etc. I have had far more encounters with impatient drivers on 16th, 12th and other streets with bike lanes, or sharrows. Narrow side streets are just as dangerous (if not more) than wide lanes with speed limits under 40 MPH. Having large vehicles try to fit around me and between an oncoming vehicle on narrow streets is nerve racking.

    The issue is impatience. Extend courtesy to others as you would like to receive it. That goes for not running red lights or stop signs!

  16. Piep says:

    BikeDenver wants you to know that City Council approved revised and updated city bike ordinances this November:
    One of the new ordinances allows for bikes on the sidewalk at 6mph or less for the limited purpose of parking your bike.

  17. Francisco says:

    Two weeks ago I ran a red light right in downtown and got a ticket (ouch!).
    I come from Mexico City where a bike rider would NEVER get a ticket, so I guess that’s why it was so painful. It was good lesson after all, I’m a much more civil rider now.

  18. Brian says:

    Its not just Denver where its illegal, over here in the uk it carries a fine of 50 to 75 pounds – thats $75 to $110 for riding on the pavement or side walk if you’d prefer. i’m asguilty as the nnext man of the oaccasional hop onto the pavement to odge roundsome idiot who cant maange to rive out of the cycle lane, and i do occasionaly use the pvement on my way home from work in the early hours of the am – usualy if i’ve run my lights flat. on the whole riding in the road is vastly safer regaardless. i’ve been knocked down few times on the road, an have learnt from the expreiences, no mater how tempting neverpull up along side the lead car at lightif you can’t tell where hes going, they often dont check before turning (especialy left here, or right for you guys) aand will turn clean accross and ino you if you’re going straight on – that lesson cost two broken ribs, a ruptured spleen, a dislocated hip – and second, never ever ride alongside BMWs.

    one of the bigest things though was advice from the local police – ignore the bit of the law that requires you to ride as far over in your lane as “safe” and ride in the middle it forces drivers to treat you like a car and over take properly not squeeze round you, it makes you easier to see at intersections and gives you more room to avoid the bonnet of the car creeping out in front for a better view who very often CAN’T see you hurtling along beside all those parked cars. i’ve cycled round city centres including round the A40 in central london with a 60mph limit, twin carriage ways, serrious quantitiesof traffic and concrete walls either side and the big thing to remember is you have every right to be there, don’t be intimidated – and i know its easy when you’ve got 60 tons of articulaated truck doing 50 beside you and wanting to pull over – and dont give drivers the oportunity to cause you problems. most -but not all – acidents happen because people are being dumb or panic.

    on a complete aside anyoneknow where round denver i can hire a (decent) bike andsome reasonable trails for a day at the end of themonth when i’m over?

  19. Sandra Doran says:

    I was T-Boned by a drunken cyclist on the rear passenger side of my car at 10:30pm on a Sat night by Denver Health Hospital coming across 8th Ave from the bike path in the Sunken Gardens. I was charged with Careless Driving resulting in serious Bodily Injury! I got it reduced to no points but now $2000 damaged to the car (insurance rates will go up as I claimed it and fixed it) $2000 medical for the cyclist (insurance will go up as I have bodily injury on my policy) $2000 in attorney fees to represent me in court and the cyclist was NOT charged!!! I am furious with this new crack down on drivers and the assumption by the legal system the “poor cyclist” isn’t at fault. I think the “poor” drunken cyclist should pay the $6000!

  20. Buzz says:

    As cyclists we are operating a 2 wheel vehicle and we belong on the road with the other vehicles. However, since we are a little slower we need to be courteous and considerate of the other traffic and utilize the abundant bike routes, sharrow and bike lanes.

  21. Z says:

    I thought certain sidewalks were considered a bike path, like where colorado boulevard intersects with I-25. In certain areas, I would say also that it is required to temporarily ride on the sidewalk. There will always be exceptions. The 6 mph 1 block rule is just an example of the government trying to legislate us into oblivion. Hitting a person or running into something and causing damage, reckless riding, etc. was already illegal.

  22. Free says:

    So I have a question a bit different than what has been posted thus far. I ride my bike home from working downtown toward City Park. I frequently take 16th. Multiple times now I have had pedestrians walking across 16th right out in front of me, not at an intersection and not on a cross walk. They look startled as I slam on the breaks and narrowly avoid running them down. Just to be clear, I am riding in the street exactly where I should be. This is before the bike lane really starts. They keep yelling at me that they have the right of way and I should watch where I am going. I am sorry to say, but I have responded at least once with the one finger salute. Granted I am riding as fast as my little legs can take me (at or below the speed limit), but am I in the wrong here? Do the peds even have the right of way in this situation? Thanks.

    • Yes, FREE, you're wrong says:

      Free, in Denver the pedestrian *always* has the right of way. Which is why, even when driving a car, I’m super careful when exiting an alley. Btw, it doesn’t matter where the pedestrian is (not in the crosswalk, jay-walking, etc.) I guess the theory is, if you’re in/on something with wheels, you can go much faster, so it’s our responsibility to watch out for pedestrians. Hence speed limits — they’re not for drivers/riders, but for the safety of pedestrians. In short, if you can’t stop quickly in case one steps off a curb, you’re going too fast.

  23. I’m a person who does not feel comfortable on the road with drivers (especially shitty ones) and I was trying to figure out the best way of riding. Riding on the sidewalk is illegal in this city but being on the road going slower than most cars can encourage angry and aggressive driving as well. There are bike lanes in some places, but most places are narrow two lane roads.

    I found an article that encourages bikers to take over the entire lane while riding and here were their reasons:

    • Sidewalk – While the odds of you getting hit from behind diminish greatly, there are other dangers that come into play.
    ◦ Drivers are not looking for fast moving objects on the sidewalks so when you come to a cross street there is a good chance you’ll get hit by a turning car.
    ◦ Sidewalks are available for pedestrians and, in many states, it’s illegal for bicycles to ride on them.
    ◦ You are forced to (and should) go extremely slow. Besides dealing with turning cars and pedestrians, you are riding are surfaces that are not maintained for traffic and often have other obstacles to deal with.
    • The extreme right side of the road – In my opinion this is the most dangerous place you can ride. You are risking two dangers:
    ◦ Cars will repeatedly try to squeeze by you in the same lane and will almost always come very close to you which, obviously, increases your chance of getting hit.
    ◦ The Peek-a-boo bike. Picture two cars approaching. The second car is following closely to the first. As the first car moves to miss you, it is seen by the second car as merely drifting in the lane since the car isn’t moving that much out of the way. The second car doesn’t realize you are in the road until it is to late.
    Because of the above dangers and contrary to many people’s “common sense”, the best thing for a bike commuter to do is claim the lane. I ride at least a third of the way into the lane and, around curves, I roll right down the middle.…d-why-its-safer

    Now, Denver enforces no sidewalk riding, but at the same time, they state that you should ride where cars can pass you at all times, bringing attention to the second danger:

    Sec. 54-572. Riding on roadways.
    (a) Every person operating a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle upon a roadway shall ride as near to the right-hand side of the roadway as judged safe by the bicyclist to facilitate the movement of such overtaking vehicles unless other conditions make it unsafe to do so.

    So this really puts riders between a few ton moving metal rock and a piece of shit ticket…

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