First published in the Coloradoan November 11, 2014
Many people consider the sidewalk a safe haven for bicycling. The truth isthat 32 percent of all crashes involving bikes and cars in Fort Collins over the five years ending in 2012 involved cyclists riding off the sidewalk.
Two recent examples of crashes reported by the Coloradoan offer lessons on the dynamic of these crashes. On Oct. 1, a 13-yearold girl was hit while pedaling north on the sidewalk on the west side of Lemay Avenue. She was hit by a right-turning car pulling out of a large parking lot to head south on Lemay.
On Oct. 30, Timonthy Bonhof, 36, was bicycling north on the sidewalk at the southwest corner of Lemay and Riverside Avenue. According to Fort Collins Police Services, Bonhof was awaiting a green walk light to cross Riverside Avenue. The pedestrian light changed to green and a right-turning car hit Bonhof’s front tire as he rolled into the crosswalk.
The victims in both of these crashes had the right-of-way and were fully within their rights to be bicycling on the sidewalk. Both victims sustained minor injuries and were transported by ambulance to nearby Poudre Valley Hospital. The motorists in each case were ticketed for failing to yield the right of way to a pedestrian. Such a ticket involves a $100 fine and 4 points against their driver’s license.
According to the 2014 Draft Bicycle plan, 15 percent of all bikecar crashes in Fort Collins involve a right-turning motorist hitting a bicyclist coming from the right. This is the single biggest type of bike-car crash in the city. The remaining crashes related to sidewalk riding are caused, for the most part, by cyclists riding off the sidewalk mid-block.
Put yourself in the driver’s seat for moment and imagine you are pulling out of a parking lot or that you are making a right turn from a stop sign or stop light. You look left to see if there is any oncoming traffic. Rarely will you look right for pedestrians or bicycles coming
off the sidewalk. Hence the reason for this type of crash.
We could cut back on bikecar crashes in Fort Collins by 15 percent if all cyclists would get off their bikes and walk at these intersections and if all motorists would remember to “watch for bikes” at busy intersections. In 2010, the Fort Collins Bike Co-op launched a “watch for bikes” campaign and since has distributed over 20,000 vinyl stickers to be placed on drivers side rear view mirrors. Also, since then we’ve seen similar campaigns launched by the Canadian Automobile Association and cities such as Toronto; Cambridge, Massachusetts; Albany, California; and many others.
These campaigns cost little, heighten awareness about watching for bicycles on the road and help raise general consciousness about road safety for all users. Stop by the Bike Co-op, 331 N. College Ave., during open hours from noon to 6 p.m. Sundays or 2 to 5 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays to get a free sticker.