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Bill Roberts: Bicyclists must respect rules of road

‘Should be treated no differently than misbehaving motorists’

La Plata County Sheriff Sean Smith got it right: Respect works both ways. So, if bicyclists want respect, they need to demonstrate respect for motorists, the authorities and the rules of the road. That should not be too much to ask.

For some, however, that seems to be a burden. The sheriff was expressing frustration Sunday as he watched bicyclists on East Animas Road (County Road 250) willfully ignoring signs that clearly said the road was closed. The road was closed to allow crews to clean up a mudslide that occurred Saturday night. By ignoring the signage, the bicyclists were endangering themselves and interfering with the workers.

And why? What was so important that they had to break the law and interfere with much-needed work?

About the only answer to that would be that those riders felt a sense of entitlement, some idea that the rules of the road do not apply to them. That, of course, makes no sense whatsoever. Public streets and roads are just that – public – and everyone and everything using them is subject to rules.

Most people know that, respect the rules and abide by them. Most people also know, often from youthful experience, that when those rules are broken, there are consequences, typically a citation of some sort. That can be expensive and lead to losing the privilege to drive.

But that raises another question: How many of those riders who interfered with the road crew on Sunday were ticketed? The sheriff was not in uniform and was presumably off-duty. He may simply have not been in a position to issue citations.

A better start might be to ask how many bicyclists are ever ticketed. And if the answer is essentially none, why?

It is not as if bicyclists are not getting the respect they deserve. In March, Gov. Jared Polis signed into law a new provision that allows bike riders to treat stoplights like stop signs and stop signs like yield signs. It is a sensible change and one that does not worry officials. (There is some concern about other devices covered by the law, such as scooter and skateboards, but that is another issue.)

Bike lanes are proliferating across the state. About the only roads that lack them are interstate highways and old county roads that do not even have shoulders.

And all that is well and good. Bike riding is healthy exercise and a clean, non-polluting form of transportation. It should be enabled and encouraged, as it largely is in Colorado.

Moreover, nothing about Sunday’s episode suggests that all or even many bike riders are rude or thoughtless. But when any of them are, they should be treated no differently than misbehaving motorists.

That could start with the authorities simply writing some tickets. That an activity is healthy and generally good is beside the point. And the popularity of a sport does not in itself entitle anyone to anything.

As the sheriff said, respect should go both ways.