This past May, a new Colorado law went into effect which permits a municipality to regulate allowable conduct by bicyclists approaching intersections with stop signs or illuminated red traffic control signals. The law allows local regulations or ordinances provide that a bicyclist approaching a stop sign must slow to a reasonable speed and, when safe to do so, may proceed through the intersection without stopping. A bicyclist approaching an illuminated red traffic control signal must stop at the intersection and, when safe to do so, may proceed through the intersection. The bill sets the reasonable speed limit at 15 miles per hour.
However, a municipality or county may lower the reasonable speed to 10 miles per hour or raise the limit to 20 miles per hour at any individual intersection. If the local government sets a lower or higher reasonable speed limit, the local government must post signage indicating that speed limit at the intersection. No local action will apply to any portion of the state highway system.
The new state law is seen as providing consistency and involved input from the only local governments in Colorado that already have the bike-specific laws: Aspen, Summit County, Dillon, and Breckenridge.
In 2017 a similar law was proposed but the earlier version provided that many of the same provisions would be applied statewide, rather than allowing local governments to opt in to them. The 2017 proposal failed in the General Assembly.
Several legitimate complaints have been voiced about the bicycle law. Many see the law as permitting bicyclists to “run red lights.” Though the bill, and resulting regulations, does not permit a cyclist to blow through a red light, many of the braver cyclists may appear to do so.
The lack of a consistent requirement across the state is also seen as a defect. Drivers will likely be unaware of when a local ordinance does not require a full stop. But cycling advocates argue that allowing cyclists to pull out ahead of vehicles at intersections makes riders more visible and allows them to get out of drivers’ way quickly and safely.
Additional communities are considering a rolling stop measure. Communities such as Golden, Jefferson County, Lakewood and Colorado Springs are considering joining the other four Colorado local governments in implementing their own laws.