Hearing to be held on bill to allow bicyclists to ride through stop signs, red lights

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DENVER -- A controversial measure that sponsors say will make bicycling safer in Colorado continues to roll through the State Legislature.

The public is invited Tuesday to speak out about the so-called safety stop bill. It would allow bicyclists to roll through stop signs and red lights.

A hearing will be held in the State Senate on what some say is just a bad idea. But many in the biking community disagree.

The bill's sponsor, State Sen. Andy Kerr, a Democrat from Jefferson County, said it's about safety. Bicyclists would be allowed to treat red lights as stop signs and stop signs as yield signs. In other words, bicyclists would have to slow down, look, then continue.

The ideas is that it's safer for bicyclists to look, listen and proceed, and not sit at intersections with the possibility of being hit by oncoming traffic.

Proponents of the bill point to a 2010 study by UC Berkeley that showed cycling injuries in Idaho, which has had a similar law for 35 years, dropped more than 14 percent in the year after riders began following the new rules.

Bicycle Colorado, a nonprofit promoting bicycling across the state, released a January blog post written by executive director Dan Grunig defending the bill.

"Having a single statewide law in place would help both motorists and bicyclists understand the law more easily and know where the practice is allowed," he said. "This type of law can reduce conflicts on the roads and improve the flow of traffic by helping motorists not have to wait for a bicyclist to get going."

But lawmakers against the bill say it will only encourage already unsafe behavior. And with so many people using bikes in Denver, Boulder and across the state, they believe there should be more enforcement, not less, of the rules of the road.

Sen. John Cooke, a Republican from Greeley, told The Denver Post that the bill is a step backward.

“I would go in the opposite direction and say there should be more enforcement for bicycles who violate red lights and stop signs,” he said.

According to the Chicago Tribune, passing the bill could be moot, considering a recent study released by DePaul University that only one cyclist in 25 comes to a complete stop at stop signs, and two out of three go through red lights when there’s no cross traffic."

Biking advocates are planning to turn out in force for the hearing at 2 p.m. Tuesday.