Bike riders will be able to yield legally at stop signs around Aspen

Andre Salvail
The Aspen Times

The Aspen City Council on Tuesday decided it will make legal what many bicyclists already are doing: rolling through stop signs.

With little discussion, Mayor Steve Skadron and council members Ann Mullins and Adam Frisch agreed with Aspen police and other city staff members to create an ordinance that allows bicyclists to use stop signs in the same manner that motorists use a yield sign. Councilman Art Daily, who is traveling, was not present for Tuesday’s work session.

The new rule — heralded as a safety measure and a possible incentive for more people to use bikes — won’t become official until it goes through the council’s regular meeting cycle with an introduction at one meeting and a vote for or against final approval at another.

“I am ready to move forward with this,” Skadron said. “I think it’s safe, sensible and efficient bike transport.”

In February, the City Council discussed the issue after Aspen police brought information to them about the “stop-as-yield approach” which has worked in Idaho for many years. A 2008 study by the University of California at Berkeley showed that in Idaho, police and motorists have accepted the measure as public policy that makes sense.

Boise, a city with a large percentage of regular bicyclists compared with motorists, has become safer as a result of the change, the study indicated.

“The study determined that bicyclists are actually at greater risk when they stop at stop signs because of a few factors,” Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn said in February. “One of them being that there is always an unknown element when a bicyclist comes to a stop sign to the motorists in the area. Is that bike going to stop or not?”

Proponents of “stop as yield” cite the difficulty some cyclists have in dealing with the bike’s inertia when coming to a hard stop and faulty gear that fails to allow them to stop on time.

Also at that February meeting, council members asked staffers to gather more community input. City Engineer Trish Aragon said Tuesday that local bike-shop owners aren’t against the rule change, expressing the general opinion that cyclists “were doing it already.”

Mullins suggested that Pitkin County government ought to be informed about the reasons behind the rule change in order to consider making the same decision so that cyclists aren’t confused as they ride in and out of city and county boundaries.

Frisch said he doesn’t see the need for extra signage next to standard stop signs that say “except for bicycles.”

“I think it’s a waste of money and clutter, and if people still slow and stop, they slow and stop,” he said.

The question arose as to whether the rule change will apply to Highway 82, a state thoroughfare.

“Both Breckenridge and Dillon have the same issue, and they have worked it out with (the Colorado Department of Transportation), and CDOT is allowing them to (let bicyclists) yield at stop signs on the state highway,” Aragon said. “I’m assuming that since Breckenridge and Dillon were able to do it that we would be able to do it, too.”

Frisch brought up the issue of the legalities of bicycling on sidewalks, which was a council topic last year that fell by the wayside after former Councilman Derek Johnson spoke out. He said he would go “ballistic” if one of his kids came home with a police citation for riding on a sidewalk.

“I read that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration doesn’t recommend that kids 10 or under ride on the streets,” Frisch said.

Linn reminded Frisch and others that riding a bicycle on an Aspen sidewalk still is illegal for everyone, young or old, and subject to a fine, although police rarely enforce the law anywhere except the downtown pedestrian malls, where they ask riders to get off and walk their bikes.


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