Biking, not stopping, through Aspen
For at least one Aspen police officer, it’s an everyday occurrence.
A bicyclist tooling around town, paying absolutely no attention to stop signs and darting out in front of a car, whose driver is forced to slam on the brakes to avoid a collision.
“I see some variation of it daily,” said Officer Roderick O’Connor. “And I’m more concerned about it (now) because there’s more people in town (for Fourth of July).”
The issue is somewhat complicated by the fact that two years ago, the Aspen City Council passed an ordinance allowing bicyclists to yield at city stop signs provided there’s no imminent threat to a pedestrian crossing the street or from a car in or approaching the intersection. The ordinance exempts stop signs along Main Street-Highway 82, meaning bicyclists must stop at those markers.
Bicyclists 10 and younger also are exempted from the ordinance and must stop at all stop signs in town.
“They’re not doing the yield part,” he said. “They’re going through the stop sign like it’s not there.
“The good news is (drivers) are stopping.”
O’Connor said he’s not sure if bikers in town know about the ordinance and are taking advantage or whether it’s merely an extension of common bike-riding behavior.
“I’m not sure if there’s more of it now,” he said. “But I’m noticing it more now.”
Last week, O’Connor said he saw a bicyclist nearly hit around 2 p.m. at the intersection of Hopkins Avenue and Garmisch Street downtown. The man was paying no attention, ran the stop sign and not only forced two cars to slam on their brakes but also had to perform some quick maneuvers of his own to avoid the cars, he said.
“That was really close,” O’Connor said. “He had to do some dodging.”
The officer said he chased after the biker.
“I went to talk to him,” O’Connor said. “I said my interest is his safety and public safety in general.”
The man said he’d been “spacing out” and thanked O’Connor for looking after him, he said.
“If it’s safe to proceed at a stop sign with a yield, go for it,” he said. “If you want to force cars to stop, you have to get off your bike and walk it.”
Aspen police routinely receive complaints from drivers about reckless bicyclists, said Aspen Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn. Those complaints came in regularly before the City Council passed the ordinance in 2014, he said.
“It’s not new,” Linn said. “I’ve heard that complaint for my entire (22-year) career here.”
Still, he thinks locals are aware of the ordinance. And while the city doesn’t see a lot of bicyclist-car accidents, he said he hopes bikers remain vigilant about yielding to cars that clearly have the right of way.
“I would be gratified if people would follow what the law says,” Linn said. “(It) doesn’t say you get the right of way just because you’re on a bicycle.”
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Cam Daniel is a former youth addiction counselor who’s been a Pitkin County sheriff’s deputy for three years.