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Monday, July 2, 2012

Does Denver's Bicycle Law Crackdown go to Far?

The Denver Post reported today that Sean Mandel was stopped by Denver Police while riding his bicycle.  The officer charged him with not stopping at a stop sign.  Should Mandel pay or fight his ticket?

Disclaimer:  Circle Law does not represent Mr. Mandel, nor has Circle spoken with either the defendant or the officer.  I am addressing this from a general legal perspective.  See for the Denver Post Article.

The first question is whether stopping a cyclist for a traffic violation is legitimate:  A bicyclist on the public roads must follow the same traffic laws as a vehicle.  So, the stop was legitimate.

The next question is whether Mandel violated the traffic laws:  An officer of the law has discretion as to whether to stop a bicyclist, so this is a fact based question.

The final issue here is the facts of the case; whether Mandel failed to stop a stop sign.  According to Mandel, the officer told him “he did not come to a complete stop because his foot did not touch the ground.”  Mandel contends that “it is reasonable that a good, experienced cyclist can stop and stand on the bike and be at a complete stop.”

So, the real issues here are whether the officer actually made the statement and whether a bicyclist can come to a complete stop without putting his foot down.

I personally believe Mr. Mandel is right.  As a cyclist in my youth, I did the same thing many times.  It was easier than my bad habit of riding no-hands everywhere (btw … Currently illegal in Colorado).  Now all the bicyclists in Colorado say it with me … Any decent cyclist can stop and stand on his bike !!!

Mandel’s argument relates to a driver “stopping” at a stop sign on a hill and rolling slightly backward.  I don’t think that an officer would ticket the driver for not staying at a complete stop.  When driving a car with a stick shift, you can come to a complete stop without the brake lights coming on.   You shouldn’t get a ticket for being at a complete stop just because your foot’s not riding the brake pedal.
Colorado and the City of Denver have many seemingly obscure bicycle laws.  Circle Law can help sort out your options if you’ve been ticket with riding your bicycle.

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