In Colorado, bicyclists and motorists have the same rights and responsibilities when using public roads. A big part of the Bicycle Colorado mission is to increase bicycling safety in Colorado. We’ve made great inroads by working with state legislators and regulations staff to change and improve laws.

 

Here, we summarize Colorado’s bicycle-related laws as they apply to those riding bikes and those driving motor vehicles. This information is provided as a public service. It is not legal advice and should not be interpreted as such. Bicycle Colorado does not provide legal counsel.

When riding a bicycle on the road

+ Be courteous, share the road and obey all traffic laws, signs and signals.

+ Ride on the shoulder (if one exists) or on the right side of the road, unless:

  • you feel that the shoulder or the right side of the road is unsafe*, or
  • you are preparing to make a left turn, or
  • you are overtaking a slower-moving vehicle, or
  • you are riding on a one-way road and would prefer to ride on the left side.

*When riding next to parked cars, allow enough space between your bike and the cars so that you do not have to suddenly change lane position if a car door is opened. 

+ You may ride two abreast when doing so does not impede the flow of traffic. Ride single file to allow vehicles to pass.

+ When riding curving canyon roads without bike lanes or shoulders, play it safe and ride single file.

+ Signal turns for 100 feet in advance, unless you need both hands to brake or control your bicycle.

  • You may use either arm to signal a right turn. Either point to the right or raise your left arm in an “L” shape.

+ At night, ride with a white front light and a red rear light or reflector.

+ Yield to pedestrians.

 

If a person driving a motor vehicle behaves aggressively or dangerously, dial *CSP (*277) from your cell phone to reach the Colorado State Patrol. You’ll need to provide the vehicle license plate number (mandatory), location and direction of travel, vehicle and driver description and a description of the aggressive behavior.

IMBA Rules of the Trail

Most land management agencies have adopted these guidelines provided by the International Mountain Bicycling Association. Be aware that some agencies will ticket mountain bikers witnessed not riding within these limits.

 

  • Ride Open Trails: Respect trail and road closures — ask a land manager for clarification if you are uncertain about the status of a trail. Do not trespass on private land. Obtain permits or other authorization as required. Be aware that bicycles are not permitted in areas protected as state or federal Wilderness.
  • Leave No Trace: Be sensitive to the dirt beneath you. Wet and muddy trails are more vulnerable to damage than dry ones. When the trail is soft, consider other riding options. This also means staying on existing trails and not creating new ones. Don’t cut switchbacks. Be sure to pack out at least as much as you pack in.
  • Control Your Bicycle: Inattention for even a moment could put yourself and others at risk. Obey all bicycle speed regulations and recommendations, and ride within your limits.
  • Yield Appropriately: Do your utmost to let your fellow trail users know you’re coming — a friendly greeting or bell ring are good methods. Try to anticipate other trail users as you ride around corners. Bicyclists should yield to other non-motorized trail users, unless the trail is clearly signed for bike-only travel. Bicyclists traveling downhill should yield to ones headed uphill, unless the trail is clearly signed for one-way or downhill-only traffic. In general, strive to make each pass a safe and courteous one.
  • Never Scare Animals: Animals are easily startled by an unannounced approach, a sudden movement or a loud noise. Give animals enough room and time to adjust to you. When passing horses, use special care and follow directions from the horseback riders (ask if uncertain). Running cattle and disturbing wildlife are serious offenses.
  • Plan Ahead: Know your equipment, your ability and the area in which you are riding and prepare accordingly. Strive to be self-sufficient: keep your equipment in good repair and carry necessary supplies for changes in weather or other conditions. Always wear a helmet and appropriate safety gear.

When riding a bicycle on a multi-use path

 

+ Ride to the right and warn other path users before overtaking and passing them. Give an audible signal of your intent to pass or ring your bell.

When driving a motor vehicle

 

+ Be courteous, share the road and obey all traffic laws, signs and signals.

+ When passing a bicyclist, allow at least three feet of space between the widest point of your vehicle and the widest point of the cyclist. To pass a cyclist safely, you may cross a double yellow center line when oncoming traffic is clear.

The Colorado State Patrol explains the 3 Feet to Pass law

This 9News video gives an overview of Colorado’s rules of the road

State of Colorado bicycling laws

We do our best to keep the information below as up-to-date as possible.

Operation of bicycles and other human-powered vehicles

(1) Every person riding a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle shall have all of the rights and duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle under this article, except as to special regulations in this article and except as to those provisions which by their nature can have no application. Said riders shall comply with the rules set forth in this section and section 42-4-221, and, when using streets and highways within incorporated cities and towns, shall be subject to local ordinances regulating the operation of bicycles and electrical assisted bicycles as provided in section 42-4-111.

(2) It is the intent of the general assembly that nothing contained in House Bill No. 1246, enacted at the second regular session of the fifty-sixth general assembly, shall in any way be construed to modify or increase the duty of the department of transportation or any political subdivision to sign or maintain highways or sidewalks or to affect or increase the liability of the state of Colorado or any political subdivision under the “Colorado Governmental Immunity Act”, article 10 of title 24, C.R.S.

(3) No bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle shall be used to carry more persons at one time than the number for which it is designed or equipped.

(4) No person riding upon any bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle shall attach the same or himself or herself to any motor vehicle upon a roadway.

(5) (a) Any person operating a bicycle or an electrical assisted bicycle upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic shall ride in the right-hand lane, subject to the following conditions:

(I) If the right-hand lane then available for traffic is wide enough to be safely shared with overtaking vehicles, a bicyclist shall ride far enough to the right as judged safe by the bicyclist to facilitate the movement of such overtaking vehicles unless other conditions make it unsafe to do so.

(II) A bicyclist may use a lane other than the right-hand lane when:

(A) Preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private roadway or driveway;

(B) Overtaking a slower vehicle; or

(C) Taking reasonably necessary precautions to avoid hazards or road conditions.

(III) Upon approaching an intersection where right turns are permitted and there is a dedicated right-turn lane, a bicyclist may ride on the left-hand portion of the dedicated right-turn lane even if the bicyclist does not intend to turn right.

(b) A bicyclist shall not be expected or required to:

(I) Ride over or through hazards at the edge of a roadway, including but not limited to fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or narrow lanes; or

(II) Ride without a reasonable safety margin on the right-hand side of the roadway.

(c) A person operating a bicycle or an electrical assisted bicycle upon a one-way roadway with two or more marked traffic lanes may ride as near to the left-hand curb or edge of such roadway as judged safe by the bicyclist, subject to the following conditions:

(I) If the left-hand lane then available for traffic is wide enough to be safely shared with overtaking vehicles, a bicyclist shall ride far enough to the left as judged safe by the bicyclist to facilitate the movement of such overtaking vehicles unless other conditions make it unsafe to do so.

(II) A bicyclist shall not be expected or required to:

(A) Ride over or through hazards at the edge of a roadway, including but not limited to fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards, or narrow lanes; or

(B) Ride without a reasonable safety margin on the left-hand side of the roadway.

(6) (a) Persons riding bicycles or electrical assisted bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.

(b) Persons riding bicycles or electrical assisted bicycles two abreast shall not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic and, on a laned roadway, shall ride within a single lane.

(7) A person operating a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle shall keep at least one hand on the handlebars at all times.

(8) (a) A person riding a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle intending to turn left shall follow a course described in sections 42-4-901 (1), 42-4-903, and 42-4-1007 or may make a left turn in the manner prescribed in paragraph (b) of this subsection (8).

(b) A person riding a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle intending to turn left shall approach the turn as closely as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway. After proceeding across the intersecting roadway to the far corner of the curb or intersection of the roadway edges, the bicyclist shall stop, as much as practicable, out of the way of traffic. After stopping, the bicyclist shall yield to any traffic proceeding in either direction along the roadway that the bicyclist had been using. After yielding and complying with any official traffic control device or police officer regulating traffic on the highway along which the bicyclist intends to proceed, the bicyclist may proceed in the new direction.

(c) Notwithstanding the provisions of paragraphs (a) and (b) of this subsection (8), the transportation commission and local authorities in their respective jurisdictions may cause official traffic control devices to be placed on roadways and thereby require and direct that a specific course be traveled.

(9) (a) Except as otherwise provided in this subsection (9), every person riding a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle shall signal the intention to turn or stop in accordance with section 42-4-903; except that a person riding a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle may signal a right turn with the right arm extended horizontally.

(b) A signal of intention to turn right or left when required shall be given continuously during not less than the last one hundred feet traveled by the bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle before turning and shall be given while the bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle is stopped waiting to turn. A signal by hand and arm need not be given continuously if the hand is needed in the control or operation of the bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle.

(10) (a) A person riding a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle upon and along a sidewalk or pathway or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing such pedestrian. A person riding a bicycle in a crosswalk shall do so in a manner that is safe for pedestrians.

(b) A person shall not ride a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle upon and along a sidewalk or pathway or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk where such use of bicycles or electrical assisted bicycles is prohibited by official traffic control devices or local ordinances. A person riding a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle shall dismount before entering any crosswalk where required by official traffic control devices or local ordinances.

(c) A person riding or walking a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle upon and along a sidewalk or pathway or across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk shall have all the rights and duties applicable to a pedestrian under the same circumstances, including, but not limited to, the rights and duties granted and required by section 42-4-802.

(d) (Deleted by amendment, L. 2005, p. 1353, § 1, effective July 1, 2005.)

(11) (a) A person may park a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle on a sidewalk unless prohibited or restricted by an official traffic control device or local ordinance.

(b) A bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle parked on a sidewalk shall not impede the normal and reasonable movement of pedestrian or other traffic.

(c) A bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle may be parked on the road at any angle to the curb or edge of the road at any location where parking is allowed.

(d) A bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle may be parked on the road abreast of another such bicycle or bicycles near the side of the road or any location where parking is allowed in such a manner as does not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic.

(e) In all other respects, bicycles or electrical assisted bicycles parked anywhere on a highway shall conform to the provisions of part 12 of this article regulating the parking of vehicles.

(12) (a) Any person who violates any provision of this section commits a class 2 misdemeanor traffic offense; except that section 42-2-127 shall not apply.

(b) Any person riding a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle who violates any provision of this article other than this section which is applicable to such a vehicle and for which a penalty is specified shall be subject to the same specified penalty as any other vehicle; except that section 42-2-127 shall not apply.

(13) Upon request, the law enforcement agency having jurisdiction shall complete a report concerning an injury or death incident that involves a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle on the roadways of the state, even if such accident does not involve a motor vehicle.

(14) Except as authorized by section 42-4-111, the rider of an electrical assisted bicycle shall not use the electrical motor on a bike or pedestrian path.

Overtaking a vehicle on the left

(1) The following rules shall govern the overtaking and passing of vehicles proceeding in the same direction, subject to the limitations, exceptions, and special rules stated in this section and sections 42-4-1004 to 42-4-1008:

(a) The driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left of the vehicle at a safe distance and shall not again drive to the right side of the roadway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle.

(b) The driver of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicyclist proceeding in the same direction shall allow the bicyclist at least a three-foot separation between the right side of the driver’s vehicle, including all mirrors or other projections, and the left side of the bicyclist at all times.

(c) Except when overtaking and passing on the right is permitted, the driver of an overtaken vehicle shall give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle on audible signal and shall not increase the speed of the driver’s vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle.

(2) Any person who violates any provision of this section commits a class A traffic infraction.

When lighted lamps are required

(1) Every vehicle upon a highway within this state, between sunset and sunrise and at any other time when, due to insufficient light or unfavorable atmospheric conditions, persons and vehicles on the highway are not clearly discernible at a distance of one thousand feet ahead, shall display lighted lamps and illuminating devices as required by this article for different classes of vehicles, subject to exceptions with respect to parked vehicles.

(2) Whenever requirement is declared by this article as to distance from which certain lamps and devices shall render objects visible or within which such lamps or devices shall be visible, said provisions shall apply during the times stated in subsection (1) of this section in respect to a vehicle without load when upon a straight, level, unlighted highway under normal atmospheric conditions, unless a different time or condition is expressly stated.

(3) Whenever requirement is declared by this article as to the mounted height of lamps or devices, it shall mean from the center of such lamp or device to the level ground upon which the vehicle stands when such vehicle is without a load.

(4) Any person who violates any provision of this section commits a class A traffic infraction.

Bicycle and personal mobility device equipment

(1) No other provision of this part 2 and no provision of part 3 of this article shall apply to a bicycle, electrical assisted bicycle, or EPAMD or to equipment for use on a bicycle, electrical assisted bicycle, or EPAMD except those provisions in this article made specifically applicable to such a vehicle.

(2) Every bicycle, electrical assisted bicycle, or EPAMD in use at the times described in section 42-4-204 shall be equipped with a lamp on the front emitting a white light visible from a distance of at least five hundred feet to the front.

(3) Every bicycle, electrical assisted bicycle, or EPAMD shall be equipped with a red reflector of a type approved by the department, which shall be visible for six hundred feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful lower beams of head lamps on a motor vehicle.

(4) Every bicycle, electrical assisted bicycle, or EPAMD when in use at the times described in section 42-4-204 shall be equipped with reflective material of sufficient size and reflectivity to be visible from both sides for six hundred feet when directly in front of lawful lower beams of head lamps on a motor vehicle or, in lieu of such reflective material, with a lighted lamp visible from both sides from a distance of at least five hundred feet.

(5) A bicycle, electrical assisted bicycle, or EPAMD or its rider may be equipped with lights or reflectors in addition to those required by subsections (2) to (4) of this section.

(6) A bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle shall not be equipped with, nor shall any person use upon a bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle, any siren or whistle.

(7) Every bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle shall be equipped with a brake or brakes that will enable its rider to stop the bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle within twenty-five feet from a speed of ten miles per hour on dry, level, clean pavement.

(8) A person engaged in the business of selling bicycles or electrical assisted bicycles at retail shall not sell any bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle unless the bicycle or electrical assisted bicycle has an identifying number permanently stamped or cast on its frame.

(9) Any person who violates any provision of this section commits a class B traffic infraction.

Pedestrians' right-of-way in crosswalks

(1) When traffic control signals are not in place or not in operation, the driver of a vehicle shall yield the right-of-way, slowing down or stopping if need be to so yield, to a pedestrian crossing the roadway within a crosswalk when the pedestrian is upon the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling or when the pedestrian is approaching so closely from the opposite half of the roadway as to be in danger.

(2) Subsection (1) of this section shall not apply under the conditions stated in section 42-4-803.

(3) No pedestrian shall suddenly leave a curb or other place of safety and ride a bicycle, ride an electrical assisted bicycle, walk, or run into the path of a moving vehicle that is so close as to constitute an immediate hazard.

(4) Whenever any vehicle is stopped at a marked crosswalk or at any unmarked crosswalk at an intersection to permit a pedestrian to cross the roadway, the driver of any other vehicle approaching from the rear shall not overtake and pass such stopped vehicle.

(5) Whenever special pedestrian-control signals exhibiting “Walk” or “Don’t Walk” word or symbol indications are in place, as declared in the traffic control manual adopted by the department of transportation, such signals shall indicate and require as follows:

(a) “Walk” (steady): While the “Walk” indication is steadily illuminated, pedestrians facing such signal may proceed across the roadway in the direction of the signal indication and shall be given the right-of-way by the drivers of all vehicles.

(b) “Don’t Walk” (steady): While the “Don’t Walk” indication is steadily illuminated, no pedestrian shall enter the roadway in the direction of the signal indication.

(c) “Don’t Walk” (flashing): Whenever the “Don’t Walk” indication is flashing, no pedestrian shall start to cross the roadway in the direction of such signal indication, but any pedestrian who has partly completed crossing during the “Walk” indication shall proceed to a sidewalk or to a safety island, and all drivers of vehicles shall yield to any such pedestrian.

(d) Whenever a signal system provides for the stopping of all vehicular traffic and the exclusive movement of pedestrians and “Walk” and “Don’t Walk” signal indications control such pedestrian movement, pedestrians may cross in any direction between corners of the intersection offering the shortest route within the boundaries of the intersection while the “Walk” indication is exhibited, if signals and other official devices direct pedestrian movement in such manner consistent with section 42-4-803 (4).

(6) Any person who violates any provision of this section commits a class A traffic infraction.

Powers of local authorities

(1) This article shall not be deemed to prevent local authorities, with respect to streets and highways under their jurisdiction and within the reasonable exercise of the police power, except those streets and highways that are parts of the state highway system that are subject to section 43-2-135, C.R.S., from:

(h) Regulating the operation of bicycles or electrical assisted bicycles and requiring the registration and licensing of same, including the requirement of a registration fee, consistent with the provisions of this article

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