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What you need to know about Colorado’s bicycle laws

Colorado has long been a great place for bicyclists to explore the outdoors, but bicycling in our beautiful state also has its dangers. To stay safe (and legal), both bicyclists and motor vehicle drivers should be aware of Colorado’s bicycle laws.

colorado bike laws

Our Denver bicycle accident attorneys have summarized the main points of the law to help you stay informed and safe.

Colorado’s Safety Stop law

The most recent law to affect cyclists in Colorado is the Safety Stop law that went into effect April 2022. This law makes it legal for bicyclists ages 15 and older to ride slowly (no more than 10 mph) through a stop sign after yielding to other traffic and pedestrians.

It also allows bicyclists to ride straight or turn right on red lights as long as they come to a complete stop first and confirm that there’s no oncoming traffic. 

Bicyclists aren’t required to perform the Safety Stop at intersections and can perform a traditional stop if they choose to.

The law’s purpose is to make intersections safer by allowing bicyclists to quickly pass through them when it’s safe to do so.

Bicyclists on the road

Although bicycles are smaller, slower, and less powerful than cars, Colorado defines bicycles as vehicles. This means bicyclists have the rights and responsibilities of a motor vehicle driver while using Colorado’s roads.

However, to account for the differences in size and speed, the law also specifies where and how bicyclists can ride.

Where to ride

Bicyclists riding below the speed limit in Colorado must ride as far to the right as possible.

Exceptions are only allowed when they need to avoid a hazard or overtake another vehicle, or when the lane isn’t wide enough to safely share. On one-way roads, bicyclists can ride on the left side of the road.

How to ride 

The following basic riding rules apply to all bicyclists in Colorado:

  • Must have brakes enabling the cyclist to stop within 25 feet at 10 mph
  • If riding in the evening, the bicycle must be equipped with a white headlight visible from 500 feet to the front and a red reflector visible from 600 feet to the rear
  • May not use whistles or sirens
  • Must have at least one hand on the handlebars
  • Must not be under the influence of alcohol or impaired by any other substance
  • No riding side-by-side with another bicyclist if it interferes with traffic movement
  • Must use hand signals at least 100 feet before turning or stopping
  • Must use the left turn lane or perform a box turn when making left turns

Driving alongside bicyclists

Motor vehicle drivers are also subject to rules when driving alongside bicyclists in Colorado. Motorists must always pass a bicycle from the left side and must maintain a safe distance of at least three feet from the bicyclist.

Drivers may only return to the right lane after safely clearing the bicyclist.

If a driver violates this law or engages in other reckless behavior resulting in a bicyclist’s serious injury or death, they may be guilty of a class 1 traffic misdemeanor.

They may also be liable for civil damages if the bicyclist files a personal injury claim against them.

Multi-use paths

Colorado doesn’t prohibit bicyclists from riding on sidewalks and other shared paths, but local ordinances may have their own regulations overriding state law.

For example, the city of Denver prohibits riding bicycles on sidewalks in most cases.

When bicyclists must ride on sidewalks, they’re required to yield to pedestrians.

They must also audibly alert pedestrians when they’re approaching from behind, which allows pedestrians to move out of the way in a safe and timely manner.

IMBA trail rules

The International Mountain Biking Association (IMBA) has a set of trail rules for bicyclists specifically for more technical mountain bike trails.

While Colorado state law doesn’t enforce these rules, they are generally accepted guidelines for safe and considerate trail riding.

The IMBA’s key rules include:

  • Ride open trails only
  • Leave no trace
  • Control your bicycle
  • Always yield to other trail users (pedestrians, horses, etc.)
  • Avoid scaring animals
  • Plan your rides ahead of time

Helmet rules

Wearing a helmet is one of the best ways to stay safe while riding a bicycle. While Colorado state law doesn’t require that bicyclists over the age of 18 wear helmets on conventional bicycles, the

Department of Transportation encourages helmet use. Helmets are always required for children under the age of 18.

Many cities have independent helmet ordinances, so it’s important to check local laws before taking a ride.

Even if there’s no legal requirement to wear a helmet, it’s still strongly recommended for cyclists of all ages.

eBikes in Colorado

Electric bicycles are becoming increasingly popular in Colorado.

To keep up with the change and to promote safe riding, Colorado has categorized these vehicles as Class 1, 2, or 3 depending on their motor’s maximum power output and speed.

colorado bicycle laws

Class 1 and Class 2 electric bicycles include those with a maximum motor speed of 20 mph and may or may not provide assistance when the rider isn’t pedaling.

These can be ridden on any bicycle or pedestrian path where conventional bicycles are allowed.

Class 3 electric bicycles, which only assist the rider when pedaling and have a maximum motor speed of 28 mph, may only be ridden on paths within streets or highways.

Additionally, bicyclists must be at least 16 years of age to operate a Class 3 electric bicycle. Helmet use is also required for anyone under the age of 18 who is riding this type of vehicle.

Stay safe while riding

Staying safe on two wheels requires following the rules of the road — but despite the laws and regulations, bicyclists in Colorado can still get injured.

If you suffer a bicycle accident injury due to someone else’s negligence, contact a skilled Denver bicycle accident attorney right away.

At Zaner Harden Law, we have extensive experience helping bicycle injury victims seek compensation after an accident, and we want to do the same for you. Call (720) 613-9706 to schedule a free consultation and discuss your case.

Contact our Denver Bicycle Accident Law Firm Today For Help

For more information please contact Zaner Harden Personal Injury Lawyers to schedule a free initial consultation with a Denver bicycle accident lawyer.

Zaner Harden Personal Injury Lawyers

1610 Wynkoop Street, Suite 120. Denver, CO 80202
(720) 613 9706

Where We Are

We are located across the street from Union Station in downtown Denver and offer validated parking for all our clients. We also have offices in Boulder and Colorado Springs.