By, Brian M. Weiss, Esq.
Bicycles have a legal right to ride on public roads. In Denver, as well other cities throughout the World, now have a lot of roads marked with a Sharrows. “Sharrows” are shared bicycle lanes marked with the symbol of a bicycle with a directional arrow (see the picture of a Sharrow on Sherman Street in Denver going toward the Capitol). In Denver, bicyclists must travel the same direction as the traffic in the Sharrows and follow the arrow part of the Sharrow symbol. Be aware that Denver and many other cities prohibit bicycles from riding on the sidewalk if you are going faster than 6 mph. So bicycles should share the Sharrows with motor vehicles but be alert.
As an attorney who represents cyclists who are hit by motor vehicles, I have noticed a lack of attention or understanding by drivers who drive in the Sharrows.
There are very few signs in Denver that educate the drivers to share the road with the bicycles so this article is intended to educate both drivers and bicyclists who travel in Sharrows. Some Sharrows have specific lanes for the bicycle to travel in and others simply intend for the road to be shared. When there is no specific lane for the bicycles, it is typically best to stay on the right side of the road, but be on the lookout for hazards.
Drivers need to be aware when they are operating their vehicle in a sharrow and should to yield to cyclists. Likewise, parked drivers also pose a hazard for the oncoming cyclist. Cyclist are often doored by motor vehicles. A cyclist gets “doored” when a driver of a car opens his door immediately in front of an approaching cyclist.
A client of our law firm was recently “doored” while bicycle commuting to work when a driver opened his door while looking for change to put in the parking meter.
The cyclist had no time to react when the car door opened in front of his intended path of travel. In addition, the cyclist did not know that there was even someone in the car when he was approaching the left side of the driver’s side door. So the cyclist’s right hand and handlebar smacked into the open car door, knocked him off his bicycle and propelled him into the roadway. This crash could have easily been avoided if the distracted driver took a second to look behind him before flinging his door open. Our client broke a bone in his hand. As a result, we pursued legal action for the client and obtained a favorable settlement from the man who chose not to look before opening his door.