If you've bicycled on the city's streets, you probably have a story about a driver nearly hitting you, or actually hitting you.
Like this one: Last summer, I was riding in Garden of the Gods, in the bike lane. I was moving faster than the car ahead of me, but every time I started to pass him, he veered into the bike lane and nearly knocked me off the road. Then he made a right turn directly in front of me. I braked as quickly as I could, leaving tire marks across the asphalt.
This is what city officials call a "near miss." Generally, law enforcement is not involved. At times, infuriated cyclists respond by yelling, or kicking the offending car. Brian Shevock, city bike program coordinator, says that often ends poorly for the cyclist. For one thing, other motorists and pedestrians may not see the bad driving, only the retaliation.
"It kind of gives cyclists a bad rap," he says.
Shevock wanted cyclists to have a better way to respond to these incidents, so he created a near-miss reporting system at goo.gl/5brWd3. He says the city wants to respond to each report. If the problem is related to a bad sight-line, that can often be remedied by, say, trimming back a tree. If the problem is the driver, Shevock can ask police to better patrol the area.
Of course, a clearly marked bike lane is also usually a help. But Shevock says adding one isn't always the answer. He explains that the city used to add bike lanes every time it did a major road project. But often those lanes were tiny and dead-ended suddenly, creating dangerous situations. Nowadays, the city is only adding bike lanes along its identified routes, and if the lane can only be put on a short section of road, the city doesn't paint it. Instead, it leaves the space for a lane, and adds it when there's room to add a longer lane that can begin and end at logical and safe places.
Even with more and safer bike lanes — and a 2009 law that requires drivers to give cyclists three feet of space when passing — most people still don't like riding on the road, apparently. The Pikes Peak Area Council of Governments is in the midst of a study on non-motorized travel that will suggest future improvements. One early tip it's given to city planners is that cyclists consulted for the study prefer bike trails to bike lanes, and bike lanes to sharrows. They also prefer that bike lanes be buffered, or protected from traffic.
But as long as cyclists and drivers need to share the road, police will continue to give out tickets. And cyclists are hardly immune from those. Consider:
• Between Jan. 1 and Nov. 30, 2014, police issued 205 tickets to cyclists for breaking traffic laws. Of those, 195 tickets carried a fine, which can be as high as $100.
• In the same time period, police gave just 30 tickets to motorists for not yielding to cyclists or pedestrians. Fines for those violations can also be as high as $100.
• In 2014, there were 71 crashes involving drivers and cyclists. The worst months were September, with 14 crashes, and October, with 10.
• On Feb. 2, a 28-year-old cyclist was killed in a crash with a car in Colorado Springs. Thankfully, such crashes aren't that common in the Springs. In 2014, two cyclists were killed in crashes with motor vehicles.