Guide to Colorado Biking Laws

Denver, CO biking laws

Colorado consistently ranks among the best states in the U.S. for cyclists, and it’s easy to see why. Stellar views, well-maintained trails, and hundreds of annual cycling events make the state especially biker-friendly. 

If you’re planning to ride your bike in Colorado, you’re expected to know and obey state regulations for traffic on the road and any rules meant for bicycles in particular. Read on to learn more about Colorado biking laws and how they could affect your next route.

The Basics of Colorado Bicycling Laws

The most important thing to know about bicycling laws in Colorado is that cyclists have the same privileges and responsibilities as all other vehicle operators on the road, according to the Colorado Department of Transportation’s Bicycling Manual.. This means that bike riders deserve the same respect as car drivers, and that bicyclists can receive tickets or penalties for failing to obey rules of the road.

In addition to more general traffic laws, bicyclists must also follow rules like:

  • No cycling with more people on a bike than it was designed to hold.
  • No catching rides by hitching a bicycle to another vehicle.
  • Ride as far to the right of the right-hand lane as possible, unless passing another vehicle, avoiding a hazard, or turning left.
  • Ride single file if cycling with others, unless it is possible to ride two across in a single lane without blocking traffic or bicycles are on designated cycling paths.
  • Keep at least one hand on the bicycle’s handlebars at all times while riding.
  • Audibly declare any intention to pass other cyclists or pedestrians.
  • Use hand signals to indicate turning, slowing, or stopping.
  • Use a white headlight and red taillight or rear reflectors visible from 600 feet if cycling after dark.

The full text of Colorado’s bicycling laws are set out in § 42-4-1412 and § 42-4-221.

Do I Have to Wear a Helmet While Bicycling in Colorado?

Wearing a helmet while riding your bicycle is always a smart idea. According to the National Safety Council, bike helmets reduce cyclists’ risk of head injury by more than 50 percent. In one recent year, the majority of cyclists fatally injured in road accidents did not protect themselves with helmets – yet more than half of U.S. adults still reported that they “never” use this simple but effective safety gear.

In Colorado, the Department of Transportation (DOT) encourages bicyclists to wear helmets, glasses, and biking gloves for safety while riding. However, state law does not actually require Colorado bicycle riders to wear helmets.

Can I Use a Cellphone While Cycling?

Since bike riders in Colorado are subject to the same responsibilities as any other driver on the road, cell phone use while cycling in the state has restrictions.

Colorado drivers and cyclists who are 18 years of age or older are permitted to use cell phones for voice calls or commands while on the road. Bicyclists are also permitted to use headphones while riding, though this practice is not recommended by the DOT.

Those under 18 years of age are not allowed to use cell phones at all while driving or cycling, according to § 42-4-239. Texting and other forms of manual data entry on cell phones are also prohibited for Colorado drivers and bike riders of all ages. 

Where Can You Not Ride a Bicycle in Colorado?

For the most part, bicyclists riding in public Colorado areas can go anywhere motor vehicles or pedestrians can go, including both highway shoulders and sidewalks. However, some areas in the state are specifically off-limits to bike riders, such as:

  • Interstate highway shoulders in metro areas and certain mountain passes like:
    • Vail Pass through Glenwood Canyon
    • I-70 through Eisenhower Tunnel
    • CO-6 from Golden to I-70
  • Sidewalks with applicable notices
  • Any prohibited areas on the DOT’s Bicycle & Byways Map

Am I Required to Use Hand Signals on the Road?

Just like drivers who get behind the wheel of a car, bicyclists are required by law to signal their stops and directional changes to others on the road, according to the Colorado DOT. Unless your bicycle is equipped with electric blinkers, this means you will need to use your hands as signals.

When you plan to turn or stop your bicycle, you must signal that intention continuously for at least 100 feet before you begin your turn or come to a stop. You’re exempt from this obligation if you’re in a situation that requires you to use both hands to remain in control of your bicycle, but it’s still best to give others on the road as much notice as possible.

To use your hands as proper road signals:

  • Extend your left hand and arm horizontally when you intend to turn left.
  • Extend your left arm and hand upward, or extend your right hand and arm horizontally when you intend to turn right.
  • Extend your left arm and hand down when you intend to slow or stop.

What Are the Consequences of Violating Colorado Biking Laws?

Bike riders in Colorado are subject to most of the same laws of the road as car drivers, so the consequences for violating those laws are largely similar, according to the Colorado DOT. For example, bicycling while under the influence of drugs or alcohol can lead to being stopped, arrested, and charged by law enforcement. Exceeding posted speed limits or failing to obey any other rules of the road may also result in tickets or charges.

The main difference for cyclists is that no points are applied to their driver’s licenses as cycling penalties.

Negligent bicyclists can also be held civilly liable for causing traffic accidents.

Since 1977, The Sawaya Law Firm has worked with thousands of cyclists and other citizens throughout Colorado. Our compassionate legal team cares deeply about the Colorado communities we represent, and we believe our record of success speaks louder than any promises we could ever make.

If you recently suffered a Colorado bicycling accident, we want to help. We’re available 24/7 to answer your questions. Call us or contact us online today.

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Michael established The Sawaya Law Firm in 1977 and built it into one of the largest personal injury law firms in Colorado, with more than 20 lawyers and 80 staff members serving clients from five offices located in Denver, Greeley and Colorado Springs. Throughout its history, the firm has stayed true to its 12 Core Values, which emphasize excellence in advocacy and a commitment to providing outstanding client service. Michael studied sociology and economics as an undergraduate student at The Colorado College, and he earned his law degree from the Texas Tech University School of Law. In addition to being involved in several legal and community organizations, Michael enjoys playing music and cooking, and he has written a book on spiritual matters.