Evidently, there’s a flap over bicycling back in my hometown. Or rather, just outside it.
According to the League of American Bicyclists, Fort Collins, Colorado is officially a bike friendly city. But if an article in yesterday’s Los Angeles Times is any indication, that friendliness doesn’t extend past the city limits.
Back in May of this year — evidently, news from Colorado still gets here by Pony Express — a couple of bicyclists from the nearby liberal bastion of Boulder committed the outrageous offense of riding into the county two abreast.
I know, I know, the horror of it all. Especially on a country road, where drivers are just as likely to be impeded by some farmer’s John Deere combine as by spandex-clad cyclists. And even though the state recently passed a law that even the bill’s sponsors say makes the practice legal in most situations.
But that’s not the way the local sheriff sees it. Taking interpretation of the law into his own hands, he’s decided that his reading of the statute overrides the authors’ intent. And as a result, he says it’s a violation to ride two abreast if it could possibly impede traffic — even if no cars are actually being impeded. Or even present, for that matter.
So in an apparent attempt to make his boss the new Bull Connor of the cycling set, a deputy pulled the riders over, and in the words of the cyclists, told them “don’t let the sun set on your behind in my county.” (The deputy denies saying that, of course.)
So what’s next? Meeting riders at the county line with fire hoses and police dogs?
Granted, the riders weren’t ticketed. But the message was clear. Obey the sheriff’s personal interpretation of the law — despite the lack of any court rulings in support of his stand — or stay the hell out of his county.
Now, I probably rode every square inch of that county when I lived there. And yes, I realize that the population has grown since I left, and there are more riders and drivers competing for the same amount of road space.
But if drivers can’t manage to peacefully co-exist on the kind of quiet country road John Denver used to rhapsodize about without the local sheriff taking sides, there is something seriously wrong.
He says that spandex makes people lose their sense of humor. I think maybe his badge is a little too tight.
In case you missed it, a member of the Bike Writers Collective got on his soap box last month to suggest that our local constabulary can get pretty heavy-handed, too. Our old friend Pops — a former Boulderite himself — points out that Seattle’s Critical Mass got badly out of control this past weekend, and a local blogger from the eternally overcast city suggests it’s time to do something before the Mass really does go critical. And here’s what can happen to downtown bikes when Big Brown backs up.