Colorado Enforcement of Safe Passing Law
Recently, I/Brian spoke at the Mesa County Bicycling Alliance Meeting in Grand Junction, Colorado. At the meeting, I had a chance to talk with Colorado State Patrol (CSP) Captain Matthew Ozanic. Captain Ozanic was very friendly, down to earth, and also practical about the enforcement of cycling laws in Colorado. I had some time before the meeting started, so I asked him some questions. I have to tell you that I was really happy with his candid responses about the enforcement of the laws that affect bicyclist in Mesa County and in Summit County, Colorado, where he previously worked for the Colorado State Patrol office in Frisco, Colorado.
First, CSP Captain Ozanic told me to simply call him Matt, and after I got to know him, I took a picture of him with my son Ben. As a bicycle accident lawyer, I knew that Colorado law prohibits riding a bicycle when you are intoxicated by alcohol or drugs. My question to Matt was, how often is this enforced and what was his experience. Matt told me that he has observed people riding a bicycle while intoxicated by alcohol, and he was glad they were not operating a motor vehicle and just made sure they got home safely and did not issue a citation for bicycle while under the influence of alcohol. The sentiment was that riding a bicycle is less likely to hurt other people so that was responsible and not a major risk to the public safety.
Next, I wanted to ask Matt about his experience enforcing the three (3) foot passing law. Of course, I get lots of complaints and videos of bike riders getting buzzed by cars less than 1 foot away, and lots of complaints from riders that nothing is done about it. Several law enforcement officers from Denver and Aurora have told me that the 3 foot passing law is difficult to enforce and they do not address complaints unless there is an actual crash.
So, it was a breath of fresh air to hear Matt say that he gives out about 20 citations per year to drivers of motor vehicles that violate the 3 foot passing rule when passing a bicyclist even when they do not hit the bike riders. We also discussed the CSP video of the 3 foot passing rule and showed it to the group.
Thanks to CSP Captain Ozanic, thanks to Matt, for protecting bicyclists on the road.