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Cycling on the Million Dollar Highway (US550)

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Cycling on the Million Dollar Highway (US550)

Postby seano732 » Wed May 23, 2012 5:46 pm

Hey to the brethren! So I just climbed Sneffels last week, and when I was driving back (I live in NM), I was struck by the number of cyclists on the road from Silverton to Durango. In particular, I was struck by the number of cyclists riding dead center in the lane. Now, I'm not a road biker, I mtn. bike, but can someone tell me what the etiquette is for this? I understand we all share the road, but twice I was almost hit head-on by cars that were passing cyclists, and multiple times traffic came to a complete standstill behind a cyclist. It would seem to me if you are riding through a winding, mountainous area (i.e. coal bank, molas pass), with NO shoulder and a death drop off to the side, you might want to have a chase vehicle of some kind. Thoughts? Peace.
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Re: Cycling on the Million Dollar Highway (US550)

Postby livetothemax96 » Wed May 23, 2012 5:55 pm

I'm not an expert, but I do a lot of cycling in the mountains and if there is no shoulder then cyclists ride in the lane just as a car would. This is so that cars don't try to squeeze past and hit the cyclist. Bikes are considered a vehicle after all. As odd and counter intuitive as it seems, it is safer (as a cyclist) to occupy more of the lane, and in this case the whole lane. After that, it is the responsibility of the driver to make decisions about when passing is safe or not. Just my 2 cents.

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Re: Cycling on the Million Dollar Highway (US550)

Postby DArcyS » Wed May 23, 2012 6:03 pm

As a frequent cyclist up Deer Creek Canyon, I'll use the whole road on the descent. I ride with a rear view mirror attached to my sun glasses and when I see a car approaching, I'll pull off to the side and hit the breaks and slow to let the car pass. Getting started again on the descent isn't too tough, since I'm going downhill. I wish this practice would become more common. I hate seeing cyclists holding cars back on descents, because I get the idea that someday I might have to deal with some motorist who's been ticked off by one too many cyclists.

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Re: Cycling on the Million Dollar Highway (US550)

Postby madbuck » Wed May 23, 2012 6:07 pm

Don't want this to get ugly, so some quick CO facts:

The /law/ is that a bicyclist can ride on the road, and should ride as far to the right as practicable when being overtaken by other traffic.
Colorado has a 3-foot passing law, which both requires a berth of at least 3 feet when passing a cyclist, but also legalizes crossing (when safe) a solid yellow line when safe to do so.
The speed limit is the maximum speed allowed during perfect conditions, not a required minimum speed.

The application and interpretation of these laws are often subjective and contentious, as you saw.

I've ridden a fair number of passes in 10's of thousands of miles, and I'll say that most drivers have actually been decent, and I'm aware of not holding up cars behind me because I know that setting a bad example punishes everyone. There are ways to ride and drive that help mitigate the risk for everyone, IMHO, and I haven't felt unsafe without a 'chase vehicle.' And I feel much safer riding solo or with one or two trusted friends than in large groups of mixed ability, which seems to stir up the pot of traffic altercations.
(I have some strong opinions and observations on the way people drive sometimes, but I'll save those comments unless they're absolutely necessary).

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Re: Cycling on the Million Dollar Highway (US550)

Postby seano732 » Wed May 23, 2012 6:13 pm

#madbuck et al.- I'm definitely not trying to stir the pot, like I said I honestly don't know. I guess I should have taken the one guy flipping me off in his truck after he almost killed us all as a clue! Thanks for the info. Peace.
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Re: Cycling on the Million Dollar Highway (US550)

Postby KCurmudgeon » Wed May 23, 2012 7:26 pm

As Madbuck says, cyclists only have to ride as far to the right as is practicable and may "take the lane" when riding further to the right is unsafe in the cyclist's opinion. That said, I normally do my best not to hold drivers up and will stay as far to the right as is safe. HOWEVER, when it would be unsafe for them to pass, like on a tight, blind turn, I will intentionally block the lane to potentially save them and myself from a nasty accident. This is normally only for VERY short stretches of road (I can think of doing this only once or twice in the last couple of years).

Also realize that on tight, winding descents, a bicycle can often go much faster than pretty much any car. \:D/

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Re: Cycling on the Million Dollar Highway (US550)

Postby Vincopotamus » Wed May 23, 2012 7:41 pm

Ditto to what everyone else said. The cyclist has the right to take the whole lane if he/she feels it necessary to stay safe. Hopefully folks can relax a bit and be courteous to one another on the roads.

The cyclists you encountered are likely training for the Iron Horse Bicycle Classic over Memorial Day weekend. They 'race' the DSNG train from Durango to Silverton, with the bikes traveling HWY550, but they close down the highway from about 8am to 1pm between Purgatory and Silverton for the actual ride.
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Re: Cycling on the Million Dollar Highway (US550)

Postby livetothemax96 » Wed May 23, 2012 7:45 pm

KCurmudgeon wrote:Also realize that on tight, winding descents, a bicycle can often go much faster than pretty much any car. \:D/


true that

has anyone passed a car before? I did once on Vail pass (I hit 60mph, not the brightest idea of my life, probably won't do it again). But what are peoples opinions on passing traffic, it has happened to me a lot on Mt. Evans where a cyclist will draft behind me for a little while and then pass, thoughts?
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Re: Cycling on the Million Dollar Highway (US550)

Postby madbuck » Wed May 23, 2012 8:37 pm

seano732 wrote:#madbuck et al.- I'm definitely not trying to stir the pot, like I said I honestly don't know. I guess I should have taken the one guy flipping me off in his truck after he almost killed us all as a clue! Thanks for the info. Peace.


Oh no, it's a great question, and great answers so far. It's just that numerous 'discussions' regarding bike traffic (on other forums, e.g. newspapers at least) usually ends up devolving into rants and arguments unrelated to the initial topic.

Soooooo as an unrelated topic: riding the Enchanted Circle route in NM has been on my list for awhile!

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Re: Cycling on the Million Dollar Highway (US550)

Postby GreenHorn » Wed May 23, 2012 8:38 pm

livetothemax96 wrote:
KCurmudgeon wrote:Also realize that on tight, winding descents, a bicycle can often go much faster than pretty much any car. \:D/


true that

has anyone passed a car before? I did once on Vail pass (I hit 60mph, not the brightest idea of my life, probably won't do it again). But what are peoples opinions on passing traffic, it has happened to me a lot on Mt. Evans where a cyclist will draft behind me for a little while and then pass, thoughts?


I had this issue descending Red Mountain pass into Ouray once. I was hesitant to pass on the narrow, winding highway. The car eventually pulled off to let me pass. I'm not sure what the law or proper etiquette is for that situation, but as someone mentioned the bike is just considered another vehicle. Bike or car it seems a little courtesy and empathy will prevent a lot of anger and stress for all involved.
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Re: Cycling on the Million Dollar Highway (US550)

Postby TravelingMatt » Wed May 23, 2012 9:16 pm

madbuck wrote:The speed limit is the maximum speed allowed during perfect conditions, not a required minimum speed.


Not true in Colorado. Colorado has a statutory 75 mph speed limit statewide. All speed limits below 75 are prima facie. CRS 42-4-1101.
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Re: Cycling on the Million Dollar Highway (US550)

Postby madbuck » Wed May 23, 2012 9:50 pm

TravelingMatt wrote:
madbuck wrote:The speed limit is the maximum speed allowed during perfect conditions, not a required minimum speed.


Not true in Colorado. Colorado has a statutory 75 mph speed limit statewide. All speed limits below 75 are prima facie. CRS 42-4-1101.


Orthogonal to my point about how people interpret speed limits as prescriptions, but I did learn something new...so, thanks!

Perhaps instead: "The speed limit is the maximum speed at which one can travel without being prima facie evidence of a speed that is unreasonable or imprudent under the conditions then existing, not a required minimum speed." Phew!

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