How Not to Make a Left Turn


by Meg Dunn of Pedal Fort Collins

Sometimes I see behavior on the streets that just stuns me. Last week I saw a motorist stopped at a red light (along with several other cars). But then, before the yellow had even come on for the cross traffic, she proceeded through the intersection. (Did you catch that? Her light had been red and was still red and she proceeded through.) I think every jaw dropped around that intersection whether people were in a car, on a bike, or just standing at the corners. We couldn’t believe what we had just seen.

A similar jaw-dropping incident occurred last week as I was pedaling home from the City’s open house about the West Elizabeth Enhanced Travel Corridor. (See “A West Elizabeth Enhanced Travel Corridor Open House Update” for an overview of what was presented.) I was traveling east on Elizabeth and stopped at the light at Shields (near where CSU is going to add an underpass for pedestrians and bicyclists). When the light changed, I proceeded through. But two other bicyclists that had been in the bike lane with me turned left. I felt a moment of panic as I realized that they’d both just put themselves right in harm’s way. Thankfully there were no cars heading straight towards Moby and they made the turn just fine.

But it was enough to convince me that a little refresher on how to make a left turn might be in order. So, for the record, what they did comes under the heading of “how not to make a left hand turn.” If you’re in the bike lane, and the bike lane is on the right hand side of the street, then you can be pretty certain that that’s not where to make your left hand turn from.


If you’re heading towards campus on Elizabeth, then you’ll find two left hand turn lanes, one of which doubles as a through lane. And to be honest, most people do turn left (or right) at this intersection. But not all. And if you make an assumption that everyone’s turning and they’re not, you could become an asphalt pancake.

There are two ways to safely make a left hand turn. (And this is true for anywhere you might be traveling. It’s not specific to just this intersection.)

Turn left from the left hand turn lane – or the left most lane if there is no turn lane.

If you’re turning from eastbound Elizabeth onto northbound Shields, then you’d want to be in the rightmost left turn lane. If you arrive at the intersection and there’s already a car in that lane, just queue up behind them. If you get there first, put yourself right in the middle of the lane. That way there’s no confusion about which lane you’re in. (If you’re on the right hand side, they might just think you’re in the bike lane and that you’re going straight.)

By being in the center of the lane, just as if you were a car, and signaling (That’s important too!), it will be abundantly clear to all that you’re turning left. They might not like it. I’ve even had people honk at me. But I just remind myself that that means they’ve seen me, so they’re less likely to run me over. And, to be honest, if I were in a car instead of on my bike, I’d be in the exact same spot taking up even more room. So they’re only complaining out of ignorance, not because you’re actually impairing their commute in any way.

As you make the turn, you can stop signaling and focus on staying in the center of the lane until you’ve reached a point where there’s enough room for you to get right. (You really, really don’t want to give them enough room that they think they can pass you while you’re making that turn. That could be disastrous. Sometimes riding safely doesn’t just mean that you’re doing things that keep you safe, but that you’re also doing things that encourage other people to travel safely around you.)

Make a “Copenhagen Left” – the Two Stage Turn

If the idea of standing in the middle of the left hand turn lane (or, in cases where there is no left hand turn lane, then in the left most through lane) makes your stomach ball up into knots and your palms sweaty, a “Copenhagen Left” might make more sense for you. Used frequently in Copenhagen (hence the name) this kind of turn is essentially a two stage turn.

The first step will be to proceed through the intersection as if you’re going straight. It might be possible to progress across while in the bike lane. But if you have a line of bicyclists behind you, they’re going to want to keep going when you want to stop and turn to complete the left. So more often than not, you’ll actually want to use the sidewalk to execute this maneuver.

Any time you’re using the sidewalk while riding your bicycle, be extra cautious when crossing at an intersection. People in cars are often more focused on not hitting another car and it’s possible they might not see you. Once it’s clear, however, cross the street and stop (without getting in anyone’s way) and reposition your bicycle so that you’re lined up to be in the bike lane for the next street.

You do not have to walk your bike across the intersection. Even though you’re using a crosswalk, there is no requirement in Fort Collins that says you have to get off your bicycle and walk it. (Check out the Pedal Fort Collins post entitled, “Bicyclists are required to dismount when…” for more info.)

Don’t Forget to Signal!

And whether you’re in a car or on a bicycle, please, please, PLEASE signal if you’re going to make a turn. You’re legally required to signal a turn 100 feet before the intersection. When you signal a turn, you’re giving everyone around you the information that they need to make smart decisions.

For more safety tips like this, as well as information about new infrastructure coming our way, bike related events and more, head on over to Pedal Fort Collins.



megMeg is the author of, a local transportation blog that’s part of the Scoop Blog Network. She’s an active member of Bike Fort Collins and the Fort Collins Coalition for Infrastructure and she is frequently involved in transportation and urban planning events hosted by the City of Fort Collins. You can reach her at

From Boneshakers to Blade Runner

Today’s guest blog contributor is Todd Simmons, ofWolverine Farm Letterpress & Publick House.  We’re excited to have Todd contributing.  He works a sentence like Danny MaCaskill works a guardrail in a deserted parking garage.  -CJ

BoneshakerAlmanacAlexanderCresentCharlestonHigginbottom (full page)

At long last, the tenth issue (BA 43-500) of Boneshaker: A Bicycling Almanac has arrived. After being dropped by the peloton some time ago, our pocket-sized periodical is racing back into the cycling conversation with a lively new issue full of essays, reviews, stories, drawings, art, poetry, mystery, and lore.
This is our longest and most complex edition to date! Inside, Sonic Youth’s Lee Ranaldo explains why the bike has always been his preferred method of travel. Tin House‘s Rob Spillman weighs in on broken bones and cycling fashion. Dan DeWeese wonders why there are no bikes in Blade Runner (and reviews the Globe Daily 1). Enjoy a swath of bicycle-themed poetry by Chris Dempsey, Claudia Reinhardt, Casey Fuller, Patrick Barron, Barry North, Amy Brunvand, and Stanley Noah. Maureen Foley concludes her epic comic series “Smidge and Space Go West,” while Mike Compton wraps up his ABC’s of cycling. Ben Weaver takes a moving bike and banjo journey, and Bike Commuter Betty bids you ado. Ever been trailed on your way home late at night? Kjerstin Johnson knows exactly how you feel. Itching to break free from your soul-crushing commute? Juliette Birch has been thinking about that, too. If you’re riding from D.C. to Pittsburgh like Adam Perry, or simply across Chicago like Benjamin van Loon, there’s something in the pages of this almanac for you.
So whether you’re a bike commuter, bike musician, bike tourist, bike mechanic, bike enthusiast, or someone who simply prefers to ride in a soft cotton t-shirt and regular old shorts, put a copy of Boneshaker in your pocket this summer and join Wolverine Farm Publishing in celebrating this milestone issue of the world’s only bicycling almanac.
We’re celebrating the 10th issue of Boneshaker: A Bicycling Almanac on Saturday, June 18th, starting at Wolverine Farm Letterpress & Publick House at 4pm (316 Willow Street). Come on a adventurous, literary-filled, leisurely bicycle ride under the spirited direction of founding editors Evan P. Schneider and Todd Simmons. Ride will be over around 5:30pm.
Happy pedaling!

It’s a Horse of Course! When a Mountain Biker Encounters an Equestrian


It’s a warm, clear Sunday afternoon in Lory State Park and you’re out enjoying some time on your mountain bike. You’ve had a good ride so far…started from Soderberg lot in Horsetooth, got a great warm-up riding north through the valley trails, had a fast and flowy ride north on East Valley (knowing you easily could have a new Strava PR for that section since the trails have been completely empty), climbed to the top of Timber, negotiated the tight switchbacks on Howards, and now you’re enjoying all the efforts of the day ripping down the lower Mill Creek Link. The bushes are whizzing by at eye-level, making it feel like you’re going much faster than you probably are. You’re just about at the bottom, and you know you want to carry a little bit of speed and momentum into the slight climb back up to Arthur’s parking lot before you descend east South Valley to the south. You come around the last corner to tie into the South Valley Trail, look up, and there are 2 riders on horseback already on the little bridge right in front of you. BRAKES!!!!!!!

Now imagine yourself on top of that horse on the little bridge…what do you do???  

Last month I was invited to speak at the Larimer County Horseman’s Association monthly meeting.  Another avid mountain biker, who is also a horse owner, joined me for the discussion (thank you Steph Hoke!).  We were able to present multiple scenarios from a mountain biker’s perspective and hear the same scenarios from an equestrian’s perspective.  What we learned at the end of the night is that we really are pretty similar.  We all share a love of the outdoors.  We love to be out riding trails.  We dislike negative and dangerous encounters when on the trails.

Then there are the obvious differences, like sitting 6 to 8 feet high on a 1200lb live, natural-prey animal versus sitting 2 ½ feet high on a 28ish-lb high-performing mechanical masterpiece. In the scenario above, what happens to the biker if (s)he can’t stop in time?  Maybe bails off the trail or lays the bike down and slides a bit.  What happens to the equestrian?  Potentially gets bucked off, or the horse panics and falls off the bridge.  Either way, bad news for the biker, the horse and its rider.

Just as when driving a vehicle, some accidents are unavoidable; however, most probably are.  The same holds true for trail encounters.  We can be the best trail stewards around and do everything right, yet at some point we will still most likely be startled by or startle another trail user.  When it comes to encounters with equestrians, there are several key things we as mountain bikers (and all trail users) can do to help make it a pleasant encounter for everyone.

When encountering an equestrian on the trail, the biggest thing to remember is…Communicate!  Communicate!  Communicate!

  • Begin speaking to the rider as far back as possible for them to hear
    • The horse will most likely already know “something” is approaching but may not know what.  The silhouette of a fully geared-up human being riding a mountain bike is quite a bit different than what a horse is accustomed to seeing.  Allowing the horse to hear a human voice is important.  Since they are natural prey animals, lessening its fear of being attacked and eaten is generally a good thing.
    • While the horse may already know something is approaching, its rider may not.  Alerting the rider to your presence is just as important as alerting the horse.
  • Once verbal contact is made, simply ask the equestrian what they would like you to do.  This could include getting off and walking the bike around, stopping and stepping off either the uphill or downhill side of the trail, or simply continuing to ride past at a slow speed.  Just ask how they would like you to proceed.
  • If stopping to let the equestrian pass, generally try to step off the downhill side of the trail.  As mentioned several times already, horses are natural prey animals.  When they are attacked, the other animal most-often attacks from above.  This is just another piece to help lessen the horse’s anxiety.  BUT, always ask the rider on which side they prefer you to be, as they should know the personality of their horse.
  • If able, stop for a quick chat with the rider.  This should continue to be somewhat calming to the horse, but it also lets everyone communicate better.  Ask about the trail conditions encountered so far.  Ask about the number of other bikes or horses encountered prior so each will have an idea of what to expect during the remainder of the ride.  Ask about their route for the day so you’ll know whether you can expect to pass them again.  Each will almost always appreciate the info and the quick chat.
  • You’re then able to part ways with a friendly “enjoy the rest of your ride!”

That 1- or 2-minute encounter can make a huge difference in the quality of experience for everyone involved.  That’s why we all go out on the trails to begin with…to have an enjoyable experience.

Happy Trails!

Kenny Bearden

Club Administrator – Overland Mountain Bike Club

The Beauty of Used


Photo credit: Caitlyn Berman,
Photo credit: Caitlyn Berman,

Working at a used bike shop, I kind of forget what new bikes look like. When I walk into a commercial retail shop I’m sort of shell-shocked: everything is gleaming! Everything is shiny! And then I get a look at the price tags. Everything is really expensive!

At the Fort Collins Bike Co-op, very little is gleaming or shiny, unless a significant amount of elbow grease is invested in it.

There’s a good amount of dirt and grease and a bit of rust here and there. Working for the Bike Co-op has taught me, however, to look for the beauty of used. Used parts, used frames, used bikes, used accessories, you name it: if it’s still functional, we’ll probably find a use for it at some point. (And if it isn’t, we’ll recycle it.) I now spend a considerable amount of my time at the shop encouraging others to do the same.

Beautiful things come from used bikes. My 1997 Bianchi Boardwalk came in as a donation from a customer, and as soon as I saw it, I knew it would be perfect for me. I upgraded the handle bars and the shifters, and tuned it up, and I have been riding it ever since. Since I don’t own a car, it’s my main vehicle. I wonder what its previous owner would think if he knew the hundreds of enjoyable miles his old Bianchi has seen since it became my regular commuter and road bike.

We get so many donations from the Northern Colorado community that there is no way to fix up all of them; we sell, in fact, a considerable number of our bikes in “as-is” or “project” condition. We check the frame on every as-is bike to make sure it’s not bent or broken, and we sell the bikes at super-low prices, starting around $20.00. Recently, a customer who came in looking for a project bike found a 70s-era cruiser bike in our as-is section for $25.00. We paired her up with one of our mechanics, the venerable Dr. Tim Anderson, to help her fix it up. With almost entirely used parts -they did have to replace one shifter cable with a new one- they got her “brand-used” bike into near-new condition. Bree loves her bike and was thrilled with the end result we were able to deliver, and for so much less than a new cruiser or hybrid would have cost.

Another recent success story began with a dad and his two boys looking for bikes. Their mom had taken them to a local big-box store and they weren’t particularly interested in our “as-is” bikes after seeing all of the shiny new bikes on display at the big-box store. Dad was a bit dismayed, as he saw the value of what we had to offer in our as-is section, and with a little convincing from a few Bike Co-op volunteers, the kids each picked out a Trek mountain bike. A few hours of work later with our volunteer mechanics and voilà! They each had a brand-used beautiful mountain bike that was a much higher-quality build than anything offered at area big-box stores. True, they weren’t quite as shiny as the big-box stores’ brand-new bikes, but they’re simply much better bikes, and the kids will enjoy them for years to come.

We consider regularly how fortunate we are to be in the Fort Collins area. Truly, in a lot of other places, an organization like the Bike Co-op wouldn’t be in business for very long. We stake a good part of our 13-year history on the generosity of the cycling community here. We get in boxes of high-quality used parts and sometimes even new parts too! Many cyclists generously donate their old road or mountain or commuter bikes, and we’re able to sell them in rebuilt or as-is condition. The proceeds from all of our sales help keep our operating expenses paid, as well as our charitable programs, such as Earn-A-Bike and Women’s Wrenching Nights, fully funded.

So the next time you’re looking to upgrade, rebuild or add to your collection of bikes, consider stopping by the Fort Collins Bike Co-op. We might just have your dream bike!

June Letter from the Executive Director





In my May Letter,  I focused on the story of “Michael”, a Lincoln Middle School student who was riding his bike to school for the first time and was hit by a car and ended up with an ER visit and a traffic citation to show for it.

In my letter I focused on areas where I believe all of us, from law enforcement, to bike advocates, to our Safe Routes program, to planners, and not least, the parents in our community, can and must continue to work together, towards the goal of safer streets for all users in Northern Colorado.

Nowhere is this more critical and more apparent than in the disparity between kid-safe bike/ped routes to school and the city’s lofty mode shift goals for students. Questions of legal fault linger in Michael’s case. But I feel as strongly as ever that our collective failure to absolutely prioritize safe, convenient, comprehensive low stress routes to school is an impediment to promoting alternate modes of transportation. Additionally, when a young boy is cited based solely on the statement given by the driver, without talking to the boy at all, it is made clear that our priorities, even as they slowly shift, are still implicitly biased towards car volume and convenience over human safety and accessibility. We can and must do more to shift priorities, defaults and assumptions when we build and regulate our streets.

On the flip side of that, a number of promising pieces came together in the aftermath of Michael’s crash that I’m hopeful will develop into a smarter response to this sort of violence.

Nancy Nichols, the city’s Safe Routes to School (SRTS) coordinator, received word of the crash from the FCPD Community Service Officer on the scene almost immediately, which mobilized a chain of events that included:

  • SRTS reached out to Michael and his family to offer intensive, culturally sensitive support and information about bike safety and safe routes, (and a helmet);
  • Bike Fort Collins reached out to the municipal prosecutor’s office to ask that the ticket be dismissed in consideration of Michael’s effort and success in the SRTS program, and together we identified a new referral process for youths who receive traffic citations;
  • Vida Sana (a health equity coalition serving Fort Collins’ Latino population) found Michael a replacement bike (his was destroyed in the crash).

The photo at the top of this post is of Michael receiving his new bike and helmet after his ticket was dismissed. Because of the hard work of the SRTS team, and the strength of our local transportation and health equity partnerships,  another young Fort Collins resident is empowered to contribute to our goal of a safer, smarter city that puts people first.

more bikes, safe streets, one voice.

It’s June so there’s a ton of stuff going on this month: our Bike Art Show, Open Streets, Bike Month, Bike to Work Day, YGR Live. We could especially use your help with volunteer support for Ride the Rockies. This year we are the non-profit partner for the Fort Collins finish on June 17th, and we need a whole bunch of volunteers. It’s a great way to be an ambassador and the first smiling face that thousands of cyclists see when they descend into Fort Collins at the end of a long week. And BFC benefits financially from your support. Sign up here

Thanks for your continued support and stay tuned,

Chris J Johnson

Executive Director

Bike Fort Collins