Guest Writer – Sara Stieben, Hadfield Stieben Doutt, LLC
Among the benefits of living in Northern Colorado is enjoying the blend of rural and municipal settings. Bicyclists in particular appreciate the chance to hop on their bike in town, and in just a few miles find themselves pedaling through the countryside. A favorite route for local cyclists is the “dairy loop” which takes cyclists west of Fort Collins through the lush foothills of Bellevue to Morning Fresh Dairy. The scenery is beautiful on this route, but added safety and patience can be necessary to account for farm equipment cyclists will likely encounter along the way. Cyclists should consider the following while enjoying this trip, and scenic Larimer County in general:
- When cyclists are riding on roads where farm equipment is present, cyclists should stay as far right as possible. On narrow two-lane roads it can be difficult for farm equipment to safely pass slower moving cyclists. Even if the farm equipment pulls into the left lane for passing, keep in mind that farm equipment is often wider than a standard travel lane. If you are sharing the road with farm equipment, stay especially alert.
- Assume the person driving the farm equipment may have more blind spots than a driver of a car or pickup. A tractor pulling an implement, for example, can have added blind spots from behind. The operator of farm equipment often sits much higher off the road than the average vehicle. The disparity between the height of the farm equipment and the bicycle may block sightlines, and can affect the driver’s spatial perception. Do not assume the equipment driver has a clear view of the cyclist.
- You may be tempted to get ahead of slow-moving farm equipment by passing on the right, but passing farm equipment on the right is not advised. The driver may very well be starting a wide right turn. Farm equipment takes longer to start and stop, and needs more room to turn. With the added blind spots of such vehicles, it may be impossible for the equipment operator to see a cyclist zipping by on the right. Be very cautious of that circumstance.
- Riding on rural roads does not mean relaxed safety precautions. Day and night, bright, reflective clothing is preferred. Never bicycle anywhere at night without lights. On rural roads especially one needs a good headlight just to see the road, and additional appropriate lighting to assure that the vehicles see you.
Sara Stieben is an avid cyclist and a partner at the law firm of Hadfield Stieben Doutt, LLC. She previously served as board member on the Fort Collins Bike Co-op, and she also manages HSD Law’s corporate sponsorship of Sugar Beets Cycling.