UPDATE 4/17: A little check into the annals of the city council reveals that the ordinance of 2002 that amended the Denver municipal code -- the ordinance I rashly blamed below for doing away with the allowance to ride left on multi-lane one-ways -- was actually enacted to allow bike cops to ride on sidewalks and break other traffic laws while discharging their duties. (And that they do.) The ordinance doesn't seem to have had anything to do with the rule in question.

But I really could've sworn -- some time in a previous life I read a version of the Denver code that allowed for riding left on multi-lane one-ways. Unfortunately it seems as likely now that I've been fooling myself about the local law all along. Maybe I mixed it up with another city's laws or something. Maybe I hallucinated the whole thing. If the law had been changed, there should rightfully be a notation in the code showing which ordinance did the trick, but the only ordinance listed there is the one I now call Bike Cop Anarchy.

So, sorry, bike lane haters. Didn't mean to get you all riled up. Looks like you can put your pitchforks away. Nice doggy...

I'm not quite ready to give up on this one yet though. I think this morning I'll be checking around a bit more to see if I can find some actual copies of previous versions of the Denver code. That's the kind of exciting life I lead. And if anyone knows the wording of the current NYC code on this matter please clue me in, as I haven't been able to get at it on the inter-web.

Maybe I should just go about my business following arcane traffic laws that I make up in my head. Then I could feel a lot better about myself. Why look under all these rocks in the forest? The sad fact is that these obscure issues actually matter, to get momentarily serious. The cops downtown probably won't care one way or the other, but to someone badly injured while riding up the left side of 17th, the legality of that road position could make all the difference in the world.

This whole discussion has been designated Tard Level Orange by Homeland Security.


... A person operating a bicycle on a roadway that carries traffic in one (1) direction only and that has two or more marked traffic lanes may ride as near to the left side of the left through lane as is safe. ... -- SEATTLE MUNICIPAL CODE 11.44.040

 

So a while back I had a short 'conversation' with a police officer, after he pulled me over Starsky-style when I was riding in the left lane up 17th. He told me I had to ride on the right side. I just smiled and waved and obeyed -- good policy I'd say when dealing with visibly agitated rookie cops -- and went on my way shaking my head at the poor quality of police academy graduates these days. But when I went home and looked it up, turns out the rookie was right. Honestly, I'm just lucky I didn't get shot.

Denver used to have a law very similar to Seattle's, above, allowing bicyclists to use the left side of one-ways. But it seems that bit of freedom was taken away from Denver riders by ordinance in 2002, for some reason. Now the law is straight as-far-right-as-practicable. Anyway, they failed to notify me of the change and I've been blissfully ignorant for six years. Can't say for sure exactly what was on the mind of local lawmakers that caused them to make that move but, thinking back, 2002 is roughly when several new bike lanes were installed in the central downtown area. That should make the anti-bike lane folks happy -- they are always looking for potential examples of bicyclists' rights being eroded due to installation of facilities like lanes and paths. Well, here ya go fellas. Don't say I never did nuthin for ya.

In any case I've been riding the left side of 17th and 18th constantly since 2002, and that's the first time I've been stopped. I find it a useful technique and will probably continue to do it, maybe slightly less often and with increased sneakiness now that I know it's bad, very bad. The percentage of police that both know this law and care is likely to remain low.

NYC used to allow left-side riding as well. I've been unable to find a current copy of or link to the NYC traffic code to confirm if it's still in effect.