MCKENZIE LANGE/The Daily Sentinel

SB61 is aimed at reducing the number of deaths of bicyclists lawfully using bike lanes, such as this one on Seventh Street on Wednesday.

Motorists who fail to yield to cyclists who are properly riding in bike lanes could get a $70 ticket under a bill that won preliminary approval in the Colorado Senate on Wednesday.

The measure, SB61, is aimed at reducing the number of deaths of bicyclists.

“Over the last five years we’ve had an increase of cyclist fatalities in Colorado by 31%, which is unacceptable,” said Sen. Mike Foote, D-Lafayette, who introduced it with House Speaker KC Becker, D-Boulder.

“The problem that this bill seeks to deal with is, if there’s a cyclist that’s in the bike lane obeying the law and they’re hit by a driver in the bike lane, sometimes the cyclist is actually cited themselves for that particular crash, or nobody is cited,” Foote added. “This varies across jurisdictions in police departments across the state, so I thought it was appropriate to bring a bill to make it clear this is enforced the same way regardless of where you are in the state.”

Many Republican senators objected to parts of the bill, questioning what would happen on a roadway where no bike lane exists.

Foote said the bill wouldn’t apply in those cases.

Other GOP lawmakers asked what liability bicyclists would have if they caused an accident.

Again, Foote said the bill wouldn’t apply.

“If automobile drivers are yielding to bicycles in the bicycle lane, is the bicycle required to yield to the automobile in the traffic lane,” Sen. Don Coram, R-Montrose, asked when the bill was debated on the Senate floor.

“All the current laws that are in place around cyclists and motorists interacting remain in place,” Foote responded. “The only thing that this bill does is it makes it clear that if the cyclist is in the bike lane, that the motorist shall yield. It doesn’t deal with the roads that the senator (Coram) speaks of where there are no bike lanes.”

Sen. Bob Gardner, R-Colorado Springs, said he agrees that some consistency is needed statewide, but said the fine was too high.

Foote, however, said the same penalties apply in current laws for failure-to-yield or careless driving citations if it occurred between motorists.

Gardner was one of the two Republicans on the Senate Judiciary Committee to vote against the bill when it was heard last week. The committee approved the bill on a 3-2 party-line vote.

The measure requires a final Senate vote, which could come as early as today, before it heads to the House.