Have you been stuck at a red light that doesn’t know you’re there? If you’ve ridden long enough, you’ve found yourself in this situation a few times.
You’ve been out riding your motorcycle through canyons, over mountain passes, or down long country roads with the sun scorching high overhead, filling the air with an energy you can feel in your soul as it rushes over your body keeping you cool despite the warm temperature. As much as you’re enjoying the day, your bike needs fuel, and so do you.
As you approach the first intersection coming back into town, you look up to see a red light staring back at you. You let off the throttle, pull the clutch lever in and your left foot starts to downshift with your decreasing speed until you come to a complete stop. You hold the clutch in as you look down the road to see if any cross traffic is coming, but the road is clear. You glance back up to the light expecting it to change any second, but you still see red as the light for cross traffic remains green.
You sit idle for a minute – feeling the sun’s heat begin to intensify on your forearms. The warm air that kept you cool moments before feels stagnant and you become acutely aware of the heat radiating from the engine between your thighs as beads of sweat begin to form on your forehead under your helmet.
After a quick mirror check to see that nobody is coming from behind you, the shift lever gets popped up into neutral. You glance on the pavement to make sure you’re on the sensor before beginning the back and forth motorcycle sensor dance to get the light to change. We’ve all been there and know all the moves, but a new law in Colorado will keep riders from doing that dance again this season.
Senate Bill 19-144 passed in 2019 for these exact situations.
The bill allows motorcycle riders to proceed past a light that is inoperative, has been stuck on red or yellow for 2 minutes or longer or that fails to recognize the motorcycle for 2 minutes or more.
If you’re in your car at a light that doesn’t change immediately and you feel like it’s been longer than 2 minutes, sorry but SB-19-144 doesn’t apply to other drivers on the road – only motorcycle riders.
When you find yourself in one of these inevitable situations, it will be your responsibility to ensure it’s safe to proceed past the traffic signal. Other drivers in cross traffic will likely have a green light and won’t expect you to ride through the intersection, so use your best judgement to protect yourself.
Read the entire bill and all of past versions for yourself on the Colorado Legislature website or read it below.
If you have any questions about SB-19-144 or want to share any stories about being caught on your motorcycle at a red light for a long time, let us know in the comments below.
A BILL FOR AN ACT
101 CONCERNING ALLOWING A DRIVER OF A MOTORCYCLE TO PROCEED
102 PAST A MALFUNCTIONING TRAFFIC CONTROL SIGNAL.
(Note: This summary applies to this bill as introduced and does
not reflect any amendments that may be subsequently adopted. If this bill
passes third reading in the house of introduction, a bill summary that
applies to the reengrossed version of this bill will be available at
The bill allows a driver of a motorcycle to proceed past a traffic
control signal that is inoperative, that remains on steady red or steady
yellow for 2 minutes or more, or that fails to recognize the motorcycle for
2 minutes or more.
Shading denotes HOUSE amendment. Double underlining denotes SENATE amendment.
Capital letters or bold & italic numbers indicate new material to be added to existing statute.
Dashes through the words indicate deletions from existing statute.
1 Be it enacted by the General Assembly of the State of Colorado:
2 SECTION 1. In Colorado Revised Statutes, 42-4-612, amend (1)
3 as follows:
4 42-4-612. When signals are inoperative or malfunctioning.
5 (1) (a) Whenever EXCEPT AS DESCRIBED IN SUBSECTION (1)(c) OF THIS
6 SECTION, WHEN a driver approaches an intersection and faces a traffic
7 control signal which THAT is inoperative or which THAT remains on
8 steady red or steady yellow during several time cycles, the rules
9 PROVISIONS controlling entrance to a through street or highway from a
10 stop street SIGN or highway, as provided under section 42-4-703, shall
11 apply until a police officer assumes control of traffic or until THE TRAFFIC
12 CONTROL SIGNAL RESUMES normal operation. is resumed.
13 (b) In the event that any EXCEPT AS DESCRIBED IN SUBSECTION
14 (1)(c) OF THIS SECTION, IF A traffic control signal at a place other than an
15 intersection should cease CEASES to operate or should malfunction as set
16 forth in this section MALFUNCTIONS AS SPECIFIED IN SUBSECTION (1)(a) OF
17 THIS SECTION, drivers may proceed through PAST the inoperative or
18 malfunctioning signal only with caution, as if the signal were one of
19 flashing yellow.
20 (c) WHEN A DRIVER OF A MOTORCYCLE APPROACHES A TRAFFIC
21 CONTROL SIGNAL THAT IS INOPERATIVE, THAT REMAINS ON STEADY RED OR
22 STEADY YELLOW FOR TWO MINUTES OR MORE, OR THAT FAILS TO
23 RECOGNIZE THE MOTORCYCLE FOR TWO MINUTES OR MORE:
24 (I) IF THE TRAFFIC CONTROL SIGNAL IS AT AN INTERSECTION, THE
25 PROVISIONS CONTROLLING ENTRANCE TO A THROUGH STREET OR HIGHWAY
26 FROM A STOP SIGN OR HIGHWAY, AS PROVIDED UNDER SECTION 42-4-703,
27 APPLY UNTIL A POLICE OFFICER ASSUMES CONTROL OF TRAFFIC OR UNTIL
1 THE TRAFFIC CONTROL SIGNAL RESUMES NORMAL OPERATION; AND
2 (II) IF THE TRAFFIC CONTROL SIGNAL IS AT A LOCATION OTHER
3 THAN AN INTERSECTION, THE DRIVER OF THE MOTORCYCLE MAY PROCEED
4 PAST THE SIGNAL ONLY WITH CAUTION, AS IF THE SIGNAL WERE FLASHING
6 SECTION 2. Act subject to petition – effective date. This act
7 takes effect at 12:01 a.m. on the day following the expiration of the
8 ninety-day period after final adjournment of the general assembly (August
9 2, 2019, if adjournment sine die is on May 3, 2019); except that, if a
10 referendum petition is filed pursuant to section 1 (3) of article V of the
11 state constitution against this act or an item, section, or part of this act
12 within such period, then the act, item, section, or part will not take effect
13 unless approved by the people at the general election to be held in
14 November 2020 and, in such case, will take effect on the date of the
15 official declaration of the vote thereon by the governor.