DENVER – One of the simply joys of life in Durango is the ability to hop on a bike and leave the car at home as you make your way through the day.
It’s a defining facet of the city and a common sight, but some individuals take exception to sharing Durango’s roadways with cyclists and express their opinion through a display called “rolling coal.”
You’ve probably seen it, a diesel truck rolls up to a stop light, revs its engine and spews out a plume of black smoke, usually in the face of cyclists, hybrid cars or protesters, as was the case during a anti-Trump protest along Main Avenue in November.
State Sen. Don Coram, R-Montose, has seen it happen, and he’s trying to stiffen the penalties for it.
Enter Senate Bill 278, which would level a $100 fine on individuals who purposely expel exhaust “in a manner that obstructs or obscures another person’s view of the roadway,” or creates “a hazard to a driver, bicyclist or pedestrian,” and a $35 fine for individuals who tamper with their emission control system to enable “rolling coal.”
SB 278 is the second bill on the issue sponsored by Coram this session and was passed Tuesday by the Senate Transportation Committee on a 3-2 vote that saw Sen. Ray Scott, R-Grand Junction, side with Democrats on the committee.
The earlier version was killed by the GOP over concerns it targeted commercial and agricultural vehicles that install chips to increase performance.
Spencer Compton, managing director of Durango Wheel Club, said he is surprised there isn’t a law in place allowing for the fines as it is an issue that Colorado’s cycling community has dealt with for years.
“It just seems so obvious that it shouldn’t be done in the first place, and I think most people would agree,” Compton said.
During the 2016 legislative session, attempts to level fines against individuals who roll coal were shot down on the belief that it was a fad that would pass.
“There’s always been that sense because it’s so obviously stupid,” Compton said.
Durango City Council member Dean Brookie said the subject of leveling a fine has come up in City Council meetings but has been tabled for other efforts.
While the city hasn’t done anything to date, it supports stiffening the penalties and, in Brookie’s case, think a $100 fine should be the starting place.
“When it becomes bullying or a hate crime, I would say $100 is not an appropriate exaction,” Brookie said.
Compton said the fine under SB 278 was a step in the right direction, but he felt targeting of cyclists was more than a nuisance.
“I think it’s a form of assault because you’re physically affected by it,” he said.
Having cleared committee, the bill heads to the Senate floor where, with Coram’s sponsorship, it is likely to pass and head to the Democrat-held House, which passed a version of the bill earlier in the session.