Susan Tuz, reporter for the Danbury-based News-Times, asks:
Can bikes and cars coexist?
Fatal accidents demonstrate need for increased awareness, separate lanes
By Susan Tuz, Sun. June 28, 2015
The negligent homicide charge filed last week against a New Milford man in the 2014 death of a bicyclist highlighted the growing potential for collisions between motor vehicles and increasingly numerous two-wheelers.
Although bicycle commuting in Greater Danbury is still uncommon, recreational use is on the rise, and a 2014 state law requires that the needs of cyclists — including, for example, the provision of designated bike lanes — be taken into account in planning for new transportation projects.
Advocates for motorists and cyclists agree that both groups must better learn the rules of the road in order to avoid accidents like the one that killed Dwight Hipp, 57, while he was riding one morning last August on Route 109
— the fourth such fatality in the region since 2010. John Kimberley, 23, is scheduled to appear in court Monday in Bantam to face charges that could put him in jail up to six months.
From 2008 to 2012, 11 other cyclists were left incapacitated after collisions with motor vehicles, according to a study for the Housatonic Valley Council of Elected Officials.
Kelly Kennedy, executive director of Bike Walk CT, said the state “is approaching a tipping point.”
“A Share the Road campaign is something Connecticut needs to work on,” Kennedy said. “Courtesy and awareness on the roadway goes both ways. Cyclists need to be predictable, and drivers have to be aware of cyclists.”
While both groups need to be aware of each other, the state recognizes that a person on a bicycle is at a definite disadvantage in a standoff with a car or truck. A recent Vulnerable Road User law prohibits motorists from impeding cyclists when making a right turn, gives cyclists the right of way in intersections and requires drivers to maintain three feet of clearance when passing a bike.
“Drivers have to get used to cyclists being on the roads,” said Tom O’Brien, president of the New Milford River Trails Association. “We all need to drive slower when in a car or truck and use more caution when there are pedestrians or cyclists on the road.”
But cyclists, too, have their responsibilities. In Connecticut, the same traffic laws that apply to motorists apply to cyclists: Stop signs and traffic lights must be obeyed, hand signals must be used to indicate stops and turns, and cyclists generally must ride as close as possible to the right side of the roadway [*but see important note below], traveling in the same direction as motorists.
Read the full story here
* Bike Walk CT Note: The 2015 Bike Safety Bill (Public Act 2015-41, effective July 1, 2015) makes important changes to the old rule to ride "as far to the right as is practicable."
The new rule, effective July 1, 2015, is that "Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic shall ride as close to the right side of the roadway as is safe, as judged by the bicyclist."
Under the new law, there are six situations when bicyclists do not have to ride to the right of the road:
(1) When overtaking or passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction;
(2) When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway;
(3) When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions, including, but not limited to, fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, bicycles, pedestrians, animals, surface hazards or lanes that are too narrow for a bicycle and a motor vehicle to travel safely side by side within such lanes;
(4) When approaching an intersection where right turns are permitted and there is a dedicated right turn lane, in which case a bicyclist may ride on the left-hand side of such dedicated lane, even if the bicyclist does not intend to turn right;
(5) When riding on a roadway designated for one-way traffic, when the bicyclist may ride as near to the left-hand curb or edge of such roadway as judged safe by the bicyclist; or
(6) When riding on parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles, including, but not limited to, counter-flow bicycle lanes, left-handed cycle tracks on one-way streets and two-way cycle tracks.
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