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Learn Connecticut's Laws on Sharing the Road with Cyclists

Use common sense, courtesy — and a helmet if you're biking.

"Let's talk about bike safe-ty. Let's talk about you and me. Let's help avoid all the crashes and the smashes that may be."
-Salt N Pepa N Big Sporting D

Today, my friends, we are going to discuss the rules of the road and helmet safety as it pertains to those pedaling on two wheels as well as those with four wheels who need to take it easy with the first group.

As operators of motor vehicles, we all have a responsibility to those on bicycles (and motorcycles as well). Look, we have to share a lot of things on this planet and the roads are one of them. So relax out there. Being hostile toward cyclists gets you nowhere fast.

I'm a recreational cyclist. I usually ride with either my family; a group of 4-6 friends; or, less frequently, larger groups during charity and other event rides.

I’ve encountered it all on my bike: I’ve been spit on; forced into ditches; screamed at to the point of crashing; assaulted with objects ranging from basketballs to batteries; had dogs hanging out of windows trying to bite my face off; pushed and grabbed; and too many more to mention.

Unfortunately, my natural reaction is to try and catch up to them and demand an explanation — HA! Don't bother. It can turn even more dangerous. But my point is that it’s frustrating as all heck to be abused by these idiots.

It’s my road too! And if they happen to put one of my children in danger, I really can’t guarantee how I'll react. It's just instinctive, I suppose.

I’d like to suggest that all parents have a discussion with their teenage drivers and passengers about being respectful to cyclists and runners who are using the roads.

That's not to suggest that they are the only knuckleheads lashing out at cyclists, but I do find that most of the taunting comes from them. Some of the other issues ... well you know who you are. You know when you look me in the eyes and pull out in front at the last moment. You know when you hate to wait 20 seconds to pass and then gun it while missing me by mere inches. You know when you take the right-hand turn and cut me off for whatever reason.

Most adult drivers get frustrated with cyclists because they don't understand the rights that are provided to them under Connecticut state law. So as a public service to all who drive a car or ride a bicycle, here are a few items that you may not know (taken from the link below).

BICYCLES & MOTOR VEHICLES – SAME ROADS – SAME RULES – SAME RIGHTS

1. Left turns – Bicyclists may choose between a vehicular style left turn or a pedestrian style left turn (14-286c).

2. Riding 2 abreast – Riding 2 abreast is permitted as long as doing so does not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic. Riding more than 2 abreast is prohibited except on paths or roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles (14-286b).

3. Lane positioning: in a lane that is too narrow to share safely, the bicyclist should take the lane by riding in the center of the lane or just to the right of center. A narrow lane is one in which there is not enough room for a motorist to pass a bicyclist within the lane while allowing a 3 foot passing buffer. Moving left in such a lane helps cue an overtaking driver who might otherwise misjudge passing space. In this situation, the bicyclist in the center of the lane is riding as far right as practicable

4. Vehicles Passing Bicycles – Safe passing distance means not less than three feet when the driver of a vehicle overtakes and passes a bicyclist (14-232). A vehicle operator who overtakes and passes a bicyclist proceeding in the same direction shall not make a right turn unless the turn can be made with reasonable safety and without impeding the travel of the person riding the bicycle (14-242). 

HELMETS

Parents: You absolutely need to take the lead in making sure your kids are wearing their helmets. And for those of you who do not insist on it, shame on you. And when you hear a voice yelling, "Helmets please!" — that's me.

Whether they are cycling, skateboarding, rollerblading, or on a scooter, they need a helmet! Do spot checks! Show up at the skate part. Do a drive-by along their route. Alert the parents of friends. If you catch them not wearing a helmet, take their wheels away.

And put them on your children properly. If it’s loose or their little foreheads are exposed, do you really think it’s going to protect them? More than half of the helmets I see on children are not fitted properly.

Besides being the law for those under sixteen, it’s just plain old common sense. It makes just as much sense for you, the adult, to wear a helmet as well. For my older kids growing up, and now with The Boy, there was never a time in their lives where they did not see me with a helmet on.

If you are not wearing one, I have to ask two questions: Why? And do you not understand that children often mimic the actions of their parents?

So please, everyone, use good judgment while driving your cars as well as riding your bikes. And get with the program as far as helmets are concerned.

I’ll see you on the bike trails and on the roads. Don’t make me have to yell, “Helmet!” or “Are you crazy?” I get a little testy when it comes to helmets and the safety of cyclists.

Ron Goralski July 07, 2012 at 04:26 PM
So I just returned from a 17 mile ride with my wife. Before even getting out of Lake Garda area, two cars completely blew through stop signs. On the way to Collinsville a teen stuck his head out the back window of a car and yelled something. Climbing back up 177 I was cut off twice. Once by an oncoming car taking a left in front of me and the other was a car behind me taking a right while I was in its shadow. Yeah so I'm the problem I guess. The drivers in Collinsville are almost always as courteous as can be. And as cyclists sometimes do, I missed my crossing and had to make a quick adjustment and the driver coming my way was as pleasant as can be! He stopped and allowed me to continue. See- if you've never ridden - you may not understand that every maneuver on two wheels does not always go as planned. We sometimes need the understanding and patience of the driver. If we can't afford that luxury to one another we have bigger problems than bikes vs cars.
Ron Goralski July 07, 2012 at 04:51 PM
I'm seeing that the crosswalk laws regarding bicycles may be different depending on the town. Because below it does not say that you have to dismount to along the crosswalk. In Avon there are signs posted asking you to dismount. But is it the law or a safety tip? Because I just rode the bike paths in Canton and there are no such signs. To me it's comepletely impractable to dismount every few minutes as would be the case on sections of the Canton trail. There is enough of a sight-line to see both ways while slowing down. Much of what I'm reading seems to be contradicting what many of you are saying. (Molly - this is CT - not the Cape. OK?) I did not dismount when it was clear both ways in Canton today.   (b) Every person operating a bicycle solely by hand or foot power upon and along any sidewalk or across any roadway upon and along any crosswalk shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to pedestrians walking in such areas as provided by the general statutes, except as provided otherwise by any ordinance of any city, town or borough or any regulation of the State Traffic Commission issued or adopted pursuant to the provisions of section 14-289.
Ron Goralski July 07, 2012 at 05:03 PM
Molly I believe you owe me an apology regarding this statement: "The fact that someone like you, who proports to know all the laws, is citing the law incorrectly just shows why we need more education about bike and car safety and traffic rules." The laws in CT seem to be all over the place regarding some of the discussion points. Where do I claim to know all of the laws? I write to create a discussion - a conversation - so that we can exchange opinions and ideas. As a fellow writer it seems you should know better.
Ron Goralski July 07, 2012 at 05:06 PM
I would still like to hear from those who ride with clubs, sponsor riding clubs, or are members of the bike trail organization. I think your input would be extremely valuable here. I know you're out there :)
Chris McCahill July 07, 2012 at 05:21 PM
As far as I can tell, cyclists in crosswalks are subject to the same rights and duties as pedestrians, subject to local regulations. (CT statutes, Sec. 14-286a) http://www.cga.ct.gov/current/pub/chap248.htm#Sec14-286a.htm
Ron Goralski July 07, 2012 at 05:32 PM
Chris- I guess the question is if a cyclist is required to dismount before entering the crosswalk. What's your take?
Chris McCahill July 07, 2012 at 06:16 PM
In CT, cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as drivers. The roads aren't intended "for cars only" (although most are designed that way) nor do gas taxes cover the cost of maintaining the roads. Moreover, the bike infrastructure is insufficient to keep cyclists off of the road. So, we have to share the roads. With that said, I'll offer a different perspective. Some may consider me one of the "reckless" cyclists mentioned above, but I wouldn't call myself that. Usually, I bike instead of driving. I've learned the laws and I adhered to them... for about a year. But, anyone who rides often in CT will soon realize that the laws, culture, and infrastructure are stacked against them. - The shoulders are narrow and poorly maintained. - Many traffic lights will not turn green for bikes. - Design speeds are too high to accomodate safe biking. - And yes, drivers yell and throw things at cyclists. I'm not defending reckless riding nor advocating for law-breaking. But there are rational reasons to bend the law and most cyclists usually prioritize their own safety. As drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians, we all break laws. We speed; we roll through stop signs; we jaywalk. But we usually do so in good judgment. Let's pause before pointing fingers at each other for doing the same, and always be more cautious around vulnerable road users. http://canton-ct.patch.com/articles/senate-passes-bill-to-fine-drivers-who-hit-vulnerable-users
J. Sosallter July 07, 2012 at 06:20 PM
That's pretty well said because there are multitude of variables in play.
Chris McCahill July 07, 2012 at 06:24 PM
Hard to say, Ron. My take is no need to dismount, unless it's a town reg. My (unofficial) understanding of those signs in Avon is that they're recommendations, not law. I queried the ordinances and didn't come up with anything. More to the point, see my longer comment below.
Henry Couture July 07, 2012 at 06:30 PM
Apologies that I am not a 'club-rider'; but, this is an important topic. Good educational article and comments!! I want to share what I observe when traveling in Germany. Cyclists are everywhere on rural roads as well as side-walks and inner-city streets. Their culture is such that most children are introduced to cycling as soon as possible. They are educated in cycling safety at a young age (usually by a parent). When the young cyclists become of age to drive motor vehicles, their perspective is such that they know and understand safety from 2-wheels AND 4-wheels. I am saddened by your stories regarding 'teens' not respecting your cycling experience --- not sure how to address that other than saying they should be issued a summons for reckless endangerment(??)
Ron Goralski July 07, 2012 at 06:49 PM
So perfectly stated Chris. It was what I was trying to express with my "missing my turn" in Collinsville example. Thanks so much for putting it into words that make sense to us all!
Ron Goralski July 07, 2012 at 06:57 PM
A bike path does not always suit my needs. I have zero obligation to use them although I've ridden many, many miles on them and love them for an easy family ride. They are multi-use and often crowded with dog walkers, training wheels, and people runner on the wrong side (saw 4 of those today).
Ron Goralski July 07, 2012 at 07:01 PM
Good points Henry. The disrespect from younger adults really upsets me as well. Often I'll catch up just to ask them why? Why would they endanger my life for a laugh? I get mixed reactions. Often just more laughter.
Ron Goralski July 07, 2012 at 07:03 PM
I was on a straightaway. The car passed by me and made the right with me in clear sight. This happens often. Drivers need to cut it out. It's common sense. If I have to ride in the middle of the road to be seen - perhaps that's my next option.
Shelley July 07, 2012 at 09:34 PM
There are and will always be jerks driving cars, jerks riding bicycles and jerks riding in cars - that's not going to change so the ultimate responsibility for one's safety no matter what the vehicle is falls to the operator. That's one of the reasons why I sold my motorcycle and don't ride anymore. I figured I would probably get badly injured which for me is worse than getting killed and that wasn't worth the risk. We all make choices, accidents can and do happen and no one can control someone else's moronic behavior.
Deborah Thibodeau July 07, 2012 at 09:34 PM
Regarding Henry's comments about bike education in Germany, Simsbury is introducing bike safety into the 4th grade PE curriculum. Hopefully more will follow. And as for safety awareness, motorists please be cautious when turning right on red around bike path crossings. I've had several encounters on the rail trail where I've received a crossing signal only to have a motorist (only looking left) turn right into my path. Ron, thanks for initiating this important discussion.
Ron Goralski July 08, 2012 at 09:43 AM
I found a fantastic article on this subject in Bicycling Magazine. The comments section is especially good. http://www.bicycling.com/news/advocacy/we-have-met-enemy
Fred July 09, 2012 at 11:56 AM
Dear Ron If you are having over a hundred dangerous encounters with cars on the road that should tell you some thing, go ride on the bike path. By the way I never suggested that bikes did not have the right to be on the roads but let’s be realistic here, the tax payers have spent millions on your little niche paths and bikes are the ones creating the hazard on roads that were designed for cars only.
Ron Goralski July 09, 2012 at 12:27 PM
Dear Jerry, Thanks for the advice. They are my roads too. I will not be bullied into stopping the activities that I enjoy. I have a better idea. It's called mutual respect. A neighbor's friend was run OFF the road yesterday morning about an hour before my son and I were headed out to the same area. My neighbor and her friends were following the rules. The fool in the truck was not! Her friend acted swiftly and the police responded! Chris McCahill put it perfectly into words above. Please read them if you have not already.
Ron Goralski July 09, 2012 at 12:39 PM
Jerry- I'm not sure you read another comment I made above regarding the bike path. First of all it's not just a bike path. It's for people walking dogs, in wheelchairs, on training wheels, walking, running, rollerblading, etc. On a beautiful weekend afternoon, it's packed with users. I am not going to weave in and out of them at 15-25. And (once again) the greenways do not run from my front door to each of my destinations.
Phil Dunn July 09, 2012 at 12:54 PM
Ron, this is an excellent subject worthy of discussion and I will toss in my two cents. I have a healthy respect for cars when I am on my bike and attempt to minimize my contact with cars by riding early in the morning. I never encounter teens at that hour;) I also attempt to minimize my time on the road by incorporating as much of the bike path into my workout route as possible--but once the walkers hit the bike path we become the annoying and dangerous "motorists" whizzing by the elderly and families with toddlers. I also choose to ride a mountain bike so that when I am on the road I can ride right over sewer grates and jump a curb if necessary without destroying a rim and risking a fall. Our roads are not only poorly designed for bikes but they contain many hazards that bikers need to investigate before they choose a route and are forced to turn into a lane occupied by cars when they realize they are about to ride over a sunken sewer grate and a car is a only a few feet away, and there's no place to turn off the road, and no time to stop... The driver that scares me the most is the distracted/oblivios driver who routinely drifts into the side of the road where bikers ride. Please remember that many folks who walk among us with a 40 watt bulb for a brain likely have driver's licenses (and yes, some have bikes). It may be our right to ride in the road with cars, but it's our life on the line when there is a mishap.
Jamie P. July 09, 2012 at 08:19 PM
Ron, we GET IT! But are you hearing what the others here are saying? Yes, we know this is an opinion column, but as numerous readers have pointed out, there is two sides to everything and what others are attempting to say is that there are just as many cyclists (if not more) that DON'T obey the rules of the road than those that do! AND, not ALL cars have issues with cyclists and not all cyclists have issues with cars. If you are going to write a column, try to be open-minded to all sides of the story and not be so stuck on just your own opinion or get so bent out of shape when others try to point out just as significant aspects of the discussion. Happy Riding!
Walter Nester July 09, 2012 at 08:26 PM
WOW....I'm surprised Ron continues to ride as much as he does with such an obstacle course out there every day. And "he's not obligated to use the bike paths"? Interesting...let's pick and choose just when and where he decides to follow the rules of the road. Seems he wants everything his way and his way only. Shame on you!
Ron Goralski July 09, 2012 at 09:58 PM
Nope - not obligated Walter. And your comment doesn't even make sense... "pick and choose..." What are you even talking about? I want safety for cyclists Walter! Yeah... shame on me.
Ron Goralski July 09, 2012 at 10:10 PM
I'm a rider and a driver Jamie- so I get it more than a non-cyclist does. I'm bent out of shape when others tell me to stay off the roadways. I fully understand everything going on here. There are many more drivers than cyclists Jamie - so seriously, what would you expect the response to be here? I will stay bent out of shape as long as there are people making comments like some that I have read. And if you GET IT, spread the word man! Because there are a whole lot not getting it at all. Happy Driving!
Melody T. July 10, 2012 at 02:00 PM
Bikers are going to take their stance and drivers are going to take theirs. Not all bikers bike like idiots and not all drivers drive like idiots. To those in both categories that do, take a chill pill and watch out for one another. Don't let those that can't follow the rules disrupt your daily commute or your daily ride. Those drivers that yell, cut off, or throw things at bikers aren't just teenagers. They fall into the category of immature, impatient drivers. Those bikers that don't obey the rules of the road, block traffic and do their own thing are immature, impatient bikers. I think we should all just agree to disagree here and move on. If everyone here spent as much time watching out for the other guy (or gal) as much as they spend bickering, the road would be a happier and safer place for all. Have a happy and prosperous day!
Ron Goralski July 10, 2012 at 02:04 PM
A lovely melody of thoughts and words!
Ron Goralski July 10, 2012 at 05:58 PM
My heartfelt condolences to the family and friends of Mateusz Maciulewski. http://farmington.patch.com/articles/pedestrian-hit-on-route-4-is-farmington-teen I'd like to reserve any further comments for anyone wishing to remember Mateusz. Thank you.
Ron Goralski July 31, 2012 at 02:16 PM
A story of inspiration... http://cyclingforpeace.wordpress.com/2012/07/24/gaylord-gave-me-hope-and-helped-me-have-a-second-chance/
Ron Goralski July 31, 2012 at 06:50 PM
This is a Patch story related to our topic... http://canton-ct.patch.com/articles/for-canton-officer-trail-education-is-an-ongoing-effort

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