Debate Heats Up Over Proposed Single File Riding Bill

Senate Bill 103 targets cyclists who ride two abreast.

The debate is heating up in the Farmington Valley over a new bill proposed in the state Senate that would require bicyclists to ride single file when riding in groups of two or more.

Senate Bill 103 as proposed by Sen. Kevin Witkos (R-8th District) would amend an existing state law that allows two bicyclists to ride side by side on a roadway to require them to ride single file.


"Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives in General Assembly convened:That section 14-286b of the general statutes be amended to require persons riding bicycles on a roadway to ride single file, rather than two abreast as currently allowed, in order to permit motorists to safely pass and yield three feet to the bicyclists as required by law."

The response from local bicycle advocates is split, but local law enforcement is decidedly in favor of the bill because of safety issues for both drivers and bicyclists.

SB103 was proposed after Witkos was contacted by a Simsbury Police Officer who feels that two abreast riding causes safety issues when drivers are required to yield three feet when passing cyclists. Witkos' district includes Avon, Barkhamsted, Canton, Colebrook, Granby, Hartland, Harwinton, New Hartford, Norfolk, Simsbury, Torrington.

Simsbury Free Bike Director and bicycling advocate Larry Linonis feels that the proposed legislation is necessary for the safety of bicyclists, motorists, and pedestrians on the roads and multi-use paths.

"Many of our roads are so narrow that it forces drivers to cross over the center line when people ride side by side," Linonis said.

State law requires motorists to yield three feet when passing bicycle riders, which is not always possible when two riders are occupying several feet of the roadway, Linonis said.

Linonis' opinion is not one that is shared by all local bike advocates.

"My opinion is my own," Linonis said. "Most of us feel we should be policing ourselves, but we're doing a terrible job of that."

Jan Bolland Tanner, of Benidorm Bikes in Canton, feels that the problem would be better addressed by educating bicyclists about existing laws. The existing state law requires that people riding side by side not impede traffic and should switch to single file riding to allow vehicles to pass.

"People are not always clear on what the real rules of the road are," Bolland Tanner said. "Experienced riders are usually aware of when it is appropriate to ride two abreast and when it's appropriate to ride single file."

While some bicyclists prefer to ride alone, there are many who enjoy the social aspect of riding and Bolland Tanner feels that laws prohibiting people from riding side by side would make the activity less enjoyable for some. In her opinion the proposed law could have a negative impact on multi-use paths by encouraging some riders to start using the paths to ride two abreast.

When it comes to safety, bike advocates like Paul Mikkelson, founder of the Valley Cycling group, believe that another law won't make a difference.

"Most of the accidents out there are caused by the vehicle," Mikkelson said. "Most of the time they're driving too fast, they're texting, they're talking on the phone. Nobody wants to be inconvenienced, and it's the cyclists that suffer."

But for Mikkelson, the true issue isn't the substance of the bill but the way in which it was proposed.

"One police officer in Simsbury calls Kevin [Witkos] and then this bill was suddenly proposed. That's not the democratic way," Mikkelson said.

In his opinion, Witkos should have consulted with the many local bike advocacy groups before introducing the bill.

"The same safety issue applies whether it's three bikes, two bikes, or one bike," Mikkelson said. "You have to pass when it's safe to pass."

Another common problem on the roads, according to Mikkelson, is drivers who make left hand turns without first looking for oncoming bicyclists or those who expect the rider to yield their right of way.

"This is a bill that is truly about safety," Witkos said.

In response to bike advocates who have been critical of the bill, Witkos believes that proposing the bill was the best way to open public dialogue.

"This is a policy that will affect people statewide and this will give people across the state the opportunity to weigh in," Witkos said.

Ultimately it will be up to the state Transportation Committee as to whether a public hearing will be scheduled to discuss the bill, Witkos said.

"I think it warrants a serious discussion, but there are certain folks that don't want that discussion."

While the debate is just beginning, bike advocacy groups hope the bill doesn't get the support it needs to pass. In the meantime, Bolland Tanner hopes that both sides will take it upon themselves to make the roads safer.

"All of this comes down to individual responsibility for both riders and drivers," Bolland Tanner said.

Richard Froh January 21, 2013 at 09:26 PM
I think that there is a serious misunderstanding among road users about the difference between "sharing the road" and sharing an unshareable lane. Don't you think that the further to the right cyclists ride, the more overtaking vehicle drivers assume that they can squeeze by? What causes the unsafe practice of vehicles straddling the yellow line and forcing on-coming vehicles to swerve into the gutter to avoid head-ons? It is the drivers not waiting to pass, but squeezing by FTR (far to the right) Cyclists.
Richard Froh January 21, 2013 at 09:35 PM
Have you ever been in a traffic jam? Were you inconvenienced? Privately-owned motor vehicles account for a vast majority of instances of "impeding" traffic, don't they? Maybe we should pass a law about taking too many trips per week in single-occupant motor vehicles because they cause traffic jams? How about the parents dropping kids off and picking them up at school while school buses are way under capacity? How much "extra" traffic does that create?
Richard Froh January 21, 2013 at 09:42 PM
David: Please read the statute and understand that cyclists must ride as close to the right as "practicable" - not "possible". When is it "practicable" for one legal road user to deliberately endanger himself for the convenience of another road user? Being "alert" means facing backward while riding forward? No! All drivers of all vehicles look at what is in front of them, not alongside them or behind them. The least likely place to be "invisible" is in front of the following driver.
Tony Guy January 21, 2013 at 09:55 PM
Richard, Thanks for taking part in the discussion. As a certified cycling instructor of national stature and of the modern methods, your contribution is most welcome and valued, at least by those who operate on two, three and four wheels.
Richard Froh January 21, 2013 at 10:02 PM
Hi, Larry. Here is a great vacation opportunity. Grab a bunch of other bicycling advocates and go ride in Orlando and learn a LOT! http://floridabicycle.org/wordpress/2013/01/i-am-traffic-bicycle-education-colloquium-update/ And PLEASE bring the politician who sponsored this bill!
Richard Froh January 21, 2013 at 10:32 PM
Hey, guys, Arnold D. makes a point that we need to accept. That is, many motorists feel that many bicyclists are scofflaws - and they are right! The "filtering" past stopped cars, running lights and stop signs, and generally riding as though they were irrelevant to traffic - all that bad behavior is how many people view bicycle riders. So it is up to bicycle riders to work to improve road behavior overall, by example. The problem here is the confusion between dangerous behavior and good defensive driving on the part of cyclists who DO "drive" their bicycles. This is one of the most "educated" threads ever posted on this topic. So how do we convince fellow cyclists that it behooves them to drive correctly, as a relevant part of traffic?
billdsd January 21, 2013 at 10:39 PM
No. He doesn't have a valid point. He's arguing that a law abiding bicyclist with safety training like me shouldn't be allowed to decide when a lane is wide enough to share or not because he sees other bicyclists breaking the law. Apparently I have to ride dangerously because others don't respect the law. The complaint about bicyclists breaking the law is misdirection. It's a trick to distract people. It's an excuse. It's also a double standard. He doesn't propose punishing all motorists because some of them disobey the law. He tries to pretend that he doesn't see bicyclists as second class road users but every argument he makes shows otherwise.
Richard Froh January 21, 2013 at 10:45 PM
This is just a reminder that there is zero point in riding "single file" if doing so does not allow legal passing ANYWAY. This point has been made here dozens of times, and STILL people insist that cyclists are rude for not inviting overtaking vehicles to pass illegally! It isn't a difficult concept! If there is a "mistake", the bicyclist will be the loser. So encouraging "squeezing by" is by riding too far to the right is dangerous behavior by cyclists.
Tony Guy January 22, 2013 at 01:17 AM
charles beristain January 22, 2013 at 02:48 AM
http://cyclingsavvy.org/hows-my-driving/ also: “You’re supposed to ride single-file.” "Florida law ( and CT law) allows bicyclists to travel two-abreast, provided doing so does not impede traffic. On streets where the lane is not wide enough the share, a solo bicyclist is allowed to ride in the middle of the lane anyway, so the presence of another bicyclist to her right is of little consequence."
charles beristain January 22, 2013 at 02:52 AM
more on this subject: http://www.bikexprt.com/bicycle/sidebysid.htm
billdsd January 22, 2013 at 03:19 AM
Arnold D January 22, 2013 at 11:51 AM
billdsd, You offer more accusations and no substantive arguments. "It's also a double standard. He doesn't propose punishing all motorists because some of them disobey the law." Sorry, this was already accomplished with the 3 rule. A rule that I agree with. OK then, as the law abiding motorist you claim to be, I'm sure you opposed the proposal of the 3' rule as vehemently as you are opposing this elimination of a special provision. Because after all, a few idiot drivers who can't judge safety were the impetus to impose a new law with a specific measurement. I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume you were a supporter of the 3' law. In that case, you're a hypocrite. Plain and simple. I can't take anything that you say with any level of seriousness. You've done nothing to help your cause. I'll consider the arguments from the other intelligent cyclists on this message board but I'm done responding to you.
billdsd January 22, 2013 at 12:03 PM
The ONLY reason that I support 3 foot laws is that they help educate. The fact is that in my car, I avoid passing closer than 5 feet to bicyclists. 3 feet is still a bit too close IMO but 3 feet is better than what I got when I was riding to the far right all the time. Now that I control the lane in narrow lanes, I almost never get passes in the same lane. Drivers move into the other lane to pass at a safe distance. When I rode far right all the time, passes of less than 1 foot were common. I find that maintaining at least 5 feet is really quite easy. The fact is that I've had you pegged right from the start. Your obsession with bicyclists riding side by side is absolute proof that you have a problem with moving over to pass and that you think that you shouldn't have to. You have shown yourself to be ignorant of the law and to have poor reading skills. You're just another whiner who's upset about a trivial inconvenience. I'm sure that you will keep making up excuses and pretending that you know safety, even though you are clearly making it up as you go along, mostly just trying to rationalize your delusions of entitlement. Getting educated in bicycle safety enough to actually understand it is never an option for people like you. All that matters is your belief that bicyclists have to stay out of your way.
Art Bedard January 22, 2013 at 01:22 PM
I think the reason why this bill was proposed was a response to a few club riders, on a few roads, on a few occasions. The club riders have every right to a safe enjoyable ride. The arguments presented against this legislation are very sound. The simple physics of the problem is that it's harder to safety pass a large group traveling 20 mph on a narrower 35 mph speed limit road. The frequency of this 'inconvenience' is not a issue for me. My question is: What is reasonable civic responsibility of a large group of recreational riders?
Richard Froh January 22, 2013 at 01:33 PM
How 'bout dat stuff?!?! So why, then, did this bill come up. Don't law enforcement professionals understand the realities of bicyclist safety? Don't they base their enforcement on a clear understanding of our laws and the traffic rules that these laws are based upon? What studies or terrible accidents prompted this proposed bill? The answers are obvious. But the work we need to do to promote safe cycling involves convincing cyclists that their own behavior is the key to insuring their own safety. This convincing can't be done just with blogging. I began riding on the roads having nearly overwhelming "fear from the rear" and riding in the gutter, just as most people do (those who are even brave enough to ride on roads). Club riding brought me only so far, and developed other bad superstitions. Belief change is done through experiential learning.
Richard Froh January 22, 2013 at 01:46 PM
When local residents complained that a time trial on roads near a rural golf course(30-second separation between single riders) "impeded" traffic flow with "too many" bicyclists, my mother gave me this pearl of wisdom. She said, "It upsets me when I am running late for my tee time and I am held up by bicyclists using our public roads for recreation." (I think her tongue was in her cheek, but the delivery was dead-pan.) I suggested to local group riders that they break into groups of five or so riders with five minutes separation between groups, faster riders go first, riding on the same route. Better for fitness, better for public relations, no stopping for flat tires. However, since WHEN do motorists feel shame about traffic jams they cause for whatever reason, and therefore voluntarily take measures to alleviate them? Count the number of times motorists "impede" traffic, singly or in group "jams", each time you are on the road. Is there a law against "rush hour"?
yugits January 22, 2013 at 02:33 PM
Art Bedard January 22, 2013 at 06:34 PM
Tony, There is a good chance this bill will come before the Senate for public comment. I hope cooler heads prevail when people who oppose this bill speak at the comment session. The school bus, snow plow, funeral procession, and mail truck are not arguments that would resonate with a senator on the fence. What am I talking about? I doubt Witkos's bill was inspired by retired guys riding two abreast on their department store hybrids. I am a long distance cyclist (600K+ events) and would hate to see this law implemented.
billdsd January 22, 2013 at 09:07 PM
A brief adventure in perspective: http://vimeo.com/55043641 When people claim that they are being impeded by bicycles, they are lying, plain and simple. Lets Make One Thing Clear, I Am Not Slowing You Down http://bostonbiker.org/2011/02/01/lets-make-one-thing-clear-i-am-not-slowing-you-down/
Sandy D'Esopo January 22, 2013 at 09:21 PM
Anne, Years ago when I was a cyclist, I would roll through a stop sign if no other traffic was there, but stop if there was. I acted out of respect for the law, safety, and common sense. I also sometimes, especially at lights, dismounted my bike and walked across the crosswalk. Bikers are required to obey the same traffic laws as cars, but sometimes I fudged a bit so long as no danger existed.
Sandy D'Esopo January 22, 2013 at 09:41 PM
Andrew: Are you serious? Read your history--governments took over roads because too many of the colonial-era private toll roads were run by profiteers charging exorbiting rates, or weren't maintained, or where sufficient traffic didn't exist, weren't built. Good roads built by municipalities, states and the federal government have been crucial to this nation's prosperity. And you would turn roads over to the fat cats and idiots who gave us the financial and mortgage meltdowns?
Sandy D'Esopo January 22, 2013 at 09:49 PM
Tony Guy, Thanks for your input. Do you have figures on bike/car encounters, injuries and deaths, etc.? It would help this thread if more knew more of what's actually going on.
Richard Froh January 22, 2013 at 10:53 PM
When it comes before the Senate for public comment, there are several things that responsible and enlightened cyclists should insist be established as guidelines for the discussion: 1) riding single file does NOT improve cyclist safety because it encourages motorists to pass without granting the MINIMUM clearance that the 3-foot minimum passing law requires. 2. the CT DOT's adopted standards for lane width establishes a MINIMUM of 14' for lane-sharing (and that is only sharing with small/medium autos - not trucks, trailers, buses). 3) There are bicycling safety studies using sound methodology, and only these should be referenced. 4) Superstitions and unfounded opinions should be rejected, as in any fair hearing.
Richard Froh January 22, 2013 at 11:13 PM
Simsbury isn't the only place where group riding has made some motorists peeved. Most of us - motorists and cyclists (most of whom are also motorists!) - haven't taken time to consider all the many delays caused by various motor vehicles each and every day. When we think about it, it is a large number of motor vehicle-caused delays! People use motor vehicles for lots of purposes besides efficient transportation to work, such as driving to the gym, or golf course, or club, or church, or parties, or just to see the countryside and get out of the house - for examples. So let's examine why, since rational folk agree that operating a motor vehicle too close to a bicyclist is dangerous, should bicyclists be expected to ENCOURAGE this danger by sharing un-share-able lanes? I think that this is what billsd and others are trying to point out. It gets frustrating when the underlying attitudes toward bicyclists are exposed. That is why I, and others, suggested people who have an interest in cyclist safety take time to learn about it form some of the good websites dealing with the issue(s). Are we being too "uppidy"?
charles beristain January 29, 2013 at 09:20 PM
Flaming, regardless of what side of this issue you fall on, does no good for anyone. Getting into a Pi**ing contest usually results in both parties getting wet, and not much else. Best to focus on the real issues with a cool head.
Jeff Brush (Editor) January 30, 2013 at 07:26 PM
Hi All, This forum has some great comments and information but at this time I would like to remind everyone to abide by our terms of use and refrain from personal attacks. Let's keep things civil and continue a positive dialogue about an important issue.
charles beristain February 07, 2013 at 07:44 PM
SB103- public testimony on Feb 13th - riding two abreast. Public hearing next wednesday!!!! once again, need to rally the forces to protect cyclists right to share the road. http://www.cga.ct.gov/asp/cgabillstatus/cgabillstatus.asp?selBillType=Bill&bill_num=SB103&which_year=2013&SUBMIT1.x=0&SUBMIT1.y=0 charlie
Dabberdog March 01, 2013 at 02:11 PM
As both a cyclist and a motorist I find it almost shocking that anyone would ever want to ride two abreast. When I am riding my bike, and I approach two folks riding next to each other, it is pretty much always a hazard to try and pass them, and there is also an underlying reason that they are riding next to each other... they want to talk. Regardless of the legislation (which I do think is superfluous) I think these folks should go get a cup of coffee after their ride to talk. Single file, always, no matter what. Dabberdog - Cycling the Hills of Southern Connecticut http://www.dabberdog.com
Richard Froh March 02, 2013 at 12:58 PM
Dabberdog: "Pretty much a hazard" is a kinda sorta maybe rather wishy-washy-ish description, I think. Rather than squeeze-by a single cyclist, two cyclists, or ten cyclists, wouldn't it be safer for an overtaking vehicle to wait until it is clear to pass and then change lanes? A long line of cyclists means a long stretch of "squeezing-by" for passing vehicles. How many times in your experience riding the hills of Southern Connecticut has your single-filedness lured a passing motorist into squeezung-by, only to have an on-coming vehicle forced to swerve right to avoid a head-on. What about the far-to-the-tight single-file-riding cyclist going the other direction - does he get hit in this avoidance maneuver? A share-able lane is a minimum of 14' wide, and for a bicycle and truck it is 16'. Sharing a narrower lane makes the road dangerous for everyone. (It took me years to clearly see what I stated here because I always thought that, as a cyclist, I was an inferior road user.)


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