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Safety is Top Concern in Single File Riding Debate

Senate Bill 103 would require cyclists to ride single file on roadways. Some suggest leaving it up to individual municipalities.

As the debate surrounding a proposed bill that would require bicyclists to ride single file on roadways continues, state and local officials continue to look for ways to improve safety measures for riders and motorists.

The primary reason behind Senate Bill 103, a proposed bill that would make riding bicycles two abreast on roadways illegal, is safety for cyclists, motorists, and pedestrians, according to Sen. Kevin Witkos (R-8th District). Read the proposed bill.

The response to the bill within the bicycling community is mixed, however the majority of cycling advocates tend to be opposed to the bill while others are in support of SB 103 or tighter enforcement of the existing law.

"I think for public safety reasons I could go either way," Steven Mitchell, board member for the East Coast Greenway, said.

Witkos proposed the bill after he was contacted by a Simsbury Police officer who was concerned about safety issues presented by two abreast riding on narrow roads when vehicles move to pass cyclists.

Those opposed to the bill argue that there is no data that supports the need for such a law. Local law enforcement officials say that a lack of hard data does not mean there isn't a reason to be concerned.

According to the Simsbury Police Department, there were seven accidents involving bicycles and motor vehicles in 2011 and five accidents in 2012.

"Usually it's a turning issue or a crosswalk issue," Simsbury Police Captain Nicholas Boulter said.

There were no accidents involving bicyclists who were riding two abreast in recent years, but Boulter said that doesn't mean we shouldn't be concerned.

"We've all seen and sometimes experienced the difficulty in passing even one [bicyclist] on a narrow road," Boulter said.

Observation and experience can go a long way in determining laws that promote public safety, Boulter said.

"We might not have had any motorcycle accidents in a particular year but we know the risk is there because of the size of that vehicle," Boulter said.

Currently there are only five states that have laws against riding bicycles two abreast, according to the Alliance for Biking & Walking 2012 Benchmarking Report: Hawaii, Nebraska, South Dakota, Iowa, and Arkansas. Only two of those states are ranked among the top 10 safest states for cyclists.

Additionally, there are 20 states that have enacted a three foot passing law for motor vehicles when passing cyclists. Arkansas is the only state that has both the three foot passing law and a law against two abreast riding.

View the full report here.

Top 10 Safest Places to Bike (According to the Alliance for Biking & Walking)

  1. South Dakota
  2. Vermont
  3. Oregon
  4. Nebraska
  5. North Dakota
  6. Colorado
  7. Montana
  8. Wyoming
  9. Idaho
  10. Washington

Connecticut is #30 on the list of safest places to bike. Towns like Simsbury are working to change that by working to promote the use of bicycles through education, access, and by providing multi-use paths and designated bicycle routes.

Simsbury has been recognized as a bronze level bike friendly community by the League of American Bicyclists in 2010, the first Connecticut town to achieve that status, and the town continues to work towards the silver designation.

Both West Hartford and Farmington have formed bicycle advisory committees, and are also working to achieve bike friendly status. Farmington received an honorable mention for the town's 2012 application for bike friendly status, but did not receive the designation. West Hartford plans to apply for the first time in 2013.

Larry Linonis, Director of Simsbury Free Bike, said safety is one of the areas Simsbury needs to improve before it reaches the silver level.

Witkos said he has received many suggestions about how to approach the safety issue with two abreast riding since he proposed the bill.

"This is exactly what I wanted," Witkos said. "It could be that the bill never makes it out of committee, but we need to address it."

One suggestion Witkos received was to allow individual municipalities to determine whether or not to allow two abreast riding. Mitchell, who didn't make the suggestion to Witkos, said he was surprised when he saw a sign posted along the East Coast Greenway in Portsmouth, NH, that reads "Bicyclists, Joggers, Single File Only—Town Ordinance."

"It made an impression on me and I said 'Now that makes sense," Mitchell said.

From a law enforcement perspective, that option could present other challenges.

"[Cyclists] and motorists don't always recognize the varying laws in different towns," Boulter said. "I think there are some things that require some uniformity."

For Witkos, the first step will be to determine a concrete definition of the existing state law which allows two abreast riding as long as it does not impede traffic.

"I think we need to first define what 'impeding traffic' means," Witkos said.

Witkos plans to request an interpretation of the existing law from the State Attorney's office before the bill goes before committee.

"I'm not for adding unnecessary laws to the books, this is about safety," Witkos said. "If it comes down to a situation where the bill goes nowhere but we can define what 'impeding' means, I'm okay with that."

Andrew Ziemba January 21, 2013 at 01:12 PM
And I wish people would be careful when they open their door not to hit mine in a parking lot. I also wish people would turn off their high beams when driving. Unfortunately the human population's IQ has reduced dramatically over the years.
charles beristain January 23, 2013 at 03:00 AM
I was one of those statistics two years ago ... Tariffville road (rt 315) and Hopmeadow. riding south on the rail trail .Stopped at the stop light, pushed the crosswalk button, waited for the light to change AND for the cars to stop .. 5 of us ..A car decided to turn right on red without looking at the crosswalk .. first rider just made it across, scone rider was hit head on, the third rider ( me) was hit on the right fender of the car ..The other two cyclists witnessed the mayhem. the cyclists did everything right .. and the driver, like many other drivers are in too much of a hurry to stop and look both ways before proceeding through an intersection.
charles beristain January 23, 2013 at 03:47 AM
look at page 30 of this report for cycling/ped accident summary. http://www.ctbikepedboard.org/uploads/1/0/3/8/10385744/cbpab_2012-2013_annual_report2.pdf
Bill Stanford January 23, 2013 at 01:08 PM
The problem with requiring single file riding at all times is that motorists often assume that they don't have to change lanes to allow room for riders. When I was young, I used to ride quite a bit and cannot tell you how many times motorists essentially forced me off the road. Once, I was clipped on my left shoulder by a mirror. On roads without bicycle lanes, the far ride side of the road often has lots of debris (glass, rocks, etc) that make it unsafe to ride through. By riding side by side, you force motorists to completely change lanes and to take care in making passes. Since moving to CT, I have been shocked at the lack of police enforcement of speed limits.
Richard Froh February 11, 2013 at 08:44 PM
Check the CT DOT description of the lane width required for a lane to be "snare-able" by a bicycle and a motor vehicle, and note that this (14') is a "minimum" width, assuming a medium-sized passenger car. An overtaking truck or trailer with a 8'6" width would mean a share-able lane needs to be at least 16'. Lane-splitting - driving in two lanes simultaneously - is dangerous. When a bicyclist encourages sharing of an un-share-able lane, he/she is endangering other road users. No safe driver - truck, passenger car, or bicycle driver - encourages unsafe passing! Look at how many times every day we motorists "impede" each other - delivery trucks, buses, passenger drop-off, parallel parking, making a left turn across traffic, rush hour traffic jams, dropping the kids off at shcool because they missed the bus (another long line of traffic blocking the roads). Cyclists don't "impede". Let's stop this nonsensical proposed law and stop this embarrassment to the State of Connecticut

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