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Sharing the Road with Bicycles

Whether running errands, commuting to work, or exercising, more and more people are riding bicycles in Connecticut. Under Connecticut General Statutes, a bicycle is considered a vehicle with the same rights and responsibilities as cars, trucks, buses, and other vehicles that travel on public roadways. Courtesy, predictability, and visibility are important factors in “sharing the road” with many types of vehicles.

Accidents

Most automobile/bicycle crashes occur at intersections.

The most common crashes in which the motorist is at fault typically occur when the motorist fails to yield the right of way to the cyclist. These crashes occur when the motorist:

1. turns left into the path of an oncoming cyclist.
2. passes and cuts right into the path of a cyclist
3. enters the roadway from a driveway, stop sign, or red light.
4. passes a cyclist at an unsafe distance and strikes the cyclist from the side or behind.

How to “Share the Road” with bicycles

Turning

Always yield the right of way to bicycles as you would to motor vehicles.
Never try to pass a cyclist just before you turn right. Slow down and make your turn after the cyclist has passed or made the same turn.
Scan the travel lane, shoulder, and sidewalk before turning, looking especially for child cyclists who have much smaller profiles and can be easily overlooked.
Scan left and right before pulling out or turning, and be on the lookout for cyclists riding against traffic on the wrong side of the street.

Stopping

Stop at the stop line of a stop sign and red light. Don’t let your car’s front end stick out into the roadway and force a cyclist into traffic or your car.
When approaching a stop sign or a red light, do not attempt to pass a cyclist that is traveling ahead of you.

Passing

Give at least three feet of passing space between the right side of your vehicle and a cyclist.
Reduce your speed when passing cyclists, especially if the roadway is narrow. When a road is too narrow for cars and bikes to travel safely side by side, cyclists will “take the lane,” which means they will ride towards the center of the travel lane.
Only pass when you are certain it is safe to do so. If there is an oncoming vehicle, wait for it to pass before you pass.
After passing a cyclist, look over your shoulder to make sure you are well past the cyclist before merging back into the travel lane.
Never underestimate the speed of bicycles. Experienced cyclists can travel 30 mph and much faster going downhill.
Don’t blast your horn when approaching cyclists. This could startle them and cause an accident.

Special Situations

When parking along the roadside, look behind you for cyclists before you open your door.
In inclement weather, just like other vehicles, it requires more time to stop and maneuver a bicycle. Give cyclists extra space.

“Effective Cycling”

You can expect responsible, informed, and experienced cyclists to:

Ride as far to the right as practicable or safe. It is usually safest for a cyclist to ride toward the center of the lane, especially on a narrow road, and toward the left of the lane when making a left turn. Cyclists also ride farther from the curb or shoulder to avoid sand, glass, storm grates, or other road hazards.
Turn left from the “left turn” lane.
Travel in the “through lane” when proceeding straight, staying out of a “right turn” lane.
Pass parked cars a door’s width away to avoid doors being opened in their travel path.
Cross railroad tracks at a perpendicular angle.
Hand-signal left and right turns, and stops.
Use front and rear lights after dusk and in inclement weather.
Ride two abreast when not impeding the flow of other traffic.

Special considerations when encountering children on bicycles:

Always “Expect the Unexpected.” A child’s field of vision is much narrower than an adult’s, and children have a hard time judging the speed and distance of oncoming traffic. They also have difficulty judging where sound is coming from. Children often dart out into the street without stopping or looking, and they are easily distracted. Their motor skills are still developing and they may not be able to operate their bicycles in a straight line. When children turn looking for cars behind them, they may unintentionally swerve farther left out into the travel lane or into oncoming traffic. Children, and many adults, get a false sense of personal safety when biking on sidewalks; use extra caution when turning in and out of driveways and at intersections cut by sidewalks. Again, always “Expect the Unexpected.”

-end-

Suggested Driver Exam Questions

  1. A bicycle is considered a vehicle under CT General Statutes with the same rights and responsibilities as cars, trucks, buses, and other vehicles when travelling public roadways. T or F
  2. A left turning motorist does not have to yield the right of way to a cyclist traveling straight in the opposite direction. T or F
  3. Frequent motorist errors which cause car/bicycle crashes include:
    1. misjudging the speed the cyclist is traveling
    2. failing to yield the right of way to the cyclist
    3. failing to slow and merge with bicycle traffic
    4. all of the above.
  4. When overtaking a cyclist, a motorist should:
    1. blow his/her horn
    2. remain behind the cyclist until it is safe to pass.
    3. remain in the travel lane and force the cyclist off the road.
    4. drive as close to the cyclist as possible.
 

 

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Copyright 1999 - 2000 Connecticut Bicycle Coalition, Inc.
Last modified: December 08, 1999