After Close Call, Attorney Stresses Bike Safety on Connecticut Roads

This spring Cramer & Anderson lost one of its partners to a bicycle accident. Our partner David Burke died as the result of an accident that happened when he was riding on a level straightaway along Bantam Lake.

He was not hit by a motor vehicle, but each weekend we read of deaths and serious injuries to bike riders after being hit by a car or truck. In early June a group ride in Kalamazoo Michigan ended in tragedy when all nine riders in the group were struck from behind by a ShareTheRoadpick-up truck. Five died that evening. The others were injured but survived.

As a road cyclist like David and the riders in Kalamazoo, I worry about sharing the road with motor vehicles. There are rules of the road, which, if followed by cyclists and drivers, can assure safety for everyone. Each of us needs to be aware of the rights and duties we have to get bike riders home safely.

THREE FEET – IT’S THE LAW sounds like a catchphrase, but it is, in fact, a law in Connecticut and New York State. Sec. 14-232 of the Connecticut General Statutes states that a “safe distance” is “not less than 3 feet when the driver of a vehicle overtakes and passes a person riding a bicycle.” I think of the 3 feet as a “safe fall zone.” If I were to lose control of my bike because of an obstacle in the road just as a car was passing me, those 3 open feet might mean the difference between being banged up and being run over.

CROSS THE CENTERLINE if need be. This same section of the statutes goes on to say no vehicle should go to the left of the centerline to pass unless it is clear and visible that there is no oncoming traffic for a safe distance. If a driver is going to clear a bicyclist by 3-feet as required, he or she is probably going to be across the centerline. The driver may cross the line when there is a safe passing zone but should not pass if that visibility is not there. It may mean waiting a few seconds, but that is a small inconvenience if it keeps the driver, the biker and the oncoming vehicle from an accident. Likewise, as happened to me last week, no driver should overtake the bicyclist when there is a vehicle in the other lane. A car passed me on a road with no shoulder as a dump truck ShareTheRoad copywas in the oncoming lane. I believe the car was less than a foot from me.

OBSTACLES ON ROAD are a constant threat to bicyclists. I often ride away from the shoulder for my safety. State law in Sec. 14-286b requires anyone riding a bicycle to ride as close to the right side of the roadway as is safe as judged by the bicyclist.

State law recognizes that a bicyclist is best positioned to judge road hazards. What looks like a clear country road to a car can be full of hazards to a cyclist. I see huge cracks that run parallel to the shoulder, deteriorated edges, fallen tree branches, catch basins with edges that can catch a wheel, broken glass and countless other road hazards that would not give a car or truck driver any concern but can be a life and death issue for a cyclist.

Drivers need to respect that if a bicyclist is not staying to the far right of the road there is probably a hazard that is causing him or her to move out. Don’t honk and scare the bicyclist. Instead, when you have a clear view and safe lane to pass, move out at least 3 feet and go around.

Bicyclists are by law welcome to ride in safety on the roads of Connecticut. They have rules of the road to follows, as do motor vehicle drivers. When we share the road properly, we can all enjoy the ride.

To learn more, see the Share the Road program page on the website of the Connecticut Department of Transportation, where you will find:

Safety Tips and Resources for All Types of Transportation Users
•   Tips for Cyclists

•   Tips for Pedestrians

•   Tips for Motorists

•   Road Safety for Motorists and Equestrians (pdf brochure)

•   Connecticut State Bicycle Map

•   Connecticut Statewide Bicycle and Pedestrian Transportation Plan

Also see the Share the Road Facebook page.

Dolores R. Schiesel, a Cramer & Anderson partner in the Kent office, offers estate planning services and represents clients in real estate matters, including purchases, sales, refinances and reverse mortgages. She may be reached at (860) 927-3568 or by email at drs@crameranderson.com.

Cramer & Anderson also has offices in New Milford, Litchfield, Danbury, and Washington Depot. For more information, call the New Milford office at 860-355-2631 or see the website at crameranderson.com.