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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.

SB103: AN ACT REQUIRING BICYCLISTS TO RIDE SINGLE FILE ON A PUBLIC ROAD

"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.

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 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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