On Wednesday the Transportation Committee will hear testimony on a proposed bill by state Senator Kevin Witkos and a sister bill, SB 103 and HB 5246. These proposals have caused a stir in the bicycle community and riled up all kinds of road users. The Senator has introduced new language that would require persons riding bicycles on a roadway to ride single file, rather than two abreast as currently allowed. Senator Witkos claims concern for safety because bicyclists who travel two-abreast "force" vehicles to pass by crossing the road centerline. He has explained that he wants the definition of "impeding traffic" to be clarified.
Is this proposal a response to a terrible accident? No. In response to an outcry by bicycle riders who understand that that riding single-file "protects" them from close passing? No. A response to the increased risk of being hit from behind shile riding way out in the lane? No. It is about intolerance of bicyclists, and a view that their presence on thr road "impedes" traffic, which is entitled to go fast.
What is "impeding raffic"? Senator Kevin Witkos would like some help in determining the definition of this term. I think we should help him out.
Which operators of the following vehicles/devices are "impeding traffic"?:
- a car dropping-off a child
- a police cruiser making a traffic stop
- a landscape trailer
- a car that is parallel parking
- a newspaper deliver vehicle
- a US mail vehicle
- a truck delivering to a restaurant
- a car stopped at a tag sale
- a stroller pushed by a jogger
- a disabled person in a motorized mobility apparatus
- a car that pulls over so the driver can read a house number
- a pickup truck waiting to make a left turn on a busy road
- a car driving 5 mph below the posted speed on a rural road
- a bicycle traveling 9 mph below the posted speed limit
- a car in a funeral procession
- a car en-route to the gym, waiting to make a left turn on a busy road
- a car en-route to the golf course driving 3 mph below the posted speed limit
- a car en-route to a nail salon driving 11 mph below the posted speed limit
- a bicycle riding next to anothe bicycle within the same lane
- six bicycles riding in pairs side-by-side in one lane of a 4-lane road
- a mini van backing out of a private driveway
- two dozen cars parked for a bridal shower
- a thousand cars clogging the road during rush hour
- a car with a trailer launching a boat
- a motorhome driving 7 mph below the posted speed limit
- a car with a flat tire
- a SEAT bus making a stop
- a tractor-trailer making a turn in a narrow intersection
If you ignored all the daily "impedences" to our travel EXCEPT a bicycle, and six bicycles in side-by-side pairs in a single lane, then it is likely that you share Senator Witkos's "concern for safety", and you might support forcing all bicyclists to ride single-file no matter what the circumstances, as long as there is an impatient vehicle driver who feels entitled to try to squeeze by right-then-and-there without waiting.
Can't pass the dozen or so cyclists on a winding rural road without crossing completely into the other lane? Senator Witkos's law would force them into single file so you could squeeze past twice the number of riders while driving around blind curves partially in the on-coming lane. I just don't see the safety upgrade? Sounds like the bicyclist would be the likely loser.
Envision this: Four bicyclists are riding single-file near the right road edge on a narrow 2-lane road. Three motor vehicles are following behind them. The first vehicle is a small sedan, which is travelling slowly and safely, waiting to pass the cyclists. The second vehicle is a large SUV with tinted windows, and the third vehicle is a pickup truck towing a landscape trailer. The pickup driver can't see why the sedan and SUV are driving so slowly. The small sedan squeezes by the cyclists, followed by the SUV and then by the pickup/landscape trailer. The pickup driver doesn't see the bicyclists until he is alongside them - just as an on-coming vehicle passes. His choice - hit the on-coming vehicle or drag the trailer into the cyclists.
It requires a 16-foot lane for a truck/trailer like this to have sufficient clearance to pass a bicyclist without changing lanes. Where are these roads with 16-foot-wide lanes where single-file bicyclists would enable waiting motorists to pass without going across the lane divider? Senator Witkos never bothered to do the math.
Bicyclists are very rarely hit from directly behind. Most crashes are caused by the bicyclist losing control of the bicycle. Do you want to the motorist who is "squeezing by" when that happens? Most motor vehcile versus bicycle crashes involve turning vehicles that didn't see a bicycle that was being operating on the extreme road edge because it was blocked from view of the vehicle driver.
To Senator Witkos and others who believe that bicycle riders need to encourage unsafe passing to be "courteous" to other road users - Please reconsider your request. Your "squeeze-by" law doesn't make our roads safer, nor does it make our raod users better drivers.
Encourage State Senators Andrew Maynard (chair) and Andrea Stillman (vice chair) to dump Senator Witkos's "Unsafe Passing Bill" and the sister "Impatient Motorist Bill". Save Connecticut the embarrassment of becoming only the second State that regards bicyclists as second-class road users and requires bicyclists to endanger themselves by encouraging unsafe passing.