FAIRFIELD, Conn. – A bevy of laws pertain to bicycling in Connecticut, but the question in Fairfield is whether bicyclists, motorists and even police departments are aware of them.
"Follow all road rules because, by law, they pertain to you, too, not just drivers," Lisa Joaquim, an expert at Trek Bicycle Store in Fairfield, tells her customers on her website. "Remain alert at all times and always leave yourself an out by avoiding dangerous situations."
Cyclists can be easily injured in an accident, such as one July 7 in Redding in which a motorist on Route 53 struck a bicyclist, who was hospitalized with a non-life-threatening injury. The driver violated a state law that mandates "safe passing distance not less than three feet when the driver of a vehicle overtakes and passes a bicyclist," police said.
The main laws pertain to bicyclists and motorists alike, because bicycles are considered vehicles. "Bicyclists traveling on roadways have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists," according to state law. This means bicycles cannot go through red lights, turn right on prohibited intersections or travel at fast speeds on slow-moving roads.
Among the state laws that pertain specifically to bicyclists are that "persons shall not ride more than two abreast," and "carrying large packages is restricted because one hand must remain on the handlebars."
Also, at night, bicyclists must use a front light and rear reflector, and any bicyclist under 16 must wear a helmet.
"Most of the laws are based on common sense, but most people don't use common sense when they're riding bicycles," said John Troxell, chief of the Weston police. "We have pulled bicyclists over for cutting in traffic and running lights."
Redding Police Chief Douglas Fuchs said, "We have ticketed bikes in the past when large races come to town and there are too many bikes abreast so they're obstructing traffic."
A new law that may have a great impact on bicycling in Connecticut is the Complete Streets Law, which was passed in 2009 and took effect late in 2010. The law mandates that at least 1 percent of transportation funding goes to bicycle and pedestrian infrastructure.
Kelly Kennedy, executive director of Bike Walk Connecticut, believes the new law will bring Connecticut towns up to date with larger cities that are more bike friendly. "Other towns are striping lanes for bikes or painting sharrows (shared lane street markings) and we want to move Connecticut in that direction," she said.