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Cyclists, Drivers Share The Road In Westport

WESTPORT, Conn. – There is a bevy of laws pertaining to bicycling in Connecticut but the question in Westport is whether bicyclists and motorists are aware of them.

“I’d say probably 50 percent of people on the road riding are up to speed on what the most important rules are,” said Eneas Freyre, director of training at Target Training in Westport. “The other half I’d split and say 25 percent understand some of the rules and the other 25 percent simply don’t know bikes are considered vehicles.”

Knowing the rules of the road can mean the difference between life and death, or injury. That's why Freyre and his staff remind cyclists of the rules before going on a training ride.

Because bicycles are considered vehicles, many of the laws pertaining to motorists also apply to bikers.

"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. They should also signal, with their arms, to motorists when making a turn.

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, bicyclists must use a front light and rear reflector at night, and any bicyclist under 16 must wear a helmet.

Bicyclists seen disobeying these laws can be stopped and ticketed by police, Westport Police Capt. Sam Arciola said. The most common complaint the department receives from motorists is about bicyclists riding more than two abreast, he said.

On the other hand, the most common complaint from bicyclists is likely motorists driving too close, Freyre said. State law mandates motorists allow a “safe passing distance not less than three feet” when passing a cyclist. Freyre, who’s reported drivers to the police, said there are frequently incidents in which a car comes too close to a cyclist in his groups, even when they are riding single-file.

“Motorists, cyclists, runners—we all need to be patient with one another,” Freyre said. “Motorists need to understand we have a right to use the road and cyclists need to understand they are a vehicle and should not be oblivious to the rules.”

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.

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