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100 Light-Less Cyclists “Ticketed”

by Thomas MacMillan | Nov 7, 2012 1:56 pm

(48) Comments | Commenting has been closed | E-mail the Author

Posted to: Transportation

Thomas MacMillan Photo Bike activists flagged down Paul Van Tassel when they caught him cycling home without a light, and offered him one.

You’re not making me safer, Van Tassel replied. You’re marginalizing me.

Telling people they’ll need another piece of gear to ride their bikes just makes biking seem like a fringe activity that only “extreme” people take part in, Van Tassel argued. Handing out lights will just discourage people from biking, he said.

Van Tassel offered that appraisal after he was “pulled over” Monday night by members of Elm City Cycling. The biking advocates were stationed at two intersections in town to spread the word that Connecticut state law requires people riding bikes to “display a lighted lamp upon the forward part of such bicycle.” The law also requires bikes to have front and rear reflectors.

They stopped about 100 riders like Van Tassel.

At the corner of Orange and Humphrey streets in East Rock and Elm and Howe Streets near downtown, members of Elm City Cycling members flagged down passing cyclists and “ticketed” them for riding without lights. They handed out cards that explained the law on one side and offered a 20 percent discount off of bike lights at six local bike shops on the other. Clipped to the cards were inexpensive blinking red lights with the Elm City Cycling logo on them.

Those lights were also clipped to ECC board member Rob Rocke (pictured), who was stationed at the northeast corner of Orange and Humphrey wearing a neon green high-visibility coat and a headlamp.

“Most people have been pretty receptive,” Rocke said. Only a few people declined to stop, and everyone was friendly, he said.

Elm City Cycling has been thinking about a light handout event for a while, Rocke said. The group decided to do it on Monday since it was the first weekday after the change back to standard time, a day when many people might be bike-commuting for the first time in the dark this fall.

Paul Proulx (at right in photo), an Elm City Cycling member wearing a reflective orange vest and a headlamp, tooted on a train whistle and called out to Van Tassel as he rode by.

Van Tassel, who’s 48, stopped and reluctantly accepted a light and a coupon after a brief disagreement with Proulx over whether the white reflector on the front of his bike was adequate safety protection for biking at night. He also had a red reflector on the back and reflectors on his spokes.

“I think I’m pretty safe,” said Van Tassel (at left), who was on his way home from Yale, where he teaches in the engineering department. “There’s bigger things to fear.”

He said handing out lights is a good idea, but the trend toward trying to make biking “super safe” is counterproductive.

“All these things serve to marginalize the biker,” Van Tassel said. “The more extreme we make biking, the fewer people are going to do it.”

In the Netherlands, for instance, everyone rides bikes, and no one wears helmets or spandex or special reflective jackets, Van Tassel said. Here in the United State cycling is presented as an activity that requires all kinds of specialized equipment, as something “only and extreme person or an extreme athlete would do,” Van Tassel said.

(Click here for a recent New York Times piece arguing Van Tassel’s point.)

On the other hand, Van Tassel said, biking is more dangerous in the United State. Drivers are not as accustomed to sharing the roads with cyclists. So, Van Tassel said, “I go halfway.” He wears a helmet and he has reflectors on his bike, the ones that “professionals” decided it needed to be sold with. But he otherwise wears normal clothes and doesn’t feel he needs a light.

“I’m not flying into space,” he said.

After Van Tassel pedaled away in the dark, Rocke said he suspects that even in bike-friendly Europe, cyclists use lights at night.

Rocke called lights essential for night-riding. He said when he’s driving a car at night, he’s often struck by how invisible cyclists in dark clothes without lights can be.

An un-lit cyclist pedaled by. He didn’t stop when Proulx tried to pull him over, saying that he was in a hurry.

“Another European,” Proulx quipped.

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posted by: Dwightstreeter on November 7, 2012  2:42pm

Thank you Elm City Cycling for trying to save lives, even though some people don’t appreciate it.

New Haven is NOT the Netherlands with protected bikes lanes and other built in safety features.

It terrifies me to see youngsters, especially in our poorer neighborhoods, zooming around without helmets or lights, at night and in dark clothing.

We have to do what we can to be safe on a bike in a culture built for the car.

PS CT law requires drivers to give cyclists 3 feet of room on the road. Thank you to the drivers who do that and even slow down.

posted by: FairHavenRes on November 7, 2012  2:43pm

I agree with both Van Tassel and ECC on this, but on varying points.  I cycle daily and definitely have a European approach to bicycling.  I don’t wear special “cycling gear,” or helmet, I ride a simple upright and I prefer style over speed; pretty sure the cycling Copenhagers know more about this than Americans any day!

Having said that, my experience with many New Haven drivers has taught me that I want cars to SEE ME when I’m cycling down the road. 

A light isn’t something that’s marginalizing anyone and it’s certainly not specialized gear.  You put them on your bike and leave them; it’s a simple as that.  Your turn them on when it’s getting darker, and turn them off when it’s not.  Even Europeans have bike lights and yes, they use them.  In fact it’s the law in Denmark that bicycles must have lights (just like cars).  Visibility is not a bad thing, especially on these uncivilized American roads.

posted by: streever on November 7, 2012  2:50pm

Just to clarify laws:
Every state requires a front light and many require a rear. The actual wording of most of the laws regarding reflectors is that they must be clearly visible at a 500+ foot range.

As the late Sheldon Brown points out on his website with 3 articles by cycling professionals (http://sheldonbrown.com/reflectors.html) this is not actually true of most reflectors in many situations, which is why having a rear light is so important.

Additionally, having the light is not just for your safety, but for that of pedestrians as well: if they can see you, they will be safer.

This isn’t meant to be a form of elitism, and I think Mr Van Tassel misplaces his indignation at the volunteers giving away helpful technology.

The proper recipients of his indignation are the bike manufacturers who do not ship every bike with lights, a minuscule cost increase. Just as he wears a helmet to ride anywhere in America, so to should he use lights at night.

posted by: anonymous on November 7, 2012  2:50pm

Giving out lights is a great idea, but Van Tassel is correct that anything along the lines of safety warnings, “walking school buses,” requirements, overpromotion of gear, and cycling or walking “culture” may be counterproductive if it is excessive.

It sounds that this particular event was meant to encourage cycling and build community, but you’re right to highlight this as a general concern of many.

The more that our society discourages people from biking and walking, the less safe everyone becomes (cyclists, pedestrians, and drivers included). There is a direct relationship between the number of bicyclists & pedestrians on the road and the safety of that road. 

If we want to increase the number of cyclists and pedestrians, we should be calling upon our city officials to make our streets more amenable to walking and biking.  Unfortunately, our streets are being designed by suburban engineers to kill and injure people and discourage them from walking or biking - all in the name of moving traffic slightly faster. In the meetings that take place nearly every day at City Hall, our government refuses to stand up for the lives of our most vulnerable residents. They have blood on their hands.

posted by: William Kurtz on November 7, 2012  3:01pm

With respect to Mr. Van Tassel, his argument may have merit when it comes to spandex clothing, electronic shifters, carbon-fiber parts and other expensive accessories, to apply his thinking to basic safety equipment like lighting is just silly.

As he acknowledges, we’re not in the Netherlands.

I might go so far as to argue that if he’s going to deign to use one “marginalizing” piece of equipment, he’s better off choosing a light than a helmet. After all, lights make riding safer, by increasing a cyclist’s visibility to other road users, while helmets just make crashing safer.

In the interests of disclosure, I, too, am an Elm City Cycling board member and was at the other location, at Elm and Howe. Each of the 50 or so people we spoke with was appreciative of our effort. It’s a shame that Mr. MacMillan was only able to interview the solitary dissenter.

posted by: William Kurtz on November 7, 2012  3:10pm

Also as a point of fact, that <i>New York Times<i> article linked to above uses Paris’s Vélib system as an example. But the Vélib bicycles are equipped with always-on lights powered by a generator on the front wheel.

posted by: streever on November 7, 2012  3:13pm

(Disclosure: I’m a retired ECC Board member, and did not participate in this event or in planning it!)

posted by: Carl Goldfield on November 7, 2012  3:16pm

My wife gave me a super bright, blinking red rear light and a reflective safety vest for my last birthday( I gather she would like me to make it to my next) after she passed me in her car on the way home one dark evening and could barely see me.

I immediately noticed that drivers provide me a much wider berth.  I feel safer.

This is not about margins, it’s about common sense.

posted by: anonymous on November 7, 2012  3:32pm

“This is not about margins, it’s about common sense.”

I disagree. Personal responsibility can only offer you so much protection.  The margins - and the need for collective responsibility - should always be the top safety concern.  Unfortunately, our government is failing us there.

You can have all the security systems in your house that you want.  But if your society is collapsing around you, and government simply doesn’t care about the vulnerable, then your security systems aren’t going to be much good.

If there had been just one additional cyclist on the street that you were biking on when your wife passed you, she probably would have been driving more slowly and probably would have seen you - lights or none. 

This may not be intuitive, but it’s the truth, and one that we need to keep in mind even as we go about building community or engaging in other well-meaning activities.

posted by: parejkoj on November 7, 2012  3:39pm

I don’t see how one can ride safely in this town without a front light: you need something to make the potholes visible!

posted by: Streetdude on November 7, 2012  4:11pm

Stopping people who are actively riding is a little risky (and sanctimonious, even for ECC) for my tastes but lights are important, particularly in a pedestrian heavy city like New Haven. I ride a bike every day as my primary mode of transportation and only began using lights after one too many close calls with pedestrians darting across the street unaware of my approach.

I’m not sure singling people out is the way to go about it though. Statistics coming out in recent years show that the biggest boon to cyclist safety is having more bikes on the road, and ECC’s method in this instance is probably going to alienate more people than they help. Great message, poor methodology. Post flyers, hand lights out, but don’t blow whistles, stop people, and make them feel like criminals. Not having lights is about as illegal as J-walking. Safety is one thing but the legality surrounding lights and reflectors is not something people need to worry about unless they’re being overtly reckless.

posted by: Carl Goldfield on November 7, 2012  4:13pm

@anonymous

I’m not sure why you are implying my wife was driving too fast. She is a very safe, cautious driver and her speed had nothing to do with my visibility.

As to waiting for “collective responsibility”; I’m all for it but don’t want to be the intervening tragedy. So in the meanwhile I’ll ride with lights.

posted by: JuliS on November 7, 2012  4:17pm

Anonymous:  while I agree that more cyclists on the road makes it safer for the rest of us, I disagree that therefore that level of safety cancels out the need for lights.

A single rider on any given street at any given moment will be the first cyclist any given driver will see that trip, & can be completely invisible until it is too late to prevent a crash.

Our presence does help remind drivers to be cautious, & there is safety in numbers, but we are nowhere near the point where cycling can be carefree & easy in new haven.

posted by: William Kurtz on November 7, 2012  4:37pm

“I disagree. Personal responsibility can only offer you so much protection.”

WIth what are you disagreeing? That using lights to be visible while riding is a good idea, when it’s the law in literally of cities, states, and countries around world? When it’s even endorsed by the Paris Vélib people?

I think we can all agree that more cyclists will, in the big picture, mean safer cycling but it’s completely spurious to suggest that individuals shouldn’t take some responsibility for their own safety.

posted by: davecoon on November 7, 2012  4:45pm

This is a skit straight out of ‘Portlandia’

posted by: streever on November 7, 2012  4:46pm

@Streetdude
That is a conjecture that was not borne out by the reported experience of the people at the event.

I see no mention of it in the article, but widely heard that of the 100 people stopped, about 90 of them were grateful to be given a free light, didn’t feel singled out, and appreciated the gesture.

News seems to focus on the negative experiences of one or two people, which I think is the case in this story.

My assumption (from my knowledge of the reporter) is that he had no intention to portray a negative portrait, but that he assumed that most people reading this wouldn’t extrapolate the one negative experience he recounted and assume that it was a majority sentiment. I think, in general, most people can agree that being stopped in a humorous way and given something for free is not that insulting or offensive, and probably won’t really turn anyone off to the degree you worry about.

posted by: Dwightstreeter on November 7, 2012  4:59pm

Not having bright lights in the dark is simply not smart. Nor is riding w/o a helmet - any where. One fall and any one can be injured.

Even in daylight, accidents happen. Why tempt the gods further?

I’m happy to wear a seat belt in my car and have an air bag too. Surely using whatever makes us more visible on a bike is worth it, considering the consequences for bad luck.

posted by: Streetdude on November 7, 2012  5:00pm

Streever: I’m not exactly “worried” but they could probably reach more people with a longer campaign and softer approach, and as far as alienating people I don’t think they’re going to alienate people they stopped; they already ride bikes. But the act of pulling people over and telling them they’re breaking the law, witnessed by anyone on the fence about cycling in New Haven, might be intimidating. I’m all for safety initiatives and activism but this method seems a little clumsy. Post up at bike racks, plaster the city with literature. I don’t see how what they did is any more effective than less obtrusive methods.

posted by: Paul Wessel on November 7, 2012  6:43pm

Love it. Great action.

posted by: robn on November 7, 2012  6:56pm

The NYT article didn’t argue against lights; it argued against helmets. A light isn’t the same and it isn’t specialty gear; its standard by law; just like lights on other vehicles (cars, motorcycles.) Whoever rides daily and chooses not to spend 10 bucks on a an LED clip on light is a fool; and is putting himself and other drivers in danger.

posted by: Threefifths on November 7, 2012  7:46pm

The Police should do this here.

Bike Crackdown: Is The NYPD Setting Up Cycling Checkpoints.

http://blogs.villagevoice.com/runninscared/2012/06/bike_crackdown.php

posted by: Melinda Tuhus on November 7, 2012  10:07pm

StreetDude,
  I appreciate your suggestion that plastering the city with literature might be a more effective action than having folks on street corners “arresting” cyclists, but, in fact, this action was carefully planned to take a fun-loving approach, and I would say it worked for 90 percent of the cyclists we stopped, almost all of whom either said they had lights at home they hadn’t put on their bikes yet or that they would purchase lights.  I’m not sure posting similar information around town would generate a similar response. I think our hands-on approach was more likely to generate a change in behavior.
  We encourage you to get involved in improving cycling in New Haven by coming to an ECC meeting at City Hall at 6 p.m.—usually second Monday of the month, but this month it’s the third Monday.

posted by: Streetdude on November 7, 2012  10:58pm

In all fairness I’m sure people had fun, and it’s getting attention so good on them. It was certainly a strong message to those who were addressed. Maybe I -should- get more involved, because I’m curious why I’ve never seen ECC (or anybody, I don’t want this to get finger-pointy) taking a night out of the month to do things like hand out the city’s ‘Smart Cycling’ pamphlet (which is actually pretty informative) . If it’s costs of printing I’d gladly contribute to a collection.

As I understand it ECC (or at least groups like it, I’m not terribly informed on bicycle activism in New Haven) is largely responsible for things like the relatively recently placed share-lanes, the orange street bike lane and others like it, the Farmington trail, etc., which I’m very grateful for. This particular practice struck me as weird and sensational. Maybe that was the point.

posted by: HhE on November 7, 2012  11:11pm

As someone with well over 199k miles on his eleven year old car (and returning to ridding a bike after a 15 year break, and for the first time at night), I know how hard cyclists can be to see at night, especially when they/we wear dark clothes and no lights. 

We are all, ultimately, personally responsible for our own safety and good conduct.  While I am disappointed with the failure to take a systemic approach to cycling (and pedestrian) safety, short of building bike only paths/road (the rail train, but with a pedestrian ban), lights, situational awareness, and other precautions are just good sense. 

On pot holes:  I find that even with a light they can be hard to see.  When I am on my mountain bike, I just run over them.  When I am on my Brompton, they pose a real hazard. 

The NYT article was really just an opinion piece.  It did not take issue with lights, just helmets.  I found the logic to be flawed; that people will ride bikes less, and thus be more unhealthy, because bike helmets will deter them from ridding.  I know I look dumb in my helmet, but not as dumb as a trip to the ER.  So on it goes.  (In my quest to look less goofy, I ordered a Nutcase in British Racing Green—to go with my Brompton, my Aga, and with any luck, my next motor car.)

Streetdude, how many fliers have you passed on a given day without reading each one?  For me, the number must be legion.  I might be embarrassed if ECC stopped me to offer a free light, but I would see that they had my best interests in mind.  (There was this one night my front light battery died.)  As for pedestrians not seeing you, that is what they bell is for.  Unless they are J walking, they have right of way over your cycle.  So what gives?

I for one should like to see more enforcement of cycling laws (especially that one about not ridding on sidewalks), even if it obliges me to agree with 3/5ths.

posted by: Billy on November 7, 2012  11:26pm

Is anyone familiar with Jay Santos of the Citizens Auxilary Police? If not, you might want to look him up. He could have been the behind the scenes planner of this Elm City Cycling’s activity.

posted by: SaveOurCity on November 8, 2012  12:11am

If we are serious about getting folks excited about cycling in New Haven, we should follow Chicago’s lead;

http://chicagonakedride.org/

posted by: S Brown on November 8, 2012  4:45am

“In the Netherlands, for instance, everyone rides bikes, and no one wears helmets or spandex or special reflective jackets, Van Tassel said.”

Someone should tell Mr. Van Tassel that in the Netherlands, EVERY cyclist has a light. Maybe because riding at night without one is insane.

posted by: melindap on November 8, 2012  5:30am

I was “arrested” & was grateful for it!  I misjudged the daylight left at 5pm and raced against the dark.  I don’t trust NH drivers, and “sharrows” are hardly a designated bike lane (hint: we need a real bike lane from Westville to Downtown!).  And so, I would gladly be “ticketed” again!  A very fun and effective way to get the word out.  Further, I would be happy to take up a collection to get the kids I pass on Elm Street some lights too.  W/out reflective anything they are all but scary invisible.

posted by: HhE on November 8, 2012  8:52am

As someone with well over 199k miles on his eleven year old car (and returning to ridding a bike after a 15 year break, and for the first time at night), I know how hard cyclists can be to see at night, especially when they/we wear dark clothes and no lights. 

We are all, ultimately, personally responsible for our own safety and good conduct.  While I am disappointed with the failure to take a systemic approach to cycling (and pedestrian) safety, short of building bike only paths/road (the rail train, but with a pedestrian ban), lights, situational awareness, and other precautions are just good sense. 

On pot holes:  I find that even with a light they can be hard to see.  When I am on my mountain bike, I just run over them.  When I am on my Brompton, they pose a real hazard. 

The NYT article was really just an opinion piece.  It did not take issue with lights, just helmets.  I found the logic to be flawed; that people will ride bikes less, and thus be more unhealthy, because bike helmets will deter them from ridding.  I know I look dumb in my helmet, but not as dumb as a trip to the ER.  So on it goes.  (In my quest to look less goofy, I ordered a Nutcase in British Racing Green—to go with my Brompton, my Aga, and with any luck, my next motor car.)

Streetdude, how many fliers have you passed on a given day without reading each one?  For me, the number must be legion.  I might be embarrassed if ECC stopped me to offer a free light, but I would see that they had my best interests in mind.  (There was this one night my front light battery died.)  As for pedestrians not seeing you, that is what they bell is for.  Unless they are J walking, they have right of way over your cycle.  So what gives?

I for one should like to see more enforcement of cycling laws (especially that one about not ridding on sidewalks), even if it obliges me to agree with 3/5ths.  To be sure, the link he posted objects to the efforts of the NYPD.  (I often wonder if he even reads the links he provides.)

posted by: Dwightstreeter on November 8, 2012  9:30am

To SaveOurCity:
  If you will organize and lead the Naked Ride, I’m sure there will be a huge turnout.
  Please wait for warm weather and day light :)

posted by: anonymous on November 8, 2012  9:39am

I don’t that think anyone disagrees that lights are very helpful. The concern, which is held by many cyclists as well as health professionals who are trying to promote cycling and walking, is that safety warnings or over-promotion of lights (or helmets or other gear) in fact can be extremely counterproductive depending on how it is done.

To use a more extreme example, if you round up kids on the street and tell them to get lights, when they can not even afford to purchase healthy food in their neighborhood, well, that strategy might backfire.

I was not at this particular event so can’t say for sure, but it seems that it was mostly designed to build community and promote healthier behaviors, not as some kind of “warning” activity.  The point about some things being counterproductive is not meant as any criticism- it’s just the reality.

posted by: streever on November 8, 2012  9:59am

StreetDude
I don’t know how long you’ve been here, but as a Board Member for ECC, I handed out those pamphlets for nearly 3 years ;-)

ECC had a part in designing them, writing the material, and distributing them.

You can thank the Mayor for the lack of attention we got doing that. One lesson I’ve learned is that City Hall doesn’t share credit, only work.

posted by: Streetdude on November 8, 2012  10:07am

Yes, I’m referring to people darting out from between cars, etc., not lawful crossings at intersections. I’m well aware of the rights and responsibilities of cyclists here in New Haven.

posted by: streever on November 8, 2012  11:14am

@Anonymous
Sounds like you are making a general statement and not a specific statement—I think people were responding not to your general statement (which all agree with), but the specific.

If you only meant it generally, I think because it is such a widely agreed upon idea, people probably misunderstood you because they’ve already internalized it.

As you say: this wasn’t yelling at a poor person, but giving something of real value to people who could use it. A success all around, even if one cyclist was not aware of the common usage of lights in Amsterdam!

posted by: westville man on November 8, 2012  11:35am

I am not a cyclist, so perhaps that’s why i find it strange that there are 33 posts mostly arguing about the benefits/detriments of lights on a bike! As someone who drives a car,  it seems like common sense to me that lights will help. 
But Anonymous, your posts and examples don’t help clarify your point about safety warnings and “over-promotion” of lights potentially being extremely counterproductive. I am actually more confused by your argument now than earlier.

posted by: RCguy on November 8, 2012  12:31pm

Hi,
Quick question: When abiding by the law and giving bicyclists a three foot berth, is it legal to cross over the yellow line into the oncoming lane?

posted by: Dwightstreeter on November 8, 2012  12:41pm

If there is no traffic on the other side of the line, it might be an option, but a better one would be to slow down and pull as far left as possible. Most responsible cyclists go as far to the right as they can to allow traffic to pass (assuming there is no glass or other hazard in their path).
What is reasonable in the city is different from what is reasonable in the country.
To be safe in the city a cyclist might have to take the whole lane and stay in it to avoid car doors.
Most drivers are considerate and it greatly appreciated.

posted by: Wikus van de Merwe on November 8, 2012  1:05pm

You can get a four-pack of 9-LED lights at Big Lots for $10 and stick em on your bike with a zip-tie.  The bike shop lights are crazy overpriced.

posted by: Streetdude on November 8, 2012  1:11pm

RCguy:

It is! Not many motorists know this, but yes if it is reasonably safe to do so it is legal to cross solid yellow lines as to give the proper passing distance to cyclists.

Here’s the text straight from the general statutes:

“Sec. 13. Section 14-232 of the general statutes is repealed and the following is substituted in lieu thereof (Effective October 1, 2008):

(a) Except as provided in sections 14-233 and 14-234, (1) the driver of a vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left thereof at a safe distance and shall not again drive to the right side of the highway until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle; and (2) the driver of an overtaken vehicle shall give way to the right in favor of the overtaking vehicle and shall not increase the speed of his vehicle until completely passed by the overtaking vehicle. For the purposes of this subsection, “safe distance” means not less than three feet when the driver of a vehicle overtakes and passes a person riding a bicycle.

(b) No vehicle shall be driven to the left side of the center of the highway in overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction unless the left side is clearly visible and is free of oncoming traffic for a sufficient distance ahead to permit such overtaking and passing to be completely made without interfering with the safe operation of any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction or any vehicle overtaken.

http://www.cga.ct.gov/2008/ACT/PA/2008PA-00101-R00HB-05746-PA.htm

posted by: westville man on November 8, 2012  1:26pm

Streetdude.  i do not think that statute applies to bikes when using the term “vehicle”. I believe your reliance on that statute is misplaced.

posted by: RCguy on November 8, 2012  1:44pm

Streetdude, thanks.

So that brings up another question: 

What do drivers do (assuming they are law abiding and decent humans/drivers) when they slowly approach a bicyclist from behind, and there is too much oncoming traffic to safely pass the bicyclist?

posted by: shadesofzero on November 8, 2012  2:57pm

I agree with many of the other rides on here: while I don’t believe we should necessarily encourage biking as a fringe activity with spandex and special helmets and padded pants, using lights is just sensible.

I ride with an old school Raleigh Record road bike and always wear normal clothes, but riding without lights at night is just crazy.  A blinking red light in the back or a light in the front goes a long way towards cars not smashing into you.

posted by: Streetdude on November 8, 2012  7:42pm

“Streetdude.  i do not think that statute applies to bikes when using the term “vehicle”. I believe your reliance on that statute is misplaced.”

It absolutely applies to bicycles and was added specifically with the provision above it regarding legal passing distances relative to bicycles. If you notice the same provision, which was added to specifically address bicycle traffic among automobiles, refers to bicycles as “vehicles”. Until these two provisions were added bicycles had almost entirely the same legal responsibilities and protections as any other “vehicle” on public roads. There are law offices in New Haven you can call if you are still unsure.

@ RCguy: “What do drivers do (assuming they are law abiding and decent humans/drivers) when they slowly approach a bicyclist from behind, and there is too much oncoming traffic to safely pass the bicyclist?”

The only legal (and reasonable, in my opinion) thing to do is exercise patience and wait for traffic to clear if they must pass. If a vehicle is moving so slow as to impede traffic flow to an unreasonable or unsafe degree law enforcement can absolutely intercede, possibly leading to citations. I have never seen this be the case with bicycles in New Haven, but that isn’t to say it doesn’t happen.

Realistically, in my experience, drivers skirt the law and pass within three feet, follow at unsafe distances (tail-gating), sometimes going so far as to beep incessantly and shout mean things out of their windows. Even as a cyclist I don’t have a major problem with most illegal passing maneuvers I experience but some of them are absolutely scary and if we want to be technical are also routinely illegal, albeit arguably reasonable.

posted by: Streetdude on November 8, 2012  8:19pm

To be clear “vehicle” also includes automobiles and anything that is legally operating on a public road.

posted by: Threefifths on November 8, 2012  11:10pm

HhE on November 8, 2012 7:52am
I for one should like to see more enforcement of cycling laws (especially that one about not ridding on sidewalks), even if it obliges me to agree with 3/5ths.  To be sure, the link he posted objects to the efforts of the NYPD.  (I often wonder if he even reads the links he provides.)

I do read my links.What I was showing is how NYPD is cracking down.It is need here.In fact the New York City Council Passes New Rules Aimed At Errant Delivery Bike Riders.

Legislation Would Give Dept. Of Transportation The Power To Write Tickets

October 12, 2012 6:49 PM

The bills also beef up enforcement, giving Department of Transportation agents the power to write tickets to riders in addition to police. They will also require commercial bikers to take safety classes. Businesses that violate the rules will face fines of up to $250. There also trying to add non commercial bikers.


http://newyork.cbslocal.com/2012/10/12/city-council-passes-new-rules-aimed-at-errant-delivery-bike-riders/

posted by: Walt on November 9, 2012  8:03am

Although I agree that the rule should be as
Streetdude claims,  it seems that the rule quoted would only apply in general situations, not when there is a single or double line in the center,

The rule should be better defined,  but I could not find it if it exists, Can you?

Congrats to Elm City Cycling for this effort.  If bikists followed the rules in ECC’s guide we would all be much safer, but unfortunately, as I see it,  most bike riders completely ignore the rules of the road,

Incidentally I would support raising the passing distance re bikes   to six feet or so,
Coming close to 3 feet, as now allowed,  is unsafe,  as bikists are so unpredictable in their driving practices.

Anyway, good job ECC. Keep up the good work.

posted by: HhE on November 9, 2012  11:33pm

Streetdude, thank you for clarifying.  I now take your meaning.  I hope I did not give offense.  I have found that the typical stupidity of pedestrians, cyclists, and motorist is proportional to their destructive power.  Thank you also for providing the relevant statute on passing. 

I get that there are people who struggle to get by, let alone buy the best safety gear.  However, another way to calculate this is the cost of NOT doing something.  Exactly how much is a trip to the hospital?  Maybe we need people like ECC and Lt Sweeney to organise a bike helmet give away.

Threefifths, my question about your link was grounded in the idea that the author was objecting to the methods, if not the entire idea of bike check points.  Given your past posts, I cannot help but wonder if you are just being anti bike.

posted by: William Kurtz on November 11, 2012  5:41pm

Thank you to the NHI for covering this event, in the midst of election hubbub no less, and to everyone who took the time to offer their thoughts.

In response to the idea that people were made to feel like criminals, I would say that the “tickets” and any associated language was a gimmick to give the event an identity and in no way an effort to make anyone feel guilty or marginalized. I, personally, was at the other location (Elm and Howe) and even those hardened scofflaws who were subjected to our, um, good cop/bad cop routine saw through the joke.

From the ground up, the ‘Get a Light’ campaign was conceived as a community effort, by riders for riders. Our intention was to have conversations with people, educate them about both their legal obligation to have proper lighting and the demonstrable effect it has on their visibility to other users of the streets. Accepting some personal responsibility for one’s individual safety is not is not in conflict with arguing for developing streets that are safer for cyclists; it’s a direct complement to those efforts—as is encouraging cycling and building community, which is, of course, a step on the path to getting all of those extra cyclists that you are right to suggest will make the streets safer. Anonymous, in the event that you would like to emerge from the shadows and get involved in some of these efforts, please get in touch or check out our email list at http://groups.yahoo.com/group/elmcitycycling.

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