Hey, People In Cars! Three Feet, Please! Or Else ...

Madison Police Chief Jack Drumm received authorization from the Board of Police Commissioners Thursday evening to place signs on town roads reminding motorists of the three feet law. First, education. Then, enforcement.


Madison Police Chief Jack Drumm received authorization from the Madison Board of Police Commissioners Thursday evening to place signs on Madison town roads reminding motorists of the state's "Three-Feet" Passing Rule.

The rule, also known as Public Act 08-101, became law in October 2008. It requires people in cars to allow at least three feet of separation when overtaking and passing cyclists. "Failure to do so could cause motorists to receive a fine. Because of the large disparities in size, weight, and speed between bicycles and motor vehicles, cyclists are at a tremendous disadvantage in the result of a collission of a car or truck. This ... law strives to increase motorist awareness of bicycles, and to make conditions safer by preventing collisions," according to information from the state Department of Transportation.

Drumm told the police commissioners that his plan was education first, then enforcement.

He said he plans to put the signs reminding motorists of the laws along many of the town's secondary streets, including Middle Beach Road, Seaview, West Wharf, and East Wharf. Those scenic roads, running down to or along Long Island Sound are used by cyclists and walkers year round. Drumm said he also hopes to place signs along the Boston Post Road and Routes 80/79. He said is checking with the state Department of Transportation to determine if a permit is required, since those are state roads.

"We'll put the signs up and then, after a period of time, we start with enforcement," he said.

Drumm said he is discussing ways to make the town's roads safer with town and state officials, and bike advocates, including Colleen Kelly Alexander, who was run over by a truck almost a year ago and is in the process of recovering from that accident. While she recovers, she has engaged in a series of volunteer efforts not only to thank the emergency responders and medical experts who saved her life, but also to promote bike safety.

Here are safety tips from the Connecticut Department of Transportation for motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians:

Share the Road: Motorists

Share the Road Tips for Drivers


Drive Cautiously:
- Reduce speed when encountering cyclists
- Don't tailgate, especially in bad weather
- Recognize hazards cyclists may face and give them space


Yield to Cyclists:
- Bicycles are considered vehicles
- Cyclists should be given the appropriate right of way
- Allow extra time for cyclists to traverse intersections


Be Considerate:
- Scan for cyclists in traffic and at intersections
- Do not blast your horn in close proximity to cyclists 
- Look for cyclists when opening doors


Pass with Care:
- When passing, leave four feet between you and a cyclist
- Wait for safe road and traffic conditions before you pass
- Check over your shoulder before moving back


Watch for Children:
- Children on bicycles are often unpredictable
- Expect the unexpected and slow down
- Don't expect children to know traffic laws
- Because of their size children can be harder to see


Share the Road: Cyclists

The same laws that apply to motorists apply to cyclists!


On the Road:
- Obey all traffic control devices
- Use hand signals to indicate stops and turns other users


Always Wear a Properly Fitting Helmet:
- Learn how to select a properly fitting helmet, and wear it – it’s the best thing you can do to be safe.

- Before you get on your bike, put on your helmet, no matter how short the trip


Make Sure That Your Bicycle Is Safe

- Make sure that tires are properly inflated and that brakes and other running gear, like derailleurs, are working properly

- Loose seats and handlebars are very dangerous.  Check them before you begin your ride, and adjust if needed


Ride with Traffic:
- Always ride on the right side, with the flow of traffic
- Use the furthest right lane that heads to your destination
- Slower moving cyclists and motorists stay to the right


Ride Predictably:
- Ride in a straight line
- Don't swerve in the road or between parked cars
- Check for traffic before entering street or intersection
- Anticipate hazards and adjust your position accordingly


Be Visible:
- Wear brightly colored clothing that provides contrast
- Use a white light in front to see and be seen at night
- Use a red light on the back of your bike or helmet in low light conditions
- Use reflective tape or clothing anytime
- Announce yourself by making eye contact with motorists


Share the Road: Pedestrians

As a pedestrian, you are not always visible to drivers; especially for large truck and bus drivers.

Pedestrians need to be careful of all vehicles and never take chances.  Here are some safety tips that can keep you safe when walking:


Walk on sidewalks
Walk on sidewalks and in crosswalks whenever possible. Obey traffic lights and walk signals.  Remember that trucks and buses make wide turns and occasionally run up onto the corner of the sidewalk, so it is important for you to be alert and be prepared to move back if necessary. 

If sidewalks are not available, walk as far to the side of the road as you safely can facing traffic.  This allows you to see cars coming at you rather than having them approach you from behind.


Make yourself visible
Dress to be seen.  Wear bright or reflective clothing, especially when walking at night.  Carry a flashlight if you have one.


Stopping distances
Use caution when crossing intersections and streets. You may think vehicles will stop for you, but they may not see you or even be able to stop. Remember, some vehicles, such as trucks, need much more space to stop than passenger vehicles.


Know your no-zones
Be careful of the blind spots, or No-Zones, around cars, trucks, and buses when walking near or around them, and never walk behind a car or a truck that is backing up. Always assume the driver does not know that you are there and that it is up to you to stay safe.

Norm Brody September 20, 2012 at 01:47 PM
There was a segment on WPLR's Chaz & AJ show featuring 2 cyclists recording an "old timer" going wild on his horn & following rather than just passing- clearly an incident of road rage against the bikers. It was implied the the cyclists had done something to antagonize the guy befor they started recording- probably true. However, my brother & I were riding a deserted back road in New Hampshire when something similar happened to us. Yes- were riding side by side, but there was no one around until this old guy in a pick up truck decided we needed to be "enlightened". Before passing us, he drove along side us & admonished us out his passenger window for a while before I gave him a one finger salute and he moved on. My point is that there are 2 sides to every story, and common sense & courtesy should prevail. Absent either one & problems arrise.
Pem McNerney September 20, 2012 at 01:52 PM
Interesting and another good story idea. If you find out more, can you keep us posted? Thanks!
Pem McNerney September 20, 2012 at 01:56 PM
Absolutely. If more people just used common sense and courtesy, we wouldn't need so many laws. This isn't really about bikes v cars. It's about people on bikes and people in cars. Treating someone on a different form of transportation as an "other" is misguided and not useful. To that end, if bikers are riding side by side (even if they shouldn't be) or if walkers are walking side by side (even when they shouldn't be), a light tap on the horn and friendly wave with a smile will often do the trick. Works every time I've tried on Middle Beach West and Middle Beach.
C. Angelo September 25, 2012 at 04:33 PM
Audrey!, or is it Anita Bath, or is it "Guy", welcome back to the blogs! And I thought we lost our village idiot!
The Best Patriot September 25, 2012 at 05:04 PM
C. Angelo: Best post of the day award.


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