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.

Lou Lange September 15, 2012 at 01:17 PM
Law on bicycles and similar vehicles are governed by Chapter 248 of the CT General Statutes - sections 14-285, 14-286, 14-286a, 14-286b, 14286c, 14-286d, 14-286e, 14-286f, 14-287, 14-288, 14-289. For Norm and 20 Row Kid - the situation you spoke of in Branford and on Rte. 79 and Horsepond Road is covered by Section 14-286b, item (a) which states: "(b) Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles. Persons riding two abreast, as provided in this subsection, shall not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, and, on a laned roadway, shall ride within a single lane." So if you see them operating in a pack and they are impeding traffic call the police.
Lou Lange September 15, 2012 at 01:19 PM
And for Audrey - as above, if you see a bicyclist operating in an unsafe manner, call the police. That's why the laws I mentioned in my previous notes are there along with whatever local statutes the Town of Madison has.
Pem McNerney (Editor) September 15, 2012 at 01:44 PM
Thanks Lou!
Audrey Horn September 15, 2012 at 01:53 PM
Good morning Louie and welcome to the real world. The Madison police are out 24/7, year after year, patrolling our streets and have obviously encounter bicyclists violating various laws but never enforce them by issuing tickets in the interest of public safety. Now they are on a " Or Else" ticket blitz to charge vehicle operators while still not enforcing bicycle operation laws. If you are claiming that the police are incapable of detecting blatant bicycle violations on their own, we need a new police department.
Lou Lange September 15, 2012 at 02:10 PM
Audrey - Have you ever reported a bicycle violation to the police? If so, and you feel the response to it was not appropriate, then I suggest you contact the Chief of Police or the Police Commission. Vehicles and bicycles have to share the road for better or for worse. That is why there are state and local ordinances to enforce the laws. If you read the statutes I quoted above, bicyclists can receive tickets just like vehicles do.
Lou Lange September 15, 2012 at 02:11 PM
You're welcome, Pem!
Audrey Horn September 15, 2012 at 04:19 PM
Lou. I like your statement that bicyclist can receive tickets just like vehicles do. THE PROBLEM IS THAT THEY DON'T. If you don't get it by now Lou, you never will.Yes I have called the police in the past. Response times negates enforcement action as the violator is long gone by the time they arrive. If on a rare occasion the police do happen to locate a violator, they tell you that you have to give a signed sworn statement to be investigated and if it ends up in court, you will likely get subpoenaed to testify on your own time and at your own expense. I'll leave all the phone calls up to you Lou as you apparently have time on your hands. I think you will be making a lot of them due to your suggestion and support of the three foot law. Will you be dialing 911 or some other number? Remember to first find a safe place to pull over completely off the road and then come to a complete stop while still trying to follow the bicycle at the same time or you could be subject to a cell phone violation ticket. Have a good excuse ready for your boss each time you end up late to work. While you are at it, you may as well do your duty and phone the police for every other violation you see and they don't. Seat belts, cell phones, speeding, stop signs, stop lights, signals, broken headlights and so on. Good luck.
Lou Lange September 15, 2012 at 04:47 PM
If someone is riding a bicycle (or operating a vahicle) in a dangerous manner, I have no hesitation in contacting 911 (if the situation warrants) or the local police department I lived in Madison for 15 years and NEVER HESITATED making calls as the situation warranted. By the way, if you are using a hands-free device (or a speaker on your phone), you are allowed to place calls of that nature while driving - that's a provision of the cell phone law in CT (Section 14-296aa). I guess we will have to agree to disagree about this issue.
Matt September 15, 2012 at 05:02 PM
So your complaining about the police allegedly doing nothing. Then when it comes time for YOU to do something, you all of a sudden are too lazy or don't want to. You don't want to give a statement. You don't want to go to court. You don't want to testify. Maybe you should stop complaining about the police if you can't be bothered to do anything yourself either.
Tim Millhiser September 15, 2012 at 05:29 PM
I just came back from a trip to Holland, where there are bikes everywhere. I was told that if there is a car/bike accident it is presumed that the motorist is at fault. I was also told that this is true for most of Europe.
Pem McNerney (Editor) September 15, 2012 at 09:31 PM
BD ... there is a three feet law. The state DOT recommends four in their safety tips.
The Best Patriot September 15, 2012 at 10:01 PM
Matt: My thought exactly. Audrey can't be bothered to fill out a police report, but she sure can spend the time yacking it up here. She claims sighting hourly cyclist running red lights and stop signs without looking. Something I've never seen. She has cyclist sightings hourly on the sidewalks. While I have seen cyclist on the sidewalks, all have been either very young or very old. And I for one would rather have them on the sidewalks than on the road. She claims everyone insurance rates are higher because of cyclists, but provides no link or proof of her frivolous claim. And Lou thanks for some good sound advice you've provided.
Lou Lange September 16, 2012 at 02:57 AM
20 Row - you are so welcome. I try to offer advice and measure my responses to a degree. As a former resident of Madison, I can offer SOME perspective but obviously things do evolve with the passage of time. Cyclists have to remember that they have no more privileges on the roads that cars, trucks etc. They have to follow the same traffic laws. And while they may contribute in some way to the increase in insurance rates, motorized vehicles make up most of it. We can hope that when an incident does occur between a vehicle and a bicyclist that the police will handle things in a fair and appropriate manner.
Audrey Horn September 16, 2012 at 02:41 PM
Reply to Lou: I didn't know equality related to public safety was a taboo no-no topic. Just reporting the facts in a biased / discriminatory society where equal treatment apparently doesn't exist, which is something you apparently don't want to hear. Hit a nerve there? Applying the laws equally and fairly in the best interest of everyone isn't a concept you grasp in my opinion. Strange that you think professionally trained police officers can't ever be expected to enforce laws on their own without you or others constantly phoning in violations. Wow. Could it be that you are a wana-be cop who watches too many crime drama programs, upset that your Guardian Angle program isn't working out that well? You must have may numerous citizen arrests in your prime. Burying your head in the sand saying: (We can hope that when an incident does occur between a vehicle and a bicyclist that the police will handle things in a fair and appropriate manner) Hello! That's after the fact where damage, injury or death has already occurred. A proactive response is what's needed and that include ticketing bicyclists for violations of the laws you mentioned as well as others. This should be just normal proper professional police procedure, but it's not happening.
mary michel September 19, 2012 at 04:53 PM
These rules shold be discussed with the Madison school students to make them aware of their responsibilites on bikes.
Lou Lange September 19, 2012 at 05:19 PM
Audrey - once again - if you do not feels the laws are being enforced properly or fairly, then contact the Chief of Police or Police Commission. Mary - that would be a good thing to consider, but also remember that adults ride bicycles too, so education about bicycle safety should not just be confined to schools.
Audrey Horn September 19, 2012 at 07:10 PM
Give it up Lou. The police are smart enough to already know that laws should be enforced fairly without having to phone in to tell them as you suggest. That's what they get paid to do as trained professionals with supervisors being paid to monitor their actions and a Chief of Police paid to monitor them and the Police Commission looking over everything. All the checks and balances are in place so if bicycle law enforcement isn't occurring, it's not because they are ignorant, it's because they just don't want to. Prior articles tend to indicate that the Madison First Selectman and Chief of Police are both avid bicycle riders.
Lou Lange September 19, 2012 at 07:15 PM
Then my advice to you, Audrey, is if you see a violation and can do so, call it in instead of kvetching about it. If you let it go even though you see it, that defeats the purpose of your complaints.
W.B.W. September 19, 2012 at 08:49 PM
It is hard to give bikers and walkers their three feet when they are on both sides of the road, 2 or 3 abreast and won't move over to single file on the road. How about helping the motorists out - move over a bit so that they can pass safely!
Lou Lange September 19, 2012 at 09:04 PM
I agree, W.B.W. I will have to check the CGS to see if it specifically mentions that for bikes. I thought it did, but will have to check. And it would be interesting if there is a CGS or local ordinance covering pedestrians.
Audrey Horn September 20, 2012 at 01:02 AM
No clue Lou. Duhhh, no complaints, just reporting the hard facts.
Pem McNerney (Editor) September 20, 2012 at 01:34 AM
It's a given that everyone using the road should follow rules, regulations, common sense, and should act with courtesy. Thanks to those of you who have contributed to this discussion in that manner as well, and who have provided research and information. As for those of you who are descending to barbs and ad hominem attacks ... well, we all know what that means.
Audrey Horn September 20, 2012 at 01:08 PM
You are welcome. Looking forward to your next article, Bicyclist follow the laws "Or Else".
Pem McNerney (Editor) September 20, 2012 at 01:19 PM
Actually ... AH ... ... good idea. It's pretty clear there is a fair amount of confusion when it comes to those. Also, more articles about bicycle helmets are needed. I just can't believe there are so many cyclists who don't wear helmets. Insane ...
Audrey Horn September 20, 2012 at 01:36 PM
Yes. All that matters here is to try and keep everyone safe, about this article and the one where the moped rider got hit. The more I try to research what a moped is in Connecticut, the more confusing it gets. I did find out that if it is actually a moped, you need at least a drivers license and have to follow bicycle laws. Many kids tell their parents they can ride a moped legally on the street underage because it's considered a bicycle, which is incorrect. But, I was also informed that many of those machines with a platform and no pedals are actually considered mopeds by the Connecticut D.M.V. for some reason. No one apparently has an accurate answer of what is and what is not a moped regarding brands and models. Don't know if any police are willing to be interviewed on the record or can provide any public information hand outs to clarify all this. Would be nice for all to have accurate information in order to be in compliance with the law.
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 (Editor) 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 (Editor) 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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