New ‘Safe Passing’ Law To Help Bikers

Print More

(Host)  Bicyclists around the state say a new ‘safe passing’ law should make it easier to share the road with motor vehicles.

The law goes into effect July 1. It offers new protections not only to cyclists, but to walkers, horseback riders, roller-bladers and other ‘vulnerable roadway users.’

VPR’s Susan Keese has more.

(Host) Kurt Snyder was riding his bike on Rte 12 in Northfield, where he was a police officer at the time.

(Snyder) "And a jeep went past me and as it went passed, something hit me in the back."

(Keese) Snyder never did learn what the people in the jeep threw at him. But he says the incident wasn’t unprecedented.

(Snyder) "I’ve had people yell at me, swerve at me, almost hit me. I have one friend, a doctor, who was punched as a car went by."

(Keese) Snyder caught up with the Jeep and its passengers when the vehicle stopped in town. But the only thing he could think of to charge them with was littering.

That dilemma is about to change, thanks to a law passed by the Legislature this year and signed into law by Governor Jim Douglas.

The law specifically prohibits throwing objects at cyclists and pedestrians and other forms of harassment. It also requires motorists to use ‘due care’ and  to allow increased clearance when passing what it calls ‘vulnerable roadway users.’

Nancy Schulz is the Executive Director of the Vermont Bicycle and Pedestrian Coalition, the non profit group that led the three-year effort to get the law passed. Schulz says most drivers want to pass non-motorists safely.

(Schulz) "But they needed to be educated as to the fact that that’s necessary. If you’re on a bicycle, there’s no protection. And when a car comes to close too fast, it’s very very scary and it can cause someone to fall just by being startled."

(Keese) The law also clarifies the right of cyclists right to move to the left of the roadway when  getting ready for a left turn, or to avoid an obstruction.

Schulz says it’s always made sense to do that.

(Schulz) "But it didn’t have the force of law behind it. We would hear stories about cyclists who were moving to the left to make a left turn a and they would be yelled at by a law enforcement officer in a police car."

(Keese) The legislation also requires cyclists riding at night to have either a rear light or 20 square inches of reflective material visible from behind.

For VPR News, I’m Susan Keese.

Comments are closed.