This time of year motorists need to share the road with bicyclists, runners and walkers; and surprisingly many are unfamiliar with a few simple rules that we as motorists, pedestrians or bicyclists, must follow. These “rules of the road” have been adopted by our legislature and are the law in Vermont:
Bicycles (Title 23 V.S.A. § 1139)
(a) A person operating a bicycle upon a roadway shall exercise due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction and generally shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable, but still ride to the left of in a left lane when:
1) Preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private roadway or driveway;
2) Approaching an intersection with a right-turn lane if not turning right at the intersection;
3) Overtaking another highway user; or
4) Taking reasonably necessary precautions to avoid hazards or road conditions.
(b) Persons riding bicycles upon a roadway may not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles or except as otherwise permitted by the Commissioner of Public Safety in connection with a public sporting event in which case the Commissioner shall be authorized to adopt such rules as the public good requires. Persons riding two abreast shall not impede the normal and reasonable movement of traffic and, on a laned roadway, shall ride within a single lane.
(c) Bicycles may be operated on the shoulders of partially controlled access highways, which are those highways where access is controlled by public authority but where there are some connections with selected public highways, some crossings at grade, and some private driveway connection. The Traffic Committee may determine that any portion of these highways is unsafe and therefore closed to bicycle operation.
Pedestrians on roadways. (Title 23 V.S.A. § 1055)
(a) Where public sidewalks are provided no person may walk along or upon an adjacent roadway.
(b) Where public sidewalks are not provided any pedestrian walking along and upon a roadway, shall, when practicable, walk only on the left side of the roadway or its shoulder facing the direction of possible oncoming traffic.
As motorists we often see individuals walking or running on a roadway with traffic approaching the pedestrian from the rear. The law requires that pedestrians walking or running, must run or walk along the left side of the road and facing traffic so that they can better move out of the way of a motorist that may be driving erratically or out of control. If there is a sidewalk or path adjacent to the road, the law requires that the pedestrian run or walk on the sidewalk. If a walker or runner is in violation of these rules and is struck by a vehicle, they may not be able to recover their damages from the motorist, or it may be a reduced amount, because a violation of the law in this case is evidence of negligence on the part of the pedestrian. So not only is a violation of these rules unsafe, but there can be financial consequences as well.
As a bicyclist, the rules also carry the force of law. Unlike the rule for pedestrians, a bicyclist must ride on the right side of the road with the flow of traffic. Two cyclist may ride side by side, but only where you are not impeding the flow of traffic (making it difficult for a motorist approaching from the rear to pass the cyclists). As a motorist, you need to pass a bicyclist at a safe distance of at least three feet at slower speeds and a wider margin at greater speeds. The bicyclist is subject to the same rules of the road as a motorist at stop signs and red lights, and must use hand signals to indicate they are planning to make a right or left turn or stop.
Whether a cyclist or walker/runner, make sure you are wearing bright clothing or if at night reflective clothing. Check with your local bike shop to make sure you have proper illumination if you plan to ride your bike at night.