Paul A. Morello, Jr.
Bike Laws in Connecticut
Connecticut is a state with many historic places, scenic backroads and picturesque small towns. Cycling is a way to explore and enjoy the Connecticut countryside up close and personal. It is a beautiful state, with many avid cyclists. However, we have too many cars, too few bicycle lanes, and this can lead to a dangerous situation.
So, whether you’re an experienced cyclist or a novice it’s good to know the rules of the road as they apply to cyclists and drivers.
Riding on the Road
In general, cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists; however, they also have the same rights and responsibilities as pedestrians when biking on a sidewalk or crosswalk.
Rules of the Road for Cyclists
- If you’re on the road, you have the same rights and duties as motorists. You must obey all traffic signals: stopping at red lights and stop signs as well as signaling when turning to communicate with other travelers.
- You must ride on the right side of the road; you can only ride with oncoming traffic.
- However, there are some situations where you can ride on the left side of the road:
- If you’re passing or overtaking a vehicle going in the same direction.
- If you’re going to make a left turn at an intersection or private road/driveway.
- If you need to avoid hazardous traffic conditions, like objects in or on the roadway, parked/moving vehicles, other bikes, pedestrians, animals, hazards, narrow lanes.
- If you’re going to an intersection where right turns are permitted with a dedicated right turn lane. Then you can ride on the left even if you’re not going to turn right.
- Riding on a road that is meant for one-way traffic.
- Anywhere marked as exclusively for bikes such as bike paths and separated areas on the road.
- You can ride two abreast-but no more than that.
- You can ride on the sidewalk, but you have to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and make sure they know you’re there by making some noise.
- However, you cannot ride on the sidewalk if there is a municipal ordinance that prohibits cyclists from riding on them.
- There is no obligation to dismount when using a crosswalk.
- Motorists passing a cyclist have to leave at least three feet between the vehicle and the bike and three feet of passing area around a bike when emerging from driveways and alleys.
- You are not required to use a bike path if you don’t want to, even if they are provided.
- You cannot cycle on parkways or limited state access highways unless they have a bike path.
- You are subject to Connecticut DUI laws, so no riding after drinking or using drugs.
- Connecticut doesn’t have any laws around distracted cycling. However, texting or phoning while riding is dangerous,
- Children under the age of 16 must wear a helmet when riding a bike.
- While adults are not required by law to wear a helmut, it is good practice and strongly recommended for protection and to model good behavior.
- During low light conditions and at night, you have to use a front light visible from five hundred feet, rear red reflectors visible from six hundred feet, and reflective material on the bike (somewhere on each side of the bike) visible from six hundred feet.
- It’s also strongly recommended that you wear brightly colored clothing, including brightly colored helmets so that they remain as visible as possible when riding.
- There is nothing in particular about the state of your brakes, but we would strongly recommend that you ensure your brakes will stop on a clean, level surface. After all, you still have to stop at things like traffic lights, stop signs, and if anything happens with the traffic around you.
- You may ride in the travel portion of the roadway for your safety. So if the extreme right hand side of the lane contains hazards, such as dirt, debris or potholes, or runners approaching you, you can ride in the travel portion of the roadway.
Vulnerable Users Law
Connecticut also has a law concerning vulnerable users. These include pedestrians, highway workers, people riding/driving animals, bikers, skateboarders, roller skaters/inline skaters, people riding on an agricultural tractor, people using a wheelchair/motorized chair or a blind person and his/her service animal.
Vulnerable user laws mean that people who are driving a vehicle who do not use reasonable care which leads to the injury or death of a vulnerable user are fined.
Connecticut has some more specific laws concerning right hand turns. Vehicles that overtake and pass a cyclist going in the same direction cannot make a right turn unless the turn can be made safely without impeding the cyclist and drivers must yield the right-of-way to cyclists.
SAFETY TIPS FOR CYCLISTS
- Follow the rules of the road. Obey stop signs and traffic signals as you would if you were driving a car. Always ride on the right in the direction of traffic. Yield to pedestrians in or at crosswalks. Avoid riding on sidewalks.
- Wear a helmet correctly on every ride to help prevent head injury. Helmets work only if you wear them correctly. Your helmet should be level (not tilted up or down), snug, with the chin strap buckled.
- Ride as far to the right as is safe. If there’s no bike lane, ride in the travel lane when necessary for your safety. The extreme right edge of the road isn’t always the safest place to ride. Riding in the travel lane makes it easier for drivers to see you, reduces the chance that a driver may pass too close, and may be necessary to avoid hazards.
- Ride single file in traffic. You may ride two abreast if traffic can pass you safely. Common courtesy usually requires riding single file in traffic, except when passing others.
- Use lights. Always ride with front and rear lights in the daytime and at night. Reflectors aren’t enough for safe riding at night or in dim conditions. For night riding, it is recommended to use a headlight visible from at least 500 feet and a red tail light visible from 600 feet.
- Wear bright clothing during the day and reflective materials at night and when visibility is low.
- Alert others that you’re approaching or passing. Use a bell or call ahead with a friendly greeting, such as "passing on your left." Allow plenty of space when passing others.
- Scan ahead for drains, potholes, debris, or railroad tracks. Give yourself time to go around them safely.
- Ride in a straight, predictable manner. Don’t weave, swerve, or stop suddenly. In slick or sandy conditions, give yourself extra distance to stop.
- Signal all turns. Use proper hand signals in advance to alert others where you are going.
- Look, signal, and look back again when you turn or change lanes. At intersections, choose the lane with the arrow pointing where you want to go.
- Stay out of the "door zone." Ride 3-4 feet away from parked cars so you don’t get hit by an opening car door.
- Don’t ride distracted. Distracted riding is dangerous riding. Wait to use your cellphone until you’re off the road.
- Don’t Ride with Headphones.
TIPS FOR DRIVERS
- Expect cyclists in the travel lane. Cyclists may ride in or near the middle of the travel lane when it’s not safe to ride on the far right side of the road. Cyclists should ride in the travel lane to avoid hazards and when the road is too narrow for cars and bikes to proceed safely side by side.
- Let cyclists ride as far to the right as is safe. Cyclists should ride as far to the right as they judge to be safe. Give them space to avoid hazards like potholes, debris and drain grates.
- Pass with care. Give cyclists at least 3 feet. It’s the law. Keep at least 3 feet of space between your vehicle and a cyclist.
- Don’t blast your horn when approaching cyclists; startling them could cause an accident.
- Don’t pass a cyclist if you’re immediately turning right; you may cause a crash. Before moving back in your lane, make sure you won’t cut the cyclist off.
- You may cross the center line to pass a cyclist if it’s safe. Vehicles may overtake and pass pedestrians, bicycles, and other obstacles even in a marked no-passing zone, provided such overtaking and passing may be conducted safely, with adequate sight distance and without interfering with oncoming traffic.
- For left turns, yield to oncoming cyclists.
- For right turns, always check for cyclists behind you to avoid cutting them off. Assume cyclists are traveling straight unless they signal otherwise or are in a turn lane.
- Mind the door zone. Check for approaching cyclists before opening your car door so you don’t hit them. Opening the door with your right hand helps you look over your left shoulder for cyclists.
(Adapted from Bike Walk CT’s "Give Respect, Get Respect. Share the Road, Connecticut" www.bikewalkct.org; Watch For Me CT program www.watchformect.com; Connecticut Department of Transportation “Connecticut Bicycle Laws Hand Out”,www.Ctbikepedboard.org; Traffic Laws Affecting Bicyclists in Connecticut, https://bicycleuniverse.com/bicycle-laws/bike-laws-in-connecticut/. )