Bicycle Coalition talks safety with Bethel residents (Oxford Hills Sun Journal)
BETHEL – The assistant director of the Bicycle Coalition of Maine advised selectmen and other residents Monday night that there needs to be some give and take between motorists and bicyclists.
Jim Tasse was invited to address the board after it approved three signs last month for the beginning of Vernon, North and Intervale roads, warning drivers to keep 3 feet away from cyclists. A month later, the board voted 4-1 to reconsider its vote, after residents said some cyclists ride side-by-side or three abreast at times, which makes it difficult for motorists to pass them or give them space.
Tasse said he heard that “there is some heartburn in the community about group rides using narrow roads in the area”
“I’m here to say that this is a fairly common issue in Maine,” he said said. “I’ve got to tell you that, in situation after situation, what needs to happen is a little bit of give and take on both sides. There are plenty of jerk bicyclists out there who could be riding more courteously, and there are plenty of drivers out there who are jerks.”
He said Maine law is “pretty clear about the legality of two-abreast driving and group riding,” in that it “is not prohibited.”
“Under Maine law, a person operating a bicycle at a speed less than the normal speed of traffic shall operate on the right portion of the road, except when the conditions on the road prevent them from doing so, when passing a vehicle, and if the road is of substandard width,” Tasse said.
Some residents said they drive commercial vehicles and there are times when they are stuck behind bicyclists for more than two miles. Other residents said their vehicles were too large to accelerate fast enough to pass bicyclists on some of Bethel’s more narrow roads.
Tasse said drivers should “think about what you do when you come upon a construction vehicle pulling a large piece of equipment, or a farm tractor hauling a load of hay.
“If any of those situations come up, what do we do?” Tasse asked. “We stay behind them and wait until there’s a safe place to pass. That’s ex
actly the way someone should treat a bicyclist on the road. It only seems inconvenient because everyone wants to drive 10 miles over the speed limit.”
When some residents chuckled, Tasse smiled and said, “You all know it. We all do the same thing.”
Tasse said he would be “happy to set up a meeting with group riders in the area to talk about strategies to minimize bicyclists’ impact on the roadway.”
“The ultimate answer is that bicyclists can do things to be more accommodating, and motor vehicles need to divest themselves of the idea that they have to always pass a bike as soon as they see it,” Tasse said.