Editorial: Don't hate us because we don't like the bike clearance law

Posted Tuesday, June 25, 2013 in Opinion

Editorial: Don't hate us because we don't like the bike clearance law

Many of us ride bikes.  We like our bikes.  We think that bikes can be part of a solution of community transport, climate change, and human fitness.

But the new three feet law is just plain stupid. 

Bikes aren't motor vehicles, and unless we are Tour de France-calibur riders, we can't travel at the same speeds as motor vehicles.  Simple fact.  Bikes are smaller than motor vehicles, and Maine roads are notoriously twisty, hilly, and have narrow bridges and underpasses everywhere.

So what that often means is that a bicycle and a motor vehicle meet where it is dangerous for a car to give a bike three feet of room.  Dangerous as in 'head-on collision' dangerous.

Here's an example.  The designated bike route between Bath and Brunswick is a twisty, hilly, narrow roadway called the Old Bath Road (or the Old Brunswick Road, depending on which direction you're traveling).  The sides of the road are not paved, so a bike can't travel safely on the shoulder.  The posted speed limit for traffic is 40 miles per hour.  A really good cyclist might be doing 15. 

When a car approaches a bicycle, it has to swing out into the oncoming lane to pass the bike.  But because a bike often slows down on a hill, or on a curve, the car then is forced into an oncoming lane where the driver cannot see what is ahead of him or her.  This puts everyone at risk.

Without bike lanes, and yes, this would cost a fair amount of money, the current three-feet bike law will create hazards that may lead to serious injury or death for cyclist and motorist, the opposite of what the law was intended to do. A far better solution, if bike travel is to be supported (and it should be) is to restripe streets and pave shoulders, striped as bike lanes, so that everyone can use the roads safely.

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