NORWALK, Conn. In a perfect world there would be separate road space for all. Drivers would have the roads to themselves. Runners and pedestrians would have continuous, well-maintained sidewalks adjacent to all city streets. Cyclists would have their own designated, barricaded paths, too.
But this is not our reality. We live in a small, suburban city with limited resources and limited space. Although there are exciting projects, such as the Norwalk River Valley Trail, on the horizon, they are still many years away from completion. Even then, these trails won't offer sweeping coverage for all of the city's streets.
It's also unreasonable to think that nonmotorized transportation is going anywhere. More residents are turning to alternative forms of transportation, either to save a few bucks on rising gas prices or for the simple pleasure of exercise, or perhaps a combination of reasons. Regardless, the end result is still the same. Drivers, cyclists and pedestrians have to share the road.
If there can be no infrastructural change, then attitudes need to change. I believe all three parties need to work together to create safe roads for all. A good start would be simply educating people of the laws and regulations regarding the use of the road.
- Sidewalks are built for pedestrians, so if there is a sidewalk, use it to the best of your ability. The law does state the pedestrians must use the sidewalk when there is one available.
- Walk or run against traffic so cars can see you. It also makes it safer for other pedestrians on the road as well. If Runner A is running against traffic, and Walker B is walking with traffic, it leaves very little room for Car C to navigate between the two.
- Follow all traffic laws. Stop at stop signs, and wait to cross the street until you have the light.
- Always be hyper-aware of your surroundings. Keep your headphones turned down low enough so you can hear traffic noises, or better yet, leave them at home.
- A bicycle is considered a vehicle in the eyes of the law, therefore, you must obey all traffic laws.
- Ride in the bike lane, if available, or the farthest lane to the right.
- Obey all stop signs and traffic signals. The right to use the road as a vehicle also comes with all vehicular responsibilities.
- Cyclists have the right to ride no more than two abreast unless the cyclists are impeding traffic flow. Then, cyclists must ride single file.
- Use hand signals for left and right turns.
- Pedestrians have the right of way at crosswalks.
- Connecticut State Law Section 14 - 300d: "Operator of a vehicle required to exercise due care to avoid pedestrian. Each operator of a vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with any pedestrian or person." Translation: As a motorist, it is your responsibility to look out for others on the road!
- Give cyclists at least three feet of space when passing or overtaking on road.
- Use turn signals so others on the road understand your intentions.
- Don't drive distracted. Recall that both talking without the use of a hands-free device or texting on a mobile device is illegal.
- Recall that cyclists and pedestrians do have a legal right to the road and have patience to give them their legal rights and space.
It's time to stop pointing fingers and blaming each other for accidents, or tragedies such as this past weekend's, will continue to happen. It's time to take responsibility for our actions and realize it's not just our lives at risk every time we step behind a driver's wheel, lace up our running shoes or snap on our biking helmets, but other human lives, too. It's time to act like adults and share the damn road.
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