NORWALK, Conn. – There are a bevy of laws that pertain to bicycling in Connecticut, but two Norwalk enthusiasts question whether bicyclists and motorists are aware of them.
"It's nuts out there. Everywhere you go, people are combative," said Alex Stanek of Milford, a "bicycle industry lifer" who owns Smart Cycles on Strawberry Hill Avenue in Norwalk. "It's on both sides, too. ... It's not a driver/cyclist problem, it's a people problem. Everyone's distracted, everybody's impatient and no one wants to play by any type of rule."
"I don't think people know the laws," said Ed Torres, a cyclist who recently had a run-in with two women and thinks things are "getting worse."
Both Torres and Stanek have had cars brush by much too closely, they said, in spite of state law 14-232, which mandates "safe passing distance not less than three feet when the driver of a vehicle overtakes and passes a bicyclist."
Both have gotten the police involved. Stanek said he was "almost killed" the summer before last by teenagers who passed within inches of his handlebars while he was riding on Calf Pasture Beach Road.
Torres was punched in the face June 3 after yelling at a driver who passed him too closely on Marvin Street, near Calf Pasture Beach Road, Norwalk Lt. Praveen John said. The driver, Frank Guthman, 61, of 35 Riverview Drive, slammed on his brakes, causing Torres to fall off his bicycle.
The pair then got into an argument in front of Torres' wife and 9-year-old son. Guthman was arrested and charged with breach of peace second degree, a misdemeanor. Guthman pleaded nolo contendre and paid a $150 fine, according to the state of Connecticut Judicial Branch website.
The main laws that pertain to bicyclists also pertain to motorists because bicycles are considered vehicles. This means bicycles cannot go through red lights, turn right on red at prohibited intersections or travel at fast speeds on slow roads.
Among the laws that pertain specifically to bicyclists are that "persons shall not ride more than two abreast, according to 14-28b, and carrying large packages is restricted because one hand must remain on the handlebars," 14-28c.
Also, at night, bicyclists must use a front light and rear reflector, according to 14-288, and any bicyclist under 16 must wear a helmet, 14-286d.
"It's important to make people realize that the cyclists at times are just as big an idiot," Stanek said. "It's not a one-way street. The difference is that when it comes to the car versus bicycle, the cyclist is always going to get the short end of the stick."