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New Hampshire Adopts 3 Foot Bicycle Passing Law

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A reprint follows of an article on New Hampshire’s Updated Bicycling laws that take effect January 2009. This article is from The Concord Monitor, just use the link to see the original Article.

My favorite quote is “Hopefully, this will help motorists show the same respect for bikers that they show pedestrians,” said Andersen, a Lebanon Democrat. “Just like pedestrians, bicyclists are supposed to be able to feel confident that they’re not going to get run over.”

I think adopting the 3′ rule is a very positive move and a surprise in New Hampshire. But I have to say my experience is that I am safer on a bike than walking in Dover, NH.

I hope this new law is communicated to drivers, enforced and obeyed, but I am not very optimistic that we will see much improvement. However, I must say in most parts of New Hampshire (the Hampton Beach Area is a major exception) and Southern Maine drivers respect bicyclist. I have very few threatening incidents, about 1 a year bicycling. As a pedestrian I have about one threatening incident a week while walking in Dover, NH.

Bicyclist often have the advantage of being where drivers are looking. Pedestrians have become invisible since the “right turn on red law” was adopted. Drivers are looking to the left to see if they can run the light without stopping and not to the right where there is a pedestrian in the crosswalk.

This change in the law is a very positive move by the State of New Hampshire to help bicyclists and encourage bicycling in the state. The sponsor of this bill, Gene Andersen, should be commended and supported for this work. Good job Gene!!!!

However, this is just one tree in the forest and there is still a long way to go before bicyclists and pedestrians can feel safe on our roads. The next step is to get the local police on the side of the bicyclist and pedestrian. Blaming the bicyclist or pedestrian when they are hit by a speeding or inattentive driver is no more useful than telling the homeowner to get bigger locks after his home has been robbed. Our local paper, Foster’s Daily Democrat seems to support this blaming the victim approach. Maybe they should be targeted as a partner in our efforts to make the roads safer for everyone. I suspect they will be much easier to convince than the police and could be a very effective advocate.

My hope is that higher gas prices will slow drivers down and that over time they will be more aware of the danger they create when they speed or drive distracted.

Law: Make way for bicyclists
Sponsor celebrates with 55-mile ride

By Jared Pendak The Valley News
July 21, 2008

For state Rep. Gene Andersen and his wife, Judy, bicycling is a form of freedom.

Cycling is the freedom to rely on an inexpensive, environmentally friendly method of transportation, the couple says, the freedom to immerse themselves in the environment rather than watching it go by in a blur from behind the windshield of a motor vehicle. Now, with a new bicycle safety law sponsored by Andersen and signed Friday by New Hampshire Gov. John Lynch, cycling will also mean the freedom to ride safely and confidently on the state’s roadways.

As of Jan. 1, 2009, a new state law will require motorists to allow bicyclists at least three feet of clearance when passing, with an additional foot required for every 10 mph increment above 30 mph. The law will also allow bicyclists to pass stationary cars and trucks on the right side when safe and enable bicyclists to use designated traffic turn lanes. To aid motorists, bicyclists traveling at night will be required to wear at least one item of reflective clothing.

“Hopefully, this will help motorists show the same respect for bikers that they show pedestrians,” said Andersen, a Lebanon Democrat. “Just like pedestrians, bicyclists are supposed to be able to feel confident that they’re not going to get run over.”

New Hampshire becomes the 20th state in the nation to implement the so-called “three-foot rule.”
The impetus in the Granite State began last summer when Judy Andersen, an avid cyclist of 30-plus years, read a Valley News story about a similar law being passed in Maine. The Andersens attended a Hanover Bike Committee meeting and proposed the notion of a New Hampshire version of the law.

They were referred by the HBC to the Bike-Walk Alliance of New Hampshire, a Concord-based pedestrian and bicyclist advocacy group.

BWA education and safety director Dave Topham and Andersen rode the idea all the way to the state legislature, lobbying the Department of Transportation, Department of Safety and Department of Motor Vehicles and voicing their support at hearings for the bill at the statehouse. In the end, it passed through the House and Senate without a bump in the road, so to speak.

“The legislative subcommittees were very supportive of it,” said Topham, co-founder of Granite State Wheelmen, the largest recreational bicycling club in New England. “John Lynch’s wife, Dr. Susan Lynch, recently joined the Granite State Wheelmen, and she and John are both strong advocates of cycling, so the support for this new law really extended all the way up to the governor’s office.”

To celebrate the occasion – and get about 55 miles worth of exercise – the Andersens hopped on their red Raleigh tandem bike and pedaled all the way from their Allen Street home to Friday’s signing at the State House. The couple rode about 24 miles on N.H. Route 4A to Wilmot before taking U.S. Route 4 for 22 miles to Penacook. For the last seven miles or so, the couple rode due south on U.S. Route 3 in the open midday sun and 95-degree heat.

“We started at 7 in the morning,” Gene noted. “The stretch on Route 4A was hilly, but it was earlier in the day and we had some cloud cover, so it wasn’t too bad. Then on Route 4, we had some tree cover and it was relatively shady, so again the heat wasn’t really a problem.

“But traveling down Route 3 with that hot asphalt was difficult. You cold feel the heat coming off the pavement like an oven. We were happy to get to the statehouse.”

As self-proclaimed conservationists, the Andersens take satisfaction in limiting their carbon dioxide emissions by using bikes for transportation in lieu of motor vehicles whenever possible. Judy Andersen uses her Burley roadster to get to and from Dartmouth College, where she uses the squash facilities.

“It’s so much easier than driving up Route 120 and looking for a place to park in Hanover,” she said. “Whenever I take the car, I’m late and wish I had taken the bike.”

For health and environmental reasons, the Andersens would like to see an increase in the use of bicycles among children to get to and from school.

Gene thinks most kids are driven because their parents think it safer than sending them off on a bike, a reputation he’s hoping the new bicycle safety law will help eradicate.

“Kids are overweight and not getting enough exercise, and if you go over to the School Street School, you’ll see all these cars idling waiting to pick up their kids,” the legislator said. “They think they’re protecting their kids, but in fact it would be a lot healthier if their kids were biking to school. In Europe, for instance, that’s the norm, and part of that is because motorists respect cyclists more.”

Provisions in the new law will also address rumble strips, which can force bicyclists into traffic, and drain gates, which can cause accidents when bicycle tires sink into the grooves.

Until recently, rumble strips had been inserted primarily on interstate highways, but the use of them on state highways and secondary roads in New Hampshire is expected to increase, Andersen said.

“The law is coming at a good time, because the state is just starting to put rumble strips on side roads,” the representative said. “It’s going to help road designers and planners to consider the needs of cyclists before they get into construction.”

Eventually, Andersen is hoping a measure will be passed requiring businesses to allow bicyclists to use drive-up facilities at establishments such as restaurants, pharmacies and banks.

Judy Andersen was once turned away at a bank, even though it was a Saturday morning and the lobby was closed; Gene Andersen surmises that most businesses are told by their insurance companies not to serve bicyclists for fear of liability issues.

Andersen attempted to include a provision requiring drive-through businesses to serve bicyclists in the most recent bicycle safety law, but it was dismissed by the legislature.

“They said we couldn’t make businesses change their policies,” Gene said. “But we’re not going to give up on that one.”

It’s all part of the Andersens’ efforts to advocate bicycling. Like any freedom, they’re not willing to take it for granted.


Written by Roland

September 4, 2008 at 11:35 am

3 Responses

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  1. […] if they agree to have a breath alcohol ignition interlock installed on their car.New Hampshire.A Three Foot Passing Law becomes effective.Elsewhere…If you know of other laws, please feel free to post details or a link […]

  2. […] I suppose there’s bound to be some blowback as communities around the country take serious steps to make cycling safer (setbacks & disappointments aside) and many more people continue get […]

    • I think that more pedestrian and bike traffic helps these problems a lot. In areas where there is more foot and bike traffic drivers become accustomed to them and more tolerant. This can drop accident rates dramatically.

      That’s why I am trying to spend more time getting folks out on foot and on bike.


      June 18, 2009 at 2:42 pm

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