21 Aug 2014
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Do Local Bike, Car Laws or Roads Need Changing?

Four cyclists — two of whom died — were struck and injured by a car that crossed lanes during a bike event in Hampton over the weekend.

Do Local Bike, Car Laws or Roads Need Changing?
Two cyclists died Saturday as the result of injuries sustained in a collision with a vehicle on a coastal bridge in Hampton.

Two others were also injured in that same accident, which took place when the vehicle crossed into the bikers' lane while they were riding over a bridge during a non-competitive event through various parts of the Seacoast area. A woman was also injured in a separate-but-similar crash in Rye during the same event, which was held one day after two bodies were found in Hampton

While police have determined the driver was at fault for Saturday's crash and have said it doesn't appear the design of the roadway or the riding formation of the cyclists played a factor in the incident, local officials have commented in recent years about the dangerous biking and running conditions on Seacoast roads.

The topic is also often broached early on when Hampton and North Hampton officials discuss whether to grant various permits and road closures — if any — for area biking and running events.

Do you think the laws and regulations need to be changed for vehicles or bicycles — or both — in order to improve safety? Or, do you think something needs to be done in order to increase the attentiveness of individuals engaged in all forms of travel, whether that be through stricter laws or a greater onus on personal responsibility? 

Do you think there's anything Hampton, North Hampton, the state and other entities can do to make local roadways safer? 

As a cyclist or pedestrian, do you feel safe engaging in these types of activities on local roads?

Cyclists were instructed to "follow all rules of the road" and "ride single file in traffic, not block the roadways, and walk across bridges if so directed"  in the official rules for Saturday's event.

Photos from the scene of Saturday's fatal accident show bicyclists waiting as many as four-abreast while the Neil R. Underwood Memorial Bridge, a drawbridge that spans Ocean Boulevard (Route 1A), was up. The bridge doesn't have a bicycle lane or wide shoulders, and it  has been the scene of other deaths in recent years.

The individuals shown in those pictures weren't involved in the collision, though, and the pictures don't serve as evidence that riders were crossing the bridge in rows of four on Saturday.

Similarly, motor vehicle operators are required by state law to follow certain measures when encountering bicycles. The following are excerpts provided by Jeff Latimer, the owner of Gus' Bike Shop in North Hampton, from the  New Hampshire Department of Transportation Brochure:

A) Cars are required by law to wait until it is safe to pass. "You may overtake only if it is safe to do so" RSA 265:18.
B)  Do not cross the center line if you can't see the road a sufficient distance to know there are no oncoming vehicles"  RSA 265.:20.  Note bicycles are vehicles with the exact same right to the road as cars RSA 265:143.  
C) " You are responsible for due care to avoid colliding with a bicyclist" RSA 265:37D) Bicyclists may occupy any part of a lane when their safety warrants it . If a lane is to narrow to share (such as on the narrow bridge) it is safer for the bicyclist to communicate that information by riding in the center of the lane. 

Saturday's fatal crash has started to generate causal debate on these local laws, even though the official police investigation hasn't yet yielded any evidence that the above laws and requirements were intentionally disregarded or violated. 

What's your take? Please let us know in the comments section below, or by e-mailing Kyle.Stucker@Patch.com.

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