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.

[Patch file photo of a bike lane.]
[Patch file photo of a bike lane.]
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.

Bruce Eaton September 23, 2013 at 01:00 PM
These events should include blocked intersections and bridges for the riders while they cross. Otherwise they should all follow the rules of the road. While it wouldn't have helped in this instance, in general I think the speed limits should be lowered throughout town. Hampton isn't a small town anymore. There are people speeding up and down our street, Mace Road, as I type. The speed limit sign is buried in a hedge. Police presence enforcing the speed limits is also necessary. Last month a former town official told me he slows down on 27 when he crosses into Exeter and it's not because the speed limit changes. Traffic control in town is inadequate. Maybe the number of officers in our force needs to be increased to reduce the frequency of these traffic related incidents.
Ginny Bridle-Russell September 23, 2013 at 01:03 PM
I went to Seabrook about 2o'clock and encounted two bikers riding side by side on the bridge. With cars coming, it is a dangerous situation for all. Something needs to be created so everyone can be safe and no family will be hurting over an accident. The death and injuries are very sad and so is the thought of someone living the rest of their life knowing what resulted from their actions! Everyone loses.
Suzanne Baker September 24, 2013 at 07:10 AM
There are no excuses for ignorance,this girl should have known better.
Patrick James Collins September 24, 2013 at 08:44 PM
Several points: 1. Our roads are not wide enough for bike paths. 2. Bike paths are simply a white mark on the road. Bicyclists already ignore the current markings and can often be seen riding 3-4 abreast in front of a line of traffic. Bike paths are dangerous because they provide an illusory sense of safety. 3. Rt1-A is an extremely narrow year round road for motor vehicles. Tourists are here during all seasons. This is the road they drive on. That is reality. 4. It is foolish to grant permits allowing hundreds of out-of-town folks to block our roads and weave in and out of traffic. 5. I cycle too, and enjoy it, but we are not talking about a small family of four pedaling along. They come by the hundreds. 6. These people need to be riding on back roads out in the country or, better still, be riding at home in their own communities where they would be more comfortable with the terrain. Finally, there is no sane reason why the town of Hampton, and it's taxpayers, should incur the liability which occurs when these people parachute in. This, plus the strain on our police and fire services, make it clear that this foolishness needs to end. The town should not be permitting such an incredibly dangerous scenario. I would think that the horrible events of last weekend would make that clear to even the most obtuse.


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