Sharing the road between cyclists and motorists has been a growing concern in Ridgefield over the last few years.

“Everyone has noticed an uptick on cyclists on the roadway,” said Police Capt. Jeff Kreitz.

“We just want to make sure there’s an understanding both with motorists and cyclists; their roles and responsibilities when traveling on the roadway.”

He said that there have been eight accidents between a bike and a vehicle over the last five years.

Kreitz and Jacqui Dowd, owner of Ridgefield Bicycle Company, have been working on a campaign to raise awareness of road rules and expected behaviors — of those on their bikes and those driving in their cars.

So far, they have made a pamphlet with all the rules which they hand out at events, like the Ridgefield Bicycle Sport Club kick-off and police safety talks at town organizations.

Dowd, who founded the Ridgefield Bicycle Sport Club, is always giving her riders the appropriate information.

But, she said that the club has 365 members, and many town riders aren’t a part of it.

“Do I have access to every cyclist? I don’t,” she said.

“There’s plenty of cyclists that come from other clubs; there will always be a learning curve and we’ll always be after those people.”

Narrow roads

Dowd says that she’s heard residents get anxious when they see a group of cyclists.

“There are always moments when people get annoyed or are not sure what to do or get nervous and don’t know how to get around cyclists,” she said. “‘How do I pass them? What’s the right thing to do? Do I gun it? How much room do I give them?’”

Kreitz said that the law states the vehicle has to remain 3 feet apart from the bike — but Ridgefield’s narrow roads often don’t allow for such a distance.

In these cases, it’s the driver’s responsibility to wait until it is safe to pass the rider in the other lane; but Dowd emphasizes courteous bike riding.

“It’s also the job of the cyclist, I think, to be aware of that and if there are many cars waiting to pass you, slow your pace to let them get around you easier, and make sure you stop at the sign let the car go through,” she said.

Progress

According to Dowd, interactions between motorists and cyclists have gotten progressively better over the last couple of years.

“I think that we’ve definitely changed and we’ve moved the needle significantly in cyclists being more cognizant of what they’re doing on the road,” she said.

“I find Ridgefield motorists to be very gracious, maybe it’s because I’m also trying to be respectful and I think you get what you give.”

Every member of the bike club hears the rules of the road prior to every bike ride.

“We go through all the safety rules, some rules specific to group riding; we also go over how the group should be formed,” said Dowd.

“We go through it every single ride and people that are frequent abusers of that are asked not to come back.”

Next steps

Dowd says that sharing the road properly is an ongoing process, which requires education on the rules and expectations on a daily basis.

“I think that the collaboration between the cyclists club and the police department is by far and away the most important aspect of this so that everybody is taking responsibility,” she said.

“I think a social media campaign is a great idea for motorists as well. The more comfortable they are understanding what to do when they see a cyclist the better everybody is…  

“Any way that we can get in front of people to educate them not just tell them what to do, but actually explain how to share the road I think is the way to go.”

Kreitz said that they are in the process of getting some signage from the state specific to bikes and road rules as well as a short video to be shown during previews at the Prospector.

They are both optimistic about town collaboration.

“That’s what’s great about Ridgefield, it really is a true community and everyone works toward the betterment of the town,” said Kreitz.