BETHEL — After getting feedback from residents since their last meeting, selectmen Monday voted 4-1 to reconsider an earlier vote to erect signs warning motorists to give bicyclists space on town roads.

Last month, the board approved three signs for the beginning of Vernon, North and Intervale roads, warning drivers to keep three feet away from cyclists. The cost is approximately $500. 

But concerns were expressed at that meeting that some cyclists ride two or three abreast at times, making it difficult for motorists to give them space. In addition, there were descriptions that cyclists sometimes run stop signs and take shortcuts.

Since then, Selectmen Lloyd Sweetser and Don Bennett said they have heard from people who think the sign messages should also include a reminder to the cyclists, too. Sweetser made a motion to reconsider the vote and Bennett seconded it.

“No one is trying to beat up the bicycle community,” Bennett said. “But there’s been an awful lot of talk about the safety issue.”

He said dump trucks driving on North Road, for example, must sometimes follow bicyclists slowly for over two miles without being able to pass.

“It’s a situation that unfortunately is going to lead to some road rage, I’m terribly afraid,” he said. “It’s about making it safe for everyone.”

He suggested signs that might emphasize single-file cycling in some areas.

Selectman Peter Southam, who is head cycling coach for Gould Academy, agreed that bicyclists should not be “all over the place.”

But, he said, it is practice for cyclists to switch leads “every 30 seconds to a minute. That’s the way bicycles work. If they’re not, they’re not doing it right.”

He also said some vehicles “blow by” his cyclists at 55 miles an hour, instead of slowing to match their speed before passing. He said he has seen drivers nearly collide head-on with oncoming vehicles.

Southam also likened the problems to a motorist coming up behind another slow motor vehicle. “I’ve never seen a slow driver move over for me,” he said. “It’s exactly the same situation. Grandma going to church is exactly the same as a bicycle.”

He said he believed that cyclists do have the right to the entire lane.

Southam voted against reconsidering the signs vote. Discussion on the issue was postponed until the next board meeting May 26.

According to the Maine Bicycle Laws posted on the Maine Department of Transportation website and dated 2015, “Bicycles are expected to ride on the right as far as is ‘practicable,’ but there is a variety of situations in which a rider may legally take a larger share of the travel lane, including: setting up for a left turn, proceeding straight where a right turn is also permitted, passing other vehicles and to avoid obstacles or other unsafe situations.”


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