Connecticut has some reasonable laws around cyclists, so nothing here should really be a surprise. In fact, many of them mimic other states and follow along with the laws of the road for drivers. They are still worth knowing of course, if only because there are areas which are different from other states. If you’re cycling around Connecticut or you plan to travel there and take your bike on some runs, what should you know to stay legal?
Safety Safety Safety
Connecticut has a wider range of safety laws around bikes than other states do. These laws cover things like using helmets, and lights/reflectors, as well as things like how many riders you can have on a bike (one per seat!), and the fact that you cannot ride without having at least one hand on the handlebars at all times. The main difference between Connecticut and other places is the emphasis on using helmets. Children under the age of 16 must wear a helmet when riding a bike and while adults don’t have to wear a helmet, it’s strongly recommended for protection and to model good behavior.
The other thing to keep in mind is the reflectors and lights used on your bike. During low light and night, you have to use a front light visible from five hundred feet, rear red reflectors visible from six hundred feet, and reflective material on the bike (somewhere on each side of the bike) visible from six hundred feet. It’s also strongly recommended that the riders wear brightly colored clothing, including brightly colored helmets so that they remain as visible as possible when riding.
There is nothing in particular about the state of your brakes, but we would strongly recommend that you ensure your brakes will stop on a clean, level surface. After all, you still have to stop at things like traffic lights, stop signs, and if anything happens with the traffic around you.
Riding on the Road
In general, cyclists have the same rights and responsibilities as motorists; however, they also have the same rights and responsibilities as pedestrians when biking on a sidewalk or crosswalk, making them something of a hybrid as far as the law is concerned. This means that cyclists can find themselves on the wrong side of the road (achem) fairly easily if they don’t know what the laws are, so here’s a primer:
- If you’re on the road, you have the same rights and duties as motorists. This means obeying all traffic signals: stopping at red lights and stop signs and signalling when turning to communicate with other travellers.
- You cannot ride on the right side of the road; you can only ride with oncoming traffic. There are some exceptions to this:
- If you’re passing or overtaking a vehicle going the same direction.
- If you’re going to do a left turn at an intersection or private road/driveway.
- If you need to ride on the left to avoid bad conditions, objects, parked/moving vehicles, other bikes, pedestrians, animals, hazards, narrow lanes.
- If you’re going to an intersection where right turns are permitted with a dedicated right turn lane. Then you can ride on the left even if you’re not going to turn right.
- Riding on a road that is meant for one-way traffic.
- Anywhere that is separated exclusively for bikes such as bike paths and separated areas on the road.
- Barring any of this, you must ride on the left.
- You can ride two abreast-but no more than that. You should still keep an eye out for traffic though.
- You can ride on the sidewalk, but you have to yield the right-of-way to pedestrians and make sure they know you’re there by making some noise. This is trumped by any municipal law that says otherwise. It’s recommended to avoid going on the sidewalk (except for kids) because it creates hazards with pedestrians, but there’s no law prohibiting it. There is also no mention of a requirement to dismount when using the crosswalk.
- Motorists passing a cyclist have to leave at least three feet between the vehicle and the bike and three feet of passing area around a bike when emerging from driveways and alleys.
- You don’t have to use a bike path, even if they are provided, if you don’t want t. But you cannot use parkways or limited state access highways unless they have a bike path.
- No riding and drinking or using drugs.
- Connecticut doesn’t have any laws around distracted riding; the focus is still on distracted driving. We would say though that texting and riding is dangerous and if you remove your hands from the handlebars, you can get into trouble.
Connecticut also has laws around vulnerable users. These include pedestrians, highway workers, people riding/driving animals, bikers, skateboarders, roller skaters/in line skaters, people riding on an agricultural tractor, people using a wheelchair/motorized chair or a blind person and his/her service animal. Vulnerable user laws mean that people who are driving a vehicle who do use reasonable care leading to the injury or death of a vulnerable user are fined.
Connecticut has some more specific laws around bikers. Vehicles that overtake and pass a cyclist going in the same direction cannot make a turn unless the turn can be made safely without impeding the cyclist and drivers must yield the right-of-way to cyclists.
What is missing from the books on bike laws in Connecticut? This state does not have any laws around electronic bikes, so proceed with caution when riding one. This will likely change in the near future, so make sure to check in regularly before you ride.
Connecticut has nothing really odd or out of place in regards to how cyclists are treated under law and most of it is common sense. It is nice to see both vulnerable user laws and helmet laws for youth, which does make it different from some other places, but by and large, if you use your common sense, you will likely be all right while you ride. Enjoy biking around Connecticut!