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Sunday, February 25 News

Letter: Make traffic rules bike-friendly

I winced when I read the recent news of two women who were knocked off their bicycles while riding on Stratfield Road.

The story was predictable and followed suit with almost every bike-car collision that has been reported in Fairfield, whether it's a minor scrape or a fatality: it was the cyclists' fault!

In this most recent case, the story said the women were riding on the wrong side of the road, and it was the cyclists who were cited, even though one was thrown from her bike and the other pinned under the car. Given the twisted nature of the bikes at the side of the road in the news photo, I'm amazed the women weren't also charged with littering.

The moral of the story is that bicyclists should ride with the traffic, not against it. Good advice, no doubt, but not always possible for a number of reasons, including the high speed at which most vehicles move through town (easily 10 mph over the posted speed limits), dangerous crossings, lack of bike lanes, and the perception -- sometimes true -- that cyclists are safer looking at the traffic as opposed to having it hurtling by behind them.

Fairfield is a great bike-riding and pedestrian town. I see people out all the time -- and I also witness cyclists' mad off-road dashes to safety and the near misses when drivers don't see them or act impulsively at the wheel. I've watched cars blithely doing 45 to 50 mph within inches of young children who could easily wobble into traffic.

A Master Plan for cycling was created in 2011, but I'm not sure much has come of it. Many towns and cities have adopted bike- and pedestrian-friendly measures from engineering and design to traffic policies, but Fairfield has shown little interest and less follow through.

Increasingly, desirability is not simply measured by school quality or house sales, especially as the younger generation shows less interest in automobiles. The town is missing a major opportunity to move forward on quality of life and safety issues that will make it a much better place to live.

The current traffic policy makes it open season on anyone who isn't in a car, while so many enlightened suburbs are moving in another direction.

Brian Wallace