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Our Town with William Kelly: Town to promote public awareness of new bicycle traffic law

A change in state law should reduce the number of conflicts between motorists and bicyclists while making it easier for drivers to traverse town roadways.

Senate Bill 950, which took effect July 1, requires bicyclists to ride in a single file on roads where there are no designated bicycle lanes, Police Chief Nicholas Caristo told the Town Council earlier this month.

The previous allowance of bicyclists riding two abreast no longer applies in town due to the legal change and the width of town roadways, Caristo said.

The new law was adopted to make conditions safer for bicyclists. But it is bound to make many drivers happy. Drivers have long been frustrated with the relatively slow-moving groups of bicyclists who ride along State Road A1A on mornings and weekends to enjoy the ocean view.

“We all know this has been a thorn in our side for years,” Donald Singer, co-chairman of the Citizens’ Association of Palm Beach, told the council. “We could not be happier.”

But Singer said the state is too slow to install signs so residents and bicyclists are aware of the change. Singer said the Citizens’ Association will assist the Police Department with informing the public about the new law.

The only exception to the new single-file rule is when a bicyclist is avoiding a road hazard or overtaking another bicyclist.

The new law also allows drivers to briefly drive to the left, over double yellow lines, to pass cyclists with a minimum of three feet passing distance.

Town Manager Kirk Blouin said the legal change was needed, and he agreed that a public education is necessary along with signs.

“It’s a very emotional issue for the citizens and for the cyclists as well,” Blouin said.

Some bicyclists follow the rules of the road, but drivers still get angry with them, he said. Then there are those bicyclists who don’t seem to care about the rules of the road, he said.

“Some bike groups are very large and frankly I find them to be very obnoxious,” Blouin said. “Going too slow or riding two, three or four abreast with total disregard for the laws and that compounds the issue.”

The law does not affect bicycle use of the Lake Trail, Caristo said.

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