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Vulnerable Road Users

What is a vulnerable road user? Vulnerable road users can be classified by how they're using the road and might include pedestrians, cyclists and motorcyclists. Vulnerable road users can also be classified by their demographics and might include children, the elderly and disabled. However, they're classified, vulnerable road users are particularly impacted by engineering and enforcement.

My last blog was about navigating East Side Drive @ the I-393 ramps. I'm continuing that theme. See, I wouldn't even have to ride through this high conflict area if someone maintained the Bike/Ped bridge that parallels I-93 between Exits 15 and 16. Because this bridge is not maintained in the winter, I'm forced to seek an alternative route; one that makes me even more vulnerable.

Flash back to January 2016. Gene Parker was navigating his wheelchair along the short section of road some think of as I-393 between Commercial St and Main St. Technically, this section of road is not interstate highway and therefore can be used, legally, by bicyclists and pedestrians. I know. Who would want to that? Unfortunately for Mr. Parker, the sidewalk along this section was not being maintained. So, for him to navigate this short stint, he did want any pedestrian should do. He went against the flow of traffic and kept to the far right of the road (where right is based on the flow of traffic). He was struck and later died as a result of his injuries.

Quickly, his tragic misfortune drew attention to sidewalk maintenance. And in the end, the sidewalk is now being maintained in the winter. Yes, that's good. But, what about the due care each and every motorist should have afforded to this most vulnerable road user? The driver was not charged.

If I'm struck navigating East Side Drive @ the I-393 ramps, most likely folks won't even think about having the bike/ped bridge cleared. My tragedy will happen too far away the bridge for folks to put two and two together (unless they read this rant).

In NH there are two laws that some police officers feel are in conflict. RSA 265-143a requires motorists to exercise due care when approaching a bicyclist by providing at least 3 feet of separation between the vehicle and the bicycle. RSA 265:144 requires bicyclists to remain as far to the right as practicable. In September 2016 a cyclist was hit on Sheep Davis Road. No one was cited. “[The cyclist] may have been technically over the line, if his elbow was over the line, and [the driver] should have used more due care, but neither of them were summonsed,” Lt. Tim O’Malley, Concord Police Department.

Is the duty of care the law requires of motor vehicle operators ever waived?

We've gone a long way in protecting our most vulnerable citizens in gaining employment, access to public spaces, etc. We have a long way to go in protecting our most vulnerable citizens in being able to safely travel along our roads and streets.

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