Years ago, while training for the Save The Bay Swim, I took a break from my swim training and went for a bike ride. I was living in Wickford Village at the time and got right onto Boston Neck Road and headed south towards Narragansett. Boston Neck Rd. was and remains a very busy one lane road, with retail shops, ice cream shops, pedestrians, and cyclists like myself. About halfway through my ride, I ran into a situation that caused an accident. I was riding my bike in the breakdown lane and a motor vehicle put his/her left turning signal on to pull into Brickley’s Ice Cream. As I was passing the turning vehicle in the breakdown lane, I was struck by another motor vehicle attempting to pass the turning motor vehicle. This vehicle came into the breakdown lane and hit my back tire of my bicycle. I was knocked off my bike and injured. The car that hit me, sped off, and was later caught by the Narragansett Police.
I was reminded of this incident today as I was driving down Boston Neck Rd with my oldest son, who was meeting friends at Narragansett Beach. I was on Boston Neck Rd and again, it was a busy road filled with walkers, cyclists, merchants, tourists shopping, cars turning onto and off Boston Neck Rd, and a familiar face jogging, my sister Erin. Often times in life, an important issue doesn’t get personal unless something happens to you or a loved one that makes you change your stance on an issue. Knowing that my son rides his bike on Boston Neck Rd, and after waving to my sister who was jogging in the same breakdown lane that I got hit on, it occurred to me that this issue was now more personal than ever.
The issue is passing a turning motor vehicle (who is making a legal left turn) on the right of that motor vehicle using the breakdown lane. I want to preface my statements by saying I am not a lawyer nor a law enforcement officer nor a government official. I do not have any legal right to tell you, your friends, your family, your relatives visiting RI what to do. I am not familiar with the laws regarding the legality of passing a vehicle on the right using the breakdown lane. This is simply an issue that is personal to me and I would like to generate some awareness so no one gets hurt or injured like I did.
The summer months in RI are especially busy. Merchants put A frame signs out for tourists. Garbage and recycling bins are placed close to the street. I have noticed a ton of new crosswalks on main roads in Wickford and on Boston Neck Rd recently (Bravo to who instituted these!!!). Cyclists are out. Joggers are out. Walkers with their kids are out. My plea to you, the driver of these roads, is simply this. Slow Down, Don’t Go Around. Traffic is a nightmare in the summer, I know this from living here most of my 44 years of life. But, if you can be patient, let the driver in front of you turn into wherever they are going, then continue on your way without using the breakdown lane, we may save lives and help avoid injuries to those in the breakdown lane. Vehicles, especially larger trucks, SUVs, and minivans can often obstruct the view of the vehicle behind them. If you are attempting to pass a vehicle in the breakdown lane, you may have no idea what or who is in your path, legally, in the breakdown lane. Can you imagine the horror of meeting a car head on with your bicycle or even just you yourself jogging or walking with your stroller. The thought of it is frightening. To be honest, I am still a little timid when it comes to riding on Boston Neck Rd, and this accident happened roughly 5 years ago.
So this summer, this fall, next year, make it a habit when you are travelling our roads here in Rhode Island. Slow down when you see a vehicle making a left turn on a one lane road, such as Boston Neck Rd. Slow down and wait for them to make that turn. Slow Down, Don’t Go Around. Let the breakdown lane remain for stopped vehicles, pedestrians, cyclists, and joggers like my sister!!!