At the Selectboard meeting of April 8, I urgently requested the Selectboard to issue an ordinance regarding bicycle traffic on the streets in Charlotte.
The ordinance I proposed was that “Every bicycle operating on any street of the Town must be equipped with a rear-view mirror.” The importance of rear-view mirrors for the safety of bicyclists is self-evident. Bicyclists are continually being overtaken by cars, and awareness about what comes up from behind is crucial for survival, as illustrated by the fatal accident suffered by Dr. Ken Najarian on Greenbush Road four years ago.
What makes the installation of rear-view mirrors urgent today is that the Charlotte Energy Committee is planning an anti-fossil fuel festival this summer, which will include a bicycling event with crowds of cyclists on our streets. If Charlotte sponsors such an event and promotes bicycle use during this and following years, we have the obligation to see to the safety of bicyclists. The imposition of a rear-view mirror ordinance is the least we must do.
The imposition of a statewide ordinance (such as ordinances in effect in Germany) would be better, but our state legislators are prone to even worse dithering than our Selectboard, and a statewide ordinance will not emerge anytime soon.
The increasing abundance of electric cars increases the sense of urgency. Electric cars are silent killers—when they approach a bicyclist from behind, they give no warning by sound. Until mirrors become a statewide requirement for bicycles, drivers of electric cars would do well to honk before passing a cyclist.
To get the wheels rolling, a limited number of rear-view mirrors will be made available at the Charlotte Library—watch for an announcement in The Charlotte News.