Dear Upper Valley Cyclists,

I am in the unfortunate situation of being a horseperson living on a very popular cycling route which on a nice day has more bike traffic than vehicular. I must use this road if I wish to ride off my property.

In the 15 years on horseback, I have noticed that 99% of the cars, trucks and motorcycles slow down, go wide and may even wait for a hand signal or nod before passing me.

Conversely, less than a handful of cyclists have done the same.

It has finally dawned on me that cyclists don’t understand two things: the nature of a horse and the VT bicycling laws.

A horse considers itself a prey animal, reacting with sudden movement to a threat, rather than with thought.  Due to the quiet nature of bikes and the noise of horseshoes on pavement, horse and rider may not hear an approaching bike.  With the eyes of a horse being on the sides of the head, it has a wider field of vision than a human and may react violently to the sudden appearance of a bike before the rider is even aware of it.  Even a rider crouched over a bike coming from the front may not be immediately understood by the horse.

Vermont bicycling laws consider everyone riding a bike as being subject to the same duties as applicable to the operators of vehicles.

“The operator of a motor vehicle approaching or passing a vulnerable user…..or a person riding, driving or herding an animal shall exercise due care, which includes increasing clearance, to pass the vulnerable user safely.”  23VSA 1033, (a,b)

Thank you for reading this.  It would be helpful if this information could be passed on to other cyclists, race organizers and bicycle tour operators.

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