Kerry Peabody’s recent letter to the editor (Aug. 22) grousing about a women’s group ride encountered one Sunday on Route 77 was an entertaining but ultimately under-informed piece that portrays bicyclists as people so alien that they are fodder for ridicule.

The final comment imploring cyclists to “ride single file and don’t take up the entire travel lane” is overly simplistic and uninformed by law.

And it reveals a general failure to fully consider the argument.

Following this advice would actually reduce safety and further reduce the speed of traffic.

To begin, one wonders why the writer has singled out cyclists as the only group with which he shares the road.

Certainly if the encounter had included a tractor pulling a load of hay, the writer would not have bothered to vent his spleen in a letter.

Thirty cyclists in a group take up no more space than an agricultural tractor and trailer.

And a group ride easily averages around 20 mph, which is also close to the speed of a tractor on a roadway. 

This begs the question, what action would he have taken had he encountered a tractor and trailer?

He would have waited until it was safe to pass, crossed the yellow line (which is legal in Maine when passing slow vehicles) and passed — without passing judgment on the driver!   

According to Maine law, bicycles have a right to use the travel lane where “lanes of substandard width” are present and when a motor vehicle cannot pass a bicyclist and give the rider a minimum of 3 feet of clearance.

Federal design standards say that to safely accommodate both a car and bike, the travel lane needs to be 14 feet wide.

The travel lanes on Route 77 from Blackpoint Road to the Spurwink River are definitely not 14 feet wide, so it is quite legal for bicycles to use the travel lane.

The suggestion that a single-file line of riders is preferable greatly overlooks the massive impact that this formation would have on a roadway. 

Thirty riders in single file would actually stretch to cover more than 200 feet of the road.

Motorists should consider whether they would prefer safely passing an entire group 75 feet long all at once, or have to deal with a single-file line of riders over 200 feet long.

It’s also important to keep in mind that each of those cyclists has a right to the travel lane when conditions at the road’s edge are poor, or when a driver making a pass would create an unsafe situation.

Riding single file in this case may actually have increased the impact that these cyclists had on motorists. 

When we consider the overall impact, we must ask why the writer is in such a hurry as he drives down a beautiful road like Route 77.

In most places, the posted speed limit on this road is 35 mph.  A group ride such as he describes usually averages 20 mph or better.

At best, no more than a few minutes were lost on the 3-mile stretch from Black Point Road to Cape Elizabeth, where the road shoulders improve and it is easier for cyclists to use less of the travel lane.

Route 77 is one of the most bicycled highways in Maine, and motorists should expect to share this road with cyclists.

The public roads are NOT intended just for motor vehicle traffic! 

Finally, the need to belittle any group of people for choosing to engage in an activity that they enjoy is simply uncalled for.

Bicycle riders are not some alien group whose healthy exercise habits deserve ridicule. 

The group riders who have the writer so concerned could easily have been his neighbors, friends and co-workers and they have not passed judgment on his athletic pursuits and leisure activities.

At the Bicycle Coalition of Maine we encourage cyclists to ride safely, legally and courteously. We emphasize the need to allow for reasonably free passage of faster motor traffic when it is safe to do so, as required by law.

We also encourage motorists to understand that cyclists do have a right to the road.

And we encourage motorists to exercise patience and safety, especially when they come across a larger group ride on a narrow road.

We are hopeful that with an understanding attitude and comprehension of the law, we can all take the opportunity to enjoy the roads in the great state of Maine.

Brian Allenby is the communications director for the Bicycle Coalition of Maine based in Augusta.