Friday, May 11, 2007

Share the Road

The best way to educate motorists on bicyclists' rights to the road is to ride respectfully and have facts on your side. Here are some resources for cyclists and drivers on sharing the road.

Sharing the Roads: CYCLISTS

On the Road:
  • The same laws that apply to motorists apply to cyclists
  • Obey all traffic control devices
  • Use hand signals to indicate stops and turns other users
Always Wear a Properly Fitting Helmet:
  • Wear a helmet, no matter how short the trip
Ride on the Right:
  • Always ride in the same direction as traffic
  • Use the furthest right lane that heads to your destination
  • Slower moving cyclists and motorists stay to the right
Ride Predictably:
  • Ride in a straight line
  • Don't swerve in the road or between parked cars
  • Check for traffic before entering street or intersection
  • Anticipate hazards and adjust your position accordingly
Be Visible:
  • Wear brightly colored clothing that provides contrast
  • Use a white front light in low light conditions
  • Use a red rear light in low light conditions
  • Use a reflector or reflective tape or clothing anytime
  • Announce yourself by making eye contact with motorists
Sharing the Roads: MOTORISTS

Drive Cautiously:
  • Reduce speed when encountering cyclists
  • Don't tailgate, especially in bad weather
  • Recognize hazards cyclists may face and give them space
Yield to Cyclists:
  • Bicycles are considered vehicles
  • Cyclists should be given the appropriate right of way
  • Allow extra time for cyclists to traverse intersections
Be Considerate:
  • Scan for cyclists in traffic and at intersections
  • Do not blast your horn in close proximity to cyclists
  • Look for cyclists when opening doors
Pass with Care:
  • When passing, leave at least one meter between you and a cyclist
  • Wait for safe road and traffic conditions before you pass
  • Check over your shoulder before moving back
Watch for Children:
  • Children on bicycles are often unpredictable
  • Expect the unexpected and slow down
  • Don't expect children to know traffic laws
  • Because of their size children can be harder to see
Whether you ride or drive, please share the road!

On May 10, 2007 10:46:38 AM ADT, Jack wrote:
Bike . . . lanes are constant reminders to vehicles that cyclists have rights too! In other words, these lanes serve as continuing education!
Yeah. They say: "This is where the cyclist belongs, in this lane. If you see them in the ordinary travel lanes, that's not where they belong.

The problem is, staying to the right, where bike lanes invariably are, is not always the correct thing to do. For example, when a cyclist wishes to make a left turn, the correct thing to do is to shoulder check, signal and move left into the appropriate lane or, on a two lane road, move left close to the center line prior to making your turn. Bike lanes, however, tend to imply that the cyclist must always stay right at all times.

Even cyclists who know how to make a proper left turn are hampered by cycle lanes because, though the cyclist might know the difference, sometimes the motorist does not. This results in angry horn honking as the motorist demands that the cyclist return to "their" space when they're actually making a perfectly legal and proper left turn.

Then there are bike lanes that are poorly maintained. The law in most states and provinces allows a cyclist to use his or her judgment to decide, when encountering debris or surface flaws in a bike lane, when not to use the lane and instead use the travel lane where the surface is more stable. Debris is, unfortunately, very common in bike lanes since it is into the bike lane that passing car tires "sweep" debris...

Bike lanes are a pretty dangerous way to "educate..."
There will always be an inherent conflict between motorized vehicles and pedestrian-cyclists.
Why? Because cyclists are slower? The rules of the road and meant to accommodate slower vehicles equally with the faster ones.

"Pedestrian-cyclists" implies that cyclists are closer to being pedestrians rather than vehicle operators. I disagree. An experienced cyclist travels, on average, between 25 and 35 km/h over level ground. On downhills, speeds can reach or exceed 50 km/h. That's more than sufficiently fast to qualify as a vehicle, not a pedestrian.
I know that my wife and many friends will not comfortably ride on streets without bike lanes. Your personal view is not helping them and its pervasiveness is preventing the cycling world from having needed riders to create more critical mass.
Just getting butts out on bicycles isn't going to help if those cyclists don't have clue one how to interact with traffic, and cycle lanes encourage cyclists to get out there without any education because the cycle lanes create a false sense of security.

If you want to get more cyclists riding, education is the key. Educate the cyclist and the motorist on how to interact on the road, and tell them why the rules are there. If more cyclists understood the dynamics of traffic interaction and actually tried vehicular cycling principles, maybe more people would be comfortable riding on the road without the irrational fear of being mowed down only because there are cars on the road with you.

If you've been riding for 50 years, you of all people must know how safe it really is to be out there...
I wish you were right but numerous studies and successful cities say otherwise.
Would you care to provide my readers with some links to these studies?

On May 11, 2007 1:16:06 PM ADT, Jack wrote:
There's a great deal of misperception about bike lanes and misleading information is being circulated. This information is used in ways that is destructive to the cycling community and should be stopped.
I agree. Except it is you, not I, that is circulating that misleading information.
The idea that bike lanes prevent cyclists from using non-bike painted areas for travel is absurd. Just as cars and truch traverse bike lanes, cyclists too may use (and must) other sections of the road when necesary and prudent. If you know of a law that states differeently I would appreciate seeing it.
I'm not talking about law. I'm talking about perception. A cyclist that knows the law is an educated cyclist. Of course the educated cyclist is going to know the difference. I know the difference. My point is that most cyclists are not educated (based on my observations... I encounter at least one bad cyclist every ride). In turn, cyclists who are not educated, seeing a bike lane, tend to assume that that lane is the only part of the road they're allowed to use.

(BTW, before I get nailed for using the term "educated" too broadly, I don't mean that these cyclists are not educated academically. I'm referring specifically to how educated they are as far as driving their bicycles in traffic.)

IMHO, the biggest problem in cyclist education throughout North America is this: the idea that cyclists are somehow "different" from other vehicle operators and need to be treated differently in some way. They do not. By following all the principles laid out in the Vienna Convention on Road Traffic, a cyclist can safely negotiate in and out of any kind of traffic, including motor traffic, without needing any kind of special road markings.

Why do so many cyclists get hurt? Simple. Most honestly don't know that the rules of the road apply to them, just like everyone else using the road. A vast majority of cyclist/motorist collisions happen at intersections and a vast majority of those collisions, in turn, are caused by the cyclist ignoring stop signs, traffic lights, intersection signals or positioning themselves in the incorrect lane or the incorrect position within the lane to clearly indicate intention.

None of these problems have anything to do with the presence or absence of cycle lanes. They have to do with ignorance on the part of the cyclists as to what responsibilities their right to use the road carries.
In addition, you may want to travel to other cities around the world to see how they address the "right side only" area for bike lanes. Some of the most interesting designs are where bike lanes are in the middle of the road.
I'll grant that there are some interesting and fairly safe designs out there, particularly in Europe. I still see them as a waste of time for the most part, though.
The existence of bike lanes do not nullify the rights to avoid road hazards.
True. The trouble is that many people, cyclists and motorists alike, don't realize this.
I never implied that cyclists-pedestrians were in the same class...it doesn't help when statements are improperly twisted. The only similarity is that both are often overlooked in the design of our streets.
Pedestrians aren't overlooked in most street designs (with the possible exception of rural roads). There are sidewalks. There are walk signs. Those are pedestrian features. But, then again, pedestrians, by definition are not vehicle operators. Naturally, they're going to need separate facilities. Cyclists, OTOH, are vehicle operators. The rules of the road are perfectly capable of accommodating them without any special features on the road.
Without proper recognition, road designs not only imply that cyclists are unwelcomed and not accorded the same rights as drivers in motorized vehivles, but actually increase cycling risks and conflict unnecessarily.
Nothing about standard road markings and features implies that cyclists are not welcome to use the road. That attitude is solely the result of our car-dependent culture. The car is so ubiquitous in our society now that the unimaginative among us just can't coneive of the idea of using anything else on the road. This is a fault, not in the roads as designed, but in North American culture.
These problems are exacerbated by many other problems: lack of law enforcement, attitude of drivers, irresponsible cyclists, poor signage, etc.
Absolutely.
The rules-design of the road also create conflicts and this is undeniable. A simple but obvious example are highways . . . Along such highways, designers may want to create a separate bike path for cyclists in order to address the inherent conflict and not a bike lane. Sharing the road in these circumstances is highly dangerous and imprudent.
Well, highways are a slightly different case. Unlike ordinary roads, highways were built specifically for high speed motor vehicle traffic. On a highway, I will acknowledge that there is an inherent conflict due to the much higher speed differential between the motor vehicles using such roads and the cyclist.

As a general rule, I would recommend a cyclist use a more conventional road. If no such road exists between the cyclist and their intended destination, then I would advocate the creation of a separate bike path parallel to the highway.

That being said, there are highways in my local area that I use from time to time depending on my intended destination. I always take the shortest route. Naturally, if the highway presents the shortest route, that's the route I'll take. However, presented with two routes of equal length, one on conventional roads and one on the highway, I'll almost always choose the highway.

The reason is simple. To be blunt, most of the conventional roads around here are in dire need of repair. The highway, OTOH, tends to be glass smooth and in good repair because, unlike the conventional roads, it must accommodate much faster traffic. Even the smallest pothole might shatter the suspension or rim of a car blasting over it at 100 km/h. Since I prefer smooth roads, I prefer to use a highway when possible.

For example, to get to North Sydney from here, I have a choice of two routes. I could take Keltic Drive, or I could take Highway 125. Both routes are virtually identical in length. I prefer the highway to Keltic Drive.

If I take Keltic Drive, I have to cross a very old bridge across Sydney River that's in pretty rough shape. Not to mention it's narrow and hard to negotiate. If I take Highway 125, OTOH, the pavement is perfect and the road is wide with a good, wide, paved shoulder to ride on. The highway simply makes more sense. It's more comfortable, I can go faster and I don't have to delay anyone.

Now I will admit that these highways are fairly well suited for cycling because of their wide, paved shoulders which, IMHO, is almost as effective as a separate path. I just stay in the shoulder, completely out of the way of approaching traffic. The only time I enter the traffic lane is when crossing an exit ramp. I shoulder check and move into the traffic lane to signal my intention to continue on the highway and re-enter the shoulder once past the ramp.

I have used these highways safely dozens of times without any problems and, done properly, most cyclists can use such roads. However, I do not recommend highway cycling to an inexperienced cyclist. A cyclist should get thoroughly comfortable with negotiating traffic on conventional roads first before tackling traffic on highways, negotiating with traffic on merges.
Other potential riders are prevented from riding and I know many. My friends who came here from Europe, use to cycle everyday and prefer to do so, now use their autos instead. What does that tell you?
It tells me that their perception of the risks involved in cycling with motor traffic are vastly inflated.
Accepting and promoting the status quo fails the tests of inclusiveness and respect.
"Inclusiveness" is my entire argument. We need to include cyclists in the flow of traffic, not segregate them into their "own facilities." To do otherwise is, IMHO, simply bigoted, not on the basis of race, but on the basis of the vehicle one chooses to drive.

On May 11, 2007 1:17:11 PM ADT, Tom Frost Jr. wrote:
I . . . want . . . to nitpick about one thing in John's similar-to-my-Triad . . . set of tips: "Whether you ride or drive"? I'm always "driving", whether the vehicle that I'm driving is a bike or a car.
You're absolutely right, Tom. My bad. *HANGS HEAD IN SHAME*

5 comments:

  1. Anonymous10:46 AM

    John A., in a "perfect world" I would agree, but this may surprise you but most of us don't live in such a world. By the way, this phrase "pw" has real meaning and to understand look at how biking is being seriously damaged in St. Louis.

    As exemplified by cities in the US and around the world that have successfully integrated cycling into transportation, bike lanes are important for numerous reasons.

    Bike lanes don't prevent STR but do enhance the ability to include bike planners in the process of street design and construction. In addition, these lanes are constant reminders to vehicles that cyclists have rights too! In other words, these lanes serve as continuing education!

    As you admit, bike lanes are too often poorly designed as are our streets. Complete streets addresses these issues but THERE WILL ALWAYS BE AN INHERENT CONFLICT between motorized vehicles and pedestrian-cyclists. This is a fact and is recognized as such for obvious reasons. Successful planners incorporate this fact into their plans which help creates friendlier environments for all road users.

    Like you, I'll ride on any street but I have been riding for over fifty years. However, I know that my wife and many friends will not comfortably ride on streets without bike lanes. Your personal view is not helping them and its pervasiveness is preventing the cycling world from having needed riders to create more critical mass.

    Perhaps drivers in your area are much more considerate than in our area and you're fortunate. Gee I wish you were right but numerous studies and successful cities say otherwise.

    Jack

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  2. Anonymous1:16 PM

    Thanks John! There's a great deal of misperception about bike lanes and misleading information is being circulated. This information is used in ways that is destructive to the cycling community and should be stopped.

    First of all let's get the one that is used all the time out of the way. The idea that bike lanes prevent cyclists from using non-bike painted areas for travel is absurd. Just as cars and truch traverse bike lanes, cyclists too may use (and must) other sections of the road when necesary and prudent. If you know of a law that states differeently I would appreciate seeing it.

    Currently, state laws REQUIRE riders to stay to the right and that is the rule of the road. IT IS NOT ONLY IMPLIED, IT IS THE LAW! Moving to the left is allowed in order to make left hand turns. To imply that "bike lanes" do this is misleading and inaccurate.

    In addition, you may want to travel to other cities around the world to see how they address the "right side only" area for bike lanes. Some of the most interesting designs are where bike lanes are in the middle of the road.

    Imply? Well that's a funny... there are signs everywhere that imply (usually require) a certain response. For instance "walk signs" at intersections imply to my children that it is safe to cross the road. Fortuantely they know better as they have seen too many autos running red lights and not obeying "No Right Turn" signs. The "false sense of security" is everywhere and not just in bike lanes.

    The existence of bike lanes do not nullify the rights to avoid road hazards.

    I never implied that cyclists-pedestrians were in the same class...it doesn't help when statements are improperly twisted. The only similarity is that both are often overlooked in the design of our streets.

    To learn more, I suggest you start with reading and learning about complete streets. These streets are designed and built to aid all road users, including cars, trucks, cyclists and pedestrians, and to travel as safely as possible together.

    Virtually all your complaints about bike lanes have nothing to do with the concept itself but rather how they are designed, built, and managed. No doubt your complaints and views about maintenance are shared throughout the biking community and with me too. Your other complaint is about drivers' attitudes which requires education.

    Without proper recognition, road designs not only imply that cyclists are unwelcomed and not accorded the same rights as drivers in motorized vehivles, but actually increase cycling risks and conflict unnecessarily. These problems are exacerbated by many other problems: lack of law enforcement, attitude of drivers, irresponsible cyclists, poor signage, etc.

    The rules-design of the road also create conflicts and this is undeniable. A simple but obvious example are highways. Although cyclists are not banned from using them in many states, state and federal laws often require a minimum speed limit which prevents all but Lance from using such. Along such highways, designers may want to create a separate bike path for cyclists in order to address the inherent conflict and not a bike lane. Sharing the road in these circumstances is highly dangerous and imprudent.

    It is very important that cyclists are educated and I'm sure we agree on this point. But throughout our society, many are allowed on the road (and in political office) because of our low standards. Of course this is another topic but in regards to road users, I would require driver's test to include real live obstacles (and certainly any driver who cannot parallel park would automatically fail). The burdens created by our low standards are particularly burdensome (even deadly) for cyclists.

    So much more may be stated but I'll let the facts about communities with the successful integration of cyclists, autos, etc. speak for themselves. Read about those cities around the world and please read about complete streets.

    Our roads, as currently designed, prevent a latent base of riders from getting on their bikes. The most respected experts in road design, bike manufacturing, etc. recognize these facts and are working diligently to educate all involved.

    Until we have complete streets, we must share the road as best we can and deal with poor road designs. As such many cyclists are more like road warriors as they know that is the key to their survival. Other potential riders are prevented from riding and I know many. My friends who came here from Europe, use to cycle everyday and prefer to do so, now use their autos instead. What does that tell you?

    Perhaps you may also like to hear from leaders around the world who have successfully transformed many auto drivers to cyclists and how they did it. Start with listening to Enrique Penalosa and what he thinks of your statement that "bike lanes only complicate an already elegant system that allows users of all vehicles to share the road without conflict".

    Accepting and promoting the status quo fails the tests of inclusiveness and respect.

    Jack

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  3. Tom Frost Jr.1:17 PM

    Mr. Anon wrote:
    "[Bike lanes are good because they] enhance the ability to include bike planners in the process of street design and construction."

    TF: I _don't_ _want_ "bike planners" meddling with the design and construction of the streets that I cycle on! Street design and construction was done much more competently back in the good old days, before "bike planners" came along. That's because the current, ISTEA-pork system of what "bike planners" must do in order to keep their jobs, requires that they do such militantly-clueless things as allowing the traffic-signal loops to continue to fail to detect bikes (certainly on virtually all of the bikelaned streets that I ride on in Binghamton, N.Y., the nearest ruined-by-bike-lanes city to me, as well as on most of the bikelaned streets that I've ridden on elsewhere). Granted, the engineers in the good old days were clueless in _that_ particular way _too_, but at least with them we didn't have the accident-inducing _segregationist_ crap in _addition_.

    I also wanted to nitpick about one thing in John's similar-to-my-Triad (my Triad can be found at http://www.newmilfordbike.com/Triad.htm ), set of tips: "Whether you ride or drive"? I'm _always_ "driving", whether the vehicle that I'm driving is a bike or a car.

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  4. Hi guys, this is an excellent discussion regarding bike lanes. Thanks for sharing these points of view.

    The best thing that can happen is people get out there and ride alongside motorists. Whether we use bike lanes or not, reaching the point where motorists expect bikes on the road and knowing how to safely treat them is what we're after, right? I've found -- and I've only got 28 years experience riding in traffic ;-) -- that the education works best when you've got numbers of people participating in the training. If you only have one encounter a year versus one encounter a day or even once a week, you can't be as knowledgeable or confident in your handling of the situation. As pointed out, this goes for both cyclists and motorists.

    Effective Cycling classes are good. Complete Streets are good. Off-road facilities are good. It's all good as long as people are getting out of their cars and onto the bike. I think there will always be different things that spark people to take that step. All options should be used in service of the goal of increasing bicycle ridership.

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  5. Thanks for joining the bike travel group. Just wanted to stop by and say hello. :)

    ReplyDelete

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