December 1, 2019 § 106 Comments
If you want to read a meaningless puff piece about cycling fatalities, check out this stinker by Peter Flax. It’s no surprise that it’s published in Bicycling Magazine, a publication that exists only to Sell More Shit.
What is a surprise is that Peter wrote it. He’s normally a great writer but lately his work has a pretty ugly corporate aftertaste to it, and this is perhaps the worst piece he’s ever written. Basically, he falls into lock-step with motordom, arguing that the solution to cycling fatalities is more bike lanes.
Which is crazy because the article he writes says exactly the opposite. It’s as if someone walks you through the principles of arithmetic and then announces at the end, “See? 2 +2 = 5.”
To sum up, the article claims that more cyclists are dying because of larger cars, more smartphone use, more people driving more miles, more cyclists, and Zero Vision (a/k/a A Bike Lane in Every Pot) has stalled. I’ll get to the ridiculous conclusion that we need more bike infrastructure, but first a word about the cause, singular, that Peter and like-minded advocates refuse to analyze: Cyclists get hit because motorists don’t see them.
That’s right, folks. If larger cars and more miles and more cell phone use were the cause of collisions, then we’d be seeing more car-on-car fatalities as well, or at least a parallel uptick in collisions. We see the opposite. Cyclist deaths have increased 37%, whereas auto fatalities are up about 14% over a 5-year period, less than half that of cycling deaths. While cycling deaths rise, traffic fatalities as a whole have leveled off; there was actually a 1% decrease between 2017 and 2018.
To repeat: Cyclists get hit for the most part because motorists do not see them. It’s that simple.
And it’s a horrible analysis for the purposes of Zero Vision advocates, because these people are convinced that the solution to not being seen is to create segregated bike lanes and the like, even as they admit that such programs are stalled, or that they are long-term, or that implementation will more less always be blocked by angry motorists … like Flax’s co-residents in Manhattan Beach, whose rage at losing a lane of traffic on Vista Del Mar resulted in de-striping a Zero Vision bike lane.
Any logic or fact that points to something simpler, faster, and less expensive than a billion-dollar pork barrel infrastructure project gets ignored because Zero Vision advocates aren’t really interested in fixing the problem so much as they’re interested in the political process of allocating and spending the public pork. The best example? This incredibly damning paragraph in Flax’s article:
So while the NTSB analysis focused primarily on encouraging or mandating greater helmet use, as well as things cyclists, road designers, and carmakers should do so riders are more conspicuous to motorists, those factors don’t really explain why a serious, sustained uptick of deaths began in 2011. It’s not like helmet use had a major decline, or cities ripped out quality protected bike lanes, or high-viz apparel or auto headlights got worse. These factors, especially related to road design, might have an impact on fatalities going forward, but they don’t explain why more cyclists have been dying in the past decade.https://www.bicycling.com/culture/a29762318/why-more-cyclists-are-dying/?fbclid=IwAR3VHm7AINKjqaROowsfLjGH85QyH-ozTVmOHquWJMf0dUVVMbwOs0ugE2w
Let’s break this down. First, Flax lists the flawed NTSB analysis about how to decrease cycling fatalities. He rightly notes that encouraging or mandating greater helmet use doesn’t explain increased deaths. If more people are riding and wearing helmets, why are more people still dying?
But he lumps “things cyclists, road designers, and carmakers should do so riders are more conspicuous to motorists” together with helmets as if more steps to encourage cyclist visibility to prevent fatalities is the same as wearing more helmets to mitigate the effects of getting hit. They are emphatically not the same. Helmets, to the extent that they do anything, protect you after you’ve been hit. Wearing more helmets won’t decrease collisions, and the cause of cyclist fatalities is the collision. As advocates have long noted, putting the blame on the cyclist, “You didn’t have a helmet so you deserved to die after that soccer mom hit you while texting,” is the epitome of victim blaming and abdication of responsibility for making the streets safer for bikes.
No, the things that cyclists can do to be more conspicuous to motorists is the absolute core of savvy cycling because it’s the one thing we absolutely know: Except in the most extreme cases, drivers do not intentionally hit cyclists. They hit them because cyclists are inconspicuous.
The corollary to this is key. Whereas more helmets won’t prevent collisions, more conspicuousness will. And bike lanes do not foster conspicuousness, they shunt riders off to the edge, where poor design and narrow roads force riders into the door zone or onto the far edge of the bike lane, next to the giant SUV mirrors and bumpers of passing traffic. Bike lanes are especially hazardous when they are random tack-ons, as they are here in LA, where you have a nice, wide green stripe that cars generally respect … until the stripe goes away for no reason at all.
The only thing that will keep you off mom’s windshield is being seen. And the only ways to reliably be seen by every car are to 1) park your ass in the travel lane when it makes sense to do so, and 2) illuminate yourself like an emergency vehicle rushing to a train wreck. I’ve found that even when splitting lanes or playing gutter bunny, huge lights alert cars and they take pains not to hit me.
Flax’s conclusion that we need more bike lanes is as horrific as it is nonsensical. He concludes that the death of a rider in NYC has a silver lining because it has caused a push in major bike lane/infrastructure construction, even though fatalities continue to increase as bike lanes continue to be built. “Hi, ma’am, sorry your son got run over by that dump truck. Here is a bike lane for you along with that one he was in when he got hit. Enjoy.”
This idiocy is on me-too parade in places like Encinitas, where North County planners, in response to more dead cyclists, have approved construction of a short “protected” bike lane (materializes out of nowhere, ends randomly) that will protect cars, but not the riders who are forced to dodge moms, dads, kids, surfers, walkers, strollers, and other traffic funneled into the Zero Vision solution.
Why won’t people simply admit that the best way to prevent getting hit is to be seen, and spread the word? Unless you’re willing to build a national network of protected bike lanes, at some point every rider is going to see that dreadful “Bike Lane Ends” sign and know that she is back in traffic, to say nothing of riders who pedal outside the inner city limits of LA and NYC, which is virtually all of them.
Riders do a great job of teaching others to do things like wear helmets. Public shaming, private admonition, and a whole host of other peer-pressure tools are instantly brought to bear that result in near-uniformity in cycling behavior when it comes to helmets. Similarly riders do a great job of teaching others lane control and conspicuousness when they understand it.
When I began teaching lane control on PCH several years back, the leader of my riding club publicly scorned the effort as dangerous and crazy. This very guy now leads every weekend ride down PCH … in the lane, and everyone in the club now knows that you’re safer when you’re seen. This behavior has converted hundreds, if not thousands of riders on PCH to take the lane when it makes sense to do so. And it hasn’t cost a penny of public money or required a single drop of green paint.
Cyclists don’t need infrastructure that’s never going to be built to keep them alive. They are perfectly capable of understanding concepts and passing them on, especially when survival is at stake.
But ridiculous articles brushing aside cyclist conspicuousness in favor of hiding cyclists from the traffic flow actively work to endanger more people, all under cover of a publication supposedly dedicated to cyclists written by a guy who ferfuxake actually commutes by bike.
The sad answer is that it’s easier to blame SUVs and cell phones sipping coffee at your keyboard than it is to take a Cycling Savvy class, move two feet over, and dump $500 into a legitimate bike lighting rig.
Oh, and don’t forget to wear your helmet. That’ll keep them from running you over, for sure.
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January 8, 2019 § 9 Comments
Roberta Walker, a local Bicycle Advocate and Executive Director of the Encinitas 101, was hit from behind while riding on Hwy 1 in front of the Leucadia Post Office on Saturday, December 8th. Her injuries are severe.
Roberta faces a long recovery.
My good friend Michael Marckx has been a board member of Leucadia 101 for seven years, and has been active in North County San Diego’s cycling community, to put it mildly, from the moment he relocated there from the South Bay.
Roberta’s collision led Michael to spearhead the creation of a simple list of riding rules that the community’s cyclists can implement and encourage others to adopt. It’s simple, elegant, friendly, and for those of us over 50, easy to remember … which is yuge.
Roberta’s Rules aren’t just for North County San Diego. They’re for everywhere that bikes and cars are traffic.
December 20, 2018 § 20 Comments
I have for years supported the bike education and riding techniques developed by Cycling Savvy. They are awesome and they work.
However, in their latest newsletter they ran the following post. I’m going to leave aside the fact that this is exactly the kind of crap that makes people refuse to ride bikes.
Wait. No, I’m not.
Because this is exactly the kind of crap that makes people refuse to ride bikes.
This guy looks like an insane person, and that’s okay. Bicycling has always been a refuge for the weird. But as a bike advocate, this is not okay because the single biggest factor in bike safety isn’t wearing reindeer mirror-hats or reflective jackets, it’s motorist behavior.
And motorist behavior doesn’t change until motorists have to confront cyclists in large numbers, as part of the normal traffic scheme. Countries where there are shit-tons of cyclists, i.e. Eurobikedisneyland, have far safer environments for cyclists, than, say Florida.
That’s one of many reasons it’s uncommon to see anyone with a helmet in Vienna, and absolutely fucking inconceivable to see someone decked out with goofball car mirrors on their head like a tin-hat Republican.
In other words: when you tell people that bike safety requires you to look like you just got kicked off Santa’s sleigh, most people aren’t gonna ride bikes–and that makes the roads deadlier for those of us who do.
Good luck charms and shit
What’s worse about this “instructor’s” “manifesto,” Cycling Savvy explicitly teaches you to learn to turn yer fuggin’ head and look before you swerve across forty lanes of freeway traffic. Using a mirror is a complete waste of time at worst, and at best it’s a lame crutch that supplements what you should already know how to do, i.e. turn your fuggin’ head without jerking your handlebars into the next county.
The dork with the mirrors subscribes to the talisman theory of cycling safety, which basically says “I have this special thing that keeps me safe and unless you have it too and use it exactly as I prescribe, you will DIE!!!!”
It’s like the high priest’s mumbo-jumbo where you have to eat the raw newt testicles, boil the spider vag, and turn around twice under a full moon when Aries is in Liposuction, and then, and only then will you be safe. The net effect is that normal people look at that shit and say, “Um, I think I’ll go ahead and drive.”
Taking the heat off the wrongdoer
The real perps in traffic aren’t bikers without mirrors. They are cagers who hit and kill them. And it’s the cager’s behavior that has to change, not the biker’s. Biking is a safe activity, it’s healthy, fun AF, a great way to torch calories and friendships, and if you bike commute, it’s also the very best part of your day.
Bikers shouldn’t be lectured and shamed by idiots who dress up like space aliens. They should be encouraged to use the lane, learn the tenets of Cycling Savvy, and get on with their day, not told to BUY MORE STUFF CUZ OTHERWISE YOU WILL DIE!!!!!
As a pointless aside, this fool’s helmet protuberances will easily turn a harmless fall into a spine-destroying injury the minute those horns get caught on something, hit at an angle that causes a violent twist, etc.
Save your hate mail
Please don’t comment or email telling me that you have a mirror and that it saved your life, helped you make a smart buy on the stock market, got you laid by your brother’s wife, or made a snazzy impression at the Little League draft. Rather, please do, but be aware that I don’t care because I think mirrors are like helmets. They are fine if you want to wear one, just like the guy biking in a leotard-thong on the bike path a couple of months ago. If it makes you feel jolly, then scratch that itch.
But don’t pose as an expert on bike behavior and make gimmicky stuff the sine qua non for staying alive. It’s fake, it’s false, and it makes people choose the car.
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February 17, 2018 § 10 Comments
I hate it when decent, intelligent people fighting for the right things go skidding off the runway, smash into a dumpster filled with rotten eggs, and degenerate into harmful blibber-blabber. Sadly, John Schubert of Cycling Savvy has done just that.
Take a minute to read his silly rant against daytime lights. It’s important to understand what he gets wrong, which is mostly everything, but also important to understand what he gets right. The right is easily explicated, and so simple that no one could or, to my knowledge ever has, disputed it.
- Safety equipment will help some times, but not others. [No shit.]
- Daytime lights can be useful when riding in fog, heavy rain, the sun low on the horizon, confusing lighting, and short sight distances on curvy roads.
- Lane position affects how soon you’re seen, often more than any light can.
- Daytime lights need to be bright enough to be conspicuous in daylight. [Duh, as they used to say.]
- Daytime lights make you more visible, certainly.
If Schubert had stopped here, or better yet, provided insight into types of lights, mounting, number of lights, and ways to use lighting to enhance the conspicuousness of good lane positioning when it’s possible and when it isn’t, he would have done a real service to cyclists. Instead, he uses these common sense starting points as a way to savage a very real and very helpful addition to ride safety, and follows it up with a legal argument that is specious, incompetent, and wrong.
Schubert misunderstands the value of daytime lights
Schubert doubts that lights add much in terms of conspicuousness to lane positioning, but his failure to address the most important areas where lights are key shows that he is either fighting a straw man or is truly ignorant of the hazards of urban riding. Daytime lights are crucial and lifesaving in urban traffic for at least four key reasons, none of which Schubert seems aware of.
- Right hooks. When you are in a bike lane or riding in the gutter, or when you are positioned squarely in the lane, a brilliant strobe from your headlight hits the driver’s rear-view and side-view mirrors. This grabs the driver’s attention and stops her from making the right hook. If you’re occupying the center of the lane, it will also stop the guy in the adjacent lane from moving over on you. Using bright strobe headlights utilizes the multiple mirrors in cars to make drivers aware you exist and enhances your visibility greatly when you happen to be badly positioned or if you’re one of those cyclists who never rides in the center of the lane. Anyone who has ridden with bright headlights in urban traffic has seen the effect that bright lights have on stopped or slow traffic in front of you … over and over and over. It’s shameful that Schubert doesn’t actively point this out as a very big benefit to riding with daytime lights; more about that later.
- Left hooks. When you are in a bike lane or riding in the gutter, or when you are positioned squarely in the lane, a flashing headlamp square in the face of an oncoming driver will almost invariably catch his attention and cause him to yield the right of way. A recent case in San Diego, where a group of cyclists were left-hooked by a driver on a sunny day and clear road, would have been avoided if any of the riders had been running strobes. Schubert wants you to believe that lane position a-la CyclingSavvy is a “save all,” but that’s false. Lane positioning works most of the time. Most isn’t “all.”
- Driveways. When you are in a bike lane or riding in the gutter, or when you are positioned squarely in the lane, a bright strobe gets the exiting driver’s attention and gives her a way to more accurately measure your speed. Time and again, exiting drivers say that they “didn’t see the cyclist” or that they “didn’t know how fast she was going.” Every single ride I’m on here in Los Angeles involves at least one driver seeing my headlight as they’re about to race out into traffic from a driveway, then waiting. Bright front strobes are a 100% bonus safety add-on that you are foolish to eschew, especially in cities or residential areas. Often times, even with good lane positioning, an exiting driver will see you but fail to yield. Bright lights in their face can provide the split second of hesitation that causes them not to race out in front.
- Parallel parking exits. Dooring is an urban fact of life, and most of it could be prevented with proper lane positioning. However, and it should come as no shock to Schubert, there are many cyclists who ride in the door zone and do so legally, no thanks to badly designed bike lanes. Bright strobes hit the side-view mirrors and cause drivers to hesitate before opening the door or pulling out into traffic, even when they weren’t initially checking the mirror. Bright strobes again utilize the car’s mirrors to force awareness and conspicuousness that otherwise simply wouldn’t exist. A key problem with Schubert’s analysis is that he doesn’t seem to know very much, or care, about riding in high-traffic areas.
Schubert’s coda comes with the bizarre and misleading statement that the failure to ride with daytime lights can be used against a victim in court. Schubert claims that he is an expert witness for bike cases, but if he is, based on his cluelessness with regard to the rules of evidence I would never ever consider hiring this guy.
Here is what Schubert tries to scare you with:
Imagine yourself, the victim of a motorist-at-fault car/bike collision. You were plainly visible. But the defense counsel brings out a stack of articles telling you what a jerk you were for not using daytime running lights. He asks you to read them aloud on the witness stand. Your emotions go south and your blood pressure skyrockets. After the first dozen articles, he calls for a break, and out in the hall, offers you $100 to settle the case then and there.
My blood pressure certainly skyrocketed, but only from anger at such misinformation. First, Schubert actually thinks that defense counsel can make plaintiffs read “a stack of articles.” If this were how courts operated, then attorneys would simply load up plaintiffs and witnesses with “a stack of articles” and it would be a “battle of the stacks of articles.”
This is silly and false, and either Schubert knows it and should be ashamed, or he’s an incompetent who knows nothing about expert witnessing and the rules of evidence. In fact I challenge him to post a transcript of any case in which he’s been an expert witness in which any defense counsel EVER made a plaintiff read “a dozen articles” “telling you what a jerk you were” or for that matter any article at all. You can’t make a witness read “stacks of articles” in court unless the witness has stated under oath something that the “stack of articles” impeaches. In other words, if an expert witness–not a plaintiff–testifies that based on his reconstruction of the collision that lights wouldn’t have prevented it, and there is a specific article that meets the evidentiary criteria for admissibility (think Daubert challenge and foundation, among others), and that article impeaches the expert’s methodology or conclusion, the expert can be required to acknowledge that such conflicting evidence exists. Depending on the article, he can be impeached, just as he can be impeached with prior inconsistent testimony that he has used in previous trials.
Of course long before the expert witness gets on the stand, she will have been deposed and both sides will know exactly what research the expert relied on, her methodology, what research is out there to contradict her, and that research and the expert will have to survive motions in limine and Daubert motions prior to being allowed to testify (or for the evidence to be admitted) at trial. In fact, the impeaching research will often be brought up in deposition and the witness will be confronted with it then. And of course judges will never allow “stacks of articles” to be read by anyone because it wastes the court’s time and is redundant.
This, by the way, relates to expert witnesses. None of this implicates a plaintiff, as Schubert ignorantly suggests it would, because plaintiffs don’t testify as to whether or not lights would have prevented a collision. That is an expert opinion and not within the purview of a lay witness. And even if a plaintiff did say that lights wouldn’t have prevented his collision, something that would never be admissible, a “stack of articles” wouldn’t make it into court because the articles would lack foundation and because they wouldn’t have any bearing on the case at hand. These involve basic concepts such as relevance and prejudicial effect, and Schubert’s ignorance of them is monstrous. You can’t simply force plaintiffs to read “stacks of articles” about things that “tell you what a jerk you were.” It’s nonsensical and Schubert hopefully knows it. This is also a key reason that you can’t, in general, introduce past collisions to prove that a plaintiff or defendant was at fault for the collision at trial.
So Schubert makes a most unmelodious argument about how using daytime lights could result in victim blaming, failing to understand or deliberately misconstruing even the most basic rules of evidence, and this from someone who claims to be an expert witness, a job that is all about evidence and the admissibility thereof.
But Schubert’s legal incompetence does even worse damage because it ignores the fact that in California you are legally required to have lights on your bicycle after sunset and before sunrise. By not encouraging cyclists to ride with lights at all times, Schubert increases the likelihood that riders will get stuck out after dark and before dawn without lights. This is exactly why lights aren’t optional on cars and motorcycles; they’re with you all the time because you never know when you’ll be driving after dark. And unlike Schubert’s #fakenews example about the plaintiff settling for $100 after being forced to read a “stack of articles,” plaintiffs regularly see their cases go up in smoke at the claims adjusting stage because their collision occurred during a time when they were required to ride with lights and they were unlit, and the traffic collision report cites them as the at-fault party because of that.
In short, what possible reason could Schubert have for discouraging daytime lights on bicycles, and hyping them as an invaluable addition, and sometimes even a replacement for, lane positioning? Why wouldn’t he see them as a useful and helpful tool in the arsenal of conspicuousness, especially with so many lights on the market now that are bright, cheap, and that have 6-12 hour run times?
Answer: He has a good old-fashioned conflict of interest.
There’s no tread on Schubert’s tire
I have relentlessly advocated for CyclingSavvy and for its fundamentally sound approach to safe cycling, most of which is based on the work done by gadfly and Very Smart Dude John Forester. I’ve subsidized CyclingSavvy classes in my own club and have worked hard to make sure that as many people as possible understand that the first step to safety involves the conspicuousness that comes from properly positioning yourself in traffic. I’ve personally gone through the evolution from gutter bunny to lane control dude.
However, I also recognize that the need for sound bicycling education is far too great and the masses are far too set in their ways to expect that everyone will go out and get CyclingSavvy instruction in time to prevent the next fatal collision. There aren’t enough teachers, the online curriculum is poorly marketed, and many of the riders who need it most DGAF because they don’t think they need education. “I know how to ride!” they exclaim.
This is where lights come in. Beginning about five years ago I began running daytime lights, front and rear, and began relentlessly encouraging people to light up at all times. I rarely if ever have close calls with drivers anymore, and part of that has to do with my increased visibility thanks to lights. And it’s not just me. Riders who couldn’t be dragged to a CyclingSavvy course at gunpoint are now riding conspicuously, with lots of lighting. This is another point to which Schubert is tone deaf: A gaggle of riders with tons of lights are much more conspicuous than without, regardless of where they are positioned. The other fact that keeps Schubert off key is that it’s easy to scold riders for not having lights a few times until they eventually start using them, whereas scolding them to “take a CyclingSavvy class” is an infinitely harder sell.
It’s nuts that Schubert doesn’t see daytime lights for the great thing they are. Riders attend CyclingSavvy, get the lane positioning thing, and start riding with lights as well because they know that a bit more visibility is going to help, just as hi-viz clothing will, and while it’s not a substitute for lane positioning, it is a great add-on. I suspect that this is really what has gotten under Schubert’s skin, and I get it. It sucks to know that despite your best efforts, people think you are a goofball smartypants with nothing of value to offer simply because you ride like a wanker. Lots of people don’t get, and never will get, that it’s the nerds of the world who sign the paychecks. Oh, well.
Welcome to the inbred, snooty, fashion-conscious world of road racing and “serious” road cycling. Most people who consider themselves “racer-ish” already think they know everything and they are never going to listen to some bike safety guru in floppy pants with a helmet mirror. In fact, my good pal Manslaughter has point-blank said that “I think it’s stupid. I know how to ride my bike and am not afraid of gutters, trash cans, grates, roots, drunks, land mines, hand grenades, and smashed-in pavement. In fact, THAT’S WHAT I LIKE!”
But even Manslaughter can be browbeaten into riding with a light, and he does ride with one because even cyclists who think that CyclingSavvy is dumb will clip on a bright light. That’s one more point of light for a driver to see and avoid.
And perhaps that’s what makes Schubert’s song so atonal: The thought that ordinary people who purchase lights, which are cheap, easily accessible to people of all income and educational levels, and which provide lots of conspicuousness, don’t require an East Coast smartypants mansplaining “expert” to tell them how to ride. And frankly, if the legal “expert” knows as little about the rules of evidence as this one, I can’t say I blame them.
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January 18, 2018 Comments Off on Does bicycle education work?
I cannot believe I am sitting here writing a blog post about bicycle education. If there is anything more boring, I don’t know what that might be. Oh, wait, yes I do: Uninsured/underinsured motorist insurance and how it can protect you on your bike. That’s way more boring.
But like the Santa Ana wind dryness of insurance blather, bicycle education blather is a matter of life and death. It is dorky and requires you to slow down and pay the fuck attention, spend some time doing something other than shopping for bike porn. Like taking the time to buy and charge and put on front-and-rear lights, it’s well-spent time.
I sat down with Gary Cziko, bible-thumping evangelist for Cycling Savvy, but the testament wasn’t written by a bunch of goat herders out in the desert, it was written by people who have a lot of bicycling and traffic engineering experience when it comes to staying off the grills of Rage Rovers. Cycling Savvy uses various instructional paradigms to allow riders to ride anywhere. Streets, sidewalks (where it’s lega), you name it. Although lane control is the default technique, the idea behind bicycle education is that people ride bikes all kinds of places for all kinds of reasons, and there should be a way to address their riding with sensible, practical, safe techniques.
Increasing bicycle education
Gary is now in his fifth year of teaching as a Cycling Savvy instructor. The number of actual courses and actual people who have been through his courses is shockingly low; more about that later and why it’s less important than you might think. After about 13 courses and upwards of 130 participants, I asked Gary what he thought the biggest obstacles were to increasing bicycle education in Southern California.
He didn’t miss a beat. “Two main problems, those who think they don’t need the education because they don’t ride on streets, and those who think they don’t need it because they have a lot of experience.”
Gary knows about that last part. “I was an edge rider for years but Cycling Savvy makes it easy and safe and it decreases the risks.”
“How are you going to expand that?” I asked.
“Cycling Savvy wants to exapnd. We have two online courses but need additional funding to market the curriculum. We’ve hired our first full time administrative employee, an associate executive director. We’re looking into partnerships with charity rides, SCNCA, USAC, and affiliation with clubs, much as we’ve done with Big Orange. We’ve worked with Sean Wilson at SCNCA to develop a complete skills system, from racing to training and riding on the road.”
Still, with only a few courses having been taught, along with a few hundred people who’ve taken the online courses, I wondered if Gary was optimistic. Dumb question. It’s Gary, folks.
“I’m encouraged by getting cyclists in the full on-bike training, not just the classroom, where we work with riders of all skill levels to teach them how to surmount challenging situations. What’s encouraging is that people are changed and enthusiastic and they want to share with others. The Cycling Savvy curriculum started in 2011 and reached 18 states in 3 years. But we need increased funding for courses that reach families and kids, courses for fondo riders, and of course for e-bikes.”
With 5-10 courses planned for 2018, the need vastly outnumbers available resources.
Or does it?
The ripple effect
Gary agreed that more instructors, more classes, more online marketing are crucial. He also pointed out that by educating a few cyclists you can education hundreds more.
“There’s a ripple effect,” he said. “When we started the training in Big Orange, people were unfamiliar with it. Now, even though most Big Orange riders haven’t taken the course, every club ride has at least one rider who has, and those riders take the reins and make sure that the group is using Cycling Savvy principles. By changing even one or two people, you can affect everyone who sees this kind of effective riding and who then tries it out. Of course we need training for planners and transportation engineers, too.”
When I asked him about the dreaded PCH, Gary was emphatic that bicycle education has educated drivers, too. “There’s less honking. Motorists are used to seeing large groups of riders out in the lane. Cyclists are less hesitant to use the full lane when it makes sense. One study found that there is more honking the farther you are to the right, which makes sense because they see you from a long way back and can adjust when you’re in the lane. But with edge/gutter riding they don’t see you until the last second.”
Getting your club educated
If you belong to a bike club and you don’t have a club-wide bicycle education plan, now is the time to get one. Cycling Savvy offers online courses and in-person instruction depending on the area. The courses are cheap and can save your life. Importantly, in our own neck of the woods, the Palos Verdes Peninsula, there anecdotally seems to be a lot less hostility than a couple of years ago; I chalk part of that up to the effect of people being more assertive and educated about where and how they cycle.
No matter how much you know or how experienced you are, these classes will open your eyes.
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About SouthBayCycling.com: This the all-things-cycling blog about cycling in the South Bay and cycling in Los Angeles, maintained and authored by me, Seth Davidson, Torrance-based bicycle lawyer, bike racer, and personal injury attorney.
October 21, 2017 § 18 Comments
Where you sit in the roadway or the shoulder while pedaling your bike is up to you. I simply hope you’re doing it with a lot of lights.
After the recent smashback here in L.A. from cager trolls and the pitchfork peasants who were enraged that a safer, cleaner, cheaper, sexier, healthier, happier mode of transportation might slow them down fifteen seconds on their one-hour commute, it has become even more evident that cyclists themselves are riven. Lane control advocates shrug at the loss of bike infrastructure; they never wanted it to begin with, beyond sharrows and BMUFL signage. Infrastructure lovers are heartbroken and trying to rally themselves for the next big beating, like kids shuffling into dad’s bedroom knowing he already has the belt off.
I’m happy to report that there’s a solution. We lane control advocates should stop poking a thumb in the eye of the infrastructure lovers. We should stop sharpening our rhetorical sticks, hardening them with fire, and jabbing them into the tender fallacies of those who want more things built in roads to protect bicycles. We should let them go about their business.
In fact, I’m happy to give infrastructure advocates all the rope they want. They can take it out to Playa del Rey, Manhattan Beach and Palso Verdes, do their advocacy, show up at meetings and present factual data, but when they do, here’s a pro tip: Don’t do it near any trees with sturdy, low hanging, horizontal limbs. Because when the pitchfork peasants see your bike infrastructure rope, and understand that it’s a threat to the hegemony of their cages, they will know what to do with it.
Rather than poking holes in the infrastructure lovers’ arguments, we should make common cause with them in this way: Tell them, without judging, that while we’re waiting for the amazing infrastructure that will protect us from cagers (for example, the Santa Monica bike path where no one ever gets hurt by other bicycles and where no bicycle has ever run over and seriously injured a pedestrian), we will all take the fuggin’ lane while lit up like Christmas trees. This includes the infrastructure lovers.
And then, after my cremated ashes have been dispersed by the winds of time, been blown to Jupiter and are circling its outer moon, eventually, I say, when the great infrastructure project is completed such that it has constructed those supremely segregated, superbly striped, sexily signed, perfectly protected, and beautifully barrier-ized bike path/lane/road/highways to cover every alley, every back road, every country lane, every cul-de-sac, every county road, every byway, every dirt road, every highway, every city street, every parking area, and every other possible place where cars and bikes might possibly be at the same place at the same time, then we will be able to have another discussion about whether bike infrastructure is better, safer, preferable, cheaper, more efficient, cheaper to maintain, more popular, and more conducive to expanding cycling than following existing traffic laws and exercising lane control in a lawful manner.
‘Til that happy day when The Infrastructure Saints Go Marchin’ In, however, let’s all take a deep a breath, swallow our ideologies, and take the fuggin’ lane. Lit up like Christmas trees, of course. Mirrors optional.
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October 20, 2017 § 45 Comments
For a brief blip I saw salvation in the offing when I contemplated autonomous cars. “What,” I wondered “could be dumber than a human behind the wheel of a two-ton, speeding steel box?”
“Nothing,” was the obvious answer. “Certainly not a computer.”
Next, I read an online article in Consumer Reports about crash avoidance systems in cars and felt even better. In addition to replacing the dummy behind the wheel, sciency things were going to turn the driving over to an inanimate thing that didn’t text or drink lattes or scream “Faggot!” or live on Via Horcata. Bicyclists would only benefit.
Plus, a friend of mine who flies giant commercial airplanes seemed to think that airplane crash avoidance systems were a predictor of how cars might eventually operate. Airplanes don’t run into each other (much), and that’s because they have some sciency stuff that keeps big, fast-moving objects from hitting other fast-moving objects, such as the ground. “Why don’t they just stick airplane sciency stuff into cars and be done with it?” I wondered.
The frightening answer is that airplanes don’t use sciency stuff at all to avoid collisions. They use acronyms. Big, long, complicated, similar-sounding, confusion inducing, memorization-defying acronyms that scramble up the English language into a foul sounding soup of letters that do nothing but bring on a migraine when you try to commit them to memory. TCAS, PCAS, FLARM, GPWS, TAWS, SV, and OCAS are the acronyms that work in airplanes, along with the actual spelled-out word of “radar.”
More about that later, but about the time I started worrying about the acronymization of car driving, I ran across this gem on the Tweeter: “Semi-autonomous BMW Will ‘Fight Driver’ to Deliver Close Passes to Cyclists.”
“Huh?” I thought, so I clicked on the link and learned that my pilot friend was right. Airplane crash avoidance systems will indeed be the template for semi-autonomous cars, with the overwhelming problem being the word “semi.” In other words, the technology that will make cars safer will ironically require much better driving skills. In a society where there is a race to the bottom in every conceivable metric for driving skills–physical fitness, situational awareness, mental response time, physical response time, behind-the-wheel training, alertness, familiarity with the vehicle and its handling characteristics, patience, a safety mindset, heightened concern for vulnerable road users–we are suddenly going to be presented with vehicles that require all of those parameters to increase, and increase drastically.
Should work well in a rapidly aging society filling up with crotchedy old blind farts.
Heightened user skill makes sense, because crash avoidance systems in commercial airplanes operate in an environment of highly trained pilots who are continually tested, re-tested, and required to pass regular physical exams. No multiple DUI pilots at United, folks, and you gotta have that 5th Grade reading level, at least. As the article above emphasizes, “The key to autonomous vehicles is training, training, training. The skill of driving must be robotic before the software can be developed. The skill of driving is being eroded and this can be seen every day.”
Training? For U.S. cagers? For the idiots who throw shit at cyclists, drive while severely impaired, blame the victim, recall elected officials who support road safety, troll pedestrian/cycling advocates, and who are routinely given a pass for carelessly killing bicyclists? Those assholes? Train them how, exactly? With a rolled-up newspaper and a cattle prod to the testicles? If you think adding bike lanes brings out the rage, wait ’til you tell Joe Q. Driver that he has to actually possess driving skills before he can go rampaging down the freeway. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.
Every piece of technology that relies on a smarter, better, more experienced and well-trained U.S. driver is operating on a massively flawed assumption, because U.S. drivers aren’t simply horrible, I’ve always contended that they aren’t drivers at all. They are pointers. They start the car and point it, unable to do even the most basic emergency maneuvers such as brake or turn without skidding. The minute that operating the vehicle transitions from point to maneuvering, 99% of drivers are f-u-c-k-e-d, or rather the bicyclist/pedestrian in front of them is.
As a cyclist who almost got clocked yesterday by a fully autonomous idiot who decided that the No. 1 Lane was inconvenient, and he’d rather whip into No. 2 without checking any mirrors, I can tell you that in Los Angeles drivers are older, meaner, angrier, more stressed, stupider, less skilled, more impulsive, and nastier than they were even ten years ago. Thanks, Obama.
And it’s not just my anecdotal experiences. The dumbphone has crazily accelerated the trend, making the “semi” half of the semi-autonomous car nothing more than an airbag dummy for all the crash avoidance systems that have to rely on drivers who can perform at least some minimal dum-dum maneuvers, such as, say, not switching off the autonomous systems.
Fortunately, virtually all of the problems with distracted cagers, and with systems that require cager responsiveness as it concerns cyclists, can be minimized or eliminated entirely by taking the fuggin’ lane. Even the most rudimentary systems will significantly brake if not completely halt when the object (we’re “objects,” folks) is directly in front of them. Close passes and clipping will happen to gutter bunnies, but not to Christmas Tree riders smack in the middle of the lane.
So there it is. The dumbphone dummies are taking over. You’ve been warned. Science won’t save ya. But takin’ the fuggin’ lane WILL.
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