Monday, March 16, 2009

Cycling ambassadors

Now that Spring appears to be here for real we will be out in force. Yea! It is great to see so many of us out on cycles but with numbers comes responsibility. As we advocate for equality on the road and respect from local government we must accept responsibility as ambassadors for the entire cycling community. That means following the law and on the rare occasion we are on a multi-use path with pedestrians, using courtesy.

1. Ride on right side of road. Crossing completely to the left shoulder when approaching Bonita on the way to Big Looy's is both dangerous and bad PR.

2. Don't pass cars on the right if they will have difficulty passing you when the intersection is clear. Passing cars on the right is dangerous in any case.

3. Do not run a red traffic light under any circumstances. This may actually be the safest action in some circumstances, such as Indian Lake Blvd crossing the bypass, but it is terrible PR .
This does not apply to a non responsive light where there is no car to trip the magnetic switch and no button to push. The law allows us to proceed if we wait a reasonable amount of time and it is safe to do so. Although if you read comments on cycling news articles, this is a sore point with some motorists.

4. At least slow to a near track stand at a stop sign. Blowing through stop signs is dangerous and bad PR. By slowing to a near stop but not stopping you can stop if needed and still not need to un-clip. Most motorist will interpret this as a stop, though it is not totally legal.

5. As new cyclists join us, remember how bad it felt to ride as hard as you could but still get dropped. You obvioulsly overcame this or were not a real newbie if you are now a Fogbee. Just consider the real newbies' feelings if you ever want to see them again.

I have been guilty of ignoring these rules myself but plan to do better this year.

Below is a partial copy from an internal discussion among the Arkansas Bicycle Advocacy Group. They are a bit ahead of us in both advocacy and governmental support. This is a worthwhile read to see the issues we hope to be facing in a year or two.


At the root, our problem is one of education and enforcement. One thing that we don't like to face up to is that we cyclists are quite often our own worst enemy in the public's view. Pedestrians, cyclists, and motorists alike break the law when it comes to traffic. Speed limits -- the maximum safe speed on a particular stretch of road -- are typically assumed to be the minimum speed you should be able to attain on that stretch, and it's okay to speed as long as you stay no more than 10-15 miles over the posted limit. Likewise, it's okay for cyclists to blow past stop signs and red lights because it costs us too much energy or exertion to stop so often and then accelerate back up to our previous speed.

Yeah... right. Tell that to Ahmed Ismael. Or Larry Hamilton. Or Celeste Bates. Or Myron Anderson. Or Gary Miller. (All are Arkansas cyclists who were killed in the past three years because they chose to blow a stop sign or a red light.)

I'm not sure that we really have an answer so far. Brad Joseph and I gave a pretty graphic presentation on group rides and traffic law -- to include dealing with pedestrians -- at the February ABC meeting. As far as I can tell, it fell on deaf ears, because everyone carried on riding as they always have before. In fact, I've been rear-ended on a group ride 4 times since then, typically because I stop for stop signs, and the other rider didn't, but kept his head down and hammered on. It's made me more than a little skittish about being in the group, so I typically run up the road, or lag behind the pack to have a little maneuvering space. And on this afternoon's ride, I settled in a comfortable distance behind the pack and watched the swarm go up the road 3, 4, and more wide while the marathon folks, pedestrians one and all, were still out there on the course.

About two years ago there was a racing group that liked to train on the River Trail and connecting roads on Tuesday and Thursday evenings, and got into the habit of taking the pack up the Fort Roots hill, and around the campus for a lap or two before heading back down and repeating the process. If you ever wonder why the VA put a gate up on the back side of the facility, it was to keep these cyclists out of their campus. It took some smooth negotiating by BACA, ABC, and others to get the VA to not ban cyclists entirely. But the gate is still up and closed after hours, and the side opening is narrow enough to discourage and/or break up the racing packs.

Sharing the road goes both ways. The law says we have all the rights, and all the responsibilities of drivers of vehicles. One of those responsibilities is what bike attorney Bob Mionske has described as the "duty of due care" -- the requirement to control our bikes and our actions so as not to harm or infringe upon the other travelers with whom we share the roadways and paths. Most of our group rides tend to be "leaderless" these days, especially the ones on the River Trail and nearby paths, so maybe one thing we can do to helpa bit is go back to a formal safety briefing before each ride to at least let folks know what sort of behavior is expected and acceptable.

Bert, we are trying with the education aspect to get folks to slow the hell down and be a little more respectful of our fellow travelers. We're also working on the other end, currently with the law enforcement folks over in NLR at least, and get them educated as to what motorists and cyclists alike can get into trouble for. If folks won't use a little courtesy or common sense, maybe they'll listen to the cops or the judge in traffic court..

Tom Ezell.

Mark Hicks of Collierville says, "Too many riders make it difficult for the rest of us" Click here to read more.


Tom_E said...

I had posted this note to Bruce in one of our earlier e-mail exchanges. I am repeating it in support of his post.

Bruce et al,

I guess Bruce posted Tom Ezell’s comments to me, because he has been hearing me state similar sentiment. I have not posted them on any Bike Advocacy Group and sent them only to Bruce, who I know to be very rational and willing to except my very minority view that cyclist’s safety begins with the cyclist and that it is the obligation of Cycling Clubs to teach that with “rights” come “responsibilities.”

The overwhelming majority of cyclists only read the law to say “they have equal rights to the road.” They never read any further where it says “they are to obey the same laws as motorist.” I also accept the law doesn’t imply that just because I have the right to cycle on every road that I should believe that every road is suitable for safe cycling. If cyclist do not self-police with good judgment, then they shouldn’t be surprised when municipalities feel obligated to do it for them.

So that Bud and Arkansas-Tom don’t think I am some anti-cyclist, I peddle 6000 miles annually, lead cycling groups on rides, and am an advisor on Regional and Municipal Bike-Ped Committees.


BOB G. said...

Thanks Bruce,

I will try and do a better job with the trafic rules. I hope someone will tell the newbees that they should not leave me behind.

monsieur cannonball said...

no valid reason why we can't improve in this area .............
should be a FOGBEES goal for 2009

Nik the Stik said...

Folks, lets also remember that when we don the colors, we are representing the FOGBEES entire brotherhood/sisterhood to EVERYONE.

I am responsible to each of you to be a great steward of the wheel when I have my (okay, think NASCAR driver interview) Bikers Choice, Big Looy's, Gary Williams, League of American Bicyclists Allez on the road.

Let's all remember how fleeting life may be when we are in the saddle.