Motorists who wouldn’t mind hitting cyclists

Chinese car vs German Bicycle

As I have read articles on bike safety, I have been alarmed at how many motorists hate cyclists. In too many cases, the motorist is quoted as saying that cyclists have it coming if they get hit, or they do not belong on roads in the first place, or they can foresee themselves hitting a cyclist.

Even when an educational article is politely pointing out what the law is and how motorists and cyclists should safely share the road (as I do in this blog), some motorists simply respond by saying cyclists should not be in a lane where cars are and if they get hit, it’s their own fault. How do we respond to that kind of thinking?

Yes, I know and have stated here many times that cyclists can be their own worst enemies when they ride through stop signs or do other things they’re not supposed to be doing on a bike. I continue to have to deal with this when I ride with others; they figure that if an intersection is clear, then they can run the stop sign. But not only do others observe this behavior of ignoring the law and lose respect for cyclists, but in a long line of riders, the whole group wants to continue on through even if a car comes to the intersection after the lead riders are through. Recently, I came to a full stop near the back of the group and waved the car to go since it was his turn, even though the other riders just kept pedaling through the stop sign in front of him and forcing him to wait. When he finally made his left turn, he rolled down his window and yelled to me, “At least someone follows the law.”

That fellow was exasperated at what he was seeing, but at least he didn’t try to teach us a lesson by running us over; it’s distressing that many motorists feel we deserve to die. When generally law-abiding citizens observe others breaking a law or are inconvenienced by a rude person, do they harm or kill as a solution? I don’t think so, but there sure seem to be motorists who think aggression is justified when it comes to bicyclists (maybe it’s because they are protected in their cars and cannot be hurt themselves, or they don’t have to confront the situation face to face). The ironic part of this is that the cyclist may be completely legal and in his rights, yet the uninformed or aggressive “redneck” motorist feels he should “teach him a lesson” regardless.

bicycle-accident

Here was a recent headline: “A man in London has told a cyclist that cyclists deserve to die because they are their own worst enemy and are incompetent.” The man decided to just tell a cyclist this as she legally walked her bike across a street (she had him on video). In the same vein, I’ve read numerous newspaper articles and blogs explaining the rights of cyclists, and many of the online comments ignore what was just explained and rail on against cyclists not belonging on the road and deserving to get hit. Perhaps they disagree with the law, but by golly, they’re going to teach cyclists a deadly lesson on what they believe the law should be!

What to do?? Some states, such as my Ohio, are trying to get their legislatures to pass laws specifying three feet as the minimum passing clearance. Having that law won’t, by itself, change a whole lot, but advocates agree that it provides a base for educating the public about all cycling laws and bicyclists rights. In other words, having a 3-foot law is a platform for education efforts. Other solutions: 1) Cyclists – follow the law! 2) Be courteous by signaling your presence in the lane with your left arm waving at an angle downward, and waving thanks when a car has slowed down for you and finally passes you safely. 3) Use a ride-able shoulder even though you’re not required to. 4) Write considerate letters to the editor or online comments to an article expressing hope that everyone can share the road legally and safely.
Or, maybe you don’t have to be considerate. In one cyclist’s blog I read about motorists, he took the confrontational approach as he explained the law and the safest way for cyclists to ride and demand their rights. Here’s how he ended: “In conclusion, you’re a fucking asshole for honking at me.  I’m not a second class citizen and you don’t own the road anymore than anyone else.  I don’t belong on the sidewalk and if you think I do then maybe it’s time for you to take your drivers test again.  Cyclists belong on the street. They are not getting in the way of traffic, they are traffic.  Get used to it.”  (If you wish to read his entire posting: http://antranik.org/hey-asshole-yea-you-the-one-driving-the-car/)
Actually, the same blogger has posted a more even-handed article about riding safely, which I wish I had written: http://antranik.org/how-to-ride-your-bicycle-safely-on-the-street/
As my book, Head Over Wheels, describes, I broke my neck in a bad bicycling accident, but it did not involve another vehicle. I’ve been fortunate that in my 36 years of cycling, I have not had an incident with a motorist other than when they’ve passed me far too closely. I want to keep it that way!
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Must we always ride on the shoulder if there is one?

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In this photo, the riders are in the lane instead of on the shoulder. Do you think they’re wrong for doing this? Do you think it’s actually against the law? If you came up behind them in your wide truck with opposing traffic, what would you do?

I thought I knew all the answers, but a recent case in Kentucky has me wondering. I ride in KY since it is just across the Ohio River from me, so I’m glad to learn how some cycling laws and precedent cases can make it different — and nutty — to ride there.

If you have read my previous posts, I discuss many times the lawfulness of riding in the lane since bikes are vehicles and are allowed to be there. I have also frequently mentioned the advisability of riding right in the middle of the lane (when there’s no shoulder) to prevent motorists from thinking they can squeeze past you with inches to spare when there is opposing traffic or a blind hill/curve ahead. But in KY this is, disturbingly, not the way it works.

A case has gained much publicity because a woman was ticketed for NOT riding on Hwy 27 as far to right as she could. There was a shoulder, but it was so full of debris and bad pavement, she could ride only to the right of the lane. In her trial, expert witnesses for both the prosecution and defense agreed she had the right to ride in the lane and stated it was impossible to ride on the shoulder there, but the judge ruled against her anyway. Why? The judge felt she she was endangering herself and motorists.

Hwy 27 is a four-lane highway with a 55-mph speed limit. It has much traffic. The woman, Cherokee Schill, needed to take the highway 18 miles each direction to her job – no alternate routes were possible. She is a single mom, and does not have a driver’s license. So, she felt riding a bike was her only viable choice. It’s actually an inspirational story how she was overweight when she began commuting those 36 mi/day by bike and it took her over 3 hours each way. With perseverance over time, her weight decreased, she got stronger, and now she can make it in about an hour (similar to an avid cyclist like myself). Normally she would be heralded and roundly admired by the public and media. Heck, she could have written a book about it!

Instead, Cherokee was repeatedly ticketed after motorists called the police to complain. She felt she was riding legally, as I would have, so she fought the tickets. Unbelievably, she was found guilty of careless driving because the law allows her to use the shoulder. The judge said that she disregarded the “safety and convenience” of motorists, who apparently were incapable of simply changing lanes to pass her. In all 50 states, cyclists are allowed to use the shoulder, but this judge in KY felt “allowed” meant “required”.

And then there’s the issue of how far to the right is “practical”? All states require that a bicyclist ride as far to the right as is practicable, but KY and a few other states are the only ones who consider the entire surfaced pavement to be part of the roadway. In all the other states, you must ride to the right only of the lane, even if there’s a shoulder, because you are a vehicle and have every right to do so. KY’s law sure was news to me!

Let me make sure the reader knows that I do advocate riding on a shoulder if it is ride-able. In my opinion, it is the courteous thing to do. However, only after reading a lawyer’s comments about this Schill case did I learn that from a legal-rights standpoint, if you’re on the shoulder, you have no rights! As this lawyer said, “It is an operational no man’s land (because it is not intended for vehicular operation). It is off the roadway; therefore a bicyclist using it has no right-of-way. She must yield to all traffic making conflicting movements at intersections and driveways. If someone hits her, she has no legal protection. There’s nothing practicable about operating in a space where you are both vulnerable and subservient to every vehicle on a conflicting path.” Wow!

pt-mugu(Too bad all shoulders aren’t this perfect, as here on Pacific Coast Hwy north of Santa Monica where I used to ride when I lived in California.)

Getting back to what is “practicable”, readers of my blog know that I’ve argued many times that the cyclist is the one who must determine what is safe for him. Nearly every cyclist and “reasonable person” agrees with this. If there are huge holes or gravel in the shoulder or on the right part of the lane, the cyclist can see it and must move to the left to avoid them. A motorist approaching from behind may not be able to judge the situation and should give the cyclist the benefit of doubt and assume he’s where he is because he needs to be. I’ve also explained how when there’s no shoulder on a two-lane road, the practical and safe thing to do is to ride right in the middle of the lane to prevent unsafe passings.

But in Schill’s case, the judge decided that the police should determine what is practicable. The police told the judge they thought the shoulder was “just fine”, despite testimony from four (4!) expert witnesses (including the prosecution’s own two) that the shoulder was not ride-able and was risky to Schill.

Okay, so I and all cycling safety experts think the KY police and judge got it wrong, and that KY laws are screwy. Then I got to thinking about my own highway I ride on every single day when I depart my housing complex. Ohio Hwy 63 here is also a four-lane, 50-mph busy highway. Even with a bad shoulder, would I ever consider riding out in the lane?  I, the person who advocates riding in the middle of a shoulderless country road and forcing cars to slow down behind me if there’s opposing traffic? Uhhh, no. I cannot imagine riding out in what seems like a freeway and hoping that the motorists will do what they’re supposed to do.

Since I am forced to ride on Hwy 63 if I wish to ride from home, what would I do if the shoulder were not ride-able? I suppose I could go out with a push broom and clear a path. Fill holes with personal bags of cement (would that be legal?). Have a community rally to get the city to fix the shoulder? Drive my bike every time to begin my rides beyond the bad shoulder? In Schill’s case, she had 36 miles of shoulder, so these solutions or alternatives were not practical. I’m impressed she had the guts to ride out there in the lane. Since she did, she deserves to have her true rights to the road supported and not subverted by impatient motorists who get upset because they might have to slow down for a few seconds. I’ve heard that in Europe, this kind of thing would never happen because cyclists are respected there.

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London tickets 15,800 cyclists

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London police have been pretty darned busy in the last year on behalf of bicycling safety. A UK article (referenced at the end) says they issued nearly 15,800 citations to cyclists for running red lights, riding on the sidewalks, and other unsafe riding.The cyclist in their photo, however, was riding legally since they ride on the left side of the road in the UK.

Interestingly, the article says they issued tickets for riding on the “pavement”. I wondered what was wrong with riding on the pavement, until I came across this sentence: “Americans – and UK civil engineers – consider ‘pavement’ to be the road. Sidewalk is a good, descriptive word but deemed too American for UK usage.”  Hahahaha The writer prefers our term but it is “too American”.

Starting in November of 2013 after six cyclists were killed on London roads in just two weeks, the police began Operation Safeway. They said: “There are so many road users, we have to respect each other. We need to tell cyclists that they have to follow the rules like everyone else.”

If you have read my past blog postings, you know I’ve been critical of cyclists who do not follow the road rules. Far too many ride through red lights, stop signs, ride on the wrong side of the road, don’t signal their turns, and pass cars on the right. Even if they are not hindering a motorist when they run a red light, they still cause the public to lose respect for us when they see us flaunting the law. I wish our police would take the time to ticket cyclists (and motorists) more frequently. As the London policeman said, “It is not about punishment or persecution, it’s about creating awareness.”

Although it was about creating awareness, the article also notes that the fines totaled £789,000, which equates to $1,279,442.  So, I would think the police have an incentive to continue Operation Safeway!

After watching the movie Premium Rush, which is about a bicycle messenger in New York City, I wonder how a policeman would even catch and stop one of those guys who breaks every law in the books while riding through Manhattan delivering packages and mail. (And most do it on bikes with a fixed single gear and no brakes!) But I regress…they are a different breed and story.

The London police could also have cited about 200 cyclists for speeding last July 7. Just a joke, but that was the day the Tour de France finished their Stage 3 in downtown London. These elite racers were going over 40 mph, but of course the streets were cleared. Riding through a city with police stopping traffic and clearing the streets for you is something I have gotten to experience a few times, and it feels pretty cool to be speeding through red lights legally. In the Solvang Century that had thousands of participants, the police cleared the intersections as we rode out of town. However, my favorite time was when I rode 60 miles through the San Fernando Valley and Los Angeles in 2003 with Lance Armstrong and about 500 others, as part of a Tour de Hope fund raiser. The entire 60 miles was under police control, and we felt like real racers getting to ride without the usual city hazards and stop lights. This event is mentioned on page 13 of my book, Head Over Wheels.

http://www.cyclingweekly.co.uk/news/latest-news/nearly-15800-riders-fined-unsafe-cycling-londons-roads-145809#fDCse23ejtiFKTfM.99

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Ohio House bill would specify 3-foot passing clearance

car passing bike

Here in Ohio, the House will be considering HB145, which would do two things:

1) require a 3-foot passing clearance for bicycles, and

2) allow for proceeding against a red light (when it’s safe) if the detector under the pavement does not detect you (applies to any vehicle — bike, car, motorcycle).

Already, 25 states have the 3-foot minimum written into their state laws, and Pennsylvania even has a 4-foot law in theirs.

Currently, Ohio’s law states only that the passing clearance must be a “safe” distance. Well, as I know from plenty of experience, many motorists apparently think even 6 inches can be safe. With only a slight variance or unsteady hand by either the driver or cyclist on a close passing, the cyclist can be injured or killed. Thus, in my opinion, this law is a “life or death” issue.

You might ask: “Yes, but would anyone actually drive differently if this became law?”  Here’s one reason why I think it would have an actionable, positive impact:

The driver’s manual, which we study before getting a license, would state the 3-foot minimum. Currently, a person’s eyes probably read right past a phrase like “safe distance” because, sure, everything must be “safe” when it comes to driving, and the person does not give it any real consideration. But if the law specifies 3 feet, their minds will note this (hey, it might be on the exam!) and they can picture this and truly consider it and therefore follow it.

And beyond just the driver’s manual, having it specified in the law makes it easier to talk about and have it properly visualized in any setting such as a media article, bike safety materials for your children, and contested situations. The vague words “safe distance” just mean nothing, really, because no one thinks they would ever do anything unsafe. Having an easily referenced clearance distance also makes it easier for me to yell something quickly at the jerk who almost just killed me (haha, I actually do not yell at drivers since I’ve heard too many tales of 4000-lb cars deciding to retaliate when a cyclist has flipped them off or otherwise angered them).

The bill would promote motorist safety too

It doesn’t seem like this law would have anything to do with motorist safety, only a cyclist’s, but here is why it would help prevent head-on collisions between vehicles:

As the new law is explained, we and the media can remind the public that to give 3 feet to a cyclist who is riding in the lane means needing to cross over the center line. This, in turn, means needing to assess whether it is safe to do so based on no oncoming cars or no “potential” oncoming cars due to a blind hill or blind curve ahead. This could mean, in turn, that an overtaking vehicle MUST SLOW DOWN and wait until it’s safe to pass — as opposed to what so many do now, which is to cause a potential head-on collision.

You would not believe how many near-collisions I’ve witnessed, with slammed brakes, horns honking, and dangerous swerves when a car or truck passes me in the oncoming lane directly toward a car. Heaven forbid they would ever consider slowing down and waiting until it’s actually safe to pass a cyclist. And I’ve sweated out countless occasions when a car passes in the oncoming lane when he has no idea if a car is coming around the blind hill or curve ahead. My previous blog postings have noted some specific examples of this, like the time the car passing me and the oncoming car appearing suddenly over the top of the hill slammed on their brakes and stopped only a foot from each other’s bumpers right next to me.

By the way, now that I’ve seen how so many motorists will dangerously pass a cyclist like this, when I’m driving into a blind hill or curve myself, I’m extra cautious and prepared for some crazy to be heading directly into me. I no longer assume that my lane will be clear ahead where I cannot yet see.

Proceeding against a red light when it’s not functioning properly

In previous blog postings I’ve mentioned this topic and explained why cyclists need to go ahead through a dysfunctional red light when it is safe to do so. This new Ohio law would clarify that such an action would be legal – as long as you stay at the intersection long enough to “prove” it is not detecting you (or otherwise not functioning properly to turn green for you).

Currently, Ohio and many states have laws allowing for motorists to proceed under specified circumstances of not getting a green light. This sets a precedent for the concept of needing to proceed regardless of why the traffic signal is dysfunctional, but it would be extremely helpful for ALL vehicles (and remember, a bicycle is a vehicle) to be allowed to do the logical thing instead of thinking they need to sit there all day or else they are breaking the law.

Is a traffic signal “not working properly” if it detects larger vehicles but not a bicycle? Many law enforcement people and cycling legal experts have debated this. HB145 would end such arguments about the legal technicalities of it, and allow for logic to prevail. Heck, a bicycle is a vehicle; detectors at intersections are supposed to detect vehicles; if they do not detect a bicycle vehicle, they are not functioning properly. And under HB145, if the signal is not functioning properly by never giving you your green light (for whatever reason), you may proceed when safe to do so. Yeah!

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Crazy car-passing antics

passing car

NO NO NO! A car should NOT be passing a bicyclist this closely.

This is why cyclists are advised to ride farther out in the lane; if a car does start its overtake this close to you, you have room to move to your right to give yourself a safer cushion. And in this photo, there’s a curb, such that under no circumstances can the cyclist move any farther over in case he might need to. Therefore, when there is a curb, a bicyclist should ALWAYS give himself more room than this guy in the photo has.

Motorists are actually supposed to give you at least three feet of clearance. Three feet is specified in 26 state laws, and four feet is specified in one (PA). It’s always amazing to see how close some cars think they can pass a cyclist, not fully realizing that they or the bicycle needs to move only a few inches for disaster to strike. If a motorist’s mother were on the bike, would he pass that closely?

Passing with three feet of clearance is also why a car usually needs to cross over the center line (on a two-lane road when the bike is in the lane) to be able to overtake safely. Which in turn is why a motorist cannot pass if there are cars approaching in that lane — or “potential” cars in the cases of a blind hill or curve ahead. Which in turn is why a motorist actually needs to slow down oftentimes to wait behind the bike until it is safe to pass. But how many motorists actually feel it’s their responsibility to slow down due to a bicycle? In my experience, maybe about one-third of them. The other two-thirds start to pass me as closely as in the photo above (before I swerve to the right), or they put everyone’s lives in danger by passing dangerously toward an oncoming car or at a blind hill/curve.

Taking the lane

I’ve mentioned several times in this blog the practice of riding near the middle of the lane. The law states that cyclists must ride as far to the right of the lane as is practical. But for the cyclist’s own safety, the farthest practical spot to the right is oftentimes nearer the middle of the lane. If you ride as far to the right as you possibly can in a typical lane (no extra room on the side of the road), you “invite” motorists to go ahead and pass you even when there is insufficient clearance, as in the photo above. By riding farther toward the lane’s center, motorists must contend with you in a more conscientious manner, and assess their ability to cross the center line to pass you.

Given that about 2/3 of motorists are hell-bent on NOT EVER slowing down on account of a bicycle, most will still pass you unsafely as I mentioned above. But at least you have room to move over to give yourself a safe clearance space. Note: You need a rear-view mirror to make these kinds of observations and decisions, so I am also a strong advocate of all cyclists using mirrors.

Many motorists will likely think you’re hogging the road and riding selfishly and illegally if you are not as far to the right as possible. One way to help overcome this misconception is to use hand signals and waves of thanks. Let me explain: If there is oncoming traffic when a vehicle is approaching to pass you, wave your left arm at a downward angle which tells the car behind that you know he’s there and you’re asking him to slow down. Many motorists will take this to mean you’re doing it for a reason, and when they actually think about it for a moment, they will likely understand the reason. And if you combine that with a wave of thanks when they finally pass you, the motorist will usually “get it” and appreciate not only you, but the concept of waiting behind a bike until it’s safe to pass.

An additional helpful gesture: The motorist will appreciate you and the waiting concept even more if, when it’s finally safe for him to pass you, you make a distinct move to the right and wave him around you. This further shows the driver passing you that you were riding in the lane for a specific reason and that you’re a nice guy, not a jerk. If he didn’t “get it” before, this gesture shows you had “method to your madness” and the motorist now realizes how to share the road safely.

Then again, I know from experience it doesn’t work 100% of the time. Once, on a two-lane road with no shoulder, 18-wheeler trucks were approaching just as a big truck came from behind. I moved to the center and did my arm waving, then when the coast was clear I moved to the right and waved him around. But this guy decided he was going to punish me for making him slow down. He had all the room in the world to pass me safely, but nearly pushed me off the road with only about 4 inches of clearance (which is precisely the unsafe clearance I was preventing by taking the lane). There were three men in the truck, and I guessed that the driver was wanting to impress his buddies by showing them how tough he was. Had he been alone in the truck, I’m doubting (hoping) he would not have done what he did.

Take the lane for these reasons too

Just a final mention of what I’ve stated in a previous blog: You also are safest if you take the lane to give yourself safe clearance from opening car doors, at a red light to prevent getting turned into, to help left turners see you so that they won’t turn into you, and when you cross over to the left to prepare for a left turn. In fact, when there is not a shoulder where you can ride, I believe it is in the best interests of everyone if cyclists always rode in the right third of the lane and never as far to the right as possible. We will be better seen and considered by motorists, overtaken more safely, and have room to our right if a vehicle does not pass us with safe clearance.

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Group riding – hotbed for bad habits

Muppets-Group-Bicycle-Ride

Just look at these characters taking up the entire lane! They must think that because they’re famous, the rules don’t apply to them.

Sometimes I think that when good cyclists ride in groups, they also do not think the rules apply to them. First, however, I wish to comment on a right we do have in groups:

We have a right to more of the lane, depending on how many are in the group. Five or six, then okay, it makes sense to ride single file on the right, or at most, two abreast if the local law allows. But if the group has 50 riders, for example, it is not reasonable to think they must ride single file or even two abreast. Heck, we would stretch back a quarter mile. With long lines like that, cars would have an even more difficult time overtaking because they could not see far enough ahead for oncoming vehicles.

However, on a two-lane road we should still try to take up no more than half the lane so that passing motorists can see around us to know when the coast is clear.

A woman who once worked for me at Nestlé, who also lived in Simi Valley, CA, complained to me about how cyclists would take up the entire right lane on Saturday morning group rides. Interestingly, she was referring to the famous Simi Ride, which is what I was participating in when I broke my neck in 2007, and subsequently wrote my book about (Head Over Wheels). Anyway, it’s a four-lane road, so cars have ample opportunity to move to the left lane to pass. My colleague simply thought cyclists were not allowed to be in the lane, so I had some explaining to do. Yes, we are allowed in the lane. “But then why don’t you stay on the right of it so you don’t block us cars?” she asked. Well, with 150 cyclists in a group and a four-lane road, it’s completely legal and logical that they should go ahead and use the entire right lane because motorists have a lane for passing. Besides, the cyclists ride at 25-30 mph, so they’re going almost as fast as cars anyway, I explained. She finally understood my points, but I don’t think she liked cyclists any more than she did before. (Since I was her boss, she HAD to give in! haha)

 But cyclists can fall under the evils of “group dynamics”

I have mentioned this in previous postings, how in groups, cyclists seem more prone to running stop signs and red lights, or turning in front of oncoming cars. From what I have witnessed, the level of flagrancy is proportional to how strong the riders are — the faster and more experienced the group, the more they ignore the rules. Groups seem to feel there is safety in numbers, as far as not being singled out for breaking a rule, so many of them just go along with the crowd. Unfortunately, they are ruining our reputation and respect among motorists. And then they wonder why motorists don’t want to share the road.

I can think of a few reasons for my observations:

1) Fast riders are focused on performance, and do not want to slow down or stop unless absolutely necessary (e.g., to avoid getting hit by a car). Not only does this lead to running stop signs and red lights, but they maintain less “situational awareness” because each rider is focused on the wheel in front of him or her. This, in turn, can lead to missing clues that a car is about to turn right or left into them.

2) The front rider in a pace line feels expected to pull hard for everyone behind him, and doesn’t want to “unnecessarily” slow down or stop lest he lose respect from his mates. The lead rider is the one responsible for all those behind him, and should be slowing (if the situation demands it) and stopping for the group, but he has pressure to do just the opposite.

3) Those farther back in a group want to remain with the group. When the lead riders hit a green light that changes behind them, the rest of the group just runs the red light to stay with them. They figure the waiting cars will not just run them down, so they go ahead. And at stop signs, the lead riders might slow down a bit and call out “clear” if there are no cars immediately waiting (4-way stop) or coming (two-way stop), and then run the stop sign. But in a moment or two, the oncoming-vehicle situation may change, which should cause following cyclists to stop. But they usually do not – they must stay with the group. What they do is piss off motorists, who lose respect for us. Recently on a group ride, the lead riders turned left on a major highway because no cars were coming. However, then a car did come and he had to slam on his brakes since the following cyclists were just playing “follow the leader” right across in front of him. He honked and yelled, as one would expect, and I can only imagine how much his respect for cyclists fell after that.

4) Novice cyclists learn from the “fast guys”. Those fast guys originally learned from the previous fast guys. The fast guys, in other words, “set the rules” and teach everyone else. The “scofflaw” cycling culture propagates itself with each generation riding the way they always have – and in groups it seems to be the worst. “I want to be like the fast guys. They are so good because they never slow down — and look how talented they are to avoid ever having to.”

Solutions?

From what I’ve seen, group riding “rules” are so embedded that for many groups I do not see things changing any time soon. I can sit here and complain about what I’ve experienced in groups, but unless the best riders in a group are willing to set new rules before the group departs, and establishes a new paradigm attitude among the entire group, then nothing will change.

If I were one of the fast guys, I would gather all the riders before departure and say that, in the name of improving bicyclists’ respect among the public, we will follow all rules, wait for all riders to catch up if those farther back get hit by a signal that the front riders did not, we will slow down in dicey situations, we will use hand signals, etc. I know it sounds Pollyanna, but I wish all the best riders would realize the responsibility they have in groups to improve cycling habits and the respect we get from the public.

P.S. GOOD NEWS! Turns out I may be too pessimistic. Five minutes after completing this posting, I opened an e-mail from the Cincinnati Cycling Club, which I just joined. Someone was announcing a club ride for tomorrow night, and at the bottom it stated in big red letters: We WILL stop at stop signs. We WILL stop at all stop lights. We WILL follow all the rules of the road.  Hurrah! It seems that some clubs are taking the proactive steps needed to change the culture I have complained about in this posting.

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Riding at night – more visible, more careful

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This lit-up bike may be a little overkill, but she’s got the right idea for riding at night. The main idea is to be visible.

I must admit that I have never ridden at night other than to my summer graveyard-shift job during college. But it’s mostly intuitive to know that a cyclist is at increased risk unless he/she is extremely visible to motorists. Besides having the lights and clothing for maximum visibility, the cyclist must be more conscious than usual about riding predictably and defensively.

Let’s begin with lights: Strong headlights and large blinking taillights; lights on top of your helmet since the taller the light, the easier it is to see you; new 360-degree lights whereby you can be well seen from any direction: http://www.orfos.bike/

Reflective clothing, reflectors in the wheels, and reflectors facing forward and behind are also mandatory for your visibility and resulting safety.

Riding predictably includes staying steady in your spot on the road, not swerving in and out around parked cars, and strictly obeying the rules of the road. If sidewalk cycling is allowed where you live, you must slow WAY down or stop at every intersection, and either ride across carefully if you’re on deserted streets or walk across the intersection like a pedestrian if there are cars around.

I’m always aghast when I see cyclists riding on the wrong side of the road during daylight, but at night it seems like suicide. Why, because it’s usually the same riders who don’t know enough to ride on the correct side of the road who also ride without lights or reflective clothing.

A nice development has been high-tech reflective clothing or bike strips, some with LED lights. New companies are offering fashionable reflective clothing for the ride-to-work-at-night crowd. Here are twos companies setting the trend: http://vespertinenyc.com/ and http://www.ridewithfiks.com/ .

If you are a fast cyclist riding in a city or with other vehicles, you should slow down to be more visible and predictable. And ALL night cyclists should ride even more defensively than they normally do – expect the unexpected, give way when normally you might not, and assume you’re not going to be seen.

As I said, I don’t ride at night. But for seven years, my cold-weather and rain jacket has been a reflective yellow wind breaker. I realize it’s old-style, but in inclement weather it allows me to be as visible as possible. In my book, two of the four photos of me riding have me in that yellow wind breaker. I’m actually surprised it has lasted so long.

If you have not yet ordered your copy of Head Over Wheels, hesitate no longer. (“He who hesitates is lost.”) http://www.amazon.com/dp/1620064987/ref=rdr_ext_tmb

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