Thursday, May 28, 2009


I stumbled across a website called “How not to get hit by cars” which I thought I’d check out. After all, I’d like to know how not to get hit by cars, wouldn’t you? I thought the website had a lot of good information, but I have to admit that I got distracted from it by the Great Cycling Safety Controversy.

Apparently, not everyone can agree on how not to get hit by cars.

This is different from the controversy about whether you should wear a helmet or not when you ride. (You should, by the way. See how effectively I dealt with that controversy?)

The controversy seems to involve two schools of thought, one fostered by a man by the name of Bluejay and the other fostered by a man by the name of (appropriately enough) Foster who adds

M.S., P.E.
Cycling Transportation Engineer
Consulting Engineer,
Expert Witness & Educator in
Effective Cycling,
Bicycles, Highways & Bikeways, Traffic Laws

after his name, all of which sounds very impressive.

Mr. Bluejay (I’m sorry, that just sounds like someone out of a book by Beatrix Potter) doesn’t offer us any of his qualifications for dispensing safety information, he just dispenses the information and leaves it up to the reader to decide on its value.

So, what’s the difference?

Here is the crux of Mr. Foster’s philosophy:

Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles.

That is the guiding principle that cyclists should recognize and government and society should obey. But government does its best to prevent cyclists from recognizing this principle.

He goes on to add:

Bikeways neither make cycling much safer nor reduce the skill required. They probably do the reverse.

Government knows that bikeways don't make cycling safer, but it uses the public superstition that they do.

Well, I will admit to you that I know that a bicycle is classified as a vehicle with all of the rights and privileges and responsibilities appertaining thereunto. (If you aren’t a lawyer, how often do you get to use a phrase like appertaining thereunto?) I also have to admit that I like Bikeways (by which I am assuming the author means bike lanes). We don’t have many of them around these parts, but I like them.

Well, actually, we have one bike lane around here. It's about two miles long. Oh, and it isn't continuous. It reaches a corner and then disappears. Half a mile later, at another corner, it reappears. What you're supposed to do between those two corners, I don't know. Teleport, probably.

Mr. Bluejay’s method can be summed up like this:

Ride as if you were invisible.

It's often helpful to ride in such a way that motorists won't hit you even if they don't see you. You're not trying to BE invisible, you're trying to make it irrelevant whether cars see you or not.

In other words, wear bright colors and lights and anything else that will make you stand out, but assume that the driver of that car doesn’t see you and act accordingly.

I like this advice. I like this advice very much.

Mr. Bluejay also says that sometimes obeying the law may be hazardous to your health.

Here’s a question for you –

You are a law abiding cyclist on a two lane road. You want to turn left, but you have to wait for oncoming traffic to get out of the way. Do you:

  1. stay in the middle of the lane with your arm stuck out indicating your upcoming turn while hoping that no car is going to come up from behind you and plaster you across the pavement
  2. pull your bike off the road and wait for traffic to clear and then move across to where you want to be
  3. decide that you didn’t really need to make that left hand turn right there and maybe you’ll just keep going straight for awhile
A vehicle would certainly chose 1., right? But is it safe? You tell me.

On a group ride a couple of days ago there were about twenty of us. We came up to a stop light which changed to red on us before the entire group got across. Some riders ran the light, others hit the brakes and waited.

Everyone has different ideas, and thinking about them all is making my head hurt. I think I'll go for a ride. If I can figure what to do, that is.

See you on the road.

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