Pages Menu
RssFacebook
Categories Menu

Posted by on Jun 25, 2009 in Bicycle Culture | 29 comments

Yeah but, what did you learn from it?

BrokenBicycle

“Good judgment comes from experience.
Experience comes from bad judgment.”

Did you see the Weekly article “How I got Hit“? I’ve been meaning to get to this for 2 weeks, but I’ve been busy with work… and I was grumpy. I’m still busy and grumpy, but I can’t let this go any longer.

The quote above has been attributed to dozens of people. Whatever its origin, it is a quote that every pilot can recite.

I got my private pilot’s license in 1996. I worked at it harder than I did on my college degree, probably because it meant more to me than my college degree. More than any other education, flight school shaped my thinking about actions, reactions, judgment, consequences and personal responsibility.

One of the key things I learned in flight school is to identify the chain of events and decisions that lead to a crash. We would look at crashes and talk about how they happened and how they could have been avoided. It’s a whole lot less painful to learn from someone else’s judgment errors than your own!

The thing that is drilled into a pilot’s psyche is that the PIC (pilot in command) is responsible for EVERYTHING. You can’t pass the buck and there are no accidents. It sure would be nice if the rest of our society operated like that.

How I got Hit

I was naive. I shouldn’t have been. I’d been riding for 15 years. But I really didn’t understand the dynamics of bike lanes because I didn’t have much experience with them. What I saw was a line of backed up traffic and an inviting, reserved space just for me to pass all those stopped cars. Suckers. This, I thought, was the bicycle version of an HOV lane—my reward for driving a bicycle.

It was peak rush hour on Edgewater Drive. I sailed past the traffic. I vaguely knew to look for right turn signals. I kinda knew to look for cars turning left through gaps at intersections. But I had a whole lot more faith than was warranted… assuming others placed the same significance on that reserved bicycle space that I did.

As I approached the intersection at Harvard, there was a Lynx bus stopped in the lane. I could see the left-turn lane and it was clear. But as I passed the bus, the front end of a jeep was suddenly in my path. I had no time to react. I had not taken a bike handling class, so I didn’t know any emergency maneuvers — like the Instant Turn or Quick Stop. I hit the front right side of the car and catapulted over the hood. I landed on my forehead (crushing the front of my helmet) and scraping my chin on the pavement. I was a little stunned, but intact. The bike’s front wheel was tacoed and I’d put a sizable dent in the jeep. I ended up with a crushed finger tip (smashed between the brake lever and the jeep), a sprained wrist, road rash on my chin and a nasty bruise on my ankle.

It turned out the motorist, a nice young man, had tried to make an illegal crossing of Edgewater. The streets are off-set and he had tried to make a left into the center lane, then cross in front of traffic to make a right onto Harvard. He couldn’t see the bike lane and I couldn’t see him coming from the other side of the bus.

OPD charged him with failure to yield. The crash was legally his fault.

But what did I learn?

I was riding in a sight-line shadow. I had a vague awareness of the dangers, but I really was operating too fast to react to them. I was giving more weight to my false sense of security than to the potential risks. The ability to pass stopped traffic is a great advantage to riding a bike, but it comes with risk. It must be done with caution, not speed.

I’m not much of a queue-jumper anymore. It makes me nervous. I tend to look for routes that avoid roads with lines of stopped traffic (ahem, motorists DELAYING EACH OTHER). In the rare instances that I do pass a queue, I do it very slowly and cautiously.

The amazing thing about cycling is that it is so incredibly safe when you understand where the conflict points are. With adjustments in speed, knowing where to look and knowing where to position yourself, you can ride hundreds of thousands of crash-free miles. It’s funny how idiotic and incompetent I used to think motorists were and then how dramatically smarter they got when I changed my behavior.

I was biking on the sidewalk when…

So, back to the Weekly article. Um, what was the freakin’ point? It begins with the typical anthropomorphized vehicles and the sensational crash rankings:

All too often in Florida, bicycles and automobiles don’t get along. A National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study released in April pegged the Sunshine State as the leader in “pedacyclist” fatalities: 119 deaths, more than California (109) and New York (51).

It glosses over Mighk’s statements, then gives us the first-person crash descriptions. Lots of drama. Few details. No introspection. No takeaways. There is nothing constructive about the article. There are some clues there, though. So, Dear Readers, have a look and tell us what we might learn from these crashes.

Reality check

Cycling is not dangerous! It is, in fact, safer than driving a car. Making it seem dangerous by exaggerating a few personal crash stories with no analysis does a huge disservice to cycling and cyclists. Some people may think they achieve something by whining about how dangerous it is, but it has negative consequences. What it does is further feed the belief that we do not belong on the road. It feeds a system of injustice that devalues our lives because we’re foolish and have a death wish to do something so dangerous.

Could motorists be more aware, cautious and courteous? Of course! We have work to do in improving motorist behavior and attitudes. But in spite of a traffic culture that is way less than perfect, cycling on the road is SAFE. When Mighk analyzed bicycle crash reports from 2003 and 2004, he found that of all the crashes only 8% of the cyclists were riding on the road, with the flow of traffic and obeying the rules. What does that tell you?

CommuteOrlando’s challenge to the Weekly

Want to do something R A D I C A L? Come ride with us. Let us show you the Dance. Let us take you on a road you think is scary and show you how not to be scared. Let us show you… then tell your readers how a bicyclist finds empowerment to THRIVE on the streets of Orlando.

29 Comments

  1. “It’s funny how idiotic and incompetent I used to think motorists were and then how dramatically smarter they got when I changed my behavior.”

    This is the “EUREKA!” moment when a cyclist graduates from passively riding a bicycle to actively driving one. Motorists cease becoming adversaries, and start becoming partners. And as the quote below shows, it is also the fulcrum point for safe cycling.

    When Mighk analyzed bicycle crash reports from 2003 and 2004, he found that of all the crashes only 8% of the cyclists were riding on the road, with the flow of traffic and obeying the rules. What does that tell you?

    For whatever reasons (ignorance, fear, prejudice, superstition), we remain unwillingly to treat bicycle transportation as anything more than child’s play, enabling bad behavior rather empowering individuals.

    For too many cyclists, it’s the Peter Pan Syndrome played (no pun intended, but hey) out in the streets.

  2. On my way in to work this morning I was thinking about religion (after passing a new advertising sign for the downtown Presbyterian church). In particular about faith, and how there are two general types of it.

    The type touted by mainstream and evangelical churches is faith based on little or no evidence. We are then encouraged to act — indeed, told we MUST act — based on that faith. Sorry if I offend any religious folks out there, but I find that to be insane.

    The type of faith I like is what former head of the YMCA Sherwood Eddy described: “Faith is reason grown courageous.” It’s faith based on evidence. Because there is no absolute certainty in life, we still need some faith to help us along; to push aside in our minds that tiny bit of risk we know is out there even when we do everything right.

    Facilities-based cycling is faith based on very little evidence. The “evidence” its proponents present is mostly correlation, which does not show cause and effect. It’s proponents are acting on faith based on scant evidence.

    A new, growing faith in cycling is The Church of the Critical Mass. It says we should have faith in the power of a monthly group ride (which annoys many motorists) to make motorists be more respectful and cut cyclists some slack when they run red lights and stop signs and violate other basic rules of the road.

    “Direct experience” is touted by many religions. “I experienced the power of Thor while praying to him in the woods last night.” But direct experience also applies to faith based on evidence and reason.

    Vehicular cycling is based on both the preponderance of evidence in crash studies all over the world, and literally millions of miles of direct experience of vehicular cyclists who’ve learned first-hand how to avoid the most common cyclist and motorist mistakes by using the existing rules of traffic.

    Of course vehicular cycling does not offer the certainty of total safety. But as the evidence shows, bikeways and sidewalks offer less, and the The Church of the Critical Mass the least of all.

  3. When I returned to cycling, I re-evaluated cycling laws and sought out “best practices” to avoid injury. I quickly realized that this gross statistically safe activity could become magnitudes safer by avoiding the most common bicycle/car collisions. (Right hooks, left crosses and pull-outs account for the vast majority of them, as can be clearly seen in the linked article.) In other words, I make rare events even more rare by acting lawfully, protecting my sight lines and recognizing the hazards early, and riding in such a way that I mitigate common conflicts.

    Not as rare, are solo crashes. I crash on my bicycle about once ever 1,500 miles on average. I have been slower to learn from these.

    I have a more aggressive riding style than most. I ride at the upper end of my aerobic capacity nearly all the time. To ride at a leisurely pace takes a conscious effort. With that in mind, it comes as no surprise that over half of my solo crashes were in wet/rain conditions.

    I am careful to to use best practices, and I have no fear nor expectation that I will be involved in a bicycle/car collision because I have made the likelihood of it happening to be vanishingly small. I am not a victim. I have taken responsibility for my safety as much as I can, and it turns out that I have far more control over it than I first presumed.

    I am therefore astonished that so many of our “bicycle advocates” reject and dismiss best practices for a facilities based paradigm that exposes cyclists to far greater peril. It makes me wonder if they are really interested in their constituents safety at all.

  4. The relaxation and tranquility that go with knowing how to ride safely — and using Mighk’s brand of faith — is a great reward.

    Sad fact is that most general news media reporters don’t know how to scientific analysis. So you often get bad reporting, with all the drawbacks you enumerated.

    John Schubert
    Limeport.org

  5. ChipSeal said: “I am therefore astonished that so many of our “bicycle advocates” reject and dismiss best practices for a facilities based paradigm that exposes cyclists to far greater peril. It makes me wonder if they are really interested in their constituents safety at all.”

    That’s the problem with bike advocacy, it’s been overrun by people with other agendas—reducing motoring, obesity, air pollution, fuel use, save the world, sell bicycles, etc. Those people aim for the lowest common denominator of ignorance to get “butts on bikes.” They don’t really care that their facilities hamstring cyclists, virtually eliminating their ability to protect themselves. A cyclist on a “separated” parallel facility (like a sidewalk) has only one method of avoiding crashes — keep head on a swivel and ride slow enough to stop instantly.

    This is something most sidewalk riders don’t understand, and that’s why they make up almost half of Orlando’s bike-v-car crashes.

    It’s funny, my riding style the opposite of aggressive. I can go fast if I want to, but mostly I want to mosey. I like to keep my heart rate low. But ChipSeal and I use the same lane position techniques to protect ourselves from common crashes. The fact that he is riding above 20mph and I’m usually riding closer to 12mph makes no difference in our ability to claim the lane or the way we are treated.

  6. Commute Orlando strikes again! Great post Keri. What strikes me (yet again) is the quality and thoughtful nature of the comments as well.

    I think your call upon the paper to come ride with you is the kind of thing that is key to making any progress. Is there a columnist or writer you could approach with such an offer? If any of you have tried that before, I would be interested to know how it went!

  7. Something that has bothered me for quite some time is the low regard in which vehicular cycling proponents — most of whom have expended many, many volunteer hours getting certified, teaching and exploring better ways to reach and teach — are held by some in the bicycle transportation professional and advocacy realm.

    Few have had the nerve to say it outright, but many have implied that we don’t care about the needs of novices, children, women, the elderly.

    I can’t think of another activity in which the experienced, trained instructors are deemed to be ignorant of the needs of beginners.

    Imagine if a lifeguard and swim instructor sat in a meeting to design a new pool, and the pool designers came up with the idea of putting the high dive at the shallow end, reasoning that novice swimmers need water shallow enough to stand in. The lifeguard of course would see it as an insanely foolish design. “But we want to get more feet on diving boards!” says the diving board industry. And the pool designers play along. (And I guess helmets come next..)

    Or imagine a scuba instructor being told by novice scuba divers that his advice for how to surface after accidentally emptying the tank doesn’t make sense: “You want me to EXHALE while I surface!!?? But I’m out of air!! I just don’t buy this whole ‘air expands as pressure decreases’ baloney!”

  8. I’ve often wondered if those of us who do ride on the streets (vehicularly) are a bit of a rebel at heart — you know, the “Question authority!” kind of people. Challenging the dogma of “cyclists are not safe when riding on the road with cars” puts you at odds with almost everyone you know. That’s unconfortable territory for many who do not like paddling against mainstream thought. I think that I secretly like the fact that I’m doing something that everyone else perceives as risky, but I know isn’t …..

    RE: The folks who talked about “how I got hit” in the article are for the most part not interested in changing their behavior when riding a bike. They’d rather say “it wasn’t my fault!” instead of doing some self-examination and realizing “I could have probably prevented that from happening in the first place if I had just ….” .

    Sadly, I think that a lot of people aren’t interested in putting any effort into thinking like that. Too much work. They would rather the car be taken out of the equation (ie use infrastructure to limit car/bike interaction). That way they can mindlessly cycle and not have to pay attention — to anything.

    But the trouble is (as we all know) that when the infrastructure ends or is not present, then what happens?

  9. andrewp, I’m no rebel, or at least, I didn’t start out as one. When I first began bike commuting a short distance to work every day (about 21 years ago), I rode exclusively on the sidewalk, if there was one, until I had a couple of near collisions with pedestrians and cars pulling out of side streets. The sidewalk was very difficult to ride on, really, when I thought about it.
    When I got a different job 9 miles from home, I was at first elated that there was a sidepath for half the distance. However, after a few months, a couple of flat tires (due to debris in the middle of the path) and conflicts caused by bi-directional bike traffic on what was essentially the shoulder of a road, I decided I was safer on the road.
    I learned through experience to ride vehicularly, and only a few years later heard of “vehicular cycling.” It was an exciting discovery to know that there were others out there doing the same thing I was for the same reasons.

  10. Excellent post, Keri. A always concise and salient.

    “You can’t pass the buck and there are no accidents.”

    This statement is so apropos and too often the excuse used for a variety of avoidable incidents. As I have instructed my children for many years. One must always take responsibility for their own action or inaction. There are no accidents, only varying degrees of negligence.

    “I had not taken the Road I class, so I didn’t know any emergency maneuvers — like the Instant Turn or Quick Stop.”

    In nearly twenty years of bicycle commuting, I have only had two physical conflicts with motorists. For one, having an awareness of the Instant Turn mitigated much more serious damage to me and my bike; for the other it would have made little difference. Nevertheless, I learned from both encounters …and that is the key. Over ten years have passed since the last of those two incidents and it is to the enhanced awareness derived from them that I attribute no further crashes. This period has not been want for close calls, either.

    One always has a choice following any encounter – positive or negative. The first is to allow paranoia and fear to dictate future actions; the other is to learn from the experience and apply any lessons to bettering your own set of skills. Sadly, none of the individuals profiled in the article will recognize their own complicity in these conflicts. They will continue to believe it is all the fault of the motorist alone and perpetuate the flawed principles which led to these crashes.

  11. Keri, great article! I was actually asked to participate by someone who was interviewed but declined to do so because honestly, I suspected it was going to be one sided. That said, I personally know one of the people who were interviewed and know for a fact that they where not at fault for their accident. In this case in particular, it was entirely the drunk drivers fault and both of the people who where hit where lucky to be alive afterwards…

    Re: facilities based cycling
    They way I have always looked at it, there are plenty of bike lanes in existence all ready; they are called roads. I have no qualms taking a lane nor do I have any issues with riding on busy streets. I grew up in the DC/Baltimore area and as a result, I learned to be more “aggressive” riding in traffic. Maybe its because of this that I tend to ride the way I do when I commute (hard and fast). Honestly, I find Cady Way Trail much more dangerous than some of the busier streets around here..

    Look I’m not gonna lie, I’m no pillar of cycling safety like you folks may be. While I tend to generally follow the rules of the road, there are other times when I’m pretty much a scofflaw. I could elaborate on all kinds of rationalizations as to why this is but ultimately it up boils down to me making a conscious decision to do so. I’ve been actively commuting by bike in the Orlando area for 4 years now and in that time I’ve seen plenty of stupid crap by both cyclists and motorists. No one has a monopoly on stupidity…

    So I have to ask; do all of you always follow the rules 100% of the time when cycling? Do you stop at all stop signs, even on streets with no traffic or are you like a huge portion of society and push the envelope when you think you can? I’ve personally seen all kinds of cyclists blow through stop signs and disregard traffic rules when it’s convenient so please lets not try to pigeon hole just one type of cyclist. I’m just kind of curious to see how many truly practice what you preach…

    BTW Mighk, for someone who seems to truly dislike the CM ride, why do you continue to participate? no disrespect intended, just curious… :)

  12. tbm,

    There is a small percentage of crashes in which there is nothing a cyclist can do. One type is being hit from behind by a drunk. Another is being clobbered by a red-light runner (as Darrel Cunningham of B3 was last year). Of course, drunks and red light runners kill more motorists and pedestrians than cyclists. It’s a bad idea to hold such crash types up as an example of the plight of cyclists vs motorists.

    In answer to your question. I will only run a red light if it is clear to me that the loop detector isn’t functioning (and there’s no one behind me to come forward and trip it). I make a full wheel stop at most stop signs (and ALWAYS if there is a motorist present), I don’t come to a complete stop at some residential stop signs when there is no one around.

    I did not always ride like this. When I was younger, I was a much more selective rule-follower. I was also a shameless queue-jumper and would get mad if someone blocked my ability to do it. But as I’ve mellowed, I’ve found there is only occasionally an advantage to queue-jumping and rarely any for running red lights or stop signs. To be honest, I found it liberating to just calm down and act like any other vehicle driver. I’m also a cycling instructor and I feel a little bit of responsibility to be a law-abiding one.

    The way I look at bike lanes is, I’d rather have an 11ft one than a 4ft one … It doesn’t need to be exclusive, I’m OK with letting the motorists use it when I’m not there :-)

  13. >It’s a bad idea to hold such crash types up as an example of the plight of cyclists vs motorists.

    Agreed but it seemed like you guys where starting to make assumptions of guilt regarding some of the stories. I just wanted to make sure you understood Jenny & Rachael’s accident was no fault of her own. They are both lucky to be alive after that encounter…

    >I’ve found there is only occasionally an advantage to queue-jumping and rarely any for running red lights or stop signs.

    I know of one major advantage to running stop signs and it deals with power transfer. It takes less energy to slow down, look both ways and roll through the intersection (if clear) than stopping completely. It’s referred to as an Idaho Stop and statistics show it to be more beneficial for cyclists than stopping outright. I follow a similar process when I approach an intersection and I rarely ever have to stop completely…

    Maybe some day I’ll slow my roll. doubtful though… :)

  14. I was actually making the assumption that the motorists were legally at fault in all the crashes in the article. In about half of bike v car crashes the motorist is technically at fault. But in most of those cases the crash would not have happened if the cyclist was riding according to the techniques we teach. That’s why I used my own crash as an example. It’s a crash-type that won’t happen to me again, because I don’t put myself in that position anymore.

    I don’t worry much about power transfer. I don’t ride very fast to begin with, so the added exertion of starting up again isn’t all that significant to me. I think motorists could make the same argument, it’s not their own personal energy, but it takes more fuel and produces more emissions to stop and start. It’s certainly more expensive than the fat I’m burning to do it, and it has a greater impact on the environment. I guess everyone can come up with a selfish reason not to follow the rules, it comes down to whether or not you think the rules have value in making the system work. If so, then following them is the price for participating in a functioning system.

    I’d prefer to see gratuitous stop signs eliminated and replaced with yield signs, for everyone. So we’re still on an equal playing field.

    I don’t believe it’s possible to decouple same rights from same rules.

  15. I’m either incredibly stupid or incredibly brilliant because I have no bicycle/car crashes to relate.

    I have fallen of my bike, but when I was eight years-old, I was enrolled in Judo classes where I learned how to fall. First thing I was taught was to keep alert since falls can happen at any time. Second thing I learned was how to roll properly to avoid injury and the third thing was how to jump up and land on my feet when things happened around me.

    Three weeks ago, my bike took a spill at a very odd intersection where my front wheel got caught in the railroad tracks. Bike took a spill, but I jumped and landed on my feet. The cars patiently waited while I picked my bike up and rode off.

    Guess that’s not scary enough to make the paper, huh?

  16. tbm asked:

    “Mighk, for someone who seems to truly dislike the CM ride, why do you continue to participate? no disrespect intended, just curious…”

    I don’t dislike the ride. I just have a problem with the foolish belief that it will do things it simply cannot do.

    Like Keri, I believe it celebrates cycling, creates community, and to some extent re-frames the way people perceive our streets.

    I see many of the same folks who ride CM riding solo or in small groups around town, and more often than not I see them commit flagrant violations. How CM is suppose to compensate for that is beyond me.

    No, I don’t see the world in black and white. I do not ride to the letter of the law at every moment. Neither do most motorists, most of whom are routinely violating the posted speed. But I DO adhere to the PRINCIPLES which create safe and orderly traffic. Traffic signals? Yes, unless the loop detector doesn’t pick up bikes (which one can legitimately deem to be non-functioning for cycling purposes). Or perhaps at 1:AM when there’s not another vehicle to be seen.

    Stop signs? I always YIELD as required at stop signs. (Yielding without stopping prevents crashes; stopping without yielding does not; so it’s the yielding that’s most important.) If other traffic is approaching I STOP. (The U.S. uses far too many stop signs. Most cities routinely violate the principles of the engineers’ traffic control “bible,” the MUTCD, which says one should use the least restrictive form of control that will provide safe operation. In most circumstances that is a Yield sign, not a stop sign. But stop signs have become politicized; every neighborhood wants them and the commissioners insist they get installed.)

    On my own street I routinely see fixie riders pass traffic stopped for a signal (which sometimes includes me on my bike) and blast through the red light at the first gap. There’s no better way I can see to diminish the image of bicyclists in the minds of motorists.

  17. I’m lucky, Keri waves helped me avoid my first “accident” yesterday (reference website link).

    Repeating Lamaze instructions also helps – you know, “take a cleansing breath.”

  18. Great article. Quoting Dwight Kingsbury, ‘there are no accidents, only crashes’, and like my father told me when he was teaching me to drive defensively, ‘it doesn’t matter if you’re right if you’re dead’. I especially liked the analogy to being a pilot and learning from others’ bad experiences. More often than not, even if the driver is technically at fault, a crash with a car can usually be avoided.

    Most car on car crashes can be avoided as well and a HUGE part of the problem in the US is our very lackadaisical view of driving in general. Be it by car or by bike. Getting a DL in many european countries is a very laborious and expensive process. There’s also a lot more attention paid to other drivers, peds and cyclists. 40,000+ people die every year on our roads, yet we don’t really see much need to do anything about it in terms of improving our driving skills, just improving ‘safety’, by having wider roads, wider turning radii, wider medians, and blowing out our transportation corridors. When you view car crashes as ‘accidents’ it removes the personal responsibility of the folks involved.

    Transportation engineers and planners talk a good game about increasing densities and improving urban design but if one ever looks at the TIP (transportation improvement plan) you’ll see roadway after roadway being blown out to six lanes or added right turn lanes, or even worse a grade separated flyover at the intersection of two major arterials (think 436 and 50) all in the name of ‘added capacity’ or ‘congestion management’. Talk about expensive infrastructure to segregate users. Bicycle infrastructure pales in comparison.

  19. Laura’s point about Europe is important. We had a Dutch fellow on our BPAC some years back. He said he failed his driving test the first time, and that that was a common experience.

    Not to excuse it, but I think the real reason motor vehicle operator licenses are so easy to get in the U.S. is that cars and trucks have always been much more important to rural folks than city folks. When licensing laws were first instituted we still had a very high proportion of our population living in rural areas, and rural literacy rates were low. Europe was heavily urbanized before the auto.

    When I moved to Florida (which was very rural until the 1960s) from Ohio in 1979 I was stunned at the license exam. Being 19 the comprehensive Ohio licensing program and test was still fresh in my mind. The Florida test was virtually all pictures of signs and simple multiple choice answers. I had an urge to go up to the desk to tell them they could give me the regular test instead of the remedial version.

  20. Mighk: As a native Floridian, I can vouch for you in how dumbed down our license exam was … I can remember taking the test, and and having to identify which road sign was a stop sign. The stop sign was lightly grayed in and you could read the word “STOP” if you looked closely enough!!!!

    TBM: Follow the rules? Yes, pretty much all the time. Since I commute to/from work at fixed times, I notice the same people in the same cars driving past me at just about the same time and place. For instance, there’s this guy in a black SmartCar I see almost every day, right at the corner of South Orange and Livingston when I am coming into work. We wave to each other, just because …… the point is, I want those same drivers who see me on my commute every day to at least have one positive image of a cyclist who they see stops at red lights, signals for turns, and is aware of what is going around him in traffic and is obeying traffic rules.

  21. Laura said:

    “When you view car crashes as ‘accidents’ it removes the personal responsibility of the folks involved.”

    Say it loud, say it often.

    Everything in our culture, right down the language we use, encourages victim-hood over personal responsibility.

    That’s why I object to anthropomorphized vehicles. It makes my hair stand up on end when someone says “car” when they’re talking about the actions of the driver.

    That may seem like semantic nitpicking to some people, but it’s not. It’s part of the insidious obscuring of the individual’s responsibility for consequences. Just as Andrew says we have to stop referring to roads as unsafe, we have to stop referring to crashes as accidents and drivers as the inanimate objects they control.

  22. I just recently started cycling and going on the big road does make me nervous. This post definitely has given me some perspective however, rather than scare me. Thank you!

  23. Interesting comments! I’m actually impressed with the honesty some of you have shown regarding your positions.

    Mighk answered:
    >I don’t dislike the ride. I just have a problem with the foolish belief that it will do things it simply cannot do. Like Keri, I believe it celebrates cycling, creates community, and to some extent re-frames the way people perceive our streets.

    Interesting as it tends to echo my own sentiments. I personally don’t believe that CM has that much of an impact on motorists perceptions (it actually feels at times that it actually does the opposite, create hostility) but I show up regularly because of the community aspect. There are some within the group that truly believe in the ride but there are others like myself that just enjoy getting together for the ride and hold no “delusions of grandeur” regarding the shifting of motorists paradigms…

    BTW, CM is not “run” by a select few. Everyone is encouraged to voice their opinions about route, best practices, etc etc.

    >I guess everyone can come up with a selfish reason not to follow the rules, it comes down to whether or not you think the rules have value in making the system work.

    Interesting point. Sure I guess you could say I’m being selfish because I choose to disregard certain “rules”. But maybe it also stems from me personally thinking some of these rules are not meant for me to begin with. Some of these rules I adhere to because they are common sense but there are others I choose to disregard because I find them pointless. I see no reason why I should lead by example and be some kind of role model because that’s not what I’m here to do. With this in mind a lot of the same motivations that drive you and some of the others on here really don’t come in to play with me. I don’t commute by bicycle because I’m trying to influence others or make some sort of political / social statement, I ride because I love to. I choose this mode of transport for both the pragmatic and aesthetic reasons I love about the bicycle. I’ve never claimed to advocate my manner of riding as the correct and only way, its just something that works for me and I consciously choose to do. The difference between me and others is that I always take responsibility for my actions….

    I admire your drive to lead by example, I really do. I just don’t share that same drive and instead choose to practice something that works for me…

  24. “I’m actually impressed with the honesty some of you have shown regarding your positions.”

    You didn’t mention my position. Maybe since I haven’t had a car crash in over 40 years of cycling, I don’t count?

    I have always followed the laws as I understood them to be. That meant I was a “gutter bunny” for many years. And in the last two or so years, when I ride a bit further out, I haven’t been ploughed over by the “crazy” drivers.

    In fact, I think that all this danger stuff is much to be made about nothing.

    How many years do I have to ride without a wreck before I make it into the newspaper?

  25. I think selfishness is a big key here as well as personal responsibility, or the lack therof. Much of my behavior is motivated by my own selfish motives. I can lie to myself and say that I am doing it for a “honorable” reason, but I find there is usually a selfish underlying motive.

    As far as cycling behavior, I am still a newbie having been commuting for just over a year now. My crash and 2 near crashes were solo affairs and I learned from them. Each one had a different cause. My only near crash with a car involved my being on a side walk when I had first started and before I read the Gospel of Commute Orlando. The car didn’t see me and I almost went over the handlebars to avoid him.

    I do feel that I should lead by example. If I am going down Merrit Park Road which is a long downhill with 3 stop signs it is hard to lose momentum, but the driver headed the other way or the one behind me looks at me run the stop sign and says, “That’s just what I see all the time, those cyclists think they are above the law!” Not to mention how narrow that street is with limited sight distance. Most of the time it is a slow rolling stop, but I do have downshift severely. I just feel like I can be an advocate in this small way.

  26. tbm said:

    “I don’t commute by bicycle because I’m trying to influence others or make some sort of political / social statement…”

    Neither do I. I ride because I enjoy it.

    I teach because I want to empower others to enjoy it without struggle and conflict. When people take up riding without any influence other than our damaged culture, they ride in ways that make their lives difficult and frustrating.

    I’m an advocate because I want to change that culture. And because I want to save cycling from the “bike advocates” who manipulate fear and superstition because they view cycling as a means to an end and don’t really care about cyclists.

  27. “If I am going down Merrit Park Road which is a long downhill with 3 stop signs it is hard to lose momentum,”

    So you blow through those stop signs without slowing down? Man that is lame. Since it is downhill, it is easier to get started again.

    “but I do have downshift severely”

    Wow. So much effort expended. And with indexed shifting, I don’t see any problem with downshifting “severely.”

    I’m waiting for a crash to happen at the Cady Way Trail/Baldwin Park St. intersection. The other day I saw a guy ignore the stop sign and blast right through it at full steam without even turning his head. Drivers slamming on brakes was the only thing that kept a crash from happening and the motorists don’t get much of a sight line there.

  28. Eric said:
    >You didn’t mention my position. Maybe since I haven’t had a car crash in over 40 years of cycling, I don’t count?

    No, I didn’t mention your position because I found nothing interesting to comment on…

    Rick said:
    >I think selfishness is a big key here as well as personal responsibility, or the lack therof. Much of my behavior is motivated by my own selfish motives. I can lie to myself and say that I am doing it for a “honorable” reason, but I find there is usually a selfish underlying motive.

    We are all creatures of instinct. Being driven by self interest, which in turn is tied in to the very primal behavior of self preservation, is not such a bad thing in my book. Self interest is what guides us all in our decision making process as we live our lives (whether we are honest about it or not). Think about it, altruistic people get a sense of satisfaction from giving to their community. Is this not a form of self interest? Many of you have pointed out that you feel the need to lead by example; how much does self interest play in to this decision? Not trying to wax and wane all philosophical but I just don’t look at self interest as being such a bad thing. It’s once that self interest infringes on others rights to exist does it now become problematic…

    Simply put, if my actions cause someone harm, I “man” up and do the responsible thing. How is this now a lack of personal responsibility?

    Rick said
    >If I am going down Merrit Park Road which is a long downhill with 3 stop signs…

    Man I love that street, it’s definitely one of my favorite roads in this area. Reminds me of some of the scenery back north for some reason. This will probably get a lot of you bent out of shape but I blast down that hill quite a bit when I cut through that area on my way in to Winter Park. Its not a heavily traveled road so it makes for a great route in to Winter Park via Mead Gardens. Rick, if you want to add a bit of technical riding to it, make a left on to Rowena off Merrit Park then follow it down to Lakeside Dr. Less stop signs, a nice big curve and its all down hill. Lots of fun! :)

    Keri said
    >Neither do I. I ride because I enjoy it.

    I think you (and many others) took this out comment out of context. It was not an attack on your rationale for doing what you do but rather mentioned as a way to provide a frame of reference as to why I ride. All to often I hear lofty ideals put forth regarding the rationale people ride bikes these days. Some claim it as a badge of their status in the socio economic spectrum while others will claim to do so for some political motive. I was just pointing out that none of this plays in to my reasoning for riding a bike. Again, self interest…

    Eric said:
    >I’m waiting for a crash to happen at the Cady Way Trail/Baldwin Park St. intersection. The other day I saw a guy ignore the stop sign and blast right through it at full steam without even turning his head. Drivers slamming on brakes was the only thing that kept a crash from happening and the motorists don’t get much of a sight line there.

    This intersection is just terribly designed. Not only do motorists not have a clear line of sight but neither do cyclists. This is the one intersection that usually forces me to stop (or come close to stopping) because of how dangerous it is…

  29. tbm said:
    Rick, if you want to add a bit of technical riding to it, make a left on to Rowena off Merrit Park then follow it down to Lakeside Dr. Less stop signs, a nice big curve and its all down hill.

    Ha! I was gonna suggest the same thing. It’s fewer stop signs, but mainly I love that corner. I tend to ride slow unless there’s a hard right turn where I can totally rip the corner. A momentary thrill, then I go back to moseying. :-)

    Rick, I can’t remember if you had slicks or knobbies on that mountain bike. If it’s knobbies, don’t try hammering corners.