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Posted by on Feb 5, 2010 in Uncategorized | 43 comments

Mythbusters on Highway 535

camera

“Yer gonna get run over.” Says the average person (including many cyclists) in any discussion about riding in the lane on a high speed road.

In honor of our favorite jailbirds, Mighk and I decided to head out on a little myth-busting excursion yesterday. Instead of the usual cyclist-chasing-cyclist, we did some motorist-view video. I mounted a 110° lens on the seat post of Mighk’s mountain bike and a 70° lens on my Jetta’s rear view mirror.

Mighk went out ahead and I let a little bit of traffic go before me. Then I caught up and passed him. We did several passes of Highway 535 between Chase Rd. and Reams Rd. It’s a divided 4-lane highway with 12ft lanes and 8ft shoulders (sometimes with a few feet of grass incursion). The speed limit is 55mph. The 85th percentile is probably faster. In the video clip, Mighk was riding 17mph and I was approaching/passing at 55 mph. The 30 seconds between seeing him and passing him felt like an eternity. Mighk did the math for me:

55 mph minus 17 mph equals 38 mph equals 53 feet per second equals 1,600 feet at 30 seconds; that’s roughly 5 times the stopping sight distance.

Motorist behavior

windshieldclipIn all of the video, when Mighk was driving in the right lane, motorists changed lanes. Only 2 didn’t make a complete lane change — they had their right wheels on the line as they passed. Considering Mighk was riding about 5 feet into a 12ft lane, that’s still a pretty good passing distance. A few times, the platoon behind him looked pretty thick, but they all managed to change lanes. I picked the most interesting continuous segment for this video, and added in 40 seconds of shoulder-riding. The difference is pretty obvious.

Here’s the video:

The cyclist experience vs the motorist experience

The most striking thing about watching all this video is the difference in experience. Passing a cyclist is a single momentary event for a motorist. The motorist is in a sealed cockpit, can see the cyclist from a great distance, has plenty of time to change lanes, then can go on without another thought. Being passed is a continuous reality for the cyclist. The cyclist is exposed to the environment, the wind, the noise, and intimately feels the proximity of passing vehicles.

The person who travels by bike every day knows what road position works best (or as Steve calls it, the “Line of Sweetness”) and should be given the freedom to do what works. Within the “narrow lane” exception to the FTR law, a cyclist does have the freedom to choose any position within a lane less than 14ft wide (but loses that freedom when in a lane of 14ft or more).

To accuse a cyclist of being militant, selfish or rude for riding in the lane is nothing more than car-centric bias assuming the bicycle driver is of lesser status than the motor vehicle driver — especially in context of how easy it is to see and safely pass a cyclist. Sadly, the people who I’ve most often seen making such an accusation are other cyclists.

Review

Here are some stills from the camera on Mighk’s bike (the wide angle lens distorts the perspective because it’s on the left side of the bike. He was actually riding just right of center in the lane):

Average passing distance while claiming the right lane

Average passing distance while claiming the right lane

Closest pass while claiming the right lane (motorist's left wheels are on the line)

Closest pass while claiming the right lane (truck's wheels are on the line)

Average passing distance while riding in the shoulder

Average passing distance (right lane traffic) while riding in the shoulder

Closest pass while riding in the shoulder

Closest pass while riding in the shoulder

While the closest pass is way too close for me, the over-all clearance in the shoulder is tolerable. This is partly because the shoulder is so wide (4 feet wider than is typical) and the right lane is also relatively wide. But much of the shoulder along this road was covered in small pebbles. Riding in the right lane would be more comfortable for me. Use of the shoulder is optional in Florida, as it is in all but 4 states (Alaska, Maryland, New York & Hawaii have mandatory shoulder use laws).

Those of us who choose to ride in the lane vs the shoulder do not insist that others make the same choice if they are not comfortable with it. We simply provide information to allow others to make the choice based on something more than knee-jerk fear of the unknown. The only thing we insist upon, is protecting our right to ride in the part of the road where we feel safest and most comfortable.

43 Comments

  1. Nice work guys! We are lucky to have you guys with such sweet video equipment! Been there done that. I rode on state road 44 from Samsula to New Smyrna Beachand used the shoulder and got a lot of those close passes I probably would have done better in the lane since it is two lanes all the way.

  2. Interesting to see in video the same stuff I record, day after day. It’s more interesting to see it here, though. It’s great to see supportive material.

    Mighk has a bit more guts than I do, though. The shoulders seem so much more narrow and far more dangerous to me than they ever did when I was a stripe rider.

    I wondered what the camera view would have been like had the cycle been equipped with a rear facing light. I have a huge tail light, for day and night use and it’s pretty darn bright. I was straining to see if there was one on Mighk’s bike, but apparently not. I know it’s a controversial subject, and I believe such things are personal choices.

    That shoulder video segment (almost said clip) was not too bad, as the motorists appeared to give more by moving closer to the left side of the lane. That said, the very last pass was done by a pickup truck driver, pulling a trailer and not moving over much at all!

    Very nicely done!

  3. Fred:

    The shoulder on CR 535 is 8 feet wide. The passing clearances I got while on it felt fine to me, but I guess I have a rather high tolerance for that after 35 years (though of course for the past 10 years I’ve not been gutterbunnyin’).

    I rode where the average road bike rider would; two to three feet to the right of the stripe; a compromise between passing clearance and debris (though on my mountain bike I didn’t really care about debris).

    I brought my screaming neon yellow jacket, but didn’t use it; showing the worst case scenario is best for our purposes.

    Our first choice was US 441 west of Plymouth-Sorrento Road. I didn’t have the “guts” for that. Lots of traffic and big trucks.

  4. Priceless and badly needed resource and entirely consistent with my experience. One observation amongst all the “what abouts.”

    I believe Mighk would have received less passing distance had he been riding in the lane’s “line of sweetness” rather than a couple of feet to it’s right. All passes would have been full changes, however. Had there been a 12 foot shoulder, the line of sweetness is not real far right of here he rode on the shoulder. As it was, the lane position was different in the “shoulder lane” than in the “rh traffic lane.” It’s consistent with your observation about where motorists place themselves on multilane arterials.

  5. Thanks!

  6. Keri, if you saw Mighk 30 seconds before you passed him, with a closing speed of 53 ft/sec, then you saw him at a distance of 1,590 ft, roughly 1/3 of a mile! That would probably surprise a lot of people.

    But this was in the daytime, on what looks like a partially cloudy day. What about worse conditions, like at night?

    Many laws about riding a night specify a light or reflector capable of being seen from 200′, which is also the required headlight reach according to Maine statute (which I just looked up). That’s a heck of a lot shorter than 1,590′, and only about 66% of the stopping sight distance! (I’m going from the SSD table I found online at http://www.t2.unh.edu/summer05/pg8.html , which seems in line with what Mighk used.) That would give about 3.5 seconds between seeing the cyclist and passing him. What does that say about riding in the lane of a high speed road at night, and what is the experience of people who’ve done it?

    It certainly tells me you don’t want to do it at night in dark clothes and no lights, or even dark clothes and one little blinky or reflector.

    We have a bridge around here with 2 narrow lanes and no shoulder at all, posted 45 MPH but I’m sure everyone goes 50-60. I obviously take the lane (no shoulder; in fact, curb!), and haven’t had any problems, even at night. My experience is pretty similar to this video. I always wear a hi-viz jacket, though, and at least one blinky plus lots of reflective stuff at night. Still, I don’t like to do this bridge in the rain, even less on a rainy night, and not at all in a snowstorm day or night!

    • It was overcast and he was not wearing bright clothing. 30 seconds was with the curve, it was a bit longer when the road was straight. The main point, he was extremely easy to see with a LOT of time to react. Partly because he was completely visible in the lane vs blending in with the edges.

      Yes, at night one would want lights. The video shot on Curry Ford road was at similar speed differentials so it should answer your question. I had a Planet Bike Superflash on the trailer and a single-LED Planet Bike Spock light on my helmet. There’s a light on my cargo rack, too, but I think that was obscured by the trailer.

      Dusk would probably be most tricky because of the way the human eye works in that kind of in-between lighting. Hmmm… perhaps some day we could convince Dr. Magruder to write a post on that for us ;-)

  7. Challenge: What if the cyclist is only going 10 MPH? Many people say they can’t ride vehicularly because they are too slow. My number crunching says it would make hardly any difference: given the same sight distance, the passing car would cover that distance in maybe 24-25 seconds instead of 30. I would feel much weirder riding at 10 than at 17, but the numbers seem to imply it wouldn’t make much objective difference and maybe the motorists wouldn’t even notice. Maybe I would just feel guilty because I know I’m going slower than I need to.

    • In the Curry Ford video my speed was in the 10-12mph range. Traffic is probably in the 55-60mph range in the night time video, probably a bit slower in the daytime (just because they are different sections of that road, the daytime video was on a more urban/commercial section).

      If a trashcan was placed in the middle of the highway, the motorists would change lanes and avoid it.

      I felt weird riding at slower speeds for a long time. Until I got caught in a nasty headwind on a high speed road a couple times and discovered no difference. It’s all slow to a motorist, they don’t notice the difference.

    • Okay, I watched the Curry Road video and that answers this question too.

  8. Florida’s law requires a tail-light visible from at least 600 feet. That’s roughly the stopping sight distance for a 65 mph approach of a stationary cyclist. Most decent quality tail-lights today can be seen from far more than 600 feet. Many claim to be visible from as much as a mile. On a very dark rural road, a cyclist with a good tail-light is probably visible from a greater distance than one in daylight.

  9. Elaborating on JohnB’s point, an added safety margin is that the overtaking motorists have brakes that can be used if absolutely necessary. While that is rare, a cyclist using the minimum equipment will still have a small safety margin if the motorist elects to stomp on the brakes rather than execute a simple lane change.

    See the link for particulars. The distances are so short, I decided to drive my Land Rover and brake to avoid imaginary cyclists rather than passing them. The imaginary cyclists all survived, I’m happy to report. It’s an experiment the doubting Thomases can repeat for themselves, though I recommend you make sure there are no following cars before tromping on the brakes.

    After all this, the only motorist situation I fear (other than deep down emotionally) is that of a deliberate and premeditated assault. Even clueless and distracted motorists have many opportunities to avoid a cyclist riding so as to be easily registered early. On the other hand, a predictable cyclist is the easiest target for a murderer.

    Fortunately for me and the authors of this blog, people inclined to attempt vehicular homicide are extremely rare. People wanting to push their weight around are much more common, but most stop short of flagrant assault.

  10. Very very good. In my relatively few highway rides so far, I have opted for the shoulder when there was a reasonable one and took the lane when there wasn’t. Almost all the highways I would ride are only two lanes wide, forcing a little more compromise from both bike and car. I also take the lane and make a “slow” hand signal when I know that the oncoming traffic would force cars overtaking me to squeeze me nearly (or completely!) off the road.

    Your results very clearly show that taking that lane makes for greater passing distances. Well done.

  11. Oh yeah, one more thing… excellent observation on the difference in experience between the motorist and the cyclist; a forgettable blip vs. a steady, impossible to tune out stream.

  12. To make this a real world test you need to be driving head down while texting on your Blackberry, or be head down trying to retrieve a CD from the floor….I have observed this behaviour many, many times. The average driver appears to drive about 300′ in front of them, not 1000′ plus like they should be doing.

    We need to advocate no distracted driving, and increased driving training and testing.

    Aaron

  13. @2whls3spds “To make this a real world test …”
    Traffic law already addresses topic du-jour of the media sphere, “distracted driving”: USE DUE CARE.

    I also see plenty of folks driving with cell phones, texting and other distractions. Where is the direct correlation, jump in fatal crashes* matching the media hype (fear mongering)?

    Let’s not feed fear and agree there is need for more driving training, motorists and cyclists.

    * NHTSA: Statistical projection of traffic fatalities for the first three quarters of 2009 shows that an estimated 25,576 people died in motor vehicle traffic crashes. This represents a decline of about 7.9 percent as compared to the 27,771 fatalities that occurred in the first three quarters of 2008.

  14. I know that in Florida training is strictly voluntary. A quick search of the web shows that only cyclists are concerned about improved driver training.

  15. If cell phone use and texting is as big a problem as some think it is, vehicular cyclists would be experiencing a huge increase in overtaking crashes. Where is the evidence that this is so?

    On the other hand, Danc: fatalities are probably a poor measure of the impact of texting or cell phones. There has been a noticeable drop in crashes and deaths since the gas price spike and the recession — Americans are driving fewer miles.

    • Since cyclists themselves represent less than 2% of all traffic out there, and vehicular cyclists are a subset of that group, the odds of a texting/cell phone user encountering a true vehicular cyclist are pretty small.

  16. It’s important to note in the discussion of distracted driving that distracted drivers naturally tend to drift to the right. Quite a few of them last year were successful at killing cyclists on the shoulder. There is no place on the road that is safe from them.

    However, it can be argued that the one place they do put their minimal attention is in the lane directly ahead of them. If they’re going to notice a cyclist anywhere, that’s probably the best place to be.

  17. I’ll echo Keri’s opinion as well. If someone is distracted by a conversation or is texting, the glances performed are more likely to be straight ahead and far less likely to include edge-riding people on bikes.

    Car and Driver writers were involved in an independent study of cell-phone-talking drivers. One of the conclusions was that a driver distracted in such a manner tend to focus directly ahead, on a point in space approximately six to fifteen feet away. I had a personal experience to match this, albeit in an electric vehicle.

    For about 8 miles, a driver matched my speed from Ormond Beach to Daytona. I accelerate more gradually in my EV than I do in my velomobile and slow well in advance of red traffic lights. Six lane road, with plenty of gaps here and there during the eight miles, yet the driver did not pass. I suspect that the fuel economy of that particular vehicle might have gone up a few points during the trip.

    Upon reaching Rte 400, I took the straight-ahead lane and she took the right turn lane, cell phone still plastered to her ear.

    Just this week, a beach grader tractor of great size was being operated by a driver texting as he proceeded west on Main Street in Daytona. I watched him as he traveled beyond clear view and noted that he looked at the road about every five seconds, for only about a second at a time. Slow moving, yes, but massive.

    • I’ve seen that behavior a number of times, cell-phone-impaired drivers following at my speed when they could easily pass. It’s annoying when it happens on a road like University, because they obscure the other drivers’ view of me, preventing them from making an early lane change. Of course, the cyclist gets blamed for the inconvenience.

      As I noted here, I watched a texting driver drift into a bike lane that was obstructed by a trashcan (with a human being standing not far behind it). Inattentive drivers unconsciously edit out everything on the periphery.

  18. “when they could easily pass”

    Not so easily, that is why they stayed there.

    First they would have had to hang up or put the phone down, then check their mirrors and their blind spots and hope nobody zips up in the other lane that they can’t see.

    Then change lanes, pass and redial or start talking again.

    That’s a lot of work for them and YOU caused them to rudely interrupt the phone call.

  19. That was an interesting experiment. I would love to see that repeated at rush hour. I am interested to see what reaction the cyclist will get when changing lanes more problematic based on heavy traffic.

    • At rush hour, motorist may be less polite about changing lanes, there might be some honking. It’s no less safe, but sometimes more important to really control the lane so someone doesn’t do something dumb (see, Steve’s Line of Sweetness).

      Even at rush hour, traffic comes in platoons. How easily the platoon flows around a cyclist depends on the behavior of the front drivers — how far in advance they change lanes, opening the line of sight for following drivers. But the same is true when there is a Lynx bus in the right lane. In any case, having to slow down until it is safe to change lanes constitutes no more than a few seconds of delay… less than that of a red light.

      Most cyclists are afraid to ride in the lane in even the lightest traffic conditions. So, we start with shining the flashlight under that bed first.

  20. “Heavy” traffic in the Daytona area makes things easier for me. The more traffic there is, the slower it moves and I’m better able to negotiate lane changes for left turns. If it’s heavy enough, it’s slow enough to keep up with it, so it’s not a problem for anybody on the road.

    I might interpret your comment to mean something related to the tendency of other drivers to follow too closely, impeding (there’s that word again) the ability of people to change lanes in a safe manner. That sort of thing affects all road users.

  21. I still would like to see how it works at rush hour. Imagine a cyclist is “commanding the lane.” A panel van which is followed closely by an 80 year old in a crown vic, or an 18 year old texting in a street rod is doing 60 and is rapidly closing in on the cyclist.

    The panel van driver sees the cyclist, doesn’t brake, and executes a high-speed merge into the left lane in heavy traffic. Sometimes, drivers find it useful to speed up before merging left so they can hit a hole in the line of traffic.

    Let’s say this happens, and the panel van driver judges the cyclist’s 18 mph speed well enough. Now suddenly, the driver that was trailing the panel van is right behind the cyclist not having had any idea he was there. Is this driver looking, is he texting?

    Also, if this were a two-lane road in heavy traffic, I think drivers would “squeeze” through.

    As for the line of sweetness concept, I think you run the risk of an impatient driver passing the cyclist to his right, using part of the shoulder.

    • When motorists choose to pass you on the right, they will generally leave you more room than you get from left-passers.

      • If you are being passed on the right you are not commanding the lane.

        Also, I would rather get run off the road from my left than get pushed into an oncoming lane or passing lane from my right.

        Finally, one of the writers mentioned that riding on the shoulder is unpleasant due to the proximity of fast moving vehicles.

        Is it not also unpleasant to have angry motorists pass you on the right, honk, throw stuff at you, etc.?

        Maybe it is true that right passers give you more room, but how much room is needed?

        I know that predictability is a much valued goal of vehicular cyclists. If you can not even predict which side you might get passed on, I think your safety is diminished.

        Mike

  22. Mike:

    I agree that at some combination of speed and volume lane control becomes problematic due to the kind of careless driving you describe. We decided not to do this on US 441 west of Apopka after going up there and watching the traffic.

    But higher volumes usually means more is going on, and even slacker drivers are going to be paying better attention. It’s a concept known as risk homeostasis. The higher the perceived risk potential, the more careful people get.

    I have lost two friends in high-speed overtaking crashes. In both cases it was a straight, rural road with very light traffic and good seeing conditions. One was on a shoulder, the other on a roadway with no shoulder (riding with five other cyclists). When road conditions are uneventful, some drivers “check out.”

  23. @Mike wrote:
    “Finally, one of the writers mentioned that riding on the shoulder is unpleasant due to the proximity of fast moving vehicles.

    Is it not also unpleasant to have angry motorists pass you on the right, honk, throw stuff at you, etc.?”

    A shoulder is almost always dirty by the nature of motor vehicles sweeping debris to the shoulder. Uncivil motorists are an exceptions. I’m more likely to have accident riding on a shoulder with loose gravel than getting honked at. Honking is one thing which really bugs me, even more that someone passing close.

    Have you ever stopped, wrote the license number down and reported a dangerous or uncivil incident?

    @Mike wrote “I know that predictability is a much valued goal of vehicular cyclists. If you can not even predict which side you might get passed on, I think your safety is diminished.”

    I can’t think of more that once or twice a year when a motorist tries to pass on the wrong side. I did not need to predict anything, just keep awareness of flow and what for anomalies. Safety depends on everyone’s predictability.

    @Mike wrote “repeated at rush hour. I am interested to see what reaction the cyclist will get when changing lanes more problematic based on heavy traffic.”

    What does “rush hour, heavy traffic” means? Doesn’t more traffic means more congestion especially if everyone is going the same direction, same time? Then add “high speed” to the mix? Usually that means multiple lanes. Keri & Mighk video works, traffic follows an orderly pattern and everyone gets where they want.

    • I am very interested by and appreciative of Keri and Mighk’s video.

      However, it does not go nearly far enough to prove that riding in the middle of the lane is optimal under all circumstances. There was almost no traffic at all.

      What I am really interested in seeing is what happens when mv’s are not able to easily change lanes. What happens when a driver who was doing 60 suddenly has to slow to 15mph.

      If the point of this video is to get cyclists who ride on the shoulder to change behavior by showing how safe riding in the lane is, then show what riding in the lane looks like when traffic is truly heavy AND fast. It is not true that traffic always slows in relation to how heavy it is. My suspicion is that even the most strident vehicular cyclists don’t want to take that heat.

      Last weekend after watching this video, I went skiing, and drove home at near dusk. I was driving on a two lane rural route away from the ski resort and back towards the highway, about a 15 mile stretch. Traffic was heavy, a combination of pick up trucks and skiers for the most part. I was able to average about 50 mph because that is how fast everyone else was going.

      I tried to imagine what would happen if a cyclist attempted to “command the lane” by riding in the “line of sweetness.” The fact is, it would be nearly impossible to pass safely, b/c traffic was heavy both ways and there is no passing lane.

      This is the video I want to see if I am gong to be convinced. I honestly don’t think any of you have the willingness to ride the line of sweetness under such circumstances.

      Btw, Keri, if you are such a proponent of riding in the line of sweetness, why in your video did you have M ride in the right tire track?

      Mike

      • Mike, Thanks.

        I think you have misunderstood the purpose of the video. It is not to “get cyclists who ride on the shoulder to change behavior…” It is to show the ease of seeing and passing a cyclist in conditions that exist most of the time on a road like that (heavy traffic occurs for maybe 4 out of 24 hours). Sometimes riding in the lane is a more pleasant option, so we hope to help cyclists make an informed choice. It is also to make the case that the cyclists who do not ride on the shoulder (in spite of police pressure to do so) are not insane, militant or rude.

        Recently, two cyclists have been wrongly arrested in states where riding on the shoulder is not required. Whether or not I would choose the lane vs the shoulder in the same conditions they would does not stop me from supporting their right to choose the lane.

        The point of this video was not about the line of sweetness, either. This video shows a position similar to Steve’s line of sweetness. I’m a proponent of riding in the lane position that gives the best results. In my experience, that lane position varies from one road to another and in different weather and traffic conditions. Sometimes it’s the left tire track, sometimes it’s just right of center (where Mighk was riding).

        This video has absolutely nothing to do with a 2 lane highway with heavy, high-speed traffic. I would avoid such a road like the plague. I wouldn’t even begin to recommend a riding style for it. I’ll let others do that, if they so choose.

        I was very careful to word the post so that it wouldn’t be construed as rigid or telling people what to do. Just appreciate it for what it is and don’t try to pigeon-hole us into some imaginary “VC agenda.”

        • Keri, Danc and Mighk. Thanks for your comments and clarification. I will try to respond to a few things even though it is out of sequence.

          1. I am agnostic on the issue of VC and I am visiting this blog specifically to learn about that theory. Videos are an excellent teaching tool for this. As I stated, I am appreciative and interested in this video demonstration. I am open to learning about different lane positions.

          2. I don’t understand the comment about not wanting to be “pigeon-holed” based on an “imaginary VC agenda.” This blog, in my opinion, clearly has a VC bent to it. But I never accused anyone of having an agenda.

          In any case, I visit this website to understand the theory better. If it were not VC, it would not be interesting to me.

          3. Yes, my comments went beyond the scope of the stated purpose of the video. You were “busting the myth” that “‘Yer gonna get run over.’ Says the average person (including many cyclists) in any discussion about riding in the lane on a high speed road.”

          I understand by rereading your disclaimers about the video that you are not advocating any particular lane position to use at all times. Thanks for pointing that out.

          The “myth” here is based on the mistaken idea that riding in the lane is more dangerous than riding on the shoulder. The mistaken idea exists b/c is “seems” dangerous to ride in the lane, even though it may be safer. For many people, myself included, riding in the lane on a high-speed road requires a “leap of faith.” That is where your video may be useful, to encourage people to make the leap of faith, even though I know you did not say that or intend it necessarily, but that is the effect it may have.

          But If I were to focus my comments only on the video and its stated purpose, I might say something line, “Great job, Keri and Mighk. You really showed that you can ride on that highway two feet to the left of the line without getting killed.”

          Instead, though, I used the video and the discussion as a jumping off point for further consideration of lane position. My thoughts went something line, “Hmm. That seemed to really work well in this setting. I never really tried that myself. I wonder if there are other settings where it would not work.”

          My assumptions on this are that it might be more stressful and unpleasant in some other situations, like the two-lane road I described.

          4. With regards to the LoS, you wrote, “The person who travels by bike every day knows what road position works best (or as Steve calls it, the “Line of Sweetness”) and should be given the freedom to do what works. ” This sounds like you are endorsing the LoS because it “works best.” Maybe that is not what you meant. It is somewhat ambiguous.

          5. I absolutely support cyclists rights to ride in the lane if they choose to.

          6. With regards to the two-lane highway example I gave, there are MANY of those where I live in the New England. I know you are not giving advice about riding on one, but it may interest you to know that. And here, depending on where you ride, traffic conditions can be heavy and fast for much of the day. Yes, rush hour is only four hours/day, but that is also when many cyclists are also commuting. I myself would ride the two-lane highway if I had to, but I would not enjoy myself. I would absolutely ride in the shoulder though.

          Now that I covered all of that, I want to pose two questions that have nothing to do with the video and maybe should be in a different thread:

          Why, if cycling is statistically so safe, do bike advocates spend so much time talking about safety (myself included, I guess, oops)? For example, I have read that cycling is safer than walking the dog, safer than swimming, safer than sailing. But I know swimmers don’t sit around and talk about drowning all the time. So if we understand that cycling safety statistics are based on “average” cyclists including so called “gutter bunnies” that probably account for 90% of cyclists, and it is still demonstrably safer than many other “safe” things, why dwell on safety to the point that it makes people scared to ride? (Note: I am not accusing you of trying to scare people. This is just a general observation.)

          Finally, if cycling is so safe based on “gutter bunny” predominant behavior, how much safer do we need it to be? I read the average cyclist can ride millions of miles without suffering a fatality.

          Mike

          • Mike: Your last question is a very important one.

            Most of those who are currently cycling on roadways without decent bike lanes or paved shoulders are hugging the edge. They have either become comfortable enough with that position to keep riding, or have no choice but to ride. They pass on the stories of all their close passes to their friends and family, whether cyclists or not, and it makes cycling sound really scary (and it can be if you hug the edge). Fear of overtaking motor vehicles is the primary hindrance to cycling.

            What’s more, those who get started in roadway cycling follow the lead of the majority, and also hug the edge, so their initial experiences in cycling inevitably involve close passes, and many retreat to the sidewalk and trails, or don’t ride any more.

            If we start people out riding in the lane control position, they will have far fewer close passes — not to mention all the other types of conflicts, such as right hooks and left crosses. So their initial cycling experiences will be positive, and I believe they will be more likely to continue with it and expand their range of roadway types and conditions.

            Of course we are not going to start them out doing lane control on a highway like the one we featured in our video. We progress from local streets, to collectors, to arterials.

  24. We did four runs on this highway. I was probably passed by about 30 to 40 cars. Probably half of those had to change lanes. Not one honk.

    As has been noted in other posts and comments, honking at cyclists is rarely associated with real delay. I ride South St. in Orlando nearly every day during early rush hour. (10-foot lanes, 35 mph; of course I’m controlling the lane) Most of the motorists have figured out that I am commuting, so they rarely give me a hard time. This morning somebody layed on the horn for about 5 seconds while passing me. He experienced zero delay (from me anyway).

  25. Keri, Thanks I think you’ve clarified the video’’s purpose.

    YES, Mike, “it [video] does not go nearly far enough to prove that riding in the middle of the lane is optimal under all circumstances.”

    Regarding mike’s “2 lane highway with heavy, high-speed traffic”. I can only think of one segment of a road, 2 lane, two mile stretch between Interstate exit and gravel operations / major intersection. Road it once, wouldn’t recommend, there are alternatives, parallel roads or different time: after weekends or 6 PM.

    Mike wrote: “My suspicion is that even the most strident vehicular cyclists don’t want to take that heat”
    Hmm, Mighk wrote “our first choice was US 441 west of Plymouth-Sorrento Road. I didn’t have the “guts” for that. Lots of traffic and big trucks.”

    Mike’s video challenge “2 lane highway with heavy, high-speed traffic” is not common, more the infrequent situation. The video is works in > 90% of cases. Let’s review:
    Myth: widely held but false belief or idea
    Riding on multi-lane highway is too dangerous, BUSTED

    Myth: an exaggerated or idealized conception of a person or thing
    Riding middle of the lane is optimal under all circumstances or Keri/Mighk have a strident agenda: BUSTED

    Thank you Mike, Keri and Mighk.

  26. Thanks danc.

    I’m writing an essay on the potential POSITIVE use of mythology for cycling, so I’m sensitive to the use of the word “myth” in a solely negative context these days.

    I used to use it that way quite a bit myself. ;^)

  27. Great post. I learned in NYC never to cede the lane to vehicles, never to hug the curb. Vehicles *will* push you, they will not shift just enough to their left to give you a safety margin. When you’re in the middle of the lane they will move over. It’s not 100% but the majority of the vehicles treat you like another vehicle (maybe like a motorcycle?). Lots of cyclists don’t realize this.

  28. Mighk wrote:
    “I’m writing an essay on the potential POSITIVE use of mythology for cycling.”

    I am of the opinion that human beings cannot live without some form of mythology that gives meaning to their history and social structures.

    For example, the Battle of Britain was cast as a rerun of Agincourt.

    “We few, we happy few, we band of brothers…”

    Of course, the “few” who were the pilots were backed up by an immense number of people. Including thousands of codebreakers who built the world’s first computers to crack the German’s Enigma cypher.

    Or to give another example, Canada was named after Psalm 73:8.

    “His Dominion shall be from Sea to Sea, and from the River to the End of the Earth.”

    This is an excellent geographic description of Canada. From sea to sea is from Atlantic to Pacific, the River is the St. Lawrence and the end of the earth is the North Pole.

    Now, the spoilsport Bible scholars may tell us that the original meaning of “sea to sea” is from the Med to the Persian Gulf, the River is the Euphrates and the “end of the earth” is a poetic way of saying “boundless.” But Sir John A. Macdonald and the other Fathers of Confederation believed that there were no true coincidences in the providence of God. And neither do I.

    The examples go on and on. There is the Canadian self-image as an Arctic nation, although few Canadians have ever been to the Arctic. Or the British self-image as a maritime nation, although few have served on a sailing vessel. But in each case, the myth helps build self-image and identity.

  29. I think the trailer person proves taking the lane is the only way to a safely ride. Unless the shoulders are as in good condition and at least 6 feet.

  30. it’s not 535 but yesterday was a bit of a mythbuster for me. Exiting The Home Depot, I found a young man examining my velomobile. We chatted for a while and I learned he’s a bike paramedic! He has law enforcement training, and some “official” bike skill class behind him.

    Curiously, he’s a sidewalk rider, hence the quotes on official. He told me he’s seen me a lot, but I would not have seen him as a commuter, if his travels are via sidewalk. I may have made slight mental note upon seeing a helmeted rider in good cycling form on the sidewalk, but only in sadness.

    He asked if my departure was in his direction and it was, so I played bike-bus driver for a few short miles. It brought him off the sidewalk and into the traffic lane. Still a bit of a curb-hugger, though he appeared reasonably comfortable with the new location.

    I’ve passed along CommuteOrlando, hoping he’ll find tips here to his benefit. If you’re reading this, Josh, keep in touch!

    I’m happy to have made perhaps one improvement in someone’s cycling safety. One must start somewhere.

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  1. A quantum leap in L.A.’s cycling culture « BikingInLA - [...] car with a Bicycle Safe Vehicle sticker, assuming you have one, of course. Busting the myth about taking the …
  2. Road Riding | The Family Loftus - [...] two fel­las in Orlando, Florida did a lit­tle exper­i­ment, test­ing two ques­tions while rid­ing their bikes. They recorded the …