I Am Not a Bicyclist

“It’s what you learn after you know it all that counts.”

—UCLA basketball coach John Wooden

I’ve spent the past two decades trying to figure out how make bicycling work better for people. Perhaps instead I should have been trying to figure out how to make our communities work better. As John Wooden implied, when it comes to cycling, I’m a know-it-all, but when it comes to what really counts…

I’ve found I have to refute a number of things I used to believe, or at least wanted to be true. That’s a fancy way of saying I was wrong.

This year the “bike lane wars” have really heated up. The war stories keep coming through my web feeds. New York City is the front line. Florida’s legislature felt the need to control cyclists by passing a mandatory bike lane use law last year. Why so much rancor about something that’s supposed to be so wonderful and benign?

The book “Community: The Structure of Belonging” by Peter Block is helping me get to the root of the problem. Block’s book explores the all-too-common dysfunctions of our communities, showing why, in spite of immense affluence and ubiquitous communication options, we are unable to solve so many of our pressing problems. Reading it I came upon passages which could have been written explicitly for the “bicycling community.” But we shouldn’t feel too special; our problems are practically universal. Here are (for our purposes) the key statements from the most important passage in the book (underlines are mine):

“If we create a context of fear, fault, and retribution, then we will focus on protecting ourselves, which plants the seed of entitlement.

“The retributive context … is based on fear, fault finding, fragmentation … it is more about being right than working something out, more about gerrymandering for our own interests than giving voice to those on the margin. Other than that it is fine.

”The cost of entitlement is that it is an escape from accountability and soft on commitment. It gets in the way of authentic citizenship.

“What is interesting is that the existing public conversation claims to be tough on accountability, but the language of accountability that occurs in a retributive context is code for “control.” High-control systems are unbearably soft on accountability. They keep screaming for tighter controls, new laws, and bigger systems, but in the scream, they expose their weakness.”

We fixate on who is at fault, rather than on how conflicts and injuries might be best reduced.

Fear is the foundation of much of what bicycling advocates are concerned. “We’ve got to make bicycling safer!” (Or at least seem safer.) Since “safe” is an inherently relative term, it’s the grounds for endless argument. We’ve managed to get people so afraid of bicycling that recently a “bicycle planning professional” on the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals email list was asking about how one might create a designated pedestrian and bicyclist space, segregated from motor traffic, in an alley.

We fixate on who is at fault, rather than on how conflicts and injuries might be best reduced. Once again, this leads to endless argument and finger-pointing. Nobody wants to be seen as being at fault, so each focuses on the faults of the others. Since everyone else is at fault, we become the victims. And since we’re “doing god’s work” (being so green and healthy and all), we must be entitled to special treatment by everybody else: motorists, officers, planners, engineers…. We hold them all accountable for our safety and comfort.

How do we hold them accountable? By enlisting government to control them.

99.999% of motorists do not want to hit us or hurt us. But we try to control them anyway, through laws and engineering; the 3-foot passing law, a vulnerable user law, and bike lanes which say “This is our turf, you’d best keep out of it.” To which some motorists reply, perhaps righteously offended, “That’s your playpen. I paid for it and you’d best stay in it for your own good.” So in retribution they try to control cyclists with a mandatory bike lane law. None of these attempts come close to achieving their intent, because they focus on blame instead of on how crashes actually happen.

Controlling with Paint?

Through my own use of bike lanes and observations of the behaviors of motorists and other cyclists, I’ve come to believe they create unnecessary hazards and conflicts on urban streets.

It’s time for some serious and honest research into the effectiveness of bike lanes.

For many years I tried to find the evidence that bike lanes increase cycling without compromising safety. That was my belief, but I’ve yet to find definitive data supporting it. Now I’m finding the validity of that hypothesis to be increasingly unlikely. While they do produce some modest increases, through my own use of bike lanes and observations of the behaviors of motorists and other cyclists, I’ve come to believe they create unnecessary hazards and conflicts on urban streets. They’re particularly problematic on lower-speed streets where bicyclists are often going as fast or faster than the motorists. The reports involving crashes due to conflicts created by the bike lanes are starting to come in. From my informed perspective, the negatives of bike lanes now outweigh the modest benefits.

And now we’re expected to always use them “for our own good.” Look at how New York City’s Mayor Bloomberg responded to the viral bike lane ticket protest video:

“Generally speaking bicyclists are going to stay in bicycle lanes because of public pressure, the same way that smokers aren’t going to smoke in this park; we’re not going to give out tickets, it’s public pressure — the same way you pay your taxes. Most people in America, unlike other places in the world, pay their taxes, and that lets us go after the handful that don’t.“

Block’s pattern of community dysfunction predicts it all. Everybody else is wrong, except us.

There you have it; the retribution cycle in action. Fearful cyclists push to get the government to control the “at-fault” motorists by creating bike lanes. Motorists, who see cyclists as unpredictable fools, show their disdain for that control (and loss of operating space) by parking in bike lanes. Bicyclists have to leave the bike lanes for valid reasons, then get ticketed by police who side with the motorists. One cyclist gets retribution by creating a very successful video, and the rest of the cycling community piles on. So the Mayor gets defensive and equates uppity cyclists with smokers and tax cheats. Block’s pattern of community dysfunction predicts it all. Everybody else is wrong, except us. Where will it end?

We try to control traffic engineers with “bike-friendly” policies, and take them to court when they don’t adhere to them, such as in the A1A case.

Of course the 3-foot passing law is not enforced, because officers don’t respect us (hmmm, why is that?). The mandatory bike lane law is enforced (at least socially). And increasingly across the country advocates and planners are saying bike lanes aren’t enough, because they don’t control motorists enough; so barrier-separated bike lanes — “cycle tracks” — must be the answer.

Block again:

“The concern about street safety and increasing the comfort and quality of the urban experience is of course legitimate. What limits us and undermines our quest for authentic community is the belief that fault finding, legislation, and enforcement can give us the security we seek. … We think more watching improves performance. All evidence is to the contrary, for most high-performing communities and organizations are heavily self-regulating.”

Who is Accountable?

And where is the accountability from the bicyclists? It’s rather hard to find. See them knocking down our doors to take safe cycling courses? Nope. Indeed, the most socially visible bicyclists are hardly accountable at all: Critical Mass riders, pack riders, hipster/fixie riders. Responsible cyclist behavior is so rare that I’ve heard stories of motorists going out of their way to thank cyclists for acting predictably. (Full disclosure: I used to ride with packs, and I’ve attended a handful of Critical Mass rides. Past tense. But I’ve never been hip or ridden a fixed gear.)

It’s their lane; we’ll let you share it for now.

All these attempts at control, whether of motorists, bicyclists, planners or engineers, as they get increasingly specific in their intent, are also increasingly subject to challenge by the ones being controlled, because each party finds valid reasons to question the control. This only leads to more conflict, ultimately ending up in our courts. The only solution to this downward spiral is accountability, and accountability must start with me, not you. Us, not them. So that’s why I say, “I was wrong.”

Accountability must lead to commitment. In order for cyclists to be released of the control being imposed on us by others (mostly by the State), we must make the commitment, without condition, to change our ways so control is no longer necessary. That doesn’t mean we do what others want (because what others want of us is based on retribution, not fairness or reason), it means we do what’s best for all involved, including ourselves.

For many years I’ve argued that it’s unfair to expect bicyclists to “police our own,” since pedestrians, motorists and motorcyclists don’t. Now I believe it is our responsibility. Maybe not to “police” our fellow cyclists, but we must figure out how to influence and encourage them to strive to reach a higher standard. Not just to be conspicuous, predictable and the most polite of roadway users, but to work for the safety of all road users as well.

Capacities, Not Deficiencies

“The real cycle you’re working on is a cycle called yourself. The machine that appears to be “out there” and the person that appears to be “in here” are not two separate things. They grow toward Quality or fall away from Quality together.”

—Robert Pirsig, Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance

While there may be a few exceptions, it is possible for any reasonably competent person to bike safely on virtually any road. We know it’s possible because people are doing it. These people are not super-fit or fearless daredevils. They are individuals who have simply learned how to drive their bicycles in a predictable, defensive and strategic manner. If they can do it, most any adult can. Not only does such cycling eliminate the vast majority of hazards and conflicts with motorists, it is also appreciated by many, if not most motorists. Motorists know what to expect of such cyclists.

What should we call such cyclists? I suggest we avoid “vehicular cycling;” while it’s objectively correct, it’s loaded with too much political baggage amongst cycling advocates. Florida Bicycle Association calls its traffic cycling course CyclingSavvy, but a more generic term is probably needed. While it’s essentially defensive driving for bicyclists, the term “defensive” can have a negative connotation. What motorists need from us is to be polite and dependable. So I am proposing we use the term “dependable cycling.” Keri Caffrey likes to tell the story of how she used to have to deal with so many stupid motorists, but after she learned to ride properly, all-of-a-sudden those drivers got so much smarter. By being polite, defensive and dependable, we encourage motorists to be polite and dependable as well.

I’ve made my commitment to make cycling better by first and foremost being a better cyclist. I hope you will do the same. No matter how long you have been cycling, you will learn valuable lessons from FBA’s CyclingSavvy course. The course is all about being accountable and committed, not about avoiding becoming a victim.

“Typically I ride my road bikes between 9,000 and 12,000 miles each year and I ride them anywhere I want to go in daylight or darkness. I enrolled in the three-part Cycling Savvy course. I learned fundamentals I don’t remember thinking about . . . no wonder I wasn’t very helpful to beginners. Convictions that I held resolutely were challenged and shown to be indefensible. This course is wonderful for timid cyclists and a must for those of us who know it all.”

—Larry Gies, Orlando

“I don’t think there are too many people in the world who have more experience with different kinds of cycling (recreational, commuting, touring and racing) in different parts of the world (five continents) than I have. …When CyclingSavvy came to the midwest in April and June 2011, I took both the Three-Part Course and the Instructors’ Course in St. Louis. I believe that I learned more in these few months about cycling safely and comfortably in traffic than I had learned from my previous 50 or so years of cycling.”

—Gary Cziko, new CyclingSavvy Instructor in Champaign-Urbana, IL

No bicycle facility, traffic law, t-shirt message, YouTube video, or protest ride can come close to the effectiveness of being a dependable cyclist.

Please don’t take these quotes as chest-thumping. Keri and I didn’t approach the development of this course with the thought of “We have all this game-changing information to share with cyclists.” Instead, we were focused on simply getting more people comfortable cycling in traffic by changing their beliefs and doing a better job of explaining key concepts. In the process we learned a ton of new things ourselves. It’s said one learns more by teaching than by being a student. I think one can expand that to: one learns more by developing a new curriculum than by teaching. And the most important thing we learned was that when we communicate politely and clearly, drive assertively, and act dependably, motorists treat us with respect. No bicycle facility, traffic law, t-shirt message, YouTube video, or protest ride can come close to the effectiveness of being a dependable cyclist.

Who Are You and What Can You Contribute?

This piece is entitled “I Am Not a Bicyclist.” Yes, I did that to grab your attention. Of course I am a bicyclist. I am also a husband, a reader, a gardener, and a number of other things; and somewhere near the top of that list is a Citizen. I used to believe the fact that we identified ourselves as cyclists was an advantage. It enabled us to come together to develop strategies and implement them to improve our standing in our communities. But by identifying ourselves as cyclists we also set ourselves apart. Since the beginning of the 20th Century, notable social psychologists have promoted the realistic conflict theory, which holds that groups which are segregated from one another — even ones that share core values and common backgrounds — inevitably develop prejudices and discrimination. The Robbers Cave Park experiment is a classic example. Capulets and Montagues. Motorists and bicyclists.

Let’s be citizens first, and cyclists somewhere down the list. Let’s be individuals who take accountability for the future, rather than entitled consumers waiting for the government to give us “our own space.”

“Bicycling community” is an oxymoron, a dysfunction, as is any “(insert interest group) community.” It’s an idea we should leave behind. Community is about integration and sharing. In functional communities people help one another do the “right” things far more often than they punish those who do the “wrong” things.

Let’s be citizens first, and cyclists somewhere down the list. Let’s be individuals who take accountability for the future, rather than entitled consumers waiting for the government to give us “our own space.” Once again, Block says it best:

“A citizen is one who produces the future, someone who does not wait, beg, or dream for the future. The antithesis of being a citizen is the choice to be a consumer or a client … Consumers give power away. They believe that their own needs can be best satisfied by the actions of others. Consumers also allow others to define their needs. If leaders and service providers are guilty of labeling or projecting onto others the “needs” to justify their own style of leadership or service they provide, consumers collude with them by accepting others’ definition of their needs. This provider-consumer transaction is the breeding ground for entitlement, and it is unfriendly to our definition of citizenship and the power inherent in that definition.”

Competence, politeness, and dependability foster civility and mutual respect.

The rationale for segregation is deficiency. The rationale for control is deficiency. We call for the segregation of bicyclists and motorists because both are presumed deficient and unwilling or unable to avoid colliding with one another. We call for our governments to control motorists and cyclists with increasingly prescriptive laws and enforcement for the same reason. If deficiency is the expectation we set and the story we tell, then that’s where we’ll go. While the deficiencies are real, so are our capacities for competence, politeness, and dependability. Which story shall we tell?

“What do you want from me — my deficiencies or my capacities?”

— Peter Block


192 replies
  1. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    Wow! An incredible article. While reading it, I was thinking that not only is Mighk a well-educated safe-cycling advocate, but he’s able to so-clearly put into words a succinct summary of a much larger picture. This has to be the best article I’ve ever seen.

    Now it needs to go to every newspaper in the country! (wake up, fred, that’s just dreamin’)

  2. Robin Frisella
    Robin Frisella says:

    Mighk, I loved this. Like Tim, I will definitely read it a few more times; like a great book, I’m sure more gems will pop out at me every time! Thanks for the thoughtful and wise post!

  3. Janice in Ga
    Janice in Ga says:

    I think you make a lot of sense here. I’ve worried that bike lanes are likely to lead to cyclists being segregated there, like your mandatory bike lane use in FL. And an us-vs-them mentality never really helped anyone.

    • Eric
      Eric says:

      Mandatory lane use laws are coming. It’s just a matter of time. The more lanes, the faster the law will come. I’m rather surprised they haven’t come to Georgia yet. The “Bicycle Advocates” welcome them.

      • Janice in Ga
        Janice in Ga says:

        I am heartily sorry to hear that. For good or ill, there are very few bike lanes where I usually ride. There are a couple of MUPs, though.

  4. leo
    leo says:

    Thank you. I’m going to repost this to people in my club.
    I’ve never liked or agreed with the BIKES VS CARS mentality that the newspapers scream with most bike stories. I’m not VS anyone.I just want to ride my bike.

  5. JohnB
    JohnB says:

    Nice article.

    Regarding what we call our style of cycling, I also like “integrated cycling”, which is objectively correct in the same way as “vehicular cycling”, and reinforces the opposite of “segregated”. Or perhaps “predictable cycling”, utilizing one of the two major outcomes we aim for (along with “visible”).

    • MikeOnBike
      MikeOnBike says:

      I was thinking of “predictable” but I’ve noticed that a lot of negative behaviors are quite predictable.

      “Dependable” is an interesting word choice because it means we have positive interactions with other people.

  6. Mary
    Mary says:

    I have always felt that bicyclist education is the best way. If you want to be treated as a vehicle, act like one. Follow the rules and laws of the road.

  7. Robo
    Robo says:

    Should be a TED talk. If we had true community gov. would have no use or place.
    Mighk—a little guidebook for middle and HS students would be great from you.
    The last 30 days for me has been working with k-8 kids and traffic.
    Fear and confusion is where it starts—kids want to be empowered and do good work.
    We fail, then we brainwash to look like we did not fail.

    • Mighk
      Mighk says:

      Just like adults, kids need to have the support of at least a handful of peers to break free of the cultural taboo against dependable roadway cycling. Your TEDTalk reference reminds me of Majora Carter’s talk, and the commitment by her Bronx youth to clean up their waterfront and start making their place livable. And how she mildly chastised Al Gore by saying “I wasn’t asking for money; I was making you an offer.”

  8. Eli Damon
    Eli Damon says:

    Great article, Mighk! A few things, though. I think that your use of the word “hipster” weakens your message of cooperation a little, since it is a derogatory term and could alienate some readers. Concerning accountability, I would emphasize that is important for us to hold people accountable for misdeeds. When it comes to severe violations, we can’t rely on just talking it out and coming to an understanding. As you pointed out, accountability is often confused with control and marking of territory. I am talking about genuine accountability. Also, it should be made clear that cyclists should hold themselves accountable for their behavior so as to set a good example, not as a bargaining tactic in a cyclists-versus-motorists negotiation, which as you point out, is a highly counterproductive way of viewing the problem.

    • Mighk Wilson
      Mighk Wilson says:

      Thanks Eli. I did think about the “hipster” term. We ALL need a hard look in the mirror; I was just trying to identify the most visible examples.

      Absolutely, when someone does something dangerous and/or anti-social, I’m not about to let it slide. And that goes for when I’m walking or behind the wheel of car just as well. But I’m also not going to imply all motorists are irresponsible by supporting some tougher new law.

  9. Rob
    Rob says:

    I’m reminded of the response of the poet Auden. In his later life he was asked if he thought any of the anti-war poems he had written had influenced any wars or saved any lives. Honest man that he was, he thought for a while and then answered (paraphrase). I believe that it is unlikely, as those who cause war do not read poetry.

      • JohnB
        JohnB says:

        I have a quote attributed to Gandhi on my computer monitor: “Whatever you do will be insignificant, but it is very important that you do it.” I don’t think of it as depressing, but instead it reminds me that I do what I do because it is the right thing to try to be true to one’s convictions, not because I’m out to become a savior of anything.

        My late father-in-law was a police detective, and WWII veteran, who also read poetry.

  10. Brian
    Brian says:

    Mighk, as always I largely agree with your premise, but (at least partially) disagree with your conclusion.

    You’re completely right that fear, retribution, and territorialism make it difficult to focus on “how conflicts and injuries might be best reduced.” I disagree though, that bike infrastructure in itself creates factionalism. There’s no reason why separate infrastructure should feed the “us vs. them” mentality; quite the opposite. In most places where it’s been installed, it has mostly increased community by giving people choices that *anyone* can see themselves using (yes, anyone *can* ride in integrated traffic — but *will* they?). The current silliness in NYC is temporary; once people get used to the idea that bikes are viable transport, I’m pretty sure it’ll calm down, as it largely has in other places where major infrastructure campaigns have been carried out.

    The question, then, is “how conflicts and injuries might be best reduced.” You argue that integrated/dependable/vehicular cycling is the best way forward. As someone who practices — and teaches — that very set of skills, I disagree. In the short term, sure: if we’re happy with the numbers of people we have biking now (or happy with less), and the culture of transportation we have now, then yes, we should try to reduce conflicts and injuries primarily by getting everyone on the road to abide by the same rules.

    However, I think that point of view is very short-sighted. We need to be thinking about what kinds of cities we want to inhabit in the long term. And if what we want to see are cities where lots of people use bikes, then IC/DC/VC education really won’t do it. That’s not to say it’s a bad thing, by any means — we absolutely need to teach everyone how to ride safely. But I’ve seen no evidence anywhere that education alone will raise mode share, or reduce injuries or deaths. I’m sure you’ve seen the recent Marshall and Garrick study (“Evidence on Why Bike-Friendly
    Cities Are Safer for All Road
    Users,” Environmental Practice 13 (1) March 2011), which confirms what we all know: the real cause of traffic fatalities, across the board, is vehicle speed. If you want to keep people from dying on the road, you should concentrate most on narrowing streets, creating more intersections, reducing building setbacks, and other measures that slow the traffic down. Marshall and Garrick also suggest that another factor may slow car traffic down: large numbers of people on bikes. This leads to better safety for everyone. So, my conclusion (not theirs) is that if painted bike lanes — despite their drawbacks, and they have many — will get significant numbers, then they’re probably worth it.

    I’ve seen that effect at work here in Cambridge, MA, where I’m spending the summer. The last time I spent a significant amount of time here was the summer of 1995. Then as now, Cambridge was a really unpleasant place to drive a car, and an even worse place to park one. But back then, not many people used bikes. Sixteen years later, the improvement is impressive. Rush-hour bike traffic is actually so heavy that people who ride bikes are starting to complain about it. The main change (apart from an excellent bike parking campaign) is the painted bike lanes. They’ve put them in all over the city. And they appear to have worked to increase numbers.

    With the increased numbers, I’ve seen a definite improvement in the way people drive cars around people driving bikes. I’ve seen slower speeds in general, and more caution and courtesy at intersections. People seem to be learning to share the road, finally — and it’s the bike lanes that are educating them.

    None of this is to say that the painted bike lanes are great. At several intersections I’ve definitely shaken my head and hoped that nobody has gotten hurt there yet. And it’s not to say that things wouldn’t be much better here if everyone got some decent bike education (and actually used it). But I do think that the benefits of the striped lanes outweigh the drawbacks. Either you want more people to use bikes, or you don’t. As for me, I do, and I’m willing to use some imperfect means to get there.

    • Mighk Wilson
      Mighk Wilson says:

      I’ve never said that governments shouldn’t or can’t do good things for bicyclists — trails in independent rights-of-way, a good interconnected network of low-speed, low volume streets, well-placed sharrows, bike boulevards, short connector paths — none of these are segregation and many provide benefits for others besides cyclists.

      But I’ve been seeing the problems created by bike lanes first hand here in Orlando. I got right-hooked on my way to work in a bike lane last week. I got right-hooked the one-and-only time I used the cycle track in downtown St. Petersburg.

      I think training is a better offer than facilities. To the novice wannabe cyclist I’d ask: “Would you rather wait for your cash-strapped government to put facilities on every street you want to use (and where you’ll actually experience more conflicts and delay), or would you like to invest ten hours of your time and learn how to ride anywhere you wish immediately?”

      As long as advocates characterize novices as unwilling to learn, they’ll continue to live up to that expectation.

    • NE2
      NE2 says:

      The important thing is to realize why you want the ends of having more people biking. Usually it’s some variant of environmental sustainability. So why not be more direct about the means? Penalize unsustainable actions directly and people will switch to more sustainable actions. Adding bike lanes only penalizes them by reducing the space available to cars. But there are other ways of doing that, such as widening sidewalks, that don’t force bikes into two-foot gauntlets between the gutter and the right lane.

    • Eli Damon
      Eli Damon says:

      Brian: Certainly, cycling education is not the entire solution to our society’s problems. Making streets friendlier, and more person-oriented is important. I don’t believe that bike lanes contribute anything to that effort. We should make streets narrower, but bike lanes don’t make streets narrower. What needs to be narrower is the entire width of the pavement. That is what makes a safer, friendlier, slower street. I believe that for people to feel motivated to push for friendlier streets, they have to feel like they own they own streets as they exist now, that they belong in those. Once they’re out in those streets with a sense of ownership and belonging, then they can start to imagine how much better those streets can be and start to believe that it is in their power to make those streets better. Cycling education can show people how to take ownership of the streets and develop a sense of belonging that comes from being a full and equal partner in “The Dance”. I believe that bike lanes, etc. cannot do that.

    • Joe
      Joe says:

      Thanks, but I kind of lost you when you claimed you’ve “yet to find definitive data supporting it (bike lanes). There are lots of articles supporting bike lanes. I use them every day commuting to work and love them. The right hook will happen even without bike lanes. It’s not bikes vs cars it’s about holding dangerous drivers accountable. I would be happy with NO bike facilities if we truely held dangerous drivers accountable. When a child was severely injured in a crosswalk the school system head of safety said “we have to teach kids how to get to school safely” (the kid was in a crosswalk!). He said nothing about holding the dangerous driver accountable. Enough said.

      • NE2
        NE2 says:

        Motorists don’t want to hit you, but they don’t realize that certain maneuvers (e.g. right hook) will hit you. So if you ride visibly and predictably in the middle of the main lane, the only real danger will be from a motorist who is so inept as to notice absolutely nothing in front of him for 10-20 seconds.

      • Mighk Wilson
        Mighk Wilson says:

        Joe, I’ve been working as the bicycle and pedestrian planner for the MPO here since 1993. I’m pretty sure I’ve seen all the good research, as well the bogus stuff. Everything I’ve seen shows weak correlations, not cause and effect.

        A few years back I tried to do a cause and effect (and exposure) study — http://www.metroplanorlando.com/files/view/pedestrian_and_bicyclist_crash_countermeasure_effectiveness_study.pdf — but the results were inconclusive. Not enough behavior observations and crashes to give it statistical validity.

        That said, please post any studies you know of which show an improvement of safety. I’m always open to good information.

    • Frank
      Frank says:

      Brian, it seems to me you are making two logical mistakes.

      1) You are conflating “infrastructure” and “bike lanes.” Really, there are many types of cycling infrastructure, and they are not equally good. Plentiful and secure bike parking, bike racks on buses, shortcut access from cul-de-sac neighborhoods to traffic generators (parks, libraries, schools, shopping), special freeway crossings, etc. all qualify as infrastructure, and all probably encourage bicycling.

      2) You are assuming that because bike lanes were painted and cycling increased in Cambridge, the bike lanes were 100% responsible, and the only possible way of achieving that increase.

      Personally, I do believe bike lanes are likely to cause _some_ increase in cycling; but I believe that’s only because cycling has been artificially depressed by fear mongers. For 30 years, we’ve had people saying “Cycling’s not safe unless we have bike lanes!” and thus scaring the non-riding public at every opportunity. Now, on a tiny percentage of roads, people are trying to fix that fear with paint stripes – and damn the conflicts, debris and hazards they cause; damn the lack of proven safety benefit.

      Why not more honesty? Why not disseminate the information showing that cycling IS very safe, and that competent riding makes it even safer? Why not give people the information they need to ride without fear on ANY road, rather than giving them an ineffective and limited white-painted crutch?

      • Michael William Cavanaugh
        Michael William Cavanaugh says:

        I dont understand why you guys are against bike lanes. If I have the option to ride with a space that is for me I want that. riding with cars and competing with them for the road is awful, its scary and when they have to wait and then go around you they are usually agitated and aggressive. When I ride in the bike lane they don’t have to wait behind me and I am in for a much nicer ride. If the problem is that there are laws that say “you can only ride in bike lanes” when there are not enough then those laws are the problem not the bike lanes. but maybe you guys know something I don’t and bike lanes are terrible oppressive things.

        • Jym Dyer
          Jym Dyer says:

          @Michael – The opposition to bike lanes stems from a 1970s-vintage dogma cobbled together by a cantankerous engineer who disapproved of fellow bicyclists who didn’t behave the way he wanted them to. It’s been renamed a number of times and rephrased (this particular entry being an especially verbose example), but it’s pretty much the same old same old.

          • Mighk
            Mighk says:

            Don’tcha just love it when people people presume to speak for you? Right, me either.

            As the author of this especially verbose essay, I used to support bike lanes in spite of reading arguments by said cantankerous engineer (and others) for years. What has convinced me of the overall detrimental aspects of bike lanes is:

            1) Using them; being right-hooked in them; dodging the debris they collect (such as on the nice collector street I’ve been riding for 20 years; before bike lanes, no problems; now, I have to avoid broken glass on nearly every trip)

            2) Watching how other cyclists ride in them. Well-intentioned but uninformed and unaware riders blithely putting themselves at risk of collisions with turning motorists and opening car doors; encouraged and guided into doing so by the bike lane striping. And then there are all the wrong-way riders who put themselves and other cyclists at risk; the bike lane in some cases makes wrong-way riding easier.

            3) Getting bitched at by motorists (and sometimes police officers) when I have the temerity to leave that bike lane for very good reasons. I now have to defend myself for being an “uppity” cyclist because I don’t know my place.

            I used to think complaints of the above were overblown by Forester et al. Now that I have to deal with them I’ve found them to be entirely valid.

            You can criticize Forester all you like. I won’t defend him because he was a tactless jerk (at least in his writings). But you cannot tell me that my very negative experiences with bike lanes are not relevant, nor important enough to write about.

          • David
            David says:

            There are two opposite ways of looking at this:

            1) cars are bad, bicyclists need their own space

            2) drivers get along with each other regardless of vehicle type by following the same rules for sharing the same space.

            Since we’re human beings, we form beliefs about this then mine our minds for thoughts and facts to undermine our opposition and support our beliefs.

            But, here is a third way:

            3) Challenge your beliefs to see if they are true. Following the advice of mental health experts – ask yourself if your thought is always true…or just sometimes true. Then ask yourself if the opposite is true or more true than your original thought. 

            The idea is to generate a wide range of options and evaluate them – with your rational brain, not just your emotional brain. Then check out these options to see what works.

            Definitely do listen to the people advocating for separate facilities. See what can be done.

            Then look at those who choose to get along with other people as drivers. Listen to what they say, and definitely take a look at how THEY do it and see how well it works.

            That will give you a far better and more mature way to generate options evaluate them and choose. That trumps one sided emotionally charged statements just about every time. 

            But, since we are people and politics are in our genes, remember that what wins is not what’s best. What often wins is what’s sold best.

            If you’ve got a good idea, you’ll have to take responsibility for marketing it. Your opposition surely won’t!

            I try to take responsibility for my take on bicycling on my web site where my best example of comparing different ways of thinking about bicycling and traffic is my free article The Six Biggest Myths that Steer Bicyclists in the Wrong Direction…Are You at Risk?

    • Mighk Wilson
      Mighk Wilson says:

      What our CyclingSavvy students — particularly the newer riders — are telling us is that now that they understand the potential risks of bike lanes, they’d rather avoid streets with them.

      In our class we don’t say “bike lanes are bad,” because we don’t want to get sidetracked into a debate. Instead we illustrate the potential problems in a straightforward manner. It’s the students themselves who come to the conclusion on their own that bike lanes aren’t worth the hassles and risks.

      Yes, traffic cycling education has had a poor record of success. I see three reasons for that:

      1) The League had a virtual monopoly on it and has never done the necessary marketing work to determine what will get people to attend courses. Instead they’ve focused on what they want to teach people, and that effort has largely been led by people with a club rider orientation. So for the person who just wants to ride to the grocery store, there’s very little out there that serves them education-wise. This is the problem we set out to fix as we developed CyclingSavvy.

      2) The dominant meme on bicycling safety for the past 20 years has been “bike lanes and helmets.” This meme comes predominantly from the “bicycle advocacy” community. Since they’re perceived as the experts, the public has come to believe that those are the two most important ways to improve bicyclist safety. I hear it all the time: “I’ll ride when they give me a safe place to ride.” The facilities folks have had a much louder megaphone for the past decade or so, as they have Congress, Bicycling Magazine, engineering and planning firms, public health agencies, and the bicycle industry on their side. Who do the vehicular cycling proponents have helping get their message out? No heavy-hitters that I can see.

      The motorcycle industry made it a priority some years ago to improve motorcyclist safety through TRAINING, not through special motorcycle facilities or safety devices, and they’re seeing the positive results.

      3) The vehicular cycling “community” for many years had as it’s most vocal and visible character someone with a special talent for alienating even his potential allies.

      So the past failure of “vehicular cycling” was not due to the nature of its core principles, but of the inability of its proponents to convince people to take courses. As the investment industry likes to say, “Past performance is not a guarantee of future results.”

      Information can expand much faster than the built form can be changed. Culture can change radically in a short time (just look at how many states now allow same-sex marriage). If all bicycle advocates put as much effort into convincing people that training is the most effective way as they currently do convincing people that cycling is dangerous and requires segregation, cycling education could become very big and successful, very quickly.

      • Brian
        Brian says:

        Mighk, I just want to say that I agree with you 100% on all three counts. I fully support your CyclingSavvy work — actually, the reason I follow your blog is because I think you’ve got a better model for education than the LAB does. Right on! Education certainly can and should be way, way better and more widespread than it is, and we should all work to make that happen.

        However, I don’t think that advocating for the bike lanes that people (rightly or wrongly) want equals “convincing people that cycling is dangerous and requires segregation.” Rather, a bike lane says “Look, here’s a public amenity that you can use. It’s a public amenity that many people have asked for. It’s a real option for you.” It’s a statement that the community accepts biking, not that it rejects biking. That’s how mainstream people understand a bike lane. Those of us who know how to ride in traffic see it differently, but we are not the people who matter.

        So, in the spirit of your original post here, let’s not think about this in oppositional, either/or terms — let’s think both/and. We need marketing materials (and that’s how I see bike lanes: effective advertising on the pavement) that make biking seem both accepted and attractive, rather than freakish and oppositional; we also need education, so that people will know what to do when they’re out there.

        Finally, don’t hate on the hipstas — those kids are the commuter moms and dads of tomorrow. They’ll grow up and fall in line just like the rest of us. 😉

        • Mighk Wilson
          Mighk Wilson says:

          Ah, but we ARE the people who matter. Do the informed let the uninformed lead, or lead by helping the uninformed learn? I can only accept the latter.

          I used to believe, like you, that bike lanes are “effective marketing” for roadway cycling, but as I wrote in the essay, I’m not seeing those results on the road: I see way too much unsafe and illegal behavior that is either not corrected by the bike lanes, or worse, encouraged by them. And most of those “mainstream” people around here most certainly believe bike lanes are essential for safety, not merely an amenity.

          I wasn’t “hating” on the hipsters, simply making an observation. What will the impetus be for them to start behaving as dependable cyclists? Many of them express disdain for the rules of the road; “They’re just for motorists.” Around these parts law-abiding cyclists are the minority. I don’t see how the majority falls in line with the minority if the minority just waits for them to do so.

  11. Matthew Carty
    Matthew Carty says:

    I can’t reconcile this quote against the reality of the streets I ride:

    “If we create a context of fear, fault, and retribution, then we will focus on protecting ourselves, which plants the seed of entitlement.”

    Motorists fear nothing. Their air bags, traction control, anti-lock brakes and crumple zones will protect their red-light running ways. The fact that nearly zero vehicular homicides result in so much as a ticket for littering makes them not fear the law. Motorists do not face fear, fault or retribution.

    So… why do so many act so entitled?

    • Mighk Wilson
      Mighk Wilson says:

      Yes, motorists don’t fear bicyclists from a safety standpoint, but some pundits have made some motorists think cyclists are stealing “their gas tax dollars” in order to build bikeways. They fear losing “their roads” to “losers” who “don’t pay taxes.”

      Some motorists believe they are entitled to preferential use of our public roads because they pay gas taxes, but gas taxes only cover about 60% of the costs of building and maintaining our streets and highways.

      Just as cyclists are eager to point the finger of fault at motorists for violating the rules of the road, motorists point it back the other way.

      And I wonder how many times I’ve been harassed by a motorist because he’s ticked off at waiting for the Critical Mass ride to clear the intersection the night before, or because he saw another cyclist blow through a stop sign. That’s retribution.

      • Eli Damon
        Eli Damon says:

        Many motorists do fear cyclists. They would not act with such hostility otherwise. Have you ever heard the expression “All bullies are cowards. I believe that some of that fear is a fear of collisions and a fear of the law. It is arguable that this fear is not strong enough, but it is also misdirected; people fear the wrong kinds of collisions, so they react inappropriately, just like many cyclists do. Additionally, some of the fear is simply a fear of change. The rhetoric about who pays for the roads is just a rationalization after the fact for this fear of change. People have become accustomed to the notion that roads are for cars, and the possibility of things being different then what people are used to is scary. They are afraid that either they will left behind when the new order forms, or that no new order will form and that society will be left in a state of chaos. It is the same as in every other major social movement, current or historical. Take your pick: abolition of slavery, women’s suffrage, homosexual marriage, drug decriminalization, whatever.

  12. Wayne Pein
    Wayne Pein says:

    According to Marshall and Garrick, large numbers of bicyclists who got there via bike lanes slow traffic and make it safer for everyone, reducing fatalities. I say this is bogus.

    We know that on road segments between intersections bike lanes do not slow motorists. Why should they? Bicyclists are sequestered out of the way behind a line which creates a named shoulder. We all know that shoulders are placed to enable faster motoring. Bonus for removing slow moving bicycle vehicles.

    The way bicyclists in bike lanes slow motorists is at intersections where bicyclists to their right may prevent motorists from making a right turn. This increases motorist travel time, and thus reduces average travel speed, but it doesn’t reduce there travel speed where it may need to be reduced.

    A related effect may be that since motorists have more difficulty turning, others may stack up behind, increasing their travel time. The dysfunction of putting through bicyclists to the right of motor vehicle traffic creates congestion.

    I don’t know what exactly is meant by narrowing streets. If that means reducing the number of lanes by cannibalizing them for bike lanes, I’d rather the outside lane have BMUFL signs with Shared Lane Markings down the center of the lane. Bonus points if it is a narrow 10-11 feet wide.

    Personally, I don’t want to create artificial congestion which also inconveniences me whether on my bike or motoring. The abundance of Door Zone Bike Lanes in Cambridge would be another impact that I’m not willing to absorb.

  13. Brian
    Brian says:

    “Would you rather wait for your cash-strapped government to put facilities on every street you want to use (and where you’ll actually experience more conflicts and delay), or would you like to invest ten hours of your time and learn how to ride anywhere you wish immediately?”

    Mighk, I hear what you’re saying, but I’ll bet you $1000 right now that if you and I were to go around asking that question (with those two choices), the answer would be overwhelmingly A (“I’ll wait for facilities on every street.”). Unfortunate, but true. I really wish it were otherwise, but it’s not. We have to deal with people as they are, not as we want them to be.

    In reality, though, there are always three choices: A) wait for facilities, B) learn how to use the current system, and C) don’t bike at all. You and I both know that C) always wins.


    We know that on road segments between intersections bike lanes do not slow motorists.

    Not true at all — or rather, not true if the lanes have attracted a significant level of bike traffic. People in cars generally do slow down when they’re driving next to *lots* of people on bikes, whether they’re on the shoulder or on the lane. But you need the numbers. They won’t slow down much for an occasional cyclist — you haven’t yet challenged the frame that says “roads are for cars to go as fast as possible.” Mighk and I agree that that frame needs to be challenged; we disagree on the way to challenge it.

    Personally, I don’t want to create artificial congestion which also inconveniences me whether on my bike or motoring.

    Well, personally, I do want to create that congestion, and I think a lot of people are starting to agree — slow speeds (of all vehicles) are necessary for livable streets. Cities in the future will not be dominated by dangerous fast-moving metal objects that kill people. I know it’s hard to give up on the twentieth century, but really, it was a pretty bad one and it’s time to let it go. I want the streets to be safe for my kids, my elderly relatives, and my friends with physical disabilities. I want to interact with my neighbors. I want to build a community. How about you?

    The abundance of Door Zone Bike Lanes in Cambridge would be another impact that I’m not willing to absorb.

    Sort of an unfortunate choice of metaphor, innit? 🙂 Seriously, though: Dooring is a real problem. Like I said, the bike lanes here are far from ideal. But the conditions they have created, even taking dooring into account, are far better than the conditions in 1995. Most people here seem to ride sensibly, on the left edge of the lane (which is basically where they ought to be, anyway, if the lane is wide enough to share at all).

    The way forward is messy and it’s not without problems. But we need a way forward.

  14. Brian
    Brian says:

    The interesting thing about the Marshall/Garrick study, Wayne, is that they found that bike lanes are much more dangerous in low-biking-share cities than in high-biking-share cities. They don’t suggest that bike lanes are in themselves enough to transform the former into the latter. Rather, if you’ve got a city (say Cambridge or NYC) that already has good characteristics (narrow streets, many intersections, etc), bike lanes can increase the mode share without doing much damage. In Orlando, though, that probably wouldn’t work. So then…how do we change the character and layout of the streets? Chicken and egg again…

  15. Fred Ollinger
    Fred Ollinger says:

    You are not an advocate for cycling, but rather against it.

    Infrastructure brings cyclists, only.

    This is a fact.

    This post is rewarmed VC nonsense that has nearly destroyed cycling in the US.

    VC cyclists don’t commute, they are racers.

    It’s like NASCAR vs. the mom who drives her children to school.

    No advocate ever advocated for spending less money on their cause.

    No advocate attacks their own group first.

    No advocate tries to be “fair” which is just an excuse to sell us out.

    “When a person is assigned to advocate a particular position, then cherry picking might be seen as entirely appropriate.”


    • Khal Spencer
      Khal Spencer says:

      Not sure what happened to my earlier post but again, I concur with Mighk’s essay.

      As far as Mighk being anti-cyclist? Fred, you obviously know little about what you speak. I’ve worked with, and followed Mighk’s career for about two decades. Quite the opposite of your statement.

      There were cyclists before there was “cycling specific” infrastructure. Better ones, I suspect. Mighk makes a valid point–by tying our fate to separated facilities and more rules, we set ourselves needlessly apart from the rest of the transportation community, increase the regulatory burden on ourselves, and increase the psychological distance between an arbitrary “us” and “them”.

      Concur with Steve Avery: why add more government, more regulation, and more segregation?

      “That government is best which governs least.”
      — Thomas Paine

    • MikeOnBike
      MikeOnBike says:

      Wow Fred, you seem to have completely and totally missed the point of the article.

  16. Fred Ollinger
    Fred Ollinger says:

    I didn’t miss the point, I just disagreed.

    When there’s good infrastructure there is not conflict. This is nonsense.

    Go to Copenhagen. All road users respect one another.

    Cycling is at 40%.

    Where the VC people rule, we can’t crack 10%.

    Face it, VC is a failure to get people to bike commute.

    VC cyclists are weekend warrior racers. They will NEVER get old women on bikes like in CPH.

    VC may mean well, but they had 30 years and they totally failed. In fact, cycling went down.

    Many roads were made because of cycling lobbies BEFORE there were motor vehicles.

    Motorists lobbied and took over the roads built for bicycles advocated for by bicycle lobbies.

    Motorists lobbies succeed where cycling fails because most people who call themselves cycling advocates drive cars most places and thus are actually motorists in cyclist clothing.

    Look to places where cyclists have succeeded and copy them. Copy motorist lobbyist tactics. They concede NOTHING for motorists. Ever.

    Smaller govt is a lie by people who don’t want to pull their weight in society. Look at any small govt activist and you’ll find someone who’s taking more than his fair share of tax money.

    Bankers want small govt unless it’s for banks.

    Motorists want smaller govt, but they want free freeways (and parking).

    No pro-school advocate wants to demolish schools.

    No pro-hospital advocate wants to demolish hospitals.

    How come the only advocates who want no spending are cyclists? B/c they are selling us real commuters out.

    The places where there is the most infrastructure is quiet so I can ride in peace with my wife and have a conversation. The more vehicle oriented it is them more it sucks to ride.

    I can ride VC, but I choose not to when I have a choice.

    Where do VC people take their kids? To take a lane in 50 MPH traffic? No, to a quiet park which quite resembles cycling infrastructure.

    If you don’t want govt spending for bicycles then you are anti-cyclist even if you don’t know it.

    • R Wharton
      R Wharton says:


      I’m a VC Cyclist, AND a cycling coach, AND an LCI, and will hopefully be SC certified soon. I love road racing, but I’m no road warrior. My left elbow sometimes aches from all the ‘Stop’, ‘Right’, and ‘Left’ signals I employ. People roll up to me and THANK ME for signaling. Others roll up and ask me what a certain signal meant. Every “Hipster” I’ve encountered after running a STOP sign or red light, usually flips me off, sometimes in the ‘English’ way (wayyy too cool for school).

      Read some deeper facts about Copenhagen before touting it. Their average commute is something like <2 kilometers! You won't have much luck finding a 2k commute in the US, anywhere. People 'move' in cities and towns around here.

      VC never caught on because of a failure of the industry to promote it. Then the "Advocates" came out with their version of a government handout and demand for 'their space'. We're selling more bikes than ever, but we're not selling the tools to employ cycling as transportation. Think hard about the 'why'. It has a lot to do with racing stripes and pink ponies.

      I'll leave the rest for other conspiracy theorists and debunkers. I for one am going to fight every bike lane employed in my city, and expose the frauds who claim they are necessary to increase ridership.

      Oh yeah – it broke 100 for the 5th day or more in a row down in Texas. The ozone level hit red in some places. My choice to ride to work made zero difference on my commute time, others' commute time, and made nary a dent in the air quality index. Employing 10,000 more of me wouldn't have made a dent, either. The AQI argument is a canard. Don't fall for it. Commute or travel or ride for whatever reason you want. Use the roads that you have, control your lane, follow the laws…. and watch THAT become mundane, at no taxpayers' expense.

      • Mighk Wilson
        Mighk Wilson says:

        Interesting that you mention the 2km range in Copenhagen. The downtown Orlando neighborhoods have the highest levels of transportation cycling in the metro area, and those neighborhoods extend only about 2 miles from the central business district. Beyond that, trip distances increase dramatically, and cycling drops to irrelevant levels.

      • Brian
        Brian says:


        I’ve lived in many American cities. My commute in Greenville, NC is less than 2 km. My commute in Schenectady, NY was less than 2 km. My commute in Charlottesville, VA was less than 2 km. My commute in Amherst, MA was less than 2 km. Right now I’m in Cambridge, MA for the summer, and my commute is a whopping 3.8 km. As Mighk says, even Orlando — Orlando! — has an urban core where commutes are short. Even my hometown, Daytona Beach, home of NASCAR and cars on the beach, has several relatively dense areas where short trips are common. Short distances abound in the U.S. The question is why people don’t choose bikes for those distances.

        In my opinion, we should be working to make cycling as attractive as possible in those places where it makes sense. Our problem is that the features that most people find attractive are not the ones that experts know to be safer.

        I think it’s more productive to give people what they actually want (and try to mitigate its problems), rather than telling them that they really ought to want something else.

        • Keri
          Keri says:

          And those are exactly the places where bike lanes and cycletracks are most unnecessary and problematic.

          • Brian
            Brian says:

            Very true — from a functionalist standpoint. But my point here is that perception is much more important than function. I’d rather have a fairly safe system that people use, than a very safe system that no one uses.

            Your logic is sort of like insisting that no one should eat fruits or vegetables unless they eat organic, no-pesticide, locally-grown fruits and vegetables. No, the agribusiness model isn’t as good. But it’s most likely to reach mainstream people. Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good.

          • Keri
            Keri says:

            No, the perception of uninformed people in not more important than function. It is especially not worthy of wrecking the functional environment and decreasing service to informed people.

            Unlike you, I am not driven by the need to GET other people to ride bikes. Therefore I feel no need to pander to their ignorance in an effort to manipulate them into doing so.

          • Mighk Wilson
            Mighk Wilson says:

            Brian, I think your food analogy is weak. It presumes the better option requires more cost or effort than the lesser option. Riding in bike lanes feels better to the novice than getting squeezed along the curb, but lane control feels better still than bike lane riding and doesn’t subject one to additional turning and crossing conflicts.

            People eat bad food partly because it’s SUBSIDIZED, and therefor cheaper than healthier food, and also because the food industry has figured out how to make processed food that’s effectively addictive.

            The better analogy is that bike lanes are junk food, integrated roadway cycling on higher-speed arterials is non-organic fruits and vegetables, and integrated roadway cycling on lower-speed streets is organic, locally-grown fruits and vegetables.

          • Brian
            Brian says:

            Keri, I did not impute any bad motives to you, and I wish you wouldn’t do so to me. I think we’re all trying to make the world a better place here; we just disagree on how to do it. Working out a compromise that lots of people can agree on is not manipulation. It’s democracy.

            And by the way, when you’re trying to change people’s minds, it usually doesn’t help your case to mention their “ignorance.” Alexander Pope had something to say on that —

            Men should be taught as if you taught them not
            And things unknown proposed as things forgot.

            But you know, a little learning, etc…


          • Keri
            Keri says:

            the state or fact of being ignorant; lack of knowledge, learning, information, etc.

            I used the word correctly. I could say “pander to their lack of knowledge.” And it would mean exactly the same thing with three words instead of one.

          • Michael William Cavanaugh
            Michael William Cavanaugh says:

            O.k. so I think I am starting to get this anti bike lane thing, you guys are promoting lane control, meaning that I ride my bike on the street as if its a car.? this just seems like a really good way to make a lot of car people really mad, I know I should just tough this out but I dont want to do that, I don’t want to deal with people being agitated at me every time I go out, I dont want to make and extra special effort to please people in cars with my law abiding specially trained bike riding. I just wanna ride in a lane that is for me and others like me, and go my own pace and be safe. cars and bike don’t belong together, there i said it. and the government can pay for it cause they pay for the roads for car so they can pay for the roads for bikes.

        • Khal Spencer
          Khal Spencer says:

          I recently did some work in Bremen, Germany. Distances matter. The distance from the Bremen Airport on the edge of town to the city center in Bremen was roughly 2 km. Most housing was inside that distance. Its much easier to convince one’s self to bicycle when your trip distance is a dead-flat two miles and gasoline is eight bucks a gallon, as it was in Bremen this past January. I also strongly suspect that the expansive separated bicycle infrastructure in cities like Bremen are designed as much for bicycle vs. motorcar efficiency as for safety. Those who model traffic may be better qualified to answer this question: when your mode split is 22% bicyclists, is traffic efficiency better served by separating vehicles than by dealing with overtaking on narrow streets?

          Be careful with comparisons to Europe. John Allen recently opined to this effect, and here is part of his quote: “…As to the issues of what to build and how to accommodate increasing numbers of cyclists in the USA, all in all, it’s quite clear to me that we can’t just copy what has been done in Europe, much less copy it poorly. We have to think more clearly and do better. But that’s a different and much larger discussion…”

          fuller quote here:

          As far as giving people what they want and trying to jerry-rig safety into it afterwards? I think this is a bit of advice that is bound to fail. Trying to design a system that violates safety rules and then beating safety into it with a blunt instrument is a recepie for failure, high expense, and complexity. All of which have a tendency to defeat safety. Isn’t it better to teach people the concepts of safety so they make good, rather than ill-informed choices to begin with? Would any of us rather fly on a pretty plane rather than one that keeps its wings on while in the air?

          • Brian
            Brian says:

            Would any of us rather fly on a pretty plane rather than one that keeps its wings on while in the air?

            Well, if “the one that keeps its wings on while in the air” also scares the crap out of people, to the point where they refuse to use it, then there’s not really any point, is there?

    • Mighk Wilson
      Mighk Wilson says:

      I’m not going to address all of your points because it would take a week, but to cover a few:

      I’ve been cycling for transportation for 40 years. These days my average commuting cruising speed is between 12 and 15 mph. Slower when I ride with my wife. I think that falls well below racing speeds. My car stays parked in the driveway sometimes for two weeks at a time. I rarely ride for recreation these days.

      I’d be appreciative if certain people would not try to put words in my mouth. I have NEVER said funding for bicycling facilities is wrong. I have been the bicycle and pedestrian planner for the Orlando metropolitan planning organization since 1993 and it’s my job to help local governments get their bike and pedestrian projects funded. Our MPO sets aside 12% of its highway funds (above and beyond what we get in Enhancement funds). Most of that money goes for trails and sidewalks, not because I don’t like bike lanes, but because the local governments want to fund trails and sidewalks, and bike lanes can be done through resurfacing projects and widenings.

      In 1990 our metro area bicycle commute rate per the US Census was 0.6%. At that time there were no shared use paths in the area and only a couple of short sections of bike lane serving one neighborhood in Kissimmee.

      By 2000 we had 54 miles of shared use paths (19 of which were sidewalk bikeways) and 246 miles of bike lanes and paved shoulders (roughly 19% of arterial and collector streets). The bike commute rate from the Census was 0.4%.

      Today we have 130 miles of shared use paths (50 as sidewalk bikeways) and 462 miles of bike lanes and paved shoulders (roughly 33% of arterial and collector streets). The latest Census data shows us at 0.4% commute rate.

      (Perhaps there’s some magical tipping point for the percentage of streets with bike lanes at which the suppressed cycling hoards suddenly leave their cars at home?)

      Of course Journey to Work is the trip least likely to be made by bike, as commute trips tend to be longer than others and for many require business attire or at least to be presentable to customers and co-workers. Ride more than 2 miles here on a summer morning and you need a shower. So other trip types I’m sure rate higher than commuting.

      Sprawling land use, poor street connectivity, climate, and excessive auto parking availability all conspire against transport cycling in Central Florida.

      Our two corridors with the highest concentrations of bicyclist/motorist crashes both have bike lanes. Are the bike lanes the cause? No, but they aren’t mitigating the problems either, because most crash types can’t be mitigated by bike lanes (or cycle tracks). See: http://www.metroplanorlando.com/files/view/bicyclist-crash-study.pdf

      There’s ample evidence that streets with cycle tracks have higher crash rates than streets without them. Here’s a good starting point:

      Yes, the data is old. Since those studies were done, many Dutch and Danish cities made improvements at their signalized intersections to separate turning movements. But in the U.S. most development is suburban, and most intersections will stay unsignalized, so the increased conflicts will be just as bad here, if not worse, should cycle tracks be implemented.

      Finally, here’s Copenhagen in 1937.

      Where are all the bikeways?

      • fred_dot_u
        fred_dot_u says:

        Not to be too pedantic… okay, I’ll be pedantic… Mighk says he rarely rides for recreation these days. I’m going to interpret that as to mean, putting words into his mouth, that he rarely rides only for recreation. As a commuting cyclist myself, I rarely make a trip just for the fun of it, because all my trips are fun. I will admit to making a loop in order to get some exercise and burn off all those snacks I can’t resist, but I don’t often attend group rides for recreation.

        Having learned to operate safely on our roads, in Daytona Beach and surrounding municipalities, I’ve found that every trip is far more enjoyable than ever before. This echoes many of the sentiments already posted here, obviously.

  17. siouxgeonz
    siouxgeonz says:

    First read, I thought this was a wonderful that whole “essay. I strongly agree with the first part — that the real issue for cycling is how our communities deal with so many of our interactions… pointing fingers and focusing on who’s at fault instead of trying to find ways to make things work.
    Second read, I realized I’d sort of skipped over the second half — the “because of the first stuff, therefore, BIKE LANES ARE WRONG.” And oh, everybody who isn’t the Right Kind of cyclist is wrong. You’ve done *some* of that bad stuff, but hey, not all of it, and you have REFORMED.
    Bike lanes do have the issues you mention — but not because they are bike lanes… it’s because of the attitudes. Do you think a handful of “dependable cyclists” is going to change those attitudes? The guy who pulled out in front of me last week from a parking space, and when I honked said “I saw you! You had plenty of time!” clearly believed that as long as I had time to dodge him, he had the right of way, period. (Hey, he may have felt that way about automobile drivers, too, but I doubt it.)
    I also think it’s a major mistake to focus attention on bike lanes when road design is just more complex than that. Let’s get the planners and citizens thinking “Complete Streets” and slowing their cars down, while getting as many people riding “dependably” as possible — but some of ’em are really, honestly going to want to do it in a bike lane.

    • siouxgeonz
      siouxgeonz says:

      … “that whole” should be clipped from the first sentence — my edit didn’t quite trim enough…

  18. Shannon
    Shannon says:

    Great write-up Mighk! I can’t tell you how much my eyes have been opened since Cycling Savvy and getting myself on the same roads via my bike that I normally drive on. It’s amazing what education can do. 🙂

  19. David
    David says:

    Great reasoning and logic. But…Mighk, how do we get ahead of the strong emotions and beliefs that are inconsistent with your direction?

    I wrote an article titled: The Six Biggest Myths that Steer Bicyclists in the Wrong Direction…Are You at Risk? and I would offer it as my response to your article here and the earlier one Which Cycling Politics: Doom or Possibility?

    My Myths article deals with the emotions and beliefs behind the different directions bicyclists choose from while using a marketing style. When unhealthy negative thoughts are addressed first, cyclists can be attracted to the benefits and ready to learn quickly and better. That way many more cyclists can be influenced without the limitations of reaching them through logic reason and seeing it work in the street.

    Its available at my website:


    If you don’t want to check out the site and sign-in the article is here:


    I’m already sold on the direction, it’s how to get there…and how to be competitive and relevant in the marketplace that I’m interested in discussing.

      • drummergeek
        drummergeek says:

        YES! Video is what helped me believe what Keri and Mighk are teaching. Just hearing about riding in a lane with traffic seems scary, but when you see it, it makes sense. It gives you the idea that, wow, maybe I can do that too! Maybe I don’t have to be stuck just riding around my neighborhood. Maybe I could actually get all the way to work! Now I commute 5 days/week 15 miles one-way, and 1 day/week day 20 miles one-way. Feels GREAT! (but my wife thinks I’m nuts.) 🙂

  20. Cornel.Ormsby
    Cornel.Ormsby says:

    Mighk: “99.999% of motorists do not want to hit us or hurt us.”

    If that is not a bullshit statistic, then I have never seen one — and I’ve been looking at statistics on a daily basis for 30 years.

    • Mighk Wilson
      Mighk Wilson says:

      99.999% of readers recognize that when a writer uses 99.999% it is intended as a stylistic approach to saying “virtually all,” and not a real statistic based on data.

      That said, how would we measure that? Obviously surveys would be unreliable.

      I could apply my own real-world experience. In over 150,000 miles of cycling, I’ve had only one motorist try to hit me. (It was a sand truck driver back in the mid-80s. I’d passed him in a narrow, congested lane, and he was likely pissed at having to pass me a second time. I saw him coming in my helmet mirror and knew he wasn’t go to shift over. I ran off the road and his right wheels rolled by on the white line a split second later. (That was in the days before the national CDL, when sand truck drivers were notorious in Florida for causing fatal crashes, abandoning their trucks, and heading off to another state to work.)

      So that’s 1 attempt in 150,000 miles. If I was only passed by ONE motor vehicle per mile during all those miles, that’s 149,999 drivers who did not try to hit me out of 150,000. My calculator shows that as 99.9993%.

      I mean really, what could be easier to do than to hit a cyclist as you overtake?

      • Wayne Pein
        Wayne Pein says:

        I’ve had 0 motorists try to hit me in 50 years of bicycling (started when I was 2). I’ve had 2 “try” to half heartedly run me into the curb, because if they really wanted to hit me they could have.

      • Cornel.Ormsby
        Cornel.Ormsby says:

        Mighk: “99.999% of readers recognize that when a writer uses 99.999% it is intended as a stylistic approach”

        If that is not a bullshit defence of a bullshit statistic, then I have never seen one — and I’ve been reading bullshit defences on a daily basis for 30 years.

  21. Wayne Pein
    Wayne Pein says:


    If there are *lots* of bicyclists in a bike lane segment to the extent that it slows motorists, then it must be in an urban core where motorist speed can only be slow anyway. So until you show me the street and the numbers, I’ll continue to believe that you have your premise wrong. And if it’s an urban core, that is the least useful place for bike lanes, as Keri said.

    I’m for slow speeds where they make sense, but that is different than being pro congestion. Congestion occurs in part because of over regulation.

    I’m also for conditions that create more bicyclists, which is why I endorse BMUFL and other enabling signs and legislation. I’m pro swimming as well, but I don’t want to make the lap pool a foot and a half deep so non-swimmers feel comfortable.


  22. Serge Issakov
    Serge Issakov says:

    ‎Great essay, Mighk. Reminds me of “The Bicycle Driver’s Prayer”: “God grant me the serenity to accept drivers I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know it’s me.”

    • Wayne Pein
      Wayne Pein says:

      Good one, though if adapted for bicycle users it can also be:

      “God grant me the serenity to accept bicyclists I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know it’s me.”

    RANTWICK says:

    I have very little to add to this discussion, I’m afraid. There are more passionate and intelligent people than I trying to address these things. I did want to say, Mighk, that as always I really enjoyed reading your stuff, and the high quality of most of the responses (both positive and negative) speaks volumes about the quality of the springboard itself.

  24. Fred Ollinger
    Fred Ollinger says:

    Safety can not be learned in a class. You have to bicycle daily to get the experience.

    If you don’t _feel_ safe, even if you are deluded, you won’t ride, and you won’t learn to be safe.

    Collision will never be completely eliminated nor should they be. They teach valuable lessons that can not be learned any other way. Things should be safe enough so that collisions don’t hurt. I was hit by bikes and cars and never got hurt. Low speed is the key.

    If a road is unsafe, make it narrow, separate cyclists, and lower the speed limit.

    Cycling athletes are not advocates. Bicycle racing on regular roads is inconsiderate, and ought to be banned. Grandma’s ride bicycles in Copenhagen and they are happier, healthier, and yes, safer for it. A grandma who falls off her bike is less of a threat to herself and others than the dude who fell asleep at the wheel and killed 20 people.

    The elitist, racer attitude is scaring regular folks away from cycling in droves. Put down the megaphone and open your ears. People have spoken loud and clear. They want infrastructure. We do not want nor need classes which are not scientific; the classes are indoctrination of a set of religious beliefs which were created by racers for their own benefit and the detriment to the rest of society.

    • Mighk Wilson
      Mighk Wilson says:

      Fred, once again you assume too much and know too little. Our CyclingSavvy course spends three-and-a-half hours teaching cycling on the road, using some of the most daunting roads and intersections in Orlando. And that’s only after having spent 3 hours teaching bike handling skills and 3 hours explaining laws, crash causation, and traffic strategy.

      I’ve managed to avoid getting hit by cars for over 150,000 miles of mostly urban and suburban riding, much of it during rush hour and in traffic conditions you would find “unsafe.” I’d much rather my friends and family learn WITHOUT getting hit than BY getting hit. Especially because people often react by doing the wrong things after they get hit.

      I’m afraid you sound like one very fearful guy Fred, because you keep insisting on control, control, control. It’s as if my article is a high-def mirror and you found the image so painful you had to look away and scream.

        • Mighk Wilson
          Mighk Wilson says:

          I was never a USCF licensed racer, but I did participate in a few open races back when they allowed unlicensed racers. That was in the late 80s/early 90s. Since then I’ve done nothing approaching competitive cycling. I don’t even do club rides any more. My primary ride is an Xtracycle cargo bike; my 20+ year-old road bike gets pulled out about two or three times a year.

          But I’m sure as far as Fred’s concerned I’m forever tainted because I’ve tasted the blood of competition.

          • Serge Issakov
            Serge Issakov says:

            And I presume Keri has not raced.

            Anyway, what about Fred’s grandmother point? Any grandmothers in your classes yet? How are they doing riding on Orlando’s “unsafe” streets?

          • Keri
            Keri says:

            I’ve never raced. I actually did get a license one year because I accompanied a friend to the Giro de Sardegna, which I rode as a tour.

            While my overall experience is primarily urban and solo riding, I have done a fair amount of road biking and group rides. I developed a paceline training curriculum for our women’s cycling club, the bike handling portions of that became the drill progression we use in the TYB section of CyclingSavvy.

            Most of my cycling these days is for transportation, or leading social encouragement rides (like First Friday, Ice Cream and Cargo rides).

            I see Mighk has already answered the grandmother question. I’ll add that we have had 2 men over 70, also.
            Here’s another post from Diana: http://commuteorlando.com/wordpress/2011/06/29/this-isnt-amsterdam/

  25. Mighk Wilson
    Mighk Wilson says:

    Khal wrote: “Would any of us rather fly on a pretty plane rather than one that keeps its wings on while in the air?”
    and Brian responded:
    “Well, if “the one that keeps its wings on while in the air” also scares the crap out of people, to the point where they refuse to use it, then there’s not really any point, is there?”

    I’m sorry Brian, but you’re really grasping at straws here. “Safe” and “pretty” are not mutually exclusive. You can make a safe plane seem safer by making it pretty, but if you con people into believing one plane is safer by making it pretty, when it’s actually less safe, that’s flat out immoral.

    • Khal Spencer
      Khal Spencer says:

      That’s the point, as Mighk mentions. When we build something and advertise it as “safer” or other such nonsense without actually designing it to be safe, we are lying to the cycling public. If airline manufacturers did that, they would go to jail. When Chevy designed the Corvair, Ralph Nader crucified the company.

      Somehow we let cycling facilities be built that are demonstrably unsafe (such as Cambridge’s and Durango’s door zone bike lanes), use these to “encourage” new riders, and escape culpability when they get doored or otherwise hurt. These lanes are unsafe at any speed above a walk.

      Like Mighk, I am not against all facilities and in fact like Mighk, as Transportation Board Chair of my County, I not only co-authored our bike plan (and the 1999 Honolulu plan) but was a member of the team that has put blueprint to asphalt in Los Alamos. We have made a few mistakes and oddly, some of our cyclists prefer the mistakes (such as high speed downhill bike lanes) to proper lane position. No, I’m not going to delude these cyclists into thinking that descending like a gutter bunny is a great idea. The best I’ll do is instruct them on the best way to use a downhill bike lane without getting hurt if they insist on using it, while I demonstrate lane control.

  26. Fred Ollinger
    Fred Ollinger says:

    The original post is being used by a racer/VC rider to discredit the good work that cycling advocates are doing in San Diego.

    Someone sent me the article and asked me to comment–to her.

    I posted a comment here by mistake which I usually never do b/c I get sucked into pointless debates where nothing is accomplished, everyone is angry, and nobody changes their minds.

    On the other hand, I was inspired to write two articles based on yesterday’s discussion, and it gave me something else to think about besides my own, lonely and fearful, life. 🙂

    Thus, it brightened my day.

    As for the cold read, not having seen nor met me. Knowing that I am a cyclist who rides on the shoulder of a highway, sans helmet, both ways up hill, what sequence of words above gave you the idea that my life was filled with fear?

    • Serge Issakov
      Serge Issakov says:

      As the one who posted this essay to the SDCBC list, I presume the reference is about me.

      For the record, I have participated in one race in my life. It was under 5 miles long, unsanctioned, and I was 14. It is unfair to characterize me as a racer.

      How this essay or anything I said in that post discredits anyone else’s work is beyond me.

  27. Fred Ollinger
    Fred Ollinger says:

    I don’t want separate facilities because they are safe.

    Nobody really cares about safety otherwise they wouldn’t drive in motor vehicles.

    Cycling on the road with no facilities is safe. I know that.

    I want separate facilities just like I like to eat pizza. It’s a personal preference. That is all.

    If we have separate facilities then people will cycle.

    There is a huge reverse correlation between the number of people who ride and the number of cycling accidents. This is been scientifically proven. So making facilities that you believe to be “unsafe” because you do not want to slow down will actually make things safer. This is a fact.

    You can not change people’s personal preference with logic and reason.

    Every single person I have ever met: motorist, pedestrian, and cyclist wants separate facilities. If you do not want that you are in the tiny minority.

    It is wrong to assume that people fear traffic just because they have concern for EVERYONE else’s opinions.

    So it ends here. No more talk on safety. If you really cared about safety, you’d have them tear down all the freeways. More people die, in California in motor vehicle accidents than people in the entire US in cycling accidents.

    What are the REAL objections to infrastructure?

    Why not come with me on a ride home on my commute and we can chat about it?

    Oh, we can’t chat b/c it’s too loud. I don’t want safe. I want relatively quiet.

    You should go to CPH. The streets were so quiet.

  28. MikeOnBike
    MikeOnBike says:

    Fred, I imagine you’re quite a nice person in person, but your writing style here is coming across as angry and argumentative. Maybe that’s not your intent, but that’s the impression I get.

    After all, your opening line to Mighk was “You are not an advocate for cycling, but rather against it.”

    If we’re getting “sucked into pointless debates where nothing is accomplished, everyone is angry, and nobody changes their minds” then I’m sorry to say that’s mostly your doing, by introducing so many unrelated tangents, largely from the “Book of Cycling Flame Wars”.

    I’m curious to hear your reaction to the actual themes of the essay. For example, the concept of community. Or the relationships of fear, fault, and entitlement. Or the proposal of being a dependable cyclist.

    • Serge Issakov
      Serge Issakov says:

      I too am curious to hear Fred’s reaction to the actual themes of the essay. For example, the concept of community. Or the relationships of fear, fault, and entitlement. Or the proposal of being a dependable cyclist.

  29. Keri
    Keri says:

    I want quiet, too. I often go out of my way to connect quiet streets.

    Cycletracks and sidepaths are noisy — there is no difference in volume between riding in a segregated space and riding in a general traffic lane. The ways to achieve a quiet route system are paths on a right-of-way separate from the roadway and connecting quiet streets via way-finding, bike blvd implementations or connector trails — these are things Mighk and I strongly support and advocate.

    Safety in numbers has not been “scientifically proven.” It’s conjecture that sounds reasonable and so is accepted as gospel by those who want to believe in it.

    Quoting John Allen:

    The well-known Jacobsen study of safety in numbers of bicyclists compared different communities at the same time. It also has been criticized (including in the Oakland study) for faulty math that shows a hyperbolic descending curve even if the input data are completely random.

    There is certainly validity to creating safety through exposure and thus expectations. But Jacobsen’s conclusions have been grossly misused by the “end-justifies-the-means” facility advocates. Safety in numbers didn’t save Kimberly Hull, Alice Swanson, Tracey Sparling, Bryce Lewis, Brett Jarolimek, Dana Laird, Marcus Ewing, Dennis Dumm, Bonnie Tinker or countless others who have died senselessly in crashes we teach our students to recognize and prevent. But instead of being encouraged to learn about the environment in which they would be operating, they were lured to their deaths — deaths caused by the inherent flaws of the bike lanes they were using. They didn’t know the risks they were taking because they “felt safe.” But the advocates who put those lanes there did. They made a calculated decision to create risk for other people in order to get them to ride bikes. That’s just so effing repugnant.

  30. Fred Ollinger
    Fred Ollinger says:

    Please don’t use other people’s deaths for your own political motives. It’s unseemly.

    I rode on Cycletracks before. Please don’t tell me what they are like because I was there.

    In San Diego, it is impossible for me to ride home with any level of quiet. I guess I am a coward because I like to hear myself think.

    As for my attitude, yes, it makes me angry when I have to merge with traffic flowing onto the freeway just to get home from work.

    As for a cyclist responsibilities, don’t ask me that question. An advocate doesn’t bully their clients into doing anything they don’t want–by definition. The client is always right.

    Read the article on cherry picking as advocacy.

    I believe that there is an element of people who call themselves advocates, but they are ruining things aka Quisling advocates.

    No, I am not happy about being stabbed in the back.

    Why should I choose loud when I can have quiet?

    Why hours of a class when I can have 1 minute?

    Why should I have to ride in conditions that I don’t like?

    Why should my friends be discouraged from cycling?

    Why, when I ask for what I want, am I insulted both my intelligence and my masculinity?

    Why do people tell me how to ride then call me controlling?

    Why are so called advocates who ignore all motorists and all cyclist (save for a tiny few) then ask me to be considerate?

    Why do people continue to make things up about infrastructure and tell it to me when I was there. I rode on it. I rode on a freeway (the 8). I ride on a highway daily. I rode in Missouri where there are not cars. I rode in CPH. I rode in Philly in ghettos. I know what its like to ride in places.

    I have personal preferences that are immune to “knowledge” and “facts”. These preferences happen to be shared by nearly the entire US. Yet there are people who fight against this, and I want to know why. Especially, the Serge’s who never ride their bikes. What’s in it for you?

    Why do you hate us so much?

    • Serge Issakov
      Serge Issakov says:

      Pardon our “political” motives – saving cyclist lives and preserving the ability of all cyclists to use the roads safely and comfortably with rights equal to all other drivers.

      “The Serge’s who never ride their bikes”???

    • Keri
      Keri says:

      Here’s my political agenda.

      I’ve read the stories of the people I mentioned. They broke my heart. They could have been me, when I didn’t know better. Thank God I did know better when I encountered the truck would have killed me if I didn’t.

      Several of those stories moved me deeply, I followed them closely (including the political aftermath). They informed the direction in which I would take my advocacy and the passion with which I dispense information in the hope of preventing our readers or students from meeting a similar fate.

      All but Bonnie were very young, with rich lives ahead of them. Bonnie (age 61) was actually a friend of a friend. Coincidentally, I went to his house for dinner the night I learned of her crash. The stories I’d read about her life and community work were still rolling around in my head. He met me with tears in his eyes and told me he just learned a friend was killed. When he said her name, I nearly doubled over. I wish I’d known her, too. http://youtu.be/fCtbziDMuIc

      • Serge Issakov
        Serge Issakov says:

        So, Keri’s motivations are about saving lives, and Fred’s are political motivations that serve his “personal preferences that are immune to “knowledge” and “facts””. Did I get that right?

        • NE2
          NE2 says:

          Well, Fred would probably argue that his motivations are saving the planet (for humans). I might even agree. And that takes you to the ends justifying the means argument: is it OK to put individual people at risk for the greater good – and is this the only way to achieve the ends?

          • Serge Issakov
            Serge Issakov says:

            Well, I was going by what Fred actually wrote. If he feels that his political views are justified by planet saving motivation, that certainly is not conveyed in what he has written here.

            What I see are narcissistic justifications like “it makes me angry when I have to merge with traffic ” and “Why should I have to ride in conditions that I don’t like?” Others are based on factual errors, like “Why are so called advocates who ignore all motorists and all cyclist (save for a tiny few) “.

            He also directly said, “I have personal preferences that are immune to “knowledge” and “facts”.”

          • Keri
            Keri says:

            Oh Serge, let’s just admit it. We’re part of the Vast VC Conspiracy that has used its extensive political power to keep America from becoming just like the Netherlands all these years.

  31. Khal Spencer
    Khal Spencer says:

    Hate you? Oh, come on, Mr. Ollinger. Stash the hyperbole. Stash the ad-hominem attacks (advocates who disagree with you are “Quislings”) as well.

    Frankly, bicycling advocates and bicyclists love to bicker. I’d be surprised if we would all agree the Sun rises in the East. That doesn’t make someone who disagrees with you a Quisling. But such rhetoric really does verge on flame-baiting.

  32. Fred Ollinger
    Fred Ollinger says:

    I actually have zero problems with how other cyclists ride. My wife and I both ride VC. We have friends who are traffic planners and licensed cycling instructors.

    I have no problems with VC riders, cycling salmon, sidewalk riders, or anything else. I don’t feel like I am someone to judge other people.

    I just wish I was given the same consideration that I give to other cyclists.

    When I go to cycling meetings, they are constantly complaining about other cyclists, but they rarely mention bad motorist behavior. There’s not a single piece of bike infrastructure that they don’t hate nor a freeway that they don’t love.

    These so called cycling advocates don’t ride their bikes to the meeting; they drive.

    It’s as if all of Ford motor company would drive Toyotas to their job and tell them everyone that their product is the best.

    I notice that one of the tactics that you use is to ignore all the valid points I make and to nitpick me to try to piss me off.

    I have cited a lot of useful information that I have amassed by listening to other people regarding cycling. I suggest that you do the same. Don’t listen to me, but go out and talk to people. You’ll hear the same thing that I am hearing.

    Instead of listening to other people, YOU will have personal attacks like I have been accused of such as calling people “fearful” without even knowing them.

    An advocates job is to listen to other people and try to implement what they want. If you can’t do that, you are not a real advocate.

    I know you are all wonderful people who have used the same tired arguments such as attacking people who want bike paths as being “fearful”.

    Sadly every single real cyclist who does not own a car does ride their bike in a VC manner, and they all say that it sucks. It’s not as fun as separated infrastructure.

    States that have better cycling infrastructure get their money back.

    I feel that at this point, when someone continues to not listen to reason they are zealots.

    I have seen Serge especially wear people down until they personally attack him then he acts like an innocent victim.

    • NE2
      NE2 says:

      I have no problem with sidewalk riders either (sometimes I am one), though if I were talking to one about cycling styles I’d make sure he understands the risks at intersections and try to convince him to try the road. Salmon… they’re like the guy that cuts across four lanes to take an exit. You dislike him because he causes danger to not only himself but others.

      The rest of your post is ad hominem ‘fair and balanced’ spin. It’s certainly not ‘useful information’ to know that there are hypocrites everywhere, and it’s complete misinformation to paint us as people who love freeways and drive cars everywhere. Yawn.

    • Shannon
      Shannon says:

      So, people riding in the wrong direction should be left alone? Is that what you are saying? I’m sorry that some of us want to try to better educate the populous about safer bicycling behaviors.

      Just today, I witnessed a lady biking IN THE ROAD against traffic. I almost wanted to pull over and say something to her. No, not to upset or start a fight, but to HELP her. She is going to get herself and/or others killed. She also wasn’t wearing a helmet, but that wasn’t my concern as much as the way she was riding.

      Fred, people WANT to learn for the most part, they want to understand how to be better cyclists. If you aren’t one of them, I’m sorry to hear that. And, I’m sorry that other savvy cyclists having that concern for fellow cyclists is upsetting to you. Some of us just want to make the world a little more knowledgeable and safer.

  33. Fred Ollinger
    Fred Ollinger says:

    OK, group it’s been long enough. I made a lot of really brilliant arguments which were not addressed at all.

    “Nice temper tantrum” is not a rational argument.

    A class that teaches safe riding would teach people to ride in ALL conditions including a cycletrack and thus would prevent someone from getting clipped just as the VC people claim that their class can magically prevent all cycling deaths as long as there is zero consideration for cyclists by the road designer.

    I’ll leave one more question for you all to ponder.

    Knowing that a pickup truck is the most dangerous motor vehicle, will you deny the millions who want to drive one that pleasure? Knowing that freeways are more deadly than separated bike PATHS (not lanes), paths with no cars at all, would you advocate for the destruction of all freeways?

    If not, as a CYCLING, and not a motor vehicle advocate why do you deny us spending on cycling infrastructure that we knowingly will ride even though you think it is risky?

    That is, why do you not attack motorists ten times the amount of times you attack your fellow riders whom I NEVER attack. I only attack Quisling advocates who, again, are useless to me because they offer me nothing.

    That’s it. I’m waiting for answers to my all my posts.

    If anyone personally attacks me such as calling me “angry”, “narcissistic”, or “fearful” but without giving me logical, fact based, and real world answers, I will assume that you agree with me, but are unable to admit it.

    • Serge Issakov
      Serge Issakov says:

      Fred, I did not call you “narcissistic”. I said your words — “it makes me angry when I have to merge with traffic ” and “Why should I have to ride in conditions that I don’t like?” — were a “narcissistic justification”.

      Frankly, from what I know of you you don’t strike me as being narcissistic at all. Never-the-less, I stand by my characterization of these words as eliciting self-absorption. It was an attack on your argument, not on you personally.

      > Knowing that a pickup truck is the most dangerous motor vehicle,
      > will you deny the millions who want to drive one that pleasure?
      I can’t speak for others, but as a libertarian I’m not even opposed to denying people the right to own guns because they’re deadly. Anyway, personally, I find pickups to be no more a potential threat than any other type of vehicles.

      > Knowing that freeways are more deadly than separated bike PATHS (not lanes),
      > paths with no cars at all, would you advocate for the destruction of all freeways?
      No. I don’t advocate for the destruction of any paths or roads. The closest I’ve come to that is advocating the removal of bike lane stripes where bike lane use is mandatory for cyclists. I suppose that if cycle track use was mandatory I would advocate their destruction, but that’s a hypothetical, at least in CA.

      > If not, as a CYCLING, and not a motor vehicle advocate why do you deny us
      > spending on cycling infrastructure that we knowingly will ride even though you think it is risky?
      I don’t deny anyone anything. I suggest and try to persuade.

      > That is, why do you not attack motorists ten times the amount of times you attack your
      > fellow riders whom I NEVER attack.
      I don’t attack anyone. I share arguments, and counter-arguments. The main argument (more of a religious belief, really) I try to rebut is that cycling in traffic is inherently unsafe, and separation is required to make it safe.


    • Ray
      Ray says:

      “Sadly every single real cyclist who does not own a car does ride their bike in a VC manner, and they all say that it sucks. It’s not as fun as separated infrastructure.”

      Uh, I guess I’m not a real cyclist, ATYO.
      I ride mostly to get places, fun is a side-benefit.

  34. Fred Ollinger
    Fred Ollinger says:

    Thank-you for your support, Serge. I knew that I could count on you because you are logical and rational.

    I totally agree that people should always be allowed to ride in traffic. I know that you have this particular aspect of advocacy, and thus I need not worry about it. In short, you have my back.

    Since you and I agree, that, because of the libertarian viewpoint, we should all have as many choices as possible. Also, you don’t attack. Great.

    I will count on you to remain silent while we fight for more choices including separated infrastructure. Similarly, as per your ideas, I will allow you to take your natural leadership position and to argue in favor of taking the lane as I am wont to do on a daily basis.


    • NE2
      NE2 says:

      Someone should do a study on how mandatory bike lane jurisdictions compare to others in terms of number of bike lanes. Anecdotal evidence suggests a positive correlation between bike lanes and restrictive laws. Florida is one of the most recent casualties (‘we built you this bike lane, now get in it!’).

      Perhaps if you were having this argument on a forum dedicated to a place that doesn’t have a MBL law, it would be different (cynically: because those people don’t expect it to happen to them), but this is Florida, and installing bike lanes results in cyclists being forced to use them. In other words, if you advocate bike lanes but believe that cyclists should be free to not use them, please take your arguments somewhere without a MBL law (yet).

      • Rodney
        Rodney says:

        My commute has approximately 2 miles of bike lanes each way. Thank you Florida for the MBL.

        On two occasions, I usually see two to five sidewalk riders during my commute. On two occasions, I gently mentioned that they had this nice bike lane built for their use. Their reply:

        “I feel safer on the sidewalk. I’m too close to the cars there.” Where’s the sense of community in that?

        • Shannon
          Shannon says:

          Yeah, I’ve gotten that response from the few folks I’ve mentioned the bike lane to. I wish I could better convince them that they really aren’t safer there.

          • NE2
            NE2 says:

            It probably depends on the road. On a high-speed four-lane suburban arterial flanked by small residential subdivisions with half a mile between intersections, it’s probably safer to use the sidewalk than a two-foot bike lane squeezed between the right lane and the gutter.

            I haven’t biked on Apopka-Vineland between Conroy-Windermere and Old Winter Garden, but I motor there occasionally, and I’d use the sidewalk if I weren’t willing to ignore the bike lane and risk a ticket.

          • Shannon
            Shannon says:

            I know the sidewalk is there, but I rarely make use of it. I know we can use it and become in essence, pedestrians, but I just don’t feel as confident there.

  35. Khal Spencer
    Khal Spencer says:

    Getting back to the point of Mighk’s essay, which was a broader one that has been cheapened by reducing it to a facilities argument. Is anything wrong with self-reliance and accountability? Not just for cyclists, mind you. Better citizenship works from many perspectives. Robert Pirsig takes this on from other angles.

    We need to spend less resources battling the effects of the lack of personal accountability and not just in cycling. We have a myriad of conflicting and often self-defeating rules in many aspects of our national life. I spoke to a guy in town here and asked why there was not more of a clear space cut around a set of local power lines, since a tree hitting a power line is now thought to have been the cause of a fire that has burned over 135,000 acres of forest, largest in New Mexico history. His response? That you have to have approvals from four different agencies to cut down a tree along the power line and these are hard if not impossible to get. No common sense from the forester allowed. Better to lose the whole forest than a few trees, eh? Such is government regulation. We don’t trust a forester to do his job. I can tell more stories of that type but won’t waste bandwidth.

    With higher levels of responsible citizenship, cyclists would have to worry less, not more, about lax driving by motorists. Accountability also reinforces something Serge has spoken of extensively–that if you amass the responsibility for your own safety, you have greater control over the outcome. Hence less bad riding by cyclists. I see no down side.

    None of the above precludes “facilities”. What it does is ensure that cyclists can ensure that facilities not built without being vetted in advance rather than accepted gleefully without analysis. There are many reasons to build a facility: safety, pleasure, efficiency are just three. But facilities built for pleasure or efficiency should be safe, of course, and should not force a cyclist to trade off his underlying rights to travel freely. These variables would have to be demonstrated, not assumed, and a saavy cyclist (small case) who is better prepared to ride without being hooked on a facility can better judge its intrinsic value.

    As far as the more narrow facilities argument (isn’t that horse dead yet?), I’ve used parkways rather than freeways when riding my motorcycle even if it was a little slower in the same way I might use a path rather than the road on our tandem if it is a little more peaceful and quiet. In both cases I had a choice and understood the trade offs. Both have been my choice, though. These were not imposed by an authoritarian government “for my own good”.

    • NE2
      NE2 says:

      I may trust a forester to do his job, but his job may negatively impact the rest of us, and so we regulate that job. If we assume that leaving a clear space around power lines is a good thing (and there’s probably some debate on this issue), it does seem roughly analogous to the legal requirement to stop at a stop sign watering down the safety requirement to yield.

      As for accountability, if you mean how many libertarians believe matters should be handled by civil courts, I see a big downside. A motorist crosses into oncoming traffic to pass you and causes a head-on. He sues you for ‘forcing’ him to pass, and a jury of angry motorists decides to hold you accountable, because we’ve gotten rid of all the government regulations about safe passing.

    • Mighk Wilson
      Mighk Wilson says:

      Thank you Khal for bringing it back on-topic. I guess any time “bike lanes” are mentioned on a cycling blog it’s like a red cape being waved in front of a bull.

      The other sacred cows I attacked were the ever popular 3-foot and vulnerable user laws. Personally I’ve gone back and forth and the vulnerable user law, but the 3-foot law has always struck me as silly and mostly unenforceable. (And then when FBA’s survey of motorists found most motorists thing they should give 5 to 10 feet, and less than 15% said 3 feet, it was clear to me what a foolish decision it was for cyclists to push for it. “Cool! Now I only need to give three feet!”)

      It’s important to also look decades back to when the far-to-the-right laws were included in the UVC and most state statutes; once again it was fear (bicyclists will slow down motorists) and fault (they’re mostly kids who can’t be trusted to operate responsibly) (no retribution yet) which resulted in control (stay out of the way of the important people in cars).

      And even farther back to when motorists were given preference over pedestrians in the 1920s, which what made the high-speed arterial possible. The fear/fault/retribution/control dynamic is very evident in the book Fighting Traffic by Peter Norton:
      The strident anti-motorist campaigns of those days (from the non-motoring majority) resulted in the powerful motoring interests getting together and writing laws (based on fear of not being able to drive fast, finding fault with pedestrians, and retribution for pedestrian efforts to control them) which hurt pedestrians and transit users.

      Ironically, it is the Dutch (and Germans and Brits) who are leading the effort to REDUCE CONTROL with the Shared Space concept of streets. While it’s true that such an approach requires the right kind of land use and street network, it’s also notable that crashes for all modes were reduced on streets and intersections where it’s been implemented.

  36. Mighk
    Mighk says:

    Fred & others:

    The accusation that “vehicular cyclists” never did anything to grow cycling has a kernel of truth to it. Forester’s original curriculum was intended to train people to be top-notch roadies, not to help the average Jane or Joe (or their kids) get to places around town. The League, instead of attempting to create a curriculum which would do the latter, instead tried to pare Forester’s 30-hour course into a 10-hour course. The result was too rudimentary for existing roadies, and too intimidating for most novices. And too dogmatic (and left-brained) for both. That’s why Keri & I developed CyclingSavvy.

    We don’t talk about “right ways and wrong ways” to ride, we show how crashes happen and illustrate the best strategies for avoidance. As I wrote before, we don’t tell our students bike lanes are bad, we just show them the potential problems and they come to that conclusion on their own. We also teach strategies for using short sections of arterials to make necessary connections to trails and quiet, local streets, so people can extend their ranges. We know we’re on the right track because our students tell us so. They are not complaining that “I can only ride THIS way?” They tell us they feel EMPOWERED. That was often not the case when we taught the League’s curriculum; the response was often more of a shrug.

    Look at all the testimonials on the right-hand side of the home page for CyclingSavvy: http://cyclingsavvy.org/ These are all from (former) novice cyclists. These are exactly the people mainstream bicycle advocacy desires to get out on bikes.

    Our course has only been around for a year and we have only about 20 instructors so far, but we have requests from around the country to come and do instructor trainings. It’d be so nice if we could get the same sort of financial backing from the bicycle industry that the facilities proponents do.

    • Shannon
      Shannon says:

      Like I said further up, I loved Cycling Savvy and would never feel this confident or empowered without it. Do I still feel a bit nervous hitting the road? Sure, but now that I’ve ridden on roads like Colonial Drive and Orange Avenue, I know I can do it. I now tell anyone and everyone who will listen about FBA and the program.

      • Keri
        Keri says:

        Thank you Shannon! I really value your testimonials and your initiative to weigh in. The voices of our students are so important in these discussions. Hope to see you on a ride soon.

  37. Jerry
    Jerry says:

    Your article is too ignorant of human nature and outside influences. For example, you left out a prime factor: we are good citizens only to the extent that it is convenient for us to be.
    Also, how often do we consider the consequences of our actions prior to committing them?
    A good movie to watch is a Disney animated movie starring Goofy (I cannot remember the name of it) where Goofy became a good citizen or a sociopath according to his environment (on and off the road).

  38. Keri
    Keri says:

    Diana and I rode up to the Farmers Market today. We made a game of counting all the friendly greetings we exchanged with people. Lost count around 15. Not a single negative interaction. Pretty typical day on the bike, actually.

  39. Fred Ollinger
    Fred Ollinger says:

    Hey friends, in my attempt to gain empathy for, gain personal connection to, and to forge a common cause with the VC folks, I have a written a document which outlines the beliefs in the VC universe.

    Here it is:

    I. Definitions:

    VC – Vehicular Cycling which sees the book _Effective Cycling_ as defining the movement’s philosophy and goals.

    VC as a term is deprecated. We now call them Savvy Cyclists or Dependable Cyclists.

    VC cyclists claim to have a scientifically based, rock solid, TRUTH in terms of how to ride a bicycle. Thus when a VC cyclists speaks, he is speaking with logic and reason. If other cyclists only understood how brilliant Forrester is and if they buy his book, and pay for his course, they, too will see the WAY and they will abandon all disagreements with Forrester.

    All other forms of riding should be illegal.

    II. Training:

    Bicycle safety course which are taught by League Certified Instructors, only:


    III. Infrastructure:

    A . Separated: No separated cycling infrastructure should be built.

    NO TO:

    1. bike lanes

    2. bike paths

    3. cycletracks

    4. bike boxes

    5. places for cyclists to rest their feet while waiting at a light

    6. bike only bridges to connect mesas. VC people would prefer for that money to go to building freeways or to be given back to those people with automobiles in the form of tax breaks.

    B. Integrated infrastructure.

    Because they do not want to be seen as anti-cycling, there is limited infrastructure that VC advocates are FOR. Thus, it is incorrect to say that they are 100% anti-infrastructure because they do admit a few exceptions:

    YES TO

    1. Tiny aluminium signs on the side of the road that plead “Share the road” with a tiny picture of a car running down a tiny bicycle.

    2. Sharrow which are little pictures of bicycles painted in the middle of a road. Note, sharrows are only acceptable if they are placed precisely, according to Forrester’s opinion, in the right location on the road. A few inches off in placement, and VC are totally against sharrows, too.

    IV. Legal: The will of John Forrester and his followers shall be built into the law forcing cyclists to ride in the way that he has outlined.

    1. Tickets for cycling infractions

    2. Denying money for cycling projects. Often politicians who never ride bicycles would like to spend more money than the VC people think is correct. Thus, VC people often veto bicycle projects despite their popularity politically and publicly.

    3. Limited liability for motorists especially when the cyclist defied Forrester’s techniques.

    4. BBF: Blame bicyclist’s first. If there is a dispute between a cyclists and a motorist, a VC person would most likely take the motorist’s point of view without knowing the facts of the case with the reasoning had Forrester’s will been followed, there would not have been a collision in the first place.

    This is due to the belief that their cycling course eliminated 100% of accidents.

    5. Three foot passing law. They are against this law because they don’t personally believe it can be enforced, and they do not think that any law should be passed unless they, personally, can see it enforced to their liking.

    VC people feel there’s no need for a three foot passing law because if you get hit, you probably didn’t take their course which makes you 100% safe. Also, are you wearing a helmet?

    6. Helmets. VC people think that helmets should be worn on bicycles only.

    7. Legal waivers for group rides. VC people are in favour of these. If people meet, on their own, for a group ride, VC people still feel that waivers are appropriate even though there’s no organizer.

    V. Motoring

    Mainly, the movement is silent on motoring when it negatively impacts cyclists.

    They are not anti-motoring, and will often take a motorist’s side when there is a dispute in which the cyclists was defying John Forrester’s will. In fact, in other regards there is no difference between their ideas and the motoring advocacy and lobbyist group the AAA.

    The VC movement is very pro-motoring infrastructure including separated infrastructure, MOTOR VEHICLES ONLY, such as freeways. They oppose any advocacy in favour of sharing freeways with bicycles.

    They think that speed limits should not be imposed to make cycling safe rather speed limits are there for the safety of the motorist, only.

    VC people are in favor of motorist education which tells the motorists that bicycles should be merging in their traffic. I’m pretty sure that they tell motorists that it’s not cool to hit cyclists deliberately, but if the cyclist does get hit, see above.

    Thought they encourage helmet wearing on bicycles, despite the greater risk, they oppose mandatory helmet laws for motorists.

    VC people oppose mandatory waivers for motorists, only, when there are directions given on websites and groups of automobiles are going to be present for a common cause. Only groups of cyclists need waivers, motorists are exempt.


    I’m open to any comments, and I will make changes in order to increase accuracy.

    I hope you are well.

    • Shannon
      Shannon says:

      Wow, you are so out there guy.

      I agree, let’s ignore this trolling and continue onward. 🙂

    • Jym
      Jym says:

      @Fred – Some amendments.

      Under “Definitions” you probably should note that Effective Cycling™ is a trademark held by John Forester, and can be only used mean agreement in every particular with Forester’s belief system. For example, the League of American Bicyclists may no longer use the term because they dare to mention the existence of bike lanes without the requisite three-paragraph diatribe against them.

      Along with Savvy Cyclists there is Bicycle Driving, because drivers are exactly the people to emulate (bicyclists, for example, lag far behind the tens of thousands of Americans killed by motorists every year). Take special note of the BicycleDriving Google Group, launched as a new and shiny forum devoted to this exciting development in VC, with participants from the same old VC listservs making the same old arguments.

      Under “Infrastructure” you should use the word “segregated” instead of “separated.” The former word has the rhetorical force of its strong negative association with racism in the United States, but if anyone points this out you must act shocked and innocent and make some pedantic point about the dictionary definition.

      An exception is made for Interstate highways and any other cars-only infrastructure. These are never called “segregated” and are always cheerfully accepted as the entirely reasonable order of things.

      Under “Legal” I would say that BBF simply isn’t enough. Your first guess just might not take, you’ll have to concoct up a second, third, fourth reason why the bicyclist is the one at fault. If none of these pan out, you can rest assured that the bicyclist is just lying, since of course the bicyclist is always the one at fault.

      Under “Motoring” the whole section needs to be rewritten to be divisively personalized as “anti-motorist” rather than any opposition to motoring or cars. This is the same strategy used by the tobacco industry to reframe “anti-smoking” into “anti-smoker.” Just follow the example language on Forester’s own website.

    • Serge Issakov
      Serge Issakov says:

      Hi Fred,

      Instead of commenting on individual statements, I’ve simply edited your document for accuracy. Here it is.

      I. Definitions:

      ROTR – Rules of The Road

      VC – Vehicular Cycling – operating a bicycle on roadways in accordance with the ROTR for drivers of vehicles.

      VC advocates claim that bicyclists operating on roadways are required to follow the ROTR for drivers by law and, those that do, generally have fewer crashes and are treated better than those who ride on roadways contrary to the ROTR. VC advocates also claim that cyclists riding on roadways in accordance with the ROTR generally have fewer crashes, are treated better, and arrive at their destinations sooner, than those who operate on segregated facilities (often as “rolling pedestrians”).

      Effective Cycling – training program developed by John Forester to teach cyclists all aspects of using a bicycle effectively for transportation and recreation, including bike maintenance, safe operating skills, as well as how and why to operate as a driver on roadways (vehicular cycling).

      Traffic Cycling 101 and 102 – pared down version of Effective Cycling program taught by League of American Bicyclists certified instructors.

      Cycling Savvy – cycle training program developed by Keri Caffrey and Mighk Wilson in Orlando with a goal of changing certain expectations and paradigms regarding cycling in traffic.

      II. Training:
      LAB Traffic Skills – http://www.bikeleague.org/programs/education/courses.php
      CyclingSavvy – http://cyclingsavvy.org/about/
      CAN-BIKE (Canada) – http://www.canbike.net/cca_pages/cb_commute.htm
      CTC (UK) – http://www.ctc.org.uk/desktopdefault.aspx?tabid=5116

      III. Books
      CycleCraft by John Franklin http://www.cyclecraft.org/
      Effective Cycling by John Forester
      Bicycling StreetSmarts by John S. Allen http://www.bikexprt.com/streetsmarts/index.htm

      IV. Infrastructure:
      A . Separated: VC advocates generally oppose mandatory use of cycle-specific separated infrastructure and oppose building of separated infrastructure as long as its use, instead of riding on the roadway, is legally mandatory (unless all slow-moving traffic is banned from the roadway).

      NO TO:
      1. mandatory-use bike lanes
      2. mandatory-use bike paths
      3. mandatory-use sidepaths/cycletracks
      4. door zone bike lanes.
      5. door zone sharrows.
      6. sharrows that encourage sharing of narrow lanes by being placed far right rather than near center of lane.
      7. bike lanes that go all the way to the intersection guiding through cyclists to the right of right-turning motorists
      8. bike boxes
      9. bike lanes on roads with 25 mph (or slower) speed limits

      Ambivalent about:
      1. places for cyclists to rest their feet while waiting at a light
      2. “Share the Road” signs
      3. bike lanes on long stretches between intersections, especially on roads with speed limits of 45 mph and above.

      YES TO:
      1. bike only bridges to connect mesas and other infrastructure that increases connectivity for cyclists.
      2. BMUFL (Bikes May Use Full Lane) signs, especially when coupled with (“Change Lanes To Pass”).
      3. Sharrows (outside of door zones and not far right in narrow lanes).
      4. Bike boulevards
      5. Bicyclist use of freeways, especially when no reasonable alternative path is available.

      IV. Legal
      1. Support tickets for infractions of the ROTR whether the driver in violation is motoring or bicycling.
      2. Oppose cycling projects comprised exclusively or mostly of building infrastructure for mandatory segregation.
      3. Support limited liability for motorists involved in bike-car crashes in which the cyclist is operating on roads in violation of the ROTR (e.g., failing to yield as in running a red light or stop sign, riding at night without proper lighting, riding on the wrong side of the road against traffic, etc.)
      4. Support: take responsibility for your own safety. Remember that in almost all crashes either party could avoid the crash (this is the basis for “defensive driving”), and bike-car crashes are no exception. This is why so much of VC advocacy (and related training programs) focuses on what the cyclist can do to avoid crashes with motorists, even when its the motorist’s fault.
      5. Three foot passing law. They are ambivalent about this law because they think 3-feet is too close in some situations and don’t believe it can be enforced any better than existing law (in either case if the motorist hits the cyclist he is just as obviously passing too close for safety as well as being closer than 3 feet; if the cyclist is not hit a violation is just as difficult to prove), but do support versions of the law that have other benefits (like CA SB 910 which improves the wording regarding what constitutes safe passing of a cyclist, making it actually easier for police to enforce the law against unsafe passing, and allows crossing a double-yellow line to pass a cyclist when safe).
      6. Helmets. VC is generally ambivalent about helmets, though most safety courses recommend or even require wearing them in training.
      7. Legal waivers for group rides. The right of any group of cyclists to ride in accordance with the ROTR, and without a waiver, is supported. Waivers and police escort/assistance should only be required for groups/rides/races that wish to have the legal requirement of adhering to the ROTR be suspended.

      V. Motoring
      Mainly, the movement is silent on motoring and focuses on what cyclists and motorists have in common: operating in traffic as drivers in accordance with the ROTR.
      Some but not most VC advocates could be characterized as anti-motoring. Regardless, they often focus on how the cyclist could have avoided the conflict in the first place when discussing particular car-bike disputes.
      Most VC advocates are ambivalent about MOTOR VEHICLES ONLY infrastructure intended for high speed travel only, such as freeways, on which all slow moving traffic (not just bicyclists) are banned, except in making sure that cyclists have a reasonable alternative route, often by allowing bicyclists to use freeways for travel.
      VC advocates have differing opinions about using speed limits for traffic calming.
      VC advocates favor motorist education which reminds motorists that bicyclists have the same rights to use the roads as they do.
      VC advocates generally oppose mandatory helmet laws.
      VC advocates are consistent regarding mandatory waivers for all groups of drivers. If suspension of the ROTR is required for an event, then permits/waivers should be required. If not, then not. Same rules for cyclists as for motorists.


      Hope this helps.

  40. NE2
    NE2 says:

    (By the way, folks, don’t feed the troll. This fits the definition to a T – posting an obvious strawman with the intent of provoking us.)

  41. Blake Justice
    Blake Justice says:

    I think the name you are looking for is Citizen Cyclist – like several said, citizens first and cyclists somewhere after that. How ’bout something like “Citizen Cyclists – We Stop, We Signal – It’s not that hard”

    • Mighk Wilson
      Mighk Wilson says:

      I’d considered Citizen Cyclist, but thought it too ostentatious; I was looking for something a bit more matter-of-fact. Perhaps you’re right, though. We often complain about being treated as second-class citizens while cycling.

  42. Mighk Wilson
    Mighk Wilson says:

    “The only standard of performance that can sustain a free society is excellence. It is increasingly claimed, however, that excellence is at odds with democracy; increasingly we are urged to offer a dangerous embrace to mere adequacy … Our flight from excellence is profoundly philosophical. Out of well-intentioned but inept concern with quality of opportunity, we have begun to reject anything that exceeds anyone’s grasp. Some might argue that it is our right to engage in this curious flight, and so it is, the right of free men to be fools. But do we have the right as citizens in a free society to reject excellence on behalf of others who may not be so foolish?”
    – Dr. John Silber, president of Boston University in Harper’s magazine

    • Khal Spencer
      Khal Spencer says:

      I tend to agree with Silber. I don’t see how the Founding Fathers could have assumed a nation could survive indefinitely under a Constitution such as ours, derived from the Age of Enlightenment, if indefinitely run by D students and fools. We have had D students and fools throughout history, but generally have not been overwhelmed by them. At least for long periods of time and in our government, it takes time to undo the checks and balances. That, by the way, being the reason for checks and balances.

  43. Mighk Wilson
    Mighk Wilson says:

    With only a couple exceptions, I want to say thank you all for the responses and mostly positive feedback.

    I sent this post to my friend Jim, who gave me the Block book. Jim is not a “bicyclist,” though he owns and drives a bike and has taken two-thirds of CyclingSavvy.

    He wrote that the kind of conversation that’s needed is one “that is hard to have unless we are willing to let go of our own vanity, our need to look good and be right. That’s asking a lot. It’s an adult conversation and hard to have in person let alone in blog responses or email form.”

    I’m proud to say that the CommuteOrlando commenters do a pretty darn good job of that considering the huge disadvantages of the form.

    • Keri
      Keri says:

      A willingness to let go of our own vanity. Eloquent.

      I pondered this discussion yesterday. At the heart of the matter is a capacity to rise above attachment, examine the way we process things and examine contradictions. It’s often described as intellectual honesty, but I think its a spiritual capacity. The capacity to guide and trust rather than push and manipulate.

      From that perspective, what Mighk is doing in this and his other essays, what we are doing with CyclingSavvy and what I had hoped could be done with the Civility Initiative is guide people toward the positive thinking and behaviors which would lead to the organic development of a sustainable system (aka Livable Community). When you guide people, you show them new perspectives, open doors to new thinking and allow them to walk through and own their actions… as well as the positive result of their actions. We hope the world we’d like to see will emerge this way.

      Predictive reasoning tells me guiding is the way to create true functionality and sustainability. But guiding requires one to let go of attachment to a specific outcome and have a certain amount of faith in the integrity of one’s method and desires. Guiding also requires respect for people to make their own informed decisions. Meeting the challenge of informing the uninformed (or misinformed) is a far more difficult undertaking than appeasing them.

      The antithesis of guiding is pushing (or manipulating) in an attempt to force the world you want to see into being. Pushing is a result of attachment to an outcome — worse when amplified by desperation to cure an ill. With attachment comes objectification — the reduction of people from autonomous individuals to icons of (insert cause: livability, clean air, public health, bicycle sales) which must be manipulated into place. When one is attached to an outcome, the end justifies the means.

      Naturally, guiding produces fewer unintended consequences than pushing. An emergent system will be more functional and less complex than a forced system. It certainly creates less animosity and backlash. It also takes longer and requires more thoughtful action and patience.

      Thoughtful action and patience seem to be in short supply everywhere. Not just in bike advocacy.

  44. David
    David says:

    What happens when we look at it this way?

    There are two different directions bicyclists can go: Learn the rules of the road so they work for the bicyclist, or demand special treatment and accommodation. The way we mix them up today is due to our state of progress in advancing the transition to a system that depends on bike infrastructure.

    To get more bike infrastructure, advocates encourage fear anxiety and loathing about traffic. This way people’s thoughts will shift from the benefits of the rules of the road to feeling secure in their own space.

    Skills advocates want bicyclists to have healthy positive thinking about traffic and their personal responsibility to learn the rules and get along with people driving different vehicles. Fear and loathing of traffic is unhealthy thinking for learning traffic skills!

    May I suggest the marketing is mutually exclusive here. We’re both using the bicycle but thinking and going in opposite directions! Now, I think that’s an excellent formula for an argument.

    But…I hope that once you recognize this, you can see that it’s a competition in the marketplace. It’s NOT a battle of right or wrong, moral or immoral, because in their world we are wrong and immoral and in our world they are wrong and immoral. To be persuasive you’ve got to convince the other side in their world and not in your world.

    (My information on this comes from: No: the only negotiating system you need for work and home
    by Jim Camp summarized on page 126)

    Arguing, blaming, and fighting only drains your resources and leaves you isolated particularly when you’re a minority! And pounding away with your facts only hardens the other side. Too often it would be better to say nothing!

    So, how do we get lots of people thinking about the benefits of learning skills so many of them will want those benefits? Then, how do we sell the products and services that will deliver those benefits to those motivated to learn? In business there is a saying: You can have the best product in the world, but if you can’t market it competitively, its useless. Remember, if all the facilities advocates have to do is get people thinking positively about facilities, but we have to get them into classes…we’ve guaranteed our failure.

    So, if you’re going to be selling bicycling skills, I highly recommend learning all you can about marketing. And get more training in marketing than you had for bicycling because our marketing challenge is much tougher than the challenge of learning our bicycling skills.

    Further reading: bicycledriver.com sign-in for the Myths article
    I also recommend Self Coaching Healing Anxiety and Depression by Joseph Luciani
    Did he have bicyclists in mind writing about our insecure inner child and how controlling our environment to cover up our fears is – unhealthy!

    • Keri
      Keri says:

      The challenge of creating demand for bicycle training is a problem of social marketing rather than product marketing. The barrier to promoting bicycle education is the same as the barrier to bicycling itself — it’s an entrenched belief system which has created a knowledge inversion with a fortress of emotional defenses around it.

      Influencer is an excellent book about understanding social systems and behavior.

    • Mighk Wilson
      Mighk Wilson says:

      Another “Aha” moment.

      Marketing is okay, and we’ve most certainly taken that approach with CyclingSavvy. But are we underestimating our potential students by thinking of them as customers? Consumers, customers, clients; it’s all the same. Per Block, in the existing paradigm, governments and bicycle advocates see potential cyclists as clients to be accommodated, not as citizens. How do we rise above that on “our side?” I still believe instructors should be adequately compensated financially, but how do we appeal to potential students as citizens instead of as customers?

      (THIS is the kind of conversation I was hoping for.)

      • David
        David says:

        Hmmm….I don’t get that. The bike advocates don’t see their constituency as citizens? They don’t see their movement for environment, global warming, and saving the earth for humanity as the ultimate good citizen? They don’t see the remaking of cities/density/people friendly space and speed as the ultimate citizen force for safe sane and pleasant civilized society?

        And we, the good folks of course, rise above that? Really? I don’t mind a little competition but a holier than thou approach is just a little too much of myself for me, as that makes me uncomfortable and ineffective.

        What am I missing? I’ll be taking a look at the book Keri suggested.

        But right now I’m skeptical about nit-picking minor differences. There’s a little social marketing in business and a little business marketing in social movements. After all, it’s all about people and their thoughts and we all have the same genes. And try as we might, our brains are not wired like a library shelf with different topics in different places. Our brains use the same emotions and circuits for our thoughts regardless of the subject.

        What if bike shops understood their product, bicycles, in a similar way Apple understands their devices in respect to their stores? …Think through the product to its use and how the customer experiences it. Provide the support, in store, for set-up to servicing products and classes on getting useful stuff done with the device and its software. Whatever you think of Apple, their stores have been an unqualified success where similar stores have been failing.

        Just to be provocative imagine: You walk into a “bicycling store” and say, “I want to buy a bicycle”. The sales person says “We don’t sell bicycles, we sell bicycling. If you want to buy a bicycle you’ll have to get the training to use it well. It would be irresponsible for me to sell you a bicycle if you’re not going to use it safely and effectively. If you don’t use it well it will reflect poorly on our store, our product, and harm our interests in getting more people enjoying bicycling. The only bicycles we sell here go anywhere safely and conveniently, that’s our guarantee”. Now, change the subject in this advertisement to “I’m a bicycle driver, I’m a bike rider” and lets see the troubles we don’t have: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jdTraD59WBU or google “Apple sad song”.

        My marketing advisor and I are working on selling the idea of training to bike shops now. Of course, I have lots to learn. A discussion of marketing, social, commercial, classes, or products makes no difference to me.

        If my ideas are too different, that’s okay, I’m not interested in arguing right and wrong. I just like lots of ideas to sort through and see what I’m prepared to use. Other people hopefully will be better prepared than me to use better ideas. That’s my life, limited as it is.

        • Mighk Wilson
          Mighk Wilson says:


          I could have phrased that better. Indeed, governments and advocates THINK OF bicyclists as citizens, but they too often TREAT them as clients (and probably don’t think of it that way; I’ve been working in government for 17 years and I never had). That wouldn’t be so bad if they understood the real needs of their “clients.”

          The common refrain is “People don’t want to learn how to bike in traffic.” And they’re mostly right. It’s become a self-fulfilling prophecy (and the relative dearth of good “product” for cycling education has added to that).

          I don’t dismiss the need for marketing at all; it’s needed. Citizenship can enhance it. Marketing efforts can appeal to citizenship.

  45. Fred Ollinger
    Fred Ollinger says:

    “Fred, people WANT to learn for the most part, they want to understand how to be better cyclists.”

    I totally agree. I also agree that classes can be helpful. I just don’t feel that we should purposely make them necessary if we don’t have to.

    Again, 1 minute lesson to ride in Denmark. This is nothing to do with safety nor fear. I am aware of 10 hour vs. 30 hr. class as I had said, prior, that I know certified instructors.

    “If you aren’t one of them, I’m sorry to hear that. And, I’m sorry that other savvy cyclists having that concern for fellow cyclists is upsetting to you. Some of us just want to make the world a little more knowledgeable and safer.”

    I’m not upset that you are helping people. I am only upset about the parts that my commute that suck for me b/c of poor infrastructure. It’s an insult to me to hear that I need to “think happy thoughts” and it will be fun.

    Again, please end the safety/fear talk.

    Every single person I know who commutes is more than confident in traffic. Many of us took bike safety courses. Some of us are engineers. And yet we still want DE type infrastructure.


    Many reasons, but the most is hedonistic.

    Billions are spent on motorist’s comfort all on the public dole.

    Also, note that as an advocate, while I want people to be safe, I don’t feel that I can tell them what they want.

    If you are advocating for someone accused of fraud, you don’t tell the court you think that they did it, you find ways to make it right. Same way for cyclists.

    Advocates don’t attack the people the pretend to help. Giving advice is OK. Bringing down the law on the mythical scofflaw cyclist is something that pro-MOTORING advocates want.

    I’m saying right here, it’s NEVER OK to break the law. However, I’m not too interested in following up on cyclists who do. It’s not my business to do so as an advocate.

    Why are these simple concepts so hard for people here to grasp? I keep repeating the same thing over and over again, and like a broken record, once again the pro-infrastructure people are accused of being anti-class, fearful, and delusional about bicycle safety. Trust me, we are none of those things.

    Just accept that pro-infrastructure people are smart, and let’s move on.

    I do feel we can all work together. I do like what bike savvy is trying to accomplish.

    • Serge Issakov
      Serge Issakov says:

      “Advocates don’t attack the people the pretend to help.”

      “I’m not too interested in following up on cyclists who do [break the law]. It’s not my business to do so as an advocate.”

      I don’t understand this reasoning. I think you’re conflating the individual case with the general in terms of advocacy.

      While a lawyer hired to defend a particular rapist, murderer or person who committed fraud is not going to sell that guy down that river, he is not under any obligation to oppose laws against rape, murder or fraud, or to encourage such behavior in general.

      Motorist advocates like the AAA do not advocate for the right of motorists to run red lights, travel on the wrong side of the road, operate at night without lights, or even speed, and they are under no obligation to do so. The AAA, in fact, is fairly outspoken about the responsibility motorists have to obey the law. Do you believe bicycling advocates should not be outspoken about the responsibility of cyclists to obey the rules of the road? Is doing so “attacking bicyclists”? When the AAA offers programs to stop drunk driving, is that motorist advocates attacking motorists? When bicycling advocates offer programs top stop certain types of unsafe cycling (like merging without looking back first), is that bicycling advocates attacking bicyclists?

  46. Fred Ollinger
    Fred Ollinger says:

    Jym, thanks for the input. I will make the changes that you have given me. I want this document to be accurate (but still funny and irreverent). 🙂


  47. Fred Ollinger
    Fred Ollinger says:

    I loved the Apple example.

    I’m a Unix nerd so I have read many books on computers, and spent hours learning commands.

    Then Apple products got easier and easier to use.

    Look at the thickness of the iPhone manual.

    This is my new analogy for roads. Like Denmark, they should be as easy to use as an iPhone!

    • Serge Issakov
      Serge Issakov says:

      Roads ARE as easy to use as an iPhone, arguably easier. I know people who can use roads but not iPhones… you probably do too.

      The biggest obstacle for cyclists to use roads is not a lack of knowledge or information, it’s psychological. They imagine their relationship to traffic when they are on a bike in a manner that makes cycling there scary, uncomfortable, unfun, etc. CyclingSavvy is about changing that attitude, so that anyone who can ride a bike can do so safely and comfortably on any road.

      Cities in the U.S., including Orlando and San Diego, don’t have the inherent characteristics of Amsterdam and Copenhagen that make cycling so popular there. Mainly, motoring there is much less convenient and much more expensive than it is here. If you could wave a wand to make motoring as cheap and convenient there as it is here, their bike infrastructure would become as desolate as it is in Palm Springs. It’s not the bike infrastructure that makes cycling popular there; it’s the popularity of cycling that makes the infrastructure. Let’s not confuse cause and effect!

    • David
      David says:


      I’m thinking we both want simple, it’s just that we have different ways of thinking about it. Now, that iPhone? I was a hardcore analog technician beginning with the vacuum tube days. God! I would love to have an on/off switch on many of my devices today and a volume control knob to twist and set in a mili-second, so I can see the volume regardless of the volume playing. These digital devices can take the simplest things and make them stupefyingly difficult! Its getting easier the farther I go, but learning the iPod with wifi was difficult for my analog-friendly brain as I was relatively inexperienced with computers.

      Now, look at the bicycle: It’s difficult to balance, right? No-one I know got it right the first time and lots of people have to work hard to get it. Your grandmother will likely never learn if she didn’t learn as a child! Should we ban bicycles and require tricycles so everyone including your grandmother, who never learned balance, can ride without difficulty and without the possibility of shame for her dependency on that extra wheel? The difference is, once you learn to balance a bike, the bike has great advantages over a trike. Once you learn to swim, getting around in water is easy and fun, hell in water if you don’t.

      With my bicycle driving skills I find roads with bike lanes FAR more complicated than simple streets. Just LOOK at those intersections with bike lanes! Get in line with traffic going your direction. You may move right only when its safe to let faster traffic pass. It’s really quite simple – once you learn simple traffic skills. But…without a mind adjusted to a few simple rules, I can see that it will feel a lot more difficult.

      And… it affects what we see. Always blame the bicyclist? I was shocked at what I saw when I checked the two bikes involved in the death of Bryce Lewis. I had videotaped the intersection two years earlier showing conflicts and anticipating crashes. http://gallery.me.com/bicycle_driver#100074

      It was the second bike, the one following the fatal crash: No way to brake the rear wheel, single-speed freewheel and no brake installed! I heaved a sigh of relief when I saw a good front brake but…when I pulled the lever, it went all the way to the bar without resistance. This bike now had NO BRAKES! I found no damage and the brake pads moved. The symptoms were identical to a failure to tighten the cable retaining bolt so it slips when the brakes are used hard enough. I said this was a red flag, you need to get permission to check the bike with tools to determine the cause as I was not permitted to under that arrangement with police evidence. I went home and felt really sick, feeling really bad about what might have happened.

      But…apparently nothing was done. Here’s my interpretation: the truck driver had the money through insurance to compensate for the death, not the bicyclists. No money there. If you’re a lawyer don’t you go after the party with the money? Why sue a kid with no insurance? Always blame the bike, really? I see things differently because of the way I’ve learned to think about things.

      I don’t see that it has to be good or bad about that, but I sure would like to compete! Gonna lose on that on/off switch and volume knob for now. But I would like to give some competition for traffic skills when a way can be found to attract enough people to learning.

  48. Fred Ollinger
    Fred Ollinger says:

    Very nice about advocacy. We are getting somewhere.

    Yes, advocates don’t argue in favor of law breaking.

    But if their client dies, they don’t assume that their client broke the law.

    In VC, it’s always BBF (blame bicyclist first).

    In the news, they ask if the cyclist was wearing a helmet as if the cyclist is 100% at fault if they don’t despite the fact that helmets are helpful in 10% of bike collisions at best.

    They do not ask if motorists are wearing helmets even though most head injuries are suffered by motorists.

    Courts regularly acquit motorists who kill cyclists and pedestrians. Police let these motorized killers go, sometime w/o even checking for drugs.

    In general, a jury will side with a motorists every time.

    I expect _at least_ this level of the benefit of the doubt from people who claim to advocate for cyclists.

    Don’t argue, just yet, think about it.

    It’s also disturbing that these same advocate who claim they are for us cyclists who drive cars to biking meetings. It’s no wonder that they are on motorist’s side b/c they are motorists. That’s all.

    The AAA does not advocate for law breaking. However, they do campaign against any help for bicycles and pedestrians without trying to be “fair”.

    The same is not true for VC who put pro-bicycle laws and infrastructure under a microscope just the same way that the AAA does, but ignores pro-motor laws even if they hurt cyclists.

    You NEVER see the AAA put new freeways under a microscope.

    In fact, motoring clubs designed a map which became the original motorways in LA. See _Reluctant Metropolis_. Read _Traffic_ to learn the diversity of things that work including confusion on the streets which pro-infrastructure generally don’t oppose.

    This is the problem.

    You can check Forrester’s record on this.

    Just recently in CA, they opposed a bike box experiment aka data collection even though we have no data on accounts that it’s not “standard”.

    This is like the AAA opposing the first freeway. After all we had none before, right?

    Maybe I’m just a bit pissed b/c a good friend of mine got hit by a car last weekend while “taking the lane” and “assuming that no motorist would hit him.” 🙁

    • Serge Issakov
      Serge Issakov says:

      Sorry to hear about your friend, Fred. Where? What happened? I’m always curious about the circumstances of hits-from-behind, especially when the cyclist is well out in the lane conspicuously.

      Why do you ascribe BBF to VC? I agree the helmet comments in the news reports are absurd, but what does this have to do with VC? I also agree there is a lot of anti-cyclist bias in our legal system, though I think much of it stems from anti-cyclist bias in our laws. This is why many of us oppose special treatment of cyclists in general, and support the repeal of laws that give “special treatment” to cyclists, like CA’s 21202.

      When the meetings used to be held in UC – 1 mile from where I used to work and 6 miles from my home in La Jolla – I would almost always ride to them. Stefan, who lives in OB, would always drive. Now that the meetings are downtown, which is 16 miles each way for me (assuming I’m not a customer site the day of a meeting – could be much further), and takes over an hour, I always drive (or car pool). I can usually get home before my daughter is asleep; that’s worth a lot to me. Stefan now rides. That’s the nature of using bicycles for transportation, especially if you have a full-time job and a family, it’s only practical for relatively short distances.

      Not to defend the AAA because they do get it wrong much of the time, but they do have some good stuff for bicyclists. For example, here they say, “When a road is too narrow for cars and bikes to ride safely side by side, bicycles should take the travel lane, which means riding in or near the center of the lane.”


      I’m not sure what you mean by the microscope stuff. Most VC advocates I know are neutral on 3-foot laws, oppose them when they make matters worse (as in NC when it included a mandatory bike lane provision), and support them when they make things better (see my reply to your “document” above, or, rather, on the previous page of comments, the part regarding CABO and SB 710).

      It would not be the first bike box. There is data from Oregon showing that bike crashes increase with bike boxes – that they certainly don’t help. Even if neutral, there is that “special” treatment again which arguably fuels the anti-cyclist bias in our legal system we both recognize is a big problem.

  49. Fred Ollinger
    Fred Ollinger says:

    I don’t know precisely where he got hit. He’s fine, but his wheel is toast.

    He was going over to the left turning lane on a three lane road.

    I _hate_ doing this.

    I do this every single day going to work. It’s fine, I’m OK doing it, but I don’t like it. I feel like an ass getting in the car’s way. People are mostly nice, but it’s still not my preference for how I turn.

    Anyway, he thought he had enough room, but the cars drive so fast on the north mesa. The first driver did safely pass him, but in such a way to swerve around him to obscure him from view so that the second car nailed him.

    Classic VC accident. Yes, accidents happen in intersections w/ cycletracks, too, but at slower speeds b/c the cars are all accelerating. Plus, there is the notion of tiny street lights for the bicycles.

    As a cyclist, I _do_ want special treatment just like motorists wanted it. Now the biggest social program is the US highway program. Though, I love welfare, I’d like some of the money, too, as a cyclist to be spent on me. Why is this so wrong?

    I have noticed that every time someone gets in an accident, I hear that if they just took a 30 hour course they would be with their family. That’s not right at all. Sometimes cyclists get hurt and it’s not our fault.

    Usually when I get in an accident, though, it _is_ my fault, but shit happens that we can’t control.

    None of this is an argument for or against infrastructure. Infrastructure != safety, it is for happiness which is most important to me.

    I really have no problem with the AAA nor their advocacy. They are motor vehicle advocates and I think that they do a bang up job. We should emulate them in the cycling world.

    I have no problem with people driving anywhere.

    My only beef is with the term advocate. Again, see wikipedia page on cherry picking.

    I do think that all advocates including VC people have their hearts in the right place. Still, I do an easier ride to work. I also want my friends to share my love of riding. My love stems from quiet rides not from admonishments that I’m a cowards who won’t “take the lane.”

    This is untrue.

    I think that San Diego is perfectly OK to ride right now. However, I still want it better.

    I have a nice bike now, but when I get the money, I’ll get a better one. Plus, I have to keep fixing the one that I am on so it stays nice. For me, advocacy is the same way.

    Every innovation in CA gets argued against b/c it’s not standard. Read back on Forrester’s views on new infrastructure. This is the microscope, I mean.

    Advocates should be for all biking classes, all styles of riding, and all forms of govt spending on cycling. Let a thousand flowers bloom. Be tolerant of others: sidewalk, salmon, critical mass, cycletracks, tweeds, hipsters, yes, even racers.

    I love all cyclists. Let’s join together and stop telling one another what to do like the parent.

    BTW, anti-cycling bias is b/c there’s LESS infrastructure. The more cycletracks there are the more legit cycling will seem to a motorist and the less bias you’ll see.

    This is b/c money == power. The more govt money we get the more power we have in the minds of motorists.

    Come on, this stuff is basic human nature.

  50. Fred Ollinger
    Fred Ollinger says:

    Oh, Serge, I’m guessing that if you only had a 6% grade, max, to ride on both ways, and a straight away with few stops, you’d probably bicycle to more meetings.

    If we had bike freeways, this would be the case.

    If you don’t, that’s still your choice.

    The point is that people w/o cars, see things significantly differently than bike advocates who have the option of driving.

    Yes, we are all biased.

    I am super-biased, and I am not ashamed to admit it. However, I have nothing to hide.

    I don’t pretend to be “fair”.

    I’m just saying a good advocate needs to be biased in favor of their clients at all times. This is by definition.

    Logic, fairness, and facts are only there the cherry pick to win pro-cycling and pro-cyclist sides of arguments. As soon as someone brings up fair and defends a motorist, I realize someone’s not going to be a good advocate.

    The other side will take advantage of this weakness.

  51. Serge Issakov
    Serge Issakov says:

    “Anyway, he thought he had enough room, but the cars drive so fast on the north mesa. The first driver did safely pass him, but in such a way to swerve around him to obscure him from view so that the second car nailed him.
    Classic VC accident. ”

    That’s not a classic VC accident. It is a classic non-VC accident. There is nothing VC about moving in front of someone with so little time and distance that they have to swerve around you to avoid hitting you. It’s a violation of 22107 which states, “No person shall turn a vehicle from a direct course or move right or left upon a roadway until such movement can be made with reasonable safety and then only after the giving of an appropriate signal…”. Am I blaming the cyclist? No, I’m correcting your characterization of that maneuver as being VC… it’s not.

    I used to hate challenging left turns too. In fact, one of my first posts to the SDCBC list, in December of 2003, when it was hosted on Topica, was seeking advice on that topic. It’s still there in the archives if you want to see it. In short, I had the right idea “in theory” in the 2nd-to-last paragraph, I just had convinced myself it wouldn’t work in practice, and I was missing a key piece: cooperation. One of the offline responses to that post recommended that I read Effective Cycling, and I did, over the holidays. It gave me the confidence to try “negotiation”, and it worked much better than I had imagined. Since then I’ve made that left turn hundreds if not thousands of times, without incident.

    The key to challenging left turns is to start early with a clear signal and WAIT until someone yields to you by slowing down to your speed to let you in. Don’t just move out there in front of someone as your friend apparently did. Also surprisingly important is a nod and/or wave of thank you. After all, they have the right of way, and they are yielding it to you. Show your appreciation. These are the crucial cooperative social aspects of cycling in traffic that make it safe, comfortable, even fun. To me, that’s what “VC” is all about, not just “taking the lane”.

    “The more govt money we get the more power we have …”
    And so fell the Roman Empire. But I digress. I mean, I do believe that attitude will lead our culture to demise (have you read “The Road to Serfdom”?), though I recognize the role that bicycling advocacy plays in that is too insignificant to matter much.

    Anyway, I just disagree. I think the very idea that bikes don’t belong on the road is largely due to bike lanes. After all, if bicyclists belong on the road, why do we need that special space designated for us on pavement that motorists consider to be “off the road”? Cycletracks are even worse in that respect. It’s true that no one questions the legitimacy of bicyclists riding in bike lanes or on cycletracks – the legitimacy that is questioned is the legitimacy of bicyclists to act as drivers on the roads. That’s my concern, because that’s where I like to ride.

  52. Fred Ollinger
    Fred Ollinger says:

    If safety were really important (which is it NOT to me), wouldn’t those who fear deadly cycletracks and bike lanes want to eliminate freeways all together?

    Let’s face it, as far as dangers to humans, cycling is a minor threat especially to non-cyclists.

    If motorists drove only about 40 km everywhere, many, many lives would be saved.

    Also, freeways are paid for by the govt and libertarians think that govt spending is bad. Why don’t we have toll roads every where?

    Again, I don’t advocate for any of this stuff. I want cycling to be slightly better next year than it was last. It’s definitely better this year. So overall, I’m happy with where advocacy is taking us.

    I’m just curious about such an obvious contradiction.

    • Serge Issakov
      Serge Issakov says:

      Safety might not be a big factor to you, but (a perception of a) lack of safety is often cited as a major reason for more people not cycling, if that is a concern for you.

      As far as safety goes, freeways are the safest roads, proving in practice as well as in theory that intersections (which freeways don’t have) are a bigger factor in cash causes than is even speed.

      Ironically, the part of driving that people fear the most turns out to be the safest part. Federal transportation data have consistently shown that highways are considerably safer than other roads. (You can see the detailed numbers here.) For instance, in 2007 0.54 people were killed for every 100 million vehicle miles driven on urban interstates, compared with 0.92 for every 100 million vehicle miles driven on other urban highways and arterials, and 1.32 killed on local urban streets.

      In fact, the same miscalculation which makes many people believe surface streets are safer than freeways is probably why people cycling seem to fear same-direction traffic much more than cross traffic: underestimating the relative danger of intersections.

      I’m all for making users pay for their roads… via tolls. I believe federally funded interstates, along with zoning laws, are largely at fault for creating urban sprawl in this country. If people had to pay more directly for their road and freeway use, and were allowed to build high density housing, I suggest it would have worked out much differently, and we wouldn’t have so many people commuting 20-30+ miles per day one way. Those two factors alone account for the lack of Amsterdamization in America, not lack of bike facilities.

  53. Fred Ollinger
    Fred Ollinger says:

    Also, is it not controlling and narcissistic to think that one has the right answers, alone, and that one has to somehow convince all of us idiots that what we prefer, our own personal preferences and minor risks that we want to take, are wrong?

    I was accused of both, and I feel that we should be pro-choice regarding bike lanes. I don’t think people should be forced into them. Not should they be denied what they want.

    If VC riding is really superior, people will see that, on their own. Or, perhaps, we’re all retarded, and we need your guidance in all things cycling. I only rode my bicycle, exclusively, for 10 years to all my jobs, shopping, the beach, etc. If I can’t bike there, I don’t go there.

    When we expand our numbers, we expand political power. Thus Forrester’s nightmare vision of us being forced off the road will not come to pass.

    I don’t know a single pro-infrastructure advocate who is anti-VC. Again, most of us have had some contact with his class and instructors and we think he has some really good ideas.

    We share his concern, but we’d like a choice.

    Also, is it not strange that only cycling advocates would like the govt to spend LESS on their activity? Bankers want money for banks, AAA money for freeways and so on. I am so confused when I hear recommendations, like the SD bike coalition give, to give money back to the govt. That’s just stupid and, yes, Quisling, a stab in the back from people who pretend to represent us.

    Finally, unless you have a car and drive often, you will realize that as a cyclist right now, you are a second class citizen.

    There were jobs that my wife could not take because we’d have to drive there. There are many places where you can only, legally, drive.

    This is why I think we should open the freeways to VC style riding today like they do in some parts of CA and in AZ.

  54. Fred Ollinger
    Fred Ollinger says:

    OK, I admit I was 100% wrong on freeways, but, you miss the wider point, and must agree that 38,000 people die in motor vehicle accidents while 600 die in bicycle accidents in the US per year.

    Thus, why do we care about bike safety at all? In fact, most cyclists deaths are by motor vehicles collision.

    Thus as a _cycling_ advocate, I’d argue that we should restrict motor vehicles to make cycling safer. For example, my friend did not die because the vehicle was not traveling fast enough to kill him.

    A 20 MPH speed on freeways will save many lives including children.

    If safety were so important, we’d care about saving motorist’s lives.

    The reason we do not do so is because of our beliefs and habits. We believe motoring is safe because we were told this.

    I know that riding in traffic is safer than riding in a car.

    But I ride in cars sometimes when friends give me rides. Just like on a bicycle, I feel that worrying about safety and stats is a waste of time. Cars, overall, are pretty safe, but relatively dangerous compared with cycling.

    Motorists are more of a danger to cyclist than visa versa. Shouldn’t we worry about motorists showing us consideration rather than the reverse?

    How many motorists died when hit by a sidewalk rider or a salmon?

  55. Serge Issakov
    Serge Issakov says:

    Thus, why do we care about bike safety at all?
    Now you’re talking. Good question! It’s startling how safe even “unsafe” cycling is. Never-the-less, personally, I do worry about being hit and injured, and have had close calls in the past (a right hook being the worst), so I want to know how I can improve my odds. I do the same while driving a car or motor cycle (okay, it’s my wife’s Vespa) as I do for my bike driving.

    As a cycling advocate I care about bike safety, or the perceptions of it, because many people believe it is inherently dangerous to ride a bike in traffic, and won’t do it because of that.

    I get your concern about speed, but as a libertarian and a realist, I don’t see how we have the right or ability speeds significantly from what they are now.

    “most cyclists deaths are by motor vehicles collision.”
    And most swimmer deaths are caused by inhalation of water… shall we work to have water banned? Yes, I’m facetious, but there is a serious point there. Being realistic again, banning motorists or banning speeds high enough to injure others is not much more likely than banning water – pretty much zero.

    “Shouldn’t we worry about motorists showing us consideration rather than the reverse?”
    Again, I think we have about as much chance to get motorists to show us much more consideration than they already do as we have of getting water to show more consideration for swimmers. Realistically, bicyclists, like swimmers, have to look to themselves to be safe.

    Did you look at my edit of your doc? This is from the section entitled “Legal”:

    4. Take responsibility for your own safety. Remember that in almost all crashes either party could avoid the crash (this is the basis for “defensive driving”), and bike-car crashes are no exception. This is why so much of VC advocacy and related training programs focuses on what the cyclist could and should do to avoid crashes, even when it’s the motorist’s fault.

  56. Fred Ollinger
    Fred Ollinger says:

    OK, Serge, here’s how I read your post:

    1. I care about safety.

    2. My libertarianism means that we should let people speed as much as they want b/c it’s not realistic to stop them.

    Am I completely an idiot or are these contradictory?

    Either you care about safety or not.

    If you do not, then you will not continue to argue that I be denied the right to ride in a bike lane that the govt paid for b/c you have the right to do so.

    If you do care about safety then you would argue we should educate people that speed kills and to slow people down and save lives.

    You are totally contradicting yourself here.

    I don’t care about safety b/c it’s stupid. I want to ride in a bike lane b/c it’s more fun just as most people choose to ride in cars b/c of hedonism and no other reason.

    We lived for 10,000 years w/o cars and did fine. People enjoy the luxury of cars why deny me my luxury?

  57. Fred Ollinger
    Fred Ollinger says:

    One more thing, Serge, by my research you did 10 years, as a bike advocate, arguing against govt spending for cycling, only, which gives tacit consent to motor vehicle design which makes life a pain in the ass for those w/o a car. Can you please point where you advocated so strongly against surface streets since as you say, they are unsafe, 38,000 people dead. Also, where is your advocacy for 100% toll roads? Finally, you’ll be happy to hear that
    South Bay Expressway which is a toll road to Otay Ranch Town Center, unlike Fashion Valley Mall, has a toll road that you can pay for.

    Note, the mall is failing. That’s b/c it’s a dirty secret that govt spending is what drives our economy. Do your research and you’ll learn the truth.

    I’m just looking for people, like Keri all ready has admitted, that they are NOT bike advocates, but rather weekend warriors who want to ride how they want to ride.
    I actually really like Keri b/c she’s very honest just as I like Cheney as much as a human can like him.

    They have classes to force us to their style of riding while motoring the entire week. At the same time, us cyclists continue to live as bottom feeders due to their “advocacy”.

    Thanks for the help.

  58. Fred Ollinger
    Fred Ollinger says:

    Your sad excuses about the 15 mile ride do not impress me. If you really, really understood what we were going through, you would not even insult us w/ such nonsense.

    If you have no car, you have no choice. The fact that you can make these sad excuses means that you will NEVER understand what it means to be a true, hard core cyclist.

    I challenge you to get rid of your car, no excuses, for 30 days, and come back and tell me that San Diego is AWESOME for cycling and that we are not treated as second or third class citizens.

    Those who argue against govt spending for cyclists are benefiting from billions of dollars of tax money, some of it is mine, and are living in a total state of denial.

    Everyone who reads this, get rid of your car for 30 days and come back and tell me that there’s awesome cycling parking everywhere, that it’s so easy to live your life.

    Any excuse, I’ll take for an argument in favor for more infrastructure as you, Serge, pointed out that you needed in order to get to the coalition meeting.

    You also did not argue how unsafe cycling freeways would be like they are making in the UK nor why you should be against them.

    • Serge Issakov
      Serge Issakov says:

      A very well written piece making it obvious why we need to be selective about our advocacy. Advocating for the scofflaws in particular can really backfire.

  59. Fred Ollinger
    Fred Ollinger says:

    Nobody advocates _for_ scofflaws. They just refrain from putting cyclists underneath the microscope. Nearly every motorist will be sympathetic to other motorists–I am, too as mistakes happen. Why deny cyclists the same sympathy that motorists get from every judge, jury, and press official in the entire US?

    Everyone is biased. An advocate is biased in favor of his group. Read _Baboon Metaphysics_.

  60. Mighk
    Mighk says:

    To Michael William Cavanaugh:

    I believe if you do search of the site on “bike lanes” you learn of their many significant problems.

  61. Ollinger
    Ollinger says:

    Again, we hear the argument that due to the existence of bike lanes, cyclists are harassed.

    Guess what? Bike lanes don’t harass people.

    In places where there are no bike lanes, I also have gotten harassed.

    So until someone gets right hooked by a piece of concrete with lines on it, let’s place the blame where it belongs which is the tiny number of motorists who suck at driving.

    As David said, it’s not either or. I am highly in favor of a cyclist “taking the lane” and riding VC in general. I still want to ride in my own separate lane.

    One of the limiting beliefs is that there is only so much money that can be spent on cycling so we need to choose wisely. In the US, this is not true. The more money spent on something generally means that more will be spent next year.

    In fact, I feel that bike lanes _prevent_ me from getting harassed because when they are there, motorists tend to leave me alone.

    Riding properly in bike lanes can be addressed by the same cycling safety classes. Instead of wasting our time on this dead horse, let’s all pledge to work together, not stab one another in the back any more.

    Instead of worrying about safety let’s focus on the mutual love of riding, and the love of good friendships.

  62. Mighk Wilson
    Mighk Wilson says:

    Geez. I could’ve saved myself a lot of work and just quoted the Dalai Lama.

    “When you think everything is someone else’s fault, you will suffer a lot. When you realize that everything springs only from yourself, you will learn both peace and joy.”

    • Kevin Love
      Kevin Love says:

      I think that is a false dichotomy, which the Dalai Lama is putting out in the tradition of “preaching hyperbole” to cause people to think. Similar to when Jesus said that nobody could be his disciple unless they hated their own family. Not meant to be taken literally, but meant to jolt people into thinking in a different way.

      In this case, I suggest that the “only” is hyperbolic. The Dalai Lama is not blaming the victim, but suggesting that we blame others too much and ourselves not enough.

      • Serge
        Serge says:

        I agree he is not blaming the victim (he’s not blaming anyone), but I also think the “only” is crucial to the statement’s meaning.

        Without it, we have: “When you realize that everything springs largely from yourself, you will learn both peace and joy.”, that still leaves room to blame others, which is exactly the opposite of the message. Neither peace nor joy comes from that. Without the only it’s a false statement.

        • Kevin Love
          Kevin Love says:

          I know people who were living lives of peace and joy. Then they were the victims of violent criminals and now they are not living lives of peace and joy. Perhaps if these people were ultra-holy saints, they could rise above their circumstances, but they are not ultra-holy saints.

          Does this mean that their changed status is their own fault? Nonsense! It is the sole fault of the violent, dangerous criminals. Whose weapon of choice was a car.

          • Mighk
            Mighk says:

            Can you show me where I’ve written that a person driving a bicycle who was hit by a careless or reckless motorist was at fault for their own suffering?

            The problem I’m trying to express and resolve is that many cyclists — most of whom have not been victims of such violence — choose to play the victim themselves, and in the process include everyone but themselves as the sources of the solutions.

            If someone broke into my house I would feel bad for a while, then go about figuring out what _I_ could do (and perhaps my neighbors, too) to keep it from happening again. Or I could call for stronger punishment for criminals (like that works…), more law enforcement (a cop for every block?) or do things that SEEM like they would work — because someone is selling something to make a profit. Regardless of which strategy I choose, the ones that I can implement myself are the ones most likely to work.

            I’m talking about the difference between _being_ a victim, which can sometimes be out of our control, and PLAYING the victim, which is COMPLETELY IN our control.

            And I believe that’s what the Dalai Lama was getting at, too.

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