Tale of Two Cities (II)

I’ve mentioned before how London and Portland have pretty much the same laws and pretty much the same problems with those laws, but now Bob Mionske has taken note and has written an article about it.

It should give you a think or two about how people from different places approach the same problem.

17 replies
  1. Keri
    Keri says:

    Mionske turns a blind eye to the root cause. I’m sure it’s easier for a trial attorney to go after the driver’s insurance company than after the city or the legislature. But it doesn’t help to solve the problems that kill cyclists.

    The solution to the problem is getting rid of the problem facilities: bike lanes that lure cyclists into conflict with turning traffic… problem behaviors: sneaking up in the blind spot of turning vehicles… problem laws: forcing cyclists to stay in bike lanes and not allowing motorists to merge into them before turning right.

    Oregon’s stupid law forces cyclists and motorists to defy long-established proper traffic movements. That, in conjunction with bad bike lane design, was more responsible for the deaths of Brett and Tracey than were the truck drivers who hit them.

    Shoving the burden of these problems off onto other road users is just wrong.

  2. eddie
    eddie says:

    I would agree with most of your post, but I feel again you go too far in your conclusion.

    As much as I think that we should focus on educating the cyclist, I don’t think the solutions offered amounts to shoving the burden to other road users.

    It seems that here in the U.S., if you hit a cyclist, somehow it had to be his fault. In the case above, the guy had a broken mirror and still he’s fine and dandy. That is just wrong.

    We have slowly become a nation where we must scatter like bugs if we ever get out of our cars, and drivers expect that. It just internalizes that driver behavior that everyone better get out of their way. That thinking endangers motorcyclist, cyclist and pedestrians. And it is fairly recent and cultural. places with vulnerable road user laws have a very different traffic behavior.

    My mother in law is visiting from canada and she has mentioned a couple of times how drivers just plow on through and walkers better jump out of the way. In Canada motorist yield to pedestrians because if they don’t, they will get ticketed.
    Here they just say “He should have watched where he was going.”

    It really is your responsibility as a driver not to run over people. that’s not shifting the burden.

    problem facilities include many different facilities besides bikelanes.

    problem behaviors much more than sneaking up on blind spots.

    and there are more problem laws than forcing the use of bike lanes.

    not that they aren’t problems. but it doesn’t mean that everything is perfect and all we have to do is follow existing traffic laws in our existing infrastructure.

    I think your critique of existing bike infrastructure is insightful and is helpful. But you seem to be stuck there. as if whole problem is garbage riding, bike paths and traffic scofflaws. what about drunk drivers and road rage? what about cu de sac subdivisions placed on narrow, busy arterial roads with many points of egress? what about letting drivers off the hook for causing death with the vehicle that they are controlling?

    I could agree with you if you said that educating cyclist is the most effective way to improve cyclist safety. But that doesn’t negate the need to educate motorists and HGV drivers.

    It seems that both portland and london have some good programs going on that Orlando could benefit from and they don’t really take away from your mission of educating cyclists.

    What I like about this blog is how it avoids the us vs them attitude between cars and bikes. I like how it reminds me about trouble spots and how to avoid them. What I don’t like is sometimes I feel as if what I read here dismisses a large part of the cycling community as a bunch of stupid whining pansies, when in fact, they have accomplished a lot.

    Cyclist are really only just beginning to enter into our modern traffic pattern in any number. Educating cyclist as to how to safely ride in that pattern is a great first priority. But it is only the beginning.

  3. Mighk
    Mighk says:

    Providing a wide curb lane without a bike lane stripe also “invites” cyclists to pass on the right. And larger trucks (and some drivers of smaller vehicles) will still keep to the left side of the lane in order to give themselves a bigger turning radius. So bike lanes in this situation might be said to Contribute to the problem, but not to Cause it. (We can’t expect drivers of large trucks to move to the right side of the lane, because off-tracking will often send their right rear wheels up over the curb and sidewalk.)

    I prefer to take a pragmatic approach instead of an ideological one. I see the real root causes as:
    1) cyclists do not see and understand the conflict/risk, and/or understand that they are able to avoid that conflict (and how to do so)
    2) motorists also do not understand the above, and do not routinely scan their blind spots

    Yes, motorists have a responsibility, and yes they are routinely failing to live up to those responsibilities. But I see scanning one’s blind spot when making a right turn on an urban street as somewhat “above and beyond” what motorists are expected to do. I’d rather focus on getting them to do the basics first: yielding to pedestrians in crosswalks, obeying traffic controls, traveling at appropriate speeds, and passing cyclists with safety and courtesy.

    Continuing with the pragmatic approach; instead of wringing our hands about a bike lane design aspect that may or may not contribute significantly to the problem, let’s train bicyclists to see and understand the problem. Bicyclists (adults anyway) will always be the ones in the best position to see, understand and act to avoid this problem, and since bicyclists (in Central Florida anyway) are a much smaller population than motorists, it would be easier to reach a significant percentage of them. (Though granted that’s still a challenging task.)

  4. Keri
    Keri says:


    Those other topics are covered here, too:
    The way the system treats pedestrians is a huge peeve of mine
    The bullying culture of impatience that causes cyclists to ride in ways that increase their risk
    Car-centric infrastructure/broccoli subdivisions
    The lack of traffic justice
    The fact that motorists feel they can pay attention to 10 other things that are more important than driving a car
    The knee-jerk need to pass a cyclist no matter what other conditions are present making it dangerous or unnecessary.

    But I call things like I see them.

    Yes, we have a long way to go to create a more equitable system for non-motorized transportation. We also have a long way to go to get cyclists to behave in ways that will make them safer and more respectable road users.

    Unfortunately, bike advocacy that casts cyclists as innocent victims of car drivers is pervasive in this country. We have way more control over our safety than that. Not a little more… WAY more. Advocacy that harps on motorists without recognizing cyclist contribution to crash causes damages cycling. It dangerizes cycling. It reinforces belief systems that harm us—that we don’t belong on the road because it is dangerous. It discourages people from trying it. And it feeds the endless need to build more and more separated stuff (at huge expense) to convince those people to ride.

    There are bike advocates who want cyclists to have almost no responsibility for their own safety (they admire the northern European systems where motorists are always at fault). Lovely thought. Guess what kind of cycling it will produce? Can you say backlash?

    As for this post:

    The bike lane where Brett was killed is on a steep hill. Cyclists should never be forced to ride on the edge of the road on a steep hill. It is very possible that at his speed a mirror on the truck would have made no difference. Drivers have to pay attention to what is ahead of them at intersections, they have limited time to scan their mirrors. Creating a situation where one driver has to yield to high-speed traffic approaching from behind is a recipe for disaster—even before you add the law. Oregon law created the expectation in the cyclist that the motorist would yield to him. He was doing everything the system told him to do. The system was designed to fail for reasons that are well-established. It did. He died.

    The bike lane where Tracey was killed was striped solid to the intersection and the traffic lane to the left allowed right turns. Tracey was following the bike lane and the law. She didn’t know the truck driver couldn’t see her. She might not have know he was going to turn. He didn’t know she was there. The system was designed to fail for reasons that are well-established. It did. She died.

    There are plenty of unjust deaths of cyclists one can use to make a case against careless motorists, biased law enforcement, lack of traffic justice or any other problem we face. But those two deaths are more about bad law, bad facilities and lack of education than any other issue.

    There are bike lanes that don’t cause these problems. And as Mighk said, wide curb lanes invite passing on the right, too… but they’re not quite the red carpet. The expectations set up by Oregon’s law were a huge factor as well.


    Here the thing. I’m not anti-facilities. I like infrastructure that benefits cyclists — facilitates our ability to get around without compromising our safety. I am against facilities that are mindless, gratuitous, dangerous or reduce our right to the roadway. I’m against political bullshit facilities which allow officials to pat themselves on the back for being progressive, but don’t actually help cyclists. Unfortunately, a culture which does not respect bicycles as vehicles produces a lot of crap facilities. A culture that wants us out of the way creates stuff that gets us out of the way at our expense. I feel an obligation to raise awareness about that because American bike advocacy is overrun by a mindless, anything-goes approach to bike facilities.

  5. eddie
    eddie says:

    Yes, pragmatically education is the the thing that makes the most sense by far. whether you are considering the individual pursuing their own safety or on a cost/benefit for the public good.

    Ideologically, well I’m still very interested in how public policy and design informs behavior. seeing marked different traffic patterns in different places makes me wonder if there aren’t some real worthwhile changes to be had from studying that.

    That and I dream that when we decide on our great new public works that everybody keeps comparing to the interstate system, it will be some crazy beautiful greenway system parallelling the new train system across the whole country right into the heart of every reborn city. maybe one day some of those foreclosed houses will be cafes and corner stores and driving 3 miles to get milk will just sound absurd. Let’s face it, who’s gonna want to drive at all, when the new iphone comes out. Indulge me, I feel anything is possible today.

    yes, even while writing my last post I was recalling some other things that I’ve read on this blog that address some of my gripes. i felt it was a little unfair at the time,but I type real slow so, well….I hope it didn’t sound too critical. the last thing I want to see from this site is the bickering a la dallas/ austin.

    I really do still admire the northern european model . it is a lovely thought. I’ve never been there, so I may be wrong. but they have changed behavior so much that we can’t even believe that it would be possible here. I find that so amazing that they have they reached that tipping point. and besides, if you legalize cannabis, you pretty much DO relieve the cyclist of his responsibility for his own safety, or at least his ability. (also probably diminishes a lot of that backlash you’re worried about.)but hey, carefree cycling is, well, carefree.

    But on a more serious note, education could have prevented those deaths and many more regardless of road design. so while I may dream about the next page of infrastructure we will lay over the last, I will focus my effort on education.

    so when’s the next class?

  6. Andrewp
    Andrewp says:

    I like what Mighk is saying about educating cyclists on how to avoid the dangerous situations that facilities can sometimes put us in.

    But where are these classes? Who puts them on?

    I would think that local bike shops would be the logical source for training and classes like this. Bike shops could offer coupons (20% off accessories, for example) for the completion of a classs like this. Also, having readily available pamphlets containing this kind of information (maybe given away with the purchase of a bike) might help.

    Is there any way we can do a better job parterning with our LBSs in offering this training?

  7. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    I’d agree with partnering with the LBS to provide information and education, but only if there’s a qualified and educated individual promoting that material. One of the LBS around here promotes gutter bunny practices and motor vehicle superiority on the roads. One of the techs was struck by a mirror and injured. Strangely, it wasn’t considered to be the fault of the cyclist, only that the roads are dangerous. Sheesh. An eight-foot wide roadway is not where you want to be riding the stripe, especially with a three-inch portion of road to the right of that stripe.

  8. Steve A
    Steve A says:

    I don’t think you intended it that way, but if the cyclist was operating legally, it was NOT the fault of the cyclist. The principle that the overtaking vehicle MUST pass in a safe manner, exercising due care, is FUNDMENTAL to rational operation of our roads. We might criticize the cyclist for not operating in the proven safest manner, but the same is true in the case of motorists not driving as defensively as they might. Even gutter bunnies have a right to expect not to be clipped by an overtaking vehicle. To operate otherwise would make road cycling impossibly dangerous, even with perfect technique.

    What’s more, almost all of the time, it works. Most likely accident scenarios involve intersections and crossing traffic. Get THOSE down and you’re pretty safe whether you ride the fog line or down the middle of the lane in between those conflict locations. I might be opening up a can of worms here, but I see the major benefits of controlling a lane in between intersections as helping motorists arrive at a “move over or not” decision earlier, to increase visibility to crossing traffic, to offer safer options if debris/pothole avoidance is necessary, and to reduce cyclist lateral lane movements when approaching intersections and other crossing situations. Certainly not negligible benefits, but failure to ride further left does not shift responsibility from the overtaking vehicle’s driver.

    But you knew that…

  9. Steve A
    Steve A says:

    While I’m at it, my previous post illustrates the fundamental weakness of bicycle lanes & side paths. They address unlikely accident situations while exacerbating the common ones. More insidious, they reduce the probability that a motorist will make a correct “move over or not” decision if the correct decision is for him/her TO move over. I think I run little risk of opening up any cans of worms in this observation.

  10. fred_dot_u
    fred_dot_u says:

    I hope that my comments are being recognized as applying to operations on a lane under 14 feet in width, also known as a sub-standard width roadway. These comments do not always apply to 14 foot lanes or wider.

    You are correct, Steve A. I should have said that her position on the stripe was a serious contributing factor. However, because she was operating legally does not mean she was operating wisely. The sad part is that she and her cow-orkers do not recognize that she did contribute to the crash.

    Riding on the stripe or in the gutter or shoulder and even in the bike lane does not always mean a motorist has to make a correct decision. Platoons of motor vehicles mean that the trailing drivers will not have sufficient time to react in a safe manner when the cyclist becomes visible, usually after the lead driver moves over for safe or unsafe passing. Since I can see tailgating drivers among more than eighty percent of the vehicles on the road, it’s not a stretch to consider how many of these drivers are hazards to stripe-riders.

  11. Steve A
    Steve A says:

    Fred and I are back in harmony! I concede the cyclist’s riding may have been a contributing factor. I think Fred conceded that being a contributor is different than being “the fault of the cyclist.”

    As for Keri’s item, I think any reader of this blog would have been excluded from that jury by the defense. On the surface, it certainly appears to offer a “hunting licence” to motorists overtaking cyclists in Missouri. I suspect the verdict would have been different had the motorist plowed into the rear of a school bus…

  12. Keri
    Keri says:

    Kumbaya 😉

    Yeah, if the guy’s ‘tude wasn’t enough, the jury of his peers is frightening.

    Our battle is for bicycles to be respected as vehicles (and bicycle drivers as human beings, ferchrissakes!)… equal in our right to the public way, equal in our right of First Come First Served. Not just by the law, but by the culture.

  13. Andrewp
    Andrewp says:

    Fred: back to our Education question ….

    Yes, I agree with you about having someone who is “trained” (I’ll settle for lots of experience) in a variety of road conditions. Like you, I have a concern as well — my concern is that whoever does the training doesn’t condem bike lanes up front. I’m just thinking that bike lanes are a fact of life and cycling, and as Mighk wrote earlier bike lane usage and bike lane safety issues could be addressed via training …

    Keri or Mighk: Do you know if there is any difference between Missouri law and Florida law relating to the point of: (as quoted from the blog)

    ” ….a motorist is guilty of a crime only if he does something worse than being careless or negligent. Running a stop sign, crossing a center line, or blatantly running down two cyclists is not a crime by itself, unless there was some added element of recklessness involved. Common reckless elements are speeding or drinking. Talking on a cell phone may be another ….”

  14. Keri
    Keri says:

    AFAIK, negligent homicide is treated as a crime. See Ashley Townsend. However, the penalties vary. While public sentiment called for blood in Townsend’s case, I suspect the public response would have been different had she run down an adult cyclist.

  15. Eric
    Eric says:

    Reckless driving is required in Florida

    782.071 Vehicular homicide.–“Vehicular homicide” is the killing of a human being, or the killing of a viable fetus by any injury to the mother, caused by the operation of a motor vehicle by another in a reckless manner likely to cause the death of, or great bodily harm to, another.

  16. Keri
    Keri says:

    316.192 Reckless driving.–

    (1)(a) Any person who drives any vehicle in willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property is guilty of reckless driving.

    (b) Fleeing a law enforcement officer in a motor vehicle is reckless driving per se.

    …seems to me that should apply to mowing down 2 people on a shoulder ’cause you don’t feel like moving over.

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