Bicyclists are entitled to high quality training and education, from the earliest grades through adulthood, so that they can learn their rights and duties to visibly, predictably, and cooperatively participate in traffic as drivers of vehicles. Being taught to act as drivers will allow bicyclists to take advantage of the travel connectivity and efficiency of the existing road network with the lowest risk possible. This includes learning the common hazards and how to avoid them, just as motorists are taught in traffic skills (AKA driver education) classes and in more advanced defensive driving courses.
Bicyclists also need to learn the special hazards posed by many on-street bikeways built to inadequate standards, and how to avoid or mitigate the danger. Bicyclists also need to learn the different operating rules and best practices for navigating shared use pathways with pedestrians, to protect the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians on the path, and their own safety at road crossings.
Transportation professionals are also entitled to high quality education about the spectrum of bicyclist behavior, the difficulties and poor behavior created by many “minimum standard” road and bikeway designs, and how to follow the best practices for road and bikeways designs. The best practices foster driver behavior and at the same time minimize the design risk for travel on roads and bikeways. These efforts will eventually culminated in an I Am Traffic Best Practices Guide, currently under development.
Law enforcers are entitled to high quality education about bicyclists’ rights and duties, the spectrum of bicyclist behavior, the dangers of poor/unlawful behavior, and how enforcement can improve behavior through citations and diversion programs. Enforcers also need to be educated about crash investigation and fault assignment, their effect on liability in civil/criminal cases, and how improved collision reporting will improve cyclist education and facility design to address the causes of the collisions.
Elected officials and advocates also need to learn about bicyclists’ rights and duties and how they are expressed through all six Es. Education programs targeted at these groups will help them understand the importance of driver behavior and how to best support the full spectrum of bicyclist behavior on streets and on bikeways.
Because of the importance of education to all of the above groups, I Am Traffic is committed to delivering CyclingSavvy, Journeys from Home, Understanding Bicycle Transportation, Enforcement Education, and Presentations for Policy-makers for cyclists, planners and engineers, enforcers, and elected officials respectively.
- Journeys from Home
- Understanding Bicycle Transportation
- Enforcement Education
- Policy Makers
CyclingSavvy is a traffic cycling course developed for the Florida Bicycle Association. The course teaches the principles of Mindful Bicycling:
- empowerment to act as confident, equal road users;
- strategies for safe, stress-free, integrated cycling;
- tools to read and problem-solve any traffic situation or road configuration.
The course is offered in three 3-hour components: a bike-handling session, a classroom session and an on-road tour.
The object of the course is not to turn people into road warriors. Being a confident, competent cyclist has nothing to do with speed or bravado. You don’t need either of those things to have access to the entire transportation grid.
Even most confident cyclists prefer to use quiet routes when feasible. In many cases, it is only an intimidating intersection or short stretch of busy road that hinders a cyclist’s preferred route. This course is designed to show students simple strategies to eliminate such barriers, and ride with ease and confidence in places they might never have thought possible.
Journeys from Home
Created in Montana, Journeys from Home (JFH) provides a model for giving children and youth the experiences necessary to acquire the tools and knowledge that will allow them to travel safely and predictably under their own power in their own community.
Since the 1970s, JFH has been developing and implementing countermeasure procedures to educate children, parents, teachers, law enforcement personnel and total communities. They are currently developing the next generation of training materials brought forward by the children (now adults with kids) that were involved and trained with the original program. This next generation of developers offers tools and experiences never before imagined in an injury prevention program. They have survived their Journeys from Home and share a committed appreciation for quality education and the freedom it gave them. It is their experiences and observations that make this new generation of materials come to life.
Learn more about Journeys from Home and how experienced trainers can help you make it a part of your community at Journeysfromhomemontana.org.
Understanding Bicycle Transportation
The “Understanding Bicycle Transportation” workshop is an opportunity for Planners, Engineers, Landscape Architects and others involved in transportation planning, project development, design, project management, programming, landscape architecture, construction, local assistance, traffic operations, encroachment permits and maintenance to increase their knowledge and skills in the following areas:
- State and Federal goals, policies, regulations, and laws that address bicycle transportation.
- The rights and responsibilities of bicyclists under the State Vehicle Code;
- Bicyclist needs and expectations as users of transportation facilities;
- Safety, mobility and access issues; bicyclist travel behaviors that maximize safety and mobility;
- Maintaining bicyclist safety, mobility and access through work zones.
- Applying transportation planning, traffic operations, and design “best practice” principles to maximize bicyclist safety and mobility and support “Complete Streets” policies.
By the end of the workshop, attendees are able to more fully understand and apply guidance found in the State or AASHTO Highway Design Manuals, State or Local Project Development Procedures, State and Federal MUTCD (Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices), and other State and Local guidance documents, and implement State “Complete Streets” policies.
Bicyclist Safety and Law Enforcement
This program was developed in Raleigh, NC, by the North Carolina Active Transportation Alliance. It is currently being adapted for use by other cities in North Carolina. The program has received high praise by both police and bicyclist advocates and can provide a model for police education around the country.
The program includes the following essential components:
- A detailed presentation of how traffic law defines the rights and duties of bicyclists and other drivers on roadways and how this relates to safety
- A list of priority violations by bicyclists (cycling at night without lights, wrong-way cycling, failure to yield at junctions, and unsafe operation on sidewalks)
- A list of priority violations by motorists (drunk/distracted driving, failure to yield at junctions, improper right turn, driving too fast for conditions, unsafe passing)
- Discussion of effective methods for dealing with bicyclists and motorists during bicycling-related traffic stops
- Analysis of common causes of local bicycle crashes based on local police reports. Such crash data provides a compelling justification for the existing rules of the road and the prioritization of traffic violations.
- Discussion of bicycle-specific facilities such as shared lane markings and bike lanes.
Posts in the Education Category
In part 3 of his comprehensive overview of cycling law enforcement, Kirby Beck explains: What police need to learn How to get heard by your local police department Why changes in police departments need to come from the top Plus: why you need the AAA on your side. “You need to start reporting things,” Kirby urges cyclists. “They’re not going to know it’s a problem if they don’t hear from you and hear from your friends. “Now I know the cops will go, ‘Why did you tell them that? That’s all we need is more calls.’ Too bad! Too bad. “See, I’m not going to be happy until we don’t have to have special programs to do bike enforcement because it’s part of what cops do every day, we don’t have to spend a lot of money on bike lanes and other facilities because we’ve got roads, and people can use those roads. They’re there for everybody, it’s a public right-of-way.” Beck is a retired police officer and a trainer with the International Police Mountain Bike Association. In Part 1 of this series, he took us through the fascinating history of cops on bikes, and gave an overview of the current state of enforcement of bicycle law – or lack thereof. In Part 2, Beck explained how to deal with police citations and how to effectively report incidents to 911. Tamar Wilner...read more
The issue of courtesy often comes up when bicyclists discuss traffic, especially when motorists are part of the conversation. Most bicyclists want to be respectful of others and to set a good example. However, different assumptions, experiences and knowledge about traffic bicycling can result in different opinions of what “courtesy” means. How can cyclists extend courtesies to their fellow road users, while prioritizing their own safety? We’ll answer that question as it’s addressed by cycling classes such as CyclingSavvy and BikeWalk NC’s Traffic Bicycling course. Defining Courteous Courteous means “marked by respect for and consideration of others.” Courtesy is voluntary social behavior that exceeds our obligations under the law (such as stopping for red lights). Police cannot write traffic tickets for being rude; they are limited to the statutes that prohibit unsafe movements. All road users must cooperate with one another to avoid collisions; courtesy, however, is making the extra effort to improve the social environment of traffic and optimize the experience for everyone. When it comes to courtesy, we self-police according to our own judgment. The Golden Rule As socially conscious travelers we try to apply the rule, “Do unto others as you would have done unto you.” We appreciate favors from strangers and try to do the same for them. But how big a favor should be expected? One example is holding a heavy door open for a stranger entering a building behind us. How long should we wait? If the stranger is right behind us, we feel rude for letting the door swing shut. If the stranger is too far away, waiting a long time makes both parties feel awkward. Our minds calculate a threshold by comparing estimates of our cost of holding the door and the other person’s cost of re-opening it. We usually extend favors when the cost to ourselves is less than the cost we save for others. When everyone does this for everyone else, everyone wins. First Come, First Served We often let a person with one item go first at the checkout counter when we have a full cart. But what if there is a long line of people behind us at checkout? If we give up our place in line, others will benefit, but our individual cost may become too burdensome. Such a large sacrifice is not expected of us; people understand that sometimes the first come, first served rule is the only fair and practical way to limit every individual’s burden to a reasonable level. Assisting Overtaking Every bicyclist must decide for themselves on a case-by-case basis how much burden to shoulder for an inadequate road design, and how much to rely on the first come, first served rule to get to their destination in a reasonable time. In the Traffic Cycling class we discuss when a bicyclist should move to the right edge of the road to assist faster drivers in passing, versus when they should maintain control of their lane by riding in the lane center. For safety, cycling instructors encourage cyclists to control the lane when the usable lane width is narrow, because this reduces the risk of sideswipes caused by unsafe close passing. Bicyclists in North Carolina have the same legal right to use a full lane as other drivers. However, we also encourage cyclists to voluntarily move right...read more
An i am traffic reader asks via email: Do you think requiring bicyclists to have licenses, similar to automobile drivers (or a spot on our driver’s licenses similar to motorcyclists), would raise bicyclists’ stature in the eyes of law enforcement and the driving public? Would the inconvenience this would cause to cyclists be worth it to more clearly send the message to everyone else that we cyclists seriously want to be given the same respect as the automobile? It has often been suggested, usually by non-bicyclists, that bicyclists should be required to pass a skills and knowledge test as a precondition for using our public roads. Anyone can see that inept and unlawful bicycling behavior is widespread here in the US, and studies show that moving violations by bicyclists contribute to about half of all car-bike crashes 1. So why not license bicyclists like motorists to improve public safety? While many proponents of bicyclist licensing have motivations that are hostile toward bicycling, some others have a sincere interest in promoting safer bicycling, and so the question deserves a serious and reasoned response. No US state, and apparently no government on the planet, requires adults to pass a skills and knowledge test as a precondition for exercising the right to travel by bicycle on public roads. There are many reasons why this is so, ranging from beliefs about the appropriate role of government to cost-benefit considerations, regulatory program efficiency and social justice. Danger to Whom? Moving violations by motor vehicle operators pose a grave danger to members of the public, killing thousands of people each year in the US alone 2. By comparison, moving violations by bicyclists rarely injure anyone but the bicyclist. When bicyclists do injure people, the victims are usually pedestrians, and these bike-pedestrian collisions are more likely to happen when bicyclists operate on sidewalks, paths and other non-roadway facilities that bicyclist licensing advocates usually exclude from their proposed regulations. As a result, a licensing requirement for roadway use is unlikely to protect the safety of people, and may actually increase danger to pedestrians by encouraging more use of sidewalks by unlicensed bicyclists trying to avoid roadways, which studies have shown are the safer location for bicyclists to operate 3. Self Protection Rather than having a credible goal of protecting the public from bicyclists, bicyclist licensing is usually touted as a way to protect bicyclists from themselves. By that reasoning, why not require people to pass a swimming skills and knowledge test and obtain a swimming license before being allowed to use public pools, beaches, and lakes? After all, more people drown per million hours of swimming than are killed per million hours of bicycling 4. But the public would reject such a swimming license scheme because it creates a high government-imposed barrier to entry into a relatively harmless activity where the risks are private rather than public. Instead, most people prefer to invest in swimming skill development voluntarily and gradually as their interest and participation in the activity grows. Another preferred strategy is to incorporate key swimming education components into public school programs. This is the practice for bicycling education in many countries, but here in the US there appears to be less appreciation of the safety benefits of bicyclist knowledge and skill than of swimming knowledge...read more
The following story is a speech given May 7, 2013 by Michie O’Day at the Active Communities Conference in Waterville, Maine. I am honored to publish it here with her permission. Michie is an inspiration to me and a heroic example of what it means to be antifragile. Her journey on the tricycle confirms everything we are trying to do here at I Am Traffic—from education, to legal equality and informed law enforcement to inclusive facility design. Recreational Opportunities for People With Disabilities (breakout session) Today I’m going to tell you how I became disabled and how I make the most of it. I hope you’ll see that despite the hurdles, I’m an active and contributing member of my community. What I want is for you to return to your communities – all fired up to include more people like me – so that together we can enhance both the social and economic well-being of Maine’s cities and towns. First, some background. I wasn’t always the way you see me today. My deafness and trouble walking stem from a rare genetic condition known as neurofibromatosis. I’ll repeat that for you. neuro-fibroma-tosis. Let’s call it NF. There’re several strains of it. I have the one known as NF2 – which means that I grow benign tumors in my brain and around my spinal cord. I was diagnosed with this when I was 26 years old. Since that time I’ve had too many MRI scans to count, radiation treatment and 6 major neurosurgeries for a total of 36.5 hours on the operating table. I consider this bragging rights, but I’m determined not to let it become a way of life for me. Fortunately, I’m optimistic, and I’m pragmatic. So when my hearing went kaput in my 39th year and I had to give up my career in nonprofit fund raising, which I thoroughly enjoyed, I seized the opportunity to follow my heart and start fresh as a painter in Stonington, Maine – which I loved even more. Balance has been an issue since my first neurosurgery when I had a tumor removed from my acoustic nerve 30 years ago. As a result, I became deaf in one ear and my vestibular function was compromised. I had to give up skiing and cycling at that time. There were other losses and adjustments along the way, but things didn’t get bad until 2008, when further neurosurgery left me with a paralyzed right leg. Wasn’t supposed to happen. With a lot of work and rehab, I was able to regain most of the use of that leg – and I was glad to get out of a wheelchair. But recovery wasn’t 100%, and power walks – which I’d loved since I was a teenager – are now only a memory. Today, I use trekking poles – or sometimes a walker – to make sure that I stay upright. Three years ago when it was clear that my poor coordination was affecting my driving, I gave that up and got rid of my car. Stonington is simply the most beautiful place on earth, and I’d be there still, but it’s remote and not a good place to live without a car. So I moved to Portland, and that’s where my cycling story begins…. I used to walk past Gorham Bike...read more
Cycling is a great way to spend active family time outside. Benefits Bicycling is a popular, fun, healthy, and useful activity that people can do their entire lives. Bicycling provides low-impact exercise of variable intensity that improves health, fitness, longevity, mental focus, emotional balance, and stress levels. Traveling by bicycle is often more enjoyable and affordable than other modes, and can be more convenient where automobile parking is limited. Teaching children to travel effectively by bicycle as they get older develops patience, discipline, self reliance and personal responsibility. Learning to negotiate traffic by bicycle also teaches essential driving skills that will make them safer and more courteous motorists later. Risk Management Per hour of activity, bicycling has an injury rate similar to common sports such as soccer, and a fatality rate lower than swimming and similar to that of automobile travel. The health benefits of bicycling outweigh any health risks by an order of magnitude in terms of disability adjusted years of life. Like swimming and motoring, the safety of bicycling is determined primarily by behavior; education and skill development are key to success. As a bicyclist’s skills and maturity progress, safe bicycle travel becomes possible in an increasingly wide variety of environments. An important consideration for cycling with children is matching route selection and adult supervision to the developmental and skill levels of the child. Children as Passengers Many parents enjoy bicycling with children as young as one year old (when they can safely support their own weight and sit themselves upright) by using a variety of child trailers and seats. Transporting children as bike passengers allows parents to start modeling successful bicycling behavior early and helps interest children in bicycling. Bike trailers let kids ride while you stay in control. Enclosed two-wheel child trailers are ideal for children under four years old; the low center of gravity avoids affecting the parent’s balance on the leading bicycle, provides good handling, and minimizes the potential for a fall-related injury (the vast majority of injuries to kids cycling). Such trailers also provide room for toys and snacks inside the compartment, keeping little ones happy during the ride. Somewhat older children will prefer trailercycles, aka trailer bikes, which attach to the back of the parent bicycle and feature one wheel, a seat, handlebars, and pedals to assist with the work. These trailers require more maturity and cooperation from the child and can be more difficult for the parent to control due to the higher center of gravity. Tandem bicycles are another option, and can be configured to work for children of various sizes as long as the child can stay seated. Child carrier seats are also available, and are usually the most affordable option for transporting children. However, a child in a carrier seat can make a bicycle top heavy and difficult to control, especially when mounting and dismounting. A tandem bicycle can be adjusted as the child grows. Are We There Yet? Long bike rides can be tiring or tedious for children; it’s useful to start small and break up longer trips with stops every 20 minutes or so. Planning a round trip to a destination of interest such as an ice cream shop, restaurant, or park works especially well. Water and snack breaks keep kids happy. Teaching...read more
It’s not Effective Cycling repackaged with a new name. A common criticism of cyclist education is simply that “it doesn’t work.” Presented with such a statement, I suppose we first have to ask, “work at what?” Those making the claim seem to be saying it doesn’t work at getting more people to ride bikes. I don’t think many are claiming a trained cyclist is just as likely to crash as an untrained one. Perhaps they may be right that it doesn’t get more people to ride bikes; but on the other hand I know individuals who have most certainly increased their cycling due to education. They have said so themselves. No doubt the “it doesn’t work” claim is based on a belief that few people will take a traffic cycling course. This debate is at the core of how our society decides to promote cycling. Do we take an ends-justify-the-means approach in which almost any strategy which encourages people to bike is deemed okay, or do we help each individual maximize their safety, comfort and competence through means which are as ethical as possible? Those who argue for “getting more people on bikes” use cycling as a means to various ends: health, climate change, community livability, etc. Certainly those are all worthy goals, but it has led proponents to take some liberties with science, and misled many people about what factors are important both in increasing the number of cyclists and improving safety. They argue that increasing the numbers of cyclists will make cycling safer in spite of hazards created by some types of bicycle-specific infrastructure. While it’s true that an increase in the numbers of bicyclists reduces the overall crash rate, the same is true of auto use and walking. Analysis of one study of a Danish bikeway found that the decrease in crash rate was less than would be predicted by Smeed’s Law. To put it in a more direct light: the number of crashes went up more than it would have if there had been no bikeway. Increasing numbers of bicyclists can improve safety, but only given the right circumstances. And even if safety in numbers through facilities does reduce the injury and fatality rates, if those same facilities actually cause some injuries and deaths, then we must question the ethics of such a strategy, especially if other strategies are available which would be less likely to cause harm. What’s more, proponents assert that the right types of facilities significantly increase cycling. But the scientific support for this is also debatable. There are numerous factors that affect bicycle mode share, including climate, demographics, density, street network connectivity, terrain, the costs of owning and operating a motor vehicle, and most importantly, the presence of a college or university in a community. Do places with bicycle facilities get more cyclists, or do places with more cyclists get more bicycle facilities? It may be both. But if increases in cycling are due in large part to factors other than bikeways, then any reduction in the crash rate is indirectly due to those other factors, not to the bikeways, and if those bikeways cause or contribute to conflicts and crashes — which they do — then providing bikeways as means of increasing use and improving safety does not work and is...read more
Presentation at CNU20: In the video presentation above, I explain the root cause of the beliefs that inhibit bicycling in America, why the prevailing strategy can’t fix it, and offer a strategy that can. In addition to teaching people to be successful anywhere, this strategy includes many progressive infrastructure ideas that are cost-effective, versatile, expandable and supportive of successful bicyclists. For more on this topic: Strategy for a Cyclist-Friendly Community by Keri Caffrey Keri Caffrey Co-founder, CyclingSavvy Executive Director, American Bicycling Education Association Through two decades of bicycling, I observed many close calls and conflicts as an individual transportation cyclist as well as a recreational group rider. Studying the behavior of both cyclists and motorists, I became convinced that the greatest challenge facing American bicycling is lack of education, coupled with the destructive belief system Americans have developed about our roads. It has become my mission to correct this problem and empower individual bicyclists to ride with the confidence and skills to reach any destination by bike. I believe we can transform our traffic culture, through education and social marketing, into one which recognizes that roads are for all people, not just the ones driving cars....read more