Pages Menu
Categories Menu

Posted by on Mar 19, 2013 in Encouragement | 85 comments

The Stories We Tell – Part One

This is the first in a series of posts highlighting the challenges for encouraging bicycling in America.

Part 1: Origin & Influence of Our Stories

The stories we tell are a product of the experiences we have. Our experiences are the product of our choices and behavior. There’s a saying popular among pilots: “Good judgment comes from experience. Unfortunately, the experience usually comes from bad judgment.” In bicycling, the journey to good judgment is complicated by inhibiting beliefs and social norms.

Test Your Recognition of Potential Conflict

The image below is similar to one we use in the CyclingSavvy course. It’s a participation exercise to engage students in spotting conflicts they have just learned about in a previous section on crash causes and prevention. Test yourself in Tab 1. Tab 2 shows the potential conflicts faced by the cyclist in red (practicing edge behavior). Tab 3 shows the potential conflicts faced by the cyclist in green (practicing driver behavior).


click images to enlarge

Count the conflicts faced by each of the two cyclists on the left side of the picture, then click the tabs above or below for highlighted conflicts and explanations.


There are numerous mid-block conflicts:

  • Door zone: every parked car is a potential dooring conflict.
  • Parking pull-out: every parked car has the potential to pull out when there is a gap in traffic. The edge-riding bicyclist may be in the drivers’ blind spots.
  • There is a wrong-way bicyclist weaving in and out of parking spaces. He will be a head-on conflict for an edge-riding bicyclist.
  • Beyond the intersection is a pinch point where the lane is too narrow for a bicyclist and a truck or bus to fit.
  • Buses entering or leaving the bus stop are a problem for the bicyclist. He is likely to be in the blind spot of the bus drivers.

The driveway offers several crossing conflicts:

  • The driver of the green truck could suddenly decide to turn right into the driveway.
  • The driver of the yellow car may pull out and go in any direction—if he is working a gap, to turn left or get to the left-turn lane, he will be focused on the cars and unlikely to look at the edge of the road.
  • The driver of the turquoise SUV is looking for a gap to make a left turn. The green truck screens the edge bicyclist from view.

The main intersection offers several crossing conflicts:

  • The pedestrian may try to cross before the light changes. He will step into the edge of the lane before proceeding.
  • The tractor trailer might turn right. It will look as if it is going straight because the driver needs to steer wide. He will need to navigate the turn slowly to avoid off-tracking over the sidewalk, allowing plenty of time for the edge-riding bicyclist to enter his blind spot.
  • The driver of the red truck wants to turn right on red. He may jump the light, or be looking for a gap.
  • The driver of the yellow car is planning to turn left. If the red cyclist is fast and that driver runs the stale yellow, they would be on a collision course and invisible to one another.

The frequency of potential conflicts on the edge requires managing multiple threats at once… and that’s if the bicyclist even recognizes the conflict potential. Many bicyclists who ride this way don’t. They suffer constant close calls. Their trips are full of unpleasant surprises because they are frequently invisible or irrelevant to other drivers. But unlike the pilot, most don’t have the training to recognize the root cause of their bad experiences or how to eliminate them.



The green bicyclist is clear of all of the mid-block edge conflicts. She is well outside the door zone. She’s easily seen by drivers pulling out of parking spaces. She also has plenty of space to avoid them. She won’t be bothered by the wrong-way bicyclist.

Drivers of all vehicles face potential conflicts at driveways and intersections. Like a motorcycle driver, this bicyclist has positioned herself for the best vantage and visibility—she can see conflicting drivers and they can see her. She simply needs to be aware of a potential moving screen: cars to her left screening her view of left-turning drivers.

With only a few potential conflicts to monitor, the driver bicyclist has a virtually stress-free ride. She prevents most right-of-way incursions just by being visible and relevant. She knows where to place her attention and the value of communicating with others. She encounters almost no surprises.


To learn more about the types of bicyclist behavior and how they influence crash risk, see Bicyclist Behaviors & Crash Risk in the Engineering section. In this post, we will explore the cultural influences and social implications of bicyclist behavior. 

The Distorted Lens

The two bicyclists above not only have vastly different personal experiences, but the people with whom they interact also have a dramatically different experiences. For better or worse, we are all ambassadors. A close call or crash involves two people: the bicyclist and the motorist. They both leave the encounter affected by it. They also influence their families, friends and co-workers with the stories they tell about bicycling and bicyclists. Those stories become the lens through which the people around them view bicycling.

Anyone who has spent any time on bike blogs, forums and comment sections has encountered many, many “motorists are idiots” stories. These are predominantly stories of the unsuccessful bicyclist practicing edge or pedestrian behavior. He gets buzzed and cut off frequently. He wants new laws requiring motorists to move over, or yield to him when he’s passing on their right. He loves PSA campaigns that tell motorists to look for bicyclists, but it hasn’t occurred to him that there are things he can do better. He’s riding the way he believes he is expected to. Good thing he’s tough. Bicycling on the edge of the road is only for the fearless, fast and thick-skinned warrior.

Under the bravado is a disempowered, unsuccessful road user who needs other people to change so bicycling can be less frustrating. Most of us know this guy, or we’ve been him. He has been the face of American bicycling for decades.

If he never learns there’s a better way, he gives up and goes back to driving a car.


The Stories of the Unsuccessful Bicyclist

I’m a second class citizen.
I’m at the mercy of others.
Most motorists are careless and mean.
Bicycling is difficult and frustrating and won’t be safe until other people change and we have special facilities.

The majority of American bicyclists are locked into this cycle of conflict and frustration. In fact, the beliefs of our culture are designed to hold them there.

Get Out of the Way or Be Killed

Throughout history, dominant cultures have held their norms in place with stories, symbols and ideas designed to discourage deviation. This is called control mythology. It is insidiously woven into the culture so that it is not recognized as anything other than “the way it is and always has been”—an unchangeable fact of life. It is the underpinning of beliefs, customs and laws. It is the root cause of many intractable problems throughout the world. Tragically, it is often held in place most strongly by the subordinates it is intended to suppress.

The plight of the unsuccessful bicyclist is the product of the control mythology by which motordom, and its culture of speed, came to dominate our public roadways. Our current beliefs about the road date back only to the 1920s. As the motorcar entered our cities, it quickly ran up against the dominant pedestrian culture—a culture that had believed for thousands of years that streets were for people. The speed of the motorcar was incompatible with that culture’s customary use of the streets for socializing, commerce and movement of people and goods by human and animal power. The resulting clash—and death count—threatened to curtail the usefulness of the motorcar.  So began a deliberate effort by a wealthy minority of motoring interests to reframe the purpose and preferred users of our streets.

The Great Reframing resulted in the creation of a control mythology designed to clear the roads of anything that slows motorized traffic. To control by fear, it changed the perception of cars from vehicles being driven by people who are responsible for safe and competent operation into traffic—a faceless force of nature which must be avoided. That alone has had repercussions for safety, civility and justice for all road users. The reframing dissociated higher speed from greater responsibility, foisting upon us the utterly false belief that it is dangerous to be slow. But fear alone isn’t enough. Being slow and in the way is also socially unacceptable. Thus, if you shake off the imposed irrational fear, your peers will try to keep you in your place.


After almost 100 years, the beliefs that inhibit successful behavior have been accepted unquestioningly by most people. The forces that deliberately reframed our roads are long gone. Tradition now holds their legacy in place. Worst of all, the mythology is now so thoroughly perpetuated by the stories of unsuccessful bicyclists, the status quo would seem to have little to fear.

We Shall Overcome

Understanding these beliefs is essential to the task of encouraging bicycling in America. These beliefs are the root cause of why bicycling seems difficult, dangerous or impossible to most people. These beliefs have inhibited bicycling for decades.

These beliefs are a false construct that can be overcome by individual bicyclists. Even with all the imperfection of motorist behavior, the physical issues of land use, street design and other ills of our culture’s diversion into motor-centric transportation priorities, the individual can be empowered to thrive as a human-powered vehicle driver… right now. Not just the strong, brave, fearless….whatever. Anyone.

The green-shirted bicycle driver in the illustration at the top of the page is not unique by any physical characteristic, age or gender. That bicyclist is simply someone who has learned the same defensive driving skills taught to the drivers of another common narrow vehicle: the motorcycle. What’s less simple is that she had to overcome the baggage of the control mythology before she could learn the behaviors that allow her to have a successful and conflict-free experience. A future post in this series will discuss strategies for belief change.

diana_3The reward for the bicyclist is tremendous: empowerment for unlimited travel. But the reward for those of us wanting to encourage bicycling is also significant. This bicyclist tells stories, too. She tells stories about all the places she goes on her bike, how much better she feels when she arrives at a destination, how easy and rewarding it is to use a bike for transportation and how courteous her fellow road users are. She’s positively connected to her community. Her enthusiasm is infectious. It inspires her friends to dust off their bikes and try a trip to the park or the store, too. If they implement her style of riding, they, too, will be empowered by success. New positive stories will begin to edge out the old negative ones.

The Stories of the Successful Bicyclist

I’m a first class citizen.
I’m in control of my safety.
Most motorists are safe and courteous.
Bicycling is safe, easy and a great way to connect with the community. I don’t need special infrastructure, but there are some ways better infrastructure could enhance my travels.

Imagine a community where this is the dominant story. At I Am Traffic, we believe we can make it so. But first, there are some common advocacy strategies we need to reexamine. That will be the topic of part two.

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.

468 ad


  1. Hi,

    Honest question here. First, I understand the multiple reasons for riding a bike, and admire many of them.

    I also agree that using a lane instead of riding along the shoulder is safer to an extent, the extent being in speed zones of 25mph or less.

    Heres the question: What I cannot comprehend is twofold 1)Do bicyclists really believe they can putt along at 10mph in a 40, 45, 50 mph zone, blocking the only lane of traffic, causing a back up and think this is ok? 2) Do bicyclists really believe it safe to putt along in these higher speed zones on 30 pound bikes amongst 2000 pound cars that regularly run into each other?

    Yes, I have seen bicyclists doing these things several times.

    Much like the left lane lurkers on the highway, they have no way of knowing which of the angry people behind them blasting their horns and yelling curses is on their way to the hospital, or to help their child who lost their house key, or simply wanting to get where they are going in a reasonable time at a speed the state both determined to be safe, and built the road to accomodate.

    Remember, the motorists have just as much right to get where they are going as a bicyclist regardless of motive for choice of transportation.

    I have seen my share of motocycle accidents, vehicles which can maintain a posted speed limit.

  2. All very true — but don’t forget the important last line of the “successful bicyclist’s” story:

    “I am white and middle-class and therefore believe that the law affords me protection when I step out of the social role the majority has assigned me.”

    • Brian gets it backwards about expecting to be protected by the law. Cyclists who ride up on the right side of big trucks in the bike lane are the ones who expect to be protected by the law. I expect to be protected by following the rules of motion, which make me visible and predictable — and by looking out for myself.

  3. “All very true — but don’t forget the important last line of the “successful bicyclist’s” story:

    “I am white and middle-class and therefore believe that the law affords me protection when I step out of the social role the majority has assigned me.”

    How wonderfully racist of you, Brian. Now let’s review those lines again:

    I’m a first class citizen.
    I’m in control of my safety.
    Most motorists are safe and courteous.
    Bicycling is safe, easy and a great way to connect with the community. I don’t need special infrastructure, but there are some ways better infrastructure could enhance my travels.

    Where in there is race or economic status mentioned?

    As a non-white that suffered through community and institutional racism in my younger years, I know exactly what it feels like to treated as a second class citizen. To accuse those of us, males, females, whites and non-whites, of presuming some kind of inferred white middle class privilege when we work to promote successful behavior, is both racist and a nasty bit of propaganda.

    • I’ve heard from a number of segregation proponents who say that while they themselves are quite capable of behaving as an equal roadway user, they are “concerned” that most women and the elderly are not. That is frankly elitist (“I can do it, but these poor folks cannot.”)

      We routinely teach women, the elderly, and yes, even elderly women, to drive their bicycles in the same manner we “bold fast white males” do. They experience immense satisfaction and empowerment through such training.

    • “Where in there is race or economic status mentioned?”

      Umm…right here: “I am a first-class citizen.”

      Unfortunately, a lot of people, with good reason, can’t expect to be treated well when they try to make that statement.

      • the post to which you are responding is about what stories we tell ourselves and what stories about ourselves we therefore project to others. if you want to tell yourself you are a second- or third-class citizen, you may expect to be treated as such. if you assert that you are a first-class citizen, regardless of race or economic status, you will manifest a different experience. within this context, your comment translates as “because of my race or economic status, i am unable to assert that i am a first-class citizen.” it may be accurate to say that it is more difficult, but it should not be impossible.

  4. I Am Traffic imagines:

    “Our communities as places where the drivers of human-powered vehicles are expected and respected as a normal part of traffic.”

    Is there a name we can use to describe the streets of such a community? “Complete Streets” has been taken by those wanting to segregate cyclists and promote edge cycling behavior.

    How about:

    “Integrated Streets”?
    “Reclaimed Streets”?
    “Equitable Streets”?
    “Fair Streets”?
    “People Streets”?
    “Streets for Humans”?

  5. It may be that some of the segregation proponents who say they are “comfortable” cycling in traffic are actually the kind of “bold” cyclists they publicly dismiss, and that they see themselves as bold because they actually ride too far right much of the time and experience many conflicts. It’s the conflicts that make one feel like he’s being bold.

    “I’m just a slow, old guy; I’m not brave enough to ride as far right as you do.”
    — Bob Sutterfield, Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition

  6. Enjoy your 2% (if that) modal share guys.

    We all know how great this is in theory, but are you honestly, genuinely expecting people from 8 to 80 years old to take primary position in front of fast-moving cars, trucks and buses in order to be safe.

    The real issue with this is not that it’s unsafe to cycle in the way you present, but that it holds back cycling massively. You may disagree, but most people are simply not comfortable doing what you suggest, and never will be.

    Go to the Netherlands and see what they’ve done. There is NOWHERE IN THE WORLD using your principles, which has a decent cycling modal share.

  7. “We all know how great this is in theory, but are you honestly, genuinely expecting people from 8 to 80 years old to take primary position in front of fast-moving cars, trucks and buses in order to be safe.”

    ^ That is a straw-man argument. The theory of traffic skills is that it works for individuals, so yes it actually works in practice becasue it is designed to change individual behavior. Your sophomoric attempt to blame education for lack of mode share would be amusing if you weren’t so earnestly serious in your utter lack of comprehension of the fact that children in the Netherlands receive education all throughout school, so countries with high mode share also have high levels of education. of course the education is different because bicyclists are segregated, but the correlation you claim doesn’t exist does in fact exist, and doesn’t hold back cycling massively. This idea of yours is little more than uninformed propaganda.

    For someone that is directing us “to go to the Netherlands”, you don’t act like you were paying attention when you visited, assuming you did visit. But here’s the thing, the US is not the Netherlands, our traffic laws, traffic customs, liability assignment rules and land use are dramatically different than in the Netherlands, so to say that training cyclists to operate safely here holds back mode share is much more of a wish than a fact. Why do you want to prevent cyclists from learning how to operate safely here? Could it be that you have a desire to use mode share as a smoke screen to oppose individual empowerment? That is certainly how your prose reads.

    • The straw-man argument is yours. I’m not opposed to education – I’m opposed to WHAT this website is teaching!

      What you’re preaching doesn’t work in practice. It’s a philosophy which ignores human nature for the sake of some theoretical ideal. And to be honest it’s a pretty bad ideal anyway, generating conflict for the sake of a principle born of insecurity.

      Sure you can convince some people that it’s OK to ride in the center of the lane and control their environment where necessary, but you can’t convince very many, and you’ll convince even less people to send their children out to ride that way.

      I lived in the Netherlands for 3.5 years. I’ve lived and cycled in countries with and without infrastructure, and there is simply no comparison. Vehicular cycling, pretending that bikes are basically cars, is awful compared to the alternative.

      • I get your argument on the premise of how many people will be willing to be taught to ride in the center of the lane. I disagree that what this site teaches does not work in practice. On my 3.5 mile ride to work I incounter a narrow 2 lane road, a wide 2 lane road, and a “narrow” 4 lane road with a turning lane. I used to always ride to the right no matter what unless entering a turn lane. Then I read the Ohio law, got some clearification from a lawyer, read some safety guides, veiwed some videos online showing both to the right and lane control riding, and finally started praticing lane control (after adding a mirror to my bike). The difference is night and day. Now the only time I ride to the right is in wide lanes. When I was riding to the right all the time, I got buzzed several times each way, every time I rode. When I started praticing lane control, I started being giving much more clearance by motorist. I ended up with a few more tailgaters but not near as many buzzes I had.
        Here’s the thing, I’ll use an analogy, motorist seem to believe that, the line to the left (wether solid or dotted)is protected by a sheet of glass. If they beleive they have room to pass you and not touch that line they will do everything they can, including coming within inches of a cyclist to not touch that line. However, as soon as you force them across that line by controling the lane, they will cross it with no problem and give you more than even the 3 feet required by some states.

        Now to disagree with your argument of teaching the masses. If you give people the proper education, then evidence, then practice, they will be willing to control the lane. Teach them they have the right first by teaching them the law (ORC 4511.22, 4511.25(B)(2), and 4511.55(c)for a couple of exmaples, and Trotwood vs Selz for some case law examples), then teach them the safety guide, then show them video examples of each (to the right and controlling the lane), then take them for a bike ride to practice both so that they can see the difference first hand. Then the masses will slowly one by one start controlling the lane. Once that starts happening cycling will get more attention and the motorists will start getting educated. No one said this was going to happen overnight. Like the fellow above stated it starts with the individual.

      • AJ, you wrote:
        “What you’re preaching doesn’t work in practice. It’s a philosophy which ignores human nature for the sake of some theoretical ideal.”

        I presume what you meant was “doesn’t work in practice for sufficient numbers to matter in order to significantly increase the number of people who use bicycles for transportation.

        I don’t think we know that yet. So few people know about these skills and practices, much less how powerful they are, that there is simply no telling in how cycling will be affected once the information gets out there. This is why I believe the first step is to get more existing/experienced cyclists to learn the skills and adopt the practices. Even Cat 1/2 racers are getting doored, left hooked, right hooked, etc., and have no idea they could drastically improve their odds by changing their own behavior.

        And, as Dan has noted, what is being “preached” here is not a philosophy (or a religion), but basic skills and practices. Defensive driving applied to bicycling, really.

        • Yes that’s fair to say about my comment.

          What this website teaches has been the basis for cycling training for many years in the UK, where the modal share is pitifully low. It’s also often used as evidence of action by a government (promoting and/or funding this training) in lieu of real spending on infrastructure (“See we’re investing in cycling”) and in my opinion just reduces focus on things which can really improve cycling for all.

          To be honest though, I may have been a bit harsh. If the aim of this website is simply to help people cycle more safely, to deal with an environment that is shared with motorised traffic, then I shouldn’t be critical. I use the same techniques to navigate my way safely through my city on my bike. It’s just that when this becomes a focus and matter of policy, other things get left behind.

          I can see in the comments people who jump on this as “the answer” instead of providing protected facilities (and who are often ideologically opposed to facilities for cycling) and that’s what I’m writing about. These people hold back cycling as transport for everybody, whether they realise it or not.

          Look at the chart on this page:

          Many people commenting here are in the <1%. They are in no position to speak objectively for non-cyclists because they've been cycling for years and think that without enough convincing and a bit of training the others will "see the light". However years of pursuing these strategies in various parts of the world have failed.

          I ask only for people to look at places where cycling succeeds, and try to learn from those places.

          • Apologies that should read “WITH enough convincing”

  8. Thank you for this monumental and important post, Keri. This is something that I will refer to for a long time. It really sums up how much my perspective of cycling has changed… how MY story has changed.

    How frustrating it is to see the comments here and see that people are repeating the same truisms over and over again.

    How can you possibly not want the stories of our roads not changed for 8-80 year olds? Why is there so much anger about allowing people to be empowered?

    As I wrote in my article “Of Reality and Dreams”, it’s not a THIS OR THAT. It’s about changing the stories we tell, THEN building smarter cities and educating the masses. I don’t know anyone who is 8 or 80 (or between, or younger, or older) who actually enjoys living in an automobile-dominated culture. Empowered cyclists that have broken out their own stories are able to enjoy the entire city, right now.

    For the record, I have been to the Netherlands, and I loved it. Not only do they have a great culture of respect, but they have fully integrated signals at all intersections and a culture of looking out for cyclists. I can also take the lane whenever I feel/need to and don’t get honked. Try that in an American “bike friendly” city.

    Anyway, I don’t have anything important to add except for KUDOS. This is excellent.

  9. Great article, I think you have hit the nail on the head in a lot of ways.

    There’s a feedback loop going on here.

    Edge rider cyclists have a hard time, which generates lots of stories of danger, daring and near misses. These stories circulate, they are ‘fit’ memes and become part of the idea that cycling in traffic is inherently dangerous and so we need special facilities. These facilities encourage edge riding and round we go.

    My problem, is that I have no interesting stories about my ride to work. I get on my bike, ride down the hill ( chilly), ride up the hill, my legs ache a bit because I go as fast as I can, I go down another hill (chilly), I get to work. Sometimes I ride past long traffic jams. Its just so dull.

  10. “The straw-man argument is yours. I’m not opposed to education – I’m opposed to WHAT this website is teaching!”

    So you are opposed to lane control. I get that. It sounds like an ideological opposition, not one based on efficacy of the practice on an individual basis.

    “What you’re preaching doesn’t work in practice.”

    We aren’t preaching. We’re teaching well known crash cause recognition and avoidance skills. This isn’t a religion. It is a skills training program.

    “It’s a philosophy which ignores human nature for the sake of some theoretical ideal.”

    How does training cyclists to ride where they are most visible to motorists, have the most vantage of motorists, and most predictable by being in expected locations, making expected normal traffic movements, movements predicated on normal human abilities, “ignore human nature”? The Cycling Savvy training program is entirely based on human nature and cognitive abilities, and how to take advantage of human nature/cognition to minimize crash risk and successfully co-exist with other traffic.

    “And to be honest it’s a pretty bad ideal anyway, generating conflict for the sake of a principle born of insecurity.”

    Conflict? Being predictable and visible and therefore cooperative is “conflict”? That’s a remarkably dishonest thing for you to say. The only insecurity I see here is you feeling threatened by others being empowered to do things you don’t like or want to do. But that’s all about your personal dislike of driver behavior and not a critique of the practice.

    “Sure you can convince some people that it’s OK to ride in the center of the lane and control their environment where necessary, but you can’t convince very many, and you’ll convince even less people to send their children out to ride that way.”

    Really? Just watch us. 😎

    “I lived in the Netherlands for 3.5 years. I’ve lived and cycled in countries with and without infrastructure, and there is simply no comparison. Vehicular cycling, pretending that bikes are basically cars, is awful compared to the alternative.”

    You clearly don’t understand what bicycle driving is, since you referred to it as “vehicular cycling”, an archaic term relating to Forester’s long defunct program. Bicycle driving is not pretending that a bicycle is a car. Far from it. It is a sober recognition that driver rules de-conflict movements by making cyclists visible and predictable, specifically to minimize individual crash risk. I get it that you find it awful, that is your right, but (thankfully) you don’t speak for all cyclists, so your objections are noted and filed appropriately.

  11. I would hope that, as part of your program, you are also teaching that pedestrians have the right to cross the street without getting run over by automobiles or bicycles.

    At least twice each week, I am nearly flattened by yet another bicyclist who ignored a red light or a stop sign. In fact, I cannot recall the last time I saw a bicyclist come to a a stop when required by law.

    Rules of the road apply to everyone.

    • Edd, Driver behavior means same rights, same rules.


    • The types of people on bikes who dangerously ignore traffic laws and come close to hitting pedestrians are not the type who will be reached through browsing sites like this. They likely don’t consider themselves cyclists and care only about getting to their destination. You will never find a group of people as diverse as a ‘bicyclist’.

  12. I cycled for years before discovering articles like this one that allowed me to recognize the important difference between frequent near-collisions resulting from edge and pedestrian behavior, and the occasional act of harassment resulting from driver behavior. Empowered with such framing, I was able to see how to have more successful experiences as a cyclist. Harassment is declining locally as more people become aware of the equal right of cyclists to operate as drivers. Harassment is a behavior that can be changed much faster than our street network. I certainly find some routes more pleasant than others, and I appreciate having a diversity of alternative route types including greenways. But understanding how to operate as a driver is absolutely key to enabling more successful, useful and enjoyable cycling and to recognize what facility features are more likely to create conflicts.

  13. I am a cyclist, cycling advocate, driver and spend 95% of my transportation miles on a bike (an electric ‘assist’ bike). I put on spandex a few times a week for road cycling. My rule is that taking the lane is ok/good if you can maintain 65% of the speed limit. So that works on most roads up to 35mph or so. I avoid faster roads which make me take the lane (narrow), if possible. The main reason I have my self built ebike is so I can go 40mph and not feel like I’m about to get run over. Stress levels on the ebike are much lower than on my pedal bikes. Hopefully someday, roads can safely accommodate all cyclist speeds (I work for this), but I found my solution for now.

    • On roads with higher speed differentials, taking the lane is even more important to allow motorists from a far distance change lanes early. What speed you can maintain is not relevant.

    • I have been controlling lanes for years and this is the first time I’ve heard that to do so you need to maintain 65% of the speed limit. Where did you hear that?

      • I can answer that. First, Rich said that was “his” rule: “My rule is…..”. Second, there is no mandatory speed for cyclist. We are restricted from certian roads, but any road we are allowed on there is no minimum speed. A cyclist cannot be cited for impeding either as long as they are riding to the best of their ability during the current conditions. I average 15mph as a commuter. While on a 40mph road if I’m doing 15mph and that’s reasonable for me I can’t be cited. If I’m on that same 40mph road and there is a 30mph head wind and all I can acheive is 8mph I still can’t be cited as it’s reasonable that, that is all I can achieve with that strong of a wind. Now if I’m still on that 40mph road, there’s no wind/rain/snow/ice (just say perfect conditions) and I’m purposly going 5mph then I can get citied becuase it’s reasonable that my abilities are better than that. Paragraph C of Ohio Revised Code 4511.22 was amended after Trotwood V Selz.

        TROTWOOD v. SELZ Court case deeming the trier of facts must determine if I was traveling at a reasonable speed as CYCLIST, as opposed to a MOTORIST

        4511.22 Slow speed.
        (A) No person shall stop or operate a vehicle, trackless trolley, or street car at such an unreasonably slow speed as to impede or block the normal and reasonable movement of traffic, except when stopping or reduced speed is necessary for safe operation or to comply with law
        (C) In a case involving a violation of this section, the trier of fact, in determining whether the vehicle was being operated at an unreasonably slow speed, shall consider the capabilities of the vehicle and its operator

  14. Agreed. And this works in practice as I now take my lane on RT 20.

  15. In heavier fast traffic with typically a lot of lane changing by more aggressive motor vehicle drivers, you know the type almost road rage level driving, cyclists not maintaining the suggested 65% of traffic flow speed put themselves into serious hazard regardless of lane position.

    Agreed taking the lane REDUCES observant motor vehicle chances they will try take the lane. However, consistent with article “What an RAF pilot can teach us about being safe on the road” taking the lane position puts cyclist in position to be more severely injured or killed from the agressive motor vehicle driver that is obvilious to cyclist and type convinced the cyclist will see the approaching car out of the eyes in back of their heads and be able to swerve to righ curb in nick of time. (If they care anyway, as agreesive drivers are so self centered and overestimating on their abilities they value their speed and skill over others lives. Pedistrians and cyclists pay dearly.

    If you chose to ride streets with traffic much faster than your abilility to keep up you MUST out if necessity (and this warped car centric culture and law enforcement) use your mirrors every 5 seconds tops and watch traffic behind you with same diligence as traffic ahead. Be prepared to quickly move right.

    It is tough riding and the moment you let down your guard that’s when that Godzilla car or bus driver (Googzilla) will strike.

    • High speed roads are not particularly pleasant, but I have dozens of hours of experience riding on them—many of those hours shooting rear-facing video—and have yet to see anything that could even be mistaken for a close call.

      • Exactly. I rode on the right on RT 20 in 35 and 40 mph zones. Now I take my lane on the whole stretch. Previously I was encountering a sizable number of any combination of left hooks, right crosses, pullouts, and mainly close passes. Now that I take my lane that number has dropped from several per trip to a few per week. And 90% of those incidents come from motorists intimidation (hitting the gas aggressively and making sure to pass as close as they can).

        • That ties in with my experience and I’d rather be buzzed by someone on purpose, who’s paying attention to me, that by someone who just doesn’t know I’m there.

      • I have thousands of miles of experience controlling lanes on roads with busy/fast traffic and I have never observed any close calls in my mirror.

        I think people who typically ride far right and observe how traffic behaves imagine the traffic will behave the same if they control the lane. But that’s not true. The effect a lane controlling cyclist has on traffic is totally different from the effect that far right or even “right tire track” cyclist has on traffic. In particular, drivers adjust, either by slowing or changing lanes, much earlier to the present of a lane controlling cyclist than to far right or right tire track cyclists.

        The difference is enormous.

  16. An important point being completely missed is the images portrayed may not represent an ideal route for the cyclist. When people ask me about commuting to work I always tell them to look for less busy streets that parallel the busy streets.

    While the images portrayed may represent a situation where the cyclist has to “take the lane”, there also needs to be common sense and common courtesy. On single lane mountain roads slower cars will pull over to let strings of faster cars by. On a single lane road, taking the lane and forcing strings of cars to pile up behind you for 60 seconds or more isn’t common courtesy. If want respect and courtesy from drivers we need to expect the same.

    In fact, with all my years of commuting, I usually run in to motorists who are the opposite, too courteous. Doing things like waving me through intersections in front of them when other cars aren’t onboard, and the like.

    I would never send my kids out on to high traffic road and tell them to “take the lane”, I’d find them a less busy alternative instead. This is just my take with hundreds (possibly thousands) of hours of commuting mileage.

    • First, while driving I have NEVER encountered a slower vehicle that will move over on a mountain road. Every slower moving vehicle I have encountered on a mountain road has stayed right where they are with a queue of cars lined up behind them, until they get to a passing zone and then they speed up.

      That is a good practice if practical. However, if I were to try to take a less busy route to work it would take me 1.23 miles out of my way, and I would still have to ride .8 miles on the road I was trying to avoid. The normal distance total is 3.54 miles, with the “detour” being 4.77. The normal distance I would be on the busy road is 1.7 miles. So I’d be going 1 mile out of my way to stay off of a dangerous road for 1 mile and still have to use that road for the last almost mile. Another example would be my mother’s house 1.92 miles including an over pass under construction so it’s down to one lane each direction. I am very slow going up this hill and people can’t pass even if I’m on the right. So do I take the detour making my trip 2.87 miles just to avoid a section as of road as long as an overpass? Or do motorist just need to slow down a bit and get rid of the I gotta get there now mentality and realize that I have a right to the road and that in certain situations my safety is paramount to any courtesy towards them?
      That being said if I got this other job it would be about the same miles if I took the twist and turns of the side streets or if I took the busy road mentioned above. In that case I would take the side streets. Until they started proving more dangerous than the busy street. The side streets are 1 lane each direction, some of them kind of busy, some of them not wide enough for a car and I, so I’d be taking the lane. If I encountered more left crosses, right hooks, pullouts, and close passes, I would switch my route to take the busier, faster, 2 lane each direction road, where I know taking my lane has proven to prevent some of these dangerous actions by motorists.

      • Weird, I see cars pull over on mountain roads all the time if there’s a pull-off.

        Myself, I would take the detour rather than the overpass. I commute and ride for my health and don’t mind a little extra mileage. I also want to put myself in the safest situation possible before having to use offensive maneuvers.

        Same situation on your first question, if I could knock 0.8 miles off of a very busy road by taking a 1.23 mile detour, I would do it in a heartbeat.

        Sooner or later, no matter how offensive or defensive you ride, someone will not be paying attention and you’ll be in harm’s way. Put yourself in the safest situation possible FIRST.

        Frankly, I’m surprised and a little appalled by some of my fellow cyclists responses in the comment sections here. If people ride the way they respond to comments I can see why there are conflicts.

        Some of the responses don’t say “confident and empowered” to me, they say “elitist and entitled”.

        • “elitist and entitled”.

          The elitist I disagree with but I can understand why you might think that, but entitled.

          What right am I claiming that is not properly mine? The right to ride safely on the road?

          • Right. I am entitled to the same Rights and Responsibilities as any other vehicle.

        • That’s fine when you are riding for your health. I ride becuase it’s my only option at the moment and been that way for 6 years now. I just put 1,000 miles on my new bike in 6 months going to work and running errands. So, when I’m going to work 5 days a week traveling 1.23 miles out of my way to avoid .9 miles of a road that I still have to travel .8 miles after the detour does not make sense. Basically, I can only avoid half of the distance of this road, I still have to take the other half of this road at some point. So I still need to know how to ride putting my safety above courtesy on this road. I’m not above being courteous, but if it puts my safety at risk than I guess you can call me rude and confrontational.

  17. You are right Andy, entitled was maybe the wrong word, confrontational was probably more appropriate. I wasn’t talked about your posts.

    • There is nothing confrontational about successful behavior.

      I could write a 10,000 word post on route planning, stress-reduction strategies, control & release, effective communication and other cooperative behaviors… or even the fact that most motorists are courteous (especially when you communicate your intentions). I co-wrote the only traffic cycling curriculum in the US that focuses on teaching those strategies. That is not what this post is about. SO it was not “a point being completely missed,” it was simply not the point. Because, while those are all successful behaviors, what distinguishes successful from unsuccessful bicyclists is knowing how to ride safely and easily, even on the most challenging roads, and not being relegated to rat runs or limited by lack of infrastructure or connectivity.

      No matter how much I’d prefer to ride on quiet streets (and the wonderful shared-use path system in my area), there is no way to reach every destination without sometimes having to use some nasty traffic sewer.

      Some metro areas have better connectivity than others. Mine is riddled with lakes and broccoli subdivisions such that it is impossible to make many trips without having to use arterial roads.

      BTW, just because you would take the 1.8 mile detour doesn’t mean other people are elitist or rude or confrontational or whatever for choosing not to. People ride for different reasons and have different time constraints. Bicyclists need to be expected and respected on every road.

      In all of my years of controlling lanes I have never, ever created measurable delay that would have affected a motorist’s total trip time. It’s just too damned difficult for a single bicyclist to do that. When I drive a car across town, the difference in trip times can be as much as 20 minutes depending on signal timing and volume of cars.

      It’s bad enough to have to deal with the distorted car-centric perceptions of militant motorists, we sure don’t need them from bicyclists.

      • Guess I should have read this reply before I replied. Exactly, what I was trying to say.

        And, Andy, as I first stated the busy and faster (40mph) road is 2 lanes each direction, so people have a whole left lane to use to pass me. The “safer” slower side streets are 1 lane and narrow. Which I would have to take my lane, and they are main routes through town meaning they are busy. If I went those roads I would always have a queue behind me.

  18. In the Netherlands, not all bicycle infrastructure is segregated – far from it. Most towns and suburbs, all residential streets are share-the-road. Collector streets often have a strip of red asphalt (the default bike lane color in The Netherlands) and a white dotted line on both sides and only when streets get real busy or higher speed, then bike paths are separated from the street, typically on most “provincial” routes, which are usually 80KM (50MPH).
    Some (newer) suburbs and reconstructed town centers can have bike-only streets without motorized traffic (except moped/scooter). But it is by no means segregated everywhere.

  19. As you Floridians know, there is an applicable law. It says:

    (5)(a) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall ride in the lane marked for bicycle use or, if no lane is marked for bicycle use, as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following situations:
    1. When overtaking and passing another bicycle or vehicle proceeding in the same direction.
    2. When preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into a private road or driveway.
    3. When reasonably necessary to avoid any condition or potential conflict, including, but not limited to, a fixed or moving object, parked or moving vehicle, bicycle, pedestrian, animal, surface hazard, turn lane, or substandard-width lane, which makes it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge or within a bicycle lane. For the purposes of this subsection, a “substandard-width lane” is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and another vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.

    Based on this law, if the road is wide enough for a car to pass a bicycle by giving 3 feet, if the cyclists is riding on the right edge, then it is illegal for a cyclist to ride in the middle of the roadway and “take the lane” per this statute.

    I understand I Am Traffic favors repealing the above law, but it is currently the law now.

    Keri, I have had a case where two motor vehicles were following a cyclist going slowly in the middle of a 45 mph road, San Jose Blvd in Jacksonville. The first motorist changed to the left lane when it got relatively close to the bicyclist and could ascertain the speed differential. The second motorist didn’t have a reasonable opportunity to perceive the cyclist until the first motorist made the lane change. It was too late. The cyclist got hit.

    I am unpersuaded that cyclists should be in the middle of Interstate 70 or Interstate 95 or limited access highways where the speed limit is 70 mph. Do I understand IAT’s position to support that cyclists should be legally allowed to ride in the lane on these roads. Or is there any road where IAT says, “too dangerous”.

    • I don’t think this is entirely true. I know it’s 2 different states but…

      Ohio Revised Code 4511.55(C)
      (C) This section does not require a person operating a bicycle to ride at the edge of the roadway when it is unreasonable or unsafe to do so. Conditions that may require riding away from the edge of the roadway include when necessary to avoid fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, surface hazards, or if it otherwise is unsafe or impracticable to do so, including if the lane is too narrow for the bicycle and an overtaking vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.

      I think “to avoid fixed objects” and “surface hazards” are somewhat redundent, although it’s nice that both are spelled out. So to me reading the FL, that is missing “surface hazards” I lump that into “fixed objects”. If I were in FL and the lane was wide enough for me on the right, 3 feet, and a passing vehicle, but there was debris at the right (nails, glass, loose gravel, grass clippings ect) I think FL law still reads you have the right to move left and take the lane.

      Now to the limited access roads. There are certian roads that restrict what can be driven on them. I can’t take my bike on RT 11 and in fact I think if a vehicle is traveling on it, they need to maintain a minimum of 40mph (I think).

      And in the accident you described it sounds like the first motorist made an unsafe pass. For this accident to happen the first car would have to been approaching the bicycle at too fast a speed and made his lane change to close. Sounds to me the first car ran up on the cyclist’s rear at speed and swerved last second. Either of 2 things on the first motorist part could have prevented this accident. 1. If he had started slowing well in advance when he first saw the cyclist. Then even if he couldn’t change lanes untill he was really close the car behind would’ve already been going slow enough to keep from hitting the cyclist. 2. If he would’ve changed lanes a safe distance back for the speed he was going, the car behind would’ve still had time to desselerate even if he couldn’t change lanes.
      And it even seems the 2nd motorist may have been following too closely.

      • I am limiting my questions to Florida and thus, Florida law. The Ohio law doesn’t apply. We have to interpret Florida law. In this instance there was no debris. I acknowledge cyclists can move left or right to avoid debris.

        I understand IAT to recommend riding in the lane regardless of debris or not – it is against any edge riding.

        In my example, what made the lane change unsafe was the difference of speed of the car versus bike. If the bike was going 10 mph and the two cars had been traveling at 50 mph (motorists ROUTINELY exceed the speed limit by 5 mph and are virtually never cited), consider these measurements. At 10 mph, a bicycle travels 14.67 feet per second. At 50 mph, a vehicle travels 66 feet per second nearly 74 feet per second. With average brakes, it takes this car 171 feet to stop. For a semi truck, perfectly legal on San Jose Blvd, it takes up to 288 feet to stop at 50 mph. Assume there was also traffic in the left lane that did not prevent the first vehicle from changing lanes, but would have prevented a second vehicle from changing lanes. It is asking a lot for the car to be able to discern the speed of the bike and the need to stop in an emergency, and recognize this 171 feet behind the cyclist. If perception of the cyclists occurs closer than 171 feet away, the vehicle likely hits the cyclist. Or in the case of a semi truck, perception must occur 288 feet behind the cyclist, just a little less than a FOOTBALL FIELD.
        The facts don’t work. Vehicles traveling 50 mph or faster cannot react quickly enough in certain situations to avoid a 10 mph vehicle. That is exactly why limited access roads at 70 mph have minimum speeds as well. By state law in Florida, the minimum speed limit is 50 on a 70 mph max road. That is a difference of 20 mph from high to low. Yet, it appears IAT recommends 45 or 50 mph roads are ok for 8 year old kids to ride in the middle of the lane, when going 5 mph. That’s a difference of 40-45 mph. This is more than double the speed differential.
        The first vehicle in my described accident passed the cyclist and kept going. It was car lengths ahead when the second vehicle collided with the cyclist and didn’t see or stop at the scene. The vehicle inevitably didn’t believe it was involved. Nobody ever identified this vehicle.
        Your comment about following too closely by the 2nd vehicle may be true here, but vehicles do this all day everyday at 45 mph or even 70 mph. The fact that they are wrong doesn’t mean much if the cyclist is in a coffin. Recourse doesn’t mean much.

        Again, I ask: Where are the IAT’s limitations? None. Interstates are fine for 8 year olds riding a BMX bike in 70 mph traffic. I believe the response to IAT’s message from most cyclists is bewilderment due to the lack of flexibility to account for extremes.

        • I made an error above. Cars travel 73.33 feet per second at 50 mph, not 66 feet.

          • Sorry – one last comment. If the cyclist in my example had been riding on the right edge, the road is wide enough that if the second vehicle could have been unable to stop, and unable to change lanes, it still would have avoided the cyclist. The lane width allows passing within the lane by 3 feet of an edge rider.

        • I was interpreting the FL law, just also using the Ohio law as a comparison. I also made a mistake, the FL law does mention surface hazards. However, if there was no debris in the road then I would defer to this part of the FL law

          When reasonably necessary to avoid any condition or potential conflict, including, but not limited to…..
          It’s not cited specifically but the law says not limited, so a potential conflict is people not seeing you when making left hand turns (left cross), trying to pass you and then make a right hand turn (right hook), or pulling out from driveways. These “potential conflicts” or hazards are not always immediately visible, nor are they constantly there or tangible like debris on the side of the road. But when they do occur there is little to no time for either the motorist or cyclist to react and avoid the accident.
          I ride on a road that is 2 lanes both directions with a continuous central turn lane. Even if the lanes were wide enough to accommodate myself, 3 feet, and a vehicle I would still control the right hand lane. There is a lot of traffic that’s making turns or pulling out of driveways on either side of the road. I am a lot more conspicuous, I end up being in less people’s blind spots, and it eliminates a lot of blind spots I have. As motorcyclist are taught there are 3 positions in a lane, Left, center, and right (left and right being the tire tracks you can see in the discoloration of the pavement, not the edges of the lane). I ride center or right most of the time. The first thing this has reduced (greatly at that) is the right hook. If I’m riding on the right edge it invites people to try to speed up, pass me, and turn right, instead of slowing down and waiting until I pass the turn point, to make their turn. The second thing this has reduced is the left cross. If I’m on the right edge and a car is passing me, and an oncoming car is waiting for said car to turn left, they can’t see me because of the blind spot the passing car presents to the oncoming car. If I’m right or center, the passing car has to use the left lane, reducing the oncoming cars blind spot, if not, sense I’m already controlling my lane I can safely move to the left position to be more visible, or to move to the left lane to avoid the turning car if they don’t stop. I have also seen a 100% reduction in people coming up behind me and having to slam on their brakes.

          You keep talking about the two vehicles ascertaining the speed differential of their vehicles and the bicycle and there wasn’t enough time to do this. They were in a car, there was a bicycle in the middle of the lane the speed differential should be automatic!! If I’m driving down the road and I see a bicycle in the road I don’t wonder if he’s doing 40mph or 15mph. I already know he is going a great deal slower than me! All your numbers and theories play out on paper. Watch some safety videos about controlling your lane and making predictable movements, get a bike and test both methods.
          The only reason to get hit while controlling your lane is someone else’s unsafe maneuver

          Hugging the curb

          Taking the lane

        • If you read the “Understanding Bicycle Transportation” slides under the Engineering section of this site, you’ll see that IAT endorses facility designs that accommodate edge cycling as well as driver behavior. For example, on 55 mph roads with wide clean shoulders I employ edge behavior until I encounter a junction, where I transition to driver behavior. But on most urban streets I maintain driver behavior by default unless I see an opportunity to allow easier passing when it won’t endanger me. IAT is about empowering cyclists with an understanding of how to exploit driver behavior to better navigate a wide range of conditins, and protecting their right to do so. It’s my observation that IAT’s contributors don’t have a problem with facilities that enable edge cycling as long as those facilities are optional-use and are designed safely so that they don’t direct cyclists into conflict situations such as at intersections and door zones. But since these facilities aren’t really that valuable to knowledgeable bicyclists for cycling on ordinary urban streets, edge facilities really aren’t a priority for knowledgeable urban cyclists, especially on streets with lots of junctions or lower speeds.

          • If you ride on the edge of 55 mph highways (FTR), that seems to be inconsistent with what it says in the IAT website. Dan’s article I have been directed to says:

            “FTR thinking and laned roads are incompatible. FTR thinking permeates every aspect of bicycling on public streets and highways.” He then goes on to give all the examples of why FTR fails.

    • Chris wrote: “Based on this law, if the road is wide enough for a car to pass a bicycle by giving 3 feet, if the cyclists is riding on the right edge, then it is illegal for a cyclist to ride in the middle of the roadway and “take the lane” per this statute.”

      That’s incorrect. The exception condition in 5(a)(3) is “substandard-width lane“, not “if the road is enough for …”. And “substandard-width lane” is explicitly defined as, “a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and another vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane”.

      So, regardless of the width of the road, if the lane is “too narrow for a bicycle and another vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane” (which is true for most lanes, certainly any lane less than 14 feet wide; almost all lanes are narrower than 14′), then the cyclist may use the full lane; the cyclist is not required to “ride on the right edge”.

    • Chris Burns wrote: “Keri, I have had a case where two motor vehicles were following a cyclist going slowly in the middle of a 45 mph road, San Jose Blvd in Jacksonville. The first motorist changed to the left lane when it got relatively close to the bicyclist and could ascertain the speed differential. The second motorist didn’t have a reasonable opportunity to perceive the cyclist until the first motorist made the lane change. It was too late. The cyclist got hit.

      First, I presume this is not a restricted access roadway – it’s a surface street, yes? Even on restricted access roadways drivers are responsible for looking ahead and being prepared to not only slow down, but stop if necessary. If there is something in your lane ahead, perhaps a large appliance that fell out of a truck just sitting there, or maybe a slow moving vehicle (or, yes a bicyclist), you can’t just maintain your high speed until you swerve moments before impact. You have to slow down, precisely because when do change lanes, those behind you shouldn’t be going that fast.

      This type of crash is almost entirely the fault of the first motorist, but some responsibility arguably belongs to the second motorist too, who, apparently, was following the first motorist too closely.

  20. A claim was made:

    “(5)(a) Any person operating a bicycle upon a roadway at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall ride in the lane marked for bicycle use or, if no lane is marked for bicycle use, as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway except under any of the following situations:

    3. When reasonably necessary to avoid …[a] substandard-width lane, which makes it unsafe to continue along the right-hand curb or edge or within a bicycle lane. For the purposes of this subsection, a “substandard-width lane” is a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle and another vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.

    Based on this law, if the road is wide enough for a car to pass a bicycle by giving 3 feet, if the cyclists is riding on the right edge, then it is illegal for a cyclist to ride in the middle of the roadway and “take the lane” per this statute.”

    Three feet is NOT what determines narrowness, speed differential also matters. If a bicyclist is on a road with a high speed limit, then 3 feet is way too close for a safe in-lane pass at a high speed differential. Thus the interpretation of the FTR law as being coupled to the three foot minimum distance passing law mistakenly leads to the bad argument that shareability is only based on a minimum passing distance rather than a safe passing distance for the conditions present. The FTR law, as bad as it is, does have the CA exception for substandard width lanes which specifies safe shareability not minimum three foot shareability.

  21. “I am unpersuaded that cyclists should be in the middle of Interstate 70 or Interstate 95 or limited access highways where the speed limit is 70 mph. Do I understand IAT’s position to support that cyclists should be legally allowed to ride in the lane on these roads. Or is there any road where IAT says, “too dangerous”.”

    Are the two interstates cited controlled access highways that restrict cycling? The conceptual problem is that some people view roads in a simplistic and static way, rather than seeing the road and its users as a system. For example, an unskilled user can make even low speed residential streets hazardous even though vehicle speeds and traffic volumes are low by making bad or unpredictable maneuvers. At the other extreme, highly shilled bicyclists can control lanes on high speed roads by using a left of center lane position and making early highly visible lane changes to reach left turn lanes, etc. So the question is not one of whether a high speed road is “too dangerous” in an absolute sense, rather it is whether a bicyclist has the requisite traffic skill to use such a road.

    • Comment

  22. Chris, you are describing the basic issue surrounding the marginalization of bicyclists. For an exploration of this issue, please see the article that Dan Gutierrez and I just published in the Equality section of <a href=""The Marginalization of Bicyclists: How the car lane paradigm eroded our lane rights and what we can do to restore them

    • I’ve read it several times. I have talked to the LAB and understand they disagree. I understand the Alliance for Biking & Walking disagrees. I understand People For Bikes disagrees. But I am also trying to make my own judgment. It appears you are a minority for sure, but I am attempting to consider your points on their own merit. What I read seems to suggest what I said or will elaborate.
      1. You support no restriction on bike travel on roads, including high speed roads and limited access roads.
      2. You support no edge riding.
      3. You support no restriction on the age of a rider who can be on the fastest roads.
      4. You support repeal of the 3 foot law because it assumes edge riding.
      5. You support no usage of sharrows.
      6. You don’t support or at least see no benefit to rail trails and multi-use trails.

      Am I wrong on any of the above? Thanks.

        • Keri – with all due respect, we have been in touch with Andy Clark at LAB, who favors bike lanes, separated bikeways, and bike paths. Here is the written policy on the Alliance of Biking & Walking website. IAT’s website opposes “complete streets”. The LAB site favors it and bicycle infracture and says:

          Complete Streets
          Complete streets policies require that street design consider the safety and needs of all potential users including bicyclists, pedestrians, transit and the disabled. Many Alliance organizations have undertaken complete streets campaigns and won local policies, and others are currently working to win complete streets in their communities. Find model complete streets policies, complete streets campaigns, and checklists for ensuring complete streets policies are effectively implemented.

          Here is the policy of the Alliance:

          If your organization is working to improve local infrastructure for bicycling and walking, find information and resources here on bike/pedestrian plans, bike lanes, bridge access, maps, multi-use paths, bike-transit integration, and more.

          Here is the policy of “Bikes Belong”:

          “Why Invest in Bicycling?
          Supporting bicycling is a smart investment. Through savings in healthcare, absenteeism, fuel, congestion, pollution, and road maintenance, putting more people on bikes saves money. A proven way to get more Americans riding bikes is to build safe places to ride, which is why Bikes Belong works to maximize federal support for bicycling.
          Research has consistently shown that bicycling facilities offer a positive return on investment. For every $1 spent on bike infrastructure, cities save around $5. As an example: by 2040, the city of Portland, Oregon will have saved $3.40 in health care expenses alone for every dollar it invested on bicycling.
          To make it easier for advocates to communicate the value of biking to federal policymakers, we developed a series of 10 case studies on U.S. bike facilities. This project, titled “The Federal Investment in Bicycling: 10 Success Stories,” tells the stories of a geographically diverse group of bike facilities—ranging from bike lanes to singletrack trails—that were built at least in part with federal funding.”

          Here is the most recent study I could find from “Injury Prevention” in February 2013. Here is a quote:

          “Canadian and American cyclists are two to six times more likely to be killed
          while cycling than Danish or Dutch cyclists and American cyclists are eight to 30 times more likely
          to be seriously injured than cyclists in Germany, Denmark and The Netherlands. Road infrastructure that separates motor vehicles
          from bicycles is prevalent in the cycling countries of northern Europe but not in North America, which
          could explain some of the observed difference in cycling safety. We reviewed the evidence on route
          infrastructure and injury risk, and found evidence that bicycle-specific infrastructure (eg, bike routes,
          painted bike lanes and off-road bike paths) was associated with the lowest injury risks…”

          In addition, I found these additional studies:

          • A review of 23 studies on bicycling injuries found that bike facilities (e.g. off-road paths, on-road marked bike lanes, and on-road bike routes) are where bicyclists are safest.
          Reynolds, C., et al., 2009
          The impact of transportation infrastructure on bicycling injuries and crashes: a review of the literature, Environmental Health, 8:47
          • After two streets in Minneapolis were converted to be more bicycle friendly, bike traffic increased 43%, total vehicle crashes decreased, traffic efficiency was maintained, and parking revenues remained consistent.
          City of Minneapolis, 2010
          Hennepin and 1st avenues two-way conversion leads to fewer crashes, better access
          • When protected bike lanes are installed in New York City, injury crashes for all road users (drivers, pedestrians, and cyclists) typically drop by 40% and by more than 50% in some locations.
          Wolfson, H., 2011
          Memorandum on Bike Lanes, City of New York, Office of the Mayor, 21 March 2011
          • Major streets without bike facilities are where the most bike crashes happen, followed by minor streets without facilities, bike paths, and then bike lanes.
          Moritz, W., 1997
          Survey of North American bicycle commuters: Design and aggregate results, Transportation Research Record: Journal of the Transportation Research Board, 1578, 91-101

          In the first study called “The Impact of Transportation Infrastructure on Bicycling Injuries and Crashes; A Review of the Literature” in Environmental Health, which comprehensively reviewed the results of 23 other studies, the following statement was made:

          “The principal trend that emerges from the papers reviewed here is that clearly-marked, bike-specific facilities (i.e. cycle tracks at roundabouts, bike routes, bike lanes, and bike paths) were consistently shown to provide improved safety for cyclists compared to on-road cycling with traffic or off-road with pedestrians and other users. Marked bike lanes and bike routes were found to reduce injury or crash rates by about half compared to unmodified roadways. The finding that bicycle-specific design is important applies also to intersections with roundabouts, where it was found that cycle tracks routing cyclists around an intersection separately from motor vehicles were much safer than bike lanes or cycling with traffic. It has been suggested that the reason for high rates of bicycle-motor vehicle collisions at intersections is that motor vehicle drivers may be making “looked-but-failed-to-see” errors,
          whereby they search for oncoming motor vehicles but do not recognize that a cyclist is approaching because they are not looking for them.”

          • I think the above studies just all supported “FTR” which I am positive IAT passionately opposes.

          • Here are my personal responses as an IAT supporter and contributor:

            1. You support no restriction on bike travel on roads, including high speed
            roads and limited access roads.

            I have no problem with freeway prohibitions as long as there are local streets open to bicyclists that provide reasonably safe and efficient access to the same destinations.

            2. You support no edge riding.

            I edge ride on a frequent basis where it is safe and provides easier passing to motorists. It is not, however, a default position and should not be advocated as such by bikeway advocates due to operational issues discussed at length.

            3. You support no restriction on the age of a rider who can be on the fastest roads.

            I restrict my children’s road use on a street by street basis, based on their skill level and maturity, not numerical age, and I do not want the government making that decision for me. I am the parent, not them.

            4. You support repeal of the 3 foot law because it assumes edge riding.

            3 foot laws don’t need repeal, they just don’t solve the problem.

            5. You support no usage of sharrows.

            I support sharrows in the center of the effective lane width.

            6. You don’t support or at least see no benefit to rail trails and multi-use trails.

            I use paved greedways daily. I prefer pleasant local streets but I value greenways where they provide me a useful connection or alternative to an unpleasant high speed arterial. I also ride paved greenways with my family. Big greenway projects are not a high priority to me compared to using the local streets to get to my destinations, although I am working hard to advocate in favor of some short greenway connectors that can serve as short cuts, including providing better access to our local elementary school.

          • Engineering matters. But it doesn’t matter in the way bikeway advocates think it does. The typical bikeway advocacy study attempts to find supportive correlations through sample bias while failing to understand the actual underlying causation.

            Let’s take urban bike lanes. We know from many decades of crash data that the safest roads for edge riding have few junctions, no parking, and generous pavement width. That’s why, decades ago, when people started asking for bike lanes, ethical traffic engineers installed them on roads with characteristics known to be relatively safe for edge cycling, and warned against placing them on roads with more conflicts, narrower pavement, and so forth. So why should it be any suprise that the roads selected by bike lane striping (based on alreadly being inherently safe for bicycling) would have a lower crash rate than those not selected for bike lane striping due to greater conflicts?

            Another example is road diets. Decades of crash data shows that roads with fewer general purpose travel lanes are safer for people crossing the road. Sometimes a road diet project includes inclusion of new bike lane markings or an adjacent cycle track. Crash rates after the road diet often show a reduction in crash rates, mostly for people crossing the road, especially on foot. Then, the bikeway advocates try to claim that bike lane or cycle track improved safety. But the data clearly shows that this claim is bogus; it was the reduction of general purpose travel lanes that improved safety for people crossing the road. Bicyclists traveling along the roadway see little safety benefit from road diets, but sometimes the wider pavement and fewer lanes can calm speeds, provide greater passing width to edge cyclists, and make the corridor more pleasant.

            So by all means, lets make engineering changes, but let’s make the right ones for the right reasons, and not embarass ourselves as a community with junk science.

          • Thanks for those comments. Hundreds of local advocates are begging for bike lanes as a good solution to our dangerous environment in Jacksonville. Of course, Florida has the highest fatality rate in the U.S., Dangerous by Designs ranks Miami, Tampa, Orlando and Jacksonville as the 4 worst cities in the U.S. for pedestrians, etc. Jacksonville is ranked near the bottom of every category by the Alliance Benchmarking Reports, including safety for cyclists and pedestrians.

            Is there a study that supports what you just said? Is there even 1 study that says that what IAT proposes is safer than edge riding? You and I realize there are numerous studies supporting separate bike facilities as being safest. You may disagree. You indicate you can poke holes by methodolgy. But is there a published study by IAT advocates or any other researcher that concludes bike facilities are less safe than “vehicular cycling”, or FTR is less safe?

          • Do you guys ever wonder why the countries with the safest cycling in the world continue to roll out dedicated infrastructure and continue to increase the amount of segregation?

            Does it ever make you wonder if you’re barking up the wrong tree? Do you HONESTLY think you know more then they do?

            You can claim that the safety record in NL etc has nothing to do with cycling infrastructure, but that would beg the question of why do they keep spending so much money on it, if it doesn’t help!?!

      • Agree with Keri. You have quite obviously not read any of the material on this site if you think that these things are true. Why should anyone spend time spelling it out for you if you don’t bother to read our actual writing?

  23. Thanks for your response, Dan. But I really don’t understand all of it. Partially, I was trying to ask a simple question to know where IAT stands on policy. Does IAT support a law that would allow bicycles to travel within the road (sharing the lane) on 70 mph roadways? Currently, Floridians are prohibited from cycling on limited access highways. Does IAT oppose that law? I understand IAT to support getting rid of any law that limits access by bicycles on roads, including high speed roads and limited access roads.
    The second issue is safety. I read you to disagree and believe “some” riders can be safe on such high speed roads. Do you support that it should be “legal” for any rider or any age to ride “in the lane” on high speed or limited access roads? Do you support 8 year olds riding even on 45 mph connectors roads, from downtown to the suburbs, such as we have in Jacksonville?
    I am a lawyer, and told the story of one of my cases where the 2nd vehicle hit the cyclist in the lane. That cyclist would not have been hit on the edge. What would be your response?

    • Sharing the lane on 70 mph freeways is a straw man argument. If the freeway is the only facility providing access to a destination, such as over a bridge, then provide a wide clean shoulder for bicyclists over the span, and allow the bicyclist to decide how to handle the junctions at each end, via driver behavior or otherwise. Much more common is the 35-45 mph urban arterial where bicyclists have a safer time operating as drivers in the lane, but local police and politicians attempt to force bicyclists to act as pedestrians, at greater risk and inconvenience. That is where cyclists’ opposition to roadway bans comes from.

      When I ride with my kids, I try to choose pleasant streets, but sometimes a 35 or even 45 mph road is unavoidable for a short section. Legally prohibiting my kids from traveling those roadways with me would either defeat our travel by bicycle or increase the hazard to us by requiring us to operate like pedestrians. As a parent, I make my own decisions about how to negotiate traffic with my kids effectively, and I am confident that I am much more capable of making good decisions on that subject than is our government.

      There are risks when utilizing driver behavior, as with any behavior, because no behavior is 100% safe. We endeavor to examine the relative risks, make sound recommendations on the best balance of safety and efficiency, and protect bicyclists’ right to make their own decisions. Our motivation is the welfare of bicyclists, and not marketing of bicycling by means that perpetuate common misunderstandings about effective traffic negotiation.

      • Thanks Steven. By the studies I have cited earlier, research tells me you would be safer with your kids in a designated bike lane, or even safer in a separated bike lane on a 45 mph street – Part of our biggest problem as cyclists is expectation. It will prevent right hooks if motorists expect us to be in a bike lane to their right, and they check for us. In jacksonville, we are such a small mode share, that they don’t expect us to be present at all. Right or wrong, bike lanes and paths and separated facilities make cyclists feel safer, numbers increase, and motorists expect cyclists because there are more. that’s not Chris Burns but what research studies say. If a road is 45 mph, no amount of education is going to convince a motorist to be happy about slowing down to 10 mph, or being on high alert for that bike at 10 mph in time to interact with it safely. That is according to my feelings…

        I respect your opinion and all of your compatriots.

        • Please see my remarks above on engineering. On the short segments of 45 mph road that I use with my family, we are moving between immediately adjacent intersections while preparing for a left turn, and have no opportunity for edge riding, bikeway or not.
          There are a number of high speed arterials in my town that I think would be more enjoyable and possibly more safe with wide bike lanes next to wide lanes between the widely spaced junctions. However, I would still merge in line with traffic to avoid right hook hazards at the junctions, and I think it’s unethical to encourage bicyclists to ride into right hook conflicts with the hope that motorists will eventually be conditioned to check their blind spots. I teach my kids to ride where they will be seen.

          But the bigger issue for me is, if high speed arterials are the only roads available for children to reach their destinations like school and the corner store, then isn’t the real problem a failure of land use planning and street topology to accommodate efficient, local neighborhood travel? Good local street connectivity allows people to get from home to the local elementary school, store, or park on pleasant local 2-lane streets. Such local streets don’t gain anything by adding bike lane stripes to them; they are often best left with no markings at all, and are just as popular with bicyclists. This is why I spent years on our Planning and Zoning board trying to encourage better local street topology and connectivity, and not promoting bike lanes.

          • Steven:

            I specialize in representing injured cyclists in accidents. The most typical comment I get from a defendant in a lawsuit after hitting a cyclist is – “the biker should have been on the sidewalk.” I’ve had police officers say that cyclists have a death wish to be riding on the road. I’ve had the Jacksonville Sheriff tell me he used to think bicycles should ride opposite of traffic. We have a problem with motorist acknowledging cyclists. Segregated MARKED lanes matter to tell them that with authority. Now we are relevant. We may still be hated, but we are noticed. Otherwise, motorists will continue to believe we have no right to be on the road. Having designated bike lanes with markings, having sharrows, all these facilities tell the motorist, day in and day out, cyclists DO have a right to interact with the motorist. Without markings, the motorist just continues to believe cyclists don’t belong, and the rare cyclist like yourself, who takes the middle of the lane, is positively loony to them.

  24. Is there even 1 study that says that what IAT proposes is safer than edge riding?”

    I’m not sure what you are asking. The safety of edge riding depends on the location and traffic conditions. There have been plenty of publications showing the ridiculously high rate of dooring collisions for cyclists in San Francisco and Chicago, and the wide reach of parked car doors. There are publications showing the increased rate of right hooks after adding bike lanes and bike boxes curbside at intersections, and the increased rate of intersection collisions for sidepath and sidewalk users. There is exposure data and crash rate data showing that overtaking car-bike collision rates are very low for lower speed streets regardless of width, and increase for higher speed roads with narrow lane width when bicyclists are riding at the edge. Most of the mid-block overtaking collisions involve a motorist who sees the edge bicyclist well in advance on a high speed road but thinks he has room to pass without changing lanes, but has misjudged, and sideswipes the bicyclist instead of slowing down at the last second. Crashes involving cyclists riding in the center of narrow lanes are very rare. Getting exposure data on them is hard, but we do have a lot of bike clubs in my area, who ride two abreast on high speed arterials with narrow lanes. Motorists are always complaining that they feel inconvenienced by them, and threaten that they are a hazard, yet these cyclists don’t get hit. Why? because they are visible and motorists can see from a long way back that they need to change lanes to pass.

    Drunk, distracted and reckless motorists will occasionally hit bicyclists acting as drivers just as they occasionally hit everybody else. It is difficult to prevent these rare collisions without increasing the risk of the more common collisions. The best we can do is provide cyclists with a realistic description of the relative risks and allow cyclists to decide for themselves when they feel comfortable allowing other drivers to pass within their lane, and provide additional pavement width where practical.

    • You wrote: “There are publications showing the increased rate of right hooks after adding bike lanes and bike boxes curbside at intersections…”

      Can you please cite me that study? I am not aware of a single study concluding that adding bike lanes has increased overall rates of crashes. Does this study take into account just the number of accidents, without regard to whether there was a dramatic increase in the amount of cycling?

      I look forward to reviewing this study.


      • You wrote: ” Having designated bike lanes with markings, having sharrows, all these facilities tell the motorist, day in and day out, cyclists DO have a right to interact with the motorist.”

        Designated bike lanes do NOT tell motorist I have the right to interact with them. To the everyday motorist it tells them I have to stay in the bike lane. I can’t tell you what to type to find the specific videos, and yea they aren’t a study, but it’s still viable data. Through viewing many many cycle related youtube videos I’ve found many where a cyclist is getting yelled at for being in the lane instead of the bike lane. Some bike lanes are designed very poorly and it’s more dangerous to use them than it is the actual lane. But the motorist see’s that bike lane and assumes that the cyclist must use it.

        I think the number one answer to all of this is improved education on both ends. I’m not opposed to a cyclist competency test. And the whole license testing needs overhauled. Driving is a privilege not a right and you should really have to earn it.

      • Portland’s own report to FHWA on the aftermath of their bike box experiments show increase in crash rates at some such installations; extraordinary measures such as prohibiting right on red and separate signalization are needed to make bike boxes safe due to the inherent right hook conflict on green and permitted right on red.

        Similar historical crash patterns are why California’s bike lane standards recommend dropping or at least dashing the bike lane stripe on approach to intersections, and why California law requires motorists to merge into the bike lane, if present, before turning right. Oregon, on the other hand, mandates that bicyclists stay in the bike lane all the way to the intersection, and prohibits merging in line the way bicycle driving advocates teach cyclists to negotiate intersections.

Comments are automatically closed to prevent spam and trolls. Contact us if you would like to add a comment.