The 6 Es: Video from the Colloquium

Presentation by Dan Gutierrez at the 2013 I Am Traffic Colloquium:

The 6 ‘E’s of Bicycling Equity — Equality, Education, Engineering, Enforcement, Encouragement, Evaluation — is a program of bicycling advocacy: one that is more detailed and comprehensive than any other such program now existing. Dan Gutierrez, who formulated the 6 ‘E’s, spoke about the program at the I Am Traffic Bicycle Education Colloquium. He explained the development of the 6 ‘E’s formulation, how previous advocacy efforts were lacking, and how the concepts should be enacted to create equity for cyclists. Video filmed by Tom Cook and edited together with Dan’s presentation by John Allen.

Kirby Beck, founder the the International Police Mountain Bike Association (IPMBA), makes a profound comment at 53:42 on rights versus privileges.

Joining the Chorus of Ignorance


For decades competent and trained cyclists have had to deal with the occasional ignorant motorist who hollers out some variation on “Get off the damn road ya idjyit, yer gonna get yerself killed!” Fortunately most of these incidents don’t escalate into anything serious, and while little has been done to change this attitude over the years, we could shrug off such blather with confidence that the logic of our road use was supported both by direct personal experience and objective scientific study. We also had the backing of the League of American Bicyclists to defend our rights, if only in words.

Well, things have changed. With its recent sophomoric “study” of fatal bicyclist crashes and subsequent statements by its executive director, the League has joined the chorus of ignorance in agreeing that bicycling on regular roadway lanes is “gonna get you killed.”

Fear of the overtaking motorist has been a key arguing point between those supporting separated facilities as the primary accommodation for bicyclists, and those who prefer bicyclists be treated as normal vehicle drivers.

Last month the League released a report on bicyclist fatalities entitled Every Bicyclist Counts. A key finding noted by the League and other bicycle organizations is that 40% of bicyclist fatalities involved an overtaking motorist. This finding varies significantly from other studies and has caused quite a stir amidst bicycle advocates. The fear of the overtaking motorist has been a key arguing point between those supporting separated facilities as the primary accommodation for bicyclists, and those who prefer bicyclists be treated as normal vehicle drivers.

Most notable in the various reporting following the publication of this report is an interview of League President Andy Clarke by BRAIN (Bicycle Retailer And Industry News) in which he attempts to make a connection between the 40% claim and the increasing desire to provide “protected bike lanes”:

Andy Clark: For the longest time it’s been an article of faith that we should be taking the lane, and that separated bike facilities are unnecessary … well, I think we are grown up enough now to say that’s not the case. Most people feel more comfortable actually having a paved shoulder or a cycle track or having a buffered or protected bike lane, and those things will reduce the fear and the incidence of being hit from behind. And we shouldn’t feel bad or awkward about saying that.

BRAIN: So this data reinforces the movement toward separated facilities?

AC: Yes, it reinforces and validates that approach. There is still a small, tiny percentage of people who think we should not be putting in that kind of infrastructure. They are hanging on to the idea that being hit from behind is not that big of a problem. Well, the data tends to suggest otherwise.

There are still going to be places where there isn’t that kind of infrastructure and you are going to need to know how to cope with that. So we are not diminishing the need for the kind of education programs that we have presented and are going to continue to present. But we are saying that infrastructure can and should play a role in eliminating some of the most serious kinds of crashes.

By undercutting the essential practice of lane control, Clarke is dismissing the key defensive driving strategy taught in the League’s own education program, not to mention that of every serious adult cyclist education program.

With such a statement from the League, this 40% overtaking claim is highly significant for those of us who believe bicyclists are drivers of vehicles and wish to protect our rights to use regular roadway lanes. Lane control mitigates many motorist-caused crashes due to turning and crossing conflicts, as well as overtakings, the majority of which are sideswipes in which the motorist is well aware of the cyclist’s presence. By undercutting the essential practice of lane control, Clarke is dismissing the key defensive driving strategy taught in the League’s own education program, not to mention that of every serious adult cyclist education program. A thorough review of the League’s methodology and analysis is called for.

This review will address a number of important shortcomings of the League’s report, including:

  • Their method of selecting crashes for assessment
  • Questions of how crashes are categorized
  • Key differences between urban and rural crashes
  • Alcohol & drugs and cyclist use of lights and reflectors — two key factors in overtaking crashes

Bias in Crash Selection

source_pieRight up front the League’s methodology for selecting and analyzing crashes has a built-in bias. The report states clearly that:

The majority of the information captured by Every Bicyclist Counts came from newspaper reports (56% of all reported sources), TV reports (25%) and blogs (19%).

Using news reports creates bias at two levels. First off, the types of stories that are most heavily reported are those involving the “good cyclist.” The person who is “just like us,” riding a well-maintained, good quality bike, wearing a helmet and obeying the rules. As one who has been following both media attention and official crash data for 20 years, I can tell you the story of the homeless alcoholic hit while crossing a dark arterial at night without lights or reflectors gets scant attention from the media compared to those “good cyclists.” As the League notes, their study misses about 24% of the crashes. It’s quite reasonable to expect that the characteristics of those missed fatalities vary significantly from those they reviewed.

Next, the fact that the League’s sources are from the media rather than the official crash report means the facts have been filtered through a reporter, or a number of reporters. While we can certainly question the accuracy of official police reports in cycling crashes, we certainly aren’t getting more accurate information from the media, since they are themselves getting most of their information from law enforcement.Yes, an insightful analyst can spot inconsistencies or details that show flaws with the reporting, but that rarely tells us what actually happened, it only tells us what may not have happened.

Media reports can only be less accurate than official crash reports, because reporters only report what they’ve been told by law enforcement.

The League illustrates the difference between their methodology and that of official sources:

Approximately 40% of fatalities in our data with reported collision types were rear end collisions. This is higher than what was found in the 2010 FARS* release that included PBCAT-based crash types (27% of fatal crashes with reported collision types), although the crash type “motorist overtaking bicyclist” was the most common collision type in that data as well.

*Fatal Accident Reporting System

Why would overtaking jump from 27% to 40% in 2 years? This speaks more to the problems with their methodology than to what’s actually happening. Their reporting of helmet use by the victim does so as well:

Among the fatalities tracked by Every Bicyclist Counts, only 150 of the 633 reported fatalities included information on whether the cyclist was wearing a helmet. In the majority — 83 or 57% — of those fatalities the cyclist was wearing a helmet. This is higher than other data sources that record helmet use have reported.

Again, this illustrates the bias in their event selection. Crashes involving “responsible cyclists” (sympathetic victims) are more likely to be counted than the ones involving intoxicated homeless persons.


The League’s crash typology is nothing like the FHWA crash typing, and vagueness of some of the “types” leave many questions. Without a consistent typology it’s very difficult to compare results. For example “Cyclist side/car front” could mean a number of different crash types. It could mean either a cyclist being hit by a motorist who ran a red light or stop sign, or the opposite. The same goes for a “T-Hit.”  Since free crash typing software is available from it’s a shame that they didn’t take advantage of it so we could compare it to other reports.

“Sideswipe” is normally included in overtaking. The FHWA typing also includes “cyclist sudden swerve,” and “cyclist lost control” in the overtaking group. I cannot tell if cyclist sudden lefts or swerves are included in the overtakings.


Overtaking crash types:

[tabs slidertype=”simple”] [tab]

overtaking crash types_sideswipe

Motorist hits a bicyclist who is directly in front of him. Such crashes normally involve a night-time crash with a cyclist without lights or reflectors, or an exceptionally impaired motorist, either intoxicated or asleep.

[/tab] [tab]

overtaking crash types_rearend

Motorist overestimates passing space and clips bicyclist.

[/tab] [tab]

overtaking crash types_drift

Motorist drifts into bicyclists (usually in shoulder or bike lane). May involve distraction; often occurs on bends or curves.

[/tab] [tab]

overtaking crash types_swerve

Bicyclist swerves into motorist’s path while attempting to avoid a suddenly-appearing hazard.

[/tab] [/tabs]

While a direct hit from behind is what most people fear, that type only makes up a small portion of overtaking crashes. Each crash type has different causal mechanisms and different countermeasures. Lumping them together creates misleading message about the safety of bicycling—specifically, the ability of bicyclists to discourage or prevent motorists from hitting them. 


Their “unknowns” are exceptionally high, at 30%; probably because media reports tend to be quite sketchy. By comparison, for my review of cyclist fatalities from official crash reports, only 3% fell into the “unknown” category. These usually involved a cyclist found dead after a hit & run. Their categorization also includes “None,” which I presume to be a solo cyclist crash with no other vehicle involved.

The League report’s 40% overtaking was arrived at by ignoring 41% of the crashes.

Already we have 24% not reviewed at all, and another 23% of the remaining 76% set aside as “unknown.”  So 41% of the fatalities during the study period were not categorized by the League. The 40% overtaking was arrived at by ignoring 41% of the crashes. The League’s overtaking percentage drops to 31% with the “unknowns” included, which is of course much closer to the 27% overtaking from FARS.

Urban Versus Rural

In the League’s report we are shown that 31% of the crashes were on rural roads and 69% on urban roads (which includes suburban). But their data does not tell us what proportion of the rural or urban crashes involved overtaking. This matters because the League is arguing for separated urban bikeways based on that 40% number.

My review of 105 cyclist fatalities in the Orlando metro area (a predominantly suburban area) since 2006 found 15 overtaking deaths (14%). Of those, nine were rural and six were suburban. None were in an area one would characterize as strictly “urban.”

The State of North Carolina has provided a rich source of statewide bicyclist crash data online using official crash reports and the standard FHWA crash typing scheme. Using their online database I found that 34% of their fatals were overtakings, and 37% of all fatals were urban/suburban, but their online interface would not provide a cross-tabulation of rural/urban and crash type, so we cannot get a direct read on how many urban/suburban fatalities involved overtaking. We’ll have to estimate that from other factors.  If one assumes that urban and rural overtakings are just as likely to result in a fatality, then 48 of their 129 fatal overtakings would have been urban, which works out to 12.7% of the 379 cyclist fatalities in their database. But rural and urban crashes are not equal in their severity. The NC data shows rural crashes were 3.6 times more likely to result in a fatality than urban crashes (4.7% versus 1.3%), so let’s divide those presumed 48 urban overtakings by the 3.6 times higher fatality potential of rural crashes. That gives us 13 urban overtakings, which is 9% of their 140 urban fatalities.


Overtaking crash types as a percentage of all crashes. Source: North Carolina Pedestrian and Bicycle Crash Data Tool

Intoxication and Lighting

ninja-salmon_straightenedWhile the League report paid legitimate attention to unsafe and illegal motorist behaviors that led to deaths, such as intoxication, distraction and leaving the scene, it’s also a sad fact that many bicyclist deaths involve cyclists behaving similarly. But the League report was strangely silent on this. In North Carolina’s data 19% of fatalities involved an intoxicated cyclist. In metro Orlando it was 40% overall, two of the nine rural overtakings, and three of the six suburban overtakings involved intoxicated cyclists.

Use of lights by cyclists at night is also a key factor. Of the 15 overtakings in the Orlando metro area, four involved unlit cyclists at night; three of the six suburban overtakings involved unlit cyclists. (Cyclist lighting information was not available in the NC data.)

Undermining Lane Control

In his BRAIN interview, Andy Clarke said:

For the longest time it’s been an article of faith that we should be taking the lane, and that separated bike facilities are unnecessary … well, I think we are grown up enough now to say that’s not the case.

Of the report’s five victim profiles, three involved cyclists in bike lanes or on paved shoulders; none were noted as using lane control in a general purpose lane.

And yet their report did not give us any indication of how many lane-controlling cyclists had been hit from behind. Indeed, they didn’t even provide such an event among their five victim profiles. Of the five crashes, three involved cyclists in bike lanes or on paved shoulders; none were noted as using lane control in a general purpose lane.

In the North Carolina data, we can see the differences between overtaking crashes (for all injury levels) in rural and urban areas.

“Bicyclist Swerved” crashes are of course not relevant to lane control. “Misjudged Space” crashes are broadly understood to be remedied by lane control. “Undetected Cyclist” crashes mostly involve unlit cyclists at night. So it is the “Other/Unknown” that would most likely involve the totally distracted motorist who squarely hits the cyclist from behind. 7.5% of these “Other/Unknown” resulted in fatalities in North Carolina, but of course rural crashes are much more likely to result in fatalities than are urban ones.Change Lanes to Pass

None of the 105 metro Orlando fatalities involved lane control.

The real “article of faith” being presented here is that a practice promoted by the most experienced and highly trained cyclists in our culture is now being dismissed without evidence.

The real “article of faith” being presented here is that a practice promoted by the most experienced and highly trained cyclists in our culture is now being dismissed without evidence. And it’s being dismissed by a national organization that was originally formed to promote safety and excellence in cycling.

Context Matters

There is no question that we need better reporting of bicyclist crashes by law enforcement, but the League’s report only adds confusion, not clarity. We also should use more than just fatalities when making decisions about street design; adding incapacitating injuries will provide us with far more comprehensive data to combat the most serious crashes.

rural_sidepathAnd no, this review of the League’s fatality report is not intended as a blanket refusal of separated bicycle facilities. There are certainly some roads along which a sidepath would work. High-speed rural highways are good candidates. I used an excellent one in the Bitterroot Valley in Montana. Paths along riverfront and lakefront roads are workable as well. And certain suburban high-speed arterials may be suitable for sidepaths or bike lanes if they have limited and well-managed conflict points. But when it comes to regular urban streets, overtaking is the least of our concerns as cyclists. That is where the turning and crossing conflicts are most common, where savvy, integrated cycling is essential, and where channelization of cyclists leads to unnecessary conflicts.


Mighk Wilson is the president of the new American Bicycling Education Association.

I have a dream for the future of bicycle transportation

Lane control, no parking
Screen shot from video Geoff McMillion shot in Missoula.

I see a future where bicyclists are seen as first class road users, with the same rights and duties (as far as the rules of the road are concerned) as drivers of vehicles . In fact, I see a future where bicyclists who are traveling slower than other traffic are seen as drivers with the same right to use lanes as other drivers.

That doesn’t mean that bicycles and cars are equal, no more than cars and trucks are equal. What I mean is that the people who operate them follow the same rules of the road. For instance, in almost every state, all drivers who are traveling slower than other traffic, regardless of what vehicle they are driving, are required to use the right-hand lane. There is no such rule in those states as “If you can’t keep up, you have to stay at the right edge of the right-hand lane.” (This is not true in Europe.)

I see a future where bicyclists who are traveling at less than the speed of other traffic can use the right-hand lane, turning out occasionally where it is safe to let faster drivers pass, just like other drivers. And bicyclists who are traveling at the same speed as other traffic can use any lane, just like other drivers.

I see a future where a bicyclist using a full lane is seen as normal and reasonable, even if the bicyclist is going slower than other traffic.

I see a future where bicyclists would no longer be afraid of being intimidated, threatened, bullied, buzzed, yelled at, had things thrown at them, forced off the road, accused of being rude and cited for riding in travel lanes. And without these fears, more people would ride bicycles on the public streets and highways.

For more information, see The Marginalization of Bicyclists – How the car lane paradigm eroded our lane rights and what we can do to restore them


China Cups and Butterflies; Options and Ethics

china-butterflyVulnerability and risk. Statistics and ethics. Solutions or fixes. Top-down interventions or individual actions. These are the core issues in the long-running bike-lane (or cycle track)-versus-integration argument and in the book Antifragile by Nassim Nicholas Taleb (better known for his previous book, The Black Swan). Antifragile is a long and complex read, but the author managed to summarize it while metaphorically standing on one foot: “Everything gains or loses from volatility. Fragility is what loses from volatility and uncertainty.”

We know what fragile means; the characteristic of being at risk of serious harm or destruction through sudden and extreme shocks. We also have the term robust, which means something is mostly immune to sudden extreme shocks. Taleb noticed there are also things, people, and systems that improve with such shocks, which required the new term, antifragile. There is no hard line between fragile and antifragile; rather it is a continuum. Taleb explores this fragility to antifragility continuum throughout the book.

We bicyclists can’t make ourselves totally antifragile, to the extent that we can benefit from the volatility of traffic, but we can significantly reduce our fragility and become somewhat antifragile by learning to respond effectively to the many small violations we experience. These small violations are often indicators of the actual crash we’re trying to avoid. The close pass indicates the risk for the sideswipe. The right hook close call indicates the potential for a right hook collision. And so on. We cannot and will not become less fragile or more antifragile by putting most of the responsibility for our safety on government or motorists. The best way to achieve it is by changing our own behavior.

Butterflies are very vulnerable, but similar to bicyclists they have the options of movement which reduces their fragility; so much so that they have survived as species for millions of years.

Before we explore how to reduce our fragility as cyclists, it’s important to differentiate between fragility and vulnerability. A china cup is both vulnerable and fragile, we can reduce its vulnerability by protecting it with bubble wrap, but it remains fragile. It’s also useless when wrapped up in the bubble wrap. Butterflies are very vulnerable, but similar to bicyclists they have the options of movement (as well as coloration and chemistry) which reduces their fragility; so much so that they have survived as species for millions of years. (Options is a major theme of Antifragile.)

Bicyclists don’t collide with motorists because they’re vulnerable or slow; but mostly because they’re unpredictable or inconspicuous. (Please don’t misconstrue this as fault; predictability and conspicuity are relative, and of course some motorists are careless. But when we look at the data, it’s clear many — if not most — crashes can be avoided by improving cyclist predictability and conspicuity.) As cyclists, our vulnerability cannot be significantly reduced, but our fragility can. To reduce fragility we must reduce the volatility and uncertainty of our environment, and increase our options.

We must also bear in mind that we’re not in this by ourselves; motorists also need a more predictable environment, because they are also fragile. Yes, motorists are fragile – emotionally and economically. A collision with a cyclist is often damaging to a driver’s psyche or bank account, or both. Well-designed streets and adherence to well-reasoned rules reduce volatility and uncertainty for both cyclists and motorists. As cyclists our options are increased by enhancing (but not violating) the rules of the road with special strategies.

“A complex system, contrary to what people believe, does not require complicated systems and regulations and intricate policies. The simpler, the better. Complications lead to multiplicative chains of unanticipated effects. Because of opacity, an intervention leads to unforeseen consequences, followed by apologies about the “unforeseen” aspect of the consequences, then to another intervention to correct the secondary effects, leading to an explosive series of branching “unforeseen” responses, each one worse than the preceding one.”

—Nassim Nicholas Taleb

Rules Trump Laws (or at least they should)

Adding more rules will not solve the problem, because adding more rules adds points of failure. Instead of more rules, cyclists need more options to avoid the errors of others.

When it comes to rules it’s essential to understand how they relate to laws and to risk. Rules precede laws; they usually arise out of the culture out of experience and consensus. Laws often have political motives and biases; sometimes they uphold the rules, but other times they usurp them. When it comes to risk, particularly in traffic, we must recognize that rules which are violated become points of failure. (This is not always so with laws, because some laws are frivolous or not intended to reduce risk.)

The vast majority of traffic crashes — regardless of mode — happen because one or more parties violated one or more rules. What’s more, even if one party did not violate any rule, they often failed to take effective action to prevent it. I’m reminded of my early auto driving days as a teenager. I was driving along a collector street and another car was approaching from a side street. He was facing a stop sign and I wasn’t. From the passenger seat my dad mildly chastised me for not covering my brake. If that other driver had pulled out and caused a crash he would have clearly been at fault and received the citation, but it would have also been because I failed to take appropriate action. I would have failed to take an option available to me.

Adding more rules will not solve the problem, because adding more rules adds points of failure. Instead of more rules, cyclists need more options to avoid the errors of others. Our most important options are sufficient operating space and adequate line of sight. We can also learn ways to give motorists more options to avoid unnecessary conflicts with us.

So we need a traffic system with the fewest number of rules (not laws) possible, with street designs that support those rules, with the lowest volatility we can manage, and with the greatest options for all. This means we need a system based on what people do best and most naturally, not on what they do poorly or need to be nagged into doing. Many bicycling advocates are calling for systems that increase the failure points and reduce options both for cyclists and motorists.

The rules we have are based on the limits of human perception. Our eyes are at the fronts of our heads and we don’t have x-ray vision. They are also based on years of practical experience, first on open waters where boat captains needed to avoid collisions, and then on roads and streets when cart and carriage drivers needed to do the same. It was only when the industrial revolution came that cities got large enough and traffic got thick enough that the rules needed to be formalized into laws. Eventually traffic control devices were created to help manage the movements and reduce delays. For those who think the rules of the road were created for motor vehicles, note that less than 10% of urban traffic was motorized when William Phelps Eno wrote the first formal traffic codes for New York City in 1909. Eno thought cars were a fad and would be gone in a few years. He wrote his code for horse-drawn vehicles, bicyclists, and pedestrians, with autos, the horse-drawn and bicycles all categorized as vehicles.

The essential fairness of the rules of the road is based on the idea that all people are equal, no matter their mode. That’s why the core rule is:

Rules of The Road_simple
The basic rules of the road are simple and designed to optimize human capabilities—yield to what’s directly in front of you.

First Come, First Served. You yield to the traffic in front of you because the person ahead of you in the lane was there first. Just like at the grocery store check out. You yield when entering a roadway from a driveway because the people on the road were there first. The same goes when you get to an intersection; you yield to the person who got there before you did. When changing lanes; you yield to the person who is already in that lane. Drivers yield to pedestrians who’ve entered the crosswalk because the pedestrian was there first.

Next comes Keep Right; Pass Left. We have to all agree to keep to the same side of the roadway when going in the same direction, or else it’s chaos. And we want passing to be limited to one side to minimize the amount of scanning we need to do, and because, as I noted earlier, we don’t have x-ray vision. When you pass on the right you can be hidden from view to left-turning drivers approaching from the front.

Intersection Positioning reduces the number of conflicting movements at intersections by eliminating or minimizing converging movements, instead making all movements parallel or diverging.

Yield To the Right at Intersections. If two or more drivers arrive at an intersection at the same time, they yield to the drivers to their right. Why the right? Because motorists sit at the left side of the vehicle and the line of sight is better to the right. (Roundabouts are a special case. They’re really a set of T intersections around a circle, and with the bottom of the T yielding to the top.)

Yield To On-coming Traffic When Turning Left. The purpose of this is to minimize delay and increase certainty. And as noted above, the turning driver needs to be able to see the traffic he’s supposed to yield to.

Notice that with the exception of lane changing, drivers are to yield to people who are in front of them or to the side but still ahead. Our eyes are at the fronts of our heads. Lane changing requires a rearward scan, but lane changing is only supposed to be done mid-block, not at intersections.

In earlier times there was no rule requiring slower traffic to yield to faster traffic. That would conflict with the rule of first come, first served. Today minimum speed laws are in place in many states, but they are only intended to keep drivers of motor vehicles from unnecessarily slowing other motorized traffic. If such laws are applied to bicyclists or other non-motorized users, they are no longer about equality; they are effectively fascist, favoring the powerful over the powerless.

Seeking Order; Gaining Failure Points

Rules of The Road_complex
Channelizing one type of vehicle on the edge of the road adds complexity, breaks the basic rules of the road and defies human capabilities.

When we add a bike lane or cycle track to a street we effectively add new rules and violate some of the original rules. With such facilities, for bicyclists we now say:

Pass On the Right. The right rear section of a motor vehicle has the worst blind spots, but we expect drivers to check those spots with the same level of effectiveness as when they look forward or into their left side mirror.

Bike lanes discourage proper intersection positioning; cycle tracks often prohibit it. “When do I leave the bike lane to get into the left turn lane? Or should I just turn left directly from the bike lane?”

And for motorists we now say:

When Turning Right, Yield to Through Vehicles Approaching From Your Right Rear (your blind spot), while also scanning ahead for pedestrians in the crosswalk.

When Turning Left, Yield to Vehicles You May Not Be Able to See (because they’re moving toward you while hidden behind other stopped vehicles).

Motorists are often confused as to how to do intersection positioning. “Do I move all the way to the curb as I normally do, or do I stay fully in my current lane?”

So we have added new rules, which means new points of failure. What’s more, these rules are more difficult to obey because they require motorists to look back when they also need to be looking forward, and they require both cyclists and motorists be able to see through stopped vehicles. None of these new rules, or the bikeways that necessitate them, eliminate the need for adherence to any of the original rules, or eliminate the crashes caused by the violations of those rules.

Types of bicyclists and types of bicyclist behaviors.

Bicycle planners are fond of systems that attempt to categorize bicyclists into “types.” The most commonly used type system uses “A” for “experienced” adults, “B” for “novice” adults, and “C” for children. The problem with this system is it assumes certain types of behaviors and preferences for each group, but with no data to support those assumptions. A far better approach is to categorize basic types of behaviors. Some behaviors are more successful at mitigating conflicts and crashes, and some are less successful. Whether a cyclist is a 40 year old man on a $2,000 road bike or a 12 year old girl on a bike from Target is beside the point. Successful behaviors work for everyone. Unsuccessful behaviors fail for everyone. (The presumption that successful bicycle driver behavior is not achievable by novice adults or by children in an appropriate environment is demonstrably false. It’s been done.)

On the other hand, the basic behavior types are driver, edge and pedestrian. Pedestrian behavior is bicycling on a sidewalk, a sidepath, or on the roadway against traffic. Edge behavior is cycling close to the roadway edge with the flow of traffic. Driver behavior is using the roadway in the same manner as any other driver of a slower vehicle, usually in the center of a lane. It’s not a matter of whether a behavior is “right” or “wrong,” but whether it’s successful or unsuccessful for a given type of street and situation. The well-trained cyclist understands the pros and cons for each behavior.

For more about the bicyclist behavior spectrum, see Bicyclist Behaviors & Crash Risk

For some strange reason, the opinions of the untrained and less experienced cyclists are held in higher regard than those of the trained and experienced ones. I know of no other activity in which that is the case.

A bicyclist whose default behavior is driver sees a bike lane or cycle track as adding volatility and limiting options. A bicyclist whose default behavior is edge or pedestrian sees a bike lane or cycle track as reducing volatility and increasing options. This is partly because he or she has little or no experience using driver behavior, and partly due to what the majority bicycling culture is saying. It also creates some cognitive dissonance on the part of the edge or pedestrian rider, because he still experiences conflicts while in the bike lane or cycle track.

For some strange reason, the opinions of the untrained and less experienced cyclists are held in higher regard than those of the trained and experienced ones. I know of no other activity in which that is the case.

“What can we say about people who studiously avoid learning from the mistakes of others?” — Taleb

There are better ways to attempt to reduce volatility and improve options that don’t involve violation of the rules of vehicular movement. The best is to reduce motor vehicle speeds in urban and suburban areas, and to limit the number of multi-lane arterials. The faster we travel the poorer our ability to track multiple conflicts and the more distance we need to react to them. Crash data from Florida shows that crash rates for all road users increase significantly when roads are widened from four lanes to six.

We can accept the superiority of bicycle driver behavior over edge and pedestrian behavior by the simple observation that people who effectively learn bicycle driving do not revert to the other behaviors as their default; driving becomes their default because it clearly works better for them (though bicycle drivers will on occasion use edge or pedestrian behavior when it serves a specific purpose.)

“Suckers try to win the argument; non-suckers try to win.”

– Taleb

This bike-lane-versus-integration argument has been running for 30 years at a stalemate, and statistically speaking it’s unwinnable. The argument is in essence: overtaking crashes versus other crashes. The experienced and trained bicycle driver sees the risk of the overtaking motorist as exceptionally low and the risks of turning and crossing conflicts as significantly higher. (Overtaking crashes account for no more than 10% of urban and suburban crashes, while most of the rest involve turning and crossing conflicts.) Based on direct, real world experience they see bikeways that keep cyclists along the edge of the road as increasing their risk for turning and crossing conflicts. Virtually all cyclists who predominantly use driver behavior were once edge or pedestrian riders, so they understand the difference in effectiveness based on real world experience.

Cyclists who predominantly use edge or pedestrian behavior have little to no experience with bicycle driving behavior, so they are unable to compare the effectiveness for themselves.

Advocates of bike lanes, cycle tracks and sidepaths see the risk of overtaking motorists as unacceptably high and believe the turning and crossing conflicts that bikeways create can be mitigated with better design and motorist training and enforcement. They also tie the tenuous safety benefit of bikeways to the desire to get more people on bikes, making the equally tenuous claim that getting more people on bikes will reduce the crash rate (but not the crash numbers). Cyclists who predominantly use edge or pedestrian behavior have little to no experience with bicycle driving behavior, so they are unable to compare the effectiveness for themselves.

If you’re going to trade off one risk for another, you have to first know which risk is greater. Statistically speaking, that means knowing the absolute risk in a measure such as crashes per mile or per hour of exposure. What’s more, you need to know how those risks change with different environments. For example, the risks of turning and crossing conflicts are relatively low on a high-speed rural road with few cross streets and driveways, but one could reasonably expect overtaking crashes to be a potential problem. Conversely, on a low-speed downtown street with many driveways and cross streets, turning and crossing conflicts are a significant concern and overtaking crashes are exceptionally low. Lane control greatly reduces the predominant type of overtaking crash, the sideswipe, in which motorists attempt to squeeze past cyclists within the lane. Therefor, the only type overtaking crash that lane control might not mitigate is the type in which the motorist is so seriously impaired or distracted that he or she does not see the cyclist directly ahead. Such crashes in the urban context are so rare they could be compared to being struck by lightning.

In order to measure the risk for a particular type of crash and how it might change by the type of street, you need to measure quite a few variables, and be confident you’ve measured them accurately. To put this to use, you also need to create a sound mathematical model that reliably predicts the risk for different situations.

Let’s take one type of crash – the right-hook – as an example. In order to predict how many right-hook conflicts per mile or per hour cyclists would expect if they are traveling along the edge of the roadway, we need to know:

  • How many cyclists travel along the street
  • How many motorists travel along the street
  • The numbers of intersections and driveways (minus the ones where there is a dedicated right turn only lane)
  • The number of signalized intersections
  • How many motorists make right turns at each intersection
  • The relative average speeds of the motorists and bicyclists (the closer the relative speeds, the higher the likelihood a cyclist will be in the blind spot of a motorist who’s turning right)
  • The percentage of motorists who check their right side blind-spots before turning right

And there may be other factors I haven’t thought of. Other turning and crossing conflicts, such as left-crosses and drive-outs, would have their own sets of necessary factors.

Similarly, to measure the absolute risk of overtaking crashes for cyclists who control their lanes we need to know:

  • How many cyclists travel along the street
  • How many motorists travel along the street
  • The relative average speeds of the motorists and bicyclists
  • The percentage of motorists who are distracted, and how long on-average their attention leaves the road
  • The percentages of motorists who are intoxicated and sleep-deprived

Also at issue is the relative injury severity of the two (or more) crash types. Once again, overtaking crashes might have high risk of death or serious injury on a rural road, but not on an urban street, while right hooks involving large trucks in low-speed environments have very high fatality risk. These rates are also unknown and difficult to measure.

If you cannot predict which risk is greater, then you cannot ethically restrict a person’s options for limiting their risk based on their own real world experience.

This should explain what I mean when I say the argument is unwinnable, as least from a statistical analysis standpoint. One side can argue that the overtaking risk is higher, but cannot prove it (at least not to anyone looking at the data objectively), and the same is usually true the other way. If you cannot predict which risk is greater, then you cannot ethically restrict a person’s options for limiting their risk based on their own real world experience.

A cyclist who is concerned more about overtaking motorists than about turning or crossing conflicts always has the option of biking along the roadway edge, and often has the option of using a sidewalk. He or she also has the option of controlling the lane, but either chooses not to utilize it or thinks that option is illegal or unsafe. If the lanes on an existing road are narrow and the road has no sidewalks, one could argue that options are limited for this cyclist. He has two options, neither of which he likes. But note that at this point no action has been taken by anyone in authority to change the available options. We could make the lanes wider or add sidewalks; this adds options for this cyclist, and he may or may not prefer these options.

A cyclist who is concerned more about turning and crossing conflicts has the same options as the first cyclist, and will normally choose driver behavior – until a bike lane or cycle track is provided. Now an option has been removed or somewhat restricted. Whether or not there’s a law restricting the bicyclist to the bikeway, the cyclist who avoids the bike lane in order to avoid turning and crossing conflicts gets punished, either socially (through motorist harassment) or legally (through police action). What’s more, the punishment is being doled out to the trained and experienced cyclist who is attempting to avoid a well-document conflict.

A bike lane or a cycle track is a traffic control device. According to the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices:

“The purpose of traffic control devices, as well as the principles for their use, is to promote highway safety and efficiency by providing for the orderly movement of all road users on streets, highways, bikeways, and private roads open to public travel throughout the Nation.

Traffic control devices notify road users of regulations and provide warning and guidance needed for the uniform and efficient operation of all elements of the traffic stream in a manner intended to minimize the occurrences of crashes.”

Notice it doesn’t say “to make people feel comfortable and encourage them to ride bikes.” Nor does it say “support common behaviors” such as bicyclists passing on the right or riding against traffic. Are there any other traffic control devices that expert drivers believe add unnecessarily to volatility, reduce predictability, and eliminate defensive driving options?

There may be areas in which the downsides of a bikeway are very minimal and the upside is significant, such as sufficiently wide bike lanes on high-speed suburban roads, or sidepaths along high-speed rural highways. But a blanket “put in a bike lane” attitude is not a wise strategy.

Laws that eliminate or restrict defensive driving options are even worse. Bicyclists are the only vehicle drivers who (at least in most states) are put in the default position of sharing a lane side-by-side with much larger and faster vehicles. By controlling a lane we get the kind of passing clearance and protection from turning and crossing conflicts that we want, but lane control is framed in our statutes as the exceptional option, not the default option.

How Much Risk Reduction Do You Want?

Would you prefer a 40% reduction or as close to 100% as possible? Published studies comparing streets with and without bikeways vary quite a bit with their claims of crash risk reduction. For the sake of argument, 40% is fair starting point. (I’ll get to the validity of those claims in a bit.) I’ve no doubt you’d rather take the close-to-100% option if it seemed reasonable.

If you go through a Goal Zero process and ignore the most effective strategies for reasons like “people aren’t interested in that” (a common argument against expecting people to seek cycling education), you’re really saying “a 40% reduction is good enough.”

The gold standard of safety programs is the “Goal Zero” approach. With Goal Zero you look at every angle of the system, every point of failure, and strive to understand it as clearly as you can. Then you analyze all the potential strategies to reduce or eliminate those points of failure and determine which strategies are most effective. In bicyclist safety circles that’s called the “3E” approach: engineering, education and enforcement. Enforcement is just trying to ensure people do what they’ve been taught. Too often “education” itself is presented as a countermeasure, but it’s really not. Education is a way to demonstrate to people the types of behaviors that are most effective. It’s the behaviors that are the real crash countermeasures. They don’t work unless the cyclist (or motorist) uses them.

If you go through a Goal Zero process and ignore the most effective strategies for reasons like “people aren’t interested in that” (a common argument against expecting people to seek cycling education), you’re really saying “a 40% reduction is good enough.” Well-designed bicyclist training programs (such as CyclingSavvy) take the Goal Zero approach by addressing each type of conflict and using the most effective countermeasure, not the most popular one.

But I was being charitable to those bikeway studies a few paragraphs back. Their claims of crash rate reductions are highly suspect due to poor methodologies. None of the studies address cyclist or motorist behaviors. They simply look at all the crashes before and after the installation, or compare crashes on streets with and without bikeways. In order for such comparisons to be valid you have to screen out crashes that wouldn’t have been affected by the bikeway presence, such as someone running a red light or a stop sign, or a cyclist entering the roadway from a driveway, or one out at night without lights.

tesche slide
A Canadian study “found” bikeways safer than roadway cycling. This slide demonstrates that authors had no idea what safe roadway behavior is—showing an image of high-risk door-zone cycling and labeling it as “vehicular cycling.”

These studies don’t compare bikeway travel to bicycle driver behavior; they compare bikeway travel to edge and pedestrian behavior without bikeways, because those are the dominant bicycling behaviors. The full range of behavioral strategies has therefore not been studied.

Worse still, some studies have made comparisons between bikeway streets and non-bikeway streets without keeping the other street characteristics consistent. For example, in the Lusk, Furth et al study of Montreal cycle tracks, one-way, one-lane residential streets with cycle tracks were compared to two-way, four-lane commercial streets without bikeways. They also ignored crashes that might have been relevant, but we can’t tell from their paper. (They also omitted a cycle track section that was already known for a high crash rate.) Critiques of that study can be found here and here.

We also have to consider the unintended consequences scenario. If we build a bikeway that is generally believed to be safe, the proponents say, more people will come out to bike. This may well be true, but will those new cyclists keep only to the bikeways? Of course not. And will they seek out training? Not until we get serious about it as a culture. So we will have more cyclists out on all of our streets, but they are doing so with the less successful edge and pedestrian behaviors. The bikeway designs might partly mitigate the failures of edge and pedestrian behavior, but of course not on the streets without the bikeways. So it’s completely predictable that crashes would go up on non-bikeway streets compared to the bikeway streets because we’ve invited a bunch of untrained people into situations they don’t understand, and have reinforced the types of behaviors that get them into trouble to begin with. But the pro-bikeway study authors take this as validation.

The things we don’t measure are often as important, or more important, than the things we do.

“It would be nice if all of the data which sociologists require could be enumerated because then we could run them through IBM machines and draw charts as the economists do. However, not everything that can be counted counts, and not everything that counts can be counted.”

—William Bruce Cameron, “Informal Sociology: A Casual Introduction to Sociological Thinking”

Inhibiting people from learning better strategies is also unethical. How does a novice ever learn to reduce his own risks if training is dismissed as irrelevant or impractical and the infrastructure discourages the more successful behavior?

Bicyclists get hit by motorists while traveling in bikeways. They get rear-ended, right-hooked, and left-crossed. They also get hit by motorists driving out from driveways and cross streets. There are also crashes involving wrong-way cyclists in bike lanes. Yes, of course, these crashes also happen to cyclists who are not in bike lanes, but no-one has solid data showing they are less likely with a bike lane. It’s unethical to limit an individual’s attempts to reduce their risk if you don’t have strong certainty that you have a better strategy. Bicycle drivers know from direct real world experience – which includes all the pertinent factors, just not in the form of quantifiable data – that they have far fewer close calls involving such conflict types when they are controlling a lane than when they are in a bike lane or otherwise along the edge.

Inhibiting people from learning better strategies is also unethical. How does a novice ever learn to reduce his own risks if training is dismissed as irrelevant or impractical and the infrastructure discourages the more successful behavior? Some years ago I met a man who’d spent quite a few years living in The Netherlands. Like so many, he loved their bikeway system and raved about it to me. I didn’t argue with him about it, but just reminded him that here in Orlando you have to know how to handle yourself on roads without bikeways. He assured me he knew how to bike safely in mixed traffic. Each time I’ve seen him since he’s been cycling on a sidewalk.

We could liken bike lanes and cycle tracks to placebos. Even placebos have some positive health effect, but we would never give a placebo when the real drug was much more effective. Vaccines on the other hand work very well. They strengthen the immune system rather than attack the malady directly. Training is a vaccine; it shows the cyclist how to address the most common problems wherever she goes — not just where the government has installed a special treatment — and no-one is misleading her into thinking some other agent will handle her problems for her.

A Robust System

While we can’t make individual cyclists robust or entirely antifragile, we can do it for our overall traffic system. Our traffic system is inherently based on cooperation, but too many people are trying to treat it as though it’s a competitive one. Whether it’s the motorists-as-wild-beasts theme, the media pumping up the us-versus-them angle, or some bicycle advocates with their us-versus-them brand of activism, they are all making the system unbalanced and less effective by bolstering the competitive mentality.

Cooperation is what makes our traffic system robust. It’s what gives it safety redundancy; it’s what makes its users smarter and more effective; it’s what makes traffic flow smoothly; it’s what makes us focus on our own responsibility rather than everyone else’s; it’s what rewards successful behaviors.

Confusion (such as when the system is made too complex) confounds cooperation and feeds competition.

Cooperation is strongest within species and cultures, not between them. So “pedestrians and bicyclists as endangered species” and “bike culture versus car culture” are harmful analogies. We are all one species: homo sapiens. We are genetically and culturally guided to protect the vulnerable of our own species. Protection of the vulnerable is a far more effective driver of human cooperation than the law. A motorist who expects to see bicyclists on all roads (except freeways) and on all parts of the roadway will be more diligent in looking for cyclists than one who expects them to only be on paths or bike lanes.

If we want an antifragile system then, we need three key ingredients: simple rules, cooperation and vulnerability.

Simpler rules increase predictability.

Vulnerability combined with predictability increases cooperation.

And cooperation strengthens the rules.

It’s a virtuous cycle.

“You get pseudo-order when you seek order; you only get a measure of order and control when you embrace randomness.”



Our Vision: Video from the Colloquium

iat visionThanks to the tireless volunteer work of John Allen, Robert Seidler, and of course Keri Caffrey, we now can share the first video from the I Am Traffic Colloquium. In this presentation, Keri lays out our take on the core bicycling-related problems we see in our traffic culture, the ill-advised “fixes” that many are promoting, and our own vision for real solutions based on a clear understanding of the problem. 26 minutes of information that will make you really think.


[vimeo 64152426]

Back to the Future

OC Banner art rgb-01

We must go back to the future — we must reclaim our heritage as drivers and the truth that streets are for people.

Dan Gutierrez joined Diane Lees on the Outspoken Cyclist this evening.

In the interview, Dan gives an overview of the I Am Traffic Colloquium and shares the origin of the Six Es. He articulates the importance of equality and education, and how I Am Traffic intends to fill a void in those areas of advocacy.

Diane asked about the video technique he and Brian DeSousa pioneered. Dual Chase video has had a tremendous influence on many of us. It formed an essential part of the vicarious modeling we use in the CyclingSavvy curriculum. You can see some of their videos on Dan’s youtube channel.

Enjoy the show, and subscribe to The Outspoken Cyclist to keep up with all the latest news in the cycling world!


What an amazing week for I Am Traffic! When we woke up on Tuesday morning, we had no idea that our message would be shared so far and wide in just the span of a few days. To give you an idea of what’s been going on, I wanted to share some data with everyone.

Before Tuesday, our Facebook page had around 500 “likes” and many of our posts were being seen by an average of around 800 people. Then, on Tuesday, Keri Caffrey posted this image:

How wide is that lane?


Total Reach

We all watched in a little bit of awe as the “Share” ticker started flying up. As of the writing of this post, the total reach of the image is at 25,312 people, there’s been 4,184 shares of the image, 36,688 people are “engaged” with it, and it has received 1,300 likes.

That same day, I posted the image to reddit’s bicycling community. Pretty quickly the post moved up to the #1 spot on /r/bicycling and right now has gained 96,005 views, 1,449 upvotes, and 519 comments.

The image has been re-shared by several bike gear groups, a few blogging lawyers, and many local bicycling organizations.

The 245+ comments generated a lot of common questions and discussion. I will be working next week on distilling a lot of our answers into a FAQ for the site so that we can have a quick reference for common bicycling concerns.

For our total page reach…. we hit a high of 344,378 people this week. Unbelievable.

Page Reach


One of the most interesting things that we’ve been watching is the international response. From the very beginning of this site, our focus has solely been the US. Little did we know that our message would resonate with cyclists all over the world. To name just a few countries that we’re getting a lot of response from:

  • Saudi Arabia
  • Portugal
  • Ireland
  • Germany
  • United Kingdom
  • Canada
  • Brazil
  • Chile
  • Australia

We are in talks with several groups who are willing to provide time and resources for translating our infographics. Internally we cannot set new translations on the graphics nor maintain them. However, if you are interested in working on a local translation that is true to our intent and message, AND  have graphic design resources then drop us an email.

Polite Discussion

While watching the conversation unfold on Facebook, we realized that we needed to step in and provide a “rules of engagement” and some strict moderation. None of us are interested in seeing our efforts turn into a platform for the same, tired arguments of the anti-cyclist and anti-motorist rants. We’re trying to do something different with I Am Traffic. We want to be a positive change agent. Allowing derogatory, hateful, and downright dumb comments does not foster a Better Conversation™. With that in mind, we decided to enact a Policy for Polite Discussion. Our goal with this policy is not to squash differing opinions, but to silence idiotic and hateful comments. It’s a difficult path to ride, no doubt about it.

The Colloquium

It’s very energizing to have such a positive reach just a few days before our very first Colloquium. Cyclists from all over the country are flying, driving, and biking into Orlando, Florida this weekend to discuss exactly what the future of this organization will look like.

I’m excited about where we’re going and I hope that you’ll join us in this journey. Be sure to Like our page, follow us on Twitter, or sign up for our email updates. And feel free to keep on sharing that image!

Update on 2/23/2013: Facebook had a bit of a delay on the statistics. I should have waited until today to write this post to get all the big numbers to you. Forgive my early excitement… the new numbers are far larger than I originally posted yesterday.

Of Reality and Dreams

Our Current Situation

Bicycle advocacy in America today is a funny thing. We have lots of statistics—old and new, dubious and true. We’re long on emotions, opinions and flared tempers, but we’re pretty short on reasonable discussions and smart, practical policies for the long-haul. I guess it’s not unlike politics today.

As a CyclingSavvy instructor, I am wary of jumping into bicycle advocacy. I don’t want potential students or potential partners to be turned off by my opinions on bicycle advocacy. I just want folks to get a good, solid education and use CyclingSavvy techniques in whatever way that they are personally comfortable. I put aside my politics when I teach, and I don’t want to disenfranchise anyone who might otherwise support adult cycling education.

Demonstrating a CyclingSavvy exercise
Demonstrating a CyclingSavvy exercise

However, I’m frustrated with the advocates that we currently have for bicycling in America. They are too willing to sacrifice safety and equality in the pursuit of increased participation. In other words, they seem to be scheming to woo people who are not cycling at the expense of those who are. They ignore their own logic blunders: promoting flawed ideas, then demanding fix upon fix for the predictable consequences. The result is a Rube Goldberg mess that confounds our entire system of movement and undermines the defensive driving practices I teach to enhance my students’ safety.


We need better advocates. We need advocates that promote Equality first, supported by infrastructure that is intuitive, useful and attainable. So, despite my reservations to jump into the fray of bicycle advocacy, here I am working every spare moment I have to help launch I Am Traffic.

Vehicular Cycling 2.0?

Some have been quick to deride I Am Traffic as “Vehicular Cycling 2.0.” Uninformed people think that about CyclingSavvy, too, so I’m not surprised. As 21st century Americans, we’re desperate to put things into buckets, whether they truly fit or not. For American bicycling, the default buckets are “Infrastructure” vs. “Vehicular Cycling.” [ref]Vehicular cycling has become a derisive term. Advocates for segregated facilities use the term to marginalize–as elitist and out of touch–those who disagree with their strategies. Folks like myself no longer use the term because it confuses the human driver with the inanimate conveyance.[/ref] In the mind of most folks involved in advocacy, there’s simply no third way.

However, I believe we have a valid third way. Instead of simply focusing on one broken tool to transform our cities, we have a portfolio of efforts that we call the 6 E’s. We envision our cities as places where a Culture of Respect flourishes and all citizens enjoy the use of our public roadways equally, regardless of chosen conveyance.

Living in the Now

Today, American cities have roadways that connect to all points. Even in the most “bike friendly” cities, bicycle-specific infrastructure is a small fraction of the total roadways. If today—right now—I would like to ride my bike to work, to the coffee shop, to school, to church, or to lunch, a bicycle-specific facility is likely not available to get me there, so I need to use the existing roadways in the safest manner possible. In most states and cities, I have the legal right to do this. Additionally, I would like to travel in the most direct manner to my destination as possible, and I would like to be treated with respect no matter what route that I choose.

Dallas Bike Routes, Today
Dallas Bike Routes, Today

Streetscapes such as those found in Amsterdam and Copenhagen are often pointed to as models for American cities to adopt. Riding in these cities is a (mostly) pleasant experience, and it would be incredible to have the high bicycle ridership rates that these cities boast. But it’s important to recognize that the high ridership is not entirely the result of the infrastructure. There are numerous other factors: cost of driving; geographical features; land use; availability of transit; historical reliance on bicycling and sociopolitical disposition that drive both mode share and enthusiasm for quality infrastructure. I have personally spent a lot of time riding in Amsterdam. It’s a great city that I would definitely enjoy living in. However, the reality is that my city, Dallas, won’t be transformed overnight, next year, or even my lifetime with a complete bicycle-specific network that reaches all destinations. I live in the now, and I want to use my bicycle today.

“We have to start somewhere!”

The “start” that is pushed by urban planners and bicycle advocates is bicycle lanes on existing streets. However, most bike lanes are not better than nothing. They have safety implications that cannot simply be wished away. Bike lanes dramatically increase risks of intersection conflicts: right hooks, left crosses and pull-outs. They are often painted in the door zone of parked cars — a fatal hazard for bicyclists. There have even been numerous cases of “drift” crashes, where a distracted motorist drifts into the bike lane and hit a bicyclist who was previously irrelevant. I find it morally reprehensible that planners find it acceptable to install  facilities that put bicyclists– especially their primary target: inexperienced and unaware bicyclists–at risk.

Open car door kills bicyclist Marcus Ewing, 27
Open car door kills bicyclist Marcus Ewing, 27

Given my opinion about bike lanes, some people might be surprised to know that I love well-designed separated shared-use paths. Shared-use paths can provide direct connections to important parts of town, help avoid steep hills, and are relaxing, rejuvenating, beautiful additions to our cities. If well-designed at intersections and crossings, no traffic patterns are violated and new cyclists and children have a low-stress route to get their bearings.

A relaxing ride on a neighborhood path
A relaxing ride on a neighborhood path

Where current advocacy fails is at the end of the path. There’s no doubt that it would be splendid to have door-to-door shared-use paths for every possible route, but that doesn’t exist today, nor is it likely in our sprawling suburban cities or crowded urban cities. Advocates who are focused on facilities simply have no answer–besides fear–for those who’d like to ride their bicycle today.

The solution for today, right now, is driving my bicycle on roads that are comfortable for my skill level. It’s not impossible, doesn’t take super human bravery, and is simpler than skeptics believe. Educated and empowered cyclists don’t have to wait for someone to roll out the green carpet to enjoy their city today. They can use paths as desired to expand their route options, but they are capable and confident to continue to their destination without worry if there will be special facilities along the way. Educated and empowered cyclists have chosen Possibility.

Ending the Culture of Speed

While Education is a powerful force for individuals, I know that it can’t stand alone to make our communities better–especially in cities dominated by the Culture of Speed. Harassment by even small numbers of motorists and rogue law enforcement can be a real, and scary, reality in many cities. Dallas suburbs, for instance, are built for high speed traffic with no low-speed grid network. Motorists in these areas are grumpy, angry, and short-tempered (often from their miserable commutes). Law enforcement rarely supports or protects the bicycling minority, and instead tends to support speed-centric beliefs, regardless of the actual laws. These are not pleasant places to ride in the street, no matter how confident you are as a cyclist.

I do not believe the solution for these cities is to relocate slow moving traffic out of the way. Segregation reinforces two ideas that the Culture of Speed holds dear: 1) the roadways belong solely to high speed motor vehicles, 2) only high speed traffic is important. Underlying the Culture of Speed is the attitude that bicycles are toys and the grownups in cars need the toys out of the way so that they can go on about their important work. As we’ve seen repeatedly, infrastructure built for bicyclists by that culture does nothing more than shove us aside at our own expense. (See my Commute Orlando blog post entitled, Second Class in Toronto.)

I believe our cities would be healthier for everyone if we fought for a Culture of Respect. The Culture of Speed accepts an alarmingly high number of fatalities and destruction due to distracted driving, drunk driving, and road rage—over 30,000 Americans are killed each year by motor vehicles. The Culture of Respect, on the other hand, supports and promotes a place that is safe for our families and is a healthy place to live. I believe we need leaders that say that enough is enough, and that our roadways are not battlegrounds. The increasing sense of entitlement to drive motor vehicles has allowed the Culture of Speed to take over our roadways with no accountability.

Healthy Community
Cities such as Amsterdam and Copenhagen already have this Culture of Respect, and, in my opinion, it’s not because of bicycle-specific facilities. Consistent, logical facilities work well in these places because there is already a great respect for individuals, regardless of mode of transportation. In these cities, good laws and consistent Enforcement put the lives of pedestrians and cyclists in a high regard. From my observations, cities such as Toronto, New York, and London do not have an existing Culture of Respect, so bicyclists are often confronted with anger, violence, and other forms of harassment.

My Dream

The city in my dream is a city that supports and respects all users of the road. It’s a place where my friends and neighbors are comfortable using their bicycles to go to work or the pub no matter what route they choose to get there. It’s a city that offers route choices—respecting bicycle drivers as normal on any type of road while offering a robust network of quiet streets and shared-use paths that connect neighborhoods, schools, parks, and shopping. It’s a city where our leaders make it clear that the Culture of Speed is not welcome and will not be tolerated. It’s a city that isn’t fooled by dangerous and complicated traffic engineering schemes, but one that supports consistent, logical infrastructure where appropriate.

Critical Manners East Dallas

“I Am Traffic” Bicycle Education Colloquium


Here is more information on the “I Am Traffic” Bicycle Education Colloquium coming up in February.

The Agenda

Saturday, February 23
9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m.


Achieving a Vision: Keri Caffrey puts cyclist education and training into the broader context of how communities can genuinely support cyclists

Journeys From Home: Roger & Sharon DiBrito and Robert Seidler share the principles and practices of their elementary and middle school curricula

CyclingSavvy: Keri Caffrey & Mighk Wilson share the origins, principles and implementation of their adult traffic cycling course.

Law Enforcement:  Kirby Beck of the International Police Mountain Bike Association discusses strategies to help law enforcement professionals understand the principles of safe and effective bicycle driving

Understanding Bicycle Transportation: Dan Gutierrez shares an outline of his 8-hour course for transportation professionals

The 6 Es:  Dan Gutierrez introduces the goal of developing a comprehensive guide to equitably address the “6 Es” for bicycle driving: Equality, Education, Enforcement, Engineering, Encouragement, and Evaluation.

Sunday, February 24
8:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.

Developing a Vision and Mission

Principles:  Organizational and Bicycling

Organizational Structure/Business Model

Relationship of Organization to Curricula

Strategic Planning



The Six Es


The host hotel for the colloquium is the Courtyard Marriott Downtown Orlando.
There are a few other downtown hotels within walking distance.  Unless you are the “adventurous” type we would not recommend the Travelodge.  We also suggest you avoid motels along West Colonial Drive (SR 50) (except the Crowne Plaza) and along South Orange Blossom Trail (US 441).

There are a few restaurants within a 15-minute walk of the Courtyard Marriott; many more within biking distance.  We will give you a longer lunch break both to reach some of these locations and to give more socializing time.

Bike Rentals
Kyle’s Bike Shop


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