What Police Need to Learn about Cycling


In part 3 of his comprehensive overview of cycling law enforcement, Kirby Beck explains:

  • What police need to learn
  • How to get heard by your local police department
  • Why changes in police departments need to come from the top
  • Plus: why you need the AAA on your side.

“You need to start reporting things,” Kirby urges cyclists. “They’re not going to know it’s a problem if they don’t hear from you and hear from your friends.

“Now I know the cops will go, ‘Why did you tell them that? That’s all we need is more calls.’ Too bad! Too bad.

“See, I’m not going to be happy until we don’t have to have special programs to do bike enforcement because it’s part of what cops do every day, we don’t have to spend a lot of money on bike lanes and other facilities because we’ve got roads, and people can use those roads. They’re there for everybody, it’s a public right-of-way.”

Beck is a retired police officer and a trainer with the International Police Mountain Bike Association. In Part 1 of this series, he took us through the fascinating history of cops on bikes, and gave an overview of the current state of enforcement of bicycle law – or lack thereof. In Part 2, Beck explained how to deal with police citations and how to effectively report incidents to 911.

Police Have Issued You a Cycling Citation. Now What?

cycling law enforcementIn part 2 of his comprehensive overview of cycling law enforcement, Kirby Beck explains:

  • What police mean when they describe something as a “problem” (hint: it’s different from how you or I might use the word)
  • How to effectively report incidents to 911
  • How to deal with police citations (step one: stay calm!)

Beck is a retired police officer and a trainer with the International Police Mountain Bike Association.

In Part 1 of this series, Beck took us through the fascinating history of cops on bikes, and gave an overview of the current state of enforcement of bicycle law – or lack thereof. In part 3, he will discuss what police need to learn about cycling law enforcement.

Cyclists and Law Enforcement: History and Overview

In this series of videos, Kirby Beck – retired police officer, instructor and trainer with the International Police Mountain Bike Association – gives a comprehensive overview of cycling law enforcement. In part 1, Beck takes us through the fascinating history of cops on bikes, from the early police officers who stopped speeding horses, to the bike-based rapid response team that kept anarchists from burning St. Paul during the 2008 Republican National Convention. Plus, we get an amusing look back at 1970s TV cop show Adam 12, in which the protagonists clock a neighborhood cyclist at 45 mph.

Beck also gives an overview of the current state of enforcement of bicycle law – or lack thereof. Frustratingly for bike advocates, Beck says,

“Virtually no officers I have ever spoken with have had any kind of specialized training in bicycle laws or bicycle enforcement, anywhere in this country. The most they get is at rookie school where they are given the traffic code and [are told to] read it and memorize it….

“There is nothing in their background, except for the same biases that every other motorist on the road has. So that’s what you’re dealing with and it’s not intentional. It’s just they don’t know any better.”


In Part 2, Beck describes what police mean when they describe something as a “problem” (hint: it’s different from how you or I might use the word), how to effectively report incidents to 911, and how to deal with police who cite you with cycling violations. In Part 3, he explains what police need to learn and how to get heard by your local police department.

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.

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]

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).

[tabs slidertype=”top tabs”] [tabcontainer] [tabtext]Spot the Potential Conflicts[/tabtext] [tabtext]Edge Bicyclist[/tabtext] [tabtext]Driver Bicyclist[/tabtext][/tabcontainer] [tabcontent] [tab]


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.

[/tab] [tab]


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.

[/tab] [tab]


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.

[/tab] [/tabcontent] [tabcontainer] [tabtext]Spot the Potential Conflicts[/tabtext] [tabtext]Edge Bicyclist[/tabtext] [tabtext]Driver Bicyclist[/tabtext][/tabcontainer][/tabs]

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.

The 6-Way, Washington, DC

Washington, DC, USA is a planned city, with a north-south and east-west street grid, overlaid with a number of diagonal avenues. These add to connectivity and offer vistas of important landmarks. In the horse-and-buggy era, when the street plan was laid out, there was little concern for any resulting complication in traffic movements.

New Hampshire Avenue is one of the diagonal avenues, and its intersection with 16th Street and U Street is, as you might surmise, a 6-way intersection.

The image below, from Google Maps, gives an overhead view of the intersection.

Intersection of U Street, 16th Street and New Hampshire Avenue in Washington, DC
Intersection of U Street, 16th Street and New Hampshire Avenue in Washington, DC

U street (east-west) and 16th Street (north-south) are both major arterial streets. New Hampshire Avenue runs between northeast and southwest, and is less heavily traveled. Decades ago, New Hampshire Avenue was made one-way away from the intersection for one block in both directions. That way, there would be no need for traffic on 16th Street or U Street to wait for entering traffic from New Hampshire Avenue.

The interruption at 16th Street and U street improved cycling conditions along much of New Hampshire Avenue, diverting through motor traffic to other streets. Cyclists liked to ride New Hampshire Avenue. They rode the last block before the intersection opposite the one-way signs, or on the sidewalk, and crossed the intersection in the pedestrian crosswalks.

The intersection was reconfigured in 2010 with “bike boxes”—bicycle waiting areas, ahead of where motorists wait. In other writings, I’ve given details about “bike boxes”.

Special traffic signals and contraflow bike lanes also were installed, in an attempt to regularize and legalize bicycle travel through the intersection. The illustration below is from a sign which the Washington, DC Department of Transportation posted at the intersection. The sign describes how the intersection is intended to work. You may click on the image to enlarge it so you can read the instructions.

Diagram of the six-way intersection showing intended use of the bike
Diagram of the six-way intersection showing intended use of the bike boxes.

The bike boxes at this intersection are a variation on the “cross-street bike box” — as I have called it, or the “two-stage turn waiting area” as it is sometimes called. It facilitates a “box turn” — a left turn in two steps: going straight ahead, stopping a the far right corner — then turning the bicycle to the left and proceeding when the traffic signal changes. The two-step left-turn usually involves more delay than a left turn from the normal roadway position, but it doesn’t inherently violate any of the principles of traffic movement. Timid or inexperienced cyclists may prefer a two-step left turn. It can work for any cyclist at an intersection where normal left-turn movements are prohibited, or if an opportunity to merge does not arise.

When I first saw the plans for this intersection, I regarded them positively. I even wrote about this and published my comments. As I already said, a cross-street bike box violates none of the fundamental rules of traffic flow.

But , there is a saying:

“In theory, there is no difference between theory and practice. But, in practice, there is.”

– Yogi Berra or Jan L. A. van de Snepscheut or maybe Albert Einstein

If I couldn’t laugh, I think I’d weep.

So, what’s the problem here?

In an ordinary four-way intersection, a cyclist can execute a two-step left turn using the same traffic-signal phases as other traffic. The cyclist will get a green light for the first step, wait on the far right corner and then get the green for the second step along with other traffic.

By introducing traffic — bicycle traffic — entering from New Hampshire Avenue, the DC Department of Transportation introduced the need for traffic signal phases which it had been avoiding. For this reason, the bike boxes here are not quite the usual cross-street bike boxes.

In May, 2011, I was one of several cycling advocates who converged on Washington, DC to examine cycling conditions. We discovered that theory and practice diverged widely at this intersection. Cyclists were not using it according to plan. Instead, they were using it as shown in the video here. This is an HD video and is best viewed full-screen, by clicking on the “vimeo” link.

Keri Caffrey’s illustrations below show cyclists’ preferred lines of travel.

When U street (right to left in the illustration) has the green light, cyclists cross 16th street on the concurrent pedestrian signal phase, as shown by the solid green lines. Note that this does not mean that the cyclists have the green light with the special bicycle signal. The cyclists are in conflict with right-turning traffic from U Street. As the cyclists are not stepping directly off the corner like the pedestrians, and travel faster, motorists have a harder time seeing and yielding to the cyclists.

On reaching the far corner, the cyclists turn their bicycles left. As shown in the video, most wait in the crosswalk rather than in the designated bicycle waiting area. When the light changes, the cyclists proceed across U Street and bear right onto New Hampshire Avenue, as shown by the dotted green lines.


When U Street has the red light, cyclists travel around the intersection clockwise. They start by riding opposite traffic, then cross U street from right to left in the near-side crosswalk as shown by the orange arrows in the illustration below. The cyclists wait on the far left corner, then cross 16th street and continue on New Hampshire Avenue as shown by the dotted orange lines.


The video below shows three expedition participants riding through the intersection on the designated route, and obeying all the signs, signals and markings the best we could. Bear in mind that I have edited out most waiting for the special bicycle signal. Like the other video, this is an HD video and is best viewed full-screen, by clicking on the “vimeo” link.


Why doesn’t everyone ride like us?

Why do few cyclists, other than our expedition participants,  obey the special traffic signals and follow the designated route? There are several reasons:

  • Before the intersection was reconfigured, cyclists developed the habit of crossing it along with pedestrians. A habit is harder to break when the proposed new behavior doesn’t offer an advantage.
  • The special signal is supposed to be triggered automatically when cyclists are waiting to cross. Triggering is unreliable.
  • The special signal is green for only 6 seconds of a 90-second signal cycle, and yellow for another 4 seconds. For most of the remaining 80 seconds, one or the other crosswalk is in the walk phase, and cyclists can get a start across the intersection along with pedestrians. The temptation is hard to resist.
  • The designated space to wait for the special signal on New Hampshire Avenue is very tight, delimited by a barrier on one side and a curb on the other. There is only room for three or four cyclists to start on the green or yellow phase of the special bicycle signal.
  • Extended yellow signals for cyclists are a well-known concept, yet the yellow signal for cyclists is not long enough to allow a decision whether to stop, or to cross 16th Street.
  • 16th Street gets the green light only 2 seconds after the special bicycle signal turns red. Motorists behind cyclists in the bike boxes expect to be able to proceed on the green light. More than three or four cyclists will “accordion” in a bike box, when the first ones stop but the later ones do not have time to stop.
  • Motorists regularly encroach into the bike boxes. Some motorists harass cyclists with horn blasts and close passes.
  • The bike boxes are very small. There is hardly room for one cyclist to turn and wait — not to speak of several cyclists at once. This, and the encroachment problem, account for cyclists’ waiting in the crosswalk.

What lessons does this hold?

There are some design issues:

  • Attempting to accommodate two new directions of travel traffic with minimal impact on the previous four-way traffic results in cramped space and extremely short signal phases for the two new directions of travel.
  • The bike boxes at this six-way intersection differ from cross-street bike boxes at a four-way intersections, in requiring  a separate signal phase.
  • That results in delay and unwillingness to use the installation as intended, but it also imposes a severe capacity limitation. The special installation can never accommodate more than a low volume of bicycle traffic.
  • Cross-street bike boxes at a four-way intersection are between the crosswalks and the roadway. Because the cyclists come from different directions at this six-way intersection, the bike boxes are behind the crosswalks.
  • Because the bike boxes are behind the crosswalks and are small — also because of motorist encroachment and the convenience of starting closer to the intersection — cyclists who more-or-less follow the designated route (going around the intersection counterclockwise), wait in the crosswalks, partially or entirely blocking them.

There are also behavioral issues:

  • Clearly, Washington, DC motorists are not accustomed to the bike box concept. The type of bike box used here — unlike the inline bike box — does not require X-ray vision or even unusual attention of motorists to avoid colliding with cyclists, yet motorists often encroach into the bike boxes, in most cases probably unknowingly or carelessly rather than maliciously.
  • Some motorists also have an attitude problem, manifesting itself in the horn blasts and close buzz passes.
  • Some cyclists operate carelessly or obliviously. This is especially the case with those who go around the intersection clockwise. The first stage of this route necessarily requires crossing New Hampshire Avenue, often followed by crossing U street at speed from right to left before the intersection –the most hazardous way for a cyclist to enter an intersection. .
  • There is widespread illegal parking, especially by truckers, who often have no practical alternative. Illegal parking is common in the contraflow bike lanes leading to the New Hampshire Avenue/16th Street/U Street intersection. Illegal parking belies the presumption that cyclists can operate simply by following painted lines.

There are larger political and planning issues:

There are peripheral issues:

  • I rate contraflow bike lanes on whether they meet the same safety standards as other lanes. The one north of U street: OK — the back-in angle parking avoids sight-line issues. The one south of U Street: not OK because it is in the door zone, and with wrong-way parking, motorists pulling out of parking spaces can’t see cyclists in their rear-view mirrors and many can’t see the cyclists at all.
  • Shared-lane markings for cyclists proceeding away from the intersection are painted in the door zone of parked cars.


The most recent post about this intersection on my own blog — includes links to earlier posts

A collection of all the videos of this intersection from the May, 2011 expedition

DC DOT photostream of the installation (first of several photos. Click on “newer” to see the others.)

DC DOT evaluation of bicycle facilities showing an increase in crashes following this installation

Washington Post article with quote from DC’s DOT director

GreaterGreaterWashington blog post about the intersection, with extensive comments.

BikeArlington forum, comments that the traffic signal doesn’t trigger reliably

The Washcycle post about the project

Consultant’s blurb about the project

Another blog post about the project

CyclingSavvy Works

It’s not Effective Cycling repackaged with a new name.

A common criticism of cyclist education is simply that “it doesn’t work.”  Presented with such a statement, I suppose we first have to ask, “work at what?”  Those making the claim seem to be saying it doesn’t work at getting more people to ride bikes.  I don’t think many are claiming a trained cyclist is just as likely to crash as an untrained one.

Perhaps they may be right that it doesn’t get more people to ride bikes; but on the other hand I know individuals who have most certainly increased their cycling due to education. They have said so themselves.  No doubt the “it doesn’t work” claim is based on a belief that few people will take a traffic cycling course.


This debate is at the core of how our society decides to promote cycling.

Do we take an ends-justify-the-means approach in which almost any strategy which encourages people to bike is deemed okay, or do we help each individual maximize their safety, comfort and competence through means which are as ethical as possible?  Those who argue for “getting more people on bikes” use cycling as a means to various ends: health, climate change, community livability, etc.  Certainly those are all worthy goals, but it has led proponents to take some liberties with science, and misled many people about what factors are important both in increasing the number of cyclists and improving safety.  They argue that increasing the numbers of cyclists will make cycling safer in spite of hazards created by some types of bicycle-specific infrastructure.

While it’s true that an increase in the numbers of bicyclists reduces the overall crash rate, the same is true of auto use and walking.  Analysis of one study of a Danish bikeway found that the decrease in crash rate was less than would be predicted by Smeed’s Law.  To put it in a more direct light: the number of crashes went up more than it would have if there had been no bikeway.  Increasing numbers of bicyclists can improve safety, but only given the right circumstances.  And even if safety in numbers through facilities does reduce the injury and fatality rates, if those same facilities actually cause some injuries and deaths, then we must question the ethics of such a strategy, especially if other strategies are available which would be less likely to cause harm.

What’s more, proponents assert that the right types of facilities significantly increase cycling.  But the scientific support for this is also debatable.  There are numerous factors that affect bicycle mode share, including climate, demographics, density, street network connectivity, terrain, the costs of owning and operating a motor vehicle, and most importantly, the presence of a college or university in a community.  Do places with bicycle facilities get more cyclists, or do places with more cyclists get more bicycle facilities?  It may be both.  But if increases in cycling are due in large part to factors other than bikeways, then any reduction in the crash rate is indirectly due to those other factors, not to the bikeways, and if those bikeways cause or contribute to conflicts and crashes — which they do — then providing bikeways as means of increasing use and improving safety does not work and is in fact unethical.

Aside from the debate about whether or not bikeways improve safety, the need for cyclist training is essential.  Florida emergency room data shows that two-thirds of adult bicyclist hospital admissions do not involve a collision with a motor vehicle.  A significant portion of bicyclist/motorist crashes occur on local streets which will never see any sort of bicyclist-specific accommodation.  Crashes involving turning and crossing conflicts occur whether one is cycling on a cycle track, a bike lane, a sidepath, a sidewalk, or on a road with no special accommodation at all.  Training cyclists reduces their crash risk for all of these circumstances.

I — and other proponents of bicycle driving — am often assumed to be against all types of bicyclist-oriented infrastructure.  That is not at all true.  I support and very much enjoy shared use paths that run through independent rights-of-way. Short paths that connect local street networks.  Bicycle boulevards.  Bike routes and wayfinding that help people stay off of heavily traveled arterials.  Shared lane markings on those arterials.  Ensuring traffic signal systems detect bicyclists.  Well-design traffic calming that keeps motorist speeds down or diverts motorist traffic.  Even sidepaths can be a good solution in the right context.  None of these treatments (if properly designed) encourages bicyclists to violate the rules for vehicular movement.

A Failure of Marketing, Not a Failure of Education

Another problem with the “it doesn’t work” claim is that it assumes cyclist education and training to be quite limited in definition.  Adult cyclist education is presumed to be all the same.  For many years, adult education was limited mostly to the League of American Bicyclists’ Traffic Skills 101 course and other descendants of John Forester’s Effective Cycling program.  All other adult-oriented courses tend to be lumped together with them.

When detractors say, “We tried education; it doesn’t work (at getting enough people on bikes),” what they are likely seeing is not a failure of a particular curriculum, but a failure to effectively market a curriculum.  Marketing is not merely advertising, it is determining what kind of product or service to provide in the first place and how to deliver it to the marketplace.  And that, I believe, is where earlier bicyclist education programs have failed the most.

A number of years ago when Keri Caffrey and I were discussing what we’d like to see in adult cyclist education, we were frustrated with the materials we had to work with (the League curriculum) as well as with those who said education was of little value.  We knew from direct experience teaching people that education had great potential, but also saw it fail for many individuals.  To us that meant the problem was the teaching strategy, not education per se.  Sitting in League education meetings and reading posts on the League Cycling Instructor email list, I saw how they were nibbling around the edges trying to incrementally improve a marginally effective curriculum, or arguing endlessly over minutiae such as whether or not to use a mirror.  Hardly anyone was asking who their students were, what they want, how they learn best, how they want to manage their time, and how much they might value good training.  The League’s curriculum seemed to be based more on what they wanted to teach than on what the customer wanted.

The League’s course is based on the original Effective Cycling curriculum developed by John Forester; many of the long-time League instructors have wanted to return to it.  Effective Cycling was originally a 30-hour course, developed in the 1980s. It was intended to make someone into a highly competent sport rider, interested and capable of doing long-distance rides at higher speeds.  The League whittled that down into two 10-hour courses, initially named Road I and Road II; later renamed Traffic Skills 101 and 201.  While thousands have taken Road I and Traffic Skills 101, only a tiny number have followed up with the second course.  TS 101 attempts to achieve the same goal in 10 hours — making an individual into a competent sport rider — as did the original 30-hour course.  To do so, students are given a significant amount of information on bicycle components, bike fit, special clothing, minor repairs, hydration and nutrition, cadence and gearing.  This leaves relatively little time for learning traffic skills.

For the average person who just wants to bike around his or her community at a comfortable speed, to run errands, visit friends, bike to work, or just have fun, most of those sport-cyclist-oriented topics are wasted time, and make cycling seem more complicated and elite than they want it to be.

CyclingSavvy was designed from the outset for the average adult who wishes to bike around his or her community at a comfortable and sociable speed; who prefers to avoid busy arterials but occasionally needs to use them for short distances to get to a destination or another quiet, low-volume street.  Observers of our courses will see very few Lycra shorts or club jerseys, and quite a few bikes with raised handlebars rather than dropped ones.

Core Concepts

Fear was of course an essential issue we had to battle for those intimidated by the thought of cycling amid motor vehicle traffic.  That fear is based on beliefs, not on an objective assessment of clearly organized data, so belief-change became a core goal of the curriculum.

As anyone who has waded into some of the hot-button issues of the day can tell you, beliefs don’t get overturned merely by presenting facts.  How those facts are presented are at least as important as the facts themselves.  So Keri and I did a lot of reading on how to influence people. The most important strategies are getting students to “own” key concepts by discovering the information themselves, and by having them publicly break the taboos of traffic cycling in a peer-supported setting.  These strategies are unique to CyclingSavvy.

The other critical strategy was focusing on right-brained learning.  Bicycling is a four-dimensional, kinesthetic and social experience, so learning must take place in all of those modes.  Few people can fully translate a written or verbal description, or even a static illustration, into a coherent four-dimensional model in their heads.  Animation and video get us much further with students.  Story-telling in the classroom and the group road tour make it social, and of course on-bike training brings in the essential kinesthetic component.

How CyclingSavvy Differs From Effective Cycling

Since the rules for vehicular movement are nearly universal, especially in North America, the similarities between CyclingSavvy and Effective Cycling are far more prominent than their differences.  But the differences do matter.  They matter because most people want to minimize the amount of time they spend cycling on high-speed arterials.  Depending on where one lives, much of one’s cycling can be accomplished on lower-speed, lower-volume streets.  We like cycling on such streets as much for their ambiance as for safety (or the perception of safety).  We can ride side-by-side and talk to one another.  They tend to be more shaded (important here in the subtropics of Florida).  There’s more to see and enjoy.

But sooner or later we need to cross or use a stretch of arterial to get to our destination or to the next network of quiet streets.  CyclingSavvy’s strategies show cyclists how to use these arterials in the most stress-free ways possible.  Examples include:

  • Turning right on green even when a right on red is allowed.  Doing so gives the cyclist the road to herself for blocks at a time.  This can be enough time to get to the cyclist’s target intersection without having to negotiate lane changes with high-speed, high-volume traffic.
  • Recognizing how traffic flows on the approaches to and exits from intersections.  Early lane changes and strategic lane positioning can minimize the interaction and negotiation cyclists must do with motorists while changing lanes.

We also teach a strategy we call Control and Release which is only used for narrow, two-lane streets with significant traffic, or briefly near signals on multi-lane arterials.  No-one likes to be the slow vehicle driver with the long line of faster drivers stewing and fuming behind them, but we also don’t like having cars and trucks squeeze past us at unsafe distances and speeds.  So we control the lane so motorists don’t try to squeeze past in an unsafe manner, but then, if conditions allow, we move over and strategically allow motorists to pass at lower speed, or at locations where we get some extra width to work with.  A similar strategy is also taught for multi-lane arterials when one gets stuck at the front at a red light, and a long queue of cars gets backed up behind us.  We simply control the lane going through the intersection with the fresh green, but then pull over into the nearest driveway and let the big platoon of cars go by.  After usually just 15 to 30 seconds the road clears out and we have it mostly to ourselves, and we can control a narrow lane without having traffic backed up behind us.

No Need for Speed

A criticism against “vehicular cycling” is that it requires cyclist “go fast” in order to integrate effectively with motorized traffic.  While there are some proponents of integrated roadway cycling who hold that belief, Keri and I do not.  The strategies we teach work just as well at 10 to 15 mph as they do at 20 to 25 mph.  Indeed, a key point we make during the course is that slower speeds confer some key benefits to drivers of any type of vehicle: a more comprehensive view of the environment, better reaction time, and shorter braking distance.

Speed differential is a very over-rated factor.  To a motorist driving 45 to 50 mph, it matters very little if a cyclist is going 10 mph or 20 mph.  A 30 mph closing speed requires about 200 feet of perception, reaction and braking distance, while a 40 mph closing speed requires about 325 feet, but motorists can easily see cyclists from much farther than that.  We’ve illustrated how unimportant this speed differential is with one of our students on a large, high-speed interchange between a high-speed arterial and a freeway.  Lateral positioning in the lane is far more important than the relative speeds of the cyclist and motorist.

One need only read the student stories on the CyclingSavvy website to see that speed is of little consequence in getting the average non-sport cyclist to be confident in traffic..

Lane Width and Lane Position

Forester in Effective Cycling and the League of American Bicyclists in their curricula tell cyclists to drive in the right wheel track when the lane is too narrow to share.  What we have found, and what has been confirmed by research done by Dan Gutierrez and Brian DeSousa in southern California, is that the right tire track can sometimes be the worst position, particularly on higher-speed, multi-lane arterials.  When motorists are driving at 45 mph and more, their decision zone — the range of distance behind the cyclist during which they are best able to decide whether to remain in the lane or change lanes — is quite a ways back due to the speed differential.

 The problem is that from that distance, when a cyclist is driving in the right wheel track, it looks as though there is enough lane width for the motorists to pass within the lane.  So some motorists will stay in the cyclist’s lane instead of changing lanes at the first opportunity.  As they get closer to the cyclist they realize the width is not as great as they thought, but may have now lost the opportunity to change lanes.  So they slow down a bit and pass within the lane. This results in a close pass at relatively high speed.  Moving towards the center of the lane or left tire track makes it clear from a great distance that the motorist must change lanes to pass safely, so they do so at the earliest opportunity.  By doing so they draw attention to the fact that there is something going on ahead, so the next motorist in the lane also sees the cyclist from a distance, and also changes lanes.  This is best explained in this video.

Lane positioning is not a simple matter of either keeping right when the lane is wide enough to share or moving into the right wheel track when it is not.  In a 9-foot lane the right wheel track is only about 6 feet from the left side of the lane, so the following motorist can see there’s not much width left in which to fit his vehicle.  But in a 12-foot lane the right wheel track is about 8 feet from the left side, so many drivers will see that space as adequate.  In CyclingSavvy we teach students to focus on how much space is available to his or her left, not to the right.

Changing Lanes

The lane changing instructions in Forester’s Effective Cycling strike us as overly complicated.  They are also presented as though wide, sharable lanes are the norm.  Lane changing is presented as first moving from the right side of the lane to the left side, then to the right side of the next lane, then to the left side of that new lane.  That’s three movements with motorists passing on either side.  How many would want to put themselves in such a situation?

What is far more common is for all the lanes to be too narrow to share.  So the cyclist is already in the center of the right lane; scans, signals and then moves to the next lane, driving in the center of that one.  One move, no lane sharing, very clear.

We also recognize that changing lanes when speeds and volumes are high is daunting and difficult for many people, so we provide a number of left turn strategies that eliminate the need to change lanes and negotiate with high-speed traffic: the “jughandle,” the “box turn,” and yes, even the pedestrian-style dismount-and-use-the-crosswalk (not recommended for Florida and other states where motorists treat pedestrians poorly).

Merges and Diverges

The League system waits until their second course (Traffic Skills 201) to teach strategies for merges and diverges.  We include them in the core CyclingSavvy course because we think it is very unlikely that people will take a second course (a position clearly supported by the miniscule numbers of TS 201 courses taught).  The fact that our students handle these features with ease during our road tours shows the wisdom of this approach.  Interchanges and complex intersections can be enormous barriers to cyclists, so teaching them how to handle them is critical for attaining full mobility in their communities.

Our strategies for these features are very different from the League’s and Effective Cycling.  We focus on helping the student read how traffic flows through such features, show them how to minimize converging paths with motorists and help motorists flow around them smoothly.  Effective Cycling-based strategies have cyclists negotiate with motorists who are trying to change lanes or pass, often at relatively high speeds, all while sharing lanes.  This strategy results in cyclists waiting too long to move into a defensible position and can in some circumstances create more traffic disruption and frustration among motorists.  This is very stressful and intimidating for the cyclist.

ivanho intrch (800x600)We show cyclists how to change lanes early so they have control of the lane they wish to be in well before the merging and diverging movements begin.  This means motorists are more likely to flow around the cyclist on either side with ample clearance, rather than force negotiation with converging paths.  As you can imagine, this is better explained through graphics and video than through text.

While on the road tour, we present students with numerous situations in which leaving the right edge, and even the right lane, is the best strategy.  In effect we “wean” cyclists from the curb.


cs dz demo (800x600)While we do spend a fair amount of time discussing problems that cyclists will encounter when using bike lanes (or cycle tracks or sidepaths), we do this in an objective manner devoid of politics and ideology.  The conflicts are real and we simply provide practical solutions.  Some of the students themselves, after learning of those conflicts, then question the wisdom of providing such facilities.

John Forester was openly hostile to bike lanes and sidepaths in his curriculum.  The League has been fairly neutral in its curriculum, but very supportive of bike lanes in their advocacy.  Some League Cycling Instructors have been frustrated with the contradictions between promoting integrated cycling on the one hand, while promoting bike lanes and other separate facilities on the other.

We must be clear though that we do not dismiss all bikeways.  We enthusiastically support well-design paths in independent rights-of-way, short connector paths which help connect local street systems, bike boulevards, wayfinding systems, shared lane markings, and other on-road treatments that help cyclists while also supporting integrated roadway cycling.  We’d even tolerate bike lanes on some arterials if they provided adequate width and a debris-free surface (but most don’t).


Rather than expecting motorists to be antagonistic towards cyclists, we strive to create an expectation of cooperation.  What motorists want most from cyclists is clear communication on our intentions.  We concentrate on communication strategies that assume the motorist is not clear on what we intend to do.  (After all, if we watch most cyclists we can see rather quickly why motorists would be uncertain.)

Motorists appreciate clear communication, and going beyond the necessary signals and including ones of appreciation is one of the best forms of advocacy we can imagine.

Skill Building

While teaching Road I and Traffic Skills 101 courses we were frustrated by a number of things.  We had only about an hour-and-a-half to teach a handful of skills, and the range of skills went from elementary to advanced.  Experienced cyclists were bored until they got to the later skills, and the abrupt climb in difficulty intimidated many novices.  Keri Caffrey and Lisa Walker had developed a series of skills for their women’s cycling club, the BOBbies (Babes On Bikes), which was more comprehensive and more progressive in pacing.  These skills were incorporated and modified for CyclingSavvy, extending the bike-handling section to three hours.  The sequencing of our skills provides interesting, fun skills for more experienced cyclists, while also building progressively enough such that novices are comfortable by the time they get to the more advanced skills.

As with the rest of our course, we strove to make this session fun, and most students report that it is.


cs orange ave (684x800)We don’t.  Most adults are not interested in meeting some score on a test.  They just want to enjoy cycling and feel confident.  Testing presents the opposite for many people; it creates an atmosphere of tension.  Some people learn well but test poorly.  Some test well, but don’t necessarily internalize the content completely.

Instead, we provide an experience out on the streets in real traffic.  It is a group tour, but the cyclists drive through with a number of segments on their own.  It is not merely a real traffic experience, but also a social experience.  Students get to prove for themselves that the strategies we’ve shown them in the classroom actually work, and that experience is reinforced by the other students in the tour.  Those who are concerned by an early, intimidating segment can always have an instructor accompany them, but they always volunteer to strike out on their own in later segments, and they all realize the kind of empowerment we’re striving to give them.  Those who don’t test well are spared the tension of answering questions and meeting a minimum score, and those who might not have completely bought-in to the concepts have them reinforced by their peers.

Creating a Community

Rather than focusing on club rides which focus on speed and distance, we complement CyclingSavvy with social rides at low speeds around town: ice cream rides, cargo-bike rides to farmers’ markets, and simple social First Friday rides.  They are open to cyclists of all skills and speeds.  We give them structure and safety, so even those who haven’t taken a cycling 335419_10100656798637112_5107794_59643782_924924920_ocourse such as ours can see and experience what is possible.  They also learn some of the preferred back-street routes and “secret connectors.”  Some of those social ride attendees come to CyclingSavvy classes.  We are happy to use our area’s trails and connector paths, but prefer to avoid streets with bike lanes as they don’t allow us to ride side-by-side.  Bike lanes also present more conflicts for groups than they do for solo cyclists.

Perhaps this strategy — of leading people towards confidence and competence rather than providing facilities which make people feel safer without actually addressing the real conflicts — won’t get as many people on bicycles, or do so as quickly, but we can feel sure that we are supporting our principles rather than subverting them.

Education Is a Gift

“You have such gifts that are important.  Just like every species has an important gift to give to an ecosystem, and the extinction of any species hurts everyone.  The same is true of each person; that you have a necessary and important gift to give.” — Charles Eisenstein

The nature of a gift is “more for you means more for me.”  But look at how bike lanes and cycle tracks affect people.  Some non-cyclists see them as taking away from “their” roads.  Or they see them as something they were forced to buy (by the government) and give to someone else.  Then they encounter them, and the cyclists who use them, and find them confusing and frustrating, especially at intersections.  So bike lanes and cycle tracks take the “more for me means less for you” approach.  It becomes a turf war.  And of course they can only “work” where they are installed, so we “need” to keep taking more and more space from others to get more people on bikes.  I spent 15 years trying to prove that bike lanes could increase cycling while improving cyclist safety.  In the process I learn they do not.  (And other types of bikeways running alongside roadways are even more problematic.)

You cannot convince me something works when every day I see it not working.  I see wrong-way cyclists in bike lanes; I get right-hooked by motorists when biking in them myself; I see other cyclists setting themselves up for conflicts.  I see the crash reports.  While some of these problems are in spite of the bike lanes; many are, to varying degrees, generated by them.  And they don’t eliminate many of the real problems cyclists experience.  That is not a gift.  To anyone.

CyclingSavvy encourages cooperation between road users.  Once taught, a cyclist can figure out for herself how to manage any road or intersection.  Yes, some motorists get upset seeing cyclists take such an assertive approach, but they eventually realize such cyclists are predictable and cooperative, and that they only need to adhere to the same rules they’ve been following when interacting with other motorists.  We’ve also heard from many motorists who find our strategies predictable and cooperative from the outset.  So CyclingSavvy is not only a gift to cyclists, but to motorists as well.  Those who think cyclists should naturally be antagonistic towards “cagers” might do well to realize that virtually all the new bicyclists we might invite will be coming from the motoring population.  How do we convince motorists to become cyclists when they perceive cyclists as adversaries or incompetent?

Those of us who teach CyclingSavvy believe we have a gift we can share.  Those we’ve shared it with have thanked us in many ways.  That gift is the knowledge that they can hop on a bicycle at any time and go wherever they wish with confidence.  By getting on the bike they meet new friends, learn of wonderful new places they didn’t know existed, improve their health, spend quality time with their families, reduce their carbon footprints, and save money.  Rather than waiting for the government to provide facilities which don’t work as advertised, they gain all of those benefits as soon as they want them.

You cannot convince me something does not work when every day I see it working.  I see people who used to be afraid biking wherever and whenever they wish.  I hear their stories of enjoying life by bike.  I hear them exclaim how much easier and stress-free it is now to bike.  Real, sincere and practical gifts always beat white elephants.

Bicyclist Behaviors & Crash Risk

Successful bicyclist behavior is driven by knowledge of common crash types and the behaviors needed to successfully avoid those crash types.  Bicyclist behavior comes in a spectrum with three main behaviors, and in this article we aim to briefly describe the spectrum and show how those behaviors fare in common crossing conflict crash scenarios with diagrams and supportive video.

There are three types of bicyclist behavior:

Pedestrian behavior
Avoiding the roadway by using paths, sidewalks/crosswalks, often against traffic flow

Edge behavior
Operating at the roadway edge or close to parked cars, includes shoulder and edge bike lane use

Driver behavior
Following the rules of the road by using roadway through lanes and turn lanes as an equal driver

Cycling Behavior Spectrum

The behavior descriptions above meant to describe behavior at a particular place and time, not people, since a cyclist for example who prefers to engage in driver behavior on normal roads, may be required by law to engage in edge behavior in an edge bike lane.  When operating on a crowded shared use path that is away from roads, with high pedestrian volumes, that same cyclist who would prefer driver behavior, may have no choice but to use ped behavior to avoid crashes.  So it is not uncommon for cyclists to engage in multiple behaviors on a single trip.

This is why we don’t talk of edge cyclists, though a cyclist may be edge riding on a particular facility, and similar for driver and ped behavior.  It is also important to understand that unlike edge and ped behavior, driver behavior is a learned behavior that must be taught; it is not innate.  So just because a bicyclist who may at present prefer the more common edge or ped behaviors, does not mean that they will never learn driver skills and/or engage in driver behavior, so we recognize that behaviors are not in general fixed and can change over time and exposure to skills training.

The value in identifying behavior, instead of cyclists themselves, is its descriptive power in identifying how behavior influences crash likelihood and why some behaviors are more successful than others in an urban environment with driveways and intersections, the places where most cycling crashes occur.  The most common types of crashes are referred to as crossing crashes, where the paths of a turning motorist at a driveway or intersection and a straight through cyclist can potentially cross, creating conflicts and crashes.  Because of this, we often refer to driveways and intersections as crossing conflict areas.

Crash Risk vs BehaviorThe pie chart couplet (right) shows that even though car-bike crashes comprise the minority of cases where bicyclists hit the ground, when expanded to a full pie (at the right side), the crossing crashes comprise about 5/6 of the total number of crashes.  In examining these crossing crash types, we can learn a great deal about behavior and the facilities and laws that enable or restrict behaviors, influence how successful cyclists will be at negotiating urban roads.

Crossing Conflict Types

Let’s examine the three main crossing conflict types and the effect of bicyclist behavior. The three types are pullout, left cross and right hook. These conflicts occur at driveways and intersections. We’ll examine each individually.


(shown in the diagram at a driveway)

Pullout Risk vs Positioning

A pullout occurs when a motorist leaves a driveway or turns right at an intersection and approaches a cyclist from the right side, perpendicular to the cyclist’s through line of travel, resulting in a side impact to the cyclist, or causing the cyclist to hit the side or rear of the vehicle if it turns sooner in front of the cyclist.
Look at the driver of the silver SUV approaching the driveway, prior to making a right turn into the street.  The driver is mainly looking to the left for road traffic, such as cars and trucks, so a bicyclist using driver behavior is more easily seen (visibility) by the SUV driver because they are operating where drivers pulling out of driveways are expecting approaching traffic to be located in the roadway.  In addition, that same bicyclist can see further down the driveway (vantage) and determine when a motorist is preparing to make a right turn.  Visibility and vantage go hand in hand when a bicyclists is further leftward in the roadway.

A bicyclist using edge behavior is not where motorists expect cyclists to be, and may be visually shielded by fixed sight line obstructions such as foliage, and street furniture, or even dynamic obstructions such as peds.  Thus a motorist may not see a bicyclist at the edge and turn in front of them.  An even more difficult dynamic occurs when bicyclists are on the sidewalk engaging in ped behavior.  Here they not where motorists are expecting them to be (in the road), and are even more susceptible to visual screening by fixed and dynamic obstructions, so they have minimal visibility and vantage; the opposite of the driver behavior case.

Now we need to consider that motorists about to exit a driveway or turn at intersections also look to their right.  They use this alternate scan to look for slow moving, about 2-3 mph peds on the sidewalk.  They are not expecting or looking for much faster bicyclists facing traffic on the sidewalk, or the illegal bicyclists riding facing traffic at the road edge.  So these “backwards” edge and ped behaviors have even poorer visibility and vantage than their normal flow counterparts.  Notice also that there is no “reversed” driver behavior, driver behavior skills classes teach cyclist to never operate this way.

It should come as no surprise that bicyclists are more frequently injured by pullouts when operating on the sidewalk or at the road edge.  These behaviors are less successful than driver behavior in negotiating driveways and intersection pullouts.

In the tabs below are video clips showing pullout scenarios.

[tabs slidertype=”top tabs”] [tabcontainer] [tabtext]Video Example 1[/tabtext] [tabtext]Video Example 2[/tabtext] [tabtext]Video Example 3[/tabtext] [/tabcontainer] [tabcontent] [tab]

An edge rider passes stopped traffic on the right to pass a motorist about to leave a driveway.

[/tab] [tab]

This clip shows a driveway pullout hazard from a blind underground driveway. In this video it was clear that poor vantage and visibility from ped behavior can increase bicyclist exposure to pullouts.[/tab] [tab]

In this clip, we have one more example of a bicyclist trying to ride at normal traffic speed on the sidewalk to pass slower traffic in the road, and still dodge cars waiting to pull out as well as street furniture like a newspaper box.[/tab] [/tabcontent] [/tabs]

Left Cross

Happens where a cyclist is making a through movement and an oppositely directed motorist makes a left turn in front of and across the bicyclists’ line of travel.

Left Cross/Hook Risk vs Position

Again we see that a motorist waiting to make a left turn at an uncontrolled crossing, has a clear view of a bicyclist using driver behavior, and a progressively more difficult time seeing bicyclists using edge or ped behavior in the direction of traffic, since they can be lost in visual chatter at the road edge, including street furniture, foliage or even peds.  Here again we find that driver behavior gives the best visibility and vantage to cyclists approaching a crossing conflict area.  For cyclist on the sidewalk, or even in the road, they are approaching from a direction behind the left turning motorist, and in their blind spot, so neither the bicyclist nor the motorist in such a “left hook” (the mirror image of the “right hook”, the next crash we cover) crash see each other until just before contact since the visibility and vantage are both very poor.

The tabs below contain video examples of left cross and left hook conflicts.

[tabs slidertype=”top tabs”] [tabcontainer] [tabtext]Video Example 1[/tabtext] [tabtext]Video Example 2[/tabtext] [tabtext]Video Example 3[/tabtext] [/tabcontainer] [tabcontent] [tab]

Even a left turning bicyclist using driver behavior may left cross another bicyclist who is engaging in ped behavior on the sidewalk, since the visibility of the sidewalk bicyclist approaching the crosswalk is very poor.[/tab] [tab]

And here is another case where a fit female cyclist is screened by stopped traffic in the travel lanes, and because of this neither she nor the motorist turning left could see each other approaching.  While the motorist is legally at fault for not yielding, the cyclist could not see far enough ahead at her speed to stop in case motorist did make an ill-advised turn across her path.

In the above video the lesson is that facilities that enforce edge behavior often create poor visibility/vantage crossing conflicts, compared to encouraging driver behavior.[/tab] [tab]

And finally we show a video of a cyclist riding facing traffic to demonstrate the difficulties when cyclist ride facing traffic, on either the sidewalk or in the roadway.[/tab] [/tabcontent] [/tabs]

Right Hook

The last crossing crash type we will examine in terms of behavior is the right hook, which is the most frequent cause of car-bike crashes, and leads to many bicyclist fatalities.

The classic right hook crash comes in two varieties; a bicyclist riding near the edge (edge behavior) is passed close to the intersection by a motorist traveling in the same direction,  who then proceeds to turn right in front of the cyclist, cutting her off and causing a crash.  In the other the bicyclist approaches a motorist stopped at the intersection waiting to turn right and tries to pass on the right (edge behavior again) as the motorist starts their turn.  In the first case the motorist is at fault for turning in front of another moving vehicle, in the second, the cyclist is at fault for passing a right turning driver on the right, though drivers often “help” the cyclist make the mistake by not driving close enough to the edge to preclude passing by cyclists on the right.  These scenarios can be seen in the lower right of the image below:

Right Hook Risk vs Positioning

In a similar way, a bicyclist on the sidewalk can be hooked by a motorist, or ride into the path of a right turning motorist.  In contrast a bicyclist engaging in driver behavior, by riding in the center of the travel lane, discourages motorists from passing on the intersection approach, thus precluding the first type of right hook where the motorist passes close to the intersection.  Driver behavior also avoids the second type by allowing the cyclist to either wait behind the motorist stopped to make a turn, or to pass the stopped motorist on the left, thus successfully staying away from the crossing conflict.  Engaging in edge or ped behavior is much like driving a motor vehicle, such as a sedan, inside the turn of a large truck, which is why the yellow sticker at the top is often placed on the rear of large trucks.  The same issue, scaled down, is also true for bicyclists engaging in edge behavior, riding inside the turn of a much larger motor vehicle, so we ask cyclists to imagine that the lower sticker was on the back of every car.

Right Hook and Bike LanesLook to the left side of the diagram, which is the case for bike lanes.  Bicyclists often edge ride and stay in the bike lane on the intersection or driveway approach, even though the law allows them to exit bike lanes to avoid crossing conflicts by using the more successful driver behavior, and right turning motorists often stay to the left of the bike lane instead of merging into it as is required by law (bike lane is part of the roadway and right turns are to be mad from as close as practicable to the curb or edge of the roadway).  Taken together, these behaviors tend to manufacture crossing conflicts where motorists are allowed to make right turns on roads with typical minimum standard bike lanes.  The image to the right is a California example photo showing that motorists and bicyclists often cooperate to create intersection conflicts when bike lanes are present.

And now we give some video examples in the tabs below.

[tabs slidertype=”top tabs”] [tabcontainer] [tabtext]Video Example 1[/tabtext] [tabtext]Video Example 2[/tabtext] [/tabcontainer] [tabcontent] [tab]

This video shows an edge behaving bicyclist passing on the right in a faded bike lane and luckily the motorists, who didn’t merge into the bike lane to prevent such right side passing, didn’t turn into her.  The bicyclists using driver behavior had nothing to fear, since they were not in the conflict zone.[/tab] [tab]

This video shows a ped behaving bicyclist entering the crosswalk in front of a driver turning right.  The bicyclist didn’t look to the left, where the threat originated.  Shows that ped behavior can be problematic at intersections, especially when the threats are ignored.
[/tab] [/tabcontent] [/tabs]

Avoiding Conflicts: Driver Behavior

Next we show how driver behavior allows bicyclists to successfully avoid crossing conflicts.

Crossing Crash Avoidance



The tabs below show video examples of conflict-avoidance through driver behavior.

[tabs slidertype=”top tabs”] [tabcontainer] [tabtext]Video Example 1[/tabtext] [tabtext]Video Example 2[/tabtext] [tabtext]Video Example 3[/tabtext] [/tabcontainer] [tabcontent] [tab]

In this example, the bicyclists are approaching a complicated intersection with preceding driveways, and transition from lane sharing (more like edge behavior) to lane control (driver behavior) near the intersection to discourage pullouts and right hook turns:[/tab] [tab]

Here we show how a merge from edge to driver behavior avoids a pullout conflict.[/tab] [tab]

Here we compare a manufactured engineering conflict of combined edge/ped behavior versus driver behavior in side-by-side fashion.

In the right side video, the designers try to force the cyclists to engage in ped behavior, and this puts them at a severe disadvantage at the uncontrolled ped crossing (crosswalk).  Compare how long it took for the cyclists on the right to reach the same place the cyclists on the left reached by using the more successful driver behavior.[/tab] [/tabcontent] [/tabs]

In summary bicyclists are more successful when they understand driver behavior, since it is often the only successful way to negotiate intersections and driveways, by ensuring that they are seen by traffic and can see traffic (visibility/vantage).  Special facilities that force ped behavior prevent the types of leftward merges that allow bicyclists to transition from edge to driver behavior on approaches to crossing conflict areas.

Crash Risk vs Positioning Summary

In our next article we will describe how road and bikeway facilities interplay with the behaviors and crossing conflicts, as well as some of the parallel movement hazards.  We will show how engineering designs and traffic controls can support successful behaviors, and not discourage or prevent bicyclists from employing them.

Achieving a Vision

Presentation at CNU20:

In the video presentation above, I explain the root cause of the beliefs that inhibit bicycling in America, why the prevailing strategy can’t fix it, and offer a strategy that can. In addition to teaching people to be successful anywhere, this strategy includes many progressive infrastructure ideas that are cost-effective, versatile, expandable and supportive of successful bicyclists.

For more on this topic:

Strategy for a Cyclist-Friendly Community by Keri Caffrey