Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Beware of false dichotomies

The proposition made by some (see Paul Dorn comment at this link) that breaks us down into vehicular cyclists or paint and path advocates is a false dichotomy (or false dilemma, if you prefer). Sure, lacking cycling specific facilities, we must ride vehicularly. But in that parallel universe, even the best separated cycling facilities in urban areas have to cross intersections sometimes, and cyclists will at some point have to behave as traffic, even if only to avoid crashing into other cyclists. Cyclists, all cyclists, need to know how to ride in traffic, whether they are sharing general-use lanes or whether riding in a separated cycletrack. Intersections are intersections and traffic is traffic.

I recieved a chilling email this morning from a scientific colleague and friend here at LANL who cycles a lot. Joe just got back from some work at Palo Alto and was riding to work in the Canyon bike lane, headed for Diamond Drive. He merged left into the dedicated left turn lane and waited for the left turn green arrow.

Luckily, he checked traffic before he fully committed to the turn. A few seconds after my friend got the green left turn arrow, a motorist on Diamond ran the red light at high speed. If my friend had not looked, he would probably be in bad shape or dead.

Meanwhile, this morning I observed a different cyclist riding on our recently added bike lanes. I first saw him riding on the sidewalk headed south towards Diamond/Arizona. He rode through an unprotected crosswalk without looking for traffic. He then rode diagonally through the Conoco Hill intersection and ran a red. As I closed on him, he ran another red light at Diamond and Trinity so I never did get to talk to him.

In one case, good vehicular cycling skills may well have saved a rider’s life. In another case, the rider is playing with fire and we may eventually read about him in the paper. Both using the same bikelane system.

Let’s stop screwing around with artificial distinctions, and just do good work for cyclists. The reason LAB has an education program is that it takes resources to design, organize, manage, and indemnify and it clearly fits within a mission of serving the best interests of, and keeping cyclists alive out there.


Amy said...

I'd like to add that I saw one bicyclist recently at that same Diamond-Arizona intersection make a left turn from Diamond onto Arizona from the northbound bike lane (meaning they turned left across four lanes of traffic). This is the kind of behavior that gives bicyclists a bad name - random, sudden lane maneuvering. Really, bike lanes don't mean you're protected and safe. It just gives you a somewhat dedicated lane to travel in. We could probably dedicate an entire class to maneuvering in bike lanes.

Khal said...

I wonder if it is the same guy who I addressed in an earlier post, making the same maneuver.

Neale said...

Unfortunately I suspect quite a lot of people are doing this now that we have the lanes. Maybe we should start working on an op-ed for the paper.

Khal said...

I think another class is in order as well as something in the paper. The class I did for LAPD was pretty low key--turns out they didn't want to do it as a formal Traffic Skills 101 class, so I did it their way. But we need to get on it at some point. Its been a hellishly busy year for me, though. And probably for you, too.