Friday, July 11, 2014

Staying Alive Out There. Epilogue.

Its truly sad to watch that last video. That's why we teach cycling education, whatever damn name we call it. Here is why.

All bicycle politics aside, the laws of physics tell us that the bicycle handles as a two wheeled vehicle, not as a pedestrian, is capable of a variety of speeds and requires specific skills and adequate space to be operated as a bicycle whether riding in a straight line or changing direction. A bicycle, like a motorcycle, is a small vehicle easy to miss in mixed traffic. Like a motorcycle, it provides little protection in a crash. One needs bicycle-specific physical and mental skills to operate a bicycle-regardless of the facility present, because one's safety is far more dependent on staying out of trouble than when operating a car.

One therefore needs to develop skills to operate the vehicle beyond pedaling in an idyllic environment, i.e.,  to respond to changes, unplanned events, and emergencies. This is where I diverge with some of the Streetsblog crowd, who I think are overprotective and set cyclists up to fail.   One needs basic bike handling skills and the ability to evaluate whether the bike is safe to ride. One needs the mental skills to know how traffic operates and to recognize the hazards that may be present given any road, path, or traffic configuration. One needs to use one's knowledge of how people see their surroundings in order to determine one's optimal position on the road or even when on a cycle facility to maximize visibility and protect one's critical operating space (when on my bike or motorcycle, I am always asking "how best can I maximize my visibility?"). One needs the mental awareness to process knowledge of potential hazards in advance (in motorcycle-speak, we use the acronym "SEE", Search, Evaluate, Execute) so one can respond adequately if one actually emerges. For example, what do you think and do if an oncoming vehicle slows down when approaching you at an intersection where you both have the green and where left turns are allowed? Finally, one needs to know how traffic works so one avoids putting one's self in a very hazardous situation, such as passing a truck on the right going into an intersection or along a tight curb.

None of this is defined by whether bike lanes or cycletracks are present.

Where the different organizations seem to diverge is in some of the political stuff.  In those cases, amicable divorces are often better than tortured marriages. Sometimes, organizations, like people, can be better friends then spouses. I'm glad some of the LCI crew have taken the CS training. Good cross pollination.

Be safe out there, and be smart out there.


Steve A said...

One wonders if an SUV driver with multiple airbags would be any less dead.

Anonymous said...

Nothing philosophical, just a head's up consistent with the AWARENESS theme in this article. For those who ride Tesuque road - there's a blind spot - cars coming out of the lower exit at the Post Office cannot see up the road to their left. So if you're on your way down, keep an eye out, I've had 2 close calls there in the last two weeks - saw them pulling out before they ever saw me and applied the brakes.