Saturday, May 30, 2009

Guest Blog: Keri Caffrey

Keri left a comment on Mr. Issakov's blog, and I wish to highlight her thoughts as a stand-alone blog entry. Thanks Keri! You can find more of this thoughtful content at her own blog here.

I agree completely with teaching motorcycling visibility techniques to bicyclists.

High-speed cyclists, especially, need to understand sight line visibility. And any time hills are involved, even the pokiest of us can become high-speed bicyclists.

In the interest of intellectual honesty, we must recognize that motorcycling produces about 16X the casualties per million hours as bicycling, and about 8X that of car driving. When you consider what a large percentage of bicyclists operate on the margins and in the ways most likely to expose them to risk, the statistics really prove how safe bicycling is.

Most people can get away with extremely high-risk behavior, like riding next to parked cars, riding against traffic and passing large vehicles on the right, for years without getting killed. What I've observed is that while people get away without injury, they experience frequent frustration, conflict, harassment (because they're unpredictable) and near-misses.

I've watched utterly incompetent, high-risk behavior daily for 6 years in the bike lane outside my office. I personally experienced numerous conflicts and near misses on that road before I understood how to outsmart the bike lane, and I was hit once.

Even since, I've had doors thrown open (as I was passing at a safe distance). That no one has been killed on that road yet, is a total mystery. It will happen some day. That is inevitable.

What is significant about this, is that people don't put 2+2 together and recognize why their cycling experience is a constant struggle. They don't get the mechanics of it. That, coupled with enculturation into submissive inferiority, causes the cry for bike lanes... more bike lanes... solutions to the problems with those bike lanes... barrier separated bike lanes...

It's a spiral of dependency, special-interest whining and us-vs.-them bickering that follows a culture built on bike lanes.

When the public policy choice is to coddle and capitulate rather than empower and educate, we will all pay endlessly in a spiral of unintended consequences!

It's easy for the koolaid-drinkers to claim coddling is the only way to increase mode share. But, to my knowledge, no city in America has ever really tried empowerment, education and access-oriented infrastructure.

Thursday, May 28, 2009

Guest Blog: Serge Issakov on advocacy and VC

With Mr. Issakove's permission I am reprinting his thoughts:

I think that it might be effective to further our cause by presenting the safety advice given to motorcyclists with respect to lane positioning, and then to ask the question; "If this is good advice for motorcyclists, why is it not good advice that bicyclists should follow?"

The only plausible and reasonable response is "Because then they are going to get run over from behind, because they are so slow". Once they have articulated this, then they are more likely to seriously consider the evidence against that position.

After that, all that they have left is, "I don't care if it makes cyclists less safe, they need to stay out of the way." Perhaps I'm naive, but I believe most people don't realize that this is, in the end, their position. If they can be made to see that they are holding to such a callus position, we will have an opportunity to change it.

Most people seem to honestly believe that the reason they are justified in believing that bicyclists should be out of the way is because bicyclists are unnecessarily endangering themselves. So, one way or the other, we need to convey that bicycling "out of the way" is often more dangerous than being "in the way".

That's why I think it's important to emphasize the dangers of riding "out of the way". Presenting the safety advice given to motorcyclists, and then asking your audience to consider the reasoning behind that advice. Why shouldn't these principals also apply to bicyclists? They do apply to operating a bicycle, and ought to be applied to our craft.


Saturday, May 23, 2009

Why I Take the Lane Position I Do


On this road (which is the same one pictured below in the previous post) I ride in a super-aggressive position. I ride in the left tire track.

The center of the lane is very rough, the chip seal application has weathered off of the base structure. Tactically, the center would be the optimum lane positioning for a cyclist on this narrow road.

Riding in the right tire track would be a smoother ride than in the center, but it invites straddle passes from overtaking motorists with poor decision making skills in the presence of oncoming traffic and places with poor sight lines.

I calculate this road to be bicycle unfriendly. Not because of it's width or speed limit, but because there is a poor surface in the optimum lane position.

Friday, May 22, 2009

Who Is Hogging This Lane?

This is a typical example of some of the roads I travel on. (About 30% of the time.) This one is unusual in that a dashed line has been painted down the center. The posted speed limit is 30 MPH.
You can tell from the ruts worn into the lanes where cars naturally position themselves. But when faced with oncoming traffic, motorists will crowd the edge of the lane as this person is.
On these roads I ride in the left tire track, about where my bike in the picture is positioned. In so doing, I am in compliance of the FTR and SMV laws, which compel me to ride as far to the right as practicable.

Why I Don't Use A Mirror

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Thursday, May 21, 2009

Behold, an unsolicited comment from a gutter bunny at

05-21-09, 07:57 AM
nvincent Join Date: Mar 2009 Location: NYC

I'm a submissive "lane giver".

If I was on a fast road bike I would probably be more of an assertive "lane taker". I try to ride as far to the right as possible.

I ride mountain bikes, so my wheels and tires aren't as
affected by sewer grates and other roadside obstacles that might hamper road bikes.

Occasionally I'll swerve out of the way of a big pothole, but that usually gets drivers excited and they start honking like hell and that can be even more annoying than riding over the pothole.

Sigh. As Keri points out; "Nothing will reinforce a person’s fear of traffic faster than luring them into a compromised position like this." That is, to ride in the gutter with motorists speeding past at your elbow.

To repeat again, if a motorist can see that his path is clear, he may not slow or even yield his lane position for a cyclist.

His lane position allows him to be unnoticed by motorist turning left across his path or pulling into the road from his right. He will also be inviting right hooks.

He has resigned himself to ride through the trash and potholes in his way- he has even selected a type of bicycle with those expectations in mind! Fear of motor vehicle traffic has so bullied him, that he is afraid he will annoy drivers by avoiding potholes.

He has so internalized the stay out of the way directive that he thinks one must be a fast rider to venture into the lane, lest he impede them.

Unless this cyclist can buddy up with someone to show him by demonstration that his fears are misplaced, he will always be a crippled bicyclist. The walls around his ghetto are so high he can't see our world.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

We Need Better Advocates

I am astonished by the following quote found in a story. Not meaning any slight to Gary Scharrer of the Express-News, but given the unreliable nature of the news, I am rather skeptical that this is an accurate quote. Senator Ellis, call your office!

Lifelong bicyclist Sen. Rodney Ellis, D-Houston, authored the Senate version of the bill. He owns seven bicycles and rents a bike wherever he travels — including Cuba, South Africa, Egypt, Paris and London.

“People need to know that bicycles are vehicles and have rights on the road,” he said. “Oftentimes, they will hit a cyclist assuming they have a right to just run them over.”

"Oftentimes"? Really? Perhaps the good senator (That was sarcasm! No one is good—except God alone!*) would give an example or two?

As a "lifelong cyclist", how have you managed to live so long?

I am disturbed that a legislator who has been working extensively with "bicycle advocates" can have this perspective. What are they telling him? Who should he believe, the "bicycle advocates" or his own lying eyes?

To those of us who have adopted the practice of riding away from the edge of narrow lanes, we find this attitude silly and grossly mistaken. No driver thinks they have a right to run over anything. Ever.

Motorists commonly avoid debris, potholes, stray animals and other vehicles. All of us, cyclists and motorists alike see it happen thousands of times a day.

As a cyclist, I do not feel that I am in deadly peril from motorists. I think that cycling on the highways and by-ways of Texas is a low risk activity. I even think cycling is less risky than being in an automobile! How can my view of the risks associated with riding a bicycle be so at odds with this "lifelong" enthusiast?

Cycling needs advocates who deal with reality, not superstitious fears.

*Mark 10:18

Monday, May 11, 2009

Ninja Salmon at night!

Many cyclists like riding in bike lanes when they are available. I do too. (But then, Texas has paved eight to ten foot bike lanes nearly everywhere. The locals call them streets!)

I would like to call your attention to a peculiar hazard that bike lanes pose, that most of us who have been riding awhile may be overlooking: Ninja Salmon at Night!

I would be surprised if anyone reading this post would venture out on a night ride without lights. Naturally we would expect any traffic we encounter to have lights too. But the urban Ninja (a cyclist riding at night without lights) could be out there.

Bike lanes may encourage the sidewalk rider onto the bike lane. Some cyclists may ride against traffic in the bike lane. (Salmon) But when darkness falls, a Ninja Salmon could be deadly to someone riding in the bike lane.

I would avoid riding in a bike lane at night for this reason alone.

First Rule of Italian Racing...

Starting at the one minute mark here.

I do not use mirrors on my bicycle for the same reason.

What's behind me doesn't matter. What is before me does.

The traffic conflicts for cyclists are from the same direction as for all other vehicles on the road. Primarily at intersections and junctions.*

Mirrors are not generally needed in automobiles unless one is preparing to change lanes or turn off the roadway. When traveling in a lane, they are not needed.

I have heard many folks advise cyclists to use a mirror to monitor overtaking traffic. Please! What an unnecessary distraction! The chances of a motorist running you down from behind if you are in the lane in front of them is vanishingly small. And by the time you perceived that you are in danger, it likely would be too late to escape. A whole lot of anxiety over an event that in practice will never happen. **

A mirror is no doubt helpful in preparing to merge left or keep track of riding companions, and for those who have difficulty turning their heads, so I am not saying that they don't have their uses. But to monitor overtaking traffic?

In front of me, I have road surface hazards, loose dogs, debris, junctions and intersections with cross traffic. Those are real and present dangers. What is behind me does not matter.

Once I have turned my attention away from the rear, I have less anxiety and enjoy my travels all the more. Perhaps Italian race car drivers have it right!

*I have adopted the practice of calling private and commercial driveways "junctions" and the where streets come together "intersections".

**Cyclists do get struck from behind while taking the lane. (I have just deleted four paragraphs of explanation. Obviously a rant for another day!)

Sunday, May 10, 2009


In Virginia Beach, this is now a positive defense for failure to do ones duty in the public way. Motorists are no longer expected to operate their vehicles in a manner that avoids hitting slower traffic in their lane.

Commonwealth's Attorney Harvey Bryant said members of his office and the Police Department's fatal crash team met Wednesday and determined there was insufficient evidence to file charges in the death of Daniel Wayne Hersh, the 54-year-old civil engineer and ex-SEAL killed on April 19.
Hersh, an avid cyclist on his Sunday morning ride, was apparently following traffic laws by pedaling east in the right travel lane - not the turn lane - on Shore Drive near Starfish Road in the early light shortly before 6 a.m., when a motorist struck him from behind. He was wearing a helmet and a bright yellow windbreaker with reflective strips, Bryant said. (
Witnesses who came upon the wreck said his blinking tail-lights were still on. -ChipSeal)
"In terms of his safety equipment, there certainly was no fault on his part," he said.
The motorist told police she never saw Hersh, and authorities found no evidence to support potential charges to allege that she hit him willfully or through negligent or reckless driving, Bryant told reporters.
The woman was cooperative, and she realized she had hit a bicyclist only after she felt the impact, stopped and saw Hersh's body, according to Bryant.
Investigators took measurements, photographs and video of the scene, all of which supported the woman's statement that she was in her lane and abiding by the 45-mph speed limit.
There were no witnesses, but investigators determined the motorist had not been smoking, and she passed a breath test for alcohol on-scene.
She denied falling asleep, and her cell phone records showed no calls or text messages at the time of the crash.
The woman loaned her vehicle to police, who conducted a re-enactment video along the same stretch at the same time of day.
None of the efforts produced anything that "would lead to a criminal prosecution or would substantiate a criminal prosecution," the CA Bryant said.

The conclusion of the local authorities is that while unfortunate, this wreck was unavoidable. The motorist wasn't drunk, asleep, speeding or using a phone! She was following the letter of the law, how could she be expected to have a duty to use due care? kijdjdjhhf jhshyjsuw shirewr eirijfr ewirhiehrj ieriherhjrieuhyr hrie iehroeiyfuehrioeyh rhehwfhiouwehriehuiew iuhyerioewuhyruhr uweriouewh hjjf
How could it be her fault? It isn't reasonable to expect a motorist to observe a well lit cyclist in your path. It isn't the drivers fault that she was overdriving her headlights. The manufacturer didn't make them bright enough. The speed limit was too high! lodjndjhyhf dhuduejjfdujdjd fjfdhdsjf ejjfjheiweoqowrhjrejh rehieh jeijhrdool jfdoifiodhjndified idfijosrijhfkdjht ieurie nfuirehreoti iutoietfdi jjjdj
The only reasonable conclusion is that this "accident" could have been prevented by an infrastructure change, not an attitude adjustment. It was a technology failure, not the imprudent and reckless behavior of the motorist.

The notion that there is insufficient evidence to charge the motorist with anything is preposterous and an obvious falsehood.kudsfh jufdhie hdush uhyhy udusuhd hduishyh shdhush suhdijshhrjhsuufdhjh shireuir uyrhe8uhrh eyrueuih 8erheue hreiuie
The motorist violated the cyclist's right of way by (at a minimum) following too close. There is plenty of EVIDENCE of that!kjdsyffr dfuwjserj usi eirie iei reiirjh riieirrjr reirejijhrie riejrieujreijr rjeiujr eiriejre riejrier riureje erier reijrjei eiurei jrieuierie eiieirrujur
Failure to observe traffic. The "I didn't see him, officer" is a confession, not an alibi!jdhfksdfhhfhdd jfhjhdkshjjhfuj fjfjkedujiejrujf jufrjrj jujfhd dhdhe dhue uhfh rujjdjd fdufrrujurjeej hhufrej hjdsheihfd urrehreirhhfd hfdeuirr8uhe uhei ur 8erehr uierjh
I wonder, if this driver had been a male, or unattractive, would she have garnered as much sympathy from the authorities? Is this un-named perpetrator politically or socially connected? ljujuujus hhysts ufjdhdysys jdhgdtegdeyd hdydbdjdjdhdhd ujdhstytgdhd djhdhdyd ydhdyshdyd djfkj dhdhdjdhddh uddndhdjjj jjjjjj
I fear that the real reason law enforcement "can't find a reason to charge her" is that it is blatant vehicle-class discrimination. Auto-ism if you will. kinn ujdyh hygsk kufjj jdhsjjdkjhd jhhhjkkjdhfnfnfjdjdjhdl kujhdgd kjuuj ijdhy hyyhyhh hgysgh hdhdhh
While the general public's attitude toward cyclists has deteriorated as car-centrism has been on the rise, we had refuge in the law. We choose not to be alarmed when law enforcement officers (LEO) decline to issue tickets to motorists for violating a cyclists right of way. (Improper passes, right hooks) We are not upset when they decline to cite cyclists for breaking the law, thus treating cyclists like irresponsible children rather than legitimate road users. (Salmon behavior, night trips without lights) klonj juuh hdsju hy uhdgd hdjdhhhhdjdbhcj j jjj jjjj jjdjd djdkkd lljhyhdh hys juj jjhdg isjrhh dhjjs ksjjs jjuikk
There was a time when the privilege of operating a motor vehicle on the public road brought with it a sense of responsibility and ownership for the consequences of your actions. Hitting someone or something was a BIG deal. Reckless behavior was a serious breach of social norms. gejjskk ijdhhjj jjekik kiik kkij judhr hjdsjj yudjdhdh jhhyddbddhjfj kijhsyyh hydhdjd hdhdysj ggs jjikjhidksks
Something has changed, and it is now infecting LEOs, DAs and our courts. Bicyclist's liberty is being encroached upon. Killing a cyclist is not a crime anymore. Killing a cyclist is not an avoidable event anymore. The law is abandoning us and no longer providing a deterrent to recklessness. There is no expectation of motorists using due care! jeejj jje j skk skk keek kkksk kks ekek kk sksks krkr ksks fkrke skkkr ks skker k
The message being sent to motorists is; "It's a sad unavoidable situation. If there is any fault at all, it most certainly is not that of the motorist. Bicyclists have inferior rights to public roads. There can be no expectation that the laws will be applied to protect cyclists." i must put spaces here because this stupid program wo
SIGH. We would be better served by bicycle "advocates" if they would insist on the enforcement and prosecution of EXISTING law, rather than wasting resources and political capital on writing and passing redundant new laws. What is the point of new laws anyway, when they will be ignored also?

Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Two Abreast

On my most recent ride, I noticed rider after rider traveling along two abreast!

Not one of these folks would pull aside for following traffic. They were taking up the entire lane!

The most surprising thing was that no one seemed upset at this behavior, even though they were constantly slowing other drivers down. Why were they so tolerant of this rudeness?

Could it be because all of these folks traveling two abreast (Taking up the entire lane!) were sitting side by side in a motor vehicle?


(a) A person operating a bicycle has the rights and duties applicable to a driver operating a vehicle under this subtitle, unless:

(1) a provision of this chapter alters a right or duty; or
(2) a right or duty applicable to a driver operating a vehicle cannot by its nature apply to a person operating a bicycle.

Supposing a motor vehicle operator has the right to take up the entire width of a lane simply because he is operating a vehicle that is designed wide enough to allow for the passengers to ride alongside him- even if there is no other person in the vehicle with him. Is his first come, first right to the public space determined by the size of his equipment, or is it a right secured because he is an operator of a vehicle?

Sec. 551.103(c) Persons operating bicycles on a
roadway may ride two abreast. Persons riding two abreast on a laned roadway shall ride in a single lane. Persons riding two abreast may not impede the normal and reasonable flow of traffic on the roadway.

So operators of bicycles can legally ride two abreast on any road in the state where they are not "impeding the normal... flow of traffic". If they have a bike lane, or are traveling on a "roadway" that is wider than fourteen feet, the cyclists must single it up and move aside for overtaking traffic.

Because a solo cyclist may occupy any lateral position he chooses in a lane that is fourteen feet or less in width, riding two abreast in that situation would not be impeding the normal flow of traffic. Overtaking traffic would have to pass when it is safe to change lanes in either situation. (Solo or two abreast.)

So a cyclist has lesser rights on Texas roads than does a motorist because a cyclist may not control a lane under some circumstances, and may not travel side by side in those places either. The cyclist has no right to any part of the lane further from the edge of the roadway than seven feet, if the lane is greater than fourteen feet wide.

So on what basis is a cyclist's right to the full lane restricted? Is it because he is operating a narrow vehicle or a slow vehicle?

Do motorcycles have lateral lane restrictions? If someone had a motor vehicle that was designed with passenger seating in-line with the driver, would they have restrictions on lateral lane position? If a cyclist is keeping up with motor vehicle traffic, does he have more rights than when he is not keeping up? If there are ten slow cyclists and two cars on the road, what is "normal and reasonable flow of traffic"?