- ParentsSeminar (PDF)
- bike_manual (PDF)
- Chapter 5: Behavior 2–The Real: How Bicyclists Actually Behave. (PDF)
The recent controversy on the ChainLink Forum over whether or not one should “Ride Against Traffic” got me to thinking. Clearly this was a strategy taught for decades to children born just after the Second World War. There must have been a reason for that approach. What exactly was it? In a word, “eye contact“.
The premise is that if you the cyclist or runner can see the approaching car then you have the advantage when it comes to avoiding a collision. It means that if a car owner loses control of his vehicle you have the option of bailing to your left to avoid being struck head on. I am guessing however that with the advent of the work Effective Cycling by John Forester things changed in terms of how safety engineers viewed the role of cyclists on the roadway. We became proponents of riding with traffic and being thought of and acting like intended vehicles on the roadways.
But the recent groups of rear end collisions that have taken place both here in Chicago and downstate got me to wondering whether this approach is “bass backwards”. You read about lots of hit and run rear end collisions in rural areas and you wonder how this could have taken place. I ride rural roads where cornfields are about the only visual stimulus and aside from falling asleep behind the wheel or being impaired by alcohol there is little to explain how a motorist could hit you from the rear. But the indeed do.
Mirrors On Bicycle Helmets Are Not Always Useful
Mirrors are about the only defense for cyclists traveling with traffic. And if you have ever used one you know that it always has a limited field of view. I wear a mirror that attaches to the left temple of my eyeglasses. It works just fine but you do have to waggle your head a bit from side-to-side to see the entire field of view to the rear. Riding against traffic would mean that I could see the whole of the crowd of motorists approaching me and could dispense with the mirror altogether.
And wonder of wonders it would seem that the one additional kind of accident the riding against traffic strategy prevents is “dooring“. You know that dooring is what happens when a motorist exits their car on the driver’s side and the cyclist unaware of this move runs smack dab into the door. Ouch! Now in Europe they use a different technique, but since we don’t care for everything they do I suggest that the riding against traffic strategy is workable and has that devil-may-care tinge to it that is so likable in cyclists who run red lights and blow stop signs and then complain about folks who ride against traffic.
Finally, think of the poor cyclist who lives down a one way street and he cannot take a direct route because he lives in the wrong direction. We if all cyclists used the ride against traffic strategy you would never ever have to worry about riding the wrong way on a one way street. Isn’t that marvelous.
I just know that my buddies at the ChainLink will welcome this idea to their bosoms quite readily.