This morning a new thread appeared on the ChainLink:
While we can compile a list of all the possible hazards we face while biking in the city, I want to focus on what cyclists can do to be more pro-active and try to minimize hazards that lead up to dooring crashes.
What are some things you personally do while riding in Chicago, or anywhere, to avoid car door crashes?
How do you utilize SRT while riding?
It is as if all the work of Vehicular Cycling trainers around the country is either unknown to this young man or simply being ignored. I am guessing the latter. Take for instance the most recent thread on this topic from the ChainLink titled:
Biking Advice – Who Do You Listen To?
At times, we can be a stubborn group, us cyclists. I’ve been reflecting upon how we receive our cycling information and advice and have come up with the following ranking. What do you think? Who would you ACTUALLY listen to and make efforts to change your routine?
Mine ranking (first draft) is:
- Close friends who bike
- Non-cyclist driver friends who have had bad experiences with cyclists
- Chainlink forum
- Bike shop
- Workshops led or coordinated by cycling friendly organizations
- Online tests or quizzes (test my knowledge and show off…)
- Books by cyclists
- Brochures from cycling friendly organizations
- Media outlets
- Family (mine don’t bike. if they did, bump them up to #2)
I rated chainlink higher than bike shops b/c of the ease of access. Online quizzes may be just me due to my inexplicable love for online quizzes.
What is interesting here is that evidently cycling organizations (e.g. League of American Bicyclists) and their local affiliates have little or no traction when it comes to the ChainLink crowd. Why is that?
It would seem that there is this strange disconnect between urban cyclists and the history of American cycling for the past 50 years. In fact if you follow any of the threads on the ChainLink dealing with whose experience is the most valid, that of urban cyclists ranks highest in the minds of other urban cyclists virtually every time.
There is a definite disconnect even in terms of the way in which riders dress, what they use to carry stuff onboard and even how their bikes are equipped. Urban cyclists eschew Spandex™ and Lycra™. Frankly, that part of their thinking is spot on. I prefer less clingy outwear especially in the summer when heading indoors for a mid-ride meal is a bit uncomfortable if you are wearing traditional bike shorts. I much prefer dressing as if I was on tour. I wear nylon shorts and shirts that are often referred to as “guide wear”. They are generally loose-fitting and quick drying. And come in pastel colors that look presentable in most restaurant settings.
Urban cyclists however love to ride in either flip-flops or high-top gym shoes. Think the old style Converse All-Stars and you have the right picture. These are usually worn with skin tight black jeans and a white or black t-shirt. And for some strange reason many male urban cyclists have adopted the hipster knit wool cap to ride in year round. The things look uncomfortable in summer and I simply cannot imagine wearing one. I prefer a cycling helmet.
As for cycling shoes I wear a pair of Keen cycling shoes that look more like casual wear than anything else. They are comfortable in winter and quite durable. I think they look good when sporting the “guide wear” look. There is also a Keen sandal in my shoe arsenal that works in very hot weather.
But my reasons for dressing the way I do are not to distinguish myself from other cyclists. Instead I am thinking about trying to dress in ways that are appropriate for off-the-bike situations. And because I ride an Easy Racers Tour Easy recumbent bicycle I do not need padded shorts. In fact wearing padded shorts on this bike would be uncomfortable. And for me it is all about comfort.
Where Do I Turn For “Safe Cycling” Information?
My first stop is always to Effective Cycling written by John Forester. Next I am highly influenced by League of American Bicyclists training materials believing that they represent the distillation of some of the best resource materials around. This approach is fairly passé amongst today’s urban cyclists.
The ChainLink is something of a missed opportunity. It has by design or perhaps more truthfully by lack thereof turned into Bitch Central. The denizens of this tool have turned into whining, arrogant, aggressive fools who offer little to one another save a shoulder to cry on when they find themselves overwhelmed by the chaos of urban cycling.
Admittedly this is a necessary function, but what the ChainLink sorely lacks is the kind of order and structure that is provided by the far smaller but much more intelligent Commute Orlando website. Yes, Commute Orlando does have a forum. But it is not the overwhelming presence that the ChainLink makes theirs to be. You actually have to search for this area.
What exists front and center is sound, dependable advice on how to deal with your daily commute situations. There is even information there for motorists. What is not evident is that there is a great deal of whining going on. You are not reading about how much this or that cyclist hates motorists. What is not provided are strategies for how to run down pedestrians in the bike lane and other frankly silly rantings that occur fairly regularly on the ChainLink.
In short the Commute Orland website is built for adults and not junior school students masquerading as 20 or 30 somethings heading off to work. I have tried to organize a listing of some of the more interesting sections provided on this website. Try and find the equivalent on the ChainLink, you won’t. Just a lot of hot air about this nasty motorist whose car you would like to take a hammer to or worse.
Some Crucial Information Sources for Urban Cyclists
- Smart Moves | A series of tricks and tips for confident cycling
- Sharing The Road | Avoiding Injury and Reading Signs
- The Confident Cyclist | Cyclists can learn the skills and techniques to operate safely and confidently on the road.
- Lane Control | Check out this animation to see all the hazards a bicycle driver faces when trying to stay to the right.
- Left Turns On Big Roads | Making a left turn from a multi-lane road
- Preventing The Left Cross | The left cross is the crash type we bicyclists have most in common with motorcyclists.
- Group Riding | Making Lane Changes with a Group
- How Bike Lanes Work | A series of animations showing how bike lanes work (or don’t)
- Pedestrians Plight | Abandoned Crosswalks
- Choosing A Bike | Bikes Designed for Transportation
- Equipment & Cargo | Basic Safety Equipment
- Planning A Route | Finding the best route can sometimes be a challenge.
- Other Logistics of Bike Transportation | Getting Cleaned Up
- Strategy for Cyclist-Friendly Community | Building a cyclist friendly community
- Doom or Possibility? | The Politics of Doom
- Widths & Buffers | A visual primer of how stuff fits… or doesn’t
The funny thing is that the ChainLink is in the midst of a fundraising drive. I say by all means help them out. But, make them clean up their act. This is really a necessary adjunct to requesting $15,000 as they are doing. You want the premier cycling forum in Chicago to be more than just a bathroom wall. It needs to be a repository of information that is suitable for adult cyclists who trying to do the difficult job of riding to work in all kinds of weather on city streets that are not always friendly.
But the bitching quota on this site is way too high. It borders on being a place that youth cyclists cannot and should not be visiting. I would certainly not (were I still teaching) send students to the ChainLink to gather information for a report given the current adults only approach to conversation currently in play. The owners of this forum have to know better. And the folks who surround them as their advisors do too. And while you are at it demand that Active Transportation Alliance do more than act as co-dependents in this matter. They need to offer up at least as much information as the rather small group running Commute Orlando does.
OK. Got that off my chest. Now back to our regularly scheduled programming…
Urban Cyclists have bought into the notion that the “infrastructure is everything“. It is easy to understand why this is so appealing. If you take a look at the strongest proponents of this dogma they are Europeans who are lightyears ahead of us in terms of the scope of infrastructure available and the percentage of the population who avail themselves of it.
Europeans believe (as do I) that if you segregate the cyclists entirely from motorist traffic you can create an environment that is safe enough for school kids on small bikes, soccer moms with pre-schoolers in-tow, elderly citizens out for a bike stroll and just about anybody else. This is in essence Bicycle Heaven. We get glimpses of what this is like on our Chicago Lakefront Trail, but the big difference between that trail and theirs is that is serves people who are traveling from either the north or south sides of the city into the downtown area. There is nothing equivalent that brings in bike traffic from the west, southwest, or northwest.
If you want to visit the city as a commuter you are forced to take streets. Most of our streets are not really designed to accommodate bicycles in a safer manner. But we have decided to introduce hybrid infrastructure (which are vastly cheaper than truly segregated cycle paths) which is literally shoe-horned onto existing roadways, painted green and given large graphic symbols to identify its purpose. Of course this hybrid approach has its own issues.
We still have accidents from inadvertent door-ings and right hooks by trucks. But to some degree the overall approach is improving things (if not in statistical safety numbers, certainly in the minds of riders who were afraid to venture out before). Time will tell whether we have actually made safety improvements that are real. If the car traffic situation is any indicator we will probably not gain any measurable improvements. Motorists deaths are still pretty high. And that is occurring despite all the advances in road design over the past 50 years. Add to that the improvement in vehicle safety design and you would think that traffic fatalities would be near zero, but they are not. I do not hold out any real hope that cyclists will ultimately fare better.
What is a cause for hope is that there should be an increased awareness of bicycle traffic on Chicago streets that might help some motorists avoid doing things that could harm cyclists. But there are still too many distractions that are vying for the attention of motorists and they are increasing daily.
Billboards are now digital and change regularly. These are attractive and no matter what anyone says are meant to take your eyes off the road for a moment or two or three to read and digest an advertisement. Couple this with the quieter design of car interiors and you have a motorist who is visually distracted while purposely surrounded in a cocoon of nearly total quiet, which means that my shouts and screams go unheard in situations where I am being run over.
Now add to this sound systems which are louder and more acoustically capable than my home theater and GPS navigation systems yammering their directions in robotic voices and you have a driver who is virtually unaware of anything but their inside surroundings. If their kids are listening to music or watching videos in the back seat or having tantrums that further distract the rider, all bets are off that the cyclist up ahead dressed in muted colors has even penetrated their personal radar.
Considering their normal environment cyclists have to admit that taking to the roads is dangerous.
Vehicular Cycling strategies can take you only so far. If you are for instance “taking the lane” and the driver behind you spills hot coffee in his lap and reaches for a napkin to blot it off his pants, it is your cyclist butt that is on the line. If that same driver drops a lit cigarette onto the carpet and decides to bend over and retrieve it so that the carpet is not scorched, it is your cyclist butt that is on the line.
Protected Bicycle Lanes are only a band-aid. Yes they often move cyclists to the outer edges of the roadway to remove them from the traffic that normally travels to their left and also from the parked vehicles that have exiting drivers to their right. But passengers are still capable of delivering a painful smack. Now couple this with the newly minted bi-directional lanes cropping up in Chicago and you suddenly have cyclists traveling in both directions in the same lane area.
Passing is going to be a real issue with this design. Cyclists are going to swing out (as they do on the Lakefront Trail) and collisions are going to occur. I keep wondering why all the new designs? I am guessing that much of this occurs because there is really no proven design as yet that has been adopted. We cyclists are actually serving as guinea pigs for road engineers.
Legal Remedies To Cyclist Injuries?
The urban cycling community has one additional rabbits foot (alongside their unbounded belief in hybrid bicycle lanes) and that would be onerous lawsuit remedy. Take for instance this recent thread on ChainLink:
A bicycle anti-harassment bill with some real firepower…
Sadly, though it isn’t here. It is making its way through the D.C. city council, and it’s pretty awesome.
The implication with this strategy is to make the motorist so afraid of hitting a cyclist that they will pay special attention to our presence on the roadway. Well good luck with that.
Sure it is nice to be able to seek damages when you have been injured. But what good is the money when what I really want in the first instance is to avoid being hit altogether? It would be far better for society to simply provide truly segregated bike lanes that eliminate the chance of motorist-vs-cyclist interactions for all practical purposes. We did this sort of thing when we suspended electrified train traffic overhead. Now with but a few exceptions all train traffic in Chicago is either underground or overhead. There is little if any interaction between the two modes of traffic. That is what cyclists need for their safety. Remove us from the roads altogether and provide us with a cycling path this is devoid of needless contact with motorists.
In such a system cyclists would only have to deal with other cyclists. Yes, there would be the inevitable collisions but this time between vehicles of similar weight and size. What the Brits are considering is what I want. Because it is elevated it means that I can ride along secure in the knowledge that the dangerous traffic is far below. But in addition I get weather protection. That means that rain or shine, snow or not I can get to my destination without having a great deal of trouble slogging through inches of snow and ice. The dollars we are currently considering spending to provide a better shake for cyclists in our courts would be better spend building a safer roadway in the sky.
Ironically, it will be cyclists who balk at this idea. We are more than likely interested in seeing pretty green lanes pop up all around town (as a symbol of our imminent success at making us safer) than we are in doing the heavy lifting that would be needed to get such an expensive project off the ground. We would rather buy the big-box store cheaper solution than struggle to get one that has a lifetime guarantee and costs the big bucks.
So In The Meantime…
So in lieu of doing anything really permanent and lasting we are going to verbally masturbate by trying to share with one another Safe Riding Techniques that are intended to keep us from getting door-ed. That kind of explains this response to a thread on:
Green Bike Lane Paint Jobs
Reply by Aaron Bussey 3 hours ago
Garth. I see the improvements that are happening all around us and get excited. Heck, even the chainlink can be seen as a huge boost to our wheeled community.Call me Naive, but I see real progress taking place. One day the divide between lanes and ‘paths’ won’t be so drastic and the Chicago momentum will spill over bringing its urbane power to the bucolic surrounds that hinder your vision. 😉
An entire lane of Wells has been designated as a bike lane within the loop. Green paint is coming…
See. I feel safer already.