If Only ChainLinkers Were Serious About ‘Bicycle Safety’

Background Reading


The officer in the photo is executing a quick stop, one of the emergency maneuvers you will learn in Traffic Skills 101

The officer in the photo is executing a quick stop, one of the emergency maneuvers you will learn in Traffic Skills 101

There is a great deal of lip service paid to “bicycle safety”. But the fact of the matter is that ChainLinkers are as lacking in seriousness about safety as they are in condemning the use of fixed gear (brakeless bikes) on our city streets.

We have had at least two or three accidents (at least one involving the death of the fixie rider) that resulted from a fixed gear rider trying to avoid a collision in the “Door Zone”. The most recent example of this kind of thinking about the technique of riding such bikes occurred today in the

Reply by John Orleans yesterday

  1. Stay in the left 1/3 of the bike lane whenever there are cars parked on the right.  This may annoy the guy behind you, but honestly, you’re slowing him down for less than 30 seconds.
  2. Look through the car.  Look through the back/side windows and in the mirrors for occupants.
  3. Don’t trust the occupants.  Even if they seem to be holding the door closed for you, assume that they’re going to mindlessly fling the door open moments before you pass.  Slow down and give them plenty of room to open the door.  As you pass, yell “thank you!”.  Seriously.  It works.
  4. If they open the door, surge and unweight.  Stomp hard on the last bit of pedal you have, then lift up; pretend you and your bike are floating.  If you get lucky, the door with simply sweep you and your bike over a foot or two.  This has saved me on a few occasions and you look totally badass.
  5. If you do crash, go limp noodle.  It’s probably going to hurt and be messy.  I got bumped by a car into the back of an SUV.  Totally did a Loony Tunes with face and hands on the rear window.  No injuries.  Which was good because the guy that bumped me took off, destroying several parked cars in the process.  The woman in the SUV was pretty traumatized, but I had her laughing by the time the cops showed-up.  Had I tightened-up, I would have likely driven my face into her back window with completely different results.

What is being described above in point number 4 is a technique for attempting to do a “panic stop” on a fixed gear brakeless bicycle. Sheldon Brown refers to this technique as a “Skid Stop”. That should give you some idea of how inefficient it is in bringing a bike to s sudden halt. The only other method that even approaches the kind of sudden deceleration needed for a “panic stop” is the hockey blade stop I have seen practiced on fixes. This provides a very quick stop but involves turning the bike sideways. It would not be useful in snow and ice and only brings the back end of the bike further towards the center line of the street (into the lane occupied by automobile to the immediate left of the bike lane). It is not a useful technique for the “Door Zone”.

Until such time as ChainLinkers stop “covering” for their fellow riders who use these kinds of bikes we are sure to have additional riders either killed or injured in attempting to avoid collisions caused by their riding too fast in the “Door Zone”. The collision itself is completely avoidable with a bit of adherence to point number 1 in the explanation above. But ChainLinkers are always in the same kind of “hurry” that they accuse motorists of being in.

And so the nasty death/injury toll mounts and we have yet another cookie bake sale to help a rider pay for hospital bills. I admire the compassion but my admiration stops at the point of our collective silence which only encourages this sort of reckless behavior. We need to get beyond trying to “nail the motorists” who run over riders whose own actions resulted in their clattering to the pavement in front of some hapless driver who is unaware of the situation until the very last moment.

Panic stops on bikes (see image above) are taught to our police patrolmen on a regular basis. Here is what one looks like in video:

Uploaded on Feb 24, 2010
This is a brief excerpt from the Fundamental Skills for Public Safety Cycling DVD available at www.ipmba.org/resources-ipmba.htm.

Fundamental Skills for Public Safety Cycling (23 minutes) is designed to assist public safety cyclists in mastering the basics of safe cycling. Required viewing in all IPMBA Police, EMS, and Security Cyclist courses, this video introduces key principles and essential motor skills. The video is divided into the following chapters, easily accessible via the disc menu: Rider Inputs, Maximum Braking, Curb Ascents, Descents, Stair Ascents, Quick Turn, Rock Dodge, Vehicular Cycling, Wobble Lane, Speed Positioning Principle, Lane Positioning, Merging and Changing Lanes, and Group Riding.

Filmed and produced by the Niagara Regional Police Service Video Unit, this video features public safety cyclists from a variety of agencies throughout the U.S. and Canada. It was the recipient of the Law Enforcement Video Association (LEVA) Award of Distinction and a Gold Shield Award in the 2009 LEVA Shield Awards Competition.

Getting Stuck On Stupid

Maybe We Should Pass These Out to Fixie Riders?

Maybe We Should Pass These Out to Fixie Riders?

Unlike the “silly” solution to offered to the Door Zone collision offered in point number 4 above this technique actually results in both a safe stop in most situations but also means that the car door takes the brunt of the collision force. You will no doubt bend your front wheel if the force is great enough but you can always replace a wheel. That if far cheaper and easier than trying to heal from a hospital bed, especially if brain injury was involved.

We seem to be “stuck on stupid” when it comes to being unable to confront one another about this problem. We offer up stupid excuses for why brakeless bikes are supposedly safer and do this in spite of the mounting evidence to the contrary. I am not talking here about something you read in a textbook but rather what you are witnessing on the streets of our city.

We know these people who are being injured, maimed and killed. And yet we say nothing. We slavishly hold bake sales and print up stickers condemning the actions of motorists but we say nothing about the stupidity of using bikes like this in an urban setting. Are we afraid to be outspoken or just silly? I think it is a combination of both.

For Lefties this group is very reminiscent of Righties. Neither group allows its membership to criticize what it might be doing without being challenged. If a GOP Senator “speaks truth to power” he gets told to expect a primary challenge in the fall. If a ChainLinker says anything that is not consistent with the “willful ignorance” clearly demonstrated by the membership they get “verbally stoned” or worse.

It is past time for the ChainLink crowd to drop their pretense of desiring cycling safety and realize that having “pretty green lanes” painted on our streets does not remove our responsibility to ride those same streets with equipment that is consistent with our stated aims.