LOOK Chicago : Head’s Up – It’s All About The Delivery

Background Reading


There is an ancient joke:

I heard about a cell block in which verbal communications were not allowed during meals. So when they were outside in the exercise space inmates would memorize jokes and share the numbers with their fellows. Before long everyone knew the jokes well enough that they would simply hold up the requisite number of fingers during mess hall and get smiles of appreciation at having told a very wonderful joke.

One day a new inmate arrives and during his very first day he notices the signaling during the meal. He sees the smiles and realizes that the hand signals must be passing on messages. So at the next meal he decides to introduce himself by also telling a joke. He holds up three fingers to indicate the joke he wants to tell.

There is silence and no facial expressions change. He is puzzled. During their time in the exercise yard he asks another inmate why no one smiled at his joke. The reply was that you had to know how to tell a good joke.

Clearly the Dutch know how gain the trust and involvement of motorists when they do things that promote safety, as evidenced by the traffic safety video shown below:

Utrecht suddenly has little red men sitting on the traffic lights. They hold signs with texts like “red alert!”  or  “follow the red lights!” and a QR-code and the name of a website “itsredman.nl“.

It’s red man!

It’s red man!

When you go to that site you see a video that starts with the texts “Somewhere on a junction in the Netherlands…, where traffic meets, your patience could be rewarded.

The final caption in the video says: “Traffic safety must be celebrated!“.

The site gives only little information:  “Hurray 10 years TeamAlert! Traffic safety must be celebrated! And today just a little bit more than usual, because TeamAlert is 10 years old. In one decade the number of traffic deaths went down by half. Yet every traffic death is one too many! TeamAlert strives for zero traffic deaths and we will act to achieve this goal.

What LOOK Chicago Could Learn From The Dutch

When cyclists traveling too fast in lanes alongside cars while riding fixed gear bikes without brakes suddenly find themselves having to avoid an opening door mayhem can result. Bikes like these have little in the way of “panic stop” capability especially in tight circumstances. Any attempt to avoid the door by moving to the left can result in a collision with traffic passing on that side of the cyclist. Too often this results in either serious injury or even death.

The response of American cyclists is to find a means of  “clobbering” the motoring community with their message. This often comes in the guise of a sticker campaign. The problem is of course that someone always seems to want to create those types of stickers that do not peel off easily and are bright orange and are to be placed over windows or windshield of unwitting motorists parked along the street.

When the motorist comes out and sees this thing stuck to their car and tries to remove it their anger certainly does not make them companions in the war on collisions in the “Door Zone”. Quite the opposite is what transpires.

lbomedibank487x1024The Australians use a line-print-on-clear-substrate sticker to announce “LBO—Look Before Opening.” There are a couple of differences here:

  • The flyer has the sticker attached for use by the driver should they choose to do so.
  • Someone must of course hand these out and that gives them an opportunity to “pitch” the circumstances which have made this PSA necessary.

What of course is missing in all of this is the cyclist education re-training. We as cyclists have decided that every time one of us does some stupid (like riding a bike with no brakes) and in the process gets injured our only valid response is to offer bake sales and ghost bikes. And frankly that is too bad.

We need to tell riders that these kinds of bikes are dangerous and that they ride them at their own risk. Most “fixie” riders know the dangers and in fact like the glamour of riding without brakes. There are movies like Premium Rush which in fact glorify this sort of nonsense. But few in the cycling community want or even dare to speak out against behaviors that produce avoidable collisions.

Shame on us.