Cycling tactics

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Cycling tactics

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1reading_fox
abr. 15, 2008, 9:42am

There are a few books that describe and give pointers on how to ride safely amoungst traffic. In the UK the most well known is Cyclecraft and int eh US Effective cycling

I recently bought a new one by an author well known to me City Cycling - by Ballantine. Richard has written the highly regarded Richard's Bike book which mostly cover mechanics very well.

I was shocked to discover after skimming the new one that he was a proponent of Red Light Jumping. (rlj) not only is this illegal it is also dangerous for the cyclist and pedestrians - Richard's advice "advocates jumping red lights without unduly annoying other road users". This just seems bad.

I can see circumstances* in which rlj is not unforgivable, but never at the cost of annoying another road user, unduly or not.

How do other cycling tactics books deal with the issue?

What do you feel about the issue?

*nearside** turns when rlj will not inconvenience anyone. rlj when sensors are not detecting the bike.

** Try and avoid usinf left and right as different countrys cycle on different sides of the world.

2philosojerk
Editat: abr. 15, 2008, 10:41am

Richard's advice "advocates jumping red lights without unduly annoying other road users". This just seems bad.

I have to agree with reading_fox on this one. As a cyclist, I get extremely agitated by drivers who do not understand/recognize that riders are accorded the same right of way and are bound by the same laws of the road as they are. Even in situations where I could easily jump a light with no danger to myself or others, I feel like doing so undermines my having the "higher ground," so to speak, with drivers who don't respect me on my bike. I stop for all red lights and stop signs, period.

eta: Yes, I will turn right on red (er... U.S. - so nearside, I guess?), traffic permitting. Not quite the same, though.

3thorold
abr. 15, 2008, 10:44am

I haven't read the book, but it sounds like an irresponsible thing to advise in print.

I think what I would tell people is something along the lines of:
- jumping red lights is illegal
- in many circumstances it is dangerous
- it reduces the confidence of other road users that cyclists will behave responsibly, and thus could provoke aggression
- if you encounter traffic lights where cyclists are held up unnecessarily, approach your local authority to have the junction better adapted to cyclists' needs (e.g. a cycle lane that allows nearside turns without conflict, a "nearside turns on red" sign, a separate traffic light for cyclists, etc.)

In real life, even in Holland there are some traffic lights that try my patience beyond endurance, and you can't always be complaining to the council...

(I cycle on this side of the world) :-)

4andyl
abr. 15, 2008, 10:58am

Franklin is quite clear on the matter. Bikes should obey the lights just as much as any other traffic. He details each phase red, amber, red and amber, and green and gives the same kind of instruction that the Highway Code gives. His advice is more about the approach, lane-positioning, and general observation hints (like pedestrians making last minute dashes across the road).

I would be very wary about a book that advocates red-light jumping.

5lilithcat
abr. 15, 2008, 11:21am

> 2

eta: Yes, I will turn right on red (er... U.S. - so nearside, I guess?), traffic permitting. Not quite the same, though.

In most places in the U.S., a right turn on red is permitted, unless otherwise posted, so you are obeying the traffic rules!

It seems to me that, aside from the inherent dangers, running red lights encourages a disrespect for the other rules of the road, and discourages the use of common sense and courtesy to those with whom one shares the road. (A recent incident in Chicago in which a participant in an unofficial street race was killed when a pack of cyclists ran a red light brings this home!)

As a motorist, I give cyclists a wide berth (where this is physically possible - not always the case on narrow side streets), watch for sudden moves, open my car door carefully, etc. In return, I expect the cyclist to signal turns and lane changes, not weave in and out of traffic, and obey traffic control devices.

Particularly in cities, where cyclists, motorists and pedestrians share the roadways, it behooves everyone to follow the rules and treat each other with consideration.

And, in another rant, nobody should be driving, cycling or walking across a busy street wearing earphones or chatting on the telephone. I've seen a lot more close calls lately because someone didn't hear a car horn's warning beep or was so engrossed in a cell phone conversation that he walked into traffic!

6Nycticebus
abr. 15, 2008, 9:21pm

Hello. I've been lurking a while, but must chime in to agree with all of you, especially #5. The city sports cyclists are a true danger. They weave around cars forcing sudden stops, they go against the legal direction, they jump from sidewalk (pavement) to street and back again, and they run stop signs and lights. These people are not children, for whom some leeway is allowed. They are choosing to break the laws. Their behavior alarms and enrages motorists who then generalize their antipathy to all cyclists.

However, in my US biking experience (NC and MI), I have found some motorists tend to over-react to bikes, swerving much too far into the other lane to pass than is necessary, slowing down and trailing because afraid to pass, stopping in traffic to wave a cyclist ahead even when the bike does not have right of way, etc. This may seem polite, but it impedes traffic and irritates other motorists, which ends up redounding on the cyclists.

During my short stints riding bikes in Europe and Japan, I've found the motorists to be much more predictable. They do not panic on seeing a bike, nor are they particularly offended by sharing the road. They do expect cyclists to follow all the rules of the road. Granted, at first I found it frightening to have traffic slipping by very close, but I soon learned to trust that the motorists knew what they were doing. If only I could say the same thing about US drivers!

7philosojerk
abr. 15, 2008, 9:26pm

I have found some motorists tend to over-react to bikes, swerving much too far into the other lane to pass than is necessary, slowing down and trailing because afraid to pass, stopping in traffic to wave a cyclist ahead even when the bike does not have right of way, etc. This may seem polite, but it impedes traffic and irritates other motorists, which ends up redounding on the cyclists.

Yes, to all of this. It drives me nuts. And the only thing I can point to as cause is the overwhelming (and unnecessary) reliance on automobiles in this country. I live in the 4th largest city in the nation, and there's not even bike lanes. I feel like if communities put a greater emphasis on cycling, and made more of an effort to encourage it, both through positive reinforcement and accommodation, then you wouldn't see such a persistence of drivers who don't know how to react to cyclists.

(And also - I hate it when a driver cedes her legit right of way to me. If I'm already slowing down to stop at a stop sign, I know you think you're being polite when you wave me through, but at that point it's harder to reverse trend and get going again unexpectedly than it would be to stop as I'd intended.)

8Nycticebus
abr. 15, 2008, 9:46pm

I hate it when a driver cedes her legit right of way to me. If I'm already slowing down to stop at a stop sign, I know you think you're being polite when you wave me through, but at that point it's harder to reverse trend and get going again unexpectedly than it would be to stop as I'd intended.

Yes, precisely! Especially on a hill. It feels so good to know I'm not alone.

On the topic of separate paths for bikes, though, I am ambivalent (not lanes - I'm all for lanes!). The only accident I've ever been involved in was at just such a situation. I was travelling on a separate bike path parallel to a busy five-lane road. At the intersection we all had the green, but being a careful type I slowed down significantly before crossing. At the same time, a car travelliing paralell to me was signalling to turn right, across my path. Seeing me, the driver stopped (good for both of us for being careful!) to let me proceed. Unfortunately, the driver behind him was in a hurry, and smashed right into the rear end of his (sad to say) recently re-painted 1970s cadillac. The damage looked rather serious. The offending motorist lept out of her car and angrily demanded to know why he had stopped for no reason, apparently not having seen me at all. I can't help thinking 1) if I had just raced across without slowing the cadillac would not have had to stop so hard; 2) if I had been in the traffic rather than on a separated path, the other car would have seen me.

hmmm.

9sonyagreen
abr. 17, 2008, 11:15am

It's so hard to decide on this. I learned street riding in Champaign and Chicago, IL. In Champaign, a college town surrounded by farmland, there were often lights that I'd stop for with absolutely no cars near. Also, being a flat campus, the sight lines were great. I have to say, I got in the habit of Red Light Jumping.

But at the same time, any time I was biking in traffic, I'd always be annoyed when the cars would 'overreact', assuming I was going to dart out in front of them, or run the red light.

So really, I'm torn between common logic (if the light is red, but there's no one around, I'm safe) and the greater good (if I behave, drivers will learn to respect me like a vehicle).

Going to Critical Mass in Chicago, I enjoyed the traffic-stopping processions for what I saw them as - a way to bring awareness and show drivers that we're a formidable group. Unfortunately, this pisses drivers off, when on a Friday during rush hour they're stuck because of an impromptu parade. Plus there's all the bike jerks who were being confrontational instead of smiling and waving, which just made drivers rage-y.

In *my* utopia, cities would have neighborhoods that were totally bike-friendly, and if you were a biker, you'd move there. Rail trails would be everywhere, and vehicle drivers would be limited to smart cars and old timey pickup trucks.

10oregonobsessionz
abr. 21, 2008, 4:44am

The State of Oregon has established a dedicated website for traffic laws pertaining to bicycles and pedestrians.

Bicycles are considered vehicles, and are subject to all applicable traffic rules. Programs to include bike lanes with all new road construction have been in place since the 1970s, so we have a good network of bike routes. Some are dedicated bike paths (including rails to trails conversions), and some are wide shoulders.

After a detailed study of bicycle safety in 2007, Portland recently started painting bike boxes at problem intersections.

11andyl
abr. 21, 2008, 5:34am

#10

We call "bike boxes" ASLs (advance stop lines) and have had them for about a decade.

Unfortunately they are not without problem. Firstly a fair amount of the motorised traffic encroach into the boxes or just plain ignore them and stop at the frontmost line - even if the boxes are coloured tarmac.

Secondly, one is supposed to only enter the box using the nearside feeder lane (left for us, but right for you). This encourages a naive cyclist to filter up the inside - even when there are heavy vehicles such as lorries and buses in the lane. This is pretty dangerous as you might guess - a good proportion of deaths are due to being hit by left-turning (right-turning for you) heavy vehicles at junctions.

Generally I do use ASLs if I am at the front of the line of traffic, or I may use the feeder lane if there is a single car in front of me.

12Nycticebus
abr. 21, 2008, 8:39am

It's my impression that UK and Europe are decades ahead of the US in bicycle traffic management, and also in rider organizations that lobby for improvements. A quite search shows a lot more web activity about lanes versus separate paths, advance stop lines, dedicated bike signals and the like. We Americans are happy when bicycles are even recognized as vehicles at all. The "progressive" American cities have lanes or paths, but as been pointed out in a different thread of this group, both of these options also have their dangers (paths put bikes at risk each time they intersect with roads, and lanes give both rider and driver a false sense of security, leading cars to come far to close because they are tracking the painted line rather than the path of the bike).

Perhaps things are better in UK and Europe because there are more cyclists and because communities are generally centralized rather than the huge sprawl of suburbs, highways and malls that makes up much of middle America.

In the US there has been some inspiration from the "new urbanism" movement, which advocates a more European style of urban living. Some of it is on the utopian side, but some is being enacted, particularly in Oregon and California. There are some books listed here: http://www.newurbanism.org/bookstore.html I'd like to read a couple of these over the summer myself. I wonder if anyone in this group is interested in starting a little 'new urbanism' reading group?

13thorold
abr. 21, 2008, 10:16am

>12 Nycticebus: Yes, I think you're right, the best way to make things safer for bikes is to get more motorists used to seeing bikes (and even better, to cycle themselves sometimes). Especially if cycling becomes perceived as an everyday activity, done by normal, unfit people (you, your partner, your kids, your parents) in everyday clothes on low-tech rattletraps.

Providing conspicuous cycle facilities - not just bike lanes/paths, but also sensible, secure cycle parking facilities at schools, shops, workplaces and stations - helps to promote this, even if the facilities themselves aren't all that you would wish them to be.

It also helps if you avoid building cities in places with steep hills and big extremes of climate, of course(!), and if most people are able to live within a couple of km of their regular destinations. Suburbs aren't necessarily bad, if you can provide schools, shops and some sort of metro or tram with cycle parking at the stops.

14Nycticebus
abr. 22, 2008, 6:44am

>13 thorold: Quite so! At the moment I am living in a very small city in Japan. There are bike parking sheds everywhere and bikes everywhere (most of them are clunky one-gear jobs with big baskets). It was a supreme pleasure to be able to bike easily on a mixture of lanes, paths and sidewalks (pavements) to the station, lock up the bike and step on to one of the worlds fastest trains.

Lots of grandmas and housewives ride bikes here, as well as mobs of uniformed school children and some men in suits heading for trains. On the narrow alleys of the old part of the city, cars (which are typically very small to begin with) go along very carefully and wait to pass bikes at safe intervals.

Today I rode about 10k to a shrine in the nearby hills for a festival, and passed strings of old folks headed the same way. Many of these good people have had their driving licenses revoked, so the bicycle (and bus, train) is their only way of getting about. Some ride motor-assist bicycles, however, which can be another sort of hazard (imagine a tiny, hunched-over lady bearing down on you at 20km/hour).

15sonyagreen
abr. 22, 2008, 11:07am

Bring on the New Urbanism group! I greatly enjoy thinking practically about reasonable changes I can help make.

As opposed to to posting utopian wishlists :P

16Nycticebus
jul. 21, 2008, 9:22pm

oh dear, sorry for the long silence. I was travelling and then recovering from said travels, and all the usual excuses, including glorious long evenings for riding. Summer is well underway, but I'm ready to try some New Urbanism reading. Anyone else? I'm kinda shy to start up an entirely new group, but then, it doesn't fit here very well, either. Suggestions?

17DugsBooks
Editat: set. 13, 2008, 5:23pm

1st post here and probably don't qualify to post since I have not ridden my bike for nearly a year. I bought my bike in the 70's {nice Al double butted frame many campy components etc.} and used it as a primary means of transportation for a few years while in school.

I bike in "survival" mode since there are no really safe bike lanes in my area, I:

Jump curbs to a sidewalk frequently if available

Swerve right to a pedestrian walkway {if available} to bypass a red light

Never cycle at night anymore but have several flashing LED's if I am caught out somehow.

Most of all of these techniques are an effort to stay away from cars. I locked my keys in my car a couple of years ago and rode the 10 - 12 miles downtown to bring it back and used all of these methods to get there. I noticed the bike couriers kept to the roads downtown while I hopped curbs but they had to cycle those routes frequently {and were/are subject to criticism i.e. being yelled at, if recognized I guess} .

18Nycticebus
set. 20, 2008, 10:49am

Well I do hope you have more opportunities to get on your bike! Once you get a feel for it again, it is quite freeing.

As for your "survival" mode, of course it depends on the environment and your confidence and skills, BUT most cyclists in the US conclude that even though it feels scarier to be out in traffic, it is actually safer to be there than on the edges. The reason is that car drivers can manage to deal with a bike doing predictable traffic-like things in a lane (they may not like it, but they can manage), but with bikes that jump in and out of traffic they either assume you will always get out of their way (but sometimes you can't) or simply don't see you at all. As a result, if you are dodging in and out of parked cars, off and on sidewalks, etc., you end up being much more at risk.

In most parts of the US as far as I know, legally bicycles are vehicles that must follow the rules of the road. Car drivers might hate you, but that is their problem, not yours. In many parts of the US, it is illegal for bicycles to ride on sidewalks.

If you're planning to ride more (and I hope so!) I'd recommend checking out local ordinances and getting in touch with your local bike advocacy group (I'm guessing it might be this one: http://www.bikecharlotte.com/ ).

19DugsBooks
Editat: oct. 22, 2008, 6:21pm

"In most parts of the US as far as I know, legally bicycles are vehicles that must follow the rules of the road. Car drivers might hate you, but that is their problem, not yours. In many parts of the US, it is illegal for bicycles to ride on sidewalks."

At the risk of being a wise guy if you haven't noticed most cars are much larger than bicycles and as long as the laws of physics apply they come out the winner in any collision. It would be a weird "for lack of something better to do" policeperson to object to someone riding a bike on a relatively empty sidewalk next to a crowded 2 lane street.
As I said the bike couriers in downtown stop & go traffic are fine obeying the traffic laws etc. that works; but riding on a two lane road with a speed limit of 45mph in heavy traffic when there is a sidewalk next to you is the height of idiocy. I think that is where the concept of "dead right" comes from.

I think the former heavy set county councilman in the area you link to who was bashed by a pickup truck hit & run and left for hours while he was cycle commuting would agree that caution and defensive riding is the order of the day.

I actually have a lot of time in {not recently by years} commuting and riding for recreation and it has been my experience that the current conditions usually dictate the style people use. I realize that sometimes you have to have a "kiss my ass" attitude when the traffic backs up behind you and you only have that route to get to where ever but it still scares the hell out of me.

20thorold
oct. 22, 2008, 11:59am

> It would be a weird "for lack of something better to do" policeperson to object to someone riding a bike on a relatively empty sidewalk next to a crowded 2 lane street.

Officious, perhaps; unfriendly, certainly, but if that's the law, you can hardly object if you get fined. Pedestrians can easily make much the same argument as cyclists against mixed use: A footpath should be a safe space for elderly people, the disabled, and parents with small children. Where are they supposed to go if they are in constant danger of being mown down by fast-moving cyclists? (I know you're a responsible rider, but if you ride on footpaths, then others who ride recklessly, don't have bells, lights, etc., will follow your example...)

Wouldn't it be much better to lobby your local authority to provide proper cycling facilities, rather than put yourself in the wrong and alienate others who should be on your side?

21stellarexplorer
jul. 7, 2011, 12:49pm

Just the other day I'm sweating my way up a long steep climb and there's a car behind me, going real slow. Why does this guy want to drive up the hill at 10 miles per hour? There's plenty of room to pass. Annoying, but that's his problem, I figure. Ten minutes of pushing with a car following close behind.

I finally summit and I'm tearing down the other side at 35 MPH or so. That's when he decides it's time to pass. Brilliant. And he doesn't think he has enough room now, so what does he do? He starts leaning on the horn, blasting in my ear. What am I supposed to do? On the climb, I could have moved over if necessary (which it wasn't). At this moment, it's all I can do to keep upright and avoid potholes.

I figured that until he passed, I ought to avoid offering him my opinion.

22jjwilson61
jul. 7, 2011, 8:31pm

The one case where I do run red lights is at a T intersection where I'm riding across the top arm of the T on the side opposite of where the other road intersects. I don't see how I could intersect with a car turning left (in the US), especially since there are bike lanes so I don't see a need to stop, even though technically I guess I am running the light.