Tuesday, June 30

Experimental Cycling #1 - Interactions

Let's face it, when you get into the northern reaches of Tarrant County and the distances get bigger, you may have time to ponder things when you're riding your bike.

Inspired by CommuteOrlando last December, I started counting and characterizing traffic interactions. Pretty soon, I realized I could use that information to make my bicycle commute less stressful and safer at the same time. I think you'll agree. And it's dirt simple.

I count bicycle/motor vehicle interactions. If I happen to ride on a MUP, I'll add bicycle/pedestrian/dog interactions (though I did have one armadillo interaction).

Here's how I peg them. Your system will adapt to your own tastes.
  • Each car passing me on a two lane road counts as an interaction
  • A car I happen to notice changing lanes to pass me on a multi-lane counts as one
  • Other cars passing on a multi-lane don't count - unless some dweeb two lanes over feels he needs to honk because I'm on his road (remember -don't let your paranoia get out of hand here)
  • Cars going the other way don't count, UNLESS there's some sort of real interaction
  • Cars that wait for me, or that I wait for count as one each. Ditto if they should have.
  • Cars at a stoplight when I shoot through on a green don't count for anything unless I notice a driver looking to make a turn that'd affect me or something similar.
  • No more than a count of five at any intersection (otherwise, you could rapidly reach 20 or more at a busy intersection or even a clogged 4-way stop)
  • No more than a count of five if you're at a stop sign, watching cars whiz by on a busy arterial you're going to cross or ride on.
  • One interaction for each clump of pedestrians you pass on a MUP
  • One interaction for each dog associated with any clump (that might run the count up a bit) with a max of five per clump.
  • Anyway, try it, you'll rapidly get the hang of it. Remember, we're doing an engineering approximation here, not some science project.
  • For a variation, you can count things like debris and fall risks, though I've not tried that myself. I've counted motorists making passes in no passing zones. I know that, after noticing a lot of female joggers in Keller over most of a week, I discovered that 80% of the joggers along Bear Creek Parkway were female, in contrast to male majorities elsewhere. However, back to the subject...

That's pretty much it. For a first trial, count the interactions between intersections versus at intersections. Compare with the count when you ride on a MUP (Multi-Use Path). Take a couple of experimental runs through a parking lot. Ride close to the store versus the far side. You can refine things further and compare interactions in all sorts of ways. Myself, I discovered I pick up about 3X interactions in the afternoon compared to morning. It's no wonder the motorists are crabbier in the afternoons. I also discovered that 80% of my interactions were at intersections, which was a surprise since I'd always noticed cars passing more - until I got quantitative data. I discovered that about 0.01% of my interactions resulted in some sort of motorist bad behavior. Finally, and relevant to a couple of upcoming posts, I noticed that parking lots, especially in the afternoon, shot the interaction count right off the charts. It changed my default view of parking lots and I began to treat them as potentially dangerous, if still useful in rare circumstances.

Remember, every interaction is a potential collision. Count them and you'll soon find the count dropping as you understand how they occur on your ride and how you can affect them.

2 comments:

ChipSeal said...

Huh. That is interesting. Do loose dogs count as interactions? (Just kidding.)By the way, that was what the pregnant goat said.

Parking lots are dangerous, as any car insurance company can tell you. I am not sure if neighborhood streets are similarly more dangerous than collectors and arterials, but the potential for crossing and pull out hazards are there. And so I don't feel as comfortable there either.

I hate MUPs. I'd feel safer riding in riot than on a MUP. I think I need a more upright style bike so I am not always going at it hammer and tong. You know, something dear Rantwick would ride. (ChipSeal giggles to himself.)

Seriously Steve, I am enjoying your blog. I am eager to read your next post. (You tease you!)

Rantwick said...

My mother always told us "remember, parking lots are some of the most dangerous places in the world. There are no rules here.", when we were little. She is a smart one, my mom.

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