Wednesday, August 19

CIC Does Not Equal Timidity

"Cyclist Inferiority Complex." It's something you'll occasionally see bandied about on vehicular cycling sites and exchanges, leaving the impression that the unfortunate CIC victim is somehow crippled by paranoid delusions that motorists are all hunting for him or her. Well, it ain't necessarily so.

I see curb-hugging people on bikes riding all sorts of places that I'm reluctant to travel, and some of them are complying with all applicable traffic laws. Case in point - seen Monday morning, on the Alliance Gateway Freeway (Hwy 170), headed east from Old Denton Road, a lonely bicycle rider near the edge of the right lane. The scene looked just like the photo (with the addition of the solitary bicycle). I've never ridden that part of AGF, though it has GREAT sightlines. It just seems like a long stretch of fast road and I have other choices for where I want to go. I've thought about riding it - a lot. But I've never done it. If I did ride it, it would be on the way home, as an alternate to Westport, shown here.

Anyway, motorists saw the bicycle rider a LONG way back and moved over a lane. They would have done the same whether he was riding the fog line or far to the left of the right lane. I'd have done the same if I saw a cyclist when I was driving down Hwy 170. Heck, they'd probably moved over a half mile back if he'd been riding in the middle lane. Nobody wants to mess up their whole day and have to deal with insurance, even if the police think everything's OK.

Despite stereotypes, adherence to the law, common sense, courage, and cycling approach have little connection. Yes, I happen to think that vehicular cycling is good for me and good for motorists (though they may not always agree). But the simple reality is that a lot of this is opinion and theory with less hard evidence than might be suggested. Cycling really IS safe and fun unless you're doing something REALLY dumb. Even if you're not following what I think is the absolute best practice. Remember this post if you ever read something I write that seems to say otherwise...

12 comments:

ChipSeal said...

"But the simple reality is that a lot of this is opinion and theory with less hard evidence than might be suggested."

Very little of what we accept as present reality has been confirmed by "hard evidence". But common experience over time and observed by many people is evidence, and adequate enough to come to some sound conclusions as well.

Experienced cyclists learn to avoid the common hazards encountered in traffic, like door-zones, right hooks and pull-outs. The fact that so few people who ride in a clearly unsafe manner (Salmon and ninjas for example) without injury shows how safe cycling properly really is.

Chandra said...

Steve A,
Nice post and in fact a very valuable one for those with CIC. I had CIC for a long time. Oh heck, I even had partial CIC for a while. I would ride the middle of the road sometimes and hug the curb the rest of the time. Your posts gave me the confidence to ride in the middle to the left side of the lane. I am referring to "I don't run into PDAs very often. I worry about them, but my current routes and riding well left in the lane (taking an even dumber "D" to miss me) seems to keep them under control."

Now, motorists seem to leave me the H alone LOL

Thanks, Steve A!

You gave me a confidence boost!!

Peace :)

Doohickie said...

I see CIC in a different light. I think the VCers who bust on anyone who doesn't accept VC doctrine are the ones with the inferiority complex. It's almost as if they believe that unless everyone sees things their way, it somehow negates the validity of VC.

Just ride the best you can for conditions.

For me, a year ago, that meant gutter bunnying and cutting through neighborhoods and parking lots, avoiding busy streets. Nowadays I think nothing of shooting through the retail area of Bryant Irvin Road, one of the busier sprawl roads in Fort Worth. But if someone was just starting out, I wouldn't expect them to have enough confidence to just take the lane on that road. There's a learning curve, and also an un-learning curve (i.e., many have been taught not to ride in traffic from a young age).

I must be tired cuz I feel like I'm rambling.

Steve A said...

Of course, when we talk about cycling being safe, we're not talking about trail or cyclo cross. Cross season is almost in sight!

Keri said...

Drivers make different decisions in different conditions. And possibly in different localities. What you observed would be highly unusual here... and maybe there, too, if the traffic was more dense or there was more daylight.

I've observed many, many cyclists riding on the edge of the right lane on 4-lane roads. Sometimes they are given ample clearance. Rarely do all, or even most, drivers make a complete lane change. But most of the ones I've watched are passed in-lane by some or all motorists (depending on traffic density). If the lane is 12ft, they may get 2-3 feet of clearance, but they're pinned to that position. I've watched them ride through pot-holes, sunken manhole covers, etc. because they are trapped there by overtaking cars.

And that corresponds with my years of experience riding that way vs riding the way I do now.

One other thing. I have observed that motorists offer better passing clearance in the dark or low-light conditions. When they can't judge space as well, most tend to err on the side of caution. On a 2-lane road in the dark where I am riding in a position to accommodate a straddle-pass, I get mostly complete lane changes, whereas during the day I would get mostly straddle-passes.

As for CIC. I do think it is unfair to beat the uninformed with that stick. People who have not learned anything about safe cycling are acting on cultural norms. We should beat the culture with that stick, but not the person.

However, I lose compassion for people when they have been exposed to good information and still insist on CIC principles. Specifically, there are a number of people in town who I have ridden with and spent hours talking to and they continue publicly denigrating assertive cycling principles. I've often felt inclined to call them CHC - cyclist-hating cyclists. They're all recreational roadies.

Rantwick said...

Hear hear. Some curb huggers are among the bravest (or stupidest) people I've ever seen, riding on streets that scare me silly.

As for how to ride, I also agree that dogma of any kind just isn't flexible enough for the wide variety of conditions a cyclist will face.

Steve A said...

Crimeny. For a post I thought might be controversial, I can't say I seriously disagree with ANY of the comments, other than wondering what "PDA" stands for in Chandra's comment. I even see common threads running through the comments. Apparently I must try a different tack if I wish to stir things up...

Rantwick said...

Steve, I had no idea you were into stirring things up. I've often thought your blog could be named "DFW Agreeable Love-In-Central".

ChipSeal said...

DFW-ALIC ?

Doohickie wrote: "I think the VCers who bust on anyone who doesn't accept VC doctrine are the ones with the inferiority complex. It's almost as if they believe that unless everyone sees things their way, it somehow negates the validity of VC."

It seems to me that many hear slander when the speaker intends a description.

I am a reformed CIC, and from past posts Keri is as well. The sense of empowerment and liberating freedom we felt as we threw off the chains of oppression when we accepted the responsibility of being a part of traffic, not just being in traffic, was profound for both of us.

For me, the revelation can accurately be described as a change of my mindset from having inferior status relative to motor vehicles to that of understanding that my access to the public way is at the least equal to all other road users.

Do we despise children who are afraid of the dark? No, we understand what they do not yet know- that the room is the same in the dark as it is in the light. It is only the perception that has changed.

If we described them as AOD (Afraid Of Dark) kids, must it be a term of slander? Or is it an accurate description of where they are in one aspect of their development? A place that nearly all of us were at?

I think that too many of us Americans are quick to take offense, and that it sometimes gets in the way of communication.

Steve A said...

To quote a recent VC post talking about the meaning of CIC: "refers to the manifestation of fear and self-loathing exhibited by many novice or inexperienced cyclists when confronted with operation as a vehicle on the roadway."

I hardly think that definition is an accurate description of the guy riding east on Alliance Gateway Freeway.

I would agree, however, that such words DO get in the way of meaningful communication.

Even "gutter bunny" (a term I've used in the past on this blog) is ugly, and I don't think it helps people discover how to ride better and safer. It's also less descriptive than optimal for a lot of the places where I ride (there being no gutters).

We often forget that honey catches more flies than vinegar. One day, I hope to be able to make a first-hand report on this blog of an unquestioned "wild Cyclaris Vehicularis" sighting. Better yet, if it weren't worthy of a post.

And yes, while we're playing "True Confessions," most of my cycling life has been spent overly fascinated with the FTR principles that the vast majority of people on bikes follow (notice that clever avoidance of the "C" acronym?).

Doohickie said...

I don't get it; what's FTR stand for?

Specifically, there are a number of people in town who I have ridden with and spent hours talking to and they continue publicly denigrating assertive cycling principles. I've often felt inclined to call them CHC - cyclist-hating cyclists. They're all recreational roadies.

Recreational roadies would be an apt description of the club I ride with (although it consists of far more than just roadies, right down to casual cyclists).

My method of trying to proselytize them is to point to specific actions that may be more effectively performed along VC lines- things like signaling for instance. If I try to point out why it's safer for the group to clearly signal before moving, and remind them that all hand waving may be interpreted as signals by motorists, I can get small changes out of them. (One guy saw something interesting and called out to another rider, "Look at that" while point sharply to the left. The car in the next lane that was preparing to pass nearly locked up his brakes because he thought that cyclist was going to pull out in front of him.)

As for how to ride, I also agree that dogma of any kind just isn't flexible enough for the wide variety of conditions a cyclist will face.

Agreed, and this is both the blessing and the curse of vehicular cycling. Some people who practice VC see it as The One True Faith and can't bring themselves to violate any portion of the dogma. In my view, VC principles are to be followed because they work. If they don't work for a given situation, then.... adjust to conditions.

The other side of the problem is that since there isn't a licensing requirement for riders of bicycles, there really is no standard at all. If there was at least a set of standard behavior, it would be safer for cyclists because their interactions with cars would be more prescribed. VC attempts to do that. If we all practiced VC technique, at least most of the time, motorists would be more comfortable with sharing the road. As it is, cyclists represent little more than just another hazard to most motorists.

Steve A said...

FTR = "Far To the Right"

Post a Comment

No Need for Non-Robot proof here!