Wednesday, April 21

The "E" for the Transportation Cyclist

I occasionally read about a bad experience a cyclist, or someone the cyclist knows, had out on a road. It is often coupled with a stated desire for infrastructure (the ENGINEERING "E"), or for motorsts and/or police to undergo training of some sort or other (ENFORCEMENT and EQUALITY "E"), or just for there to be less cars on the road and more cyclists (ENCOURAGEMENT "E"). I'm sure these are all fine things, though we might disagree on some particulars. Still, if you are a transportation cyclist, and have to go somewhere today, none of that matters.

When you next ride to work, the motorists aren't going to be any smarter or more civil than however they are. Bike lanes or paths will either be on your route or not. Even the police will be how they are. Sure, advocacy may help all of these things in the long run, but day-to-day, you're on your own. In reality, the ONLY THING YOU CAN DO TO HELP YOURSELF IS TO RIDE BETTER AND SMARTER. That is true whether you are new to a bike or have been riding for decades. A recreational cyclist can drive his/her bike to somewhere to ride it, but I work where I work and live where I live. It's why EDUCATION is the only really USEFUL "E" for the transportation cyclist in the here and now.

Snow skiing is seriously dangerous compared to cycling. Unlike non-race cycling, skiing is VERY education oriented. Skillful skiers come back more and get hurt less. Why would we think it ought to be any different for bikes?

It's not hard to ride a bike. Even done without skill or care, it's pretty safe. If you doubt it, watch people go by on bikes almost any place. They'll ride the wrong way, shoot down sidewalks, run lights, and worse, and STILL only around eight hundred a year get killed in North America, compared to the 40000+ that die in cars. Regardless, improving YOUR OWN skill is the only way you can affect tomorrow's ride and keep yourself safer. Is it any wonder why I go blathering off about bike school? I make mistakes every time I ride to work. On rare occasions, I blog about some of those mistakes, particularly if I think they may be amusing to my dear reader, or if I think it might help someone avoid an uncomfortable or dangerous situation.

If BikeDFW offers a commuter cycling class, I'll take it. If they offer a Traffic 201 course, I'll take THAT. If Richard or Gail have opinions about my four unanswered bike school questions, I'll listen carefully. Ditto for the frequent tidbits I pick up from fine comments I've seen on this and other blogs.


Rantwick said...

As resistant as I am to schooling of any kind, you have once again shown yourself to be very wise. Damn you.

Ham said...

There is another option, too. I reckon that my advanced driving training one of the most useful and cycle lifesaving things I did many years ago. One very basic technique: "when you are approaching what you evaluate as a potentially dangerous situation, cover the brake" translates especially well into cycling. Apart from that it teaches roadcraft and observation that teaches you to pick up on the behaviour of other drivers. And the most essential quality - take control of your own destiny. If you are in a car on a motorway, and another driver is too close behind you, pull back, don't accelerate. Same true with cycling, it is only your behaviour you have control over. Rather like what you just said.

Interestingly, the IAM now are involved in cycle training, too.

Steve A said...

I think it likely that the first book review I make on this blog will be Proficient Motorcycling. The compare and contrast element is so obvious.

Dottie said...

Great post! This is so true. Your point about watching other cyclists reminds me of something my favorite law professor told me when I was stressed about taking the bar exam. She said to go to the local courthouse (DUI, family court, whatever) and watch the attorneys there. If some of those goofs passed the bar, I would have no problem. Granted, no matter how perfectly a cyclist rides, an inattentive or drunk motorist can always take her out...

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