Monday, January 31

Simple Learning Moment

One cool thing about bicycle school is that you learn all sorts of things that weren't part of the cirricula, and which maybe you already knew but really never thought in much depth about before.

One example of this for me last weekend at the LCI Seminar was really simple. Stopping.

I stop when I'm supposed to stop. But that is only the surface of the story. Certainly I can stay stopped at a stop sign far longer than most motorists stop for at a stop sign (even the ones that actually stop). I can do that without putting either foot down. If I were riding a fixed gear, I could do it for longer than any motorist would care to stick around. None of that was the learning moment.

The learning moment was the focus on the communicative element of putting a foot down on the ground and what that causes a motorist to think, perhaps subconsciously, when that event happens. As Preston Tyree observed, regardless of the reality, putting a foot down sends a message to a motorist that "Here's a cyclist that is safe, predictable, and in control." Simply BEING it is one thing. Getting a motoring companion to REALIZE it can be another and might require cycling actions that aren't strictly necessary from an actual operating or legal standpoint. We should not forget that motorists do not perceive cyclists as the cyclists perceive themselves.

Today, I put my foot down a lot more than I would have last week. Foot signals - who'd a thunk it? First we get hand signals, then I got elbow signals (for encouraging an "overfriendly" motorist to observe my yield to their superior right of way), and now we get foot signals. I'm thankful I have shoes on or else they'd have me making "toe signals."


PaddyAnne said...

We learned about that foot-down-at-stops-message too! I thought it was nifty as well. I can't come to a stop without doing it, so it was one thing during my course I excelled at.

RANTWICK said...

I'm like PaddyAnne. Despite riding fixed in summer, my track stand blows. I'll just pretend I owe the foot down to good comm from now on.


Take that!

Steve A said...

It was the motorist psychology reacting to the foot down that really struck me and which I'd never really absorbed emotionally before in many years. It goes to show that learning sometimes comes in unexpected snippets and about things we THOUGHT we understood but maybe really didn't.

In another lesson, a child needs to actually get OFF the bike to send the same message that an adult sends by putting a foot down. In some ways, kids have it tough.

Steve A said...

This is great. I've helped increase Rantwick's keen cycling expertise without him having to actually change ANYTHING! Perhaps that explains the positive comment you got when you were wearing that sign around. The foot down was what did it. It's possible.

Big Oak said...

It makes sense, I'd never really thought too much about it before.

Tracy W said...

I always put a foot down when I'm sharing a 4-way stop with a car. I make left hand turns at all of the ones on my commute and need to yield to the oncoming car. Quite often, that car will try to be polite and want me to go first (out of turn), so having my foot down signals that I'm not ready to move yet. Often, I'll take one or both hands off the bars to get my point across.

Steve A said...

Tracy W wrote "take one or both hands off the bars to get my point across."

That's almost what I refer to as "elbow signals." Elbow signals are when you use the handlebars as a surrogate for what your mom always taught you not to put your elbows on when you were growing up. It DOES get a message across of "either you go in your turn or I'm prepared to wait a LONG time..." I've never considered using "back signals" where I lie down and prepare to go to sleep on the road until the motorist takes his/her turn.

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