Wednesday, December 7


After more than two years of bike school and bike ed "how to teach" school, I heard the term "ACE" for the first time last summer. Specifically, on or about July 20th. I'll not make you, my loyal reader wait for so long.

ACE stands for "Abilities, Conditions, Equipment." Unlike the image from Wikipedia at the left, it does not imply a "death card" or "the top ranking card."

Instead, it is a recognition that sometimes situations differ, not only from cyclist to cyclist, but sometimes even for the SAME cyclist. Let me present a few examples:

For the first example, I'll relay the example that led me to hear this acronym for the first time. It was prompted by a Bike League LCI discussion that innocently started as "Under what conditions, if any, do you tell students that it is unsafe to control the lane?"

Among other responses, my own was "I'd say blind corners near a bar at closing time qualify as pretty dicey places to control a lane." Actually, I was criticized for this, with an inquiry about whether I thought the cyclist would be any safer hugging the curb. Actually, in such situations, I'd probably simply find a way to get around the corner completely OFF the road. While I have a lot of faith in my motorists, it isn't BLIND faith. Just sayin'

After a whole lot of other discussion, Preston Tyree, until recently the Bike League Director of Education, dropped the "ACE" bomb. Wow, why didn't he mention this in our LCI Seminar?

Let's go through ACE

Ability - Anyone that is able to ride any kind of bike, whether with two wheels or four, has SOME level of ability. Some of us have been riding for many years, in various conditions. Some of us have less extensive variety in their experience base. ABSOLUTELY, ability should present one variable that each cyclist should consider in his/her riding, whether in traffic, or in some sort of "cycling facility." While I STRONGLY believe that we should all be looking for ways to improve our abilities, we will always represent a spectrum of cycling, from complete beginner, ranging up to "the best transportation cyclist in the entire world," whoever that might be. While I might claim to be in "the 1%" in this regard, that certainly leaves a lot of room for me to learn new tricks. It's part of why I write this blog. To share.

Conditions - I ride differently on different days. One positive aspect of watching weather and traffic reports before I leave home is to help me realize just how much more dangerous things are out there on the road when visibility drops and traction goes to heck. Even in such conditions, cycling remains safe compared to, say, motorcycling or regular motoring, but I'm a pretty risk averse guy. While I'm perfectly willing to ride in the dark wearing basic black, I'm really NOT inclined to ride my bike down the Alliance Gateway Freeway in the dark and fog. No, I don't have any data to show I'm at any real risk, but we all "draw the line" somewhere. In the fog, I take an alternate route. In the rain, I take an alternate route. I'm willing to pay the two minute penalty in the time it takes me to get to work. Peace of mind is worth two minutes to me. YOUR mileage might vary.

Equipment - This is one I have a the most difficulty with. Certainly, I have experienced situations where failed equipment has caused me to behave differently. When I broke my bike chain with no tools to fix it, I coasted along on the sidewalk "a la scooter" to get home. Ditto for when my headlight pooped out and I had no spare batteries. I admit it, I'm too "chicken" to ride on the road in the dark without lights. I'll leave that to people more daring than myself. People I sometimes refer to as "ninja." On some occasions, a sidewalk really IS the best way to go. But such occasions are, for me at least, pretty rare. IMO, there's a definite interplay here with the "Ability" and "Conditions" elements. Also, what sort of acronym would "AC" represent? We're not here to pitch defunct British car manufacturers! I'm doubly troubled by this one, because Preston cited a bike with a trailer as a situation in which one might not want to control a lane. I wondered, and inquired, how a trailer affected the safety of lane control. Never got an answer. All I can say is that I cannot see any way in which the presence or absence of a trailer should affect one's decision to control a lane. It is either safe, depending on ACE, or not. If not, and there's no alternative, one might be dragging that trailer through a drainage ditch. Certainly, there are improvements that can be made to our road system. No further comment...


Jon said...

In my neck of woods, using a trailer seems to make lane control safer and easier. I think the drivers around here assume that there is a child in my trailer (rather than 40 lbs of dog food and a week's worth of groceries), and they become very courteous and patient when I am pulling it.

Justin said...

I always control the lane when I use my trailer - I also use a high flag so people can see it. Sometimes it has my daughter, and sometimes it has groceries - but drivers tend to steer a wide berth either way.

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