Sunday, August 12

Share the Road Indeed!

Amongst cycling advocates, there are ENDLESS arguments over the details of sharrows, the merits of "Bicycles May Use Full Lane" (BMUFL) signs versus "Share the Road" signs. I find such discussions alternately frustrating and amusing. Perhaps they are a modern-day counterpart to medieval arguments about how many angels can dance on the head of a pin.

You see, such signage and paint is not really meant for motorists. It is meant to reassure "the converted" and those "considering conversion" that it is OK. With such signs, Lucifer is kept at bay. Well, I hate to say it, but cycling CAN be dangerous. In point of fact, despite an aggressive and continuing safety education effort, two-wheeled road users are being killed at a dramatically higher rate than other users. With or without helmets. What's more, I really do not think any of these added signs are going to help because I really do not imagine that motorists are prompted to some sort of "driving behavior conversion" by the presence or absence of such.

This week, I saw a "Share the Road" sign that illustrates the problem. I'd be interested to hear theories on how the motorist in the photo could have kept that motorcycle safe by merely "sharing." I expect there's a good chance that the first warning even a careful motorist got was the "whap" of sheet metal crushing. Perhaps he/she pulled forward from a stop sign to get a better view of traffic. Perhaps the two-wheeler had the stop. We'll never know, other than that BMUFL or "Share the Road" signs provide no actual useful information that might have prevented this tragedy.

The death rate for people on motorcycles is FAR higher per mile than for motorists or for people on bicycles. This is despite Motorcycle Safety Foundation (MSF) education, better helmets, better equipment and "Share the Road" signs. One obvious conclusion is that speed really DOES kill. Cycling is fun and safe. Motorcycling would be safe as well if you didn't have people popping wheelies on the Freeway at 100+MPH and ASSUMING that all motorists will stop at stop signs in spite of overwhelming evidence to the contrary. Good thing those wrong-way sidewalk bicyclists can't ride at 100MPH! Do stay safe out there...

Seen in Tacoma this Week. Share the Road Y'all!


Khal said...

Motorcycling has ten times the fatalities per exposure hour than bicycling and driving a car (IIHS and elsewhere). Driving and cycling, per exposure hour, are pretty similar.

Cycling attorney Steve Magas both bicycles and rides a big BMW touring motorcycle. He has the touring version, I have the sport touring version. He compares motorcycling more to flying in terms of the risks. At 70 mph, you have far more kinetic energy to dissipate when you hit something (KE = 1/2 mv^2) something, and often far less reaction time between the realization that you are in deep shit and when the collision occurs.

Yep, its much more hazardous, which means one has to engage in far more hazard control. And like bicycling, you need to plan for someone else's screwup and have your crash avoidance thinking hat on.

Lots of ways to screw up on a motorcycle that are deadly--speeding, drunk riding, overconfidence,lack of PPE, not thinking, etc. I've seen people overcook a curve on a bicycle at low speeds and walk away with road rash but we lost a rider in the Jemez that way--he kissed an outcrop with his skull, and helmets were not field tested to fly into outrcrops at high speed head first. But you are more likely to be wearing a tree if you overcook a curve at 70. That's how Richard Farina died, by the way, for those of you old enough to remember him. Tragic.

All of which is bound to result in someone asking me why I bought a motorcycle after having made do without one for 25 years. Good question, folks. Its a guy thing, I guess. I promise not to do some of the really stupid stuff some motorcyclists do, including that guy who had my name on his driver's license 35 years ago. Maybe that will be enough, maybe not.

John Romeo Alpha said...

I would prefer signage which told road users to manage their own v at a conservative low number based on reaction time, equipment, conditions, and nature/number of other road users, and to avoid others of large m moving at high v who are not. Basically, make sure everyone is aware that they are primarily responsible/accountable for managing their own mv^2 in a safe and compatible manner. I would love to see tickets handed out for Mismanagement of Excessive Kinetic Energy.

Anonymous said...

Dallas's answer to the sharrows vs BMUFL vs Share the Road debate is: Use all three! See Houston/Victory past the AAC.

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