Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Low average, high variability

During the past few days, I've seen lots of bicyclists out at night without lights. Last night, a couple demonstrated a trifecta of unsafe bicycling: riding on the sidewalk, against traffic, without lights after dark. Sadly, many bicyclists appear to feel that riding on sidewalks renders it unnecessary to ride on the right side and to ride with lights after dark. Quite the contrary: Sidewalk bicyclists traveling against traffic are more than twice as likely to get hit as sidewalk bicyclists going with traffic. Likewise, the difficulty that motorists have seeing bicyclists at night without lights is compounded by riding on sidewalks, outside of many drivers' range of visual scanning. This morning, I shouted at yet another bicyclist riding toward me and other traffic on Muhammad Ali Boulevard (a one-way street). He seemed both puzzled and annoyed that I would tell him not to ride against traffic.

On the opposite end of the spectrum, I have encountered bicyclists the past two mornings riding with flashing LED headlights during daylight. One also wore a very conspicuous reflective vest. Of course, they both wore helmets. Not incidentally, I know both of these riders. Safety-conscious riders in Louisville go to extremes to make ourselves visible in mixed traffic.

In Louisville as of 2008, we seem to have a small, tight-knit group of bicycle safety paragons amidst a sea of bicyclists showing no awareness of basic cycling safety principles. (Of course, there are people in the middle of the spectrum, too.) This is our baseline against which to measure progress in our efforts at public education on bicycle safety. Bicycling for Louisville will offer three sets of Confident Cycling classes for adults over the next several weeks, funded by Louisville Metro government. Metro is working on a series of bicycle safety Public Service Announcements for television, to release next month. We hope to work with Metro government over the next several months to offer a wider variety of bicycling and driving safety programs to reach various audiences. How much will these programs raise the standard of bicycling behavior in our city? Watch, and let us know what you see.


purple haze said...

It would be great if B4L had the resources to produce an index-card-sized handout to give these sidewalk bicycle users. Printed matter with agency logos encouraging safer cycling seems less confrontational than someone saying, "Hey, I'm an LCI and you are doing that wrong."

D Morse said...

Users of the third street bike lane seem to consider it a bidirectional facility, despite the prominent (yet aging) arrows to the contrary.

When I see something unsafe but not urgent, I use an adaptation of Stetson Kennedy's "Frown Power" campaign. I pointedly frown at the bad behavior. People have to wonder "why is that guy so unhappy with me?". That gets them thinking, I hope.

john said...

I'm very frustrated by cyclists who ride on sidewalks and those who ride against traffic. In my neighborhood (Clifton), I see a wide demographic of cyclists riding on the sidewalk while disregarding traffic signals and traffic flow -- from teenagers on BMXs to retired couples on cruisers, I see those who are who are out for a casual ride and others who appear to be commuting to and from work. While I don't confront these people, I do wonder their reason for riding as they do. Do they not know the law or do they not want to be inconvenienced by following it?

As an engineer and having worked with the public, I've learned that an important part of changing behaviors is to find out why people do what they do so that the root of the behavior to be targeted. What, from your experience, have you learned to be the reasons people do not follow cycling laws?