Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Visibility & Predictability Statement

I read this statement to the Citizen Advisory Committee of the Metropolitan Planning Organization. It went ok. Maybe this statement has a brighter future than I thought...


In light of a recent well reported incident involving a bike rider and a truck driver I’d like to take a few minutes of your time and remind you of a few things about safe bicycle riding.

First, people on bicycles fare best when they act like and are treated like drivers of other vehicles. The two major factors that go into people on bikes acting like vehicles are riding visibly and riding predictably.

A person on a bicycle that is stopped at an intersection or riding down the road is most safe when they have positioned their body in the lane similarly to where they would be if they were driving a car. This position communicates the future direction of travel - predictability - and allows the rider to see and be seen by all other drivers on the road - visibility.


People might ask - what about riding to the right? Indeed the law requires riders to ride to the right when it’s safe. The law describes many situations that are not safe, including when a lane cannot be safely shared side by side with another vehicle. How wide is safe? Drivers vehicles are at least 7 feet of width, riders are 3. Add some space to the drivers left to keep away from cars, add some space to the drivers right to keep away from the rider. Now we’re over 14 feet - most lanes in the city are 10 or 12 feet wide and not safe.

People might ask - what about riding on high volume roads? High volume roads are intimidating to many. However, high volume roads can limit the speed and sudden movements of drivers. A competent, visible and predictable rider can often intermingle with traffic more easily in high volume situations.


I have two requests...

First, please be supportive of safe, responsible and legal cycling. Do this in your conversations with citizens. If a person complains to you about all the nasty bicycles - ask questions. Find out if the complainer is talking about visible and predictable cycling. If they are, respond informatively. This costs nothing and contributes to the well being of the community.

Second, it is an institutional design choice that the only way to get into the city from the south and west is by travelling on high volume arterial roads. You are people who can begin to change this. If you need help imagining something different consider the 12th and 18th Street bridges over I-229 to the east or the pedestrian bridge over I-29 in the northwest.

Mostly though, I ask that you be supportive of predictable and visible cycling.

Thank you.