Traffic Safety for All People

All men are one and there is no other tale to tell.  –Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing
He said that the way of the road was the rule for all upon it.  –Cormac McCarthy, The Crossing

Respect

Public roads are inclusive of travel by walking and bicycling.  This is common understanding.  Safe passing is the responsibility of the overtaking driver.  Wait until it is safe. Traffic flow is about people, more than just cars.  Look for me.  I will look for you.  We have to look for each other and travel with care.  Every road user has the same expectation for safe travel.

One misconception is that bicycles cannot impede traffic.  That is false.  The traffic impeding law in New Mexico only applies to motor vehicles.  The movement of cyclists on the road at speeds safe and reasonable for bicycles is normal and expected.  Speed differentials are balanced by calming faster vehicular traffic.  When bikes and pedestrians are around please slow down.

A second misunderstanding is that bicycles should always be far right.  That is false.  One of the most effective proactive safety techniques for cycling is traveling where cars generally do, or just to the right.  This is because the movement of bicycles is akin to the movement of cars, and that is where people are looking.  Proper positioning increases visibility, helps avoid right edge hazards, and prevents the most common crash types which includes falls from surface hazards, vehicle turning conflicts, and driveway pullouts.  If the right lane is too narrow to share with a vehicle side by side (generally the minimum width for side by side sharing is 14-15′), bicyclists may use any part of the lane for safety.  Edge riding around the white line can increase the likelihood of a close pass or sideswipe.  Educated cyclists will often center themselves in the lane or ride just right of center to clearly indicate they are using the lane.  This makes bicyclists conspicuous, more visible, and makes their movement more predictable, because they’re clearer of hazards and can hold a line without having to frequently move laterally to avoid debris and pass obstacles.  It also signals to cars that they must changes lanes to pass, and puts bicyclists in a clear field of vision.  Plus good lane positioning gives bicyclists better sight lines through intersections, past driveways, and around corners.  Bike lanes may have the pitfalls of right edge riding depending on their design and conditions.  Safe bicyclists use them with caution and care.  Change lanes to pass cyclists.  Give ample room.  Be sensitive, safe.

A third misunderstanding is that bicyclists should not be on the road.  This is false.  Bicyclists are a normal part of multimodal traffic flow.  Bicycle travel is expected and encouraged.  The Federal Highway Administration’s policy is “bicyclists and pedestrians (including people with disabilities) will be fully integrated into the transportation system.”  This integration begins with the conceptual framework of the public travel environment as a shared space we live in.  This includes recreational use of the public infrastructure.  Cars are used for work and recreation.  So are bicycles and walking.  We want to encourage public health and induce more exercise.

In his investigative book Traffic, Tom Vanderbilt makes a comparison between the 9/11 toll and monthly death toll on roads.  The latter exceeds the former.  “We know all this, and act as if we don’t” (p 275 Tom Vanderbilt).  That is changing.  Our civil society depends on safe roads for all.

Ride for Nathan climb up

Resources:

http://iamtraffic.org/resources/infographics
Tom Vanderbilt Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do and What It Says About Us
Cormac McCarthy The Crossing Quotes are from p. 157 and p. 414, The Border Trilogy, 1999, Knopf, Everyman’s Library edition
https://bikeyogiblog.wordpress.com/2015/01/10/get-educated-on-cycling/
https://bikeyogiblog.wordpress.com/2014/08/28/how-to-pass-bicyclists-safely-how-to-enforce-this/
https://bikeyogiblog.wordpress.com/2015/11/05/side-path-bicycling/
https://bikeyogiblog.wordpress.com/2016/01/14/learning-from-trails/

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