Category Archives: Advocacy

Ride Guides: When to Filter on the Right

A common question in the cycling world is when is appropriate to filter to the front of a line of traffic.

As with so many things there are multiple approaches to the question, but let us provide a guide to work with here. 

First things first, what is the legality of filtering on a bicycle in Georgia?

The relevant law in Georgia is 40-6-43

O.C.G.A. Sec. 40-6-43:

(a) The driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass upon the right of another vehicle only under the following circumstances:

1) When the vehicle being overtaken is making or about to make a left turn; or

2) Upon a street or highway with unobstructed pavement of sufficient width for two or more lanes of moving vehicles in the direction being traveled by the overtaking vehicle.

(b)  If otherwise authorized, the driver of a vehicle may overtake and pass another vehicle upon the right only under conditions permitting such movement in safety.  Such movement shall not be made by driving off the roadway.

With that in mind, if there is enough road space to the right to pass, a bike may legally pass on the right, particularly in light the ta bike MAY use a shoulder, while a car cannot.

Establishing that bikes CAN pass on the right, and when that is appropriate is fairly easy.  The secondary and perhaps more important question becomes SHOULD they pass on the right, and when is it appropriate.

The question of should boils down to road knowledge and awareness. If you do not know the road, then it is not a good choice to filter forward until you do know the road or can see the other side of the intersection. More important to the decision of if it is appropriate to filter forward is not a question of do you have space on the near side of the intersection, but does that space continue to the far side of the intersection? If the space exists on the far side of the intersection, and allows for a reasonable and safe space to merge into traffic if needed on the far side of the intersection, then for a single rider, or up to about 4 riders it is usually appropriate to filter. There are exceptions, like if the light signal is about to turn green, then holding your place in line is probably the better choice.

For groups though, once there are more than 4 riders together, it is rarely appropriate to filter forward. With a couple of exceptions, the one that seems to crop up the most often is the stop on a steep uphill.  Lights are usually placed on plateaus in hills, and since bikes are at MUCH higher risk of falling during starts on steep uphills, if there is space, a group should slide to the flatter space to reduce the risk of a crash or fall on the hill.

When filtering though, it is never appropriate to ‘swarm’ cars.  Filter along the right, but do not give in to the urge to also flood up the left.

Like most things, this will require situational awareness, and individual ride leaders may opt for slightly different approaches, so please allow them the leeway to dictate how their rides will be run.

Speed Limit Sign

Drivers, please note the wording of a speed sign. It is a speed limit right? 

consider the operational word: limit

limit
[ˈlimit]
NOUN
a point or level beyond which something does not or may not extend or pass.
“the limits of presidential power” · [more]
a restriction on the size or amount of something permissible or possible.
“an age limit” · [more]
synonyms:
maximum · ceiling · limitation · upper limit · restriction · curb · check · [more]
mathematics
a point or value that a sequence, function, or sum of a series can be made to approach progressively, until it is as close to the point or value as desired.
VERB
set or serve as a limit to.
“try to limit the amount you drink” · [more]

Is it a ‘speed recommendation’?

Is it a ‘speed requirement’?

Is it a ‘speed minimum’?

No. It is a limit. max, and unless otherwise posted, there is no minimum, and no legal expectation that it is an expected speed of travel either.

Irreconcilable Actions

There are so many things about anti-cycling aggression that I simply cannot reconcile. Obviously, I spend an enormous amount of time in advocacy efforts both online and in person.  I also ride, a lot. As I ride, I get to see a great number of behaviors from people that range from respectful to frustrated to aggressive, all the way to potentially deadly.

For the past week I was on vacation.  I took one of my bikes with me, and I rode at least 30 miles every day, using a mix of road, bike lane, road attached bike path and even some off road trail. Some miles in cycling kit, some not, some even without a helmet *gasp*, which is not something I normally advocate, but I was testing a theory.

The week was spent in a beach destination location, Destin, FL in the panhandle, where bikes and pedestrians are a prominent fixture within the infrastructure, though the infrastructure is incomplete, and in many ways, VERY broken.  Still largely a car centric beach town, there are bike lanes, bike paths, sidewalks, and lots of infrastructure elements that should make cycling fairly attractive. In addition to the infrastructure, the roads are completely and utterly overwhelmed by automotive traffic. One would think that in this environment, all kinds of non-car options would be popular and desired. The reality is far worse than it should be.

If you do not know the area, it is a peninsula of land between the ocean and bay about 25 miles long. At its widest it MIGHT be 4.5 miles.  For most of the way, there is one main road, US-98, and at various points, 1 or 2 alternate routes stretching from the Okaloosa Island bridge to the end of the bay north of Grayton Beach off of 30A.  There is a bunch of residential and visitor lodging along here, and that translates to a very high number of cars.

To combat this, many visitors get to their destinations and rent bicycles or golf carts to get around for the duration of their visit. Bikes are everywhere. People of all ages are riding them.  Barefoot, flip-flops, swimwear, no helmets, no safety equipment.  They are traversing bike lanes and bike paths, often on sidewalks. They use bike racks. In short, they treat bikes like transportation.  They have fun on them, and respect them while they ride them, all while getting frustrated with drivers that do not give the right of way to the bike paths or the walkers blocking the paths walking 5-7 wide.  Then they park the bikes.  They walk or jog on the same paths and sidewalks and get angry at the bikes crowding them, while railing at the cars that fail to respect the bike paths and sidewalks.  Then it is time for lunch, dinner or a grocery run so they hop in the car, and immediately disrespect the bike paths, sidewalks and bike lanes that they just enjoyed.

And even with all of this, when they go home, they cannot see a bike as anything but a toy.

In 7 days of bike rides along this corridor, I lost count of the number of drivers who pulled in front of cyclists and pedestrians alike at the various intersection conflict points, realized the error and shouted ‘sorry’. The drivers did not take anything from those conflicts, since I saw several do it several times in a single drive ( the joy of riding a bike when car traffic is stop and go and averaging just 6-10mph ). These same drivers fail, consistently to respect the bike and pedestrian spaces, even while they enjoy using them, complete with complaints towards the cars that do not respect them.

Then of course there is the same level of disconnected infrastructure that plagues most of the country.  Bike Lanes that begin and end with little to no warning.  Bike Lanes on roads with 65mph speed limits. Sidewalks that stop and start at random intervals. Bike Paths that are multi-use paths, where bikes really aren’t welcome. Poor signage indicating what is and is not legal. For example Florida is one of just a handful of states in which bikes may indeed use the sidewalks.  It is also a state that requires the use of a bike lane if it is present, unless it is unsafe to use ( which is sadly the case for most of them, but local law enforcement seemed determined to stick to the first part of that while ignoring the later and they really do not like non residents pointing that out to them ). Helmets are not required, and only the serious cyclists will be seen wearing them with any regularity.

It is a beautiful thing to see so many bikes, pedestrians, skateboards, scooters and runners out an about without their cars. Lots of smiles.  People waving, chatting, enjoying the outdoors.  It only marred by the disconnect that occurs as soon as we get behind the wheel of a car.

While riding on the same roads as the rented mopeds and golf carts, having the occupants cheer as a bike rides past them, moving over to make space for the bike, and then mixing with cars who go out of their way to block the same bikes from passing. This is a behavior that I have seen for years away from bike friendly infrastructure when dealing with cars. 

The only conclusion that I keep circling back to is this:

Something about the operation of a car has a fundamental psychologic impact upon us.  When we get behind the wheel of a car, we become almost pathologically selfish and isolated, with a must get ahead of *that* person, as all costs.  We take obscene risks with other peoples lives in the interests of getting somewhere just a few seconds faster.

When it comes to advocacy of anything that is not a car, that is the one thing we have to change.  Everything else is slapping a bandaid patch onto that problem. 

Because really, it might just be the car that is the problem.

Why Not Ride On The Right Line?

When you ride on the roads a lot, you learn that lane positioning and movement directly impact driver behaviors around you. Unfortunately, no amount of prevention can overcome the oblivious driver, as evidenced by the frequency of rear end crashes that occur daily, not just involving bikes. Sometimes it is interesting to see just what it is like to ride the white line as so many drivers think they want.

In the video, this is one ride, 11 miles in the middle of October. There are no bike lanes to be in, and the rider is aggressively trying to ‘share the road’…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rAYqlz-Ahzs

Do Our Streets Make Us Unhappy?

Quite an interesting OpEd in the Washington Post. Some of the numbers quoted in the piece are very specific to Washington DC, however, the averages around the country for metro cities in terms land use are pretty close to those. The number of non-car homes is much higher in DC than many cities (like Atlanta that lacks robust transit options).

One particular quote really stands out, and it is something that we are hearing more and more from city planners, both large and small:

“We’ve built an unsustainable transportation network that makes all of us feel isolated, vulnerable and embattled, no matter how we’re getting around.”

While even if we have rich and robust non-car support in our transportation budgets and spaces, many people will still opt to drive, but the path we are on makes driving the only viable option, and that just makes the problems worse.

http://Do Our Streets Make Us Unhappy?

My Love/Hate Relationship with the “Group Ride”

After 30 years in the saddle, one would think I would have come to terms with most aspects of cycling, and resolved my own conflicted thoughts on some of the dynamics that exist within the sport and activity of cycling. Over 100,000 accumulated miles ridden, at an estimated average speed of about 15 miles per hour, that is over 6500 hours of time to ponder life, the universe and everything cycling. By now I should have solved all of the worlds problems. In reality, I haven’t solved any of my own, and when it comes to the “Group Ride”, I think all of that time has served only to muddy the issue for me.

As a cyclist, I view the dynamics of the Group Ride as a mixed bag because it brings out both the best and the worst aspects of cyclists on the whole. At the same time, it also represents one of the single best tools for engaging and educating new riders, while also serving to alienate drivers around them that may be potential cyclists. Hopefully, you see the issue. The Group Ride is both a very good thing, and a very bad thing at the same time, and reconciling the good versus the bad against each other is incredibly difficult.

Let me take a step back and explain, for the non-riders and those who eschew the Group Ride, why so many riders look to the Group Ride:

  • Learn to ride on the roads without the exposure of being on the roads
  • Comfort that if you have a problem, there are other riders to help you get home
  • Safety in numbers, with a group of riders on the roads, cars are forced to be aware of the group
  • Learn to ride in close quarters with others
  • Learn to draft
  • Social engagement with others who share a common interest in cycling
  • See roads outside of the comfort zone

The bad however is not a short list either:

  • Hammerhead “Type A” personalities that turn every group into a race
  • Cycling elitism (bikes, kits, accessories, Strava)
  • Automotive antagonism
  • Teaches some ‘bad’ road etiquette
  • Increased risk of bike to bike crashes
  • Not really ‘training’ opportunities
  • Teaches riding to other people’s pacing
  • Fails to reinforce strong bike handling skills
  • Fails to teach good safety practices on the roads

A few of these issues, others will quibble with. If there is a universal truth in cycling, it is that no group of cyclists can agree on anything, ever. However, for me, these are the core issues. Some of them can be mitigated by the culture of a given group ride, but the biggest one really is a struggle, and that is the antagonism that a Group Ride creates between drivers and cyclists, and there is no way to really combat the issue.

There are some common methods advised, and even employed by groups, but they are really ineffective, because no matter what action a group takes on the roads, it simply cannot make itself as easy to pass as a single rider, which even a single rider riding as far right as practicable makes challenging for drivers on roads that have failed to take into account the mixed needs of slow and fast moving traffic sharing a single space.

So, with all of that said, do the merits of the Group Ride outweigh the negatives? I think they do, but it falls upon the ride organizers to work to mitigate potential conflicts of the various negative issues. However, I suggest two additions, and it is something that I am working to incorporate into the Group Events that I lead and organize.

  • Reduce the size of the sub groups within a Group Event to no more than 10-12 riders per
  • Choose routes that incorporate roads that are better able to support larger groups

The second item is going to cause some consternation amongst both drivers and riders alike.

You see, this means going counter to the current trend of routing group events out of towns and onto lesser travelled “back roads”. Instead, we will be using more 4 lane parkways, both with and without bike infrastructure where we can. It also means targeting roads with existing and emerging bike facilities. Why? because these are locations where a group can significantly mitigate the inconvenience factor that generates the antagonism as the additional lane provides an easier passing space while clearly marked and available bike facilities paired with bikes using them sends a clear message that bikes are expected to be there.

All of that said, for solo and small groups of riders (less than 5), it is important to remember and reinforce that every road that is not part of a limited access highway is a bike lane.

Conversations with non-Cyclists

As a cycling advocate, and a relatively outspoken cyclist in general, I find myself frequently engaged in conversations with people that would really prefer cyclists not to be on the roads. Rarely do these conversations deviate much from a pretty standard set of discussion points. The reality is that most of the people engaging in these discussions are not really interested in understanding, they just want to express their opinions, and for everyone to accept them as the truth. It would be refreshing for a discussion to go down the path of honesty.

Imagine this:

Mr. Anti-bike: “Did you ride your bicycle to work today?”
Me: “Yep, it was a lovely 14 miles. Just fantastic.”
Mr. Anti-Bike: “You know, you are a nice guy, but I really hate it when bikes are on the roads and make me slow down for a few minutes. I’m just in such a hurry, and between the radio, my phone and my morning coffee, it is just too hard to also steer, use the brake and the blinker to pass them safely, so yeah, I kinda hate you guys.”
Me: “That’s understandable, I hope you don’t accidentally hurt someone.”

End of conversation. There is no wiggle room, or invitation for an education. Unfortunately, instead of the above, we get a different dynamic:

Mr. Anti-bike: “Did you ride your bicycle to work today?”
Me: “Yep, it was a lovely 14 miles. Just fantastic.”
Mr. Anti-Bike: “You know, you are a nice guy but, cyclists should register, insure and pay taxes like cars do.”

or

Mr. Anti-bike: “Did you ride your bicycle to work today?”
Me: “Yep, it was a lovely 14 miles. Just fantastic.”
Mr. Anti-Bike: “You know, you are a nice guy but, cyclists should be held to the same standards as cars.”

or a handful of other excuses, all of which beg for education and understanding, opening a conversation. A few actually do want to understand, but they are, in my experience, the minority. If you’ve read this far, then hopefully, it is because you actually do want to understand.

For convenience, let us address the common responses.

“Bikes are so dangerous!”

No more so than cars are. The numbers are stark, and clear. Per hour travelled, the car is more dangerous. The car kills more people under the age of 40, per year than any other single thing. We are so jaded to it, that we do not even think about it, but the numbers are crystal clear, and that does not even address the secondary impacts upon our health that cars represent.

“Bikes should stick to bike paths”

So let’s address this from two fronts. The first, is that the multi-use bike paths most often referred to are NOT bike paths, they are Multi-Use Paths, basically glorified sidewalks. Much like the situation on the roads, a fast moving bike on a multi-use path is the same as a car on the roads, even though the damage they would cause to a pedestrian, child, or pet while riding them is not as often life threatening as when a car hits a cyclist, the risks are similar. Making that situation far more complex is that those paths are indeed paths to nowhere, so for ’transportation’ they hold little value, and worse, in order to make use of them in the manner suggested, it place MORE cars on the roads to haul the bike to and from those paths, at the rush hour you want less traffic.

“Bikes should only ride in bike lanes / there should be more bike lanes”

Most people would agree with this. That said, simple bike lanes really are not the answer. Protected bike lanes, green lanes, and fewer car traffic lanes are better overall solutions. In point of fact, many of the gridlocked roads that are the best bike routes and yet frequently avoided could be improved by eliminating a car lane and replacing it with a protected bike lane. It seems counter intuitive, but that is exactly what has happened in many cities that have done this New York City Protected Bike Lanes HAve Actually Sped Up Traffic. Why? because traditional, narrow, unprotected bike lanes lead to higher risks of crashes at conflict points like shopping center entrances and exits, each of those crashes dramatically reducing road throughput. However, protected bike lanes will never happen if people keep fighting every proposal to improve bike infrastructure on the roads.

“Maybe there is a reason that there are so few bike lanes”

There is, and it was alluded to above. Bike lanes are perceived as adding little value for drivers, and when push comes to shove, drivers will vote for more car lanes, to their own detriment, over bike lanes, every single time. It is not a lack of desire, or need, but a simple equation of too many drivers not understanding the single largest truth of traffic engineering: You cannot fix traffic throughput by adding more lanes.

“Roads are Designed for Cars.”

Perhaps recent standards have adapted to a car primacy, but no, roads are not designed for cars. They are designed for transportation, and the car just happens to be the current ascended mode, but roads predate cars by thousands of years, and interestingly enough, PAVED roads have deep roots in bicycle culture, not cars. There is a really great book on the subject that delves deep into the history of the American road system that we all take for granted these days. Roads Were Not Built For Cars. As an adjunct, looking at our modern infrastructure, and many of the problems that are looming from our car obsession, another great read and aggregation of information about our infrastructure is the book Door to Door.

“Cyclists should register, insure and pay taxes like cars do.”

First, registration is fraught with issues, particularly when you use a blanket statement on bikes, because that means children riding in the neighborhood, but worse the costs of administration of such a program so far outweigh the revenue generated that doing so is a net loss to the property tax payer. Of course, then there is the insurance question. No, cyclists are not required to carry bike insurance, though many do carry bike specific policies, as well as being vehicle owners in the vast majority of the cyclists you are complaining about, they are covered under those car and motorcycle policies. Which brings us to vehicular taxes. Fun fact, the fuel taxes make up the bulk of the road taxes that you are referring to, since tag and ad valorem taxes don’t really make rounding on those numbers. Double bonus fun fact? those fuel taxes don’t cover 50% of the road maintenance budgets of our cities, counties and state. The shortfall is made up through sales and property taxes, and that doesn’t even consider new construction and adding infrastructure because of the sheer volume of single occupant drivers.

“Cyclists should be held to the same standards as cars./Scofflaw/Lawbreakers”

So, legally speaking, they are. Enforcement is an issue, but that is a two way street. It turns out that in studies that didn’t involve law enforcement statistics the results have different conclusions. Though many purport that cyclists break laws more frequently than drivers, and that they do so without knowledge of the law, this, and a couple of other studies support a VERY different conclusion. A conclusion that cyclists, do not break the law any more frequently than drivers do, and that when they do so, the do it in full knowledge of what they are doing, and with rational reasoning behind it. .

“People absolutely need cars to get around.”

No, people don’t ‘need’ cars, but the sure do want them, and it often seems that any push for infrastructure results in a rabid pushback from drivers who just can not see spending the money on bike and pedestrian infrastructure while traffic is so bad. They demand more roads and lanes, which does nothing but bring more traffic, making a bad situation worse.

“The Roads are too busy for bikes”

The short and simple answer here is that the roads are too busy for cars. That is a part of the problem. The assumption is that the bikes are slowing down the cars, but the reality is that the vast majority of the car/bike interactions are on lesser travelled backroads, and the encounters are quirky escalated because the car traffic that is using these back roads to avoid heavier traffic main roads are expecting to travel at a higher speed. Seriously, the entire encounter is typically driven by the issue of too many cars on the roads to start with. Further, those cycling groups are the place where cyclists gain the confidence on their bikes to become commuters, removing cars from the roads.