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Risk assessment of assertive cycling
 
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Old 22nd November 2010   #1
skydancerdonor
 
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Risk assessment of assertive cycling

Core to riding well is the ability to assess risk dynamically while riding. To tweak road positioning and enhance communication in anticipation of, and response to the changing situation on the road.

People hone this ability pretty quickly while undergoing cycle training and do so in a controlled manner while the instructor hands over risk management responsibility to the trainee a bit at a time.

One principle is simple and clear: Ride where you can see and be seen. And the place of optimum visibility is the middle of the lane in the driver's line of sight. So the least risky place is in the middle of traffic stream when you can match its speed or need to ride there to reduce the risk of dangerous overtaking. All well and good and (eventually) learnt and practised by people getting training.

One risk element is rarely discussed or even analysed in detail as far as i know. That is the risk of being 'punished' by drivers for riding in this manner. Unfortunately too many people I know have recently experienced drivers swerving into them or recieved serious abuse for 'taking the lane' (including myself who was assaulted by a car passenger for this on petherton road N1). There are numerous posts about such incidents on the forum (the 101 W***kers and c*nt of the day threads for example).

While I believe that this is transitional and a reaction to a change in road hierachy by drivers who are losing their dominance (As discussed by Dave Horton from lancaster university who wrote in his 5th Fear of Cycling essay:
'The cultural acceptability of cycling's spatial marginality, particularly when combined with the cyclist's stigmatised identity, is highly consequential. It means that those cyclists who do not stick to the margins, but either consciously or unconsciously attempt to 'centre' themselves, are experienced as threatening and unsettling, and are demonised - ...')

There is a need for local govornment, Tfl, DfTand driving organisations to start encouraging this acceptance with images of cyclists riding assertively and words legitimising this. Cycling advocacy groups should show images of assertive cycling at every opportunity. legitimising this riding position will have a much greater effect on a riders safety than another mirror on a lorry or another bit of dayglo on that rider.

As a cycle trainer I believe we now owe it to people we train to discuss the risk of being punished in some way when riding assertively. But in a way that that won't discourage them from doing so.

Insrtuctors do you discuss this with trainees and if so how do you broach it?

Last edited by skydancer; 22nd November 2010 at 20:14.
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Old 22nd November 2010   #2
wiganwill
Interesting question. It is something I discuss with trainees; not specifically being 'punished' by being swerved at or assaulted but drivers' possible reactions to riding in an assertive position. One of the reasons I discuss it is because I felt, during instructor training and observation of sessions, that it was rather brushed over or a slightly rosy view was given; one that did not accord with my own experience.
Having had trainees see the risk of riding in the car door zone and having them see that avoiding it often means literally riding 'in the middle of the road' I will ask them "What implications does this have for other road users" (unless it is a trainee who's English I have judged not to be fluent enough to use a word like 'implication). They will then discuss those implications; that the driver will not always be able to over take. What will they do then? is my next question. 'They will beep you' is often the answer and it's at that point we can have a discussion about possible repercussions.
It's not always quite as scripted as that. I had a chat with Festus recently about the phrase 'middle of the road'. I like to use it because it shocks trainees, it challenges their notions of what is allowed, it is counter to everything they might previously thought about a cyclist's place on the road.
But I do very explicitly tell trainees that if they ride assertively they will get beeped at more often and that they might get shouted at too. Then we can discuss that, I will talk to them about how they might react to that, how I react. Exactly how I phrase it depends on the trainee, on how confident or assertive they seem to be, I try and find a way which will not discourage them, to get them, essentially, to see that it is enough to be in the right, to ride safely, even if they get beeped or shouted at. They probably won't have the chance to explain to a driver why they are riding the way they are and they don't need to.
I think it is very important to be honest with trainees about this and, in a way, to prepare them for the worst. Because if we give them the impression there is no possible down side to riding assertively then the first time they encounter it they will be more shocked and more dispirited by it. My aim is that when it happens they will have a strong belief in what they are doing, will understand why they are doing it and will have experienced the advantages so that they can stay calm, accept that there are impatient and rude people out there and then carry on riding in a way that they know is safe.
I also encourage them not to be bullied in to taking a submissive position on the road but with the major caveat that if they encounter a very,very aggressive driver and genuinely feel they might be run in to or assaulted then they should pull over and let that driver go by. Then regain their composure and carry on. I stress that this will be a rare event but it can happen; you can't win every battle.
Again depending on the trainee these things will be discussed in different ways, with different emphases and, for example, different levels of humour. One of the things I love about being a trainer is trying, quickly, to figure out what the trainee is like and the most effective way of talking to them. But with all trainees I think we need to be straight and open about reactions they might provoke in other road users.
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Old 22nd November 2010   #3
skydancerdonor
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wiganwill View Post
...
I think it is very important to be honest with trainees about this and, in a way, to prepare them for the worst. Because if we give them the impression there is no possible down side to riding assertively then the first time they encounter it they will be more shocked and more dispirited by it.
...
Good point well made Will.
Managing a novice rider's expectations at this point may what keeps them riding when they get their first angry driver as well as giving them strategies to manage that situation. (Like suggesting they seek a positive interaction with another road user to dispell any bad vibe from a negative interaction may help a lot)
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Old 22nd November 2010   #4
wiganwill
Oh, I meant more that they should go mental with a d-lock but your approach could work too I suppose.
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Old 22nd November 2010   #5
j.m.f
Glad you started this thread because it is going to cover many things that arent mentioned explicity elsewhere.
It might be worth mentioning that on this thread we are talking about conversations with adults or very capable children, likely to be doing level 3 National Standards training, and certainly those who have demonstrated they know the rules of the road and are prepared to keep learning.

I try and train people that the way they ride invites behaviour from those immediately around them, and that every time we change position on the road we need to check whats going on around us with looks.
From this stems what might be called attitudinal projection, (but that sounds so twatty I cant think of other words yet)
it is how a rider lets other road users know they know exactly what is going on,
and I have seen competant senior citizens do this equally as much as fast boys and girls-
and absolutely agree that all representative road users groups should be accepting of cyclists demonstrating skilled riding.

an example:-
One thing that seems to have been eroded in the last few years is rule 146 Highway Code "Junctions- you should -not cross or join a road until there is gap large enough for you to do safely"
I deal with people trying to pull out dangerously all the time! (I call these 'divers' because they dive out into small gaps), now if I am cycling along, aware that someone could pull out from an opposite or same side junction, towards my line of travel, where is the safest place for me to be? you guessed it, in the middle of the lane, clearly visible, this way lets them know that I am part of the traffic, and there is no way that they are allowed to pull out on me.

@SD "So the least risky place is in the middle of traffic stream when you can match its speed or need to ride there to reduce the risk of dangerous overtaking."

So this behaviour is referred to in CTUK training as 'perspicuity'- letting the movements you make be so obvious to others they cannot be ignored, as opposed to 'conspicuity' which could be wearing another later of flouro but riding in the gutter inviting drivers to squeeze past unsafely. This is definately part of what I try to demonstrate to trainees. When people understand their safe zones, and the movements of all vehicles, they can work on this positioning.

To answer the question about being threatened, it comes quite early in training level 2, starting and stopping a journey which we always do on a road with traffic either side, thus enabling us to use of the centre of a lane for demonstration. Generally the time that a driver will have to wait to pass is short enough for this to be issue free, however if there is no room in which to yield to an aggressive driver like in Wills worse case scenario (no gaps in parked cars) appealing to that drivers awareness of you as another human being (looks behind and acknowledgment) should diffuse their insistance. Even when they are proper mentals, if you keep on there consider what will they actually do?
no-one actually when asked wants to kill another human being, so sometimes you experience a reluctant back off (then when they get away into the next space become boot it and brake drivers again.

Without becoming all political (but sometimes bike riding has become politicised because the transport of this country is so fucked) you can also speak to trainees about the bigger part of their journeys, where is it that this aggressive driver is going so fast? likely the next queue of motor vehicles, again if you can see the next line of traffic ahead, and some boot it and braker is pressuring you from behind, you might have to yield if there is sufficent space, only to pass them shortly after. Everything depends on individual interaction, but I think that the more riders are taking part in this comedy, assertively with perspicuity, the more drivers just accept it and even start to wonder perhaps there is a better way of getting about locally.
be the rider drivers wish they could be.
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Old 22nd November 2010   #6
edscoble
 
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This is partly why I started this topic in order to find out a better way to diffused a situation (of which will quite rightly suggested that simply acknowledging them and carry on riding is the best solution, and one that'll work).

edit - this whole topic went into a tl:dr discussion, will need to print it out to read properly.
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Old 22nd November 2010   #7
chainwhip
 
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Originally Posted by skydancer View Post
There is a need for local govornment, Tfl, DfTand driving organisations to start encouraging this acceptance with images of cyclists riding assertively and words legitimising this. Cycling advocacy groups should show images of assertive cycling at every opportunity. legitimising this riding position will have a much greater effect on a riders safety than another mirror on a lorry or another bit of dayglo on that rider.
Damn right mr Skydancer! That's what I want to see happening in your country. You have the national standard of good cycling. That standard should penetrate the whole society. Currently -- based on what I read on papers and webz -- there is some messages and policies conflicting with the standard. There's gotta be a realization that it's a revolution type of a situation, two paradigms clash, only one leaving the scene alive. Your country has taken side on this war of paradigms by accepting the standard of good cycling. Now it's time for it to show that it is committed to the standard and the cultural change it stands for. Your governments and organizations should flaunt the fact that you have best standards for cycling.
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Old 22nd November 2010   #8
hippy
 
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Train. Training leads to speed. Speed leads to passing cars. Passing cars leads to revenge. Revenge leads to cupcakes with icing and butterflies.
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Old 22nd November 2010   #9
wiganwill
Quote:
Originally Posted by *m.f View Post
however if there is no room in which to yield to an aggressive driver like in Wills worse case scenario (no gaps in parked cars) appealing to that drivers awareness of you as another human being (looks behind and acknowledgment) should diffuse their insistance. Even when they are proper mentals, if you keep on there consider what will they actually do?
no-one actually when asked wants to kill another human being, so sometimes you experience a reluctant back off (then when they get away into the next space become boot it and brake drivers again.

.
Yes; when talking to trainees about this many of them do know cyclists who have been car-doored but none know cyclists who have been deliberately rammed from behind by a driver who has seen them. So I stress that only in the most extreme circumstances should they give way and that they should keep looking behind if they feel a driver is too close or is beeping in order to remind that driver that there is a person on the bike.
In way there seems to be no point in telling them, for example, about SkyDancer's experience of being assaulted because it is so rare and so unfathomable; that kind of violent assault could take place almost anywhere, it is not unique to cycling and would probably only put them off.
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Old 23rd November 2010   #10
Greasy Slag
 
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i only read hippys post and in my opinion he got it right. the rest have far toooo much time on their hands.

there is also a distinct lack of cat photos on this page
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Old 23rd November 2010   #11
Multi Groovesdonor
 
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In my version/vision of road utopia everyone shares the road.

Something that came out of that conversation with Will is the distinction between 'riding in the middle of the lane' and 'riding out of the door zone'.
It has struck me that a number of 'enlightened' cyclists that now understand and accept that once on the road they are a legitimate part of the traffic flow seem to do the riding in the middle of the lane but in a belligerent manner or are truly unaware of what is going on around them*. I ALWAYS discuss with trainees what do you expect to happen i.e. aggressive/dangerous overtaking maneuvers, intimidatory tailgating, or foul and abusive language. As Will also mentioned, I try to prepare them for the worst of it, so that, if it does happen hopefully their confidence isn't too shattered or shaken.

*it's one of the reasons I'm less likely to do big group/forum rides.

What I try to impress on them is that unless you need to for issues of safety then why take up the whole lane and bring unnecessary antagonisation your way?
If there is a bus with 50 people on it why should everyone have to wait behind you?
If a motor vehicle is faster than you and has the right to use the lane you are in why should everybody have to wait?
If you do find yourself having to 'take the lane' occasional look backs can help diffuse drivers vexation as you 'humanise yourself' instead just being an object in the way.
As long as you give yourself enough space away from the curb/parked cars at all times.

I had an interesting session with a guy recently who was bloody quick and was clearly an experienced cyclist. I wondered why he felt he needed training. He explained there was a section of single lane road (in Dulwich, I think) where he found it impossible to ride in a strong position without getting aggression from drivers- despite the fact he'd ride at the speed limit, motorist's egos couldn't handle him being in front so they'd break the speed limit to pass him.
What do I do?
I suggested riding in the middle of the lane as normal but you have to know what is going on behind you at all times. If/as and when you get a vehicle behind you, look back at the driver (the acknowledgment) and when/if it is safe move to the left let them pass but then move back out. So he was acting as the filter to traffic flow around him, thus giving him back the feeling of being in control. So there is a lot of assessment, looking and movements but roads are very dynamic, there is no one totally safe road position.

Last edited by Multi Grooves; 23rd November 2010 at 00:36.
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Old 23rd November 2010   #12
wiganwill
@ Greasy Slag. This was the question the OP asked: Instructors do you discuss this with trainees and if so how do you broach it?

You are of course welcome to add your thoughts on the matter; if you have any. If not there is a whole forum out there you can contribute to.
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Old 23rd November 2010   #13
Multi Groovesdonor
 
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And yes speed is your friend. I also mention this to trainees. It seems to me the most dangerous place to be is in a situation where there are massive speed differentials between you and other vehicles on the road. The faster you go the further out into the road you can ride. (especially on roundabouts as they're short in length, with entries and exits everywhere with things accelerating and decelerating all the time)
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Old 23rd November 2010   #14
wiganwill
Absolutely Festus; we have to stress courtesy towards other road users. But for inexperienced cyclists the line between being courteous and being craven is a blurred one. All of these things are linked though which is why Cycle Training is something you have to do rather than read about to understand how flexible and ad-hoc it is.
Also true about the speed; how a fast and how a slow cyclist adapt to dynamic road conditions can be quite different.
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Old 23rd November 2010   #15
skydancerdonor
 
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Exactly Multigrooves. It IS dynamic and letting driver past when it is safe is a good way to share the road space, manipulating the drivers with looks back and subtle acknowledgements of their presence. It takes time to learn and training gives people a leg up. Your point also highlight the unhelpfulness of teaching fixed rules such as 'ride a metre from the kerb' or 'hold a signal for 3 seconds'. Unfortunately i still hear that a lot from instructors.

(BTW festus any chance of a special 'braking technique' training session with you? ;-)
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Old 23rd November 2010   #16
Multi Groovesdonor
 
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You're gonna need special insurance mate!
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Old 23rd November 2010   #17
skydancerdonor
 
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YOU'll need the insurance festus...
(I'll Check if zurich will cover you for that)
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Old 23rd November 2010   #18
Multi Groovesdonor
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by skydancer View Post
Exactly Multigrooves. It IS dynamic and letting driver past when it is safe is a good way to share the road space, manipulating the drivers with looks back and subtle acknowledgements of their presence. It takes time to learn and training gives people a leg up.
I think I've mentioned this before but if I'm riding in a bus lane I've taken to giving way to faster moving buses now. YOU have to assess how far the next bus stop is and whether it is worth doing it or just holding your position in the middle of the lane but (anecdotally) <65% of drivers acknowledge this with a wave and tend to look out for you further down the road. This is for the very skilled and quick riders. For the slower ones but equally confident ones I advise they move to the left ONLY in locations that do not place them in trouble.

Quote:
Originally Posted by skydancer View Post
Your point also highlight the unhelpfulness of teaching fixed rules such as 'ride a metre from the kerb' or 'hold a signal for 3 seconds'. Unfortunately i still hear that a lot from instructors.
Uh-oh the 3 second thing. I'm guilty of this: mainly because I see cyclists do the hand signaling thing but only for 1-2secs- not enough if a driver is on the phone or having a play around with the climate control in their motor or if a cyclist behind just doesn't see it. If they are doing junctions 2 i.e. right hand turns into minor roads they will probably (i.e MUST) signal for a lot longer than 3 secs.
I think it's good to have a minimal time of 3 secs though.
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Old 23rd November 2010   #19
j.m.f
Threads getting good.

@MG "I think I've mentioned this before but if I'm riding in a bus lane I've taken to giving way to faster moving buses now. YOU have to assess how far the next bus stop is and whether it is worth doing it or just holding your position in the middle of the lane but (anecdotally) <65% of drivers acknowledge this with a wave and tend to look out for you further down the road. This is for the very skilled and quick riders. For the slower ones but equally confident ones I advise they move to the left ONLY in locations that do not place them in trouble."

This example highlights an interaction principle, and Im quoting it because it is such a frequent scenario, if a bus driver sees you doing pretty much the same speed, along the course of a couple of miles of road, it can actually be quite rewarding when they just ease back because they are about to stop again- you can then let them off first at lights or wherever and it really becomes sharing the road. So much easier than being a cat6 workplacetimetriallist and busting a gut all the time.
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Old 23rd November 2010   #20
Miep
I agree that speed without doubt makes it easier to ride confidently and assertively enabling the rider to travel more harmoniously with other road users.

That said, as any fule nose, more cyclists on the roads is the ultimate solution to increasing saftey and not all cyclists are capable of or want to travel at speed and neither should they have to.
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Old 23rd November 2010   #21
rab
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wiganwill View Post
if they encounter a very,very aggressive driver and genuinely feel they might be run in to or assaulted then they should pull over and let that driver go by... you can't win every battle.
In an aggressive situation it's easy to get fuelled by adrenalin and the temptation is to return the abuse. It's taken me a while to learn to take a few deep breaths, move to a safe position and let the tosser past - he's obviously having a bad day. It's easy to take it too personally - the kind of driver hurling abuse at you is also abusing other drivers for getting in his way - he's just pissed off, and is therefore more likely to make bad decisions - get out of his way. I used to "battle" cars, but after a couple of prangs, soon learned you're going to lose against a ton of metal every time. If you let them past at one point, you're almost certain to pass them again further down the road = that's satisfaction enough for me...
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Old 23rd November 2010   #22
rhb
 
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5 * thread
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Old 23rd November 2010   #23
chainwhip
 
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Originally Posted by Multi Grooves View Post
It seems to me the most dangerous place to be is in a situation where there are massive speed differentials between you and other vehicles on the road.
No, actually the most deangerous place to be is a situation where there is massive direction differential aka intersecting paths.
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Old 23rd November 2010   #24
chainwhip
 
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Per my experience riding round Helsinki (and I don't buy that 'but drivers are different round there' -schaisse), riding confidently and assertively dramaticly lessens the trouble you have. Riding assertively, using as much of the roadway you need (and even more if it doesn't negatively affect overtaking convenience) the only trouble you have is from a very small minority of motorists enforcing the motorist superiority (too bad that they are right, cause I'm very often illegally on the roadway).

The trouble caused by motorists enforcing motorists superiority over the uppity cyclist takes form of honking and intentional close/short passes.

The trouble caused by being a meek curb hugger include (in addition to a plenthora of other trouble) close/short passes as a standard and per my experience more honking.

In addition to that the meek cyclist often interprets the close/short passes as harassement resulting in a stronger feeling of being harassed (cycling is all about feeling ya know) .

The uppity assertive cyclist also has the space reserve to counter the effects of close/shorts passes that are much more rare for him than for the meek cyclist anyway. Thus being assertive is superior strategy also when considering harrassement. Q.E.D.
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Old 23rd November 2010   #25
wiganwill
I did have a trainee who got beeped at while we were riding; we were practicing taking the lane at road narrowings and a taxi driver didn't like it. She was surprised when I told her I was glad it had happened: because it showed her that being beeped at doesn't hurt and looking back at the part of road where it had happened she could see that, had she been by the curb, the impatient driver would have squeezed by her in a much more frightening way. So taking the lane worked for her and being beeped, while unpleasant and annoying, is harmless.
It also helped that it was a situation where the driver clearly had nothing to gain so the trainee could see that the fault was all his, he was the one being a jerk and from that she could, in a paradoxical way, take confidence.
I've also had a couple of trainees assume that a driver using his horn was beeping at them when they weren't; which is also useful too as you can talk to them about the assumptions they are making about drivers' attitudes.
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Old 23rd November 2010   #26
chainwhip
 
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Use as much of the road you need for safe and comfortable trip. Sacrifice the comfortable part momentarily if someone seems to be stuck behind you forever. Say 'please' and 'thank you' without words. When you co-operate, streets are filled with luv and sharing and caring. Yes, there are idiots who don't get it, they think that you should use less of the roadway than you need. Ignore those twats and concentrate on the positive!
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Old 23rd November 2010   #27
skydancerdonor
 
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Festus you make some excellent points about behaviour in bus lanes. Bus drivers are being trained in cyclist awareness classes accross london now (they call it cyclist tolerance classes:-). Some of these classes are delivered by CTUK and some by bus driver instructors who have been accredited as cycling instructors.

The key messages to the drivers from this training are:
Expect cyclists to ride centrally in the bus lane.
Avoid overtaking them unless drivers can move into the next lane.
Drivers should hang back and not overtake in most cases.
Expect some cyclists not to ride centrally and behave the same way towards them.

They are also given the opportunity to give advice to cyclists.
Their advice to cyclists includes:
Let a driver signalling pull out so don't race to overtake if a driver is indicating right.
Avoid passing on the nearside (left) at lights wait behind or pass on the right to get to the advanced stop box.
Pass a bus wide when overtaking where the rider is more likely to be visible to the drivers
Avoid swearing abuse at drivers who try to edge out of bus stops. (I was shocked at how much abuse they claim they get from cyclists)
Avoid pulling in front of a bus causing the driver to brake suddenly. Their braking is monitored centrally as are the drivers with around 8 cameras on a bus, one is in the drivers cab

The drivers I have worked with have been really keen to work to improve thier relationship with cyclists and they relished the opportunity to express their views to a cyclist (There will be a write up of this project in the next issue of London Cyclist magazine)

Many drivers also cycle to the depots

And Chainwhip, Love your advice from scandinavia. Are your roads filled with luv caring and sharing? (Did you notice i said please and thank you to you without words?)
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Old 23rd November 2010   #28
Oliver Schickdonor
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by skydancer View Post
One risk element is rarely discussed or even analysed in detail as far as i know. That is the risk of being 'punished' by drivers for riding in this manner. Unfortunately too many people I know have recently experienced drivers swerving into them or recieved serious abuse for 'taking the lane' (including myself who was assaulted by a car passenger for this on petherton road N1). There are numerous posts about such incidents on the forum (the 101 W***kers and c*nt of the day threads for example).
Yes, but your incident was completely untypical. It wasn't just a moment's impatience but full-bodied assault, and all you were doing at the time was waiting at a junction. I really would place this in a separate category.
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Old 23rd November 2010   #29
Oliver Schickdonor
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by wiganwill View Post
I did have a trainee who got beeped at while we were riding; we were practicing taking the lane at road narrowings and a taxi driver didn't like it. She was surprised when I told her I was glad it had happened: because it showed her that being beeped at doesn't hurt and looking back at the part of road where it had happened she could see that, had she been by the curb, the impatient driver would have squeezed by her in a much more frightening way. So taking the lane worked for her and being beeped, while unpleasant and annoying, is harmless.
It also helped that it was a situation where the driver clearly had nothing to gain so the trainee could see that the fault was all his, he was the one being a jerk and from that she could, in a paradoxical way, take confidence.
I've also had a couple of trainees assume that a driver using his horn was beeping at them when they weren't; which is also useful too as you can talk to them about the assumptions they are making about drivers' attitudes.
Absolutely. When you get honked at, you've got a reaction. You've been seen. That's not a bad thing. Smile and carry on.
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Old 23rd November 2010   #30
Oliver Schickdonor
 
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One of the keys about the primary position is, of course, that you don't always have to be in the primary position. The point has been made above but I thought I'd pull it out into a shorter post.
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Old 23rd November 2010   #31
Oliver Schickdonor
 
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^ Poachers ... gamekeepers, I know. :)
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Old 23rd November 2010   #32
skydancerdonor
 
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You are right oliver It was extreme yet something must've provoked this attack. It is impossible to truly understand why the bloke did what he did and i have been puzzled about that since the incident.

Top 3 motives IMO are
1. road rage at me taking the lane along petherton road and waiting behind me before joining the roundabout
2. he didn't like my long hair
3. racially motivated -I look a bit mediterranian as was very tanned in the summer

Who knows?
I have heard stories from many people recently about incidents related to their assertive riding position (not only Dancing James:-) hence this thread.
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Old 23rd November 2010   #33
rhb
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Oliver Schick View Post
One of the keys about the primary position is, of course, that you don't always have to be in the primary position. The point has been made above but I thought I'd pull it out into a shorter post.
Well pulled. I think this can get lost sometimes.

I regularly ride down a 3 lane radial into Manchester, and spend very little time in Primary. What I do is spend alot of time looking over my shoulder, so I know what each vehicle is doing as it approaches to pass me & can tell if they've acknowledged my presence.

This approach (right or wrong) may well be based on my development as a trainer in Cov, not in London or elsewhere, where it's easier to ride in this manner.
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Old 23rd November 2010   #34
Oliver Schickdonor
 
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Yes, it basically depends on your risk assessment. If the speed differential is very big, the usual techniques like looking behind and negotiating just don't work as well. Better to be predictable in those circumstances, and to increase visibility if you get to a junction, or pass roadworks in the rain, etc.
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Old 24th November 2010   #35
hardcorebikepunk
 
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Interesting discussion...

I got pulled over by two city cops while taking the lane on tabernacle st a couple of weeks ago. From the subsequent discussion it became apparent the driver felt I was "in his way" and had "given him a dirty look". As far as I was concerned I was riding in a safe, assertive position and making eye contact to make sure the aggressive, in terms of his proximity to my rear wheel, driver behind had seen me. My explanation of this seemed to fall on deaf ears, and I'm certain he got back into his vehicle having manipulated the discussion to reinforce his prejudicial views of cyclists.

Raising driver awareness and altering this type of behaviour is a massive task, and as much as we can do as cycle instructors to prepare individuals for these situations it really needs a strategic public campaign to initiate what would a be a massive cultural shift. From what I remember, and do correct me if I'm wrong, my driving test, combined with society's attitude to driving as a right rather then a privilege, taught me to be a rule following (or not if I could get away with it) automaton, rather than an active, considerate member of a community of road users.
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Old 24th November 2010   #36
RuffStuff
its pretty quiet around here but ive lost count of how many times ive been pulled out on, nearly killed, clipped etc and thats just on pushrods
the only way to ever make people aware would be make everyone ride a pushbike to some sort of test level in school, then at 16/17 make them do a full bike license, after passing the cycle course, then at 19/20 they could do the car test.
i ride/drive all 3 and im a hell of alot better and more aware on the road than any of my mates
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Old 24th November 2010   #37
rhb
 
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^ agree re bike skills being pre-req to driving. It'd take upto 70yrs to filter through to all road users tho, unless all existing drivers were made to go back and do. This'd cause uproar and an admin nightmare.
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Old 24th November 2010   #38
Schwaz
Just posting this up here having not read all the other posts: this is my reply to David's original message, as sent to other CTUK instructors on Monday night.

Look forward to catching up on the rest of this thread and perhaps adding some more comments later this week.

I do not discuss the specific possibility of drivers physically threatening a cyclist as a 'punishment' for riding assertively with trainees at present, though I have noted it happening more often to me in its 'light' variety - people deliberately passing close or swerving near me - of late.



What I do discuss with trainees is honking or verbal abuse: i tell trainees not to be discouraged by drivers' perceptions of their assertive riding and to consider what makes them safe first and foremost, making their own judgements as any other road user should.


I do think it is a difficult subject to broach and although I obviously have no figures to back up this perspective I would judge that the chances of it happening are low and that the risk mitigation benefits of assertive riding thus outweigh it significantly overall.


I might discuss with a trainee how to mitigate the possibility of such a situation developing in the first place by always being a polite and not provocative/aggressive road user - in the way someone might suggest someone driving mitigate the possibility that a physical confrontation erupt from their interaction with another driver (so-called 'road rage' incidents) or someone drinking mitigate the possibilty of dragging their friends into a fight over a spilled pint. :)


As when young trainees mention 'the mad person' or 'the fleeing criminal' on the road as a reason not to ride assertively, I would definitely emphasise that such incidents are very much the exception rather than the rule, and thus should not be the examples which guide one's overall riding style


As with the criticism sometimes levelled by other road users at assertive riders, I would emphasise that a trainee's decision to minimise risk to themselves by riding assertively is not a provocative act in itself, and that they should not feel responsible for the unreasonable actions of others.
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Old 24th November 2010   #39
Scratchy
 
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Quote:
I would emphasise that a trainee's decision to minimise risk to themselves by riding assertively is not a provocative act in itself, and that they should not feel responsible for the unreasonable actions of others.
I wholeheartedly agree with this and its been mentioned above....just cos someone else is having a bad day/ is wholeheartedly selfish/ has an ego problem or doesn't undertand the theory behind assertive cyclist road positioning (and lets face it, very few people do, which is how come we are spending every waking hour posting on blogs about teaching it to them), it doesn't mean that people who chose to use a bike to get from place to place should acquiesce and place themselves in a position where they are at greater risk of becoming a KSI (Killed/ seriously injured statistic).

As a cycling instructor its part of our job to
a) give trainees lessons in real situations with realistic expectations of driver behaviour
whilst
b) not freaking them out (our aim is to promote cycling)
we can do this by
c) equipping them with the understanding and skills to deal with these types of situations.

This leads on to a further questions that Skydancer and I were discussing with TFL the other day....
"Which is the default cycling position that should be recommended to cyclist? Primary or Secondary?"
(we think there might be a clue in the name).
Is it possible to say there is a default position?
Many people who are new to cycling would be grateful of clear guidance I am sure, and a simple message needs to be communicated to both them and to drivers of other types of vehicle. The greater the numbers of other road/vehicle users that understand the reasoning behind assertive cyclist positioning (or at the very least are told that this is a "normal" position to expect to see a cyclist riding in) the less of this aggression/ retribution taking cyclists are going to have to put up with.

Any thoughts on this? (or is that a whole other thread?)
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Old 25th November 2010   #40
skydancerdonor
 
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(This thread is fine scratchy)
your point

Quote:
The greater the numbers of other road/vehicle users that understand the reasoning behind assertive cyclist positioning (or at the very least are told that this is a "normal" position to expect to see a cyclist riding in) the less of this aggression/ retribution taking cyclists are going to have to put up with.
is an extension of the "safety in numbers" concept and is about managing driver's expectations. In london cyclists are expected and accepted on the road, cyclists riding in the traffic stream are not common enough yet and will become more accepted and even understood as more riders do that.

So off to meet my trainee now to to coax/coach another rider into the traffic stream...
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Old 25th November 2010   #41
chainwhip
 
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Mr Skydancer, "safety in numbers" is very dubious concept. One thing is its existence and other thing is its use as a safety strategy.

As for its existence, Dr Pasanen who works for the City of Helsinki, did a study of Finnish towns that have bike modal shares between 5%-20% and, gosh, no safety in numbers effect noticeable.

John Forester, MS, PE, Bicycle Transportation Engineer does somekind of a mathematical thing in a paper in his website to the famous Jacobsen safety in numbers paper. I've studied university level math and don't understand shit of the thing done there.(google it)

I remember an Unknown Internet Expert once writing somewhere that he was in correspondence with John Franklin once about safety in numbers, and Franklin explained that he supported the safety in numbers concept, because it was the least uncomfortable explanation of certain nations having lower accidents rates and the said nations having pushed cyclist off the roadway to facilities next to roadway...

As an accident reduction strategy it is borderline between unethical and a joke.

I know your cycling training program is about increasing cycling by making people feeling good and confident and you don't want to put people off by talking about negative things like accidents, but your training program has a very close resemblance to an accident reduction program. An accident reduction program is a safety-in-safety program. I don't know how safety-in-numbers fits into that picture. Also considering increasing cycling, which will be more effective: telling that you can avoid the most accidents by following simple guidelines OR telling that cycling will be safe for you only when all the other people have started to do it first?

I know that many of you wish for the numbers of cyclists to increase and you are have nicety-nice programs of hot towels and free cheese-cake for cyclists, that will surely turn the "near market" aka "the excuses folks" into avid cycle users. Yeah right. And I bet some of you hippies write letters to your government, that the "government should increase the number of cyclists". Face it, advocates and governments do not control the number of cyclist. Baseline numbers is dictated by availability of other modes, topography, economics, history, weather, the share of short distances in urban area, etc. On top of the baseline is the fashion and trend effect. When cycling becomes trendy, cycle advocacy and cycle politics become trendy. The trend produces the modal share increase and the politics. The politicians of course want to take credit for creating the good things, same thing as with employment rates and economical trends. The point of this rant was, that even if safety in numbers was a valid safety strategy, it is very questionable that the actors in the field have the powers to change the modal share so much that it will having any noticeable effect. (But don't get cynical like me. Keep on pushing! I'd love to see you succeed.)

One thing you might have hard to understand on your little sunny island is the depth of the darkness in the parts of Europe surrounding you. The safety in numbers concept originates from the heart of darkness: Sweden. Sweden like other Nordic countries got it fundamentally wrong in the sixties and began to think of cyclists as a form of pedestrians. After that followed four decades of wonderment why cyclists refuse to act like other pedestrians and get into all kinds of trouble. Denmark, Germany and Netherlands had a little bit different flavor of being fundamentally wrong; the cyclist as a third class of road users (vehicle operators and pedestrians being the other two). You have to understand that the safety-in-numbers theories were invented to patch this fundamentally flawed world of dysfunctional cyclist traffic rules. In UK you have been traditionally fundamentally right about cycling traffic rules and thus only thing you should do with bicycle "science" papers coming from other northern European countries is wipe your butt.

One last thing about using the word "safety".
Word "safety" should be used in context of actual accident risks.
Not in context of "feeling of legitimacy", "feeling of being accepted by car drivers" or "feeling of safety".
That "being accepted by car-drivers" equals "safety" is the original sin in thinking about cycling safety and should be done away with.
Safety-in-safety cycling is safe considering the world of actual accident risks (visibility cones or whateveryoucallit, failures to notice, failures to yield etc..)
I've read your accident statistics, they have many cyclist killed when undertaking trucks but not many killed by lynch mobs angered by uppity cyclists.
I agree that increased feeling of legitimacy might increase numbers of cyclists taking up safe cycling practice, and may be that can be called safety-in-numbers.
But the safety comes from the safety-in-safety cycling and motorists should accept that despite the number of cyclists. Period.

I must agree with you that IF safety-in-numbers effect exists, riding assertively makes you a much bigger number and increases the perceived number of cyclist perceived by the motorists.

ps. I might write more about "luv" later.
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Old 25th November 2010   #42
rhb
 
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^ my head is now spinning.

Things i thought of whilst reading all that:

Cycle Training isn't necessarily for increasing numbers but for helping the current cycling population become safer cyclists. Trained cyclists are very much the minority still. If all of those riding today followed the National Standard, drivers would come to accept the practices displayed as the norm.

European approach is wrong? If you've the space and the support of the people, why not segregate? The numbers in Holland and Copenhagen stack up.

I do agree we should focus more on road cycling and interaction between motor vehicles and riders here in the UK though as there's simply not the space (or ease of planning process) to build enough of a segregated infrastructure.

Unrelated afterthought... I'm sat here in Whitefield drinking coffee watching an endless stream of almost entirely sole occupancy car traffic heading along the A56 and it's very depressing to think our gov't wants to keep growing this for the sake of the economy.
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Old 25th November 2010   #43
Oliver Schickdonor
 
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Chainwhip, you have to distinguish two separate things: One, the historical shape of the 'safety in numbers' concept, which you quite rightly criticise. Forester is right to say that Jacobsen's paper is duff. (For anyone who's interested, Forester's critique is here.) Two, the simple fact that people on bikes are less likely to cause harm to others and as the modal share of cycling increases, we should expect a reduction in road danger.

Jacobsen's application of Smeed's Law is quite self-defeating, for the reasons outlined by Forester. My take on it is that Smeed was right about the effect of adverse driving conditions (e.g. congestion) on motor traffic volumes, but wrong about the relationship between levels of casualties and driving. (He thought that the level of casualties would essentially behave like congestion, i.e. that it would remain roughly constant in line with people's expectations and tolerances.)

However, I don't think that people have the same relationship to casualty levels as they do to adverse driving conditions--casualties, unless they affect their nearest and dearest, are seen as fairly abstract and instead of maintaining a level of consciousness of casualty levels, people actually turn away and don't want to know. This is unlikely to lead to a modification of their driving behaviour. By contrast, they will take to other modes if driving becomes intolerable to them. If you want, there is a similar psychological mechanism here, avoidance of some kind, but the effects are very different.

In my view, it is not necessary to demonstrate a safety in numbers effect by modal share. After all, it is called 'safety in (higher) numbers' and not 'safety in a higher proportion'. Modal share is very difficult to determine. Even a good modal share model will never accurately represent actual conditions on the ground.

For instance, in London the Inner Cordon counts do a good job of producing very robust data on vehicular trips across that cordon. We use these numbers as one of the main sources of data to estimate total cycling trips in London. It is demonstrable with reasonable certainty that cycling has increased considerably in the last 10-20 years. However, this data does not enable us to calculate modal share.

We can use this data (and some other data that's also available) to compare raw trip numbers to raw crash statistics (these are incomplete, as there is under-reporting of crashes, but it is not thought that the level of under-reporting has changed much over time). On that measure, there is an indication that the rate of collisions has declined against number of cycle trips compared to the 1994-98 baseline.

Note that this does not use anything like 'number of bicycles' or 'number of vehicles' owned by the population. For population data, we can simply substitute the number and nature of trips, as this is the sort of activity undertaken by the population that interests us here.

The 'safety in numbers' concept taken in the bare sense I outline need not be used to justify the construction of cycle facilities, as has been done in the past, or indeed other forms of intervention. We cannot easily conclude from limited data to actual causes, a common mistake made by all sorts of people, but we do know a few of the variables in London. One is that very few cycle facilities, both lanes or tracks, were actually constructed in London during that time. As far as I can see, the main conclusion that can be assumed is usually that where high levels of political support indicate that cycling is considered 'normal', people will cycle.

The historical debate has focused strongly on the safety of cyclists in interaction with motor vehicles. We all know the highly problematic status that 'safety' has as a major red herring and how fear of road danger has far outstripped actual road danger as a result of its widespread application. The real issues, as you rightly say, lie elsewhere. Not only has the focus of the historical debate been misapplied, but also the method. This is of course not something that can serve as a sound basis of policy. Any such discussion needs to be broadened out to include the many different factors that play into it.
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Old 25th November 2010   #44
Schwaz
The article below has some interesting observations from paragraph 10 on which relate a little to this discussion - though they primarily concern riding in new York. Maybe the writer is over-optimistic about the current level of the critical mass effect in London? The grass always looks greener - especially from the other side of the pond.

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environmen...k-cycling-bike
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Old 25th November 2010   #45
j.m.f
Just when I thought the forum was disappearing up its own rectum with multiple alias's
and plain unneccessary unpleasantness comes this page.Plenty to think about and throwing a Finnish writer in the mix brings another cultural slant to it.
Has Oliver met his match?
for my contribution I would like to say that if the figures for deaths in motor accidents were well publicised might people be less likely to drive so merrily.?
also, during 1999 when I was trying for Aussie citizenship, some expats there said to me "nothing changes back home, except the cars" and it stayed with me,
above mentioned hippies like us cycle trainers must all wonder why this is still so true, and still so depressing in 2011.
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Old 25th November 2010   #46
Schwaz
One quick thought: regarding speaking to trainees, I was recently thinking that a good way to approach the issue of 'poor manners' and worse from other road users in response to assertive riding might be to make an analogy to driving (especially if the trainee drives). If you are driving the speed limit in, for example, a 20 or 30 zone and a driver behind you becomes agitated or abusive, this is not an indication that you should have increased your level of risk or the risk to other road users (or broken the law, indeed) and the best response as a driver is to ignore the abusive driver, in my view. Interested to hear others' thoughts - and yes, sometimes I do drive! :)

Since assertive riding is a legal way to use a bike as a road vehicle, I feel analogies to how one would use another vehicle (car, scooter, motorcycle) are well worth exploring and often, in my experience, make a positive impression on trainees (especially if they take to roads in a vehicle other than a bike).
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Old 25th November 2010   #47
Schwaz
One correction to my own post, #38.

Where I said 'i tell trainees... to consider what makes them safe first and foremost' this is broadly correct. I do tend to fall into the trap of using the language 'think about what makes you safe'. But actually, what I try to drill myself to say to adults in particular (and children as they become more mature) is that they should think about what behaviour minimises risk most effectively. Conceptualising road use in terms of minimising risk makes much more sense of the reality of the situation than 'being safe'. Indeed, in the case of this particular discussion, I think the notion of minimising risk rather than 'keeping safe' is crucial.

When local authorities were charged, some years back, with reducing absolute numbers of accidents involving cyclists, the reponse in some cases was to keep people 'safe' by keeping them from cycling (no cyclists = no accidents involving cyclists).

So I'll be more careful with my language in future, with trainees and in my posts.
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Old 25th November 2010   #48
skydancerdonor
 
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Agree completely with Shwaz . I avoid using the word safe with people i teach. Using 'low Risk' is more neutral while 'safe' implies danger. And yes chainwhip ,teaching people how to minimise risk by training them in a positive encouraging manner will not only help them ride efficiently and confidently it will also brng then enjoyment and they'll want to ride more. So less likely to crash and nore likely to cycle. ftw "More trips more safely more often" as the mantra goes

Managing drivers expectations will go a long way to minimising conflict. Some people do lash-out out of fear when expectations don't get met.

'Safety in numbers' is a lazy yet useful shortcut way to comminicate the possibility that when people get exposed to something initially scary then get used to it, accept it as normal.
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Old 25th November 2010   #49
adroitdonor
 
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Thats two of the best threads on the forum you have created.
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Old 26th November 2010   #50
rhb
 
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^^ Dave, surely by your own reasoning that quote should read 'More trips less risk more often'? ;)
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