New Look, New Purpose

I’m finally getting around to redoing the old “Bicycle Transportation Institute” website. BTI was a noble idea. We made a good attempt at getting the organization going, but it never quite got going and hasn’t been functioning for many years now.

I wanted to use this site to make available several pieces of work I’ve done over the years that many people have found useful:

I also wanted to use the site to highlight new developments as they come up. I hope that we will also feature posts from other authors.

4 Responses to “New Look, New Purpose

  • octavian
    10 years ago

    Hi Paul,

    I found your site a few years ago. Thanks for reviving it. I have yet to find another cycling blogger who describes traffic cycling and outlines how a non-cycling society pictures cycling. You avoid the common pitfall of mixing cyclists with pedestrians. You evaluate cycling on its own merits, what it is and does for you as an individual traveler, not on what it’s not or what it saves you. Too frequently anti-motorists promote cycling because it’s not motoring.

    A national or continental ground transportation system as a whole is used, by humans at least, according to one of two sets of rules, one for drivers and one for pedestrians. To your knowledge, Paul, how did this distinction and these rules develop? I’d enjoy reading an article on that.

    Applying, to cyclists, the five principles of ground-based free-path driving is not at all a new idea that needs to be proven (in a future article, would you describe those five principles for us?). It just needs to be taught. Traffic is really not that bad.

    Every motorist I encounter almost always cooperates with me. As long as the two of us use the same set of rules, we each know what to expect. It shouldn’t matter if traffic engineers design new road construction or revamping projects around the concerns and needs of motorists. For example, a motorist can overtake me in a Wide Outside Lane (WOL), without any negotiation, regardless of our relative speed. This is because the WOL is wide enough that he can pass me without venturing into another lane at all. But not having a WOL does not make that road too dangerous to cycle on. You just need to know what line to take, how far into a narrow outside through lane to ride. I choose my lateral position in a narrow outside through lane according to two factors that are easy to balance.

    (1) I ride far enough right to allow a motorist to pass me on my left if he makes a partial lane change. On a four-lane road, the motorist, who starts out behind me in my lane, must negotiate with drivers, be they motorists or other cyclists, in the next lane over in order to make his partial lane change to pass me on my left. This is quite easy to do.

    (2) I ride far enough left to discourage a right-turning motorist from trying to pass me just before he turns right, across my path. If I happen to look back and see that he wants to turn right, I move to the left edge of my lane to give him more room to pass me on my right. But even when I don’t detect that the motorist behind me wants to turn right, he rarely honks at me or shows other signs of displeasure. This is because I’m first in line. The slight delay to him will pass soon enough, and usually does – I pass the point where the motorist wants to turn right, he turns right and we both go on our merry way!

    Balancing these two factors to determine my lateral position in a narrow outside through lane is not difficult, and in fact grew progressively easier as I gained experience.

    I must stress that this does not depend at all on my physical condition or how fast I want to ride. This works no matter how much faster than me the motorists are traveling.

    Would a Wide Outside Lane be nice? Sure. Would a Right-Turn-Only Lane help? You bet! But not having them is not a deal breaker if you as a cyclist know what line to take, to YOUR DESTINATION!

    And really! When you learn this, go out and do it yourself, and actually see that it works for YOU (not just me) then your possibilities just blow wide open. No longer do you need to plan a special route through boring neighborhoods with many closely spaced yielding situations. You now have the freedom to take the more efficient free-flowing arterial roads to your destination. This advantage is even more important if you are not a physically fit rider. Not only that, even if you’re just riding for fun, with no particular place to go, riding arterials and collector streets is just more fun that starting and stopping over and over again at neighborhood bottlenecks.

    Well if all this is so simple, why don’t cyclists do this now? It’s because they don’t know this is even possible, let alone a lot of fun! The solution is to teach them to drive their bikes!

    Paul, your blog is a good start. But people fear cycling in fast traffic for the same reason I fear sky diving. I understand it’s quite safe for other people, but my gut feeling is that it’s not. What if the jumper’s chute fails to open? Until I try it first hand, and see for myself that it works and I don’t just plummet to the ground, I will need a lot of convincing to try sky diving for the very first time.

    Likewise, you can’t convince novice cyclists that the motorists won’t smash them from behind on a congested collector street or rural freeway unless you convince them to try it once, show them that it can be done safely, and have fun in the process. Even a youtube video that demonstrates a proper left turn, for example, fails at this because the viewer is not participating; he’s not stimulating his fear. From the viewer’s prospective, he’s just watching the rider in the video almost get himself killed every couple seconds or so. In fact, demonstrating a traffic maneuver to a rider who does not possess sufficient prerequisite skill will only strengthen his fear, working against our goal of freeing him from fear of driving his bike as part of traffic.

    In conclusion, a cycling blog and series of instructional internet videos is a great way for us experienced riders to network together and get on the same page. But only actual instruction and successful experience in a feared situation can prove that fear unwarranted. This can only be accomplished in person. You can either organize a formal class or hold a series of club rides that informally demonstrate progressively harder bicycle driving maneuvers.

    I want to become just such an instructor. But I need further training first.

    The chief advantage of your blog, Paul, and of traffic cycling videos posted to the internet is that it allows current, competent traffic cyclists to coordinate our education efforts across the world, even if we never meet in person.

    So keep up the good work, Paul. I’ll check back frequently. Please keep the updates coming!

  • Thanks for the comment — lots of things to respond to. I will save some for future posts.

    History of rules for drivers and pedestrians: Clay McShane may be the expert to ask about this. By the time bicycles came on the scene in the 1870s, there were already established rules for carriages. In fact, the main parts of “Chapter 89, The Law of the Road” still on the statute books here in Massachusetts date back to 1820. A major and successful goal of the bicycle groups was to get the bicycle recognized as a vehicle.

    I will post about the issue of fear of cycling later.

    Yes, there is no substitute for on-bike, on-road experience in learning cycling skills and overcoming fears. The League of American Bicyclists has a process for certifying instructors. Yes, videos can be very helpful. “Cyclists’ Eye View” by Chris Quant is good.

    –Paul

  • michael yeates
    10 years ago

    Hi …

    In response to a problem in the UK, I gave the http://www.bicyledriving.com/ address to give a web reference to the collection of illustrations and comments we put together some years ago to show some Australian examples good and bad and links to similar projects (and others) in the USA.
    However when I checked the website, it was gone …!
    I am wondering if the earlier material has been kept as I could not find it easily on the “new” site? Hope so!
    This collection together with what was also on the former site provided a really good snapshot of the development of different approaches as we moved on from the endless references to attempts to copy facilities from Europe… as if nothing good (or bad) happened in the USA (or Australia).
    Mind you, it could have some more recent examples added and I would be happy to do that.
    Is there a possibility of creating a category under the existing headings that can then provide access to the earlier material?
    This is especially important as it would provide an evidentiary trail for those wondering about why certain facilities are adopted as well as those that were not. This can also help or help avoid raising the ideas again.
    I enjoyed the new site … but (unless done intentionaly??) I wonder if it might benefit from a wider field of references to other parts of the world?
    We here in Australia share a lot of criticism with the USA for being far too car-centric for example … so the facilities provided and the different approaches in both the USA and in Australia may be useful to others who think their roads have too many cars and not enough recognition of cyclists (and pedestrians). These are similar in Paris or London or …!
    Issues such as very high speed, multi-lane urban roads through shopping strips and intersections designed to maximise motor-vehicle capacity (so pedestrians and cyclists are simply ignored) come to mind…!

    Safe cycling and successful advocacy

    Michael Yeates

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