Join Date: Mar 2008
Location: Scott. Arkansas
Bikes: Trek Madone 5.2, Fisher Caliber 29er, Orbea Onix
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As John Allen (author of Bicycling Street Skills and a Massachusetts LCI) recently pointed out in another forum, the average bicyclist is smarter than the average bear:
"So, please, don't be the bear.
Now: the dancing bear experiment is clever, indeed, in showing how people can be misled, but is itself misleading.
The dancing bear is slipped as an unexpected element into the midst of an orderly and societally understood pattern, the passing of the soccer ball among several players. The experiment cleverly misleads the viewer, concealing the bear, but is also misleading on another level, in suggesting that such concealment is the norm.
It is also misleading in that both the viewer and the dancing bear are passive. There is no actual interaction possible between them, as, after all, the experiment is canned.
Riding a bicycle on the road according to the orderly and societally understood rules of the road is like passing the soccer ball. Riding as a 'road sneak" is like being the dancing bear.
So, don't be the bear. Follow the rules of the road, and ride to be visible. Test that other road users have seen you, using assertive/defensive road positioning and continued forward movement that requires a reaction from the other road users, up to the point where you would have to yield if they don't."
Example: when approaching an intersection with stop signs in the cross street, and a vehicle is in the cross street and is coming up to the stop sign, merge away from the curb as needed to put yourself in plain view of the vehicle's driver, where the driver expects to look for traffic. Keep moving and keep pedaling nearly to the point at which you would have to make a quick stop. Your good braking technique makes it possible to be more assertive than you otherwise would. When the driver stops, you know that the driver has stopped because of *you.*
Another: before merging farther into the street, for this reason or any other (e.g., to overtake a double-parked vehicle), signal your intentions early enough to give the next driver behind you plenty of time to react. Then check that the driver has slowed, or else merged to overtake you safely.
A bicyclist who violates the rules of the road and operates passively, will get into "dancing bear" situations much, much more frequently than one who obeys the rules of the road, rides to be seen and interacts with other road users to test their reactions.
The good lesson of the dancing bear experiment is that it is possible for road users to become distracted, even from things which are in their plain sight. The bad lesson, as this experiment is commonly being used in connection with traffic operation, is that it finishes with an essentially fatalistic message, "think of yourself as a victim." It has nothing at all to say about how to avoid being one.
Yes, bears can be taught to ride bicycles. But again, you and your students are smarter than the average bear. And those are the bare facts as I see them."
Good advice, and one of the better interpretations of the bear video that I've seen so far.
Last edited by Pscyclepath; 12-18-08 at 10:02 AM.