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Old 01-06-05, 06:16 AM   #1
JohnBrooking
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Just happened here in Portland, ME, yesterday. Local story here, street map here. Cyclist was going against traffic through a busy intersection at dusk, and was hit and dragged by a U.S. Postal Service tractor-trailer turning right. Police will likely not bring charges.

Last edited by JohnBrooking; 01-06-05 at 06:28 AM. Reason: Added map link
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Old 01-06-05, 06:19 AM   #2
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The obvious lesson: more bike lanes!

No, that's not serious.
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Old 01-06-05, 06:43 AM   #3
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I just thought of another good way to argue why you should ride with, not against, traffic, aside from predictability. (Maybe Forrester has already argued this, but I haven't read him. As far as I know, I haven't heard it before.) When you ride with traffic, due to relative speeds, you are being passed more slowly (their speed minus yours) by fewer cars in the same time period, and from behind. Riding against traffic, you are being passed head-on at their speed plus yours, and by more of them in the same time period. So head-on, you've got more drivers having less time to see you and react, with greater potential for impact damage.

It's tragic that this guy must have thought that against traffic was the correct (or at least safer) way to ride, else why would he have been doing it at dusk in a busy intersection? Sad.
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Old 01-06-05, 07:08 AM   #4
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For a long time, I thought riding against the flow was the safer way to go about it, but then I studied how drivers reacted to me, when - or if - they noticed me.

The majority of the time if I was approaching a driveway or sidestreet, drivers are looking the opposite way (to their left, as I approach from the right) to watch for an open gap to jump into. Once they go, then they look right again. But at this moment, they are on the gas, and hardly prepared to deal with a moving obstacle coming towards them. Of course, assuming they see you at all...

I also noticed that the face to face contact seems to unnerve, startle, or distract drivers. I think due to the eye contact that holds for just a second when they see you. When a driver sees a rider, or anybody, on the side of the road, and can make out a face, they take a moment to scan it for recognition. In contrast to when you travel with traffic, with your back to drivers, you are anonymous, and are more immediately identified as just a cyclist or whatever, and their attention can move on to other driver like things. Maybe this doesn't make sense, but just something I noticed.

I can't belive that I rode against traffic for so long without incident. I've been lucky. I probably still ride like an a$$ to most cyclists standards, but now I do so with the flow of traffic.

It sucks to see another person go down like this...
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Old 01-06-05, 08:06 AM   #5
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From the article:

>>>The crash happened about 4 p.m., when the truck, driven by John Ward, 47, of Windham, was turning right onto Forest Avenue from Marginal Way<<<

What was the cyclist doing riding on the highway? Forest Avenue is called "Blue Star Memorial Highway" and yet this is the type of road he chose to ride on. Didn't we read a similar incident not too long ago where a cyclist was killed riding on the highway? If you go to Mapquest, you'll see exit and entrance ramps on Forest Avenue. I get the feeling BSMH is a 50 - 60 mph highway which explains why he was dragged over 100 feet!
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Old 01-06-05, 08:24 AM   #6
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Where does the idea of riding against traffic come from? Was it ever the official recommendation at some point in the past, when some of the older among us were kids? (The victim here was 45. I'm 37, but I don't remember what I was told about it as a kid.) Or is it just mass conventional wisdom?

I'm guessing that independently of any education either way, it arises as a natural (but invalid) extension of the rule that pedestrians should walk against traffic, so bikes should ride that way too. The root problem of course is the assumption that bikes are more like pedestrians than cars. People want to be safe, and when not in a car, it "feels" safer to think of yourself as a pedestrian then as a car-less driver, so you are tempted to think it's safer to act more like a pedestrian than a car, even on a bike.

No, I'm not actually a psychologist. I guess I'm just trying to make sense of what happened here.

I've thought about becoming a safety instructor, and this makes me want to do so even more. I guess my first step is to actually take some safety courses myself.
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Old 01-06-05, 08:35 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve
What was the cyclist doing riding on the highway? Forest Avenue is called "Blue Star Memorial Highway" and yet this is the type of road he chose to ride on.
It's not really a highway, it's just called that. (Probably some politician wanted it.) Forest Avenue is pretty much a 4-lane local road, with no divider and plenty of side streets. The ramps you see on the map are to and from I-295 (which passes over Forest Ave.), and the ramp area and this intersection are pretty much adjacent, with side roads going all over the place. It's undoubtedly high-volume and confusing, but it's not itself a highway, and speeds are more like 30-45.
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Old 01-06-05, 10:01 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnBrooking
Where does the idea of riding against traffic come from? Was it ever the official recommendation at some point in the past, when some of the older among us were kids? (The victim here was 45. I'm 37, but I don't remember what I was told about it as a kid.)
I'm 33. I distinctly rememer that my Webelo scouting manual had contradictory information in it; one section said cyclists should ride with traffic, another said against.
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Old 01-06-05, 10:15 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnBrooking
Where does the idea of riding against traffic come from? Was it ever the official recommendation at some point in the past, when some of the older among us were kids? (The victim here was 45. I'm 37, but I don't remember what I was told about it as a kid.) Or is it just mass conventional wisdom?
It wasn't something anybody ever instructed me to do. At some point, I figured that I'd rather see what's coming at me, than have things approach me blindly from the backside. At the time, I didn't take the drivers reactions into account. I'm 37, and remember as a child being instructed to ride with the flow, and what the proper handsignals were. I ignored this for a long time, but all info I ever saw endorsed riding with traffic...

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Old 01-06-05, 10:27 AM   #10
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My experience and painful lesson on riding against the flow.

In college( the early 70's) I was an anarchist cyclist. I rode where I pleased and had no regard for my safety or others. I was in the habit of riding against traffic as that was what I had been taught and it made sense at the time. I was heading down York Road in Towson, MD on the wrong side. As I approached an intersection ( no light), a car had pulled up to take a right onto York Rd. The woman driving was looking over her left shoulder for a chance to proceed with her right. As soon as a gap appeared, she took her right, and gunned it to squeeze into the flow. I was right in front of her crossing the intersection. Collision! My bike went under her car. I, luckily, went up onto her hood, put my knees through her windshield and then rolled over the top of the car and ended up in a heap behind the car. I was dazed, confused, and bleeding profusely. I managed to crawl to the sidewalk and began to assess the damage. In the meantime, the woman became hysterical and began pacing back and forth mumbling sorry, sorry, I didn't see you. I was turning right and when I looked forward, you were there. I could not stop.

Anyway, long story made somewhat shorter. A Baltimore County cop happened to be in the Gino's parking lot across the street and he saw the whole thing go down. Apparently he called it in immediately because an ambulance was there pronto. He walked over and checked me out and decided I was going to live and then began to calm the woman down. As the medical guys were putting me in the ambulance, he stopped them. He had one of those cop books out and as he asked me all the predictable questions, he wrote the answers down in his book. When he was finished, he handed me a ticket to sign. I was cited for riding on the wrong side of the road and ended up dishing out close to a grand to fix the woman's car.

While I was crazy pissed at the time, I later understood and agreed with his decision to ticket me. I was the cause of that accident. My fault, and no one else's. Call it the first real lesson in a series of lessons that eventually smartened me up.
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Old 01-06-05, 12:09 PM   #11
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thanks for sharing CRUM. Hopefully the honesty of your experience will help some more people take accountability for their 'anarchic' riding styles.
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Old 01-07-05, 12:31 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnBrooking
Where does the idea of riding against traffic come from?
The idea of riding against traffic comes from the combination of two sources:
  1. Traveling on the side against vehicular traffic is the proper rule for pedestrians.
  2. Many people think of cyclists as pedestrians rather than as drivers of vehicles.

It's the proper rule for pedestrians because:
  1. Relative to vehicular traffic pedestrians are effectively stationary objects. That is, if a motorist checks to see if it's clear in a certain direction and looks away to check another direction, a second later the area he first checked is still going to be clear even if a pedestrian is moving toward it. Their slow speed also makes the speed differential between pedestrians and vehicles effectively the same regardless of whether the pedestrian is moving with or against vehicular traffic.
  2. Given their effectively stationary status, pedestrians are no better off with respect to speed factors traveling with or against traffic.
  3. Since the speed factor makes the side decision a toss-up, the advantage of facing traffic to see it better starts to become significant.
  4. The ability to see traffic coming at you coupled with the ability of a pedestrian to almost instantaneously stop or make a lateral move to avoid a potential collision makes it clearly advantageous to walk facing traffic.


The rules that applies to pedestrians does not apply to cyclists for at least these reasons:
  1. Even relative to motor vehicle traffic, cyclists are not effectively stationary objects. Because of their speed, cyclist can appear suddenly and unexpectedly in situations where pedestrians cannot. The speed differentials when riding with or against traffic are significant.
  2. Cyclists cannot stop or move laterally like a pedestrian can, so the advantage of being able to see a potential collision by traveling against the flow of traffic become moot, especially when you consider the increased likelihood of such a collision when traveling against traffic given the significantly higher speed differentials and the "unexpected" factor


Quote:
Maybe Forrester (sic) has already argued this, but I haven't read him.
If you ride a bicyle on roads, and you or anyone else cares about your life, you should read Effective Cycling by John Forester. Check out the reviews on Amazon.

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Old 01-07-05, 03:43 PM   #13
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Another problem with "wrong way" cyclists and roller bladers, is that you never know which way to move to avoid them.
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Old 01-08-05, 09:20 AM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by CRUM
My experience and painful lesson on riding against the flow.

In college( the early 70's) I was an anarchist cyclist. I rode where I pleased and had no regard for my safety or others. I was in the habit of riding against traffic as that was what I had been taught and it made sense at the time. I was heading down York Road in Towson, MD on the wrong side. As I approached an intersection ( no light), a car had pulled up to take a right onto York Rd. The woman driving was looking over her left shoulder for a chance to proceed with her right. As soon as a gap appeared, she took her right, and gunned it to squeeze into the flow. I was right in front of her crossing the intersection. Collision! My bike went under her car. I, luckily, went up onto her hood, put my knees through her windshield and then rolled over the top of the car and ended up in a heap behind the car. I was dazed, confused, and bleeding profusely. I managed to crawl to the sidewalk and began to assess the damage. In the meantime, the woman became hysterical and began pacing back and forth mumbling sorry, sorry, I didn't see you. I was turning right and when I looked forward, you were there. I could not stop.

Anyway, long story made somewhat shorter. A Baltimore County cop happened to be in the Gino's parking lot across the street and he saw the whole thing go down. Apparently he called it in immediately because an ambulance was there pronto. He walked over and checked me out and decided I was going to live and then began to calm the woman down. As the medical guys were putting me in the ambulance, he stopped them. He had one of those cop books out and as he asked me all the predictable questions, he wrote the answers down in his book. When he was finished, he handed me a ticket to sign. I was cited for riding on the wrong side of the road and ended up dishing out close to a grand to fix the woman's car.

While I was crazy pissed at the time, I later understood and agreed with his decision to ticket me. I was the cause of that accident. My fault, and no one else's. Call it the first real lesson in a series of lessons that eventually smartened me up.
I would not have signed any ticket. By signing that ticket, you admitted fault and thus were guity.

You would be surprised how many tickets are discarded in New York City traffic court. It's amazing how many motorist get DWI and speeding tickets discharged after they pay the lawyer $100.00 dollars.
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Old 01-08-05, 10:02 AM   #15
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"I would not have signed any ticket. By signing that ticket, you admitted fault and thus were guity. "

A major problem in our society, refusing to take responsibility for your actions.

Perhaps Steve, you did not read the full post. CRUM admitted he was guilty. I applaud him.
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Old 01-08-05, 10:04 AM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by scoana
"I would not have signed any ticket. By signing that ticket, you admitted fault and thus were guity. "

A major problem in our society, refusing to take responsibility for your actions.

Perhaps Steve, you did not read the full post. CRUM admitted he was guilty. I applaud him.
To each his own, I still believe he paid for the accident with blood.
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Old 01-08-05, 10:55 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve
I would not have signed any ticket. By signing that ticket, you admitted fault and thus were guity.

You would be surprised how many tickets are discarded in New York City traffic court. It's amazing how many motorist get DWI and speeding tickets discharged after they pay the lawyer $100.00 dollars.
I don't know how things are done in the big city but here, your signature is a 'promise to appear' in court to deal with the citation. You can certainly refuse to sign the ticket. The police officer may then arrest you. I once got a traffic ticket for speeding, in Montana. I had to post a bond equivalent to the fine, on the spot. If I had refused to sign the ticket and post the bond, it was straight to jail. If I hadn't had the money, it was straight to jail. My wife would have then had to find a cash machine and bail me out of jail.
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Old 01-10-05, 04:07 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by JohnBrooking
Where does the idea of riding against traffic come from? Was it ever the official recommendation at some point in the past, when some of the older among us were kids?
It must have been the informal advice given to an earlier generation, and some people today, too. A lot of older people think that you should ride against traffic.

Runners, even young runners, who think about riding a bike often think the same thing. In that case, it's obviously the running practices being carried over.

There are some people who think of themselves as responsible, safety-conscious role models who bike on the wrong side of the road. I ran into a guy like this one (not literally "ran into").

It was a weekend morning. A whole family was out on their bikes, Dad, Mom, and the little 'uns, trailing like ducklings. Dad was hand signaling at all the intersections. Dad had a safety vest on. All of them had shiny new helmets. And, of course, the whole line of them was riding on the wrong side of the road.

I passed them on a narrow, empty street. (At least I had a lot of room to get around them on the right!) Dad looked at me, obviously sighing inside at my lack of a helmet, but he didn't say anything. I didn't say anything to him about his riding habits, but I probably ought to have. You hate to look like you're dissing a guy in front of his family, but perhaps if I'd approached him in the right way there wouldn't have been any problem.
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Old 01-10-05, 05:17 AM   #19
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Well I would think that he could be reprimanded considering that US postal service sponsor Lance Armstrong and Tyler Hamilton etc.

Write a letter to US Postal Service anyway.
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Old 01-10-05, 05:29 AM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve
To each his own, I still believe he paid for the accident with blood.
Morally, yes he did. Probably a lesson learned right there. But there was financial responsibility too, plus the fact he chose to break the law. IMO he did the right thing by accepting all those consequences straight away.

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Old 01-10-05, 07:43 PM   #21
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Merriwether
It must have been the informal advice given to an earlier generation, and some people today, too. A lot of older people think that you should ride against traffic.

Runners, even young runners, who think about riding a bike often think the same thing. In that case, it's obviously the running practices being carried over.

There are some people who think of themselves as responsible, safety-conscious role models who bike on the wrong side of the road. I ran into a guy like this one (not literally "ran into").

It was a weekend morning. A whole family was out on their bikes, Dad, Mom, and the little 'uns, trailing like ducklings. Dad was hand signaling at all the intersections. Dad had a safety vest on. All of them had shiny new helmets. And, of course, the whole line of them was riding on the wrong side of the road.

I passed them on a narrow, empty street. (At least I had a lot of room to get around them on the right!) Dad looked at me, obviously sighing inside at my lack of a helmet, but he didn't say anything. I didn't say anything to him about his riding habits, but I probably ought to have. You hate to look like you're dissing a guy in front of his family, but perhaps if I'd approached him in the right way there wouldn't have been any problem.
I'm with you, Merriwether. What can you say?

This father had the right attitude and the wrong information.
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Old 01-10-05, 09:23 PM   #22
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Quote:
Originally Posted by browngum
Well I would think that he could be reprimanded considering that US postal service sponsor Lance Armstrong and Tyler Hamilton etc.

Write a letter to US Postal Service anyway.
So, because the Postal Service USED to sponsor a cycling team, a driver should be reprimanded, whether he was at fault in the accident or not? By what logic is this decision based on? Believe me, the standards for assessing internal blame on an employee in an accident are VERY strict. Whether an accident is legally our fault, or not, if the only way the accident could have been avoided was if we'd stayed in bed that day, then it would be judged not our fault internally to the USPS, otherwise, we get a safety violation. Should cyclists and other drivers receive the same level of judgement for anything THEY are involved in?
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Old 01-11-05, 11:46 AM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dahon.Steve
To each his own, I still believe he paid for the accident with blood.
Paid whom with blood? And the issue is not about paying for the accident, it's about paying for the repairs for the damage caused by the cyclist's negligence.

The woman's car was damaged due to the negligence of the cyclist riding on the wrong side of the road. Paying "with blood" does not fix her car. He should pay for the repairs to the damage that he caused. That is the essence of individual responsibility that seems to be missed by too many.

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Old 01-11-05, 11:55 AM   #24
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Quote:
Originally Posted by browngum
Well I would think that he could be reprimanded considering that US postal service sponsor Lance Armstrong and Tyler Hamilton etc.
The tribal sentiment expressed in statements like this that "all cyclists must stick together no matter what" does nothing for cycling advocacy or safety - it probably makes it worse.

The idea that the postal driver should be reprimanded for hitting a cyclist riding in the wrong direction; against traffic because his employer was a cycling sponsor (and "all cyclists -- and their ex-sponsors, apparently -- must stick together no matter what") is sickening.

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Old 01-11-05, 12:01 PM   #25
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Serge *******
The idea of riding against traffic comes from the combination of two sources:
  1. Traveling on the side against vehicular traffic is the proper rule for pedestrians.
  2. Many people think of cyclists as pedestrians rather than as drivers of vehicles.

It's the proper rule for pedestrians because:
  1. Relative to vehicular traffic pedestrians are effectively stationary objects. That is, if a motorist checks to see if it's clear in a certain direction and looks away to check another direction, a second later the area he first checked is still going to be clear even if a pedestrian is moving toward it. Their slow speed also makes the speed differential between pedestrians and vehicles effectively the same regardless of whether the pedestrian is moving with or against vehicular traffic.
  2. Given their effectively stationary status, pedestrians are no better off with respect to speed factors traveling with or against traffic.
  3. Since the speed factor makes the side decision a toss-up, the advantage of facing traffic to see it better starts to become significant.
  4. The ability to see traffic coming at you coupled with the ability of a pedestrian to almost instantaneously stop or make a lateral move to avoid a potential collision makes it clearly advantageous to walk facing traffic.


The rules that applies to pedestrians does not apply to cyclists for at least these reasons:
  1. Even relative to motor vehicle traffic, cyclists are not effectively stationary objects. Because of their speed, cyclist can appear suddenly and unexpectedly in situations where pedestrians cannot. The speed differentials when riding with or against traffic are significant.
  2. Cyclists cannot stop or move laterally like a pedestrian can, so the advantage of being able to see a potential collision by traveling against the flow of traffic become moot, especially when you consider the increased likelihood of such a collision when traveling against traffic given the significantly higher speed differentials and the "unexpected" factor




If you ride a bicyle on roads, and you or anyone else cares about your life, you should read Effective Cycling by John Forester. Check out the reviews on Amazon.

Serge

Good analysis... well stated!
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