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Old 03-06-05, 12:06 AM   #1
LittleBigMan
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How can vehicular cyclists reach people?

I started riding my bike on the sidewalk as a kid. It made sense, since all I cared about was learning to balance the darn thing. It never occurred to me to venture out into the street, at first.

But after I learned to ride my bike, I decided to ride to school. I headed up the sidewalk, only to hear people yelling, "Get off the sidewalk!"

I was embarrassed to learn that sidewalks were only for pedestrians. I changed my ways. As a youngster of only 12, I rode my bike with older friends from Rockville, Md. to downtown Washington, DC. on more than one occasion. This was before bike lanes and bike paths, in about 1971.

I later moved to Brisbane, Australia, then to Atlanta, Georgia. I drove everywhere, but still rode the bike in the strangest of places: the street. Then I hung the bike in the garage for 15 years.

When I got back on the bike in my mid-30's, I rode on the sidewalk, again, for some strange reason. But too many close-calls gave me the head-up: what happened to riding in the street? Well, I rode in 25-mph. lanes and bike paths for a while, until I heard about a "revolutionary principle"--the idea that there is a network of bike facilities that is perfect for getting anywhere I want to go, the streets we already have.

It stuck with me. But it might not have stuck if I hadn't ridden in the street years ago.

How can vehicular cycling advocates reach out to sidewalk riders and bike-facility users?

Can "pure logic" always prevail against emotional arguments? Can fear be dispelled by reason?

In my experience, and in the experience of professionals who deal with "phobias" (which is the term often used to describe the irrational fear of cycling in motor traffic,) you cannot reason someone out of their phobia. The only way to overcome a person's phobia is by exposing that person to their fears a little bit at a time. They have to face their fears, bit-by-bit. Pure and simple.

Talk alone won't convince a phobic.

Just a few thoughts on the subject.
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Old 03-06-05, 06:29 AM   #2
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Originally Posted by LittleBigMan
How can vehicular cycling advocates reach out to sidewalk riders and bike-facility users? .... Can "pure logic" always prevail against emotional arguments?
Despite the impression some may have from my posts, I have learned a great deal from the VC discussion here. I can tell you a few things that turn me off from nearly every VC proponent I find, here and elsewhere:

1) Don't preach. A VC proponent is not a god, does not have all the answers, and isn't doing the his/her cause any good with a know-it-all attitude.

2) Realise that not all cyclists have the same experience level, skill, and desires.

3) Realise that not all cities/location are the same.

4) Realise that pathways, bike-lanes, and VC are not mutually exclusive.

5) Use reasoned arguments, not empty rants. Logic starts with facts, not opinions.

6) Realise that safety, while important, is not the only goal.


So far its my impression that VC proponents include some of the most close-minded and inflexible people I have ever had the displeasure of talking with. Given that I regularly debate religion and politics, that's saying a lot.
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Old 03-06-05, 10:02 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by LittleBigMan

How can vehicular cycling advocates reach out to sidewalk riders and bike-facility users?

Can "pure logic" always prevail against emotional arguments? Can fear be dispelled by reason?

In my experience, and in the experience of professionals who deal with "phobias" (which is the term often used to describe the irrational fear of cycling in motor traffic,) you cannot reason someone out of their phobia. The only way to overcome a person's phobia is by exposing that person to their fears a little bit at a time. They have to face their fears, bit-by-bit. Pure and simple.

Talk alone won't convince a phobic.

Just a few thoughts on the subject.

Phobias?? Is that like an irrational fear of an inanimate object, like a firearm? What would those "experts" say about people that religiously believe in something without proof, and would foist it on others? Note my use of the word religiously, because this belief is exactly like religion. There is no actual proof, only "experience", false "logic", and supposed "common sense", just like in religions.
We need to have a real debate where there is actual proof on both sides, like the one between Creationists and those that believe in Evolution.
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Old 03-06-05, 10:40 AM   #4
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We need to have a real debate where there is actual proof on both sides, like the one between Creationists and those that believe in Evolution.
Oh, like that one? I'm fairly certain that that debate has little or no "proof" on one side of that argument, ergo why it has not been kicked to the wayside. Vehicular cycling is not like arguing religion, people defend it with non-canonical arguments, all points are intersubjectively verifiable, etc.
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Old 03-06-05, 10:59 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by LittleBigMan
How can vehicular cycling advocates reach out to sidewalk riders and bike-facility users?
FYI: David Smith has been quite a bit of work over the past few years to
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Build a strong cycling culture to support cyclists achieving their full potential.
  1. Collect and develop the best cycling methods for accessing our greatest cycling resource - our streets.
  2. Develop efficient training materials and techniques for student achievement.
  3. Generate public awareness of cyclists abilities and acceptance of their rights and responsibilities.
He calls his approach Looking Sharp! Visual Language Vehicle Driving for Bicyclists and Motorists.
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Old 03-06-05, 11:06 AM   #6
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I for one am getting real tired of VC getting rammed in our throats in every post. It has its merits, but come on, it ain't the end all, be all of cycling doctrine.
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Old 03-06-05, 11:22 AM   #7
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I for one am getting real tired of VC getting rammed in our throats in every post.
Hey, I found a great article that doesn't contain the phrase Ve*****ar Cy***ng! This article was originally published in the October 2004 issue of Cascade Courier (the membership newsletter of the Cascade Bicycle Club of Seattle).
Quote:
Bicycling: A Paradigm Shift
by David Smith, www.bicycledriver.com

Bicycling in traffic can be more fun than driving a car when you learn simple social skills for the traffic environment. The bicycle is a narrow vehicle allowing sharing lanes of suitable width. The cyclist can take different positions within a lane while the cyclist's body is visible to other drivers. The visual effects of looking, positioning, signaling and pedaling can be enhanced with simple training, so intentions become far more transparent. With sharing and communication, cyclists have a superior ability to cooperate with other traffic. These simple social skills for the traffic environment allow cyclists to take the position "drivers" following the rules of the road use for their destination, and where "drivers" focus their attention, so cyclists are more reliably seen and understood when they are seen.

Cyclists can learn to access just about all our streets and traffic while feeling as confident about bicycle driving as we feel about car driving. With good training, beginning traffic cyclists can learn these skills in a few hours.

Unfortunately, only a very few cyclists have the training and quality of experience to "drive" a bicycle so competently and confidently. The common, even universal attitude is that motorized traffic makes cycling unpleasant and even dangerous. The pace and discipline of motorized traffic makes untrained cyclists feel unwelcome on our streets and doubt that cyclists can follow traffic rules as motorists do. This leaves almost all cyclists looking not for training, but for space away from traffic, even when riding on streets with cars. Looking for their own space, cyclists miss simple, easily learned methods of communication and cooperation with traffic.

In our modern society, doctors go to medical school. Lawyers go to law school. Airplane pilots go to flight school. Motorists take drivers training and get a driver's license before driving in traffic on their own. In our culture, it is only bicyclists who are denied training and are expected to learn on their own if they are to learn at all. In so many areas of our life we recognize the necessity of education and training and we demand it as a necessity for civil life.

Peoples we once discriminated against were denied education. In response, the right to good education has been one of their key demands. If we can imagine the consequences of a society that denied training to doctors, lawyers, pilots and motorists, so that they trained themselves as bicyclists train themselves today, then we might begin to understand the implications for bicyclists.

Bicyclists once dominated our streets only to loose to the competition from motorized vehicles. Some motorists competed with cyclists by promoting a negative view of cycling on our streets, claiming that motorized vehicles make bicycling unpleasant and even dangerous for cyclists. This view took root after decades when only children rode bicycles, and therefore the cycle of knowledge was broken between adults accomplished in traffic cycling and children who needed to learn.

Today, this motoring culture with its sour, negative attitude about cycling in traffic dominates our society's perceptions of bicycling. The consequences for bicycling are devastating, discouraging cyclists from learning traffic skills while we focus instead on finding our own space away from traffic, and unfortunately, away from many popular roads with important and useful destinations.

Recently, I discussed this opportunity, and my work on it with Chuck Ayers, director of Cascade. We agreed that cycling skills have great potential for improving bicycling and its safety. The difficult part is persuading cyclists to make the commitment to sign up for "bicycle driving classes". Classes for bike maintenance, and riding faster and farther fill, but Chuck noted that bicycle driving classes fail for lack of students. The problem, Chuck agreed, is marketing and selling training for bicycle driving skills.

I have videotaped typical cyclists, and then had my example taped for comparison. I also developed a positive view of cycling in traffic that I feel is consistent with the good cycling skills I have learned. When I present a positive view of cycling along with video to show the skills, the response has been far more favorable than I had imagined. A positive view of cycling encourages cyclists to learn, improves the ability of motorists to understand and accept cycling while improving the willingness of many to consider bicycling for transportation.
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Old 03-06-05, 11:36 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by bwileyr
Hey, I found a great article that doesn't contain the phrase Ve*****ar Cy***ng! This article was originally published in the October 2004 issue of Cascade Courier (the membership newsletter of the Cascade Bicycle Club of Seattle).
Not a bad article at all. None of the "dogma" is included. It seems to address "familiarity" with riding on the street.
I wonder what would happen if able bodied people were told to show up at the "DMV" for their driver's test, and to also bring a bicycle?????
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Old 03-06-05, 12:08 PM   #9
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I wonder what would happen if able bodied people were told to show up at the "DMV" for their driver's test, and to also bring a bicycle?????
Well, I did show up on my bike the last time I renewed my motor vehicle license (my cycling jersey shows up nicely in the picture) but that was voluntary and didn't involve a road test.

As you may know, the only road vehicles for which a driver has to have a license to travel on the public roads are those which are so heavy and powerful as to pose an extraordinary danger to the person or property of others. Pedal vehicles, and your typical moped, just don't pose that level of danger to others. Consequently, no state requires the driver of a pedal vehicle to have a license or to take the drivers' test
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Old 03-06-05, 12:19 PM   #10
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I should do that also, but the DMV seems to look at good driving records at no need for a test. I haven't taken a written test since 1996, here in California.
What I meant was that people showing up for their driving test would need to demonstrate proper driving in a car, and also how to properly ride a bicycle on the streets. People would have to know how both vehicles should negotiate our roadways. If someone doesn't know what a bicycle is supposed to do on the road, how can we trust them with a 3,000+ pound vehicle?
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Old 03-06-05, 12:29 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Dchiefransom
What I meant was that people showing up for their driving test would need to demonstrate proper driving in a car, and also how to properly ride a bicycle on the streets. People would have to know how both vehicles should negotiate our roadways. If someone doesn't know what a bicycle is supposed to do on the road, how can we trust them with a 3,000+ pound vehicle?
FYI: late last year in the bicyclingadvocacy@yahoogroups.com list, the following idea came up about a bicycle driver/operator certification program
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An added incentive would be to grant motoring learner's permit 6 months earlier to a certified bicycle operator than otherwise.
To which I responded
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An additional suggestion is to toughen up Motor Vehicle driver testing to the point where the experience gained by operating a Pedal Vehicle in traffic for years is believed to improve the chances of obtaining a MV permit/license.
Bruce "certified PVOI" Rosar
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Old 03-06-05, 01:49 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by bwileyr
Hey, I found a great article that doesn't contain the phrase Ve*****ar Cy***ng! This article was originally published in the October 2004 issue of Cascade Courier (the membership newsletter of the Cascade Bicycle Club of Seattle).
"Bicycling: A Paradigm Shift
by David Smith, www.bicycledriver.com"

Not a bad article. I still scratch my head though when I hear people talk about education for cycling in traffic. It just doesn't seem so complicated that cyclists won't figure it out for themselves pretty quickly. I sure don't remember having any problems picking it up. I guess everyone's different though.

I would have given this guy one piece of advice though- drop the "paradigm" from the title. Waaay overused, along the lines of "having said that" or "that being said".
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Old 03-06-05, 03:28 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Dchiefransom
What I meant was that people showing up for their driving test would need to demonstrate proper driving in a car, and also how to properly ride a bicycle on the streets. People would have to know how both vehicles should negotiate our roadways. If someone doesn't know what a bicycle is supposed to do on the road, how can we trust them with a 3,000+ pound vehicle?
Out of curiousity, are any bike-related questions part of your driver's test? It is included in the Ontario test, but not as much as I would like. While the province's driver's handbook makes it clear that bikes are vehicles, can take the lane, etc. the info isn't emphasised as much as I think it should, and too often bikes are combined with motorcycles and mopeds.

Incidently, you do need a license to drive mopeds in Ontario, bikes are the only common vehicle not requiring them.
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Old 03-06-05, 03:41 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by patc
Out of curiousity, are any bike-related questions part of your driver's test? It is included in the Ontario test, but not as much as I would like. While the province's driver's handbook makes it clear that bikes are vehicles, can take the lane, etc. the info isn't emphasised as much as I think it should, and too often bikes are combined with motorcycles and mopeds.

Incidently, you do need a license to drive mopeds in Ontario, bikes are the only common vehicle not requiring them.
Nothing on the test, but there are two scant pages of bike info in the driver's handbook in CA. Of course the booklet is about 60 pages long... and no doubt the folks standing in line are just skimming it.
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Old 03-06-05, 04:43 PM   #15
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Originally Posted by LittleBigMan



In my experience, and in the experience of professionals who deal with "phobias" (which is the term often used to describe the irrational fear of cycling in motor traffic,) you cannot reason someone out of their phobia. The only way to overcome a person's phobia is by exposing that person to their fears a little bit at a time. They have to face their fears, bit-by-bit. Pure and simple.

Talk alone won't convince a phobic.

Just a few thoughts on the subject.
Your first step in reaching other cyclists would be to stop with the Ad hominem attacks on cyclists who disagree with your point of view. Just because someone supports bike lanes it doesn't folow that they have a phobia of traffic.

A little less preaching would go a long way.
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Old 03-06-05, 09:48 PM   #16
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Just because someone supports bike lanes it doesn't folow that they have a phobia of traffic.
Darn right. There are plenty of people who simply are not yet aware that better options exist. Others just want segregated facilities in order to keep cyclists out of the way of better classes of traffic. Some have jobs involving the planning and building of the new facilities, or are in a position to profit if the new public facilities cause a short term increase in the sales of bikes and/or bike services. The phobia about cycling with motor vehicles is, however, useful to all of those who hope to profit from such facilities, principally as a means of increasing political support for their own agendas.

Some clues about the interweaving of private business with bicycle politics can be found on the National Bicycle Dealers Association's site
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"The federal government has...budgeted significant transportation money for construction of...facilities...friendly to bicycles...
Making a more bicycle-friendly America is one of the industry's key initiatives...

"League of American Bicyclists ... Consumer ... organization, includes advocacy" (the President is a retailer of bikes and bike services)

"Bikes Belong Coalition ... Works to support...construction of bicycle-friendly facilities" (the LAB President is also the BBC Treasurer)
In other words
  • the League organizes bike "consumers"
  • BBC & LAB advocate for facilities friendly to bike consumption in the short term
  • the government spends our money on those facilities
  • the bike industry expects to profit from those initiatives and funds/directs/influences those advocacy organizations
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Old 03-06-05, 10:00 PM   #17
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So far its my impression that VC proponents include some of the most close-minded and inflexible people I have ever had the displeasure of talking with. Given that I regularly debate religion and politics, that's saying a lot.
I think sometimes one gets that impression from people who are passionate about something because, by definition, the ones who talk the loudest and longest about it are the ones who are predisposed to talk loud and long about something to begin with. More a personality thing than a reflection on the subject itself. I think there are plenty of VC proponents who are not as "out there" evangelistically as some, but of course you don't hear from them, because they're not the ones talking about it.

It's kind of a reverse "shoot-the-messenger" thing. Just 'cause you feel like shooting the messenger does not mean the message is bad!
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Old 03-06-05, 10:24 PM   #18
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Originally Posted by LittleBigMan
How can vehicular cycling advocates reach out to sidewalk riders and bike-facility users?
Some may recall that I thought a lot about this in January, on this thread. To summarize, a wrong-way cyclist had been killed in an intersection around here, and I felt really bad about it. The fact that he was riding that way in the place that he was (a busy downtown intersection) seemed to indicate to me that he must have thought it was the right way to ride, when in fact it is just the opposite, and that's tragic.

I said in that thread that the problem with cycling education courses is that the cyclist has to be motivated to take them. This guy who was killed riding the wrong way lived most of the time at the YMCA, and took day-to-day manual labor jobs to support himself and send child support to his kids in another state, to whom he was devoted. I don't think taking classes to make himself a better cyclist was anywhere near the top of his list.

So what will reach people? How about ads on billboards and city buses, with catchy slogans like "Bike with traffic, not against it" and (of course) "Share the Road". How about more bumper stickers, distributed not just through LBS' and clubs, but at big-box stores where bikes are sold (if they will do it)? How about posters tacked up on bulletin boards in grocery stores? How about bookmarks or refrigerator magnets handed out where people congregate? My point is to reach beyond the community of people who join cycling clubs and hang out on cycling related Internet forums, to the cycling layperson, or their friends and relatives, with messages placed in general public areas.

I haven't acted on any of this (yet), but I still think it's something to consider.
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Old 03-07-05, 12:09 AM   #19
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I said in that thread that the problem with cycling education courses is that the cyclist has to be motivated to take them...

So what will reach people?
You mentioned several good techniques, but there's another factor that will tend to (IMHO) greatly decrease the effectives of such an education campaign. There's a Florida magazine about that other factor: Real or Just a Taboo? Here's the lead in:
Quote:
Scientist-philosopher Ivan Illich wrote, "The taboo on wheelbarrows in America before Cortez is no more puzzling than the taboo on bicycles in modern traffic." The Aztecs believed wheels were only for the gods; Floridians believe bicycling in traffic is inherently dangerous. Neither belief is based on science or fact.
The American Heritage Dictionary defines a taboo as "a ban or an inhibition resulting from social custom or emotional aversion." Taboos are reinforced by the culture in which they exist with real or implied threats, and Florida's bicycle taboo is reinforced in at least five ways.
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Old 03-07-05, 06:08 AM   #20
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Originally Posted by bwileyr
Darn right. There are plenty of people who simply are not yet aware that better options exist. Others just want segregated facilities in order to keep cyclists out of the way of better classes of traffic. Some have jobs involving the planning and building of the new facilities, or are in a position to profit if the new public facilities cause a short term increase in the sales of bikes and/or bike services. The phobia about cycling with motor vehicles is, however, useful to all of those who hope to profit from such facilities, principally as a means of increasing political support for their own agendas.

Some clues about the interweaving of private business with bicycle politics can be found on the National Bicycle Dealers Association's site
In other words
  • the League organizes bike "consumers"
  • BBC & LAB advocate for facilities friendly to bike consumption in the short term
  • the government spends our money on those facilities
  • the bike industry expects to profit from those initiatives and funds/directs/influences those advocacy organizations

Uh-oh....Why does this remind me of "The Military-Industrial Complex"- Pres Dwight Eisenhower...
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Old 03-07-05, 08:41 AM   #21
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Originally Posted by JohnBrooking
I think sometimes one gets that impression from people who are passionate about something because, by definition, the ones who talk the loudest and longest about it are the ones who are predisposed to talk loud and long about something to begin with. More a personality thing than a reflection on the subject itself. I think there are plenty of VC proponents who are not as "out there" evangelistically as some, but of course you don't hear from them, because they're not the ones talking about it.
You're right, of course. As an opinionated and passionate person myself, I've been on both ends of that particular problem. One things I have learned the hard way: be very careful about dismissing the opinions of others. I'm not saying it should never be done, there are times when "DUMB!" seems the only honest responce. But I really feel that most of the time an opposing opinion derseves more than a dismissal.

Looking though these VC vs. bike lane debates its easy to see why VCers are hated by so many cyclists. Since I joined these debates - at first innocently as a newbie, later out of genuine interest, I have seen time and time again comments like:

- you just like bike lanes because you're a newbie
- once you learn that better options exist, you'll think differently
- I've had no problems with VC, so your problems must be imaginary


There are some very reasonable people here (Treespeed comes to mind), and there are others who pat you on the head, tell you that you'll understand when you're all grown up, and that meanwhile you should just blindly agree with them. I admit that I let them get under my skin. Maybe in another ten years or so I will have learned to ignore them just as I ignore most other dogmatists (and I hope I *never* learn their patronizing attitude!). Unfortunately this same sort of person tends to dominate lobby groups, and all too often ruins things for those who want something different - not always more or less "right", but just different.

Ok, end of rant.
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Old 03-07-05, 09:30 AM   #22
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Originally Posted by LittleBigMan
In my experience, and in the experience of professionals who deal with "phobias" (which is the term often used to describe the irrational fear of cycling in motor traffic,) you cannot reason someone out of their phobia. The only way to overcome a person's phobia is by exposing that person to their fears a little bit at a time. They have to face their fears, bit-by-bit. Pure and simple.
I too rode my bike when I was a kid and returned as an adult (at 25) to riding my bike to work. I rode on the erong side of the street and on sidewalks, but what stopped me from doing this and started me riding VC was when I was riding on the erong side of the street, being narrowly missed being hit by right turning vehicles who didn't see me because they were looking for traffic where it was supposed to be and when I was sidewalk riding, just being missed by cars coming out of their driveways not expecting anything on the sidewalk. So you could say I was scared into riding in the street like a car because to not do so was dangerous.
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Old 03-07-05, 10:53 AM   #23
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You're right, of course. As an opinionated and passionate person myself, I've been on both ends of that particular problem. One things I have learned the hard way: be very careful about dismissing the opinions of others. ....
...There are some very reasonable people here (Treespeed comes to mind), and there are others who pat you on the head, tell you that you'll understand when you're all grown up, and that meanwhile you should just blindly agree with them.
But...
This thread started with Littlebigman looking for ideas of how to convince people who are doing obviously dangerous things, like riding against traffic or on the sidewalk, to ride in a manner that has been empirically demonstrated to be safer. I'm sure that they are riding that way because they think that it is the best for them and their situation. Often, I believe, their decison to ride as they do is based on fears. Wouldn't you be violating your above code of conduct to try and help them? Or would you rather let them learn by "experience"? Hoping that their experience is not their last....

Someone used the creationist/evolution debate as a metaphor and I think that it is apt here. One side has reason and evidence, the other personal beliefs/experiences. To be persuasive, it is important to be civil and winning. On the other hand, people often dislike someone who is saying something they disagree with. I have seen many examples of people personally attacking a poster who said nothing offensive but disagreed with the pervailing opinions.

Regarding the original topic, I don't know how to approach a cyclist riding in an unsafe way. the ones who I do see riding in these manners are often children or folks looking down on their luck on really old and crappy bikes. Not trying to be prejudical, just a statement of fact. I am uncomfortable, as a man in this day and age, approaching a child on the public streets about anything. As for the others, my bike and accessories probably cost more than all their worldly possessions. How can I talk bike safety with them without appearing to be paternalistic?
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Old 03-07-05, 10:59 AM   #24
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After posting the above, I started thinking more about talking to children regarding bike practices. I imagine the following scenario:

Me: "Hi. You know, you shouldn't be riding on this side of the street. It's safer to ride on the same side as the cars travel."

Child (eyes widening in terror - a STRANGE MAN is talking to them!): "MOM!"

Mother (charging from her front step): "You leave my child alone or I'll call the police!"

Me:"I was just trying to explain..."

Mother: "I want you to stay away from my children!"

Neighbour: "Should I call the police?"

Me: Riding away, quickly, face purple with embarrassment.

Mother: "PERVERT!!"

This has never happened, but I can sure imagine it!
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Old 03-07-05, 11:40 AM   #25
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I guess we'll need to put cartoon characters on bikes.
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