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Old 04-25-07, 09:23 AM   #1
Brian Ratliff
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Discussion of "cyclist inferiority syndrome"

It seems to me that this accusation is thrown around a lot, that someone has this mental disease. What is it exactly? It seams to me that if this is something that everyone has (except the few) that this cannot be a real disease. Perhaps it is simply a code word to separate those who are allowed into the Vehicular Cycling discussion, and those who cannot take part.

I mean, if everyone has this disease, then it is not a disease, but rather, a real concern. Vehicular Cyclists should address the concern rather than dismissing all those who carry this idea.

So, the questions:

1) What is this "disease" and what are the characteristics?

2) Since everyone has this "disease", how do Vehicular Cyclists promote their ideas in the face of this, besides the 30 year old strategy of simply dismissing people who have this "disease" and their ideas on their face? The 30 year old strategy hasn't worked very well, as the number of people in the VC clique (to separate the VC'ists from those who simply adopt some of the vehicular cycling techniques) remains very, very small after 30 years of trying.
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Old 04-25-07, 11:18 AM   #2
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I ride with many, many seasoned cyclists. Yet a large percentage of these cyclist exhibit behaviors that would indicate that they don't believe that their standing as road users is equal to that of other road users. The most common symptom I observe is riding too far to the right or moving right when it is not in their own best interest to do so. Example of the latter:

A two-lane road (one lane per direction of travel), no shoulder, less than 12' lane. When riding on a road like this one will invariably encounter an entrance to a housing subdivision. At this entrance, there will be an deceleration/acceleration lane to move right out of the travel lane and turn into the subdivision and also exit the subdivision and merge into the travel lane. These deceleration/acceleration lanes are usually about 150' in length for a total of a little over 300' including the width of the subdivision road. On a ride with others, several will invariably move right out of the travel lane into the decel lane and then move back left at the end of the accel lane into the travel lane. There could be faster same-direction traffic or not but they will make this maneuver every time, In direct conflict with everything that is written about safe cycling and riding a strait and predictable line. They give up the ROW of the travel lane and then re-enter, which could cause a conflict if a car has taken the travel lane and is overtaking. Why do they do it? Programed to get out of the way of cars. It's the only explanation.
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Old 04-25-07, 11:33 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by galen_52657
I ride with many, many seasoned cyclists. Yet a large percentage of these cyclist exhibit behaviors that would indicate that they don't believe that their standing as road users is equal to that of other road users. The most common symptom I observe is riding too far to the right or moving right when it is not in their own best interest to do so. Example of the latter:

A two-lane road (one lane per direction of travel), no shoulder, less than 12' lane. When riding on a road like this one will invariably encounter an entrance to a housing subdivision. At this entrance, there will be an deceleration/acceleration lane to move right out of the travel lane and turn into the subdivision and also exit the subdivision and merge into the travel lane. These deceleration/acceleration lanes are usually about 150' in length for a total of a little over 300' including the width of the subdivision road. On a ride with others, several will invariably move right out of the travel lane into the decel lane and then move back left at the end of the accel lane into the travel lane. There could be faster same-direction traffic or not but they will make this maneuver every time, In direct conflict with everything that is written about safe cycling and riding a strait and predictable line. They give up the ROW of the travel lane and then re-enter, which could cause a conflict if a car has taken the travel lane and is overtaking. Why do they do it? Programed to get out of the way of cars. It's the only explanation.

But if the person believes that this is the less risky strategy by their own analysis, then it is not an inferiority syndrome. Yes?
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Old 04-25-07, 11:57 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by galen_52657
I ride with many, many seasoned cyclists. Yet a large percentage of these cyclist exhibit behaviors that would indicate that they don't believe that their standing as road users is equal to that of other road users. The most common symptom I observe is riding too far to the right or moving right when it is not in their own best interest to do so. Example of the latter:

A two-lane road (one lane per direction of travel), no shoulder, less than 12' lane. When riding on a road like this one will invariably encounter an entrance to a housing subdivision. At this entrance, there will be an deceleration/acceleration lane to move right out of the travel lane and turn into the subdivision and also exit the subdivision and merge into the travel lane. These deceleration/acceleration lanes are usually about 150' in length for a total of a little over 300' including the width of the subdivision road. On a ride with others, several will invariably move right out of the travel lane into the decel lane and then move back left at the end of the accel lane into the travel lane. There could be faster same-direction traffic or not but they will make this maneuver every time, In direct conflict with everything that is written about safe cycling and riding a strait and predictable line. They give up the ROW of the travel lane and then re-enter, which could cause a conflict if a car has taken the travel lane and is overtaking. Why do they do it? Programed to get out of the way of cars. It's the only explanation.

So if these folks were in a buggy or a piece of slow-moving farm/construction equipment and felt the need to 'get out of the way' of faster traffic in the same manner, does that mean they have an inferiority phobia?
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Old 04-25-07, 12:09 PM   #5
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I don't remember Forester every using the specific word "syndrome." Anyway, here is one of his articles on the subject:

Cyclist Inferiority

Quote:
I have used the term "cyclist-inferiority" in several applications, but these application all serve to describe aspects of the false concept that cyclists are inferior to motorists.

The political application is that it serves the motoring organizations, and therefore the highway organizations that they control, and in addition many politicians, to consider cyclists as inferior to motorists. By considering cyclists inferior to motorists, government can deny to cyclists some of the important rights that apply, in legal terms, to drivers of vehicles, but which are commonly supposed to apply to motorists, because cyclists and motorists are the only significant users of the nation's roadways. The rights denied are denied purely for the convenience of motorists. The most important of these are the right to use most of the width of the roadway, and the right to use roadways at all when bike lanes or bike paths have been produced, or those roadways which cannot be reached by driveways. The only reason for these restriction s that stands up to scientific analysis is the belief, on the part of motorists, that cyclists delay motorists.
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Old 04-25-07, 12:14 PM   #6
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I actually don't think it's a 'cyclists' syndrome or phobia. I actually think it is more wide-spread than that as I observe similar behavior in pedestrians, so I would call it a 'motor vehicle superiority syndrome' (or phobia).

In pedestrians, it is manifested by running across intersections, even when the intersection is controlled by signals and/or the crossing vehicles have already stopped. I have seen little old ladies with canes scurry as fast as they can across the intersection. Why? There is no danger. The traffic has stopped and they have the 'walk' signal, yet still they wish to deffer to the all-mighty motor vehicle.

Last edited by galen_52657; 04-25-07 at 12:27 PM.
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Old 04-25-07, 12:15 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by chipcom
So if these folks were in a buggy or a piece of slow-moving farm/construction equipment and felt the need to 'get out of the way' of faster traffic in the same manner, does that mean they have an inferiority phobia?
Absolutely. But I can tell you I have never seen anybody driving heavy equipment move over...
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Old 04-25-07, 12:17 PM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by invisiblehand
But if the person believes that this is the less risky strategy by their own analysis, then it is not an inferiority syndrome. Yes?
If it were indeed less risky you may have a point. But from what I have seen, riders do it subconsciously without even looking back to see if any overtaking traffic is present. They just automatically move over when space permits.
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Old 04-25-07, 12:25 PM   #9
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In club rides there is always great effort made to stay out of the way of motor vehicles. There are always a few self selected 'car back, move right' cheerleader, cheering even when moving right is not possible or even useful for the motorist.
This is of course a different dynamic - a large group needs to be more courteous, and there is this sense of 'we are here only for fun, so we need to go out of our way to avoid causing even the slightest inconvienince to motorists' mentality.

from club website:
"We have stressed in the past that you should ride in our large pack romps no differently than you do when you ride solo... keeping tight to the right side of the road, stopping at traffic lights, not impeding car traffic. But that concept is offered up under the idea that you ride safely and legally when out on your own. Maybe the thought needs to be voiced that the guidelines we offer on Saturday mornings should be observed when you are out solo, too. You represent the cycling community just as much on your weekday bike commute or daily fitness ride as you do when in our weekend herd. If you know the rules of the road and choose to ignore them, shame on you (and you also might want to increase your medical and life insurance). "

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Old 04-25-07, 12:26 PM   #10
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I think that in reality Forester is on to something... and it has deep roots. Many of us were taught how to ride a bike by our parents... and in those lessons came the words "stay on the sidewalk" and "watch out for cars."

No doubt deep in our brains those words may resonate from time to time... much like the "hot" lessons our parents also taught us.


Now in my case, I taught myself to ride a bike by "borrowing" a neighbor kids' bike... I learned some other lessons... such as not to ride near plate glass picture windows before understanding the actions of steering and the workings of the brakes... but all humor aside...

I really do think that there is something to the phobia... based on early lessons in life. JMHO
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Old 04-25-07, 12:29 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by noisebeam
In club rides there is always great effort made to stay out of the way of motor vehicles. There are always a few self selected 'car back, move right' cheerleader, cheering even when moving right is not possible or even useful for the motorist.
This is of course a different dynamic - a large group needs to be more courteous, and there is this sense of 'we are here only for fun, so we need to go out of our way to avoid causing even the slightest inconvienince to motorists' mentality.

from club website:
"We have stressed in the past that you should ride in our large pack romps no differently than you do when you ride solo... keeping tight to the right side of the road, stopping at traffic lights, not impeding car traffic. But that concept is offered up under the idea that you ride safely and legally when out on your own. Maybe the thought needs to be voiced that the guidelines we offer on Saturday mornings should be observed when you are out solo, too. You represent the cycling community just as much on your weekday bike commute or daily fitness ride as you do when in our weekend herd. If you know the rules of the road and choose to ignore them, shame on you (and you also might want to increase your medical and life insurance). "

Al
Yes, there is a different dynamic and set of responsibilities in a group, but go out on a ride with just about any one of these guys, and you'll see behavior inspired by cyclist inferiority beliefs.

There are exceptions, but they are the exceptions, even among "experienced high mileage types", and that's the point.
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Old 04-25-07, 12:32 PM   #12
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It's another way of saying 'Motorist Superiority Disorder'
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Old 04-25-07, 12:35 PM   #13
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It's another way of saying 'Motorist Superiority Disorder'
I already said that...
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Old 04-25-07, 12:49 PM   #14
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My wife gets upset, almost panicky, when I drive below SL in outside lane of multilane road. Especially when other vehicles are following.
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Old 04-25-07, 01:00 PM   #15
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Besides the government policies and social attitudes that treat cyclists as having inferior rights to roadways, John Forester talks a bit about the attitudes that cyclists have about their own cycling on roadways. Here he uses the terms "superstition" or "phobia" to describe some cyclists' concerns about road sharing. Here I prefer to make finer distinctions than he does. While I think there is a lot of overestimation of danger, and a socially-reinforced taboo effect at work, I do not think that is adequate to describe the situation.

I think many experienced cyclists who are not afraid of being hurt by cycling on roadways, including narrow roadways where drivers must change lanes to pass, often have other concerns about riding on certain roadways, and that it is counterproductive to dismiss these concerns too easily, e.g. with oversimplistic language. These concerns include:

1. The desire to reduce inconvenience to other drivers when exceptionally bad roadway engineering creates hassles for auto drivers sharing the road with cyclists. The cyclist feels that his inconvenience of avoiding the roadway is less than motorists' inconvenience at his use of the roadway.

2. The desire to avoid harassment. The cyclist knows that he deserves to use the roadway, but finds horn honks and deliberate close passes unpleasant.

3. Aesthetics. The cyclist prefers routes with less traffic for aesthetic reasons.

These concerns drive a significant amount of bikeway planning, such as increasing the connectivity of neighborhood streets via both roadway and short-cut paths, mapping and signing bike routes through complicated back roads for wayfinding, and building extra width into busy roads in the form of wider outside lanes, wide paved shoulders, and bike lanes. Interest in these efforts is reasonable, in my opinion, for cyclists who do not have a fearful, inferior view of their status as roadway users.

I think that John Forester supports a number of these planning efforts, e.g. he has described support for wide outside lanes, however, that sometimes gets lost in the debate about what "cyclist inferiority" means.

Last edited by sggoodri; 04-25-07 at 01:06 PM.
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Old 04-25-07, 01:11 PM   #16
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Quote:
Originally Posted by galen_52657
In pedestrians, it is manifested by running across intersections, even when the intersection is controlled by signals and/or the crossing vehicles have already stopped. I have seen little old ladies with canes scurry as fast as they can across the intersection. Why? There is no danger. The traffic has stopped and they have the 'walk' signal, yet still they wish to deffer to the all-mighty motor vehicle.
But there is danger if you think that motorists are error-prone ... or better written ... if motorists error-rate, assuming that they rather not hit old ladies scurrying across the street, is high enough to warrant hurrying across the street, then the old lady should scurry across the street.

Returning to sliding right and left to temporarily remove one out of the flow of traffic, there is an assessment of risk being made. Whether that assessment is correct, with proper weighting of potential injuries from various actions, is another question. Note that the weighting of injuries can vary by individual making "irrational" behavior hard to distinguish from rational decisions. Furthermore, if people are risk-adverse/loving, then the weighting of those outcomes can be highly nonlinear.

So whether the word "phobia", "syndrome", or whatever is used, I think that we should avoid mixing discussions about an irrational assessment of road-riding risk from the legal right to ride on the road.
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Old 04-25-07, 01:13 PM   #17
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Quote:
Originally Posted by galen_52657
I actually don't think it's a 'cyclists' syndrome or phobia. I actually think it is more wide-spread than that as I observe similar behavior in pedestrians, so I would call it a 'motor vehicle superiority syndrome' (or phobia).

In pedestrians, it is manifested by running across intersections, even when the intersection is controlled by signals and/or the crossing vehicles have already stopped. I have seen little old ladies with canes scurry as fast as they can across the intersection. Why? There is no danger. The traffic has stopped and they have the 'walk' signal, yet still they wish to deffer to the all-mighty motor vehicle.
I tend to agree, and have had one motorist, who was clearly in the wrong, tell me that "bikes are supposed to get out of the way."
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Old 04-25-07, 01:14 PM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sggoodri
Besides the government policies and social attitudes that treat cyclists as having inferior rights to roadways, John Forester talks a bit about the attitudes that cyclists have about their own cycling on roadways. Here he uses the terms "superstition" or "phobia" to describe some cyclists' concerns about road sharing. Here I prefer to make finer distinctions than he does. While I think there is a lot of overestimation of danger, and a socially-reinforced taboo effect at work, I do not think that is adequate to describe the situation.

I think many experienced cyclists who are not afraid of being hurt by cycling on roadways, including narrow roadways where drivers must change lanes to pass, often have other concerns about riding on certain roadways, and that it is counterproductive to dismiss these concerns too easily, e.g. with oversimplistic language. These concerns include:

1. The desire to reduce inconvenience to other drivers when exceptionally bad roadway engineering creates hassles for auto drivers sharing the road with cyclists. The cyclist feels that his inconvenience of avoiding the roadway is less than motorists' inconvenience at his use of the roadway.

2. The desire to avoid harassment. The cyclist knows that he deserves to use the roadway, but finds horn honks and deliberate close passes unpleasant.

3. Aesthetics. The cyclist prefers routes with less traffic for aesthetic reasons.

These concerns drive a significant amount of bikeway planning, such as increasing the connectivity of neighborhood streets via both roadway and short-cut paths, mapping and signing bike routes through complicated back roads for wayfinding, and building extra width into busy roads in the form of wider outside lanes, wide paved shoulders, and bike lanes. Interest in these efforts is reasonable, in my opinion, for cyclists who do not have a fearful, inferior view of their status as roadway users.

I think that John Forester supports a number of these planning efforts, e.g. he has described support for wide outside lanes, however, that sometimes gets lost in the debate about what "cyclist inferiority" means.
a pretty good summary, steve, I agree with this. these are the reasons I don't choose to ride the busy arterial I drive on in my truck.
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Old 04-25-07, 01:32 PM   #19
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I am not going to read through all this, but will give one opinion. This "cyclists inferiority syndrome" is simply a ruse to make someone some money, as it has no bearing in any science or medical terms. It is a way to gain publicity, to gain name recognition, and to "look" like you are being scientific, without any data behind it and no recognized (by a third party, such as the American Medical Association) authority behind it. In short, this "syndrome" does not exist.

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Old 04-25-07, 01:58 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John C. Ratliff
I am not going to read through all this, but will give one opinion. This "cyclists inferiority syndrome" is simply a ruse to make someone some money, as it has no bearing in any science or medical terms. It is a way to gain publicity, to gain name recognition, and to "look" like you are being scientific, without any data behind it and no recognized (by a third party, such as the American Medical Association) authority behind it. In short, this "syndrome" does not exist.

John
If you are not even going to read the responses to your own thread then I suggest the thread is a ruse....
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Old 04-25-07, 02:09 PM   #21
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If you are not even going to read the responses to your own thread then I suggest the thread is a ruse....
I suggest you check the name of the OP again...
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Old 04-25-07, 02:27 PM   #22
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I think you are asking the wrong questions, John. Not "what is this disease" and how do we combat it, but:

What purpose does using words like "disease", "phobia" and "superstition" actually serve? What can you actually accomplish using such words?
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Old 04-25-07, 02:28 PM   #23
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John C. Ratliff
I am not going to read through all this, but will give one opinion. This "cyclists inferiority syndrome" is simply a ruse to make someone some money, as it has no bearing in any science or medical terms. It is a way to gain publicity, to gain name recognition, and to "look" like you are being scientific, without any data behind it and no recognized (by a third party, such as the American Medical Association) authority behind it. In short, this "syndrome" does not exist.

John
Quote:
Originally Posted by sbhikes
What purpose does using words like "disease", "phobia" and "superstition" actually serve? What can you actually accomplish using such words?
The person who came up with these designations ought to have his head examined, because he knows next to nothing about public relations or risk communication, and will not convince anyone that he is correct with all the negative characterizations he has invented.
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Old 04-25-07, 02:38 PM   #24
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Originally Posted by galen_52657
Absolutely. But I can tell you I have never seen anybody driving heavy equipment move over...
I have...usually in the exact situation you outlined - moving into a RTOL to allow faster traffic to pass, then moving back into the through lane.

I agree with you on one thing...there isn't a cyclist phobia, but rather a phobia of traffic in general, no matter what vehicle you are in, if any. The perception is that the roads are dangerous, out-of-control killing fields and walking or being on a bicycle just makes some feel more vulnerable because they don't have that protection of a steel cage around them.
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Old 04-25-07, 02:42 PM   #25
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I suggest you check the name of the OP again...
In Galen's, and much of the free world, a Ratliff is a Ratliff.

(no offense John & Brian, just could not resist making the crack )
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