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  1. #1
    Senior Member rando's Avatar
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    what skills does a competent cyclist have?

    getting away from the "test" itself, what do you personally consider the skills and behaviors of a basic competent cyclist to be? sorry if I seem to be running this into the ground. I'm truly interested.
    Last edited by rando; 05-22-07 at 10:10 AM.

  2. #2
    Cheesmonger Extraordinair natelutkjohn's Avatar
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    Ability to look behind and check your blind spot without also drifting that direction into traffic.

    Ability to signal lane changes (or turns) with out falling off bike due to inability to ride with one hand for short distances.

  3. #3
    Senior Member rando's Avatar
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    those are good.

  4. #4
    Non-Custom Member zeytoun's Avatar
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    Well, since you're asking us each personally... :-)

    I personally consider competence to include the following skills:

    Being able to stop and start quickly
    Being able to maneuvre the bike deftly
    Being able to understand, and interpret the situation, and respond appropriately
    Being able to know the limits of your skills and the mechanical condition of your bicycle

    Please note, the level of skill needed varies according to situation. A cyclist that travels 12mph on an MUP doesn't need the same type of maneuvering, starting, stopping, vigilance, and response skills to be appropriately competent, as a cyclist riding 18mph in a 25mph zone with a narrow lane in each direction, or a cyclist going 35 down a hill in heavy freeway-bound traffic.

    You will also likely notice that these are all subjective, completely open to interpretation. That is my intent. I make a subjective decision based on my skills, to choose to ride on the streets, that match my competence level. On those streets, I make the decision to ride in a manner consistent with my indvidual skills, and their ability to respond to the situation. For example, I may generally do a VC left turn on an arterial street, but one morning, traffic is especially aggressive and heavy, and I decide (subjectively) that my skills are not up to it, and that a 2-point turn would be more appropriate.

    However, unless someone can demonstrate specific variables, with specific cut-off points, as being significantly causative of likelihood of accidents, injuries, and/or fatalities, then defining someone else's competence level is merely advocating your subjective opinion over their subjective opinion. The more variation between the experience levels of the individual cyclists, the more useful this opinion (might) be. To take this further and try to impose your opinion (by, for example, enforcing a licensing system that requires conformacy with your ideals of behavior) without reliable# metrics is fascist, IMO*.

    *Please note, that I am not saying this to be inflammatory, or to impy any relationship between this stance and Nazism, but rather, it falls under a reasonable definition of fascism as authoritarian, and anti-individual.

    #an individual or small group saying something is reliable, does not make it so. There must be at least a reasonable level of consensus.
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  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by zeytoun
    Well, since you're asking us each personally... :-)

    I personally consider competence to include the following skills:

    Being able to stop and start quickly
    Being able to maneuvre the bike deftly
    Being able to understand, and interpret the situation, and respond appropriately
    Being able to know the limits of your skills and the mechanical condition of your bicycle

    Please note, the level of skill needed varies according to situation. A cyclist that travels 12mph on an MUP doesn't need the same type of maneuvering, starting, stopping, vigilance, and response skills to be appropriately competent, as a cyclist riding 18mph in a 25mph zone with a narrow lane in each direction, or a cyclist going 35 down a hill in heavy freeway-bound traffic.

    You will also likely notice that these are all subjective, completely open to interpretation. That is my intent. I make a subjective decision based on my skills, to choose to ride on the streets, that match my competence level. On those streets, I make the decision to ride in a manner consistent with my indvidual skills, and their ability to respond to the situation. For example, I may generally do a VC left turn on an arterial street, but one morning, traffic is especially aggressive and heavy, and I decide (subjectively) that my skills are not up to it, and that a 2-point turn would be more appropriate.

    However, unless someone can demonstrate specific variables, with specific cut-off points, as being significantly causative of likelihood of accidents, injuries, and/or fatalities, then defining someone else's competence level is merely advocating your subjective opinion over their subjective opinion. The more variation between the experience levels of the individual cyclists, the more useful this opinion (might) be. To take this further and try to impose your opinion (by, for example, enforcing a licensing system that requires conformacy with your ideals of behavior) without reliable# metrics is fascist, IMO*.

    *Please note, that I am not saying this to be inflammatory, or to impy any relationship between this stance and Nazism, but rather, it falls under a reasonable definition of fascism as authoritarian, and anti-individual.

    #an individual or small group saying something is reliable, does not make it so. There must be at least a reasonable level of consensus.

    I have been considering that in a forum that is titled Vehicular Cycling, the subject has been cycling in traffic. Any consideration of competence that falls within that forum then refers to competence in traffic cycling.

    There are many other kinds of cycling competence. There is a far different kind of competence involved in leading a team in a stage race. Such involves not only power and endurance, but understanding racing strategy and tactics, knowing the courses, and the leadership skills to get the team to perform best. That is just an extreme example of parts of cycling that are not relevant to a forum titled Vehicular Cycling.

    Vehicular Cycling simply refers to cycling in accordance with the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles, exactly as the road traffic is supposed to operate. Vehicular Cycling Advocacy refers to advocacy directed at getting more cyclists to operate properly and at getting society to accept that as proper.

  6. #6
    Non-Custom Member zeytoun's Avatar
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    Any consideration of competence that falls within that forum then refers to competence in traffic cycling.
    Fair enough.

    However, there are still different levels of traffic, which require different types and levels of skills.
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  7. #7
    Non-Custom Member zeytoun's Avatar
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    Vehicular Cycling Advocacy refers to advocacy directed at getting more cyclists to operate properly and at getting society to accept that as proper.
    I can agree with that, so long as "proper" is defined with a reasonable consensus, or backed up with reliable data.

    For example, I can advocate definitions that include same-way cycling, lights at night, destination positioning etc. (things backed up by reliable data and reasonable consensus), but have more issue with definitions that include cycling cadence, ankle stiffness, etc (things that might have use in specific moments, but no general, or reliably established, relevance to safety).

    And so long as VC advocates don't try to enforce behavior on the basis of self-asserted authority, I have no problem.
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  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by zeytoun
    I can agree with that, so long as "proper" is defined with a reasonable consensus, or backed up with reliable data.

    For example, I can advocate definitions that include same-way cycling, lights at night, destination positioning etc. (things backed up by reliable data and reasonable consensus), but have more issue with definitions that include cycling cadence, ankle stiffness, etc (things that might have use in specific moments, but no general, or reliably established, relevance to safety).

    And so long as VC advocates don't try to enforce behavior on the basis of self-asserted authority, I have no problem.
    Well, yes. In a forum that is titled Vehicular Cycling, the subject is only the vehicular cycling portion of cyclist competence.

  9. #9
    Non-Custom Member zeytoun's Avatar
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    Well, yes. In a forum that is titled Vehicular Cycling, the subject is only the vehicular cycling portion of cyclist competence.
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  10. #10
    Senior Member sggoodri's Avatar
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    1. Being able to ride in a straight line without swerving when looking back

    2. Being reliable at looking back and yielding before moving laterally.

    3. Being reliable at stopping/yielding at junctions where other traffic has priority. Also, being able to reliably stop/slow for slower traffic ahead.

    4. Being able to reliably judge the required gaps in traffic to cross, enter or merge into other traffic. This requires having consistent performance at acceleration. Not fast, just having a good estimate of one's capability and being consistent at execution.

    5. Knowing how to use destination positioning at junctions.

    6. Knowing how to use speed positioning when not in conflict with destination positioning.

    7. Having an awareness of potential hazards such as door zones, pavement defects, pedestrians, dogs, sidewalk cycling issues and ways to avoid them.

    8. Understanding how/when to use a front light and rear light/reflector.

  11. #11
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    drinking coffee and reading the morning paper while riding no handed to work. turning a bike no-handed at high speed and looking back while doing so- I read in Helmie's posts road positioning should be relative to overtaking traffic

    Anything less is just semi-competent cycling.

    Destination positioning? a piece of cake.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  12. #12
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Forester
    Well, yes. In a forum that is titled Vehicular Cycling, the subject is only the vehicular cycling portion of cyclist competence.
    sorry, mossy, some of us insist on different criteria.

    riding 700x23s on grass.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  13. #13
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    The ability to ride in a straight line.

    The ability to research and know the traffic laws for your area as they apply to cyclists ... and the courage to follow those laws.

  14. #14
    Sumanitu taka owaci LittleBigMan's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by rando
    getting away from the "test" itself, what do you personally consider the skills and behaviors of a basic competent cyclist to be? sorry if I seem to be running this into the ground. I'm truly interested.
    A competant cyclist understands that he is a cooperative part of traffic.

    Skills? I don't need no stinkin' skills!
    No worries

  15. #15
    Immoderator KrisPistofferson's Avatar
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    Having sense enough to take longer alternative routes that won't make you feel as if you've smoked two packs of cigarettes. I had a commute a couple years ago on one of the main roads through town, and while it was Vehicular as Hell, it did not feel good on the lung tissue. I prefer to route myself along less trafficked roads, even if it's hillier and a bit longer.
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  16. #16
    Senior Member randya's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Forester
    I have been considering that in a forum that is titled Vehicular Cycling, the subject has been cycling in traffic. Any consideration of competence that falls within that forum then refers to competence in traffic cycling.

    There are many other kinds of cycling competence. There is a far different kind of competence involved in leading a team in a stage race. Such involves not only power and endurance, but understanding racing strategy and tactics, knowing the courses, and the leadership skills to get the team to perform best. That is just an extreme example of parts of cycling that are not relevant to a forum titled Vehicular Cycling.

    Vehicular Cycling simply refers to cycling in accordance with the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles, exactly as the road traffic is supposed to operate. Vehicular Cycling Advocacy refers to advocacy directed at getting more cyclists to operate properly and at getting society to accept that as proper.
    The rules of the road are not fixed and carved in stone, they are living and organic and can evolve. Your digression here indicates that you are not really in touch with cycling in a true urban environment, which is the locale where the bicycle as basic transportation makes the most sense.

  17. #17
    Senior Member randya's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sggoodri
    1. Being able to ride in a straight line without swerving when looking back

    2. Being reliable at looking back and yielding before moving laterally.

    3. Being reliable at stopping/yielding at junctions where other traffic has priority. Also, being able to reliably stop/slow for slower traffic ahead.

    4. Being able to reliably judge the required gaps in traffic to cross, enter or merge into other traffic. This requires having consistent performance at acceleration. Not fast, just having a good estimate of one's capability and being consistent at execution.

    5. Knowing how to use destination positioning at junctions.

    6. Knowing how to use speed positioning when not in conflict with destination positioning.

    7. Having an awareness of potential hazards such as door zones, pavement defects, pedestrians, dogs, sidewalk cycling issues and ways to avoid them.

    8. Understanding how/when to use a front light and rear light/reflector.
    I would rate 4, 5, 7 and 8 as the most important skills. 1, 2, and 3 should be a given for any competent cyclist.

  18. #18
    -=Barry=- The Human Car's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by zeytoun
    ...MUP...
    Please watch your language young man.

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  19. #19
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka
    The ability to ride in a straight line.

    The ability to research and know the traffic laws for your area as they apply to cyclists ... and the courage to follow those laws.
    And the ability to ride predictably.

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    Being able to turn completely around to look in back of you (to give the steely eyed alpha dog stare to the motorist crowding you) and still going perfectly straight forward.

    While leaned over in a turn going around a corner, being able to look over your outside shoulder for traffic, and never varying your line in the corner.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka
    And the ability to ride predictably.
    The phrase "ride predictably" has been commonly used without any definition of what "being predictable" actually means. After all, the cyclist has no control over the mental processes of the outside observer who is doing the predicting. This outside observer might be a person who believes that cyclists should never leave bike lanes, so that seeing a cyclist, on a bike-laned street, who is not in the bike lane would be an unpredictable event. However, the cyclist needs to consider not the unusual observer, but those who are in the great majority. Riding in accordance with the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles provides the set of expected movements with which motorists are familiar, and hence which they can expect to occur in the prescribed manner. Those of us who have cycled vehicularly for years have found that this is a very useful way of informing other drivers how we will operate.

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    Quote Originally Posted by randya
    The rules of the road are not fixed and carved in stone, they are living and organic and can evolve. Your digression here indicates that you are not really in touch with cycling in a true urban environment, which is the locale where the bicycle as basic transportation makes the most sense.
    The rules of the road have evolved, as in the change in the left turn rule in the early days of the UVC. However, I think it unlikely that we will see major changes for a very long time, because the present rules work so well. Contrary with your claim that "[I am] not really in touch with cycling in a true urban environment", I fail to see that the present rules are unsuitable for an urban environment.

    On what basis do you claim that I am out of touch with urban cycling?

    If you claim that the present rules are unsuitable in some respect, then I presume that you will specify which rule, or rules, you think are unsuitable and present to us your proposed improved rule.

  23. #23
    Long Distance Cyclist Machka's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by John Forester
    The phrase "ride predictably" has been commonly used without any definition of what "being predictable" actually means. After all, the cyclist has no control over the mental processes of the outside observer who is doing the predicting. This outside observer might be a person who believes that cyclists should never leave bike lanes, so that seeing a cyclist, on a bike-laned street, who is not in the bike lane would be an unpredictable event. However, the cyclist needs to consider not the unusual observer, but those who are in the great majority. Riding in accordance with the rules of the road for drivers of vehicles provides the set of expected movements with which motorists are familiar, and hence which they can expect to occur in the prescribed manner. Those of us who have cycled vehicularly for years have found that this is a very useful way of informing other drivers how we will operate.
    Riding predictably involves using common sense. But as someone said, common sense is not very common.

    Riding predictably includes things like:

    -- riding in a straight line, not weaving all over the place. When I see a cyclist who cannot hold his/her line, as a driver, I get nervous ... are they going to suddenly swerve out in front of me?

    -- signalling intentions. As a driver, it is very disconcerting to have a cyclist suddenly switch lanes in front of me without signalling.

    -- riding with the flow of traffic. As a driver, when I see a cyclist riding against the flow of traffic, I assume that they are doing so in order to take a shortcut, and if they are taking a shortcut that means that they may suddenly cut across traffic in front of me.

    -- stopping at stop signs and lights. After all, all the rest of the vehicles on the road have to stop, cyclist should too.

    Etc. Etc.

    So yes, riding predictably includes following ALL the rules of the road (not just the ones that suit the cyclist at the moment), but it also involves having good bicycle handling skills so that the cyclist can keep up a good pace in traffic, ride in a straight line, and generally appear that he/she knows what he/she is doing.

    It's interesting, but as a driver, I also take cyclists who wear cycling gear more seriously than those who are out there in jeans and a T-shirt. I figure a cyclist who has made the effort to buy a jersey and helmet takes cycling more seriously and therefore will be a more predictable rider. Observation has proved this to be true on more than one occasion. It is rarely the cyclist decked out in kit who meanders all over the road in front of me ... it is usually the cyclist in the jeans and T-shirt who does that sort of thing.

    In addition to all this, riding predictably includes observation on the part of the cyclist. For example, paying attention to the car that has pulled up at the curb ... chances are the door is going to open because there's a reason the car has pulled up there. Or observing the exhaust of a car parked by the side of the road .. chances are the car is going to pull out. Or observing the drivers to see if they are texting or talking on the phone ... chances are they are not going to notice you. On that topic, on a ride last week, I noticed a teenager who was texting while driving. I pulled over and stopped my bicycle and let him go. Part of riding predictably means letting potentially dangerous traffic go.

    Basically it boils down to thinking like a driver.



    And incidentally ... I've been cycling seriously for 17 years, and have covered over 110,000 kms in that time. In all that time I have followed the rules of the road, and have ridden as predictably as possible. Why? Because that's how I was taught to ride when I first learned 34 years ago. Weren't you? Wasn't everyone? I don't call how I ride "vehicular cycling" because from everything I've read about that on this site it is just an excuse to break the rules of the road. Instead, I ride like I drive.

  24. #24
    Been Around Awhile I-Like-To-Bike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Machka
    It's interesting, but as a driver, I also take cyclists who wear cycling gear more seriously than those who are out there in jeans and a T-shirt. I figure a cyclist who has made the effort to buy a jersey and helmet takes cycling more seriously and therefore will be a more predictable rider. Observation has proved this to be true on more than one occasion. It is rarely the cyclist decked out in kit who meanders all over the road in front of me ... it is usually the cyclist in the jeans and T-shirt who does that sort of thing...
    And incidentally ... I've been cycling seriously for 17 years...
    Yeah, Real interesting. I've observed that lots of people make similar observations along the lines of "my kind of Serious People are better than those other kind of people and I see the proof every day."
    Last edited by I-Like-To-Bike; 06-04-07 at 08:15 AM.

  25. #25
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by I-Like-To-Bike
    Yeah, Real interesting. I've observed that lot's of people make similar observations along the lines of "my kind of Serious People are better than those other kind of people and I see the proof every day."
    It is somewhat interesting that my kind of Serious People while being predictable about the positioning in which they ride, also tend to be predictable about running stop lights.... which the Less Serious People tend not to do.

    Crazy world eh.

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