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  1. #1
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    Advantages of wrong-way riding.

    I rode about half a mile facing the wrong way, on the wrong side of a relatively quiet 2 lane road today, as a sort of thought experiment, to see what, if any, perceived advantages there might be to the practice.

    here's what I thought.

    •as has been suggested before, you have the advantage, such as it is, of not worrying about traffic overtaking from behind. All of the traffic you're sharing the lane with is easily visible well before it reaches your position.

    • you have far more time to react to turning vehicles, in that, where right-way riders risk right hooks, where the turning vehicle is in close proximity to you, cars making lefts across your path have to cross a full lane (or more) before they get to you, giving you more time to react.

    •in theory, if you're doored while wrong way riding, the door will give way (close back on the motorist) rather than remaining stationary as when you're doored riding the right way.

    •to that point, a motorist exiting his car is more likely to see you coming and less likely to door you in the first place.

    it's not something i'd do all the time, or even particularly often, but i was interested to find how quickly the plausible advantages suggested themselves. not sure whether i'll extend the experiment to sidewalk riding or not.

  2. #2
    Cheesmonger Extraordinair natelutkjohn's Avatar
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    hmmm, may be some benefits to the rider, but I know that it sure freaks me out to see a wrong way rider coming at me.... I sure as heck don't wave to em

  3. #3
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    agreed. mostly this was inspired by my experiences squeezing by wrong-way riders (largely deliverymen) on dean street in brooklyn. i wanted to know what exactly those guys thought they were getting out of the deal.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Laika
    agreed. mostly this was inspired by my experiences squeezing by wrong-way riders (largely deliverymen) on dean street in brooklyn. i wanted to know what exactly those guys thought they were getting out of the deal.
    If they're thinking anything, it's (in the following order):

    1) I'm getting there in the fastest time possible.

    2) I'm sticking it to the man.


    They are most definitely NOT getting increased, or even equal, safety.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by natelutkjohn
    hmmm, may be some benefits to the rider
    I doubt it.

    I saw a guy preparing to make a wrong way turn today. He was riding with traffic, preparing to turn the wrong way on a one way street, just as the bus i was on crossed the intersection. Had the bus been about 3 seconds later, or had he been about 3 seconds earlier, he would have been a grille ornament on the bus. My immediate thoughts were "What if the vehicle behind this bus is a bicycle? Will this idiot cause a head-on collision with some cyclist behind us?"

  6. #6
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blue Order
    If they're thinking anything, it's (in the following order):

    1) I'm getting there in the fastest time possible.

    2) I'm sticking it to the man.
    I really, really don't think this is the case. Think about it. most wrong-way riders willsay that they want to see what's coming. I thnk you're bringing some personal feelings to this and not really thinking it through.

  7. #7
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    Quote Originally Posted by Laika
    I really, really don't think this is the case. Think about it. most wrong-way riders willsay that they want to see what's coming. I thnk you're bringing some personal feelings to this and not really thinking it through.
    I think it would depend on the wrong way rider.

    A lot of wrong way riders are from other countries, and they believe that by riding against traffic, they're being safe (i.e., they can see what's coming.). I think a lot of wrong way riders are cyclists by necessity (i.e., they have a susepended license, or they can't afford gas, or whatever), and they believe that you're supposed to ride against traffic, because that's what they heard when they were kids.

    And some wrong way riders (messengers, for instance) deliberately ride against traffic because it will get them there faster, and because they're sticking it to the man (nevermind for now that by delivering documents quickly they're actually greasing the skids for the man).

    I assumed when you said you were referring to delivery persons, that they fell into this category of somebody getting things there the fastest way possible.

  8. #8
    `````````````` CaptainCool's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Laika
    I really, really don't think this is the case. Think about it. most wrong-way riders willsay that they want to see what's coming. I thnk you're bringing some personal feelings to this and not really thinking it through.
    I'm betting most of these wrong-way riders would be on the sidewalk if there was one. At college I see a lot of bikers acting like pedestrians.

  9. #9
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    OK, I see where you're coming from now. I agree that there's a subset of wrong-way riders who believe they're getting over in some way by riding any which way they want to. but I think the vast majority really do honestly believe they're leveraging some advantage by riding wrong-way, and i think overwhelmingly it's safety they think they're acheiving.

  10. #10
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    Quote Originally Posted by CaptainCool
    I'm betting most of these wrong-way riders would be on the sidewalk if there was one. At college I see a lot of bikers acting like pedestrians.
    Just a bit of background...I'm in NYC, which is amply supplied with sidewalks but also has a pretty large number of cyclists. So the option is open to these cyclists, but they choose to ride wrong-way but in the street.

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    Cycle Year Round CB HI's Avatar
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    One more advantage = no need to worry about if social security will still be around when you grow old.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by CB HI
    One more advantage = no need to worry about if social security will still be around when you grow old.
    That may be an actual advantage...not sure if it's a perceived advantage, though.

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    I see one problem with wrong-way riding that seems to cancel out all of the advantages of wrong-way riding: a bicycle's speed.

    If a bicycle were the speed of a pedestrian, then I could agree with all of the advantages of wrong-way cycling.

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by SonataInFSharp
    I see one problem with wrong-way riding that seems to cancel out all of the advantages of wrong-way riding: a bicycle's speed.

    If a bicycle were the speed of a pedestrian, then I could agree with all of the advantages of wrong-way cycling.
    How so? A bike's speed is fairl flexible. Granted, there's a limit to how fast bikes will go with even the most skilled riders, but even the least skilled riders are generally capable of operating at speeds not much greater than pedestrians.

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    Senior Member Keith99's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Laika
    I rode about half a mile facing the wrong way, on the wrong side of a relatively quiet 2 lane road today, as a sort of thought experiment, to see what, if any, perceived advantages there might be to the practice.

    here's what I thought.

    Ľas has been suggested before, you have the advantage, such as it is, of not worrying about traffic overtaking from behind. All of the traffic you're sharing the lane with is easily visible well before it reaches your position.
    A variation of this is the one real advantage I can think of and I think the reason many of ou were taught to rida against traffic as kids. Assume a street with minimal traffic. Riding against traffic makes it so even a preteen boy will reailize a car is there.

  16. #16
    Senior Member sggoodri's Avatar
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    Riding against traffic will get you creamed by a right-turning driver entering your road from your left. Way, way more likely than getting hit from behind when traveling with traffic. Right-turning drivers hitting wrong-side cyclists is the leading type of crash where I live. Right turning drivers look left, not right, for vehicle traffic before entering the new roadway.

    If traffic volumes are light enough that wrong-way cycling doesn't seem scary-dangerous, then right-side cycling would be so enjoyable and safe that the argument is moot.

    A preteen riding on the right doesn't need to realize a car is behind her as long as she rides in a straight line. Only when preparing to move laterally is it necessary to look back and check. My 12-year old niece does this very reliably.
    Last edited by sggoodri; 06-04-07 at 09:36 AM.

  17. #17
    Senior Member sggoodri's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by SonataInFSharp
    I see one problem with wrong-way riding that seems to cancel out all of the advantages of wrong-way riding: a bicycle's speed.

    If a bicycle were the speed of a pedestrian, then I could agree with all of the advantages of wrong-way cycling.
    In urban locations in daylight, walking against traffic is more dangerous than walking with. Turning drivers are more likely to hit contra-flow pedestrians.

    In low visibility conditions such as night, especially where there are no street lights, drivers may not see pedestrians no matter what, and so walking facing traffic allows the pedestrian to get out of the way of the driver who can't see him. Rural areas are where pedestrians walking with traffic at night tend to get hit at high speed. Elsewhere, walking with traffic is safer, especially if there are lots of intersections.

  18. #18
    Senior Member rando's Avatar
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    I thought one advantage of wrong-way riding would be to save time... instead of having to wait to cross the street, I just turned and rode the wrong way down the sidewalk. my theory was right until that SUV pulled up right in front of me as I was about to cross a street on a crosswalk. ouch. he was looking for traffic on his left.
    "Think of bicycles as rideable art that can just about save the world". ~Grant Petersen

    Cyclists fare best when they recognize that there are times when acting vehicularly is not the best practice, and are flexible enough to do what is necessary as the situation warrants.--Me

  19. #19
    Senior Member hotbike's Avatar
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    i want to turn the clock back to 1961. Before 1961, there was no standard throughout the country, the individual states made their rules.
    Some states required bicycles to ride on the left side of the road, similar to the way joggers and runners do today. My state, New York , was one of them.
    In 1961, there was a standarization passed that put bicycles on the right side of the road in all 50 states.

    1961 was about the time that 10-speed bicycles were introduced to America. Prior to then, most bicycles in the USA were 1 speed, or 3 speed.
    The subject I'm talking about is one of the biggest "Unfunded Mandates" in history. Are you familiar with the term "Unfunded Mandate"? That's when a law is passed, but no money is budgeted to enforce it. In the case of putting all bicycles on the right side, it was an Unfunded Mandate that eclipses all others by it's magnitude. Not one dime was spent to educate motorists to the change.
    There was some mention of the fact that , with this new ten-speed bike, the cyclist could go 30 MPH. I believe it was [bicycle] industry lobbyists who pushed it through the halls of congress. But no monies were allocated to educate motorists. The cyclists were left to fend for themselves.
    Have you ever encountered a "duh-head" motorist? I mean when you were driving your steel steed 30 MPH in a 30 MPH zone and this duh-head has to pass, which means he was speeding. "If i'm going 30 and the speed limit is 30, and you're trying to pass, you must be speeding." to which the motorists' response is "Duh...?". I think it was one motorist that pulled the stunt numerous times, and he's dead now. I haven't seen him in years.
    Riding against traffic, on the left side of the road, can be dangerous, but it doesn't have to be anymore dangerous than running or walking. If a bicyclist rides against traffic, he or she must realize that it is too easy to go faster than a jogger. If the bicyclist is conscientious about his or her speed, and not going faster than the jogger, it can be safe. But the wrong way cyclist must be prepared to yield, especially to motorists pulling out from the left, who are not looking right. Headphones will get you killed in traffic.
    We must ask; "why is it safer for a runner, pedestrian or jogger to use the left side?" The answer is that he or she can SEE the car coming. Oh, if only we had eyes in the backs of our heads! Then the cyclists could see the cars coming.
    I would contend that if the bicycle is going r-e-a-l-l-y - s-l-o-w ,(and prepared to stop) it can be as safe as jogging.
    Most bicyclists can't stand to go that slow. The bicycle is more wobbly at such a low speed. And it is up to the cyclist to use his or her judgement. If you ride against traffic, be prepared to stop and yield the RofW every 5 seconds or 5 times per quarter mile, and be prepared to dismount and walk the bicycle at any moment.

    I would like to point out that the bicycle is the same width whether I look at it from the front or from behind. It might be a good idea to hop off the bike and start walking it if any motorist doesn't leave enough width to avoid collision.

  20. #20
    Part-time epistemologist invisiblehand's Avatar
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    As Steve pointed out, there is a problem with motorist expectations and field of vision. And as others pointed out, the risks are conditional upon the speed of the cyclist and surrounding traffic.

    Regarding getting doored, I speculate from the door angle that hitting a door while riding the against traffic is more likely to push the rider into the street. According to how you weight injuries/mortality, this might eliminate any advantage to getting doored less.

    The other problem, of course, is that riding against traffic creates an obstruction to cyclists following the law. Assuming that in some dimension a wrong-way rider is lowering his or her risk, the risk is just being displaced to another cyclist. Note that there is no reason why the two competing risks would be equal. So for some marginal decrease in risk by the wrong-way cyclist, the law-abiding cyclist could be exposed to a greater/lesser marginal increase.

    Since people are using running as an example, I understand the argument. But it was never clear to me that running in the opposite direction is safer than running with traffic. That is, in the years I actively ran no one ever produced statistical evidence suggesting that it really was safer to run against traffic. Then again, I never actively looked for evidence.

    -G

  21. #21
    Cycle Year Round CB HI's Avatar
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    hotbike,
    You left out some history in your history lesson. The reason for the walk on the left rule was designed for roadways without sidewalks and shoulders. When one was walking on such a roadway, they could see a car approaching and step off the roadway until after the car passed.

    Does not exactly make cycling safer unless the cyclist dismounts and moves off the road every time a car approaches.

    Why the off topic swipe at headphone use?

  22. #22
    Senior Member sggoodri's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by invisiblehand
    But it was never clear to me that running in the opposite direction is safer than running with traffic. That is, in the years I actively ran no one ever produced statistical evidence suggesting that it really was safer to run against traffic. Then again, I never actively looked for evidence.
    -G
    As a pedestrian safety advocate, I looked for evidence that supported building sidewalks. Virtually all of the collisions involving pedestrians walking along the roadway (rather than crossing it) were pedestrians walking with their backs to traffic in darkness. I cannot remember finding collisions involving pedestrians walking with traffic in good lighting.

    At the intersections, contra-flow pedestrians fared much worse than right-way pedestrians, regardless of crosswalk design.

  23. #23
    I drink your MILKSHAKE Raiyn's Avatar
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    I posted this back in 2004 and I wish I could print it out and hand it to people, unfortunately most wrong wayers are usually not smart enough to understand it anyway.
    Quote Originally Posted by Raiyn

    You do the math
    Last edited by Raiyn; 06-12-07 at 06:58 PM.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by hotbike
    i want to turn the clock back to 1961. Before 1961, there was no standard throughout the country, the individual states made their rules.
    Some states required bicycles to ride on the left side of the road, similar to the way joggers and runners do today. My state, New York , was one of them.
    In 1961, there was a standarization passed that put bicycles on the right side of the road in all 50 states.

    snip
    I have read vague statements about this on several occasions. Before 1961 I had cycled in California, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, and Connecticut, in none of which there appeared to be a left-side law for cyclists. I have a copy of Traffic Laws Annotated, 1972, published by the National Committee for Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances. The two sections dealing with the rights and duties of cyclists and with the right-hand side of the road for cyclists show no states (nor the UVC) as ever having required cycling on the left. That is not a positive statement, as perhaps the volume would not state such if such had, by that time, been eliminated. However, the references also list the latest revisions of the state laws regarding these subjects. For the rights and duties, many of the latest state statutes listed predate 1960. For the right-hand side, the earliest of the state statutes listed are: AL 1959, AZ 1956, ID 1957, MN 1960, NM 1960, NY 1960, RI 1957, TN 1955, UT 1960, WI 1958, WY 1959.

    I suspect the story that some states required cycling on the left. I suspect that this was just one more unofficial result of the cyclist-inferiority superstition. Does anybody have the full legal references?

  25. #25
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    Quote Originally Posted by CB HI
    hotbike,
    You left out some history in your history lesson. The reason for the walk on the left rule was designed for roadways without sidewalks and shoulders. When one was walking on such a roadway, they could see a car approaching and step off the roadway until after the car passed.

    Does not exactly make cycling safer unless the cyclist dismounts and moves off the road every time a car approaches.

    Why the off topic swipe at headphone use?
    The pedestrian on the left-hand of the roadway side was required by law to get off the roadway when traffic approached. UVC 11-506 (d) new 1971. "Except as otherwise provided in this chapter, any pedestrian upon a roadway shall yield the right of way to all vehicles upon the roadway."

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