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  1. #1
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    How much emphasis should be placed on educating motorists?

    I've been involved in a Private Messages discussion on how much emphasis should be placed on educating
    motorists on proper interaction with cyclists. I thought the topic might be an interesting thread, so here it is.

    I'm a vehicular cyclist, and have long thought that both vehicular cyclists and the bicycle advocates have neglected the issue of educating motorists on the proper way to interact with cyclists (and other slower moving vehicles) on the road. This starts with the mantra that cyclists are a normal and legitimate part of the traffic flow.

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    Quote Originally Posted by larryfeltonj
    I've been involved in a Private Messages discussion on how much emphasis should be placed on educating
    motorists on proper interaction with cyclists. I thought the topic might be an interesting thread, so here it is.

    I'm a vehicular cyclist, and have long thought that both vehicular cyclists and the bicycle advocates have neglected the issue of educating motorists on the proper way to interact with cyclists (and other slower moving vehicles) on the road. This starts with the mantra that cyclists are a normal and legitimate part of the traffic flow.
    I agree that this is an area that absolutely must be addressed. Having a bunch of well-educated cyclists is only half the battle and cannot prevent them from being harmed by uneducated motorists. Certainly an increase in education at the high school/driver ed level is appropriate. I have also seen peopl here suggest more emphasis on this topic on the driver's license exam. All good ideas.

    I would note that many motorcylists and scootering enthusiasts share the same concern. Perhaps by pooling resources with these groups we could be more effective? It seems motorists have a natural inclination to regard any vehcile smaller than theirs as inferior and unworthy of being on the roads.----Just watch the behavior of someone who trades in a GEO metro for a HUMMER or other large vehicle. The change is astounding---before long they are yelling at traffic and roadraging due to the conscious or subconscious feelings of superiority

  3. #3
    genec genec's Avatar
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    I strongly believe that we need a multi-tiered education system. Driving is a lifelong activity, yet at best, motorists get about 6 weeks of instruction and then are expected to improve on their own... the result are poor driving habits and misconceptions that continue to effect driving habits for the rest of the drivers' life.

    What I would really like to see is basic bicycle training in elementary school... followed by bicycle traffic/commuter training in middle school, and then a year long automobile/traffic/ethics class in high school... with the earlier cycling as prerequisite. One must know the basic rules of the road before even taking the driving portion of the class and prove it through the use of the bike on a test course.

    Simulators (which today are quite good) could be used in the driving class, before the actual hands-on driving instruction.

    The issued license would be provisional until age 21 with the first years not allowing passengers or driving at night. To graduate from a non-provisional license would require a safety/defensive driving class to refresh good habits. Something like a two or three weekend class.

    Renewal would occur every 5 years with a written test that covers new laws and includes questions that focus on all users of the road... from peds to cyclists to the usual questions about stopping distance and responsibility.

    Also add that any drunk driving conviction would require mandatory license suspension for a minimum of a year. (any car in the drivers' name is booted)

    The US is at this moment one of the easiest industrial nations in which to get a drivers license. Also the license should be the same for every state; there are already movements afoot to use the license as a national ID card. The EU is looking into issuing cards for all of the EU.

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    Al noisebeam's Avatar
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    I think there should be far more emphasis on motor vehicle driver training (and enforcement)

    However this should not be done as a cycling advocacy effort or for cyclists specificially. This should be done from a traffic safety perspective, from the perspective of and with the goal for making all forms of using highways safer. It is a national (from US-centric perspective) health and safety issue priority.

    Al

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    Senior Member sggoodri's Avatar
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    The key to creating better education and safer habits among the American motoring population is to convince them that they will benefit from this. Driving habits that improve safety for cyclists (such as keeping one's eyes on the road, limiting speed to that which allow stopping well within one's sight distance, not passing aggressively, obeying traffic signals and signs, not driving distracted, drowsy, or under the influence) improve safety for everybody. Question is, does America care?

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    Senior Member Bruce Rosar's Avatar
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    Stricter license renewal standards

    Quote Originally Posted by sggoodri
    Driving habits that improve safety for cyclists ... improve safety for everybody. Question is, does America care?
    Apparently, America cares somewhat:
    Survey shows most Americans want stricter license renewal standards for older drivers

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    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Rosar
    Apparently, America cares somewhat:
    Good. It is time for that pendulum to swing back a bit... Now if they can only manage to put some cycling back into the elementary schools...

  8. #8
    Sumanitu taka owaci LittleBigMan's Avatar
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    I find that despite being very intelligent, motorists often make up their own road rules and follow them habitually, so that they become the default behavior, contrary to actual rules and safety practices. For example, a flashing red traffic light should be treated as a stop sign, but a flashing yellow light as a "proceed with caution." When malfunctioning lights go into flashing mode, drivers habitually stop at flashing yellow lights, as if it's a 4-way stop (I even heard a radio DJ reminding folks to do exactly that, not that DJ's are an abundant source of reliable information.) But if the lights don't work at all, the rule is to treat it like a 4-way stop, but motorists often treat it like there is no light at all, and proceed without stopping.

    So, yes, I think motorists would benefit from having some kind of cycling education jammed down their throats long enough so that at least they would always remember in the backs of their minds that cyclists have certain specific rights on the road, because it's obvious that such knowledge is by no means a prerequisite for getting a driver's license.

    Still, most motorists I encounter are quite safe and easy to deal with on my bike. It's when I get in my car that some goofball decides to tailgate or some other nonsense. Go figure.
    No worries

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    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by LittleBigMan
    I find that despite being very intelligent, motorists often make up their own road rules and follow them habitually, so that they become the default behavior, contrary to actual rules and safety practices. For example, a flashing red traffic light should be treated as a stop sign, but a flashing yellow light as a "proceed with caution." When malfunctioning lights go into flashing mode, drivers habitually stop at flashing yellow lights, as if it's a 4-way stop (I even heard a radio DJ reminding folks to do exactly that, not that DJ's are an abundant source of reliable information.) But if the lights don't work at all, the rule is to treat it like a 4-way stop, but motorists often treat it like there is no light at all, and proceed without stopping.

    So, yes, I think motorists would benefit from having some kind of cycling education jammed down their throats long enough so that at least they would always remember in the backs of their minds that cyclists have certain specific rights on the road, because it's obvious that such knowledge is by no means a prerequisite for getting a driver's license.

    Still, most motorists I encounter are quite safe and easy to deal with on my bike. It's when I get in my car that some goofball decides to tailgate or some other nonsense. Go figure.
    Right... what I am proposing is not so much to support cycling, as it is to improve all motorists... needless to say it will take some time for the motoring public to be made up of these better educated motorists, but hopefully the results will pan out in the end.

    Clearly the act of believing in their own long held bad habits IS an issue and most likely stems from the poor education given up front... without the chance for that to sink in or be tried under actual driving conditions.

    Now the side benefit of starting everything with cycling is that it introduces cycling as a viable part of the transit picture, and gives one experience in that realm.

  10. #10
    Al noisebeam's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by genec
    Now the side benefit of starting everything with cycling is that it introduces cycling as a viable part of the transit picture, and gives one experience in that realm.
    The downside is that it hard to change peoples attitudes or training if there is nothing in it for them.

    There is a lot more potential to make people aware safe driving is a benefit for everyone.

    Al

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    Dominatrikes sbhikes's Avatar
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    How much emphasis should be placed on educating motorists?

    A whole lot more than is currently being done. Right now, it's nothing at all. Anything would be better. In fact, right now, it's less than nothing. The only time bicycling is ever mentioned to motorists is on talk radio shows, and guess what kind of education they're getting about it then?
    ~Diane
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  12. #12
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by noisebeam
    The downside is that it hard to change peoples attitudes or training if there is nothing in it for them.

    There is a lot more potential to make people aware safe driving is a benefit for everyone.

    Al
    Sure, but you are looking at it from the school of "I already drive... so what do I care." And in that respect, yeah it would be darn hard to change people. (old dogs, new tricks)

    But if the changes are made to the system in which new drivers are created.... (new dogs, new tricks) then you have a clean slate and there are essentially no "changes" to the new driver. Just as my son has always had a computer... new drivers will always have a better driving education. As better educated drivers become the majority drivers on the road, hopefully the driving environment will improve.

    It will take some time and effort... but there are 45,000 folks dead each year that say the current system could use some improvement.

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    A question for all those "non-VC" cyclists who want more driver education: How many of you would be ok with educating motorists that the default position for a cyclist on the roadway is in the rightmost traffic lane and not the shoulder or near the curb?

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    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by joejack951
    A question for all those "non-VC" cyclists who want more driver education: How many of you would be ok with educating motorists that the default position for a cyclist on the roadway is in the rightmost traffic lane and not the shoulder or near the curb?
    Well can I answer this in spite of using the VC method whenever I will fare best with it?

    I'd say that is a great idea.

    Personally I think it would be quite nice if we tell motorists that we can use the road, period.

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    Quote Originally Posted by genec
    Personally I think it would be quite nice if we tell motorists that we can use the road, period.
    Do you honestly encounter many motorists who express feelings that lead you to believe that they think we cannot use any part of the road at all? From reading your posts, it seems most bad motorist interactions you've had are just the result of you riding too far left for that particular motorist's tastes. My experience is just the same by the way.

  16. #16
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by joejack951
    Do you honestly encounter many motorists who express feelings that lead you to believe that they think we cannot use any part of the road at all? From reading your posts, it seems most bad motorist interactions you've had are just the result of you riding too far left for that particular motorist's tastes. My experience is just the same by the way.
    I have encountered a number of motorists over the years... often they don't express a thing beyond the honks or yelling... however, I make attempts to talk to the ones that are not overly confrontational...

    Such as the man that honked at myself and another Road II student... in talking to him, he expressed that we were "doing it wrong" and "should do it like those other bikers." Meaning cower by the side of the road. I asked how then we should make left turns... "I donno, that's your problem."

    Classic.

    But beyond the roadside conversations... which like the one illustrated, generally yield little... I make an effort to discuss cycling in candid conversations with folks that don't know I am a cyclist. New folks at the office... folks at parties, even standing in line at the movies... if time and place permit. I basically take a "pulse" of motorists by asking them what they think about the price of gas (or other similar conversation starter) and then move it around to asking about cyclists on the street. Folks over about 30 years old or so tend to be rather negative about cyclists... and in some fashion fear hitting them. Younger folks... say just over or around college age... often are positive, but rarely understand that cyclists have actual legal rights to use the road.

    Now that last bit is important... "the legal right to use the road;" the general consensus is that most motorists do not know that we have the right to use the road... the motorists feel that we are "borrowing" their road... for which they pay taxes and fees etc to use the road. Motorists feel entitled to the road and we are just something in the way... to be avoided... or just watched out for.

    Try it on your own... start a candid conversation the next time you are at a party or some social event where you are not known as a cyclist... see what responses you get.

    It can be pretty eye opening.

  17. #17
    Senior Member zonatandem's Avatar
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    Educate the cyclists first . . .

  18. #18
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    Quote Originally Posted by sggoodri
    The key to creating better education and safer habits among the American motoring population is to convince them that they will benefit from this. Driving habits that improve safety for cyclists (such as keeping one's eyes on the road, limiting speed to that which allow stopping well within one's sight distance, not passing aggressively, obeying traffic signals and signs, not driving distracted, drowsy, or under the influence) improve safety for everybody. Question is, does America care?
    It's actually dealing with more general transportation issues here in Atlanta which make me interested in this specific issue, and I think you couch the issue well. I'm the transportation chair for one of the Neighborhood Planning Units here (NPU-W). I've been watching the interactions between motorists, cyclists and pedestrians here for many years, and have come to the conclusion that both the existing traffic laws and infrastructure are good here, and if patience, the law, and common sense are all adhered to the transportation system works well.

    I agree with the comments indicating that the best manner in which to develop good conditions for cycling is to make sure that cyclists understand how to cycle properly. If cyclists act like second class citizens of the road (or worse -- act like they don't belong on the road at all) we're going to be treated that way.

    But I also know from conversations with many motorists that the knowledge of the rights of cyclists is very weak, at least here in Atlanta. I'm thick skinned and the monthly honking of a horn or the shout out a window two or three times a year doesn't bother me very much. But it is a deterrent for cycling for many people, and I'm not interested in ceding the roads to the exclusive use of motoring.

    I think a lot of times we vehicular cyclists form our policy in reaction to the bike lane advocates too much, and don't realize that a large segment of the motoring population has no clear notion of the role of cyclists on the roads. And of course the bike lane advocates measure progress by miles of lane paint, so pressing the issue that cyclists are a legitimate component of traffic on all roads doesn't seem to be a very big priority with them.

    I do notice that you're from a southern state. I'm going to open a thread soon on a notion I've seen over the years that cycling in the southern states is somehow different than other parts of the country. Most of my cycling over several decades has been in metro Atlanta area, and I've not found it to be a particularly harrowing experience, despite Atlanta's reputation as a terrible place to cycle.

  19. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by genec
    I have encountered a number of motorists over the years... often they don't express a thing beyond the honks or yelling... however, I make attempts to talk to the ones that are not overly confrontational...

    Such as the man that honked at myself and another Road II student... in talking to him, he expressed that we were "doing it wrong" and "should do it like those other bikers." Meaning cower by the side of the road. I asked how then we should make left turns... "I donno, that's your problem."

    Classic.

    But beyond the roadside conversations... which like the one illustrated, generally yield little... I make an effort to discuss cycling in candid conversations with folks that don't know I am a cyclist. New folks at the office... folks at parties, even standing in line at the movies... if time and place permit. I basically take a "pulse" of motorists by asking them what they think about the price of gas (or other similar conversation starter) and then move it around to asking about cyclists on the street. Folks over about 30 years old or so tend to be rather negative about cyclists... and in some fashion fear hitting them. Younger folks... say just over or around college age... often are positive, but rarely understand that cyclists have actual legal rights to use the road.

    Now that last bit is important... "the legal right to use the road;" the general consensus is that most motorists do not know that we have the right to use the road... the motorists feel that we are "borrowing" their road... for which they pay taxes and fees etc to use the road. Motorists feel entitled to the road and we are just something in the way... to be avoided... or just watched out for.

    Try it on your own... start a candid conversation the next time you are at a party or some social event where you are not known as a cyclist... see what responses you get.

    It can be pretty eye opening.
    Of the non-cyclists who I've talked with about cycling (either on the road or elsewhere) the most common mistake they make is the assumption that cyclists are allowed only on the shoulder when a road has one, to the extent that they even believe I could ride on the interstates if I wanted to. On narrower roads, their expectation is that cyclists should do everything they can do to stay out of the way. Most never express any feelings that cyclists shouldn't use the roads at all, aside from a few happy commuters who feel rush hour is the wrong time to be riding a bike. Those tiny brained fellas who can't seem to imagine that a cyclist just might also own a car and thus pay just as much as they do towards the roads in the form of gas taxes and other motor vehicle related fees (yes, I know most roads are NOT paid for by those taxes and fees but by real estate taxes) aren't really worth the breath it takes to tell them to "get a clue."

    My strangest motorist conversation that I've ever had was with a guy in a Mercedes who was approaching from behind and started honking at me from about 10 seconds back. As he passed he yelled something about getting on the shoulder (the left lane was completely open and I was going past a commonly entered and exited parking lot). I caught up to him near the light a bit ahead and he asked what I was doing in the middle of the road. When I explained that cyclists are allowed to use the full lane he replied, "Oh, ok. I didn't know that. Sorry about the honk."

    Maybe you are right and that motorists need to know the legal rights of cyclists on the road but motorists are also pretty uneducated about pedestrians rights as well as other wheeled vehicle drivers rights. Not surprisingly, when in locales where pedestrians are more likely to assert their rights (such as in any area with a lot of pedestrians), drivers seem to act appropriately for the most part. Out in suburbia, forget about it. When I ride on roads where there's a significant number of cyclists and they are almost always on the shoulder, I get more flack from drivers than when I ride on roads where cyclists are very uncommon.

  20. #20
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    Quote Originally Posted by joejack951
    but motorists are also pretty uneducated about pedestrians rights as well as other wheeled vehicle drivers rights.
    This is true, and I also see cyclists cutting off pedestrians at crosswalks.


    Quote Originally Posted by joejack951
    Not surprisingly, when in locales where pedestrians are more likely to assert their rights (such as in any area with a lot of pedestrians), drivers seem to act appropriately for the most part. Out in suburbia, forget about it. When I ride on roads where there's a significant number of cyclists and they are almost always on the shoulder, I get more flack from drivers than when I ride on roads where cyclists are very uncommon.
    This has varied considerably in my experience. The common factor for the honks and yells seems to be roadways where I can't be passed easily (narrow two lane roads with heavy oncoming traffic or wider roads where traffic in all directions is moving at motoring speeds, and the driver has to wait to change lanes. This circumstance may be a bit more common in the suburbs, but I don't think of it as a suburban cultural thing, or related to the number of cyclists).

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    Quote Originally Posted by larryfeltonj
    This has varied considerably in my experience. The common factor for the honks and yells seems to be roadways where I can't be passed easily (narrow two lane roads with heavy oncoming traffic or wider roads where traffic in all directions is moving at motoring speeds, and the driver has to wait to change lanes. This circumstance may be a bit more common in the suburbs, but I don't think of it as a suburban cultural thing, or related to the number of cyclists).
    The reason I relate it to the number of cyclists and more importantly, how they use the road, is because I travel on two very similar roads (comparable speed limits, intersection counts, shoulder width, number of lanes) but one gets a decent amount of cyclist traffic on the shoulder and the other does not. The road with less cyclist traffic presumably is that way because it has the higher traffic volume, yet oddly enough, I get better treatment on the higher trafficked road especially when considering the number of interactions I have with motorists.

  22. #22
    Dominatrikes sbhikes's Avatar
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    I walked in Atlanta. Scariest walking I ever had to do. Worse than India.
    ~Diane
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    8.5 mile commute. I like bike lanes.

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    Quote Originally Posted by sbhikes
    I walked in Atlanta. Scariest walking I ever had to do. Worse than India.
    Where in Atlanta did you walk? Since I've always lived here I'm willing to admit that perhaps I'm more accustomed to the conditions here than an outsider might be, but I haven't found it a particularly horrifying place to either walk or cycle.

    My question isn't intended as sarcasm, by the way. I'd really like to know what the differences are between transportation here and in other areas of the US.

  24. #24
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    Quote Originally Posted by joejack951
    The reason I relate it to the number of cyclists and more importantly, how they use the road, is because I travel on two very similar roads (comparable speed limits, intersection counts, shoulder width, number of lanes) but one gets a decent amount of cyclist traffic on the shoulder and the other does not. The road with less cyclist traffic presumably is that way because it has the higher traffic volume, yet oddly enough, I get better treatment on the higher trafficked road especially when considering the number of interactions I have with motorists.
    I don't doubt that the number of cyclists a motorist encounters affects his or her treatment of cyclists. Around here it seems the main factor has been whether they have to slow to pass me though.

  25. #25
    Dominatrikes sbhikes's Avatar
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    I wish I knew where I was. Murrietta I think? Not a bad part of town by any means.
    ~Diane
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    8.5 mile commute. I like bike lanes.

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