Thursday, April 03, 2008

The Rights and Duties of Cyclists

Dan Gutierrez recently put this video up on YouTube. I think this video does a very good job of presenting a lot of key concepts of safe cycling in under five minutes. The League of American Bicyclists has been doing some very good, multi-day safe cycling courses for years, but short bits like this one can wind up reaching a lot more people.


jeffy said...

Does the League advocate mandatory training and licensing for all cyclists?

This is all good behavior, but it's a really high bar for beginning or casual cyclists to be able to use the road.

Kent Peterson said...

No, the League offers their courses but have never pushed for mandatory training and licensing as far as I know. Traditionally the League has packaged all their stuff in much bigger chunks and kept things very closed in with copywritten courses and their LCI structure. I think the desire to control the message has gotten in the way of their reaching people. For written material, I still tend to point people to Michael Bluejay's site

Anonymous said...

Jeffy said "This is all good behavior, but it's a really high bar for beginning or casual cyclists to be able to use the road."

We set the bar a lot higher for 16-year-olds to operate automobiles. The vast majority of teens manage to master the rules of traffic sufficiently to pass a written and driving test.

The thing teen drivers screw up most is probably excessive speed, which is usually not an issue when cycling.

It's really not that much to expect most adult cyclists to be able to apply those traffic rules on a bike. Heck, pre-teens with training can apply those traffic rules on a bike.

The same rules apply, with just a couple modifications, mostly because bikes are narrower than, and sometimes slower than, other vehicles.

On the other hand, you never have to parallel park.

Emily said...

It's a really high bar to expect a cyclist to use a turn signal? News to me, I was expected to use them at about age eight. Oh wait, maybe it's a high bar to stop at a stop sign. Except I was doing *that* at 8 too. Hrm. I wasn't using turn lanes, but that's because there were no 4 lane roads. And really, 20 years ago there weren't all that many turn lanes where I grew up.

I'm really not seeing the high barrier argument. This is all stuff that a kid can understand, if they're taught. And since I learned this stuff early, I am better able to handle both a car and a bike.

JuliaR said...

Speaking of safety, here's a story you don't see every day, thank goodness:

First seen by me at:

jeffy said...

I was thinking more of the physical requirements. I ride my bike every day but for me 20mph is peak output. Cruising at 20 is a recipe for panting and sweating at the side of the road. So yeah, I'm not in great shape, but that just makes me a better model of a casual cyclist.

If I'm doing my errands around town in street clothes I don't want to be working that hard.

I also noticed that virtually all the streets shown in this video are four-lane. Taking the lane in that situation is a completely different situation than doing it on two-lane roads.

I guess my main gripe is with the idea of "Duty". Bicycling isn't driving. I'm powering my own vehicle. I don't have a ton of steel surrounding me. Asking me to ride like I'm a car is great for the other drivers on the road, but it kind of sucks for me. I'm taking on a lot more effort and a lot more risk (yeah, we can argue about relative safety, but it's not like taking the lane makes you invulnerable to the cell phone and latte set. Cars get hit too.)

It's the absolutism I don't like. Take the lane when it's the right way for you. Ride the sidewalk (with the necessary hyper vigilance to potential threats) when it's the right way for you. Take the mixed use trail when it's best.

I'm not sure I'm communicating very well here, but fortunately someone else has said all this stuff better. (And I'd never have read it but for Kent). Read about the Veloquent cyclist.

Emily said...

I don't recognize *exactly* where the video was filmed, but it's pretty typical roads and scenery for Los Angeles. Pretty typical driving style too... which is why I would stick with buses and walking if I moved back. I'm a 10mph average most days :) Maybe 12mph if my load is light and I'm having a good pain day. That kind of speed combined with normal Angeleno driving is just not a good scene. Too many distracted drivers. Other people do bike there successfully... but it is not easy.

I don't have a problem with the idea that a cyclist has a duty to use roads in accord with the law. I do have a big problem with the idea that following the law is complicated, hard or dangerous. The actual legal *requirements* are very easy. We don't give 8 year olds cars because they can understand the requirements, but they don't have the judgment to handle all the grey areas. Speed is very much a grey area, as most roads have a maximum speed and no minimum.

Anonymous said...

Jeffy said: "I was thinking more of the physical requirements."

I didn't see anything in that video that required 20 MPH minimum
speed. I don't think they were going that fast.

I'm not a fast cyclist. More like half-fast. But I do those same
maneuvers at my pokey speed.

The magic part is that people in the adjacent lanes really do slow
down for me when I signal and negotiate a lane change. And if I'm
controlling the outside lane at 9.5 MPH into a stiff headwind, they
really do change lanes to pass.

There's no minimum speed or minimum effort required to follow the
basic rules of traffic.

Anonymous said...

Jeffy said: "I guess my main gripe is with the idea of 'Duty'"

I don't think the video says cyclists have a duty to ride on the road. It says that IF cyclists ride on the road, these are the rights, and these are the corresponding duties. All rights come with duties.

Riding at maximum speed and effort is not one of the duties of cyclists.

In some places, cyclists have the right to ride on the sidewalk. That right comes with different duties.

The guys who filmed the video have a presentation about the full
spectrum of cycling behavior:

Russ Roca said...

The footage was filmed in Long Beach, CA. Not your most bike friendly city, but slowly getting there. Aside from being a League instructor, he's also part of the Long Beach Cyclists.

Come check us out at:

Anonymous said...

The youtube crowd is mre interested in seeing bikers get ran over then learning about safety.