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Modern Bicycling Myths

 

-- Myth: Bicycles Must "Keep Their Place" To The Right.

Both traffic law and traffic experts recognize that there are numerous situations when bicycles should not try to squeeze over. That is why vehicle law lists many conditions when bicycles should merge into the traffic lane and take the full lane:  where roads become narrow or in narrow traffic lanes; to ride clear of glass, debris, potholes, rough paving, moving, turning, or parked cars; to operate correctly as a vehicle in the proper lane at intersections, and when passing or turning left.

-- Myth: If I Take the Lane,  Cars will Run Me Over.

The simple truth: it doesn't happen. Getting hit from behind is one of the rarest incidents. Most motorists would feel traumatized if they injured someone. Many are actually afraid of cyclists. People do wait their turn behind bicyclists because they can see why the cyclist is in the lane; to avoid parked cars, blocked bikelanes, cars pulling out, or it's just a bit too narrow to pass safely without "squeezing". For those who try to pass anyway, riding near the center of the lane leaves a safety margin of 4-5' into which the bicyclist can move if needed.

-- Myth: Bicyclists Break Laws. They Don't Deserve Respect.

Car drivers break laws too, yet are not subject to this frequent rationale used to oppress minorities: "You are responsible for the behaviour of others of your kind."  Every person is responsible for their own behaviour. Every driver is responsible for sharing the road safely with other road users.

-- Myth: Bicycling With Traffic Is Dangerous And Stupid.

Bicycling with traffic is safe and fun for those who operate by predictable, vehicular rules. The single most important rule: merge with traffic and take the full lane whenever necessary for your safety. Bicyclist Education is the most effective method known for eliminating up to 95% of car/bike accidents. Lawful Vehicular Cycling is bicycling cooperatively with traffic by emphasizing the same simple vehicular rules that all drivers use. Vehicular Cycling is safer than driving a car, flying in an airliner, motorcycling, skiing, swimming, or boating:

Activity # Fatalities per 1,000,000 Exposure Hours
Skydiving  128.71 Snowmobiling .88
General Flying 15.58 Motoring .47
Motorcycling 8.80 Water skiing .28
Scuba Diving 1.98 Bicycling .26
Living 1.53 Airline Flying .15
Swimming 1.07 Hunting .08
Data compiled by Failure Analysis Associates, Inc.

Books such as Effective Cycling, and classes from the League of American Bicyclists teach it. It is simply not enough to put a helmet on your head and call that safety. You have to put some knowledge inside your head as well. Most of what people have learned about bike safety from parents, police and schools is both wrong and dangerous.

-- Myth: Cars Can Pass Bicycles Any Time.

The Ca. DMV Driver's Manual (like others) says differently: "When the lane is too narrow ... wait until the next lane is clear and give the bicycle rider all the rights of any other slow-moving vehicle. Slow and let the cars pass... then move left to pass the bicycle. Leave plenty of room between your car and any bicycle."

-- Myth: Car Drivers Pay Taxes, Bicyclists Don't.

At $20-40 million dollars per mile, vehicle and gas taxes don't even begin to cover highway costs. Local streets are mostly paid for from local property & sales taxes. Overall, the USDOT estimates every car gets a $3000+ subsidy every year.

-- Myth: Roads Are Primarily For Cars.

The public roads are for transportation; have been for thousands of years. The Ca. DMV agrees: "Farm tractors, animal-drawn vehicles, and riders of horses... are entitled to share the road with you ... Motorcyclists have the same rights and responsibilities on public roadways as automobile drivers ... Bicycle riders on public  streets have the same rights and responsibilities on public roadways as automobile drivers ... vehicles must treat bicycle riders the same as drivers ... Bicyclists are not out of place on the roadway - they are part of the traffic and share the road." 

-- Myth: Cars Were Here First

It was bicycle mechanics (Henry Ford, Wright Bros.) who invented cars and airplanes using advanced bicycle technology. Neither could exist without pneumatic tires, precision bearings, tension-spoked wheels, chain-drive, rolled steel, and other technology invented for bicycles.

(C) 1998-99 Lauren Cooper - used with permission.

 

By

Lauren Cooper

 

 

 


Whose Road
Downloadable PDF file exploring who pays the cost of road construction.

Were roads made for cars or bikes?

 

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08/16/11
Copyright 1999 Bicycling Life Website.