Thursday, 11 February 2016

Cyclists' Dismount

Many a time have videos, written articles and guidebooks suggest that if you are on a sidepath, then you should dismount when you conflict with other motor traffic.

I ask why this is? What makes this so essential to safety? Sure there are locations where cyclists should not have legal priority, but what sort of situation should require dismounting? The only place you should need to dismount is right before you are going to push the bicycle into a slot at a bicycle parking rack, like Dutch cyclists to, and not once between the time you push off from your beginning location to the destination.

Cyclists stopping, or worse stopping and then dismounting, is a huge burden. You just give away the energy, and remember, you're not just controlling the bicycle, you're also the engine. In a car stopping is a more benign thing at least as so far as how much effort it takes to drive. Put foot on brake and press, car stops. Press on the accelerator, car moves (depending on whether you put it in drive or reverse). And getting off means you have to walk for some distance, and walking is much slower than cycling.

Safe crossings do not need you to dismount. This example is better than most in Edmonton, though not nearly good enough: https://www.google.ca/maps/@53.42491,-113.5167872,3a,75y,337.49h,73.33t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sgcgdJPZ9Zii93ed7ICmU_A!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en. The pole is out of the way, the button is a convenient location and the sightlines are pretty good, and you can deal with 1 thing at a time. But to get even better, let's look at this: https://www.google.ca/maps/@53.0297797,6.5713447,3a,75y,221.62h,77.69t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1srmdxepH0XEV1bcRY-aFErA!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en. There is a bend in the road to slow cars, even if only to 40-50 km/h, there is clear priority, cyclists are never even considering a need of dismounting and nobody from the government or police suggests that you do, and you can deal with few things at a time, plus there is good visibility. the sightlines, speed and the roadway and pathways having very clear instructions about what you should do and with sensible rules that people feel like there is a need of obeying (which cyclists have been dismounting at every crossing in Edmonton?), and the fact that you are separating dangerous differences in masses, speeds and or directions makes this crossing very safe. No cyclists or pedestrians involved at all and over the entire intersection, just 2 property damage only collisions involving only motorized vehicles. Did I mention this is over the last ~10 years counting every single day and all of the traffic here?

Another one, a more typical roundabout. https://www.google.ca/maps/@53.004979,6.5160452,3a,75y,311.32h,65.9t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s6HcYdhBt6Igr4PLcdKTR9Q!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en. Absolutely no crashes here, again, over 10 years, every day, day, night, ice, snow, rain, distracted drivers and cyclists, lots of children here, and a considerable volume. Good sightlines, low speeds, around 25-30 km/h, doing one thing at a time and right angles at conflict points, plus the cycle paths separating dangerous differences in mass and speeds, and thanks to the roundabout, directions.

https://www.google.ca/maps/@53.0166378,6.5590378,3a,75y,209.43h,83.51t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1s0kEAzqPQ313aXN1BqQuz5A!2e0!7i13312!8i6656?hl=en

A simpler crossing, no roundabout, but there is a raised table, a bend in the road, which has a speed limit of 50 km/h, there are adequate sightlines, and believe me, Edmonton often has much better sightlines than that crossing has, there isn't too much motor traffic, the instructions are very clear, yield to pedestrians, don't need to do so with cyclists, and cyclists know this fact too with the sharks teeth and yield signs, and you can do fewer things at once. No crashes at all over the past decade or so.

Do any of these locations look or feel like cyclists need to always stop, let alone dismount for these crossings to be safe? No. Do any of these locations require it? Absolutely not. Are these good cycle paths? Yes. Is Edmonton capable of copying them? Well, we have yield signs, we have bicycle specific signals now, we have the ability to separate pedestrians on crossings where there are too many of them, we have markings and signs that make it legal for cyclists to not need to dismount and or stop automatically. Calgary has been building lots of roundabouts in the newest suburbs now, and we have lots of space.

Why not design with cyclists as a group with some characteristics of pedestrians but some characteristics of motor traffic but not being either or thought of as something that can be either whenever you need it? I say it's denying that cyclists have a rightful place in traffic to make them stop and dismount, and it makes car drivers confused as well, because they usually don't know themselves whether cyclists are expected to stop or not stop. Most drivers stop for me, not because I put my bike wheel right in front of them and demand it, but because they think that I should go first. While it's OK, it's not the right solution when people don't know. People should know with certainty who is doing what, where, at about what speed and in which direction are they going to go in. Stop with the dual networking, on with the good infrastructure!

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