To kick off National Bike to Work Week (May 14-18), Anar Badalov (who bikes to the office every day and works in the MIT Press publicity department) shares some tips that he's learned from John Forester's Effective Cycling, seventh edition, which is hot off the presses.
There are some heated debates surrounding cycling today. If you ask me, John Forester, whose ideas are at the center of many of the arguments, and who I’m learning is considered a radical thinker in some groups, is convincing in his campaign against poorly built cycling infrastructure and unsafe biking habits. Above all, in Effective Cycling he urges us not to be afraid to cycle in traffic, and to resist being shunted off into government-sponsored bike lanes (which are often more unsafe than riding in traffic).
A recent Boston Globe article cites the following statistics: in 2009, 2 percent of Boston’s commuters cycled to work and school; in Copenhagen, where bike lanes are designed to accommodate avid and weekend cyclists alike—they’re mostly separated from car lanes altogether—cyclists make up for 35 percent of commuters.
Clearly, there is a lot of work to be done here and in other major US cities when it comes to building safe and practical lanes. But what are we supposed to do in the meantime? John Forester and other vehicular cycling advocates believe that cyclists and drivers should share space. Perhaps if Boston resembled Copenhagen or Amsterdam in its bicyclist infrastructure, this book wouldn’t be necessary—although it does also have some useful maintenance tips. Unfortunately, that’s not the case and it likely won’t be for many years.
I tried to photograph a small portion of the sole bike lane on my route home from MIT Press, but there were too many cars in it to get a good shot. Luckily there’s Google Maps:
Broadway and Hampshire
I’ve seen at least a handful of trusting cyclists who actually assumed traffic in the left lane would slow down and let them cross, and luckily none of them were seriously injured. There are dozens of others like this popping up all over the city, and rather than learning the rules of the road, new commuters are depending on the lanes to do the protecting for them.
More regularly, cyclists are hit by swinging car doors while they are riding in the designated bike lanes (according to Forester, this accounts for as much as 8 percent of total car-bike collisions)!
Hopefully Boston will become a bicycle-friendly city one day, but meanwhile we have to learn the rules of the road. Here are just a couple of pointers I picked up from Effective Cycling:
-Avoid getting doored! Door Zones are the areas where car doors can potentially hit you. Oftentimes, cyclists swerve into traffic to avoid getting hit, and this is how serious injuries can occur. Unfortunately, bicycle lanes are often painted in door zones, which is why Forester encourages us to ride just outside of the door zone. Always keep at least five feet of distance between you and the edge of parked cars. Don’t let this be you:
-13 percent of car-bike accidents occur when cyclists fail to yield when changing lanes! Learn your signals and use them:
-25 perecent of car-bike accidents occur when the cyclists fails to yield to crossing traffic. Don’t run lights!
-If the road narrows, take the entire lane after negotiating with the driver behind you—make sure the driver agrees to let you in by giving you room, slowing down or taking some other positive action.
I could go on, but it’s Monday morning and you probably just need a good laugh: