Review: Cycling Elements of the California Student Safety Guide
Quarter-final draft

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1 Primary Grades


At this point you need, first, to develop in your own minds what specific type of cycling you want to teach in the primary grades, what it entails, and how to teach the necessary skills to the students. Second, you need to express all of this in a consistent pattern from which the students can learn. So far as I can see, you have not done so. All you have is a hodge-podge of knowledge (and some superstition) that you think students of this age can understand. You have omitted what is important and inserted much that is irrelevant. The purpose of your teaching must be the first consideration, and requires detailed analysis of what the students must be able to do. Only then can you decide what to teach and how to teach it. I presume that here you wish to teach a consistent method of cycling on sidewalks. Well, you haven't. This paragraph is written after the detailed comments that follow. The comments are accurate criticism, but they address only your errors of commission, not your errors of omission, which would require me to write the whole program myself.


1.1 Traffic Signs & Signals


"Identify traffic signs and signals at controlled and uncontrolled intersections." Delete "uncontrolled;" there are no controlling signs at uncontrolled intersections. Specify which signs are covered: stop signs, yield signs, traffic signals, and describe proper action.


1.2 Right Size Bike


The instructions contain contradictory sections. It is not possible for a cyclist to both be in the proper position for pedaling (knee just bent with pedal low) and for beginning (able to put both feet on ground when sitting on saddle). When using a coaster-braked bicycle, only the beginning position allows controlled stopping and starting. Explain this, then say that once reasonable control is attained with a hand-braked bicycle, it is better to raise the saddle to where the knee is just bent with the pedal low, because this allows better pedaling.


1.3 Sidewalk Riding


The section on sidewalk cycling contains four sections (Sidewalks, Driveways, Alleys, Streets) that combine to utterly confuse and mislead the cyclist, child or adult. The section starts with the goal of getting the child to identify sidewalks as safe places to cycle. Then it discusses some hazards of sidewalk cycling, without any sense of relative importance and without reasonable methods of dealing with them.


It must be accepted that while many parents believe that sidewalk cycling is safer than roadway cycling, this is correct only under certain conditions and behaviors. The instructions say that if the cyclist is cycling on the sidewalk he must walk his bicycle across every driveway and alley. That is an absurd instruction, not because it is not desirable because of the potential danger, but because it won't be obeyed. Then the instruction for crossing the street is just the same, without any recognition that streets carry much more traffic than do the far more frequent driveways that primary-school children are likely to cross. Therefore, providing instructions that won't be obeyed in most cases means that they also won't be obeyed at the most important places.


The instructions must be changed to say that cycling on sidewalks is safer than cycling on roads only if done slowly, not much faster than walking speed, and with proper stopping and yielding whenever entering a street. This is because of the danger of pedestrians and of traffic in driveways and alleys. For these reasons, cycling on sidewalks must be done slowly, while the cyclist looks out for traffic in driveways and stops to let it go past. The most dangerous situation, though, is when entering a street, either down a driveway or at an intersection. In both of these cases the cyclist must stop, look both ways, and yield to any approaching traffic. This skill and behavior are far more important when entering the street than anything that might be done at driveways. Don't dilute its importance by equating driveways with streets.


1.4 Do Not Ride in Parking Lots


"Cars, trucks, and vans are looking for parking places." Oh, yea? Where is the car with eyes? Don't anthropomorphize vehicles, always talk about their drivers. The most important point is that traffic in parking lots is disorganized; people looking for parking slots, leaving them, narrow roads, no organized pattern of travel, and the like. It is the disorganization that makes parking lots much less safe than the organized traffic on the roads.


1.5 Sidewalk Hazards


This should have been right up at the front of the section on sidewalk cycling, not here at the back.


2 Elementary Post-Primary Grades


2.1 Summary


At the end of this section the student will have a very confused and inaccurate idea of what to do while cycling and how to cycle properly, without any understanding of the system by which traffic operates and how his actions will fit into that system. He will have wasted much time on learning facts that are useless to him, even confusing to him, and might well have learned bad habits of both thought and action about traffic cycling.


2.2 Bicycle Safety Tips


2.2.1 "Know and follow the California Vehicle Code rules of the road. You must obey the same laws as drivers of motor vehicles, as well as local ordinances for bicycles."


Who the hell are you trying to teach? Police officers? Attorneys? You expect elementary-school children to master the Vehicle Code? Even adult motorists don't know it. Besides, your statement is legally inaccurate; both motorists and cyclists must obey the laws for drivers of vehicles, while motorists must also obey the laws for drivers of motor vehicles and cyclists must obey the laws for persons riding bicycles. Also, in California we have statewide uniformity; state law does not allow local laws about how to ride bicycles.


What you need to teach is that all road users operate in the same fashion, because if they did not they would collide with each other. Then teach the principles of that operation, my five principles of traffic operation.


2.2.2 "Ride defensively and do not assume that motorists who see you anticipate your actions."


This is utterly absurd. You have to expect that motorists will anticipate that you will continue to operate properly. Of course, if you don't operate properly, then they cannot anticipate what you will do, but then you should never operate improperly.


The absurd rule prescribed above is valid only if the students are not going to be taught how to operate properly, or it is assumed that the instruction will be a failure, in which case there is no point in giving any instruction at all.


2.2.3 "Avoid riding in a blind spot, such as near the back right fender. Do not pass cars on the right at intersections."


Combine these into a single instruction to never ride close behind the right side of cars, not even to overtake, because cars often turn right into driveways or into streets. If you overtake a car, do so on its left.


2.3 Bicycle Sizes


Refer to my remarks under bicycle size and adjustment for primary grades.


2.4 Hazards


2.4.1 "Never try to stop on bridges"


Bridges are not slippery per se. Delete.


2.5 Riding Skills


2.5.1 "Recognize effective riding skills"


Presence of brakes and dimensions of handlebars are not skills. Several of those that are skills are unimportant and irrelevant to safety.


2.5.2 "Apply both brakes at the same time. Applying the front brake only will cause you to fall."


This is false. Any fall caused by the front brake is caused by applying it too forcefully, and whether or not the rear brake is applied makes no difference. You could say, "Apply both brakes equally hard, but not so hard that the rear wheel skids."


2.5.3 "Gears: "Stop pedaling and coast, change gears, begin pedaling."


This applies only to hub gears. The instruction for derailleurs is to continue to pedal because otherwise the derailleur cannot shift.


2.5.4 "Pedaling:"Keep the toe of your foot on the pedal."


Wrong. Keep the ball of your foot, the joint of the big toe, centered on the pedal.


2.5.5 "Steering: "Keep both hands on the handlebars unless signalling. Apply the brakes to slow down before making a turn or stop (unless it is an emergency)."


So far as I know, there is no particular safety hazard in riding one-handed under normal conditions. That is a skill that cyclists must learn. An instruction that fits reality and matches the law says: "Don't carry anything in your hand that would prevent you from holding the handlebar with both hands when it becomes necessary to do so."


The instruction about applying the brakes before stopping is foolishly unnecessary. (Do I have to explain?) And if the stop is in an emergency, surely it would be more important to apply the brakes? While it is necessary on descents to reduce speed for sharp turns, it is hardly necessary to give this instruction to the general run of elementary-school students.


2.6 Street Riding


Read again my first paragraph under Primary. At this point you presumably should be teaching the method of cycling on roadways. If you aren't, then you have no advance on what was taught in the primary section and there is no need for this section. However, if the student is to ride on roadways, then you must teach all that is necessary to do so, at least on two-lane roads with easy traffic, because otherwise you are putting the students onto the roadway with insufficient instruction. So far as I can see from glancing at the subsequent pages, you have no conception of what is necessary, but want to pretend that you are teaching a little of roadway cycling with a little of sidewalk cycling as well. This will not work. You can't expect cyclists who have, so they think, learned to ride on the roadway to swerve from roadway to sidewalk to suit their ignorance, of which they are ignorant because you have taught them only part of the skill.


Again, my detailed criticism extends only to your errors of commission, not to all of those many errors of omission, because I am not the designer of your system.


2.6.1 "Goals: Identify the correct side of the street on which to ride your bike."


Yes, the right-hand side is correct. However, cycling on the right-hand side of the roadway is the only general roadway cycling skill that you teach. Where are all the others that are necessary?


2.6.2 "Traffic Hazards - Railroad Tracks."


2.6.2.1 "Identify the key hazards at railroad tracks"


You don't. The first hazard is trains, the second is the tracks themselves. Say so.


2.6.2.2 The instructions say to slow down, stop at a safe distance, and obey all signals.

Foolishness. Stopping requires slowing. Most railroad crossings don't have signals. The cyclist must look both ways for trains. If a train is in sight or sound (whistle), or if the signal is red, then wait for the train to pass.


2.6.2.3 Rough tracks

Rough tracks, which you mention, often damage bicycles but rarely injure cyclists. Diagonal tracks, which you don't mention, rarely damage bicycles but often injure cyclists. Give specific instructions for each condition. However, since you haven't taught the basic roadway cycling skills, the only instruction that you can give here is to walk you bicycle if the tracks are either rough or diagonal.


2.7 "Most Common Causes of Bicycle Accidents"


2.7.1 Inappropriateness of this instructional method.


This is all false. The most common form of bicycle accident is falling down. All you are discussing are car-bike collisions, which constitute only about 12% of accidents to cyclists. Don't misrepresent the facts. Also, even allowing for the reduced scope of the discussion, much of it is incorrect.


Of greater importance in the teaching scheme of things, is that this is an entirely inappropriate way to teach safe cycling. Would you base your instruction to beginning swimmers on statements like "Getting caught in an undertow is a frequent cause of drowning?" You teach them first how to swim, then later what to do in case of undertow. Knowledge of prevalent causes of accidents are important to the designer of the program, so that he or she will know what aspects of the activity need to be taught, need to have high priority, but they are comparatively useless to the students, who will avoid those causes if they have been taught correctly.


2.7.2 "Mid-block (Driveway) Ride-out.


"If a bicyclist enters the street from a driveway, alleyway or sidewalk without stopping for traffic, a motorist cannot stop in time to avoid hitting the bicyclist. Bicyclists must stop and look both ways before entering the street."


Yes, this subject is very important. It should have been taught in the primary segment because the behavior necessary is required when cycling on sidewalks. If it is argued that primary students are not mentally able to perform the necessary actions with the required reliability then they should never be allowed to ride on sidewalks. However the instructions are inadequate. They don't specify how to look and how to yield, and they don't say why yielding needs to be done. In short, they avoid the idea that the traffic system exhibits a deliberate and useful organization. Furthermore, specifying this as merely a midblock problem ignores the fact that precisely the same behavior is required at intersections, thus requiring two separate instructional episodes when only one is required, which both increases instructional time and reduces the ability of the student to understand the organized nature of traffic operation.


2.7.3 "Wrong Way Riding:


"If a bicyclist is riding on the wrong side of the street (left) facing oncoming traffic, a motorist doesn't have reaction time to avoid hitting the bicyclist."


This is sometimes correct, but rarely, and even more rarely with the low bicycle speeds of elementary-school children. Besides, this argument is so absurd that it is foolish to make it. The safety argument for wrong-way cycling is that because the cyclist can see the car coming, he can avoid the car. If the cyclist can see the car early enough to avoid it, the motorist can generally equally easily avoid the cyclist. Wrong-way cycling is dangerous because it conflicts with the traffic pattern, putting cyclists where other drivers (both motorists and cyclists) are least likely to look and where they don't have to yield the right of way. The quoted explanation not only is slight and absurd, it ignores the option of explaining why everybody should operate in the same way to avoid running into each other.


2.7.4 "Motorist Overtaking the Bicyclist:


"When a bicyclist is riding on the right side of the street and a motorist is approaching from behind, a motorist often cannot see the bicyclist until it is too late."


This is an infrequent type of car-bike collision, particularly on the streets and at the times when elementary-school children will be cycling. Besides, giving this incorrect warning undoes all the good that you are trying to do by encouraging the students to ride on the right-hand side; you have just told them that riding on the right-hand side is dangerous.


The car-bike collision in which an unaware motorist causes a collision when overtaking a cyclist is particularly frequent at night, and typically on narrow suburban or rural roads. It is important to give proper instructions for nighttime cycling, both now and later, but this is not the correct instruction and this is not the correct place.


2.7.5 "Left Turns and Swerves:


"If a bicyclist swerves to the left without checking traffic and signalling, a motorist will not have enough room or time to avoid hitting the bicyclist. Bicyclists must be predictable. Use signals when turning and watch for traffic."


Lots of warnings about operating incorrectly, but no instructions telling how to do it correctly. Then the old foolishness: "Bicyclists must be predictable. Use signals when turning and watch for traffic." Hand signals (the kind meant) do not make the driver predictable. All the turn signal means is that the driver sometime, somewhere, will want to make the indicated turn. It says nothing at all about when or where the driver will turn, and it does not give the right-of-way to make the turn. The legally expected action, which I suppose is meant by "predictable," is to continue straight and turn only when no other traffic will be affected. In other words, making a turn signal still requires all affected drivers to consider that you will not turn immediately, because turning when you will affect another driver is unlawful.


What is required is instruction in changing lanes properly, so that the students learn that the signal is merely a request to negotiate permission when you don't have the right-of-way.


2.7.6 "Stop Sign Ride-out:


"If a bicyclist enters an intersection that is controlled by a stop sign or traffic light without stopping, the motorist will not be able to avoid hitting the bicyclist. Bicyclists must obey all traffic signs and signals."


This subject should be combined with mid-block rideout into one of entering the roadway, with the appropriate instructions for how to do it. Stopping is not the important action; yielding is, both because it is the action that saves your life and because it is the action that is appropriate even when there is no stop sign or traffic signal. Traffic signals are different from stop signs, in that the red prohibits entering the intersection regardless, while stop signs merely require yielding. It is inappropriate to lump them together.


2.8 Traffic Hazards - Parked Cars


The discussion divides into cars parked parallel and cars using driveways. These are (the instructions should show) three different subjects: open doors, cars leaving parking spots, and cars entering parking spots.


2.8.1 Open Doors:


"Ride at least 3 feet away to avoid a car door that opens." Not a bad beginning instruction, but it has its limitations. At the speeds expected of elementary-school children, open door collisions are not nearly as severe as at higher speeds. Any vehicle that can be seen to be empty is safe. Vehicles on residential streets such as are most likely to be used by elementary-school children are much less likely to either open a door or to move than are vehicles parked in shopping districts. I question whether this is really useful instruction at this age.


2.8.2 Vehicles exiting parking spots.


"Slow down and scan for drivers pulling away from the curb." Slow down for what reason? Just because there are parked cars? Scan? Why not just look ahead for cars that look like they will be moving soon? The signs are: somebody entering the car, brake or reverse lights in operation, any movement. Contrariwise, exhaust vapor is only rarely visible, engine noise is hardly ever discernible; these are not reliable indicators.


2.8.3 "Be prepared for an approaching car to pull into the spot ahead of you."


Prepare how? What should you do on the remote chance that any approaching car will slow and turn into the parking slot or driveway directly in front of you? Nothing at all. You can't ride effectively on the assumption that every car will be driven in an unlawful manner. In addition, it is extremely unlikely that elementary-school children will be able to learn, and certainly will not be able to learn within the length of teaching that will be allowed for this program, the art of detecting unlawful intentions and movements by motorists and the technique of avoiding those movements once detected.


2.9 Turn Signals:


"Bicyclists who ride on public roads and streets should always signal when making turns (22111 (b) Vehicle Code)."


This is false. The reference to Vehicle Code section 22111 (b) is incorrect. Vehicle Code 22107 is the correct reference and it requires signalling only "in the event that any other vehicle may be affected by the movement." The proper instruction is to instruct students never to turn when another vehicle will be affected by the movement, but to always, as is also required by VC 22107, yield to any traffic that would be affected by the turn. The signal is merely permission to negotiate, not permission to turn.


This is an inappropriate location for this instruction, right or wrong. The instruction for signalling should be given when instructing how to make turns and how to change lanes. That is, when the supposed need for signalling arises.


2.10 "Street Markings:


"Bicyclists who ride on public roads and streets are required by law to obey all street markings. Identify all street markings and their functions."


Utter baloney. Rotten baloney when considering the instructional and operational needs of elementary-school cyclists. Consider the different center lines: white dashed, yellow dashed, yellow double solid, yellow solid and dashed. For elementary-school cyclists, you should have taught them to ride on the right-hand side of the roadway. They won't have occasion to move to the left side of the roadway, so they don't need to know the distinctions between these types. Consider the right arrow indicating a right-turn-only lane. Only if you have taught them how to avoid right-turn-only lanes will they be able to use the information that such an arrow indicates a right-turn-only lane, and when you do teach that technique, that is the proper time to inform them of the type of arrow that indicates it. The same goes for all the other street markings.


In short, never waste time teaching things that are inherently useless to the students whom you are teaching, particularly when you have so many other things to teach that you haven't considered.


2.11 Signs and Signals:


"Bicyclists are required by law to obey the same traffic laws, signs and signals as vehicles. Identify traffic signs and their functions."


Much the same comments as in the previous paragraph. Furthermore, never combine traffic signs and traffic signals in one concept. Traffic signals have an entirely different function that always applies: they assign the right of way to all traffic, both pedestrian and vehicular, at an intersection. Obeying traffic signals must be taught early, in the pedestrian and primary cycling units.
Furthermore, and this is important to the psychology of learning the facts about traffic, vehicles never obey laws, signs, or signals, nor do they look for cyclists. Only drivers, who are people just like the cyclist, can perform the actions of obeying and looking. Never anthropomorphize vehicles; always talk about their drivers.


2.12 Crossing the Street at an Intersection.


2.12.1 "Dangers: "Traffic in the intersection. Motorists who are distracted - eating, combing their hair, talking on the phone. Motorists in a hurry. Motorists who do not obey traffic laws, signs and signals."


Motorists can eat as much as they like, as long as they obey the traffic laws. Maybe those who are eating are less likely to obey the laws than those that are not eating, but this is a very iffy business that is far beyond the ability of elementary-school children to decipher. Besides, think about how the elementary-school child given this instruction will waste time looking at all the motorists around to see if any of them are eating, when he should be paying attention to his own behavior.


2.12.2 How to cross the street with your bicycle.


The instructions are incomplete, self-contradictory and, to my mind, absurd, but as I understand them they initially consider a cyclist riding on the roadway toward an intersection. The cyclist is supposed to stop some safe distance before the intersection, mount the curb onto the sidewalk, proceed along the sidewalk to the intersection, dismount, and, watching for traffic and obeying all signs and signals, walk his bicycle across the intersection, and then start riding on the sidewalk. This concept is absurd for two reasons. First, it will not be obeyed. Cyclists already riding on the street are not going to dismount, get onto the sidewalk, and walk across the crosswalk. Secondly, the cyclist who is already accepted as cycling on the roadway is then instructed to undertake the most dangerous part of sidewalk cycling, which is crossing intersections from the sidewalk.


2.12.3 "Make eye contact with motorists."


Generally impossible. Consider the cyclist who is on a street that is protected by stop signs. He can make eye contact with the motorist from his right who is waiting at the stop sign. The cyclist cannot practically make eye contact with the motorist from his left, across the probably wider street, because the distance is too great. The cyclist cannot make eye contact with motorists from the opposite direction, not in time to do any good, because they are moving too fast and are distant from him. Besides, few of them will make a left turn. As for the motorists from behind the cyclist, he may not even be able to see them, and they may well be coming too fast to make eye contact at a useful time. So the cyclist, to follow the instruction, waits until he has made eye contact with all the motorists that may be coming along, by which time some of those motorists have decided to move, or to continue to move.


This is another of those very common instructions that are completely unrealistic and unnecessary.


3 Middle School


3.1 Safety Equipment


3.1.1 Required by California State Law (21201 Vehicle Code)


The equipment that is listed as required, presumably for use at all times, is only that which is required only when cycling during darkness. This ought to be considered under cycling at night. Furthermore, the headlamp requirement is incorrectly listed as must be attached to the cyclist. The headlamp may be attached either to the bicycle or to the cyclist.


However, there is a much more serious error. Both California and federal law also require that California conform to the federal requirements for reflectors, which also include a front-facing clear reflector as an apparent substitute for the headlamp. There is no discussion, and there should be, of what is really required for nighttime safety. That is, the front headlamp and the rear reflector, supplemented if desired by a rear lamp. This equipment meets the engineering requirements, regardless of the foolishness of the all-reflector system. If any discussion is given, then it ought to be realistic, and should cover the failure of the all-reflector system, with which all new bicycles are by law equipped, to provide adequate safety at night.


3.2 Clothing


3.2.1 For Night Riding:


3.2.1.1 "Wear fluorescent vests for higher visibility."

This is false, Fluorescent materials are actually darker at night; fluorescence works only in the presence of ultra-violet radiation, available from the sun but not produced by typical lamps, and particularly not by automobile headlamps.
What the author intends, I think, is to recommend reflective clothing, but this is also an incorrect recommendation because the headlamp is necessary and if it is used no reflective materials have much value. Never allow the instruction to denigrate the importance of the headlamp.


3.2.1.2 "Attach flashing lights to the back of your helmet or jacket."

If you want to use a rear lamp to supplement the rear reflector, install it on the bicycle.


3.2.1.3 "Wear reflective gloves. Wear reflective strips on your pants and jacket."

This is largely useless. The proper headlamp is far more visible than any reflective material, and is visible in all situations instead of only those few, and not dangerous ones, in which the motorist's headlamps shine on the material. If the cyclist wishes to become more visible from the rear, then the correct choice is to fit a rear lamp rather than reflective material, for the same reasons as given for headlamps.


In any case, discussion of nighttime protective equipment should be included under cycling at night, not mixed up under bicycles and clothing headings.


3.3 Bicycle Maintenance


Many quick statements that are not particularly incorrect, but no instructions on what to do to correct problems. Two real errors.


3.3.1 Hand Brakes: "Properly functioning brakes should make a wheel skid on dry, level pavement."

The rear wheel, yes, but not the front wheel. Trying to make the front wheel skid will pitch the cyclist over the handlebars, for reasons which should be well known to persons who write such instructions.


3.3.2 Chain


"Chain should have 1-1/2 inch play - not too loose and not too tight." This test is correct for only single-speed or hub-geared bicycles, not for derailleur equipped bicycles. This doesn't say what is meant by play, but it is too much. The position of the rear axle should be adjusted so that the chain just doesn't get tight at the tightest position of pedals and rear sprocket. If when so adjusted the chain, halfway between chainwheel and rear sprocket, has more than about 1 inch of up and down movement, then either the chainwheel or the rear sprocket is out of true and needs to be replaced.


3.4 Bicycle Registration and Identification


3.4.1 "According to local city ordinances, it is unlawful to operate an unlicensed bicycle within the public right-of-way."


This is false. Some California cities have licensing requirements, some do not. The licensing requirement of any city, by state law, applies only to bicycles owned by residents of that city. If your city has a licensing requirement, then you must obey it. Otherwise you don't have to, wherever you ride, and no other city can force you to register your bicycle.


3.5 Crossing Intersections from the Sidewalk.


3.5.1 "Goals: Identify the skills needed to cross intersections from the sidewalk."


This is the middle-school program. The students, if they have grown up with the program, have been crossing intersections from the sidewalk since primary grades, because that is what you instructed them to do. Now, in middle school, for the first time you plan to instruct them in how to do it? You have been paid considerable money to write this incompetent foolishness and I have to correct your mistakes for free. Does anyone need to wonder why competent, lawful cyclists who care for themselves and their associates get exceedingly angry at the foolishness of governmental actions regarding cycling? This is just one more piece of evidence.


I haven't the heart to say more about this piece of foolishness, although there are plenty of foolish errors.


3.6 Making Turns on the Street


This is the middle-school program. Student cyclists have been cycling on the roadway since elementary school, yet you now give them the first instruction in making turns. You have no conception of a graduated sequence of comprehensive cycling styles, each suitable for students of a particular age range, that can be built up from basics to comprehensive skills but each stage of which can provide useful transportation that is suited to children of the appropriate age range.


3.6.1 "Heavy traffic - left hand turn: If there is a sidewalk, get off your bike and cross the street as a pedestrian."

Which street? What if there is heavy traffic but no sidewalk? Or which street must have a sidewalk? Where do you get off your bike? A pedestrian-style left turn can be done with or without sidewalks, and it is easy.


3.6.2 "Light traffic - left hand turn:


"Signal at least 100 feet before you turn. Look over your left shoulder for approaching traffic. Move to the center line or left hand turn lane when it is clear. Obey all traffic signs and signals. Ride through the intersection when it is safe. Stay to the right."


Do you signal when 110 feet from the turn? Do you then stop signalling? If you do stop, when or under what conditions do you signal again? Do you always wait until about 100 feet before the turn before preparing for it, as is implied by the instructional sequence? Under what conditions is it safe to ride through the intersection?


This sequence of instructions is confused and irrational because it does not separate the approach to the turn from the turn itself. The cyclist must first perform the operation of changing lanes, which requires its own sequence of instructions because it must be repeated for as many lanes as necessary. You ignore the task of choosing which left turn lane to use. The cyclist then is in position to turn left, which is then a simple procedure.


3.6.3 "Right hand turn:


"Signal at least 100 feet before you turn. Look over your left shoulder for approaching traffic. Move to the right or right hand turn lane when it is clear. Obey all traffic signs and signals. Turn through the intersection when it is safe. Stay to the right."


If you are going to move right, then look over your right shoulder if there is any chance of having traffic on your right. Often there is no such chance. There is no need to look over your left shoulder. Same old signaling foolishness. The right turn signal merely tells the motorist behind that you will be getting out of his way, and the motorist waiting at a stop sign on your right that you will be turning before you reach him. These are courtesies, not to be denigrated, but have no safety importance.


3.7 Safe Distance


"Keep a safe distance between yourself and moving cars. When riding with other bicyclists, ride single file with three feet between yourself and the other bicyclists."


I have never noticed any need for giving specific instructions on these matters. The child cyclist rarely is in position to control the distance between himself and moving motorists. Cyclists, including child cyclists, seem to have learned how to sort out the proper clearance between themselves without any instruction.


3.8 Right-of-way


"Obey the same laws and regulations as a motorist. If two vehicles reach an intersection at the same time, the vehicle on the right always has the right-of-way. It is recommended that bicyclists always offer the motorist the right-of-way at intersections."


This is all wrong. It does no good to tell people to obey laws and regulations that they don't know and understand; you have to provide the knowledge and understanding. The vehicle on the right rule applies only to simultaneous arrival at an uncontrolled intersection; where there is a controlling sign or signal, that allocates right-of-way. The idea that cyclists should always yield the right-of-way, even when contrary to the traffic laws, is foolishness. Motorists at stop signs should yield to protected traffic. Why should the cyclist then try to get the motorist at the stop sign to run through it at him? I repeat, Nonsense! See my essay on the deficiencies of this proposed program, where right-of-way failures are discussed in detail.


3.9 Other places to ride


"Bike lanes: The same laws that apply to bicyclists when street riding apply to bicyclists riding in bike lanes. Vehicle Codes: Bicyclists must ride in the bike lane if one is available. The only time bicyclists can leave the bike lane is when overtaking another bicyclist, vehicle or pedestrian, to avoid street hazards, when making a left turn or turning into a driveway or alley. Bicyclists must exit bike lanes with extreme caution by signalling to motorists."


What you have written here is that the same laws apply and that different laws apply. Confused thoughts from a confused mind. The best advice is to ignore bike lanes, just ride as you normally would, with the exception of being more careful to detect and avoid motorists who cut across your path. However, this advice about detecting and avoiding errors by motorists, in or out of the bikelane context, is too advanced for this program; the students won't be ready to benefit from it.


3.10 Bicycle Safety Tips


3.10.1 "Know and follow the California Vehicle Code rules of the road. You must obey the same laws as drivers of motor vehicles, as well as local ordinances for bicyclists."


Inaccurate, impractical, and unattainable.


3.10.2 "Ride with the flow of traffic, never against it, follow lane markings and use hand signals."


Never cycling against traffic is very important; the rest is either unclear or unimportant.


3.10.3 "Ride defensively. Do not assume that motorists see you [and] anticipate your actions. Avoid riding in a motorist's `blind spot.'"


You had damn well better expect that motorists will anticipate that you will operate correctly; how else can they avoid hitting you? And you had better not upset their anticipations by acting improperly, or you will cause your own car-bike collision.


3.10.4 "Do not pass cars on the right at intersections, etc."


Never overtake any vehicle on the right at any place where the vehicle can turn right.


3.10.5 "A disproportionate number of auto-bicycle collisions occur at night. If you ride during darkness, wear reflective clothing and use a front light and reflectors on your bike. Be extra careful."


All this damned talk about the value of reflectors and reflective devices convinces people that reflective devices are a useful substitute for lights, when they are not. The only reflector that is in a position to prevent car-bike collisions is the rear-facing one. To avoid all the other types of car-bike collision, a headlamp is required, and if a headlamp is used the other reflective devices (except the rear-facing one, as stated) are useless.


Furthermore, the rear reflector should be brighter than the dim red one that is supplied by federal law; cyclists should use the 3" diameter amber reflectors that are available at auto parts stores but not at bike shops.


3.10.6 "Follow the `rules of the road' and common courtesy on bikeways or paths. Yield to pedestrians and slow down and warn others as you approach to pass."


Wrong. There are no `rules of the road' on paths and bikepaths, and if you try to operate as if the normal rules of the road did apply on paths you will be smashed. Traffic on paths is a chaotic mess; ride slowly and as carefully as you can, expecting dangerous behavior from all other users.


3.11 Motorist Responsibilities


3.11.1 "Pass bicycles safely by leaving a minimum of three feet of space between the car and the bike. Slow down, and use the next lane if necessary."


The motorist approaching a bicycle from the rear has three choices. He can overtake in the same lane, if there is sufficient width to leave adequate clearance (commonly three feet) between motor vehicle and bike. If there is insufficient space for this clearance, he may overtake in the next lane over, provided that this lane is clear. If neither is true, he must slow down behind the bicycle until one of these conditions occurs.


3.11.2 "Be alert and watchful for bicyclists, especially when entering or exiting a driveway or alley."


Let's be specific about this. "When entering or leaving a driveway or alley, or when entering an intersection, look out as best you can for cyclists traveling at excessive speed on the sidewalk. If you don't like cyclists traveling at excessive speed on the sidewalk, then encourage them to ride on the roadway instead."


3.11.3 "Do not assume a bicyclist sees all cars or anticipates their actions."


This tells motorists that cyclists are an ignorant and crazy bunch who cannot operate properly as drivers of vehicles, but because they cannot see the vehicles that they are supposed to see (no law requires them to see and respond to all vehicles) they may make any foolish moves. Naturally, when motorists are told this, they want to get cyclists off "their" roadways so that they can drive safely. Every road user has to assume that all other users will operate properly until there is evidence that one of them is making a mistake. Otherwise, the system cannot operate at all.


3.11.4 "Before turning right (or left from a one-way street), look back over your shoulder and check for bicycle traffic. If a bike lane is present, carefully merge into it to make a turn. Always use the turn signal."


Poor wording. Before turning right, merge to the curb lane (as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway), after looking for bicyclists to your right and, if one is present, either going sufficiently far ahead to clear easily, or waiting and merging in behind the bicyclist. The object is to turn right from the same line as the bicyclists use, not across that line. In addition, always use the turn signal if a bicyclist is present. Make the mirror-image movement when turning left from a one-way street.


4 High School


This section was not submitted for review.


5 Teaching Cycling and Bicycle Safety


5.1 General


Any comprehensive bicycle safety program for children needs to consider children who cycle from the beginning of the program until its end, developing their skills and widening their areas of cycling as they mature and progress. At each time during this development, children will be cycling according to the desires of themselves and their parents, and the program must be designed to suit this development. That is, it needs to teach the skills that are necessary for each stage of this development at the required time, so that at each stage the child has a suite of skills that enable him or her to cycle in reasonable safety in the places and under the conditions in which he or she commonly cycles.


To do this, the program designer must have a clear concept of the conditions under which the child will be cycling and of the method that the child should be using. It is wasteful to teach whatever skills we think the child is ready to learn. Some of those may be useless until later, others will not match the style of cycling that the child should be using at this time. We have too little time to teach what is necessary; we cannot afford to waste what time we have.
It is vital that the cycling method to be used be analyzed to list the necessary skills and knowledge that enable one to practice it. Without that, it is impossible to design an effective program. So far as I can see, the curriculum that I have reviewed was not designed according to the principles that I have been discussing. It was not based on such knowledge and analysis.


It may be thought that teaching bicycle safety is different from, is merely a simpler subset of, cycling skill. This is not so. For children, the majority of accidents and of car-bike collisions occur as a result of the actions of the child cyclist. Teaching children the theory of accidents will not work, although, for adults, it might do some good. Children have to practice the correct actions time after time until they learn themselves how it feels to do them properly. You can talk until you are blue in the face about the proper lateral location on which to ride on the roadway, but until the children have learned themselves, with the aid of helpful criticism from instructors, what it feels like to be in the proper place, they have learned nothing. Safe traffic cycling is an activity that must be learned by doing, and for children that means repeating time after time until they get it right.


Also, when considering a program for children, it is vital to consider how to teach concepts about which the children have no previous knowledge or experience. Even though they probably have already been cycling, they have never been exposed to the concepts of traffic or the principles by which it operates. For example, the concept of right-of-way is vital to understanding traffic operation. So far as I know, all programs except my own Effective Cycling Program practically ignore right-of-way, preferring either to ignore it utterly or to, as in this program, limit it to saying that cyclists should always yield to motorists. The teaching methods must develop these concepts in the minds of the students. This program shows no signs of having been designed according to this concept.


It may well be that we have not developed ways to teach some of the desirable skills as early as they might be useful, because the students are not ready to learn or practice such skills. Then we must accept the fact that the child cyclist population will experience some accidents that more mature cyclists would have avoided. However, that is no reason for not teaching whatever skills the child can learn, because the child will be cycling in any case.


One example of such a desirable skill, and one that is frequently taught (I did not say learned) in bicycle safety programs (and some is included in this one), is the detection of mistakes by motorists and the methods for cyclists to avoid those mistakes. It is my opinion, based on both experience and analysis, that it is not until people have had considerable experience cycling in traffic, performing their own movements properly, that they can start to understand the proper actions of other road users, and it is not until they understand the appearance of proper movements by other road users that they can detect and understand the deviations from those proper movements that signify that the driver is making a mistake, and show what the mistake is likely to be. Only after this understanding is achieved, can the cyclist do anything to avoid the consequences of this mistake. Therefore, the techniques for avoiding accidents caused by the mistakes of other road users must come late in the curriculum because they require maturity and experience.


An integral part of the design effort must be consideration of how to teach the skills and knowledge that are required, taking into account the maturity and experience of the students. It is comparatively easy to teach adults how to drive safely by using lectures and pictures, but nobody would consider that such instruction is satisfactory, or can succeed without practical experience in driving, and driving in traffic at that. It is impossible to teach children the same knowledge and skills (driving a bicycle is as difficult as driving a car) through the use of classroom lectures and pictures. Children don't have the experience that enables the adult to put mental pictures with the words and pictures of the teaching presentation, besides not having the mental maturity to concentrate on such abstruse presentations for the required time. Yet we say that cycling is so dangerous that we can teach them only in the classroom or on the playground, even though the minute they leave school they are cycling on the roadways in any case.


Do you think that you can teach swimming on dry land? Or basketball without a court?
I have demonstrated that it is possible to teach classes of young children to cycle in traffic far better, and therefore far safer, than the average of the adults in their same communities, communities that are considered very favorable for cycling. The teaching is almost entirely practical, 90% of it being on the road practicing the proper behaviors in areas selected to contain traffic of gradually increasing intensity as each skill is developed. Nobody else has ever done this, but then they haven't ever tried it. Frankly, from my experience, I think that it is impossible to teach either cycling or bicycle safety to children in the classroom or on the playground. Any program of bicycle safety that is not taught on the roads, in real traffic, will have to be a very small subset of what has been learned by those who have been taught on the roads in traffic. If it is determined to have a program that does not teach on the roads in real traffic, then it can have good effects only if we manage to develop ways of teaching some parts of that program in the classroom in ways that improve the behavior of the students while on the roads. That will take a great deal of analysis, inventiveness, and experimental work that nobody has yet done.
Why not take advantage of what we know about all similar activities? They must be taught largely by actively participating in the activity, and for children that is the only way that we know of teaching them any useful part of the activity.


5.2 Five Principles of Traffic Operation


The five principles of traffic operation are the basis of the instruction. The principles are not taught as rules to be memorized, but the instruction progresses so that the students learn the behavior of obeying each principle in turn, even if they cannot explain the principle in logical sentences.


5.2.1 Proper side of the road


Ride on the right-hand side of the road, not on the left and never on the sidewalk


5.2.2 Yielding to crossing traffic


When approaching a road that is bigger than the one you are on, or carries more or faster traffic, you must yield to traffic on that road. Yielding means looking both ways until you see that no traffic is coming.


5.2.3 Yielding when changing lanes


When you move laterally on the roadway, you must yield to traffic in the new line of travel. Yielding means looking forwards and backwards along the new line of travel until you see that no traffic is coming.


5.2.4 Position when approaching intersections


When approaching intersections, position yourself according to the direction you intend to go. Right turners are near the curb, left turners are near the center line, straight throughs are between them.


5.2.5 Position between intersections


When between intersections, position yourself according to your speed relative to other traffic. Stopped vehicles are at the curb, fast vehicles are near the center line, medium-speed vehicles are between them.


5.3 Tested Abilities by Age Group


5.3.1 Grade Three


Grade three students learned to obey the first three principles and were qualified to ride on two-lane, residential streets.


5.3.2 Grade Five


Grade five students learned to obey all five principles and were qualified to ride on four-lane streets with medium-speed traffic, as in shopping areas.


5.3.3 Grade Seven


Grade seven students learned to obey all five principles and were qualified to ride practically anywhere.


5.4 Principles of Teaching Bike Safety


5.4.1 Understand the Principles by which Traffic Operates


The program designer must understand the principles by which traffic operates, must understand that traffic operating methods are not arbitrary but are all part of a carefully designed system that reflects the physical realities of vehicles and the mental and physiological abilities of drivers.


5.4.2 Cycling Method


Have a reasonable and coherent method of cycling for each age group. This method must fit within the general traffic principles.


5.4.3 Analyze the Cycling Method


Analyze the cycling method to determine what actions are necessary and under what conditions, and what skills are required to perform the required actions safely.


5.4.4 Devise the Instructional Method


Work out how to instruct the method to students of the appropriate age in a way that ensures that they develop and practice the skills and understand why it works, even if they cannot explain it. The instructional method must also convey to the student that he or she is participating in an organized endeavor, a safely organized pattern of behavior, in which everybody obeys the rules of the game so that they can travel safely on the roads.


5.4.5 Guidelines for Instructional Methods


Children learn activities by doing, not by words or even much through pictures.


To develop skills in children requires practice, practice, and more practice, time after time, under the coaching of instructors who can both helpfully criticize the errors and praise the progress.
Keep verbal instructions short and to the minimum. Ten minutes of oral instruction is far beyond what the elementary student can comprehend in a subject, like traffic, in which all the concepts are new and strange.


Let the students figure out for themselves, with only a little help from the instructor, why the skills and behaviors that are being taught work for them and are what every else on the road does.
Help the students learn for themselves that traffic has an organized pattern that makes sense.

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