Who are you calling Fast and Fearless?!

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I am a careful rider, who looks ahead and tries to foresee possible danger spots in order to avoid them. After decades of riding in traffic, I feel competent and confident. I was surprised that cycling advocates characterize riders like me, who are comfortable of riding on most roads, as “Fast and Fearless”.

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“Fast and Fearless” appears to be a reference to “The Fast and the Furious”, a movie franchise about illegal street racing in cars (above). The movies show the sort of thing that any responsible driver would abhor, rather than the skills and control that real car racers possess. Unfortunately, this was affirmed by the recent death of the lead actor in a fiery car crash while driving on the open road.

I am still stunned that experienced, confident cyclists are compared to illegal car racers who are a menace to all, including themselves. I am even more surprised that this characterization has made it into official government planning documents for cycling facilities in Seattle, Portland, New York and probably elsewhere.

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Competent and Confident. I think this is a better term to describe riders who know how to cycle in traffic, and who weigh the risks and realize where the dangers lurk. We know it’s safer to take the lane at 20 mph than to weave in and out of parked cars at 7 mph. To understand why “fast” and “fearless” don’t necessarily go together, think about driving a car.

Imagine driving your car down the freeway at 20 mph, because you think it’s safer to go slow. You’d be much safer flowing with traffic at 65 mph. Nobody would label you “Fast and Fearless” when you drive at the speed limit. Everybody knows that competence and confidence go a long way toward making you a safer driver.

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The same holds true for cyclists. Being able to keep up with traffic, knowing how to maneuver your bike, being able to stop quickly, and especially being visible all make you safer.

Why do cyclists label each other negatively as “Fast and Fearless”? One part is purely political. Many experienced cyclists are opposed to new plans to build European-style cyclepaths in North America. Attaching the label of “Fast and Fearless” to these experienced cyclists makes it easy to disregard their input when planning new facilities, rather than having to consider the expertise they have built during decades of riding.

However, the label would not resonate with many casual cyclists if there wasn’t some resentment toward faster riders. Why the resentment? Unfortunately, racers and especially racer wannabes can be less than welcoming to new riders, whether it’s calling them “Freds” or chasing down anybody who looks like they might be an “easy target”. And since the bike industry still promotes racing as the only valid form of cycling, it’s not surprising that there is resentment toward racing, and by extension, to all riders who enjoy going fast.

Where will all this end up? Are experienced cyclists going to label those who weave in and out of parked cars and ride in the “door zone” as “Slow and Stupid”? I sincerely hope not! I don’t think we want animosity between cyclists. Here are my hopes:

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Let’s encourage newcomers to cycling, and not pass them at all costs. Let’s respect those who are competent and confident – without envy. Let’s find the best solution for getting people to ride bikes more often, safer and with more fun – without resorting to underhanded tactics to “win” the argument. And perhaps most importantly, let’s respect every cyclist – no matter how they like to ride.

About Jan Heine, Editor, Bicycle Quarterly

I love cycling and bicycles, especially those that take us off the beaten path. I edit Bicycle Quarterly magazine, and occasionally write for other publications. One of our companies, Bicycle Quarterly Press publishes cycling books, while Compass Bicycles Ltd. makes and distributes high-quality bicycle components for real-world riders.
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51 Responses to Who are you calling Fast and Fearless?!

  1. Brendon says:

    I really appreciate this post, and agree with your solution. It’s surprising how vigilant we need to be as cyclists to not sort ourselves into separate groups based on riding preference and experience. I’m saddened to hear about that language making it in to city planning documents, and hopefully we can do something to change that in the longer term!

  2. Rod Bruckdorfer says:

    We refer to discourteous rider who chase down “easy targets” as Cat 6 riders. Cat 6 riders are working hard when they pass, then keep looking back to see how fare ahead they are of you. It’s fun sport to catch them and see the look on their face, especially when they realize you are over 60 years old and riding a steel bike with steel fenders, handlebar bag and 42 mm wide tires. What they don’t know is the bike without bag weighs 24 – 25 lb. and is fast thanks to Jan Heine’s insight into what makes a frame “lively”.

    • Conrad says:

      I really don’t get the resentment towards faster riders. Maybe someone is trying to get in some intervals on their way to work, or they are late for an appointment, or just choose to exert themselves. I couldn’t care less if someone passes me, even if they are older and riding a clunker. Now I know there can be some friendly competition out there on the road, but it should be exactly that— friendly— because unless you have a number pinned on, its not really a race!

      • I think it goes both ways. When I get snide comments about my speed from people riding in straw hats with wicker baskets full of flowers, I have to shake my head. (Happened in Germany.) On the other hand, when I am riding a cargo bike with 70 pounds of books in the front box, and a guy on a racing bike passes me huffing and puffing, only to die on the next hill, I also think that if they want to race, they should enter a race…

  3. Nice post. I would go even further and disagree with your statement that “Being able to keep up with traffic” (paragraph 6) has very much to do with making you safer. Sure, it’s probably a little bit safer, but it’s not a major requirement. Saying so feeds into the claim that “fast and fearless” is a requirement, and that “people on bikes” (by which users of that phrase mean transportational cyclists who are not experienced or necessarily interested in other types of cycling) need special infrastructure because they can’t keep up with traffic in the normal travel lanes. Most 4-lane roads are posted 35 MPH or higher, yet I regularly control the lane on them with no problems, at a typical cruising speed of 15-20 MPH at flat grade and no wind, sometimes < 10 MPH uphill with headwind. I don't even try to "keep up" any more, I just go at a comfortable cadence and don't worry about it.

    The key to mitigating against the speed differential is not to ride as fast as you can, but to control your space for visibility. For me, following the CyclingSavvy approach, that means constant lane control on larger roads (2+ lanes each way), and a combination of lane control and "control and release" on two lane roads, if the lanes are too narrow for side-by-side within-lane sharing.

    • I didn’t mean to say that going the speed of traffic was a prerequisite for safety. My point was that a rider who is going fast may not be less safe (and in fact more safe) than one who is “cautious” and goes very slowly.

      I agree with you that positioning on the road is crucial to safety. The few times I got into uncomfortable situations over the past year was when I didn’t pay attention and rode too far to the right of the road, instead of taking the lane.

  4. Dustin G says:

    To be fair, Paul Walker wasn’t driving the car that he died in. He was also working on a project to get people off the streets and racing on proper race tracks.

    That said, obviously, the accident that took his life was caused by going waaaaay too fast.

    • rcgood says:

      Good point, that he wasn’t driving. And not to take away from the work he was doing, but…
      A movie star who makes his fortune from a body of work that glamorizes illegal street racing and flagrant disprespect for and breaking of the law, knowing that a huge number of people are being inspired to act that way, and then works behind the scenes to discourage that same behavior is kidding himself. It would be like if Jason Statham worked off-screen to discourage fighting, or Quentin Tarantino working off-screen to encourage people to only fire guns on approved ranges.
      Sorry to get off topic there. And now to get back:
      I live in Portland, and to say that you’re opposed to building European-style cycle tracks is akin to committing social suicide.

      • I live in Portland, and to say that you’re opposed to building European-style cycle tracks is akin to committing social suicide.

        I understand the appeal of the new and foreign, but having lived and cycled in Germany for many years, it was quite a breath of fresh air when I moved to Austin, TX, in the late 1980s, and suddenly realized how nice it could be to have a combination of neighborhood streets (what we’d now call “Bicycle Boulevards”) and on-street bike lanes.

  5. Tom Fucoloro says:

    Tom from Seattle Bike Blog here. Interesting that you see the label “fast and fearless” as a Fast and Furious reference. I never thought of it that way. I also don’t think of it as a negative label, it’s a descriptor of attitudes toward cycling. When someone sees somebody out cycling in traffic on a busy street, most people say, “I could never do that.” And while a great many of them could do it if they took the time to learn and got up the gumption to try, most people won’t.

    The label comes from survey data about bicycling habits in our area (originated in Portland). It found that people divided themselves into four groups: Fast and fearless (1%), enthused & confident (7%), Interested but concerned (60%) and no way no how (33%). It is not about attaching values to individuals or to to people who fall into these groups, it’s about describing the way they see biking for transportation. A tiny percentage of people are ever going to feel comfortable biking on Lake City Way or Rainier Ave or many state highways. A larger percentage of people feel perfectly comfortable biking on most streets, but likely avoid busy streets when possible. The biggest group are people who might bike a little, say on trails or in big group rides, but do not feel comfortable biking in traffic on their own. This is the segment that the bike plan is trying to reach.

    This is not a judgment of people who feel comfortable biking in busy traffic. It’s an acknowledgement that most people are simply never going to join that group.

    • Tom,

      Even if the label “fearless” isn’t supposed to be denigrating… the fact is that “fearless” is stupid, and when you call somebody “fearless” you imply they are risk-taking dare-devils. Fearless might apply to the type of things a rider who zooms through a red light without looking right and left might do.

      What would you say if somebody characterized the riders who in the “door zone” as “clueless”? Of course, this would not be meant to be negative, just as a matter of fact that these riders don’t know where the dangers lie… Do you think they’d get away with that in an official planning document?

      However you try to explain it, the label “Fast and Fearless” shows that you aren’t trying to understand those who’ve been riding for a long time, and who know that riding on the road often is safer than riding on the sidewalk or on segregated paths.

      Beyond that, I agree with the need to reach out to people who aren’t comfortable riding on the street (yet?). But you don’t need to marginalize those who have been riding for a long time. The simple fact is that many advocates today see existing riders as an obstacle to getting more people on bikes, rather than as an ally.

      • Tom Fucoloro says:

        If you are not afraid to bike in busy traffic, then by definition you are “fearless.” I don’t see how that’s a negative thing. Most people are afraid of biking in busy traffic. That’s all this survey says. It’s not an attack on anyone, and it’s not like anyone is saying people who bike in traffic don’t matter. But it’s true that people who are not afraid to bike in traffic need the city’s help the least: You’re taking care of yourself. I see that as a good thing. So let’s invest to reach the highest number of new people we can.

      • Not afraid of riding in traffic doesn’t mean fearless. I still am afraid of cars pulling out of sidestreets, of cars turning into my way, or of cyclists running stop signs (the latter happened a few weeks ago, and we almost crashed.)

      • josh says:

        “Fearless” is a pathological condition. Seriously, there are treatments for it. How is it not insulting?

        As for the survey, you misstate what it reports — the riders themselves did not claim the label “fearless,” that’s the pigeon hole they were crammed into by “researchers” whose writing clearly shows a desire to marginalize the relevance of people who know how to ride bicycles in traffic.

      • Doug says:

        People who ride on sidewalks are slow and ignorant. Since it’s a factual statement, I fail to see how anyone could be offended!

        I’m probably in the “fast & fearless” group. Yet the fears I’ve accumulated — useful fears that keep me alert at all times — while riding have pervaded my psyche so deeply that they affect the way I drive my car.

      • People who ride on sidewalks are slow and ignorant. Since it’s a factual statement, I fail to see how anyone could be offended!

        I get the humor… but imagine if somebody included that category in an official planning document! They’d probably lose their job in a heartbeat.

        Most of all, cycling is a wonderful sport and activity that should be inclusive, not divisive.

    • Tom, I didn’t mean to single you out when putting in the link to your blog. I just did a quick search for “Fast and Fearless” and “Bicycle Master Plan” and your blog came up… The term has been used by many, and all you are doing is reporting it.

    • Larry T. says:

      I think you’ve hit-the-nail-on-the-head here. To motorists piloting monstrous SUV’s anyone on a bicycle (unprotected by guardrails on a separate cycling path) in traffic is looked upon as fearless, no matter how cautious and skilled he or she may be. These folks purchase their motor vehicles based on their ability to protect their occupants in serious crashes and consider even compact cars to be dangerous in a world where half of these nitwits are piloting a vehicle while playing with some sort of electronic toy, turning around to check on their toddler strapped in back, drunk or high on drugs. To enjoy cycling despite the risks of being mowed down, we must in some ways BE fearless!.
      I don’t find the term insulting in this context.

      • I don’t find the term insulting in this context.

        If it was used with admiration, then it would not be insulting.

        Beyond that, cycling is not as dangerous as it may appear to outsiders, and skill and experience can reduce the dangers yet further. For every cyclist who gets mowed down from behind – and those things do happen unfortunately – there are five who get hit at intersections by drivers who “did not see them”. And then there are six or seven who either crash on their own or who are at fault for the accidents they have, because they ran lights in traffic, rode on the wrong side of the road…

  6. Dave B says:

    In fairness to that article (from a publication I don’t usually care for too much) I did not read the “fast and fearless” description as having a negative connotation, and I think the assumption that it is comparing actual cyclists to a fictional movie with no relation to reality is quite a stretch. I think that from many inexperienced cyclists’ points of view, riding in traffic is an example of fearlessness to them. I think the point was they want a plan that works to encourage people who don’t feel comfortable on the roads, and also works for people that currently do feel comfortable on the roads (unlike the new path on Broadway, which seems to force me into more uncomfortable situations than if it were not there, to say nothing about how it takes two traffic light cycles to hang a left).

    • I understand the sentiment – see Tom’s comment above – but it’s pitting one group against another. These plans are not for the “fast and fearless” has been the undercurrent of the discussion. And if we object and say that cyclepaths are dangerous, people say: “Ah, you are fast and fearless, but what works for you won’t work for most people.”

      I would like to see an honest discussion on how to get more people cycling comfortably and safely.

      • Exactly. The label marginalizes integrated traffic cycling as something that supposedly won’t work for most people. This leads quickly to the characterization that the “fast and fearless” are elitists who think that everyone needs to attain their level of skill and speed (supposedly) to ride with traffic.

        A different take on it, as pointed out by CyclingSavvy co-creator Mighk Wilson, is that those who claim integrated cycling won’t work for most people are the real elitists, because what they are saying is that “normal people” can’t handle biking integrated with traffic, it’s “too hard” for them. This despite the fact that most cyclists are also motorists who have leaned to drive a car in traffic. I think the reason is that these people have also bought into the cultural bias that roads are for cars and you shouldn’t be there if you can’t keep up.

      • I think the reason is that people have also bought into the cultural bias that roads are for cars

        I think that is a real problem, not just in the U.S., but all over the world. Even in Copenhagen, cyclists aren’t allowed on the road if there is a bike path, no matter how poorly designed or unsuitable for the cyclist’s speed the path may be.

        Once we accept bicycles as an integral part of traffic, then holding up other traffic a bit isn’t a big deal. Nobody yells at the drivers of farm or construction equipment if they hold up traffic!

  7. Oliver Smith says:

    The label “Strong and Fearless” has always bugged me too. I like your “Competent and Confident” label and agree that the voices of experienced cyclists are critical to transportation planning and policy.

    Some colleagues here at Portland State looked into the typology that Roger Geller, Bicycle Coordinator of Portland created. They note that typologies have always been used and 19th century bicycle rink managers also used labels like “Wary Wobblers,” “Go-it-Gracefuls,” and the “Fancy Few!” Check out their paper here: http://web.pdx.edu/~jdill/Types_of_Cyclists_PSUWorkingPaper.pdf

  8. josh says:

    The “fearless” moniker is clearly used to marginalize people who ride bikes in the street.

    There’s no factual basis to it — when I really was young and fearless, I took pride in how little room I needed at the right edge of the street, I enjoyed riding the white line to zip past slow cars, I thought I had fast enough reflexes to dodge car doors.

    Now that I’ve seen people eat car doors, and I’m old enough that things break when I fall, I ride in the street because I’m concerned with my own safety. I know the door zone is dangerous. I know undertaking cars and trucks waiting to turn right is suicidal.

    But if I object to a new substandard, door-zone bike lane, or point out the dangers of encouraging people to ride up through the blind spot of a Metro bus approaching a bus stop, my input is dismissed as coming from one of those “fearless” spandex racers. The facility isn’t designed for me or anyone else who already does ride a bike, it’s designed for the hypothetical riders who would be riding there if they were comfortable. (Not “safe,” mind you, but “comfortable.”)

  9. Russ Paprocki says:

    Haven’t put the bike down since 1982 .> 130,000 mi. ago. The secret? Competent, Confident and AWARE!

  10. Bob Hall says:

    I can see how being called “fearless” could be interpreted negatively, but characterizing the use of the label as an “underhanded tactic” and making the logical leap that the term is a reference to the Fast and Furious franchise and therefore anybody who uses the label is comparing you “to illegal car racers who are a menace to all, including themselves” is a bit of a stretch.

    • The term “fast and fearless” usually is used in a derogatory way, as in “not for the fast and fearless, but for the rest of us.” It implies that sensible people are not “fast and fearless.”

      To me, that is an underhanded tactic: Rather than discuss the merits and dangers of segregated bike paths, those using the term just label those who don’t agree with them as “not sensible” in an effort to marginalize them.

  11. robertkerner says:

    I’m wary of labels in general whether they are being used against me or in support of me as a cyclist, but I can completely understand why the non-riding public assigns them: for every competent/cautious rider, there are dozens of reckless riders. Last week I was walking through NYC admiring the Bike Share stations and thinking of the positive impact they might have by getting more people riding. Then I turned my attention to the streets!

    In the space of 4 blocks I saw 12 people riding in the middle of 5th Avenue, helmet-less, in the dark and wearing dark clothes. They were weaving in out of traffic, cutting off cars and challenging pedestrians. All of the riders were on Bike Share bikes. Those are the people the public think of when they think of cycling infrastructure, not you and me commuting to work or completing a brevet. Those people are Fast and Fearless, in the pathological sense, and we get lumped in with them.

    • The people you saw aren’t the “fast and fearless.” Based on the “official” characterization, “fast and fearless” are experienced riders who prefer to ride in the street rather than on separate bike paths.

      I am not sure where the rides you saw fit into the picture…

      As an aside regarding helmets – the bike share programs don’t make much sense if you have to bring your own helmet. The whole idea is that you just can hop on a bike anytime for short trips. However, I agree that the riders should ride safely. For that, we need more public education – teaching the public at large how to ride a bike, ideally in elementary school.

  12. John Duval says:

    There is a catch-22 to becoming confident. The more you cower away from traffic, the more negative experiences you tend to have, which makes you cower even more till you quit. I never put myself in that top “fearless” category because auto traffic scares the hell out of me. But anyone watching would say I am way into the top “confident” category. Our facilities must not perpetuate cowardice nor bad experiences. Many of these new facilities do both. Training school children saved countless lives from cars starting in the 1930s. It is time for a similar commitment today. The “Kidical mass” rides in Long Beach are such an attempt.

    • The catch-22 you describe has been described by the CyclingSavvy founders as the “retributive cycle”, a feedback loop in which fear of mixing with traffic, as well as Far Right as Practicable laws which seem to require edge riding, drives unsuccessful edge riding behavior which then increases the conflict and reinforces the fear.. See the “Supporting Success” video at the front page of http://iamtraffic.org/ for a great explanation of this, and the CyclingSavvy vision for overcoming it.

  13. David Pearce says:

    I sort of put out of my mind that “The Fast and the Furious” glorified illegal street racing, but I guess I should have known, but I’ve never seen the movie. I think there is more than one…. I guess that’s a measure of how far away I want to stay from “popular culture”. I’m just not into all the tattoos and all the excess and all the low brain-level of modern popular culture. It’s so sick.

    I don’t know where I come down on fancy cars. I admire them from an engineering point of view, like we admire the bikes on these pages, but aren’t these cars often retched excess? Too powerful for their own good? A terrible accident waiting to happen? I’m more attracted to a modest modified and hopped-up original Austin Mini than to an over 500 (or over 750 or 1,000) horsepower race car tour de force.

    Frankly, my last feeling is one of sadness and disgust. Sadness both for the death of the people involved, and for the incredible engineering wiped out in an unprofessional instant. And disgust at the people who are driving machines WAY beyond their brain power. It’s just not professional, and that’s a word that carries weight with me. I guess the Walker crass did not involve alcohol, but the Ryan Dunn crash in his 911 GT3 did. And so these stupid idiots who have more money than me, all these stupid idiots who are driving cars way beyond their ken, are now unfortunately dead, and beautiful machines reduced to sickening blackened wrecks. It’s just enough.

    • There is a difference between true skill and simply being “furious.” A family friend in Germany once was invited to an event, but heavy snow fell, and he called the organizer that he didn’t want to drive there. The organizer told him that rally star Walter Röhrl was going to the event, too, and would pick him up. The family friend experienced an uneventful drive, but they got there very quickly despite all the snow. Clearly, Röhrl had the car control to get there quicker on snow than most people would in the dry, without hanging off the ragged edge.

      As cyclists, we have to be careful, too. It’s fun to explore the limits of cornering adhesion, but we always must keep in mind what happens if we overstep the limits. That is why I like gravel, cyclocross and riding on snow, since the bike starts sliding more gradually. That way, you can get a feel for how far you can go without crashing. Even so, a healthy does of fear and caution are utterly important, and I’d rather go slower than I could have around a corner than overdo it and end up in the hospital or worse.

      • zundel says:

        Nice story. It makes an argument for different facilities.

        Most people do not ride better than they drive — often worse.

        Traffic engineering, based on years of unfortunate experience, tries to protect
        people from themselves, and each other. And most people on bicycles should not ride near traffic.

      • And most people on bicycles should not ride near traffic.

        I wouldn’t blame the people. They are doing the best they can. It’s hard to find resources on learning to cycle in traffic. Nobody wants to impose on those interested in cycling, so we tell them: “Wear a helmet and observe all laws” as if that was enough.

  14. David Feldman says:

    What happened to the phrase I saw somehwere “competent and confident?” I learned cycling in Los Angeles and while that will make you competent it certainly won’t make you “fearless.”
    I agree with Jan’s assertion that the F&F wording is at least a little bit aimed at causing beginning cyclists and traffic policy makers to think of skilled riders as something other than “normal people.”
    The policymaking realm and the bike business have for years scratched and fretted about bring alleged “normal people” into cycling. I wish they’d give up and lobby for reasonable control of driver behavior instead–drivers obeying speed limits and staying off their phones would be the greatest enhancement of the cycling environment possible and you wouldn’t have to stripe one damned meter of road!

  15. David Pearce says:

    In the early-mid 1990s, the last time I was into mountain biking, in Valley Forge, Pa., I used to ride at nights sometimes with some bike shop dudes who allowed me to go along because I bought a Trek 930 Mtn. bike and put a RockShox on in place of the steel fork. I was the most inexperienced. We had a variety of lights–I had the Niterider low-beam / high-beam double light with the heavy water bottle battery. With the high beam on, on my road bicycle, I fooled some people into thinking a motorcycle was approaching! Those were some days….

    Anyway, there was at least one one bike shop dude, if not more, that I called a “Gonzo Bicyclist”, and you see this type from time to time, and it’s just ridiculous. It was at night, which seemed to set off the anarchist feelings in some of the guys. This one guy would make a habit of antagonizing motorists at the end of the ride. We’d finished mountain biking, were sweaty & covered with mud, and this guy would chase down and curse any motorist he came in contact with when he perceived some imagined slight. I said to him, maybe only once because he didn’t listen anyway, “would you MIND not giving us bicyclists a bad name, and one of these car drivers is going to run you over if you make him mad enough!”. To no avail. Bike shop dudes. At least some of them have an agenda.

  16. Ryan Nute says:

    I guess I don’t care who calls me what if we could keep from spending all that money justified by some self-styled bike advocates on these “improvements”.

    Ryan

  17. ladyfleur says:

    Psst. The rider category name is “strong & fearless” not “fast & fearless”

    Not that it changes much IMHO. But the idea that any significant amount of our population can be expected to sustain 15 mph much less 20 is absurd. And whether someone can accelerate and sustain these higher speeds completely changes where they are comfortable and safe riding. There are roads I willingly ride on a road bike that I would never consider with a slower bike because I can’t easily cross a lane to merge with higher speed traffic. Conversely, I’m quite comfortable and safe riding at slow speeds on a slow bike on a MUP or even (gasp!) a sidewalk.

    • I have seen both used. If you go to the link, you’ll see “fast and fearless.” The official category in the bike masterplan is “strong and fearless.” Your point about the speed affecting how you ride is well-taken. I wrote about this in an earlier post.

    • Keri says:

      I ride on the same roads with my fully loaded cargo bike as I do with my road bike. Before I started riding a heavy cargo bike, I also held this belief that being slow limits your access and ability. I’m so grateful to have realized that belief is unfounded.

      When you control a lane, speed makes no difference. Motorists can’t tell if you’re going 8 or 20. All they know is you’re on a bike, so you’re slow. On a multi-lane road, If you manage your lane space to communicate that they need to change lanes, most of them do long before they even have to slow down. I’ve climbed hills on suburban Dallas arterials, controlling a lane at 6mph, without so much as a horn honk from passing drivers.

      On a 2-lane road — this is totally counter-intuitive— it’s often much easier to pass a slow bicyclist than a fast one, because you spend less time in the oncoming lane. It’s also a lot easier for a slow bicyclist to move right into a “release” position to facilitate a pass. The slow cyclist doesn’t cover as much ground in a short period of time, thus the motorist passes in a shorter distance. When I’m riding slow, I can use a short stretch of shoulder or unobstructed edge pavement to facilitate a pass, that I could not utilize if I was riding fast. When I’m riding fast, I have way more frightening conflicts with motorists trying to pass me with an insufficient gap in oncoming traffic. I find I have to do a lot more work to discourage ill-advised passes. I tried an e-assist motor for a while. OMG! I had infinitely more problems with motorists on 2-lane roads.

      Negotiating lane change is another thing that is not speed dependent. Savvy cyclists understand traffic flow and make lane changes strategically—utilizing gaps between platoons. On the higher speed roads, the gaps actually tend to be more pronounced. On 50mph arterials, I’m sometimes alone on a 6 lane road for 45 seconds. That’s plenty of time to move across and control the left lane until my turn. Here’s an example: http://cyclingsavvy.org/2012/03/strategic-setup-for-a-left-turn/

      None of this is to say that I don’t prefer quiet routes. I strongly advocate connectivity and route choices that serve everyone. But it doesn’t serve us well to perpetuate the belief that there are places you can’t ride if you’re slow. And it bugs me that infrastructure so often proposed as a solution for those who are not “strong and fearless” is not all that useful for anyone. We can do better. As the previous post on Jan’s blog explains.

      • ladyfleur says:

        Hi Keri, I’ve seen one of your videos and read a few Cycling Savvy articles. I fully understand and appreciate the techniques used in vehicular cycling and use them myself on a daily basis. Where I stray from the VC philosophy is that cycletracks and other separated bike infrastructure is not “useful” as you politely state. I’ve used such facilities overseas and at home and while some aren’t perfect, they are very comfortable and useful to many riders.

        I will fight tooth and nail for “bicycle drivers” to have the right to use the road like car drivers. It’s the law in virtually every state and I wouldn’t want to change that. What I resent is that I find many vehicular cyclists fight tooth and nail to prevent people who prefer separated bike infrastructure from having the opportunity ride the way they want. Many riders prefer to ride somewhere where they don’t have to carefully negotiate four lane merges with 50 mph traffic. They should have that right too.

      • I agree that a mix of facilities often is best. However, the right of cyclists to use the road is very tenuous at best. As soon as there is a bike path nearby, you’ll get many hostile (and dangerous) reactions from drivers who think you should be in “your lane.”

        Europe, despite being very cycling-friendly, is a case in point. I don’t know of any European country where cyclists have the right to ride on the road when there is a segregated trail. Whether it’s Copenhagen, the Netherlands, France or most of Germany, if there is a bike path, you must use it.

        The current attempts to marginalize, rather than work with, experienced cyclists don’t bode well on that front.

      • Keri says:

        I advocate for a mix of infrastructure, too. There are appropriate designs and contexts for most types of infrastructure, including bike lanes and side paths. I’d like to see them installed in places where they would actually offer a significant improvement.

        Mostly what I’m seeing, though, is infrastructure installed to create an illusion and attract the uninformed…and get an award and allow politicians to pat themselves on the back for being progressive. Money is wasted on symbolic shiny objects that could have been used to do something real. Worst of all, it often destroys roads that were already easy to ride on. As Jan says, our right to use the road is tenuous. Even where we’re not required by law to use facilities, uninformed motorists and police think we are. Enforcement of beliefs through harassment makes facilities just as compulsory as an actual law.

      • ladyfleur says:

        Many of us get hostile and dangerous reactions from drivers when we take the lane, whether or not there’s an adjacent bike path or bike lane. As for European countries that require bikes use bike paths and cycletracks, not that unlike in the US, these facilities are strictly for cyclists so they avoid the problems caused by sharing with pedestrians.

        I agree that dissension among cyclists is not good. But to label those who prefer sharing roadways with high-speed traffic to a well-designed bike facilities as “experienced” is insulting to those of us who are very experienced and very skilled but are sick and tired of the status quo and want a less intense, quieter place to ride where we feel comfortable riding with our kids or our elderly parents.

      • these facilities are strictly for cyclists so they avoid the problems caused by sharing with pedestrians

        Unfortunately, this is not true. Whether in Copenhagen or Berlin, cycletracks often go through bus stops – see the photos here. In Germany, there still are many cyclepaths that are “shared” between pedestrians and cyclists.

        want a less intense, quieter place to ride

        I totally agree with that sentiment. I think Neighborhood Greenways can provide that. Separate paths in places where the intersection density is low also can provide a relief from the noise and intensity of mixed traffic. I am not advocating for the status quo, but for moving forward in the right direction.

        I don’t think that the “protected bike lanes” that are being built in the U.S. are “less intense” – look at this video as an example. Those are the facilities that are being built. And when we object to them, we are labeled as “fast and fearless,” and told that most cyclists aren’t comfortable sharing the road with cars, so they prefer something like the scenario shown in the video.

  18. David Pearce says:

    As far as your linking of “fast and fearless” to “The Fast and the Furious”, on first thought, now that I’ve seen Tom Fucoloro’s post about the Seattle public meeting, I tend to side with him, inasmuch as I don’t get the sense of fast-and-furious from (bicycle) fearless. In my mind, the phrase, when applied to bicyclists, illicits the idea of “swift and confident”, not technically “fearless”–after all, we all wish to keep living, and not be killed by the monster in back of me while I write this post–but fearless in the sense that we traffic-confident riders do not have an INORDINATE fear of being vehicles in the street and riding safely and vigilantly with other traffic. I mentioned previously about that online argument I nearly got into with the blogger who runs the Bicycle Dutch blog, when I said I felt confident and comfortable riding in United States city traffic, and he responded more or less by intimating what Mother said in the movie “Alien”: “Does not compute”.

    • I have been to several of these meetings, and the gist of it is: “Don’t listen to those guys, they are part of the problem, not part of the solution.” So the language clearly is intended to marginalize those with experience and knowledge, because they stand in the way of a vision that believes by building cycling facilities, no matter how sub-standard and dangerous, we’ll turn into Copenhagen. It’s a well-documented fact that in Copenhagen, people cycle because driving cars is almost impossible, not because they have banished cyclists to crummy bike paths… but that is the topic of another post.

      I have lived and cycled in Europe, and I can tell you that for an experienced cyclist, the U.S. is a paradise, compared to most of Europe. It’s almost unimaginable for Europeans how easy and quick it is to get around in Seattle by bike. I think the “Does not compute” comment has to be seen in this context. It’s like telling a driver from L.A. that there is a city where there are no traffic jams. It’s too good to be true.

      What we are dealing with in the U.S. is the fear factor – cyclists’ fear of cars. It’s the same factor that has parents not allow their kids to walk three blocks to school, not because they are afraid they’ll be hit by cars while crossing the street, but because they are afraid of them getting abducted… Much fear is irrational.

      If the “fearless” was intended to convey “free of irrational fear,” then I’d be all for it. Alas, it is not at all intended that way, but it’s intended to marginalize experienced riders are daredevils.

  19. zundel says:

    In many US cities, getting bicycles legitimate presence on streets took
    a pronounced fight.

    If these segregated facilities lead to restricting use of the roads, will we
    have the collective will to fight again? Or will half a loaf satiate too many?

    Is a flawed facility better than none? Do these incompetent paths increase
    riding? And we clean up the problems later. Or do the problems they create just
    contribute to the crash when the fashion for bicycles again wanes?

    Some paint and barriers do not remake a US city into northwest Europe, not even
    the northwest US. Portland may be near maximum mode share. Other US cities could
    max within years. It’s all a big and welcome improvement, but has limits.
    Without good public transportation, at which the US sucks, transportation
    cycling goes only so far on so many days. Otherwise you have to have somewhere
    to park your car.

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