tim: 2x2 grid of four stylized icons: a bus, a light rail train, a car, and a bicycle (public transportation)
If you drive a car:

  • Obey all traffic laws, including posted speed limits, even if you're on a freeway.
  • If you're near a crosswalk, you should be driving slow enough to stop even for a pedestrian who "jumps out in front of you".
  • Do not honk at cyclists or pedestrians. In many places, it's illegal to honk where there is no imminent danger. If you are causing the imminent danger, you should stop causing it instead.
  • Do not shout death threats at cyclists or pedestrians.
  • Stop at all stop signs.
  • Always use turn signals before turning or changing lanes.
  • Know how much space you're legally obligated to give cyclists, and give it to them.
  • If a cyclist is taking the lane, don't try to run the cyclist off the road. They are doing that because they are safer riding that way and because it's their legal right. Treat a cyclist like any other slow-moving vehicle: pass the cyclist if and when you can do so safely, but otherwise stay behind and leave lots of room.
  • Before you open your door while parked in a parking space, look outside to make sure no cyclists are passing by.
  • Don't park in bike lanes.
  • Don't drive drunk or while under the influence of other drugs that impair coordination.
  • Don't text while driving.
  • Don't talk on the phone while driving, not even using a hands-free device; in person, a conversation partner will be aware of your surroundings and can react to them by stopping or slowing down the conversation, whereas someone on the phone can't do that and thus is much more of a distraction.
  • Before making a right turn (or left turn if you're in a country where you drive on the left), check to make sure you wouldn't be hitting a cyclist to your right (or left) who is riding straight through the intersection and has the right of way.

Whether or not you see cyclists riding without helmets, not coming to a complete stop at stop signs, or doing anything else you disapprove of, with power comes responsibility and it's your responsibility as an operator of a heavy, dangerous machine to prevent accidents. If everybody followed the above advice, we'd see a lot fewer fatal accidents involving pedestrians and cyclists.

Just as most advice about preventing rape seems to be targeted at women -- the group more likely to be a victim and less likely to be a perpetrator -- there seems to be vastly more advice about traffic safety targeted at cyclists, along with the assumption that motor vehicle operators know everything and can do no wrong. And just as conventional rape prevention advice perpetuates rape culture, the emphasis on cyclists perpetuates a culture where hit-and-run accidents are common and law enforcement (at least against white drivers who break the law) is rare.

The reality is that "safety" tips aimed at cyclists don't make anyone safer -- they just discourage cycling by making it seem dangerous, as well as empowering motorists to terrorize cyclists ("it's her fault I ran her over, she wasn't wearing a helmet"). And discouraging cycling actually does make it more dangerous to be a cyclist -- the fewer cyclists are on the road, the less likely it is that motorists will know what to do when they encounter one. Vehicular cycling (that is, riding a bike like a car and obeying traffic laws) does make cycling safer, but such "tips" rarely promote it since it sometimes involves taking the lane where it is legal to do so, and that would inconvenience motorists.

In any case, unless you always follow every item on the above list when you're driving a car, you really have no business criticizing cyclists' behavior. You should be focusing on your own obligation to use your vehicle in a responsible way.

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tim: Tim with short hair, smiling, wearing a black jacket over a white T-shirt (Default)
Tim Chevalier

May 2017

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