Background Information for the Media
Issues relating to bicycle safety & operation
by Fred Oswald, PE, LCI #947
We are dismayed to frequently see stories in the media with serious factual
errors that propagate popular misconceptions. This article is intended to
help reporters understand the issues so they avoid mistakes and so they can help
improve public knowledge.
- Almost everyone has misconceptions on bicycle safety issues
Best practices are counterintuitive.
- Most of us were taught by well-meaning but uninformed authority figures
(parents, police, teachers, etc.).
Instruction usually consists of "good advice" (mostly wrong) made up on the spot.
- "Teachers" typically have little experience or interest in subject.
- This propagates three widely-believed fallacies about bicycle operation:
- There is great danger in riding on the road because of traffic passing from behind.
- Roads are for cars. Cyclists’ greatest duty is “staying out of the way”.
- The normal rules of the road do not apply. Cyclists do not need
(or cannot learn) to follow the rules of the road.
- Bicycle is a vehicle / Cyclists are drivers
- Defined as vehicle in Ohio Law (ORC 4511.01).
- In some states, is not vehicle but operators have same rights/responsibilities.
- Cyclists travel ~3-6x as fast as pedestrians.
- Bicycles cannot stop/turn in a stride or go backwards like peds.
They maneuver like vehicles -- because they are.
- Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles
- Vehicular cyclists have 4-5x better safety record.
- Vehicular operation is in accord with traffic law.
- Sidewalk cycling has 2-9x higher crash rate.
- Sidewalks are designed for pedestrian speed/maneuverability.
- Sidewalk cycling creates conflicts at every intersection/driveway crossing.
- Fast sidewalk cycling puts pedestrians at risk.
- Standard traffic laws create an orderly travel environment
- Standard rules of road benefit cyclists.
- Many bicycle-specific laws mandate unsafe practices.
- Ohio laws req'd to be uniform throughout the state.
Non-uniform local ordinances are invalid in Ohio as of 9/21/06.
- State law requires riding as "near as practicable" to edge of road.
This does NOT mean "as near as possible" as is often misquoted.
It is often UNSAFE to ride at edge of road.
- Separate bicycle facilities do not improve safety
- There is no data supporting safety claims. People only "feel" safer.
- Paths beside roadway have similar crash risk as sidewalks.
- Separate bicycle lanes encourage dangerous non-vehicular operation.
- Bike lanes next to parked cars encourage riding in "door zone".
- Bike lanes carried into intersections encourage mistakes & accidents.
- Bike lanes accumulate glass, gravel & other debris.
- Purely recreational paths not beside roads are OK for moderate speeds
if designed/built/maintained properly.
- Education about best practices is greatest bike-safety need
- Instructors must be qualified teachers: knowledgeable & experienced cyclists.
- Biggest hurdle is unlearning "bike safety" mis-information.
- National cycling education programs include
and The International Police Mountain Bike
- It is easier for motorists to drive among knowledgeable cyclists
because they are predictable.
- Cyclist Friendly Communities is award program to improve cycling conditions
- CFC is program of Ohio Bicycle Federation
- CFC stresses education, good laws & fair treatment
- CFC requires understanding cycling, not spending much money
- CFC info. including an Information Toolkit is at
For more information ---
Driving Seminar. This program shows why the best way to operate a
bicycle is to drive it as the vehicle that it is.
Thoughts -- Bikes and Cars Sharing the Road. Illustrated article gives
tips for motorists to pass bikes safely, tells cyclists where to ride and
explains the issue of delay (both perception and reality).
- Bicycle Blunders.
Illustrated article that discusses common blunders and how to avoid them -- in
bicycle use, education, advocacy, engineering, and traffic law. The
blunders make cycling more difficult and dangerous and threaten our right to
the roads. http://www.labreform.org/blunders/
Guidelines for a 'Cyclist Friendly City'. Here is what a community
should do to encourage cycling and improve safety: teaching citizens
the best practices, improving laws, training police, fixing hazards and
really welcoming cyclists as fully equal users of the roads.
- Ohio Bicycle Federation
Cyclist Friendly Communities Program "Toolkit"
© Copyright 2005-2015 Fred Oswald. Non Commercial distribution authorized.
The author is a "League Cycling Instructor", a professional engineer in Ohio
and an all-season bicycle commuter, with over commute 200 trips and over 5000 miles per year.
Contact author at fredoswald_AT_yahoo_DOT_com.
Last Revised 10/30/15