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Bicycle Blunders and Smarter Solutions

by Fred Oswald, Bicycling Safety Instructor

The great obstacle to progress is not ignorance, but the illusion of knowledge.
— Daniel Boorstin, historian, Librarian of Congress


This illustrated article discusses common blunders (ignorant mistakes) related to bicycle use, education, advocacy, engineering, and traffic law.  We show how the blunders make cycling more difficult and dangerous and they jeopardize our right to use the roads.  We conclude with Smarter Solutions to avoid these blunders.

Bicycle Blunders cause serious harm.  Cycling expert John Forester estimates that thirty percent of car-bike collisions are caused by cyclists following defective “bike safety” teaching [1].  Many other crashes are caused by segregated (separate) bicycle facilities that make people think they can be safe without following the rules of the road.  Some of these facilities are downright dangerous on their own, even without rules violations.

You can read this article in different ways:  (1) By following “Next” links to the various sections; or (2) You can go directly to any section via the links below.

The individual sections of this article are updated occasionally.  The author appreciates suggestions, new photos and links to relevant information.

Links to individual sections


[1] Forester’s estimate is based on his analysis of Cross, Kenneth D., and Fisher, Gary, A Study of Bicycle/Motor Vehicle Accidents:  Identification of Problem Types and Countermeasure Approaches, National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, 1977.

The “bike safety” errors that lead to crashes include (1) making a left turn from the right side of the road after signaling but not looking for traffic, (2) weaving between parked cars in order to ride as close as possible to the curb, and (3) stopping for stop signs but not looking or yielding to traffic that has the right of way.

Traditional bike safety often emphasizes less important requirements (like signaling and stopping) but ignores essential skills that actually prevent crashes (like yielding to traffic that has right of way.)  Traditional bike safety teaches that the greatest duty is “staying out of the way,” even though this often compromises safety.

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