Tag Archive for: bicycle driving

A roundabout

A modern roundabout, or is it a traffic circle?

In an earlier post on this blog, I described savvy strategies to navigate a small, single lane traffic circle. I’ll now take the discussion up a level and describe a modern roundabout. I shot the video below in Montreal, Quebec, Canada, while on a bicycle tour with a friend. The location in the video, FYI. Have a look at the video and then I’ll follow up with some comments.

Roundabout or traffic circle? Does it matter?

Articles about this intersection call it either a roundabout (rond-point) or a traffic circle (carrefour à circulation giratoire). One of the articles explains that entering traffic must yield to traffic in a roundabout; rules for a traffic circle are the opposite: antiquated French practice. At every circular intersection I have seen in the US or Canada, entering traffic yields, for a good reason which I’ll explain later. Here, signs tell drivers to yield at crosswalks and again when entering the circular roadway. So, I’ll call this a roundabout, though in some ways it doesn’t quite operate as one.

Signs indicating yielding rules at the Place du Commerce on nuns' Island in Montreal.
Signs indicate that drivers must yield when entering the roundabout

Modern roundabout advantages and disadvantages

Modern roundabouts have deflection – curved entrances and exits. Also, there is a truck apron — a ring of raised pavement inboard of the circular roadway. When a large truck is in the inner lane, its left rear wheel(s) go up onto the the truck apron. These features slow traffic down. There is more time for drivers to negotiate right of way, reducing crash severity. There are no head-on conflicts. And, because traffic in the circular roadway never stops, a roundabout can carry more traffic than an intersection with traffic signals.

Roundabout advocates like to stress these advantages, but there are also some real problems. Unless drivers reliably yield at crosswalks, pedestrians have a harder time at roundabouts than at signalized intersections. Because traffic flows continuously, gaps in traffic downstream of the roundabout are fewer. Drivers in side streets have a harder time entering or crossing downstream traffic.

In a two-lane modern roundabout, drivers are supposed to yield to traffic in both lanes and go directly to the inner lane except when taking the first exit. Drivers must cross the outer lane when exiting from the inner lane. These issues have led to quite a bit of confusion and to increases in crash rates. As noted in the video, one leg of this roundabout has been restriped from two lanes to one — probably reflecting this concern.

A mostly modern roundabout Quebec-style

In the satellite view below, the orange arrow at the left shows where I began my tour of the roundabout. The green and red arrows point to markings that tell drivers which lane to use at two-lane entrances. Lane use is different at these two entrances, reflecting the volume of traffic which takes different exits.

It is unusual for both lanes of a two-lane entry, like the one with the red arrow, to allow right turns. Though drivers are not supposed to change lanes or overtake inside a modern roundabout, a red car is doing that anyway. The yellow arrow points to an example why they shouldn’t overtake: the truck’s cab is in the outer lane, but the trailer is off-tracking into the inner lane. A driver who tried to overtake would get a big squeeze. If the truck had entered from the north, it would first have off-tracked to the right. You can actually see where trucks have gone up over the curb.

Do you see inconsistencies with standard US roundabout rules? I see two! Explanations are below the picture.

Features of the Place du Commerce mosstly modern roundabout

The inconsistencies:

  • If the truck (or any other vehicle) entered from the east (red arrow), it would have to change lanes to get to the southbound exit.
  • The section with the dashed line at the head of the yellow arrow also extends back under the truck. It is long enough that drivers entering from the west (left side of the image) will be merging across this segment rather than yielding to traffic in both lanes at once.

And for bicyclists and pedestrians..

Something different, the video shows… Quebec is very intent on separating bicyclists from motor traffic. Bicyclists are directed to ride around the outside of this roundabout, using crosswalks along with pedestrians.

Motorists’ yielding to heavy bicycle and pedestrian traffic in crosswalks overturns the advantage of a roundabout in increasing capacity for motorists. And safety issues with the sidepath treatment are debatable, as most crashes occur at intersections and driveways, where bicyclists and motorists do not have a good view of each other. Motorists are supposed to yield to bicyclists, but for safety’s sake, bicyclists also most be prepared to yield. Mighk Wilson’s summary of his research, published in this blog, highlights such issues. His key finding was that bicyclists make the bikeways safer — by riding slower — rather than that the bikeways make the bicyclists safer. Safety at speed becomes an increasing concern with the advent of ebikes.

One side, two-way

A two-way sidepath runs along one side of each street that connects to this roundabout. The sidepath runs only 3/4 of the way around the roundabout — and so, to connect with the streets going in all four directions, the sidepath is two-way. The fourth quadrant has only a narrow sidewalk.

Mighk Wilson, among others, has shown that entering a crosswalk from the right is generally much more hazardous for a bicyclist than entering from the left: right-turning drivers will be looking left. In this modern roundabout, crosswalks are well back from the circular roadway. Motorists’ attention does not have to be directed toward roadway traffic when scanning for bicyclists. But still — bicyclists need to be prepared to yield.

I explore the roundabout

While my companion checked out a map, I first rode the sidepath. Fortunately, traffic was light. A motorist was approaching at only one crosswalk, and yielded to me.

The route around the outside of the roundabout on the sidepath is long, and slow. For purposes of comparison, I also rode around in the roadway.

The same strategies demonstrated in the earlier post about traffic circles apply in this modern roundabout. Except when preparing to exit, I kept to the inside, where there are no entrances or exits and motor traffic is slow. My strategy worked fine, and I decided to take a second tour around the roundabout. Riding the roadway is my usual choice, and at many circular intersections, it is the only option.

Bend the rules in a modern roundabout?

Really, the savvy approach to roadway riding is the same in an old-style traffic circle or a modern roundabout: use the correct lane, and especially, get away from the outside if you are going past the first exit. Be careful of entering traffic when you are exiting, especially at a two-lane exit. I sometimes do find it useful to bend the rules and merge toward the outside lane before I exit, to avoid conflict with traffic coming around in the outside lane — explanation here.

The video reveals that two quadrants of the roundabout were originally two-lane, and entering drivers would have to yield to traffic in both lanes. One quadrant still is two-lane, under the semi truck in the image above. Striping a gore (no-drive zone) next to the center island in the other quadrant reduced it to one lane, at least in theory – you’ll notice that the paint is worn. I rode over the gore myself. Bad me. But I avoided a potential conflict with an entering vehicle!

What do you think?

Expect another article soon, taking the exploration of circular intersections to yet another level…

The Quarter Mile Stroad Hack

In my initial “Stroad Hack” article, I described a hack involving two intersections. I referred briefly to the quarter mile on a different stroad, but I didn’t go into detail on that.

This post will focus on the quarter mile, on Gorham Road. It stretches from left to right in the image below. I use it quite often to go to my dentist’s office.

The quarter mile on four-lane Gorham Road, from Clark's Road to Western Avenue

Use Online Maps…and Work Backwards!

Route planning has of course always used maps, initially on paper. I rely heavily on online maps in these articles, and particularly on Google’s ground-level Street View. Zooming in on Google’s satellite view lets you plan your lane choice. That is especially useful on multi-lane roads that you may be apprehensive about.

Always Use Maps?

So, is it necessary to plan every stroad route with mapping? No, I don’t think so. One of my favorite ways of riding is to explore a new area when I go on vacation. Serendipity is an important aspect of those rides for me. “Hey, that road looks interesting, let’s see what’s down there.” Cycling by the rules of the road is generally safe, even on an unfamiliar road. But you may want to choose mapping, especially when you know you will be on uncomfortable roads. It can allow you to make more informed decisions so the journey is more comfortable.

Mapping is also useful for illustration in these articles. I am using Google Earth for these images, although Google Maps works too. Custom maps are a great teaching tool!

Why work backwards?

When planning a route, it is often useful to start from the destination and work backwards. That way, you’ll see what works as you approach it — and at each step as you work backwards to the start. For that reason, I am numbering the following hacks in reverse order, going back from from the turn into the dentist’s office, to the quarter-mile segment, to the start.

Hack 3 – Lane Choice onto Western Avenue

Western Avenue, center turn lane to turn left to the dentist's office

My dentist’s office is on the left side of Western Avenue. Conveniently, Western Avenue has a two-way center turn lane where I can wait for oncoming traffic to clear, before turning left into the driveway. If I’m already controlling the leftmost through lane, moving into the center turn lane as soon as it opens up is trivial.

Left turn onto Western Avenue

Following the rules of the road for drivers, you must use the left-turn lane to turn onto Western Avenue from Gorham Road. If you’re uncomfortable with that, you can dismount and use the crosswalks. But we won’t go into that here.

What lane on Western Avenue do you turn into? Bicyclists who feel like they must always stay to the right might be tempted to turn into the rightmost lane, because “bikes stay to the right”.

Then Why Turn into the Left Lane?

There are (at least) two reasons to choose the left lane. For one, it’s more common when turning onto a multi-lane road to turn into the closest lane, Maine laws do not actually require that, though some states do, and it makes sense here regardless.

There’s an important operational reason here too: It’s only about 225 feet from the intersection to the center turn lane. It’s only about 100 feet more to the driveway. That’s only 25 seconds at 10 MPH. It makes no sense to turn into the right lane, then immediately have to change to the left lane to get to the center turn lane. If you do that, any traffic behind you will turn into the left lane to pass you, and will block your lane change. Why not just turn immediately into the left lane? Any traffic behind you will pass you in the right lane, which is exactly what you want anyway!

So there’s one hack: Turn from Gorham Road into the left lane of Western Avenue.

Hack 2 – Lane Choice onto the Quarter Mile

Continuing backwards, what about the lane choice onto Gorham Road?

Choosing the left lane when entering the quarter mile on Gorham Road

This decision is like the last one. You’re going to spend less than 1/4 mile on Gorham Road (just over a minute at 10 MPH) before you turn left onto Western. So why turn into the right lane and have to change immediately?


Granted, that’s a bit longer time spent in a leftmost lane than on Western Avenue. And that might bring up another objection, that motorists don’t expect bicyclists to travel in the left lane for an “extended” time. In”motorist time,” that may be about 10 seconds. 😉 But in our experience, visibility to people approaching from behind more than makes up for any surprise they may have. They still have plenty of time to see you and react.

If you are in a left through lane because you will be turning left shortly, try making occasional left turn signals. I think people are more patient if they understand why you are doing what you are doing. It may also be that they respect you more if they feel like you know what you’re doing. (And as a Savvy Cyclist, you do!)

Evaluating Convenience

I sometimes would still have had time to change lanes if I turned into the right lane here. But I don’t know that when I make the turn. And, whichever lane I choose, motorists behind me in that lane will have to change lanes. So it comes down to a balance of convenience: how convenient is which lane for me, and how many motorists will have to change lanes? Results vary by location, by time of day, and by what the traffic happens to be at that moment. But in this place, I don’t try to overthink it, and simply choose the left lane. The next and final hack makes that even easier.

Hack 1 – When to Turn Right onto the Quarter Mile

Here’s one I never learned until I took CyclingSavvy, even after I had been become a certified instructor with another national cycling program. I’ll frame it as a question:

Q: When would you not want to take a right turn on red?

Everyone makes right turns on red, right? Why wouldn’t you? Bicyclists don’t like delay any more than motorists do. (Consider how many cyclists don’t bother stopping at lights if they think they can make it through. And how many pass even a short line of stopped cars on the way there.)

Red Lights Create Gaps

The answer never occurs to most motorists, including me before I started bike commuting. But you may have noticed it if you’ve cycled in traffic for very long: traffic travels in packs.

And why does this happen? In urban and suburban areas, it’s because of red lights. A red light collects a line of traffic while it’s red. Then it turns green and the whole pack surges forward.

The flip side to this is that red lights also create gaps. While that light is red, the only traffic entering the intersection is turning into it from the left or right (as we are in this case). This is nearly always much less traffic. Therefore, there are gaps for as long as the light is red. And effectively longer, because you’ll have traveled away from the intersection!

We have videos in our Truths & Techniques and CyclingSavvy Mastery courses showing gaps of more than a minute in length created by long light cycles, even at rush hour. You can also see it in this Smart Moves video about riding across a high-speed interchange.

Waiting for the Green when Turning Right…

So, a very basic hack that you can use at every signalized right turn is: Don’t turn right on red. Even if you are allowed to turn right on red, you may wish to wait. Waiting for your green guarantees that you will have a gap with very little or no traffic behind you (except the few that turn onto the road during that time).

Of course, if traffic is light, it may be fine to turn right on red once the initial pack is clear of the intersection. This is especially so if you have the sight distance to see that there is no more oncoming traffic for quite a while. That’s fine. This is a tool, not a hard and fast rule.

As I turn right from Clark’s Road onto the quarter mile segment on Gorham Road, though, the traffic from the left is coming around a curve, so it’s impossible to tell how long until more comes. And it will probably be traveling at the posted speed (or greater) by that time, maybe even racing a yellow. So I almost always wait for the green here.

A curve reduces sight distance for traffic from the left when entering the quarter-mile segment of Gorham Road.
Notice the curve in Gorham Road, limiting the distance from which you can see traffic coming from your left as you wait to turn right.
The curve on Gorham road that reduces sight distance
Google Street View looking left from Clark’s Pond Parkway, about to make the right turn.

Car behind you?

What if, you may ask, there is a motorist behind you who would like to turn right on red?

Positions to allow motorists to turn right on red when waiting to turn right on green into the quarter-mile segment

Well, you can simply move over and motion for them to go ahead. Whether you move depends on the geometry. In this case, the right turn lane gets wider, so I tend to stop at the extreme left side of it. That way, I leave room for a car to turn on my right. I’ll motion for the driver to do that if necessary.

Where the turn is more squared off, you may not be able to extend this courtesy. Moving to the right can put you in a position to be cut off by turning drivers when the light changes.


In this article, I showed a typical bike trip from my office to my dentist’s office around the corner. In that trip, I utilized two different CyclingSavvy stroad hacks. First, I chose to wait for a green light to make the right turn onto Gorham Road, to ensure that I could turn into a gap, and be well established on the road as I prepared to turn left onto Western Avenue. In many cases, I’m already pulling into the left turn lane before any traffic catches up to me!

Secondly, I turned directly into the left through lane, twice. In both cases, it was because it was a short distance to another left turn, so it was not worth starting in the right lane and then changing. Traffic turning behind me has a clear lane on my right to pass me in.

These two general purpose hacks are applicable on any stroad, in a great variety of situations. Having these tools in your toolbox will greatly ease the friction that you might otherwise experience on such car-centric roads. They are what makes you a Savvy Cyclist.

Join Us at the Philly Bike Expo!

The American Bicycling Education Association is pleased to announce that we’ll be at the Philly Bike Expo. So mark your calendars!

Our booth at the Philly Bike Expo
We’re back! This was our booth in 2019.

Founded in 2010 by Bilenky Cycle Works, the Philly Bike Expo promotes “the fun, function, fitness and freedom to be found on two wheels.” The event fosters relationships between the cycling community and dedicated companies and organizations.

Bilenky hosts the event so we can all “admire the artisans whose craft enables us to ride two-wheeled art, to applaud the activists whose tireless efforts further our cycling infrastructure and to explore cycling as a fun and efficient transportation alternative.”

We’ll be sharing a booth in the Expo Hall with the Lehigh Valley CAT-Coalition for Appropriate Transportation.

Concerned about Covid? There is information online about the Expo’s Covid Protocol. We are vaccinated, will be masked, and consider the risk acceptable.

Pam Murray’s bike, home from errands…

Street Smarts — and a raffle.

The recently published Bicycling Street Smarts, CyclingSavvy Edition will be available at the CyclingSavvy/CAT booth. Yes, autographed by the author!  And we’ll be raffling off copies. The grand prize winner also gets a full scholarship to a CyclingSavvy course, online or in person.

We’re having workshops too!

Two of us are giving presentations on Sunday:

John and a friend rode Spruce Street.

Pamela Murray, The Bike Life, Sunday. 1:30 PM — Pam rides over 6,000 miles per year for transportation, fitness and recreation. She is a CyclingSavvy instructor and Bicycle Benefits Ambassador, and leads bike rides for vacation and camping.

John Allen, Riding Philly Streets, Sunday, 3 PM. Videos and discussion of tactics to meet the challenges of Philly riding. In and out of the bike lane! Getting a smile from a SEPTA bus driver!

Click to zoom in for details about the ride.

And a bike ride…

We are also organizing an unracer bike ride. It will leave at 7:30 AM on Saturday from the Ellen Phillips Samuel Memorial (just downriver from the Girard Bridge), and will arrive at the Convention Center in time for you to check in for the opening of the exhibit hall.

We hope to see you in The Cradle of Liberty!

CyclingSavvy group at Woodford Corner, Portland, ME

Springing Forward with Spring Courses

As the weather warms, thoughts turn to bicycling. CyclingSavvy spring courses are happening. Classroom sessions are being held online — which has proved to be, all in all, an advantage: people don’t have to travel, and can join from anywhere. Instructors and students can hang around longer at the end of a session.

On-bike sessions with Covid precautions are ramping up too. Here’s what we have as of now.

Savvy Cycling Now April Series

Instructors John Allen and Pamela Murray are hosting a Savvy Cycling Now online series on two Wednesday evenings, April 21 and 28. This will cover the same material as the “Truth & Techniques of Traffic Cycling” classroom session of our regular 3-part course, and qualifies students to proceed to the Train Your Bike in-person session anywhere, anytime and with any instructor. Students in this round will qualify for the Boston course described below, if space is available; we’ll arrange more sessions as needed. On-bike sessions will be discounted if you take Savvy Cycling Now to qualify for them.

Here’s a video clip from an August 11 2020 session of Savvy Cycling Now:

“Truth & Techniques of Traffic Cycling” contains a lot of information and ideas. They are easy to digest in a series of one-hour sessions, spread over four weeks. This format has proven itself.

St. Louis, April 21-25

Instructors Karen Karabell and Matthew Brown are running a full three-part course April 21-25. The classroom session is online and the on-bike sessions will be adapted with Covid precautions.

Boston area, May 14-15

Instructors John Allen, Bruce Lierman and John Brooking are running a full three-part course May 14-15. As with the St. Louis course, the classroom session will be online. The in-person sessions will be in Waltham, 10 miles west of the Boston downtown area. Both on-bike sessions will be on the same day, May 15.

Check Out Ride Awesome!

Ride Awesome!CyclingSavvy’s premium online course — is … awesome. There’s truly nothing like it. During the pandemic, lifetime access to Ride Awesome! is half price. This is the best fifty bucks you’ll ever spend.

This too qualifies students to proceed to discounted on-bike sessions anywhere, anytime and with any instructor. With enough requests, we should be able to have on-bike sessions within driving distance for most U.S. participants. Let us know if you want to complete the course. Contact us

Happy cyclingSavvy group

Webinar Starts Today

In a few short hours

CyclingSavvy’s free one-hour Zoom webinar, Introduction to CyclingSavvy, starts today:

6 PM Pacific time
7 PM Mountain time
8 PM Central time
9 PM Eastern time

Because of demand, the American Bicycling Education Association has purchased lots more Zoom room.

California CyclingSavvy Instructor Gary Cziko will present. The Webinar will include live chat with three other instructors, and a Q&A session. If you can’t make it, ABEA will be posting a recording. We’ll announce where YouTube has placed it, once we know.

Bike club/organization members

Your club’s requested donation of $100 will give all club members free access to the Zoom Webinar for Bike Clubs and Group Rides, being held at the same time next Wednesday, December 16, 2020.

Club leaders, register here. Choose the Benefactor level. Include your organization’s name in the “Company” box. Note that your club is a Webinar Sponsor in the “Comments” box.

Donations will pay for work being developed exclusively for club and group cyclingHere’s a preview of the new online Group Ride Leader course currently in development:

Here are the sponsoring organizations as of December 8, 2020. Yours can still be on this list!

  • Bicycle Club of Irvine (CA)
  • Big Orange Cycling (CA)
  • Cincinnati Cycle Club (OH)
  • Coalition of Arizona Bicyclists (AZ)
  • GS Andiamo (CA)
  • Major Taylor Cycling Club Los Angeles (CA)
  • Riverside Bicycle Club (CA)
  • San Diego Bicycle Club (CA)
  • Velo Club La Grange (CA)
  • WeeklyRides.com (NC)

Two CyclingSavvy Webinars for the Holiday Season

People are cycling more than ever.

Gyms and pools are closed; countless people are staying and working at home. Many people are turning to cycling as a way to keep physically active, and to avoid exposure to the coronavirus in trains and buses. Cyclists are increasingly using e-bikes to cover longer distances in less time and with less effort.

Gary on Lincoln BulevardTraffic-cycling education — to make cycling safer and more enjoyable — has never been more important. Regardless of your level of bicycling experience, you can benefit from one or both of this month’s CyclingSavvy Zoom Webinars.

Compelling Reasons To Attend

1. If you are a cyclist.

Even if you are just thinking of getting on a bike, register for the free one-hour “Introduction to CyclingSavvy” Webinar. It’s next Wednesday, December 9, at 6 PM Pacific / 7 PM Mountain / 8 PM Central / 9 PM Eastern Time. This Facebook event listing offers more details. Free required Zoom registration is here.

2. If you know others who cycle or are interested in cycling and care about maximizing their cycling safety and enjoyment.

Invite your family (friends, neighbors, (work associates . . . ) to this webinar by forwarding this article or its link to them. Start them on their way to being able to go anywhere by bike!

3. If you are a bike club/organization member.

Are you itching to get back to group rides again? Ask leaders to make your organization a CyclingSavvy webinar sponsor. Then you and all members of your club can attend the Zoom Webinar for Bike Clubs and Group Rides on Wednesday, December 16, 2020.

For bicycle club/organization leaders:

A requested donation of $100 will give all of your club members free access to the December 16 Zoom Webinar.

Choose the “Benefactor” level at CyclingSavvy.org/support-cyclingsavvy/. Include your organization’s name and state in the “Company” box and indicate “Webinar Sponsor” in the Comments box.

Donations will pay for work being developed exclusively for club and group cycling. Here’s a sneak preview of the new online Group Ride Leader course currently in development:

Donor organizations will receive recognition and the Zoom registration link to share with members. Contact Gary Cziko to discuss other possible club-sponsor options.

Who is running the CyclingSavvy Webinars?

Cali Riderz on Pacific coast Highway, Los AngelesGary Cziko will host the two webinars from Los Angeles. Participating panelists from the East Coast will be CyclingSavvy Instructors Michael Burns and Nadine Ford.

Nadine, Michael and Gary are all board members of the American Bicycling Education Association. John S. Allen, chair of ABEA’s Program Committee, and author of Bicycling Street Smarts and editor of The Savvy Cyclist is the fourth panelist.

For more information about the CyclingSavvy approach to make you a safer and more confident cyclist, visit CyclingSavvy.org. For a sample of what we will cover in the first Webinar, see this lesson from the free online Essentials Short Course.

Thank You

Here are the sponsoring organizations as of December 8, 2020. Yours belongs on this list!

  • Beach Cities Cycling Club (CA)
  • Bicycle Club of Irvine (CA)
  • Big Orange Cycling (CA)
  • Cincinnati Cycle Club (OH)
  • Coalition of Arizona Bicyclists (AZ)
  • GS Andiamo (CA)
  • Major Taylor Cycling Club Los Angeles (CA)
  • Riverside Bicycle Club (CA)
  • San Diego Bicycle Club (CA)
  • Velo Club La Grange (CA)
  • WeeklyRides.com (NC)
Safe passing -- you can see my hand signal in my shadow.

“Control and Release” for safe passing

Several weeks ago I posted an article with dashcam video about roads with double yellow lines. I was driving the car, and slowed to follow a bicyclist at a blind curve on a two-lane rural highway. A large dump truck with a trailer appeared, coming from the opposite direction.

If I had held my speed and passed the bicyclist, I could not have merged left far enough to pass the bicyclist safely.  Neither could the truck driver see me in time to make more room.

Safe passing-- the location on Route 117 in Lincoln, Massachusetts, USA

The location, in Lincoln, Massachusetts, USA

The bicyclist kept to the right as far as he could. He relied only on hope —  and my good judgment —  to avoid a close pass, or worse.

The video held a message for motorists: “What you don’t see can hurt you” — or hurt someone else (in this case, most likely the bicyclist).

Blind curves hold a message for bicyclists

To clarify this message, I later rode the same stretch on a bicycle with front and rear video cameras.

As this video shows, I mostly rode on the shoulder. Several cars and a pickup truck passed me —  no problem. No oncoming traffic prevented safe passing clearance.

But as I approached the blind curve, the shoulder narrowed to almost nothing. A big truck or other large vehicle could be approaching ahead. Who knew? Who could know? Neither I nor the driver of the car approaching from behind me could see around that curve.

Here’s what I did — what I always do — to protect myself:

I checked in my rearview mirror and took a look over my shoulder. If vehicles had been closer behind, I would have have used a hand signal to negotiate my way into line.

This car was far enough back that I simply merged to lane-control position. Then I made a hand signal: “Slow.”safe passing: the car's slowing confirmed that the driver had seen me and was acting safely.

The driver slowed to follow me for a few seconds. Once I had rounded the curve and could see far enough ahead, I released to the right and give a friendly wave. The driver accelerated and passed me.

How control and release promotes safe passing

What did my actions achieve?

  • They indicated that I was aware of the driver’s vehicle behind me.
  • They indicated that I knew it was unsafe to pass. Maybe I knew something the driver didn’t know!
  • In case the driver was impatient, they made it clear that passing would have to wait until we could both see far enough ahead.
  • The car’s slowing confirmed to me that the driver was aware of me and acting safely.
  • And by releasing as soon as it was safe, I demonstrated courtesy. No motorist wants to be “stuck” behind a cyclist.

As it turned out, there was no large truck, or not even a small car, approaching from the front.

But that isn’t the point. One could have been.

Might the driver behind me have passed, unable to see far enough ahead, if I had hugged the right edge of the road? I don’t know, and it doesn’t matter, because I took active control of my safety in a potentially dangerous situation.

When my safety is at stake, I choose not to rely on others to do the right thing. As we say in CyclingSavvy courses, drivers get smarter when we lead the dance.

CyclingSavvy Zooms

Adapting to the Pandemic

Instructors are testing how best to Zoom CyclingSavvy sessions and observe social distancing requirements for outdoor sessions.

CyclingSavvy instructor Pam Murray

CyclingSavvy Instructor Pam Murray. Photo credit: Kellar Shearon

Getting Rubber on the Road in Charlotte

During COVID, I’ve already taught a couple of full courses in Charlotte, North Carolina. There’s a resurgence of interest in biking and there are new riders every day.

I taught my first course since COVID on July 10-12, with precautions to reduce exposure as much as possible.

Truth & Techniques of Traffic Cycling is delivered online. Participants have told me they like this better. They report it’s much easier to enjoy this material from the comfort of their own homes.

I limit outdoor sessions to 10 students. Masks are required, with social distancing when possible. In North Carolina, as of this writing, group sizes are currently limited to 25 people outside and 10 people inside. While we are outside, I limit the group to the smaller size to be on the safe side. The only other change is to ride single-file vs. riding double-file, to socially distance as much as possible.

We find that classroom sessions work best with two instructors: one to give the presentation, and the other to monitor the chat window and manage discussion.

Due to the small class size in my courses, everyone chimed in with questions and everyone was engaged. “Truth & Techniques of Traffic Cycling” as I taught it lasted three full hours, in one session.

Live From St. Louis: Savvy Cycling Now

Instructor Karen Karabell is teaching online from St. Louis, Missouri. As an experiment last June, she asked friends to attend four one-hour sessions over the course of the month.

“Truth & Techniques of Traffic Cycling” contains a lot of information and ideas. Karen thought these would be easier for people to digest in a series of one-hour sessions, spread over four weeks.

CyclingSavvy zoom poll

July 28, 2020: Anonymous poll of Savvy Cycling Now participants.

Feedback from her friends was so gratifying that Karen asked our friend Serge Issakov to advertise a July series on two Facebook pages: Supporters of Full Lane Rights for Bicyclists and Bicyclists Belong in the Traffic Lane. Seventy-four people signed up! Fewer than half attended the sessions, though. (Research is clear that most people don’t value what they don’t pay for.)

At the end of the July series, Karen surveyed participants (see poll results). She asked the American Bicycling Education Association to consider making Savvy Cycling Now an official program.

ABEA Beta Testing

This August ABEA has been beta testing Savvy Cycling Now. One hundred and forty-five people signed up for this month’s free series. However, between 50 and 75 have shown up to the three sessions held so far this month.

This class size definitely requires two instructors  which makes the sessions better. Successful traffic cycling is as much an art as a science. Discussions are robust. The varying perspectives make for a gripping session.

Here’s a video clip from the August 11 session of Savvy Cycling Now:

In-Person vs. Virtual Instruction

With online instruction, interaction among students and instructors is less fluid, but there are also advantages. Nobody has to travel. Students participate from the comfort of their own homes, with easy access to a restroom and snacks.

People can sign up from anywhere. The three-hour session can be split up into shorter parts. Both Karen and I keep hearing from participants how valuable this information has been for them. We’re grateful to share it!

My Bike is a Lifeline

Bicycling is essential for my health and well-being, even more so now.  Bicycling has been my solace during this socially distanced and stressful time. It’s the one thing that is mostly the same. When people started asking when they could take the in-person course again, that’s why I started scheduling more of them.

Stay Tuned — and Check Out Ride Awesome!

Expect ABEA to roll out a Covid-adapted program soon. Students will be able to take the classroom session online, and socially-distanced outdoor sessions with any instructor.

Ride Awesome! —  CyclingSavvy’s premium online course — is … awesome. There’s truly nothing like it. During the pandemic, lifetime access to Ride Awesome! is half price. This is the best fifty bucks you’ll ever spend.

With enough requests, we should be able to offer on-bike sessions within driving distance for most U.S. participants (currently, only the United States has CyclingSavvy Instructors). Let us know if you want to complete the course. Contact us!