Big City, Bright Lights

October 21, 2017 § 18 Comments

Where you sit in the roadway or the shoulder while pedaling your bike is up to you. I simply hope you’re doing it with a lot of lights.

After the recent smashback here in L.A. from cager trolls and the pitchfork peasants who were enraged that a safer, cleaner, cheaper, sexier, healthier, happier mode of transportation might slow them down fifteen seconds on their one-hour commute, it has become even more evident that cyclists themselves are riven. Lane control advocates shrug at the loss of bike infrastructure; they never wanted it to begin with, beyond sharrows and BMUFL signage. Infrastructure lovers are heartbroken and trying to rally themselves for the next big beating, like kids shuffling into dad’s bedroom knowing he already has the belt off.

I’m happy to report that there’s a solution. We lane control advocates should stop poking a thumb in the eye of the infrastructure lovers. We should stop sharpening our rhetorical sticks, hardening them with fire, and jabbing them into the tender fallacies of those who want more things built in roads to protect bicycles. We should let them go about their business.

In fact, I’m happy to give infrastructure advocates all the rope they want. They can take it out to Playa del Rey, Manhattan Beach and Palso Verdes, do their advocacy, show up at meetings and present factual data, but when they do, here’s a pro tip: Don’t do it near any trees with sturdy, low hanging, horizontal limbs. Because when the pitchfork peasants see your bike infrastructure rope, and understand that it’s a threat to the hegemony of their cages, they will know what to do with it.

Rather than poking holes in the infrastructure lovers’ arguments, we should make common cause with them in this way: Tell them, without judging, that while we’re waiting for the amazing infrastructure that will protect us from cagers (for example, the Santa Monica bike path where no one ever gets hurt by other bicycles and where no bicycle has ever run over and seriously injured a pedestrian), we will all take the fuggin’ lane while lit up like Christmas trees. This includes the infrastructure lovers.


And then, after my cremated ashes have been dispersed by the winds of time, been blown to Jupiter and are circling its outer moon, eventually, I say, when the great infrastructure project is completed such that it has constructed those supremely segregated, superbly striped, sexily signed, perfectly protected, and beautifully barrier-ized bike path/lane/road/highways to cover every alley, every back road, every country lane, every cul-de-sac, every county road, every byway, every dirt road, every highway, every city street, every parking area, and every other possible place where cars and bikes might possibly be at the same place at the same time, then we will be able to have another discussion about whether bike infrastructure is better, safer, preferable, cheaper, more efficient, cheaper to maintain, more popular, and more conducive to expanding cycling than following existing traffic laws and exercising lane control in a lawful manner.

‘Til that happy day when The Infrastructure Saints Go Marchin’ In, however, let’s all take a deep a breath, swallow our ideologies, and take the fuggin’ lane. Lit up like Christmas trees, of course. Mirrors optional.



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§ 18 Responses to Big City, Bright Lights

  • Gary Cziko says:

    The academic in me wants to distill from this three variables that are important for cyclists’ safety on the road. They are Visibility, Conspicuousness and Relevance.

    Visibility is whether you can be seen by other relevant road users. If you’re on the right side of a bus or truck at an intersection, you are not visible to opposite-direction drivers making a left turn–until perhaps just before impact. Same thing if you are on one side of a large parked vehicle that is segregating a bikeway from the traffic lanes and a motorist entering a driveway is on the other side.

    Conspicuousness is your ability to attract the visual attention of other road users by standing out against the background. Bright, fluo colors help by day and low light conditions. Retroflective objects and materials help at night. The advantage of the bright “Christmas tree” lights you favor are that they make you conspicuous both day and night. Set and forget.

    Relevance implies visibility but goes a step further. It means you are where other drivers are looking because that’s where their vehicle is headed. Lane control (aka “take the fuggin’ lane”) automatically makes you both relevant and visible. Using a narrow edge or door-zone bike lane makes you less relevant. Riding on a sidewalk or segregated bike path can make a cyclist irrelevant to motorists even if he or she is both visible and conspicuous.

    Bright lights while being irrelevant on the roadway edge are not so good. Bright lights while not visible behind a large vehicle are pretty useless to drivers on the other side.

    So to align all three variables in your favor as a cyclist, lane control with bright lights is the clear (and bright) way to go. Works day and night.

    End of lecture.

    • fsethd says:

      If you’re going to ride in the gutter, still ride with bright lights. It’s not true at all that bright lights are irrelevant on the roadway edge.

  • nealhe says:

    Hello Seth and All,

    Bright Lights, Big City ….

    “Bright light, big city, gone to my baby’s head
    Whoa, bright light, an’big city, gone to my baby’s head
    I tried to tell the woman, but she don’t believe a word I said
    It’s all right, pretty baby, (gonna) need my help someday…”

    and Another Day of Sun

    “Climb these hills
    I’m reaching for the heights
    And chasing all the lights that shine
    And when they let you down
    You’ll get up off the ground
    ‘Cause morning rolls around
    And it’s another day of sun”

    I like that …. Live and let live …. and get up and keep punching ….

    Infra advocates (and BMUFL advocates) are outnumbered 98 or 99 to one by Cagers …. unrealistic to expect to win ’em all.

    Win some, lose some, some get rained out.

    Seems obvious cyclists can do more good united than divided.

    Cool license plate ….

    Enjoy your writing …. keep it up ….. looking forward to an edited collection in a book ………… to pass on to friends ….

    • fsethd says:

      That’s one of the points that Peter Flax made after the big cager victory. We have more in common than not. Thanks, Neal.

  • channel_zero says:

    has constructed those supremely segregated,

    In most backward looking cities, this is what passes for non-motorized access policy.

    “We’ll build a dedicated bike lane as soon as we can find the 10’s of millions of dollars needed to build a few kilometers in a place no cars want to go and people have no reason to go, and goes nowhere, and there is external funding”

    Which, is a great way to say, “Get lost. Cars rule.” without saying it directly.

    Take the lane.

    • fsethd says:

      And make no apologies for it, either!

    • Hank from Pasadena says:

      I think the infrastructure effort has problems at a local level but would be better off at sort of a county wide level.

      Consider the difference between Playa del Rey and the LA river.

      In Playa, you have wealthy, politically acitive people who pay attention to everything. In contrast, many people do not even know the LA river exists or where it is.

      However, with about three miles of infrastructure along mostly commercial areas you would have a dedicated bike path from the Valley to Long Beach. And, it would open up downtown to people without serious handling skills.

      The next section for me would be getting serious about Jefferson blvd from Ballona Creek to where it would connect to the LA river path.

      I don’t live near those areas myself, but if you have true bike paths along those routes then actual commuting becomes not just something for super enthusiasts or for those who can only afford bikes, but an option if you live near enough to those paths. Then, you work on connecting the paths to neighborhoods, picking streets essentially by width and speed.

      We all know that once a commuting base of voters is established such a base has power.

      In contrast, working on a specific street in a wealthy neighborhood is the most difficult way to get space allocated. One person with a stick up their ass can make things ridiculously difficult, as Seth knows from PV.

      In the meantime, the lane control efforts continue with all the force which can be mustered.

      Its a long way of agreeing, but the two forms of effort are really not inconsistent in any way as far as I can see.

      • fsethd says:

        Well said!

      • channel_zero says:

        However, with about three miles of infrastructure along mostly commercial areas

        AKA, places people don’t want to go.

        Bikes belong on the street. We pay for roads. Bikes meaninfully increase density and improve economic activity where streets become multi-modal. This isn’t theory any more.

        Bicycles belong on the street, in the lane, as an equal mode of transportation, not stuffed between what’s effectively been a sewer and the companies that dump in it.

  • senna65 says:

    Totally agree with the very bright light theory and the fact it could save your life. Unfortunately, the last two people I know that got killed on the road were dead regardless – one steamrolled from behind at 4am by a dude coming home from a night of “partying” and rendered utterly f’ing worthless by a cocktail of alcohol and weed – the other swerving into the road trying to avoid a charging dog only to get steamrolled from behind by car.

  • bejoneses says:

    If only there was way to un-anonymize the cagers… The general behavior of car drivers when in slow traffic – including all of the various unsafe, dick-headed, and usually illegal maneuvers taken to get a few cars ahead in the line of slow moving vehicles-makes the disregard for pedestrians and cyclists seem like a natural extension. Like the behaviors of people on the internet, when there’s no personal responsibility because nobody knows who the are, the general behavior of drivers has been progressively degrading for years.

  • darelldd says:

    We seem to stipulate too often that there are these two distinct camps of thought. Lane Control and Infrastructure.

    >>We lane control advocates should stop poking a thumb in the eye of the infrastructure lovers.<>infra advocates (and BMUFL advocates) are outnumbered<>Its a long way of agreeing, but the two forms of effort are really not inconsistent in any way as far as I can see.<<

    So my request (coming from a guy who is a fierce advocate of both Lane Control AND proper infrastructure) is to absolutely move forward with all of it. We all want the same end result, and there is no one perfect answer for all of it.

    • darelldd says:

      Hmmm. The message is still OK, but my post is missing content and formatting for some reason.

      • fsethd says:

        WordPress gremlins, I guess. I didn’t do anything to it.

      • darelldd says:

        Thinking that using double carrots for quotes was the offense. All the changed/missing stuff was between those. I’ll make a note to myself.

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