Tag Archive for road safety

A Hi-Viz approach to blaming — and trying to save — the victims

Growing up in Colorado, I quickly learned to wear my brightest attire when venturing into the woods during hunting season, lest someone mistake me for Bambi’s mother.

Not that we look the least bit alike.

But still, there was always the risk that some armed fool might sense movement, raise and fire without first determining just what the hell he was shooting at.

Even riding my bike, I had to worry about hunters mistakenly assuming that deer tend to travel at relatively high speeds on paved roads wearing spandex. And have spoked wheels instead of legs.

Things that should be readily apparent at a glance to even the most sleep deprived, drunken and/or inexperienced idiot with a high-powered hunting rifle. And it never ceases to amaze me just how many of those we’re willing to arm and send out into the world.

But every year, it seemed like one or more people would get shot just because they ventured out into the woods when the beer and blood lust was running high.

And almost without exception, it would be written off as just an accident.

After all, the shooter didn’t mean to kill anyone. Even if the victim would still be alive if the person with the gun had taken just a few more seconds to verify what he was shooting at before pulling the trigger.

Instead, the authorities would inevitably blame the victim for venturing out without high-visibility clothing, even though the hunters themselves were usually in camouflage gear.* Or just being outdoors in the relative wilderness, when anyone with a salt-lick of sense would know they just didn’t belong there.

Maybe you can see where I’m going with this.

Despite the requirement for a license, and a proliferation of hunter safety classes, it was still up to everyone else to stay the hell out of the hunters’ way, rather than on hunters not to shoot those on two legs instead of four.

After all, they’d suggest, you should know there are people with guns out there. And it’s up to you to stay the hell out of their way.

Or at least make sure they see you if you do.

Sort of like cyclists and pedestrians are expected to do everything short of setting off a thermonuclear device to get a driver’s attention.

No, seriously.

Don’t require drivers to pay attention to what’s in the road directly in front of them. Or improve infrastructure to help keep everyone safe.

No, the standard solution is to put the blame squarely on the potential victim, rather than on the ones capable of causing harm.

Or as former competitive cyclist and current OC attorney David Huntsman put it, it’s like handing out longer skirts to prevent sexual harassment.

It was David who forwarded me a link to a New Zealand story praising a local trucking company for handing out hi-vis vests to cyclists.

The article quotes Tony Gare, general manager of Icon Logistics, discussing a collision one of his drivers had with a dark-attired cyclist, who fortunately was only slightly injured.

“If he had been wearing high-visibility clothing instead, the crash might not have happened.”

There were many cyclists in Dunedin who did not wear the visibility gear, he said.

So Mr Gare bought several hundred high-visibility vests, at a cost of about $50 each, to give away to cyclists.

“If, at the end of the day, it’s going to save someone’s life, it will be worth it.”

Clearly, his heart is in the right place.

Even if his efforts could, perhaps, be better directed by improving training for his drivers, rather than getting local cyclists to dress like people hiking through a high-fire hunting zone.

Huntsman, however, is clearly not one to let a matter such as this lie. So he sent the following email to Mr. Gare.

Mr. Tony Gare
Icon Logistics

 Mr. Gare,

The referenced article came across in my alerts this morning here in California.

First I want to say that the purchase of those reflective vests is a nice gesture.

However, as a logistics firm, isn’t your organization better suited to assess and address the education and habits (and any deficiencies) of truck drivers?  I’m curious to know if your firm has taken any steps in that direction.

Of course it would be helpful if all cyclists and pedestrians dressed in day-glo.  But focusing on that aspect of accident prevention distracts from the other side of the equation – the motorists’ side.


David Huntsman

Remarkably, the response came just a few minutes later.

Dear David

Thank you for your email regarding the Hi Vis Vests.

As a company Icon Logistics Ltd  is very proactive in its driver training and all safety matters whether it be on road or off. We have regular Training,  Health and Safety sessions, including those with the local enforcement agencies to keep our staff aware of their responsibilities in operating heavy vehicles.

On this occasion our most senior driver, plus the truck turning into the freight yard failed to see the cyclist because he was indistinguishable from the parked vehicles. This accident occurred on a heavy traffic bypass and an industrial area and as a result of this many of the business in the area have asked for changes in where people can park so turning vehicles have better visibility. While we can’t direct people where to ride, they also must take a degree of responsibility to ensure they can be seen and the choice of roads that they use.

Our General Manger, Tony, has kept in touch with the cyclist, to ensure he has had no further health issues, has replaced his bike and ensured he has the proper reflective clothing.



 Glenda Kempton
Administration Officer

And a few hours later, this came in from Mr. Gare himself.

Hi David

Thanks for your e-mail but as far as training goes in this situation the cyclist was in a heavy transport area with-out any hi-viz and the driver concerned and all of our drivers to this point are well trained and equipped in all aspects of the heavy transport industry

Many Thanks for your response

Kind Regards

Tony Gare
General Manager
Icon Logistics Ltd

Evidently, there’s a punctuation shortage down there in Kiwi land.

But don’t get me wrong.

Like David Huntsman, I appreciate the gesture. Even more when it’s done on a more personal basis, simply because someone cares.

I’m also a firm believer in being as visible as practical, if not as possible. I make a point of riding where I can be seen by everyone else on the road, and lighting myself up like a Christmas tree after dark.

And I’ve learned over the years that what I wear makes a big difference in how well drivers see me. Bright reds, yellows and whites seem to result in far fewer close calls, while an otherwise good bright blue jersey seems to mean dodging cars all day.

I call it my cloak of invisibility because it somehow seems to make me disappear from drivers’ view.

But I draw the line at wearing fluorescent vests to ensure that those who should see me anyway actually do. Let alone that we don’t blend in with parked cars, not one of which I have ever seen that looked even remotely like a bike rider.

There is a point at which drivers must be held accountable for seeing other road users and operating their vehicles safely, without cyclists having to light themselves up with neon signs to point out their position on the road.

Just as hunters have an obligation not to pull the trigger until they know what the hell they’re shooting at.


One quick suggestion for anyone who still hasn’t finished their holiday shopping.

L.A.’s own Pure Fix Cycles offers this very cool $1000 table made with their own Pure Fix Urban Forks and custom wheels, in your choice of frame and wheel colors. Or maybe you’d prefer one of their single speed/fixed gear bikes, starting at just $300 — each of which comes standard with front brakes, as well as optional rear brakes.

After all, if comes down to a choice of brakes or wearing a Hi-Viz vest, I’d rather err on the side of stopping.

*Whenever I see someone dressed in camo, I have to resist the urge to run up and say “I can totally see you, you know.”

The dog crap theory of road safety

Let’s talk responsibility.

Every morning, I walk outside with my dog, carrying a bag in my hand.

Then after a few minutes of watching her sniff every fire hydrant, bush, nook and cranny on our block — the Corgi equivalent of reading her Facebook page — she settles in for a good poop.

And inevitably, when I bend over to pick it up, I have to dodge piles of crap left behind by dog owners who aren’t as responsible.

It’s not just the unpleasant prospect of stepping in it that poses a problem. Or the simple fact that the law clearly requires owners to clean up after their animals.

What their dogs leave behind can spread disease, both to other dogs and the people who may inadvertently come in contact with it. And eventually, when the rains come, it will wash into the storm drains and out to the ocean, fouling the water that countless people swim and surf in.

Granted, one pile of crap isn’t going to cause any real harm. But multiply that by the multiple mounds on my block, and virtually every other block in this City of Angeles and the 88 other cities and towns, as well as unincorporated areas, in the county.

And you’ll start to understand why it’s not safe to eat many of the fish that come out of the bay. Or to spend much time in it yourself.

As I stand waiting for her to finish her morning rounds, I also have an opportunity to study the busy street that runs in front of our building.

I watch as a steady stream of cars flows past, observing countless drivers talking on their hand-held cell phones.

Others turn left or right or change lanes without ever using their turn signals, leaving other drivers to wonder — often with obvious impatience — why the car ahead is slowing down for no apparent reason. Or slamming on their brakes and swerving dangerously into the next lane to get around them.

Then there are the speeding drivers who weave in and out of the morning traffic, ignoring both speed limits and common sense, trusting their own driving skills to avoid the many near misses they create.

And too often, failing.

All this, despite their responsibility to obey the traffic laws they flaunt, and operate their vehicles in a safe and responsible manner.

Less frequently, I’ll see bikes rolling past as riders make their way up the street to UCLA, or down the street to jobs in Century City or beyond.

From time to time, I see one blow through the red light on the corner, forcing drivers who have waited patiently to cross the street to jam on their brakes to avoid a collision as the rider rushes into their path.

At night, as I take my dog out for the last walk of the day, I often see cyclists ride past without lights, briefly highlighted by the streetlights before rolling into semi-invisibility in the twilight between.

Other times, as I ride my bike, I often watch in amazement as I stop for a red light, only to see a cyclist ride up from behind and ride right through, ignoring my example as well as their own safety.

In fact, I was hit by one the other night, as I stopped and he kept going, brushing hard against my side as he blew through on my right, oblivious to the traffic starting to flow in either direction on the cross street.

Evidently, hitting me and risking getting hit himself were worth it to avoid stopping for less than a minute.

It breaks my heart when I reach an intersection and see oncoming or crossing drivers hesitate, despite having the right-of-way, because they expect me to ride through a stop sign or red light. Or anticipate that I’ll cut in front of them, ignoring both the right-of-way and my own safety.

Because that’s what we’ve trained them to do.

Too often, I find myself waving drivers through the intersection, granting my permission to do what the rules of the road say they have the right to do anyway. Or needlessly clicking out of my pedal and putting my foot down, so they’ll see that I am in fact stopping.

Because, like them, I have a responsibility to obey the law.

And more importantly, to share the road safely.

The difference is, when drivers act irresponsibly, they pose a danger to everyone else on the road. When we do, the risk is primarily to ourselves.

Although we, too, can harm others by our actions.

The problem isn’t irresponsible cyclists, despite what countless bike-hating internet trolls and shock-jock DJs will tell you. Or drivers who have forgotten the danger their vehicles pose, and their responsibility to operate them safely.

Or even dog owners who can’t be bothered to clean up after their pets.

It’s a society that has become irresponsible in the truest sense of the word, willing to let others clean up the messes we create. Except they often don’t do it either.

Whether on Wall Street, in Washington, Sacramento or City Hall, or on our own block.

When that lack of responsibility occurs on the streets, it forces other road users to assume responsibility for our own safety.

By blowing through that red light or stop sign, or driving while distracted — or any of the other countless, seemingly insignificant violations we commit every day — we’re placing responsibility for our own safety in the hands of others, who may or may not accept it.

When they do — or can, for that matter — everyone rolls off safely, if perhaps a little more angry at the cyclists or drivers they blame for posing a hazard to everyone else. And oblivious to the way they do the same things every day.

I’ve often said that the highest responsibility of any cyclist is to ride safely, in a manner that doesn’t pose an unnecessary risk to ourselves or others around us.

And yes, drivers bear that same responsibility, too.

So I promise I won’t make you deal with my crap on the road. I’ll ride responsibly, obeying the law when it’s safe to do so, and rarely, breaking it when safety demands doing something else, and ensuring that safety is always my top priority.

And hope that you won’t make me deal with yours.

Update: San Diego TV station attempts to thin the herd by encouraging children to ride against traffic

Evidently, they have too many children in San Diego.

How else can you explain a news report on KFMB-TV encouraging children riding to school to risk their lives by salmoning on the wrong side of the road?

And if your child walks, rides a bike or a skateboard to school, make sure they travel against traffic and always wears a helmet.

The helmet advice is fine. In fact, helmets are legally required in California for all bike riders under 18. And walking against traffic can be good advice, although it might have been nice to encourage children to walk on the sidewalk, rather than in the street.

But riding a bike against traffic is not only illegal — bikes are required to ride with traffic — but exceptionally dangerous. While it may give the illusion of increasing safety by allowing riders to see oncoming traffic, it reduces reaction times for both the rider and drivers while greatly increasing the severity of any collision.

It’s bad enough that a local reporter got it wrong and gave children and parents the wrong advice in a mistaken attempt to improve back-to-school safety. What’s worse is that the statement came in the middle of a quote from a California Highway Patrol officer.

At best, it appears to give official support for the reporter’s error. At worst, it suggests that the officer in question is badly misinformed about bike law and safety, and offering advice that could put children at risk.

Hopefully, they’ll make a correction soon. Before anyone takes their advice.

And maybe they’ll talk to someone who knows what the hell they’re talking about before making a similar mistake again.

Update: As of 12:30 today, KFMB still has not corrected their report, despite promising several people who contacted them that they would do so. As a result, I sent them the following email.

Dear Adrienne Moore — 

I’ve heard from a number of people who have contacted you today to correct the dangerously false advice given in your report “Avoiding a big danger kids face on way to school.” They wrote you to asking that you correct the suggestion that children riding bikes should ride against, rather than with, traffic. 
This is both illegal, as California law requires that all cyclists must ride in the same direction as traffic, and dangerous because it reduces reaction time for the cyclists and for motorists rushing towards them. There is no valid authority that advices riding against traffic in the U.S.; however, the placement of the statement within the discussion by CHP Officer Brian Pennings suggests that he provided you with that information.
If he told you that cyclists should ride facing traffic, he is wrong, and this gives you an opportunity to both correct his error and inform the general public how to ride safely with traffic. If not, you have done the CHP a disservice by suggesting that Officer Pennings is unaware of one of the most basic laws governing cycling.
Your continued failure to correct this advice puts the lives and safety of children at risk. I must insist that you offer a full retraction immediately before anyone is injured or killed as a result of your error; simply correcting the story online will not be sufficient to remedy the damage that has been done.
Update 2: I haven’t received a response to my email; however, the video report has been re-edited to say that pedestrians should walk against traffic, and skateboarders and bicyclists should wear a helmet. However, the online print version of the story still has not been corrected, and as far as I can tell, no effort has been made to correct the misinformation given all the people who may have heard or read the original report.
Update 3: I received a response from Adrienne Moore, the reporter who covered the story for KFMB, who apologized for the error and said the story had been corrected. However, the online print version still has not been corrected as of 10 pm August 23rd.

Giro kicks off, The Lancet calls for road safety, on-road portion of the Expo bikeway takes shape

The racing season starts for real as the legendary Giro d’Italia kicks off with a team time trial, which was won by HTC-Highroad.

Italian time trial champion Marco Pinotti wears the pink jersey — the Giro’s equivalent of the yellow jersey in the Tour de France. Bike Snob covers the race for Bicycling in his own inimitable style, while the magazine offers 10 riders to watch, including Contador, Sastre, Nibali, Cavendish and Petacchi.

Unfortunately, the field is weakened as a number of top teams have opted to take part in the competing Amgen Tour of California, which will roll during the Giro’s second week.


An editorial in the respected medical journal The Lancet calls for reducing road dangers, both from collision and disease caused by over-reliance on automobiles.

3000 people die each day in accidents on the roads worldwide—nearly 1·3 million people a year. In addition, 20—50 million people are injured each year, many of whom end up with lifelong disabilities. 90% of road-traffic deaths occur in low-income and middle-income countries, despite fewer vehicles in these countries. Without concerted action, road-traffic injuries are predicted to be the fifth leading cause of death by 2030 (after ischaemic heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, and lower respiratory infections)—a leap from being the ninth ranked cause of death in 2004. In those aged 15—29 years, road-traffic injuries are the leading cause of death. Just over half of all deaths on the roads are in those not travelling in a car.

These numbers are stark, but do not take into account the epidemic of chronic disease and obesity, or the effects on air pollution and climate change, which result from increasing reliance on motorised vehicles. Conversion of a road-traffic injury epidemic to one of obesity or heart disease needs to be avoided.

They conclude with a common-sense call to action I can back wholeheartedly.

Making towns and cities safer for pedestrians and cyclists, or promoting use of seat belts or helmets, might not be as cutting edge as stem-cell research but will save more lives this decade.


The opening of Metro’s new Expo Line may be delayed once again — until next year this time — but the accompanying bike lanes are hitting the pavement on Expo Blvd now. And yes, we all hoped for an off-road bike path like the Valley’s Orange Line, but they’ve been saying for months we weren’t going to get it for the full length.

Evidently, they were right.

And I’m told that the eastbound lane transitions from asphalt to concrete in the middle of the lane; nothing like an uneven riding surface on a brand new bikeway.

Thanks to Patrick Murray for the heads-up.


LACBC celebrates Bike Month by giving away a new IZIP electric bike; any new or renewing members are eligible. Cyclists tell the Source why they ride. Flying Pigeon calls on cyclists to support the bike advocacy group of their choice. Recent City Council candidate Stephen Box suggests LADOT’s acting head may have warn out his welcome. An anonymous writer for Bikeside says if you really want to understand planning, ride a bike. Matthew Ruscigno looks back at last month’s Feel My Legs, I’m a Racer. West Hollywood considers the possibility of a road diet and bike lanes on Fountain Avenue. The Santa Monica Daily Press says yes, you do have to stop for stop signs and traffic signals. Beverly Hills will host a bike workshop on Thursday, May 12th to get ready for Bike Week LA; Ron Durgin will be teaching, so count on expert instruction. Glendale will host a series of events for Bike Month. A look at Saturday’s L’Tape du California.

A San Diego writer looks back at his first week of bike commuting in the merry Bike Month of May; results so far, he’s tired. The SF Gate answers the concerns that keep women from commuting by bike. Five commuting tips to make every day Bike to Work Day. Three Bay Area counties are tracking cyclists through smartphone apps to collect data for future planning purposes. Benicia banishes downtown bike racks for being unsightly and diminishing the area’s historic character; something tells me they didn’t get rid of car parking for the same reasons. Those sporty spoilers can direct exhaust fumes directly to your head.

Lovely Bicycle reviews the Urbana bike; I offered my thoughts back in December. Nine years after his nephew is killed in a car crash, a Minot ND man honors his memory by giving away nearly 600 bikes to local children. A Detroit-area patrolman knew the cyclist he killed in a collision. Circling the heart of New York on the unfinished Manhattan Waterfront Greenway. A suspicious cyclist causes a scare at Ground Zero. Three Buffalo NY cyclists set out to complete the cross county bike ride they abandoned following a collision 25 years earlier.

A writer in VeloNews says it may be time to take on competitive cycling’s governing body; a new time trial shoe banned by the UCI fights back. CNN lists 15 bike-friendly cities around the world. Oxford’s new Lord Mayor vows to bike to work. One of the most gut-wrenching bike PSAs I’ve ever seen. Interrupting a bike ride to save a baby bunny. Bike-mounted cameras reveal the abuse Aussie drivers dish out.

Finally, an alleged drunk driver keeps going after killing a pedestrian in San Francisco, then smashes into a series of parked cars before coming to rest against a concrete planter. And Orange County authorities arrest an underage driver with a blood alcohol level of .30; so high, it causes police to say they’ve never seen anyone that drunk.


My apologies for not updating the upcoming bike events this week; I was tied up preparing for a surprisingly successful Saturday morning workshop biking issues in the ‘Bu. Thanks to the Malibu Public Safety Commission for bringing open minds and truly listening to our ideas and concerns; hopefully this is the beginning of a new relationship with the City of Malibu and better safety for everyone on PCH.

Stranger things have happened.

I’ll try to update the Events page over the next few days. There’s a lot going on this month you won’t want to miss.

Meanwhile, Damien Newton offers a comprehensive listing of Bike Month events on Streetsblog.

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