Posts Tagged ‘speed limits’

Motorists and Actor-observer bias

Tuesday, December 11th, 2012

Certainly you’ve read the public comments whenever the media write about making this area a better place to bike.

It’s quite common to read stereotypes of cyclist as law breakers — and that’s an excuse for cyclists not to have safe facilities.

You may also read cycling organizations stress that bicyclists should follow the rules of the road, to be ambassadors, to not play into this stereotype.

Both responses are malarkey with perhaps the latter being more disappointing since it’s coming from the same team.

Does AAA tell motorists to be ambassadors while driving to reduce scorn from non-motorists and to ensure safe facilities get built? Of course not.

The hypocrisy of motorists stereotyping cyclists as law breakers is clear. Which road user is causing the majority of road fatalities, personal injuries, and crashes? Aggressive driving, distracting driving, drunk driving — notice the common word?

Police believe it is optimal setting speed limits at the point where only 15% of motorists are speeding. Top safety experts have admitted to us that speed limits are fairly worthless because drivers ignore them.

Furthermore, since 2004 no cyclist has caused a crash in Michigan resulting in the serious injury of death of a motorist or pedestrian. We checked.

So why the cycling hate?

The best explanation we’ve found is Actor-observer bias. According to Wikipedia:

People are more likely to see their own behavior as affected by the situation they are in, or the sequence of occurrences that have happened to them throughout their day. But, they see other people’s actions as solely a product of their overall personality, and they do not afford them the chance to explain their behavior as exclusively a result of a situational effect.

In other words, a motorist can justify their speeding because the speed limit is too low, or 5 MPH over is socially acceptable, or because they’re in a hurry.

However, when a cyclist on rolls through a stop sign, it’s because they are lawbreakers. This latter judgement is also called a Fundamental attribution error.

A two-fold solution

First, bicycle advocacy organizations need to make the rules of the road work for bicyclists. Contrary to what you may read, the League of American Wheelmen nor any other bicycle advocacy organization were at the table when the automotive industry crafted the basis for today’s rules of the road during the 1920s. We need these rule templates changed at the national level. The Idaho stop law should be the U.S. bicycle stop law.

We don’t want the same laws for bicycling. We want better laws.

Second, we need to get more people on bicycles. Doing that should give more motorists a better understanding and perhaps empathy for cyclists. We need more motorists understanding why treating stop signs as yields or jumping red lights can be safer for us. Not every motorist will become a bicyclist, but their family members and co-workers could.

It’ll never be a complete harmonious relationship between motorists and cyclists, but the first step is to recognize the social psychology driving motorists’ perception and make real improvements for a safer future.

Artificially low speed limits on trails

Wednesday, November 11th, 2009

The Spinal Column is reporting on new trail signs for the Milford Trail through the village of Milford. According to the article, these signs include a will “post a speed limit of 10 miles per hour.”

Apparently they are only follow the same rules set forth by the Huron-Clinton Metropolitan Authority.

Whenever a usable and designated path has been provided near a roadway, cyclists, hikers, joggers, runners and in-line skaters shall use that path and shall not use the roadway. However, the speed limit on the hike-bike trails is 10 miles per hour, so cyclists riding at faster speeds shall use the roadway.

It’s doubtful many people will observe 10 MPH limit since it’s unreasonably low and many bicycles don’t have speedometers.

So what is the better answer?

It’s probably to not set a speed limit at all. The trail signs would require bicyclists to yield to pedestrians, stay to the right, and avoid recklessness. That should cover everything.

Besides, the trail should meet the AASHTO standards which calls for a minimum design speed of 20 MPH.

Shared use paths should be designed for a selected speed that is at least as high as the preferred speed of the faster bicyclists. In general, a minimum design speed of 20 MPH should be used. Although bicyclists can travel faster that this, to do so would be inappropriate in a mixed-use setting. Design and traffic controls can be used to deter excessive speed and faster cyclists can be encouraged to use the roadway system. Lower design speeds should not be selected to artificially lower user speeds. When a downgrade exceeds 4%, or where strong prevailing tailwinds exist, a design speed of 30 MPH or more is advisable.

If the trail is designed for safe travel at 20 MPH then it doesn’t make sense posting a speed limit at half that.

Rules of the Road: Detroit in 1900

Wednesday, October 14th, 2009

Harry Sale, Norfolk, VirginiaThere were certainly fewer rules for Detroit cyclists in July 1900. Unlike today, bells and lights were not required on bicycles.

However there was a common speed limit of 12 miles per hour (and 8 MPH around corners.) This speed limit was lower than Grand Rapids (15 MPH) but higher than Chicago’s (10 MPH.) In Des Moines, Iowa the speed limit was “a moderate gait,” which makes one think these limits were originally set for horses.

Given the road conditions in 1900, these speed limits may have been reasonable. The Michigan LAW didn’t seem to take issue with Detroit’s limits.

The League of American Wheelmen (LAW) also made these suggestions.

Wheelmen will find it advantageous as a precaution against arrest to govern themselves in accordance with the following suggestions covering points on which some cities have legislated and others have not

  • Keep to the right
  • Ride no more than two abreast
  • Keep off the sidewalks
  • Move cautiously around corners
  • Ride straight keep your wheel under control sit so you have a clear view of the road and keep at least one hand on the handle bar
  • Before riding on a cycle path, find out whether or not you are entitled to use it without buying a license tag
  • If you collide with another wheelman or a pedestrian, dismount, and if he asks for your name and address, give it