Posted by Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor) on June 17th, 2013 at 12:10 pm
The Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) has just released The Bicyclist's Survival Guide (PDF), a new publication about bicycling. Here's how they introduce it in an official statement sent out this morning:
"Looking to get back on the bike and be part of the active transportation crowd? You'll save money, reduce pollution and improve your health! Here is "The Bicyclist's Survival Guide" with tips to keep you on the straight and vertical. Ride on!"
For ODOT, the graphics are actually quite nice. The information is also solid. There are four main sections with clear explanations of safe riding tips and accompanying graphics. They remind folks to not ride against traffic, to take the lane when riding on a road without a shoulder, to not wait in the blind spot of right-turning cars, to use hand signals, and so on. One tip that caught my eye was the recommendation to only use a blinking light during the day. "At night it blinds drivers and fellow cyclists," says ODOT, "and may actually put you in danger of a collision." Interesting to see the State weigh in on the blinky vs. steady light debate.
Here's a sample of one of the graphics:
There's also this catchy "Check yourself before you wreck yourself" diagram:
Another special section gives tips on rural road riding. The tips include:
- Watch your back with rear-view mirrors. And frequent shoulder checks can be a life-saver – especially prior to cresting a hill or entering a curve.
- Watch for critters (including unleashed dogs!) in wooded areas and farming communities.
- Think fast! Some motorists simply can’t resist going fast on open country roads, and may not expect bicyclists on the roadway. So watch out and keep your cool.
While much of the tips and the graphics/layout are solid, the messaging and title are unfortunate. Riding a bike isn't about being part of any "crowd" and they forgot to mention that bicycling isn't just about being thrifty, healthy or eco-friendly — for many short trips it's simply an efficient way to get from A to B. Bicycling also isn't dangerous and the "survival guide" framing sends the wrong message. (It reminds me of a book I reviewed back in 2011: the The Urban Cyclists Survival Guide.)
There's also a tendency in the copy to make it seem like people are just helpless with their dangerous driving:
Drivers pulling into traffic look only in the direction of oncoming cars. If you ride against traffic, drivers won’t see you until they are on top of you...literally.
when you are riding past parked cars, keep an eye on those car doors – they have a way of swinging open quickly and unexpectedly.
telegraph your every move with hand signals. The last thing you want to do is catch a driver by surprise... the surprise may be on you!