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ODOT releases “The Bicyclist’s Survival Guide”

Posted by on June 17th, 2013 at 12:10 pm

Cover of new ODOT publication

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!

You can download a PDF of this guide and see more from ODOT on their Bicyclist Safety website.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. BikePortland is an inclusive company with no tolerance for discrimination or harassment including expressions of racism, sexism, homophobia, or xenophobia. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Also, if you comment frequently, please consider holding your thoughts so that others can step forward. Thank you — Jonathan

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Hart Noecker
Guest

If putting helmets on each rider in these images weren’t detrimental enough, ODOT’s guide absurdly warns against riding at night at all in rural areas. This is actually worse than the BTA.

Nick
Guest
Nick

So predictable of our highway department. I’m glad they’re trying, but they really need to try harder if they want to stop looking so clueless. The “survival guide” title alone is extremely cringe-worthy. They’re never going to increase bicycle mode share with that kind of marketing.

AndyC of Linnton
Guest
AndyC of Linnton

ODOT: I’m pleased you are trying, but what I don’t need is more handbooks. What I do need is better infrastructure, so that I don’t have to try and “survive” just because I’m going somewhere.

Ayleen
Guest

I agree, glad they’re trying but… SURVIVAL GUIDE? Seriously? People are already scared enough to ride on the streets.

jocko
Guest
jocko

Maybe they could do some “bike Rodeos” to kick this whole thing off!

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

As Archer would say: “Phrasing!”

gumby
Guest
gumby

I’m going to suggest they use a new title: “How to survive the nearly inevitable crushing, mangling and flattening from the cars of oblivious drivers.”

Spiffy
Guest

ODOT Presents: A Government Guide to Avoiding Law-Breaking Motorists.

it opens with this lie as their first point: Drivers pulling into traffic look only in the direction of oncoming cars.

generally when something has an obvious lie as its intro point I just dismiss the entire thing instead of wasting my time…

then their thirst point (second tip): Pedal by the book. When on the road, your bike is a vehicle. That means you have the same rights – and responsibilities – as motorists.

another lie, not as obvious… bikes and motor-vehicles have MANY, not all, of the same rights and responsibilities… this is a MAJOR problem with the way the public sees bicycles, as having to obey all the same rules because we have the same rights…

I forced myself to turn the page: Keep to the right, but not so far to the right that you risk hitting the curb or leaving the paved road. And when you are riding past parked cars, keep an eye on those car doors – they have a way of swinging open quickly and unexpectedly.

so keep far enough right to avoid curbs and unpaved shoulders, but not doors? keep an eye on doors, but don’t stay out of their path?

Check yourself before you wreck yourself? helmet, earbuds, and bright clothing have nothing to do with causing yourself to wreck… those things might help to prevent something else from crashing into you though…

When close to an intersection, never pass vehicles on the right – it’s a sure way to a knockout. Watch the right-turn signals and hang back until the coast is clear.

this bit of advice seems to show bikes in a bike lane where it’s perfectly legal to pass on the right… it seems like they’re saying that we should confuse drivers by coming to a stop in our lane for no reason while they’re waiting for us to pass them in our lane…

Be Visible, Be Alert. bright colors don’t really help at night… Steer clear of danger? just by watching vehicles? or are they suggesting that we take evasive action if there’s a vehicle waiting to cross at a stop sign? again, do they want us to stop for no reason and confuse the motorists?

Reflective tape on your sleeves or gloves will
ensure that your every move is seen by drivers
… no, no it won’t… but it helps… you can’t just throw on reflective tape and then assume everybody sees you… oh, on the next page they reverse course… Don’t take it for granted: Even if you’re doing
everything right, drivers may not see you…

Plan your trip to make sure your entire route is bike-friendly
and within your endurance limits.
what do they mean by bike-friendly? every road is bike-friendly… it’s the motoring public that you have to watch out for…

Be predictable: Ride in a straight line, no swerving or weaving, and use clear hand signals. I read somewhere that cyclists who swerve and weave are given more room on the road…

and I’m just embarrassed that they have to include these two:
* 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.
* 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.
* Don’t be left in the dark. Finish your ride before nightfall – rural roads lack the ambient light of urban areas, so drivers may not see you until it’s too late.

If that’s outside your comfort zone, dismount and walk your bike until you feel it’s safe to ride again. hopefully crossing the street to walk against traffic is also in your comfort zone…

on a whole this “guide” is a huge failure… a few very basic (and sometimes obvious) helpful tips mixed in with a whole lot of “watch out for motorists” rhetoric…

I wonder how much money this thing cost them to put out…

Paul
Guest
Paul

The irony of these comments is flooring… Literally one story above this one on the front page is of a man being killed riding a bike. Bicycling IS A SURVIVAL GAME! Do you think that by suggesting that riders not where helmets that it somehow makes it safer because of the “message”. If bicycle community all consensually advocated for not wearing helmets, they would be perceived is irresponsible and insensitive by the larger community.

I agree, ODOT should be focused on providing infrastructure to make cycling safter, but don’t play dumb by suggesting that they not address the safety hazards of cyclist becuase you think it “frames” the argument poorly. Ignoring it or pretending it’s something it’s not would be far worse…

Lynne
Guest

I’d watch for automotive turn signals, if they were actually being used. I might even slow down in the bike lane if the cars up near the front of the queue were signalling. It would be NICE if vehicle operators got this same sort of attention/education.

Indy
Guest
Indy

On page 39:
“Biking down Barbur? Our bad. Just take Macadam. Whoops! We mean Terwilliger! Yeah, Terwilliger!”

David
Guest
David

That page about avoiding right hooks is particularly bad. The last thing we need is confusion over who has the legal right of way at intersections. I’m surprised (or actually…maybe I’m not) that ODOT bumbled this one so poorly.

Nina Cooper
Guest
Nina Cooper

The stat that there are more accidents that involve only drivers and/or passengers needs to be framed properly: there are simply more drivers than there are riders. And we can’t dispute the fact that state agencies have talked ad nauseum about dangers of DUII, speeding, texting and other reckless driving behaviors. It’s not like bicyclists are singled out!

I am pretty new to riding, and still unsure about riding on the street. I don’t know the laws very well, and frankly I don’t trust that drivers know them either. Yes, a lot of it is common sense, but certain things aren’t. This guide doesn’t take long to read, easy to remember and gives us newbies basic pointers.

And let’s be honest here: all of us witnessed bone-headed behavior by BOTH drivers and bicyclists, so plenty of blame to go around. But here’s the difference: if a driver does something stupid around a rider, the worst that happens is they need a paint job. If a bicyclist violates – well, the stakes are much higher.

Share the road, people, share the road – why so much animosity?!

peejay
Guest
peejay

This is the transportation equivalent to the “Watch those short skirts, ladies!” Kind of advice that excuses male behavior. Disgusting that it comes from a government agency.

gutterbunnybikes
Guest
gutterbunnybikes

Not really much of a fan of much in the “guide”. The title is terrible – might as well be “Be affraid, be very affraid”

VMT stats put cycling as a much safer mode of transport than driving. Infact if I’m not mistaken VMT stats put biking safer than walking.

I’m just really tired of all the “safety” BS. Mostly the helmet stuff but the bright color/reflective gear garbage as well.

It been known for awhile now that in areas with manditory helmet laws that :

1) the amount of fewer deaths related to bicycle accidents doesn’t make up for the additional risk to the riders who choose to continue riding after such laws are inacted. Since manditory laws reduce ridership by roughly 33% (1/3 drop in ridership is pretty consistant in all communities world wide) a rider is actually more at risk to be involved in a deadly crash.

2) Non leathal head injuries dramatically increase under manditory helmet laws.

3)There is only one proven way to reduce bicyle injuries and deaths, and that is increased ridership.

Now none of the above is much of a surprise to anyone that’s looked at the facts and figures or followed the issue for awhile. It’s not even close to new news. However, what I recently found shocking is that the nearly everyone in the helmet industry doesn’t even really care as told in the article linked a few weeks back in Bicycling (http://www.bicycling.com/senseless/).

I don’t know why this topic isn’t more debated. It’s definately more important to cycling and its future than another dumb jock on “roids” or the asthetics of bike share racks.

As for the bright clothing and reflective gear a simple leason in the arrangement of the rods and cones in your eyes should point out the faulty logic behind these ideas. The fact is that color is detected less and less the further an object is from the center of vision. So unless someone is looking nearly directly at you the effect of bright colors is nearly mute. This is why at night you can actually see better if you look slightly over ther road than down at the road when riding or driving. Your color blind rods are better suited for low light conditions. While the cones which see color best, are clustered more at the center of the retna.

Same goes with reflective products, if you’re not in the head lights they do you no good. No good for dooring, right or left hooks, or even people not paying attention.

But all this safe stuff is great for industry. Millions of dollars a year for lids that really don’t protect, which might actually cause more injuries. And boat loads of cheap plastic cloth to an unsuspecting and lazy consumer. Heck its an extra $100 add on sale when you’re leaving the show room floor.

Now if you really want to make cycling safer, just ride. And ride more often. Preferablly without a helmet. But wear one if it makes you feel better (I won’t say a word honestly) Seeing riders with helmets and the constant warnings discourages others from riding. Doesn’t matter if the reasons are from don’t wanting to mess up their hair to the perception that it is a dangerous activity, all of us need them on pedals.

wsbob
Guest
wsbob

“…Bicycling also isn’t dangerous and the “survival guide” framing sends the wrong message. …” maus/bikeportland

It seems much of what’s reported or written about in articles here at bikeportland by the weblog’s writer-editor-publisher, repeatedly stresses how dangerous bicycling is because of motor vehicles on the road.

That biking on roads and streets with motor vehicles holds elements of danger…and that there are various practices cyclists can follow to mitigate that danger, is what ODOT’s new handbook seeks to convey to those reading the handbook. I’m personally not a big fan of rhyming adages like some the writers of this handbook have used, but those kinds of phrases can sometimes make it easier for people reading to understand and remember the message.

The ‘Avoid The Right Hook’ graphic on pg 3 of the guide does a good job of showing exactly how…to minimize the chances of a right hook occurring…a cyclist riding in a bike lane and to the right of motor vehicles as both approach an intersection, should position themselves relative to the motor vehicle.

Pg 4 of the handbook: I think the graphic advising cyclists to try hold their lower arm at a 90 degree angle to their lower arm as a signal for a stop, is bad. A 45 degree downward angle is better: easier position to hold, and puts the hand further out making the signal more visible to road users.

Also not so good on Pg 4: “…Reflective tape on your sleeves or gloves will ensure that your every move is seen by drivers–especially at dusk and at nighttime. …”

Ensure? That’s overconfidence. Reflective tape will hopefully help drivers to see vulnerable road users…but it’s no guarantee they will see.

Prominent on Pg 1, this is good:

“Pedal by the book. When on the road, your bike is a vehicle. That means you have the same rights – and responsibilities – as motorists. So obey all traffic signs, signals, lane markings and other rules of the road.”

…as is the link on the last page of the PDF, to Oregon’s pedestrian and bike laws. Maybe that link would have been more effective on Pg 1 of the guide directly beneath the statement about cyclists’ rights and responsibilities.

maxadders
Guest
maxadders

Uggh, “Survival Guide” just perpetuates the notion that riding a bike is something only the irrational and careless do– that I’m choosing to put my own life at risk.

Bry
Guest
Bry

I think that a lot of these comments deriding the booklet (and I haven’t read them all, so there may be exceptions) are mainly just nitpicking and ignore the broader, more relevant point: offering some good points for riders to be prepared, be seen, be safe, have fun in a brief handout. And remember that is this booklet is likely aimed towards newer or more inexperienced riders who might need some broader advice on how to ride safely.

Indeed, there are some good points: ride WITH traffic instead of opposed; use hand singals; stay out of blind spots; take the lane when needed; wear bright and reflective clothing (yes, bright clothing can help at night as well, such as when illuminated by a street lap, headlights, or another biker’s lights).

There may be some legitimate issues (the notion of drivers “never” looking to check the lane against the flow of traffic for pedestrians is a good complaint). But what are people mostly complaining about here that makes this booklet “a huge failure” (in the words of one poster)? The titling of the booklet as a survival guide? Given that AAA has published a driver’s survival guide and “survival tips” when traveling, and that we have “survival guides” for everything these days (including a zombie apocalypse), I don’t see this as a real issue; rather, it’s just a way for the booklet to catch someone’s eye and interest. Many of the other comments complaining about how bright clothing won’t save you, or taking issue with the common phrase “Check yourself before you wreck yourself” again miss the booklet’s broader point. And as for the comment that the booklet is the government’s equivalent of perpetuating sexism, but against cyclists (huh?), I don’t even know where to begin with that.

I’m not going to dissect every comment here, but it seems like the general gut reaction is to find fault and either (1) profess how this booklet is a joke and a waste of time and money; or (2) shake our heads and chuckle about how out-of-date, narrow-minded and behind the times ODOT is, but to laugh to ourselves and say, “welp, they’re trying.” Let’s try and keep some perspective. This is ODOT, putting out a small booklet, offering helpful advice for cyclists to ride smart and safe. Let’s not jump down ODOT’s throat because they didn’t make the perfect manual. Let not ridicule just for the sake of gainsaying. And let’s not deride them for the book they didn’t publish, but rather see the fact that they did put out something helpful.

I know many of these rules. I follow a lot of them. This booklet wasn’t aimed towards me. But I still like it and I’m still happy they published it.

pdxpaul
Guest
pdxpaul

Umm, sorry to not overreact about a title, but “Survival Guide” is a cliche. A little less herp and a bit more derp…

CrazyLeprechaun
Guest
CrazyLeprechaun

…Stay tuned next week when our valiant Editor-in-Chief, Spiffy, and his merry Wordsmithers – Hart Noecker, Nick, Art Fuldodger, Ayleen, Oliver, 9watts, David, peejay, gutterbunnybikes and pdxpaul – provide us all a draft copy of what a real reference handbook for beginning cyclists should look like… BTW, donations are now being accepted to improve Oregon’s cycling and multi-modal infrastructure due to projected gas tax revenues falling 25-30 short largely due to the recent Hybrid Invasion, increased fuel efficiency and…(please take a seat)…increased bicycle ridership. Please send contributions to http://www.infrastructure_isnt_free_maybe_phil_knight_can_help.com
I have myself (partially) to blame. I commute by bike, I drive a car AND I work for ODOT.
Speaking of education, I know another piece of public education long overdue. There are over 4500 employees that work for ODOT, and I think less than 5 hold a job that is specifically and solely responsible for developing multi-modal informational and safety-related documents to raise public awareness, help out new non-motorists and make the infrastructure we all currently share just a little bit safer. There might be another dozen that help these folks out when they can. Do we have a BAC?!(giggle). No. And we don’t each have a private secretary or bottled water service or someone to empty our waste baskets or company smartphones or permission to travel all the way to Vancouver, WA for a training class without a permission slip from the Director of the Department, either. But, we try our best…and I will continue to do so, despite the comments I read today.
Jonathan, thanks for the opportunity to comment.

TonyT
Guest
tonyt

Condescending and paternalistic.

Aaronf
Guest
Aaronf

I think that this guide is great for mitigating potential hazards in current infrastructure for the 8-80 set. If my aunt wants to start biking to the grocery store, I would hope she builds up her comfort level before biking at night in a rural area. The last thing she needs is to fall in a ditch on an unfamiliar road. Add to that: when you are new (and the target audience of a “survival guide” type pamphlet) all of the paths are unfamiliar at first. No, I wouldn’t follow this brochure’s advice dogmatically, but I am like that with most 20 page-or-less brochures.

Todd Edelman
Guest

This is the stupidest thing ever. Who gave them input on this specific publication?

9watts
Guest
9watts

Is this produced as a pamphlet or just buried on their website (which was down earlier)? I feel that there is a bit less talking down going on here than with the pedestrian and bike SURVIVAL guides, but I see some parallels and appreciate you finding this.

9watts
Guest
9watts

Curious.
We are further from reaching ODOT’s own goal today than we were when it was formulated:
“Reduce bicyclists killed and injured in motor vehicle crashes from 708, the 5 year average from 2003 to 2007 to 555, a 3 % reduction per year by 2015”.
http://www.oregon.gov/odot/ts/Pages/bicyclistsafety.aspx

Not only that, they’ve stopped updating the (embarrassing) stats. Here are the missing ones. Not sure when the 2014 numbers will be posted.
1,064 injured pedalcyclists (+10.6%) in 2012
957 injured pedalcyclists in 2013
From here: http://www.oregon.gov/ODOT/TD/TDATA/pages/car/CAR_Publications.aspx

for an average year-over-year increase of 6.6% since 2007.