Putting the Vision Zero focus on how we drive

Posted by on March 28th, 2018 at 10:42 am

Mi Ae Lipe is changing the way we think about driving.
(Photo: Courtesy Mi Ae Lipe)

Mi Ae Lipe is a safe driving advocate who speaks important truths to a crucial audience.

One of the many things I do that annoys my two (teen and pre-teen) daughters is that I drive exceedingly slowly and cautiously. I have this thing where I tell them — not to be braggadocious, but to make a point — that, “Just imagine: If everyone drove like I did, there would be no crashes and no one would ever get hurt or killed on the road.” They of course roll their eyes and say, “Oh boy, here goes dad again.”

But it’s true: If every person behind the wheel was as scared-straight as I’ve become after being a daily bike rider for 30 years and having a job for 13 of them where I consume a daily stream of information about horrific crashes and have met hundreds of people directly impacted by them — our streets would be pretty chill.

In our push for safer streets, we usually talk about infrastructure, enforcement, and educating people about drunk driving, rules of the road, and so on. What gets left out is a more holistic look at how we drive.

That’s why I was so happy to come across the work of Mi Ae Lipe, an advocate who lives near Seattle. Mi Ae is a driving expert who writes a column for a BMW owner’s club magazine and consults with agencies and nonprofits about safety. In 2017 she was a co-recipient of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) Award for Public Service. Mi Ae wants to re-educate American drivers.

Cover of her e-book.

Here’s a snip from her website, DrivingInTheRealWorld.com:

“American driver training generally fails to teach new drivers the complexities of modern roads and equip them with proper situational awareness. This and other factors contribute to the United States ranking a dismal 29th out of 30 developed nations in traffic deaths. Let’s change this by exploring honestly what makes us the drivers we are and by approaching traffic safety as an entire ecosystem, not fragmented bits. That change can begin with you, today, as an individual driver.”

Her new e-book, The Sound of No Car Crashing: A Guide to Protective Driving, has a great section on “What makes a good driver”:

“Good drivers understand that there are very few true “accidents.” Over 90 percent of crashes are caused by human error and are fully preventable. By not calling a crash an accident, we take responsibility for it.

“We drive exactly how we are as people in terms of our personality, ego, habits, life values, ability to plan, con dence levels, social skills, and general outlook. Do you care about who you are as a person and a driver?

Good drivers know that others are watching. That means friends, family, children, colleagues, and strangers. Humans imitate others. By the time your children are learning
to drive as teenagers, they’ve been watching you for at least 15 years, and deprogramming bad learned behavior is going to be tough. So, it’s never too early to start being a good role model.”

Mi Ae’s idea of “protective driving” also intrigued me. She uses it instead of the popular term “defensive driving.” “‘Defensive’,” Mi Ae writes, “suggests danger and has negative connotations of competition and possession, when the goal should be to drive for the protection of yourself and others.”

Wanting to know more, I emailed Mi to ask how her work relates to cycling and the safety of people who do it. Here’s what she wrote back (with an email signature that made me smile, “Sent from my iPhone, but not while driving!”):

Why you think bicycle riders should be interested in the idea of “protective driving”?

“I think everyone — not just vehicle drivers — should be interested in protective driving. For a bicyclist, that can mean making space for fellow cyclists, pedestrians, and vehicles; waiting patiently for someone to finish crossing the road without pressuring them; consistently obeying red lights and stop signs as a matter of consistency, habit, and fairness; properly communicating your presence with your position in the road, highly visible clothing, proper lighting, smiles, and friendly waves; and being proactive and hyper-situationally aware for how your path might intersect with those of others.

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Different road users frequently split into their own tribes, which can become rather self-righteous and antagonistic. People get really possessive about space on the road and they often take things too personally and angrily way too quickly. Yes, that SUV driver absolutely should have been watching out for you as she made that right turn in front of you, but she also might not know how to properly check her mirrors for your presence or even be aware that her bulky B-pillars blocked her view of you. It is also partly your responsibility to compensate for the deficiencies of drivers. Yes, it can feel very frustrating and unfair sometimes, but on the other hand, it often does no good to be angry and let emotion cloud your judgment, especially when you need it rather quickly to deal with the next scenario.”

Are there parts of your teaching that are specific driving around walkers and bicycle users?

“A section in my e-book covers common vision issues that afflict all humans, and it is based on the wonderful writings of a Royal Air Force fighter jet pilot named John Sullivan. Pilots of this caliber are educated on the biological deficiencies and strengths in human vision and how they affect our perception and judgment. One example of this is the saccade, which is a gap in our vision caused when our eyes are moving. We actually can’t see or register images accurately in our brain unless our heads are still (even for a moment), so those hurried glances that we absent-mindedly make across a scene mean that we may be missing a lot, including small, narrow objects like bicycles and motorcycles. Once you know this simple fact, that can explain many near-misses in your past—you literally couldn’t see what you were looking at.

Another important thing to realize is that if you don’t expect to see something, you are that much more likely to miss it even if it is present. People engrossed in what they were doing have been known to completely miss a person dressed in a gorilla suit walking in their midst or even big trucks right in front of them. This means you should always go into a situation expecting to see the unexpected.

Another topic in my book is how to break bad habits. This includes drivers stopping in the middle of crosswalks (not before them), people not communicating properly, and watching for pedestrians at all times. Once you understand that we all have innate vision deficiencies, then it becomes more apparent that every one of us — regardless of the type of road user we are — just need to slow down to give us more time to process the situation, do a better job of planning ahead, and actually pay attention to what’s happening all around us and not be distracted.”

Culture plays a huge role in making our streets safe. I hope Mi Ae’s work reaches as many people as possible. As a driving advocate who works in the automotive world, she has the respect and credibility as a messenger of this information that most people reading this site will never have.

You can download a copy of her e-book from www.DrivingintheRealWorld.com for free until April 1st. Follow Mi Ae on Twitter @DrivingReal.

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and jonathan@bikeportland.org

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105 Comments
  • Avatar
    maxD March 28, 2018 at 10:57 am

    This is great an valuable work and will benefit everyone who cares to listen! For everyone who does not care to listen, we will have to rely on infrastructure, enforcement, and responsible drivers (when present). I hate to give this too much credence, though, as it provides cover for transportation agencies to create dangerous infrastructure in the name of efficiency. An example from my backyard: Greeley: PBOT is planning to remove a bike lane, create a 2-way MUP, and widen the driving lanes! Despite current speeds being well over 55, the proposed northbound lane will be 12′ and the southbound will be 13′. Now speeds can saor up 65-70 mph! When asked about this at a neighborhood association meeting, the PBOT rep said that PBOT hopes people will drive responsibly, even though they have shown zero inclination to do that in the past.
    https://www.portlandoregon.gov/transportation/article/660426

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      rick March 28, 2018 at 11:39 am

      That is odd. ODOT made more narrow car lanes on parts of Barbur Blvd recently in order to make new bike lanes in certain segments.

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        nick March 28, 2018 at 2:07 pm

        The bridges still suck though.

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    bikeninja March 28, 2018 at 11:08 am

    Bravo for this.Most drivers have gotten so bad I think we need a do-over where we invalidate all drivers licenses and have everyone reeducated in this method and then retested by Ms. Lip personally before being able to drive again.

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      Mi Ae Lipe March 28, 2018 at 12:28 pm

      Thank you for your comment. Actually, I and another citizen advocate have been working with several Washington State government agencies the past several years to improve the quality of driver education, training, testing, and licensing. I believe that it’s no coincidence that the top countries in the world for traffic safety have incredibly advanced driver education programs and licensing requirements that actually demand extensive training—and thus respect—to pass.

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        mh March 29, 2018 at 10:41 am

        Educational updates and re-testing at every license renewal, too, please.

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        Pete March 29, 2018 at 4:02 pm

        You are my hero. Please come to California!

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    Middle of the Road Guy March 28, 2018 at 11:53 am

    People will pretty much behave as selfishly as society allows them to.

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    Barb Lin March 28, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    I’ve just been thinking about all this. It does help to understand the driver’s experience inside the vehicle when we are rolling next to them. I have an old 2004 wagon but just recently had the chance to drive in a 2017 car for a few days. The differences are huge! The new car has a display right on the odometer (a little graphic of the speed limit sign) that tells me what the speed limit is on that street (its quite accurate showing the new 20mph) and puts a red dot on the odometer of that speed limit, so that is good speeding awareness. Unfortunately I also find the new car goes very fast very easily. That’s not good. Unlike an old car there is really no sound or engine lug or sense of effort required to go fast…it just goes. You can find yourself easily at much faster speeds than you intend. The new cars are also very quite inside and the ride is super smooth. Speedbumps are not very noticeable in a new car whereas they rearranged my molars in the old car. So I guess some good advances in the vehicle (cameras, sensors, auto braking, hands free, etc) but also disadvantages. When we drive we do need to be super aware and responsible, which should go without saying but…

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      Andrew Kreps March 28, 2018 at 2:58 pm

      The first thing listed about a car for sale is the MSRP- the second is the 0-60 time. Most Americans I know wouldn’t buy a car that’s slower than the one it’s replacing. And since we have no limits, and a poor history of judgement in that realm…

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        SilkySlim March 29, 2018 at 9:18 am

        Blatantly untrue. Ok, yeah, of course price is #1, but then MPG is almost always next, then safety features (for both those inside the car and out). Then probably cargo space. Then tech features.

        Visit just about any car company website if you don’t believe me.

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      jonno March 29, 2018 at 2:39 pm

      This is something I’ve wondered about – if we have the technology to detect the local speed limit and display it to the driver (which is helpful to be sure, for those drivers who care anyway), what’s stopping us from going one step further and limiting vehicle speeds automatically?

      I mean who cares if the car can go 0-60 in 5 seconds, if the local limit is 20mph? Self-driving cars will be expected to do something like this, and people are all kinds of excited about that prospect. Why not limit the gas pedal for human drivers now? Just wondering.

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        maxD March 29, 2018 at 3:00 pm

        Jonno, I love this idea! This should be mandatory for all publicly-owned vehicles (except emergency vehicles, which could have an override if their flashers were on). Next, require all commercial fleets of more 5 vehicles- UPS, Amazon, FedEx. Then require it for all rentals: car2go, u-haul, etc. Eventually it would trickle down to personal vehicles, but it wouldn’t matter as much because the traffic speeds would be set by users with limited speeds.

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    B. Carfree March 28, 2018 at 12:05 pm

    There’s an interesting conflict between what Ms Lipe wrote and what is regularly supported on this blog. For instance, she discusses making our (cyclists) presence known by our lane position and then goes on to discuss a right hook situation and how we really shouldn’t be overly harsh on the motorist who does it. I understand her point to be that riding outside of normal motorists sight lines and curb hugging in situations with substandard width lanes or right hook opportunities is not protective. With that in mind, see the recent article on PBoT’s updated plans for N. Rosa Parks Way to see Jonathan lauding an infrastructure that puts cyclists in exactly those places Ms. Lipe warns us against.

    Should we be supporting infrastructure changes that put us out of view behind parked cars and to the right of right-turning vehicles? We’re literally asking PBoT to put us into dangerous situations if we do.

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      Kyle Banerjee March 28, 2018 at 12:29 pm

      I think Ms Lipe’s message is a good one, and I agree that there are conflicts between her ideas and what is often supported here.

      The issue of how to operationalize her ideas remains open. The type of people who seek knowledge and training on how to become better drivers are probably already better than average drivers. The question is how to reach everyone else — it’s not like people are confused that driving drunk, half asleep, distracted, etc doesn’t drastically increase odds of crashing yet the vast majority of drivers do at least one of these things and finding drivers who do all of them is not hard.

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        Alex Reedin March 28, 2018 at 1:09 pm

        An additional problem is going beyond the bottom-of-the-barrel no-duh “Society does not allow you to be driving if you’re clearly unable to drive well right now” to “OK, you’re a fully-conscious person not actively distracting themself. Are you driving below the speed limit (sometimes well below, depending on conditions), making an effort to anticipate future problems (i.e. if the cars in the lane next to you suddenly stop on a non-freeway road, you should slow down drastically because the odds that they are stopping for a pedestrian are quite high), and in general behaving as though you are taking the power you have to absent-mindedly kill/maim others seriously?” I’m really not sure how to do either. Even actually enforcing the first is apparently beyond our current politicians’ will.

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      El Biciclero March 30, 2018 at 7:49 am

      There definitely has to be a fine balance between individual skill, infrastructural constraint, and compensation for the shortcomings of others. We haven’t yet been able to ascribe the optimal amount of societal/legal responsibility to each area. When does it become my “duty” as a bicyclist to compensate for driver inability by wearing more “hi-viz” apparel? In your example, do parking-“protected” bikeways constrain drivers to drive more safely? Do they increase driver or bicyclist skill? Do they compensate for shortcomings of drivers or bicyclists? I don’t like them either, but what problem are they attempting to overcome, and what is the alternative? In my mind, they are attempting to overcome the physical and emotional shortcomings of drivers, and to ease the emotional discomfort of bicyclists by constraining the actions of bicyclists—but do they really accomplish the goal as implemented here in the U.S.? Do they really make things actually safer, or do they only make certain people feel safer? Are there additional measures necessary (better driver training, more general respect for bicycling and bikeways) before they will really be effective?

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    Stephan Lindner March 28, 2018 at 12:35 pm

    Just the term “protective driving” is worth a million. Next time someone complains about my slow driving, I just point out that I drive protectively — that will be the end of the discussion, or better, the beginning of a different, more constructive discussion that focuses on the responsibilities of driving safely with all road users and circumstances in mind.

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    X March 28, 2018 at 12:38 pm

    There’s a bit too much “earn respect and wear hi-vis” in there for me. It’s a message from the seat of a car. Here’s a message for anyone in that position: There are living beings in the space around you.

    It sometimes feels like we have Too Many Traffic Laws. How about, just, don’t kill stuff? And, if you hurt somebody, you have to give them personal care until they’re well. Seems fair.

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      Alex Reedin March 28, 2018 at 1:13 pm

      Yeah, I love that framing. I work at a company that places a high value on “safety” but that sometimes falls into the wider societal framing of “safety” as something that one does to avoid one’s own injury, rather than as a wider concept that includes proactive protection and fostering of others’ and one’s own wellness.

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        Alex Reedin March 28, 2018 at 1:14 pm

        Pressed “reply” too fast. Any ideas for a phrase to encapsulate that culture shift? “Culture of care”?

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      Kyle Banerjee March 28, 2018 at 1:25 pm

      The idea that everyone owns a piece of this — i.e. that nonmotorists should do what they can to work with motorists — is not a car centric one.

      Good drivers communicate with motorists and nonmotorists alike using a variety of techniques to make themselves as visible and predictable as possible. All good road users do this.

      When you make yourself easy to identify and drive near, you also help those who do not do so because energy that would otherwise be devoted to identifying and monitoring you can be used to identify and mitigate other anomalies in the environment.

      People agree that distracted driving is bad. Do we not agree that spending more time than essential for dealing with something else on the road (e.g. other road users, objects, issues with infrastructure, etc.) is not a form of distraction?

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        Alex Reedin March 28, 2018 at 1:54 pm

        The problem is that, in general, our culture already does a very comprehensive job of encouraging non-motorized users to act responsibly, so repeating that message is not very useful. Our culture does it so completely, and with so little cultural reinforcement of responsibility for motorized users, that some motorized users take it to mean that non-motorized users should get out of their way, or always wear high-viz, or whatnot.

        It’s like if a school wants to end bullying, and already has exceptionally strong messaging about what bullied kids can do on their own with no adult help to try to fight against bullying, but very little messaging to bullies to stop bullying, or to teachers to enforce the policies, or to bystanders to tell teachers, or to bullied kids to tell teachers. In that context, even more messaging to bullied kids about pulling up their own bootstraps is not only a bad use of resources, it’s actively BAD because of the implicit message it sends to everyone else.

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      B. Carfree March 28, 2018 at 3:23 pm

      Yes, things like her use of the word fairness in reference to cyclists ALWAYS obeying stop signs was a bit much. As a matter of fairness, perhaps she should get onto the other side of that windshield and realize that those cyclists who are rolling stop signs (next to motorists who are often rolling them at much higher speeds and momentum) are doing so because it is often the safest thing to do AND they are given the losing choice of riding on the road that has zero accommodations for cyclists and boatloads of cars but no stop signs or taking the parallel road with fewer cars but stop signs every other block. If she would like, we can change over to the heavier trafficked streets, but I don’t think her type (motorists) would be terribly pleased.

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        Kyle Banerjee March 28, 2018 at 5:29 pm

        “we can change over to the heavier trafficked streets, but I don’t think her type (motorists) would be terribly pleased.”

        I wish more cyclists would do this. The more places people ride and the more people doing it, the greater the expectation that cyclists will be out there and the greater the expectation among existing and potential riders that these are reasonable places to be — which they are with few exceptions.

        The common sentiment here that cyclists need full separation is saying they don’t belong on the roads. That may be appropriate in a few specific areas, but there’s hardly a more anti-cycling message.

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          soren March 30, 2018 at 3:49 pm

          except that the law in oregon clearly indicates that people cycling have less of a right to arterial roads than people driving. for example, people cycling are legally obligated to ride as close to the curb as is practicable and, if they cannot do so, are legally obligated to pull over in order to let faster traffic pass.

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty March 30, 2018 at 7:55 pm

            Can you cite a reputable legal authority that agrees cyclists must pull over to let cars pass?

            I know the law you are referring to, but I’ve never heard of it being cited in the context of cyclists.

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      • Hello, Kitty
        Hello, Kitty March 28, 2018 at 8:58 pm

        Rather than try to rationalize it, I prefer to focus on the idea that “fair” just isn’t a concept that applies in this context.

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        Alex Reedin March 29, 2018 at 5:55 am

        I can’t say I understand how rolling stop signs can be the safest thing to do. I just about always make a complete stop at stop signs and I find it to be a useful practice to clarify rigbt-of-way and give myself an extra chance to see a person or car I may have missed.

        The efficiency/route choice aspect, I completely understand.

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          Dan A March 29, 2018 at 7:15 am

          Do you ride with kids or inexperienced cyclists much? I find that when riding with my family, we do much better when I reach the intersection ahead of the group and let my wife and kids know that it’s clear to slow-roll across, rather then having them all stop & start in a gaggle, where they are more likely to fall over into each other.

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            Alex Reedin March 29, 2018 at 10:18 am

            Nope, I don’t, and that definitely makes sense!

            I’m not saying everyone should stop at stop signs when biking by themselves. Just saying, convenience and effort are completely valid reasons to engage in a behavior (rolling stop signs slowly) that is pretty darn low-risk (perhaps no-additional-risk). No need to shoehorn it into actually being *safer*. Safety isn’t everything. If it gets people to bike more, rolling stop signs can be a net health improver even if it is slightly less safe.

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              Dan A March 29, 2018 at 11:33 am

              I don’t ever roll stop signs at 4-way stops when I’m riding by myself. I have zero trouble stopping and starting. But I could understand doing so if you’re the first one there and you’re concerned about conflict at the intersection, or are worried about a driver following closely behind, or if, like my wife, it’s an adventure every time you have to put your foot down. She definitely stops when necessary, but it’s safer when she doesn’t.

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          soren March 29, 2018 at 7:41 am

          By idaho stopping the momentum of a slow roll through an intersection clears intersections more quickly. If this seems hard to understand, please imagine someone trying to cross Salmon and 12 or Stark and 16th from a complete stop versus slowly rolling through. Given the potential speeds on these roads and a relatively slow start from a full stop, speeding car-traffic sometimes catches up with people cycling. I personally have seen this interaction play out many times while cycling in Portland and the slower person cycling is, in essence, trusting the fast moving car traffic to not hit them. Engaging pedals (from a stop) is also associated with a small risk of a miss (especially for those with slippery pedals/shoes, smaller contact patches, clipless pedals, and/or toeclips) whereas crossing while already pedaling can lower that risk.

          I should note that both before-after studies of the Idaho stop found a slight decrease in risk. It is also worth noting that the Idaho stop is completely non-controversial in a far more car-centric state than Oregon.

          Apart from small decreases in risk, there another rational motivation to violate stop signs and red lights. I personally violate both as often as I can do so from a rights perspective. Why should I follow laws that are meaningless to safety or the public good simply because the automobile majority is biased against other transportation modes?

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty March 29, 2018 at 5:53 pm

            Great description of why the Idaho stop is a good idea, followed by a ridiculous diagnosis of why Oregon (or even Portland) hasn’t implemented it.

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              soren March 30, 2018 at 3:40 pm

              fwiw, the bias i mentioned is largely an unaware and unintentional one.

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      pruss2ny March 30, 2018 at 11:48 pm

      “There’s a bit too much “earn respect and wear hi-vis” in there for me….”

      In Xiamen China right now and just came across a sign in public area that basically says: “your safety is very important to us, but it is still your responsibility”

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    Geoff Grummon-Beale March 28, 2018 at 12:50 pm

    This is really great information and I look forward to reading Ms. Lip’s book. I think situational awareness is a pervasive problem not only with drivers, but with all people who are in public spaces. People seem to have a general lack of understanding of where they are, which direction they are moving, and what objects, people, or vehicles are in their general vicinity. When I was in Japan, this did not seem to be an issue, so maybe there is a cultural component to the problem.

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      CaptainKarma March 28, 2018 at 1:48 pm

      Likewise, Korea, Japan, Central America, every place I’ve lived…no one wears Hi Viz. The roads belong to all the people, not just the maniacal drivers, unless clearly designated limited access. Traffic in these places approaches poetry because the old woman on the three wheeler cargo bike is respected. The family of four on a Honda 350 is respected. The kids playing are respected. Nobody wears high viz or runs an electronic beacon.

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        pruss2ny March 31, 2018 at 6:42 am

        “Likewise, Korea, Japan, Central America, every place I’ve lived…no one wears Hi Viz. The roads belong to all the people, not just…”

        I spend a lot of time in Asia (china, japan, taiwan, korea, bangkok, hong kong) and would say clearly VRU stay out of the way of cars. traffic may move nearly “like poetry”, but there is clearly a “might makes right” attitude. not sure this is in tune with what you were ultimately trying to say.

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    Rain Waters March 28, 2018 at 12:55 pm

    Losing the gadgets and respecting the speed limit solves 80% of the carnage. Until people learn to cntrol themselves and overcome distractions the mean spirited prevail. Thanks Jon for demonstrating sanity in the presence of children.

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    RH March 28, 2018 at 1:17 pm

    Everyone should go fishing at least one a year to relearn the skill of ‘patience’. They can then apply that skill when they drive.

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      Spiffy March 28, 2018 at 5:06 pm

      when I imagine fishing I imagine might wins because there’s a giant being killing off smaller ones… sorta like bicycling I guess, but I don’t need to kill other things to be reminded…

      fishing = might-makes-right = drivers

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        RH March 29, 2018 at 8:11 am

        Fishing doesn’t mean catching. Also, you can catch and release. My main point is patience through. I guess watching paint dry involves patience too, so you could try that too if fishing isn’t your thing.

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    Chris Streight March 28, 2018 at 2:11 pm

    Good article. I’m happy to hear she writes for BMW motor club. Apparently, BMW drivers need the most help. I recall reading a yielding at crosswalk study in the past year or so that was done in the EU. The study looked at the type of pedestrians and the likelihood of the driver stopping for the pedestrian. If I recall correctly, drivers stopped for women entering crosswalks at a higher rate than men. The number one car brand that drivers stopped the least amount for pedestrians was BMW.

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      Mi Ae Lipe March 28, 2018 at 2:46 pm

      Hey there, Chris, I’m one BMW owner who does stop for pedestrians [smile]. However, I know what you mean. I wrote a blog post about how I drive differently in my Subaru Outback than in my Bimmer: https://drivingintherealworld.com/driving-miss-nelly/

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        Chris Streight March 28, 2018 at 3:14 pm

        Interesting read. I also drive a manual transmission car (like your Bimmer is). No evidence, but I think people that do so are better & safer drivers. Cheers.

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty March 28, 2018 at 9:03 pm

          We’re better looking, too.

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          X March 29, 2018 at 10:36 am

          If some people would just get first gear at a stop that would be an improvement

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      Andrew Kreps March 28, 2018 at 3:00 pm

      It’s worth noting that BMW’s are a lot more common in the EU than they are here, being domestic and all.

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        Chris Streight March 28, 2018 at 3:19 pm

        True on more BMWs in the EU. I’m rather certain the study took a per capita into the equation, but without going back and spending the time to find the study I can’t say for certain. Incidentally, I believe Prius owners were the best.

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          Pete March 29, 2018 at 4:21 pm

          YMMV. Where I live, I’ve been cut off by Primus drivers more than any other type of car. Not surprisingly, there are a large number of Primus drivers where I live…

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            Pete March 29, 2018 at 4:23 pm

            Prius. Apologies to Les Claypool for the autocorrect.

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    Mi Ae Lipe March 28, 2018 at 3:10 pm

    Many interesting comments here, and I appreciate this conversation with its variety of perspectives. If I may step in again: There are two forms of safety: One of them views safety from the 3 Es—Engineering, Enforcement, and Education. Within the education part, there are plenty of messages shouting not do this or that which fall on deaf ears because people don’t like to be lectured to, there are biological reasons for our electronic distraction, we simply feel like we’re superior to everyone else and we couldn’t possibly be to blame for even a small part of things going wrong, and finally, the fact that humans are just really good at being overconfident and really bad at judging risk. My approach is to try to get to the root psychological causes and to make us a bit more self-aware to what we all have in common, whether we’re the violator or violated. After all, we ALL have been both more times than we care to admit.

    The other part of this safety conversation is that there is a growing body of philosophy that we are often more the victims of the environment we find ourselves in, and that environment wasn’t properly designed for how we truly think and behave in our various roles and actions. Bike safety and infrastructure is a prime example of this, actually. As a result, we have more blame and more pressure to be compliant when this is actually counterproductive. For more information on this, check out https://nosurprise.org.uk/background-and-aims/

    My take? There is no either/or, nor is there a magic bullet. I believe it will take a huge variety of strategies from the 3 Es, plus a whole lot of consistent cultural modeling and conditioning for road users of all ages that are actually effective and practical, not just ranting or lecturing. A society’s culture always plays a huge role in road safety, but human behavior is one of the hardest things to change. You can’t change everyone, but as individuals, we can all do our part every day, one action at a time.

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      Al Dimond March 28, 2018 at 4:00 pm

      I think some of your expectations of cyclists, in particular, are unfair, and way beyond what you or anyone else would call for for drivers. For example, “highly visible clothing”. We have the right to travel wearing clothes suitable for our destinations. For another, “hyper-situationally aware”. While of course being aware is important, this extreme, superlative language implies that to ride a bike you have to always have your nerves on edge, which contradicts what we’re trying to make cycling: an ordinary part of ordinary people’s lives. And there’s a thing about “smiles and friendly waves”. Yes, it’s important to be polite, patient, and understanding. But surely you’ve read accounts of women, tired and frustrated from persistent and systematic slights in the public realm, then being told, in a belittling tone, to, “Smile more!” That’s what this sounds like. Cyclists are persistently and systematically slighted by car culture in the US. Cycling is often joyful, and I often ride down the street with an idiot grin on my face. But when I’m disrespected and pushed aside, I might shake my head or scowl for a while. I refuse to condemn myself for that, nor indeed for gently heckling the rude drivers that impose on the meager spaces we cyclists are allocated — their behavior ought not go without comment!

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        Mi Ae Lipe March 28, 2018 at 4:24 pm

        Al, I appreciate your comments and thank you for your reasonable points. In regard to the visible clothing, I do respectfully think that bicyclists are much harder for drivers to spot than other vehicles because of their very small size and precisely because drivers aren’t properly watching out for them. I don’t disagree that bicyclists should in theory have the right to wear what they want and drivers should be watching out for them, but as a driver, I must say that it is extremely hard to see a pedestrian dressed in black or dark clothing at night. The same thing goes for bicyclists, especially if they are moving quickly among vehicular traffic, which is harder for drivers to process because of their innate vision deficiencies I talk about in my ebook. My opinion is that we all need ALL road users to be helpful and communicative to one another. Not that I expect everyone will love and smile each other in a Pollyannaesque way, but the combativeness and road rage we often see now is definitely not constructive either.

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          SafeStreetsPlease March 28, 2018 at 5:34 pm

          This sounds very tone def to me. If you can’t see a pedestrian, that means you are literally driving too fast for conditions. There’s a sniff of victim blaming there. If a person is going to an event in a black suit, or wants to wear their darker clothing for a night out in the town, the onus is not on them to become a flashing beacon for you the driver. The onus is on you to drive slowly enough to anticipate pedestrians who are more difficult to discern. In my view, you’re espousing a VERY car-centric view here. In Portland, it seriously seems like the easiest way to kill someone and get away with it is to run over a pedestrian and claim you didn’t see them. They get a slap on the wrist from the man, and it’s happening literally every month here. It’s astonishing how little the laws protect the pedestrian in these scenarios when the driver says “I didn’t see her”. Your comment is re-enforcing this culture of victim blaming.

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            Jay Dedd March 28, 2018 at 7:18 pm

            Agree. You were going along pretty good there, Mi Ae, but you jumped the shark. You may want to look into whether Washington has a Basic Speed Law like Oregon’s. (That is, if you’re driving the posted speed limit, you still may be driving too fast for the conditions of the moment [including darkness] and may be subject to citation.)

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            A Grant March 29, 2018 at 9:23 am

            Agreed. Whenever I hear someone suggesting high-viz clothing for vulnerable road users, I want to ask them to make the first step. After all, we are all pedestrians at some point.

            So please, look in your closet. Are all your jackets some shade of bright yellow/orange/pink? If not, throw them ought. Going out on the town on a summer evening? Wearing your favourite dark suit or little black dress? Then be sure to keep a couple of high-viz vests in the car. You’ll need them when you walk from the car to your destination (imagine asking for a coat check…)

            Framing the demand that we wear high-viz in this way only highlights the ridiculousness of the request.

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        Matt S. March 30, 2018 at 11:51 am

        Sounds like not wearing a seatbelt in a car because you don’t want it to wrinkle your clothing.

        Or not wearing a helmet because you don’t want to mess up your hair.

        Or not wearing an ankle cuff (stops your pant leg from hitting the chain) because it looks funny.

        Or not wearing rain pants/jacket because it makes you too sweaty for your job interview your riding to.

        Or this one: nice slacks and dress shirt, but SIDI clip in road shoes. That doesn’t look good…

        So, why not throw on a hi-vis vest on over your outfit if you have one. You can always take it off right before the important event. Anyways, don’t you stop down the block and take your helmet off, fix your hair, and gather your self before meeting your date 😉

        Gosh, I hate personal responsibility…

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          Alex Reedin March 30, 2018 at 2:30 pm

          The day after America outlaws black cars (people forget their headlights sometimes, after all!) and 51% of people get out of their cars and put on a hi-vis vest to walk the rest of the way to their destination, I’ll believe that the hi-viz recommendations don’t stem from unintentional bias favoring driving over other ways of getting around.

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          soren March 30, 2018 at 3:55 pm

          Several years ago I stopped wearing a helmet due to similar comments.

          This decision was not only personally liberating but also reinforced by belief that “experienced commuter” virtue signaling discourages the “interested but concerned” from giving transportation cycling a try.

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    B. Carfree March 28, 2018 at 3:33 pm

    For a couple decades, I either subscribed or borrowed a co-worker’s NewScientist to read at lunch. It’s like Newsweek for science with lots of little blurbs on interesting things recently published. A few of the blurbs have stuck in my mind over the years. One of them hits on Jonathan’s opening. It was a study that concluded that people have already established the way they will drive by the time they are twelve years old and that they will behave behind the wheel substantially like their same-gender parent. Good job of driver’s ed. there Jonathan.

    This might also explain why my nearly thirty-year-old son has chosen to not get a license. 🙂

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty March 28, 2018 at 9:11 pm

      If what you say is true, it really doesn’t matter how Jonathan drives; his daughters will drive like their mother.

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    soren March 28, 2018 at 4:25 pm

    i appreciate the protective driving messaging but the extension of this messaging to people rolling or walking comes across as inaccurate and somewhat belittling.

    “highly visible clothing, proper lighting, smiles, and friendly waves; and being proactive and hyper-situationally aware for how your path might intersect with those of others.”

    the use of vision zero in the title is unfortunate because VZ seeks to address behavior that contributes to serious injury or death — largely intoxication and speeding. a friendly wave probably won’t reduce anyone’s risk of being hit by a speeding drunk driver.

    Yes, that SUV driver absolutely should have been watching out for you as she made that right turn in front of you…Yes, it can feel very frustrating and unfair sometimes

    for people walking (especially so) and rolling it can also sometimes feel like traumatic injury and/or a very bad death. one of the common disconnects of the behind-the-windshield perspective, is the inability to recognize that a vulnerable road user can experience a near miss as a genuine existential threat. drivers who are so casual in their discussion of right hooks should consider how they would feel if someone were to threaten their loved ones with a behavior that had a small but significant risk of death.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty March 28, 2018 at 9:13 pm

      And do so habitually.

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    Spiffy March 28, 2018 at 5:21 pm

    “We drive exactly how we are as people in terms of our personality, ego, habits, life values, ability to plan, con dence levels, social skills, and general outlook. Do you care about who you are as a person and a driver?”

    I’ve been judging people by how they drive ever since I stopped driving and realized the connection… there are very few good people out there… but some of them actually care and will try to improve if you give them a good enough reason… their minimal risk of killing people or dying isn’t enough for them to care…

    people mostly don’t care and are horrible…

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty March 28, 2018 at 9:15 pm

      What a depressing outlook. I think people are mostly good and mean well.

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    Spiffy March 28, 2018 at 5:24 pm

    “Once you know this simple fact, that can explain many near-misses in your past—you literally couldn’t see what you were looking at.”

    yes, it explains, but doesn’t forgive… I know that you have trouble seeing from inside the car and that’s exactly why I’m NOT forgiving you for being negligent and not taking the extra time to ensure the safety of others…

    drivers do not need sympathy…

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    Spiffy March 28, 2018 at 5:31 pm

    “It is also partly your responsibility to compensate for the deficiencies of drivers.”

    no, no, a hundred times, NO!

    this is what I call “enabling and furthering bad driving”…

    there are lots of really bad drivers out there boasting “I’ve never been in an accident”… that’s nothing to brag about… you don’t know how many better drivers have been avoiding your stupidity over the years…

    over a decade ago I did an experiment when I got a new car… I no longer actively avoided any collisions that weren’t my fault… that year I got into 4 crashes… as many as my entire life total…

    I learned it’s easy to enable other bad drivers and let them continue being a danger until one day they crash into somebody that isn’t in a protective metal cage… I also learned that people think you’ll get out of their way so your shiny new car isn’t damaged…

    so no, I’m not going to compensate for bad drivers; I’m going to let them fail…

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty March 28, 2018 at 9:17 pm

      If you let them fail while you are on your bike… that ninth crash may be your last.

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      Random March 29, 2018 at 5:10 am

      “over a decade ago I did an experiment when I got a new car… I no longer actively avoided any collisions that weren’t my fault… that year I got into 4 crashes… as many as my entire life total…”

      Jesus.

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    Spiffy March 28, 2018 at 5:37 pm

    “consistently obeying red lights and stop signs as a matter of consistency, habit, and fairness”

    how is my stopping at a stop sign while biking considered fair?

    this sounds like driver talk to me; that BS of “same roads, same rules” and the like…

    some day we’ll join other states that permit a cyclist to not stop completely at stop signs and that will only get us a small bit closer to fair, not farther from it…

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    Spiffy March 28, 2018 at 5:45 pm

    “highly visible clothing, […], smiles, and friendly waves; and being proactive and hyper-situationally aware for how your path might intersect with those of others.”

    ***sentence deleted. Spiffy, please respect others. insults won’t be tolerated.***

    hi-viz clothing? “if she didn’t want to be [blanked] then she shouldn’t have been dressed like that”…

    smiles and friendly waves? no, that just thanks the driver for something they are already supposed to be doing… being overly friendly just enforces to the driver that they did something nice for you rather than something they were required to do…

    “hyper”-aware? we’re biking… we’re already way more aware than other street users because we have the most to risk if we’re not… peds are going slow, and drivers have a cage… we’re going faster with no cage… if we’re not paying attention we’ll lose some skin… it’s not just a bump into a light pole along the sidewalk or an airbag pillow appearing in our face… no, we get the road in our face…

    these are baseless driver complaints…

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      Kyle Banerjee March 29, 2018 at 5:42 am

      ‘“highly visible clothing, […], smiles, and friendly waves; and being proactive and hyper-situationally aware for how your path might intersect with those of others.”

      do you realize how blaming and ignorant you come off as with these comments?’

      JOHNATHAN: A young woman puts herself out there, supports her position well, and a number of comments (including this one) blast HER rather than engage the substance of what she says? How does that not have the effect of shutting her down and discouraging other women who are already underrepresented from sharing their ideas?

      Her observations are neither blaming nor ignorant.

      For example, the smiles and friendly waves suggestion people find so objectionable is a technique that good drivers constantly use. Drivers smile and wave at me on pretty much every single ride — probably because I do the same to them.

      It has nothing to do with putting oneself at a lower level. Rather, it’s a communication method for negotiating space and it’s highly effective because most people give you more if you show them consideration. Very assertive riders/drivers do this often — you can smile and wave as if you’re thanking someone for slowing to let you in when the reality is you cut them off. This helps keep them calm and restore normal flow as quickly as possible.

      The vast majority of what makes a good driver and a good cyclist are the same at their core because we are all road users.

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        Toby Keith March 30, 2018 at 8:50 am

        I really like BikePortland. It’s one of my favorite sites I’ve recently discovered. I do find some of posters pretty abusive though. : (

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        soren March 30, 2018 at 4:01 pm

        i would like to know why you are so certain that your facial expressions and subtle are noticed by distracted people listening to music in hermetically sealed multi-ton metal containers.

        or perhaps you are suggesting some form of extrasensory communication…

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      mh March 29, 2018 at 11:01 am

      I wave thanks when someone who has the right of way cedes it to me when traffic is heavy enough that I really need it. Usually, if someone respects my RoW, I’ll nod acknowledgment.

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    Jim Lee March 28, 2018 at 7:53 pm

    This is America, JM!

    How dare you annoy your teen-age daughters!

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    Mi Ae Lipe March 29, 2018 at 12:15 pm

    In regard to some of the comments here: The accusation that speeding or going too fast for conditions as the sole cause of not being able to see someone dressed in dark clothing at night is puzzling; certainly it can be a contributing factor, but it would still be true if a driver were parked and stationary. It is simply a statement of fact that such a person wearing all-dark gear IS harder to see than if they were wearing something light-colored or reflective. And note that I’m not suggesting that bicyclists wear head-to-toe florescent orange—even a brighter-colored helmet, safety vest, or a well-placed reflective band or two helps others see you, especially in low-light conditions, when there’s sharp glare or contrast (like facing into a sunset), or just a heck of a lot of input going on (downtown city traffic).

    I think ALL road users could help themselves and others by being more visible, and that goes for drivers too (i.e., having headlights on).

    The other point is that I know the average bicyclist is already far more situationally aware than the typical driver. When I say hyper-aware, I don’t mean being nervous and on edge; just to be looking and thinking way ahead and reading traffic closely, which readers of this blog already are.

    It is completely true that drivers as a whole here in the US really don’t pay attention to bicyclists, and that’s due to many factors (lack of proper education, training, vision issues, distraction, ignorance, and a general erosion of courtesy, to name just a few). It’s absolutely not right, and if you’re the victim of a right hook or someone carelessly opening the car door into you because they didn’t think to look first, then you won’t be smiling or waving—nor should you.

    But my opinion is that all of us, whether we’re pedestrians or on 2 wheels or 4 need to do our respective parts to communicate constructively and act predictably to bring down the tension, educate others, and be proactive in safety. Otherwise, the chances for serious danger just get ratcheted up.

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      X March 29, 2018 at 12:57 pm

      On a bike it’s beyond “skin in the game” –appalling phrase– we’re playing for our lives all the time as a matter of course. I can’t be more alert on the bike than I am right now, every day. Please don’t be cavalier about things like right hooks. When car drivers start wearing helmets let’s do this again, ok?

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        Matt S. March 30, 2018 at 12:07 pm

        I ride all over Portland, all the time and I rarely feel unsafe. I know safety is relative, but unless you’re on streets like Scholls Ferry or MLK BLVD, it’s pretty safe out there. I don’t ride on major arteries without bike lanes, I ride to the left in bike lanes to avoid doors opening, I don’t ride in people’s blind spots, I never enter an intersection when there’s a car on my left, I always stop or come to a very slow speed when at a stop sign, if I’m riding down a shopping district (Alberta St.) I take the whole lane. I communicate with drivers by waving, signaling, or eye contact. I have bright lights and reflectors on my bike. I often wear a hi-vis vest. I don’t ever wear headphones or get on my phone. I often get off the bike at crosswalks and walk across the street.

        These are almost all defensive bike riding tactics. I rarely feel unsafe or stressed out.

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          Dan A March 30, 2018 at 3:16 pm

          You don’t always wear a hi-vis vest? If you get run over it will be your fault.

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      Dan A March 29, 2018 at 2:31 pm

      I think most drivers can see other humans at night if they slow down and expect to see them. I see people walking in the dark all the time — this is normal behavior for human beings, and it’s my job as the licensed operator of a motor vehicle to see them.

      What’s puzzling to me is there are lots of people in the world who freely admit that they are not good at seeing other humans at night and still choose to go out there and roll around in a 4000lb cage in a manner that is known to kill thousands of innocent people per year. That is objectively odd behavior, and it’s only windshield bias that keeps us from admitting it.

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        Matt S. March 30, 2018 at 12:12 pm

        I’m in east Portland for work, often at night. I see people all the time walking/riding on the streets — granted there’s no sidewalks (infrastructure problems) — wearing all black and no lights. If they’re on a side street with limited street lights, they are practically invisible. No matter if you’re going 5mph or 20mph.

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          Dan A March 30, 2018 at 3:17 pm

          If people are invisible to you at night, you shouldn’t be operating a motor vehicle.
          It’s a conscious choice whether or not to accept the responsibility of driving.

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          9watts April 2, 2018 at 7:34 am

          It sounds like you saw them. Hm.

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      Pete March 29, 2018 at 4:26 pm

      Bright clothing is not more visible at night, reflective clothing is, and it’s expensive. Some of my reflective clothing is black, and far more visible in headlights than my yellow raglan.

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        Matt S. March 30, 2018 at 12:14 pm

        I have reflective stickers all over my Surly. Looks a little tacky, but I’m way more visible than before. Cost less than 20 bucks.

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          soren March 30, 2018 at 4:07 pm

          it’s fascinating to me that the suggestion is often to wear a helment or ridiculous (and ineffective) fluorescent clothing and not to simply add a few small grey or black 3M reflective stickers to a bike. i suspect that most of the motivation for suggesting that people cycling dress like clowns in a construction zone is due to institutionalized bias rather than a desire to genuinely decrease risk.

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      Bay Area rider March 30, 2018 at 9:21 am

      Yeah about this idea that wearing hi-viz is going to help protect a bicycle rider during the day. Doesn’t seem to help according to this study which looks at the crash rate in Italy after a law went into effect requiring bicycle riders to wear hi–viz.

      https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S2214140518300045?dgcid=raven_sd_aip_email

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    Rain Panther March 30, 2018 at 10:25 am

    At night, I figure the blinking red light on my seatpost and nice bright headlight does a hell of a lot more good than some brightly colored clothing. During the day, especially if it’s rainy, sometimes I still employ my lights.
    Seems to me this kinda fits in the visual vernacular of traffic – (i.e., cars mostly). Lights get attention. I do happen to own a yellow jacket, mostly because it’s a good jacket. But I wouldn’t expect every bike rider to wear hi-viz apparel any more than I expect to outlaw black, grey and brown cars.

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      Alex Reedin March 30, 2018 at 4:14 pm

      Yeah, my personal approach is this plus the “brightside” lights I got for side visibility. Visibility for vehicles, not clothing!

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      Bay Area rider March 31, 2018 at 7:18 am

      Might want to rethink the blinking red light at night. For one thing blinking lights tend to draw the fixation of drunk drivers at night. This is part of the reason so many cop cars get hit at night by drunk drivers when the officers leave their lights flashing while they are stopped on the side of the road. Also it is harder for drivers to judge distance at night when a light is blinking vs the solid lights drivers are use to seeing with other car taillights. Also blinking lights tend to drive your fellow riders crazy at night

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    9watts April 2, 2018 at 8:43 am

    I’m really enjoying this conversation and want to thank you for chiming in here with your perspective. Carefully phrased and thoughtful too. Thank you!

    Mi Ae Lipe
    In regard to some of the comments here: The accusation that speeding or going too fast for conditions as the sole cause of not being able to see someone dressed in dark clothing at night is puzzling; certainly it can be a contributing factor, but it would still be true if a driver were parked and stationary. It is simply a statement of fact that such a person wearing all-dark gear IS harder to see than if they were wearing something light-colored or reflective. up.Recommended 5

    This point, though, happens to be one I’ve raised here in the comments going back years.
    [i]To what extent is it my responsibility to compensate for the inherent difficulty of seeing out of a car, especially but not only at night or in the rain.[/i]
    And let’s not forget that in full daylight it is OK for someone piloting a car to say I didn’t see him, or he came out of nowhere; rain and darkness are neither necessary nor sufficient for this excuse to carry the day.
    I hear you loud and clear, saying that we share responsibility, and to date I’ve unequivocally sided with those who reject that out of hand. I guess what I’m asking is if you could step back one more layer, and hear our point of view.
    Notwithstanding that the official, legal stance on this matter seems to concur with you, we have the Basic Speed Rule (unenforced), the Vulnerable Road User law (unenforced), and what is perhaps the most important distinction, namely that walking and bicycling are recognized as rights, but to drive an auto upon the streets is a privilege, conditional on passing certain tests and receiving certification of that knowledge and competence, none of which is required of those moving about without the aid of an engine or the encumbrance do B-pillars. Given all this, why is the difficulty seeing out, which those crammed into their cars have, not 100% their responsibility? And if as you say this encumbrance exists even if they are stationary, then perhaps cars are not a good or safe fit for humans?
    I look forward to your reply.

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      Jasmine April 4, 2018 at 3:54 pm

      9watts I appreciate your perspective and thoughtfulness too! My impression is that Mi Ae is concerned with bringing more safety now by starting to change the adversarial culture around road use, while acknowledging that cars have much more power both physically and systematically. This is a wholly different mission than abolishing cars as a mode of transportation, which you are proposing. I agree with you that cars being safe (no matter how protective folks drive) is a noble lie; it’s a lie our economy and communities are based on. So it becomes classist to discourage driving with infrastructure without addressing accessibility (and I know you didn’t propose this, but I am curious to know what you think of the concept, which is the current way Portland ‘encourages’ less driving). We don’t all live in small communities where we can bike/walk/bus to our job, childcare, school, stores, family, etc. Futhermore, the amount of time that we need to spend earning a wage is super high! Especially so for lower income folks. So the extra time it takes to bike/walk/bus can be an unacceptable burden to making ends meet. So what can we do now? We can start to change the culture as Mi And is suggesting.

      Mi Ae, can you speak to us folks who think your plan of action fails to address how driving (in and if itself) is dangerous? I am all for changing the culture to be more aware, slow, and compassionate… But I think that if we perpetuate the lie that driving can be very safe then people will get complacent and think they are doing it ‘right’ already (which is our tendency as you mentioned above).

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        9watts April 4, 2018 at 4:26 pm

        Thanks, Jasmine.
        “abolishing cars as a mode of transportation, which you are proposing”

        Not quite. I think cars will dry up and blow away soon, long before we get our act together and figure out that it would be wise to phase them out.

        “…it becomes classist to discourage driving with infrastructure without addressing accessibility (and I know you didn’t propose this, but I am curious to know what you think of the concept)”

        Yes. I agree completely. I like to talk about accessibility; did so here in the comments recently.
        https://bikeportland.org/2018/03/20/lincoln-harrison-project-supporters-find-x-spray-painted-outside-homes-271877#comment-6880877
        &
        https://bikeportland.org/2018/03/20/lincoln-harrison-project-supporters-find-x-spray-painted-outside-homes-271877#comment-6880879

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        Mi Ae Lipe April 5, 2018 at 9:43 am

        Thank you for your considerate and thoughtful debate. My thoughts might be easier understood put this way:

        1. No mode of nonpassenger transportation is completely safe (driving, bicycling, walking). There are inherent weaknesses in all of them because we’re human, and all humans make mistakes at some point.

        2. ALL road users should never abdicate their responsibility of safety for everyone around them, regardless of circumstances, real or perceived obstructions, excuses, etc. This goes for drivers, bicyclists, pedestrians, skateboarders, etc.

        3. Drivers absolutely need to be better trained and aware of bicyclists and pedestrians, something is sorely lacking in this country. That needs to change.

        4. Our infrastructure, which has traditionally been vehicle-centric, does not help in this respect and subconsciously or consciously reinforces in the minds of many drivers that their vehicles have priority over other road users. This is not right, but it is a reality.

        With respect to drivers being safe or unsafe, the point I am trying to make is that it is easier to be situationally aware when you’re a bicyclist or a pedestrian. Your view and hearing are (or should be) unobstructed, and therefore it is much easier to see and hear what is going on around you and anticipate accordingly. In a vehicle, a driver is surrounded by physical walls, soundproofing insulation, an abundance of distractions operating the vehicle, its sheer bulk, and up to 14 different blind spots caused by vehicle pillars, rearview mirror, seat backs, and other things. All of this hinders the situational awareness that a typical bicyclist or pedestrian has and often assumes that others should have too. Add to this the vision issues (saccades, or gaps) that my article above mentions, and there’s a recipe for disaster.

        I stress that this is NOT in any way an excuse for the driver to not be situationally aware, but it is a reality that I believe many non-vehicle road users forget about. I am not in ANY way condoning drivers being careless, but knowing this information above makes me understand better why crashes and conflict happen on the road and maybe what I can do to help drivers overcome these operational handicaps that I should assume they are always operating under. That is what I mean about compensating for others.

        Hopefully, this addresses your question better. If not, I welcome clarification : )

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty April 5, 2018 at 11:25 am

          I’ll add to your list the cognitive limitations that all humans suffer from, making it possible to look at something and not see it.

          The only real fix is to eliminate cars, or at least their human operators, something I think will happen long before we solve the problem with our existing situation (which, I’ll note, was itself a marked improvement over continuing with horse-drawn vehicles).

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          9watts April 5, 2018 at 11:53 am

          You have obviously thought about these topics a lot. And I appreciate the opportunity to have this conversation.

          I think the chief divergence in how we look at this situation is captured in your #2, where you mention (and distribute) responsibility. Your phrasing, and this carries over from your first point, asserts that we’re all equal, equally imperfect, equally able to introduce risk/precipitate some unsafe outcome, and consequently equally responsible.
          But this is easily shown to be a problematic assumption. The danger of people mixing it up on our streets, is, for all intents and purposes, nonexistent if you leave out the one category, the one mode which relies on an engine and B-pillars.

          Pragmatically one can of course make a pitch for everyone to be perspicacious, to assert that since cars are a thing, a ubiquitous thing even, we just need to figure stuff out, be smart, but
          (1) this elides the dramatic, central asymmetry of risk which the automobile introduces into the situation, and
          (2) it fails to recognize some history (which Peter Norton, the author of Fighting Traffic, has explored in depth) which shows us that it took a large scale effort to re-frame this issue of danger on streets, to shift responsibility, which had in the US up until the 1920s been on those piloting cars, onto pedestrians (jays).

          I find it impossible to speak to the question of responsibility (as opposed to ‘compensating for the operational handicaps of drivers’ which is a generous impulse but hardly the same thing) without reference to these matters.

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          • Hello, Kitty
            Hello, Kitty April 5, 2018 at 2:29 pm

            >>> The danger of people mixing it up on our streets, is, for all intents and purposes, nonexistent if you leave out the one category, the one mode which relies on an engine and B-pillars. <<<

            This is why, before the adoption of the automobile, the streets were very safe.*

            *Except they wern't.

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              9watts April 5, 2018 at 2:49 pm

              Let’s be specific. From past conversations here I was surprised to learn that horses in large cities, where statistics on these things were kept, were dangerous to life and limb, but aside from that fact I’m curious for you to elaborate.
              You aren’t suggesting that if we replaced automobiles with something else entirely, risks to bipeds would be no different from what they are now, are you? And if you are, on what basis?

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty April 5, 2018 at 4:32 pm

                I’m not suggesting that at all. I believe automated cars will be much safer. I just want us all to acknowledge that our streets have always been dangerous, and we have been making steady progress. Demonizing cars and drivers without “compared to what” or “at what cost” is not a productive line of pursuit, nor is romanticizing the past, when the roads were safe and life was good (and children didn’t attend school because they had to work on the farm, before their labor was mechanized).

                And yes; horses are dangerous to life and limb, as well as being vectors for disease and filth. And are more cruel.

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                9watts April 5, 2018 at 5:22 pm

                “Our streets have always been dangerous, and we have been making steady progress”

                That is an easy phrase to toss out, but it would be more useful to provide evidence of this assertion. And progress over what time period? Measured how?

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              • Hello, Kitty
                Hello, Kitty April 5, 2018 at 9:22 pm

                I’m tired of this conversation, which we keep having, so I’m not going to drag this out. This chart goes back to 1925, and shows a steady decline in fatalities per mile driven (which I see as the appropriate metric), and a less steady by still quite dramatic decline in fatalities per person, as compared to the mid 1930s.

                We absolutely have more work to do, but we should also acknowledge our successes as well.

                https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Transportation_safety_in_the_United_States#/media/File:US_traffic_deaths_per_VMT,_VMT,_per_capita,_and_total_annual_deaths.png

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                9watts April 5, 2018 at 9:36 pm

                1925?
                Seems like if we’re trying to assess my claim that the car introduces carnage to our streets we’d need to pick a different starting point.
                Noting that ‘driving’ has become relatively, statistically safer is something rather tangential to the topic we were discussing here.

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