Posting this here to save space on the LCI list.
As a New Mexico resident, its a little frustrating to hear that we are to "avoid high speed roads" when in some parts of the country, there ain't a whole lot of choice. In most if not all of New Mexico, even the secondary roads, when they exist, are high speed roads once you get out of town. Commuters face that issue in Los Alamos. If you live in White Rock and work at the National Lab, you have a choice of two, 55 mph routes to work.
Once outa town, main NM state routes often are blessed with shoulders (complete with rumble strips) but with speed limits as high as 70 mph while lesser state routes are usually posted 50 mph or higher with two, 11 foot lanes and no or badly paved shoulders. There are blind curves, short sight line rises, and other goodies on minor routes that REQUIRE driver attention and make taking the lane on a bicycle problematic (operationally and politically) if a motorist is coming over a short sight line rise at 55 mph. The two (count 'em) roads out of Los Alamos county, NM 502 and NM4, are of the "main" and "lesser" type, respectively. 502 is a wide, fast four laner with clear sight lines. NM4, on the other hand, is an exhilarating little road for a cyclist with good descending skills through high speed switchbacks.
I cannot think of too many 100% effective defensive solutions to the class of hit from behind crashes where the root cause is driving while distracted, or too fast for conditions, etc., on a high speed road. One cannot, as John Allen once said regarding bike boxes, drive (a bike in this case) with one's eyes glued to the back of one's head. I think that attitude would just burn people out. Its supposed to be enjoyable, right?
This is a political issue and I think a lot of us are glad that the League is working with Ray LaHood (and hopefully the AAA) on this topic. The good news is that thankfully, we only get one or two cyclists per year hit this way in NM. I'll take that risk because its small and the alternative, giving up cycling on the open road for the first time in 32 years, would probably kill me first.
I guess my message to other LCIs is that we can ask cyclists to mitigate risk using the various techniques that Tricia, Preston, and others have suggested (operationally and fluidly defined proper lane position, bright clothing, 360 degrees of situational awareness, pay attention to visibility conditions during adverse times of day or weather, proper lighting at dawn/dusk/night, etc.). Those will greatly cut down one's odds, hopefully. But if distracted driving is increasing, the answer for that is to tell cyclists to work with their advocacy organizations on legislation that combats bad roadway behavior. That's not in TS 101, admittedly, but its one of those unpaid services that is time well spent.
LCIs who can stomach the political world should be active in pushing for higher standards of motor vehicle operator safety as well as teaching cyclists to ride correctly. Andy Clark, Ray LaHood, BCNM, BikeABQ, the New Mexico Motorcycle Assn., and the Duke City Wheelmen Foundation need all the help they can get.
From: Tricia Kovacs firstname.lastname@example.org
Date: Tue, 19 Apr 2011 06:19:07 -0600
Subject: Re: [LCI Group] Question regarding bike crash statistics
One of the avoidance techniques suggested by Mionske in Bicycling and the Law is to avoid high-speed roads, in particular rural roads at night or at dawn or dusk when motorists may be blinded. I do teach that these roads under these conditions can increase the likelihood of hit from behind, but I don't think cyclists should have to avoid them. We also teach that cyclists who ride in adverse conditions (rain, darkness) have
lower crash rates than fair-weather riders. Mionske also suggests not to drive a bicycle drunk. Well, that's a given.
I also use a mirror and recommend that other cyclists use them, but the reason I said "I won't go there" is because I didn't want to bring up the mirror discussion again.
I do agree with you that driver distractions seem to be on the rise, and that's why I have been interested in learning whether these types of crashes are increasing. Recently, on several occasions I have noticed motorists drifting left of center when approaching me from the opposite direction, and when I look at them while passing, I see that their eyes are on their laps. I read somewhere that distracted driving laws (or
bans on texting while driving) have actually increased crashes because motorists are hiding their phones in their laps. Steve Magas here in Ohio (and co-author of Bicyling & the Law) is doing a study of all bicycle fatalities over several years to determine the cause and fault of each crash, which should be very interesting.