K. K.’s comments about my Spruce Street video, with my responses

My friend Marc Caruso shared my video of a ride on Spruce Street, Philadelphia in the urbanphl Facebook group. I post this page in connection with a post commenting on responses to that.

Below the comments  you are reading here is s the discussion from the urbanphl group which Marc relayed to me, in the left-hand column. My responses are in the right-hand column. Most of the comments are from a cyclist I’ll call K.K. Others  are from another I’ll call N.Y. and from Marc.

I slept on this discussion and I think I understand K.K.’s mindset. She thinks that it is unsafe to change lanes so she does it as little as she can. “Destination positioning makes sense if I’m going to turn left soon, or a lane is ending, or is truly a right turn only lane, or the lane is blocked.”

Essentially, this is fear to the rear: she appears to think that she is playing the odds: that, even on this narrow, slow street, it is more dangerous to be in front of a vehicle where the driver can see her, than next to the vehicle where the driver can’t see her. She thinks that the lane at the end of the block, which is marked as a right-turn lane, is not truly a right turn lane, because bicyclists are also allowed to travel straight through in it. It isn’t enough for her that I used the bike lane when it worked to my advantage to pass motorists, or to their advantage to pass me: she accuses me of being submissive for actually being assertive in merging into the general travel lane when safety required — my merely being polite and waiting my turn in line or passing on the left, rather than being, in her view, assertive of my rights by riding into drivers’ right rear blindspot.

Drivers must yield, she says, that is the rule, and so they will yield, even to bicyclists in that right rear blindspot. She thinks that equal rights consist of bicyclists’ having our own lane from which motorists are prohibited, when in fact that is a special privilege with all that entails in terms of general resentment, and expectations that bicyclists should stay out of the other lane (though, to Philadelphia’s credit, I did not encounter that on Spruce Street). “It does NOT make any sense to merge left to go straight only to merge BACK into the right lane any more than it makes sense to not use your turn signal when turning.”

Well, except that people are being killed and seriously injured by taking that advice, and when two drivers did not use the turn signal in my video, my merging left avoided my being forced into the curb. K.K. is unhappy that I didn’t stay in the bike lane and stand up for her principles. I wish her the best of luck. Or better than that, a change of heart.

Now, the Facebook comments, with my responses.

K.K. This is probably a good video to show someone who is new to biking in the city, nervous, but I have a few issues with it. Actually, this is a good video to show any bicyclist who would like to stay alive and healthy.
1.) sharing this video at this moment continues to take the onus off drivers and puts it on cyclists and pedestrians. Especially because the maker of the video does just that; he talks as if the cars own the roads and bicyclists should yield and thank them at every intersection for not hitting them. Safety requires everyone’s attention, but K.K. regards motorists as having to take responsibility for the safety of cyclists and pedestrians, while they do not have to take responsibility for their own.. This blinds K.K. to my display of common courtesy in allowing motorists to pass me when safe:  she interprets my courtesy as subservience.
2.) It’s not the responsibility of the bicyclist to merge out of the bike lane to avoid right turning cars, it’s the responsibility of the drivers to merge INTO the bike lane and NOT make a right turn across a travel lane, even if it is a bike lane. The bike lane does not become a right turn only lane, it’s still a bike lane. If someone makes a right turn from the left lane and hits a car going straight in the right lane, no one is going to blame the struck car, so why do we blame the bicyclists? Indeed, it is the responsibility of drivers to merge into the bike lane — if they can. But some don’t; big trucks and buses can’t: they have to make wide right turns. It’s my right, not my responsibility, to drive defensively, staying stay out of the “coffin corner” to their right. (I would lose that right in a “protected” bike lane, which would force me into the coffin corner.) A naive blame game, pointing the finger at  what motorists should do instead of anticipating what they actually do — can get a cyclist killed or severely injured. For more on this topic, see “What Cyclists Need To Know About Trucks”.
3.) His biking habits and instruction make it seem like he doesn’t believe that cars and bikes have equal rights to the streets. He yields at every moment to vehicles, whether it’s necessary or not The stuff about my not supporting cyclists’ rights is 180 degrees from the truth. Watch the video and see. (K.K. clearly didn’t watch it — see below.) I exercised my right to use the bike lane (which was a more than equal right, because motorists are prohibited from the bike lane), and my equal right to use the travel lane, merging into it every time that staying the bike lane was risky or it was obstructed.
4.) He points out a few times that bicyclists pass him “on the right” but they’re passing in the bike lane while he’s in the travel lane.


What is the point here? The bicyclists in the bike lane who were passing me on the right were also passing motor vehicles on the right. Apparently, K.K. thinks that I shouldn’t be in the travel lane with the motor vehicles: I should be in the bike lane where it would be harder for the bicyclists to pass me!
N. Y. Yes!! #2 #2 #2 #2!!!!!!!!!it is NOT the responsibility of the cyclist to move from the right lane. It’s more dangerous for cyclists to weave in and out of traffic lanes because they appear unpredictable and erratic. #4 are effects of his bad lane weave habits.Unpredictable = unsafe More befuddled nonsense from another commenter. It isn’t my responsibility to move from the bike lane, it is my right. So, bicyclists passing on the right are effects of my “bad lane weave habits”? What a crock! Again — I was not getting in the way of bicyclists passing me on the right, as I well might have been if I stayed in the bike lane. When returning to it, I yielded to them. I did by-the-book predictable lane changes. N.Y. evidently does not udnerstand the difference between predictable lane changes and “weaving”.
Marc Caruso Actually he was driving his bike very predictably following the rules of movement. By William Phelps Eno . These rules were written before the automobile was common. They are the foundation of our traffic rules, written by a man who never drove an automobile in his life. Thanks, Marc. In case anyone would like to explore the topic further, William Eno’s book Street Traffic Regulation, the foundation of the rules of the road as we know them, is online.
N.Y. No. No what? No, I wasn’t being predictable? No, The rules of the road are irrelevant?
K.K. lol no K.K. apparently thinks that I was riding unpredictably, and the rules of the road are a joke. The joke is on her.
Marc Caruso K.K., who gets injured when the motorist fails to take responsibility for #2? So while you are correct technically, would you not agree that the cyclist if they can prevent the crash even if is not their responsibility has a vested interest in preventing the crash. As far as your comment about equal road rights, I can guarantee you he is a strong believer in equal road rights. But maybe not so much in special treatment. Right you are, Marc.
Yes, the bicyclist has a vested interest in not getting crushed under a truck.
K. K.Marc Caruso: if they can see the accident coming, sure. Like in that video the cyclist goes around a trash truck that pulls out and blocks the bike lane.

It is NOT the responsibility of the most vulnerable people to constantly and completely yield to those with the most power. This is not much different than telling women if they don’t want to be raped, they shouldn’t be out alone when it’s dark. Is that the safest way to exist? Probably. Is it a reasonable expectation? No. Not even close. It’s one thing to want to be safe, it’s another to sacrifice your rights to be safe.

It’s also an added danger to continually weave in and out of traffic. One could argue, by constantly merging into and out of the bike lane, including unnecessarily forcing other cyclists (who ARE obeying the normal expected traffic laws) to pass him on the right, he’s adding to the uncertainty and danger of bicycling.

This isn’t special treatment. Again, cars would NEVER be expected to yield in the right lane to allow cars to complete a right turn from the left lane. Just because it’s a bike lane, doesn’t make this the right lane’s responsibility to yield. By making and promoting this video, it reinforces the mindset that the bike lane is NOT a travel lane. This reinforces the idea that the RIGHT TRAVEL LANE should yield to vehicles. This is false, incorrect, and dangerous.

K.K. reveals that she never actually watched the video. I never went around a trash truck! I went around:

  • a group of motorcyclists who had parked in the bike lane,
  • a car that pulled to the right and would have forced me into the curb if I’d stayed in the bike lane,
  • in one block, a single car that was parked in the bike lane.
  • in a couple of blocks, parked cars that blocked the bike lane nearly from end to end.

It’s not my responsibility to yield to parked vehicles? There is no such thing as yielding to a parked vehicle. I changed lanes and went around them. Enforcement is the job of the police amd if they aren’t doing it, then you may complain to the city government.

K.K imagines a power struggle. We should resolve it by staying in the bike lane and getting run over by right-turning trucks, a noble sacrifice,  to stand up for our rights to our special space. But according to K.K., exercising the right to use the travel lane as well as the bike lane is to abandon our rights.

K.K. thinks that I was being subservient, when I was being assertive. By analogy, she thinks that we should tell women to go out in the dark, alone, unarmed,  and hang out in places where rapes are common, in order to stand up for their rights. Or, maybe more likely, she actually thinks that staying in the bike lane is safest. That is a hard row to hoe because, in fact, it is getting people killed.

What is false, incorrect and dangerous is to encourage bicyclists to do what is getting them killed.

Marc Caruso It is a travel lane but not the only travel lane. Its called destination positioning. Correct.
K.K. Marc Caruso If I’m in a car in the right lane, I’m not going to merge left and back right through *every single intersection* because that is unnecessary, illogical, and could *increase* the chance of accidents, as we know merging does. It also causes additional traffic problems, because I may then have to merge into traffic in the right lane, because they’re operating as intended.
Destination positioning makes sense if I’m going to turn left soon, or a lane is ending, or is truly a right turn only lane, or the lane is blocked. It does NOT make any sense to merge left to go straight only to merge BACK into the right lane any more than it makes sense to not use your turn signal when turning.
K.K. thinks that leaving the bike lane is unnecessary and illogical. But staying in the bike lane is exactly what killed one bicyclist and severely injured another in the fall of 2017 in Philadelphia.

K.K.,thinks that I took a risk by merging. That’s a crock. I made all but one of my merges by matching speed with motorists who were slowing for a traffic signal. And the one other time, I got the cooperation of an overtaking driver.

Merging back into the right lane after the intersection was a problem? No problem, the bike lane carried only light bicycle traffic. K.K. is not responding to what the video actually shows — again revealing that she didn’t watch it.

So, the right-hand lane is not truly a right-turn lane? Actually, at the end of the block, it is both a bike lane and a right-turn lane. If a vehicle is waiting there to turn right, a bicyclist makes faster progress by merging to the next lane. What this has to do with using a turn signal beats me. I signaled my merges.