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VTBIKEPEDPOLICY-L  August 2004

VTBIKEPEDPOLICY-L August 2004

Subject:

Re: Share the Road PSAs - give us your input!

From:

Jase Roberts <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Jase Roberts <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Fri, 13 Aug 2004 15:30:08 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (58 lines)

Peter, Becka, et al,

I agree that the primary target of this campaign ought to be motorists.  However, as I discussed with Becka off-list, I don't support the "Share the Road" language.  To me, this implies that the road *belongs* to cars, and drivers are encouraged to *share* with cyclists and other users.  Apparently this language is well-entrenched in national and state programs across the country, so change is difficult.  Long-term, however, I think a stronger message is something we should strive for.  I really like Becka's e-mail tagline, "Roads are for people, not just for people in cars."  That's not language that would go on a sign, but expresses the correct sentiment.  I encourage Becka to place significant focus in this PSA campaign on cyclists' *legal* right to use roadways -- a right which many motorists don't seem to acknowledge.  It's my impression that many drivers don't treat cyclists as equal users of roads because they don't believe bikes belong there in the first place.

I think the proposed PSA campaign can be divided into 3 distinct messages:

1) Motorists' *responsibilities* to share the road with cyclists and pedestrians.
2) Cyclist and pedestrians' legal *rights and responsibilities* when using roads.
3) Additional safety tips for cyclists and pedestrians.

As Peter suggests, I think that messages #1 & #2 need to be well separated from #3.  The first two messages are based in law, and there's little subjectivity about them.  A driver who crowds or harasses a cyclist is violating the cyclist's legal right to use the roadway.  Likewise, a cyclist who fails to follow traffic rules or rides at night without lights/reflectors is breaking the law.  These types of messages should be the real meat of the PSA campaign.

Message #3 is completely different.  This isn't talking about the *responsibilities* of cyclists and pedestrians, but is rather presenting *tips* for how we can further enhance our own safety.  We aren't *required* to do these things, but we *should*. Peter is right, this message ought to be presented separately in such a way that it is targeted at cyclists and pedestrians, and won't be misconstrued as ammunition for motorists to prove that cyclists and peds are the real problem in the shared use equation.

Becka indicates that there will also be some "tips" for motorists.  While I'd reiterate that focusing on legal responsibilities should be primary, I do think there is some value in explaining *why* motorists should go above and beyond the letter of the law to be respectful of cyclists.  For example, motorists might not understand that a biker may *need* to suddenly swerve left a couple feet to avoid a pothole or rough pavement that would not pose a problem for a car.  However, I'm not sure I'd include "slow down in towns and villages" as part of these "tips".  This is generally the law, and should be presented as such.  If a municipality doesn't already have a lower posted speed limit through town, local bikers and peds should band together to make this happen.

Kevin expresses skepticism that safety PSAs will change the behavior of adult cyclists, and I'd certainly share that skepticism.  I think we've all heard the "light clothing, stay right, use reflectors" type messages before.  I've encouraged Becka to again focus on *legal* responsibilities of cyclists (e.g. How many cyclists know they're *required by law* to use lights?) and use concrete statistics/examples to reinforce the safety recommendations.  If the statistics are available to support it, "Cyclists wearing white are 50% less likely to be hit" is a much more effective message than simply, "Wear light colors when cycling on roadsides."

Again, Becka, best of luck!

-Jase


Peter K Duval wrote:
> Becka:
>
> 'Share the Road' is a message for motorists.  The main purpose, of course,
> is to diminish the prevailing notion that roads are by and for cars, and to
> instill the understanding that cyclists are vehicles. (The side effect that
> cyclists figure this out is a nice bonus).
>
> If defensive biking and walking advice, and -- worse -- admonishments to
> cyclists to 'behave well' or the message, 'It is your responsibility to be
> visible', are mixed with 'share the road' the fundamental purpose is at best
> obscured and the audience is confused. Motorists are invited to enumerate
> the many reasons why cyclists and walkers are at-fault.
>
> This message confusion is illustrated within the initial posting.  In the
> beginning, defensive walking/cycling are lumped together under the heading
> "About the Share The Road messages".  Later in the post, a category for
> "Lights and Light Clothing PSAs" emerges. I say this bluntly to help the
> cause:  If the key person in the state's key advocacy group is confused
> about what the message is, then you can be sure that Joe Six-Pack is not
> going understand that muddled message either.
>
> The masses are motorists. Focus on getting them to realize that they must
> share the road.  Save the defensive cycling advice for more targeted means
> of communication. And don't confuse the road sharing message with
> hairsplitting specifics like '3 foot passing separation is adequate' -- a
> notion which itself deserves a lot of debunking.
>
> -Peter

==========
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