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January 2013

Part 2 – Bicyclists Rights

By | Coalition News, Stay Safe

A Response to Cycling Fatalities in Chicago, Part 2 of 4

By John Brooking (Bicycle Coalition of Maine Board Member) 

 Bicyclists Rights

Hello, Chicago. I’m writing to you from Portland, Maine. (Yes, “the other Portland”, land of lobster and lighthouses.) I’ve been a year-round bike commuter here for over 10 years. Brent invited me to write this series of guest columns based on a discussion we had in the comments section of his 11/2 article Chicago Cycling Fatalities: Making Sense of the Senseless.

Given that, I first need to extend my sympathies for the friends and families of the victims of the two crashes Brent mentioned in his article. It’s always a tragedy when this happens.

I first learned of Brent’s article through his mention of the page “What Cyclists Need to Know About Trucks”, from the CommuteOrlando web site. CommuteOrlando’s author, Keri, is also a co-founder of theCyclingSavvy education program, of which I am a certified instructor. So I was intrigued by Brent’s critique of the tone of that page, and felt compelled to reply to him about his criticism. My understanding of his critique is that he felt that Keri’s page put too much of the onus on the bicyclist to avoid being hit, and not enough responsibility on the motorist.

I’m grateful that Brent and I were able to have a respectful Internet dialog, and that he seems interested enough in what I have to say to let me write this article.

The Concept of Bicyclists’ Rights

I was intrigued by the different ways that Brent and I approached the concept of bicyclists’ rights. Brent’s post emphasized the mindless mistakes motorists make, and the infringement of these mistakes upon bicyclists’ rights and expectations to operate safely on the road. While I agree that bicyclists should have this right and expectation, I think one difference in our perspective has to do with the relationship between infrastructure and safety. If you assume that infrastructure is provided for the purpose of increasing safety, because that is what all the advocates and engineers say, you naturally expect to be safe. When fatalities happen, there is a sense of betrayal, and a reach for explanations. Among them may be that the infrastructure was inadequate (thus the progression from normal bike lanes to cycle tracks and bike boxes), or that the penalties to the motorist are not high enough to keep them from making mistakes or misjudgments around bicyclists.

If however you view bicycle infrastructure with suspicion (more on this in the next installment), then the historical right of bicyclists to use other parts of the roadway instead of the special infrastructure becomes the more important right. I am one of those people who are suspicious of some bicycle infrastructure. Brent’s comments about the rights of cyclists to use bicycle infrastructure seem inverted to people who think as I do, as we tend to view being expected to restrict our road use to infrastructure which we mistrust as a diminishment of our rights to the full road. Bicycle infrastructure does not create or enhance our legal right to use the road,it merely enhances the comfort level of beginning cyclists.

Again, if you view bicycle infrastructure as a valuable roadway safety enhancement, then you might tend to view having to negotiate with other traffic for the general portions of the road (or “being forced into the travel lane”, as another correspondent recently put it) as an undesirable option, and to you it might even represent a diminishment of bicyclists’ rights to use the road safely at all. If your route takes you through areas of heavy traffic congestion, where a bike lane provides an official place for bicyclists to bypass slower cars, then that bike lane might well seem even more valuable, and encountering danger in it even more frustrating.

If bike infrastructure could be counted on to always keep cyclists safe, that would be great. Unfortunately, as these and other fatalities around the country show, that is not always the case. As Brent asks, what can we learn, and how can cyclists keep themselves safe from motorist mistakes?

In the next installment, we will discuss bike lanes in more detail, after a slight detour into a brief history of the rules of the road.

Part 1 – A Response to Cycling Fatalities

By | Coalition News

A Response to Cycling Fatalities in Chicago, Part 1 of 4

By John Brooking (Bicycle Coalition of Maine Board Member) 


Like many of you reading this, I spend a lot of time on the Internet. Sometimes it seems like too much time. But as it is in most areas of human endeavor, the Internet has been invaluable to me in making new contacts around the country in my most passionate area of interest, bicycle advocacy and education. For example, my initial contact with the people who created the CyclingSavvy education program, with whom I now a certified instructor, was through an email list.

In November, a comment I made on a cycling blog article in Chicago, regarding recent cyclist fatalities there, led to a surprisingly civil and productive online conversation with the author, which eventually led to his inviting me to write a guest essay on his blog, Easy as Riding a Bike. What caught my attention initially was a critique he made of a page of the Commute Orlando site about What Cyclists Need to Know About Trucks. As we conversed further, I was intrigued by our somewhat different sense of the concept of bicyclist rights, so that is something I explored further in my first guest post. Verbose writer that I am, I ended up with a 3-part series, following up that first post with one about infrastructure, and a final one about education and the law.

Now the BCM has expressed interest in republishing it, so with that introduction, follow us as we post in the coming weeks. I hope you find in thought-provoking, and please feel free to comment!

BCM Scholarship Available for the 3rd Annual National Youth Bike Summit!

By | Coalition News, Featured Posts, Safe Biking at School


Let your bicycle-loving high school and college friends know that New York City is the place to be from February 15-17, 2013 for the 3rd Annual National Youth Bike Summit.  This year, the Bicycle Coalition of Maine is offering a scholarship to help ensure that youth voices from Maine are present and accounted for. Apply now for the scholarship!

The scholarship the Bicycle Coalition of Maine is offering is for either:

  • One high school student and one parent/adult chaperone to attend the Summit (total of $575), or 
  • Two college students to attend (total of $575).

The deadline for this application is January 24.  If you’re interested in the Youth Bike Summit 2013 scholarship, please apply now for the scholarship!

The Youth Bike Summit is a three day gathering geared toward youth, bicycles, education, and advocacy. This national conference aims to bring people from different disciplines to explore, network, and learn how bicycling can be a legitimate and safe form of transportation for today’s youth. With this mission in mind, the Youth Bike Summit offers a dynamic inter-generational exchange through educational workshops and
panel discussions that are both interactive and practical.

The Youth Bike Summit also provides tools and information on fundraising and best practices for schools that wish to incorporate bikes into the physical fabric of the learning environment.  Last year, Maine Safe Routes to School Program and Bicycle Coalition of Maine staff attended the Summit and it was a fabulous experience for youth and adult advocates alike!

Learn more about the Youth Bike Summit and register here.  You can also get a sense for the event with this short & sweet video of last year’s Youth Bike Summit by Streetfilms. 

Whether you apply for the scholarship or not, don’t hesitate to get yourself, local youth, and anyone else from your community who is building and/or exploring youth bike programming to the Summit! And please let us know if you’re going, in case there are carpooling opportunities from Maine.  For more information or to coordinate transportation, please contact Sarah Cushman.

Adventure Cyclist covers BikeMaine

By | Events, Featured Posts


Originally posted by the Adventure Cycling Association


In September 2013, the 5,000-member Bicycle Coalition of Maine will premiere BikeMaine,   weeklong, 400-mile group bicycle ride around the Pine Tree State. Designed as a rolling celebration of Maine and taking a cue from other popular cross-state rides, like RAGBRAI and Cycle Oregon, the fully-supported event ride will utilize a different route every year, with riders camping in a designated host community on each of the seven nights.

In order to spread the joy and the economic impact, which is expected to be considerable, the route will alternate between popular tourist destinations like Bar Harbor and Camden, and less-frequented, rural communities. Set to run September 7 through 14, the 2013 ride will accept a maximum of 350 cyclists. “Given the state’s continuously rolling hills, the ride is best suited for experienced, fit cyclists,” stated an advance release about the ride. Learn more at this link: