Gorski Consulting has recognized the importance of situations where cyclists are passed by motor vehicles on roadways where no cycling infrastructure, such as cycling lanes, exist. The unfortunate reality is that roadways have been designed to carry motor vehicle traffic while the number of cyclists has been historically low. Almost as an afterthought various roadway designers and policy makers were required to deal with those few cyclists in the midst of the large volume of motor vehicles. Their solution was to treat cyclists as if they were motor vehicles. And thus this was the reasoning to place cyclists on a road, in the midst of motor vehicles, while the cyclists’ backs were to those motor vehicles. This was a dangerous decision.
For many years pedestrians were taught the danger of walking on the roadside with their backs to traffic. And that danger was obvious. Without being able to see behind them pedestrians were at a disadvantage as they did not have the ability to observe dangers evolving behind them and to take evasive action to avoid being struck. It has been understood that a pedestrian struck by a motor vehicle is at a great disadvantage as the simple mass difference means that the pedestrian will sustain essentially all the injury while the occupant of the motor vehicle is safely protected. This logic has never been transferred to situations where cyclists are forced to ride with their backs to motor vehicle traffic. Clearly a cyclist struck from behind is no better off than the pedestrian. The cyclist will sustain all the injury of such a collision while the occupant of the motor vehicle remains uninjured. That concept has never reached the minds of decision makers who continue to enforce the unreasonable logic that cycles are vehicles and thus should continue to share the road with other vehicles. The regrettable consequence of this illogical thinking is that very many cyclists have sustained major injury or have died.
With the advent of an increase in the volume of cyclists, policymakers ought to recognize that the illogical danger imposed on cyclists with their backs to motor vehicle traffic cannot continue. Without a separation between the cyclist and motor vehicle serious collisions are inevitable. But the difficult reality remains: our transportation system was never designed to accommodate large numbers of cyclists. It would seem useless to place blame on that reality. Most roadways simply cannot accommodate large numbers of cyclists without major recreations of the roadway systems. Yet a change must occur.
Ultimately we must make the difficult decision to redesign our roadways to properly include cyclists in conjunction with the concept that roadways should be equally accommodating to all ages and abilities, and all modes of transportation whether it be cyclists, e-scooters and all kinds of newly emerging “vehicles”. Too many this change is not soon enough while failing to understand the difficulty placed on our society to make these changes in a rapid time frame.
Where these changes cannot be made in a seemingly reasonable time frame many jurisdictional policymakers have turned to defending the status quo while continuing to argue that cyclists must share the roadway with motor vehicles regardless of the circumstances. And so this leads to many cyclists being placed onto high-speed, high volume, roads with high percentages of heavy vehicle traffic. The defensible logic becomes that cyclists are a danger to pedestrians on a sidewalk and thus cyclists must be banned from sidewalks in all circumstances. There is an alternative that could place the onus on cyclists to ride on sidewalks but also to ride with caution when in the midst of pedestrians and to be mindful of their danger when approaching intersecting roadways or driveways. Yet that alternative has never caught enough traction.
In the dangerous environment where cyclists must continue to share the road with motor vehicles there has been nothing of substance provided by authorities to help cyclists to understand when their life is in danger. Whatever police investigations are carried out in serious cyclist collisions the results of these investigations never reach the public and, more importantly, are not shared with the cyclists who need to know what factors are relevant to their safety. This is the present mess in which we are in.
Documentations at Colborne Street Site
Recognizing the danger posed, Gorski Consulting has instituted a research project to gather objective evidence about how cyclists and motor vehicles interact on roadways and what may be the important factors that could lessen the danger. A site has been chosen on Colborne Street just north of St James Street in London, Ontario where such basic data is being gathered. Colborne Street has been pegged by the City of London for a future painted cycling lane and this becomes a greater reason for the Gorski Consulting research. Gathering details of passing motions when no cycling lane exists allows for a comparison to the situation when the cycling lane has been created. To date Gorski consulting has conducted three video sessions at the site on April 12, April 14 and June 8, 2023. As a result 14 instances of passing motions have be identified and these are shown in the table below.
in the last several days articles have been posted on the Gorski Consulting website where individual passing motions are described in detailed. In the last of these endeavors the present article will describe the results from the observation labelled as “Jun 8-11”. The figure at the top of this article shows the situation as the cyclist crosses the Zero marker at timecode 01;41;14;27. The lateral position of this cyclist was tracked throughout the 50 metre zone of observation and this position is shown in the table below.
As can be seen in the table this cyclist was located about 1.00 metres west of the concrete gutter at the Zero marker but then moved further toward the gutter throughout the remainder of the distance. The average position of the cyclist was 0.62 metres west of the concrete gutter.
The figure below shows a Tan SUV crossing the Zero marker at timecode 01;41;17;12 and its lateral position is 1.30 metres west of the concrete gutter. This at a time when the cyclist is approaching the 15-metre marker.
In the next figure below we see the situation at timecode 01;41;19;13 as the cyclist crosses the 25-metre marker and the Tan SUV is just coming up to pass the cyclist from the rear. The SUV driver is in a difficulty as a southbound vehicle is approaching in the opposing lane. This makes it difficult for the SUV driver to steer into the opposing lane. Yet, as can be seen in the figure below, the SUV driver manages to keep the SUV to the left such that the right front tire is located 2.35 metres west of the concrete gutter.
In the next figure we see that the SUV crosses the 50-metre marker at timecode 01;41;20;56 and the SUV’s right front tire is 2.40 metres west of the concrete gutter.
in the final figure shown below the cyclist crosses the 50-metre marker at timecode 01;41;23;49 and the cycle is positioned 0.50 metres west of the concrete gutter.
Once again we can examine the speed of the Tan SUV and the cyclist by noting when they pass the various markers.
With respect to the SUV, it travelled the first 25 metres in 2.40 seconds or 10.42 metres per second or 37.50 km/h. Then in the second half of its motion the SUV travelled the 25 metres in just 1.33 seconds or 18.80 metres per second or 67.67 km/h. Thus the SUV increased its speed dramatically in the latter portion of the zone of observation.
With respect to the cyclist, the first 25-metre distance was travelled in 4.77 seconds or 5.24 metres per second or 18.87 km/h. In the second half of its motion the cycle travelled the 25 metres in 4.60 seconds or 5.43 metres per second or 19.56 km/h.
This is the final description of the passing motions that were documented before the painted cycling lane was created. It will be interesting to conduct further observations of passing motions when the painted cycling lane is complete.
Overall there were no unusual actions observed in the passing motions. Generally the passing vehicles maintained a good lateral distance away from the cycles they were passing. This is not surprizing since visibility was good so drivers could evaluate when a passing motion could be attempted. And because the volume of opposing traffic was not great drivers had a better opportunity to chose when the passing motion could be made. This is not always the case at every site.