Monday, June 9, 2008

Helmet use and motorist behavior

Today's Post contains an article on page 2 entitled Taking More Risks Because You Feel Safe that includes a reference to a study about helmet use and motorist behavior. A British researcher rode his bike equipped with a distance sensor on several stretches of road. He rode with a helmet, without a helmet, and with a wig:

“Walker was trying to figure out whether his interventions changed the way drivers passed his bike. He came to two conclusions: Cars gave him more leeway when drivers thought he was a woman with curly black hair. And they gave him less leeway -- getting dangerously close -- when he wore a helmet.

“Walker thinks drivers are influenced by unconscious stereotypes -- they may believe that female bicyclists are less steady, and that helmeted bikers are pros.”

I'm not sure what to think about the study but it certainly shouldn't affect one's use of a helmet, the benefits of which far outweigh most negative aspects. It was interesting that the photo used to illustrate the article was taken at the FABB Tour of Tysons last year when we hosted a ride for local government officials, including Kathy Ichter, head of the Fairfax County Dept. of Transportation, and her husband Larry Ichter, who also works for the county Department of Public Works and Environmental Services. Larry is adjusting Kathy's helmet in the photo. Yours truly is in the background giving the pre-tour talk.

After reading this story I have slightly adjusted my riding habits on narrow, two-lane roads with no shoulder. I take at least one-third of the lane and I don't ride in a perfect straight line anymore. I actually inject a slight lazy weave; just enough for drivers to be wary of trying to pass me. For once, predictability in behavior is a bad thing for a cyclist. I know I won't veer into traffic but they have some doubt.
When I rode cross country one of the 14 cyclists on the trip was an older gentleman from England. He has a very unsteady riding style. I would ride behind him and notice how much room he was given by most motorists. He was unpredictable and and because of that they gave him lots of room.

All too often on roads with four lanes, two in each direction, motorists try to pass me in my lane, and there is rarely room for them to pass safely. When that is the case, I try to avoid the situation by riding nearly in the middle of the lane, which, as I read it, is allowed by Virginia law:

46.2-905 : Any person operating a bicycle...shall ride as close as safely practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway, except under any of the following circumstances:

3. When reasonably necessary to avoid conditions including, but not limited to, ...substandard width lanes that make it unsafe to continue along the right curb or edge;
I won't ride down the block without a helmet!
Post a Comment
Contact FABB via email:

Subscribe to the
FABB e-newsletter

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]

  Bike to Work Day 2004 at Reston Town Center

  Transportation choices

This page is powered by Blogger. Isn't yours?


February 2007
March 2007
April 2007
May 2007
June 2007
July 2007
August 2007
September 2007
October 2007
November 2007
December 2007
January 2008
February 2008
March 2008
April 2008
May 2008
June 2008
July 2008
August 2008
September 2008
October 2008
November 2008
December 2008
January 2009
February 2009
March 2009
April 2009
May 2009
June 2009
July 2009
August 2009
September 2009
October 2009
November 2009
December 2009
January 2010
February 2010
March 2010
April 2010