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Monthly Archives: July 2010

In my previous post on this subject I described in detail an unpleasant run-in with an aggressive motorist in downtown Ferguson on Saturday, July 24, 2010 at about 9 am. I was able to snap photos of him and his vehicle after I’d followed him into the Ferguson Hardware parking lot on my bike shortly after he sounded his horn to indicate he wanted me out of his way.

He claimed I was “in the middle of the road” and I needed a license to operate a bicycle and later we both went to the nearby Ferguson Police Station where we were interviewed by a police officer.

I just learned that this same motorist was the subject of a complaint filed on June 3 with the Ferguson Police Department by another experienced cyclist, Gerry Noll. Here’s the e-mail I received from Gerry:


After looking at the pix I realized that I had recently reported this same guy on July 3 to the police using the online reporting system! Same license plate, same truck. My report states it in text, yours show it by picture.

My report is #55 and says:


While bicycling east on Hudson Rd. an F-150 pickup truck, MO license plate 9YA-585, approached from behind and gave a long horn blast. The truck then passed me on the blind curve. He was fully in the westbound lane while I was fully in the eastbound lane as we went around the curve.


I tried to state only the facts without interpretation in the description of the incident. I believe that is enough to show that the pickup was being driven in an illegal and unsafe manner. However the actions of the driver seemed to be intended to intimidate. The long horn blast conveyed the message “get out of my way”. I waved to acknowledge the horn but certainly didn’t get out of the road. As the pickup rounded the curve it slowed while it was next to me and matched my pace for a short distance, a maneuver I interpreted as another attempt to intimidate. I ignored the driver while he rode parallel to me.
I had also separately complained to Lt. Nabzdyk about this guy and also the fact that the online reports are not being followed up.

I’ll be sending the Lt. a followup note citing your incident and the fact that this guy now has a documented history of aggressive behavior towards cyclists. I’ll copy all.



At 9 am on Saturday morning, July 24, 2010, a clear sunny day, I was bicycling in downtown Ferguson, heading south on S. Florissant Rd. I was on my way to check out some bike racks installed as part of the Pilot B.I.K.E. Promotion Project I’d coordinated for the City of Ferguson in 2006 (see Dade Park and Forestwood Park racks).

This section of 4-lane S. Florissant Rd. is controlled by the City of Ferguson. The speed limit is 25 mph and I’m typically bicycling at 15 to 20 mph along this stretch, which is slightly downhill. The lanes are somewhat narrow, although with major reconstruction of the road and sidewalks in 2008 the outside (curb) lane has been slightly widened, but it remains safer for me to control the lane and let motorists pass me in the inside lane or wait behind until it’s safe for them to do so.

As I passed under the Norfolk-Southern railroad trestle at Carson Rd. (where the map below is labelled “Ferguson”) a pickup truck driver behind me honked his horn, evidently wanting me to get out of his way. I turned around and indicated he should change lanes if he wanted to pass. Shortly afterwards he swerved into the inside lane and then back in front of me, only to turn right almost immediately into the Ferguson Hardware parking lot, where I caught up with him. The locations are shown in the map below (please click the map to enlarge).

Downtown Ferguson map showing Ferguson Hardware and Ferguson Police Station

I took photos of the motorist, then of his truck’s rear license plate # 9YA 585, further photos as he gesticulated, and finally a photo as he and I waited in the Ferguson Police Station (please see composite below). He said I’d been in the middle of the road and asked me to show him my bicycle license! He also claimed I’d given him the finger, which wasn’t true: I’d been gesturing for him to use the inside lane to pass me.

I’ve created a montage of the photos I took and include it below as a pdf document. Please click the following, highlighted in blue, to open and view it:

Ferguson Hardware & Police Station photos of motorist and vehicle license plate

I left the motorist to cycle over to the Ferguson Police Station nearby to report the incident. Subsequently, the motorist pulled into the parking lot and we were both interviewed by a police officer, Sergeant Michael Wood, who later wrote an incident report. The officer observed that my position in lane had been perfectly legal. I provided a copy of the Missouri State Statutes relating to bicyclists which I always carry with me in case of such situations, and the officer made a copy for the motorist.

While the relevant section 307.190 contains language which discriminates against cyclists and should be revised to correct it, it nonetheless has exceptions permitting lane control:

Missouri Revised Statutes

Chapter 307
Vehicle Equipment Regulations
Section 307.190

August 28, 2009

Riding to right, required for bicycles and motorized bicycles.

307.190. Every person operating a bicycle or motorized bicycle at less than the posted speed or slower than the flow of traffic upon a street or highway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as safe, exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction, except when making a left turn, when avoiding hazardous conditions, when the lane is too narrow to share with another vehicle, or when on a one-way street. Bicyclists may ride abreast when not impeding other vehicles.

(L. 1977 H.B. 79 § 5, A.L. 1980 H.B. 995 & 1051, A.L. 1995 S.B. 471)

On-line at:

I later received a call from Lt. Ray Nabzdyk, a veteran officer of the Ferguson Police Department, after e-mailing him a description of this event and requesting assistance (please see below for text). He advised me as follows:

To submit a moving violation you need yourself plus two independent witnesses and then you file a complaint with a police officer that is then forwarded to the court system that issues a citation, which is a summons for the person to appear in Ferguson Municipal Court on Church St. When that date arrives, if the person pleads guilty they are fined, and if they plead not guilty a trial date is set at which the witnesses need to appear.

After mentioning that I intended to contact the Missouri Bicycle Federation (MBF) and request a contact letter be sent to the motorist he added that he thought that was a good idea.

A description of the MBF program and how to use it can be found by clicking the link Report Unsafe Motorists.

The bottom line is:

1. Motorists need education on the rights and duties of cyclists, and that the road is a shared space for which we all pay, not exclusively intended for motorists.

2. The law should unequivocally state that cyclists may control the lane when they judge that is the safest position.

State law should be revised to reflect this. Sample language is appended below. This would bring Missouri into line with other more progressive states, such as the following, which don’t have discriminatory state laws directed at cyclists:

District of Columbia
New Hampshire
North Carolina

Below is sample language I prepared and submitted to the Dr. Brent Hugh, MBF Executive Director, for revision of section 307.190 of Missouri state law to remove discriminatory language (additions in italics; deletions not shown). It’s time the MBF gave this priority in its legislative agenda.

Riding in lane, bike lane or on shoulder for bicycles and motorized bicycles.

307.190. Every person operating a bicycle or motorized bicycle upon a street or highway shall exercise due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction, when making a left turn, when avoiding hazardous conditions, or when on a one-way street. Bicyclists may ride two abreast. Where bicyclists have the option of a bicycle lane or shoulder, they may choose to use it instead of controlling or sharing the travel lane.

Text of e-mail to Lt. Ray Nabzdyk:

Lt. Ray Nabzdyk Tu July 27, 2010 @ 3:32 pm
Ferguson Police Department
(314) 522-3100 Extension 1

Dear Lt. Nabzdyk,

I had an unfortunate encounter with an older motorist as I was bicycling south down Florissant Rd. beyond the railroad bridge in the vicinity of the Victorian Plaza and I’m considering filing a police report but I’d like your advice on whether to do so. The motorist immediately following me honked for me to get out of his way and then moved into the inside lane only to move back into my lane immediately ahead of me and then turn into the True Value (Ferguson Hardware) parking lot, where I followed him.

I asked him why he’d behaved aggressively and he responded that I shouldn’t have been “in the middle of the road,” even though Florissant Rd. has a 25 mph speed limit in this area and I was controlling one lane of a four-lane road. He also asserted that I needed a license to operate a bicycle.

After taking some photos of him and his vehicle, I biked over to the Ferguson Police Station and described what had happened and was told an officer would meet me at True Value. When I returned there I met the gentleman again and he said he planned to go to the police station to file a complaint so I returned to the police station and subsequently we both talked to an officer on duty who backed up my position that I’d been cycling legally.

I plan to post this to my new thinkbicycling blog as an example of why we need to emphasize equality of access to roads for cyclists and motorists, some motorists believing that roads are provided exclusively for them. If I can talk to you first I’d appreciate it.

Martin Pion
6 Manor Lane, Ferguson, Mo. 63135
314/524-8029 home office

(Photos appended, including one of license plate # 9YA585.)

I was fortunate enough to have OpEds I submitted to several local St. Louis newspapers published during National Bike Month, 2010, which is designated as May by the League of American Bicyclists. Each OpEd was somewhat different and the following, published in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, was the last to appear. One I also submitted to the New York Times after a major rewrite of this OpEd was not accepted for publication. I may publish it here later.

The main points are:

1. Bike helmets are for injury reduction ONLY: they cannot prevent a crash. Only bike education can do that

2. The emphasis on bike lanes is misplaced: they do nothing to address the most serious causes of car-bike collisions, which occur at intersections. Bike lanes may actually exacerbate such crashes.

3. Efforts to promote bicycle transportation should focus on bike education, starting with 7th graders where it should be offered in school as a P.E. elective

The Matson cartoon immediately below, from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, is one I really like. It celebrates Earth Day, 2009.

Matson Earth Day cartoon, April 22, 2009

Help the planet: Ride a bike
By Martin Pion
St. Louis Post-Dispatch

Promoting bicycling as an environmentally friendly and healthy means of transportation should be a national goal, as we are reminded during May, designated as National Bicycle Month.

Cycling reduces many of the ill-effects caused by our dependence on fossil fuels and reliance on the automobile, and it’s a low-stress physical activity that can benefit the cyclist for a lifetime. Also, it’s more relaxing than driving once proper traffic cycling techniques have been learned.

Even though it’s been estimated that half of all trips in the United States are five miles or less, a distance readily covered by a fit cyclist in half an hour, convincing the public that bicycling is a viable alternative to motoring remains a challenge. Cycling is often dismissed as something done by children or purely for recreation.

It’s generally assumed that roads are paid for by motorists’ taxes, such as the gas tax, when in reality all local roads, which are the ones used by cyclists, are paid for by property taxes, whether that property owner uses a car or not.

Even access-limited interstate highways on which cyclists are not allowed (except for the shoulders in Missouri) are funded only partially from the gas tax. The rest comes from the pockets of all federal taxpayers, including cyclists. Automobiles are heavily subsidized in the United States by that and other means, such as a tax write-off for the entire cost of a motor vehicle used for business.

And, unlike motorists, cyclists cause virtually no road wear and tear.

When it comes to cyclist education, we have a major problem. Learning to balance a bicycle is the first hurdle, but what comes after that? Typically, no on-road instruction is given.

If parents learned to ride safely, by enrolling in a structured bike-safety class, they could teach those acquired skills to their children.

Such courses do exist. Probably the most influential person in the field of bicycle education is John Forester, originally from England but who has lived most of his life in California. Forester, a scientist and professional engineer, has studied the basic causes of bicycle accidents and drawn important conclusions about them: that most involve only the cyclist and are caused by drain grates, potholes or other road-surface defects. Next in importance are car-bike collisions, because of cyclist or motorist error. Almost all cyclist crashes can be avoided with knowledge and proper training.

Forester developed the Effective Cycling program for adults and children in the mid-70s, which treated cyclists as vehicle operators who “fared best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles.”

Diana Lewiston, a follower of Forester, taught a comprehensive course that graduated hundreds of seventh-graders in Palo Alto, Calif., middle schools. It was offered as an elective in place of physical education and held every school day for 45 minutes for four weeks. About 10 hours were devoted to on-road instruction. By the end of the course, children could use their bikes safely for transportation in nearly every traffic situation.

After 40 years of cycling (the last 13 as a certified League of American Bicyclist cycling instructor), I’ve reached several conclusions based on the work of these two educators and on personal experience:

— Bike helmets are for injury-reduction only, not for crash prevention, which should be our first priority.

— Bike lanes, despite their increasing popularity, do not make cycling safe. They only promote false confidence among novice cyclists and can be lethal when located alongside on-street parking because of opening car doors. Bike lanes don’t help when the cyclist wants to make a left turn, and they actually increase the risk to cyclists at intersections, where most car-bike collisions occur.

— Bike education programs based on Effective Cycling principles are the best way to promote safe cycling on public roads. They should be offered to adults and as part of a school-based curriculum.

Bike education programs taught by certified cycling instructors are available in the St. Louis area and will benefit almost anyone. Consider joining the St. Louis Regional Bicycle Federation, which offers bike education courses to its members.

Help your planet and yourself by becoming a confident on-road cyclist and using your bike instead of your car whenever possible.

Martin Pion of Ferguson is a certified League of American Bicyclists Cycling Instructor.

Ferguson bike rack locations, as of 7/18/2010 (click image to enlarge)

Two CycleSafe (TM) bike racks, as originally installed immediately behind City Hall in 2006, and later relocated (see below)

Almost $6,000 was spent in 2006 on purchasing high quality bicycle racks in strategic locations in the City of Ferguson. Eighty percent of the money came from a competitive grant originally awarded to the City by the Federal Highways Administration to fund a pilot bike transportation project in which the City partnered with Boeing Corp. and the University of Missouri-St. Louis (UMSL) in a program aimed at promoting bicycling to those two major activity centers from within a 10 mile radius of the City.

It was intended to combine bike education for Boeing employees, and students, staff and faculty at UMSL, with on-site bike-related facilities improvements, such as bike parking, and in the case of Boeing, also lockers, benches, and possibly shower facilities for changing purposes.

Boeing dropped out in the first year but UMSL continued with the project, although no agreement could be reached on bicycle parking until after Dr. Tom George was appointed Chancellor. That led to a significant purchase of racks meeting project criteria, two different designs being selected by UMSL and finished in red to match the universities color scheme. The City of Ferguson chose a more ornate rack design from Cycle Safe [web:] to suit its downtown Victorian theme.

Mr. Terry O’Neil, who became Ferguson Public Works Director during the latter part of the project, oversaw it, working with the project coordinator, Martin Pion, in deciding where the bike racks were to be located.

In addition to some in the downtown area, Mr. O’Neil wanted them located in the various Ferguson City parks. A suggestion by Mr. Pion to install a few on the sidewalk adjoining the shop fronts opposite the Victorian Plaza was not approved by Mr. O’Neil, but otherwise there was agreement on rack locations. The photos below show the racks as finally installed.

Three CycleSafe bike racks at the entrance to the Ferguson Splash Municipal Pool

Three CycleSafe racks shortly after installation on the newly poured concrete pad at the Whistle Stop in 2006

The Whistle Stop bike racks being put to good use during a lunch break on August 30, 2008. Martin Pion (center) is flanked by four students taking his League of American Bicyclists Road I course. (L to R) Gerry Noll, Ferguson, Chris Bowland, Kirkwood, and Les Sterman & Ben Hoffmann, both of St. Louis City.

Three CycleSafe racks as originally installed at the Ferguson Library into brick-on-sand footpath, which proved unstable

Ferguson Library CycleSafe Plymouth style bike racks after reinstallation into concrete

Three CycleSafe bike racks serving Joe Lonero's downtown development, including Quizno's Restaurant at 258 S. Florissant Rd.

Entrance to Roberts-Superior Park. The bike racks are at the far end of the path

Two CycleSafe bike racks at Roberts-Superior Park. The tape showed them to be only 30 inches apart.

To permit installation of the backup power generator immediately behind Ferguson City Hall the bike racks were relocated but improperly secured, as shown. Also they are only 26 inches apart instead of the recommended 36 inch minimum.

There are problems with at least some of the rack installations.

CycleSafe recommends a minimum separation of 36″ between racks to facilitate bike parking, but in Roberts-Superior Park the rack separation is only 30″.

The separation of the relocated racks behind City Hall is even smaller at only 26″ on-center, but a bigger problem with those racks is that they are not secured to the ground properly.

The three racks alongside the walkway leading to the entrance to the Ferguson Public Library are now secure, after having come loose from the brick pavers, but they’re too close to the adjoining wall to allow easy access.

Cycle-Safe inverted U bike rack location recommendations

The diagram above following the rack photos shows the recommended clearances for different types of layouts for these racks. The information was obtained from

It indicates that, where the rack is parallel to a wall, the minimum recommended clearance is 2 ft. and where it is perpendicular to a wall it is 3 ft. (2 ft. minimum). Typical rack-to-rack spacing is 3 ft., as illustrated in the diagram.

After the problem with the above racks at City Hall was pointed out, the Public Works Department acted quickly to reinstall them and at first glance, the relocated racks look fine ….. until you try and park a bike.

Reinstalled City Hall racks

Relocated City Hall racks: Too close for comfort!

The second photo illustrates the problem. The clearances between and around the racks don’t come close to recommended minimum clearances. They are so close together it’s not even possible to wheel a bike between them because they are only 18 inches apart. The gap between the utility pole and the rack is also only 18 inches and between the rack and the projection on the standby generator 22 inches.

This could easily have been avoided by following the above guidelines from Cycle Safe, and locating the racks at right angles to their present positions and a couple of feet behind the utility pole.

Over the weekend, in addition to reviewing the reinstalled City Hall racks, I went on a mission of discovery after learning from Mr. Terry O’Neil, Ferguson Public Works Director, of two other locations in which racks were installed in 2006. They are shown below.

Dade Park Cycle Safe bike racks

Cycle Safe bike racks at Forestwood Park and Recreation Complex

Latest revision: July 26, 2010