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Monthly Archives: August 2010

In order to use a bicycle safely on public roads, which is the most common bicycle facility available, it’s important to understand the leading causes of bike crashes and learn how to avoid them or minimize the chance of them occurring.

John Ciccarelli, an experienced League Cycling Instructor (LCI) with a long resume in bicycle transportation, produced instructional material for fellow LCI’s several years ago, including the first two of the three following pie charts which address the subject of bike crashes.

The first pie chart below shows the relative importance of different causes of bicyclist crashes, based on a 1976 study by Kaplan. (Please click any figure to enlarge it.)

Kaplan's 1975 study: Leading causes of urban adult bicycle crashes

The first important conclusion to draw from the above is that falls involving only the cyclist are the most common cause of bike crashes, and can be avoided by learning good bike handling techniques, plus understanding the causes of solo crashes and taking avoiding action.

For example, don’t ride in or near the gutter, which is where you may encounter wheel-grabbing drains, uneven surfaces or joints in the road, or debris which can cause a fall, swept there by car tires.

Ride either in the right car tire track, or near the center of the lane where you are most visible and you can also control the lane. If you share the lane because you feel it’s wide enough to do so, stay well away from the curb or road edge.

The second pie chart focuses on car-bike crashes and how to avoid or minimize them.
Adult urban car-bike crash causes and avoidance

Note that, in this chart, the two leading causes of crashes for which the motorist is responsible are:

1) Oncoming left turn – In which an oncoming motorist turns left across the cyclist’s path;

2) Right hook – Where a following motorist passes the cyclist and then immediately turns right across the cyclist’s path.

Both are due to misjudgement (or occasionally aggressive behavior) on the part of the motorist, who underestimates the cyclist’s speed, or because the cyclist is obscured by another motor vehicle.

A prime example of the latter is when two or more oncoming motorists are waiting to turn left at an intersection and the cyclist is following behind a platoon of cars which has already cleared the junction. Once the last of the cars has cleared the intersection the lead oncoming motorist, correctly judging he has time to cross in front of the cyclist, turns left safely but the following motorist, from whom the cyclist is hidden by the first car, doesn’t see the cyclist until he already starts to turn. At that point, the motorist and cyclist may be on a collision course, as illustrated below.

Left hook car-bike collision scenario

Avoidance techniques are: Lane positioning, emergency braking, and quick turn, the last being the most difficult maneuver to perform successfully.

In addition, almost half the causes of car-bike crashes can be avoided by the cyclist changing his or her behavior, such as not riding on the sidewalk, or the wrong way in the road.

For comparison, below I’ve added a figure showing a set of pie charts produced by LCI Dan Gutierrez based on different data, which draw the following similar conclusions to the two pie charts above:

1) The overwhelming majority of bicycle crashes don’t involve a motor vehicle;

2) Crossing Movements at intersections and driveways are the primary cause of car-bike crashes, not mid-block parallel movements.

Pie charts of Crash Risk vs Cyclist Behavior


Figures from the Street Skills Instructor Package teaching product by John Ciccarelli, LCI #453, of Bicycle Solutions,
E-mail: johnc – @ symbol –

League Cycling Instructors Dan Gutierrez and Brian DeSousa, from Long Beach, Ca., have produced both excellent slide presentations and videocam videos about the fundamentals of bicycling transportation and good bicycling techniques.
The above figure “Behavior vs Crossing Crash Risk” is slide 14 from Integrated Traffic CyclingTM Introduction. This is one of several comprehensive slide presentations at Cyclist View.
Also check out InnerTube tm to view “The Rights & Duties of Cyclists“, T=4:20 min.

I have mapped out the two halves of the on-road bike route I expect to follow on September 5, 2010, and posted it on the MapMyRide website. To view either stage please click the appropriate link below. I subsequently worked on the on-line images in Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Imageready, splitting up the sections of the ride into detailed images which I’ve pasted following the descriptive text below.

If you go on-line to MapMyRide note that there is an ad on the page which you can shrink and move to the side by clicking and dragging on its grey border.

Stage #1: My home to Whistle Stop – 4.13 miles

Exit Lake Pembroke subdivision and turn L, going S on N. Florissant Rd.
Turn R (W) on January Ave. and immediately L (S) into Baptist Church parking lot for off-road practice.
Exit parking lot and turn L (W) on January Ave.
Turn R (N) on Hentschel Pl.
Turn R (E) on Wooster and practice Cyclist’s U-turns
Do 4 left turns at Wooster/Hentschel
Turn R (N) and go three blocks to Frost and repeat 4 left turns.
Head N on Hentschel and turn R (E) on Buckeye.
Turn L (E) on Frost.
Turn R (S) then L (E) into Lake Pembroke subdivision
Turn R (S) on Cardigan and do Cyclist’s U-turn
Cross and recross N. Florissant Rd. at Frost
Exit Lake Pembroke subdivision and turn L, going S on N. Florissant Rd.
Do 4 left turns at N. Florissant Rd. and Airport/Hereford.
Continue S on N. Florissant Rd. and turn R (W) just beyond railroad bridge onto Carson Rd.
Turn R (N) into Whistle Stop parking lot for lunch.

Stage #2: Whistle Stop to my home – 4.24 miles

Exit Whistle Stop parking lot and turn L (E) to S. Florissant Rd.
Walk bike and turn R (S) around corner until safe to bike on road.
Head S and turn into parking lot just beyond Ferguson Hardware and regroup
Exit parking lot and turn R (S) and do Cyclist’s U after passing Police Station on L
Pull into Police Station parking lot and wait for group to assemble.
Exit parking lot and turn R (N) on S. Florissant Rd.
Turn R (E) onto Church St. and cut through church parking lot to Almeda, heading N
Turn L (W) on Darst then R (N) on Adelle
At Hereford turn R (E) then immediately L (N) on Nancy
Take footpath N through Jeske Park (cycling allowed)
Exit NE and turn L (N) onto Gerald
Turn R (E) onto Robert and up steep hill
Turn L (N) on N. Elizabeth
Turn R (E) on Hudson (note Yield sign) and continue to Smith T-junction 3-way stop
Turn R (S) on Smith and do U-turn
Turn L (W) on Hudson and return to Elizabeth junction.
Cross and recross N. Elizabeth from Hunters Ridge
Turn R (N) on N. Elizabeth
Turn L (W) on Calverton Rd.
Turn L (S) on Hollins Dr. heading for Lake Pembroke subdivision
Negotiate barrier at end of Hollins Dr. into subdivision
R (N) on Manor Lane to end ride.

Route#1a: START from 6 Manor Lane

Route#1b: To parking lot for practice, then continuation

Route#1c: Continuation, including 4 left turns & cyclist's U-turn practice

Route#1d: Continuation to the Whistle Stop for lunch break

Route#2a: Depart from the Whistle Stop and do cyclist's U-turn in downtown

Route#2b: Head north from downtown to Elizabeth Ave. via Jeske Park

Route#2c: Continue up Elizabeth to Hudson Rd.

Route#2d: Return via Calverton Rd. & Hollins Dr. to FINISH

Martin Pion, League Cycling Instructor #625

I’ve become convinced that attending a well-structured bike education course is potentially the most useful thing any cyclist who uses a bike on the road can do to minimize the chance of serious injury. In addition, it can significantly improve the cyclist’s efficiency and enjoyment of this relatively low stress and immensely rewarding means of human transportation.

I’ve been offering bicycle education courses every year since becoming a certified League of American Bicyclists Cycling Instructor (LCI) in 1997. The following are three courses I’m conducting this year, open to any adult or reasonably competent youngster. Family members are encouraged to attend together.

N.B. Class size is typically limited to a maximum of 5 students, or more if I have a League Cycling Instructor assisting.

Course location: My home (6 Manor Lane, Ferguson, 63135) and surrounding roads and parking lot in North St. Louis County.
By bike: 4 miles north of UMSL-North MetroLink station, first 2 miles along Ted Jones trail.
By car: within easy reach of I-270, I-170 and I-70.

* 4-hour BIKERight course: $40

This course offers both economy & the shortest time commitment (4 hours plus 1 hour lunch break), but you’ll need to be a member of the St. Louis Regional Bicycle Federation ($25 single/$40 family membership at which will be providing insurance coverage.

** 9-hour Traffic Skills 101 course: $80

This is the foundation League of American Bicyclists course, which is a minimum of 9 hours to meet LAB’s requirement. Total time commitment is 10 hours (including 1 hour lunch break). This is a one-day course with a fairly early start, typically around 8 am and ending at 6 pm.

*** 18-hour BIKERight course: $120

Comprehensive course designed to provide a lot of on-bike on-road time and coaching, plus time for parking lot bike handling and crash avoidance practice. The course is usually spread over three 6-hour sessions. Also allows plenty of time for the important incidentals, like advice on appropriate clothing and bike maintenance.

Neither the 9-hour nor 18-hour courses require you to be a member of the St. Louis Regional Bicycle Federation: insurance coverage is provided by the League of American Bicyclists.

Please contact me by e-mail at or 314/524-8029 if you’re interested and/or have questions.

At one time I rode a lightweight English-made adult tricycle by Ken Rogers, a British machinest who specialized in tricycles. He fabricated them in his backyard workshop near London Airport. I became so enamored with them that I even started selling them as a sideline to people in Harlow, England, where I then lived and worked. My wife, who didn’t have a driver’s license at the time, also had a Ken Rogers tricycle. It was equipped with a folding child’s seat at the back for my young son and behind that was a wheeled push-basket for light shopping trips.

I still have these machines, together with a Ken Rogers tandem tricycle which can carry two or three children on a rear bench seat.

The thing about a tricycle is that when cornering at any significant speed you have to really lean out, the same as when riding a motorcycle and sidecar, to balance the centrifugal force. For this reason I equipped it with regular toe clips that really keep your feet from sliding out sideways, as shown in the photo below.

Regular toeclip with strap fitted to an adult lightweight tricycle

On a tricycle, one typically keeps both feet in the toe clips from the time you start to the time you arrive at your destination.

That certainly isn’t the case with a bicycle. Each time you stop one foot must be taken off the pedal and put down to prevent you from falling. Before clipless pedals became available I tried using the above type of toe clip with a bicycle and found that even when the toe clip strap was loose it still tended to catch the bottom strap on the shoe and prevent easy removal.

The solution I eventually found is the so-called mini toe clip which is shorter than a regular toe clip and has no strap to worry about. This allows easy removal of the shoe either backwards or sideways. It doesn’t hold the foot quite as securely as a regular toe clip or the modern equivalent, a clipless pedal, but it has a number of advantages, making it ideal for commuting:

Strapless mini-toe clip

1. It can accommodate almost any size of shoe, from a regular cycling shoe or sneaker, up to a large fur-lined boot that you might wear in winter.

2. It used to be made of chrome-plated steel which could scrape the ground and abrade at the tip, leading to one of mine rusting and eventually breaking.

The modern versions are made from almost indestructible plastic.

3. Mini toe clips are cheap.

The one pictured above is made by ZĂ©fal, which I can recommend as being very durable and also the most expensive …. at around $10 a pair!

In addition to the above, it’s worth pointing out the following advantages of mini toe clips:

4. They position the foot in the optimum position.

If your foot slips forward on the pedal the ball of the foot is no longer centered over the pedal axle and you are losing leverage where it matters most: at the end of your foot. This tends to happen when not using a mini toe clip or similar device to hold your shoe in the optimum position.

5. Increase efficiency in restarting from rest.

After coming to a stop the toe clip allows you to lift the pedal back up to the start position. Otherwise you have to remove your foot and lift the pedal from underneath and then place it back on the pedal.

6. Reduces the risk of loss of control.

Your foot is less likely to slip off the pedal, especially when pressing hard. Without the mini toe clip your shoe can slip off the pedal, leading to loss of control and a possible fall.