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“This is a fallacy.”

December 18, 2013

David Hembrow of A view from the cycle path takes on the myth that one of the pillars of the “Three E’s,” education, makes a meaningful contribution to safety on the road:

“It is imagined that given enough advice, people won’t make mistakes. This is a fallacy. People will always make mistakes. This almost defines us as being human. Not only will no amount of training prevent either child cyclists or adult drivers from making mistakes, but law changes or punishment for mistakes will also not remove the possibility of mistakes occurring.”

He continues:

“What makes Dutch roads and cycle-paths safe is not training orstrict liability but Sustainable Safety (Duurzaam Veilig). Sustainable Safety is a policy of reducing the opportunity for mistakes to become injuries by reducing the consequences of making such mistakes. Roads should be self-explanatory and forgiving.”


  1. Steve Faust permalink
    December 18, 2013 6:36 pm

    What fallacy? Education has never been tried here in the USA. That applies to pedestrians, drivers as well as cyclists. The other E – Enforcement – receives indifferent, if not overtly counterproductive action by our police, DAs and Judges.

    NYC is a perfect example. DOT puts in some creative Engineering, cycletracks, buffer bike lanes, bike traffic signals, etc. When DOT asks NYPD for help with Education and Enforcement, they get cops who are sent out with the wrong laws on their cheat sheets and orders to do the wrong things. You would think the cops would be enforcing things like the law on having lights on a bike at night, but instead they issue tickets for such legal riding as: adult cyclists not wearing helmets (only kids are required); or leaving a bike lane – even when it’s blocked by double parked cars – pot holes – or the cyclist is making a left turn – all of which are spelled out in the 2 paragraphs of exceptions after word 18 in the bike lane law. Even the Mayor was ignorant of the exceptions as part of the bike lane law, when he demanded that cyclists ALWAYS without exception MUST ride ONLY in the bike lane. And some cops are so creative, they give out tickets for failing to ride in the bike lane on streets that don’t have one! No joke – that’s a ticket I received – appealed – and had rescinded.

    The NYC bike lane law was written to keep cars out of the bike lanes, not to keep bikes in. And I was part of the team that wrote that law in 1978.

    What this means is that far too many US street users start by not knowing the law. If a driver is told repeatedly by supposedly knowledgeable authorities that cyclists have no right to leave a bike lane, they some of those driver will unknowingly or even deliberately pass too close to cyclists they think are “violating” the law. Crashes are not accidents, and crashes have causes. And the caused of many of the US car-bike and car-pedestrian crashes is failure of the drivers to yield proper right-of-way to non-motorized traffic. Not following – not even being aware of the appropriate traffic law.

    I’m looking forward to Bill Bratton leading NYC’s Cops up out of the mudhole Kelly has left them in. Bratton says he is ready to take traffic deaths and injuries just as seriously as gun deaths and injuries – especially since today, the average New Yorker stands a bigger chance of dying from being run down by a car/bus/truck while crossing on the green, than by being shot by a stranger with a gun. Start by educating the cops, who will then educate the drivers, cyclists and pedestrians. Who is going to educate the DAs and the Judges?

    Traffic safety is a 3 legged stool – it takes all 3 legs – Engineering – Education – and Enforcement – to keep the stool standing upright

    There is no way to make a proper comparison of Education’s effectiveness between the US and Europe, until we start executing some serious and effective traffic education across all street users.

    • December 19, 2013 9:45 am

      I don’t disagree with much of your comment, but a well designed street lessens the need for education and enforcement. How much education does it take for someone to figure out how PPW works? And there’s less need for enforcement because fewer drivers can speed and cyclists are less motivated to ride on the sidewalk or salmon on the roadway. Separated or segregated infrastructure lessens the need to educate drivers about cyclists’ right to leave a bikelane since fewer cyclists will have the need to do so.

      Traffic safety has three parts, but I don’t agree that it is a three-legged stool. That implies that each leg is exactly the same size.

      But, yes, the police do need to be educated about the law and how to enforce them. There are too many bogus tickets given out these days.

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