Feb 06

The Woodside Safe Cycling Challenge

by Millo Fenzi, a Concerned Woodside Cyclist

Become a safe cycling advocate. Convert two friends to be safe cycling advocates.

Why the Challenge?
Numerous cyclists enjoy the bucolic roads in the Town of Woodside. Unfortunately some residents of Woodside are at a boiling over with anti-bike sentiment. This noisy minority shows up at Town meetings, sign petitions, takes photos of poorly behaving cyclists and in general does a great PR job of vilifying cyclists. The angry rhetoric polarizes the participants and spawns ever escalating acts of road rage. This rage creates very real safety risks for cyclists� on roads in Woodside. The goal of the Safe Cycling Challenge is to defuse the rage by improving cyclists� behavior. Drive down the rage and you improve the safety of the Woodside cycling experience. Who makes up the �noisy minority�?
About 5000 residents are in Woodside. The vast majority of the residents are not actively anti-bike. A vocal handful is virulently anti-bike. They are:

1. Equestrian trail riders who have been frightened and endangered by poorly behaved mountain bikers illegally using the horse trails. Their anger extends to all cyclists, road and mountain alike.
2. Old La Honda Road residents who, as they drive up and down to their homes many times a day, have been frightened and endangered by poorly behaved cyclists.
3. Users of public roads in Woodside who have been frightened and endangered by poorly behaved cyclists. Often the cyclists are participating in one of the many high-speed pack rides that route through town. This group includes motorists, cyclists, equestrians, pedestrians, dog-walkers, etc.

The virulently anti-bike group acts as a catalyst and galvanizes an additional few hundred people who have been frightened or endangered by badly behaved cyclists.

Does the �noisy minority� have a valid case?
Yes and no. Yes in that mountain bikes are not allowed on Woodside�s horse trails. Yes in that poorly behaving cyclists riding up Old La Honda ride two or three abreast and make little effort to help cars get by them. Yes in that some of the high-speed pack riders slow down for nothing and can be harsh to an obstacle � be it on two or four wheels or feet. No in that not every mountain bike rider illegally on the trails is a 30 mph tattooed downhill zombie. No in that most cyclists riding up Old La Honda are responsible, stay to the right where safe and wave cars on. No in that not every rider in every pack ride is looking to paint a road kill symbol on his or her top tube.

So yes, each complaint is based on the actions of at least one poorly behaving cyclist. And no, this behavior does not describe the vast majority of cyclists riding through Woodside.

Before you dismiss this noisy minority try on their clothes. Drive your car all the way up and back down Old La Honda Road starting at about 9:00 AM on a summer Saturday. The next Saturday take your dog or baby for a walk on Tripp Road. Begin at Kings Mountain Road; stay on the left side of the road – facing traffic like a good pedestrian – and start walking around 9:40 AM. One of the bigger and higher-speed packs should appear soon. This should give you a baseline appreciation of just how scary dangerous a badly behaved cyclist can be.
What about poorly behaved motorists?
Poorly behaved motorists are more plentiful, more deadly, and pose a far greater risk to life and limb than cyclists. Two differences. First, no noisy minority in Woodside is vilifying motorists. Second, our suggested solution for poorly behaved motorists is a Rules of the Road handout. The handout is under construction.

What do Safe Cycling Advocates do?
Safe Cycling Advocates (�SCA�) are:

1. Courteous, say �Hello�, waves cars on when safe, hold them back when it�s unsafe and show common courtesy to everybody � motorists, equestrians, pedestrians, cyclists, etc � they meet on the road. SCAs follow the rules of the road.
2. Vocal advocate for safe cycling. Explain the urgency and ask riders to do the above at the start of a ride, in Club meetings, at pizza fests after rides, etc.
3. Take proactive ownership for the entire group you ride with. For example. 41 riders are spinning down Canada Road at 27 MPH. 40 of them are in orderly pairs and using the wide shoulder. The 41st rider is in the middle of the lane. A car, doing the street legal 35 MPH, comes up behind the pack but can�t pass because the one rider is blocking the lane. The rider makes no effort to get as far right as practicable. SCAs speak up and ask the rider to let the car pass. Afterwards they ride up alongside the rider and explain that delicate nature of bike/car interactions in Woodside and ask them to be more courteous.
4. Riders of legal trails only. A few poachers make it bad for everyone. Ask your friends to obey the rules of the trail.

You are cycling�s ambassador!
The vast majority of Woodside residents do not hate bikes. Treat them as if they do and you create a self-fulfilling prophecy! Again, 95% of Woodside residents don’t hate bikes. Many of them have had at least one encounter with a badly behaved cyclist. The encounter you are having with them molds their image of cyclists. You are cycling�s ambassador! So follow the Safe Cycling Advocate behaviors and make a good impression.

Your actions won�t win over the virulent anti-bike people. They will, over time, drastically reduce the number of Woodside residents who support them.