Ohio House Representatives Mike Sheehy and Mike Henne, sponsors of House Bill 154, during Ohio Bicycling Summit on April 22, 2015.

Huffman Award to Jim Sheehan

Strong support at Wright Wride 2015

The Ohio State University Bicycle Racing Team visits the 3rd Annual OBF Ohio Bicycling Summit

OBF Day 2015 at Bicycle Museum of America

OBF Chair Chuck Smith and daughter Julia arrive at statehouse on a tandem

OBF Chair Chuck Smith presents $1,000 check to Queen City Bikes for bike lights

Six members of the Upper Arlington High School Bicycle Racing Team (first Ohio high school racing team) visited their Senator Kris Jordan

Team Stelleri Captain Pamela Semanik in new OBF 3 Feet Passing Kit in Cleveland Velodrome during OBF Day in Cleveland on June 3, 2017

Holding the "Three Feet" banner in the Ohio Statehouse on May 21, 2013 minutes before testifying on our Safer Ohio Cycling Bill

With Emmy and Advocacy Organization of the Year Award at OBF Display

*** Traffic Cycling Techniques ***

Below are resources you can use to improve your own knowledge as well as for teaching other members of your community.  Some of the pdf file flyers below have narrow margins.  (Some inkjet printers require 0.59" bottom margin—may truncate page.)

Disclaimer:  Some of the material shown here is from outside sources and is provided as a public service.  The Ohio Bicycle Federation does not control these sources and is not responsible for their content.

Ohio Bicycling Street Smarts Published by the Ohio Dept. of Public Safety at the request of the Ohio Bicycle Federation.
Street Smarts by John Allen A 46 page booklet covering techniques for riding in traffic.
Pennsylvania Bicycle Driver's Manual Includes Street Smarts.  This was the model for Ohio Bicycling Street Smarts.
Effective Cycling (book) by John Forester Terrific reference (but difficult for beginners).  Available from MIT Press
Effective Cycling Video $25 from LAB, 202 822-1333 or This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
"BikeEd" courses: Road-I/II, Kid's, Commuter, etc. See www.bikeleague.org/programs/education/ for more information.
See below for Ohio instructors.
N. Carolina Coalition for Bicycle Driving An excellent summary of Vehicular Cycling technique
BikeSense The British Columbia Bicycle Operator's Manual
Where to Ride by Bob Bayn A great little flyer that covers the basics—riding on right, staying off sidewalks, lane position, lights.  (pdf file, 1/2 page, 2-sides)
Tips for Bicycle Operation by Fred Oswald An illustrated flyer that gives basics of riding in traffic. (1/2 page, 2-sided pdf file, 500 Kb)
Cycling Knowledge Test This can be an effective training tool.  Traffic courts can use the test for violators.  Answer sheet included.  Test is based on the Effective Cycling video. (pdf file, 3 pages)
Ten Tips for Safe & Enjoyable Bicycle Commuting by Fred Oswald A short illustrated article
Bicycle Commuter's Guide by Fred Oswald Tips & Techniques (pdf file, 6 pages, 258 Kb)
LAB Reform Cycling Education Educational presentations & handouts are available here.


*** Cycling Advocacy Information ***

Bicycle Blunders by Fred Oswald Illustrated article that discusses common blunders (serious mistakes) related to bicycle use, education, advocacy, engineering, and traffic laws and how to avoid repeating these mistakes.
Bicycle Commuter Issues by Fred Oswald "The Politics of Two Wheels", bicycle advocacy information, (pdf file, 6 pages, 275 Kb)
Dilemmas of Bicycle Planning by Paul Schimek An excellent discussion of issues that should be understood by every bicycle planner.
Cycling PSA's Scripts for Radio/TV Public Service Announcements
A Guide to Improving U.S. Traffic Laws Pertaining to Bicycling by Paul Schimek Discusses current state bicycle laws and needed changes.
Bike Lane Contrarian by Tom Revay PowerPoint file or on-line slideshow.  See also "Bike Lanes and Safety Research" by Paul Schimek
Bicycle Law Reform Reforming state and local bicycle traffic laws.  Includes model local ordinances.


*** Cycling Education for Children (and Parents) ***

Many communities conduct Bicycle Rodeos to teach "bicycle safety" to children.  Often there is little safety content because the people running them are not experienced cyclists.  Also, how much can you teach in 45 minutes?  However these events are a wonderful opportunity to reach the parents.  If the parents learn a bit about bicycle safety they are less likely to teach their children the usual dangerous misinformation.  You can also work with PTA, Scout groups, etc.

Bike Safety for Kids
-A Parent’s Guide
1-sheet, 2-sides booklet (pdf file, 18 Kb)
A Kid's Eye View video Bicycle safety video for parents, produced by Wisconsin DOT, $10 from LAB, 202 822-1333 orThis email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Bicycle Rodeos by John Andersen Great discussion—how to get the most out of a rodeo, from the Bicycling Life web site
Guide to Bicycle Rodeos Available for $5 + S/H from Adverture Cycling:  www.adv-cycling.org/.  Look for item number BF-10.
Effective Cycling Training Describes proper training for cyclists from age 8 to adult from John Forester's Bicycle Transportation Institute
Bike Quiz This was developed for a Scout group.  The questions are not easy!  Street Smarts or similar source of information should be provided.  1/2 page, 2-side flyer plus 1/2 pg answer sheet, (pdf file)

 


*** "Bike Ed" instructors in Ohio ***
The number after each name is the instructor's certificate number.
For the latest information or for instructors in other states, see http://www.bikeleague.org/programs/education/

Michael Abrams, 879
Bolivar, OH
330-874-3646
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Walter Fick, 1714
West Chester, OH
513-779-4503
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Susan Schultz, 1711
Cincinnati, OH
513-240-4284
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Mark Arendt, 773
South Charleston, OH
937-265-5331
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Peter Garver, 1449
Lakewood, OH
216-228-8651
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Jeff Sherby, 1712
Mason, OH
513-336-9273
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Jim Bowell, 954
Troy, OH
937-339-5623
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Robert Hatcher, 1027
Powell, OH
740-881-1974
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James Sheehan, 1207
Cleveland, OH
216-830-2667
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Bob Burkhardt, 811
Avon, OH
440-937-9313
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Patricia Kovacs, 1689
Gahanna, OH
614-476-9093
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Michael E. Sherman, 1208
Willoughby, OH
440-951-4209
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Don Burrell, 1719
Cincinnati, OH
513-922-3867
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Frank Krygowski, 315
Youngstown, OH
330-757-9057
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Chuck Smith, 1209
Vandalia, OH
937-890-6689
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D. Carrigan, 1710
Yellow Springs, OH
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Jennifer Stuart Lesch, 1204
Cleveland, OH
216-941-6388
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Ed Stewart, 762
Elyria, OH
440-365-6784
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Kevin Cronin, 1448
Cleveland, OH
216-374-7578
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John Mikolich, 1205
Lyndhurst, OH
216-382-3314 
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Glenn Talaska, 1720
Cincinnati, OH
513-558-0591
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Ronald Curtis, 1144
Dayton, OH
937-428-6655
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Fred Oswald, 947
Middleburg Hts., OH
440-888-5829
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Geoff Thielmeyer, 1718
Cincinnati, OH
513-673-8977
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Timothy DeWine, 1201
Cleveland, OH
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Gordon D. Renkes, 328
Columbus, OH
614-263-3026
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Gary Webb, 1190
Akron, OH
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Scott Ebbing, 1715
Hamilton, OH
513-257-4631
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David Riemenschneider,1716
Cincinnati, OH
513-729-1569
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Steve Wegener, 1713
Cincinnati, OH
513-351-9004
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Karen S. Farago, 1202
Wellington, OH
440-647-3303
This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. 

Jeni Roosen, 1717
Cincinnati, OH
513-505-3889
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Karl Weisel, 708
Cleveland Hts, OH
216-371-0450
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Richard Felton, 1203
Avon Lake, OH
440-930-5478
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Adrian Sargent, 1116
Dayton, OH
937-275-7275
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Ann Whalen, 1210
Cleveland, OH
216-229-9999
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Please send additions or corrections to This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
Last Revised 9/16/07

by Fred Oswald, PE, LCI #947

This article describes practical measures for a real "bicycle friendly community" (that is, friendly to cyclists) and how to avoid the typical mistakes of a "bicycle unfriendly" city.  It covers appropriate facilities and includes effective "bike safety" information and principles of equitable bicycle traffic laws.

To be truly "cyclist friendly", your bicycle plan must fully integrate cyclists into the surface transportation system.  This means that cyclists must have direct, convenient and safe access to every destination served by public roads.  Cyclists must be "design users" of every roadway (except possibly freeways).  Bicycle drivers must have equal protection under the law and universal access to the roads.

The Ohio Bicycle Federation is now offering an award to Cyclist Friendly Communities in Ohio.  You can find a "Toolkit" of information to help your community at the link above.  The Toolkit is available to communities anywhere, courtesy of OBF.

Need for Education

The critical ingredient is knowledge.  Everyone involved in planning for bicycle transportation must understand how to operate a bicycle as the competent driver of a vehicle, following the standard rules of the road.

Every user of the roads must be taught that bicycles are vehicles that belong on the road and that should be driven according to the same traffic rules.  Universal cycling education must be the primary product of every bicycle plan.

Real knowledge of cycling is actually quite rare in our society.  Ironically, almost everyone thinks he or she knows it all.  As Will Rogers once remarked:  "It's not what he doesn't know that bothers me; it's what he knows for sure that just ain't so."

Ignorance about cycling is a product of our history.  Bicycles were popular among adults for a few years in the late 19th to early 20th century; but then, for over two generations, almost no American adults cycled. 

What little "Bike Safety" instruction children receive is given by authority figures with little experience or qualification, who give advice that "sounds good".  The result is that the misinformed teach the ignorant.

We must emulate the example of Red Cross children's swimming lessons taught by well-trained water safety instructors from a carefully designed syllabus.

 

 

Educating Community Officials

Everyone involved in roadway transportation planning, maintenance, lawmaking and law enforcement must understand that bicycles are vehicles that must be operated on the same roads and by the same rules as other vehicles.  Cyclists must be treated as equal users of the roads.

Too often planners of bicycle facilities are landscape architects lacking knowledge of bicycle driving.  They design beautiful but dangerous bike paths that twist and wind around and under trees, with sight lines obscured by foliage and other obstacles.  These are unsafe except at walking speed.  The code of ethics for an engineer requires that the engineer practice only where qualified or else employ qualified consultants.  This requirement is rarely followed for bicycle-related engineering.

Follow the physician's motto:  First, do no harm.  Be sure all involved know how to drive a bicycle as a vehicle to avoid the mistakes of the Bicycle Friendly Communities Program that encourages cities to "throw money" at the bicycle without understanding what cyclists really need.  This money is often wasted, and at times it encourages building dangerous facilities.

BikeEd Class

 

Appropriate training for planners and officials can take the form of workshops or classes taught by a local cycling instructor.  Police can receive similar training through the International Police Mountain Bike Association, an organization that trains bicycle patrol officers.

Useful training materials include the Effective Cycling video and the booklet Bicycling Street Smarts.  Some states, including Pennsylvania, Ohio and Florida, incorporate Street Smarts in a "bicycle drivers' manual".

Before you prepare bicycle plans, please read Paul Schimek's article Dilemmas of Bicycle Planning."  You can find guidelines for community bike plans in the Bicycle Transportation Policy Statement from the Ohio Bicycle Federation.

Educating All Citizens

Dangerous sidewalk

Everyone must be taught that bicycles are vehicles to be operated on the same roads, by the same rules and with the same rights as other drivers.  In particular, everyone must understand that sidewalks are not suitable for bicycle use except at very low speed.  Just one of the hazards of sidewalk cycling is poor sight lines, as shown at right.  Currently, most motorists mistakenly believe cyclists should be on sidewalks.  This often leads to harassment.

Education must be conducted at many levels, from widely disseminated "nuggets" of information and Public Service messages on radio and TV to in-depth programs, such as bicycle driving seminars and formal Cycling Savvy classes.  Community-level awareness can be improved through short messages in community newsletters, newspaper articles etc. plus posters, handout flyers and cards.  Signs such as "May Use Full Lane" and "bicycles using roadway" may also help.

Bike rodeos are a popular way to "do something for bike safety".  Unfortunately, little can be taught in 45 minutes and the results depend heavily on the skill and knowledge of the teachers, which is often lacking.  One of the best uses of a rodeo is to reach the parents, who can then teach their own children.  See resources below.

Blind curve

 

Another idea is holding a "Ride the Right Way Day"; to call attention to the need for cyclists to follow the rules of the road, same as other divers.  The Lehigh Valley (Eastern Pennsylvania) Coalition for Appropriate Transportation sponsors this annual event in conjunction with 34 police departments and 30 bicycle retail outlets.

More thorough training comes from Cycling Savvy "bicycle driving" classes.  See resources below.  These classes need lots of promotion to tell people how they can benefit from a cycling class.  Ironically, those who need the training most are the least likely to accept it.

Equitable and Uniform Bicycle Traffic Laws

Motor vehicle traffic laws are generally uniform throughout the 50 states.  A driver traveling from state to state need not learn a new set of laws with each border crossing.  Likewise, within each state, local authorities have only limited powers to enact local ordinances.  The basic set of the rules of the road is consistent throughout the country.

Unfortunately, uniformity does not now exist for bicycle traffic laws.  One reason is the misguided attitude that bicycles are only toys for children, rather than vehicles used by adults.  Perhaps more important is that the people who make the rules are not cyclists; they do not know how to operate a bicycle properly.

 

Brook Park award

 

The safest way to operate a bicycle is as the lawful driver of a vehicle.  This means riding on the roadway and following the same traffic rules as other drivers.  Traffic laws make roadways an orderly and safe place to operate any vehicle.  Cyclists who operate as drivers have only one-fifth the accident rate of the average person who improvises a mixture of non-standard rules.

Governments at the state and local level sometimes treat cyclists as incompetent children or as third-class citizens.  Some forbid cycling on roadways, but instead direct cyclists to use more dangerous facilities such as sidewalks and pathways beside the road.  Other bicycle laws confine cyclists to the edge of the road, even though the edge is sometimes an unsafe place to ride.  Local ordinances form a crazy-quilt of conflicting rules that vary from community to community.  Improving these ordinances may protect communities from liability for accidents where their current laws mandate practices known to be dangerous.

Avoid the mistake of requiring "nuisance" safety equipment, such as a bell, front reflector and wheel reflectors.  Wheel reflectors, for example, look impressive when the bicycle is beside the road.  However, when the motorist must yield to the cyclist, they may be outside the area lit by headlights.  In other words, these reflectors "work" when they are not needed but often not when they are needed.  Only headlights provide adequate nighttime visibility to the front and sides.  For more information about night-time visibility, see Why reflectors sometimes don't work andReflectors to avoid.

The author is involved in several projects to reform bicycle traffic law.  These include developing Model Laws and then rating all 50 state bicycle laws, a survey of local cycling ordinances in NE Ohio and promoting a Model Municipal Bicycle Code.

Proper Enforcement

A well-informed police officer is the cyclist's friend.  Officers must be properly trained so they enforce laws properly and fairly.  Unfortunately, most police have not been trained in bicycle operation.  They instead rely on judgment, too-often based on misinformation.  This occasionally results in incidents where police harass law-abiding cyclists for being on the road while ignoring the illegal practices that cause accidents: wrong-way riding, failure to use lights in the dark, running red lights, etc.

You can read about a lawful cyclist harassed for simply riding on the road in the The Steve Selz Case.  Selz was cited because an untrained officer thought he was riding dangerously because he was on a major street.

Bike Police

 

Authorities must not tolerate "road rage" against cyclists.  Police should maintain a registry for reports of incidents, even those not witnessed by police.  A simple warning phone call to the perpetrator can be effective in deterring future assaults.  Bicycle police can also help by setting a good example themselves, by riding conspicuously with correct vehicular techniques.  Where needed, "undercover" police can observe motorist harassment, reporting the incident via radio.  Such "sting" operations must be publicized to have effect.

Encouraging "Bike to Work"

Bicycle commuting is good for the health of participants, good for the environment and a good way to use roadways efficiently.  Cyclists use only about 1/3 the space of single occupant motor vehicles.  Bicycle parking is also very space-efficient.  Bicycles do not burn imported oil.

City officials can help by first learning correct techniques and then riding to work themselves.  Publicity about such rides helps educate the community and provides a favorable image of the city and the officials.

Commuting can be promoted by giving favorable publicity and by encouraging employers to provide secure parking, showers and a "guaranteed ride home" in case of rain.  Most of all, bicycle commuting must be encouraged by protecting cyclists' right to the roads and by disseminating good information about how to ride properly in traffic.

Appropriate Facilities

In the field of bicycle advocacy, there are common and serious mistakes that are made over and over again.  The mistakes are related to bicycle use, education, advocacy, engineering, and traffic laws.  The blunders make cycling more difficult and dangerous and they jeopardize cyclists right to use the roads.  Read about these Bicycle Blunders and how to avoid them.

Conventional bicycle planning focuses almost exclusively on building facilities to separate bicycle and motor traffic.  Often these separate bike lanes and paths expose the very people they are intended to protect to new and unexpected hazards.  Separate bike lanes introduce hazards because they encourage motorists to stay to the left and cyclists to stay right, even where the rules of the road require otherwise.  Sometimes bike lanes are placed in particularly hazardous locations, such as in the "door zone" of parked cars.  Sidepaths, adjacent to roadways introduce conflicts at every intersection and every driveway.

Planners must recognize that cycling and walking are very different travel modes; thus cyclists and pedestrians have different needs.  Mixing pedestrians with cyclists is dangerous to both.  Bicycle drivers must be expected to use roadways while pedestrians use sidewalks.  Avoid confusing facilities that may be suitable for low-speed, casual recreational use from the need for (relatively) high speed cycling for bicycle transportation, especially commuting to work.

Where separate "bike lanes" are marked by stripes on the pavement, in addition to the hazards mentioned above, the community incurs the liability to keep them clean and in good condition.  This includes sweeping the lanes very frequently so they do not accumulate debris.  See the article Bike Lane Stripes:  Do they create better conditions for cycling?  You must educate motorists and police that cyclists often have very good reasons to ride outside a striped bike lane.  For more information, see A Realistic Look at Bicycle Facilities, Laws and Programs

An alternative to a marked "bike lane" that avoids most of the problems is simply painting bike symbols at appropriate places on the roadway. One such symbol is the 'Sharrow'  (Sharrow means shared use plus an arrow to discourage wrong-way riding).  Where traffic volume is heavy, increased road space (wide curb lanes) reduces tension between road users and improves safety.  The need for additional space depends on the speed and volume of motor traffic, among other factors.  Sometimes narrowing the inside lanes can provide space for wide outside lanes.

Nearly all roads that are well designed and adequate for motor traffic are also quite suitable for bicycle traffic, especially if cyclists are properly trained.  Every existing street must be regarded to already be a bicycle facility.  Improvements must be directed to making roads more pleasant, efficient, convenient, and safe for both motorists and cyclists sharing them.  The good news is that usually little extra work need be done since most roads are adequate as they are.  The main need is to check for and eliminate hazards and, most of all, to educate users.

 

 

 Every lane is a bike lane! 

Wide Curb Lane
Wheel-bender

 

One place where a multi-use path may be appropriate is to provide a "shortcut" where automobile use is not allowed.  For example, there are residential developments built on cul-de-sac roads that require a relatively long journey on high-traffic roads to reach destinations that are geographically close.  A series of connecting access paths may be very desirable in such locations.  However, these are special situations; the emphasis must be to integrate cyclists into the ordinary road system.

Provision for parking is another appropriate "facility" to aid cyclists.  The emphasis must be on properly-designed secure parking fixtures that do not damage bicycles and they must be located in visible and convenient spots.  The typical schoolyard bike rack can easily become a "wheel bender" and some designs (such as shown at right) are much worse.  This is why knowledgeable cyclists refuse to use such bike racks and often lock instead to nearby structures.  Best yet are bike lockers that protect cargo, tools and accessories, in addition to bicycles.

Parking for short-term use (like a convenience store) should be close to the entrance (within 50 feet, 30 feet is better).  Long-term parking (such as at a transit station) should be sheltered and provide protection for bike accessories and cargo.

Eliminating Road Hazards

As operators of balanced vehicles with narrow, high-pressure tires, cyclists are at special risk from road surface defects.  The infamous parallel bar drain grate is the best-known example. 

 

 

Cracks, slots and edges nearly parallel to the direction of travel can cause a serious "diversion" fall.  A rough road or loose gravel can cause loss of control.  Deep holes or sunken sewer grates can cause an over-the-handlebars "header" crash.  Other hazards to beware include confusing signage or lane markings, rumble strips and "squeeze points" where the roadway narrows.  For more information on dealing with hazards, see the illustrated article Improving the Cycling Environment.

Consider a "hot line" or web page where citizens can report hazards.  Of course, you must fix reported hazards quickly.  Finally, work with police, local hospitals and cycling organizations to collect good accident data.  Then use these data to shape your priorities.

Traffic Light Hazards and Vehicle Detectors

There are two specific problems for cyclists at traffic signals.  First, in a wide intersection, a cyclist may not have time to clear the intersection if the "all red" time is insufficient.  This can lead to a collision with traffic starting from the cross direction on a new green signal.

Vehicle detector stencil
Vehicle detector

 

A more common problem involves "demand actuated" signals, controlled by vehicle detectors that may fail to detect bicycles.  Non-working detectors contribute to the attitude of many cyclists that they need not obey the law.  A "broken" detector could lead to liability, especially if the city should have known it failed to work. There are several technologies for vehicle detection but the most common uses a magnetic induction loop.  This generates tiny eddy currents in any conducting materials near the loop and then senses the resulting electrical disturbance.

Most loop detectors in the USA employ a rectangular loop of wire buried in the pavement.  A bicycle, with much less metal than a car, generates a small signal.  However, a properly-adjusted detector should work if the bicycle stops in the right place.  Any detector that fails to detect bicycles is defective and must be fixed. See the article Detecting Bicycles and Motor Vehicles by Robert Shanteau and Detection of Bicycles by Quadrapole Loops at Demand-Actuated Traffic Signals by Steven Goodridge.

A contributing problem is few cyclists know where to stop to trigger a detector.  Simple "dipole" loop detectors have a very narrow "sweet spot" where a bicycle will be detected.  If the wire cuts are covered by pavement, they become invisible so that even a knowledgeable cyclist cannot make them work.  These loops must be tested and then marked with a stencil to show cyclists how to make them work.

The photo at right shows a marked detector at the exit of NASA Glenn Research Center. This encourages compliance with traffic laws.

No cyclist should be expected to push a pedestrian button to change a traffic signal -- EVER!



Bike Safety for Kids - A Parent's Guide

Cycling Education Resources & More Information

Various sources and materials, arranged from simple to comprehensive.  Also see links above.

Child/Parents' Materials & Bike Rodeo Info.

Ideas for Teaching Cycling to Children More ideas on teaching children (school, scouts, etc.) by Fred Oswald.
Bicycle Safety Tags Produces 2-sided safety cards (6 per page).  Includes card for parents and one for adult cyclists.
 
Bicycle Rodeos Great discussion by John Andersen -- how to get the most out of a rodeo, from the Bicycling Life web site
Guide to Bicycle Rodeos Rodeo booklet for $5 + S/H from Adventure Cycling www.adv-cycling.org
Effective Cycling Training Describes a rigorous program to train cyclists from age 8 to adult.  From John Forester's Bicycle Transportation Institute.

Adult Cycling Education Materials

Cycling Savvy Empowerment for stress-free bicycle travel
Commute Orlando A highly-recommended blog with illustrations and videos packed with great ideas.
Tips for Bicycle Operation Illustrated flyer that gives basics of riding in traffic. Makes a good handout. (1/2 page, 2-sides pdf file, 500 Kb).
Where to Ride A great little adult flyer by Bob Bayn.  Covers the basics -- riding on right, staying off sidewalks, lane position, lights.  (pdf file, 1/2 page, 2-sides)
Ten Tips for Safe & Enjoyable Bicycle Commuting A short illustrated article by Fred Oswald
Bicycle Driving Seminar From a "bicycle driving seminar" by cycling instructor Fred Oswald (pdf file)
Cycling Savvy Courses Course descriptions & list of instructors. 
Effective Cycling by John Forester The reference for every serious cyclist.  Confrontational tone is difficult for beginners.  7th Edition, published by MIT Press, 2012.
Cyclecraft by John Franklin In some ways, this book is even better than Forester's. American & Canadian readers shouold get the N American edition.
Cycling Education Links for many more articles on education, including presentations, handouts, videos and a photo gallery.

Information for Officials, Engineers & Planners

Cyclist Friendly Communities Award A new program offering recognition for Ohio communities that treat cyclists well.  Includes extensive information "Toolkit."
Dilemmas of Bicycle Planning Article by Paul Schimek.  An excellent discussion of issues that should be understood by every bicycle facilities planner.
Bicycle Blunders Illustrated article by Fred Oswald about the typical mistakes in bicycle use, education, advocacy, engineering, and traffic laws and how to avoid these blunders
A Guide to Improving U.S. Traffic Laws Pertaining to Bicycling Article by Paul Schimek about current state bicycle traffic laws and changes needed.
Improving State & Local Cycling Laws Advocacy efforts to improve laws.
Cycling Knowledge Test A short test based on the Effective Cycling Video.  This can be used for training officials or for a traffic violators "diversion" program.
Drivers' License Test Questions on Cycling. Proposed questions deliberately written to invoke common misunderstanding about cycling issues to inspire improvement in driver training.
Bicycle Transportation by John Forester Advanced reference book (confrontational tone) for transportation engineers, planners, etc.  2nd Edition,published by MIT Press, 1994.

 

Did you know?

The crash rate for experienced cyclists is 75 to 80 percent lower than for the average untrained adult bicycle user?  You can lower the risk for yourself and those you love by learning the methods presented here.

© Copyright 2004-2015 Fred Oswald.
Material may be copied with attribution.
The author is a certified bicycling safety instructor and a professional engineer in Ohio.
For comments, questions, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
Last Revised Jun 2015  Check for updates at www.ohiobike.org

"2008 Better Ohio Bicycling Bill"
House Bill 390

by Fred Oswald, Cal Kirchick, and Chuck Smith

 

H.B. 390 proposes several changes to Ohio law developed by Ohio Bicycle Federation bicycling experts, including certified safety instructors. Safe operation of bicycles is based on the same principles as the rules of the road for all other drivers. These principles promote consistency, clarity, fairness and efficiency in addition to safety.

It is important to realize that some of these principles are counter-intuitive and not widely understood.  That is why there are safety problems with bicycle traffic laws in many states and even more in local ordinances.  The changes in H.B. 390 will make Ohio Law more consistent with the best principles.

Please write to Ohio lawmakers asking them to support the bill.  You can find your Senator and Representative by entering your ZIP code via the links below.


Summary of ORC changes in H.B. 390

Technical revision to 4511.07 (A) (8) -- (Powers of Local authorities)

Our change deletes the word "fundamentally" from "no such regulation shall be fundamentally inconsistent ..."  This word has created problems in interpretation and thus tends to undermine the vital concept of uniform traffic laws.  We cannot afford to have every city and village in the state making its own interpretation of the law.  This word causes confusion with city officials and potentially with the courts.  This one word should be deleted.


4511.132 (A) -- (Malfunctioning Traffic Signals)

Our change permits cyclists to treat a "stuck" traffic light as a stop sign.  With the change, we can stop, look both ways, then proceed with caution.

Current Ohio law is ambiguous with respect to malfunctioning traffic signal lights that fail to present a green (proceed) signal to traffic from one direction at a controlled intersection.  This can occur because of the failure of a vehicle detector to detect an approaching vehicle or because of a malfunction to the timer on timed lights, producing a "stuck on red" situation.

This problem most often affects operators of bicycles and motorcycles.  The change will make traffic law consistent with what reasonable people do in this situation.


4511.27 (A) (1) and (2) -- (Safer Passing Rules)

Our change adds a requirement that faster vehicles pass cyclists with not less than a 3 foot clearance, and deletes the "give way on audible signal" language. The present form of § 4511.27(A)(1) lacks a definition for the minimum safe passing distance when a motor vehicle passes a bicycle or other non-motorized vehicle.  In hit from behind or sideswipe collisions, motorists often claim that the cyclists swerved.  This provision will lead to improved justice for victims of unconscionably reckless motoring because the defense would be required to establish that the victim swerved more than the minimum clearance distance to have caused the accident.  Similar provisions have been enacted in at least six other states (WI, AZ, MN, UT, OK, FL).

The present "give way on audible signal" language is an antiquated leftover from the days of Model T Fords and dirt roads.  Then, people drove towards the center of such roads to avoid ruts at the edge.  A faster driver would signal with his horn to alert the leading driver to move over.  On modern roads, people do not drive on the center line; therefore this instruction has little meaning.  Use of horns must be reserved for emergency situations or to alert inattentive drivers, not to intimidate slower drivers.  In addition, unnecessary use of horns contributes to noise pollution.


4511.55. (A), (C) -- (Riding position)

Our change deletes the "ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable" language from 4511.55 and instead, links to the normal "slow vehicle rule".

The current § 4511.55(A) consists of three parts: (1) What we call "the far right rule"; (2) An important instruction to follow the rules of the road; and (3) An instruction to "exercise due care" when passing.

(Part 1) The "far right rule" as modified in 2006 should not, in theory, create serious problems with one exception discussed below.  This is because the specific clarifications added in 2006 and the nature of the word "practicable" are flexible enough to allow riding far enough from the curb to allow a safety zone to the cyclist's right.

Existing law leaves uncertain the question of whether the exceptions in the 4511.25(B) (the "slow vehicle rule") apply to bicycles, or whether they are overridden by the far to the right rule.  Our proposal makes clear that they apply.  (The exceptions in 4511.25(B) cover passing, preparing for a left turn and avoiding a right turn lane for vehicles not turning.)

(Part 2) The important instruction to follow the rules of the road is hidden between the two redundant and unnecessary parts of this law.  H.B. 390 makes this more prominent and understandable.

(Part 3) The "exercise due care when passing" language is redundant of the obligation to obey all rules applicable to drivers of other vehicles.

The appropriate purpose of both § 4511.55 and § 4511.25 is to facilitate safe passing of slower vehicles by faster vehicles.  A bicycle moving slower than the normal flow of traffic should be treated like any other slow moving vehicle and use the right hand lane.  It should stay far enough to the right within that lane to facilitate safe passing by faster vehicles but only if passing is safe and reasonable.  The change to § 4511.55 will eliminate a potential inconsistency with § 4511.25.

We urge the Legislature to adopt the improved language, which is based (and slightly improves) upon the Pennsylvania Code, § 3301(b) and § 3505(c) and the UVC § 11-1205(a)(3).


4511.56. (A) (3) (D) -- (Brake Performance)

Our change requires that bicycles used on Ohio roads be equipped with brakes capable of stopping within 15 feet from a speed of 10 miles per hour on dry, level, clean pavement.

The present requirement in § 4511.56(D) for an "adequate brake" is vague and ambiguous.  Many law enforcement officers prefer an objective standard.  This desire has led some communities to enact a misguided requirement that the brake "skid the wheel", which encourages the irresponsible action of children.

In addition, skidding the wheel works only with rear wheel coaster brakes; skidding the front wheel is impossible on most bicycles and it is extremely dangerous to try.  H.B. 390 adopts language from the Uniform Vehicle Code § 12-706.  The requirement is a reasonable metric for adequate brakes and will provide a uniform statewide rule consistent with the Uniform Vehicle Code.

 

Please send any questions, suggestions or corrections to fredoswald_AT_yahoo.com.
© Copyright 2008 Ohio Bicycle Federation.
May be copied with attribution.
Page revised 26 Jan 2008

Ohio Bicycle Federation
Cyclist Friendly Cities Program

Guide for Bicycle Traffic Ordinances

by Fred Oswald

 

 

Overview

Traffic laws must be fair to all users of the roads, uniform between jurisdictions and they must promote safety on the roadways.  The standard traffic laws that apply to the drivers of all vehicles promote safe, orderly and efficient travel for all.  These "rules of the road" are very good for cyclists.  Unfortunately, many existing bicycle specific rules are non-uniform, discriminatory and even promote unsafe practices.

Bicycle traffic laws and ordinances are important because they shape ---

  1. How cyclists are taught to ride.
  2. Treatment by police.
  3. What the motoring public expects.
  4. Who is found responsible if there is a collision.

 


Guidelines for Good Ordinances

 

  • Be sure your ordinances do not conflict with the uniform rules of the road.  This means to avoid being inconsistent with Ohio law and beware of any ordinances that differ from the standard rules that apply to all drivers.  (See specific mistakes to avoid below.)
    Note several reforms to the Ohio Revised Code became effective in 2006.  Local ordinances must be consistent with the ORC.
  • Remove any unnecessary rules.  Very few bicycle specific rules are needed and these may be invalid under the Ohio Revised Code.
  • If you have a bicycle registration program, make it voluntary.
  • Considering adding bicycle parking to your zoning rules.
  • If you have any restrictions for "traffic calming", such as "No Right Turn" on Elm Street 4-6PM, make it apply only to motor vehicles, thus exempting bicycles.

For an illuminating discussion on traffic law as it applies to cycling, we recommend the chapter titled "Systematic Traffic Law" in Bicycle Transportation by John Forester, published by MIT Press, 1994.  For more information about local ordinances, see the article Model Municipal Bicycle Code.


Mistakes to Avoid

 

  • Mandating dangerous practices.  (See examples below.)
  • Mandating unsafe roadway position.  (See examples below.)
  • Rules incompatible with the uniform "rules of the road".  (See examples below.)
  • Closing roads (other than urban freeways) to cyclists or other unnecessary restrictions.
  • Discriminatory rules,  (See examples below.)
  • Nuisance requirements for ineffective safety equipment that distracts attention from that which is really needed.  Unnecessary equipment includes a bell, as well as front, side and wheel reflectors.  Instead, emphasis must be given to the essentials: the bicycle must be in good operating condition with good brakes and equipped for safe night operation including a headlight, bright rear reflector, and a rear light.
  • Do not mandate brakes that will enable the operator to make the braked wheel skid.  Ohio law requires simply an "adequate brake".  If you want a metric to define "adequate", consider Uniform Vehicle Code § 12-706 that specifies that the brake stop the bicycle within 15 feet from a speed of 10 miles per hour.
  • Requirements to park in a bike rack if one is present.  Many bike racks are poorly designed "wheel benders" and they are often placed in out-of-the-way places that facilitate theft.  Informal parking (locking to a fence or parking meter) may be more secure than a bike rack.
  • Other unnecessary or excessive regulation, such as requiring riding single file or with two hands on the handlebars.
  • Beware of broadly written authority for police to impound bicycles, particularly from adults.  Impounding must be a last resort, otherwise it becomes an abuse of police power.  Police should never impound a bicycle in any situation where they would allow a motorist to continue operating a motor vehicle.
  • Treating (or even thinking of) bicycles as toys, rather than serious vehicles.


About "Helmet Laws":  We advise against ordinances that require wearing of helmets, especially for adults.  Instead, we favor education encouraging helmet use, so long as the primary emphasis is on safe operation.  In other words, not crashing is much more important than safe crashing.

If, because of political pressure, you must have a helmet ordinance, be sure it is not punitive.  Charges should be dismissed upon evidence of purchase of a helmet.  Most important, be sure it has a strong disclaimer for contributory negligence.  (See example below from Pennsylvania law § 3510.  Pedalcycle helmets for certain persons.)

In no event shall a violation or alleged violation of subsection (a) be used as evidence in a trial of any civil action; nor shall any jury in a civil action be instructed that any conduct did constitute or could be interpreted by them to constitute a violation of subsection (a); nor shall failure to use a pedalcycle helmet be considered as contributory negligence nor shall failure to use a pedalcycle helmet be admissible as evidence in the trial of any civil action.


Examples of Dangerous and Discriminatory Bicycle Traffic Laws
(These are invalid under Ohio Law)

 

  • "A person operating a bicycle shall ride upon the sidewalk rather than the roadway when sidewalks are available."
  • "Whenever a designated usable path for bicycles has been provided adjacent to a street, bicycle riders shall use such path and shall not use the street."
  • "A person operating a bicycle shall yield the right of way to vehicular traffic on a roadway."
  • "No person shall ride a bicycle across or through any intersection."
  • "Every person operating a bicycle shall keep to the right-hand curb upon all streets, highways and other public ways in the City."
  • "Every person operating a bicycle or tricycle upon a roadway shall ride within three feet of the right edge of the roadway."

Proper Enforcement

Correct enforcement of traffic law is as important as having good laws.  This means the police must be properly trained in bicycle operation and they must understand bicycle laws.  Misinformed police occasionally make errors of commission (by harassing lawful cyclists for riding in ways that they think are dangerous) and they often make errors of omission (by ignoring illegal practices that lead to accidents.)

Dangerous and illegal practices that police must stop through education and enforcement include: (1) Riding without lights in the dark; (2) Riding on the wrong side of the road; (3) Failure to stop for traffic signals; (4) Motorist intimidation and harassment; (5) Dangerous motorist errors, such as overtaking with insufficient space, illegal turns ("right hook" and "left cross"), etc.

Although generally not illegal, police must discourage riding on sidewalks by all but the youngest children, except at very slow speeds.  They must particularly discourage sidewalk riding in the opposite direction as traffic on the adjacent roadway and sidewalk riding in commercial areas where busy driveways are especially hazardous.  And the bike patrol must set a good example themselves by staying off sidewalks except where absolutely necessary for an immediate task (e.g., hot pursuit or patrolling areas only accessible by sidewalk).

Even better, if you have a bike patrol, request that officers ride on major roads in the commuity to set a good example.


Another Measure to Improve Bicycle Traffic Laws

Finally, you can help improve cycling conditions across Ohio by supporting the Ohio Bicycle Federation 2008 Better Ohio Bicycling Bill.  If you pass an ordinance or send letters to your legislators supporting these reforms, please mention this in the Cyclist Friendly Communities Application, Section 6, "Other Factors", so we can add points for your support.

 


© Copyright 2003-2008 Fred Oswald and Ohio Bicycle Federation.
Non Commercial distribution authorized with attribution.
For comments or questions, contact This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..
Revised 7/6/08

by Fred Oswald, PE, LCI #947

This article illustrates typical cycling road hazards and measures a community can take to correct the hazards and improve conditions.  Keywords: Cyclist friendly, Bicycle friendly, Bike safety, Road hazards.

The most important measure a community can take to improve the cycling environment is to teach people how to drive a bicycle.  Most of the problems illustrated here are exacerbated by common mistakes made by people who do not understand the best practices of cycling.  Sometimes a well-chosen sign can help prevent mistakes and overcome misinformation.  For example, the sign in the photo at right says that bikes (actually cyclists) can use a full lane and faster drivers must change lanes to pass.

It is also important to fix problems that can contribute to crashes.  The most common accidents to cyclists are falls.  This is because bicycles are balanced vehicles with hard, narrow tires and (usually) no springs.  Some of these falls cause serious injuries, including fatalities.

Road defects often cause bicycle crashes.  A bump gives the cyclist an uncomfortable jolt.  A large bump can cause tire and/or rim damage and can cause a crash if the cyclist loses control or swerves to avoid the bump.  A deep chuckhole creates a severe jolt and can cause a stopping fall where the wheel stops suddenly while momentum carries the cyclist over the handlebars.  Small defects such as ridges and slots nearly parallel to the direction of travel can cause the front wheel to steer to the side or it can prevent steering required for balance.  This causes a diversion fall.  In addition, gravel or other slippery surfaces can cause skidding falls.  Besides direct injuries from impact with the ground, falling in front of a vehicle is likely fatal.

 

Cracks and Slots often cause diversion falls.  These gaps are prevalent in older concrete roads, especially in the joints between sections of concrete.  The left photo shows a wheel in a water-filled gap near a sewer grate.  There was a separate "pour" of concrete around the sewer catch basin to make sewer repairs easier.  This adds a seam thqat can produce a dangerous gap right where cyclists ride.

This photo was included on a one-page report of road defects the author gave to the Service Director of Middleburg Hts, Ohio.  The very next day, the supervisor of the city's road repair crew called to discuss the problem.  Since most city officials (like most citizens) are not experienced cyclists, they do not recognize problems such as this unless someone tells them about it.

The right photo shows temporary patching applied that same day.  The white paint marks where more permanent repairs will be made when schedule and budget permit.  We have also met to discuss other problem areas and how the city can reduce hazards.  This is an excellent example of a responsible government responding to a problem.  (Location: Bagley Road at Century Oak Rd.)

 

Parallel Bar Sewer Grates are extremely dangerous for cyclists.  A wheel can easily get trapped between the bars, causing a stopping fall which will pitch the cyclist on his head.  If the wheel does not slip in far, it may still be prevented from steering.  This will cause a diversion fall.

Another problem occurs when a grate is not level with the surrounding pavement.  Even a "bike safe" design can cause a crash if it becomes part of a "chuckhole".  The top photo at right shows a dangerous grate that is also mounted a little too low.  Notice how the wheel is in the slot up to the spokes.  (Location: E. Bridge St, Berea.  This defect should be reported to the city.)

Normally, an experienced cyclist will be at least 2-4 feet from the curb, outside of the grate area.  However, novices often ride too close to the road edge and in an emergency, even an expert may ride there.

 

The left photo shows a dangerous grate in a very bad location -- out in the roadway and just after a curve.  Although cross bars had been welded across the openings, both of these were partly torn away (likely by snowplows).

The right photo shows a much better grate installed just a few days after the author notified the Service Department of Brook Park, Ohio.  This is another good example of a responsible city government in action.  (Location: Switzer & Lucille Rd.)

Roadway Shoulders are a popular place for touring cyclists riding in the country.  But in an urban area, the shoulder is often NOT a safe place to ride.  A shoulder cyclist is much more likely to suffer a collision with turning traffic because other drivers do not look for conflicting traffic off the roadway.  In addition, the shoulder is likely to accumulate glass, gravel and other debris because passing traffic does not "sweep" it clean.  For these reasons, experienced cyclists avoid shoulders on urban roads.

 

A small shoulder protects the edge of the pavement from being broken by keeping heavy wheels nearer the middle of the road where the pavement is better supported.  One foot is enough shoulder space for this benefit.

In the photo at right, the travel lane is of marginal width to allow faster traffic to pass a bicycle.  The four feet of pavement in the shoulder is largely wasted as far as cycling is concerned.  If the fog line were moved over about three feet (indicated by dashed line), then the lane would be wide enough to share with faster traffic.  The remaining shoulder would be enough to protect the edge of the pavement.  (Location: W. 130 St, S of Bagley)

Difficult Spots for cyclists include narrow 2-lane roads with heavy traffic, narrow bridges, and "pinch points" in the roadway.  Since these problems are generally built in to the infrastructure, it can be difficult and expensive to cure them.  Often the best you can do is to teach people how to deal with the problem and perhaps erect a warning sign.

 

The photo at right illustrates a diagonal railroad crossing complicated by a grade that blocks sight of approaching traffic.  The cyclist must cross the tracks at nearly a right angle to avoid getting the front wheel caught in the groove next to the rails and then a diversion fall. That means veering to the left. Cyclists must be taught how to do this safely. Motorists must be taught that it is unsafe to pass at a place such as this.  (Location: Smith Rd. near Sheldon)

Sidewalks are designed for pedestrian use.  Many people think a person on a bicycle is some kind of pedestrian.  Wrong!  A bike can easily go 4 or 5 times as fast as a person walking.  And even faster downhill.  A bike cannot stop in a stride; it has brakes like other vehicles.  It cannot turn in place or step sideways like a pedestrian either.  These are a few of many reasons why riding on sidewalks is much more dangerous than driving on the roadway.  And why mixing cyclists and pedestrians is dangerous for both.

 

Those who ride on sidewalks face the risk of collisions at every intersection and even at driveways.  Other drivers do not look for conflicting traffic in unusual locations, such as on a sidewalk.

Sidewalks often have specific hazards, in addition to being inherently unsuitable for vehicular traffic.  The hazards include rough surfaces, sidewalk "furniture" such as utility poles and mail boxes, and poor sight lines due to vegetation, fences, etc.  The photo at right shows an untrimmed hedge blocking the view from a commercial driveway.  (Location: Smith Rd. exit of Ganley auto dealership)

Appropriate Facilities do not subject cyclists to unforeseen hazards by forcing them to violate the rules of the road.  A bicycle "sidepath" is really just an asphalt sidewalk and it has nearly all of the dangers.  Recreational paths are often popular.  They can be reasonably safe only for slow speed use if designed properly.

 

A shortcut path linking places that are otherwise not connected can be very useful for transportation.  The photo at right shows a road barricaded to prevent cut-through traffic.  A short path would restore this road as a bicycle corridor without compromising the "traffic calming" purpose of the barricade.  (Location: S. Rocky River Dr, Berea)

The best bicycle facility is a well-designed and maintained road. A little extra space in the right lane (called a wide outside lane) helps faster traffic pass bicycles and this reduces friction between road users.

Parking is nearly as important for cyclists as for motorists.  Bicycles take little room and can often be locked to a fence, sign, etc.  Traditional school yard "wheel bender" bike racks are not suitable for good bicycles with expensive aluminum wheels.  unfortunately, some bike racks are even worse than the old schoolyard racks.

 

Often an informal parking spot (locking to a signpost or fence, etc.) is the best choice.  Appropriately, the sign below the parking meter at right says "small vehicles only".  Unfortunately, some communities make locking to parking meters illegal.  We have even heard of local ordinances requiring use of a bike rack, where provided.  They make no allowance for the risk that a bad rack can damage a good bicycle.

Other Issues:  Important tasks include teaching people the best practices of safe and effective bicycle operation, passing equitable laws, training police and making vehicle detectors work with bicycles.  These are covered in the Ohio Bicycle Federation's Cyclist Friendly Communities Program 'Toolkit'.  For more information on planning for bicycle transportation, see Bicycle Transportation Policy Statement from the Ohio Bicycle Federation. 

We suggest that transportation officials and planners read the book Bicycle Transportation, by John Forester, MIT Press, 1994.  It will take some effort to get past the bitter, confrontational style of the author but once this is done, you can learn from a real expert.


Footnote

[1] Alan Forkosh photo.

© Copyright 2003-2008 Fred Oswald and Ohio Bicycle Federation.  Material may be copied with attribution.
The author is a certified "League Cycling Instructor", and a professional engineer in Ohio.
Last Revised 6/25/08  Check for updates at www.ohiobike.org/fix-road.html.