Top three reasons why you should SLOW YOUR ROLL in a school zone

Top three reasons why you should SLOW YOUR ROLL in a school zone

Less than a year ago, I started working as a crossing guard.

I know I haven’t seen it all, but I’ve seen a lot. *SMH*

I wanted to write something up that could be shared among folks who consider themselves to be rational, good people and good drivers. Irrational, bad drivers / sociopaths won’t care about what I have to say.

Without further ado, I present:

The Top Three Reasons Why You Should SLOW YOUR ROLL in a School Zone

  1. You don’t want to injure or kill a child.

    I guarantee you, if you accidentally harm a child with your vehicle, the incident will haunt you for a long time, if not for the rest of your life, even if it’s not your fault.

    There’s a crazy mathematical equation out there that was produced with traffic safety research that shows something very interesting – there is an EXPONENTIAL INCREASE in the risk of serious injury or death to a pedestrian as the speed of the vehicle that hits them increases from about 15 miles per hour to about 40 miles per hour. Click here if you want to nerd out on data, and see the image below if you want a visual representation of what this data means.


    The speed limit in front the the school where I work is 15 miles per hour, which is a data-based speed limit set to reduce the risk of severe injury or death as much as possible while also enabling reasonable vehicle travel. The normal speed limit on that road is 30 mph, and vehicles regularly travel at or above that limit, even when crossing guards (ME!) and kids are clearly visible alongside the roadway.

    What rational driver would continue to drive at the regular speed limit of 30mph, instead of the school-zone speed limit of 15mph, if they knew it would TRIPLE the risk they might kill a child in a crash, and DOUBLE the risk that a child would be severely injured or killed? You can leave home a little earlier to make it to work on time, but you can’t bring a child back from the dead.

    The extra kicker is, younger kids can be so unpredictable. They don’t yet understand traffic rules or have the mental processing capability to extrapolate vehicle speeds and travel distances. A young student is much more likely to dart out suddenly into the path of your vehicle. Wouldn’t you much rather be going 15mph, so you A) have more time to react to the situation and B) have a much reduced chance of the collision causing injury or death?
  2. You don’t want to get a ticket and lose time/money.

    This seems like small potatoes after talking about the possibility of a child dying, but time and money are very motivating to people. It’s against the law to exceed the school zone speed limit during designated hours. If you don’t know what the designated hours are, pretty good clues are: A) the presence of a crossing guard or B) the presence of kids. Regardless of whether you get an expensive “speeding in a school zone” ticket or not, getting pulled over will guarantee you will lose more time than if you had just obeyed the school zone speed limit in the first place.

  3. You never know what the “other guy” is going to do.

    I have seen some crazy driving behavior in my school zone duty station, including crazy driving behavior and distractions that risk causing crashes with other, law-abiding drivers. (I keep envisioning nightmare chain-reaction crashes.) Many instances of crazy driving behavior are committed by the people who are picking up and dropping off kids at the school. A school zone is a concentrated crazy-driving area, and you would be wise to drive slowly and defensively (pay full attention!) to give yourself more time to react to the craziness when (not if) it happens.

    Here’s a list of crazy driving behavior I have witnessed in my 4 months as a crossing guard. Alas, I’m sure I’ll keep adding to this list.
  • Speeding
  • Turning without a turn signal
  • Turning across a crosswalk while pedestrians are there
  • Running a red light
  • Driving distracted with one hand on the wheel
    • using a cell phone (I see this ALL THE TIME)
    • smoking / eating / drinking
    • reaching somewhere inside the vehicle (e.g., tuning the radio)
  • Driving distracted with ZERO hands on the wheel
    • peeling and eating a banana
    • lighting a cigarette
    • reading a book and turning pages
  • Driving under the influence (I smelled marijuana from a passing car one morning)
  • Driving up the pedestrian ramp on the corner to cross the sidewalk
  • Driving in the opposite lane and up onto the sidewalk to drop off a student
  • Stopping suddenly in the middle of a traffic lane to drop off a student
  • Gunning it across 4 lanes of traffic trying to make an opening, regardless of pedestrians in the area

Be a good driver! SLOW YOUR ROLL in a school zone, so you give yourself more time to react to people and other vehicles and possibly save a child’s life!

Copyright 2021 by Katie Bradshaw

A scary pass, an educational opportunity

I ride my road bike on the road because that’s where it’s designed to be ridden.

Also, since my community lacks connected bike path infrastructure, to get where I’m going on a bike, I have to use roads.

Whenever possible, I choose low-speed, less-traveled roads. However, sometimes I have to ride on the highway to get where I’m going.

I have met several cyclists who no longer ride on paved roads. They stick to gravel roads exclusively. They’ve had too many run-ins with ignorant, inattentive, or ill-willed automobile drivers.

I’m not willing to give up road riding. I think things are getting better, with more cyclists on the road and more awareness of safe driving practices.

But I did buy a bike camera to record the traffic around me, just in case.

On a recent ride, I had a semi truck pass me far too fast and far too close for comfort.

Screen Shot 2016-05-26 at 1.40.27 PM

You can see in this screen shot that I was in the travel lane (the shoulder here is in poor condition & had lots of debris), yet the semi was straddling the center line.

My bike camera captured it all. I had the license plate and DOT number, the company name, the time/date stamp.

But still, I wondered what to do.

Clearly, the footage is scary, but does the close pass violate the “3 feet to pass” law? They didn’t hit me, and I didn’t crash from an air wake blow-over. Would this be worth taking to law enforcement? Should I try contacting the company directly, or would that accomplish nothing but stir up a hornet’s nest for me?

Instead, I decided to turn this video clip into an educational opportunity, and a shout out to drivers who rate an “A+” in how they maneuver around bicyclists.

Here’s my little video (which I struggled long and hard with in iMovie to create – no video artist am I).

I’m sure this video will win me some criticism.

Like, I probably should have been riding further left in the lane to signal to the drivers behind me that they should change lanes to pass. But would that have only landed me closer to the passing semi? Traffic interactions are such a delicate dance!

Regardless, I hope that it makes people think about their interactions on the road and contributes to overall road safety.

The life you save may be mine!

Copyright 2016 by Katie Bradshaw

Top 3 reasons why you should cycle WITH traffic, in the direction of traffic flow

Because bicyclists take so much flak from motorists who would prefer not to have the two-wheelers on the road to begin with, I’m particularly sensitive these days when I see another cyclist breaking traffic and safety rules.

A super common and super dangerous traffic error I see is this:  biking on the wrong side of the road, against traffic.

Perhaps there was a whole generation of people who were given mistaken instructions on how to ride, and the misinformation keeps propagating. Or maybe they get mixed up, since pedestrians are supposed to face oncoming traffic when walking along a road. Or perhaps cyclists feel safer if they can see traffic coming at them (they are actually in MORE danger, as I will explain below).

Bugman and I encountered a particularly egregious example of this over the weekend. We had just crested the Mitchell Hill on Highway 92 eastbound when Bugman said, “What the . . .? There’s a bike coming the wrong way!”

The cyclist was westbound in the center of the eastbound lane. We played a little pas-de-deux of confusion about who would pass on which side, and our bike camera recorded him as he passed on our left and proceeded uphill on the wrong side of the road.

cycling against trafficTHIS IS SO DANGEROUS! I’m absolutely flabbergasted that someone would think it was OK to ride on the wrong side of the road heading up a blind hill on a 60 MPH highway. (I will admit, I yelled at him. “You’re riding in the wrong lane!” But he probably didn’t hear me. HE WAS WEARING HEADPHONES!)

Here are the

TOP 3 REASONS WHY YOU SHOULD CYCLE WITH TRAFFIC, IN THE DIRECTION OF TRAFFIC FLOW:

  1. Anyone turning onto the roadway will not be looking for you there, if you ride against traffic. When you are driving a car and you merge onto a highway on-ramp, are you looking forward to see if anyone is traveling down the Interstate in the wrong direction? No! Because that is not normal! Similarly, a driver making a right-hand turn out of a driveway or crossroad on the stretch of highway in the photo above will most likely look left, to see if there is any traffic coming. They will not look right to see if there is a bicycle traveling the wrong way towards them. They will accelerate onto the highway, and the bicyclist will have no time to react or will be forced into traffic in the other lane. NOT GOOD!
  2. You are INCREASING the relative speed at which cars will pass you, if you ride against traffic. Let’s do the math with the above example. Say the cyclist has some good legs and is making 10 MPH up that hill. An eastbound car in that lane at the speed limit would be traveling 60 MPH. The additive effect of those two vehicles traveling towards each other in the same lane means they are approaching each other at 70 MPH, thus reducing the amount of time each person has to react to the situation. If the cyclist were traveling uphill properly, in the westbound lane, and they were passed by a westbound car doing the speed limit, that car would approach the cyclist at only 50 MPH – the cyclist is moving away from the car at 10 MPH, thus giving the driver more time to react. (Another example for in-town riders: you’re riding at 15 MPH, the driver at 25 MPH. With wrong-way travel, you’ve got a closing speed of 40 MPH. When you ride WITH traffic, that drops to a closing speed of 10 MPH.)
  3. It’s the law to behave as an automobile would. Would you drive a car on the wrong side of the road? No! Then why would you ride a bicycle that way? On the back page of the NDOR Nebraska Bicycle Guide, it states (emphasis mine):

Follow the law. Bicyclists have the same rights and duties as drivers. Obey the rules of the road as if you were driving a car—stop at stop signs, red lights, and signal before turning or changing lanes. Ride with traffic.

I will acknowledge that it feels creepy and awful to hear vehicles coming up behind you and not be able to see them. That is why I always use a mirror – so I can see what’s happening back there.

It may “feel” safer to ride facing traffic, but it is MORE DANGEROUS, for the reasons mentioned above, and here is proof: a couple of cycling experts analyzed bicycle accident data from the 1980s in Palo Alto, California, where they are from, and found that wrong-way cyclists are between 3-7 times more likely to get into an accident than those traveling in the direction of traffic.

Here’s a snippet from the results section of the study:

Table 4 shows that all categories of bicy­clists traveling against the direction of traffic flow are at greatly increased risk for accidents—on average 3.6 times the risk of those traveling with traffic, and as high as 6.6 times for those 17 and under. This result is readily explained: because motorists normally scan for traffic trav­eling in the lawful direction, wrong-way traffic is easily overlooked. To give only a single example, a motorist turning right at an intersec­tion scans to the left for approaching traffic on the new road, and cannot see or anticipate a fast-moving wrong-way bicyclist approaching from the right. (This is the one of the most common types of bicycle-motor vehicle collisions in Palo Alto.)

This finding provides compelling justifica­tion for current traffic law, which requires bicy­clists on the roadway everywhere in the United States to travel in the same direction as other traffic. It also implies that vigorous enforcement of this law, for both adults and children, can substantially reduce the number of bicycle-motor vehicle collisions, and should receive high priority in any bicycle program.

Two points about Table 4 deserve comment. First, the conclusion is extremely robust: wrong-way bicycling is risky at an overwhelmingly high level of significance—p<<10-5 for the category as a whole, p<10-5 in four out of seven subgroups, and p<10-4 and 10-3 for two others. In the remaining subgroup, on the roadway, only 5 percent of bicyclists (108 of 2005) traveled against traffic, and only 5 accidents occurred there (compared to 2.5 expected); these small numbers limit any statistical significance.

Second, wrong-way bicycling is dangerous for all subgroups of bicyclists—including those traveling on the sidewalk, who may at first seem to be protected against collisions with motor vehicles. In fact, sidewalk bicyclists enter into conflict with motorists at every intersection (including driveways), and these are exactly the points where most bicycle-motor vehicle colli­sions occur. Wrong-way sidewalk bicyclists are at particular risk because they enter the point of conflict from an unexpected direction, just as they would on the roadway.

So, folks, please – when cycling, and when instructing youngsters on cycling, make sure everyone is RIDING RIGHT, in the direction of traffic. You’ll reduce the risk of accidents that way.

Copyright 2015 by Katie Bradshaw