There are no signs forbidding cycling up the route d’Arlon in the City of Luxembourg, but there is no cycling lane there in any form either. According to the ‘Code de la Route’, cyclists must use the road, there is no sign allowing shared use of pavement here.

Highly visible (and still highly vulnerable) on route d’Arlon

This post intends to share some thoughts about safety issues when riding a bike on route d’Arlon in the capital of Luxembourg, as authorities seem to be deaf and blind about that particular road when it comes to very real cycling safety issues.

Well intentionned tweets about cycling safety

Lots of people are tweeting about urban cycling. Among cyclists on Twitter, it is wide-spread to retweet on a regular basis some well intentioned tweets about safety issues.

But those kind of tweets are like painted cycle lanes: they make you look good, make you feel good, but are in fact of no practical help for those in need of real safety. Why? Because you can bet that those people who should take notice of that safety advice for sure don’t read cycling tweets, that is the brutal truth!

One of these issues is lateral distance of motorists overtaking a cyclist, an important issue on road segments without separated bike infrastructure.

“you can bet that those people who should take notice of that safety advice for sure don’t read cycling tweets, that is the brutal truth!”

This colorful tweet stating “He doesn’t respect cyclists” is way to nice with motorists, overtaking with less than 1 meter puts the cyclists in real danger. Imagine if he has parked cars on his other side and then comes to a fall! This is a real possibility in everyday urban cycling, not shown on these colorful pictures.

To really understand what overtaking can in an ugly way look like for a cyclist, you have to watch Chris Boardman’s video, which includes some impressive real footage recorded by real cyclists.

Famous British cyclist Chris Boardman in association with cycling advocate Carlton Reid did a video about how to safely overtake cyclists

Some went even further, famous British cyclist Chris Boardman published a safety advice video in 2015 addressing especially the issue of overtaking cyclists:

Overtaking by all means, even in most ridiculous ways where it doesn’t make any sense, is an often observed behavior of motorists, which often includes disrespecting lateral distance to cyclists.

What should never be forgotten: motorists do never have an obligation to overtake a cyclist, they just have a right to overtake when they can do it in a safe way. If not, they must learn to stay behind and wait a bit. They will overtake later.

What we still have in the real world are motorists in their ‘mecatronical armor’, fighting in traffic for their position… or perhaps worse, motorists distracted in their car like in a bubble far from reality

On those few meters uphill, two cars (Mercedes and Audi) managed to slide between two cyclists wearing high visibility clothes. Judge by yourself about the safety distances. Please note the continuous white line in the middle of the road, and on the right parked cars and a ridiculously narrow pavement.

So, everyone must agree that there is a problem. Everyone, well except some motorists who tend to defend their territory in urban areas with the unfair help of their ‘mecatronical armor’.

Cyclists are visible enough, and the visibility issue is just a form of victim blaming for not changing behaviors or build better infrastructure. This tweet makes this clear in a self-explanatory way:

… and always victim blaming, even in Luxembourg

In the last years, national campaigns have been run suggesting that people doing soft mobility should be more visible in traffic at night. This might be fundamentally true, but blatantly ignores the fact that motorists in several cases ran over pedestrians going legally by green over a crossing meanwhile cars had red (or light just turned to it).

cyclist is still considered as a prey on the road where he is still by a silent majority of motorists considered not to belong onto

So, the real issue is about educating drivers and enforcing dangerous behaviors. Educating drivers does not equal making emotional appeals to their conscience and their sense of responsibility, it is about showing them how to behave the right way in real driving situations. To remember motorists not to go faster than allowed, to not use a phone while driving and to fasten their seat belts is of course right, but does not help in any way the cyclist still considered as a prey on the road where he is still by a silent majority of motorists considered not to belong onto.

The cyclist has been separated from his mate, even not visible here anymore while riding in front of two cars that forced themselves between the two cyclists. By the way, among cyclists it is considered to be highly rude behavior when motorists unnecessarily split up a group of cyclists obviously riding together. The Audi driver does not seem to know that, does he?

Bicycles are not toys, they are a legitimate mean of transportation in town, probably often more legitimate (less polluting, space wasting and dangerous for others) than most cars when used on short distances. Cyclists are vulnerable road users and people driving cars have a special responsibility. Behaviors of motorists must change!

But who’s gonna teach them?

(originally published on Sunday, April 10th 2016)