Traffic Safety When Organizing Actions

General tools and strategies

  • Tell people what to expect before the action
    • Warn people about any tricky parts of a group ride, such as railroad tracks or bad roads
  • For group rides, stick together as one group. Safety in numbers.
    • Cork intersections.
    • Stay slow, make sure nobody gets left behind.
    • We have walkie-talkies that can be used to tell the person at the front if they need to slow down, or communicate other problems.
    • Try to stick with the group. If you or someone else is struggling to keep up, let the sweep know and they'll get the group to slow down. If the group spreads out, that makes things less safe for the corkers. A slow ride is a safe ride.
  • Actions on foot can still be risky. Make sure to stick with other people.

Risk factors

  • Proximity to highways
    • Cars come off of highways fast, and drivers seem to tend to be a lot more hostile.
  • Time of day
    • When the sun sets, drivers become more aggressive.
  • Part of town
    • Drivers on the Great Highway are more aggressive than elsewhere in the city.
  • Size of group
    • Smaller groups are more vulnerable, and may have a harder time corking.
    • A really big group can be trickier because drivers get angrier the more they have to wait.
    • But once you have a big enough group you can get away with a lot.
  • Your mindset
    • We have tended to have had a harder time effectively de-escalating at vision zero actions, probably because they are emotionally more challenging actions.
  • Type of vehicle
    • Bus drivers are usually nice and we usually try and accommodate transit as much as possible.
    • Giant pickup trucks, expensive cars, and heavily dented vehicles are often more aggressive.

Corking

  • Identify a group of corkers in advance of the action.
    • Consider having a left team and a right team (sometimes it's overkill).
  • Scout out the route in advance and figure out any difficult intersections.
    • Aim to have at least one corker per lane of traffic.
  • Always have a sweep. Ideally one person per lane of traffic you are occupying. In some situations we might need more.
  • Corkers and sweeps take most of the hostility and are at the highest risk. There are usually people who are willing to take on that risk, but they should be aware of what they're doing.
  • Some helpful hand signals:
    • Rotate your thumb between a thumbs-up and thumbs-down to ask a corker if they need help. The corker then replies with a thumbs up or thumbs down.
    • Signal for more help corking by holding up a number of fingers corresponding to the amount of help needed.

De-escalation

  • Roll past conflict. Your bike is the world's best tool for running away from a situation.
  • Avoid being angry or hostile. Instead, be happy and friendly. Remember that riding a bike is fun.
    • Actions with humor tend to get participants in a more positive mood, and getting angry at them makes drivers look humorless and unlikeable.
    • Music goes a surprisingly long way at putting bystanders in a good mood.
  • "We'll be just a minute" also goes a surprisingly long way in defusing angry drivers.
  • It can be helpful to have some people dedicated to filming. Filming tends to put people on their best behavior.
  • Various groups in the city offer de-escalation training, which is very useful.