Tag Archives: traffic

LAPD seeks to restore relations with bicycle commuters

By Kevin R. Betts

“As a driver I hate pedestrians, and as a pedestrian I hate drivers, but no matter what the mode of transportation, I always hate cyclists.” Although it is unclear who first said this, there is no doubt that many people feel this way. In California, this recently became clear when an officer of the LAPD was filmed kicking a bicycle commuter who followed several hundred others riding in Critical Mass, a monthly mass bicycling event. Making matters worse, officers then surrounded and tackled the cameraman! Unfortunately, cities across the U.S. have seen similar confrontations between police and bicycle commuters in recent years.

While friendship may not be in the cards, peaceful relations between police and bicycle commuters are essential as the popularity of bicycle commuting grows. Every day, thousands of people around the globe commute to work, school, and other locations by bicycle. In one U.S. city, bicycle couriers were found to deliver between 3000 and 4000 items per day at a financial steal of only about seven dollars per delivery (Dennerlein & Meeker, 2002). Indeed, bicycle commuting offers an important contribution to society as it is cost-effective, as well as reduces pollution and traffic congestion. Standing in the way of these societal advantages, however, may be fears among potential bicycle commuters about confrontation with aggressive police. For these cyclists, it is imperative that police understand their role as protectors of those that legally share the road. When bicycle commuters abide by traffic laws, they should be treated by police in the same manner as motorists.

In response to the incident in California, LAPD officers joined a Critical Mass ride this past Friday to show their support for lawful bicycle commuting. Whether most bicycle commuters in California have taken this peace offer at face value is unclear, but nonetheless, the actions of the LAPD are commendable. Considering the societal advantages of bicycle commuting and the potential role police can play in protecting lawful bicycle commuters, peaceful relations are imperative.

Read more:

LAPD officers attack Critical Mass riders

LAPD pledges to join Critical Mass ride

Dennerlein, J.T., & Meeker, J.D. (2002). Occupational injuries among Boston bicycle messengers. American Journal of Industrial Medicine, 42, 519-525.

View other posts by Kevin R. Betts

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Walk this way… Look this way

By Erica Zaiser
You know those moments when you are walking and someone else seems to be coming straight towards you. Don’t you hate when you both move to the same side to pass each other and then have an awkward moment where you almost collide? It usually ends with both parties engaged in that terribly uncoordinated dance, trying to figure out which way the other person is going to go. Or is that just me? But really, if you think about it, its pretty amazing how often we don’t actually run into each other. Most of the time when we walk down the street we coordinate our use of physical space with a total stranger pretty well, without saying a word, and we tend to do it very quickly. It makes you wonder, what are we doing to effectively communicate our intention to move left or right?

Research from the December issue of Psychological Science helps unravel this phenomenon a bit. In an experiment using eye-tracking, Nummenmaa and colleagues found that people use their gaze to indicate which direction they will travel. Conversely, you receive information from the gaze of an oncoming pedestrian and react by purposefully moving in the opposite direction. This might seem obvious but its actually an interesting finding because most past studies on gaze-following have shown it to be a reflexive social habit. In other words, when people look somewhere, we tend to automatically follow their gaze and look in the same direction. This research suggests that we might have two systems guiding our gaze -following: the first being an automatic response to follow the direction of a gaze and the second system based on intentions and goals, which allows us to interpret a gaze within a specific context. Thus, in the context of pedestrian navigation, gaze-following does not occur in its ordinary passive, automatic way… if it did, we might run into each other a lot more often.

Read more:   I’ll Walk This Way: Eyes Reveal the Direction of Locomotion and Make Passersby Look and Go the Other Way.