Driver Education: 'Bicyclists are a Source of Danger'

A reader sent me a screen shot from the curriculum of Texas Adult Drivers, an online driving school. They promise to “give you all the secrets” to pass the driving test of the Texas Department of Public Safety.

The “Right of Way” section of the curriculum has a sub-section on Bicyclists, and this is what it says:

Bicyclists pose similar threats as pedestrians do to vehicles.

Absolutely right. If you kill a bicyclist or pedestrian with your car, your vehicle could suffer a dent, a broken windshield, or even a blood stain.

Texas Adult Drivers
Click the image to see it actual size.

Bicyclists are required to ride on the far right side of the road.

Don’t stop there, Driving School. In Texas law, There’s more to that sentence. Here it is in its entirety:

Bicyclists are required to ride as far right in the lane as possible only when the lane can be safely shared by a car and a bicycle, side by side.

Kind of significant omission, don’t you think? Or is that one of the secrets that you keep to yourself?

It continues…

Bicyclists are also required to respond to traffic signals and intersections the same way cars do. However, does this always happen? No. Again we have the same problem as pedestrians, many of our bike riders are children and they just do not know the law. In this case, it becomes the licensed driver’s obligation to create a safe situation for everyone by yielding to the unaware bike rider or pedestrian even if the driver of the car might have the right of way by law.

I don’t know what this driving school has to say about pedestrians. I’m tempted to make something out of the juxtaposition of pedestrians, bike riders and children, but I won’t go there. There’s plenty more to find annoying. I, in fact, do like that they stress the obligation of drivers to “create a safe situation.”

Is it their obligation because drivers are operating powerful, heavy, and deadly vehicles relative to the exposed vulnerability of a pedestrian or a cyclist?

No. It’s because…

Pedestrians and bicyclists can be huge sources of danger…


They are so close to getting it right — because the implication is that the motor vehicle is the more dangerous of the vehicles — but then they get it 180 degrees wrong. The rest of that sentence reads…

…but drivers of vehicles can easily manage [the dangers created by pedestrians and bicyclists] by lowering their speed, covering their brakes, staying ready to yield, and keeping a large distance from these sources of danger.

Texas Adult Drivers
Is that a booger on her thumb? And if she flicks it at a bike, is that the cyclist’s fault too?

Texas is an easy target, not just because it’s so big, but because it’s so… Texas. When you look at the map of Bike Friendly Cities in Texas, it’s almost like looking at a map of all the Nordstroms stores in Africa. (Except Africa is better off without Nordstroms. Texas, on the other hand, would be better off with a lot more bike-friendliness.)

As revealing as this one page from a driving school curriculum is, these attitudes are not uncommon outside of Texas.

What would be the effect if driver education included the presumption that roads are for people, not just for motorists; that the motorist is the most dangerous user of the road? What if they taught that a motorist should proceed at all times with the same circumspection as someone would while carrying an open bottle of nitroglycerin… on stilts… across a crowded ice skating rink?

What if they taught accurately who is the “huge source of danger?”

Whenever you board a commercial flight, you will likely hear the flight attendant say something like this:

If you are seated next to an emergency exit, please read carefully the special instructions card located by your seat. If you do not wish to perform the functions described in the event of an emergency, please ask a flight attendant to re-seat you.

In fact, if you are seated next to an emergency exit, the flight attendant will make sure that you assent to these conditions and their grave responsibilities.

If I could change the driving school curriculum, for starters this is what I would put in Section 1:

If you are not willing to operate the most dangerous vehicle on the road as though it were the most dangerous vehicle on the road (because it is), please choose another mode of transportation. May we recommend a bicycle.

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12 thoughts on “Driver Education: 'Bicyclists are a Source of Danger'”

  1. I was nearly killed, spend 26 days in the hospital; 12 in ICU. Ten hours of cardiac surgery to repair my aorta; on a heart-lung machine & laying in a container of ice in order to save my life. I also had 2 strokes which thank God only impacted my right side of my body for about a year. I still have some slight visual issues from one of the strokes. I also dissected both of my carotid arteries.

    All of this because a driver choose to dive his vehicle in an unsafe manner!!!

  2. BluesCat says:

    Yeah, Buddy! Weee Doggies! If’n we could jes ELIMINATE all that funding fer Foreign Stuff like SIDEWALKS and BIKE PATHS we’d have a better market fer our good, wholesome AMERICAN Texas oil!

  3. Paul in Minneapolis says:

    I sometimes have others mention how well I follow the written traffic laws when driving, bicycling and walking.

    The major reason is I grew up in places that taught traffic laws and behavior to children as young as six.

    -First grade Traffic garden class, many kids favorite class. (New Jersey).

    -10th grade really deep traffic eduction – We were told we would fail tenth grade if we failed this one class. North Carolina must have had the BEST traffic class of any state.
    They also taught us how to find, read and interpret the states written laws.

    -To 16 and older, North Carolina offered a free state run school bus driver education class.

    With all this education there are still many gaps where I had to learn for myself… If I had not have had the education then I would be just like all the hordes of un-educated Americans.

    This type of education, throughout the entire school years and truly teaching more than the laws, including why these laws are, is what the US and states should be doing…

    If, and only if, the US takes the responsibility to educate it’s citizens, then and only then the quality of life that America claims to have will be…

    By having only a few people mentioning that I am doing my best to follow the written laws, means they too were taught at least those laws they observe me following.

    Leaving the car-culture to teach is business as usual.

  4. Tim Sherman says:

    When I was waiting to take my driving test the radio was playing Don McClean’s American Pie. I was waiting in my mother’s 1976 Oldsmobile Cutless Supreme Brougham with the quadraphonic 8 track sound system. I had hair to my shoulders and a killer tan from working on a loacal farm. The examiner came out to the car and gave me a look that let me know that my future of driving and all of the time that I’d spent in drivers ed and studying to pass the written exam was on the line. Thanks to years of riding a bicycle to work on a farm before I was 16 where driving was needed by everyone I’d already been driving a wide range of trucks and tractors. At 14 I took a farm vehicle safety course required for kids working on farms and passed. I passed the vehicle driver exam at 98% that day. Today I ride my bike to work each day and don’t give much thought to my drivers education. I recently donated my 1973 Chevy pickup truck that I had been driving since high school.

  5. I live in Texas, and the attitude is SLOWLY changing. Texans do not yet have the political will to go after better bicycle anything. Yet.

  6. Misty says:

    @BluesCat, I grew up in Texas, and we aren’t all ignorant hillbillies. 🙂

    The ignorant hillbillies are actually the least of our problems, since they rarely, if ever, get involved with local politics. It’s the highly educated rich people who are the main problem, in my experience. They actively fight any attempt to put in bicycling infrastructure.

    Actually, I found biking to be the MOST pleasant in rural areas populated mainly by the “ignorant” hillbillies that you are mocking, because they are not so self-important as to think that they own the road. They recognize that the road is there as a public service, and are more likely to share it with pedestrians and cyclists.

    By contrast, when I lived in Dallas and biked to work every day, any time I had a frightening experience that involved a rude motorist, it was inevitably someone driving a very expensive car, wearing expensive clothing, who probably thought that his life was more valuable than anyone else’s simply because his Stuff was bigger and shinier. 😛

    Your comment shows an intense lack of understanding of the social environment of the area you are mocking. Considering that you are evidently a cyclist, who is probably often mocked by people who fail to understand bicycling culture, I find that oddly ironic.

  7. Karen says:

    The quotes cause me to wonder if anyone proofread the content of the drivers’ manuel and questioned the implication of the text. And if so, what was the response? Even for Texas, the message that pedestrians and cyclists present the danger is pretty stunning.

  8. Jeff Gardner says:

    Misty, I concur with everything you say. Did I mention ‘everything’?….

    Regarding Texas, it will not surprise you to know that my own experience commuting in San Antonio and environs for a couple of years mirrored your Dallas experience. But some/few/many police seemed (much) better informed on rules of the road than did woefully informed motorists. One cop who actually knew Texas travel law said he came to understand it by way of first having learned bicyclist rights and responsibilities….and that in his experience, of the roughly one motorist a year who actually knew and asserted the law during a traffic stop (thus avoiding a citation), for some reason most seemed to have a cycling background.

  9. BuenaGente says:

    Reading this article not only upsets me but clarifies why people drive the way they do here(San Antonio, TX) If only there was a better understanding for operating heavy machinery(Vehicles) and emphasize the dangers of reckless driving. Always reminds of a poem by Anis Mojgani, “For those who can ride in an airplane for the first time” heres an excerpt:

    In a world where egos are measured with tabloids, where automobiles are like morals, where beliefs are like naps, you leave them behind when somebody touches you.
    And in a place where oil takes precedence over life, I find myself sitting on a bus, when a little boy floats down like fresh water, carrying a book I used to read and asks if I want to see what he sees if only for a little while.

  10. BluesCat says:

    Misty –

    My comments regarding the “social environment” of Texas are based on a number of trips I made through that state from 1968 through 1981. I won’t go into all the details, but during those years I wore my hair shoulder length or longer and had the demeanor of what Steve Miller called a Space Cowboy.

    On every single visit to Texas, on every single stop there, it didn’t matter if it was at a gas station or a grocery store or a tavern … or even a CHURCH one time … there was at least ONE person who started in with the comments like “Which bathroom do yew use?” and “Where’d yew steal that nice car?” and “Yer kind ain’t welcome around here.” Most of the time those comments were made by guys, but that last one was made by The Church Lady.

    Interestingly enough, the only other state I’ve EVER had to deal with comments like that is in my home state of Arizona. Whenever I have fielded a comment about how racist we are here in AZ (and some of us Zonies are), or how “gun happy” we are (and some of us Zonies are), or how wildly conservative we are (and some of us Zonies really, REALLY are), I’ve treated it as an opportunity to “mock” myself and the residents of my home state by responding using the same tone and vernacular as my first post, above.

    It’s all in fun, but if you’re taking it as a serious knock on Texas … well … ya better come up with a more SERIOUS presidential candidate than RICK PERRY!

  11. BuenaGente says:


    Greetings from Texas, two houses down on the same street.
    I don’t recall 1968 very well since I was not born but from some readings found online I do know the civil rights act of 1968 passed “fair housing act” prohibited discrimination housing concerning the sale, rental, financing housing. 1981, 6 years before my birth. I believe many folks back then only have consisted of “silent generation” / “baby boomers”-eyewitnesses to the civil rights movement.

    Isnt the border a mess? America cannot keep drugs from entering prison insitutions but we can keep them from entering the country? Looks like we need to looks for better solutions…

    Hope you stop by soon.


  12. BluesCat says:

    BuenaGente –

    “Two houses down on the same street.” I LOVE that! Works so well as a description of the similar challenges Arizona and Texas face. As ready as I am to poke fun at myself and the residents of our two states, I think the American southwest is one of the best places to live on this planet.

    Keep the beer cold, BG! You’ve convinced me that I need to swing by to meet some more Texans and together we can solve our mutual problems.

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