Sunday, August 31, 2008
One of the horrors of public roads that all cyclists fear is the constant danger of being attacked by giant killer cats. The American Bike Lane Federation says stripes along the edges of roads keep the cats away, making them safer for bicyclists. This photo provides the necessary proof that painted road shoulder lanes protect bicyclists, and therefore make cycling more attractive to the novice cyclist.
Let's look at the photographic evidence. Giant killer cat + no painted lanes on the road edges = no cyclists. What more proof do you need?
Have a great Labor Day.
Saturday, August 30, 2008
A standard engraved and certified yardstick.
Marcel Duchamp's "Standard Stoppages"... randomly configured one meter measuring sticks.
A minimum 0.6-m (2-foot) wide graded area with a maximum 1:6 slope should be maintained adjacent to both sides of the path; however, 0.9 m (3 feet) or more is desirable to provide clearance from trees, poles, walls, fences, guardrails or other lateral obstructions. Where the path is adjacent to canals, ditches or slopes down steeper than 1:3, a wider separation should be considered. A minimum 1.5 m (5-foot) separation
from the edge of the path pavement to the top of the slope is desirable. Depending on the height of embankment and condition at the bottom, a physical barrier, such as dense shrubbery, railing or chain link fence, may need to be provided.
American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities, Chapter 2, Design, page 36.
Now, look at these pictures and tell me...
... is this new trail three feet from the stone wall (AASHTO recommended clearance from pavement's edge), two feet from the wall (AASHTO minimum allowable clearance from pavement's edge), or a mere one foot from the low stone wall?
When responsible engineers read recommendations for clearances from obstacles, they increase the clearance if at all possible, to ere on the side of safety. When landscape architects read recommendations, they try to figure out a way to make it artistic.
But how would a jury in an injury lawsuit read the recommendations? Would they be swayed by the art or by the science?
BTW: You won't find a more beautiful multi-use path than this one. Is that part of the problem?
P.S. Duchamp (one of my personal heroes) went to great lengths (no pun intended) to explain his methodology in the creation of his Standard Stoppages (which he used to replace rulers in many later works). He explained how he took one meter long pieces of cord, and held them taught, horizontal to the floor at a height of one meter. He then released both ends of the cord simultaneously, and let them fall onto some paper, where he traced the gentle curves that were formed. How elegant.
Trouble is, it was a lie. He created the curved lines to his liking, and then invented a mythical methodology to justify it. The myth was the methodology. Sort of like those trail pictures above.
Comments by Andy Clarke, League of American Bicyclists Executive Director, on the League Cycling Instructors forum:
Serge, I suggest you get back onto the Chainguard list and reassure them that the LCI program is all the better for having people like (Madam X) in its ranks. Not only that, I'd encourage them to actually listen in and even participate in the program and hear what she has to say about the situation in Dallas and her heroic efforts to make it a half decent city in which to ride a bike - through education and more besides. It might just be that she uses the video footage to document teachable moments for her students, the media and a wide audience of people.
It's one thing to anticipate those around you will do the stupidest thing imaginable (and drivers rarely disappoint) , it's quite another to accept such a darwinian approach to traffic operations with equanimity, let alone self-loathing.Dallas is not [currently] a good city in which to ride a bicycle - that's why so few people do it, and why many of those that do stick their bikes on their cars and head out of town for a ride. It's why the few decent places to ride in Dallas (e.g. White Rock Lake) are so popular that cyclists are in conflict with local residents. Many US cities are in the same boat (yes, Atlanta, I'm talking about you!) and it would be grossly irresponsible of me to suggest that every road in every city is a wonderful place for people to ride. Our mission, through advocacy and education, is to change that and make it happen.
An Open Letter to Andy Clarke, LAB, and LCIs.
August 28, 2008
League of American Bicyclists
Dear Andy, et al,
I couldn't help but read your rather uninformed and misleading comments about cycling in Dallas on the LCI forum. What I believe you meant to say was that Dallas doesn't employ bike lanes, and is therefore bicycle unfriendly (by your criteria). A point-by-point refutation of your comments would be pointless (I already did that with the fact-deprived Bicycling Magazine hit piece I now suspect you may have contributed to), but I will endeavor to counter your uninformed opinions with facts.
Our trip mode share for bicycle/pedestrians is as high as 12% in the core of the city (not just the downtown area with its high ped rates, but in the close-in residential areas). The mode share for the broad prairie expanse in suburban-like north Dallas and the suburban communities north and east of Dallas, with single family homes on 1/4 and 1/2 acre lots, is below 1%. Not much Dallas can do about much of that... these towns seem to resent us trying to tell them what to do.
For the city proper, our trip mode share for bicycles and pedestrians equals or exceeds that of our light rail and bus public transportation system (neither as high as I'd like to see, but with the lowest population density of any MSA in the nation, and among the longest average commute distances, I'm pleased we've had some success).
Did I fail to mention the lack of a major public or private university in my fair city, and the automatic bump of 10,000 - 75,000 potential part-time cyclists that a university automatically brings? Take Oregon State University out of Corvallis, and tell me what you'd see. Take the University of Wisconsin out of Madison and look at the results. Unmentioned by anyone is the dismal rate of continuing cycling activity of college and university students nursed on bike-lane systems once they enter the mainstream, either because it never "takes", or because they take the "cyclist inferiority complex" that bike-lane systems engender to heart.
The "June of Death" horror stories that garnered so much attention for Dallas cover a 12 county region the size of Delaware and Rhode Island combined (plus some), with almost 5 million people, over roughly an eight week period. Two cyclists' deaths were on a rural road when a speeding SUV driven by a DUI hit them early on a Sunday morning. Another teenage cyclist died in a suburb of unclear causes (beyond being hit by a car). Another "cyclist" died in another county when her mother backed over her in the driveway of their home. That was it. No cyclist deaths in the City of Dallas, btw. There were a few non-fatal collisions as well (including one very serious collision within the city), as there always are in the late spring, and always will be. Rumors, exaggerations, and (quite frankly) fear-mongering spread like wildfire, in large part because of the primarily suburban advocacy group BikeDFW innocently basking in the always anti-cycling media's warm glow ("if it bleeds, it leads") in what I feel was their misguided attempt to draw attention to the needs of cyclists.
Statistically, there was no outbreak of deaths or injuries outside of the national norm, just as the rate of cycling is consistent with the land use patterns. Some of the cyclists you must have talked to in this area, the loudest complainers, are the very ones responsible for several bike bans in rural communities due to their Saturday and Sunday morning mass training rides that flagrantly break traffic laws, and block intersections, causing all cyclists to suffer due to their selfish and boorish behaviors. And then they complain.
Is everything perfect here? Hardly, especially not in the far northern suburbs. But neither is it anyplace else, either. Is Dallas "bicycle unfriendly, with no place to ride, and no one riding" as you said? Absolutely untrue.
The City of Dallas has:
- The nation's largest bicycle commuter system based upon the principals of Vehicular Cycling, guided in its conception by Effective Cycling adherents, and EC Certified Instructors.
- 800 lane miles of signed, cyclist selected bike routes -- 700 miles of which are on low volume local streets -- that will easily convey a competent cyclist anywhere in town.
- 30 lane miles of thoroughfares with wide outside lanes.
- All parallel drain grates removed on over 3500 miles of city streets and replaced with bicycle friendly grate designs (a seemingly small, yet very expensive, and very important, project solely for the benefit of bicycle transportation). BTW, I still see parallel drain grates in cities LAB deems "bike friendly".
- Special attention paid to adjusting signal detectors to find the "sweet spot" that allows bicycles to be detected without false triggers of passing perpendicular traffic.
- 50 lanes miles of streets on the inventory needs list to get WOLs when the streets are reconstructed (ever try widening a street in an historic district? Or taking away a business or homeowners parking? I thought not.).
- If MUPs are your thing, Dallas has 100 miles of paved trails, 35 of which serve a truly viable transportation function. Another 75 miles of 12' wide concrete trails are either currently under construction, in design, or fully funded waiting for funds availability (tied to budget years).
- You may view the commuter route system here, in operation since 1985.
- The City of Dallas does not have bike lanes. The City of Dallas does not employ paint in an attempt to provide a false sense of security to bicyclists on public roads.
Frankly, I'm very disappointed in both you and LAB. Your comments aren't just directed at the City of Dallas. Ultimately, your comments are directed at the very concept of Vehicular Cycling, and the core principals that the League was founded upon.
ECI (and former LCI) # 349
Friday, August 29, 2008
Dutch cyclists want air bags on outside of cars
Tue Apr 22, 2008 10:27am EDT
AMSTERDAM (Reuters Life!) - Air bags in cars have helped cut traffic deaths in recent years and now cyclists want to benefit too.
The Dutch Cycling Federation said a study showed that 60 lives could be saved a year if air bags were installed on the hoods of cars, where cyclists are typically hit in accidents. External air bags could also cut 1,500 serious injuries a year.
"In the past many measures have been taken to protect those sitting inside cars but hardly anything has been done to protect people outside cars," it said in a statement .
"The federation calls on politicians and the car industry to take measures that could limit the chance of serious injury."
The organization said 216 cyclists died in the Netherlands in 2006, including 106 in crashes with cars.
It said Sweden's , the world's biggest air bag and seat belt maker, had already developed a bag that inflates from the bottom of the windscreen.
Cycling has always been popular in this flat country that is well-served by cycle lanes and home to 18 million bikes for its 16 million people.
Of course, next we'll need air-bag fanny packs, air-bag helmets, or we could just all wear air-bag suits... like the Michelin Man.
Thursday, August 28, 2008
"re: Dedicated Bike Lanes: The Dallas city bicycle coordinator believes dedicated bike lanes are the Spawn of Satan. For better or worse, don't expect to see any as long as he's around."
-- Dallas Morning News reader comment, 8/28/2008
There is a certain peace in clarity of mission, I suppose.
Wednesday, August 27, 2008
(This post is from the CycleDallas vaults, and was originally written in the late 1990s for the Greater Dallas Bicyclists "Spokesman" and reprinted in "The Living Room" and other publications, but it bears repeating.)
The Texas Department of Transportation recently sponsored a “Pedestrian and Bicyclist Safety and Accommodation” workshop put on by the U.S. Department of Transportation, the Federal Highway Administration, and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. The course was put on for TxDOT engineers and Safety coordinators, as well as local law enforcement officers and transportation planners. The presenters were Dan Burden (previously the Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator for the Florida Department of Transportation) and Kirby Beck (Effective Cycling Instructor, bicycle police officer from Coon Rapids, Minn., and a board member of I.M.B.P.A.).
The three-day course is an informative, if shallow by necessity, overview of bicycle/pedestrian transportation issues. There were many great case studies of bike paths, lanes, wide outside lanes, tunnels, bridges, and other treatments to make cycling safer and more convenient -- including bike helmets and “conspicuity” (I love that word -- it sounds like something my grandfather did that required him to keep a spittoon handy). But there was an over-riding (although beneath the surface) message that needs to be addressed.
By focusing so much attention on safety, we are communicating an entirely different message -- one that has been picked up by cycling’s foes. The unintentional message that we are sending is this: “Bicycling is an unsafe activity.” Add to that message our preoccupation with expensive gadgets and highly specialized equipment (not to mention Lycra shorts), and we are reinforcing the all too common belief that cycling is a remote and esoteric activity.
A local city councilman, in explaining why he was voting for a mandatory bicycle helmet ordinance for all ages, compared cycling to skydiving! See if you can follow me on this: jumping out of a plane a couple of miles above land and hoping that a glorified bed sheet will stop your fall doesn’t require a law making the skydiver wear a helmet, but getting on a bicycle to ride a mile to the local 7-11 does. If that doesn’t make sense to you, just look at the visual similarity between a cyclist dressed for a winter ride and a skydiver preparing to jump out of a plane at 20,000 feet. Goggles, gloves, bright colors, helmet, and tight-fitting clothes are all common between the two. But is the attitude?
I always find it ironic for a bicycle/pedestrian expert to show slide after slide of cyclists in Europe and Asia safely using bicycles for transportation, but who then launches into a warning about the dangers of cycling by showing all the hazards that exist here. The irony is compounded when they offer the magic elixir of bike safety; a bike helmet (or as some more accurately prefer to call them, a bicycle crash helmet). I too have been guilty of pushing bike helmets beyond their reasonableness. I won’t launch into this except to point out that the design speed of bike helmets matches the safety requirements of life on the bike path (mirroring the conditions of European and Asian cycling, oddly enough), not life on the streets. If a bike helmet offered real protection from automobiles, it wouldn’t say inside it, “Not for use with motor vehicles.”
The simple fact is that such a lightweight helmet (lightweight by design and necessity) can only offer protection from low speed crashes. But don’t mistake low speed for low danger. At relatively low speeds, the sudden stop caused by a head hitting a concrete curb at only a few miles per hour can cause severe trauma to the brain. Falling off a bike while standing still, if the head strikes a hard surface, can be very dangerous. On rare occasions, it can even be fatal.
Very rare occasions, it turns out. But we are reacting like death is at our door, inviting us along on a bike ride! If bicycling was as dangerous as many wish us all to believe it is (cycling professionals as well as politicians and pro-helmet activists), our political and economic tensions with Communist China, Japan, and Asia would be greatly reduced. There wouldn’t be anyone to threaten us (perhaps those bodies in Tiananmen Square were only cyclists who had died while riding around the square).
Because the rhetoric is so intense, it’s easy to be misunderstood on this issue. But we need to look at the monster we have created in “bike safety.” I have even heard one nationally prominent cycling advocate compare bike safety to gun safety. “There we go again,” equating bicycles with life threatening activities, when we should be emphasizing (both to cyclists and non-cyclists) the health benefits of cycling.
When did cycling begin to be seen as a health threat and not as a healthy activity? In talking to some friends in the bicycle retail industry, it seems that it was the aftermath of the 70’s Energy Crisis that sparked “the great fear.” Recall how an existing bicycle boom was fueled even faster by the gasoline price shocks. Nationwide, people who otherwise used bicycles only to define ceiling height in their garages, began riding their bicycles to work, school, and on errands.
Where does an inexperienced bicycle commuter ride their bike? On the same streets that they drive their cars (it’s the only route they know). These inexperienced cyclists soon found that mixing with high speed automobiles on multi-lane thoroughfares and on crowded, narrow roads, wasn’t much fun. It not only felt dangerous, without the proper skills it was dangerous.
When fuel supplies increased (and gasoline prices decreased slightly), these people abandoned their bikes for the “safety” of their cars. The bike boom went bust. A panicked cycling industry began looking for reasons for the bust and identified “safety” as a prime suspect. Two solutions were adopted; bike lanes to protect bicycles from cars, and bike helmets to protect the cyclists.
The great irony here is that “safety” didn’t fuel a new cycling boom -- mountain bikes did. And how were (and are still) mountain bikes advertised? As gonzo fun toys for death-defying, risk-takers! But what was the real appeal? An upright, stable riding position. In a classic marketing campaign borrowed from the automobile industry, consumers were shown gonzo wild-men (and wild-women) flying through the air coming down Mt. Tam in Northern California. In the store, however, the vast majority of consumers were buying low-pressure, fat tired, upright riding bikes that have about as much in common with pro racing bikes as your Chevy in the driveway has to do with a NASCAR racer (very little).
Do you see what we are doing? We are promoting bicycles to gentle people by showing them how dangerous they are as part of the advertising. Their experience is that cycling is safe and fun, but we are telling them that it is dangerous. People all too often believe what they are told by ad agencies more than what they learn from experience. How many guys with beer guts and a six-pack of Bud pick up super-models in thong bikinis? How many young women become successful by smoking Virginia Slims? That’s advertising overcoming reality.
Here’s the message we should be sending out; Cycling is safe and fun! Very safe and very fun. Crashes happen (and can be avoided), and a helmet is a very good safety precaution. I never leave home without mine, because it is pretty cheap insurance. But cycling must be put into relationship with other risks. Statistically, stairs are a far more dangerous place than bicycles. Bathtubs are a far more dangerous place. Jungle Gyms? Give me a break (no pun intended).
How much more dangerous are stairs, bathtubs, swing-sets, and riding in a car than riding a bicycle? I don’t know, because the Head Injury Prevention lobby won’t release that data for fear of showing that their demands for mandatory bicycle helmet laws are unjustified (the chairman of the local bike helmet law advocacy group withheld that information because he felt that the data would, “be used against mandatory helmet laws.”)
Now say after me, “Cycling is safe and fun.”
“Cycling is safe and fun.”
That’s the point that the League of American Bicyclists makes in Effective Cycling*. Effective Cycling courses teach cyclists how to be prepared for most any conditions they will meet on the road: how to behave in traffic, how to dress for the weather (cold, rain, and heat), how to keep your bike in good mechanical condition. Why it’s a good idea to wear a helmet. These are the skills that prevent crashes, not just mitigate the danger. And perhaps more importantly, there is no false sense of security imparted in developing Effective Cycling skills, only the confidence gained from understanding your environment.
Obey the laws, wear your helmet, don’t be foolish (riding at night without good lighting is about as smart as working on your toaster without unplugging it), and have fun. Live long and prosper.
Repeat after me. “Cycling is safe and fun.”
“Cycling is safe and fun.”
“Cycling is safe and fun.”
“Cycling is safe and fun.”
Now let’s shut up and ride!
* Editor's Note: That was then, this is now. The League of American Bicyclists has adopted the fear campaign as its model now, pushing paint and paths as "The Solution". The developer of Effective Cycling, John Forester, withdrew LAB's right to use the name "Effective Cycling" over concerns they were watering it down (IIRC). LAB now has a similar, but less stringent, program called BikeEd. LAB's message of fear has filtered down to the course, with paint and paths supplementing vehicular cycling skills. Snake Oil. No small wonder politicians like it.
Tuesday, August 26, 2008
Cyclists And Drivers Vie For Space On The Road
Talk of the Nation, August 26, 2008 · High gas prices and heightened environmental awareness have led more bicyclists to take to already-congested streets. Road rage has escalated quickly — drivers complain that cyclists ignore traffic laws and cyclists contend that drivers deliberately try to run them down.You can listen to the program here.
Early on with this blog, I made the necessary decision that I wouldn't post any comments from Anonymous posters. Leads to no good. I chose to not conceal myself behind a screen name, even though it puts me at some risk, for while this is a private citizen's weblog advocating utilitarian/vehicular cycling in and around Dallas, some do not feel that a person like myself can have a "private" presence.
I respect, if not always agree with, every person who posts comments here. I do not expect you to agree with me just because I say something. But I believe a common-sense, analytical approach will dispel many of the myths regarding bicycling as an alternative transportation mode. Dialog is important if we are to accomplish anything in our shared interest, as is civility.
Adventures in missing the point.
This is what passes for commercial "bicycle advocacy"... a 1-1/2' gutter-lane ghetto to ride in on a quiet street (by the accepted design standards, the gutter pan should not be counted as part of the bike lane). This ad was produced by a highly respected suburban bike shop chain that is one of the nation's top 5 bike retailers (IIRC), but whose owner repeats the propaganda that Dallas is bicycle unfriendly because it doesn't provide bike lanes.
Because of the useless design of this "bike gutter", notice how far to the left the rider is? A passing car (or truck with wide mirrors) will pass this cyclist closer and faster than if the cyclist was another foot or so out from the curb. Why? Because the motorist won't have to deflect their line, but will continue ahead as if the cyclist wasn't there. If the cyclist was "commanding their lane", the motorist would have to deflect – pull out to pass – usually reducing their speed as well as giving the cyclist more clearance (as demonstrated by the UT/TxDOT bike lane study, which they considered a bad result).
A vehicular cyclist in this situation runs the risk of being a victim of motorist aggression... "HONK!!! Get back into your bike lane! HONK!!!", thereby creating danger doubly where no great danger previously existed.
I don't understand why the cyclist in the picture doesn't just get up on the sidewalk, away from the "evil-cars" that so terrify him/her. Very sad.
A tip of the helmet visor to stu42j for passing this along.
Monday, August 25, 2008
Here's an EXCELLENT post (see what large letters I am using... this is important) on the Orlando Bike Commuter Blog about door zone bike lanes.
Please read this, and understand this is the norm for bike lane installations. This is what those who advocate bike lanes are happy with. With friends like these, who needs enemies?
When someone refers to bicyclists as "bikers", I am always quick to correct them. "Say bicyclists, or cyclists, please," say I, "bikers are the guys with leather jackets."
You've seen the movies: outlaw bikers dressed in matching gang "colors" descend on a small town and terrorize the law-abiding citizens by disrupting small town life and traffic. Teenage girls are harassed, gentle men are taunted, tempers flare, and the sheriff comes in to restore order.
You've been on the rallies: scofflaw bikers wearing colorful club jerseys descend on a small town and terrorize the law-abiding citizens by disrupting small town life and traffic. Housewives are harassed, men are aggravated, tempers flare, and the sheriff comes in to restore order.
In North Texas, several rural/exurban cities have instituted bike bans on key roads due to bike rallies and large training rides (mostly the latter). Cyclists who spend a lot of time riding in these events come to expect controlled intersections, suspended traffic laws (for them), and a growing suspicion that the only way they can safely ride their bikes on public roads is in large groups where the traffic laws are suspended, either legally or illegally. Bad habits are encouraged. Fears are institutionalized.
I was recently asked how a mass ride in Dallas could aid my cause (our cause).
Here's my answer:
1) No mass start. Sent the 2,000 riders out in groups of four at fifteen second intervals. Ride starts from 6:00 to 8:00 AM.
2) No controlled intersections, no police waving cyclists through intersections, no wrong way routes on one-way streets. No course guides. Give the riders a route map/cue sheet as they leave the checkpoint.
3) Rest Stops are check-points. Cyclists must sign-in and depart from rest-stops are the same as before... groups of four every fifteen seconds.
4) Award BIG prizes from randomly drawn cyclist's numbers... drawn from those who successfully checked in at every check-point, and followed the rules.
5) Award ribbons and trophies for the riders who maintain an average speed closest to 15, 12, and 10 mph.
I'm still not holding my breath. And yes, I use to run SCCA TSD Rallies.
Sunday, August 24, 2008
Don't worry, be marginalized!
Any agency that installs bike-lanes should commit to a binding maintenance program of no less than monthly sweeping, and preferably weekly.
I'm not holding my breath.
Just a reminder: If the stripe was missing, so would be the debris. Another reason wide-outside-lanes are better than bike lanes.
Saturday, August 23, 2008
Here's another quote from the comments section, velociped quoting John Forester's comments from the Yahoo Chainguard discussion forum regarding bicycle transportation ironies:
velociped reported and then said..."The biggest irony in bicycle transportation is that those who advocate for bicycle traffic, the bicycle advocates, have so succumbed to the motorists' propaganda [—] that cyclists are incompetent roadway users who should be shoved aside for the convenience of motorists [—] that they advocate the same program ... devised by motorists. The next biggest irony is that those same bicycle advocates try to increase bicycle traffic by arguing that cycling is excessively dangerous, but that bikeways make it reasonably safe, despite there [being] no evidence supporting either part of this argument. Another irony is that these same bicycle advocates act as if they were suffering from an exaggerated fear of same-direction motor traffic and advocate measures that protect only against this exaggerated fear, and yet deny that they are suffering from a phobia. They rely on the phobia, yet they don't have it?"
Once one gets past the convoluted structure and run-on sentences, I think this just about sums it up nicely.
Friday, August 22, 2008
Dispelling the myth that I never listen... introducing the new design for the wildly popular Official CycleDallas 100% cotton T-shirt, yet still featuring the same lack-of-economy-of-scale pricing.
Command your lane, even in the grocery checkout!
Limited time special offer: For every five items purchased, CycleDallas will buy you a beer at the draught emporium of your choosing.
Thursday, August 21, 2008
I've touched on this several times here, that our attitudes impact our cycling experiences. But more than that, they impact public policy.
When people who are recognized or identified as leaders in the disorganized cycling community appear on TV, or in print, bemoaning how DANGEROUS cycling is, it plays right into the hands of the anti-cycling forces.
Mandatory Helmet Laws are pushed by people who believe cycling is inherently unsafe (with or without a helmet), and who admit that a reduction in cycling would be a good result of such a law. Fearful cyclists sign on because it supports their own view that cycling is dangerous.
Bike lanes and paths are pushed (in too many cases) by fearful cyclists who believe the streets are unsafe (lacking supporting evidence, but armed with anecdotes). Anti-cycling forces sign on to these attempts because it advances their agenda to get cyclists off the road.
Cycling is an inherently SAFE activity, if done with good training, responsible attitudes, and reasonable precautions.
These following links are MUST reads.
Another crappy cellphone pic.
I ride reflectorized (the best defense is offensive attire).
When I stick my hand out to signal, it isn't. So I took a small strip of reflectorized material, cut it to size, and stuck it on the tabs of my fashionably retro-grouch cycling gloves. Now when I stick my hand out, up, or down in low light conditions, the back of my hand is illuminated by the lights of any vehicles coming up behind me.
Why don't glove manufacturers do this? Or do they, and I don't know it?
Like I said, it's a small thing.
Wednesday, August 20, 2008
A comment/response to a post below deserves more prominent exposure.
How do cyclist fight for their rights? I mean, it's sort of like you and I trying to push the Titanic out of port. It'll take 100 years to move it an inch.
Everyone wanted to sail on the Titanic because it was "safe". All the "experts" agreed.
Archimedes once famously remarked: "Give me a place to stand and with a lever I will move the whole world." The trick is to choose the right place to stand, not necessarily the trendy place, the glamorous place, the seemingly obvious place, or the place commonly accepted wisdom dictates, but the right place. And you need a good lever.
Stand in the right place ("Cyclists fare best when they act, and are treated, as the drivers of other vehicles." --John Forester, Effective Cycling), and choose the right lever ("Bicycles are vehicles and have all the rights, and responsibilities, of other vehicles..." --Texas Transportation Code).
If you stand in the wrong place, your efforts will be for naught. If you choose the wrong lever, it will break off in your hands. What I hear many recreational cyclists demanding (on street recreational facilities) reflects BOTH the wrong place and the wrong lever.
Streets were not invented for cars, they were invented for people. Paved streets were popularized for BICYCLES, cars were invented to take advantage of the paved streets that bicycles made popular. The place to stand is as a confident vehicle operator. The lever is the Law.
Tuesday, August 19, 2008
Poland, Origami -- The City of Poland Origami, long considered the most bicycle friendly city in America, with more than 50% of all bike shop owners and bicycle industry lobbyists saying so, has decided to expand their self-recognized successes with bike lanes and other Magick Painte treatments to the development of new special facilities for motor-scooters.
"We are proud today to extend the same reasoning we use to install and promote bike lanes on city streets to now include Magick Painte facilities for limited access highways," says Poland's Director of Fringe Transportation Planning, Thaddeus "Scooter" Traylor, PhD, PE (Physical Education). "Poland is a very hip community, and if you aren't riding a bike, and you want to be hip, you ride a motor scooter. But evil-cars hate motor scooters too, and they are vulnerable to getting run over just like a bicycle, so we decided to treat scooters the same as bicycles, only different."
In phased implementation program, Poland will begin by painting a pale Celeste green, 5' wide striped lane between bike lanes and evil-car lanes (as cars will heretofore be officially designated in Poland). The "Vespa Lane", as it will be known, will parallel all bike lanes. There will be special pale green Vespa Boxes painted behind the darker green Bike Boxes at signalized intersections. When the light turns green, bicyclists go first, while the scooter drivers count to six. After six, they may proceed. Evil-car drivers must count to 12 before proceeding, but must say "Mother, may I?" before advancing.
One of the advantages of scooters is their ability to maintain a high speed (25 mph) for long distances (250 miles), making them perfect vehicles for limited access highway use. As Phase Two is deployed, new "Vespa Lanes" will be painted on the outside edge of all limited access highways in Poland, and hopefully soon in the entire State of Origami. Where the evil-car traffic exits the freeways, special pale-green "Celestial Vespa Paths" will be painted across the high speed exit ramps to tell evil-car drivers they should stop to wait for the scooter to come by. To assure scooter drivers that evil-car drivers will indeed stop, a new law has been passed requiring motorists exiting freeways to come to a complete stop before crossing a pale green Celestial Vespa Path. If no scooter is in sight, the evil-car must remain stopped until a scooter does come by. Only after a scooter has passed in front of the stopped automobile may an evil-car proceed onto the highway exit ramp.
Mr. Traylor continues, "This application will prove once again that nobody is as creative as Poland Origami when it comes to dealing with transportation issues."
The Cyclist Inferiority Complex is real, and it is persuasive.
It robs us of the very freedom bicycles promise. It is the common ground where anti-bicyclist politicians/bureaucrats and ill-prepared, irresponsible cyclists come together. The bait is "safe" cycling without taking any responsibility, whether it's a path or paint.
Resist the temptation to collaborate with the enemy! Don't be confined to a ghetto of glorified sidewalks and refuse lanes. Just say "NO!" to paint and bad MUP designs. Demand MUPs that connect to places you need to go, that are designed for cyclists, not just pedestrians and runners. Demand roadway designs that work for cyclists, not just cars. Speak up for cyclists's rights, or face losing them! Take responsibility for yourself, and take your lane. Exercise your legal rights, while fulfilling your legal obligations. Don't be a curb-bunny or a scofflaw.
And watch out for the collaborators who sleep with the enemy.
Saturday, August 16, 2008
And now I ride it. Meet my new bike. Well, my new used bike.
It's a Breezer Itzy, a 19lb single-speed folder. It's NOT a toy, but a tool. It has high pressure pneumatic tires, front and rear caliper brakes, a bell (all my bikes have bells), and a kickstand for convenience. Joe Breeze, the founder of Breezer Bicycles who was a pioneer in the mountain bike field, now devotes his business efforts to utilitarian and urban commuter bikes only. This is an example.
I bought it from a PhD student from the University of Connecticut. She was serving an internship at TI which just ended, and now she's heading back to U of C, selling possessions in preparation.
This is much more compact than my Birdy (thought not nearly as sophisticated... or as expensive), and is best suited for short trips. A 3/4 mile trip from the DART Station at Ervay to Das Bunker is just about the right distance. It fits in an IKEA shopping bag.
The seller was a young Chinese lady, and she was very concerned that someone was going to take good care of "her" (as she referred to the bike). She needn't worry. I think I'll name it after her.
Folks, meet Xiaoxiao (shee'ou-shee'ou), the itzy-bitzy breezy bike.
This is a tricky message for me. I produced a bumper sticker like this in the mid 1990s, and I'm considering doing it again. My point was one of graciousness. The prevailing share the road message is usually one of demand, which I feel borders on antagonism... SHARE THE ROAD WITH CYCLISTS, DAMMIT!
I try not to antagonize people who could do me physical harm unintentionally, just out of their knee-jerk reaction behind the wheel of their 4,000 lb Suburban.
The 1990s version read, Thank You for Sharing the Road with Bicycles. This time around, I'm leaning towards BICYCLISTS... humans as opposed to machines. But does this message, with its tone of courteousy, indicate hesitancy?
I think not, but I strive towards a positive message whenever possible (at least in public). I am seeking input.
The discussion lamp is lit.
Friday, August 15, 2008
I saw a fascinatingly sad Op-Ed in the Corvallis Oregon Gazette-Times yesterday.
Corvallis is renowned for having the most extensive bike lane system in the world* (see update at bottom of post). 95% of the arterial and collector streets have bike lanes, but in this town of 50,000 people (half of whom are students, faculty, or staff of Oregon State), that's just 45 miles of bike lanes. The city has even committed to sweep them once a month (twice a week during the "leaf-fall" month).
But there appears to be troubles in Paradise (yet again), and the city's Bicycle Advisory Committee has recommended removing the striped bike-lanes along one section of thoroughfare and replacing them with "sharrows". Nothing else changes. The street doesn't get narrower. But following Denver's lead, the stripe goes away, and the sharrow comes out.
The Op-Ed writer shows a sense of panic that is enlightening. She has placed her entire cycling faith in the safety that a 6" paint stripe promises to afford her. She reveals by her protest that she is afraid to ride her bike on a street without a stripe (regardless of available road width). When the bike lane ends, I presume she gets off her bike and walks on the sidewalk (more likely, she now RIDES on the sidewalk, inflicting the same terror on pedestrians she feels from automobiles).
And herein lies one of the many problems with bike lanes... rather than embolden cyclists to become more proficient and competent vehicular cyclists, as ProBike/BikeFed says they will, they instead inhibit the development of the skills and confidence cyclists need to use a bicycle safely as part of the transportation mix.
Fear-driven bicycle facilities and planning will ALWAYS result in cyclists being seen as, and acting as, third-class users of the transportation infrastructure.
I leave you with this oxymoron quote from the Op-Ed,
Take heart, cyclists, and take your lane!
* UPDATE: Oddly enough, this massive effort on Corvallis' part has had little or no impact on bicycle trip mode share. Prior to their big installation of bike lanes, Corvallis had a 9+% trip mode share for bicycles (remember, fully 50% of this relatively flat town's population is attached to the university).
After the installation, the mode share had risen to about 10%... roughly the same percentage increase cycling had experienced nationwide. A question I've always wanted answered is: Did the bike lanes siphon cyclists off the local streets and onto the arterials and collectors where there are higher/faster traffic volumes?
Another question would be: Was this really another "bicycle control" installation to keep the bikes from interfering with the cars?
Tuesday, August 12, 2008
Is a bicycle a tool...
...or a toy?
Both of these bicycles have fenders and bags. One of them is mine, but I'm not telling you which one.
I had an interesting (and civil) exchange with a Dallas-area cyclist who claimed Dallas was bicycle-unfriendly. Following my presentation of hundreds of miles of local streets that interconnect, allowing easy bicycle access to anyplace in town (for all but the worst curb-bunnies), he responded that what he meant was that he couldn't ride for more than a few minutes without seeing a car backing out of a driveway, or come to an intersection where cars are, or passing a yardman with a weedeater. In other words, anything in normal urban life made his cycling experience less than pleasant (potentially).
This, obviously, is part of the reasoning behind the ongoing complaints from certain cyclists about having their on-street bike path taken away from them. I use "on-street bike path" not just because that's what it was, but also because of the association the words "bike path" have with a park facility. A bike lane, as bad as they are, is a transportation control device, as opposed to a recreational facility. When I look at a bike, I see a utilitarian, vehicular tool to something constructive with. To go somewhere, from Point A to Point B.
Many dedicated cyclists look at a bike and see a toy... an expensive toy, but a toy nonetheless. They want to do something deconstructivist. They want to go from Point A to Point A. I'm not saying this is without benefit or value. Fitness is good. Recreation is necessary. Fun is a good thing (it is "fun", isn't it?). But in a urban setting, this begins to be akin to someone wanting to play stick-ball in the streets of New York City.
You can have fun ON the streets without playing IN the streets.
Monday, August 11, 2008
David Luskin (left) and Ian Hallett (right) compiled and evaluated data on the interactions of cyclists and drivers in three Texas cities to uncover the impact of labeled bike lanes on road safety behaviors. The study funded by the Texas Department of Transportation was conducted by the researchers at the Center for Transportation Research at The University of Texas at Austin.
Here's a fascinating story from the UT School of Engineering that should dissuade anyone from ever thinking that a P.E. behind a name is worth anything more on face value than the ink (or pixels) used to render it. Or the letters AICP.
The City of Dallas passed on the chance to participate in this study, as the pre-study questionnaire was so full of hidden biases indicating that the intent of the "study" was only to justify an already agreed upon conclusion. That's not science. It's propaganda (an area in which I was trained in another life).
WARNING! Do not be drinking fluids while reading this article!
To whet your appetite, I'll feed you this closing howler from the story:
“Bike lanes reinforce the concept that bicyclists are supposed to behave like other vehicles, and make life safer for everyone involved as a result,” Hallett said.
Sunday, August 10, 2008
When you're lost in the rain in Juarez
And it's Eastertime too
And your gravity fails
And negativity don't pull you through
Don't put on any airs
When you're down on Rue Morgue Avenue
They got some hungry women there
And they really make a mess outa you
-- Bob Dylan, Just Like Tom Thumb Blues
One of the things I notice in so many cyclists is a spirit of negativity, which I presume is a by-product of the cycling inferiority complex. The owner of the largest bicycle retail stores in the USA (mostly located in Dallas' northern suburbs) says that Dallas is the worst city for cycling in America, even though his shop's training rides have led to multiple bike bans in the area. Cyclists who use the ten mile loop of 12' wide trails and local roads circling White Rock lake cry about not having a bike lane on 1000' of Mockingbird Lane. It's too hot, it's too windy, it's too hilly, it's too flat. Bottom line: excuses. It's always somebody else's fault.
The cyclists who know how to ride in a civil manner, either as vehicular cyclists or recreational cyclists, seldom complain. But the ones who want special privileges, who want laws enforced against others but never themselves, who believe there is safety either in the pack and on the path, these are the cyclists who complain. Every incident is the fault of someone else, and is cause for hysteria.
I estimate that 90% of the nation's efforts for promoting the bicycle as a viable transportation tool has been directed at this group... and I suspect they account for at best 10% of the people who use the bicycle as transportation.
As for me, I cannot move, and my fingers are all in a knot... or a fist.
Saturday, August 09, 2008
|“||I offer the following two points. The first is that the concept of sharrows is theoretically impossible to properly implement. As I understand it, painting a sharrow on the roadway, say at milepost 1.53, designates the appropriate lateral position for any cyclist coming along the roadway and passing that milepost. That's absurd, contrafactual. The second point is that we have quite strict standards for bike lane markings, but despite those standards, in many places we have bike lane markings that magnify the danger, that are even praised for doing so. Required by ignorant politicians, designed by compliant or ignorant traffic engineers or bikeway planners, and painted by people who try to follow the design but often fail. |
I fail to see better results from sharrows, except it appears that they are less harmful than stripes.
--John Forester, PE
The Discussion Lamp is lit.
Friday, August 08, 2008
Thursday, August 07, 2008
Wednesday, August 06, 2008
Do our Local Bike Shops (wherever you are) peddle the Bicycle Inferiority Complex, along with bikes, helmets, lights, locks, energy bars, gloves and high fashion? Is there economic benefit in pushing fear and intimidation?
For a long time I have been suspicious about the connection between marketing and public policy, and actually had a national bicycle manufacturing industry rep tell me stories about how the Industry used fear and biased statistics to not only market bikes and accessories, but also to lobby for laws which padded their bottom line.
Being something of a cynic, I didn't find this hard to believe. Example: The primary lobbying group behind the dubious medical studies on the effectiveness of bike helmets, and the passing of mandatory bicycle helmet laws, is funded almost entirely by the public relations arm of the primary manufacturer of bike helmets (not debating helmets here). Good marketing. People weren't buying helmets, even in the face of scare campaigns, so to increase sales, you simply get laws passed that make their purchase mandatory. Public service or self serving? I'll vote the latter in this case.
North Texas is the unfortunate site of several small town bike bans of varying degree. All of these bans are the result of the weekend rides held out of a local bike shop, rides that descend upon the rapidly growing exurbs north of Dallas, creating (in the eyes of the small town residents) havoc, with large packs of cyclists blocking intersections and ignoring traffic laws and signs. This is NOT local bicycle traffic, but out-of-towners descending upon them like the Wild Bunch (in the locals' eyes). It's a scenario that has been repeated time and time again.
Years ago, the chief of police of the suburban town these rides originate in asked me I if I knew how he could stop the reckless behavior of a couple of hundred scofflaw cyclists every Saturday morning. My response was, "You can stop this behavior in three weeks. Have motorcycle officers flag down every cyclists that breaks the law. Write them a ticket on the spot. If they can't provide proof of identity, take them to the police station until someone comes and vouches for them. I guarantee you this will put a stop to the activity."
The police chief replied that he couldn't do this, because these were all good citizens (despite being scofflaws). My response was, "Well, if you don't want to enforce the traffic laws, then I guess you don't really have a problem."
One of the cardinal rules of bicycle planning is application of the Four Es: Education, Engineering, Encouragement, and Enforcement. When you leave any element out, chaos can result. I see chaos all around me.
But Local Bike Shops (in most suburban communities) push Pack Riding over Civil Riding. Pack riding is for hammerheads and hammerhead-wannabes. It's really cycling as a recreational sport (not that there's anything wrong with that), but it encourages a "pack" mentality that deprives the individual of his/her civility. It's big on loading your bike on top of your car and driving someplace to ride, maybe even just a few miles... or less. What it's not big on is teaching vehicular cycling skills and vehicular cycling confidence.
Pack riding is for people who are afraid of the road, and for people who will ride like a "curb bunny", practically daring motorists to pass too closely. It's for people who believe that traffic regulations don't really apply to them. In a group ride, with group think, they'll ignore stop signs and traffic signals if the rider in front of them did. Group-ride-think reinforces the Cycling Inferiority Complex, and reinforces some motorists' anti-cyclist attitudes.
And when you teach Cycling Inferiority, you are always the victim. I hear from "victims" all the time. Victims want reparations.
Tuesday, August 05, 2008
Otto Wetzel, Charles Wyly, Patricia Meadows and Mary McDermott Cook.
Otto Wetzel died last week. You can read his obituary here.
Otto, who walked with two canes because of the effects of polio, owned a Brompton folding bicycle. Until just a few years ago, he'd ride his Brompton to the streetcar, ride the streetcar downtown, and then ride the Brompton to his office. A remarkable, remarkable man who will be greatly missed in many areas of intense interest to me and of incalculable benefit to my hometown (transportation, urban renewal, music, art, sustainable energy, and historic preservation).
And he wasn't a whiner.
Monday, August 04, 2008
What better way to start the week than to show another example of bad bike-lane design (skipping the question as to whether there is any such thing as good bike-lane design).
This is on a downtown street, in a city renowned as Texas' biggest believer in Magick Paint, passing in front of the Texas Department of Transportation's world headquarters. The door zone of that Toyota extends about half-way into the bike lane.
Imagine climbing this slight hill on your bike, staying in the middle/right on the lane to be clear of passing traffic (which tends to hug the right side of their travel lane), when suddenly a State Employee, running late for a bureaucratic paper-pushing meeting, flings open the driver's door on the Camry. If you have time, your immediate reaction is to jerk your bike to the left to clear the door... right into the path of whatever motorized vehicle is passing, perhaps a Metro bus. Sic transit gloria.
Sadly, it's not an unheard of cause of cyclist fatalities in bike lanes, and the incidence is roughly the same as being struck from behind on a non bike lane roadway (both very low on the cyclist death scale).
BUT, here's the catch. Incidences of cyclists being struck from behind mostly occur on low volume, higher speed roads in rural and ex-urban settings, and usually at night. On a street like the one pictured, a cyclist taking the lane would have been in no real risk of being struck from behind -- as simply being a slow moving vehicle in an urban setting, traffic would have merged to the left to pass. But by installing a 3-4' bike lane without sufficient clearances from the 8' parking lane, the danger of injury has been increased, not decreased. A proper design would have an 8' parking lane combined with a 5' bike lane and a 1' buffer between the parking lane and the bike lane. Why didn't the Gurus of Paint do this correctly?
I don't know. I didn't measure all the lanes widths at the time I took this picture (I was late for a meeting at TxDOT World Headquarters). Perhaps there's a solution; a combination of reducing travel lane widths, decreasing (or eliminating) on-street parking space (7' instead of 8') and increasing bike lane width (from 3-4' to 5-6'). It's a complex traffic engineering problem that impacts cars, bikes, buses, trucks, pedestrians, parking requirements, and emergency response vehicles. It's never simply a case of "let's paint a line", but always one of "how will this work?". And therein lies the tale. Bike lanes are almost always painted without real thought being given to their functionality on a yard by yard basis, or even a block by block basis.
But in this case, as in so many, the answer "bike lanes" was presented before the question "what works in the real world" was ever asked. Engineering by faith.
In all fairness to the public entity that designed this, they were trying to make something positive happen where perhaps doing nothing would have been better. I've seen far worse examples in some so-called "bicycle friendly" towns on the east and west coasts.
Sunday, August 03, 2008
There are several variations on this, some faster, some more direct. They're all fine.
It's a fairly easy commute, at the outside edge of the distances I recommend for people and planners. Ten miles is generally the maximum distance I suggest as a reasonable commute (although many of the most dedicated bicycle commuters easily double that distance). I prefer to focus on five miles, and I dream of the day one and two mile commutes make sense in my community. A one to two mile commute means you live and work in very close proximity, and that a bicycle will take about as long as a car trip, and will be considerably faster than walking. This requires urban high-density situations.
Many people still misunderstand the purpose of a bike route system. Lingering in the backs of our Bicycle Inferiority Complex minds (down near the "eat or be eaten" lizard brain) is the idea that bicycle routes are somehow "safer", or "the best". While either could be true, it's not necessarily the case, because the primary variable – the cyclists – have to make that decision themselves. The route system shows how many other cyclists navigate the same area. It's a suggestion that will get you where you want to go, but it never really rises above the level of a recommendation... after all, every city street is a bike route, even though many cyclists want to surrender that very basic right.
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Friday, August 01, 2008
"Paint Saves!" seems to be their mantra, whether it's white paint, blue paint, or green paint. I suppose she's become the new Benny Hinn of Bicycling.
In the Fort Worth Star Telegram's bicycling tips, I saw the Fort Worth Police Department say it was illegal to ride a bike on the shoulder of a highway. Again, not true, just wishful thinking from a "cars first" mindset.
In the Dallas Morning News' recent side bar on cycling tips, I saw a criminally negligent statement attributed to the Texas Legislature (?) that cyclists must ride "next to the curb". Not true. The law states that cyclists on standard width roadways shall ride "as close to the road edge as is practicable", which is a totally different thing. If the road edge is unsafe due to trash, drain inlets, and bad pavement, "practicable" can mean three feet (or more) out from the edge/curb. If the road lane is sub-standard width (meaning below 12', and most urban multi-lane road lanes are), the cyclist may "take the lane", providing they don't impede the flow of traffic. That last part doesn't having a car queue up behind you, it means not allowing cars to pass.
The instruction to "ride next to the curb or road edge" is the primary cause of one of the cycling accidents most bicyclists fear the most: getting struck from the rear by a passing motorist as the motorist overtakes. If the cyclist is riding three to five feet out from the road edge in those instances, the motorist gives the cyclist a wider berth while passing, actually pulling out to pass, as opposed to keeping a straight line and squeezing the willing sacrificial cycling victim against the curb.
Cyclists! Take the damn lane. It's yours!