Thursday, December 24, 2009
Wednesday, December 23, 2009
Friday, December 18, 2009
Most traffic lanes are designed to accommodate a single line of vehicles. Motorists rarely have more than a few feet of lateral movement available to them within that single travel lane. It never occurs to them to consider where in the lane they ought to be laterally, their only concern is that they remain within the lane itself.
Many states have codified it into law. Texas demands that a driver “shall drive as nearly as practical entirely within a single lane”.  So with only being required to keep it between the lines, few if any auto drivers have thought about where they ought to be within that lane.
Motorcyclists and bicyclists have broader choices about what it means to travel “entirely within a single lane” than automobile operators. Many common traffic hazards can be avoided with proper lane position for such narrow vehicles. On the other hand, improper lane positions can increase the hazards they are exposed to.
People who only drive automobiles would never think that it would be proper or safe to share any travel lane side-to-side with a truck, with another car or even with a motorcycle. And yet they expect to share the lane side-to-side with bicycles all the time.
SHARING THE LANE
Because our streets, roads and traffic laws are based on the principle that a travel lane is for a single line of vehicles, “sharing the lane” means, in most instances, that you travel behind the vehicle in front of you until it is safe to pass.
To enhance traffic through-put, slow vehicles are required to use the rightmost lane then available. That is, to form a single line of vehicles in the right-most lane. There is no motor vehicle, anywhere, that is required to share a lane side-by-side with another vehicle other than the bicycle.
It is against the law to share a lane side-by-side with a motorcycle.
Singling out bicyclists as a vehicle that must share a lane side-by-side with other traffic was obviously an attempt to make motoring more convenient. But the lane sharing law has exceptions, lest the rule imperil cyclists.
Many conditions exist that make sharing a lane side-by-side dangerous for a cyclist. It is often things like debris, potholes at the side of the lane, parked cars and the like. These sort of things can make what appears to a motorist as a wide lane to actually be narrowed for the cyclist, that is, making it a narrow lane.
The share the lane side-to-side rule cannot be interpreted to compromise a cyclist’s safety.
WHAT IS A NARROW LANE ?
A narrow lane is a lane that is too narrow for a large vehicle and a bicycle to share side-by-side, or two small cars to travel down together side-to-side. A lane that is wide enough to share when the speed of both vehicles is slow may not be safe to share side-by-side at higher speeds.
The slower moving vehicle has the right to refuse to share the lane side-by-side if that driver deems it unsafe. It is always the duty of the faster vehicle to overtake the slower one in a safe manner and with due care. Even if the bicyclist chooses a lane position that encourages overtaking within the same travel lane, it is the passing vehicle that is at fault if the cyclist is hit or is caused to fall.
NARROW LANE POSITIONS
Perhaps you are a motorist, and you are wondering what are some of the considerations that go into why a cyclist chooses the lateral lane position he does. Or perhaps you are thinking of riding a bicycle on the public streets, and this is all new for you. Here are some of the things we are concerned about as cyclists when deciding where to ride in the travel lane. It has been adapted from the Texas Motorcycle Operators Guide.
In some ways the size of a bicycle can work to your advantage. Each traffic lane provides a bicycle with three paths of travel; The right tire track, centered in the lane and the left tire track.
Your lane position should:
• Increase your ability to see and be seen.
• Avoid others’ blind spot.
• Avoid surface hazards.
• Protect your lane from encroachment from other drivers.
• Communicate your intentions.
• Avoid wind blast from other vehicles.
• Provide an escape route.
Select the appropriate position in the lane to maximize your space cushion and to make yourself more easily seen by others on the road. In general, there is no single best position for riders to be seen and to maintain a space cushion around them. No portion of the lane need be avoided–including the center.
Position yourself in the portion of the lane where you are most likely
to be seen and you can maintain a space cushion around you. Change
position as traffic situations change. Ride centered or on the right tire track if vehicles and other potential problems are on your left only. Remain centered or in the left tire track if hazards are on your right only. If vehicles are being operated on both sides of you, the center of the lane is usually your best option.
The greatest potential for conflict between you and other traffic is at
intersections. An intersection can be in the middle of an urban area
or at a driveway on a residential street–anywhere traffic may cross
your path of travel. Cars that turn left in front of you, and cars on side streets that pull into or across your lane, are the biggest dangers.
There are no guarantees that others will see you. Never count on “eye contact” as a sign that a motorist will yield. Too often, they look
right at a cyclist and still fail to “see” him. The only eyes that you can count on are your own. If an automobile can enter your path be ready to avoid them if they do. Good drivers are always “looking for trouble”– not to get into it, but to stay out of it. For bicycle drivers, that means ignoring traffic behind you and concentrating your attention to where the dangers lie- ahead of you.
Increase your chances of being seen at intersections. Ride in a lane position that provides the best view of oncoming traffic. Provide a space cushion around you that permits you to take evasive action.
As you approach the intersection, select a lane position to increase your visibility to motorists. Be where they are scanning for traffic. Select the right-most lane for your destination. If there is a right turn only lane, for example, ride in the center of the right-most through lane. Watch out for oncoming left turners who will be inclined to “shoot the gap” in any traffic in the lane next to you. Cover your brakes to reduce reaction time.
If you approach a blind intersection, move to the portion of the lane that will bring you into another driver’s field of vision at the earliest
possible moment. For example, on a street with curb side parking, move to the left portion of the lane–away from the parked car–so the driver on the cross street can see you as soon as possible. Remember, the key is to see as much as possible and remain visible to others while protecting your space.
Many cyclists ignore these precepts without coming to harm. Which helps illustrate how safe cycling in a prudent and lawful manner really is.
Proper lane positioning will make a trip on a bicycle less stressful and more relaxing. You will be amazed at how courteously you will be treated by motorists when you claim your rightful place on the public road.
 Sec. 545.060.(a) An operator on a roadway divided into two or more clearly marked lanes for traffic shall drive as nearly as practical entirely within a single lane and may not move from the lane unless that movement can be made safely.
Posted by ChipSeal at 6:00 AM
EDIT NOTE: I have re-posted this from ChipSeal's blog, with his permission. He has posting privileges on Cycle*Dallas, but is experiencing internet problems at the moment.
Thursday, December 17, 2009
Hi-tech wicking-fabric performance T, retina-burning hi-viz color, head-exploding text: $25 each (+/-).
The graphic on the back is of a proposed version of the Cyclists May Use Full Lane sign from the new Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). The adopted version doesn't have the "change lanes to pass" blade.
These are not in the Cycle*Dallas store (in the right column, but other great items are), but will are available here now.
Wednesday, December 16, 2009
IMAGE: Jonathan Hill, Willamette Week
A story in the Willamette Week looks at an annual decline in cycling in Portland. There's plenty of spin and number manipulation going on, but it's an interesting read regardless.
As is often the case, the comments to the story are more enlightening than the story itself.
The story, and some comments to the story.
The drop in gas prices has been a significant factor, I think, but another has been the increasing stridency of those anti-bike drivers out there.
It seems that there are increasing numbers of people who can't express their angst any other way than to intentionally endanger bicyclists.
If you can't get people to listen when you tell them why Obama's a muslim an a socialist, and they call you a crackpot when you explain that global warming is a liberal hoax, you can at least make yourself feel better by running a biker off the road.
So where a year or two ago there were plenty of ignorant careless drivers --and still are --what's changed is the number of intentional acts by drivers against bikers. They know they'll never get prosecuted, even if they kill someone.
Casual bicyclists are less likely to use their bikes these days because when they do, they know their lives will be endangered by every teabagger in town.
JJ Gildersneeze: Sheesh where do you folks come up with this stuff? The Church of Green has ruthlessly co-opted area bicycle-riders, which are now synonymous with this stupid climate hysteria, as a result. You've put a Church of Green bulls-eye directly between my shoulder-blades, and you would then blame this on rightfully outraged motorists?
I ride a bike in this town. Arguably, I've skidded down the street more miles on my rear-end than many in the Church of Green have ever even ridden. Yet, I couldn't care-less about hysterical environmentalists, or their liberty robbing agenda. Ostensibly, at least, you'd be erroneously lumping me in with a bunch of Bible-thumping whackos, and I resent that very much. It is you, man, you, that are the problem from head to toe. Your insistence upon including my transpo mode of choice in your asinine agenda gives people a one-stop-shopping experience for sticking to you, and your ridiculous agenda. This by messing with me in traffic while I'm riding my bicycle. I've ridden here for over two decades, car free, and it wasn't until you idiots co-opted my mode, did motorists start chucking beer-bottles at me, and trying to run me off the road.
Thanks for that. Thanks for lumping me in with what essentially amounts to my political nemesis too, I really appreciate it. Now, get your stupid, asinine, agenda off my mode NOW!
So, is infrastructure really the problem? The two buffered bicycle lanes down stark and oak are rarely used. I carpool down that road everyday, and the most cyclists I have seen at one time from Broadway to Naito using the buffered lane is two. This is from when the buffered lane first opened, to now. A max of two. Most days don't have any cyclists in it at all.
So do we really need more infrastructure like that?
Infrastructure doesn't lead people to bike, even if it does coincide with high modal share in northern Europe. Tokyo has a high modal share too, and yet almost zero infrustructure. What leads people to bike are measures that make driving more costly. Denmark has a 200 percent tax on auto sales. Drivers tests in Germany are far more difficult and costs a lot more. Many European highways are tolled. The gas tax is much higher. Parking is scarce and expensive. Under such conditions, cities will see a lot of cyclists even without infrastructure. If Portland believes that a build out of bicycle facilities (some of which make riding more inconvenient and dangerous, IMO) will give us a modal share as high as that of copenhagen, it is mistaken.
I bike everywhere and don't own a car, but at least I have enough perspective to know that my Spartan lifestyle is not widely desired.
View Untitled in a larger map
From an article in the Dallas Morning News.
'Urban half' is open
The first stretch of the Santa Fe Trail opened in July, running from Hill Avenue at the edge of Deep Ellum to Randall Park near Woodrow Wilson High School.
Shelton calls it the "urban half." It's a linear park fronted by old wood-frame homes in neighborhoods filled with people, pets, play equipment, litter and graffiti. The trail is used by neighborhood cyclists, joggers and kids, and in the mornings, parents use it to take their children to school.
"Right now, if you don't live along the trail, you can't justify using it. It doesn't go anywhere," Shelton said. "Once they get it connected to White Rock Lake, you're going to just see a tremendous increase in the number of people using it."
Residents around White Rock Lake will be able take the path to ride downtown. Families around Old East Dallas, Deep Ellum and Fair Park will be able to ride to White Rock Lake.
Shelton said cyclists who put their bikes on their cars and drive to White Rock Lake will be able to ride from their homes. "It will help with parking and traffic around the lake," he said.
Even though this trail was my doing, the comments above underscore some of the reasons I repent having spent so much time working on trail projects like this one, as they are counter-production to bicycle transportation.
I won't point out the issues, but I'll leave them for any discussions.
Monday, December 14, 2009
Wednesday, December 09, 2009
Tuesday, December 08, 2009
By DAVID WHITING
ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER
On average, we kill a bicyclist every month in our outdoor paradise.
That sobering statistic about our beautiful county does not include the paralyzed and otherwise injured. It does not include the people too afraid to use our cycling-friendly roads. And it does not include the drivers forever traumatized by accidentally smashing into a fellow human being.
Next year, however, can be different. Starting today, each one of us can choose to do something about the mayhem of the innocent as well as the emotional trauma suffered by drivers. Today, each one of us can pledge to learn more about cycling safety, whether we're cyclists, drivers or both.
It will only cost you nine hours of your life and $35.
Called Traffic Skills 101, the course is put on by the League of American Bicyclists and covers basic bicycle maintenance, bike paths, road riding and riding at night. Navigating traffic, however, is the meat of the course.
Last Friday – the day after nine-year-old Nicholas Vela was hit and killed by a truck in Anaheim – I attended the classroom portion. On Saturday, I checked out the road part. Join me in making the next class over-subscribed. And the next class. And the next.
You might ask, "What's the point of non-cyclists taking the course?"
There are more than 10,000 bicycles in Orange County, which offers more than 10,000 reasons. I'll offer two more:
First, you may discover you enjoy this form of low-impact exercise. Perhaps you'll even reignite the joy when you climbed aboard your first Stingray or mountain bike. Freedom. Remember?
Second, you will come to understand more about what should be expected – and what should not be expected – from your fellow road riders.
For example, you might feel vindicated when you hear most accidents are caused by bicyclists doing dumb things. But you'll also discover those pesky – and sometimes scary – cyclists in the left turn lane have the same right to be there as you do.
Plus, you'll find out most people on bikes travel much faster that you might think. Why is this important to know? I call it two-seconds of grace.
You see a bicyclist riding on the right. But you want to make a right turn. If you're like many drivers, you stomp the gas, speed ahead of the cyclist, and whip into your turn. You made it before the cyclist. Whew!
But the poor person on the bike was going 20 miles an hour if you were on a flat road, faster if you were on a downhill grade. She slammed on the brakes to avoid a mouthful of metal, skidded into a curb or worse.
If you'd slowed down and turned behind the cyclist you would have avoided a dangerous turn. And only delayed your commute by two seconds, two seconds of grace.
For veteran cyclists
You are a seasoned cyclist. You hammer Santiago Canyon Road and then look for some serious hills to climb. Like the San Gabriel Mountains. You might say you have nothing to learn from geeks who teach classes on riding. In fact, you could teach them a thing or two.
Perhaps. But do you want to bet your life on it?
I'm a newbie compared to the hard-core cyclists in our incredible county of super athletes. Still, I'll mention I've ridden 6,000 miles in a year, cranked out more than one century (100 miles) just for chuckles and can tear apart and rebuild a bike from the bearings up.
Still, I learned more than a thing or two in the class. I even had an ah-ha moment. I won't tell you what it was because I bet you'll have one all your own. And if you don't, you'll still have a cool diploma proving you're not a menace to society. (OK, my moment was cornering. I am a weenie about sliding out. The instructor had a little exercise which gave me more confidence.)
For road wannabes
You know who you are. Your bike is in the garage gathering cobwebs. You take it out, maybe, a few times a year in the neighborhood, perhaps to a county park. But the darn thing scares the beejeebers out of you.
That, my friend, will diminish if the confidence I saw at graduation Saturday is any indication.
With clear graphics, the classroom part takes you through the challenges you face on the road and shows where to ride, where not to ride and – most importantly – how to ride. For the on-the-road part, the instructor rides with you, guiding you through a wide variety of traffic situations.
Next: Specific tips for cyclists and drivers.
David Whiting has four bicycles, has trained for and finished two Ironman events and has built a customized bike for his father who has polio. He can be reached at 714-796-6869 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Friday, December 04, 2009
Unlike some other studies going around, this one wasn't produced by a sales team, an advocate group, or a critic. It simply measures the safety impact of cycle-tracks and sidepaths based upon serious accident data.
Read it and weep.
Wednesday, December 02, 2009
Good: The Half Price Books "mothership" on Northwest Highway installed a bike rack. They did some landscaping (as part of the remodeling of their flagship store and World Headquarters), pushed out a curb, planted ground-cover, improved the handicap-access ramp, and poured a concrete pad for a ribbon-rack.
Bad: The pad is too short, allowing access from only one side (effectively cutting the rack's capacity in half), and forcing bikes using the rack to overhang into the wheelchair ramp (a code violation I am sorry to say).
Ugly: What your bike will look like exposed to the elements because the rack is not in a covered area, even though there is ample covered space next to the building to have placed the rack. A further ugly is me for pointing out the shortcomings of this nice gesture.
I give HPB a solid B+ for the rack, but an incomplete for placement. Kudos, nonetheless. Go buy something from them and share the praise (and nit-picks).
P.S. A better rack for them would have been a securely fastened "hand-rail" along the front wall under the covered walkway marked "bike parking". Bikes parked up against walls leave plenty of clearance for peds and wheelchairs.
9700 E. Lake Highlands Drive, north bound
9800 E. Lake Highlands Drive, north bound
9700 E. Lake Highlands Drive, south bound
9800 E. Lake Highlands Drive, south bound
E. Lake Highlands Drive is a tree-lined residential collector in my neighborhood that connects Plano Road to Buckner Boulevard. It was built as a two-lane divided thoroughfare with on-street parking, 30' from curb-face to curb-face, and meant to be configured 11'/11'/8' (the parking lane).
To improve intersection flow, it is striped as a three-lane (six-lane divided) road, 10'/10'/10', from Buckner to Peavy Road (and a block beyond), and from Northwest Highway to Easton Boulevard (and again, a block beyond). This leaves about a half mile between Easton and Peavy oddly striped as a two-lane roadway, 10'/20'.
I recently took Kimberly Thorpe on a short bike ride on this street to demonstrate how easy it is to ride on a collector-thoroughfare, and to show what a bike lane on this roadway (and many others) would look like unless it was swept weekly ($1000 a mile every time). The regular maintenance schedule for collector street sweeping is less than once a year. Get used to it.
The only difference in the two sets of photos above is the road striping. Where there are three lanes striped, cars "sweep" the roadway clean... even on a low volume collector like Lake Highlands, keeping the lanes clean. Where the automobile travel lanes are removed, debris accumulate. Underneath these leaves you will find sand, mud, branches, broken glass, drink bottles and cans.
Now even though State law requires a cyclist to use a bike lane if present, it also allows you to leave it for safety reasons (like too much trash or debris). So what's the point? Aside from the increased hostility encountered by cyclists who leave a bike lane ("Stay in your own lane!"), I guess I don't know. Leaves and mud do help to complete any street, organically.
Roadways are set up to allow for predictable behavior by all users. This is what makes them function with the high level of safety they enjoy (and it is a high level, so enjoy!). But a bike lane (as I have extolled ad nauseam) creates situations that defy predictability. A travel lane that can be expected to need to be vacated frequently doesn't add to safe operation. Remember, the bike lane advocates like to praise the studies that show cars pass cyclists both closer and faster if the cyclist is in a bike lane, reducing the margin of error for any sudden movements... like having to abandon a lane because of debris accumulation.
This is one of the reasons that motorists who hit cyclists while overtaking them often claim "the cyclist suddenly swerved in front of me". Far better (and safer) for the overtaking vehicle to change lanes to pass, but that might mean that we cyclists have to truly share the whole road, not just take our share in the gutter.