It is widely thought that cyclists should be segregated from the traffic for safety's sake. This appears logical, since most road cycling injuries are due to motor traffic. It is a naive conclusion. Segregation protects the cyclist from only a rare accident — being hit from behind — at the expense of increasing other risks and reducing convenience. International research shows that segregation multiplies the risks threefold to fivefold, even in countries such as the Netherlands, where it is traditional. The promotion of danger has scared many cyclists out of the traffic, merely to put them at greater risk on pavements and “safe” cycle routes.
Experienced cyclists already know that the road system is by far the safest national cycle network that will ever exist. Cyclists and drivers are not enemies; each has something to offer the other in a civilised road environment. Cyclists should tackle the risks just as in a car, by acquiring a high standard of road craft.
Malcolm J Wardlaw, Three Lessons for a Better Cycling Future, British Medical Journal
Tuesday, September 30, 2008
Notice how these two positions overlap into one position: Bikes don't belong on the streets because it's unsafe. These two positions, positions of hatred (anti-cyclist) and fear (anti-cycling) lean on each other to a bad end.
Now, let's look at the solutions offered. First, we'll look at the "Me Motorist, Me Only" position.
Bicycles Don't Belong On The Streets.
First and foremost, the Texas Transportation Code states otherwise. You all know the drill. Bicycles are legal vehicles. Why? Partly because bicycles came first, and paved the way (no pun intended) for automobiles. The automobile is a development of bicycle technology (as is the airplane). The first smooth, paved roads were the result of bicyclists' lobbying efforts.
If bicycles are vehicles, why aren't they licensed? Automobile operator licenses came about because of the great damage that automobiles cause to other people and property. They are dangerous, and an operator needs to be licensed, trained and tested in order to protect the public's safety. Yesterday's fatality occurred NOT because a cyclist was on the street without a bicycle license (although he had an automobile drivers license), but because the motorist was operating his vehicle in an unsafe manner, given the conditions. His "training" was an attempt to prevent this very incident. His training failed to do so.
If bicycles are legal vehicles, why don't bicyclists pay road taxes like a motorist? They do. Local roads are primarily paid for by property taxes, not gasoline taxes and registration fees. Bicyclists pay the property taxes that build and maintain the roadways they use. The gasoline tax pays for highways, which cyclists don't use (with exceptions in rural areas). The fees associated with licensing and registration primarily cover the costs to administer those programs, not road construction and maintenance (there is a "bridge fee" tacked unto your motor vehicle registration fee, but it's a separate fee). Bicycles don't cause wear and tear of roadways and bridges.
So, bicycles have a right to be on the roads, a history of using the roads that both pre-dates and enables automobiles, cyclists pay for local road construction and maintenance, and cyclists are not a threat to the public health and safety.
Now let's look at the second point, the "Cyclists Are Inferior and Need Protection" position.
Streets Need Bike Lanes.
The belief that you must have bike lanes undermines the very concept that a bicycle has a legal right to the roadway, and is a legal vehicle. There are many operational problems with bike lanes, primarily associated with intersections. Basically, with a bike lane, at intersections and driveways, you have large, higher speed traffic often turning right across the path of smaller, slower traffic. The collisions are real, numerous, and often fatal. Statistically, they far outnumber the primary rationale (ir-rationale?) of bike lanes, the fear of a cyclist being struck from the rear by a motor vehicle. Careful (and complicated) treatment of intersections can mitigate this danger slightly, but it does so creating criss-crossing movements of bicycles and automobiles at intersections. It's tricky, and not completely effective.
Because cars tend to sweep streets of debris as they drive, bike-lanes create "debris-lanes" where the street trash accumulates. Bike lanes therefore require a minimum of monthly sweeping, adding maintenance costs to already cash-strapped municipalities (streets are usually swept annually, not monthly). Cities tend to forgo these "non-essential" maintenance routines during budget crunches. Expect it.
Street width is a major problem with bike lanes. Arapaho Road in Richardson is a six lane, divided thoroughfare. The street width (one direction) from curb face to curb face is 36 feet (typically). There are three twelve foot lanes (12/12/12). To add a bike lane to Arapaho Road would require a minimum of five more feet of right of way on both sides (a total of ten feet). The new configuration, with additional right of way, would be 12/12/12/5 (one direction).
The options are to eliminate one lane of traffic on the current Arapaho Road and have a road that looks like this: 2/12/12/2/6/2. Where does all the traffic that had been in the third lane go? Into the other two lanes, creating severe traffic congestion. Another option would be a 1/10/10/10/5 lane configuration, with a five foot "bike lane" (really just a striped shoulder). A better variation would be a 1/10/10/15 cross section utilizing a wide outside lane. However, the ten foot travel lanes are too narrow for many of today's vehicles to operate in comfortably. It would probably require reducing the posted speed limit to 30 MPH, and it would still result in a possible increase in minor collisions, especially between trucks and buses and automobiles. The political will to do this would be difficult to muster as a "warrant" for such a treatment is not evident.
Functionally, a bike lane is a "bicycle control device" intended to keep bicycles out of the way of automobiles. It requires a "critical mass" of bicycles for this to make sense (if at all). It is highly doubtful that we will ever see that sort of demand on Arapaho Road, as that would be driven by high population density. The scarcity of bicycles is a direct result of the low population density in suburban communities. You may think this is a "chicken or the egg" scenario, but it really isn't. The "chicken" (large numbers of cyclists) always comes first... otherwise, you end up laying an egg.
The other option is to rebuild Arapaho (and other major thoroughfares, as well) to accommodate bike lanes. Widening Arapaho would cost anywhere from $3 to $4 million a mile, and up, depending upon any needed right-of-way acquisition and utility relocations.
A better option is to add wide outside lanes when Arapaho is reconstructed. The necessary extra width is only six feet (three feet per side). Your wide-outside-lane configuration looks like this: 12/12/15. By going with wide-outside-lanes, you eliminate the operational and maintenance problems caused by bike lanes, while providing space for a motor vehicle and a cyclist to exist side-by-side, and the additional costs for reconstruction are reduced by almost 50% (or more). This is a win-win situation.
But back to the present day and the reality of the situation. What would have best prevented Mr. Mungioli's death? An attentive driver behind the wheel of the truck. Because drivers between the ages of 16 and 25 are responsible for a vastly disproportionate number of vehicle fatalities and collisions, I believe that a yearly renewable license would be a good idea, with an annual Defensive Driving course required for the annual renewal. The direct cause of this fatality (driving too fast for visual conditions) is covered in the basic Defensive Driving Course. An annual reminder might have saved a life in this instance (and countless others, as well).
Life is not without risk. For hours of exposure, riding a bicycle on public roads has the same risk factor as walking on sidewalks, and less than driving a car. When I was preparing my daughters to learn to drive, I would ask them to look at an oncoming car on a two-way, undivided roadway (while I was driving). I would explain to them that at any moment, that driver could veer into our lane for no apparent reason: dropped their coffee, fumbling with the CD player, or squinting into the sun. At all times, we need to understand the dangers we face, but never let those dangers fill us with fear.
Be prepared to take evasive action. Know what's happening around you. Have an escape plan if needed. Look over your shoulder often in traffic to make eye contact with motorists. I like to use a rear-view mirror to monitor the rear, but I always look back to make sure the overtaking motorist sees me.
We may never know what really happened yesterday morning. Was Mr. Mungioli in the middle of his lane, and Mr. McEwan simply failed to see him at all (unlikely on the flat, straight road that Arapaho is). Or was Mr. Mungioli riding "as close to the curb as possible", and Mr. McEwan tried to pass him without being able to judge his position (due to the sun)? We don't know, and may never know for sure (the damage to Mr. McEwan's truck indicates that Mr. Mungioli was riding to the far right of the lane). But we do know that driver inattention and unsafe operation of a motor vehicle left one man dead, and another man emotionally scarred for life.
We can do better. We can start with education, both of motorists and of cyclists. Based upon the comments in the Dallas Morning News, motorist education seems like the place to start.
Monday, September 29, 2008
Sec. 551.101. Rights and Duties.
(a) A person operating a bicycle has the rights and duties applicable to a driver operating a vehicle under this subtitle, unless:
(1) a provision of this chapter alters a right or duty; or
(2) a right or duty applicable to a driver operating a vehicle cannot by its nature apply to a person operating a bicycle.
(b) A parent of a child or a guardian of a ward may not knowingly permit the child or ward to violate this subtitle.
Sec. 551.103. Operation on Roadway.
(a) Except as provided by Subsection (b), a person operating a bicycle on a roadway who is moving slower than the other traffic on the roadway shall ride as near as practicable to the right curb or edge of the roadway, unless:
(1) the person is passing another vehicle moving in the same direction;
(2) the person is preparing to turn left at an intersection or onto a private road or driveway; or
(3) a condition on or of the roadway, including a fixed or moving object, parked or moving vehicle, pedestrian, animal, or surface hazard prevents the person from safely riding next to the right curb or edge of the roadway.
(4) the person is operating a bicycle in an outside lane that is:
(b) A person operating a bicycle on a one-way roadway with two or more marked traffic lanes may ride as near as practicable to the left curb or edge of the roadway.(A) less than 14 feet in width and does not have a designated bicycle lane adjacent to that lane; or
(B) too narrow for a bicycle and a motor vehicle to safely travel side by side.
(c) Persons operating bicycles on a roadway may ride two abreast. Persons riding two abreast on a laned roadway shall ride in a single lane. Persons riding two abreast may not impede the normal and reasonable flow of traffic on the roadway. Persons may not ride more than two abreast unless they are riding on a part of a roadway set aside for the exclusive operation of bicycles.
02:27 PM CDT on Monday, September 29, 2008By DAN X. McGRAW / The Dallas Morning News
A Dallas resident who was riding his bike was killed this morning after he was struck by a pickup in Richardson, authorities said.
The cyclist, Rito "Anthony" Mungioli, 51, was riding his bicycle about 7:30 a.m. in the right eastbound lane of Arapaho Road near Greenville Avenue when he was struck by the truck, said Sgt. Kevin Perlich, a Richardson police spokesman. He died at the scene.
The driver, 18-year-old Matthew McEwan of Dallas, told police he did not see Mr. Mungioli because of the glare from the sun, Sgt. Perlich said.
"He was driving under the legally posted speed limit (40) but too fast for conditions," Sgt. Perlich said. "Sun glare made it difficult to see and he should have slowed down to a safer speed.”
Mr. Mungioli was wearing a helmet at the time of the crash.
Sgt. Perlich said at this point he doesn't know if Mr. McEwan will face any charges.
I heard the news this morning on the radio traffic report, "Accident involving a pedestrian at Arapaho and Greenville" they said. Then I saw the headline at the Dallas Morning News' website. It took me awhile before I put the two together. Then I read the online "comments" from the Morning News' readers.
A large number of the comments were of the "we need bike lanes" variety. An equally large (and at times over lapping) number were of the "he got what was coming to him" variety. A strong minority understood what happened and expressed themselves with some grief-tinged eloquence. A few expressed shock at the idea that the motorist might be charged with a crime.
Part of the cause for this fatality is the road grid in Richardson. There are only a few streets that cross North Central Expressway there (a super-major 12 lane highway). The crossings are all six to eight lane thoroughfares with heavy traffic, spaced about a mile apart. Traffic is funneled through them with a venturi effect velocity. But that is not a viable excuse for hitting another vehicle, nor is driving blind.
The issue is, who's at fault? Either Mr. McEwan, or the cyclist. Anything other than Mr. McEwan being held responsible says by implication that Mr. Mungioli was "at fault", simply for riding his bicycle. Failure to maintain a proper following distance, and failure to reduce speed due to visibility impairment. There are no legally valid excuses. If this involved a motorcyclist, an ice cream truck, a small sports car, or a police officer directing traffic, there would be no question about liability. But simply because it involves a cyclist, the question arises.
It was a tragedy. Nothing can bring Rito Mungioli back to his loved ones. Matthew McEwan will forever grieve for what he caused today. But if Mr. McEwan is not charged with negligent vehicular homicide, it will signal an "Open Season" on cyclists in North Texas.
Sunday, September 28, 2008
Well, at least the part of the City inside the inner loop, it's the fractured street grid.
Looking at this 1905 map, you can see the patchwork pattern of competing street grids. As each developer pushed out from the city, they developed their own street layout based on local topography, independent from the city they soon hoped to join. As new development merged with the established system, the gaps were filled by connector streets and/or new boulevards. What this created up through the early 1950s, was a dense network of streets at odd angles, often with thoroughfares defining the boundaries, creating a permeable, ideal environment for bicycle transportation. These are the parts of town with better access to transit, higher population density, and closer proximity between housing, jobs, and services. In other words, this is the part of town that most looks and acts like a real city.
Outside of the inner loop, things gradually become more typical of suburban America as built up in the 1960s and 1970s, with street grids boxed by thoroughfares, designed primarily for automobiles, but still easily navigable by bicycle.
By the time you reach the outer loop, you've lost this charm of eccentricity completely, in more ways than one. Out there, vehicular cycling skills are a pre-requisite to bicycle mobility (not that they shouldn't be inside the loop as well).
There's a bike under the wheels of the truck. The cyclist survived. The BluMagick™ paint failed again. The all too ironic sign tells the story: Right-turning truck collides with straight-through blue-bike-lane cyclist in truck's blind spot, with hospital nearby.
Traffic engineering from the Magick Kingdom™. Welcome to Portland, an "Official LAB Bicycle-Friendly City", luring cyclists to their death one by one with fantasy-based pseudo engineering.
The point of my outrage is that these serious injuries (uncounted) and deaths (two in the last year) are the direct result of what is being sold (and pushed) as "bicycle friendly" treatments. The design and installation of such facilities requires a knowing and willful suspension/rejection of everything we have ever learned about traffic flow and right of way by agencies whose sole purpose is looking out for public safety.
Is it Criminal Negligence on the part of the agency that deployed this killer design? You tell me.
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Reader Waco writes...
This post made me realize how little I know about cycling in Dallas and how decisions about our infrastructure are made. So, if you will indulge my curiosity and help craft a more informed cyclist-citizen...
How many cyclists are there in Dallas? What percentage is recreational vs vehicular? What are the latest stats and how are they compiled?
We don't know how many "cyclists" there are in Dallas. We do know (according to US census data) that something like 50% of the households have an adult bicycle and rode it in the last year. So, being conservative, one could say there are over 200,000 adult bicyclists in Dallas. No, I don't see 'em either.
Again, 2000 US Census data tells us that we have a bike/ped mode share of work/commute trips below 2.5%, with an overall share for bicyclists below 1%. But it also shows parts of the inner city core (east Dallas and close to downtown) with a 12.5% bike/ped trip-mode share, with bicycles accounting for about 4%. Also, Hispanic neighborhoods are greatly under-represented in the Census.
The Census only counts work trips, and it doesn't include a child/teenager riding a bike to school as a work-trip, or an adult riding their bike to a transit station.
There is an inverse relationship between recreational riding and commute/utilitarian cycling. Neighborhoods with the highest percentage of recreational cyclists (marketing surveys) have the lowest percentage of commute/utilitarian cyclists (US Census). And vice versa.
What is the process and perhaps more importantly, what are the metrics by which such projects (e.g. the "private proposal" you reference) are judged?
The process for the overall plan for bicycle transportation was laid out in the 1985 Dallas Bike Plan. It is a transportation plan, and as such looked at employment and residential areas, transit locations (as expected), schools, and service areas (hospitals, medical clinics, shopping). Large groups of cyclists, aided by City staff, developed the route system under those guidelines. Attempts to secure funding to update the plan have failed repeatedly, although the near future looks promising.
Recreational cycling was addressed by the Dallas Parks Department in their Master Trail Plan. Several local meetings were held with citizens to identify potential trail locations, although ultimately it was the North Central Texas Council of Government's VeloWeb plan that dictated most of the locations. The Department of Public Works has utilized the NCTCOG plan to secure funding for the East Dallas Veloway, the Santa Fe Trestle Trail, the High-Six Trail (the trail at the base of the High-Five interchange) and other projects.
Public Works (and NCTCOG) judge projects by their likelihood to effectively promote more utilitarian cycling. The primary criteria is air quality (how many tons of NOX and VOC can this project potentially remove by getting someone out of their car and onto a bicycle?). MUPS (multi use paths) are good when they create shortcuts for cyclists around difficult obstacles. They are bad when they take cyclists out of the way solely in order keep them off city streets.
Private proposals are just that, private. It has no policy weight behind it until and if the City decides to adopt it for undertaking. Think of private developments and arts projects.
Is it boosting the number of cyclists/peds by x % through improved infrastructure...or cutting emissions and boosting air quality by reducing the net number of trips by car...etc.
Yes. Those are related goals, although what's missing is the Education component, both for adults and children. For various reasons, funding for cyclist education has been either eliminated or turned down, partly because in Texas, the Federal dollars cities like to use for bicycle projects are mostly for infrastructure only. Cities have shown themselves loathe to actually budget local dollars for ongoing bicycle transportation projects.
What is it that gets these things on the table in the first place, and what typically gets them a red light or green light?
They get on the table because they are either developed by City staff as part of their job function (Planners actually PLAN sometimes), or because someone in the private sector with political clout pushes for them (often for ulterior motives).
Proposals work their way up through various Citizen Boards, Commissions, and Committees, and then through a City Council Sub-Committee, and finally actions go before the City Council for a vote, where it could be part of the Consent Agenda (omnibus items for approval with the possibility of being removed for later consideration upon request by a Councilperson), or it could be a stand-alone Agenda Item (with Public comments). Generally, minor items go through consent, and major ones are handled individually.
The Dallas Bike Plan was driven by the Greater Dallas Bicyclists, which use to be a bike club with a strong advocacy agenda, well informed activist leadership, and a large membership base within the City. It no longer fits any of those criteria (though it remains a fine club). BikeDFW is a new organization that is attempting to fill the same role, but the jury is quite frankly out on them. Until they have a stronger presence within the City of Dallas, as opposed to their primary suburban focus, their efforts will lack effectiveness. There's an opportunity there that I am hopeful for, but I retain my reservations pending the rejection of some anti vehicular cycling influences. Good folks, though, and well-meaning.
So, join BikeDFW. Read Effective Cycling and CycleCraft. Attend a LAB Road 1 course (with a grain of salt), and then become a certified LCI (with a bigger dose of salt). Contact NCTCOG and ask to be put on their mailing list for transportation issues. Attend their all-too-infrequent Bike-Ped Task Force meetings. Speak up. Ask questions.
Contact your local elected officials. Tell them you support bicycling on public roads as a transportation mode (and as recreation, too). Ask them for their position, and what are they doing to promote increasing the bicycle trip share. Tell them you do not want to be "kicked to the curb" with the rest of the road trash, but you want things to be better. Better markings (if applicable to your city). More bicycle parking. Better signal detectors (maybe even marked with the bicycle "sweet-spot"). Fair enforcement of laws. A mandatory helmet law for all pedestrians, automobile drivers and automobile/bus passengers (why just protect cyclists?).
Eschew paint, especially BluMagick™ paint.
Friday, September 26, 2008
This is a proposal for a one-way urban bike side-path (or cycle track), with a two-way sidewalk adjacent. The proposal calls for this treatment on both sides of the street. Notice how the BluMagick™ paint protects the path users from vehicles entering and exiting the parking lot.
This design proposal would remove two lanes from a street (one in each direction). The street it is pictured on is a two-lane street with off-peak on-street parking. The parking lanes would be removed (so in this picture, the parked cars you see are blocking the travel lane). Oddly, why would any street with low enough traffic volumes to allow it to be reduced to two lanes, with no parking, require a parallel cycle path? Sounds kinda CIC to me.
In recent studies in Northern Europe, cycle-tracks have been shown to increase injuries to cyclists by collision two to four times, and higher, due to intersection and driveway conflicts with automobiles and pedestrians. Older studies in the US have shown the same results. This is the reason the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) discourage these designs in their Guide to the Development of Bicycle and Pedestrian Facilities (AASHTO-GDBPF). Designs like this explicitly say "bicycles do not belong on the street", and encourage motorist confrontations with cyclists who insist upon exercising their right to operate as a vehicle.
The estimated cost for a facility like this is about $3-5 million a mile, or more, depending upon utility and drainage relocation costs. Who knows what evils lurk under urban streets and sidewalks? Sometimes, Public Works does, but not always. Water mains, gas mains, phone lines, fiber-optic lines, sewer lines, storm water lines, native American burial grounds, and even old pioneer cemeteries. Digging up 150 year old streets is no fun.
Looks nice, though.
I took the largest LBS in my town to task for a "Share The Road" ad that showed a cyclist riding in a striped road-edge gutter (some "sharing") a few weeks ago. Today, it's my pleasure to take Performance Bicycles to task for this image in their new catalog.
I presume the smile on the cyclist's face is a result of his morning heavy dosage of psychoactive medications. He's not just riding in the Door Zone, he's riding in the parking lane's Mirror Zone... with a bus to his left. As the cyclists squeezes between traffic and parked cars, not only might an opening door pitch him under the wheels of the transit bus, so might simply snagging his jacket on an SUV's oversized sideview mirror.
In my long ago former life as a Creative Director, my job was to make Art Directors' lives miserable when they staged dumb shots like this. Now it's my job is to alert people to dumb cycling ideas and dangerous examples.
Please, please, PLEASE don't ride like this picture seems to imply you should. It's not OK, no matter how well-dressed you are.
Thursday, September 25, 2008
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
Dallas is a big city, and cyclists see (and are effected by) things that motorists and city crews in trucks might miss. In the course of riding your bicycle, either in the preferred vehicular style on public streets and roads, or on a recreational outing on the trails, you may come across something wrong. A Bike Route sign may be down (or missing). A traffic signal might not detect your bicycle (make sure you know HOW to trip the vehicle detector), a signal might be burned out, or there may be an unmet need for a pedestrian signal head and crossing. Other things you might notice include missing stop signs, missing manhole covers or drain grates (these get stolen for scrap metal), debris in the roadway, a pothole, or even suspicious activity (call 911 in that case... if it looks like criminal activity, and someone's life isn't in danger, make sure you've moved out of sight before calling).
When calling 311 (or 214-670-5111 from a cell phone), be sure and give the operator SPECIFIC information regarding location and what the problem is. If it's a missing bike route sign, tell them which route number it is. Give the operator the block number of the street, and the nearest cross street. Bad information results in bad responses. Good information dramatically increases the odds it will be fixed quickly and correctly. IF YOU THINK IT REPRESENTS A SAFETY HAZARD, SAY SO!
Use your time on your bike to make Dallas a better place for bicycles. Leave your name and phone number, write down the case number, and ask them to contact you with a follow-up. If you don't get a satisfactory response, take it up with your personal representative... your elected official, and ask them to look into it and get back to you. Be pro-active, not re-active. Be firm, but courteous. And be persistent. If a problem isn't fixed, keep asking (and keep demanding a response).
Now, if you are outside of the City of Dallas, in the Park Cities, Garland, Carrollton, Richardson, or Mesquite for example, the City of Dallas 311 Hotline can't help you with problems in those cities.
You've got a phone, I know you do. Use it, and you'll be glad you did.
Tuesday, September 23, 2008
In an article/debate about bike lanes vs. "sharrows" in Seattle, the author defends bike lanes:
And intersections — where the majority of bike/car collisions take place — are even more perilous. If you’re cruising along on the right side of the lane of traffic, confident in the false sense of security a sharrow gives you, you’re not going to have time to stop if a driver pulls out in front of you—which, believe me, happens all the time.Bike lanes make intersections safer? Sharrows give you a false sense of security over the "real" security provided by bike lanes? Perhaps in an alternate universe, a Bizzaro World, where up is down and black is white. The author obviously paid attention to the Soma-speak at ProBike.
The lack of critical thinking and application of logic is breathtaking, both in the article and in many of the comments. And when logic escapes, use obscenities to make your point.
The article mentions how Seattle feverishly painted more bike lanes and sharrows in advance of the ProBike summit, hoping to impress the Paint 'n Path crowd with their hip views about segregation and the ghettoization of bicycles. I saw the same thing in Montreal when they hosted ProBike/VeloCity... only they put in temporary side-paths for vehicular cycling-impaired bicycle advocates.
Traffic engineering as political sop and public relations gimmick. Great.
In the category of, "Most Unusual Use of a New Bike Rack", this effort at blocking a driveway to prevent unauthorized parking takes the cake, surpassing the previous winner, the 7-Eleven on Garland Road at Ocalla's use of a bike rack for waterhose storage.
BTW: This would be perhaps my favorite bike rack design, if it weren't for the rated capacity of it. Its claimed capacity is five bicycles, but I find that this design will hold two bicycles (including tandems) better than any other short-term rack I've seen.
Here is an example of a competent cyclist behaving as a vehicle. he has essentially placed himself in the direct line of sight of a motorist, preventing an automobile driver from attempting a same-lane pass. My only complaint is the cyclist's wardrobe color does little for conspicuousness, but that probably has more to do with youth and work uniform requirements. Del Crouser and I watched this cyclist maneuver through traffic for about 2000 feet, and we were both impressed with the effortless ease (and confidence) exhibited.
The LAB and ProBike (with their ABC cyclist ratings) both say cyclists like this don't exist. Maybe they can't see them because of the normal attire camouflage (or perhaps it's the blinders they wear).
Monday, September 22, 2008
I apologize for the repeat, but I just love this picture on soooooo many levels.
No, I don't love it for the implication that someone was injured, but for the unintended illustration of how bike lanes can actually cause injuries. I'm mean, but I'm not cruel.
The "right-hook" bike-lane collision this illustrates (the same type that has resulted in at least two cyclists' deaths in Portland Oregon in the last year) is not the fault of the van driver, but of the engineer or landscape architect (more likely) who would design and spec this facility. By placing straight-through cyclists to the right of right-turning motor vehicles, you are almost begging for a collision like this. To make a point about bicycle safety, they are really making a point about criminally negligent design (but then, many cyclists like criminally negligent designs... out of ignorance and fear).
But that's not the only thing I like about this picture. I also like what must be the best maintained, cleanest, smoothest street in Manhattan. The darn thing looks like carpet. And so the fantasy continues.
There are many motivations for utilitarian cycling. Perhaps you use a bicycle as part of your transportation mix for the exercise (cycling provides a good, low-stress, workout). Or perhaps it's for convenience (you live downtown and getting your Porsche or Hummer out of the parking garage just to go get some milk is more trouble than it's worth), or perhaps you suffer from Scotsman's Disease like I do (you are cheap), and you want to cut down on costs like gasoline, parking, gym fees, and even insurance.
But maybe you want to do your part to aid the environment.
For the average person, if you were to ride your bike to work just one day per two-week pay period, you would reduce your share of VOC emissions related to commuting by 10%. Once a week, and you'd reduce your share by 20%. Those are big numbers.
But maybe you don't want to become a "cyclist", per se, getting all hot and sweaty and lycra-ed up.
Well, when DART gets its bike racks on the front of their buses, you can leisurely and easily ride up to a mile to a bus stop (which may be how far the nearest bus stop is since light rail cut back on neighborhood bus routes) without getting all icky and sweaty. Load your bike onto the rack, ride to a bus stop near your work, and then leisurely pedal to the office (again, a mile or less). Do it on pay day, and and reduce your transportation related emissions by 10%. Do it every Friday, and see your share of work-trip emissions cut by 20%.
Be green, but stay clean. Who knows, you may find that even the DART portion of your commute can be replaced with a bicycle.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Critical Mass is a bicycling event typically held on the last Friday of every month in cities around the world. While the ride was originally founded with the idea of drawing attention to how unfriendly the city was to bicyclists, the leaderless structure of Critical Mass makes it impossible to assign it any one specific goal. In fact, the purpose of Critical Mass is not formalized beyond the direct action of meeting at a set location and time and traveling as a group through city or town streets.
The idea behind Critical Mass rides sound interesting at first, until you realize that it has more to do with road anarchy than with bicycle transportation. Oddly enough, the more bike-lanes a city has, it appears the more likely it is to have a Critical Mass ride.
But the photo above shows a true "critical mass" bicycle rider. Notice her proper lane position (she's not a curb bunny), and the fact that she is riding in the traffic gap. All it takes is one cyclist who understands how to ride with traffic, and you have achieved a "critical mass" for bicycle transportation.
Yesterday, the man most responsible for the conceptual design/re-design of many of my city's streets and highways went with me on an urban walk. We are preparing a critical evaluation of a private proposal to build over six miles of shared bike-ped sidepaths in the urban core of Dallas, displacing the road lanes for "on-street" trails with public money and R.O.W., to accommodate cyclists gripped by fear, so we walked the proposed sidepath in the city's most urban (and urbane) neighborhoods.
As we were standing on a bridge over a 4-lane thoroughfare, we observed a cyclist coming down the road. He was wearing street clothes, and had a backpack on. He held perfect lane position among the automobiles on the road with him. He was commanding his lane by riding in the place where a car's left wheel would be (about 9 feet out from the curb face). As cars passed him, they shifted to the left edge of the inside lane, giving the cyclist more clearance. He never varied his line, but stayed in the inside third of the outside lane. He rode with confidence, and was treated with respect by the cars passing him. At one point, he pulled into the inside lane to execute a pass of a car queuing up for a right turn. He executed the pass with perfection, and moved back into the outside lane.
He achieved critical mass, all on his own. He was not super-man. Nietzsche would be amazed.
Thursday, September 18, 2008
Click here, but it's very sad.
This tragedy is the result of what the LAB considers "bike friendly" design in a "Platinum" bike friendly town. Personally, I consider this to border upon criminal negligence on the part of the municipality that installed and promoted a design like this.
Wednesday, September 17, 2008
I was recently asked for my nomination for the North Texas Clean Air Coalition's "Commuter of the Year". Historically, these kind of awards (if not this one in particular) have often gone to someone who makes Herculean efforts at commuting: 20 miles (one way) by bicycle, 50 miles by bus and train, 12 miles up hill (both ways) through 12" of snow, 10 miles on inline skates into gale-force winds, etc., etc. The stuff of Superman.
But what does that tell the Jimmy Olsens of our culture, the Everyman citizens who admire these extraordinary feats? It tells them that, A) these truly are extra ordinary feats, and B) only Superman can perform feats like these ("Faster than a speeding bullet! More powerful than a locomotive! Able to leap tall buildings with a single bound! Commutes by bicycle 60 miles a day!").
Inspires normal folks to want to try it, right? Wrong.
I would like to see someone who rides their bike less than two miles to work almost everyday, because they made the concerted effort to buy or rent close to work, be recognized by awards like this. Or someone who moved into the city center to be close to work and walks to the office everyday. Or perhaps someone whose lifestyle change involved abandoning suburbia for an urban experience. Maybe someone who has gone car-free, or a couple who have become a one-car family.
Someone who embodies the Everyman, for therein lies the future of effective bicycle transportation.
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Dallas transit agency to add bike racks to buses
10:49 PM CDT on Sunday, September 14, 2008By JOE SIMNACHER / The Dallas Morning News
Don't fret – the sight of a bicycle stuck on the front of a DART bus soon won't be a bad thing.
By New Year's Eve, 650 Dallas Area Rapid Transit buses are expected to offer bicycle commuters greater convenience. The agency's new bus-mounted bike racks also represent an option for people who live or work beyond easy walking distance of a mass-transit stop.
Editor's note: DART is currently the largest Transit Agency in North America to not have bike racks on the front of their buses. However, unlike many other agencies, DART does allow bicycles on their light rail cars, buses, and commuter rail cars, even during peak hours, space allowing. Read about their bicycle commuter program here.
Monday, September 15, 2008
A common problem with bike lanes is having the lane within the arc of an opening car door. It's called "The Door Zone", and it's a new leading cause of cyclist injuries and fatalities. This is New York City's solution to the problem, as demonstrated on 9th Avenue. It certainly shows that NYC is willing to dedicate more money and right-of-way to solving this inherent bike lane problem than most cities encumbered with them are willing to do.
However, a serious new problem has been created in how pedestrians are treated. A shopper/customer of the small shops/businesses on this street, who parks in the parking lane, will walk directly from the sidewalk to their car, perhaps with both arms full of merchandise bags, or some other bulky item (drycleaning, perhaps). They may or may not see a cyclist coming down the sidepath bike lane. Collisions between pedestrians and cyclists are guaranteed by an application like this, and the collisions can be deadly for the pedestrian.
A general rule of thumb in facility design is "simpler is better". The more convoluted a design is, the more it tries extravagant measures to overcome initial design shortcomings, the more likely it is the design was a bad idea to begin with. This design is a poster child for "Occam's razor", which is often paraphrased as "All other things being equal, the simplest solution is the best."
This is a fairly heavily traveled street, although the traffic congestion you see is perhaps doubled by the removal of two lanes of available capacity (or perhaps it had originally been a two-way street. Due to the intervals of traffic signals, traffic flows at a relatively low speed. Previously, a cyclist could ride on either the left or the right side of the street (or across lanes as they position themselves to turn), depending upon their destination. Now, the cyclist can ONLY ride on the left side (NYC has a mandatory sidepath law... cyclists must stay in the bike lane). They can't turn right at an intersection. They can't access shops and businesses along the right side of the street. In order to do so, they must dismount and become pedestrians, or they must violate the law.
Which do you think they'll do?
Sunday, September 14, 2008
"That's not a bike lane!" you may say. Well, no, it isn't (or as my old Art History professor use to say, "You're right, that's not a horse. It's a picture of a horse."), but it represents more clearly than anything I've seen the fundamental fallacy of bike lanes. Fundamental. Fallacy.
Read all about it here on Keri Caffrey's excellent Orlando Bike Commuter Blog.
Saturday, September 13, 2008
I've made reference to the term "curb bunny" frequently, and I've used this great picture to illustrate a victim of CIC (Cyclist Inferiority Complex), but I've never really explained what a curb bunny is, or why I disparage them.
A curb bunny is a cyclist who "rides as far right as POSSIBLE", meaning that they ride as close to the curb, or the road edge, as they physically can, usually within a foot or foot and a half. This behavior is a symptom of the Cyclist Inferiority Complex, and cyclists do this for two reasons:
- They think this is what the law says they are to do,
- They try to give cars as much room as possible to pass.
practicableIf the curb/road edge is uneven, or full of debris, or has drainage grates, then it is not feasible to ride in that area, nor is that area usable for a bicycle to operate safely in. It may be physically POSSIBLE to ride your bicycle there, but is not a wise PRACTICE to do so. State Law also says that if a lane is of "sub-standard" width, a cyclist may command the lane, or "take" the lane. The Texas Department of Transportation use to define a sub-standard width lane as anything below 12 feet in width. TxDOT now defines 14' as the minimum width that an automobile and a bicycle can "share" a lane (meaning to travel side-by-side in their usage).
1 : capable of being put into practice or of being done or accomplished : feasible practicable plan>
2 : capable of being used : usable practicable weapon>
So, a correct understanding of the law should convince cyclists that they don't need to be curb bunnies.
However, I am convinced that Reason #2 is the primary cause for curb bunnies. The inexperienced, and/or under educated, cyclist's greatest fear when riding on the roadway or street is being struck from behind by a motor vehicle. This is also BY FAR the least likely collision they will possibly have (and not the deadliest, either). The incidence of occurrence usually involves a cyclist riding at night with little or no illumination or reflective material, or it involves a DUI motorist or cyclist. When you remove the darkened cyclist scenario, the incidences of rearward collision become so rare as to be almost statistically insignificant.
Simply put, it is not a reasonable fear for cyclists, and it is nothing to be overly concerned about.
However, there is another rearward collision that is worth being concerned about. That is the "making contact while passing" incident. In this case, the cyclist may be brushed by a side mirror, or nudged by a fender, as a motor vehicle passes. The cyclist may fall immediately, or may lose control of their bicycle and fall very soon afterward, with very serious injuries, including fatalities. These occur with considerably greater frequency than the straight rearward collision.
Riding next to the curb or road edge is the primary cause of this type of collision. Curb bunnies invite their own doom by riding this way.
Here's what happens: A cyclist is riding on a standard street, either with an 11' or 12' lane width. They are riding as close to the curb/road edge as possible, with their left edge being as close as two feet from the curb face (or even closer in some cases), and their right side only six inches away.
An overtaking motor vehicle sees the cyclist giving them as much room to pass as possible (very different from "practicable"), and proceeds to pass the cyclist without moving to their left to give the cyclist more room. The motorist continues in a straight line, passing within a foot or less of the cyclist. This is an unintentional "right-of-way permission" the cyclist has granted to the motorist.
The educated, and/or experienced cyclist knows to ride a minimum of three feet out from the curb face. Not only are there far fewer debris in the cyclist's path, the pavement is smoother, and their are also fewer potholes (which develop easily along the gutter pan/asphalt seam) to have to deal with.
As a motorist overtakes a cyclist who is riding three or more feet into the lane (I ride a minimum of four feet out), they see that the cyclist IS NOT giving them permission to pass without deflection. The cyclist is maintaining their lawful right of way, and "negotiating" with the motorist how the pass will be executed. This is not discourteous cycling, it is simply safe vehicle operation. In this situation, I might shift my position one foot to the right (thereby being three or four feet from the curb, instead of my usual four to five feet), and signal the motorist to pass. They still have to deflect, but by yielding a foot, I have communicated that I am giving them some extra space to complete their pass, while leaving myself enough space to take any necessary actions.
The motorist deflects their path, pulling out to the left to pass, just as they would any other slower-moving vehicle. They will either move into the adjacent lane, or straddle it, as they pass. Once clear of the "slow moving vehicle", they will pull back into the right hand lane without incident. All clear, all safe.
There's an amazing bonus to this action: reduced tensions. Invariably, cyclists whom I have taught to ride like this, will discover that horn honks, finger wagging (and waving), and shouting all decrease or disappear. By taking an action many cyclists fear is discourteous (taking their lane), they discover that exercising the laws of right-of-way actually increase motorists courtesy. Why? Because they are no longer afraid that they are going to hit you. You have stood up for your rights as a vehicle operator, and 999 times out of a 1,000, the motorists recognize and appreciate the fact that you have successfully negotiated right-of-way with them.
Try it. You'll like it.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
This isn't really a bike lane, but it's just like one, except that it really does offer some protection to its inhabitants (especially from Giant Killer Cats).
It offers the illusion of freedom, while confining its users to a narrow, substandard, captive environment, just like a bike lane.
It won't take gerbils where they want to go, only where somebody else wants them to go, just like a bike lane (or a trail) only takes bicyclists to certain locations.
If the little rodent doesn't stay in it, people start to scream and get hysterical, just like what happens when a cyclist rides outside the bike lane, or on non-bike lanes streets in a bike lane town.
It was designed by people to keep small rodents and other vermin out of the way of superior human beings, whereas bike lanes were invented to keep self-loathing cyclists out of the way of superior automobiles.
Without frequent maintenance, it gets very nasty in a hurry, totally like a bike lane.
Tuesday, September 09, 2008
Monday, September 08, 2008
It began in America, as so many trends do, but for years no one in Europe took any notice. American tourists wearing helmets around the streets of London first drew media attention. And although public response to walking helmets was initially amusement, the appeal of extra safety drew some pioneers to the habit, especially academics and competitive walkers.
The first case-control study of about 2000 injuries to pedestrians in Britain (180 of whom had worn helmets) concluded that the risk of serious head injury was reduced by 75% when a good walking helmet was worn. Safety campaigners used the slogan "walkers need helmets" to encourage parents to send their children to school in helmets. Several high profile accidents focused public attention on the dangers of walking. A well known television presenter was severely head injured by a police van answering an emergency call. Doctors concluded that her injuries would have been "substantially reduced" had she worn a helmet.
Walking helmets became widely available. The entire cabinet posed in their helmets outside Number 10, the beaming prime minister urging: "Let's go forward together into a new era of walking safety." Most children now wore a helmet walking to school, although they were otherwise not seen on the streets. They played at home, where many injured themselves stunt walking in mountain boots. Safety campaigners praised the courage of the 25% of adults who wore a walking helmet.Safety campaigner Jean Keystone read her Walkers' Helmet Bill before parliament: "As a society we are tired of the waste of lives in walking accidents. Every year, around a 1000 pedestrians are killed in walking accidents, and head injuries feature in 80% of these deaths. Since research has shown that 75% of head injuries are prevented if a good walking helmet is worn, legislation to compel wearing is justified by the saving of lives that will result." The bill wasn't passed, but time was on the campaigners' side. The pop group Toyzone promoted walking helmets in their video Take a Walk on the Mild Side. Safety campaigners founded the Helmet Youth. Only the most antediluvian public figure would appear bareheaded in the media. Compensation for injury was reduced if the pedestrian had not worn a helmet. Pressure was mounting against those who still valued the "dubious pleasure of walking with the wind in their hair."
However, safety did have its consequences. Not only had walking declined, the aspiration to walk skilfully had disappeared. A generation was growing up incapable of crossing the road. Young walkers had become dependent on their helmets. Casualty rates were increasing. Many otherwise capable adults were afraid to walk, having been alarmed by the safety campaigns. As one chubby chap said from his car: "It's got nothing to do with helmets. Walking is dangerous---why take the risk." A new breed of walker had appeared, stern and serious about safety. They wore £100 helmets, lighthouse jackets, eye protection, and spent £1000 on footwear. But they were a rare breed. Gym clubs were expanding their car parks, and the traffic had never been so bad.
Borrowed from www.bikefix.co.uk. I hope they don't mind.
They're so smart, they don't peddle fear to sell bicycles, and they have a copy of John Adam's Risk and Freedom that you can download for free. That's why they're my favorite LBS.
Sure beats a free copy of Bicycling Magazine. But then, most things do.
Saturday, September 06, 2008
Oktoberfest one week before opening, Munich (Germany)
Gingerman Oktoberfest Logo Pint Nights!
Starting at 6 PM. Buy the beer, keep the glass (until they run out... which is usually pretty quick).
September 15th - Spaten Oktoberfest glasses
September 16th - Hacker Pschorr Oktoberfest glasses
September 17th - Hofbrau Oktoberfest glasses
The only Beer Pub in Dallas with a bike rack out front. Free beer (ein) to anyone wearing an official CycleDallas/Bicycles Are Vehicles garment (if you can find me). I'll be on the front porch (most likely) from 5:45 until 6:45 PM, or out back in the biergarten.
Free glasses these following nights, too, but I may not be there, so no free beer. These are usually pretty wild looking pint glasses, but they aren't Oktoberfest biers, as there are only six official Oktoberfest beirs that are allowed to use the name: Spaten, Löwenbräu, Augustiner, Hofbräu, Paulaner and Hacker-Pschorr.
September 18th - Widmer Okto glassesP.S. Did you know the German's invented bike lanes? Prior to WW II, the Reich Transport Ministry, wanting to keep the roads clear of bicycles for the impending Blitzkrieg, used "safety" as an excuse to keep bicycles out of the way of cars and trucks on the roads near their borders by limiting them to narrow lanes along the roadway edges.
September 23rd - Flying Dog Dogtoberfest glasses
NOTE: CycleDallas does not condone impaired bicycling. If you must drink and ride, please bring a designated tandem captain.
I used to show a slide presentation of my 10 mile urban-esque bike commute, door step to door step. I would often get complaints that there were few cars in my pictures, and that I must have done the shots on Labor Day. True enough, there were few cars pictured, but I'd never really noticed what was happening until it was brought up.
The photos were all taken on normal work days, usually early into rush hour. What my viewers were seeing was the "rubber-band effect" in action. As a cyclist, I tend to ride in the gaps between cars. Because automobile drivers are almost always driving with traffic at the same speeds (or close to the same speeds), they don't realize that the group of cars they are with doesn't stretch on for miles. It's a pack, and it travels as a relatively cohesive group from stop light to stop light (this is by design).
As a cyclist, I tend to come up on the rear of the pack as the light turns green. Off they go, and I'm left behind, relatively alone on the road. If I arrive at a light ahead of the pack, I maintain my lane position, and the cars queue up behind me. When the light turns green, we all proceed, with the cars behind passing me in the lane to my left, and then I am alone again for quite awhile. Stretch and contract. Stretch and contract. And so it goes.
This is in moderate traffic. If, for some reason, I find myself in heavy traffic at the head of a signal-light queue, depending upon what my senses are telling me, I may use this opportunity to pull off to the side into a driveway and do an equipment check, or take more pictures, or take a long drink of water, while letting the car pack clear the road ahead of me. This is my personal style, and relates to my approach to right-of-way issues (more on this later).
So there you have it. If the thought of riding on arterial streets and thoroughfares concerns you because of your uneasiness of constantly riding in heavy traffic, you should stretch yourself a little and snap out of it. The rubber-band is your friend.
Friday, September 05, 2008
The projects shown in the post below (Fill In The Blanks, which I posted as a set-up) represent about $20 million dollars in funding (roughly $5M local, and $15M federal), including $5-8M for a bridge over Mockingbird Lane (so bicyclists and joggers won't be inconvenienced with a traffic signal).
Imagine what 10% of that could do for education and promotion for on-street bicycle transportation. Even just 5%. For more bike parking? For spot maintenance (better signal detection)? For more and better signage?
But the system of allocating Federal Highway and Transportation funds, as run by TxDOT (mainly the Statewide Transportation Enhancement Program, STEP), is biased towards infrastructure, although it won't pay for wide outside lanes... just trails, bike lanes, and other things to keep bikes off the streets and out of the way of cars.
TxDOT announced this week that the East Dallas Veloway Phase I, which was due to be let for construction in December, will be delayed for at least 12 more months (probably longer... TxDOT has already delayed this project by at least two years), as will the Katy Trail Phase IV (the part that goes over Skillman and Abrams, and under NW Highway to the White Rock DART Station), and all other STEP projects in Dallas due to TxDOT Austin's mismanagement of funds, with two exceptions.
Those exceptions are a pedestrian bridge over LBJ near Skillman and Walnut Hill because it is integral to a TxDOT LBJ project, and $10-20M for the Woodall Rodgers Deck Park project (which will cost about $100M total), because of political pressure from the State Legislature, which earmarked the money in advance (some suggest TxDOT is "punishing" Dallas because of this).
My point: Don't wait for "special facilities" at the hands of anti-cycling forces (both those motorists who are against sharing the road with bicycles, and those bicyclists who are afraid of sharing the road with cars). They don't like you in the first place, and they see these "special facilities" the same way public schools in Texas used to treat "separate but equal" schools: as separate and very unequal under the Jim Crow laws of the early to mid 20th century. Don't give up "two birds in the hand" (access to thousands of miles of bicycle friendly streets) for "one in the bush" (200 miles of mixed quality MUPs).
Gain the confidence needed. Refine your skills. Take control of your lane, both in the street and in the "big picture". Refuse to be marginalized to the gutter with the "rest of the trash". To paraphrase (if not psychoanalyze) Andy Clarke of the League of American Bicyclists, "Don't be a self-loathing bicyclist." Take what's yours by right and by law. You'll be surprised how easy it is..
Thursday, September 04, 2008
This is not a commentary on Wal-Mart vs. Bike-Mart.
We all ride "department store bikes", every one of us (presuming we ride bikes at all). In our consumer-crazed culture, the whole world is our department store. But I'm not talking about global/macro economics, I'm talking about you and me. We bought our bikes at the department store (even if it came through Craigslist).
My favorite department store as a kid (and therefore burned into my personal identity as the prototype), was the large Sears on Ross Avenue that opened in 1947. A mammoth (for the time) structure, it was a giant Art Moderne block of sculptured limestone. The interior walls were covered in "social realism" murals depicting the American Spirit that had just climbed out of the Great Depression and won WW II.
That's where we are going to buy a bike.
On the ground level, near the automotive area (a freestanding, oddly Federal-style building), you entered through the attached Garden Department, and went into the Toy Department. Here are some bicycles. Is your bike a toy? Is it something you get out on nice days to play with? Do you take it to the playground and show it off to your friends? I've bought bikes in the Toy Department (and looking at my folding Sinclair "A-Bike", I still do), but let's keep going.
Once inside the main building, the ground floor is mainly soft goods, the second floor furniture, and radios and televisions. The basement is our destination.
Taking the escalators down, we enter the heart of Sears, the Appliance Department, home of Kenmore. But we're not stopping. We're headed towards the Sporting Goods Department. Here are more bicycles. My first real bike came from this department, a J.C. Higgins 3-speed "English Racer" (even though it was made by Puch in Austria). Are you an athlete? Do you get on your bike and ride "hammer and tongs", as H.G. Wells said? Is it your fitness craze, replacing softball, or soccer, or rugby, or running? Do you put in more than a hundred miles a week, in an effort to stay fit and healthy, while experiencing the adrenalin/endorphin surge that competitive sports affords? I've purchased my bike in the Sporting Goods department before, but not so much now.
But to me, the real heart and soul of Sears, the reason my dad and I went and where I lingered, was the Hardware Department... the home of Craftsman tools. Power tools, hand tools, tools to rebuild the world into a better place, to make something that improved your life and your family's life, or to fix what was broken.
Here's where I buy my bikes now, tools for transportation from "Point A, to Point B". Do I get to show them off? Sure. There's nothing like the pride of a craftsman showing a well built and maintained tool to his friends. Do I get to have fun? Absolutely! A Craftsman table saw was one the most fun tools I ever worked with (and far more dangerous than any roadway I've ridden on). Do I get to make something better? Yes.
I get to improve my community.
Which department is your bike from?
Wednesday, September 03, 2008
There are over 3500 miles of streets in Dallas (not counting highways and service roads), and yet recreational cyclists (and even national LAB officials) are fixated upon 10 miles of them (less, actually, as trails aren't streets), comprising a loop around a park.
Personally, as someone who first rode those 10 miles in 1960 (when it was 12 miles, and sharing the entire ride with cars), I find this pretty pathetic.
Tuesday, September 02, 2008
Twenty years ago, I told my oldest daughter she couldn't ride her bike unless she wore a helmet. I had given her a girl's Raleigh Capri drop-bar bike, and had set her loose on the neighborhood (she already knew how to ride). But the helmet edict came from me sometime later. I believed what I was reading without investigating the claims, that death lurked, waiting to pounce on America's children (why would researchers lie about safety? not for "grants", surely?).
Faced with my edict, she chose to quit riding. I won. My will triumphed.
Twenty years later, now living in a small town south of Austin, with a house and a husband, and two small boys, she is in school again at Texas State University in San Marcos (the university formerly known as Southwest Texas State University). She lives 13 miles from campus, and wants to start riding her bike to school, and to town for grocery items. She asked me to keep an eye open for a good used drop-bar bike for under $150 (Austin's not a good place to look for such).
I found, and bought for her ("Happy Birthday!"), a nice aluminum Trek 1220 from about 1998... with Bar-Cons! I ride an old Trek 2100 (1996? time flies), using the same geometry and cast lugs (carbon fibre main tubes), back from when Trek was an American-made Bicycle Company. We'll get a good rack, a lock, some other small items (maybe a crash hat), and away she goes.
I hope she'll take LAB's Road 1 course, but I'm not pushing it, or her. And not a word about you know what.
Monday, September 01, 2008
I see blue and white signs in Dallas that have a bicycle and a number on them. Are these bike routes? I saw some in my neighborhood, but I also saw some on a busy thoroughfare that's not safe for bikers. Please help me understand what these are for.
Unsure in Dallas
Yes, those are wayfinding signs for the Dallas Bike Route System. Unlike the old-style bike route systems, this is a system that tells cyclists how to navigate around the city. The old-style bike routes systems, with the white on green signs that were popular in the 1970s (and still are today in some places), were meant to designate pleasant streets to ride bicycles on for recreation and fun. They were usually loops through quiet neighborhoods and around parks.
The system you see in Dallas is designed to show connections across the city as part of the transportation grid. Although selected by cyclists utilizing lower volume streets whenever possible (about 80% of the system), they don't necessarily imply a low volume street. In some cases, thoroughfares are used as routes because that's the only way to make the necessary connections across major obstacles. There is never any implication of a route being "safe", as "safety" is dependent upon too many variables, and means different things to different people.
While most people consider bike paths to be safer than streets, your chances of suffering a serious injury are three times higher on paths and trails than on local streets. I bring this up because "safety" is a term that is highly relative, and has more to do with the bicyclist than the facility, and that's why we don't use "skill level" or "safety level" ratings for our route system. The determination is too subjective, and can be misleading.
The purpose of the route system is to show cyclists a good way to get around and across town via bicycles as selected by other cyclists familiar with that area. Conditions do change, and at times and in places, other streets may be more more appropriate than the ones designated as bike routes. In major cases, the route system has been modified, and will continuing being modified, as conditions continue to change. This approach is an organic and dynamic one, as opposed to a static system. By adjusting your course, you can make every bike route your own personalized bike route, as it fits your needs.