Thursday, November 27, 2008
Wednesday, November 26, 2008
I spoke with a local private sector urban planner today. He has a new colleague working in the office who is an "avid cyclist", who moved here from some city in the northeast... let's say Boston (not it). He use to commute to work by bicycle, but can't now that he's in Dallas because "there are no bicycle facilities".
He lives in the M-Streets, and works downtown (let's say, Akard and Commerce... although that's not it).
A few weeks ago we (my gentle readers and myself) showed a young lady who was fairly new to cycling, numerous ways to easily make roughly the same trip (from routes for beginners to routes for the mythical FHWA Class A cyclists) .
This new resident, separated from work by just a few miles of easily navigable streets for a "Class A/B" cyclist, feels that without some bike lanes he can't make the trip (and blames Dallas).
I don't know where to begin. It's like these people think bike lanes were invented before bicycles. Or perhaps they are so use to laws that mandate they ride in bike lanes when they are present, they've forgotten you can ride in a street without them.
Or maybe it's just another excuse.
Tuesday, November 25, 2008
Neglected Dallas municipal courts complex in dire shape
07:25 AM CST on Monday, November 24, 2008By RUDOLPH BUSH / The Dallas Morning News
...last two grafs...
(City Manager Mary Suhm) added that the problem with the courts buildings isn't simply a function of their age. It reflects a larger city problem that must be addressed.
"Historically, we just have not been very good about maintaining things," she said. "It's a problem, and we need to fix it."
Remember the Four-Es bicycle advocacy approach that the League of American Bicyclists (LAB) used to push? These were the self-explanatory principals that were thought should guide bicycle advocacy efforts: Engineering, Education, Enforcement, and Encouragement, and was meant to replace the "facilities only" thinking of the 1970s.
But things have changed (as has the LAB). Instead of the Four-Es, we now have the "For Ease" approach:
ENGINEERING: The reliance on sound traffic and civil engineering practice has been replaced with Exterior Decorating, as practiced by Landscape Architects and Urban Planners (with increasing resignation from licensed career-minded engineers). If it looks good to non-cyclists (especially if it looks good in cities near the North Sea), then it is good.
EDUCATION: The old idea that bicyclists can be easily taught to operate safely in a vehicular manner is out of fashion now, (and considered downright fascist by some). The implication that cyclists ought, or are even able, to learn the simple procedures and techniques that enable them them to operate in the traffic mix with automobiles is now seen as laughable and elitist.
ENFORCEMENT: The idea that fair and equal enforcement of traffic laws should be applied to both motorists and bicyclists has now fallen by the wayside. Now, the prevailing "advocacy" position is that enforcement should be a one-way street (directed only toward motorists)... and it should be a street that cyclists can ride on the wrong way.
ENCOURAGEMENT: Rather than being encouraged to take their rightful and safe place as part of the transportation landscape, cyclists must now be encouraged by embracing segregation, and by the rejection of the other three original Es as being elitist.
The "For Ease" approach is the end result of the ABC Design-Cyclist theory (A: Skilled, elitest cyclists, B: College students and casual cyclists, and C: Children), and the decision to focus bicycle transportation efforts on the B/C cyclists (while claiming the A-Class cyclists only make up 5% of cyclists, and that that number is static and cannot be raised).
For much of the propagation this dismal opinion of American cyclists (if not most of it), we can thank ProBike/ProWalk (a guaranteed source of "For Ease" propaganda), the Association of Pedestrian and Bicycle Professionals (APBP... as unprofessional a "professional group" as has ever made a splash in public policy), Bikes Belong, the Rails-To-Trails Conservancy, and the League of American Bicyclists... all of which now have a direct physical and philosophical link with the old astroturf
industry lobbyist group BikeFed, who just so happens to have been the inventor of the Design Cyclist approach.
Perhaps to supplement the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), we can soon look forward to the Americans with Bicycles Act (ABA), with similar provisions and protections.
There is an interesting development occurring along the Katy Trail in Dallas (follow the green line above) involving what is and isn't expected of trail users in terms of yielding right-of-way.
Background: The Katy Trail is an urban rail-trail conversion. It has peak trip-rates as high as 500 users per hour (crossing a point), although many of these are repeat trips by the same user. Knox Street is a 4 lane local collector (30 mph) in a mixed-use environment with an average of 8,000 vehicle trips a day.
By looking at the aerial photo, you can see that the sight-lines along the trail are very dangerous due to the close proximity of buildings and landscaping (vision rods instead of cones of vision). An art installation along the trail at the intersection (interactive posts that light up and make musical chime sounds when users pass through) adds to the dangers of the crossing.
There have been numerous events with cyclists, joggers, and skaters failing to yield to motorists on Knox Street. Neither the trail users nor the street traffic can see the crossing traffic until they are at the intersection. Flashing lights, street marking, and what is essentially a road table for the crossing (the old rail bed is raised above the street grade, and flat on top) are used to control street traffic, while a stop sign is used on the trail.
Many runners, cyclists, and skaters ignore the stop sign on the trail at an alarming rate. Nothing new here, as this is one of the problematic issues with trail crossings: trail users have a higher level of failure to yield than do street users. The trail's "stop sign" is not an enforceable traffic control device, but really is more of a caution (which is why I recommend YIELD signs on trails instead... don't train people to ignore unenforceable traffic signs).
A request was made by the Friends of the Katy Trail (a private organization that controls the trail's operation) for a 4-way stop to be placed at the intersection. After studying the request, the City's Traffic Engineer realized that trail users would continue to ignore their stop sign, creating confusion and higher danger levels in the intersection. The City Traffic Engineer proposed a signalized intersection, with a pedestrian operated signal request. Treated as a signalized pedestrian crossing, running the stop signal would be violation of City Traffic Ordinance, and would be enforceable by fine. This would provide a due penalty for any pedestrian, skater, or peda-cyclist who ignored the signal phase, and allow for citing any motorist who ran the red light during the ped crossing phase.
The Friends of the Katy Trail are very unhappy about this. What they want is for vehicles to yield to trail users at all times, despite the imbalance in traffic (2,000 ADT on the Katy Trail, vs. 15,000 ADT on Knox Street). This of course makes no sense, and encourages trail users to "play in the streets" rather than be required to show reasonable behavior in dealing with right of way issues. It's a dangerous precedent that costs people their lives.
Last night, the Friends of the Katy Trail were set to unveil a plan for a proposed six mile, $60+ million (more of less) cycletrack through Dallas' Uptown, Arts District, Central Business District and Victory development, that would create literally dozens of trail crossing even more dangerous than this one. The necessarily right-of-way would come from cutting Routh Street in half (down to two lanes with no on-street parking), mixing urban pedestrians with trail users along Ross Avenue, and utilizing r.o.w. that has been secured for the new DART light rail line through the CBD. The designer? Portland's Alta+Design (no stranger to developing high-risk bicycle and pedestrian facilities).
Interesting footnote on the Katy Trail's 2,000+ ADT: Even though the Katy Trail connects upscale, high-density housing (and comes within a half mile, along a quiet residential street, of Southern Methodist University in the City of University Park) with Dallas' Central Business District and Victory Development, only 12 identifiable commute trips were recorded during a recent trail count at peak hours... a number unchanged since the year 2002 even though recreational traffic has increased by 30%, as have the number of residential units.
Sunday, November 23, 2008
Hi there! If this street had a typical (Portland, Chicago, Seattle, Austin-style) bike lane installation, the cyclist would be toast. They are, frequently, because too many cyclists fear the small danger that's behind them instead of the real danger in front of them.
Coming soon! A post that's not about bike lanes!
Thursday, November 20, 2008
From Principles of Cycle Planning by John Franklin:
At the international Velo City conference in Munich this year, a Swiss delegate described how there has been a major shift in his country from accommodating cyclists separately to mixing cyclists with traffic, with changes to the road environment as necessary. This has led to big increases in cycling. The mayors of Munich, Brussels, Copenhagen and Paris each explicitly stated how they wanted cycling back on their streets. And even a speaker from the Netherlands defined ‘cycle-friendly cities’ as those with as few special facilities for cyclists as possible.
The factors that are driving these trends include recognition that the quality of separate infrastructure is rarely good enough to satisfy a wide range of cyclists; that the capacity of such infrastructure is too limited for potential cycling growth; and intractable problems of safety.
Makes a perfect gift for that Elected Official on your Holiday list. Why send a fruitcake when you can give the gift of education? Their morning coffee can open their eyes in more ways than one.
Just follow the T-Shirt link at the bottom right, or click here.
I see so many bad letters, either anti-bicycling, anti-bicyling in the street, or promoting poor cycling, I couldn't believe it when a good letter showed up in yesterday's Wichita Eagle. I may have to look this guy up.
http://www.kansas.com/711/story/596069.htmlCyclists are like you
Someone asked in the Oct. 30 Opinion Line about the difference between a road-going cyclist and a moviegoing seat-kicker. That's an easy one. The latter is just an inconsiderate annoyance, while the former is a law-abiding, taxpaying commuter attempting to safely and efficiently navigate our city's roadways, just like you. Driveways, pedestrians and alleyways present deadly hazards for cyclists. It's actually illegal to ride on the sidewalk in downtown Wichita. Simply put, sidewalks are for walking, as their name suggests. I suspect the Opinion Line contributor is unfamiliar with Kansas statute 8-1587, which states, "Every person riding a bicycle upon a roadway shall be granted all of the rights and shall be subject to all of the duties applicable to the driver of a vehicle."
So let's ditch the impatience, fully change lanes, and go around. Is it that hard? Smile and wave -- bet you get one back. Give respect, get respect, and we all get where we're going. Remember that we're not blocking traffic, we are traffic.
Tuesday, November 18, 2008
Monday, November 17, 2008
People ask, "Why do you kick against the goads?"
Because bad decisions harm people specifically because of the bad decisions. Those bad decisions also kill people, and I have a duty (and a great privilege) to try and keep people as safe as possible (recognizing that life is not without risk).
Every decision I make has a fulcrum point. That fulcrum point is, "Will this decision directly put people's lives in danger? Will it expose them to greater or lesser risk?"
I do not worry about "Is it popular?", or "Is it politically correct?", or "Is it the current style?" No. Instead I ask myself, "Does this action endanger people more than the other alternatives?"
I truly wish the folks at LAB and Bicycling Magazine asked the same question. Sadly, their question seems to be, "Will this sell?"
Austin Texas is a "Silver" rated Bicycle Friendly town by the League of American Bicyclists.
This is one of Austin's 3' wide bike lanes along a 40 mph thoroughfare (gutter pan does not count according to the AASHTO Guide, and shouldn't, because the seam between the road pavement and the gutter-pan is dangeous to bicyclists). There were no advance warning signs that the bike lane ends, just cones. Of course, there were no cyclists, either, and who could blame them for avoiding this facility like the plague?
I'm not really picking on Austin, because this is typical of what you'll find in any politically-mandated installation. There's no real "traffic engineering" involved beyond keeping cars moving freely. By keeping cyclists confined (segregated) into that narrow "lane", motorists don't have to deflect when they pass, and thereby pass cyclists closer than they would otherwise, and faster.
To be rated "Bike Friendly Silver" by the LAB, apparently all it takes is a can of Magick Paint™.
Magick Paint™: The Plague on American Bicycling.
Note: If that street simply had a wide curb lane, non curb-bunny cyclists would place themselves about where the stripe is, or a foot to the left or right of the stripe (some would move further to the left, toward the middle of the lane). The result would be that motorists would pull around them to pass, giving the cyclists more clearance, and the cyclists would easily and safely maneuver around the curb-cut construction.
Thursday, November 13, 2008
More Manhattan bike lanes, clearly exhibiting the lack of foresight politically-motivated bicycle transportation facilities typically display.
An overview of what we are looking at:
1) One Way street in Manhattan. One travel lane was removed, and replaced with two bike lanes. Notice the motor vehicles stacked in queue (thereby adding to the emissions of unburned hydro-carbons), and the absence of bicycles (the photographer's bicycle is parked to the left).
2) The empty Bike Boxes.
3) The Stop Bars for the motor vehicles (all of which have been crossed to varying degrees by motor vehicles hoping to see crossing traffic).
Question: When you pull up to an intersection with visual obstructions (see the Dodge van?), do you pull past the stop bar so you can see crossing traffic before you proceed under green?
Observation: The Bike Boxes create a situation where a vehicle operator (motorized or other) might be unable to see another vehicle approaching from the side street, creating a dangerous hazard. When you suspend proven design techniques to accommodate a fad of fashion, you too often put people's lives at risk.
“Los Angeles is a very challenging environment to ride in, given the condition of roadways, the storm grates that will eat your wheels, the lack of formal bike lanes or bike paths and just a lack of respect and a lack of awareness from motorists about the rights of bicyclists,” says Matt Benjamin, a transportation planner from Alta Planning + Design in San Rafael, Calif., which has been hired by the city to update its bike plan.An interesting quote from the largest purveyor of totally segregated facilities for bicyclists. Portland, Oregon, the home of Alta+Design (and their claim to fame), has yet to replace all of their parallel drain grates... something the City of Dallas did almost twenty years ago to make streets safer for bicyclists.
Beware of transportation planning firms that have no transportation engineers on staff.
Story and photos here.
Oak Cliff is a wonderful, older section of town that used to be its own sovereign city. It's gridded with low-traffic, tree-lined streets. It's a delightfully quiet part of town, with efficient thoroughfares running across it to carry traffic, and connecting highways along its edges to provide regional access. It's a wonderfully bike-friendly neighborhood.
The population mix is pleasant: older Anglos combined with immigrant Hispanics and an influx of new hipsters. The older Anglos are against any change. The immigrant Hispanics are eager to recreate something that looks like Nuevo Laredo. The neo-urban hipsters, on the other hand, are at once proud of Oak Cliff and desirous that it be something else.
That something is Portland, the new "Disneyland's Magic Kingdom" of American communities (where the poor are shipped out of town, and Federal subsidized housing is provided for Liberal Arts Majors working at Starbuck's... I'm not making this up), but with 1/10 the population density, and 1/4 the per capita income. They want bike lanes, street cars, brew pubs, and coffee shops. I'm with 'em 3/4's of the way, although the economic reality of what drives the objects of their desires seems a little distant.
Perhaps someone will respond. Where would you put a bike lane, and why?
We have entered the time of the "pernicious fad" (as John Shubert puts it), where people think you can't ride your bike without first having a bike lane. That's rightly called the Cyclist Inferiority Complex.
Or as my mother said, "I suppose if all your friend's jumped off the cliff, you'd want to do it too."
Notice that he is wearing a helmet.
Eric Jackson of Bike DFW: Share the road
12:00 AM CDT on Friday, July 18, 2008, The Dallas Morning NewsEric Jackson is the president of BikeDFW, www.bikedfw.org. His e-mail address is eric.jackson @bikedfw.org.
Bicyclists are on the streets to get to work, go to the store, see a movie, get exercise, visit family and friends and for all of the same other reasons as motorists. In addition, gasoline is over $4 per gallon and the region risks federal sanctions if we don't improve our polluted air. Mass transit is moving forward and is a great thing, but is a long way from being able to serve a majority of the North Texas residents (and bicycles are a great link to mass transit systems). Obesity and lack of activity are growing health problems.
For North Texas, cycling is a much bigger solution than it is a problem. Here's a look at what needs to happen for bicycles and motor vehicles to safely coexist:
MOTORISTS – Cycling is a form of transportation, and bicycles belong on the streets (as recognized in the Texas Motor Vehicle Code). Cyclists pay for streets through all forms of taxes, just as motorists do. Treat bicycles as you would motor vehicles – whether passing, at stop signs, street crossings, etc. You can coexist with bicycles as long as everyone is patient and considerate of all users of public facilities. Learn about interacting with bicycles. You can have very little inconvenience due to bicycles (delays due to cyclists are most often 10-30 seconds, not minutes), avoid the penalties related to hitting cyclists and make the metroplex a better place to live.
BICYCLISTS – Follow the laws. Stop at stop signs and traffic signals – every time. Ride as close to the right as possible if the lane is wide enough for both a bicycle and a car; if not, you should control the lane for safety. Don't ride more than two abreast; change to single file when cars approach and you don't need to control the lane. Choose your roads carefully emphasizing safety and your impact on motor vehicle traffic. In Dallas, Fort Worth and other cities, on-street bicycle route systems are a good start. Be considerate and polite to other users, including pedestrians and cars. If a car gets held behind you on a narrow street, consider helping it pass in a reasonable and safe way.
LAW ENFORCEMENT – If cyclists break traffic laws, issue warnings and citations just as you would to motorists. Take it seriously when motor vehicles hit cyclists, run cyclists off the road, or otherwise harm or threaten cyclists, and issue the proper citations or charges. Don't trivialize car-bicycle incidents and let drivers off if they are guilty of an offense or negligence.
GOVERNMENT – As gasoline gets more expensive and North Texas air quality in continues to be poor, more people will cycle. Work to accommodate cyclists on our streets. Implement on-street bike routes with signage and pavement markings. Make traffic signal sensors sensitive to bicycles – many aren't. Improve access to public transit for bicycles; DART and The T are moving forward with this and need to push even harder. Consider the impact to cyclists of all new projects – make facilities safer and access better at every opportunity.
Education is a key. Cities should include inserts in utility bills and place announcements online and on their cable channels related to cycling. Local media – newspapers, radio, and television – can spread the word.
This not only can, but must work out for all who live and work in North Texas. We can conquer this issue; many other cities, including Phoenix, Denver and Tucson, have shown that it can be done. The time for North Texas to start has passed; the time to act is now.
Eric Jackson is the president of BikeDFW, www.bikedfw.org. His e-mail address is eric.jackson @bikedfw.org.
Wednesday, November 12, 2008
My daughters both went to the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts ("Arts Magnet"). It is a racially-balanced inner-city "Magnet School" in the Dallas School District, that counts among its alumni such minor luminaries as Edie Brickell, Roy Hargrove, Erika Baddhu, and Nora Jones (plus a whole bunch of slackers). At the time they were there, it was often rated as the top public high school in America. It had great teachers and administrators, high academic standards, and a long waiting list for admittance (by grades and portfolio only). But it was not without controversies.
I recall attending a Parents/Teachers meeting once with the School Board. A hot topic was the desire by some parents whose children hadn't been accepted for their kids to be allowed in. Ninety-nine percent of Arts Magnet students went on to college, most with scholarships. In an inner city neighborhood, that's huge, and something to be quite proud of.
I'll never forget the pain and sorrow I felt at that meeting, as parent after parent stood before the School Board asking them to lower the academic standards for admission. As one mother put it, "I couldn't go to college. I didn't graduate from high school. I want a better life for my boy. Ninety-nine percent of Arts graduates go to college. I want my boy to go to college, but he couldn't get into Arts because his grades aren't good enough. I need you to lower the standards so my son can get in and go to college."
I was broken-hearted seeing this mother, who so loved her son, completely misunderstand how the academic system (on this level) worked. She thought the kids went on to college because they went to Arts Magnet, not that they went to college because their academic achievements were high. She saw it as an instant-gratification program that was unfairly keeping her son from attending college. She saw evil intent as well, where there was none.
Of course, what would have been best for her son was for him to stay where he was, do his best (with his mother's help), and graduate in the top 10% of his class. In Texas, the top 10% of each school's graduates are guaranteed admission to a state college or university. Had he been admitted to Arts, he would have had a much more difficult time getting into college than if he'd just stay put. But his mother confused the result for the process. She believed if he went to Arts, then he would be entitled to attend college automatically.
And so it is with people who insist we will make transportation cyclists automatically by placing novice cyclists in bike lanes. No skills. No proficiency. No responsibility. Just bike lanes.
A reader of this blog just got back from Austin, Texas. He was shocked by the horrible cycling exemplified there by the cyclists in that "Bike Friendly" town. Sidewalk cyclists. Wrong way cyclists. Erratic and unpredictable cycling including weaving in and out of parked cars, and crossing multiple lanes of traffic to execute a left turn from the right lane... without looking and yielding.
Bike lanes encourage that behavior by explicitly telling cyclists that they are in a different traffic reality, and that they are "entitled" to behave contrary to the laws and rules that apply to real vehicles.
Having been "given" their unearned diplomas, I have to wonder if they ever really graduate. Not that I have seen.
Tuesday, November 11, 2008
This is part of New York City's Bicycle Safety Campaign.
Let's review. The Mayor (or any other elected official) decides "We gotta get 'bike friendly'! Get me some bike lanes, and make it snappy!"
Look at the picture. Where the taxi's right-side rear tire is placed, in what use to be an 8' wide parking space, there is now a 5' wide loading zone and a 3' wide "bike lane". I say "bike lane" parenthetically, because the AASHTO Guide wouldn't call that a bike lane. Nor should the City of New York, and neither should you.
This is the kind of design you get when politicians dictate traffic design. Mayor Bloomberg is a very gifted man when it comes to making money. Perhaps he'd like to share some of it with the hundreds (or thousands) of bicyclists who will be doored in Manhattan this year because of his venture into traffic engineering.
John Schubert refers to these kind of facilities as a "pernicious fad". I think he is being too kind. This is reaching plague stage.
Monday, November 10, 2008
Someone can't quite seem to buy a clue. Maybe you can help.
A tip of the cap to chip-seal for bringing this to my attention (if not quite directly).
Sunday, November 09, 2008
Friday, November 07, 2008
THE CODIFIED ORDINANCES
311.03 TOY VEHICLES ON STREETS. (a) No person on roller skates or riding in or by means of any sled, toy vehicle, skateboard or similar device shall go upon any roadway except while crossing a street on a crosswalk and except on streets set aside as play streets.
(b) Whoever violates this section is guilty of a minor misdemeanor on a first offense; on a second offense within one year after the first offense, the person is guilty of a misdemeanor of the fourth degree; on each subsequent offense within one year after the first offense, the person is guilty of a misdemeanor of the third degree.
"Vehicle" means every device, including a motorized bicycle, in, upon or by which any person or property may be transported or drawn upon a street or highway, except that "vehicle" does not include any motorized wheelchair, any electric personal assistive mobility device, or any device, other than a bicycle, that is moved by human power. (ORC 4511.01(A))
(a) "Bicycle" means every device, other than a tricycle designed solely for use as a play vehicle by a child, propelled solely by human power, upon which any person may ride having either two tandem wheels or one wheel in the front and two wheels in the rear, any of which is more than fourteen inches in diameter. (ORC 4511.01(G))
This is a boilerplate municipal code. Odds are your town uses the exact (or nearly exact) wording in its transportation regulations.
When I was studying inline skate ordinances (making recommendations for their possible legal operation on public streets), I looked long and hard at the toy vehicles statutes. It became apparent to me how much the concept of "toy vehicle" has been applied to bicycles.
Far too often, Park and Recreation Departments had been charged with developing bike plans, and they were hiring Landscape Architects to develop them. Paths in the parks were being extended into streets to make connections. Traffic Engineers were called in to help make the parks essentially overflow into the streets. At first, the engineers resisted, wanting bicycles to behave like the vehicles they legally are. But the public and the politicians (and the landscape architects) began to hold sway, and separate play streets began to be developed. These were called bike lanes, but that's not how they were expected to function.
Bike lanes, from their earliest days in Germany before the war (2nd), are classified as control devices. Their design was to regulate and control bicycle traffic so as to not impede the dominate automobile flow (the German Reich Transit Ministry also had some notion about being sure to keep the through-lanes free of bicycles should there be an unexpected desire to vacation en mass in France via the Lowland Countries).
But where there was little bicycle traffic (not enough to impede automobile traffic), the bike lane as a traffic control device didn't make functional sense. What was it?
The bike lane became seen by traffic engineers essentially as a separate play street for bicycle toy vehicles. Rules could now be bent and/or broken to accommodate this non-vehicle vehicle. The engineers learned how to look the other way, because this was no longer serious transportation, but a recreational activity. Soon, many engineers began to view all bicycle traffic in this light.
Bicycle advocacy groups began representing the desires of toy vehicle operators (the Cyclist Inferiority position). The more "separate play streets" they built and striped, the more poorly trained cyclists expressed a desire for them, and the more they were 'enabled" to remain toy-vehicle operators. The basic engineering problems were dismissed as being no longer applicable. Why did these "advocacy" groups do this? Partly because they feared riding as a vehicle, partly because inferior position conditioning was setting in, but in some cases, because of where the money was coming from.
There are basically two kinds of advocacy groups: Grassroots and Astroturf.
From a distance, they look pretty much alike. Grassroots groups represent real people, and the old League of American Wheelmen (LAW) was a good example of a grassroots bicycle advocacy organization, a member-based group with full elected representation and accountability.
In the 1980s and 90s there was another bicycle advocacy group that seemed to represent cyclists, but really was a front for the bicycle industry. BikeFed was an Astroturf organization... a group that has the appearances of representing a user constituency, but really represented Industry interests, with no representation or accountability (except to those cutting the checks). It's more effective than a true grassroots organization, because it has fewer voices to answer to, and because it's often better funded.
In the late 1990s (IIRC) The League of American Wheelmen changed its name the to The League of American Bicyclists (LAB), and began morphing from a grassroots organization into an Astroturf one. There have been pluses and minuses to that, depending upon one's perspective. One of their focuses has become removing the objections of fear-based cyclists (and potential cyclists), in placating their concerns without addressing their problems. This short-sighted approach is symptomatic of American culture, and is the equivalent of applying a Band-Aid to a sucking chest wound (or placing a helmet upon a cyclist with a broken neck).
To achieve this change, LAB hired a veteran of two AstroTurf organizations – BikeFed and Rails-To-Trails – to lead them to the promised land... but at a cost.
But here's the problem. American cyclists are basically divided into two basic overlapping groups: Recreational Cyclists (Sport), and Utilitarian Cyclists (sometimes vehicular, but mostly just students and the immigrant poor). More than any other transportation mode, cyclists are almost impossible to segment and identify by operational characteristics, but that doesn't stop people from trying.
Because it's about marketing (to elected officials and government agencies, and to manufacturers and retailers), the Astroturf approach is almost always aimed at the most desirable (and marketable) subset. And so, recreational cyclists, who can't be bothered with learning the simplicity and versatility of vehicular cycling, became the target. Their every objection must now be met with pandering, not training.
Are the cars mean to you? Separate yourself from them (at taxpayer expense), rather than learn responsibility. Demand "victim status", and expect nothing less than compensation for it. I recently learned of an attempt to pass legislation to protect cyclists, pedestrians, and motorcyclists, called the "Vulnerable Transportation Users Act" (or something like that). I suggested exchanging "vulnerable" for "exposed", because "vulnerable" is word that connotes victim status. As a utilitarian/vehicular cyclist, I am not a victim.
So why does this matter? It matters because of freedom of mobility, and because of safety. The more we fall into the victim-hood trap of the toy vehicle syndrome, the more our personal mobility will be hampered, and the more danger we will be placed in. The more we abandon the logical Common Law based rules of free access and right-of-way, the more we will be relegated to where we may ride, and how. The more we reward fear and resistance to inconvenience, the more dangerous and difficult will become our enterprise.
That enterprise is the free and safe movement of the most efficient transportation device ever invented by man: the bicycle.
I post this a reminder that every parking meter is a bike rack. Use the sidewalk side of the meter, and lock your bike as shown above. If you have a quick release saddle, QUICK! Release it and take it with you! Or carry a cable as well as a U-Lock, and also run the cable through the seat rails and through the U-Lock. Another option is to carry your front wheel (and saddle if it has the silly quick-release clamp) with you (and any other easily removable item like waterbottles, lights and cyclocomputers). A bike without a front wheel is far less attractive to a would-be thief.
Also, I wouldn't recommend leaving your helmet with your bike... ESPECIALLY not as indicated in the illustration.
Tuesday, November 04, 2008
Reader chipseal left this comment on the post below. His comment about narrow outside lanes (most of ours are 11' wide, which is NARROW, and some are narrower) is very instructive.
chipseal's comments reproduced:
I am a hardened, hard nosed VIC cyclist, and Dallas is the best town for bicycles I have ever cycled in. I have pedaled thousands of miles in southern California, there they have a mostly wide outside lane setup. I find the Dallas narrow outside lane configuration to be far more pleasant and far less stressful.
I am car-free and I have traveled more than ten thousand miles in and around Dallas in the past two years. In that time I have been right hooked zero times, and seldom "buzzed". (The only ones who buzz me here do it deliberately to "teach me a lesson". But in California I had both the deliberate AND inadvertent close passes.)
Heather, when you are ready, you will find that a narrow outside lane is really a wide and clean 10' to 12' bike lane! How cool is that? From the sidewalk the MPH traffic seems like it would be suicidal to ride in. But the cyclist is spotted from far off, and traffic moves around you without any fuss at all.
When you are ready, get someone who is experienced in riding Dallas arterials and tag along with them. (You needn't be a fast rider to do it, and in a narrow lane it is legal to ride two abreast.)
What chipseal is saying is exactly what the quote in the upper right column of this blog states: Cyclists fare best when they act, and are treated, as the drivers of other vehicles.
I watched a very athletic cyclist on Mockingbird Lane yesterday afternoon. He was obviously riding to White Rock Lake, and he was riding about a foot from the curb (curb bunny). Cars were passing him in the remaining 10' of lane without deflecting, leaving less than 2' clearance. I cringed. Had he ridden 3-4' out (or better yet, in the middle of the lane), cars would have pulled into the center lane well in advance of overtaking him. He was wearing camouflage attire (black cycling shorts, black helmet, and a white jersey with logos on it... visually, that's urban street camo), with nothing to his rear to make himself more visible. The bright yellow of his bike frame was invisible to an overtaking motorist (being seen from the side is of little value).
Reader chipseal (whose user name brings up some unpleasant memories for me about encountering unexpected road surface improvements while cycling) expresses a confidence not only in his own ability, but in the ability of ANYONE to quickly adapt to vehicular cycling (VC) techniques. I wouldn't go so far as he has about cycling in Dallas, as I much preferred my days of cycling around Durant, Oklahoma.
Monday, November 03, 2008
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A reader, gently pointing out that this blog's recent "Death Rides A Bike" tone wasn't helping them become a bike commuter, requested some route suggestions. Two other readers and the editor responded.
I have mapped them out (without showing the actual start and stop points). This exercise shows three different approaches to one problem. There are more. Two of the routes feature using a trail prominently. One doesn't. Had a hard-nosed vehicular cyclists joined in the fun, you would probably see yet a different approach.
This is why I argue against Andy Clarke and the League of American Bicyclists about Dallas being "a horrible place to ride a bicycle". The multiple options available for cyclists to travel around the town relatively easily is what makes Dallas a uniquely good city for bicycle transportation. As viable vehicles, bicycles do not require much, certainly not $1,000,000 a mile special facilities.
A bicycle is either a toy-vehicle requiring special "playgrounds" to operate on (the position LAB's Clarke takes, whether intentionally or unintentionally -- I presume the latter) or it is a viable and legal vehicle capable of operating safely on the vast majority of roads, without having to acquire special "ultra-skills". The latter position operates with the understanding that well-design street systems, with their mix of local, collector, and arterial streets, are by their very nature "bicycle friendly".
Clarke's preferred definition makes operating a bicycle like a vehicle illegal anyplace his promoted treatment (bike lanes) has been installed. And he and LAB push for more (and more bizarre) versions of bike facilities in the name of being "bike friendly".
"Work is Freedom." "War is Peace." "Segregation is Good (for Bicyclists)." And so it goes.
Sunday, November 02, 2008
Here's a new bike lane in Austin. Even if cars DON'T park in it, it's a poor design. The cyclist's wheel will fall right on the seam between the two pavement types. Austin is among the worst cities in America when it comes to painting bike lanes with little or no regard for the condition of the pavement, because the important thing is to get the paint down, not consider its functionality (an oxymoron, I know)
That's a dangerous design that can cause a cyclist to lose control of their bicycle. By Texas law, a cyclist MUST ride in that bike lane. To me, it borders on criminal negligence.
It's another example of a politically motivated design. I can't imagine people not seeing through the whole stupidity of it.
But then, that's the CIC in action.
P.S. How'd you like to own a house on this street, and one day discover your friends who come to visit get parking tickets for parking in front of your home? "Bicycle Friendly", or "How To Piss People Off At Cyclists"? There is a coming backlash, just wait.
Saturday, November 01, 2008
The City of Dallas recently sent a delegation to Portland, Oregon and Vancouver, British Columbia, to observe their streetcar systems. Paid for by a private foundation, these elected officials and city staff members came back with lots of observations as Dallas prepares to expand its own streetcar line beyond McKinney Avenue (and with modern cars).
One of the observations that was brought back was a reflection on the number of young neo-urban hipsters hanging out in coffee shops, bookstores and brewpubs. It was noticed that almost every urban block had a coffee shop or two (some Starbuck's stores, but also Peet's, Pups and Cups, Anna Banana's and others). All the young (and not so young) neo-urban hipsters were apparently drawn to Portland by the vast number of coffee shops, as well as by the many bookstores and brewpubs.
So the official observers deduced that for Dallas to get more neo-urban hipsters for its streetcars, Dallas needs more coffee shops, brewpubs, and bookstores. But what drew the coffee shops, bookstores, and brewpubs to Portland in the first place? A visit with the landscape architects from Awful+Design (Portland's famous transportation fashion boutique) revealed the answer: Bike Lanes.
According to Awful, Portland was a dying city that looked an "awful" lot like Beaumont, Texas (a city that's a lot like Portland, except that it's flat and hot and humid, almost devoid of interesting architecture or public spaces, and the water has an odd color and odor). But once Portland began installing bike lanes, the coffee shops, bookstores and brewpubs followed as if a modern-day "Johnny Coffee Bean" had come down the bike lanes, spreading unroasted beans to his right unto the sidewalks where the coffee shops sprouted almost overnight (because he could only ride to the far right side of the streets, the beans he threw to the left were crushed by cars and grew not).
Once the coffee shops, bookstores and brewpubs sprang up, the young (and not so young) neo-urban hipsters soon followed in droves. Portland was revitalized, the Metro and streetcars were running, the coffee and ale flowed, and the streets hummed to the sound of post-modern literature being discussed and to The Decemberists.
It's been correctly pointed out that in my battle against fear-mongering, I've used the fear-mongers' own tactics in pointing out the failure of their preferred solutions. So, I thought this might be a good time to revisit the risk involved in cycling. This data set is based upon the risk associated with various activities "per hour of exposure", or in other words, on a level playing field so that activities with lower use (cycling) aren't artificially represented against activities with high use rates (driving/riding in a car).
|Activity Fatalities per 1,000,000 Exposure Hours|
|Data compiled by Failure Analysis Associates, Inc.|