Sunday, May 31, 2009
Oh, almost forgot, but it's one of my pet peeves - the Colorado law lets motorists cross the double yellow to pass a cyclist, unlike the Texas equivalent. In my experience, the Colorado law merely codifies typical practice due to the overuse of double yellow markings.
Friday, May 29, 2009
Thursday, May 28, 2009
#1 Why is ONLY bicycling combined with an unrelated transit mode - namely roller blading? Does NCTCOG have some evidence that the two modes share some sort of demographic? Are there a measurable fraction of roller bladers that commute 40 miles RT to work as I do on my bike? The questions go on and on but I'm sure you get the idea. Maybe combine telework centers with roller blading. My personal theory is that it's the "drive alone" types that are secret roller bladers and you're missing a major trend. I admit I've roller bladed in my life, but it took NCTCOG to make any connection with cycling. I suspect that if I actually tried to roller blade up Westport Parkway in Fort Worth, I'd not live to try it a second time. The drivers would all avoid me, but the washboard surface would do me in.
#2 How do the various "did not work," "started commute after 10AM," and "brown bag lunch" items actually reduce pollution one iota for people commuting via nonmotorized means? Might it be simpler just to have three categories - motorized, public transit, and nonmotorized? If you want a little better refinement - you could break public transit down to those that get to the bus/train by motorized versus nonmotorized means.
#3 Your savings are somewhat disingenous. As long as the commuter retains a car AT ALL, most of the costs are constant regardless of the daily commute mode. That's clearly shown at the AAA site. Though I ride my bike to work nearly 70% of the time, my auto insurance, loan and other costs remain essentially unchanged. At least be honest. Encourage people to do an alternative commute because they want to, not under the false illusion that it'll save them one red cent - unless they dump the car completely.
#4 This comments page isn't real obvious for people using "tryparkingit.com." I've been using that site for over a year, despite all its warts, and I had to deliberately HUNT for this contacts page.
#5 I think Bell Helicopter has as many cycle commuters at its Alliance campus as at its site listed at "tryparkingit." Do we get "extra credit" for being halfway to Denton? Does Bell lose credit for splitting its cycle commuters amongst more than one campus? Inquiring minds want to know!
#6 This one doesn't bother me, but it bothers some people I know - there's still no way for people to easily account for to-from errands they make on their bikes. That saves one heck of a lot more miles than some "brown bag" factor.
All in all, I personally like the site more than I hate it, but it's really time to make it a little less "Cutsey PR" and a little more "real."
“When the spirits are low, when the day appears dark, when work becomes monotonous, when hope hardly seems worth having, just mount a bicycle and go out for a spin down the road, without thought on anything but the ride you are taking.”
-- Sir Arthur Conan Doyle
Cable through both wheels: YES (good)
Cable through frame: NO (bad)
Cable through bike rack: NO (really, really bad)
Notice how this bicycle could be easily lifted off the rack. Usually I see bike-parking like this on a parking meter, allowing a thief to simply lift bike and lock vertically off the meter, but this is the first time I've seen this error on a bike rack.
More of this, please, from everyone (including Oak Lawn, Uptown, East Dallas, North Dallas, Lakewood and Lake Highlands... and add grocery stores), and more parking devices. Kudos.
Local businesses offer perks to Oak Cliff bikers
10:59 PM CDT on Wednesday, May 27, 2009
By ROY APPLETON / The Dallas Morning News
It's getting where it really pays to ride a bicycle in Oak Cliff.
In its quest to get more people wheeling about the area, Bike Friendly Oak Cliff has rounded up 20 local businesses offering freebies or discounts to pedaling patrons.
"We're blown away at what they've done," said Jason Roberts, a Bike Friendly organizer.
The businesses include restaurants, salons, clothing stores and others.
"It's just a great thing for the area," said Matt Spillers, owner of Eno's Tavern and a bicyclist himself. "We're trying to provide different forms of entertainment."
A BFOC goal is to get average folks and families out and about on bikes – for the good of their health, the environment and neighborhood energy.
"We were surprised at how well it's been received," Roberts said of the business support. "We're trying to show we're a bike-able community. Anything we can do to spur that community will help."
Wednesday, May 27, 2009
The North Texas Clean Air Coalition has a Commuter Challenge for "Ozone Season 2009". When you register, you are asked to identify your primary transportation mode (difficult for a truly multi-modal guy like me, who uses up to six modes in one day). Below are your mode choices:
Usual Mode of Commute Transportation:Bicycles and inline skates (which they wrongly list using the trade name Roller Blades) are lumped together as one mode. Now, I have long proposed some sort of legal recognition of the use of inline skates and other personal mobility devices in selected public right of ways. It's a tricky issue, and a source of disagreement with some I respect highly, but the growing use in the streets of everything from electric wheelchairs to Segways makes some recognition (and control) preferable to the current state of affairs. But my position IS NOT AND NEVER HAS BEEN to reduce the legal status of bicycles one bit (something bicycle advocates seem all too willing to accept).
Bicycles are legally classified as vehicles, with all the rights and responsibilities of other vehicles (except where they are being chipped away by so-called bike advocates). In-line skates are classified as "toy vehicles" (a classification that so-called bike advocates are rapidly pushing bicycles into).
I encourage you to sign up for the Commuter Challenge, and to use the comments box to correct their classification.
In the comments to a post below regarding bad bike-lane designs, Jason Roberts of Bike Friendly Oak Cliff provided an odd list of cities with bike lanes (mostly small to medium sized, affluent, ethnically homogeneous suburbs and college towns). These cities were all recipients of the League of American Bicyclists (LAB) "Bike Friendly Community" (BFC) Bronze award.
The efforts of these cities to accommodate bicyclists pales in comparison to what Dallas has accomplished, in terms of both on-street facilities (800 lanes miles of routes, 600 miles of which would qualify as bicycle boulevards) and off-street facilities (100 miles of trails either constructed or funded for construction). However, apparently the LAB's BFC staff fed Bicycling Magazine the false information that resulted in Dallas being deemed the "Worst City in America for Bicycling". The criteria? No bike lanes (because none are warranted).
John Schubert, a well respected and recognized expert on bicycling (and former LAB vice-president) recently posted the following on his website in regards to whether or not a town should apply for BFC status.
The discussion lamp is now lit for this post.
Bike Lanes, Bureaucrats and Bicycle Friendly Communities
By John Schubert
My view is that the League of American Bicyclists (LAB) Bicycle Friendly Communities (BFC) award program is so sadly corrupt that it should be shunned.
I simply don’t see how a community can pursue that award without the effort having a negative effect on (1) physical facilities for cycling; (2) the ever-uphill struggle to conduct government operations efficiently; and, most importantly, (3) safety.
I say this with some expertise in all these areas.
In the cycling area: I have been writing about cycling since 1975 and working as an expert witness in bicycle accident reconstruction since 1981. I’ve seen just about every accident cause there is, and I’ve seen just about every effort, both the good and the bad, to increase cycling’s popularity. I am familiar with just about every way that education, social attitudes, facilities, and lack of facilities can either increase or decrease the accident rate. I am familiar with many popular misconceptions about safety and promotion. On the government operations front: For just as long as I’ve been involved in cycling, I’ve been watching, at a very close level, the governments of the communities where I’ve lived and seen their successes and failures in trying to function well. I think I’m an expert in what makes local government work well, and what makes it work not so well.
I’ve served for 11 1/2 years on my local school board, where I am currently chair of the budget and finance committee. In February 2009, Moody’s increased our bond rating from A1 to AA3, putting us among the top ten or so boards (out of 501) in the state. Since school boards are not free to raise taxes, our managing the budget well enough to get an AA rating in the worst bond market era in many decades speaks volumes about our management.
BFC awards government bureaucracy. LAB’s Andy Clarke made that clear when he turned down the BFC award to Vandalia, Ohio in 2004. Clarke wrote Vandalia a letter telling them what they would need to do to get a bronze award. Clarke’s list of reasons included several specific requests for more government spending and more bureaucrats hovering over bicycling (in a not-very-big city, no less!) and, of course, more miles of bike lanes. And not one word in the letter referred to quality and design standards for bike lanes.
My objection to the promiscuous promotion of bike lanes is old news. Even today, 28 years after the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO) tried to improve the state of the art of bicycle facility design, through the publication of its first edition of its Guide to Bicycle Facilities (AASHTO Guidelines), abysmal stuff gets built, and the nation has spent hundreds of millions of dollars on dangerous designs.
The AASHTO Guidelines are far, far from perfect. They provide only the first step towards understanding how a bicycle facility can be worse than no facility at all. (Even LAB’s policy statement on bicycle facilities says so!) But in these 28 years, the AASHTO Guidelines have either been ignored entirely or minimally interpreted.
Door zone bike lanes, bike lanes that put cyclists in conflict with pedestrians trying to get to the bus, bike lanes that put cyclists in motorists’ blind spots at intersections, bike lanes that have dangerous sewer grates, broken glass and other junk…. truly, bike lanes in America are an experiment that has failed. The people who advocate bike lanes have had decades to show that they could enforce quality control, and they have failed to do so. Ominously, many states that build the worst bike lanes also have state laws requiring cyclists to ride in them! And too often, bike lane advocates refuse to discuss quality control.
But the public is so conditioned to think that this is “doing something” for bicyclists that too few people stop to view the benefits of building nothing, instead using the money to keep the pavement in good condition, and educating the cyclists how to use the road.
Bicycle Friendly Communities doesn’t reward this far superior alternative.
I won’t discuss every type of bikelane-caused accident in this essay, but one that really should make the conscience scream is the “coffin corner” bike lane. In a “coffin corner” bike lane, the bike lane is striped solid to the intersection, so that the bicyclist who plans to ride straight through the intersection is positioned to the right of right-turning motor traffic.
Does this look dangerous to you?
The Bicycle Friendly Communities program favors “coffin corner” bike lanes and gives them awards and verbal praise.
Coffin corner bike lanes kill people. The bicyclist riding straight is in the blind spot of the turning motorist. The city of Amsterdam (yes, THAT Amsterdam) had four fatalities in barrier “separated” coffin corner bike lanes in 2006. In 2007, Portland, Oregon had two fatalities and Seattle had one. In 2008, Washington DC had one. In 2009 so far, Minneapolis has had one. (Minneapolis’s was a bike lane on the left side of a one-way street, and involved a collision between a bicyclist and a left-turning motorist.)
Corruption run rampant: shortly after the Portland fatalities, the Portland bicycle coordinator announced that he was not changing this bike lane design. LAB Executive Director Andy Clarke praised the Portland coordinator for his “courage” in sticking with this design. It would have shown far more courage to admit a tragic mistake.
This is not a simple case of “it was just an accident.” The Portland bike lane design violates absolutely every common-sense principle of traffic engineering, violates the AASHTO guidelines, violates other traffic engineering standards books, and requires bicyclists to put their faith in motorists’ ability to see a rapidly moving tiny target pop into view in a rear-view mirror that is inevitably vibrating, while also scanning for other traffic, pedestrians and road hazards in front of the motor vehicle.
I don’t think most people realize just how radical and irresponsible the coffin corner is. It is put there specifically to lure unskilled and unaware cyclists to use their bikes, and puts them where they are in the most danger. It disappoints me bitterly that LAB is willing to compromise safety so much to put “butts on bikes.” Why not instead teach these unskilled and unaware people what they need to know?
When Bicycle Friendly Communities decides to slam the door shut on dangerous bikelane designs, I will reconsider my opposition. But that is unlikely to happen. Mr. Clarke has made it clear that he favors these designs, and he simply doesn’t address the mechanics of the accidents that these designs encourage. Sadly, he has the support of his board of directors in these opinions.
My objection to the bureaucrats is this: adding bureaucracy rewards the act of adding to the cost of the process, rather than measuring and rewarding the result.
If a community can create good conditions for cycling, then it isn’t LAB’s business to demand X number of bureaucrats or Y number of dollars spent involved in the process. Indeed, much of what has been accomplished in Pennsylvania has been accomplished by putting measures that benefit bicycling in other budgets. This avoids the political problem of making the bicycle budget a target, and it also ensures that every dollar spent benefits as many road user groups as possible. This philosophy of benefiting more groups, rather than one group taking from another, is at the core of good government. But you won’t hear LAB talking about that when they ask for facilities just for bicyclists.
I don’t measure success by counting dollars spent or by counting the number of bureaucrats assigned to discuss a problem. I don’t think anyone else should either. Turning back briefly to the example of my school district, I stand by my AA3 bond rating, fairly low cost per student, small administrative team and very good college acceptances as proof that a government organization can get good results without just throwing more money and bureaucrats at a task.
I am well aware that some cyclists have a lot of civic pride, and want to see their communities recognized for cycling. There is some chance of an alternative national award, administered by a coalition of state organizations. Let us work towards that, rather than seek this so badly tarnished BFC award.
Tuesday, May 26, 2009
Saturday, May 23, 2009
MAKE YOUR OWN SPEED LIMIT SIGNS
David E. Davis, Jr.
Car and Driver Magazine, June 1968
The bridge is calm as Sunday morning dawns. At either end of the span, the freeway ramps are idle. Below, a few shorebirds peck at the marshy floor of the river. This is an out-of-character moment: During the week, thousands of cars pass through here, coming from the north, south and east, pinching into four lanes as they make their way toward the commercial centers of downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood and the city beyond at 20 mph, 20 mph below the posted speed.
But on this day, I blasted across at 90 mph in my Porsche 911, obeying the new speed limit signs I had put up the night before.
Imagine the out roar if such an article appeared in a national automotive enthusiast magazine. Manufacturers would face demands to pull their advertising dollars. Environmental and safety organizations would be calling for a boycott. Attorney generals across the nation would be contemplating legal action against Ziff-Davis (the publisher). But it's just a parody.
Now, consider this:
PAINT YOUR LANE
by Dan Koeppel
Bicycling Magazine, July 2009, pp. 70-75, 96
The bridge is calm as Sunday morning dawns. At either end of the span, the freeway ramps are idle. Below, a few shorebirds peck at the marshy floor of the river. This is an out-of-character moment: During the week, thousands of cars pass through here, coming from the north, south and east, pinching into four lanes as they make their way toward the commercial centers of downtown Los Angeles, Hollywood and the city beyond.
But at first light on this July 19th, the only vehicles here on Fletcher Drive are three bikes, and those have been stashed in the brush. The cyclists who left them there are setting out traffic cones on the road. When the right-hand lane has been blocked off, the cyclists walk back to the shoulder to retrieve the object that, over the past few weeks, they have come to refer to as The Machine. The $99 Rust-Oleum 2395000 looks like a tiny, four-wheeled wagon with low ground clearance and a handle that angles backward and up from the bed. The cargo area, so low it sits between the wheels rather than above them, is equipped with a mount for spray-paint cans; in the unused space, you can store five or six extra cans upright, ready to swap in when one runs dry. The 2395000 is most commonly used to create parking-lot stripes.
Starting at the southern end of the roadway, the three cyclists form a work crew. One holds the handle and pushes while another guides from the front, trying to make sure they walk a straight line. The third keeps watch for oncoming cars. (He's also pushing a broom.) The cyclist holding the handle squeezes the bicycle brake lever mounted there -- an unplanned talisman of righteousness? -- and the attached cable actuates a nozzle on the bottom of The Machine. A blast of paint settles onto the asphalt below. From practice, the crew knows they have to be careful not to leave footprints in the wet band of color that feeds out behind them as they walk down the road.
When the stripe stretches the bridge's length, the painters stash the machine in the brush, check their surroundings, adjust the orange safety vests they bought just for this occasion, and return back to the west side of the still-quiet span with some new equipment. One of them lays a stencil on the blacktop. Another swipes a paint-sopped roller over the surface. The paint, this time from a one-gallon can, spreads out thick and a little sloppy, and the image of a cyclist looks ragged. Meanwhile, the third cyclist is climbing the bridge's railing. He ratchets two signs onto lampposts there, a hundred feet apart.
The Fletcher Drive bridge suddenly has a bike lane -- a homemade bike lane, and an illegal one. The project is the result of weeks of planning and years of frustration. Not including freeways, there are 12 bridges that cross the Los Angeles River, and the three rogue bike-lane makers are among the hundreds of cyclists who cross those bridges every day. For more than a decade, an official document has existed that would create bike facilities on four of those bridges. But to the region's longtime riders, that proposal, like the entire municipal blueprint for two-wheeled access along 6,400 miles of the city's roadways, is less a plan than a catalog of unfulfilled promises. Hundreds of miles of bike lanes, routes and paths have been okayed, but never built. The bridges-high -- speed thoroughfares that are the only way to enter downtown Los Angeles from the east -- are where those wayward vows turn most deadly, the painters say. Not a single span within city limits has a real bike lane.
The bridge is more visible and more traveled throughout the day, so the painters decided to do the job at 3 a.m. The planning took weeks. There were rehearsals with the paint machine in abandoned parking lots and sessions to practice quickly ratcheting the metal placards onto telephone poles. But it was only a tiny bit of luck, not planning, that kept the painters out of jail.
I was the first to arrive at the bridge. The night was misty, and nerves had set my stomach churning. I didn't want to wait on the bridge alone, so I rode back into the adjacent industrial neighborhood of junkyards and warehouses, then ducked into a side street where I leaned my bike against a corrugated fence, took deep breaths and regretted the two cups of coffee I drank half an hour earlier.
When I returned, two of the painters were waiting. The east end of the Main Street bridge is abbreviated by train tracks, which would make our lane short, but more complicated to create. We discussed the tracks, and I noticed a locomotive idling less than a hundred yards away. I could see the silhouette of an engineer moving in the train's rear car. It looked like he was watching us.
By five past three, all the painters had appeared except those bringing the equipment. They'd had the longest ride, dragging the machines, stencils, signs and supplies in trailers. Someone called them. No answer. Ten more minutes passed.
A car rolled by. It was a thick, muscled Dodge Challenger, jet black, windows tinted, with shining rims. The Challenger crossed the bridge, continued for a block, then turned around. As it came back toward us, lights flared from behind its windshield. Blue and red. It picked up speed then abruptly angled to a stop. A window rolled down. A badge was flashed.
"What's going on?"
Just a group of riders, we clumsily explained, standing on a bridge before dawn on Sunday. Identification was requested. Each of us was thinking the same thing: the trailers. Don't show up now. I could almost read the officer's thoughts: What are these people up to?
A few minutes passed. Then: "You guys shouldn't be hanging around on the bridge." The officer rolled up his window, drove away.
If we'd been caught in the act of painting, we probably would have been charged with vandalism, which is treated legally in a way similar to painting graffiti. Any act that causes more than $400 worth of damage, an amount we realistically could have exceeded, can be considered a felony, with punishments that include jail time, fines as much as $5,000 and restitution. There were other issues to worry about. Bike riders hadn't had good relations with the police in the past year; they'd been arrested on Critical Mass rides and had recently been stopped and checked for "bike licenses" by an officer enforcing a decades-old law that nobody, not even city or state officials, could even remember. The painters' goal for the night was to make a statement, not start a conflict.
One of our group made a quick call to the missing riders, who, it turned out, were about to roll onto Main Street. They were told to ride away, and the project was scuttled.
The lane stretched 450 feet. All but the last 20 looked perfect. In the final moments, a police car came by in the opposite lane and, although the painters remained calm, there was a little veering, then a correction. The eastern end of the stripe looked like a squiggle squeezed from a toothpaste tube-but the out-in-the-open, "we belong" strategy worked. The black-and-white drove past without incident.
After all the paint and signage was applied, the painters rearranged the traffic cones around the stencil to protect it while it dried. Then they gathered their equipment and pedaled to a local coffee shop to celebrate and wonder what would happen next.
Dan Koeppel is the author of Banana: The Fate of the Fruit that Changed the World (Plume), now available in paperback.
Parody? Nah. It's just bicycles. They aren't real vehicles. People don't get killed. Cafe-cyclists know best. Transportation engineers are just puppets of the SUV-centric road system.
I realize some readers of this blog might think this is cool. Truth is, vigilante traffic engineering isn't cool, it's deadly.
Thursday, May 21, 2009
I want data I can use for my ride. My ride tomorrow. Even lousy data is better than most of what I can get off the internet. Even lousy data is a starting point to suggest ways to get better data. Repeatable, clean data will tell us whether we want bike lanes everywhere - or nowhere - or somewhere in between.
Click on any of the links above and they go to the same place. It's a place where the CPSC tried to actually test some of the reflector myths, legends, and folklore. The data speaks for itself, even though they tried to wrap it up in PC BS. It's not very good data, but it's a start. It's worth a read.
What it says to me:
#1 - Forester was right - maybe. He claimed that side reflectors are useless and the CPSC data is consistent with his claim. The INTERESTING test, however, would have been one with no side reflectors and that test was not run. PC factors, no doubt. The CPSC avoided confronting the physics and rescinding any sort of side reflector requirement, despite the data leading in that direction.
#2 - Forester was wrong - maybe (link is actually to John Allen site, but I like his discussion). Forester claims the BEST thing for the rear is a big, amber SAE reflector. It seems logical. Looking at the data was why I bought a blinking red light that also meets the CPSC reflector standard. I WOULD have bought one that met the SAE standard, but there's no such animal. The light I chose will provide quite a bit of safety if it should poop out and I don't notice. There are few like it on the market. I really had to look (a Cateye TL-LD500) to find one. Unfortunately, while CPSC tested a big red reflector, they didn't test the "Forester" recommendation. If your faith runs to Forester, get your amber reflector at an RV supply house. They don't sell them at bike shops.
#3 - Get DATA, REAL DATA. There's too little of it and too much "I love/hate bike paths." Get the data and test it against added observations. It really ain't that hard to devise experiments to test these hypotheses and to check how the results stack up against real world data. The critics will point out the weaknesses and we'll gradually get better - and the conclusions will become pretty obvious before long. To me, bike paths or their absence are just part of the ride to where I'm going and I want to know how to deal with them in the safest manner.
#4 - Don't use a 1994 Jaguar XJ6 Sovereign as the "car" in CPSC pictures (page 5 of the pdf). I LIKE Jaguars. I've got more of them than I'm willing to admit. Use something Japanese - or German. Anything that was on the losing side in WWII. This is a purely personal beef. Hey, PM's allowed to like beer & jazz on this blog, why is it a crime for me to like cool Limey cars?
#5 - So where's the test data on all these vests & bright colors so many people like to advocate and why aren't we outfitting crash dummies in bike helmets to see what REALLY happens?
Wednesday, May 20, 2009
Minneapolis police officers investigated the wheel area of a commercial truck involved in the fatal bicycle accident today.
May 20, 2009 - 9:04 AM
Cyclist crushed near downtown Minneapolis
A bicyclist was killed early this morning near downtown Minneapolis when a truck driver turned into the cycling lane on Park Avenue, crushing the rider.
Police were questioning the driver about the accident, which occurred about 7:40 a.m. at the intersection of Park and E. 14th Street. They also blocked off the street as they tried to reconstruct the accident.
Police said both streets will remain closed until late this morning.
The one-way street has heavy bicycle traffic during the morning commute.
The identity of the rider and other details of the accident weren't immediately available.
-- BOB VON STERNBERG
I don't enjoy posting these stories, but it MUST be understood that this cyclist died not just because he was run over by a truck, and not just because he was in the truck's blind-spot and the cyclist and the truck driver both failed to show proper caution. No, this cyclist died because of a bad facility design, a design that defies the logical operation of road systems, one that set up the mechanics of this tragedy. The cyclist died because of the toy-vehicle mentality that believes magic paint segregation is the best protection for cyclists, as opposed to educated integration, as shown here.
Had the cyclist been in front of the truck making the left turn (controlling his lane), the truck would have simply slowed down, waited for the cyclists to clear the intersection, and then turned. Because the cyclist was next to the curb on the truck's right, he fell into the driver's left-side blind spot. By segregating cyclists from other traffic, cyclists are too often removed from the environment that other vehicle operators function in. We become like pedestrians on the sidewalk... an under-viewed sideshow.
Here's the collision location.
- The truck driver should have been aware of where the cyclist was, and acted appropriately.
- The cyclist should have known he was in the truck's blind spot, and been prepared for the truck turning left by giving it extra leeway.
- The planners, engineers, and city officials who approved this bike lane should have rejected a traffic design with such obvious safety defects.
I am not blaming the cyclist. He was simply trusting in the design he had been told gave him priority and provided him with safety.
I do not know if Minnesota has a "Safe Passing/Vulnerable Users" law. It makes no difference. Not only would it not have prevented this collision, I can almost guarantee you that the truck driver will not be charged. Why not?
Because the cyclist failed to yield right of way to the turning truck.
You want to eliminate right-hook collisions (left-hook in this case on a one-way street with a left-hand bike lane)? Get rid of bike lanes and the gutter-riding mentality that promotes them. The illusions of safety that bike lanes and gutter riding present are just that, illusions. However, the dangers they present are all too real... and final.
The annual "Ride of Silence" in honor of cyclists who have lost their lives on roadways is being held at White Rock Lake tonight (ironically, on the trail and not the street). No doubt, there will be appeals made by some cyclists for (some/more) bike lanes to protect them from automobiles. Truly informed cyclists should instead be demanding that such designs be eliminated in the name of bicyclists' safety.
Due to a problematic amendment for cyclists in the house bill, the Senate version has replaced it.
Hat tip to Opus The Poet for pointing me to an article by Beth Janicek.
Tuesday, May 19, 2009
Monday, May 18, 2009
These are two videos shots just a few months apart in Orlando, Florida (Cycle*Dallas' sister city), showing what the difference is between practicing lane control in a wide curb lane, and riding in a bike lane (as required by law). If this road didn't have a wide curb lane (as shown in the first video), the interaction would be the same as in the first video. When a cyclist controls their lane, the automotive traffic gives them space. When a cyclist surrenders the lane, cars and truck pass too close. In Florida, as in Texas, if a bike lane is present, you must ride in it.
Of these two videos, shot on the same roadway, in similar traffic, and just a few months apart... which would you rather ride on?
BTW: Florida has a 3' "safe passing" law. Works good, huh?
The male voice you hear is John Allen's, author of "Street Smarts".
Sunday, May 17, 2009
A gathering of bloggers: CycleDallas vs. the Commute Orlando road team at Trinity Hall. Reed Bates is seated on the far right, and Keri Caffrey is in the far back. Caught in his native habitat, PM Summer has a beer in his hand.
In less than a year, a blog has garnered the respect and a loyal following of cyclists interested in riding for pleasure and transportation. I know I am not misstating the feelings of the collaborative authors of CycleSmartDallas when I say that all of us think most highly of it. We aspire to produce such thoughtful and good content.
You can imagine our excitement when Keri and Lisa came out to Dallas! We were delighted to be able to meet them. PM, it turned out, became a virtual escort of sorts, electronically guiding Keri on cycling adventures around the city.
Happily, Lisa and Keri consented to do some meet & greets with local bloggers during their stay. Good times! We shared experiences and compared notes about cycling in Orlando compared to Dallas. Many things are different and many are the same. Keri displayed the depth of her comprehensive understanding that cycling's problems are mostly social and attitudinal, rather than infrastructure. Mostly.
But not only does she get to the true heart of the matter, she has good, well thought out ways of doing something about it. (You can see why we think her blog has the best content.)
Lisa and Keri said how they liked cycling in Dallas. (Were they being gracious to their hosts?) Keri said she would post about it on CommuteOrlando. Saturday she did.
Wow! They really DID like cycling in Dallas!
Goodness, it has sure made me see our city with a new perspective, and it seems a bit better today! Thank you Keri, we're bustin' out in pride!
Y'all come back now, hear?
Saturday, May 16, 2009
Friday, May 15, 2009
When the City of Dallas developed its current City Council adopted Bicycle Transportation Plan (led by the Department of Transportation working with over 100 bicyclists from local cycling organizations), a “clean-slate” design approach was taken. All possible facility types were considered.
There are basically four bicycle facility designs: street separated Multi-Use Paths (MUPs), on-street bike lanes, side paths/cycle-tracks (all examples of more-or-less segregated facilities), and on-street bike routes (shared-lane facility). Each has its preferred application scenario.
Multi-Use Paths/side paths/cycle-tracks
Currently, the City is in the process of completing 100 miles of paved, 12’ wide, off-street trails though parks, under power lines, and parallel to rail corridors. Because these facilities are constrained by location and available right-of-way, their use as a viable, city-wide transportation element is limited. But they can be a good enhancement to an on-street system.
Side paths (also called cycle tracks) have been discouraged by traffic engineers and responsible bicycle planners for some time (including in most of northern Europe), due to the dramatic increase in collisions between turning automobiles and straight through cyclists. The Netherlands (where such facilities are extremely popular) have documented up to an 180% increase in serious collisions on side paths compared to on-street cycling.
Bike Lanes are preferred by cyclists who fear sharing a roadway with automobile traffic and motorists who have a dislike of sharing the roadway with bicyclists, and by both groups that don't believe bicycles have a legal right to use the roadway.
From a traffic engineering perspective, a bike lane is classified as a “traffic control device”, whose job is to channel existing bicycles out of the way of motor vehicles. The popular notion is the opposite, that bike lanes are designed to attract and protect cyclists, but that is not how they function or why they were designed. To install bike lanes that function, you need two pre-existent conditions: a high volume of cyclists in a concentrated area (i.e., a large college campus and surrounding area), and sufficient road width to accommodate two 5’ lanes.
Most urban thoroughfares and collectors in Dallas have 11’ wide vehicle travel lanes (a foot narrower than the current recommended minimum and three feet narrower than the Texas Department of Transportation preference). The recommended width for bike lanes is four feet, with a one foot edge stripe (five feet in total width from curb).
On a typical Dallas three-lane divided urban thoroughfare, the cross-section looks like this: 11’-11’-11’----11’-11’-11’. Attempting to install bike lanes on such a street without removing travel lanes would result in vehicle travel lanes that are only 9 feet wide (5’-9’-9’-9’----9’-9’-9’-5’), 25% narrower than current minimum recommendations, and too narrow to accommodate existing truck, bus and even SUV usage. This creates traffic conflicts that can lead not only to property damage, but can even endanger lives (especially the lives of cyclists as cars are “pushed” into the available space).
To install bike lanes of the recommended 5’ width (4’ for the bike lane, with a 1’ offset from the curb), without reducing other travel lanes to an unusable width, the street cross-section now looks like this, 5’-14’-14’----14’-14’-5’, dropping a full lane of traffic in each direction. When you consider that people tend to ask for bike lanes on streets that are perceived as being already overcrowded, you can see how the problems are exacerbated by the attempts at alleviation. Removing one lane of traffic from a 3-lane directional configuration does not decrease that street’s capacity by 33%, but by almost 50%, resulting in increased queuing at intersections and left turns, which means increased idling and greatly increased emissions of volatile organic compounds (VOCs). Remember, Dallas is classified by the EPA as a severe air-quality non-attainment zone.
There is also a problem with banning all on-street parking on streets with bike lanes and the resulting backlash from homeowners and businesses. While many cities stripe 3’ wide bike lanes next to on-street parking (like Austin, Texas), they have proven to be very dangerous, as cyclists are often hit by opening car doors.
Contrary to popular belief, there is an increased danger to cyclists in riding in bike lanes, caused by newly created conflicts with right-turning motor vehicles. This is an unavoidable complication of having a straight-through travel lane for bicyclists located to the right of right-turn allowed motor vehicles, a lane that lulls cyclists into thinking they are protected from right-turning vehicles. The vast majority of serious car-bike collisions occur in this type of conflict, as cyclists outside of motorists’ direct line of sight, slip into the motorists’ right-side blind zone.
The danger that many cyclists believe a bike lane protects them from (being struck from the rear by an overtaking motor vehicle) is by far the rarest of serious car-bike collisions, although it is among the most dangerous (exceeded by wrong-way cyclists hitting oncoming vehicle). Interestingly (according to the CDC and FHWA), when you remove the rural road incidence of this type of collision (the most common area for fatality occurrence), the collision rates for cyclists struck from the rear in a bike lane, and without a bike lane, are statistically the same.
On-Street Bike Routes
Rather than install a few miles of bike lanes, what Dallas did was create a city-wide 400 mile (800 lane miles) signed bicycle route system on local, mostly low volume streets that parallel thoroughfares. Where a thoroughfare (or bridge) is required, the City committed (recently abandoned) to build wide-outside-lanes to create extra room for cyclists and motor vehicles to share the road. On new road construction (and reconstruction when right of way is available), depending upon posted speeds, the roadway cross section would look like this: 14’-11’-11’----11’-11’-14’, or 15’-12’-12’----12’-12’-15’.
Instead of striping less than 20 lane-miles of bike lanes (.05% of the City's streets), the City (upon the recommendation of active cyclists) signed 800 lane-miles of bike routes (on about 10% of the City's streets), resulting in a more comprehensive city-wide bike plan than a simple bike lane system. The vast majority of these cyclist-selected routes were on low-volume local streets that paralleled major thoroughfares, and were the ideal setting for cyclists.
The plan improved real conditions for cyclists without degrading conditions for the dominant motor traffic. This approach works best in a city like Dallas with a complex street grid system dating to the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Suburban cities (and the far edges of Dallas) have a more difficult task. It was understood that an education component was required, for both cyclists and motorists, but the City Council decided to not fund that element as a cost saving measure, as the City continued to downsize staff and eliminate “non-essential” services. Reduced forces also played a part in the City's decision to decline a $1,000,000 bicycle education program for adults and children.
Dallas is preparing to undertake a comprehensive update of its current Bike Plan, and the viability and application of bike lanes and cycle tracks will again be considered, with changes in the City’s approach being preordained. This will be the City's eighth bike plan (including the Park Department's two plans, and two regional plans) since the 1970s.
Will there be a Plan 9?
I really liked ChipSeal's approach of wanting to be educated. Hence the "Grasshopper" in the title, taken from the old Kung Fu TV series. It also seemed more positive than bringing in ten pounds of backup documentation. It didn't work out.
#1. I get to the police station and, it turns out nobody is there. Just a sign saying no "police present." It turns out the station is essentially a locker room where police come to change into their uniforms, store gear, and take off in the cruisers.
#2. I called the "non emergency" number posted on the sign. As you might imagine, there's no menu number for someone irritated over getting pulled over and not actually getting a ticket. The lady who answered was very nice, if not very helpful, but she said if I wanted, she could have a police sergeant call me back. About this time, I was realizing this was going nowhere fast.
#3. Give you three guesses about the call back. The first two don't count.
#4. Now, on the way home, I thought about the letter, but there are a few problems, such as I didn't get the officer's badge number, or even the license number on his SUV. I suspect there are a lot of officers that could answer to the description of "middle aged white guy with a mustache and driving a FW Police SUV," And, since there's nobody at the station, it may be difficult to identify his actual chain of command.
Time to let it go...
This is taken from a public discussion on the ChainGuard message board between Serge Issakov (italics) and John Forester (bold). I view this as defining what a bicycle advocacy organization should be about. Sadly, in too many cases, they are about the opposite.
> What groups of people are the targets for persuasion?
Off the top of my head... Roadway engineers. Law enforcement officers. Judges. Lawmakers and political leaders. The cycling community. The public at large.
> What concept are these groups to be persuaded to believe or accept?
Bicyclists have the right to act and be treated as drivers on the roadways. Bicycling is relatively safe, and bicycling as drivers on roadways is safer than bicycling otherwise on roadways. Bicycling without using roadways is only rarely a viable means of transportation.
> If the persuasion is successful, what actions would these groups be expected to take?
Roadway engineers - no roadway treatments that do not treat cyclists as drivers.
Law enforcement officers - no harassment/citation s for cyclists acting as legal drivers.
Judges - no rulings against cyclists acting as legal drivers.
Lawmakers and political leaders - no laws or projects that do not treat cyclists as drivers.
The cycling community - greater acceptance and adoption of cycling as drivers.
The public at large - greater acceptance and better treatment of cyclists acting as drivers.
> Finally, what is the desired result from the actions that these groups of persuaded people happen to take?
Roads without features that treat cyclists as non-drivers (no bike lanes except maybe in situations that are truly analogous to truck lanes - long stretches with no intersections, driveways, offramps, etc). Cyclists can travel on roads as drivers without being harassed or cited for doing something wrong. In the rare instance where a cyclist might still be cited, his odds of convincing the judge that the officer was wrong to not treat him as a driver are much better than the crapshoot we have today. FTR and MBL laws repealed. Much bigger percentage of cyclists riding in the vehicular manner. Larger percentage of the population participating in cycling in general, and vehicular cycling in particular. Vehicular cyclists encounter harassment from motorists significantly less often than we do today.
> I think that any proposed program of persuasion needs to be analyzed in these terms to see whether success is likely.
Fair enough, though I don't know how exactly such a program should be formulated (but I have an idea of what some of the key elements might be) or how you would determine if success is likely.
Thursday, May 14, 2009
Today, riding home from work, for the first time in my 54 years, I got pulled over while on a bicycle. It was on Westport - the only really viable way out of Alliance Airport to the east unless you ride on Interstate 35W. The FW Policeman turned on his lights and ordered me to get to the right. I yelled back that the lane was too narrow to share - mistake - never say much other than "yes sir" to a policeman. I was in a quandry since the road's got no place decent to pull off. Pretty quickly, the siren came on and I decided the grass was OK. The cop told me my earphones are illegal (they're not). I corrected my previous mistake and took the "yes sir approach" since the cop was still on the road (no place HE could pull off) and traffic was rapidly stacking up behind him. I did mentally note that not a single motorist was inclined to cross the double yellow to pass a cop that'd just pulled over an uppity cyclist - and that was about as far as my scientific investigation tendencies went at that time.
For what it was worth, at least six motor vehicles stacked up (it was a light traffic day) while the cop was talking to me about earphones to me off in the grass. One part of me just said "let's just get this over" and the other, impish part said "let's continue the discussion to see just how much of a traffic snarl this parody will produce." I think the smarter part won out. Maybe it was counting illegal passes that helped avoid escalation - and added irritation about cyclists on the road.
To keep this post from getting even more lengthy, the question is: when I go to the Fort Worth Police Station tomorrow morning (it's directly on the way to work), what should I say to make the point without making authoritative enemies?
I'll check any comments before leaving for work tomorrow morning. Contrary to my typical commute, I'll cover the whole drill - spandex, helmet, shorts, and all. Crimeny, I'll even stuff the earphones into my back pocket for the march into the station with "Buddy." I'm pissed...
No, I didn't get a ticket, but I also do not want to repeat the experience of Fred dot U on Commute Orlando.
Tell me, please, why you think I am posting this video of the (true) light rail line in my beloved (really) Houston. What is the lesson to be learned here?
The discussion lamp is lit.
P.S. I stole this from Commute Orlando. I encourage you to go there and steal wisdom on a regular basis.
Wednesday, May 13, 2009
A Guide to a Simple Bike Commute
by Tim Grahl
Designing your bike commute to be as minimalistic as possible will make it easier to opt for your carbon free, two wheeled transportation on a more regular basis. It will also reduce the daily stress of between waking up and walking out the door. The tips in this article take more planning to implement, but are well worth the extra effort.
Benefits of Simplifying
A few of the reasons this is important…
* Minimizes morning excuses - Let’s all be honest, we’ve had those mornings that we woke up with the full intention of riding the bike to work and once we saw the flat tire or realized we hadn’t packed the night before, we grabbed for the keys instead. By simplifying your commute, you’ll reduce the amount of excuses that can crop up to keep you off the bike.
* Reduces stress - Along the same lines as minimizing your excuses, nothing causes more stress than running around trying to do everything before work, especially if you overslept. When you wake up in the morning and everything you need is in place, it’s a much more relaxing way to get on the bike.
* Helps you enjoy the ride - If you’re frazzled when you jump on the bike it’s much more likely you won’t enjoy the ride. Once you implement these methods to simplify your commute you’ll be freed to enjoy your commute. That’s really why we do this anyway, right?
How to simplify your bike commute
There are several ways to simplify your bike commute. Even if you implement a few of these, you’ll see a huge difference in your daily ride quality and an increase in your frequency of opting for the bike.
1. Ride a simple bike - Ride a bike that has tried and true technology that’s not going to cause a lot of mechanical problems. A steel, fixed geared bike (Editor's note: While a single-speed might make a fine commute bike in areas with no real hills, a trendy fixed-gear bike won't, in most cases) will probably go for years without major mechanical problems that will leave your stranded. Opt for a bike without all the bells and whistles.
2. Check your bike every weekend - regular riding will cause wear on the consumable parts of your bike and you’ll want to make sure you catch any problems early:
* Tire pressure
* Tire wear and damage
* Tightness of quick releases and other fastenings
* Brakes for wear and stopping power
* Chain for stiff links, rust and dryness
3. Clean your bike regularly - At least once a month, or after a particularly dirty commute, you’ll want to to clean your bike of any dirt and grime that can cause problems in the long term.
4. Always carry flat repair materials - Invest in a saddle bag, pack it with an extra tube, tire levers, patch kit, pump and hex wrenches and always keep it on your bike. This way you always know you have what you need to fix a flat and keep moving.
5. Store hygienic necessities at the office - Keep an extra of everything you need to clean up from your commute (deodorant, towels, wipes, etc) at your office. No need to daily carry them back and forth.
6. Leave a pair of shoes at the office - If you ride with clipless pedals or need to wear more dressy shoes at work, store a pair at the office. Again, no need to carry them back and forth each day.
7. Take all your clothes for the week on Monday - I’ve heard suggestions of driving on Monday to take everything in for commuting the rest of the week. However if your bulkier items (shoes, towels, etc) are already at the office, then five changes of clothes will easily fit inside a normal sized backpack or panniers.
8. Always keep an extra set of clothes at the office - Keep an extra belt, pair of pants, shirt, pair of socks, bra, underwear, etc at your office at all times. There’s nothing worse than being halfway into your commute when you remember you forgot an essential.
9. Pack the night before - By packing your clothes and lunch the night before you’ll reduce your stress the next morning. You’ll also be in a better state of mind so not to forget something.
10. Only pack the essentials - Do you really need three tubes, the Sam’s club bottle of gel and an extra helmet? When packing your bag the night before, ask yourself if each item is a necessity.
11. Carry smaller sizes - If you don’t have a place to store your hygienic items at the office, try going smaller. Put your liquids like gel and shampoo in smaller bottles. Purchase travel sized deodorant and toothpaste. This will reduce your daily bulk to carry.
12. Plan your route ahead of time - For most commutes there are several different ways to get from your house to the office. Use a tool such as Google Maps to plan a route that is more scenic, avoids dangerous roads and skips road work.
13. Check the weather nightly - Keep an eye on your local weather so you can plan to dress for the temperature and precipitation.
Implementing these tips to simplify your bike commute will reduce the stress of getting out the door and ultimately help you enjoy the ride more.
This is from the Commute by Bike website. I can't give it 100% approval, but it's a fun site nonetheless, and worthy of a bookmark.
Tuesday, May 12, 2009
I was getting fascinated by the illegal pass totals, but otherwise minding my own business, when I suddenly got the dimbulb notion to try a gutter bunny lane position with the double yellow. Within half a minute, WHOOSH - right off the port bow - a passing SUV did NOT cross the double yellow at all. My tolerance for close passes has dropped dramatically in the last couple of years, and I doubt a watching cop would have even frowned, but it startled me. Had I jinked left momentarily to avoid a pothole, it could have been REAL ugly.
Lesson 1, if you're gonna do stupid stuff and get yourself killed, ditch the headphones, wear your helmet, and make sure you have clean underwear on so you don't embarrass your mom.
Lesson 2, motorists may be pretty decent around North Texas, but they can still be scary if given the wrong impression. Duh.
Lesson 3, if I'd gotten smooshed, none of you would have gotten the data on motorists, cyclists, and double yellow lines. I guess I need to live a little longer, call it a sacrifice for science's sake...
N.Y. Times / Science / Environment
In German Suburb, Life Goes On Without Cars
By ELISABETH ROSENTHAL
Published: May 12, 2009
A young development in Vauban illustrates a trend of planning communities to thrive without automobiles.
Monday, May 11, 2009
As posted below, the above photo shows the perfectly acceptable, and legal, way to ride a bicycle like a vehicle.
However, it has dawned on me that the 2-3' edge stripe in this picture would be perfectly acceptable as a bike lane in many places (like Austin), and probably similar to the ones Dallas and Ft. Worth will soon be getting (and that you will be legally required to ride in), considering the already sub-standard lane widths of most arterials and thoroughfares (BTW: That service road has a wide outside lane... built as required by the now abandoned Dallas Bike Plan).
Which brings up another fun question regarding the proposed "safe passing" law currently hanging around the legislature like a copperhead along a trail. If Lisa was riding in the far left of the above "bike lane" (I kid you not, there are bike lanes with that same usable width in the State Capitol), how close could a truck legally pass her?
1) Six feet?
2) Three feet?
3) Or (if both operators stayed in their own lanes) by just inches?
If the road is a three-lane arterial (each direction), that has been re-striped to provide a 3' bike lane, you will have three very narrow travel lanes, and because misery loves company, a very narrow bike lane you will be required to ride in. Passing cars and trucks (six and eight feet wide) will not be required to change lanes to pass, because their lane is clear, nor will they be required to straddle an adjacent lane. That 8' wide truck will pass you with a foot or two of clearance (or less), legally, silly feel-good law or not.
And you, legal bicycle vehicle operator, will be unable to control any lane except your bike lane. As ChipSeal said, "We need better bike advocates."
I count and characterize interactions with motorists on my commute. It helps me ride safer. I've now started doing it on the commute to Alliance Airport from Colleyville. One feature of the new ride are two-lane roads with no shoulders. Some of these have double yellow stripes - and in places where it's perfectly safe to pass slower traffic. However, it is plainly & simply not legal to pass in Texas across a double yellow line. Read the statutes. No exceptions if the passee happens to be a cyclist.
On the way to work this morning, I experienced 10 illegal passes. I did not observe a single motorist shadowing me like a jackal waiting for me to fall. Total interactions were 93, so OVER 10% of all motorist interactions involved an illegal motorist behavior. On the way home, illegal passes jumped to 34. On the way home, one motorist DID hang back, shadowing me for a couple of blocks (you really DO notice a car behind you after a couple of blocks), but even she eventually abandoned her law-abiding instincts in favor of a safe and illegal pass. Thank goodness for those scofflaw motorists! EVERY ONE of those 44 passes was safe for me. NOT ONE would be legalized under the Safe Passing Law. Some were a little borderline for the passer.
I'm with y'all in the principle that traffic controls OUGHT to be obeyed & enforced, but I have to say that I'm really CHIKIN about the consequences to cyclists if motorists suddenly started obeying the no passing laws. When traffic controls become illogical, vehicles, whether powered by motors or people, ignore those laws. And that's what we're stuck with - lotsa stop signs & double yellow lines. I feel less righteous toward stop sign runners tonight.
Admit it, if you're driving, don't YOU cross that double yellow, giving a cyclist a wide berth? Perhaps it's the scofflaw cyclist in all of us coming out when we're behind the wheel...
John Allen, the author of the excellent booklet "Bicycling Street Smarts" published by Rodale Press/Bicycling Magazine, has a great post on his weblog about the various types of transportation modes, and their implications.
...and a tip of the hat to Commute Orlando* for pointing this out.
* the best cycling blog in America.
Sunday, May 10, 2009
This last week, two cyclists from central Florida were riding their bicycles around Dallas, using as their starting points hotels in Downtown Dallas, Irving/Las Colinas, and a hotel at the High Five Interchange of US75 and I635. Both are League Cycling Instructors, both work in the communications industry (one is a former editor for Rodale Press who was curious about riding in a city Rodale/Bicycling Magazine named "The Worst City for Bicycling in America"). They came from a city with lots of bike lanes and bike paths. They rode here on local streets, and thoroughfares, on bike route streets and non-bike route streets, on trails, during the day, at night, and in rush hour. They rode their bicycles in a vehicular manner, controlling their lane and obeying the law (things too many of our local cycling activists don't seem to like to do). Some of their observations to me as they left to return to Orlando after a week in Dallas?
1) The street connectivity for cyclists was excellent, with multiple routes to get from point A to point B, usable by cyclists of simple, law-abiding skill levels,
2) The trail connectivity wasn't, and it was too narrow and covered in dirt at places (White Rock Creek),
3) The drivers were uniformly courteous and respectful to them,
4) Unlike some other cities around the country they have ridden in, most of the motorists in Dallas actually slowed down when passing them (as opposed to speeding up), confirming what the Dallas Run videos show.
5) The plentiful road-humps were designed to be bicycle friendly (long and low, with a fairly gentle slope)
6) The police were courteous, pulling up beside them at night in a fairly high-crime area and saying (after scanning their bicycles to make sure they were legal), "You ladies be careful out there."
Their final word to me was, "This is a great city to ride in. Please don't let them f#*@ up Dallas with bike lanes."
That's up to you. That's why we need SMART cyclists to step forward.