Tuesday, August 31, 2010
Recently, a professional Texas bicycle advocate commented that with bike lanes and cycle-tracks (aka, side-paths), Texas will look like Amsterdam in 20 years (in terms of bicycle usage). To do that, the population of Texas would have to increase 10 fold to match the current population density of the Netherlands (1,000 people per square mile vs. Texas' 90). Think that's going to happen? I suppose it's possible, considering the high birth rate of Texas' largest immigrant group, but do you think that's going to happen as the vertical development that creates high-density urban areas? Unlikely at best. More and greater sprawl.
But as the video above shows, there's another problem with this "build it and they will come" mindset.
Amsterdam, with it's high density urban environment, surrounded by "no-growth" boundaries to maintain land for agriculture, had bicycle usage roughly as high (or higher) in the 1950s as they do today. There are other films showing similar heavy bicycle mode-share in Amsterdam in the 1940s and 1930s. All because of bike lanes and cycle-tracks, right? Wrong. As you can see in the video, there are rural paths in the 1950s, and in urban areas some facilities are beginning to appear, but they are primarily meant to get the high number of bicycles off the streets so as to not get in the way of cars (cars were seen as the key to prosperity in Western post-war communities, and so they needed to be encouraged). Now's a good time to mention that bike lanes appeared in Amsterdam under the Nazi occupation in the 1940s, to keep cyclists out of the way of military transport.
Welcome to the Land of Fantasy... an expensive one, at that.
BREAKING NEWS! Nine out of ten kids would rather eat a Happy Meal than they would steamed vegetables.
The rationale for why the new Dallas Bike Plan (and hence, the direction of bicycle transportation in the region) will be heavily dependent on mandatory bike lanes is because the folks who responded to the survey overwhelmingly said they wanted them.
Mind you, asking the question was loaded to achieve that desired result. Rather like asking a child if they'd like to have ice cream and cookies for dinner.
If you ask inexperienced cyclists if they want what they've been told will make everything better, that's what they ask for. The fact that it doesn't work as promised is seldom (i.e., never) addressed.
Recently, the Education Director of the Austin Cycling Association was bragging about Austin being "Bike Friendly", in that it has lots of mostly empty bike lanes. Yet with over 200,000 people between the ages of 18-35 (the prime demographic for bicycle use) under the University of Texas' "Zone of Influence", Austin can only manage a 1.4% mode-share for bicycles (according to the League of American Bicyclists Bicycle Friendly Communities propaganda campaign).
True, that's almost three times the mode-share Dallas has (but without that hugely hugely favorable demographic concentration), but it's still only a 1% mode-share gain. Sadly, the myopia of most cycling advocates blinds them to both what's happening on the streets, and why.
Let them eat cake.
Do You Need a Helmet?
by Scott Munn
As one of the few cyclists who doesn't hold a strong opinion about helmets, I'm uniquely qualified to help you decide the issue. But not with statistics, or by trapping you like a fly in an essay of exquisitely spun logic. I offer, instead, a simple questionnaire. Please choose the most appropriate answer, then score yourself at the end.
1. Do you wear a helmet now?
A. Not when I'm reading. But come to think of it, most accidents do happen at home.
B. It depends on the terrain. Quiet country lanes, no. Escalators, yes.
C. Only for the first few weeks after I've had an accident; skull fractures make me clumsy.
2. How accident-prone are you?
A. My parents always tell me I was an accident. Does that count?
B. I don't trip over my own feet, as long as my shoelaces have been tied by somebody competent.
C. The NHS keeps a room on reserve.
3. What's the last accident you were involved in?
A. Voting New Labor.
B. Falling off bike while attempting to click into clipless pedals. (It happens.)
C. Door. Opened. Flew over. It's all fading to black. Rosebud.
4. Are you a cautious person?
A. I put stabilizers on my trike.
B. I don't buy a CD unless I'm pretty sure I like at least 3 of the songs.
C. I leap before I look. That's what suspension is for, innit? Besides, I like surprises.
5. Do you tend to obey traffic laws?
A. Yes, if the lights tend to be green.
B. Unless there's a perfectly good reason not to, which can then be explained to a police constable if the need arises.
C. It depends on what I feel to be the true intent of the traffic engineers.
6. How would you best describe yourself?
A. Meek. Gentle. Vegan. Possibly Aquarius.
B. Relaxed. Often prone. Cool to the touch. Possibly deceased.
C. Fearless. Headstrong. Daring. Unbalanced.
7. What's your marital status?
A. Legally wed to bicycle in C of E approved ceremony.
B. Happily married, but spouse must approve bicycle expenditures over two figures.
C. Single. Don't know which bike I'll be riding next. Don't much care, as long as it's fast.
8. If you presently wear a helmet, do you know how to put it on properly?
A. No, but my partner does.
B. Yes, of course. I'm not thick. And I appreciate that manufacturers put the visor in back; it stops my neck from getting sunburned.
C. Before I crash, right?
9. If you don't wear a helmet, what would induce you?
A. An ad campaign featuring that Opium perfume woman, but only if it's obvious she's at least thinking about a helmet, or it just wouldn't work for me artistically.
B. A personal testimonial beginning or ending "Thank God I was wearing a helmet."
C. Improved aerodynamics so insults fly right over my head.
10. Do statistics make the case for you (either way)?
A. Not really. The only numbers I pay attention to are the ones showing cyclists live longer than non-cyclists, lid or no lid.
B. Depends if I know one of those statistics by name.
C. Could you repeat the question? My retrograde amnesia is acting up again.
11. Do you believe in risk homeostasis?
A. I don't believe in discrimination of any sort.
B. You mean the theory that says the safer an activity is made, the more risks you'll take, thus negating any benefits? Never heard of it.
C. Maybe, maybe not. All I know is that every time I hold onto the back of lorries, they try to shake me off.
12. What best sums up your attitude about helmets?
A. Uncomfortable. Confining. Fetishistic.
B. Buying one gives me another excuse to go to the bike store.
C. I've found the straps can be used as a tourniquet.
All 'A's are worth 1 point each
All 'B's are worth 2 points each
All 'C's are worth 3 points each
0 points: Forgot to take quiz.
12-19 points: No helmet necessary. The damage has already been done.
20-29 points: Wear a helmet if it would improve your appearance, or if your significant other starts making too many hints about your last will and testament.
30-36 points: You should be wearing your helmet at all times, only removing it for the occasional CAT scan.
In the final analysis, if you think you should be wearing a helmet, you probably should.
© Scott Munn
Cycling Plus, February 2001
Monday, August 30, 2010
Thursday, August 26, 2010
Garland Road Bridge to go up the week of August 30th
The Friends of the Santa Fe Trail have learned that the bridge over Garland road will be going in next week. This is really exciting and brings us a significant step closer to making the trail connection with White Rock Loop Trail. We have also learned that construction on the West end of the trail should start around the first of the year making the final connection to Fair Park and Deep Ellum.
-- Friends of the Santa Fe Trail press release
Goes up over-night on August 31st and on September 1st, according to the TxDOT message board on Garland Road/East Grand Boulevard. Dallas Morning News story here.
Another trail project (linking Deep Ellum, Fair Park, Old East Dallas, and the Downtown area into the White Rock Creek trail system to create a 20 miles spine trail) the "in traffic only" former bike coordinator/planner (thank god we got rid of him) identified, planned, drew lines on napkins, fought for, drew lines on maps, wrote funding applications for, got funded from multiple sources, saw partially removed from funding because TxDOT spent the money on something else, got removed from involvement in (or anything with the word "bicycle" in it), saw refunded with "Obama-bucks", saw delayed because an ex-city council member wanted a modest "signature bridge" to compete with the $8 million bike/ped "signature bridge" another council member insisted upon having across Mockingbird (delaying both projects by 4-10 years)... finally nears completion, six years behind schedule.
I am glad it's going up before September 7th (Brazilian Independence Day). A tip of the hat (and a raised bumbershoot) to the staff of the Department of Public Works & Transportation, who have worked so diligently to see this come into being. Thanks also to former City Councilmember Valetta Lill for championing this project when no one else at City Hall would.
"Nissan’s product-planning and market-research teams had fundamentally hurt the Juke before a single stylist had the chance to touch it. According to Nissan’s reps, the Juke was developed with a very specific market in mind: 18-34 year-old males making $45k+, or as Nissan calls them, Urban Experience Seekers. This focus is what allowed the daring exterior design, but more importantly it clearly led the development team to emphasize style over substance on nearly every key decision."
-- Edward Niedermeyer, TTAC
Friday, August 20, 2010
The shoulder of Texas Highway 287.
Reed Bates' trials (and travails) got some wider coverage this week (Streetsblog, among others). People began asking why the League of American Bicyclists (LAB) wasn't helping. Trying to get ahead of the issue, LAB President Andy Clarke widely posted a response, which I reproduce below with factual corrections.
Picking Your Battles: The League & The Reed Bates Case
We have been following the Reed Bates’ case since pretty much the day the saga began. At the very outset, I called a couple of the people closely involved with Mr. Bates and offered the League’s help;
Neither Andy Clarke nor LAB ever spoke with Reed Bates. Reed at one point called Preston Tyree (LAB employee), but no offer of help was made. Clarke did speak with Rich Wharton ONCE, but never again, and no offers to help were forthcoming. Rich Wharton asked Tyree to serve as an expert witness, but Preston could only offer his personal, paid services, not LAB's assistance.
I did see a single voice-mail from Andy Clarke on my Caller ID, but being as it was probably a robo appeal for money (like the letters and emails I get from Andy), I deleted it unheard. Perhaps he was calling me when he should have been calling Reed. No follow-up calls, emails or other attempts were made to me... and none to Reed Bates.
...it did appear that the charges were inappropriate, that Bates had a legal right to ride where he was riding, and that the jury that Bates chose to be heard by was incorrectly instructed by the first judge involved. On that basis, we would have been happy to help defend his right to ride on the road.
Bates did not choose a jury trial. The judge urged him to do so, and then chose it for him. An unemployed man with no resources had few options. No offers of help came from LAB, no letters of support, calls to action, no Amicus brief, nada. Instead, there has only been a behind the scenes campaign to discredit Reed Bates.
Our offer to assist was not accepted; instead, he and his advisers chose to assert that not only was Bates legally allowed to ride where he was riding, but that’s where he and everyone else should be riding, even in the presence of a perfectly rideable shoulder.
Again, to the best of my knowledge, there was never any offer from LAB to help Reed Bates. Period.
No one on Reed's side has ever said "everyone should be riding (in the travel lane)", not Reed, or his friends. That's simply an anti-vehicular cycling smear that says more about Clarke's motivation than it does Bates'. Also, Reed does not have "advisors" or "managers" or "handlers" or "custodians"... he has friends. That's another Clarke smoke-screen, to make Bates appear to be a puppet of others, as if he is somehow incompetent, irresponsible, and incapable of reason. Nothing could be further from the truth.
Please remember that Reed's first citation was for riding in the travel lane of a 30 mph city roadway, 4 lanes with a center continuous left turn lane.
BTW: here's that "perfectly rideable" shoulder Andy Clarke thinks Reed should ride on. Here too. A color-enhanced version (to show debris) is at the top of page.
That approach took the issue beyond a strict legal argument as to where one is legally allowed to ride to where one should ride, and a rural Texas courtroom may not be the best place to have that call made on our behalf. As the situation has developed, Bates (and the people advising him) has unfortunately chosen to follow a strategy that our board and legal advisers did not think was in the best interests of all cyclists – from the initial trial by jury preference to a failure to show up for court dates and hearings
It's hard to show up for a court appearance when neither you or your attorney receives a summons. Reed has admitted he was not aggressive enough in this instance, but this mail never got forwarded to him. Remember, being under virtual 'house arrest' in Ennis, Reed had to move out of town to find work (to the far more 'bicycle friendly' area of Dallas County).
...to the pursuit of a position that is simply not reasonable and could easily backfire. We have remained in touch with the issue with local Dallas-area advocates, Bike Texas and our board of directors.
It's not reasonable to control your lane so trucks don't pass within 2-3' of you at 70 mph? Andy Clarke has actively warned people to not support Reed by describing him as an extremist, and by saying he was under the influence of "angry, discredited" cyclists. Clarke has consistently been obstructive. I would not have been surprised to see the prosecution enter a letter from LAB supporting the State's case.
It is instructive that none of us have chosen to get involved. I think we all regret that the way the case has been played by Bates and his advisers has precluded us from constructively intervening to help him and defend our collective rights to the road.The irony of the tag line below Clarke's name is very instructive as to LAB's understanding of bicyclists' rights. Send us money, and we will defend your right to ride on shoulders, bike paths, and in mandatory bike lanes. Try to assert your right to operate your bicycle as a legal vehicle in a safe manner, and we will launch a campaign of innuendo to discredit you among other cyclists.
President, League of American Bicyclists
JOIN today; help us promote and protect the rights of cyclists!
Again, no offer of help from LAB was ever made to Reed Bates. He was never contacted by LAB. To the best of my knowledge, no offer of help was made to any of Reed's friends, who do not act in loco parentis for Mr. Bates.
And yes, it is indeed VERY instructive that LAB and local 'advocacy' groups who listen to Clarke have not gotten involved. Had Reed Bates been demanding a bike lane, perhaps they would have felt differently.
Wednesday, August 18, 2010
Reed Bates (AKA ChipSeal) has been found guilty in Ellis County Court No. 2 on a charge of reckless driving for not riding as far right as possible (as stated by the prosecutor instead of the word 'practicable') in a 12' lane with 70 mph tractor-trailer trucks, and for not riding on an inconsistent, broken, and even nonexistent shoulder when directed to ride there by local law enforcement officers, contrary to the requirements of Sec. 551.103 of the Texas Transportation Code. Oddly, the fact that other vehicles were being allowed to exceed the posted speed limit was considered a reason to force a lawfully operating vehicle off the roadway.
Part of the case against Mr. Bates was that he was riding at dusk, even though police detained him prior to dusk for almost 40 minutes (from roughly 5 to 5:40 pm) before letting him proceed. He was then handcuffed and arrested.
In finding Mr. Bates guilty, the judge stated, "You may be right that it is safer to ride in the middle of the lane instead of the shoulder, but it is reckless of you to do so"... at which point a white rabbit was seen doing down the elevators at the Ellis County Courthouse.
Yes, Mr. Bates is appealing the conviction. Please donate.
Old Ellis County Courthouse in Waxahachie, Texas. Photo by Steve Averill, modified by PM Summer.
Friday, August 13, 2010
Thursday, August 12, 2010
When I'd take my UAB* to bike-commuting demos, I'd attach these (and other) tags to the appropriate places to explain why the damn thing weighed 40lbs. I've lost the lock, panniers and rack tags, and I can't remember if I had a helmet tag or not. I always mentioned carrying some cash, and I'd add a cell phone tag nowadays.
*Urban Assault Bicycle
Wednesday, August 11, 2010
You've heard the Old West story as a child: A new US Marshal arrives in the wild frontier town of Dodge. The streets are full of armed cowboys, and the rate of violence in high. The 'Peace Committee', led by the preacher from the East Coast, urges the citizens to stay off the streets and avoid conflict. But the new marshal decides that the best way to restore peace is to disarm the trouble-makers. After a lot of initial resistance, the town council finally decides that for public safety, everyone must disarm. There's a climatic show-down on Main Street, where the town bully challenges the marshal. After a long, tense face-off, the bully finally unhooks his gun-belt, and walks away. Peace reigns in Dodge.
So, do you want to be the next marshal of Dodge City? On your bicycle?
Here's how it works. Like that mythical Marshal Matt Dillon, what you need to do is identify the danger and disarm it. What's the danger to cyclists in Dodge City? Could it be that Dodge Ram pickup coming up behind you? If so, disarm it. Peacefully.
How do you disarm a pickup truck? You do it by neutralizing the danger. The danger that cars and trucks pose to cyclists isn't running through them, but treating them like they don't exist. Side-swipes, cut-offs, cross-overs, right-hooks: these are all the result of a motorist acting like the cyclist doesn't exist, and a cyclist acting like he/she shouldn't. By hiding along the road edge, cyclists arm a potentially dangerous (and much larger) vehicle, to their own disadvantage.
To take away the dangers listed above, you must take away the space that allows the automobile driver to ignore you. You do this by controlling your lane, by activating and claiming the entire lane width as yours. You can't do this by remote control, as your ability to activate/claim the space next to you is limited to only about four feet (a meter or so). If you ride on the far right, your zone of influence only extends out to where the overtaking car's right wheel is. Sound familiar? Note: The vast majority of instances where cyclists are struck by an overtaking vehicle are side-swipes and collisions with the motor vehicle's right fender, as the motorist tried to squeeze by, and the cyclists tried to stay out of the way.
You need to ride roughly in the middle of the lane (presuming a standard 11-12' lane width), so that your zone of influence now covers about 80% of the lane width (a meter to your left and right). The curb exerts a 2' zone of influence of its own, while the lane stripe to your left exerts a similar (though slightly smaller) zone. If you are riding in the middle of the travel lane, an overtaking vehicle views you as occupying the whole lane and will move around to pass (well in advance), just as if you were a slow-moving, full-sized motor vehicle. You have peacefully disarmed the threat.
If you ride to the right, the vehicle senses that you are leaving an opening for them to occupy, without their having to change lanes. You have not only armed your dangerous opponent as you prepare to do combat over the same space, you ave already begun to surrender.
Traffic civility, effective cycling, vehicular cycling, bicycle driving, or just being the new marshal in town. It's what makes for peaceful coexistence.
Are you ready to be the new marshal of Dodge... or of Ford, Toyota, or Chevy?
A cyclist controlling the lane properly.
Photo by Richard Masoner, Examiner.com
Tuesday, August 10, 2010
Since I quit doing bike rallies (part of the problem, not the solution) years ago, I've had to actually buy and maintain my water bottles. For years, the ubiquitous Specialized bottle was my primary bottle. A few years ago, I tried (and liked) the Polar Bottle insulated sports bottle. While it didn't really stand up to the Texas heat, it offered some cooling retention (a wet crew sock works better in dry climes... which ain't here), and therefore became my preferred summer-months bottle (I don't care for back-borne water bladders, as they remind me too much of Robert A. Heinlein's 'The Puppet Masters').
The bottle pictured (old style) is about 5 years old. The black rubber nipple recently disintegrated, rendering the otherwise functioning bottle useless. So I called the manufacturer about purchasing a new nipple. Instead, they sent me a new cap, free of charge. For a five year old, discontinued water bottle that cost just $10 new.
I endorse this product and the company that manufactures it.