Archive for category bike friendly

now you see me…

It’s dark at 6:00 am (and cold, but that’s a different story). The darkness (and the cold) has thinned out the already svelte bike commuting crowd. Of the bike commuters left, I’m pretty sure I’m the only one who refuses to wear a neon yellow top. I have my reasons.

They’re ugly.

Random San Jose cyclist

And, I’m not even sure hi-vis jackets and vests work all that much better than other visibility solutions. There doesn’t seem to be much out on the interwebs linking blindingly yellow clothing to cycling safety, “there seems to be even less research on the effectiveness of high-visibility clothing for the bicyclist than for the motorcyclist.”

Much of the clothing I wear is black or gray but also has built in sections of reflecting fabric making me, at least somewhat, visible in the dark. But, more than that, the flashing white headlamp and the red taillight I ride with in low light should do more to make me visible than even the brightest yellow (and unlike reflective clothing, my lights don’t rely on others having their lights on).

Many cyclists out there probably look at my refusal to wear hi-vis clothing and think it’s foolish (much the same way I look at people who eschew helmets). In fact, one thing “research” turned up was a high number of websites suggesting, with no data to support the claim, that wearing hi-vis clothing is a must. Some may even feel that Hi-Vis clothing is the most stylish and fashionable trend in cycling since spider helmet covers. Which helps explain the guy I saw this morning in a bright yellow jacket without any lights on his bike.

I’m not convinced on either count.

Image by Richard Masoner of Cyclelicious

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By Bike | What’s in your bag?

At Levi’s Gran Fondo I saw more than one cyclist with bags just about everywhere you could imagine putting one – for example at least two bikes had the following set-up: a saddle bag, a bento box on the top tube, a triangular bag under the top tube, and a handle bar bag (the only thing missing was a fanny pack).

I could carry two of everything I’d stuffed in my pockets (which were full) and still not need <em>that many</em> bags. And, this was a fully supported ride with rest stops every 20 miles or so. I just didn’t get it.

Of course, it was a long a ride with changing weather conditions and I could see the need for adding a saddle bag so one might have room for some arm warmers and a gilet (the one I borrowed from Sera without her knowledge never left my back). So, I was willing to suspend strict enforcement of Rule #29. But I’m pretty sure some people brought every bicycle accessory they owned (this might also explain the handful of people I saw on the side of the road using floor pumps).

For the first few years I rode, I used a saddle bag (a small one that barely fit a tube, a CO2 canister, levers, & a mini-tool). It was terrified of forgetting something when I went out for a ride and the bag, which never left my saddle, was an easy way to ensure everything was always there. Now, the only bag I ride with is the Chrome Citizen I wear on my back when I commute. There have been times, particularly when I’m hauling my coffee press home for a ride in the dishwasher, when the bag has seemed to gather more than I need and I’m forced to parse some of the items I’m carrying, but mostly, it only contains what I absolutely need for the day.

So, I was a little shocked with I saw this:

Now, I don’t want to pick on Ted – I very much enjoy Commute By Bike – but that photo came after he’d written this:

I’m also not getting enough exercise from my puny bike commute — less than two miles when I take the shortcuts. I never even work up enough sweat to worry about changing clothes. I just commute in the same clothes that I will wear all day.

I just can’t help thinking, If he’s wearing the clothes he plans to wear all day, what’s in all those bags?

I ask, not because I find Ted’s style particularly offensive or because I think The Rules should be seriously enforced. I ask because, like my opting to wear Lycra to work, I wonder if commuters who need to carry 3 bags to work daily, might make commuting look difficult and out of reach for the general public. There are plenty of things that bug me about the cycle chic movement (women pedaling in high-heels, for instance) but at least those people look like they woke up, got dressed (picked out something they felt was stylish even) and got on a bike. Photos like this (image from Sac Cycle Chic):

make cycling look accessible and fun.

I wouldn’t say the same thing about a photo of me in the drops with a 17 pound bag on my back or the photo of Ted’s seemingly overloaded commute bike.

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Motorist Tip of the Week, 8

When there are two (2) left turn lanes1 do not line up behind the cyclist and get mad because the cyclist let the BMW in the other lane beat him off the line.

Cyclists are fit and many are fast but most have nothing on precision German2 engineering. It is, however, ok to line up behind the cyclist and wait patiently for them to get through the intersection in front of you.

1This applies to anytime there are two lanes to choose from but seems to be a problem mostly when turning left.
2Not just applicable German cars. In fact, this applies to just about all motor vehicles.

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Seattle follows Portland by expanding bike lanes. Can Sacramento follow?

New bicycling initiatives being launched in Seattle echo successful projects in Portland, and could influence similar decisions in Sacramento. The new “greenways” being planned in several Seattle neighborhoods will take cyclists off busy arteries and through re-designed side streets, where speed-bumps, modified sidewalks and curbs, and special stop-signs will give priority to cyclists as well as pedestrians.

The first greenway will run through the Wallingford district of north-central Seattle, and advocates hope to develop further greenways in at least three other neighborhoods. The city takes its cue from it’s southern neighbor, progressively pro-bike Portland, which has more than thirty greenways, and which predicts that 80% of city residents will live within half a mile of a greenway by 2015.

The initiatives in place in Portland and Seattle put to shame the efforts in Sacramento, which claims to be a bike-friendly city but which has pitifully few dedicated bike lanes, no greenways, and an outdated but muscular pro-car bent. The region’s single saving concession – the American River Trail – was established decades ago, and has not been expanded or improved upon since, despite expansion and realignment of the city’s commercial and residential areas.

The Portland greenways cost an estimated $250,000 per mile, an expense which Seattle hopes to recoup through an additional car-tab fee of $60. Over ten years, the tax would raise more than $200 million for additional transportation projects to help promote cycling and walking in the city.

In cash-strapped, pro-car Sacramento, the possibility of introducing a levy on motor-vehicles to pay for bike-lane improvements or greenways seems unlikely. Many of the region’s essential roads are in disrepair and further cuts to the DOT budget are pending.

However, as pro-cycling advocates frequently point out, cycling has cost benefits that reach far beyond the immediate advantages for keen bike-commuters. An active citizenry which solves its own economic and health problems by choosing to commute via bicycle instead of motor-vehicle injects vitality and treasure into the local economy, and may even go so far as to improve the desirability of residential property in the region.

Bike lanes and greenways can’t fix every problem that plagues Sacramento, but the cost-benefit ratio is enormous, and worthy of further consideration.

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bicycle friendly and almost bicycle friendly

The League of American Bicyclists announced the newest round of Bicycle Friendly Communities today. And Sacramento was upgraded from a Bronze designation to a Silver designation. But, since I only live near Sacramento and almost never ride my bike in the city proper, I was more interested with one of the cities on the Honorable Mentions list, Rancho Cordova!

That’s right, I commute through a town that is, very nearly, bicycle friendly.

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Motorist Tip of the Week, 3

Smile.

Riding home from work on Wednesday, coming down International Blvd, a woman in a white Lexus was coming out of the driveway of her office complex. Now, any cyclist knows that driveways, especially office driveways at quitting time, are some of the most dangerous bits of road. Knowing this, I make it a point to lock eyes with a motorist as I approach, looking deep into his or her soul to determine if it is safe for me to proceed. When I saw this woman, I hesitated for a half second because she was looking away from me, to her right, and I wasn’t sure she’d seen me in her brief glance my way. But, when she turned her head back and our eyes met, she smiled. It was a warm and welcoming smile that said, “take your time, I’ll wait,” and perhaps, “I wish I was out riding my bike,” or, less likely, “you sure look good in that Lycra.”

The point is, the smile went a long way to making me feel safe even after I crossed the driveway in front of her and she turned right and passed me. I knew she understood what often goes unsaid, that, while we had chosen different vehicles, our goal was the same; we both wanted to get home and that stretch of road was no more hers than it was mine.

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DIY Bike Lane

Right here in Sacramento.

To keep the bike lane, the car lane on this side would have been reduced to eight feet. Though this is not unheard of, especially when trying to control the speed of traffic, whoever originally designed this road had opted to give cars the extra leeway for speed and let anyone on a bike fend for themselves.

The bike lane painter had rectified this omission. Best of all, his vigilante paint-job worked: In our time there, a couple dozen cars went by, and only one encroached on the bike lane markings. Most gave the faded stripes several feet of respectful room.

I can think a few places I ride where the bike lane magically disappears for a few hundred yards, presumably to make things easier for city planners who are often worried about reducing traffic and maximizing traffic flow. In some cases the lane simply narrows and becomes an unmarked shoulder not quite wide enough to meet the legal definition of a bike lane, in others, it seems, the expectation is that you and your bike will just teleport up the road to where the bike lane restarts. In almost every case it’s the result of poor planning, which happens, but the vanishing bike lanes illustrate the fact that we live in a car centric culture – bike lanes are nice to have, as long as they don’t get in the way.

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It’s up to you, Jerry | Give Me 3

SB 910 made it through the California State Assembly yesterday. The bill would require motorists to give cyclists 3 feet when passing from behind. While the bill will need to go back to the State Senate tomorrow to approve some technical changes it is fully expected that it will end up on the Governor’s desk for signature.

While passage of the law should give cyclists in California reason to celebrate it doesn’t mean we should all abandon caution, or our helmets, and ride as if we have safety bubble around us. The fact is that we still live in a car centric nation and a culture that puts a greater value on quick and effortless travel than it does on the safety of those few of us who would, for whatever reason, pedal our commute.

Take, for example, this Letter to the Editor that I ran across in The Bakersfield Californian:

Robert Price’s Aug. 28 column, “Tweaking our too-snug car-bike interface,” was written, I believe, from the view of a cyclist. I believe Price is a frequent cyclist on the streets of Bakersfield. The 3-foot buffer for a cyclist is a great idea. However, there are dangers for all involved.

…To give the bikers an extra 3 feet means the automobile driver will need to move over to the left a few feet. Problem there is drivers in the next lane frequently cannot see the biker and wonder why in the world that “idiot” is moving over into his or her lane or driving so blasted slow. It’s a problem. I don’t know if SB 910 will solve the problem. I know if I were a cyclist, I’d rather ride on the sidewalk and dodge 170-pound pedestrians than on the street and dodge 2-ton automobiles.

Common sense is not all that common. Why not the sidewalk?

The author of this letter makes a careful effort not to be overtly anti-cyclist, but her suggestion that we cyclists be relegated to the sidewalk simply moves the safety problem out of her way. Her logic is that a 3-foot passing law is ok, but that it creates a “danger” for drivers because they might have to slow down when “that ‘idiot'” moves into his or her lane to pass a cyclist. To avoid the danger of having to use the brake pedal, the suggestion is that bikes, mine is usually moving at around 20 mph, negotiate the sidewalks they’d be expected to share with “170-pound pedestrians.” I’m not sure what she thinks is going to happen when a cyclist moving at 20 mph hits one of those pedestrians but, you know, “common sense is not all that common.”

I’ll take the 3-feet, thank you.

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motorist tip of the week, 1

If I had to guess I’d say that I see at least one article a week that attempts to answer the question, “what rules or laws should cyclists follow or obey?” The sub-text send two messages: 1) cyclists are annoying and would be less annoying if only they followed the laws; and, 2) cyclists are responsible for themselves and everybody else on the road.

So, in the spirit of shared responsibility I offer you my motorist tip of the week:

Always look carefully for bicyclists before opening doors next to moving traffic or before turning. (Page 36, CA Driver Handbook)

and

Not try to pass a bicyclist just before making a turn. Merge safely where it is allowed, then turn. (Page 36, CA Driver Handbook)

Yeah, so there’s this car, a white something or other, that regularly accelerates to pass me before it turns right, wheels squealing, in front of me. It’s not nice. It’s not safe. Please don’t do that anymore.

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Cubicle Classic

Today is sports jersey day at the office. As it turns out I’m the only person in a cycling jersey – surprise! Here’s a list of things I want to do while I’m wearing it.

  • While in a meeting, about half way through, reach into my jersey pocket, pull out GU packet, rip into it with my teeth, spit the foil, and suck down the contents.
  • Have someone come into the meeting urgently and hand me a water bottle they’ve stuffed down the back of their shirt.
  • With just a couple of minutes left in the meeting take a big gulp from my water bottle then throw it to the side of the room.
  • Either at my cubicle or in a meeting, have the wheel on my chair fall off, I’d throw my hand in the air and someone would run up behind me with a new chair. Depending on how long it took, I may or may not throw my broken chair on the ground.
  • Sit inches behind a co-worker while they work.
  • Yell at someone in Italian when they won’t do what I’ve asked.
  • Have someone hand me a musette as I walk down the hall.
  • Look through the mussette putting things I want in my jersey pockets discarding the rest with a frown.
  • Change the sign on the restroom to read “Doping Control”.
  • Have someone run around next to me waving a giant Californian flag.
  • Pass someone on the stairs and give them “the look.”

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