Archive for category city planning
There’s this guy. You might know one too. He’s a lot like you or I. He rides his bike on the same streets. He gets overtaken by impatient F-150s. He’s a cyclist. There’s one major difference, though. Unlike you or I, he tends to get hit by cars; frequently. Most of the time, he comes away without any serious injuries (which is more than I can say for his bikes – carbon fiber, it turns out is the real victim here).
When I first started riding I thought maybe this guy spent more time on busy roads than I did. But slowly, I began to think there might be something else, something that didn’t have anything to do with where he was riding or what he was wearing (more garish colors than I). It was when he told me about his 4th crash involving a car that I began to wonder if, perhaps, it was the way he rode.
It turns out, I might have been on the right track. Last month the City of Minneapolis published a study that examined 2,973 bicycle-motorist crashes that took place over a 10 year period and one of the many interesting bits of data they uncovered was that the cyclist involved is, at least partially, at fault in 59% of all crashes (motorists were, at least partially, at fault in 63.9%*).
If you’d asked me a few weeks ago I’d probably have guessed that cyclists were at fault in about 30% of all accidents. I’ve seen a lot of motorists do a lot of dumb things (I’ll even admit to being a motorist doing a dumb thing once or twice) and it’s easy to assume, because they’re the more vulnerable of the two groups, cyclists are always the victims. But, you have to admit, it sort of makes sense.
I consider myself a careful cyclist 95% percent of the time. During my commute, I’m alert and cautious and often yield even when I have the right of way. I check driveways and think about how to react when the unexpected happens. These things don’t make me invincible, I know that. It is nice to know, perhaps, they do make me a little safer.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not blaming that guy who gets hit by a car once a year for everything. Some of it is bad luck and some if it is bad driving and, maybe, some of it is bad cycling. It is nice to know, as I’m riding my 25 pound bike next to a 2 ton truck, what I do makes a difference.
* Adds up to more than 100% as in some crashes both motorist and cyclist share fault.
Over at amcambike there’s a critique of the Dutch Cycle Path video we posted here the other day.
Most importantly, the country never “turned away from car-centric policies”, as the video claims. The road network was expanded continuously, by completion of the national motorway network, first planned in the 1920′s. Since the 1990′s, the emphasis has been on widening and upgrading main roads, although entirely new roads are still being built.
Without saying so explicitly, the video gives the impression that there are now fewer cars and less traffic in the Netherlands, than in 1975. Of course the opposite is true: the number of cars increased by 81% from 1980 to 2010, rising to 7.7 million. The increase was uninterrupted.
I certainly don’t know enough about Dutch transportation history to offer any insight, but what the critique of the video doesn’t offer is an alternate narrative for how the cycle paths came to be. The fact is that English-speaking countries “look to the Netherlands as a model for policy,” because at some point the Dutch did something right. It’s not necessarily that the Dutch system is perfect but that it’s a system.
In an unexpected last-minute move Friday afternoon, Governor Brown vetoed the popular pro-cycling “Give Me 3″ bill which had been making steady progress through congress. Despite overwhelming support from the cycling industry, road safety advocates and cyclists alike, the bill in its current form will not become law.
Governor Brown, bowing to pressure from automotive groups, the CHP and the Teamsters union, chose to question aspects of the bill which stipulate that drivers unable to afford cyclists three feet of passing space be obligated to slow down to 15mph when passing.
Brown also repeated many of the same concerns which have arisen since the bill was introduced, including issues of traffic build-up where cars are forced to slow for cyclists. Jim Brown, of the California Bicycle Coalition, was swift to characterize such concerns as baseless, citing some 20 states which already have 3-foot passing laws on the books, and which report no problems issuing from the requirements.
“It’s a bill that’s been road-tested in a lot of states…we’re not at the forefront here. The idea that there’s going to be a rash of collisions isn’t supported by other states’s experience.”
A note of disappointment, no doubt echoed by millions of California cyclists, was clear in Jim Brown’s statement,
“We never dreamed that this would be the hardest part of passing the bill – convincing the governor.”
Governor Brown’s rejection of SB910 will not go unnoticed by the ranks of cyclists in California, many of whom have experienced mistreatment on the state’s roads. Passage of a pro-cyclist bill would have gone a long way towards promoting California as a bike-friendly state, instead of a place where cyclists are marginalized.
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.
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.
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.
Ride Your Own Way, a new bike-sharing program for mid-town Sacramento, is set to launch on June 11th, says Brandon Darnell of The Sacramento Press. The bicycle-rental initiative is sponsored by Ikon Cycles, the tiny boutique bike shop on 18th St run by local cycling advocate Adrian Moore.
Moore donated the bikes to the program, saying “I had some extra money and I thought it was kind of an investment in Sacramento.” The bikes were purchased in a closeout sale from Italian manufacturer Bianchi. Moore spent $4,000 on 12 bicycles, a small but significant initial fleet of rental units for the planned six-month trial period.
“I’d like to see a private entity be able to run it and profit from it, but the reality is there really is very little profit in bike share programs.” Added Moore. His own donation of bikes was part of a group including Curb Locking Systems, the company which donated the bike locking stands, and the Midtown Business Association.
The first bike stations will be located at 28th and J Street in midtown, where customers will be able to rent a bike for free for the first 30 minutes. After the initial time-period is up, users’ credit cards will be billed a $2 fee for each additional 30-minute period. The bikes must be returned to their original location, otherwise the user will be charged $500 to “keep” the bike.
Rob Kerth, Executive Director of the Midtown Business Association is enthusiastic about the bike-share program.
“I see this as having many uses. Folks who don’t have a bike but don’t want to deal with parking at lunchtime would be a perfect example.”
Kerth envisions future bike stations situated at light rail stations and bus stops, enabling commuters to pick up bikes from all kinds of locations around Sacramento, and eventually drop them off at any other bike station.
“It wouldn’t take very much at all to keep this going”, Kerth added. ” Sacramento is great bicycle country, we have tree-lined streets, it’s flat, and the weather is great for it.”
Users are encouraged to bring their own cycle helmets, but Moore will also be renting helmets from his shop for a nominal $3 day-use fee.
Sacramento city council has approved plans for an increase in the number of downtown bicycle lanes over the next 18 months. The Department of Transportation has been given the green light to develop two phases of bicycle lane construction; projects which will introduce dedicated cycle lanes on some of the city’s busiest streets.
The cash-strapped city managed to find $629,000 to allocate to the project, which will proceed this summer in conjunction with scheduled maintenance on the city’s streets. The first phase of the project will add painted bicycle lanes to J Street, I Street, 9th Street, 5th Street, 10th Street and Capitol Mall, where the roads are typically wide enough already to accommodate a dedicated cycle lane. In many cases, substantial bikeways can be added with little or no impact on existing traffic lanes or parking.
The second phase will oversee the removal of existing traffic lanes from several major one-way streets. A single lane of traffic can be split to provide a dedicated cycle lane on each side of the road. Streets scheduled for the second phase of development include stretches of 5th Street, 9th Street, 10th Street, G Street and H Street.
The plans aim to create an environment downtown which resembles the bike-friendly portions of midtown, where cycling is popular and bikeways are more common.
The California Highway Patrol has announced plans to introduce penalties for cyclists who use a cellphone while riding. The fine – $20 (before additional fees) is for first-time offenders. Repeat offenders would face fines of $50 for each incident.
The new penalties were outlined in a bill that was approved by the state Senate on Monday, April 25th. The bill also increases penalties for drivers who use a cellphone while driving. They could face fines of more than $500 for repeat offenses, once fees have been tacked on to the basic fine. The bill was introduced during April’s National Distracted Driving Awareness Month.
As cellphones become ubiquitous, it is not unusual to see cyclists pausing to retrieve a ringing phone from a pocket while they cruise along city streets. Motorists have been doing the same for many years, often with tragic results.
But the bill has its opponents among cycling advocates, who maintain that cyclists need greater protection, not more restrictions, when riding on the road.
“This is only going to be one more obstacle for someone who uses their bicycle for transportation.” Said Tani Walling, a bike shop owner from southern California. “Everything about how our streets and sidewalks are set up favors cars.”
Every year, law enforcement hands out tens of thousands of citations in California for drivers using cellphones to talk or text while driving. Over 18s are required to use hands-free devices, while under-18s are prohibited from using any kind of phone while driving a car.