Archive for category traffic

don’t be that guy

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%*).

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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.

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Attention Children: Bikes are Dangerous

Hey, look, LEGO included a cyclist in the LEGO City Town Ambulance set:

Hey, look, the cyclist is being loaded into the ambulance because cycling is dangerous and always results in a trip to the emergency room:

Hat tip to @thekvr.

Also:

We added a key element to the Lego bike crash. Speeding car r... on Twitpic

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Are urban bicyclists just elite snobs?

I honestly think that if you live in a city, then you are morally obliged to read this piece:

Welcome to the new urban order: the Jag-driving New Yorker columnist is a philistine better suited to the suburbs of Wichita. Meanwhile, the city’s bicyclists are an entitled, imperial cabal cruising around on Trek Bellville three-speeds, an insidious locus of unchecked power and influence. How is this possible? As the blog Bike Snob NYC put it,someday in the future, “humanity will marvel that there was once an age in which a mode of transportation as inexpensive and accessible as the bicycle was considered ‘elitist.’”

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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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“Give Me 3″ bill vetoed by Governor Brown

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.

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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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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, 2

The bike lane is called a “bike” lane because it is for bikes. It is not called the “right side of your car” lane, so keep the right side of your car out of it. If you don’t know where the right side of your car is, perhaps it’s time to consider buying a new, smaller car.

The bike lane is also not a super secret passing lane, unless, of course, you’re on a bike passing all the suckers in traffic.

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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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County blames cyclists for most crashes

Officials speaking for Sacramento County claim that most incidents of car-on-bike violence in the area are the fault of cyclists, writes Cody Kitaura in a recent article. According to the Bicycle Master Plan, an extensive document published online by the Sacramento Municipal Transportation Agency, 74% of crashes involving cyclists in the area were caused by bicycles. The overwhelming majority of those crashes were caused by cyclists riding the wrong way.

Riding the wrong way on a public road is illegal, but many cyclists choose to ride in designated bike lanes facing oncoming traffic for one simple reason: they feel more safe when they can see the cars heading towards them.

The roads in Sacramento are poorly equipped for bicycle commuters, with inadequate bike lanes and lacklustre enforcement of in-lane car-parking violations. Many important arteries have no designated cycling paths at all, or else they abruptly discontinue bike lanes in stretches of road where they become inconvenient for drivers.

In an region where drivers routinely assault cyclists, and law-enforcement officers favor cars over bikes, many riders feel vulnerable on the roads. Pedestrians are traditionally advised, when walking on the roadside, to face oncoming traffic so that in the event of a driver swerving into the verge, they might be able to avoid being struck. The same wisdom has been embraced by cyclists, who take up very little of the roadway and who assume that drivers will be better able to see them coming on the road.

But riding on the wrong side of the road remains illegal, and should not be encouraged. The problem is, in the absence of overdue, underfunded, long-promised cycling lane expansion in Sacramento, in order to obey the law cyclists must wrestle with a population of heavy car and truck users who care little about their safety, and who don’t think twice about yelling, swearing and honking at cyclists as they approach, and forcing them off the roads when they pass.

Without a serious examination of the attitude of drivers in Sacramento towards cyclists on the roads, there is little chance of an end to the practice of riding on the wrong side of the road. When drivers agree to obey the law regarding passing cyclists safely, perhaps cyclists will reciprocate by staying on the correct side of the road.

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