Archive for category law

get out of that car

Not long after reading that Senator Barbara Boxer (D – CA) and the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee is trying to make it more difficult to ride your bike, GOOD pointed me to this study that was published by the journal Environmental Health Perspectives. The study looked a the benefits of reducing car usage for short urban and suburban trips:

Reductions in PM2.5 related mortality across the Midwest are shown in Figure 2a, with the total impact across the 37,000 square mile region being 433 fewer deaths. Asthma exacerbations would decrease annually by over 2,000 cases. Also, there would be approximately 75 fewer COPD cases, while net respiratory symptoms, hospital admissions and ER visits would decrease by 93,607 cases annually. For cardiovascular disease, there would be approximately 660 fewer cases of non-fatal AMI and hospital admissions. Savings from reduced annual mortality would reach almost $3.5 billion.

Oh, and:

Based on WHO HEAT, we estimated that completing 50% of short trips by bicycle would result in average annual savings over $2.5 billion for short suburban bicycle trips and nearly $1.25 billion for short urban trips (Table 3), for a total of approximately $3.8 billion in benefits across an estimated population of 2 million people, and a reduction in premature mortality of almost 700 deaths per year.

If you’re keeping track that’s $7 billion/year in savings just by replacing a car with a bike for half of all short trips.

In this context what kind of sense does legislation that makes it more difficult to ride a bike make sense? Perhaps we should make it more difficult to drive.

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motorist tip of the week, 10

The bike lane is not a phone booth.

Ok, yeah, thanks for taking a moment to pull over before chatting on the phone. It’s great that you’re obeying that law. But, and I hate to nitpick, but you see that sign, the one that says “No Parking Anytime”? It’s not a suggestion.

Let’s talk about what happens when you completely block the bike lane like that.

I, and I’m a nice guy (most of the time), ride up and see your car stopped, blocking the entire lane. I also see your brake lights on and so I’m not really sure if you’re about to pull away from curb or if you’ve just started recapping an entire season of Dancing with the Stars. Trying to watch you and look over my shoulder to see if it’s safe for me to move into the lane of traffic, I approach your car. When it’s safe, I pull into traffic to pass and a guy in a F250 3 miles bikes curses cyclists because he thinks there’s a chance he might have to slow down. I watch you closely as I pass, fighting the urge to spit on your windshield, making sure you don’t decide to start moving. I pull back into the bike lane. The F250 realizes he doesn’t have to brake but yells obscenities at me as he passes, just because.

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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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call to action

The political situation in America is…well, it leaves something to be desired and the “say no” attitude of Republicans in the legislature is…ok, I’ll try to make this post a little less about politics in general and a little more about how federal funding for cycling is about to become the next victim of political grandstanding.

The federal transportation bill is set to expire at the end of the month and, without a new law to replace it, the provisions of the current law will need to be extended to ensure that federal funding for highways, transit and bike/pedestrian improvements continues. Senator Tom Coburn (R-OK) has already said that he would oppose any extension that would include funding for Transportation Enhancements (the part of the bill that supports pedestrian and cycling improvements).

Speaker of the House John Boehner (R-OH) and Majority Leader Eric Cantor (R-VA) seem to be right behind Coburn:

We are not opposed to initiatives to repair and improve infrastructure, and believe there are reforms that can be implemented that would improve their effectiveness in a manner that supports economic growth. Current law requires that states set-aside 10 percent of their surface transportation funds for transportation enhancements, which must be used for items such as establishment of transportation museums, education activities for pedestrians and bicyclists, acquisition of scenic easements, historic preservation, operation of historic transportation facilities, etc. While many of the initiatives funded by this mandatory set-aside may be worthy projects, eliminating this required set-aside would allow states to devote more money to the types of infrastructure programs you are advocating without adding to the deficit.

I’m a firm believer that funding for bike projects and other alternatives to driving do a lot to improve the overall transportation system in America. And I’m pretty much in agreement with this comment (hey it looks like it’s by Richard over at Cyclelicious-he doesn’t know me, but I feel like we’re buddies) over at dc.streetsblog:

With Coburn’s grandstanding, I say screw it and eliminate transportation funding completely. If Coburn doesn’t want to fund enhancements by holding all of transportation funding hostage, I say let him.

The League of American Bicyclists has a handy link that makes it easy for you to get in contact with your Senator and tell them to continue funding the Transportation Enhancements. Get over there and Take Action.

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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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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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(less than) half the battle

This morning I was chatting with Sam about the proposed 3-feet-to-pass law in California and how it always feels like the onus of road safety for cylsits is almost always on the cyclist (the 3-feet-to-pass law address this to some extent) and almost seconds later I read the following:

In 2007, the state Department of Transportation teamed up with Sussex Cyclists and police agencies to set up bike checkpoints to inform cyclists about laws, safety and make sure the bike is in working order. This year, DelDOT has planned about 15 bicycle checkpoints.

Now, I’m all for educating cyclists on how to ride safely – especially if many of the cyclists are minors and, perhaps, just need a nudge in the right direction – but when was the last time you saw a check point for drivers educating them about how to drive safely?

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in other news

An Oregon man was found guilty of public indecency for cycling in the nude.

“He told me he enjoyed riding his bicycle in the nude,” Goodwin said, adding that Lamb was also wearing a shirt at the time he spoke to the officer. “I asked him if he found that it turned him on, so to speak. … He said that it was a sexual feeling of excitement.”

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Driver in Sacramento cyclist death case finally booked

The family of Patrick O’Connor, the 27 year old Sacramento resident who was killed on his bike on September 1st, 2010, took comfort last week when the driver of the car that killed him, 21 year old Vanessa Carrillo, was formally booked in Modesto on Wednesday, April 6th.

At an earlier hearing, Carrillo was assigned a new public defender, adding to the growing list of reassignments, misdirections and general confusion which has characterised this case since last September. A new prosecutor has also been appointed, this time bringing promise of a new investigation and pre-trial hearing. For Patrick’s father, Jim, who has repeatedly expressed frustration at way the Stanislaus County District Attorney has handled the case, there seems to be a small glimmer of hope:

“Next Tuesday (April 12th) we will travel again to Modesto to lend support to the new prosecutor and his new investigative team and observe the proceedings.”

Jim O’ Conner was astonished to learn, however, that Carrillo had been stopped and issued a citation by police on the 25th March. Carrillo, whose license had been suspended and physically confiscated by the DMV, was caught driving illegally.

“She was not brought into jail or charged, just ticketed and released.” He said at the time, his anger and dismay palpable.“What does it take to get Carrillo booked? She has never been booked for anything. No picture, no fingerprinting, no bail, no jail time, just a complaint warrant that she killed someone in Stanislaus County.”

(At the pre-trial hearing on the 12th April, a charge of Driving While Suspended was added to the manslaughter charge.)

Patrick’s family, who live in Northridge, have traveled hundreds of miles to Modesto repeatedly since the start of the year to attend pre-trail hearings and to meet with the staff of the DA’s office. One such trip, Jim confided, led him to discover that Carrillo – a Senior at Stanislaus University – is majoring in Criminal Justice.

“(Carrillo) has been riding along with local law enforcement for some time. We found out that she “tweets” a lot, and has done so while driving. We hope that the new DA, Mr Mury, has subpoenaed her phone records as part of the new discoveries.”

A Facebook group – “In Loving Memory of Patrick O’ Connor” has been created to document the progress of the case, which, thanks to the efforts of Jim and his wife, Mary, is starting to gain much-needed attention in the local press.

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Section of California’s vehicle code that states:

A person riding a bicycle or operating a pedicab upon a highway has all the rights and is subject to all the provisions applicable to the driver of a vehicle by this division…

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