Dan C. sends along this link to a case of a Texas cyclist who has been repeatedly arrested for the apparently radical (though seemingly legal) act of riding his bike on a road (and we’re not talking about an Interstate Highway here, but 30 mph local roads). Read all about it (and donate to his defense) here. As Commute Orlando points out, this sort of thing is not uncommon.
Archive for the ‘Bicycles’ Category
Via Jeff Frings, who politely tries to educate a driver (who’s clearly trying to overcompensate in all kinds of ways) on traffic laws. Later he’ll tell his long-suffering wife about some “idiot” cyclist on the road who wouldn’t get out of his way. It leaves one to wonder what actual percentage of drivers out there have a grasp of, say, more than 50% of the traffic code.
[The gist of the conversation is cyclist points out to driver that he's blown a stop sign and almost hit him; driving tells him to get on the f***ing sidewalk where he "belongs." Cyclist points out that that's illegal. Driver threatens bodily harm. Yadda. Yadda. Yadda.]
I know there’ve been guerilla lane paintings and the like, but just curious if anyone knows of examples where this model has been done in the world of two-wheeled infrastructure. The sponsor could check maintenance, remove debris, monitor double-parking violations — I dunno, even install tube vending machines or free air or some such.
Seeing Traffic positioned on a reading list recommended by Foreign Policy’s “Top 100″ thinkers had me in mind of book lists, and so I thought I’d round up the transportation-related books (or at least marginally so) that have crossed my desk this year and would make good holiday purchases for your mobility-minded friends (or yourself).
In no particular order:
2.) Ted Conover, The Routes of Man. OK, this one’s not out until February, but the galleys of this book accompanied me on a cross-country flight, and I was hooked. A far-flung, elegiac, honest examination of roads and their impact on us and society, Conover’s book ranges from the tangled “go slows” of Lagos, Nigeria to an (illicit) “capitalist road” trip in China.
3. The Yugo: The and Fall of the Worst Car in History, by Jason Vinc. If you’re old enough to remember actually riding in one of these things, and enough of an automotive-cultural obsessive to remember, say, the Yugo’s appearance in the plot-line of Moonlighting, then this tale of geo-political commerce is for you. And as Vinc reminds us, the Yugo was the “fastest-selling first-year European import in American history.”
4. Carjacked, by Catherine Lutz and Anne Lutz Fernandez.
OK, this is turning into next year’s list — this one’s not out until early January — but in Carjacked, an anthropologist and writer delve into American car culture — the romance that longed ago turned into marriage — and offer a thorough, gimlet-eyed assessment. Sample quote: “In the period from 1979 to 2002, the period in which seat belts, air bags and other improvements in vehicle crashworthiness were installed, U.S. crash deaths declined by just 16 percent, while those in Great Britain declined by 46 percent, in Canada by 50 percent, and in Australia by 51 percent.”
5. Waiting on a Train, by James McCommons. Shifting from road to rails, McCommon’s book is a cross-country trip into the modern-day heart of U.S. passenger rail (“service that the Bulgarians would be ashamed of,” notes James Howard Kunstler in his intro), laying bare the roots of its decline and offering a way forward for the country’s most embattled mode. And I’ve not read it yet, but Matthew Engel’s Eleven Minutes Late, a “train journey to the soul of Britain,” is definitely on my list.
6. Jeff Mapes, Pedaling Revolution. Another one I’ve banged on about before about, but the go-to work on cycling as a form of transportation in America today. And full disclosure: The guy did lend me a bike to ride in Portland.
7. City: Rediscovering the Center. By William H. Whyte.
One of those rare books — reissued in paperback in 2009 — that actually lives up to the promise of “changing the way you see the world.” Along with the writing of Joseph Mitchell, I can’t think of any other title that has so influenced my experience of living in New York City.
Cars: Freedom, Style, Sex, Power, Motion, Colour, Everything (text by Stephen Bayley).
Because sometimes you just really want to look at a pretty picture of a 1955 Citroën DS.
9. Jeff in Venice, by Geoff Dyer. One of my favorite writers, and his description of driving in India does not disappoint.
Suggestions are welcome for others I may have left out.
I was struck recently, as I read David Byrne’s The Bicycle Diaries, by this passage, which refers to the author’s time in Buenos Aires:
Built on the floodplain of La Plata River, the city is fairly flat, and with the temperate weather and the streets more or less on a grid it is perfect for cycling around. Despite this I could count on one hand the number of locals I saw on bikes. Why? Would I inevitably find out the reason no one else was pedaling around here? Was there some dark secret explanation about to pounce on me? Am I a naive fool? Is it because the driving is so reckless, the theft so rampant, the gas so cheap, and a car such a necessary symbol of status? Is it so uncool to ride a bike here that even messengers find other ways of getting around?
I don’t think it is any of those reasons. I think the idea of cycling is simply off the radar here. The cycling meme hasn’t been dropped into the mix, or it never took hold. I am inclined to agree with Jared Diamond, who claims in his book Collapse that people develop cultural affinities for certain foods, ways of getting around, clothes, and habits of being that become so ingrained that they will, in his telling, persist in maintaining their habits even to the piont of driving themselves and sometimes their whole civilization to extinction.
I’ve not been to Buenos Aires, and it would certainly make an interesting South American point of comparison to, say, Bogota, where an activist mayor and many others helped to transform cycling in that city (and did I just read that Santiago is pursuing bike lanes rather energetically?). But it is an interesting question: The mixture of infrastructure, social norms, behavioral change, incentives, and whatever else is needed to get a bike culture off the ground. After all, as Mikael has noted of Copenhagen, for example, these things are not necessarily a fait accompli; Copenhagen could easily resemble Madrid or any other more auto-intensive European capital today were it not for a set of discrete historical events — and ongoing campaigns. Any cycling Porteñas happen to be reading and care to comment?
I thought of this again recently when an old chum from Portland, Steve Johnson at PSU, sent along his interesting essay on the prehistory of Portland’s bike renaissance. In the early 1970s, for example, he writes: “Sam Oakland estimated there to be about 400 people riding bicycles into downtown Portland on a daily basis (Frazier, 1971).” The number over the Hawthorne Bridge in 1975? 200. It’s a bit higher than that today, and the piece chronicles the long story of bureaucratic finagling, community activism, the endless hours of debates — bike lanes or bike education? — the entrenched opposition, the long miles traveled, etc., that have all led to this historical moment.
The BBC reports on what may be a troubling trend or a statistical aberration:
Many of the fatalities involving cyclists happen in collisions with a heavy goods vehicle (HGV). This year, seven of the eight people killed by lorries in London have been women.
Considering that women make only 28% of the UK’s cycling journeys, this seems extremely high.
One of the offered reasons seems to involve compliance with traffic regulations (the sort of thing drivers are always accusing cyclists of violating):
In 2007, an internal report for Transport for London concluded women cyclists are far more likely to be killed by lorries because, unlike men, they tend to obey red lights and wait at junctions in the driver’s blind spot.
This means that if the lorry turns left, the driver cannot see the cyclist as the vehicle cuts across the bike’s path.
The report said that male cyclists are generally quicker getting away from a red light – or, indeed, jump red lights – and so get out of the danger area.
The study, which is due to be published in the scientific journal Accident Analysis and Prevention, says that on roads without cycle lanes, drivers “consciously perform an overtaking manoeuvre”. On roads with cycle lanes, they treat the space between the centre line and the outside edge of the cycle lane as exclusively their territory and make less adjustment for cyclists.
The study concludes: “Cycle lanes do not appear to provide greater space for cyclists in all conditions.” The Highway Code tells drivers to “give cyclists at least as much room as you would when overtaking a car”.
I’ve not read the study yet, so I’ll reserve further comment — save for my own suspicions that the presence of paint can both increase driver awareness but also encourage them to stop thinking — but this brings up a whole host of interesting accompanying issues: Does that proximity lead to less safety, either real or perceived? Do the car speeds differ on either street because of the presence or lack thereof of cycle lanes? Do the cycle lanes lead to an increase in cyclists? Do cycle lanes lead cyclists to behave differently?
(thanks to Prashanth in London)
I was struck by this post, about the bicycle-heavy back-to-school ritual in the Netherlands, at David Hembrow’s site. As he observes, “a few weeks before the start of the school term, banners and signs appear to remind drivers that children are to be expected to be on bikes in larger numbers again. The banner reads ‘The schools are starting again.’ ”
In the U.S., of course, it’s more common at this time of year for schools to send out notices that their “traffic patterns” have changed, meaning the location of where kids are picked up and dropped off, via car (and typically they’re changed because so many parents are driving their kids to school, and the parking lots have become not only congested, but safety hazards). Relatedly, I happened to read, over the DOT’s Fast Lane page, about Secretary Ray LaHood visiting a school in Peoria, where some young students gave him their thoughts on transportation and safety. I don’t know what they envisioned, but I was curious to note the school’s handbook, located here, which notes, “due to the volume of traffic in the parking lot, students should be dropped off and picked up and the Northmoor door of the school.”
The final thing to note, not surprisingly, is the WalkScore of the neighborhood where the school is located: 49 out of 100.
Two disturbing things across the transom. The former attorney general of Ontario, charged in the death of a cyclist in Toronto (ironically in light of the recent press on Chris Cavacuiti), apparently in some kind of altercation.
And in Wisconsin, a current legislator (one account says his license was once suspended) blows a red light, striking a cyclist.
I just watched a solo driver in a massive Escalade with too-thin tires (new urban calculation: the thinner the tires, the longer the rap sheet) shout at two cyclists on my street as he passed (driving faster than the speed limit).
Then I came home to read this, from physician Chris Cavacuiti in Toronto, on understanding causality in car-bike collisions. I realize that science and reason often do not reign these days, if they ever did, but it’s nice, once in a while, to find there are people like this, correcting the lazy “bike-ist” misperceptions:
While there is a public perception that cyclists are usually the cause of accidents between cars and bikes, an analysis of Toronto police collision reports shows otherwise: The most common type of crash in this study involved a motorist entering an intersection and either failing to stop properly or proceeding before it was safe to do so. The second most common crash type involved a motorist overtaking unsafely. The third involved a motorist opening a door onto an oncoming cyclist. The study concluded that cyclists are the cause of less than 10 per cent of bike-car accidents in this study.
Mark Wagenbuur has put together a fascinating video (thanks to David Hembrow) on the evolution of a Dutch street (in Utrecht) over time; of particular interest is the creeping automobilization of the street in the 1970s-80s, only to see a subsequent reversion to historical precedents (or what we now call “complete streets”).
My latest Slate column is up, and it concerns bicycle parking. I notice some of the earlier commenters, perhaps mistaking the headline for the actual story, seem to think I’ve suggested that providing better bike parking facilities will magically transform the U.S. into Copenhagen. This is not the point, of course — instead I wanted to draw attention to the often overlooked factor of parking as it applies to traffic, how this plays in as well — and even more — to cycling, and that indeed providing it (along with all the other things) may be yet another of those small ‘pull’ factors that makes it more feasible (or at least eliminates another excuse why someone cannot do it).
The name Lord Adonis, were one to see it Brooklyn, conjures a Bed-Stuy middle-weight boxer, or maybe one of the dance-hall reggae performers ones sees on posters cruising along Flatbush.
But for the uninitiated, he’s the U.K.’s new Secretary of Transport and, it turns out, a fan of Traffic, as he notes in a recent talk. (I just hope he didn’t purchase it with taxpayer funds!)
The speech makes a number of worthy points, including the idea of connecting various travel modes.
One key factor is the ease of interchange between cycling and other forms of travel. Let me take the specific issue of the interchange between cycling and rail travel. While some 60 per cent of the population lives within a quarter of an hour cycle ride of a railway station, only two per cent of journeys to and from stations are made by bike. By contrast, in Holland, cycling accounts for roughly a third of all trips to and from rail stations. This massive difference isn’t in the different genes of the British and the Dutch; it has a lot to do with the provision of facilities for cyclists at stations.
I’ve just returned from the Netherlands, and was struck, as always, not just by the cycling numbers but the cycle parking. As it is with car traffic, parking is an often overlooked factor in the whole traffic equation; needless to say, the presence of a safe, convenient space at the end of a trip is of incredible importance to the desirability or even possibility of making that trip (more so than some cultural disposition to mode choice). As I looked at the long rows of bikes outside shops and train stations (where, David Hembrow notes, there is an actual crisis of parking) in Utrecht and Rotterdam, I couldn’t help thinking: What if all these were cars? Well, of course, those tidy, compact, well-populated streets wouldn’t exist. I suspect someone, somewhere, has crunched the numbers on how many bicycles can fit inside an average car parking space, I’d estimate the factor must be something like 15 to 1?
This one’s from Amsterdam, but apparently they’re sweeping Europe: The Beer Bike!
UPDATE: As the commenter below notes, these are available in Minneapolis, including for “team-building” events and conventions. My first question is why the streets of D.C. weren’t filled with these paragons of vehicular awesomeness during the last TRB? What better way to enliven a dreary transpo conference than these mobile watering holes!
I enjoyed this passage from David Metz’ book The Limits to Travel:
All in all, the available evidence supports the idea that man has evolved to travel long distances by both walking and running. As man developed technologies, these could be exploited to travel farther and faster. Thus the origins of much of the history and geography of mankind that we learnt in school, not least the willingness of people to migrate from where they were born to other cities or strange new countries in search of a better life. This has had implications for our own evolution. Steve Jones, professor of genetics at University College London (UCL), has pointed out that if one’s ancestors came from the same village they may well have been related, but this is much less likely if they were born hundreds of miles apart. In 19th-century Oxfordshire, the average distance between birthplaces of marriage partners was less than ten miles. Now it is more than 50, and in the US it is several hundred. A consequence of this increasing mobility is that the world’s populations are beginning to merge genetically. Steve Jones suggests that the most important event in recent human evolution has been the invention of the bicycle.
Do I detect a new field of evolutionary transport biology?
This “canyon” is found along the bike path near Regent’s Canal in London. And you thought sidewalk chalk art was just for tourists. No word on any reduction in actual injuries, or any rise in perceptual ones.
Via Copenhagenize, I adored this photo of a bicycle parking structure in Fukishima.
Mikael notes: “Then I noticed the lovely older gentlemen who serve no other function than to straighten up the bikes so they look nice and take up as little space as possible. In the top photo, the lady parked her bike, locked the wheel lock and headed off. The man sauntered over and straightened it every so slightly.”
The art of bicycle arranging! Needless to say, the man, like many people who work in transport (e.g., taxi drivers) in Japan, is wearing white gloves.
My only question, given the country’s demographics, is whether there will be people in the future to fill such jobs. Maybe a robotic bicycle parking attendant?
Over at Brownstoner, meanwhile, the question is asked: How long should bikes be allowed to be chained to public parking structures?
Almost in the tragic irony department: London Mayor Boris Johnson (and his Transport Department head), scouting the capital (helmeted) on two wheels for the best cycle routes ahead of next summer’s big “Super Highways” cycling initiative, is nearly taken out by a rogue lorry (which itself had hit a Ford Mondeo, “catapulting” it towards the group). More here and here.
As Ben Porter notes, the event “seems to bring several issues together that are of concern at the moment in London. In addition to the irony of this incident occurring while the cycling group were scouting safe cycle routes there are growing worries about the dangers of HGVs in London, particularly in east London with the increase in construction traffic for the 2012 Olympics. There have been three women killed by lorries in recent weeks in the capital.” (see here and here).
Ben also notes the truck’s doors seem to have flown open after it crossed a speed table at an inappropriate velocity.
(thanks to Karl as well)
Over at Hard Drive, Joseph Rose reports on growing congestion in Portland — on the bike lanes.
There are now so many people riding bicycles in Portland that we have bike traffic jams on the city’s bridges. And statistics suggest that the handlebar-to-handlebar congestion is growing faster than the bumper-to-bumper variety.
Since the mid-1990s, for example, vehicle traffic — motorized and pedaled — on the Hawthorne has increased 20 percent. But the volume of auto traffic has increased only a little more than 1 percent. Bus traffic, meanwhile, has held steady.
Cyclists — now about 7,400 a day — account for almost the entire surge.
This despite a less-than-stellar facility:
Of course, if you want to walk or bike across the Hawthorne, it’s not the most zenlike experience. You’re confined to a 10-foot-wide sidewalk.
On the right, a rail keeps you from steering into the drink. On the left, nothing but lucidity and smart riding keeps cyclists from falling a foot onto the metal-grated motor lane.
But it seems engineers’ hands are tied:
But the reality is that the county can’t do much else on the 98-year-old Hawthorne.
In 1999, it spent $2 million to widen the sidewalks from 6 to 10 feet, which required extending steel supports under the bridge and installing lighter panels in the lift span.
Any wider, engineers say, and the bridge will start to buckle. Also, there would be no room for TriMet buses. There isn’t even room to add railings.
The county has created passing lanes for bikes approaching the east end. It has added markings to help separate cyclists and pedestrians. But several ideas have been deemed unmanageable.
Bike improvements planned on other bridges should ease the bike jams.
My first “Transport” column is up over at Slate.com. It’s about websites that comment on peoples’ (typically) bad driving. Familiar ground, yes; future columns will be less auto-centric.
One thing that that cut from the piece for space, just after the discussion of Jeff Frings filming his bicycle rides, is the idea of filming one’s ride for possible legal reasons. For instance, check out the video below, from motorcyclist Dawn Champion. It shows the following event:
On my way home from work Friday afternoon, a Honda Civic lost control in the HOV (Carpool) Lane. I was in the #1 (Fast Lane). The Honda Civic spun around on the freeway and came at me. No one knows yet why the Honda driver would lock the brakes, swerve out of control, and never try to correct it. If you watch the video though, you do see him accelerate at first towards the white car ahead of him. He doesn’t get that close to the white car – he still had at least a car length – but for whatever reason he slammed on the brakes, resulting in the locking of the wheels, burning/smoking tires, loss of traction, loss of control, etc. . I end up in the #2 lane. His vehicle is almost turned around 180 degrees in the wrong direction, completely across the #1 lane and into the #2 lane. His left front headlight/front panel T-boned the left side of my bike. This accident occurred on the 55NB/Dyer at 3:18 PM in Santa Ana, California. This is a 4 lane freeway with a HOV lane.
As she put it, “how many times have things happened to you and it became a ‘he said/she said’ situation and you just wished you had recorded it so you had proof?”). I’m not actually sure how often this sort of thing has been used in court; I do know DriveCam, which records the interior/exterior view of a drive, has been. But given the vagaries of crashes and crash investigations, not to mention eyewitness testimony (when it’s even available) — all of which is often slanted against the “vulnerable road user” — one wonders if wearing a camera is not being overly paranoid.
How We Drive is the companion blog to Tom Vanderbilt’s New York Times bestselling book, Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do (and What It Says About Us), published by Alfred A. Knopf in the U.S. and Canada, Penguin in the U.K, and in languages other than English by a number of other fine publishers worldwide.
Please send tips, news, research papers, links, photos (bad road signs, outrageous bumper stickers, spectacularly awful acts of driving or parking or anything traffic-related), or ideas for my Slate.com Transport column to me at: email@example.com.
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April 9, 2008.
California Office of Traffic Safety Summit
San Francisco, CA.
May 19, 2009
University of Minnesota Center for Transportation Studies
June 23, 2009
Driving Assessment 2009
Big Sky, Montana
June 26, 2009
PRI World Congress
Rotterdam, The Netherlands
June 27, 2009
Day of Architecture
Utrecht, The Netherlands
July 13, 2009
Association of Transportation Safety Information Professionals (ATSIP)
Texas Department of Transportation “Save a Life Summit”
San Antonio, Texas
September 2, 2009
Governors Highway Safety Association Annual Meeting
September 11, 2009
Oregon Transportation Summit
Honda R&D Americas
San Diego, CA
October 21, 2009
California State University-San Bernardino, Leonard Transportation Center
San Bernardino, CA
Southern New England Planning Association Planning Conference
Texas Transportation Forum
(with Donald Shoup; details to come)
Monday, February 22
Yale University School of Architecture
Eero Saarinen Lecture
Friday, March 19
University of Delaware
Delaware Center for Transportation
University of Utah
Salt Lake City
International Bridge, Tunnel and Turnpike Association (Organization Management Workshop)
Monday, April 26
Edmonton Traffic Safety Conference
Monday, June 7
Canadian Association of Road Safety Professionals
Niagara Falls, Ontario
Wednesday, July 6
Fondo de Prevención Vial
Tuesday, August 31
Royal Automobile Club
Wednesday, September 1
Australasian Road Safety Conference
Wednesday, September 22
Wisconsin Department of Transportation’s
Traffic Incident Management Enhancement Program
Wisconsin Dells, WI
Wednesday, October 20
Center for Advanced Infrastructure and Transportation
Tuesday, March 8, 2011
Ontario Injury Prevention Resource Centre
Injury Prevention Forum
Monday, May 2
Idaho Public Driver Education Conference
Tuesday, June 2, 2011
California Association of Cities
Costa Mesa, California
Sunday, August 21, 2011
American Association of Motor Vehicle Administrators
Wednesday, October 26, 2011
Attitudes: Iniciativa Social de Audi
April 16, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Gardens Theatre, QUT
April 17, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Centennial Plaza, Sydney
April 19, 2012
Institute for Sensible Transport Seminar
Melbourne Town Hall
January 30, 2013
University of Minnesota City Engineers Association Meeting
January 31, 2013
Metropolis and Mobile Life
School of Architecture, University of Toronto
February 22, 2013
March 1, 2013
Australian Road Summit
May 8, 2013
New York State Association of
August 18, 2013
BoingBoing.com “Ingenuity” Conference
San Francisco, CA
September 26, 2013
(Meeting of American Association
of State Highway and Transportation
Officials’ Subcommittee on Transportation
Grand Rapids MI
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