Wednesday, February 28, 2007

ODOT News on Bike Trails

The Ohio Department of Transportation keeps a webpage with news on bike trail construction and maintenance that I just found (and added to my links to the right). Here's the latest news from it:
BICYCLE FACILITIES THAT WILL BE UNDER CONSTRUCTION IN 2007:
FRANKLIN Co., Columbus
  • The I-70 to SR 104/Alum Creek Drive portion of the Alum Creek bikeway is under construction and will connect with Three Creeks Park in the south. Work should be complete in spring, 2007.
  • A new bridge across the Olentangy River south of Antrim Park will connect the Scioto-Olentangy Bikeway to residential areas east of the river. Completion date is 10/31/07.
BIKEWAYS RECENTLY OPENED
FRANKLIN Co., Columbus
  • Morse Road bike lanes, between Indianola Avenue and Karl Rd., were finished in October, 2006.
  • A connector under SR 161/Dublin-Granville Road allows 7 miles of unbroken travel on the Alum Creek Trail between Easton soccer fields (Sunbury Road south of Morse Road) and Westerville (Polaris Parkway and Cleveland Avenue). Parking is at Strawberry Farms Park, Parkridge Park, Casto Park or Cooper Park in Columbus, or Heritage Park in Westerville.
  • Another connector on the Alum Creek Bikeway, Creeks Park to Alum Creek Drive, opened in Spring 2006.
  • The Livingston Ave. to I-70 section of the Alum Creek Bikeway opened mid-June, 2006.
FRANKLIN Co., Westerville
  • The .5 mile Schrock Road - Cherrington Connector was completed in September 2006, allowing a crossing of SR 3 at the Cherrington Road traffic signal, in the vicinity of the Ed Honton Memorial Rock.

Winter Biking Catching On Nationwide

Normally I try not to just call attention to others' blog posts if I find something good, rather I just let you check it out through my feeds and through sharing them through my "Articles of Note" section (which is from my personal Google Reader page). I do this because I'd rather create my own content and make it specifically for Columbus readers.

But in this case, I'm going to talk about an article that references a few winter biking articles from around the country - one from Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips (one of my favorite cycling blogs). Go read it, then come back here.

Done yet? Good.

It's heartwarming (no pun intended) to see this in the news as it shows that we're not a bunch of freaks for wanting to continue biking in the cold weather. Obviously we're not, in fact that's an opinion that is far from the truth. But to see our reasons for continuing to bike in the winter spelled out so plainly (saves money, it's not really that cold once you get going, great exercise, etc.) in the mass media does help a lot.

As much as I like the looks I get when riding up to my building in the winter, it gets tiresome to have to hear the constant "I could never do that" or "I wish I could do that" comments all winter long from people who think they have to tell me all about it. I want to look at people and say "You could, just look for reasons TO do it instead of focusing on the reasons you think you CAN'T do it."

But it strikes me that the real reasons people don't do something is that "everyone else isn't doing it, so maybe there's something wrong with it." So to see articles like the ones in Paul's post that show other people doing it, especially in places that are colder than here like Monroe, MI (ironically where my parents live) and Madison, WI makes it much easier.

I think I'm going to print these articles out and post them in my office somewhere so that people can read them when they come through. That'll show them that it's not just some weird thing I'm doing, but rather a growing trend by those who want to save money, get exercise, avoid burning more noxious fossil fuels, and actually enjoy their commute to work.

Monday, February 26, 2007

Columbus State of the City Address

Mayor Michael Coleman gave his annual State of the City address on Friday night, and it was a bold, ambitious statement on where Columbus is and needs to go. He seemed to pull no punches and gave credit and criticism where it was due. (You can read the entire address here in a PDF File, so you need Adobe Acrobat).

I've pulled out a few statements from the address (and tried to include context for the statements as possible) to talk a bit about Columbus and the attitude toward bicycles as transportation.

First, it was fairly disappointing to read the mayor's statements about bicycles and the city's efforts to build bike trails. I quote:
We are also continuing to connect the entire county with fitness trails where people can walk, run and bike. We have made great progress here as our City has improved from fifth fattest city in the nation to 19th fittest city.

We must continue that momentum, and we will with 58 miles of biking and walking trails today -- we must expand up to 110 miles by 2012. I look forward to working with our new City Council member Priscilla Tyson on all our parks.
Sounds great, eh? The problem is this: the mayor is still equating bicycles with recreation. That's great news for people who only bicycle for fitness and fun, but what about people who use them as transportation, like us?

The attitude is all wrong. Yes, bike trails and fitness are very important. And yes, ANY bike trail is an improvement over no bike trails. But bicycles need to be considered in every dialogue and plan for road building in this city. Our main streets in this city are wide and can accomodate a lot of vehicles. There's no reason for us to have to fight over space - especially considering the following:
As we build neighborhoods and the economy for the future, we've got to keep Getting Green. Sustainability isn't just something to talk about, it is critical to our long-term success as a nation. There's a Get Green update available tonight, to show some of what we've been up to.

Two years ago, I launched the Get Green Columbus challenge. Since then we've had real successes -- attracting green businesses, reducing city vehicle emissions, and creating a preference for green vendors of the City. From building a new green neighborhood called Greenview Estates, to planting thousands of trees, and leading the Big Darby Accord process, Columbus is doing all it can to clean the air, clean our water, attract green jobs and build green homes and businesses, and to expanding recycling. And we have the biggest Green Rehab Project in the Midwest right here in Columbus -- our historic Lazarus Building.
What better way to improve our efforts to "Get Green" than to start getting rid of the high numbers of the most pollution-creating aspects of our society: automobiles! Creating a street environment that is bicycle friendly will encourage more people to bike on a regular basis, and not just on trails that really don't go anywhere! Putting bike lanes on roads like Broad Street, Main Street, High Street, Olentangy River Road, Morse Road, Dublin-Granville Road, Bethel Road, Henderson Road, etc. will go a very long way to giving Columbus a new outlook on bicycling.

To continue:
But still to this day, too many children must dodge cars in the street because no sidewalks exist, too many seniors must take their lives into their hands because curbs cannot separate cars from people, and too many areas have bad drainage. Although we have done much in this area, I strongly believe we should do more.

To this end, we will combine resources in our existing capital budget with new authority in the Bicentennial Bond Package totaling $50 million dollars in a new initiative of public investment called "Operation Safe-Walks."

We will build sidewalks and where necessary add curbs, gutters and in some cases even new roadways. Not every street is getting sidewalks through this program, but certain main roads where there's a clear need, especially on the way to school.
I'll take this one a step further as well - while working on these new sidewalks and such, why not use that time to create the bike lanes that would ALSO help relieve many of the problems the mayor brought up: children and the elderly dodging cars while trying to walk, etc. Cities like Davis, California; Chicago, Illinois; and even New York City have shown that bikes can be a part of the infrastructure and increase the safety of our streets.

The final comment I want to make is on the mayor's 2012 Commission: the organization he's creating to gather information and plan for the massive bond he's going to request as of the 2008 election to get all this stuff done. This commission is going to hold meetings all over town in the next 20 months to gather this information and listen to what we have to say:
Commission members and Columbus residents alike will be asked to think big -- not to ask what would be easy, not to ask what would be cheap, but to ask what would matter to them, to their neighbors, and to our future.
This could be the PERFECT time to get our desires laid out for bike lanes, increased facilities for cyclists at public buildings, etc. It's just a matter of getting organized.

I call upon all Columbus cyclists to get ideas together. And be proactive, not reactive: we're never going to get all cars off the road, or anything like that. But bike lanes, better public parking for bikes, etc. are all within the realm of possibilities for this 2012 Bicentennial effort.

Think about it this way: if you could have the perfect commute to work, how would it look to you? And post your ideas here, if that helps! Let's get some discussion going!

Urban Environment Report: Not Good for Bike Commuters

The Earth Day Network released it's Urban Environment Report last week, which ranks 72 major cities in the US on a number of environmental factors. Columbus does... well, fair-to-bad on most of them. But the one that is probably the most important for bike commuters, air quality, we rank 60th out of 72 (our very worst ranking of all). Here's the link, and here's a link to the detail for air quality and the factors that give us that ranking.

I rode to work without my balaclava on this morning for the first time in a while, and the one thing I noticed almost immediately upon leaving my neighborhood and getting onto High Street was the exhaust. ACK! That can't be good for us, right?

I'm in the midst of reading the mayor's state of the city speech and seeing what it says about bicycling, if anything. I'm also curious to see what it says about the environment as these two topics go hand in hand. I'll get back later with more.

Commuting in the Emerald City

I've been to the Seattle area a few times since I got married (my wife's parents live across the Puget Sound in Bremerton) but this past week was the first time I'd been there where I actually noticed the cycling atmosphere and the cyclists themselves. Now, as I was in a car most of the time when I was out there (didn't bring my bike) I didn't get the first hand experience of riding in their traffic, but I did notice a few things that I really liked.

Keep in mind that I was mostly in the Pioneer Square and Pike Place sections of town (if you know Seattle), so I didn't get to see much in the way of suburbs and heavy business districts. However, I did get to see some neat facets of inter-modal transportation, which I'll get to.

First, Seattle is much more condensed than Columbus - a symptom of geography. When you have water on one side and hilly terrain all around you, building is harder, and therefore they tend to go UP instead of OUT like here. So traffic seemed a little more stop and go. But the cyclists I saw there seemed to be doing just fine. They were all properly attired with visible colors and wore their helmets, even the "punkier" ones, and they worked with traffic instead of in spite of it. Very nice to see.

Second, cycling seems much more accepted there than it does here. Perhaps it's a symptom of the traffic and the congestion of the city, but cyclists there didn't seem to be nearly as misunderstood there.

Third, and this was the neatest part for me (and made my wife wonder what I was looking at while she was looking at scenery and such), I loved the ferry system and the measures that have been taken to encourage people to ride in sections of it.

Bremerton, if you're not familiar with it, is a Naval shipyard town, and very blue-collar/industrial. Normally cyclists aren't coming from this sort of demographic at the moment, though I think many of them would be happier if they tried. But even there, the ferries for crossing the Puget Sound had lanes set up for them to enter the boat and had made special accomodations for the cyclists.

But the really impressive area was Bainbridge Island. Bainbridge is a more yuppie/white-collar area. We got stuck in rush hour for one ferry, which I actually enjoyed because I got to see how multi-modeal transportation can really work. Many of the walk-up ferry passengers came to the ferry loading via bus, and when they got off they had another bus available for them.

But the really neat thing was that the Bainbridge side had a "Bike Barn" - a large shed where commuters could store their bikes for the day in safety after their ride to the ferry. These folks would then walk onto the ferry and use public transportation on the other side. Then when they got home, their bikes were waiting for them and they could enjoy their rides home.

I would love to see this in Columbus: can you imagine "bike barns" being built in Dublin, Westerville, Worthington, and Hilliard, near enough to the COTA Express bus stops to be useful? Folks could ride their bikes to the stops, lock them up for the day, and head downtown for work. Then when they got home, their bikes would be ready.... all without cluttering up our roads with more unnecessary cars. Obviously, people would have to get over their poor opinion of COTA in this city, and that might be the real challenge.

I'm probably painting a really rosy picture of the situation out in Seattle, I've no doubt that the situation isn't as idyllic as I'm making it out to be. But there is a lot to be interested in regarding the Emerald City for cyclists, and Columbus could do a lot worse than to emulate some of these things.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Short Hiatus

I'll be unable to post for the next week, most likely - maybe a sporatic post here and there. Keep in touch and I'll see you in a week.

Columbus City Bike Laws: Part 8

So we're at the last entry for the city bike laws series. The last part covers vehicles that, while still motorized, are probably reactions to the gas crisis we're experiencing now.

2173.13 Motorized bicycle operation, equipment and license.

(a) No person shall operate a motorized bicycle upon any street or highway or any public or private property used by the public for purposes of vehicular travel or parking, unless all the following conditions are met:
(1) The person is fourteen (14) or fifteen (15) years of age and holds a valid probationary motorized bicycle license issued after the person has passed the test provided for in Section 4511.521 of the Ohio Revised Code, or the person is sixteen (16) years of age or older and holds either a valid commercial driver’s license issued under Chapter 4506 of the Ohio Revised Code, or a driver’s license issued under Chapter 4507 of the Ohio Revised Code or a valid motorized bicycle license issued after the person has passed the test provided for in Section 4511.521 of the Ohio Revised Code, except that if a person is sixteen (16) years of age, has a valid probationary motorized bicycle license and desires a motorized bicycle license, the person is not required to comply with the testing requirements provided for in Section 4511.521 of the Ohio Revised Code;
(2) The motorized bicycle is equipped in accordance with the rules adopted under division (b) of Section 4511.521 of the Ohio Revised Code and is in proper working order;
(3) The person, if under eighteen (18) years of age, is wearing a protective helmet on the person’s head with the chin strap properly fastened and the motorized bicycle is equipped with a rear-view mirror.
(4) The person operates the motorized bicycle when practicable within three (3) feet of the right edge of the roadway obeying all traffic rules applicable to vehicles.
(b) No person operating a motorized bicycle shall carry another person upon the motorized bicycle.
(c) The protective helmet and rear-view mirror required by division (a)(3) of this section shall conform to the rules adopted by the Ohio Director of Public Safety under division (b) of Section 4511.521 of the Ohio Revised Code.
(d) Whoever violates this section is guilty of a minor misdemeanor. (ORC 4511.521; Ord. 2083-84; Ord. 2120-03 § 1 (part).)
If you're going to ride a motorized bicycle of some kind, then you need to have a driver's license. If you're between 14 and 16, you need a probationary motorized bicycle license. That means you need to go take a test and get certified. You also need to make sure your motorized bicycle is in proper working order and that you have a helmet that fastens under the chin. You also need a rear-view mirror.

Now this is interesting... when you're driving, you need to be within three feet of the curb as is feasible while driving (if you're getting into a left turn lane, you probably don't need to be within three feet of the curb. Cyclists, as you may remember, don't have that number attached to their distance from the curb... they just have to stay as close to the right as is feasible in the situation.

Now remember from our last entry on City Bike Laws: you have to stay on the street with these things, you can't drive on bike paths.

So... get yourself a real bike. Get the exercise, take advantage of the little that we have to take advantage of as cyclists... and don't pour more carbon into the air.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Ghost Bikes

An interesting phenomenon is happening around the country as bicycles and cars get into more scrapes and the cyclists come out on the bottom - literally. Called "Ghost Bikes," they're similar to the little road-side crosses and flowers you see on major highways, where people have lost their lives.

In fact, they're similar in more ways than just calling attention to the fact that people have died there: they're testimonial to the idea that casualties are just par for the course in the American automobile experience. A few deaths on the highway or on the street are just "to be expected," and are seen as acceptable in order to make sure that everyone can get where they're going as fast as they want.

Um... how wrong is that? Is getting from A to B as quickly as possible so important that we accept the deaths of innocent people? And let me take this one step further (and a step that is likely to piss off lots of motorists): is the death of a bicyclist on the road acceptable simply because the bicyclist was "risking his own life" by riding on a road (which is just as much his as it was the car's)?

Our study of the Columbus traffic code regarding bikes shows that bikes BELONG on the street. And they have every right to be there, and every right to expect that motorists are going to look before they turn, and not speed up on cyclists, nor sideswipe them, nor try to outrun them, etc.

Here in Columbus, we haven't had many bicycle deaths. I can't recall hearing about any since I've moved here ten years ago. There probably have been a few, but I haven't noticed as I only started paying serious attention to cycling here recently. But I think that starting up a ghost bike project here in Columbus might get people to think a bit.

Paul Dorn, in his commentary on Critical Mass and the effect it has had on the city of San Francisco, said some great and poignant things about streets, which I'm going to quote here:
"What are streets for? Are streets places where kids play ball, where young adults play pickup soccer, where parents teach their children to ride bikes, where neighbors meet and talk? Are streets places where lovers stroll, shoppers browse, spontaneous human theatre and people watching flourishes? Are streets places for festivals, fairs, parades and block parties? Are streets places for rallies, marches, demonstrations? In short, are streets "public spaces" that nurture community? Or are they simply utilitarian corridors for automobile traffic?"
Simple, yet true. It's time to take the streets back for all of us, not just for the cars. I encourage every Columbus resident who values his streets and his right to ride bikes to do what he can to support the Ghost Bike movement. God forbid we start having large numbers of bicycle fatalities here in Columbus, that is.

There's a Fog Surrounding Me...

I've mentioned the problem I've had with my glasses fogging over. Now, I don't wear prescription glasses. I am referring to protective glasses - sunglasses or whatever. The ones I have aren't sunglasses but rather slightly polarized glasses that can be used day or night (Tifosi Slip T-V130, with their Light Night Fototec lens, for those who are equipment buffs). I use them only for cycling and even kept the keen carrying case with which they came.

But this isn't about my glasses per se... it's about ways to keep cycling glasses from fogging.

There are lots of anti-fog products on the market, that's for sure. The ones I've had the most experience with were for swimmers' goggles. I'm not sure how those products would work with glasses instead of goggles - goggles for swimmers are air- and water-tight so I question how glasses (which are obviously neither air- nor water-tight) would work. And for the most part, when I wanted to de-fog my goggles or mask, I'd use the swimmer/scuba trick of spitting into them, rubbing the saliva around inside them, and then rinsing them off. It worked, I kid you not, but it's hardly the best option for a cyclist (and it doesn't work real well. Trust me, I tried it).

Urban Bikers' Tricks & Tips: Low-Tech & No-Tech Ways to Find, Ride, & Keep a Bicycle by Mr. Bike (Dave Glowacz) suggests the following: get a piece of raw potato and rub a piece of it on the each side of your lenses so that the juice is all over. Dry the lenses but don't RUB them (I suppose, just blot them) with a lint-free cloth or paper towel.

I've not tried this one yet, myself. It seems the cheapest way to do it, that's for sure. I'll have to get some potatoes and give it a whirl.

If anyone else has any ideas or solutions on this, please share!

Columbus City Bike Laws: Part 7

A couple short laws today, unrelated but I figured I'd knock them out together.

2173.11 Impounding for violations.

Whenever any bicycle shall be operated by any person, including minors under the age of twenty-one (21) years, in violation of any of the provisions of this chapter, or the provisions of Chapter 571 of the Business Regulation and Licensing Code, such bicycle may be seized by any member of the police department and impounded for not more than thirty (30) days in a pound which shall be established by the chief of police for such purpose. Such bicycle, so impounded, shall be surrendered upon order of the police chief to the parent or guardian of any minor without charge after full explanation to such parent or guardian of the reason for such impounding, and after the expiration of the impounding period. A complete record of each such impounding shall be kept in the office of the chief of police. (Ord. 1579-72.)
Interesting... so basically, if you're caught breaking anything we've been talking about in this chapter of the law, the police can snatch your bike (no matter your age) and hold onto it for up to 30 days. This is basically the equivalent of suspending your driver's license.

Seems a bit draconian, but I suppose that unless the state or city starts issuing "bike-riding licenses" and can actually start things like a points system, then that's all they can do to truly enforce the law.

I actually like the part about a parent or guardian having to be present to get the bike back for a minor, so that they can explain the situation and what the minor did wrong.

2173.12 Right-of-way bike crossings.

(a) If neither vehicular traffic nor bicycle traffic at a “bike crossing” is controlled by a stop or yield sign, or a traffic signal, the operator of a bicycle shall yield the right-of-way at bike crossings to all vehicles on the road or street unless otherwise directed by a police officer.
(b) Whoever violates this section is guilty of a minor misdemeanor. (Ord. 1050-77; Ord. 2120-03 § 1 (part).)
Okay... if a bike trail or similar route crosses a road, then the vehicles of any type (including other bikes) on the road have the right of way, if there's not already a signal for the crossing. The trail-cyclist has to wait till it's clear (unless directed across by the police themselves). I suppose that's how it is for sidewalks without signals.

Almost done. Tomorrow I'll get the last piece of law and we'll sum up our findings.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Columbus City Bike Laws: Part 6

Today we're going to hit on where your bike is allowed to be, and also where other vehicles AREN'T allowed to be because that space is for you and your bike.
2173.09 Parking of bicycle.

(a) No person shall park a bicycle upon a sidewalk in such a manner so as to unduly interfere with pedestrian traffic or upon a roadway so as to unduly interfere with vehicular traffic.
(b) Whoever violates this section is guilty of a minor misdemeanor. (Ord. 1579-72; Ord. 2120-03 § 1 (part).)
Be considerate when you're parking your bike. Don't chain it to a parking meter, or that tree outside the building you're going to, etc. Remember that you're an ambassador for cyclist commuters whenever you're out there.
2173.10 Riding bicycles on sidewalks.

(a) No person shall operate a bicycle upon a sidewalk, except, at locations that the Columbus city council designates as bikeways or paths.
(b) Whoever violates this section is guilty of a minor misdemeanor. (Ord. 1050-77; Ord. 2120-03 § 1 (part).)
Here's a real big one. NO ONE is allowed to ride a bike on the sidewalk. Period. Bike trails may look like sidewalks, but they're not: they're for us. It's dangerous to pedestrians (and us) to have us on the sidewalk. Take the place you're entitled: the road.

When I was still taking the bus to work in my pre-bike days, there were a couple occasions where I'd hop off the bus and nearly get taken out by a cyclist who was too cowardly to drive on the road. I've said it before, but I'll say it again: pedestrians ALWAYS have the right of way, and in this case particularly.

2173.105 Driving motor vehicles and riding motorcycles on sidewalks, bike paths or bike lanes.

(a) No person shall operate a motor vehicle or motorcycle upon a sidewalk, bike path or in a bike lane.
(b) Except as otherwise provided in this division, whoever violates this section is guilty of a minor misdemeanor. If, within one (1) year of the offense, the offender previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to one (1) predicate motor vehicle or traffic offense, whoever violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the fourth degree. If, within one (1) year of the offense, the offender previously has been convicted of two (2) or more predicate motor vehicle or traffic offenses, whoever violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the third degree. (ORC 4511.711; Ord. 1050-77; Ord. 2120-03 § 1 (part).)
Now here's one for us: no vehicle is allowed to drive on a sidewalk, bike path, or bike lane. That includes scooters, Vespas, and the whole nine yards. Again, that's our place.

So, a short one today, but three very important things to remember. And the first two boil down to being considerate (and safe, too!).

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

The Most Stable Ride on the Road

I had a VERY interesting ride home today. First of all, it was starting to rain on top of the 8" of snow we had (my estimate), so I threw on my Log House Bike Cape. This is a poncho that has a visor, thumb and seat loops. It's bright yellow, so I showed up pretty well. And I stayed dry all the way home... heavy props to this little item!

Anyway, suffice to say that our county in on a level one snow alert - which is the paranoiac's way of saying "be careful when driving in the snow." Of course, I was doing fine on my bike. I quickly realized that my situation with the bike was one of security - if something happened and I got out of control... I could hop off.

I also discovered that going UP a hill in the snow is much easier than going DOWN in the snow. Going down it's easier to get out of control.

I never got into my normal gear for the ride, spent the whole time in a higher gear due to having to plow through the snow a bit.

Best comment: a guy in a pickup with a plow up front yelled out the window at me as I was obviously having an easier time getting around than all the cars: "Hey, man, you oughta put a plow on that!"

Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow!

After my post on taking public transportation on the frightfully cold days, you may be wondering what the difference is between a day like today and those days. I mean, I rode to work today in the snow.

And honestly? It was FUN! Sure, I took it a little slower than usual and did the old kid-on-a-Huffy trick of riding with both feet out to the sides a couple times when I skidded a bit, but with the schools closed today, traffic was actually much better than normal. That meant less exhaust to breathe in, and more fun!

When I got to work, I did have one guy who looked at me somewhat incredulously and asked "so, how did THAT work today?" I still had my balaclava on, so in my ninja-like way I told him that it was fun, no worse than driving as far as traction goes. I'm not sure he bought it, but I find that just stating things matter-of-factly is the best way to go with this.

Some things I did note:
  1. Try to stay in the ruts that previous cars have made. You'll skid less.
  2. If you have to cross ruts, take them as nearly perpendicular as possible. That'll knock you off your path much less (if at all) than taking them at an angle.
  3. Take it easy. You'll get there (strangely enough, that was my attitude when I drove a car, too... and I never had accidents).
One problem I did have was that my glasses fogged up more than usual. I've discovered that wearing the glasses with a balaclava tends to make them fog up a lot, as the warm breathe being pushed up through the balaclava's eye-hole goes right behind your specs. So I am going to have to look at some anti-fog treatments for the glasses.

But if you didn't bike today, why not? It wasn't cold out like it was last week. And the snow isn't as much of a problem as you'd think. So give it a try next time!

Two New Feeds

I've added a couple more feeds today. First is Cyclicious, from Fritz (who has commented on this blog and my other general blog on occasion). He covers bike news that catches his eye and grabs stuff that I don't always see.

Second is the C.I.C.L.E. feed. It collects articles from around the world of cycling and posts them all in one place. A nice feature.

Above all that is a Google Reader Shared Article widget. That shows the articles that I thought were worthwhile to readers of this blog. I hope you enjoy them.

(A note - I've had trouble with the feed from C.I.C.L.E. on occasion taking me to a page that simply says "Spam is not appreciated" whenever I click on their links on their feed. I've found that if I click on the address window of my browser and hit the key, it takes me to the article with no problems after that. Weird, but it works.)

Monday, February 12, 2007

Protecting Your Bike: Registration

One of the ways that you can make sure your bike is protected from thieves is bicycle registration. Many communities will allow you to register your bike, which makes it much easier to recover in case it is stolen. Trust me, I wish I'd done this before my last bike got ripped off.

In general, it's a good idea to record the serial number of your bicycle and keep it with the sales receipt and a photograph of the bike. Your serial number can usually be found on the bottom bracket under the crankshaft of your bike. Also, engraving your name and phone number or other information into your bike will be a good deterrent. And always lock your bike, making sure to get the frame and wheels locked to the bike rack or whatever you find to lock it up.

On a national level, you can register your bicycle with the National Bike Registry. This is good for folks in Columbus, Worthington, and other communities that do not have a bike registration program. The Franklin County Sheriff's office is listed on their website as one of the agencies working with the NBR.

Bexley: Bexley residents may obtain a Bexley Bicycle License at the Bexley Police Department Headquarters located behind City Hall. The fee is $1.00. You must bring the bike with you so the Police Department can obtain the make, model, color, and serial number.

Columbus: Columbus does not have a bicycle registration program.

Delaware: From the Delaware web site:
The police department encourages community residents to register the bicycles with the Division of Police. Should a bicycle be lost or stolen, the police than have a means to identify the owner of the bicycle and return the bicycle once it is recovered.

Registration of the bike can be done by downloading the form here or by obtaining a registration form at the Police Department. There is a $2 fee to register your bicycle which is valid for three years. The form should include a complete description of the bike, including make, model, serial number, tire size, colors, and any special markings or equipment, and whether it is a boys or girls. The registration form also requests the owners name, birth date, address, and telephone number. A registration sticker will be issued for each bicycle registered.

Dublin: Call the Dublin Police Community Relations Coordinator at 614-410-4800 for more information.

Gahanna: Check out this website where many municipalities' codes are stored and displayed for the public. For the whole picture, I recommend you do a search for "bicycle registration" at the top under "Quick Search." I'll sum up here, as Gahanna seems pretty strict about things: you apparently HAVE to have a license to operate a bike in Gahanna. Licenses are only a buck, and you can pick them up at the Police station after filling out a form there.

Also, the Gahanna Police are listed as one of the agencies working with the National Bike Registry.

Hilliard: Registration is done in person at the Hilliard Police Department and is free of charge to Hilliard school district residents. Residents should present a complete description of the bicycle including the make, model, serial number, tire size, colors, any special markings or equipment, and whether it is a boy or girl’s bike. The registration form also requests the owner’s name, birthday, address and telephone number. A registration sticker will be issued for each bicycle registered.

Obetz: No information available online. I have contacted the Obetz police for information and will update this as soon as possible! Also, the Obetz Police are listed as one of the agencies working with the National Bike Registry.

Ohio State University: OSU Transportation and Parking offers an online registration process.

Pickerington: Pickerington residents can apply for their bicycle licenses at the Police Station. Commander Ralph Portier of the Pickerington Police was kind enough to share the registration form with me so that you can fill it out in advance of you going to the station!

Reynoldsburg: Reynoldsburg City Ordinance requires bicycles to be licensed. Licenses are 50 cents each and are good for as long as the person owns the bicycle. The license should be displayed on the frame of the bicycle. Licenses can be purchased at the Reynoldsburg Public Safety Building located at 7240 E. Main Street, Reynoldsburg, Ohio. Click here for mapquest directions.

Upper Arlington: Bike licenses in UA can be obtained from the Finance department at a cost of $1.00. The license is issued at the time the registration is filled out. The address and phone number for the Finance Department of Upper Arlington is 3600 Tremont Road, Upper Arlington, OH 43221, 614-583-5280.

Westerville: No information available. I have contacted the City of Westerville for information and will update this as soon as possible!

Worthington: Worthington does not have a bicycle registration program.

Columbus City Bike Laws: Part 5

Today we get some laws on reckless operation and keeping your bike under control. Riding your bike recklessly is not only dangerous to you, but dangerous to those around you. Keep in mind, once again, that your actions on your bike can affect motorists actions toward other cyclists in the future.
2173.08 Reckless operation; control, course and speed.

(a) No person shall operate a bicycle:
(1) Without due regard for the safety and rights of pedestrians and drivers and occupants of all other vehicles, and so as to endanger the life, limb or property of any person while in the lawful use of the streets or sidewalks or any other public or private property;
(2) Without exercising reasonable and ordinary control over such bicycle;
Translation: ride with the safety of EVERYONE in mind, not just yours.
(3) In a weaving or zigzag course unless such irregular course is necessary for safe operation or in compliance with law;
Don't decide to be Ingemar Stenmark on your bike. The street is not a slalom course, it's a public road, designed for everyone - bikes, pedestrians, and cars.
(4) Without both hands upon the handle grips except when necessary to give the required hand and arm signals;
Keep both hands on the handlebars at all times, unless you're signaling to turn or stop. Don't turn yourself into a cell-phone-chatting driver, we all know how much we hate having to deal with it in motorists.
(5) At a speed greater than is reasonable and prudent under the conditions then existing.
Don't go so fast that you're out of control.
(b) Except as otherwise provided in this division, whoever violates this section is guilty of a minor misdemeanor. If, within one (1) year of the offense, the offender previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to one (1) predicate motor vehicle or traffic offense, whoever violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the fourth degree. If, within one (1) year of the offense, the offender previously has been convicted of two (2) or more predicate motor vehicle or traffic offenses, whoever violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the third degree. (Ord. 1579-72; Ord. 2120-03 § 1 (part).)
And the penalties, once again.

This is a pretty easy section to understand, but I do have some comments on it. We, as cyclists, have every right in the world to ride in the street, in fact it's the only legal place for us to ride. It's awfully tempting to push the envelope on this sometimes. And due to our better maneuverability and such, it's VERY tempting to try to use this to get where we're going faster than the surrounding cars can. Cutting onto sidewalks, weaving in and out of stopped traffic at signals, etc. can be very tempting.

But keep in mind our situation here in Columbus. Right now, there aren't a lot of bike commuters. And the city and its meager public transportation infrastructure isn't set up for us at all. We don't have sharrows, or bike lanes, or anything like that. We don't have a reliable east-west bike trail that would facilitate better commuting and less traffic problems. So we need to do what we can to be conscientious cyclists and fight our battles at the right times. In the middle of traffic during rush hour is not that time.

Friday, February 9, 2007

Columbus City Bike Laws: Part 4

Now we're going to step into the world of actually operating your bicycle on the road. I mean, that's what it's all about, right?

2173.07 Riding bicycle on right side of roadway; traffic control devices; hand and arm signals; yield right of way.

(a) Any person operating a bicycle shall:
(1) Ride as near to the right-hand side of the roadway as practicable, obeying all traffic rules applicable to vehicles and exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction.
Stay toward the right side of the road. Pretty simple there. Now, keep in mind that word "practicable." That means capable of being put into practice, or feasible. So that means that you stay as far to the right as is feasible. In other words, stay to the right, but not to your own detriment as a cyclist.

Translated, that means stay out of the door zone. The door zone is that 3'-4' space next to parked cars where, if a door suddenly opens, you're going to get clotheslined if you're not far enough away. Cars should be following that rule, but it's not going to hurt them like it'll hurt you.

Now moving on with this section - notice that you should be obeying all traffic rules. This is a big pet peeve of mine: people (notice I didn't say cyclists and I didn't say drivers - I said PEOPLE) who don't follow the traffic laws. That means not using your turn signal (or sticking your arm out to the left or right as a cyclist), coming to a complete stop when you get to a stop sign, etc. The number one complaint you hear about cyclists on the road is that "they don't follow the traffic laws." Sure, neither do the drivers. But we, as cyclists, should be doing our part to keep the peace between cars and bikes by following the laws they should be following.

To continue:
(2) Yield the right of way to a pedestrian upon a sidewalk or a crosswalk;
(3) Give timely and audible signal before overtaking and passing a pedestrian upon a roadway or sidewalk.
Pedestrians ALWAYS have the right of way. I don't care if they're trying to cross High Street during rush hour and you have to pee and you're late for work anyway. They have the right of way. Period. So yield to them. Let them know they're there before you pass them. A simple "on your left" or whatever is plenty. And though this isn't in the traffic laws, it's a good idea to do this on bike trails as well, as most "bike" trails are really multi-use trails.

Now, you may be thinking "well, I'm the one with less control - they need to get out of my way." See, that's not going to work on a bike like it does in a car - injury-wise, anyway. If a car hits a pedestrian, chances are that the driver isn't going to be harmed. If YOU run into a pedestrian on your bike... you're probably going to get hurt. So this rule is as much for you as it is for them.
(b) Except as otherwise provided in this division, whoever violates this section is guilty of a minor misdemeanor. If, within one (1) year of the offense, the offender previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to one (1) predicate motor vehicle or traffic offense, whoever violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the fourth degree. If, within one (1) year of the offense, the offender previously has been convicted of two (2) or more predicate motor vehicle or traffic offenses, whoever violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the third degree. (ORC 4511.55; Ord. 1579-72; Ord. 2120-03 § 1 (part).)
And the penalties.

So let's sum up the laws in this section:
  • Stay to the right, where feasible, but don't stay so far to the right that you endanger yourself.
  • Obey the traffic laws.
  • Pedestrians have the right of way - let them know you're there.
Next time we'll get into some more roadwork issues.

Thursday, February 8, 2007

Bike Commuting Feeds

On the left side of the screen on this site, I'm sure you've noticed my archives and links to other Columbus bicycle-related websites. Below that, I've added some RSS feeds to a couple of other very good bicycle commuting blogs.

Paul Dorn's Bike Commute Tips Blog is from a cyclist based out in San Francisco, where they're a bit more developed than we are here in Columbus for cycling commuters. Aside from just containing great news stories and tips about bike commuting from all over the world (seriously!) I find it interesting to see what problems and solutions various communities have found for the issue of increased interest in bicycle commuting. Paul's site is excellent for this.

Commute By Bike
is a similar site. It's a little bit newer to me but I thought the information might be good for everyone as well. They are also in the Bay Area of California, but with multiple authors they have a little different take on things.

If you know of a blog that you think I should add a feed for on this site, let me know at jfellrath AT yahoo DOT com.

Columbus City Bike Laws: Part 3

Today we're going to get into some stuff that is truly important for bike commuters, and not only for staying out of trouble with the law. No, today's law discusssion will help you stay out of trouble with someone's fender: we'll be discussing Columbus regulations on lights and reflectors. Let's start.

2173.05 Signal devices on bicycle.

(A) Every bicycle when in use at the times specified in Section 2137.02 of the Columbus City Code, shall be equipped with the following:
First, it makes sense to define these times: the times specified in Section 2137.02 are "the time from sunset to sunrise, and at any other time when there are unfavorable atmospheric conditions or when there is not sufficient natural light to render discernible persons, vehicles and substantial objects on the street at a distance of one thousand (1,000) feet ahead." So, basically, night time, and when it's foggy, rainy, etc. - any time of poor visibility.
(1) A lamp on the front that shall emit a white light visible from a distance of at least five hundred (500) feet to the front;
So first: you need a headlight.
(2) A red reflector on the rear of a type approved by the Ohio Director of Public Safety that shall be visible from all distances from one hundred (100) feet to six hundred (600) feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful lower beams of head lamps on a motor vehicle;
And a rear reflector. Your bike PROBABLY came with one that is suitable.
(3) A lamp emitting a red light visible from a distance of five hundred (500) feet to the rear shall be used in addition to the red reflector;
Okay, and you also need a rear light, and this is IN ADDITION TO the reflector.
(4) An essentially colorless reflector on the front of a type approved by the Ohio Director;
Similarly, you need a front reflector to go along with your headlight.
(5) Either with tires with retroreflective sidewalls or with an essentially colorless or amber reflector mounted on the spokes of the front wheel and an essentially colorless or red reflector mounted on the spokes of the rear wheel. Each reflector shall be visible on each side of the wheel from a distance of six hundred (600) feet when directly in front of lawful lower beams of head lamps on a motor vehicle. Retroreflective tires or reflectors shall be of a type approved by the Ohio Director.
So your tires need to have reflective sidewalls, or you need your spokes to contain reflectors as well. Yellow/amber up front, and red in back.
(b) No person shall operate a bicycle unless it is equipped with a bell or other device capable of giving a signal audible for a distance of at least one hundred (100) feet, except that a bicycle shall not be equipped with nor shall any person use upon a bicycle any siren or whistle.
Interesting... not only do you need a bell or something similar, but you CAN'T use a siren or whistle. One book I read suggested using a whistle, so I guess that's not going to work in Columbus.
(c) Every bicycle shall be equipped with an adequate brake when used on a street or highway.
Duh.... make sure your brakes work! Even a Hummer driver could figure that one out. Of course, the law is written to be foolproof, so those Hummer drivers can keep themselves legal, too.
(d) Except as otherwise provided in this division, whoever violates this section is guilty of a minor misdemeanor. If, within one (1) year of the offense, the offender previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to one (1) predicate motor vehicle or traffic offense, whoever violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the fourth degree. If, within one (1) year of the offense, the offender previously has been convicted of two (2) or more predicate motor vehicle or traffic offenses, whoever violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the third degree. (ORC 4511.56) Ord. 1170-75; Ord. 2120-03 § 1 (part).)
And the punishments. So, to sum up, you need:
  1. a headlight
  2. a white front reflector
  3. a red rear light
  4. a red rear reflector
  5. an amber reflector on your front spokes.
  6. a red reflector on your rear spokes
  7. brakes that work.
Pretty simple. I'm a little bit surprised by the requirement for both lights and reflectors on the front and back, honestly... you'd think one would work as well as the other. I would guess that this is another Hummer driver rule: just requiring the lights doesn't mean that the rider is going to remember to have them turned ON. Guess I need to put my reflectors back on... I actually removed mine when I got my lights for my bike.

Now here's the next section, also on lights and reflectors:

2173.06 Lights and reflector on bicycle; brakes.

(a) Every bicycle when in use at the times specified in Section 2137.02 shall be equipped with a lamp on the front that shall emit a white light visible from a distance of at least five hundred (500) feet to the front and with a red reflector on the rear of a type approved by the Director of Highway Safety and shall be visible from all distances from one hundred (100) feet to six hundred (600) feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful lower beams of headlamps on a motor vehicle and a lamp emitting a red light visible from a distance of five hundred (500) feet to the rear shall be used in addition to the red reflector.
(b) No person shall operate a bicycle unless such bicycle is equipped with an adequate brake which will enable the operator to make the brake wheel skid on dry, level, clean pavement. (ORC 4511.56; Ord. 1170-75.)
Hmmm...wait a moment. Doesn't this seem a bit contradictory? Section .05 above states that you need front and rear lights, front and rear reflectors, and spoke reflectors; while section .06 states the need for only a front light and rear light and reflectors.

So.... I emailed the Columbus Division of Police to ask about this discrepancy. Their response was pretty darned simple!
2173.06 was repealed on January 1, 2004 so .05 is the correct section.
Doesn't get much easier than that. So the more comprehensive code in .05 is correct, and .06 can be ignored.

Monday, February 5, 2007

Columbus City Bike Laws: Part 2

Continuing our exploration of Columbus bicycle laws, we're heading into some territory that isn't nearly as geared toward motorcycles.
2173.03 Attaching bicycle or sled to vehicle.
(a) No person riding upon any motorcycle, bicycle, coaster, roller skates, sled or toy vehicle shall attach the same or himself to the person to any vehicle upon a roadway. No operator shall knowingly permit any person riding upon any motorcycle, bicycle, coaster, roller skates, sled or toy vehicles to attach the same or the operator to any vehicle while it is moving upon a roadway. This section does not apply to the towing of a disabled vehicle.
(b) Except as otherwise provided in this division, whoever violates this section is guilty of a minor misdemeanor. If, within one (1) year of the offense, the offender previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to one (1) predicate motor vehicle or traffic offense, whoever violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the fourth degree. If, within one (1) year of the offense, the offender previously has been convicted of two (2) or more predicate motor vehicle or traffic offenses, whoever violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the third degree. (ORC 4511.54; Ord. 1579-72; Ord. 2120-03 § 1 (part).)
This is easy. Never attach your bike to another vehicle and attempt to ride along on it. That means grabbing another vehicle and doing the Marty McFly all the way to work. And since cycling is partially about the exercise, why would you want to? Also, no one else is allowed to do it to you when you're driving.
2173.04 Riding bicycles and motorcycles abreast.
(a) Persons riding bicycles or motorcycles upon a roadway shall ride not more than two (2) abreast in a single lane, except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles or motorcycles.
(b) Except as otherwise provided in this division, whoever violates this section is guilty of a minor misdemeanor. If, within one (1) year of the offense, the offender previously has been convicted or pleaded guilty to one (1) predicate motor vehicle or traffic offense, whoever violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the fourth degree. If, within one (1) year of the offense, the offender previously has been convicted of two (2) or more predicate motor vehicle or traffic offenses, whoever violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the third degree. (ORC 4511.55(B); Ord. 1050-77; Ord. 2120-03 § 1 (part).)
I almost don't even need to explain this one: no more than two bikes side-by-side on a road, unless the road is set up for it. Since this is Columbus.... that pretty much means two bikes at a time.

Easy enough stuff for today. Tomorrow we'll be looking at reflectors and lights on your bikes.

Don't Bike To Work...

...when it's -3° F out.

Today was the first time in about three months that I haven't biked to work, and the reason was the cold. Last week, when it was in the 20s, it was freaky cold on my face even with my balaclava on. So I didn't feel like risking frostbite, and I took the bus. Plus, this kind of cold weather can be killer on your bike. Metal has stress points and they get worse in the extreme cold and heat. You'd hate to snap off your derailleur when a COTA ride costs a buck-fitty.

And that's sort of my point for today. When the weather outside is frightful, COTA is so delightful. All bikers should know how to use COTA, especially since they have the bike racks on them now for cyclists. It's really easy to do if you're not familiar with public transportation (like I wasn't when I moved to town) and letting someone do the driving for you, while not nearly as relaxing and energizing as a nice bike ride, is much better than throwing yourself into the throes of traffic woe.

Here's their new riders' guide. A one-way trip is $1.50, and transfers are free (just be sure to tell the driver you want one before you pay for your trip). A day-pass is $3.50 (if you're doing more than just going to and from work). A monthly pass is $45.00 for the local routes. There are also express routes that make fewer stops and get you to places like downtown quickly, but are a bit more expensive.

And if anyone has questions and wants non-COTA personnel answers, I'm happy to help as much as I can - I took the bus for a couple years since moving to the Clintonville and sporadically before that, so I have some good experience in it. One hint I'll give right away - try to use quarters to pay as much as possible. Not all the bill-readers on the buses work all that great and it's annoying when you're trying to get on the bus and pay, have a whole bunch of people behind you waiting to get on (particularly when it's raining or freezing like today), so just being able to drop a few quarters into the box and be on your way.

Friday, February 2, 2007

Transportation <> Recreation

One comment I see over and over as I'm looking around on the various forums and blogs that deal with cycling is an ongoing misunderstanding between city leaders (not just in Columbus, but elsewhere, too) about the purpose of bikes.

Frequently I read articles about city leaders talking about how they're doing great things for the city (whatever city that may be) and the cycling community within their cities by putting in scenic bike trails and the like. To be sure, many of these trails are beautiful places to safely ride a bike and enjoy the outdoors, without the danger of being hit by motorists who are too busy trying to push the traffic laws to the limit. And in many cases, they can be used for commuting to and from one's place of work. As you read in my initial post, I did so for a few weeks before my office was moved.

But more often than not, such trails don't seem to actually GO anywhere useful. And this reflects on the attitude that many people have toward bikes: they're for recreation.

Many things about cycling contribute to this. I recently was listening to the bikescape podcast, which is done by Jon Winston out in San Francisco. Jon was interviewing Grant Petersen of Rivendell Bicycle Works and discussing clothing in the cycling world. When I talk about bike clothing, you invariably think of Lance-Armstrong-like skintight jerseys and shorts and bike helmets and tights and the whole nine yards there. And if you shop around much for bicycle clothing, you'll be inundated with all sorts of clothing that looks like it was designed for characters in the comic books, with flashy multicolored skintight things that are covered with logos and such.

It's all a little bit off-putting, if you're a newbie to this and are just starting to get into cycling. Grant seemed to think that many people were frightened off from starting to cycle just by the clothing.

Now there's no doubt in my mind that there's a purpose to everything that cyclists wear. Skintight clothing keeps you streamlined and you have less wind resistance and use less energy to get to where you're going. The flashy jerseys of professional racers are covered with the logos of all the sponsors that support the various cycling teams. And bright colors are good for helping cyclists stand out when they're in traffic.

My point here is that I think that cycling culture, with the aerodynamic look and wildly decorated jerseys, not only puts possible new cyclists off, but also leads folks to think of cycling as recreation. And that makes them not take it nearly as seriously. Heck, before I started bike commuting, those folks always just looked like they were out having fun.

But what about the folks who are just on their bikes to get from here to there?

If you look at pictures of China's streets, you'll see hundreds of people on their bikes on the streets, all pedalling their way along as they go to work, go shopping, run errands, and basically just go about their lives. I've read accounts of Chinese people in the West who find cycling for exercise to be absolutely ridiculous. They see bikes the same way you or I might see cars - they're just a way to get around.

There's the mindset difference that we, as commuters, need to instill in those who are writing the traffic laws, planning the new roads and infrastructure, and enforcing the laws on the streets: bikes aren't just recreational, they're a perfectly valid form of transportation that needs to be considered.

Let's go back to the bike trails. Columbus has the Olentangy Trail, that runs along the Olentangy River from Worthington to downtown. There's the Scioto Trail, that currently runs along the Scioto River from just upstream of Confluence Park down to south of Parsons Ave. These are both very nice trails, and recreational cyclists enjoy them greatly.

But what about trails going from the East to West side of town? They're not even considered.

And let's take this one step further - away from designated "bike trails." Are the streets we ride on every day optimally designed for bicycle traffic? Not even close. Ideally, we'd have lanes that are set up like the lanes that are currently being built and improved upon in New York, as seen in this video:



Even "sharrows" - sections of existing streets that have bike-friendly insignia painted on them to remind drivers that bikes are using the road as well as showing bikes where to travel are an improvement over that which we have now... NOTHING.

Until bicycles are considered in the construction plans for our city's streets, it's going to be hard to convince the most important group of all that bicycles do actually belong on the streets - motorists.

Columbus City Bike Laws:

It only makes sense to start things off with a discussion of what is and isn't allowed in the city of Columbus, cycling-wise. The city bicycle laws website is in my list of links in the sidebar, but I'm going to take some time to try to figure out exactly what these laws are saying. This is just as much an exercise for me as it is supposed to be helpful for you, so expect some chatter about this.

If you're a lawyer, and you wish to comment on any of my interpretations of the law or anything you think I've left out, please comment or email me at jfellrath AT yahoo DOT com.

Note: Columbus bicycle law is in the same section as motorcycle law, so you'll see some mention of motorcycle laws here.

2173.01 Code application to bicycles.

The provisions of this Traffic Code that are applicable to bicycles apply whenever a bicycle is operated upon any street or highway or upon any path set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles. The provisions of this Traffic Code, except those that by their nature are inapplicable shall apply to bicycles except those which by their nature are not applicable, and any person operating a bicycle on a street shall comply with all operational rules and traffic control devices applicable to vehicular traffic. (ORC 4511.52; Ord. 1579-72; Ord. 2120-03 § 1 (part).)
This appears to me to be the city's way of saying "Bicycles belong on the streets just as much as cars do, but you gotta follow the rules. Let's look at the points of this one by one.
The provisions of this Traffic Code that are applicable to bicycles apply whenever a bicycle is operated upon any street or highway or upon any path set aside for the exclusive use of bicycles.
This seems to be saying: "If you're going to ride on the street, you must follow the rules. If you're on a bike path, you still have to follow the rules." Simple enough.
The provisions of this Traffic Code, except those that by their nature are inapplicable shall apply to bicycles except those which by their nature are not applicable, and any person operating a bicycle on a street shall comply with all operational rules and traffic control devices applicable to vehicular traffic.
Here, I assume this means more of the same: all traffic laws for motorized vehicles apply to bicycles as well, except for those laws that don't make sense for bicycles. I take this to mean things like keeping your vehicle in proper working condition, including repair issues and the like. I mean, bikes don't exactly have mufflers to drag along the ground, so that sort of law wouldn't apply to a bike.

And also note: it specifically mentions traffic control devices: stoplights and such.

In short: FOLLOW THE LAW. For bikes, this is even more important than it is for motorists: our health and even our lives can depend on it. Stop at stoplights. Signal when you change lanes or turn. Be smart! Even the smallest little Toyota Echo is big enough to put you in the hospital with the least of contact.

Okay, that first clause was simple enough. Let's keep going:

2173.02 Riding upon seats; motorcycle handlebars; helmets and glasses.

(a) A person operating a bicycle or motorcycle shall not ride other than upon the permanent and regular seat attached thereto, nor carry any other person upon such bicycle or motorcycle other than upon a firmly attached and regular seat thereon, nor shall any person ride upon a bicycle or motorcycle other than upon such a firmly attached and regular seat. A person shall ride upon a motorcycle only while sitting astride the seat, facing forward, with one leg on each side of the motorcycle. No person operating a bicycle shall carry any package, bundle or article that prevents the driver from keeping at least one (1) hand upon the handle bars. No bicycle or motorcycle shall be used to carry more persons at one (1) time than the number for which it is designed and equipped, nor shall any motorcycle be operated on a street or highway when the handle bars or grips are more than fifteen (15) inches higher than the seat or saddle for the operator. No person shall operate or be a passenger on a snowmobile or motorcycle without using safety glasses or other protective eye device. No person who is under the age of eighteen (18) years, or who holds a motorcycle operator’s endorsement or license bearing a “novice” designation that is currently in effect as provided in Section 4507.13 of the Ohio Revised Code shall operate a motorcycle on a highway, or be a passenger on a motorcycle, unless wearing a protective helmet on his head, and no other person shall be a passenger on a motorcycle operated by such a person unless similarly wearing a protective helmet. The helmet, safety glasses, or other protective eye device shall conform with regulations prescribed and promulgated by the Ohio Director of Public Safety. The provisions of this paragraph or a violation thereof shall not be used in the trial of any civil action.
(b) For purposes of this section “snowmobile” means any self propelled vehicle designed primarily for use on snow or ice, and steered by skis, runners, or caterpillar treads.
(c) Except as otherwise provided in this division, whoever violates this section is guilty of a minor misdemeanor. If, within one (1) year of the offense, the offender previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to one (1) predicate motor vehicle or traffic offense, whoever violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the fourth degree. If, within one (1) year of the offense, the offender previously has been convicted of two (2) or more predicate motor vehicle or traffic offenses, whoever violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the third degree. (ORC 4511.53; Ord. 1317-78; Ord. 2120-03 § 1 (part).)
Lotsa legalese here. Let's sort it out:
(a) A person operating a bicycle or motorcycle shall not ride other than upon the permanent and regular seat attached thereto, nor carry any other person upon such bicycle or motorcycle other than upon a firmly attached and regular seat thereon, nor shall any person ride upon a bicycle or motorcycle other than upon such a firmly attached and regular seat.
Easy enough. Sit on the seat properly. And don't be carrying anyone unless they can fit on the seat with you safely. If you're riding an old banana-seat bike, this applies to you. If you're on a regular seat, this pretty much means that you're the only person allowed to ride on your bike.
A person shall ride upon a motorcycle only while sitting astride the seat, facing forward, with one leg on each side of the motorcycle.
No side saddle. You're not THIS person:

No person operating a bicycle shall carry any package, bundle or article that prevents the driver from keeping at least one (1) hand upon the handle bars.
Keep both hands on the handlebars. Don't try to carry anything. At a future date, I'll talk about backpacks, panniers, racks, and such.
No bicycle or motorcycle shall be used to carry more persons at one (1) time than the number for which it is designed and equipped, nor shall any motorcycle be operated on a street or highway when the handle bars or grips are more than fifteen (15) inches higher than the seat or saddle for the operator.
Don't carry any extra people - in other words, any more than one per seat (in the case of tandem bikes). Now, I think the use of the term "for which it is designed and equipped" covers the use of children's seats on bikes - the permanently fixed ones. Obviously, the motorcycle part doesn't apply to us.
No person shall operate or be a passenger on a snowmobile or motorcycle without using safety glasses or other protective eye device. No person who is under the age of eighteen (18) years, or who holds a motorcycle operator’s endorsement or license bearing a “novice” designation that is currently in effect as provided in Section 4507.13 of the Ohio Revised Code shall operate a motorcycle on a highway, or be a passenger on a motorcycle, unless wearing a protective helmet on his head, and no other person shall be a passenger on a motorcycle operated by such a person unless similarly wearing a protective helmet. The helmet, safety glasses, or other protective eye device shall conform with regulations prescribed and promulgated by the Ohio Director of Public Safety. The provisions of this paragraph or a violation thereof shall not be used in the trial of any civil action.
Looks like motorcycle helmet law to me. Notice that this doesn't say ANYTHING about bike helmets. We seem not to have a bike helmet law in the traffic code.
(b) For purposes of this section “snowmobile” means any self propelled vehicle designed primarily for use on snow or ice, and steered by skis, runners, or caterpillar treads.
(c) Except as otherwise provided in this division, whoever violates this section is guilty of a minor misdemeanor. If, within one (1) year of the offense, the offender previously has been convicted of or pleaded guilty to one (1) predicate motor vehicle or traffic offense, whoever violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the fourth degree. If, within one (1) year of the offense, the offender previously has been convicted of two (2) or more predicate motor vehicle or traffic offenses, whoever violates this section is guilty of a misdemeanor of the third degree. (ORC 4511.53; Ord. 1317-78; Ord. 2120-03 § 1 (part).)
Some definitions and punishment clauses. Okay, so we're done with the first part of the law.

Basically, it all boils down to this: the traffic laws apply to you. Ride your bike safely. And don't let people ride your bike if they don't have their own seat.

That's fairly straightforward, I think. Next time we'll move on to attaching things to your bicycle and riding abreast.

Welcome Aboard

Thanks for visiting my bike commuting blog. There are other blogs and information sources out there that are great for general information, this is going to be much more about the Columbus, Ohio bike commuting experience and information.

A little background:

In November of 2006, I was given my current bicycle as a gift. I'd been talking about getting a bicycle for a while and commuting to work with it to avoid paying for gas, fouling up the environment even more, and getting some exercise; and my wife and parents surprised me with a Specialized Expedition Sport. It's a commuter bike, no question - very comfortable and sturdy but also very versatile.

I started commuting to work later that month, after I'd gotten a proper lock and such. Since then, my life has been an exploration of everything that makes a bicycle commute worthwhile and the things that can make it better and/or legal.

I feel very strongly about the benefits of cycling as a transportation tool. I am not a fitness cyclist, by any means - I have other ways to keep in shape besides my commute. I'm much more interested in commuting just for the benefits to the community and my own pocketbook.

My wife and I only own one car, which I obviously do not use. We save a lot of money this way, and if for some reason we need a second car for a while (example: one of us has to go out of town) then we rent one. With the money we save by owning one car, this is never a big deal, and we've rented enough cars that we are on a frequent-renters program that saves us money.

A little bit about Columbus and my current work commute:
  1. My commute is not all that long. Seriously. If you're familiar with Columbus, I live in Clintonville and I work on Ackerman Road, between Olentangy River Road and Kenny Road. It's 1.6 miles.

  2. Clintonville, if you're not familiar with it, is a very bike-friendly neighborhood in north-central Columbus. The populace tends to be pretty liberal, and we have two high quality bike shops within a mile of my home. We have great access to the Olentangy River Bike Trail in Columbus (which I used for my commute when my office was at a previous location).

  3. While Clintonville is bike-friendly, Columbus is definitely NOT. The population is pretty well-off, for the most part (if you live in Columbus or the surrounding area and are NOT well-off, I'm not trying to dismiss you. My point is that this is a pretty white-collar town). Most of them seem to live to show off their cars, and live for getting from point A to point B with no fuss. Parking and construction are regular points of contention for drivers in this city (and I will be commenting on this more as I go along as it tickles me to death that I'm not affected by these issues at all).

    Also, the city is suburb-intense. Urban planning in the city, while not as bad as zoneless cities like Houston, is pretty nonexistent. The building industry in town is pretty strong, lobby-wise, so trying to control sprawl is VERY tough.

  4. Columbus has a pretty varied climate: it averages from the low 90s in the heat of summer all the way into the low teens in winter. This makes for some interesting clothing issues for the commute.

  5. For situations where I'm using my bike to get around town, I'm also in good shape - we have a supermarket about five blocks away, ice cream shop even closer, the stadium for my favorite sports team is less than two miles away, and several parks within easy bike distance. Again, Clintonville is very bike-friendly.
So my commute is hardly a chore. But it's enough that I have gotten a lot of experience with handling a bike in traffic, on nasty streets, and I've experienced a lot of the issues that bike commuters have. I know there are people who have to go further than I do, and I welcome comments from anyone who'd like to discuss such topics (send me an email at jfellrath AT yahoo DOT com) or feel free to post comments here.

I'm still pretty new at this commuting thing, so in this blog, you'll discover things as I discover them. If I find a pair of wind pants that work great, I'll tell you about them. If I have a problem with chain maintenance, you're gonna hear about it - as well as how I fixed it. If some stupid Hummer almost blows me off the road because the driver was too busy chatting on his cell phone, you're going to see his license number here. That's the sort of blog this is going to be.

If you want to see posts I've made on my general blog about Bicycling, you can click here. So, welcome aboard, and I hope you enjoy your stay here.