Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Join the League of American Bicyclists!

If you're serious about bike advocacy, and by the fact that you're here reading this stuff, I assume you are, then you should consider joining the League of American Bicyclists. They're running a membership drive right now, and they sent me an email asking for my help.

Here's the list of reasons they have for joining:
Why Join the League?

1. We Protect the Rights of Cyclists
The League has been protecting your rights to safe and enjoyable cycling since 1880. What started as a movement by "Wheelmen" on high wheel bikes to get roads paved continues today with our Share the Road campaign to make sure cyclists are welcomed and respected out on the road.

2. We provide valuable education programs
Through our bike education program - BikeEd - we teach cyclists and motorist life-saving skills. Our national network of League Cycling Instructors set the standard in bicycle education and safety for children and adults.

3. We create better cycling environments
As the leading voice for cyclists in Washington, DC we advocate for more bicycle-friendly environments. Working with state and local bike advocacy organizations through events such as the National Bike Summit we education Congress on the benefits cycling and the needs of cyclists.

4. We promote cycling as the commuter option of choice
We introduce cycling to countless Americans each year, especially during National Bike Month and on Bike-to-Work Day. We believe sharing our passion for cycling with others is one of the best ways to create a bicycle-friendly America.

5. You can create bicycle friendly communities
When you join you'll have the good feeling of knowing that you're playing a crucial role in creating bicycle friendly communities. Town by town and city by city we are transforming how America moves.

6. You will receive all the benefits of membership
As an added bonus of joining, you'll receive great benefits such as 11 issues of Bicycling Magazine and six issues of our magazine, American Bicyclist. League members also get discounts on bike shipping, roadside assistance, bike tours and more!

7. We provide a charitable deduction
The League of American Bicyclists is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization. Membership dues are fully tax-deductible less $3 for American Bicyclist and $7 for Bicycling magazine.

8. We will use your donation wisely
We understand the trust you are putting in us when you support us with your membership dues. We strive to maximize the amount of your dues that fund our programs. According to our most recent financial audit (2004) we spend 80% of our revenue on programs and only 20% on fundraising, management and general expenses.
One other thing I like about the League is that they have an "action" group. Many of you may already belong to groups like MoveOn.org, etc., where they send out email notices of bills in Congress that affect us... the League does this but of course it's the bills that are bicycling-based! So you don't have to try to keep track of the crazy amount of weird bills going through Congress to let your Reps and Senators know how you feel about them... they'll let you know when action is best taken!

So please, consider joining the League of American Bicyclists.

The Big Meeting Is Tonight!

Simply Living's Peak Oil study group is hosting the consultants from Alta Planning tonight for a discussion of the bike plan for Columbus. Alta Planning is the company that has been taking all the surveys that I've been touting and is doing the study of our infrastructure to see how best to implement bike-friendly changes to it.

The place: Whetstone Library (Google Map)
The time: 7:00 - 9:00 pm

Come ready to discuss and learn - it should be a good meeting!

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

The Struggles in Upper Arlington

Andrew Miller of Upper Arlington commented on the previous post, and he also had a link to his site, Elephants on Bicycles. He's working in Upper Arlington to do what we're trying to do in Columbus - make the city safer for cyclists by adding infrastructure to aid cyclists in getting from A to B.

He's probably up against it even more than we are, given the greater affluence of UA's population and the general impression of cycling had by folks of a higher tax bracket. Interestingly, I think that some of those people are the ones who could benefit the most by getting out of their cars, and not only from the standpoint of getting more exercise.

I've added his blog to the Columbus cycling blog list to the right. Keep up the great work, Andrew!

The Good, the Bad, and the Good and the Bad

Interesting commute this morning. I got to witness good and bad in two ways.

Situation One: On my way down Dodridge Road and passing by the OSU Wetlands Research Station, I had a driver slow down to turn into it. And stop completely. I stopped behind her, wondering what the hell was going on, naturally. She (I think it was a lady) then waved me to go past her.

The good: she was obviously trying to be bike-friendly.

The bad: huh? Folks, if you really want to be bike friendly, just turn. I wasn't so close behind her that I was going to ram her or anything. Also, if you interrupt the normal flow of traffic to accommodate bikes, you create dangerous situations where other drivers, including the cyclists you're trying to help, don't know what to do or why you're acting a certain way. And you can also create situations where you upset other drivers by trying to be TOO nice to bikes.

Situation Two: I got to work, and pulled up to where I'm normally the only bike in residence. SURPRISE! I was totally unable to park my bike in the rack because it was full!

The good: more people are biking to work!

The bad: I had to lock my bike to a post. Luckily it was still under cover.

Time to send off an email to facilities and see if we can't get a second rack out there!

Monday, August 27, 2007

Green Transportation Hierarchies

A while ago I wrote about my personal traffic philosophy, in which all transportation infrastructure decisions and planning should follow this hierarchy: pedestrians, bicycles, mass transit, motorcycles and scooters, and automobiles. It was just something I'd come up with after observing traffic for several years and from the vantage point of several different modes of transportation over long periods of time.

It seems that the New York City group Transportation Alternatives has come up with a similar hierarchy to mine, and even put it into a nifty graphic for us:

Look familiar? At least the first two and the last one are the same as mine, basically. There's a short article that goes along with it, please read it! Comments?

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Cyclist Self-Defense

This is a topic that I've been thinking about a lot the past few days. I hope it spurs people to respond in the comments because that really is its intent.

Lately, as we've seen more and more people on the streets biking, we've also seen more and more reports of motorist/cyclist altercations. Now I'm not talking just in Columbus, but nationwide. Bike commuting here is still beneath the radar to an extent that it doesn't happen as much (though it certainly DOES happen). But here are some examples:

Biking in Halifax, Nova Scotia: Truck driver flicks cigarette ash at cyclist and tries to bump him off the road.

BikePortland.org: SUV driver was frustrated that cyclist wouldn't share the road, whatever that means.

Just yesterday, I was talking to a recreational cyclist and I asked her why she doesn't bike to work if she loves it so much (as she'd JUST finished saying how much she loves her bike). She responded with safety concerns, including reports she'd heard of an individual attacking lone women on bikes on the Olentangy River Trail.

And back in early July, I got this email from a reader:
Hello-
I saw your biking blog and thought I'd shoot you an e-mail.

Some guy with major road rage here in Columbus, confronted my boyfriend and I today, then purposely ran my boyfriend over with his SUV and asked him if he wanted more.
My boyfriend is okay and the guy was charged with assault with a vehicle, but with your knowledge of riding in Columbus, do you know of any lawyer which might be local and passionate about the rights of bikers??
Thanks.
I referred the reader to Steven Magas of Cincinnati, who I've conversed with off and on about some issues regarding bike law.

But the main issue I want to bring up here is how the heck do we, as cyclists, defend ourselves against attackers, either car-borne or on foot?

Now, a quick aside: let me explain to you my personal views on self-defense: views that the law may or may not have in common. If someone attacks me, or I feel that I'm in danger, then I have the right to take whatever action is necessary to get myself out of danger and to make sure that particular danger won't affect me again. For example: if you break into my house, and I can manage it, you'll be knocked unconscious or have a limb broken at least - to end the danger to me and my family.

Back to the topic at hand: I've heard a couple of interesting ideas that I'm not sure how I feel about. Well, that's not entirely true. One of my readers has told me about how he carries a pretty serious knife and will use it to slash the tires of vehicles who try to rough him up. And if a cyclist gets to the point where he feels threatened enough to do this, then I'm personally all for it. It's not like he's slashing the driver himself and taking off, he's taking away the driver's ability to do him harm. Tires can be replaced, people can't.

Now here's a second point of view, that I'm not sure I share at all. This was proposed by CycleDog down in Oklahoma a few months ago: cyclists should carry firearms. You have to think that a motorist bearing down on you and seeing a holster on you is going to think twice about bothering you. And it's absolutely true that guns can be a deterrent.

But do we want to risk turning our streets into armed battlegrounds? Because you can be sure that some redneck in a pickup is going to want to drive you off the road sometime, and when you draw on him he's going to draw right back.

Plus, do you want the possible danger of the gun going off after a fall, or what have you?

Now here's another idea: keeping your u-lock within reach of your riding position. If you have a serious u-lock, you know how heavy they can be. Grabbing that thing by the u-shaped portion and swinging it, you would most certainly be a deterrent. And this might be the best way possible to ward off anyone attacking you while riding - just reach down, grab the u-lock, and swing away.

It's an absolute shame that this topic has to be discussed, but the increase in the number of cyclists on our road-rage infested streets is going to result in more road rage before it results in less, and I think it behooves us to be prepared.

So... what are your thoughts here? Any ideas for personal defense on a bike?

Thursday, August 16, 2007

USDOT Head Calls Bike Paths "A prime example of waste"

From a League of American Bicyclists press release. Folks, this is exactly the problem that we've been dealing with all along, but at a national level. Please follow the links at the end of the article to take action against this uninformed moron.
Transportation Secretary Mary Peters talks about infrastructure problems and travel initiatives.
Peters cited "bicycle paths" as a prime example of the waste


Last night on the PBS NewsHour with Jim Leher, DOT Secretary Mary Peters was interviewed by Gwen Ifill.

Peters, when asked about a possible gas tax increase, repeated President Bush's response - No, there can be no tax increase because Congress is wasting the money they already get. Peters cited "bicycle paths" as a prime example of the waste because bicycles are not a transportation use of the gas tax money.

It is disappointing that the administration is attacking Jim Oberstar for his efforts to get the Minneapolis bridge repaired along with raising all the funding for transportation maintenance, by using Oberstar's support for bicycles as a weapon.

The League of American Bicyclists feels strongly that this should not go without a response and we have sent a letter to Secretary Peters voicing our view. Click here to view our response.

For those of you who feel strongly about bicycling issues, we would also urge you to contact the Secretary to share your personal viewpoints.

To view a copy of the program click here

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Ride For Pete's Sake THIS SATURDAY!

I've mentioned Pedal-with-Pete before. That's the Cerebral Palsy charity that Jenn and I work with. Well, their annual "Ride for Pete's Sake" is this Saturday at Hilliard Middle School. Google Map.

You don't have to have a pre-registration to ride, just come on out and have a good time with a great ride. It's $25, nearly all of which goes to CP research since so much of the food, office supplies, etc. are donated.

Read more at the link above. I'll be working at the pre-registration table, so if you see me say hi!

San Francisco Police Say "Take the Lane"

The San Francisco Police and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition have gotten together to release a video on the safest ways to bicycle on regular streets. They do a great job of showing the law as relates to the many issues relating to cyclists, but also giving tips for extra safety. Here's the video, check it out.

One of the things you'll see in the video is the commentary on the laws relating to bicycle safety. I've already covered the general traffic code as relates to bicycles, but there are many issues that relate to cars and their general relationship with traffic and bicycles.

The first is the hazard of dooring, when motorists aren't paying attention and open their car doors into traffic. This happens a lot. And, according to city traffic code 2131.25, it's illegal, and drivers can be held responsible for it.
2131.25 Driver’s view and control to be unobstructed by load, persons, or animals.
(c) No person shall open the door of a vehicle on the side available to moving traffic unless and until it is reasonably safe to do so, and can be done without interfering with the movement of other traffic, nor shall any person leave a door open on the side of a vehicle available to moving traffic for a period of time longer than necessary to load or unload passengers.
They also make the note that it's safest to stay about 4 feet away from parked cars on a bike... good advice. This goes along with traffic code 2173.07:
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.
The key words here are: "as practicable." The Webster definition:
capable of being put into practice or of being done or accomplished
To my way of thinking, that means you stay as close as you can without endangering yourself. So take the lane where necessary.

The second situation, the motorist intimidation scenario, shows the motorist flashing their brights at the cyclist and then throwing things at him when she passed him. This is clearly assault, but as far as the traffic code goes, it's against traffic code 2133.02:
2133.02 Reckless operation on streets, public or private property.

(a) No person shall operate a vehicle on any street, highway, or on any public or private property other than streets or highways without due regard for the safety of persons or property.
(b) No person shall operate a vehicle on any street, highway, or on any public or private property other than streets or highways, in willful or wanton disregard of the safety of persons or property.
Get the license number and report these people. Some riders carry a digital camera with them at all times for such things. Not a bad idea, and many of them are small enough to be easily carried while riding.

I sent this video to the mayor's office and hopefully we can get our police to watch this and learn from it as well, or even to put together a local version of it.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Columbus Looking For Help Patrolling Greenways

Mark Young, the assistant director for Columbus Recreation and Parks, has put out a request for help on the Columbus Greenways, namely the Olentangy, Alum Creek, and Scioto trails. I'll let his words speak for themselves:
In the July 11 Dispatch article "County exercise paths not always happy trails," Reporter Kathy Lynn Gray wrote that bike and pedestrian trails in Franklin County attract many different recreational users and have their share of user conflicts.

The Columbus Recreation and Parks Department manages 47 miles of bike and pedestrian trails. And more miles are planned as part of the Columbus Bicentennial Bikeway Plan announced by Mayor Michael B. Coleman on July 26.

As people look for ways to stay healthy and protect the environment, the demand for safe, nonmotorized trails will only increase.

A diversity of users -- bicyclists, joggers, walkers, roller bladers and dogs -- on a 10- to 12-foot-wide path requires that everyone follow the rules and be respectful of others to ensure the safest experience for all.

Columbus Community Crime Patrol cyclists monitor the Olentangy, Scioto and Alum Creek trails, but the bike patrol unit has many miles to cover with limited resources.

Recently the Community Crime Patrol, the Columbus Division of Police and the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department collaborated to develop a Trail Watch program to enhance trail safety and security.

Trail Watch puts trained volunteers on bike and pedestrian trails to assist users and report hazards and other issues.

Trail Watch is seeking volunteers to join the effort to ensure a safe and healthy experience for all trail users.

Anyone interested in this valuable community service can call 645-3342 or visit the Recreation and Parks Web site http://recparks.columbus.gov for an application and more information.

MARK A. YOUNG
Assistant director
Columbus Recreation and Parks
Columbus

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Support the Ohio Hub!

The Ohio Hub project is an effort to fix the lack of train service into central Ohio and improve the rail infrastructure in the State. You can read more on it here, but suffice to say that it's a very modern train, with speeds of up to 110 miles per hour, and will put people into various parts of the state (and connect with Amtrak stations in Cleveland, Cincinnati, etc.) quickly and painlessly.

I contacted the project's Passenger Rail Planning Manager, Don Damron, to ask about what sorts of amenities will be available for cyclists. Mostly I was interested in whether there'd be bikes allowed on the train. Here's Mr. Damron's response:
James,

Yes, you will be able to take your bike on the train, panniers and all. Ohio Hub operating policies will provide for and accommodate bikes, just as on-board space will be provided for luggage and other large items. Ride up to the local passenger rail station, take your bike on board the train - and when you arrive at your destination station, simply jump off the train and back on your bike to continue your ride. It will be your fastest Century Ride ever. And it will be that simple. Guaranteed! Now, please write your representatives and tell them that bikes and trains make the perfect combo.

Don Damron
I am now officically ULTRA-excited about this project. I would love nothing more than to be able to hop on the train in Columbus and ride up to Monroe, MI (where my parents live) and visit them in an hour or so, and not have to DRIVE!

So check out the project. Pay careful attention to the maps involved, and see how this project could affect you and your travels. And then do as Mr. Damron suggests and contact your state and federal representatives and voice your support for this project! It's a great opportunity for Ohioans to travel quickly, easily, and sustainably!

Wednesday, August 1, 2007

(Half of) Olentangy RiverTrail Review

Last Sunday, I took my two-year old son on a bike ride on the Olentangy River Trail. He was in his trailer and was loving it, though he did fall asleep part-way through. It was a warm day but he had a drink and was loving going fast (as fast as I could get him to go with my heavy bike and heavy son!).

We started at the Clinton-Como Park entrance and went south. I was pleased that I was able to keep up a pretty good pace the whole way, though having the wind against me on the return trip back north was a little bit daunting. I don't have a bike computer or anything like that, but I estimate that we went about 12 miles in total just based on which mile-markers we passed.

The trail was in pretty good shape the entire length, with the heavy exception of the area around Ohio State University. I've said before that OSU does a good job of putting to rest the notion of liberal public universities. They really don't take care of the trail at all on their portion of it. The asphalt was torn up and bumpy the entire way and in many spots there was no yellow dividing line and it was down to only about 3/4 of one lane's width wide. Not very safe.

I'd like to see a couple of things along the trail that would make it easier for use by commuters, and aside from the improvements to the trail itself as noted above:
  1. Better signs along the way. There were lots of access points to the trail from the various neighborhoods that you saw, but many times you had no idea where you might be getting off the trail! If they put up some signs that said where you were (example: nearest cross street to a trail entrance) that would help immensely.

    Also, a sign that said where the Olentangy Trail ends and the other trails begin would be good. I wasn't quite sure where it ended and rode for a while on another trail.

  2. According to the guidelines I've read in a few places, the trails should be 12 feet wide, 6 feet in each lane. Well, I'm 6' tall, and I know that if I laid across a lane for most of the length of the trail, I'd be hanging off on either side. Down near the King Avenue area (I think - see #1) it was quite wide - possibly OVER the 12' guideline, but for most of its length I'd estimate it was 10' wide. Not a huge issue, but something I noticed.
Hopefully I'll get to go north within the next couple weeks. I'm anxious to see the work they've done up by Antrim Park.

Air Quality Alerts

MORPC released an air quality alert today saying that today and tomorrow will have high amounts of ozone resulting in air that is "unhealthy for sensitive groups." I think I'm one of those people in a sensitive group, as I've noticed my breathing is a bit shallow when these alerts are announced. And my mom and brother get hay fever, so it may run in the family a bit.

I have noticed that I don't have problems WHILE I'm exercising (i.e. biking) but afterward, when I'm relaxing.

But the point here is: there's something seriously wrong with this world when it's considered okay for companies and people to pollute the air so freely, when the result causes so many people not to be able to breathe that they have to release warnings publicly. If there's one right that people all over the world have, it's the right to BREATHE. That's just part of life.

I see the federal EPA and other state-level groups allowing companies free rein to foul up the air and it absolutely boggles my mind. Where are our priorities when producing unnecessary products and getting to work "conveniently" are more important than air?

I just don't get it. Anyway, I'm looking forward to gasping today.