Thursday, September 27, 2007

People, Not Speed

You may have noticed that recently I've added the tag line "People, not speed" at the bottom of my posts.

I've been an active cyclist for almost a year now, and by active I mean I've been corresponding with other cyclists all over the country (and the world, on occasion), and taking part in (or trying to take part, if COBAC would ever return my requests to join them) as many advocacy efforts as I can. This blog is a big part of that for me - I've gotten to meet a few of my readers and I have to say it's a pleasure to have done so.

But being an active cyclist has also shown me the dark side of traffic policy in this city and country. Not only is traffic policy overwhelmingly in favor of automobiles and their use, but it's to the point where cyclists are seen as road hazards (as indicated by LA Metro Supervisor Mike Dunn in this article from the LAist).

The latest example of this that I've read is from Great Britain's Velorution, where the story of Emma Foa' serves to illustrate two things:

1. Motorists place much more emphasis on being able to drive unimpeded and without restrictions than they do on driving safely and without harming others.

2. In many cases, the law supports such claims.

I am in favor of the Dutch system of law, where if a driver hits a bicycle or pedestrian, then the driver is assumed guilty unless it can be proven that the cyclist or pedestrian acted in a way that the driver was unable to avoid them.

This law would totally remove the famous excuse of drivers who have hit cyclists: "I didn't see him." You know what? No one cares. It's your responsibility as the driver of a larger and more potentially damaging vehicle to drive carefully and to see the entire street before moving.

Does this mean you shouldn't be able to drive while talking on the phone, or drinking coffee, or putting on makeup, or shaving, or reading a map? Yes, it means exactly that. If you are doing any of these things while driving, you are impairing yourself from taking the whole road and all its operators into consideration and you are jeopardizing the safety of those around you. You have rights, but as soon as your rights infringe upon the life or limb of those around you, those rights vanish.

Now it's just up to the law to catch up with this thinking.

People, not speed.

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Request For Help!

Columbus commuters will hopefully remember that tonight is the Columbus Bicentennial Bikeways Master Plan meeting at North Bank Park Pavilion. Here are the details:
From John Gideon at COBAC:

Friends of bicycling,

Just a quick reminder that this evening from 5:00 to 8:00 pm there will be a public meeting/open house at North Bank Park Pavilion (where Neil Avenue ends at Spring/Long Sts.) on the Columbus Bicentennial Bikeways Master Plan.

All of the consultants on the bike plan will be there including Jeff Olsen of Alta Planning + Design, Bernice Cage of MORPC, and Brian Moore of Burgess & Niple.

They plan to unveil the first rough draft of parts of the bike plan.

And they want to hear from YOU! about where you want the bike lanes, bike trails, bike parking, and what education, encouragement, and enforcement. They will have large maps of the Columbus area on which you can draw the streets and other places where you want to see bikeways or bike stations.

If you aren’t able to attend tonight’s public meeting/open house keep your eyes and ears open for future public meetings. The consultants are planning additional future public meetings around town in the not-too-distant future. Check in occasionally on the dedicated website of the Columbus Bicentennial Bikeways Master Plan here: http://www.altaplanning.com/columbus/

John Gideon
President
Central Ohio Bicycle Advocacy Coalition
P.O. Box 2003
Columbus, Ohio 43216-2003
Phone: (614) 844-3954
Email: jgideon@cobac.org
Website: www.cobac.org
If one of you, my dear readers, is able to make it to this meeting, then I would be ever so grateful if you'd take some notes and then write up a summary for me to post here - you'll get full by-line credit and a special surprise (something tangible, folks).

I really want to be at this meeting but I can't. My wife told me so in no uncertain terms after the last meeting I went to, leaving her with our son for the evening while she was eight months pregnant. And now we have TWO kids... you get the point.

If you're interested, let me know and I'll let you know if you're the one who gets the assignment. First come, first served, and all. You can contact me here.

People, not speed.

Prisoner of the Slave-Mobile, Day one

I had to leave home at 7:10 this morning to get my boy up to daycare and be able to get back to campus on time for work. For me, this involves going up 315 in Columbus, getting off on 161 and going into Dublin to Dale Road. It's a fairly busy area, but leaving that early in the morning it wasn't too bad. Duncan and I sat in the car and listened to the Wiggles (his favorite music)

It wasn't till I'd dropped him off and had to get back onto 315 to get to OSU (my wife actually works near his daycare, not me) that the trials began.

1. Stop and go traffic to get onto 315. Ugh...

2. I stopped at the bank to deposit a check on the way in. I pulled into the bank parking lot (well, I don't want to call it a bank, really, the one I was at is more of an ATM vestibule with more parking than is needed) and signed the check, filled out the deposit envelope, etc. As I was doing this, some motorhead in a big white pickup and a trailer pulls in behind me and then parks straight in - blocking nearly all my access to pull back out and actually GET to the ATM.

On a bike it wouldn't have been an issue, I'd just have hopped around him. But with the car I had to drive on the grass because motorhead wasn't moving.

3. I had to drop $29.50 for a monthly parking pass for the car - this on top of having to buy more gas since we'll be traveling more miles with me going back and forth to Dublin twice a day.

As I was driving around trying to find a place to park at Bevis Hall (OSU's Transportation and Parking office is there) I wistfully noted the many cyclists who were around, and the very nice bike racks under a canopy at Rightmire Hall, next to Bevis.

4. I feel listless and not particularly energetic today. This is only partly because of the new baby keeping us up last night... and if I'd gotten the chance to have some exercise, I'd feel much better.

Sigh... to quote my brother: "When will this hell end?"
People, not speed.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Back to the Car for a Few Days...

Some of you may know that my wife gave birth to our second child over the weekend... I'll send you here for more on that.

But...

Because my wife has been told that she's not allowed to drive a car for two weeks following her surgery (she had a c-section), and because Duncan's day care is near HER office but we want him to keep going as much as possible to keep his routine going, I'm going to have to drive him to day care next week after my mom goes home (after a week helping us out).

So I'm going to have to drive. A car. In traffic.

In order to keep my sanity about not having my daily ride, I'm going to keep a journal for the week of how I'm feeling and compare it to how I have felt on days when I can ride my bike. We'll see how this goes.

So I'm off to call OSU Transportation and Parking to see what I need to do to get a parking pass for the week. Crap... and so it begins.

People, not speed.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

How to Stop Bike Thieves


Strong Bad from Homestar Runner has all the answers, my bromide.



People, not speed.

Happy Birthday Lance

This is obviously not a racing blog (unless it's about racing against traffic), but I wanted to send out some birthday greetings to the greatest American cyclist in history, Lance Armstrong.

Lance has done so much for cyclists AND cancer patients in this country, I couldn't let the day pass without saying Happy Birthday!

People, not speed.

World Car-Free Day

Put away the keys and get out your bikes, folks: World Car Free Day is this Saturday, September 22!

No commentary on the actual event is needed, but I did find an interesting story from Yahoo News about China's adoption of the day:
BEIJING, (AFP) - China will initiate its first-ever nationwide "no car day" this weekend in an effort to promote environmental health and alleviate increasingly gridlocked urban roads, state press said Monday.

Residents in 108 cities will be urged to take public transport, ride bikes or walk on the nation's first "no car day" on Saturday, the China Daily reported.

"The move is an attempt to raise residents' awareness on energy saving and environmental protection because the country's cities are plagued by traffic congestion and pollution," the paper said.

It did not say why the Ministry of Construction, the sponsor of the activity, chose a Saturday to hold the event.

Government officials and state-run enterprise employees in some cities would be encouraged not to drive, while other urban centres would ban government-owned cars from taking to the roads altogether, it added.

A week-long campaign to publicise the government's goal of getting 50 percent of the nation's urban residents to use public transport instead of private cars would also be initiated, it said.

China's auto industry has been a key component of the nation's booming economy with vehicle production rising by 32.7 percent in July compared to the same period last year.
Interesting from two standpoints. First, China's finding out quickly that trying to be like the west isn't the greatest thing in the world.

Second... the article writer decided that actual research wasn't necessary (as seen above in the red text).

People, not speed.

Monday, September 17, 2007

No Helmet? Must Be the Cyclist's Fault!

I've noticed a disturbing trend in local articles about car-bike accidents today, one that never really occurred to me before. Inevitably, the author of the article feels the need to mention whether the cyclist in question was wearing a helmet. A recent example is here, in an article from Newark:
Bicyclist struck by car near Johnstown

JOHNSTOWN -- For the second time in two days, the Monroe Township Fire Department responded to a person being struck by a car.

On Thursday, the person struck was a bicyclist who was wearing a helmet, Fire Chief Dudley Wright said. The crash occurred at about 8:30 a.m. on Sportsman Club Road.

Additional information was unavailable late Thursday.
What is the point of telling everyone whether the cyclist was wearing a helmet? It feels like the intent here is to say "well, this person wasn't wearing a helmet, so they deserve to have been hit."

There's no mention of the details of the accident other than that - whether there was alcohol involved, who was at fault, how the victim was found, etc. Only an implication that the cyclist was at fault because he/she wasn't helmeted.

I know I'm preaching to the choir, but the presence of a helmet on the head of a cyclist doesn't make them more or less at fault in an accident. The fact is that the driver was going too fast around a cyclist to be safe. If he hadn't been going too fast, the cyclist wouldn't have been hit.

People, not speed.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

BCIC Reader Featured in UA Newspaper Article

Andrew Miller, of the blog Elephants on Bicycles, was featured in an article in This Week: Upper Arlington about how the city of UA is losing population and revenue due to its inability to create an infrastructure that supports all forms of transportation.

The article was good, though I thought it seemed to imply that bikes were toys, a long-standing problem of perception about bicycles and cycling in general. All the talk about citizens wanting to keep fit and such doesn't really address the other reasons for cycling, and I think that tends to marginalize cycling and the need for better infrastructure for us.

Still, congratulations to Andrew. Keep up with Andrew's struggles to drag UA into the 21st Century at his blog.

People, not speed.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Consider Biking Hosts OSU Bike Commuter Pit Stop, Sept. 21.

My friends over at Consider Biking, along with the fledgling Ohio State University Commuter Cycling Club, are sponsoring a "Pit Stop" on September 21st at the main gateway to campus at 15th and High. Sadly, I won't be able to be there since my wife and I are going to be at another OSU location that morning (the maternity ward).

Here's the word from CB and the OSU Club:
Subject: OSU's Back-to-School Commuter Cyclists' Pit Stop

Hello!

You're invited to join OSU's **new Commuter Cycling Club** and Consider Biking on Sept 21, 10a-6p @ 15th & High for the campus's first-ever event celebrating commuter cyclists! The purpose of the event is to 1) advocate for and instruct students about safe cycling and 2) introduce students to the wider cycling community in Columbus.

The Pit Stop will feature free tune-ups, urban riding & maintenance lessons, legal advice, bike registration, info, music & art, sales, and fun!

Other local groups on hand for the Pit Stop include:

-OSU Cycling Club
-B1 Bicycles
-Third Hand Bicycle Co-op
-Restoration Bicycle
-City of Columbus
-MORPC
-COBAC / Pedal Instead
-Tim Boone, Bicycle Accident Attorney
-OSU Police Bug-a-Bike
-COTA Bike 'n Bus
-The Piano Peddler
-Seagull Messenger Bags
-More

Please contact Meredith Joy (meredith.a.joy@gmail.com) or Austin Kocher (ackocher@gmail.com) if you'd like to participate (we're especially on the lookout for bike-themed arts & crafts, exhibits, oddities, etc), or just come out for a good time. See you there!
People, not speed.

Dublin Mayor Says It All

Jason Stover from Consider Biking (and his own blog) passes on a message he received from Dublin's mayor, Marilee Chinnici-Zuercher.
Jason,

I am in full agreement with you regarding the need for bike racks at shopping centers. I will work with the staff to be sure we include them in our code and as a requirement for shopping areas. It is strange that we encourage walking, biking etc. through our terrific bikepath system yet don't have available the racks once people get to their destination.

Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

Marilee
People, not speed.

Another Columbus Bicyclist Death

It's happened again. Andres Gonzales, husband and father of an 18-month old son, was struck and killed by a cowardly hit and run driver last Sunday. He was possibly hit by more than one car.

Gonzales worked at Paul's Restaurant in Whitehall, where he'd been a cook for eight years. He died on the street, surrounded by strangers, after being hit on his way home from work.

I can't even tell you how sick this makes me feel. Whoever did this needs to be dragged out in the street and have the same thing happen to him or her.

And WHEN is our society going to put more impetus on people and their lives and well-being than on sucking off the auto industry's teat?

The time for complete streets is now! How is there any sort of argument about this?

More from Andy's fellow employees at Paul's, from the Columbus Messenger.

People, not speed.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Am I Attracting Morons, Now?

I've been posting on this blog since February, and commuting by bike since last November... and I've been pretty fortunate about the number of clueless motorists I've come across. But with last week's impatient honker incident and today, I'm beginning to feel like someone buried a gris-gris under my stoop.

The story: I had just crossed the intersection of Olentangy and Ackerman and was riding west on Ackerman. There is one lane that crosses from East to West on Ackerman and obviously I was in it. Once you get across Olentangy, a right-turn-only lane from Olentangy opens up to your right. I always try to get right over to that lane to 1) abide by the law and 2) be safe. Here's a diagram:

I'm the red arrow. You can see how that right-turn lane from Olentangy works. Usually, there's no one turning right from Olentangy to Ackerman and I can get right over, but today there was a car that turned and was to my right as I wanted to get over. So no big deal... I figure he'll retain his speed and pass me and then I'd get over.

Nope. He decides to drive RIGHT NEXT TO ME, actually slowing down to do so. I signal, hoping he'll speed up or slow down so I can get over. No... he stays right there. I give him a wave forward, trying to beckon him to go past me. No... he sits right there. Finally, I look over at him with my "WTF" look. He starts waving at me like I'm the problem.

If he'd slowed down and gotten behind me, then I'd know he wanted me to pull in front of him, obviously. If he'd sped up, I could have gotten behind him and into the right lane. But no, he sat right next to me.

Is there some sort of paralysis that takes over in the minds of drivers when they encounter bikes?

There's a High Rate of Exercise-Induced Asthma, Says Study. Jamie Says "Why?"

Note: Cross-posted from Bangers and Mishmash but I thought it was appropriate here, given our efforts to encourage exercise via bicycling.

The results of a study was released recently by OSU's sports medicine department recently that speaks to the high rate of exercise-induced asthma in college varsity athletes. The department used a "eucapnic voluntary hyperpnea testing" procedure, where basically people hyperventilate themselves and then their lung function is measured. 42 of 107 athletes were diagnosed with the condition as a result. 39 of them had never had asthma diagnosed in them before.

Interesting study. It goes on to say that the rate of exercise-induced asthma (I'm just going to say asthma from now on, assume I mean this specific form of the condition) is probably higher than originally thought due to this test never having been used before.

But I think that what this test is failing to consider is that maybe the rate of asthma has actually increased, instead of just lying undiagnosed for all this time. This study could be a benchmark for a study of air quality in our city. All the athletes diagnosed were from OSU, and therefore are breathing Columbus air (which isn't the best in the world, by a long shot).

If they'd never been diagnosed before, it's possible that they come from a cleaner environment than Columbus and they didn't develop it until they got to OSU...

I'd like to see this study become a larger study - it really could be a great example of just how bad things are with air quality in the city (and around the country).

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Dublin Kroger Doesn't Allow Bike Racks?

One of the users on the Consider Biking forums was telling everyone about how he went to the Kroger on Bridge Street in Dublin to pick up a couple of things, and there were no bike racks. When he asked the store manager whether they could put some in, the manager apparently told him that Dublin would not allow them to put any in!

Does anyone know of this law and why it might exist?

UPDATE - 4:20 pm: Jason, the user in question on Consider Biking, gave everyone an update here. PLEASE read the comments for the full story! Jason's doing a great job of updating us on this situation.:
James, an update that I posted over at considerbiking.org as well:

Update No. 2

Greg Jones, Code Enforcement Supervisor from the City of Dublin called me back. He stated that there was nothing in the city ordinances prohibiting businesses from installing bike racks. Greg went on to say that the Planning Committee is very proud of the bike path network in Dublin and actually encourages businesses to install bike racks. Greg also mentioned that he and a few other city employees were going back through all of the text in the articles to see if something may have been misconstrued in them. He said that someone else had called in about the same issue at the Hard Rd Kroger. Greg offered for me to give his number to Kroger to discuss this further with him.

The light bulb started to come on at this point. I called Kroger back and asked to speak with Betty the manager as that was how she was presented to me the last time we spoke. I reminded her of our last conversation and she said the no bike racks came straight from her manager. I apologized to Betty and told her that I was led to believe she was the manager. Betty said, "Oh Heavens no. When you asked the lady that answered the phone to speak to a manager, she just put me on."

At this point I asked who the manager was, and it is Michael King. I spoke with Michael and outlined the situation to him. Michael stated that Kroger Corporate told them the City prohibited bike racks. (The light bulb is at full power now) I asked him if the City prohibited it or Kroger Corporate. Michael reiterated that this was a pass through from Kroger Corporate as to Dublin Regs. I asked Michael in the interim prior to racks being installed what his suggestion would be for cyclists to properly secure their bikes at his location. Michael stated for us to bring our bikes into either the inside cart corral, or secure them in the entry breezeway.

Ok, so Kudos to the City of Dublin and Greg Jones and also to Michael King at Kroger Bridge Street. The jury is still out on Kroger Corporate and "manager" Betty.
A much better response, but disturbing from the angle that the company may be trying to push this off on the city!

Wednesday, September 5, 2007

"The Spokesmen" Discuss Cyclist Taxes, Rights

I was listening to the Spokesmen Cycling Roundtable Podcast today, and they were chatting about round-table-member Carlton Reid's recent trip to the Netherlands. He naturally gushed about how great it was to cycle somewhere that has a proper cycling infrastructure set up, and how could he not.

David Bernstein, the moderator and producer of the show, asked Carlton if he knew how the infrastructure was funded, and Carlton said it was just part of the normal tax structure - there was nothing special or extra for cyclists because everyone benefits from having fewer cars on the roads and the like (all the stuff we talk about every day).

And they (and their fellow spokesman, Interbike's Rich Kelly) had a great discussion about taxation of cyclists and why it wasn't justified.

One great thing I heard was the existence of the European Union's Fifth Motor Directive (PDF File), which states that in the case of a motorist/cyclist or motorist/pedestrian accident, the motorist is ALWAYS considered to be at fault due to their responsibility as the operator of a much larger and more dangerous vehicle. Here's the text of the law:
Personal injuries and damage to property suffered by pedestrians, cyclists and other non-motorised users of the road, who are usually the weakest party in an accident, should be covered by the compulsory insurance of the vehicle involved in the accident where they are entitled to compensation under national civil law. This provision does not prejudge the civil liability or the level of awards for damages in a specific accident, under national legislation.
I like it. Not sure how it'd work over here in our much more litigious society, but I like the idea a lot.

I recommend listening to this podcast - it's about an hour long, and there's a lot of industry talk at the beginning, but it's well worth the wait to hear the discussion from the point of view from the USA and also Great Britain via Carlton Reid.

Check it out: the Spokesmen.

Police Release Sketch of Olentangy Trail Attacker

Columbus Police have released a sketch of the individual who has attacked three women along the Olentangy River Trail. This individual has frightened two women and attempted to kidnap a third at knifepoint. He's described by the victims and police as:
5 feet 5 inches to 5 feet 9 inches tall and weighing about 140 to 155 pounds. The suspect was wearing a blue shirt with red sleeves and seen carrying a red backpack, police said.

Police believe the man is 20 to 30 years old, with a thin build.

If you see the individual in question, call 911 immediately. He can probably be considered armed and dangerous if he's already used a knife once.

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Faulty Columbus Infrastructure Creates Questionable Situation

On the way home today, I stopped at a couple of stores to pick up groceries and dog food. After I was done, I pulled out onto Kelso Road to cross High Street and ride up to my home.

For those of you not familiar with the area, Kelso (going from West to East) across High Street is one of those streets that is about a lane and a half wide, making you wonder whether you're supposed to be lining up two abreast or one abreast. I've always assumed one - since there's no line to delineate separate lanes. Also, the light sensor is smack dab in the middle of the lane. So, I took my spot about 12" from the right side of the sensor, where city engineers have told me is the best place for a bike to try to trip the sensor and force a light change on High Street. It's also a good example of taking the lane - making sure that other cars can't try to pass you and turn right in front of you illegally. Here's a picture:


A car pulls up behind me (as per usual, not close enough that it might trip the sensor itself). After a few seconds, it honks at me. As is my habit, I ignored it. I wait for the light to change (and as usual, it takes a while). The car honks again, more insistently. I glance behind me, throw up my arms in a "What?" gesture. I don't take kindly to being honked at, as I'm sure most cyclists don't. I believe very strongly in following the rules of the road, and also my right to be there.

Finally, the guy pulls up next to me (on my left) and starts yelling at me. Now, I have the headphones for my cell phone on because my wife is 17-days-from-her-due-date pregnant and I want to be able to take the call immediately if she rings me up. I pull one of the ear buds out and say "excuse me?"

The guy yells "you jackass! I'm trying to take my baby to the doctor! Get the hell over!" And while I'm yelling "What do you want me to do about that?" and before I can get out "it can't be too important since you stopped to yell at me instead of just going around me!" he pulls in front of me and turns right on red (after threatening to kick my ass).

Obviously, this is not time to explain to him about how the Columbus infrastructure is inadequate, nor an explanation of the rights of cyclists. And I think I was right to hold my own - if I had been a car, he couldn't have yelled at me. And I daresay he probably wouldn't have thought about honking me because I couldn't have done anything different than I did on my bike.

But I'm curious - how would you have handled this situation? Comments?