Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Columbus Police Chief Wants Officer Fired

Here's an interesting bit of news about the police officer who hit-and-run a cyclist while allegedly driving drunk.
Hit-and-run in Grove city
Columbus chief wants officer to be fired
Tuesday, March 25, 2008 3:04 AM
Lisa Smith has been assigned to desk duty.

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Lisa Smith has been assigned to desk duty.

A Columbus police officer accused of hitting a 13-year-old bicyclist with her van then driving off should be fired, Police Chief James G. Jackson said.

The recommendation from Jackson came a week before Lisa M. Smith, 44, is due to be sentenced for the Nov. 3 crash that injured the boy.

Smith pleaded no contest last month to a misdemeanor charge of hit-and-run driving for striking Justin Richie as he pedaled along Southwest Boulevard in Grove City. A judge then found her guilty.

Smith, a 17-year police veteran, was off duty at the time and driving her personal vehicle. She had been at a Grove City bar before the crash, according to a police report.

Judge Scott D. VanDerKarr of Franklin County Municipal Court has told Smith that she faces up to six months in jail, a $1,000 fine and a license suspension of at least six months when she is sentenced Monday. A charge of failure to control was dismissed as part of a plea deal.

Smith has been assigned to desk duty in the vice unit while the case progresses.

Jackson's recommendation now goes to Safety Director Mitchell Brown, who will decide whether to fire her.

-- Theodore Decker

I'm never in favor of just randomly firing people, but in this case it's deserved, I think. If a police officer can't be responsible on the road, then that officer doesn't deserve to be an officer any more. Police need to be responsible even more than normal drivers... and she wasn't.

People, not speed.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Take The Lane!

Tim Grahl at Commute By Bike gives us one of the best list of reasons for taking the lane - or riding in the middle of the lane - that I've seen yet. Read it and try it.

Doing this site, I've gotten a lot of folks asking me for tips on riding the road - I tell them two things, usually, which are related:
  1. Take the lane
  2. Stop caring if you're holding up traffic.
Cyclists have every right to ride the road and to expect to be safe while they're doing it. And taking the lane is one of the best ways to do it.

People, not speed.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Westerville to Arena District Bikeway Initiative

Like many of us, the folks up in Westerville would like a way to get downtown safely and quickly on their bikes. Unlike those coming from Dublin, Hilliard, etc., the obstacle isn't the lack of east-west routes available. Rather, it's the preponderance of expressways and bike-unfriendly streets running north-south.

The Westerville to Arena District Bikeway Initiative is trying to use abandoned rail lines to get from their suburb to the downtown area, and avoid having to cross I-670, Morse Road, Dublin-Granville Road, etc. Here's their press release (from their blog):
The Westerville to Arena District (WAD) Bikeway is an initiative to build a commuter bikeway on an abandoned rail grade running through northeast Columbus. The rail grade in question is commonly referred to as the old Mt Vernon Right-of-Way (ROW). It begins at Cooper Park on the southern edge of Westerville and continues south to 17th Ave in Columbus. From there the trail will continue along rail lines and end below the Convention Center in downtown Columbus.

There are currently no safe, convenient, or fast means of commuting by bike from northeast Columbus into downtown Columbus. The main thoroughfares, Sunbury Rd., Westerville Rd., and Cleveland Ave., have no bicycle accommodations. That is to say, they are suicidal for all but the most hard core experienced cyclists. To avoid the Summit St./I-670 overpass, cyclists find themselves forced onto High St., the street with the highest bicycle-automobile crash rate in the city. The WAD Bikeway seeks to address these problems by providing cyclists with a bike-only, car-free route into downtown Columbus.

Abandoned railways have been converted to recreational trails all across the country and they bring a wide range of benefits to their communities. They help reduce traffic congestion and air pollution. They address obesity by providing children and adults opportunities for outdoor activity. They tie communities together by providing car-free access to schools, recreation centers, parks, swimming pools, sports venues, residential areas, shopping districts, government offices, and places of worship. Trails bring with them urban renewal. The WAD promises urban renewal to some of the most severely blighted areas of the city. Trails are proven to increase property values. Trails are proven to reduce crime. Trails also offer people an alternative to $3+ gasolines costs. By diversifying transportation options, trails reduce dependence on foreign oil. They also reduce the auto-emissions which cause global warming.

The bicycle network that the WAD Bikeway will create is almost beyond calculation. To mention but a few highlights, it will connect to the Alum Creek Trail at Cooper Park on its north end. It will connect to over 40 public and private schools that lie within a mile of the trail. In its mid-section, OSU will be accessible via 17th Ave. Fort Hayes HS, AIMS, CSCC, CCAD, Capital Law, the Columbus Museum of Art, and the I-670 Bike Path will all be accessible via the St Clair Ave bridge. At the southern end of the trail, Nationwide Arena, the Convention Center, the nightlife offerings of Short North and Arena District, and even the Olentangy Trail will all be within easy reach.

The WAD Bikeway is a recommended project in the City of Columbus Bicentennial Bikeways Masterplan. It is endorsed by the Columbus Recreation and Parks Department. It has gained the endorsements of the South Linden Area Commission, North Linden Area Commission, Northeast Area Commission, and North Central Area Commission. The Area Commissions of Northland, Italian Village East and Downtown are soon to follow.

It's a big project. It will be Columbus' third major trail. It will cost an estimated $10-12 million. There is much work to be done and a variety of skills and specialties are needed. Interested parties my email the WAD Bikeway Association at
I wish them godspeed, though I'd personally much rather see on-street accommodations made for them as that will calm ALL traffic. That's personal preference, though.

People, not speed.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Mayor Coleman's State of the City: Bikeways!

Mayor Michael Coleman's State of the City speech last night was full of great ideas and great leadership. I really didn't care for him before he became mayor, but I have to say that I really like what he's done since taking office.

And he had a few things to say that will interest cyclists!

As he mentioned in his speech last year, he wants to create new bikeways to allow cyclists to get around town safely and quickly, and he's still talking about that effort. Here are the quotes he had about cycling and bikeways:
"But if we are going to continue this transformation, we must invest in our future. We must repair and build our roads. We must buy the trucks that pick up our trash. We must build health centers and family recreation centers. We must increase pedestrian safety by building sidewalks. We must invest in our neighborhoods' basic needs: parks, sewer and water lines, policing centers, and bike paths." (bold added by the blogger)


"We are far too reliant on the automobile. Our city was built to accommodate them with roads, highways, stop lights, parking meters and traffic jams. And as we sit at the traffic light, waiting for it to change, or on the cell phone or stuffing a doughnut in our mouth our belts are getting tighter because our waists are getting bigger.

"We can do better, and rather than be hungry for a doughnut, we should be hungry for new throughways like bikeways!

"Tonight I am proud to announce that we will make our start this year, and I am committed to investing $20 million to build 86.3 miles of new on-street and off-road bike routes and trails by 2012. This will be funded by our current capital budget and by the Bicentennial Bond Package going on the November ballot, if our voters agree.

"That includes 54 miles of new on-street bike routes and lanes by the bicentennial, which will require rebuilding dozens of intersections in this city to make them safer for walkers and bikers alike.

"In the next four years, we're also adding new bike racks, bike lockers, and water stations for riders. This is just the start, as we wrap up the Bicentennial Bikeway Planning process, which will guide further construction and bikeways planning for many years to come.

"This plan sets a higher standard for bike safety, convenience and connectivity. We will team up with Franklin County Metro Parks and other regional partners as they build another 49 miles of bike trails by 2012. I want to thank all our partners, especially MORPC, and the bike riders, bike commuters and neighborhood leaders.

"Let's take advantage of our city's flatness. Flat is good. We haven't beaches and oceans, we haven't mountains to climb, but we do have hundreds of square miles of flat land, and we should make the most of it and make biking the No. 1 outdoor activity, something everyone can do.

"So, watch out Ford, wake up Chrysler, take a break Toyota, GM will no longer stand for General Motors -- but Get Moving! We will be moving on bikes -- all over our city.

"Bicycling and walking are great for your health. We need to encourage that and other healthy habits in all our residents and especially in our children. We need to protect our children by fighting their enemies -- obesity and diabetes.

"Columbus has among the nation's highest levels of obesity, diabetes and heart problems. Tonight, I am announcing the creation of the Foundation for Healthy Lifestyles, a group that will raise money to promote healthy living and encourage residents to take on individual responsibility for healthy living.

"That means bending your elbows to do push-ups, rather than lifting a cheeseburger to your mouth. That means making our children move their feet outdoors, rather than using their thumbs to play video games in front of a TV.

"Our foundation's first event will be a bicycle tour -- called the Tour De Columbus, an event for families linked to the annual Long Street professional bike races. Bicyclists will begin in the King-Lincoln District, on Aug. 23 for the first ride."
Sounds FANTASTIC... to a certain extent. Now, I realize that this is a State of the City speech and not a detail-oriented plan for the future. A lot of this is simply overview. But...

There seems to be little discussion about how all this is actually going to work. Bike lanes are great, and bike paths are improvements for all of us. But as I've said before, and will continue to say here until it actually happens, the key to bike planning in this city doesn't lie with new infrastructure: it lies with attitudes. And it lies particularly strongly with how traffic codes are enforced in this city. I've talked about this enough and I'm not going to go over it again, but suffice to say it's necessary.

Mr. Mayor, thank you. These plans sound wonderful, and I look forward to taking part in the Tour de Columbus. But keep in mind that infrastructure isn't going to solve all our city's problems. Enforcement is a key issue as well.

All in all, it seems that we in Columbus are in for a wonderful future - cleaner, safer streets, better transit, and plenty of places to ride.

People, not speed.

Just When You Thought It Was Safe To Lock Your Bike To The Rack...

You can have the strongest carbon steel Superman-Proof lock in the world, but if the rack you're attaching your bike to isn't secure....

Fritz from Commute By Bike calls our attention to this story from the University of Oregon, where three students had their bikes stolen when the entire rack was removed! The rack wasn't secured to anything, so it was apparently a fairly simple matter for the thief to (probably) drive up in a van or truck, load it all in, and speed off.

Man, it's not enough that we're now locking our bikes up with two or three locks, now we have to see if the rack itself is secure!

People, not speed.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Start Seeing Bicycles

Sports Illustrated is not known for its massive coverage of the world of cycling. In fact, if it weren't for Lance Armstrong and Greg Lemond, I doubt that the words "Tour de France" would have made it into the magazine in a whole phrase like that without being accompanied by sarcastic commentary from some isolationist cretin who doesn't know that there are, actually, sports outside the US.

With that jab extended, I will now call your attention to SI's Austin Murphy and his extraordinarily fine column on the SI web page about the deaths of Matt Peterson and Kristianna Gough at the wheel of a Santa Clara County deputy sheriff, near Cupertino, CA. I won't go into the details of the accident as you can get that info elsewhere.

Murphy, though, looks further than the single incident and at the culture of the excuse "I didn't see you!"

As I've said in the past, that's not a valid excuse.

Motorists absolutely need to realize that their negligence to check around them before moving in their cars can and frequently does end in the death or injury of those around them, particularly those on bikes or on foot. The fact that motorists so frequently use this excuse simply shows that they aren't taking enough time to make sure that the way is clear before changing lanes, turning, etc.

With gas prices on the rise, congestion worse than it's ever been, and the potential for smaller and smaller supplies of oil available for our use, more people are going to be cycling for transportation all the time. Drivers need to be aware of this, and take action to make sure they're not endangering their friends, family, neighbors, etc., with their inability to check the space around them.

People, not speed.

Taking Issue with the Fredcast

Though I am not a racing cyclist by any means (I don't even own a road bike), I enjoy listening to the Fredcast, a wonderful podcast for the high-end racing cyclist. David Bernstein is a great podcaster, he has a very even keel and covers all the issues well.

That being said...

I am going to take exception with some of the things he said regarding comments by a friend of Matthew Manger-Lynch, the alley-cat rider who was killed recently during the Tour Da Chicago when he ran a red light and was killed by an SUV. For those not familiar with alley-cat races, I'll refer you to the Wikipedia entry for Alleycat races, with the normal disclaimers about what you'll find there, it being Wikipedia. In an interview that David 'casted (not an interview he conducted, mind you, but one that he picked up from local media there) with Manger-Lynch's friend, the friend discussed the fact that our legal system is geared almost exclusively toward cars, a fact that I don't think anyone can deny. He went on to say that until laws are written to give liability to cars and other more deadly forms of transportation in the case of accidents, we'll never have any progress.

This jibes with what I've been saying about the US adopting the EU 5th Motorist Directive, which puts the liability on auto drivers in any car/bike or car/pedestrian accident, simply from the standpoint that cars cause more damage in an accident and can more easily maim or kill.

I didn't take the interview the way that Bernstein did, apparently, as he argued that the friend was simply making excuses for the deceased Manger-Lynch. I disagree, obviously. I think the interview was taken out of context, as we have no idea what led into that discussion based on the snippet we heard.

Are Alleycat races stupid and dangerous? Absolutely. Was the driver of the SUV at fault? Of course not. The racer ran a red light. It's as simple as that.

But, were the friend's comments about the legal system correct? Absolutely. Any legal system that takes the responsibility away from drivers of large, dangerous vehicles like cars is at the very least negligent, and at worst purposefully endangering lives.

David, keep up the great work with the podcast, I will keep listening because you put out a great show. But please keep in mind that our legal system is most certainly not perfect. And it is the job of riders, whether racers, commuters, or recreational cyclists, to work to fix it. I recommend you read the American Bicyclist article on adding "Equality" to the five E's of the League of American Bicyclists and think about this issue a little more deeply than simply within the context of a rather stupid bike race.

Edit: David has responded to my criticism in the comments, and as usual he's done a splendid job with explaining his views. Thanks David!

People, not speed.

Monday, March 10, 2008

Surviving the Snow? Hell, No. THRIVING in the Snow!

As has been in the news all over the place, Columbus and its surroundings got slammed with a whole buncha snow over the weekend. It started Friday morning at about 9:30 (at least here on OSU campus) and by 5:00 we had about 4 inches. Naturally, everyone was panicking and people were being allowed to leave early and the like. I didn't leave until about 4:30, since I had work to do plus I knew I wouldn't have a problem!

My paranoid boss's boss pleaded with me not to ride home, but of course, she doesn't understand that it's probably safer TO ride in this weather, because you can pick the best route much easier than a car. So off I went.

Granted, I was prepared with bus fare, just in case it was too slippery (like the other day). But today that was not a problem. I was passing cars, and even had time to stop at the store. It took about 45 minutes total, including the store stop, and that's on a trip that usually takes about 20. I didn't go quite as fast, obviously, but I found that the COTA buses had been doing their best to stay in the right lane, and that made my path through the snow really easy as I just rode in their double-wheeled path.

I walked into the house with a smile, and started to tell Jennifer (my wife) about passing cars. She looked at me and commented "you probably don't want to be telling me about this... it took me three hours to get home."

No cycling at all over the weekend, as we stayed in, took advantage of the Clintonville Community Market being within somersaulting distance of our house, and did some sledding and snow-fort making.

Today, I rode in as well. Except for my side street I live on, the streets were adequately cleared other than the big piles remaining where people idiotically parked on the streets over the weekend and got drifted and/or plowed in. The ride was pretty normal (though some lady almost switched lanes right into me, which is a rare occurrence).

But the best part - my boss had left a few minutes before me as I got my bike ready. He'd told me he was probably just going to go straight up High Street to get home, and when I got here this morning, he asked how my ride home was. I smiled smugly and was telling him about passing cars. His response: "I know. You passed me!"

People, not speed.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Rail Plan Being Sought by Governor Strickland

Incredible news regarding our governor and real, positive change for Ohio transit! It's not bike-related, directly, but based on what I was told by Don Damron of All Aboard Ohio about the trains having bike racks and the like on board, this becomes bike related! Think about riding your bike to the train station, hopping on, enjoying a ride to Cleveland or Cincinnati, and hopping off with your bike and being on the go immediately!

I'm excited... you can probably tell by all the exclamation points.
Contact information:
Andrew Bremer, Executive Director
w: 614-228-6005
c: 614-657-4184

March 7, 2008
Columbus, Ohio


Options for Cleveland - Columbus - Cincinnati Service Sought (Columbus, OH)

All Aboard Ohio is grateful to Ohio Gov. Ted Strickland for asking Amtrak to investigate the potential ridership and costs of starting fast, convenient and modern passenger rail service in Ohio's busiest and most populous travel corridor. Starting passenger train services on existing, high-quality freight railroad tracks linking Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati means that congested freight infrastructure "choke points" will need to be addressed.

The ultimate goal of this effort is for Ohio to encourage and accommodate more economic growth in an energy efficient, environmentally friendly manner. Train stations will be located in walkable town centers and serve as magnets for private investment and local transportation.

With fuel prices at record highs, rail traffic is also at or near record highs. Amtrak in 2007 carried more travelers than in any single year in its 36-year history. U.S. freight railroads carried more carloads of traffic in 2006 than at any time in the industry's 170-year history; 2007 was their second-busiest year.

"Travelers and shippers who are mindful of their finances are increasingly turning to railroads for their transportation needs," said All Aboard Ohio Executive Director Andrew Bremer. "If Ohio wants to compete for residents and businesses, Ohio needs to ensure that this mode of transportation is available to its citizens, visitors and shippers, too."

Fourteen states already have partnerships with Amtrak to provide passenger train services and to improve and modernize rail infrastructure in those states. As the seventh-most populous state in the nation, Ohio is also the most populous state which does not yet have a service partnership with Amtrak. Columbus is the most populous metro area in the nation without any regularly scheduled passenger trains. The Greater Dayton-Springfield area is in America's top-10 largest population centers with no passenger trains. Cincinnati has Amtrak trains only three days a week, all in the middle of the night. Cleveland and Toledo have slightly better passenger train services.

In addition to downtown stations in Cleveland, Columbus, Dayton and Cincinnati, other potential stations could be located at Cleveland Hopkins International Airport, Galion, Delaware, Columbus-Crosswoods, Springfield, Middletown and Sharonville. The Cleveland-Columbus-Cincinnati (3-C) Corridor, which is wholly within Ohio, is being targeted by the Ohio Rail Development Commission (ORDC) as part of its comprehensive Ohio Hub System rail plan. Other Ohio Hub routes are interstate, such as Cleveland - Youngstown - Pittsburgh and Cleveland - Toledo - Detroit, and are being sought jointly by ORDC, regional and state transportation agencies and federal officials.

"I applaud Gov. Strickland for taking this first step and showing leadership in recognizing the potential of rail development in Ohio," Bremer added. "Many other states have already seen remarkable benefits from the implementation of passenger rail services with Amtrak from Maine all the way to California.”

More than 50 million people travel in Ohio's 3-C Corridor each year, mostly by car. The Ohio Department of Transportation spends more than 98 percent of its annual $3.8 billion budget on highways. Options to driving are either inconvenient, expensive or both. A round-trip flight between Cleveland and Columbus, with a two-week advance purchase, costs more than $600. For bus travel, Greyhound's nationwide service cuts have left many Ohio cities with fewer or no buses. For example, it is impossible to arrive in Cleveland or Columbus by Greyhound bus before 10 a.m. (when many business meetings start) if someone departs from either city after 4:30 a.m.

"On the train, business travelers, college students, seniors, tourists and others can work, sleep, socialize, read, watch a DVD or enjoy a snack and beverage while traveling affordably, comfortably and rapidly," Bremer said. "This isn't an amenity when Ohio's competition is already offering it. Passenger rail is an essential service for improving the quality of life and economic future for Ohioans."

A 2001 survey by the Ohio State University showed 74 percent of Ohioans believed that improved passenger train services would improve their quality of life, and 80 percent of Ohioans want the state to develop passenger train services.

All Aboard Ohio! is a state-wide non-profit organization based in Columbus, Ohio, advocating for improved public transit and the development of the Ohio Hub Plan. More information can be found at
People, not speed.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Your Costs for Other People's Bad Driving? $1218 Per Year, Says the Dispatch

The second article today that might be of interest to bike commuters is the article on the per-person cost of traffic accidents. Based on an article on the Dispatch that uses statistics from AAA, it's costing people in the Columbus area $1218 per year for "such things as medical costs, emergency and police services, property damage and lost productivity. "

That's whether you drive a car or not!

There are several things you can take away from this:
  • Better traffic enforcement and traffic calming measures would help to slow things down and create fewer problems. As AAA themselves (admittedly an enemy of cycling infrastructure based on their lobbying for more and faster freeways instead of more safe and sustainable "complete streets") says, "The AAA recommends that lawmakers focus on traffic safety, such as tougher drunken-driving laws and passage of a "primary enforcement" seat-belt law, meaning an officer could stop and cite a driver for not wearing a seat belt."

  • The next time someone tells you that cyclists should be licensed or taxed more because they put no money into traffic infrastructure via licenses, etc., tell them that you're paying for other people's car accidents even though you don't drive a car, and cite this report.

  • Someone is finally calling this a public health problem. Those who pay attention know that traffic deaths number in the 40,000s each year, but too many people don't know this.

  • Someone is still missing the point here, as we can note at the end of the article: "Last month, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, based in Washington, D.C., rated states based on their traffic laws. The organization, which is composed of insurance, consumer, health and law-enforcement agencies, called for tougher laws for seat belts, child booster seats and motorcycle helmets."

    Seat belts, booster seats, and helmets aren't going to make TRAFFIC safer, they're just going to make it easier to survive crashes. The point here is to make traffic safer by decreasing congestion.

    And the best way to do that? FEWER CARS ON THE ROAD. More transit, more bicycling and pedestrian commuting, etc. Complete streets.

Columbus area pays price for crashes
Thursday, March 6, 2008 3:39 AM
By Tim Doulin


Drivers are often reminded of how much money they spend sitting in bumper-to-bumper traffic.

But that's nothing compared with actually colliding with somebody's bumper.

Traffic crashes cost Americans more than $164 billion a year, while they cost about $1,218 a year per person in metropolitan Columbus, according to a report released yesterday by the AAA.

The total national cost from crashes was more than twice the $67.6 billion a year U.S. drivers spend as a result of traffic congestion, the report says.

The AAA called for lawmakers to step up traffic-safety measures.

"Great work has been done by the Texas Transportation Institute to quantify the costs of congestion, raise awareness for the problem and offer solutions," Robert L. Darbelnet, AAA president and chief executive officer, said in a statement.

"We feel safety deserves a similar focus."

Traffic congestion creates a $78 billion-a-year drain on the U.S. economy in the form of 4.2 billion lost hours and 2.9 billion gallons of wasted fuel, according to the Texas Transportation Institute.

But nationwide, traffic crashes cost $1,051 per person each year, the AAA report said, compared with an annual congestion cost of $430 per person. The report calculated such things as medical costs, emergency and police services, property damage and lost productivity.

Crash costs in the Columbus area were more than $2 billion a year, compared with about $18 billion in the New York metropolitan area. But the per-person cost is $1,218 in Columbus, compared with $962 in the New York area.

The AAA said total crash costs correspond with the size of the metropolitan area. Larger cities have more traffic and a greater likelihood of crashes, so the total costs are higher because of a multiplier of factors. But on a per-person basis, smaller cities have higher costs.

"While in the larger cities, there is more traffic and a greater likelihood of crashes," AAA spokeswoman Heather Hunter said, "in heavy congestion traffic, crashes tend to be less severe.

"Because smaller metropolitan areas are not as congested, drivers in small cities can maintain higher speeds and increase the likelihood of increased crash severity."

The AAA recommends that lawmakers focus on traffic safety, such as tougher drunken-driving laws and passage of a "primary enforcement" seat-belt law, meaning an officer could stop and cite a driver for not wearing a seat belt.

Last month, Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety, based in Washington, D.C., rated states based on their traffic laws. The organization, which is composed of insurance, consumer, health and law-enforcement agencies, called for tougher laws for seat belts, child booster seats and motorcycle helmets.

Ohio was one of 13 "yellow states," meaning it had made progress but still had gaps in its highway safety laws.

"There are too few states that have all the essential traffic safety laws we need to protect our citizens," said Jackie Gillan, vice president of Advocates for Highway and Auto Safety.

"This is a really, really serious public-health problem. But I think what is happening is people just sort of become immune to it."

People, not speed.

Dispatch Profiles "Outspoken" Cyclist

The Dispatch featured an article about cycling commuter Jennifer Jasmin today, talking about her commute from Olde Town East to Worthington each day.

A good article altogether. I especially liked the explanation of taking the lane! I think this is the first time I've ever seen the Dispatch accurately explain this.

It's nice to see the Dispatch showing all the positives of riding with none of the perceived negatives along with it.

Outspoken cyclist likes fighting tide
Thursday, March 6, 2008 3:36 AM
By Dean Narciso


Bicycle commuters know few greater joys than smooth pavement, clear skies and a balmy spring morning. Jennifer Jasmin is looking forward to them.

Until then, she'll battle ice, slush and disbelieving motorists on her daily ride to work.

She bought her bicycle, a Giant Cypress, in August. It's strong and heavy. It's adorned with reflectors, decorations and political statements, some of which can't be printed in a family newspaper.

Her hat says, "Life is Good." Hers is a life -- or at least a commute -- against the grain.

While other commuters manage their groggy morning drive, she's heading home on two wheels -- with an assist from a bus on nasty days.

It's relatively easy to make it to her job in Worthington from her home in Olde Towne East by 11 p.m., when fewer cars are on the road.

But the morning rush-hour ride home poses hazards.

"People think we're slow, we get in their way," she says of sometimes-testy drivers.

Riding in the center of the roadway, known as "taking a lane," is safer than cowering near the curb, she said, but it can annoy drivers behind her.

"They think I'm being cocky, but I'm trying to be safe and protect myself.

"People at work think I'm crazy. This is probably as close as I come to being a rebel."

She tests animal feces for viruses, worms and parasites at IDEXX on Wilson Bridge Road.

Helping save pets is important. She wants the rest of her life to be the same.

"I don't own a car, don't do insurance and don't pay for gas," she said, decrying traffic, wastefulness and pollution.

She's lost 40 pounds in six months of riding and lowered triglyceride levels by 150 points. "It's been awesome for my health."

"For a lot of reasons she's continued. We have so much admiration for her to step up and hop on the bike," said Liz Readout, IDEXX lab manager. "She doesn't rely on anybody to help her."

Nobody but COTA, anyway.

Buses have become one ally in battling the elements. On a typical winter morning commute home, she maneuvers carefully along Wilson Bridge and up High Street, where she waits for the bus, splashed by passing motorists.

She sets her bike on the rack on the front of the bus, pays her fare, sheds layers of thermal clothing and settles in. Once Downtown, she bundles up and rides to her home in Olde Towne East.

She's an example of what COTA envisioned when it installed the racks a few years ago: someone who wants to ride to work, but not necessarily all the way.

And on those blizzardlike days, when just waking up seems tough?

"You don't think about it," she said. "You just dress smart and go."

People, not speed.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

How Green Is Your Bike Ride?

For those of you (like me) who appreciate an online quiz now and again, here's one that made me pretty happy. The Sierra Club's How Green Is Your Bike? quiz asks a few questions on your biking experience and habits and then tells you how green you are with your riding.

I was pleased to get a 95 out of 100 - knocks came for having an aluminum bike (steel is the most easily repairable frame, but aluminum is a close second, apparently) and being more likely to stop at a convenience store than to eat off the land while biking. Of course, I'm not sure what they'd want me to eat on the streets of Columbus... but there you are.

People, not speed.

Rick's Open Letter To A Hummer Driver

Rick Logue at My Two Mile Challenge wrote an open letter to the Hummer driver who almost hit him, and the message was so poignant that I simply had to reprint it here. I hope he's okay with that.
Dear Jack,

You do not know me, but my name is Rick. I was the cyclist you almost hit this morning. Did you even notice me as you sped down the street in your Hummer? Did you hear me yell at you? I apologize, but what you did scared me. I was seconds away from being a speed bump. You backed out of your driveway and forced me to jump the curb in order not to be hit by you. I think you heard me yell. I will also assume that you were embarrassed. After all, why else would you speed down the street, past a bus stop with children, at twice the speed limit?

What was it that you did not see? Was it the lime green reflective helmet cover? the blinking light on my helmet? the green blinking lights on the stem of my bike? the white blinking light on the handlebars? my reflective vest? the three yards of reflective tape that cover most of my bike frame? I spend a great deal of time on my bike. In the first two months of this year, I have already ridden more than 300 miles. I want to be safe.

Did something happen this morning? Maybe you woke up late. Being first is more important that being safe, right? Did you have a fight with your children about eating their breakfast? Do you have kids Jack? I have a four year old, a two year old and a baby boy due at the end of the month. Can you imagine what it would be like to tell my daughters that they would no longer see their daddy? Can you imagine how sad their wedding days would be with no one to walk them down the aisle? Can you imagine my son who would never know his father? Can you imagine my wife as she tries to raise three children by herself? Would you be willing to take care of my family?

Jack, I am sure that you did not see me. In 1996, a car hit me. After I regained consciousness, the first thing I heard was, “I never saw him.” Since then, I have involved myself in cycling advocacy. You know what the first thing a majority of drivers say after they hit a cyclist? Right. “I never saw him.”

Please, go to the website I have no connection with it. Read about why the website exists. Read the tips. I promise, if you follow the tips for drivers, I will follow the tips for cyclists. Keep your eyes open. Cycling is becoming more and more prevalent. Today was a close call. Tomorrow we might not be so lucky.

Few things annoy me as much as the excuse "I didn't see you." To me, that just means you weren't trying hard enough, and should lose your license due to simple negligence - especially if you're driving something as big as a Hummer.

People, not speed.

First Ever Multi-Modal Commute

And no, that doesn't include the time I had to walk my bike because it was to slick out to ride it...

I wasn't feeling top notch this morning, but I wanted to have the option to ride home if I feel better or the weather clears up today. So I took advantage of those great bike racks on the front of our COTA buses.

They are easy to use - all the directions are right there on the racks themselves. It probably takes 30 seconds to set it up, if you stall and take your time (like I did, since it was my first time trying it).

My bike stayed clean, and so did I. Not a bad experience, all in all.

People, not speed.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Consider Biking Hires Jeff Stephens as First Executive Director

Columbus's grassroots pro-cycling organization Consider Biking has hired Jeff Stephens of Worthington as its first Executive Director. Jeff's a long-time advocate for cycling of all types in the Central Ohio area. I had the privilege to meet Jeff at the Simply Living meeting with the cycling infrastructure coordinators from MORPC, and he's dedicated to making things better for cyclists of all walks.

I'll let the CB press release say more, but let me finish by saying that I'm looking forward to seeing how things progress now with a firm leader at the helm of CB. The CB/COBAC partnership is getting stronger and stronger!

People, not speed.