Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Merry Bike Lanes - A One-Stop Bike News Summary for the Unambitious Cyclist


His sleigh looked a lot like a Capital Bikeshare van.  He was wearing red clothes, and was a bit thinner than I had been told, but now I know why.  He rides a bike, of course.  He was bringing bike share bikes to their docks in front of the Labor Department where all the good little girls and boys, and marginal adults, can ride them and be happy.  He did not say hohohoho.  But he did say "okay" when I asked to take his picture.



Merry Christmas cyclists.  Here is the news for biking for the week.  Links are mostly at the end.


So it's Christmas, and the bike news has been a little like Santa's criteria for gift eligibility - naughty, nice, duh, and random.  Wait, were duh and random in there?


Bike thieves get nothing, not even a lump of coal.  High end theft rings are popping up all over in Washington.  A recently convicted bike thief got eight years in prison and probably some sort of damnation as well.  These bad guys tend to steal bikes at Metro (read Underground) stops.  They know a Brompton from a Citizen.  But, like the Grinch, they are finding that some bike owners fight back.  One spunky owner arranged a sting and put it up on YouTube.  Some owners are simply stealing their bikes back.  Lesson: Use a U-lock, register your bike, photograph it and all its little features, and keep its serial number handy.


Looking for a last minute way to redeem yourself with Santa?   Why not help fund a traffic garden for kids where they can learn how to ride bikes?  The Washington Area Bicycling Association is asking for donors to get this reasonably priced public work off the ground.  If you feel you left tainted karma out there from driving too much, eating too much, watching Duck Dynasty for more than 90 seconds when you knew where the remote control was located, or betraying your loved one, cat, or promise to yourself to finish those classic works of fiction you never really read in college, this may be your chance to make good with society and the universe.
http://www.waba.org/blog/?p=13433  (Dear Brits, the patriarch of Duck Dynasty is what would happen if Rasputin, either of the ZZ-Top guys, and a hedgehog produced offspring.  He has a reality show and has managed to offend anyone with an IQ in the triple digits.  He does not ride a bike.)

In the U.K., cyclistsinthecity reports that newly appointed Home Office Minister Norman Baker is being told he cannot bike to work.  Instead he must go in a car with a security detail.    This comes at a time when Britain is trying to cut the costs of driving its political servants around.  I think Santa might issue a judgment here.  I doubt whoever is forcing Mr. Baker into a motor vehicle will be getting an electric train set wrapped in peppermint twigs.

At the same time, yet another life was lost in London to a lorry.  Santa does not like what is happening here.  The deaths this past year have been overwhelming and the need to address them urgent.  I think Santa would appreciate it if the whole of government in the U.K. would wake up to the realities of our current society.  Increased car usage and oil consumption is just not sustainable - politics aside.  It's time to increase bike infrastructure.  It seems London has an east/west problem, and not of the sort that inspired those great films in the 1990s.  Perhaps the proposed 60 miles of new quiet bike lanes will help get Santa out of his present state of rage.  However, the U.K. government's bike safety guide for tourists - written in sober prose without any obvious ironic subtext - could tip Santa back over the edge and send him screaming towards the over-cognac-ed nog.  The link to the proposed London bike grid is below.  Santa will be looking at this very carefully to see if the grid is an adequate first step.

I like Canada's approach where they made six videos on bike safety using Lego pieces.  Very amusingly colonial, and probably a heck of a lot more effective.  (Sadly, Lego themselves, despite being a Danish company, has not really added bikes to its product line according to @copenhagenize.)

In Washington, the transit prognosticators say that future of commuting looks bleak.  We are building more lanes for cars, more trains, and more streetcars.  But we will never keep up with capacity.  How dreary.  Insanity is widening roads over and over again and expecting a different result.  If we don't encourage more biking, the future sounds dystopian.  Like one big traffic jam that lasts so long, you forget where you were going.  (Write the script.)  Santa will think twice about rewarding people who focus only on cars without thinking of how to get more people on a bike.

Lastly in naughty, @bicyclesonly tweeted that traffic apologists continue to justify the thousands of deaths from traffic accidents.  Why?  If this were some disease, celebrities would be holding concerts and wearing annoying t-shirts to protest the devastation.  


More than nice.  Outstanding is the story that commuter trains in Maryland may get bike cars.  I feel certain this will prompt Santa to open his sack to the people behind this movement - a Maryland bike advocacy group that blogs under the wonderful name onelesscar.org.

In Vancouver Canada, the government has added a little fun, like ramps and other features, to its bike lanes.  This is nice, but I would rather have ordinary dedicated bike lanes than ones with little water features and flags.  It's transportation to me, not mini golf.

Now I am a decidedly slow and relaxed cyclist who never tries to beat the crowd or draft the gal with the ten-speed.  This week I find myself completely impressed by the winner of the Velo Award, Mariane Vos.  The Dutch cyclist is the Woman of the Year.  Threatening Vos' place as most impressive female cyclist is Maria Leijerstam, who is riding a tricycle across the North Pole.  I am dazzled by them both.  In celebration, I plan to put on some nice high heels and ride slowly over to the espresso shop and contemplate their superiority from my comfortable perch atop my Pashley cruiser with a latte and a smartphone holder.  (Gosh, I hope Darwin was wrong about natural selection or my genes are gone from the pool.)

Good news for cyclists in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts where 37 cities have now qualified as bike friendly.  Santa is watching carefully.

Nice to hear that bike share may be headed to Cinncinnati, Ohio, which has Santa's elves buzzing about the production for next year already.  They may unionize or demand more pension input if this nice news continues.

In California, the four missing mountain bikers were found unharmed - if embarrassed - in the San Gabriel Mountains, not far from Pasadena.  This could have ended in grim press coverage with unpleasant references to coyotes and dental records.

In Brooklyn, a composer brought cyclists together to make music with their bells in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens.  This creative work was intended to celebrate the winter solstice, which was unusually warm this week.  The composer, Merche Blasco, gave cyclists bells to ring at certain times.  Not sure how the music sounded, but the experience must have been pure magic, shrinking polar icecaps notwithstanding.  To me the sound of bike bells is symphonic.

Nohangingaround.com's blogger, Derek, is riding his bike across Africa.  Heroic.  Epic.  This week he entered Botswana in the rainy season.  If you are whimpering about your slightly damp ride right now, think of Derek and feel immediately smaller and whiny.

Yet another clever soul has invented a foldable bike helmet for commuters.  I hope Santa gives me one in a fetching color.


The Economist reports that cycling thrives in some cities and not others.  Not in London.  Not yet.  In cities where more than 50% of the population does not cycle, it is in part because many people who would bike feel it is not safe.  Most people who presently bike are young middle class men.  They cannot sustain biking culture alone.  The solution is obvious, and yet alarmingly trite.  If you build it (the dedicated bike lanes, that is) they will come.  Women and older men, that is.  You need them.  If it's safe, they will come.  So build it.


Yes, we need a lot of bikes and bike infrastructure.  But do we really need a bike ski?  Yes, somebody invented one and it is up on Youtube.


Serious Product recall:
Some SRAM hydraulic disc brakes have been recalled.  See the slink below for what to do next if you have these.

If I see you in the bike lanes, let's be smug.
Elisa P.



Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Ho Ho, Ho, Get Out of the Bike Lane! Thanks

Some random news from the Washington region, Canada and Europe.
Here's the latest local news:
Phoenix Bikes, a non-profit youth program, wants to build a bike training headquarter next to the bike trail in Arlington.  Neighbors have responded by claiming the group's building will attract drunks and parking problems - meaning cars.  I can see these complaints if Phoenix Bikes were a bar with $2.00 taps, but seriously.

The DC Bike Advisory Council is asking for more dedicated bike lanes, but without enforcement against drivers, the lanes will have to be protected.

Meanwhile in Alexandria, @kevinposey tweets that the transportation committee has endorsed bike lanes after public hearings in which bike opponents irrationally and vociferously expressed the view that they were being targeted for genocide by cyclists.

In New York, things are getting ugly.
Michael Goodwin, who writes for the New York Post, not the New York Times, calls Mayor Bloomberg's big ideas "bike lane bad."  And then, perhaps sensing that the population is turning away from the little ideas, the Post quotes others who think bike share is the best thing ever.  As this insanity has unfolded, @brooklynspoke has tweeted it all.

In the U.K. the cycling deaths continue to mount even as a second "mass die-in" is planned in Vauxhall on Thursday.  If you are there and you read this, show up, wear the fake blood, and otherwise make your point.
Meanwhile a study out of Bath - the town not the tub - finds that reflective bike gear does not seem to change motorists behavior when it comes to cyclists, and motorists are possessed with a desire to overtake bikes.  No really?  Shocker.  Take the smallest most ineffective person in the world.  Seat them behind the wheel of a Range Rover the size of a Sherman tank and you've got a homicidal maniac.
At the same time, a London cyclist has invented a foldable helmet you can buy from a vending machine and keep in your briefcase.  Here, here.

In Greece, they are having "mass die-ins" to protest the lack of cycling infrastructure, and holding rides against racism.  Yes, that Greece, where the economy has struggled and cutbacks have been ruthless.  Long live the Greek bike advocacy corps.

In Toronto, Canada, @Terichu protests the fact that removed snow has been dumped in the bike lane.  I agree that it is bad, but see below for something worse.

While we are all experiencing irritation, in the Netherlands they have installed an elevated bike lane that is breathtaking.  I am jealous to the point of being almost bitter.  But I digress.

There were sad passings this week, like that of Peter O'Toole, who said of exercising, "I get exercise going to the funerals of friends who exercised."  And then there were the epic, biblical sort of tragedies, like the 96 people who died in car accidents every minute in Europe and U.S. over the past week.  I don't remember these statistics being discussed in my driver's education class, but no one was listening, not even me. Aren't bikes a reasonable alternative to this public health crisis?

This week I witnessed a woman on a 10-speed riding along in the bike lanes.  A taxi made a u-turn over the bike lanes and hit her.  Had there been some sort of barriers up to protect the bike lane, his u-turn would have been harder or impossible.  As I stood there, a Brinks armored truck and a small white sedan also made u-turns over the bike lanes in the same place, oblivious to the police cars and gasping onlookers.

In the past six months I have seen many things that do not belong in the bike lane:  a myopic driver apparently thinking it was a left-turn lane, at least three dozen u-turning vehicles, an upturned hubcap, and at least four smoldering piles of horse poop.

To fix this, perhaps we start by administering an IQ and anger management test to drivers.  Or maybe those red light cameras that are used to mete out tickets to motorists who run traffic lights could be trained on the bike lanes for a month.  But the real solution is one that manages human behavior.  If you have watched any reality show or 15 minutes of Congress on CSPAN, you know human behavior can be pretty bad.  Assume the worst.  Put up barriers to protect cyclists.  I'm not a holder of a PhD in urban planning.  Nevertheless I believe that in a culture that watches TV game shows where the contestants try to walk across a rubber bridge while someone hits them with a water canon, we must assume the worst.

If I see you in the bike lane, and you are not a taxi, hubcap or pile of horse poop, let's be smug.
Elisa P.

And for the usual laugh, bike geek does it again.

Thursday, December 12, 2013

No More Bike Share?

The week is biking news has been frightening, good, and weird.

Does the end of Barclay's sponsorship of London's bike share portend something terrible for the future of bikes? The mere thought is frightening.  London cyclists tell me that the mere 25 million Pound Sterling given by Barclays is a fraction of the cost of London's bike share program.  Or does the Barclay's pull out just mean that a financial power house, reeling from the Libor scandal, has had its original contract with the city examined a little more closely?  By 2015, Barclay's is out of the bike sponsoring business.  Just as well since Londoners have informed me the whole program is named Boris bikes for London's seemingly eccentric mayor.  But who will underwrite a biking system in a city plagued by cyclists' deaths in 2013?  I would like to nominate Cadbury, the chocolate and convenience food conglomerate famous for its Milk Tray and seductive purple wrapper.  After all, Cadbury has sponsored bikes for Africa in the past.  Why not London?  Or how about steady and reliable Marks and Spencers, with their cashmere cardigans, Twiggy clothing line, and predictable food halls?  They seem like a safe bet for sponsorship.  M&S seems as sturdy and English as Barbara Woodhouse, or James Herriot.  Maybe Prince Charles, sustainability advocate and heir-to-be-skipped-I'd-wager, should re-purpose his . . . salary (?) to bike share sponsorship.  It would be better than establishing those little organic vegetable growing manors that make it seem like he is secretly wishing for a return to feudalism.  A new feudalism, though, with Lords who know more about modern art's merit-lessness and the ills of fast food, where Lords can impose their will on toiling serfs.  But if the monarch in a real monarchy backed biking, would that be so terrible?  Not at first.  Not unless he became crazed and declared "off with their heads."  It would certainly help Prince Charles' image to be the backer of bikes.  And it would go a long way to answering the question, "What the hell does that guy do all day anyway?"

If the Barclay's "loss" weren't enough for Londoners, the Metropolitan Police were apparently ticketing cyclists in dark foggy weather who were riding without lights this week.  Wait.  Given the numbers of fatalities this year is that a bad thing?

Here in the former colonies, the news for bike share is all good.  Bike share programs are extremely successful state side.  Despite the troubles with Bixi in Montreal and fears in San Francisco, in Chicago and Washington, D.C., bike share programs are only growing.  I  have almost had to engage in in unpleasantries when too many people have converged on the docks.

The Burrough of Brooklyn is facing some anti-bike weirdness by contrast.  Bike lane haters have used lies, damn lies and statistics, as Mark Twain said, to try to get the city to remove dedicated bike lanes.  The data the haters have been citing, an increase in the number of accidents, does not actually support that idea that the bike lanes were the cause.  In fact, those accidents were overwhelmingly car-on-car.  These pesky facts have not slowed the anti-bike movement one bit.  But with triple the number of cyclists from four years ago in Brooklyn, I would say the numbers - the statistics if you will - are in the favor of the lanes.  The odds are not with those looking for one more piece of evidence that the demise of Western civilization at the hands of hipsters riding bikes and sipping pour-over coffee.  If the disgruntleds would simply ride a bike, they would be less likely to have dementia, according to a new medical study.  Then they would be less likely to spend their days railing against bicycle infrastructure, or they would come up with better facts.  Perhaps Brooklyn cyclists can start a "Give a Grump a Bike" program as a sort of long-term investment in the future of cycling infrastructure.

With the threatened demise of bike shares, and the constant assaults on bike lanes, we must ask ourselves, how can we brainwash . . . uh, er, I mean influence the young to appreciate the value of cycling and want to ride?  Take that handy baby stroller, usually the size of a lunar landing craft, and turn it into a bicycle for kids.  At least one company has designed a stroller-to-tricycle that can also cut down on the piles and heaps of junk people are accumulating in their homes.  The images in the Youtube video are beautiful.

If you are really into efficiency, reducing, reusing and cycling, this week's news continues to be good.  You can now get a bike that performs photosynthesis while you ride to clean the air.  I am wondering what impact something like this would have on the climate, and my guess is not much.  I would rather see people giving up their cars than bikes doing double duty for the climate.

Lastly, a little note in this week's blog about the death of another famous cyclists.  Bad news indeed.  This time it was Milton Olin, the former Napster exec, who was hit by a police car while he was riding in SoCal.  The reporting on this strongly suggests that the driving deputy might have been looking as his mobile digital transporter or texting.  Nothing could have been so important on either of those devices that it cost a good cyclist his life.

Oh, and it's almost Christmas.  Support your local bike store, buy your loved one a custom-made-in-America bike.  Help keep cycling a growing part of the U.S. culture.
Shout outs to The Daily Rider, Bicycle Space, The Bike Rack, City Bikes, and Capitol Hill Bikes.

So if I see you in the bike lane, or on a bike share bike anywhere in the world, let's be smug.
Elisa P.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Mass Die Ins, MIT Designed Electric Assists, and Other Bike Wonders

In my fantasy life I would win an award.  Not Miss America because I would not be gorgeous enough, my IQ would exceed the maximum allowable under the rules, and I could not tolerate Donald Trump whom I find unpleasant in the extreme.  Not the lottery because I read that everyone who wins is cursed, and, even though I would find a great financial advisor, the financial system would exclude me from all the meaningful IPOs that would make me richer.  But I would want to win the Dyson award or the Nobel Peace Prize.  Yes, Dyson, the Brit who designed the vacuum and sleeps nine hours a night.  Winning the Dyson award would be a validation of my intelligence and societal usefulness.  So imagine my delight at reading that the winners of the Dyson award were MIT students who designed a wheel that can be attached to a bike to give it an electric assist.  The wheel looks like something Dyson would design.  It is not the orthopedic shoe of bike elements.  It is not the gray, lint-covered-Hoover-that-scares-your-dog of cycle parts.
You will need to win the lottery to pay for it, but if you are awash in cash and love to cycle, maybe you should get it.  Think of the money you will save in dry cleaning if you use the wheel to avoid getting over-heated on your way to important meetings.


Thanks to my guys on Twitter, I discovered a beautiful little documentary on how Arlington, Virginia, just across the Potomac River from Washington, worked to build a bicycling culture.  If you have a half an hour, it is a great reminder of why cycling improves business, attracts families, and creates a more sustainable community.  Interestingly, Arlington has the highest education level of any city in the country.  Coincidence?  I think not.  Arlington has reduced car trips in its jurisdiction by 45,000 per day through its planning.  Brilliant since Arlington expects to grow by at least 50,000 residents in the next decade.

By contrast, in the UK, bike advocates are bemoaning Parliament's anti-bike troglodytes.  At least one UK bike blogger would like to see a bike-friendly dictatorship rather than suffer its elected members and their total lack of understanding about cycling.  Sounds dreadful, especially since that accent tends to convey a degree of intelligence and authority that is not there in the case of these dreadful MPs.

But there is an amazingly bright spot in the UK, and has to do with bodies strewn all over the streets.  Last week, thousands of cyclists shut down major mid-city streets in London by laying down in the street and pretending to have been killed by motorists.  And, yes, protesting cyclists from the country that brought you the musical "Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street" added a bit of Limey gore to the event.  Some cyclists smeared their faces with fake blood.  They don't officially have Halloween in the UK and have to amuse themselves when they can.  In the 1970s, identical protests in the Netherlands helped force the Dutch government to build dedicated bike lanes.  To the mix, the Dutch added car free Sundays to curb fuel consumption in 1973.  After the carnage in the UK this past six months I hope the mass die-in works, doddering parliamentarians not withstanding.  Stay tuned for follow up on the efficacy of this protest.  I cannot see the Brits also having car free Sundays, but then again I never thought I would see London Mayor Boris Johnson tooling up the High Street on a bike share bike or Nigella Lawson admitting to cocaine use.  So what do I know about modern England?  On the issue of bikes, rule Brittainia, Brittania rules the lanes!


Yes, there was bad news this week.
The Washington Post covered harassment of female cyclists, an appalling practice by persons with lower IQs and cruel streaks.
There was an incredible claim by London taxi drivers who made an anti bike film that they are not actually anti bike.  As we say stateside, whatever.
There was news from the National Institutes of Health that more cyclists are being killed by motorists in the United States.
There was a horrifying story about the death of a cyclist from distracted driving.  I am not sure if this driver was eating cereal like the driver last week.  I think in the moment of ultimate judgment, it won't really matter whether it was cereal, a text message, or a weak bass beat on the stereo that caused the death of a cyclist.  The damnation will be the same.

If these stories leave you feeling down, watch a guy driving a cargo bike loaded with a beer keg over some pretty amazing surfaces.  Or watch a dog riding a bicycle.

So, if I see you in the bike lanes, let's be smug.  If I see you with a Copenhagen Wheel from the MIT group, let's be smugger.
Elisa P.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Insanity Rules in the War on Bikes

So the week has not been quite so cheery for cyclists.  The news was so bad it could have left a reasonable cyclist believing that the anti-bike set exists in a separate reality, with different facts.

Best to get the bad news out of the way first.

In a Washington, D.C. suburb, a grand jury investigated a driver who killed a cyclist by hitting her from behind.  Instead of returning an indictment on manslaughter charges, the grand jury determined that the offense amounted to a lesser charge sparking outrage and dismay in the cycling community.  Apparently the penalty for the offense requires a fine of $2,000.  Oh my.  Holy nonsense, Batman.

In Edinburgh, Scotland, the police identified a driver who struck and killed a cyclist.  Apparently the driver was eating his cereal behind the wheel.  A video of the distracted and hungry driver was located on Youtube.  How good could that cereal have been to have caused the death of a human being?  Was it some small batch musli? Count Chocula with extra chocula?  Honestly.  It could have waited for terra firma.

Bike lanes along King Street in Alexandria, Virginia were held up for greater study by a minority of people who testified at public hearing.  Among the anti-bike lane group was a law professor who stated that the bike lanes were anti-car.  Hmmmm.  Interesting logic indeed, professor.  Perhaps you could study this problem from an unbiased perspective.  The best lawyers always look at issues from both sides to calculate a reasoned response.  This would not be reason.

Not as serious as a car-on-cycle death, but appalling just the same:
A married couple, founders of a conservative think-tank that denies global warming, berated a cyclist who reported a van parked in the bike lane.  The two were captured on a helmet-cam being . . . well just terrible and out of touch.  Appropos of nothing, the husband offered the view that Washington was once a nice place where people got along, implying the bike rider was part of the demise of this imagined Washington civility.  Yes, I know.  Please stop snorting with laughter.  Clearly they were not rational.  Remember what Harry Truman said:  "If you want a friend in Washington, get a dog."  My guess is that they will not read this, but I do not have hurt feelings.  I hope the guy who captured this with his helmet cam gets a bonus from his employer or wins a scratch-off this week.  He did God's work.

In London there is a certain madness when it comes to cyclists and cars.
The Times reports that Met police have a bike ticket quota of 10 citations for cyclists a month.  Not the greatest use of police resources in a town with elevated deaths of cyclists hit by cars.  But I am not the Queen.  If I were, I would stop this at once, provided it was permissible under whatever laws govern in the instance.

On an up note, Road cc reports on Twitter that the Minister of Labour will ride his Brompton about London.  He will make a point of riding through the worst intersections in support of cyclists and to better understand the the problems they face.  The sooner the better since so many deaths have occurred that tomorrow, November 29, 2013, stopthekilling is holding a protest.  Any U.K. cyclist who is half healthy should really attend.  No really.  If you are there, you should attend.

This is all so dreadful I had to take a deep breath and watch a video of a cat wearing a hat while riding on the back of a bicycle.  I did feel a little better afterwards.

So how did they get all those bike lanes in Holland?  Well, apparently cyclists protested, and even held a mass die-in.  This is what the stopthekilling group hopes to replicate tomorrow in the U.K., and frankly, I hope it works.

There were high notes to the week as well.  The M Street cycle lanes began to be installed in D.C., though the cold weather that made biking tough apparently stopped the painting of the lanes too.

WABA is hosting the first ever Cider Ride in Maryland next month, with three lengths for every rider.

And a random note to end the week's review.
Springfield, Massachusetts is getting bike lanes.  Wooo-hoo.

So, if I see you in the bike lane, even if you are a cat, and you are not parked in it,  let's be smug.

Elisa P.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Safety in Numbers

Photo from bmorebikes.com

This week the bike safety debate continues.  And the debate continues to be interesting. It is not about the Tour de France pile ups we all want to avoid.  It's about commuting on bikes and how to make that safer.  I have an answer.  More cyclists.  A lot more.

The more cyclists there are in the roads in the United States, the more drivers will expect cyclists.  The more communities will have to respond by training police officers, drivers and cyclists, and building the infrastructure to support cycling. The more people will be present on scary, remote bike paths after the sun sets.

There are serious ways to accomplish this, such as new laws and new bikes lanes.  Governments and companies could establish policies to motivate people to cycle, like subsidies, clean up areas in offices, and bike parking zones.  Restrict the numbers of trucks on the main streets when it is bike commute time and increase the penalties for traffic offenses committed by motorized vehicles that have breached the bike lanes.

There are not so serious ways to this end.  All cyclists could make it their personal mission to look as absolutely fabulous as they possibly can when atop two wheels and ride smugly in the most visible place so drivers grow envious and want to cycle.

Marie-Claire magazine

Or we could all just wait, because 15% more people are commuting by bike across the country today than were doing so only a few years ago and the numbers are going up.

All the elitist cycling cynics - who fear their prior status and way of life are being eclipsed by hearty and hale cycling hipsters who could care less which stretched NYC matron posed stiffly with another of her ilk for Bill Cunningham (ironically a cyclist himself) at the Met - will eventually stop carping and go back to their small worlds and fad diets.  The merchants who opposed bike lanes will find their profits going up despite their fears.  And even grumpy, negative people will re-discover that feeling we all had at the age of eight when we soared down a hill on our very first big bike.
Of course, there is plenty of advice for cyclists out there on safety.  Wear a helmet.  Be predictable.  Wear chartreuse, even though it is flattering to no one.  Don't make fun of a guy with a thick mustache, he might be concealing a harelip.  (OK that advice came from my mother and has nothing to do with cycling.)

But this advice doesn't always help.  I spoke to a colleague today who had a serious fall when she hit a washed out spot on the bike path.  Her concussion was massive, and she does not remember anything after hitting the puddle until she woke up in the hospital.  She was wearing a helmet that was compressed in the fall, she was being predictable, and using a bike path.

I had an accident myself this week when I encountered a sensible woman on a 10-speed with cleats on the Senate side of the Capitol.  I was on my Pashley Princess Sovereign in high heels with my leopard-print helmet.  We both tried to pass through and narrow opening between two wrought iron barriers at the same time and crashed into each other.  I pried her off my peddle and apologized and she did the same.  It never occurred to me that any woman would wear cleats on a commuter bike when she could easily don a cleaver pair of patent leather T-strap pumps.  Then it dawned on me that the only reason we collided was because she could not get her shoe off of her pedal.  So some near tragedies cannot be fixed by law, policy or numbers of cyclists.  I will not advance the theory that cleats are the problem lest   some cyclists set upon me like something out of Lord of the Flies.

The Economist - yup that one, with its sort of everyman for his own hedge-fund venal tone- this week had a piece about who would be in fault in a truck on car incident in a number of different scenarios in the U.S. and the Netherlands.  It is worth a read after the New York Times oped piece that prompted tons of tweets accusing the author of anti-cyclist bias and a blame the victim mentality.  It also reminded me that more people die in bike accidents per capita in the U.S. than do in the Netherlands.  This should not be the case.  We are Americans.  We can walk and chew gum at the same time.  We have much bigger windmills than the Dutch.  In fact we have wind farms.

But being serious for a moment, and certainly no longer than a moment, many people died in the UK this past month in car on bike incidents.  They were fathers, architects, mothers, and societal contributors.  And they were cyclists which we know means something more in the area of personal character.  This shouldn't be happening in the U.K. or the U.S.  If significantly greater numbers of cyclists would make these deaths less likely, then we should help that to happen by whatever policies we can establish.  Links to these stories are here.

And on the good news front, Bixi, the Canadian bike share company, was rescued.  So the Apocalypse is not surely upon us.

So if I see you in the bike lane, be smug, look fabulous, and invite a friend.
Elisa P.

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

The Ethicist: Bad to Kill Cyclists and Drive on Dedicated Bike Lanes

This week marked the nadir for bicycling advocacy, fair discourse, and enforcement of the traffic laws that protect cyclists.  Which means the only direction that this can go is up.  Whew.  

To start, Daniel Duane, a "Contributing Editor for Men's Journal," wrote an op-ed piece for the august New York Times wherein he decried the lack of charges against drivers who kill cyclists.  The piece noted that car drivers are usually to blame in the accidents that injure cyclists.  Duane also suggested the following solution to the problem of car on bike injuries:  "Every time you get on a bike, from this moment forward, obey the letter of the law in every traffic exchange everywhere to help drivers (and police officers) view cyclists as predictable users of the road who deserve respect. And every time you get behind the wheel, remember that even the slightest inattention can maim or kill a human being enjoying a legitimate form of transportation."  My initial reaction was to point out that Duane wrote for Men's Journal, not the New York Times.  Taddumdum!
@brooklynspoke and @bikesnobnyc then engaged in a series of tweets and replies on the topic, generously responding without profanity to every anti-cycling nut who antagonized them out of boredom or a need to be relevant.  Their tweets are a pure delight and as I watched this madness unfold, I could not help laughing out loud.  May they tweet forever.
In Washington, greatergreaterwashington's founder, David Alpert, noted that Duane was just one of several writers who had complained about cyclists and cycling advocates who seek enforcement of the laws that protect cyclists.  Those other pieces also concluded that the consequences for a driver killing a cyclists are not significant enough.  In his typical sober prose, Alpert drove home the point that there is no meaningful enforcement of the laws that could change behavior and save lives.

At the same time Washington's WTOP radio - which has any ratings at all because it broadcasts traffic and weather conditions every 10 minutes from a "glass enclosed newsroom" - aired a story about the confusing nature of cycle tracks.  Confusing?  Barriers and green paint are confusing?  Ok.  It would be fair to say that no one listens to WTOP unless they are in a car in traffic.  Cyclists don't care if the Beltway is backed up.  That's why they ride a bike.  The piece was a bit lopsided to say the least.  A driver described a cyclist attacking a car by pulling on the car's windshield wiper blades.  The implication is that cyclists bring it on themselves.  The story did not mention the fight-or-flight response that kicks in when someone's life is threatened by a heavy projectile.  The tale of the enraged cyclists was of course not a logical comparison since the average man weighs less than 200 pounds, while the average car weighs over 2000.  Even accounting for the coefficient of drag on a boxy SUV, I think the odds are stacked against the bicyclist.  Physics be damed.  Perhaps I am wrong.  After all, I was told as a child that elephants fear mice.  On some level I still believe that.

A similar acrimonious exchange is taking place on the other side of the Atlantic where conservative MPs are suggesting that cyclists should pay the dreaded road tax and register their bikes.  No mention is made of the fact that many British conservatives are contrarians who like the aghast responses of those who are appalled by their public statements.
http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2013/nov/12/kate-hoey-the-mp-who-thinks-cyclists-should-be-registered-and-pay-road-tax  On that theme, the Times of London ran a piece explaining why even conservatives should welcome more cycling and support its infrastructure.

Amidst this growing debate, the town or Oro Valley, Arizona blissfully noted it silver rating as a bike friendly town from the League of American Cyclists.  Without irony.  I may want to live there.  Except I hate hot weather.

I propose the following solution.  Start educating drivers on the rules about cyclists in driver's ed class.  The idea that drivers know the rules is simply wrong.  In written and live driver's tests, add questions and exercises on the rights of cyclists on the road.  If a drivers hurts or kills a cyclist in a dedicated bike lane or cycle track, the punishment should be increased just like it would be for other crimes involving more culpable conduct like bringing a gun to a fist fight.  Strict enforcement of the laws that protect cyclists needs to occur as soon as the bike lanes are in.  Not after drivers have developed bad habits.  And we need to change the culture in many big city police departments where officers regularly park in the bike lanes - while they are getting a sandwich, not responding to a hostage taking.  Officer discipline would help a lot.  Municipalities should aggressively ticket drivers who enter bike lanes or cycle tracks.  As these enforcement efforts are underway, cities should have their public information representative call the press.  Heck, call WTOP, so the word gets out to drivers that there are consequences.  Which media outlet is better to call than one that caters to car drivers?  Where the facts support it, charge a car as a deadly weapon.  This is not new.  In domestic violence cases, where an estranged husband tries to run over his wife, a car will be added as a deadly weapon.  Simple.  As for cyclists, if they actually endanger someone in violation of the law, then write them up too.  I have seen such cyclists once or twice over the last decade.  But I would not squander police resources on ticketing cyclists who are running red lights where there is no opposing traffic, the rain is coming and the hand-warmers have just gone kaput.  They don't weigh enough to inflict the same harm.  Go after the heavy.  Literally.  

So if I see you in the bike lanes, on a bike, let's be smug.
Elisa P.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

If Miss Manners and Judge Judy Enforced Crimes Against Cyclists

One in an Occasional Series of Responses to The Bike Proctor.  Expect Enforcement.

This posts responds to requests from those seeking guidance on bicycle etiquette and ethics.

Dear Bike Proctor:
I wonder if there are circumstances under which it is acceptable to block the bike lane.
Confused in Cleveland

Dear Confused (I omit the "Cleveland" since, as a sophisticated, big city person, I assume that many there are confused):
Indeed there is but one circumstance under which it is acceptable to block the bike lane.  If you are selling ice cream from a cargo bike which you have used to arrive at your vending spot, then it is clearly appropriate to block the bike lane.  However, should you not get any customers because your ice cream is somehow befouled, melted, or inferior then you would not be within refined social norms to continue to block the bike lane.
The Bicycle Proctor

Dear Bike Proctor:
Hypothetically, let's say that I have a friend who is the CEO of a major Canadian company that makes the bikes used is bike share programs globally, and somehow I let my company go into massive debt thereby endangering the long-term success of bike share programs across the globe.  Is there anything that my friend can do to prevent becoming the object of scorn?
Anxiety-Ridden in Montreal

Dear Anxiety-Ridden:
This is where the Bike Proctor becomes General Patton-meets-Super Nanny.  Failure is not an option.  The bike share programs are changing the world.  You may damage or impede this positive momentum.  You will have to get this company back on track or get the heck out of the way.  Tighten your belt, cut costs, stop throwing away cash on limos, small jets, liquor, narcotics, and corporate retreats.  Did you see the film "Margin Call?"  Do not become Jeremy Irons' character unless you want experience eternal damnation.  If you have a mistress, jettison her like so much extra baggage.  Go paperless, recycle, seek outside investors who are not emitting smoke from their heads and holding tridents.  If you know you cannot stop hemorrhaging cash, locate a fixer, or a closer, like the fat guys they bring out at the end of baseball games just to smack one out of the stadium to win the game.  Then promptly resign your position falsely citing a desire to spend more time with your family as the reason for your departure.  Do not take with you a Golden Parachute.  You do not deserve such a thing.  It is not about you, it is about the planet, mankind, the free world.  Fix it, or get out of the way.  The Bike Proctor knows not every relationship can be fixed, but you are Canadian, and I think that means that you are less vulnerable to shenanigans.  Therefore I counsel you to get cracking.  Immediately.
The Bike Proctor

Dear Bike Proctor:
I frequently block the bike lane to get a latte, drop off my girlfriend, use the ATM machine, or scratch myself.  I never seem to get ticketed.  Will I someday be held to account for these infractions?
Morally Bankrupt

Dear Morally Bankrupt:
It is rare that the Bike Proctor hears from someone as utterly depraved as you, but at least you are reaching out.  It is a little bit like Jim Jones expressing remorse only after he ladled Kool-Ade into the waxed paper cups of a hundred toddlers, but I supposed that it is better than nothing.  At the turn of the 17th Century, we had certain methods of punishing people that relied heavily on their well-developed sense of shame.  The pillories were used to embarrass thieves and to make them so physically uncomfortable that they were deterred from further criminal involvement.  Modernly, we simply post photos of people like you on Instagram in the misguided belief that you care about the opinion of those with higher IQs than yourself.  This is a serious waste of data since you will not see the photo, you do not care, and have a very high threshold of shame - certainly higher than people did circa 1679.  I want to tell you to go in peace and sin no more, but I doubt that will work.  No Hail Marys can cure your infractions.  So I suggest you sell your car immediately.  Maybe tonight on eBay or Craigslist.  Get a Bicycle.  Start using cycle tracks tomorrow and become a spokesperson for cycling good.  Everyone loves a story of redemption.  Be like the guy who left the skinheads to marry a woman of color.  Kind of.  Change your life.  Then write again and I will reconsider my advice.
With Irritated Reserve,
The Bike Proctor

Please feel free to send your request for advice to the Bike Proctor.

If I see you in the bike lane, and you are riding in the bike lane, and not blocking the bike lane, let's be smug.
Elisa P.

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

The Superior Slow Cyclist - Lou Reed


This week the news for cycling was mostly positive.

New York's love affair with Citibikes appears to be more than a Hollywood marriage.  It's the Roosevelts - sturdy and permanent.  The success of New York's bike share program is far exceeding the most optimistic expectations.  This bodes well for other programs and may signal a cultural shift.
http://www.fastcoexist.com/3020817/visualized/new-yorks-love-affair-with-citi-bike visualizedpartner=rss&utm_source=feedburner&utm_medium=feed&utm_campaign=Feed%3A+fastcoexist%2Ffeed+%28Co.Exist%29#7

In areas where there is a lot of bike riding and reasonable bicycle infrastructure retailers have seen a 49% increase in sales.  This despite cries that a crisis that would ensue if bikes diminished existing parking.  We have seen this kind of hysteria before in our history.  Fluoridated water was supposed to end the human race.  We are still here.  Y2K was supposed to crash every computer in the world.  I'm pretty much using one right now.  And no one is ever embarrassed after the folly of these invented crises is exposed.  But in this case I would like to see previously anti-bike retailers falling to their knees like a rack of generals suddenly visited by a North Korean dictator.  http://www.bicycleretailer.com/north-america/2013/10/21/wanted-six-new-cities-green-lane-project#.UnGsNxaE7dl

In Washington, Greg Billings posted on Twitter that zebras, those berms that are designed to thwart scoff-law u-turners, are coming to the 1200 block of 12th Street, NW.  This is obviously excellent news since that block is a magnet for especially annoying taxis driven by people who act like they chew khat on the job.  I think some of them just make u-turns all day and never take exhausted men dragging litigation bags to the airport.  The zebras are also important because they will clearly frame the glamorous riders who are showing all drivers how much more wonderful it is to drive than to sit in stand-still traffic.  (I regret I was not faster with my cell phone when a guy riding a Shinola and wearing a classic Harris Tweed blew by me at the light this week.  There is not a man in America whose knuckles don't drag that would not have wanted to look like this guy.  We should take up a pot and pay him just to ride back in forth in front of cranky SUV drivers.)
So it is always odd when a bike lane project gets delayed despite the positive impact bike lanes are having.  In this case, one of Washington's oldest churches wants no bike lanes so its congregants (not DC residents for the most part) can park on the street where the bike lanes would be.  On Sunday morning.  And for the glutinous Wednesday night dinner.  Hmmm.  Now that I write it out, it does seem ludicrous.  Yet the church is interfering with the M Street cycle track.

On the west coast, the City of Santa Monica is thinking about adding bike lanes to one of its major thoroughfares so that students at a local high school can safely ride their bikes.  Santa Monica is a city of contradictions.  Its mayor was once Tom Hayden, one of Jane Fonda's ex-husbands, from her anti-war period.  Kind of like Picasso's blue or pink period.  Santa Monica had rent control.  It features a number of vegetarian restaurants, and politically-left-of-center-themed retail stores.  Yet, surprisingly, Santa Monica is a car town.  Shocking in LA County, the locus of the film "Who Framed Roger Rabbit," about how the oil companies bought up and killed the streetcars, then built the freeways so to get people addicted to oil.  (So Kavaugh, Santa Monica bike activist, enough about how much better your bike lanes will be than Washington's.  Let's get them in first before we have that competition.)

Despite all of this good news, the week had a major loss.  One of my favorite cyclists and musicians, Lou Reed, died.  On my perfect playlist there will always be "Sweet Jane."  I don't smoke, but if I had a lighter I would hold it up for Lou as a musician, a cyclist, and a person who held to his artistic principles.

If I see you in the bike lanes, let's be smug.
Elisa P.

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

No Bike Bell? Go to Jail? DC's New Bike Law.


The Bicycle Safety Amendment passed in Washington, D.C. on October 17, 2013.
Cars now have to think about cyclists while they are driving.  

If a driver fails to yield to a cyclist, he or she could get three points on their license, along with a $250 fine.  Also, if a driver collides with a cyclist, then six points can be added to the driver's license, and the driver can be ordered to pay $500 fine.  Other sub textual consequences include, but are not limited to: eternal damnation, the permanent contamination of the driver's karma, a sentence of days in a pillory, hours on the rack, minutes in the Iron Maiden (no, not the band), public shaming, and, of course, the permanent wrath of the cycling community - which tends to be a rather hale bunch capable of physical intimidation.  The law does not state these latter penalties, but we all know that they will be part of justice dispensed.

The law no longer requires cyclists to have a bell on their bike.  Instead, if you don't have a bell, you have to have a loud voice, objectively speaking, or an air pistol, or one of those blow horns they use to signal the start of a water polo game.  I deduce this because here's what the law says now:
"[A cyclist must] be capable of making a warning noise either with a bell or mechanical device, or with his or her voice, audible for a distance of at least one hundred feet."  If you have strep throat, or a tinny little vox, I think you might want to consider a "mechanical device."  Maybe one of those horns that clowns carry at the circus or a pair cymbals would do.  But I would not rely on a Mister T bobble head, or a pair of castinettes.  That's just my opinion.

I have a bike bell that sounds like a door bell.  People aren't sure whether to get out of my way or let me in so I can borrow a cup of sugar.  But it gets attention and amuses.  I think I would like to get a bell that sounds like Foghorn Leghorn, or perhaps LBJ when he was angry.  Or maybe a woman making a blood-curdling scream like those loops that play in fun houses at the beach.  I am open to suggestions.  Obviously whatever I use will have to be loud since 100 feet is about 95 feet longer than me.

The statute also removes a section of the law forbidding cyclists from making a noise within the established quiet zones of the city.  Title 18 Section 1204.7.  I am not sure where there are quiet zones in Washington, D.C., except in the political middle, which is kind of like an outer space vortex, devoid of voters, legislators and oxygen.  But I think the law meant an actual bit of geography not and existential space.  I will investigate this and report back.

Importantly, the law now allows bicyclists to start into the intersection as soon as the pedestrian light shows the little man walking.  This may provoke high-strung drivers to want to hit cyclists and to disregard the consequences of the points on their licenses.  That is because drivers are angry, and SUV drivers are angrier (except those who have three children or more and have been given a waiver by God to drive such monstrosities for a limited number of years).  Yet we cannot enact legislation based on how the most anti-social among us will react.  Right?  Lest we should say "let's not punish murder because it might cause a murderer to get angry."  Or perhaps that analogy is a bit over the top.  The point of this provision was to allow bikes to go ahead of cars so that they can be seen more easily.  That is a noble legislative goal.

And the mayor can now force people whose projects block the bike lanes to get permits.  This sounds like a good idea if there is enforcement.  I have had to swing out and around the same Dempsey Dumpster now for six months on Capital Hill.  This has forced me into the way of cars stopped in stand-still traffic.  The drivers are visibly upset to be sitting there, and more upset to me whrrrrr by just inches from their side mirrors.  But there are people who won't block the bike lanes if they have to wait in line at the permit office.  So I am in favor of this.

It was good to see this amendment since I needed a little boost this week.  I was disappointed at not being able to attend Railvolution in Seattle, and filled with jealously to see the merriment being played out on social media.  It was sort of like missing your senior prom, and instead having to watch it in Vine snip-its on Twitter.  The new law reminded me that there are places where cycling rules, like Groningen and Copenhagen.  And maybe in the fullness of time Washington, D.C.

So if I see you in the bike lanes, pull the string on your tiger bell, crash your cymbals together, and let out a celebratory noise that can be heard 100 feet away, and let's be very, insufferably smug.