This is a Bad One

A cyclist was hit and killed this morning by a pickup truck in Edinburg, Texas, in the Rio Grande Valley. The two men in the truck allegedly tried to hide the cyclist’s body, but were caught by police.

The victim, Eddie Arguelles, was a close friend of Ramon H., who has commented here several times and even written a guest post.

Our thoughts and best wishes go out to the family.

http://www.krgv.com/news/cyclist-killed-in-hit-and-run-2-in-custody/

Hold Your Line!

Recently, I was riding with a group I hadn’t ridden with before. We got along well, and seemed to have similar abilities. About halfway into the ride, we crossed a busy road and got onto a rough street in a rural town. The street made a 90-degree turn to the left to go into the town’s business district.

I was in the middle of the group, making the left turn, when suddenly, a rider to my left called out, “Watch it, there!”

I flicked my handlebars a little to the right to make room for him, concerned that I might bang into the rider on my right. The guy who had come in on the left realized that he had nearly caused a crash, and started apologizing profusely.

“Yeah, I was coming down that small hill and had more speed than the rest of you,” he said. “I was swinging a little wide there. Sorry ’bout that. I didn’t mean to crowd you.”

Well, maybe not — not intentionally. I had picked a line for the turn and stuck with it, mindful of the positions of the riders around me. He had been trailing the group a bit, so we weren’t aware of his presence nearby. His speed caused him to make a wider turn than I was, but since he was on the inside of me, he almost hit me.

The drawing is crude, but you get the idea.

The drawing is crude, but you get the idea.

What should he have done? Braked harder. That would have allowed him to control his turn and stay on a line to my inside. He had been riding behind the group most of the morning anyway, so falling back a little at this point would have made no difference. Besides, we had a rest stop coming up in just a few blocks, anyway. He’d have gotten there pretty much with the rest of us.

In a turn while riding with a group, be predictable. Stick with your line. I’m hearing about too many crashes lately, and many of them result in serious injury.

Who Subsidizes Whom?

Have you ever been riding along on your bike, when a passing motorist yells something like, “You don’t pay taxes — get off the road!” or something to that effect? In my experience, those shouts are triggered because bikes slow down traffic, and adversely impact a commuter’s driving time. In my experience also, that slowdown lasts for approximately three seconds. Then, the car is free to pull out and roar past — often at a distance too close for comfort.

On the urban planning website Planetizen, blogger Todd Litman dissects the internal combustion crowd’s arguments against supporting better infrastructure for cyclists, including the one on taxes. It’s a thorough, thoughtful piece, and I look forward to more discussion on this subject.

Litman’s post, “Who Subsidizes Whom?” can be found here.

Three-foot Passing Reminder

Although a three-foot passing law was vetoed by the governor of Texas, the city of Austin has passed its own local version.

Still, a lot of area drivers are unaware of the local ordinance.

That’s why it was nice to come across this picture of an Austin police car with a reminder on the rear window:

PD&Bikes

Here’s hoping some drivers realize they are obligated to give cyclists some room.

Almost hit

One of the routes I travel most often takes me up an easy hill past a supermarket parking lot. There are two entrances to the lot — one right after crossing a main street, and one farther up the hill. If cyclists build up speed early, cars wanting to turn in at the first entrance often figure it’s easier just to keep going and turn at the second one. But sometimes, they speed past you, slam on their brakes, and do a right hook into the lot.

The other day, I had passed the first entrance without any such right hook turns. But as I approached the second entrance, I could see an oncoming car preparing to make a left turn across my path into the lot. I figured he’d wait for me to get past, and I speeded up my pedaling to get by quicker. The car kept coming. He was moving slowly, but he obviously wasn’t planning to stop. It was almost as if he was playing chicken with me.

The car in the picture is going past the first parking lot entrance. The one in question is farther up the hill, where cars are coming out on the right.

The car in this picture from more than a year ago is going past the first parking lot entrance. The entrance in the incident in this post is farther up the hill, where cars are coming out on the right. 

I shot him a look (always make eye contact with drivers to make sure they see you) and he looked back. But kept coming. I pedaled faster. C’mon, man — I’ve got the right of way. He must have been one of those drivers who thinks bikes must always give way to cars. The number of those folks is pretty large.

I reached the parking lot entrance, and as I crossed it, a pickup truck driver waiting to exit the lot called out, “Brave man!” Hm. That must mean he also thought I should have stopped.

The car was about 10 feet from me, still moving to turn into the lot, as I went past the entrance.

Now, perhaps the driver knew I would get by, and just wanted to get into the lot quickly in order to not hold up other traffic. Still, left turners must yield the right of way to oncoming traffic. Which I was. Furthermore, I was in the bike lane. And going up hill. Ain’t no way I was going to stop.

Besides, if I did stop to let the guy enter the lot, wouldn’t that confuse drivers even more? They’re already complaining that they don’t know what cyclists are going to do. My response to that is to ride my bike as though I’m driving a car, and to try to be as predictable as possible.

As I went by, my look at the driver turned into a scowl, but I didn’t make note of his license plate. Nor did I stop to chase him into the lot and confront him. Nor did I flip him off, or yell. I just wanted to get out of his way and travel the last mile home. I’ll save my confrontational self for when I have a closer call. Because I bet there will be one.

Share the Road

Share-the-Road-SignA bike advocacy organization, Bike Delaware, has come out against “Share the Road” signs. I’m sure these signs are common in most places throughout the United States — I certainly see them on several city streets near me.

I’ve always been glad to see the signs. It’s an indication that the city recognizes that cyclists use our streets and roads, and is a reminder to drivers that we’ll be out there, too. So often, when a driver gives the excuse, “I didn’t see you,” it’s likely they were not expecting to see cyclists.

But the point Bike Delaware makes is that the signs can be interpreted differently by different people, under different circumstances. The group also contends the signs serve no traffic control function.

Hm. Hadn’t thought about that before. Apparently, some drivers think “Share the Road” admonishes them to give up something they own. Why share the road when it’s mine?

I think most drivers don’t realize that bikes are treated under the law as vehicles, subject to the same rights and responsibilities as cars. “Share the Road” is a reminder that bikes have a legitimate right to be out on the roads.

But I could be easily persuaded one way or another. What’s your take?

Catch ‘em With This Helmet

If you’ve already seen this, my apologies. But I think it’s an interesting way to make sure you’ve got the evidence if you get hit by a car while on a ride, or just to deal with a driver harassing you. It’s intended to get the drop on hit-and-run drivers, which we’ve seen far too many of lately. Called the “Helmet of Justice,” it runs about $300.

1681480-poster-1280-chaotic-moon-helmet-2

I think its looks leave a lot to be desired, but it does have seven — seven! — video cameras. That ought to provide enough visual documentation.

 

Noob Mistake: Helmet on Backwards

It’s spring. In most parts of the country anyway. And that means organized rides are springing up all over. Lots of noobs turn out for their first organized rides ever, and they make their share of mistakes. Here’s one that I noticed a few years ago.

I was walking across a parking lot toward the ride start, when I passed a couple also headed in that direction. They were obvious first-timers. As I looked at the woman, something struck me as odd. She had the weirdest looking helmet I’ve ever seen.

Except on closer inspection, it wasn’t the helmet at all — that turned out to be a fairly common variety. It was the way she wore it. The black scalloped rear was facing forward.

“Your helmet is on backward,” I said quietly, as I walked past them.

She stopped, pulled off her helmet, and stared at it.

“It is? On backward? How can you tell?” she asked.

“The smooth part goes in the front,” I replied. “It’s more aerodynamic that way.”

She looked at her husband. He looked back and shrugged. She turned the helmet around and put it back on, the right way.

She’s not the first I’ve seen making that mistake. Lots of people figure that since the helmet slopes down in the rear, and had lots of openings that must suck in air, that’s the front.

This is not the front.

This is not the front.

This is the front.

This is the front.

But as we all know from basic physics, the airfoil shape of an aircraft wing is rounded in front, and tapers toward the rear.

I can understand why a noob might be confused.

I can understand why a noob might be confused.

If you see a newbie looking extra dorky on a ride this spring, come to their rescue. Show them the proper way to wear a helmet.

Bicycling In Large North American Cities

What is it that prompts people to ride bikes more in some cities, while in others, biking lags noticeably behind? Two academics did a report on the topic for the U.S. Dept. of Transportation, and it comes up with an answer that we’ve heard before.

By the way, the report is fully two years old, so I’m not trying to call your attention to new findings. But it’s likely most Bike Noob readers haven’t heard of or seen the report, so its results could be of interest.

The two researchers, John Pucher of Rutgers University and Ralph Buehler of Virginia Tech, aggregated cycling data from nine major North American cities over two decades, roughly 1990-2010. The cities in their study were Chicago, New York, Minneapolis, Montreal, Portland, San Francisco, Toronto, Vancouver, and Washington. Those were picked because they already had a strong biking culture. Other major cities such as Dallas, Houston, Kansas City, Detroit and Memphis were deliberately left out, because of their low rates of bicycle commuting and cycling facilities.

The rate of cycling was higher in these cities than in the rest of the U.S. or Canada, at least doubling over the two decades of the study. But the percentage of female riders was down, falling from 32 to 23 percent in the years between 2001-2009. The age group that showed the largest increase in the rate of cycling was the 40-64 year olds.

Bike commuting was up in those cities, by 64 percent in the U.S. The percentage of commuters who use bikes rose from 0.4 percent to 0.6 percent — a less impressive number.

Bike fatalities dropped in both the U.S. and Canada — by 66 percent up North, and 21 percent in the States. In fact, the researchers found the fatality rate in Canada to be a third of that in the U.S. Serious injuries also fell. Canada was down 40 percent, the U.S. 31 percent.

Perhaps the main finding of the study was that levels of bicycling positively correlate to the availability of bike lanes and/or bike paths. When cities have those amenities, cycling is three to four times higher than cities that do not. In surveys, cyclists indicated that they prefer segregated bike paths to bike lanes. Most cities have built both, and combining the two gives cyclists more flexibility in planning their trips. But cyclists were split on whether they prefer bike lanes or paths.

All nine cities in the study have been adding to their networks of bike lanes and bike paths. The study notes that bike lanes are growing at a faster rate than paths, by as much as ten times more in Chicago and New York, but even three times as fast in Washington and Minneapolis. “The increased focus on bike lanes,” write the authors, “might also reflect a shift toward promoting daily, utilitarian cycling, and away from the previous emphasis on recreational cycling.”

Cycle tracks, which are popular in Europe, are just starting to be built in North America. Cycle tracks are on-street bike paths separated from motor vehicle traffic by barriers. They’ve been built along some streets in New York, partly as a response to motorists who block bike lanes.

However, it’s the off-street bike paths that get the most use. Most of these are multi-use paths, and are mainly used for recreational cycling. Other bike amenities noted in the study are residential streets with traffic calming features (street narrowing, chicanes, speed humps) and bike boulevards, which give priority to bikes over cars.

The study is subtitled, “Lessons for New York,” and concludes that although New York has built the most bikeways in recent years, it has failed at integrating bicycling with public transit and bike parking.

The report concludes that while biking is enjoying growth, its growth is limited to the few dozen cities that have policies to promote cycling. In the U.S. South, from Texas to North Carolina, cycling rates are still extremely low. The cities that are undergoing a biking Renaissance offer great examples for other cities to follow.