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Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Clear path for pedal power

From the Orlando Sentinel, 01.31.07:

During the State of the Union address, President Bush addressed a growing sentiment in this country and our community: Our nation must reduce its dependence on foreign oil and cut greenhouse-gas emissions. One way is to get serious about bicycling.

Let's remember that bicycling is not an all-or-nothing proposition. There are many Americans who want to use bicycles more often. They understandably don't want to give up their cars, but many of their trips can be accomplished by bike. Saying "we can't ask people to give up their cars" is appealing only to people's fears; it won't help us solve our problem.

Our new battle cry should be "Help Americans bike." (Read more.)
This is a great piece by Mighk Wilson, the bicycle and pedestrian coordinator for Metroplan Orlando.

Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

In Chicago winter, hardy cyclists keep riding

From Reuters, 01.30.07:

CHICAGO, Jan 30 (Reuters Life!)--Four pairs of socks, and Jackson Potter's feet were still icy blocks.

Riding his bicycle to work one Chicago winter morning, high school teacher Potter was too cold to go on. He stopped at a laundromat and asked if the owner could spare any socks. "He gave me about 10 pairs. I put on four pairs, and my feet were still numb when I got to school," Potter said.

Such is winter in Chicago, dubbed the "Windy City"--but even subzero temperatures and harsh windy gusts are not enough to deter a growing group of bike riders who cycle year-round. (Read more.)
Brrrrr. Year round cyclists in Chicago have the respect of this California bike commuter.

Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Interview with bicycle attorney Gary Brustin

Image of bicycle accidentOn Friday, January 26, several dozen bicycle and pedestrian safety activists in San Francisco held a protest at the intersection of Octavia Boulevard and Market Street. On the previous Monday morning a truck loaded with cement made an illegal right turn onto the U.S. 101 freeway onramp and struck a female bicyclist on her way to work.

Octavia Boulevard at Market Street is a notorious hazardous intersection in San Francisco. But it's not the only one. While bicycling is generally a very safe and healthy activity, there is always the possiblity of an accident. Even the most careful and experienced bicyclist may have a crash at some point in their lives. What should you do in the case of an unfortunate collision?

Bike Commute Tips Blog spoke recently with Gary Brustin, a California attorney who has specialized in bicycling litigation for more than 15 years. A board member of the California Bicycle Coalition and the League of American Bicyclists, Brustin has been an enthusiastic bicyclist for more than 40 years.

Bike Commute Tips:
What should a bicyclist do in the event of a collision with a vehicle?

Gary Brustin: Well, safety should start long before the crash. Bicyclists should always, always wear a helmet and carry emergency information. Not just a driver's license or ID, but information on whom to contact in case of emergency, health insurance contact information, contact info for the primary care provider, and information regarding any known allergies.

If you are involved in a collision, the highest priority is to get medical attention. That means listening to emergency personnel, including getting into an ambulance if you are advised to do so. No questions, just obey the emergency medical responders. There is always the possibility of internal injuries, which may not be immediately evident.

The next priority is to cooperate with the police, even if they might appear to be biased against bicycling or not as responsive as you'd like. Cooperate with the police. Tell them what you definitely know about the accident, such as your speed and road position. Don't speculate about what you don't know, such as the speed of the motorist. Only relate what you actually know.

Another critical priority is to exchange information with the motorist involved in your collision: name, address, phone number, license, and insurance carrier. Gather names and addresses of any witnesses. Getting witness information is very important, because they can provide an unbiased, credible account of the incident. Sometimes the responding police officer will only get a statement from one witness, and many other witnesses may have left.

If you feel your rights have been violated, consult with an attorney who specializes in cycling cases. You have the same right to the road as any other user, and we don't want to forget that. Your attorney should make an immediate investigation, obtain a statement from the driver, get witness statements, and take photos of the scene, the bicycle, and any injuries.

A very important point to make: Preserve evidence. Don't fix your bike or even wash your clothing. It's all evidence that investigators can use to determine the facts of the incident. Even a grass stain can be significant. I had a case where the driver said the bicyclist landed in the street. But the grass stain on the shoulder of the cyclist's jersey suggested otherwise, and gave a clue about how the motorist actually struck the rider.

Beyond that, it's just a matter of following up with your family doctor, and just focus on recovering and getting back on your bike.

Bike Commute Tips: What are the most common types of bike injury collisions you encounter with in your practice?

By far, the most common crash we see is a motorist turning left into the path of the bicyclist. Perhaps 60-65 percent of all my cases involve left-turning motorists. After this we see a few cases involving an overtaking motorist making a right turn into the bicyclist; followed by sideswipes or rear end collisions.

We get a smaller number of cases involving faulty road design or defects, such as grates, tree roots, broken pavement, obscured sight distance, or other road hazards. A very small percentage of bike crashes are due to product failure; and I don't take these cases. I won't bring a suit against a bike manufacturer, a bike shop, or a cycling organization.

The most common types of injures involve the shoulder or the knee, either a broken clavicle or dislocated shoulder, or a torn meniscus in the knee. Both of these types of injuries can be treated. Almost all my clients get back on their bikes again.

Of course, the best thing is to avoid collisions. Be conspicuous, wear bright clothing. That bright fluorescent lime green color may be ugly, but it's very effective. If you bicycle at night, use lights. You might even want to consider leaving your light on during the day if you're riding on shady streets with uneven light. And as you enter an intersection, watch the wheels of the vehicle. They are always the best clue, the wheels. Not eye contact with driver. Double check, look at the front wheels.

Bike Commute Tips: In your many years of practice, have you noticed any significant trends regarding the treatment of bicyclists?

Brustin: Overall, there really hasn't been much change over the 15 years I've specialized in bicycling litigation. The motoring public's prejudice or bias against bicyclists is very persistent. However, over the past couple of years, I've noticed an improvement in the treatment received by bicyclists from emergency medical personnel and police. More people are bicycling, including police and EMTs. And maybe that's helping them see the situation from the cyclist's perspective.

For the most part the laws are pretty good. Bicyclists enjoy the same rights and responsibilities as motorists, and we always need to remember that. Most of the challenge is changing motorist perception, to make them understand that we do have the right to be out on the roads. This means more effort in driver training, the DMV manual, or public awareness campaigns. That's why I'm involved in advocacy, and why I always encourage people to join the California Bicycle Coalition and the League of American Bicyclists.

Image: Web capture.
Visit: Gary Brustin's Web Site

Visit: Who taught YOU to drive? What to do when bike and car collide, Boston Globe
Visit: Dispatch from the commute: Cyclist's hard lesson about what to do after the crash, The Oregonian
Visit: Tips if you find yourself in a bicycling accident, The Digitel, Charleston, SC
Visit: Bicycle Accidents Need Bicycle Lawyers, Lawyers & Settlements
Visit: Crash Statistics
Visit:, illustrated site for accident avoidance
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Monday, January 29, 2007

Bicycling's contribution to feminist progress

Image of Victorian bicycling womenFrom the SFBC Biker Bulletin, 01.22.07:

"The bicycle has been responsible for more movement in manners and morals than anything since Charles II. Under its influence, wholly or in part, have wilted chaperones, long and narrow skirts, tight corsets, hair that would come down, black stockings, thick ankles, large hats, prudery and fear of the dark; under its influence, wholly or in part, have blossomed weekends, strong nerves, strong legs, strong language, knickers, knowledge of make and shape, knowledge of woods and pastures, equality of sex, good digestion and professional occupation--in four words, the emancipation of women."

--John Galsworthy (1867-1933), winner of Nobel Prize for literature in 1932.
It's always helpful to be reminded of bicycling's historic importance to personal liberation, for women and everyone.

Image: Web capture.
Visit: Special Safety Considerations for Women Bicyclists
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Bicycling Progress in Salt Lake City

Image of Salt Lake City
From the Deseret News (Salt Lake City), 01.26.07:

Whatever else Rocky Anderson might be going down for in history, make no mistake that he is decidedly going to go down as the best mayor a Salt Lake bicyclist ever had.

With a year to go in his eight-year run as mayor, Anderson cemented that reputation with his executive order last week mandating that all future road designs and redesigns must include adequate planning for bicycles and pedestrians as well as motorists.

Think of it. No more streets without shoulders. No more places where the 3-foot rule means either that cars have to swerve into oncoming traffic or bikes have to detour through the 7-Eleven parking lot. No more second-class status for 20-pound bicycles in the constant give-and-take with 3,000-pound automobiles. (Read more.)
Whatever else one might think about his proposals--such as the dubious mandatory helmet requirement--it seems that Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson is sincere in his desire to make the Utah city more bicycling friendly.

Many of the cities that have made the most progress in recent years tackling the traffic challenge and encouraging alternatives such as bicycling have done so in part due to strong leadership from their chief executives. These cities include London (with "Red" Ken Livingstone, pioneer of congestion charges in the city core), Paris (with socialist mayor Bertrand Delanoë, pioneer of Paris Plage and other innovations), Los Angeles (under avid bicyclist Richard Riordan and transit advocate Antonio Villaraigosa), Chicago, and Portland, Oregon.

Unfortunately, in San Francisco, we have generally made progress in spite of, not because of, our mayors. Former Mayor Willie L. Brown had to reluctantly swallow bicycling enhancement, after years of relentless advocacy from the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition and direct action such as Critical Mass. Our present mayor, Gavin "Chicken" Newsom, gives lip service to "greening" San Francisco while eagerly avoiding critics of his non-visionary traffic leadership.

Grass roots advocacy for better bicycling is always the key to improved conditions. But it never hurts to have supportive leadership in City Hall.

Image:Web capture.
Visit: Pushed too far, cyclist press charges, Salt Lake Tribune
Visit: Utahns use variety of methods to get around, Deseret News
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

"Wet Weather & Night Riding" Video from SFBC

Another helpful video produced by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. Use extra caution during rainy conditions. Use greater care when stopping, as your wheel rims will be wet and brakes need more time to engage.

Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

"Riding Predictably" Video from SFBC

This is a helpful video produced by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. To avoid collisions, ride predictably, obey traffic laws, wear bright clothing, and use lights at night.
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Sunday, January 28, 2007

Tax break for Virginia bike commuters?

From the Virginian-Pilot, 01.27.07:

Virginia Beach Delegate Terrie Suit's constituents...urged her to sponsor HB1826. The legislation would create two separate tax credits to entice people to ride--instead of drive--to and from work.

Under the bill, employers who provide showers and bicycle racks would receive a tax credit of as much as $5,000. Employees who ride to and from work at least 10 days a month would earn a tax credit of $15 per month.

"I thought it was a great idea," Suit said. "Anything we could do to strip away at the transportation problem.... It's a good gesture and a good thing to promote."

Local cyclists agree.

"We feel that cycling to work can be a way to put a small dent in our country's dependence on oil," Rick Powell of Norfolk said. "The less we drive, the better. We think it's good for a person's well-being." (Read more.)

Visit: Tidewater Bicycle Association
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Market/Octavia Protest by S.F. Bicyclists

Image of protest by bicyclists at Market and Octavia in San Francisco on January 26 2007
Image of protest by bicyclists at Market and Octavia in San Francisco on January 26 2007
Bicyclists in San Francisco got another lesson in the value of effective advocacy last week. After a horrific near-fatal collision between a bicyclist and a truck, the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition mounted a strong protest, and the city quickly responded with enforcement and safety enhancements.

On Monday morning a pickup truck loaded with cement made an illegal right turn onto the U.S. 101 freeway onramp at Octavia Boulevard and Market Street, striking a female bicyclist on her way to work. The woman, who was wearing a helmet, suffered serious injuries and her condition is still very serious. On Friday, January 26, several dozen bicycle and pedestrian safety activists in San Francisco held a protest at the intersection. The protest was attended by several city political leaders (not the absentee mayor)and generated significant coverage by television, online and print media outlets.

From the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition summary of the event:

—Scores of concerned San Franciscans took to the streets this morning to demand improvements at the intersection of Market St. and Octavia Blvd., the site where numerous bicyclists and pedestrians have been struck and injured in the 16 months since the Central Freeway ramp opened.

Within hours of the protest, the City installed new devices to deter drivers from making the illegal right-turns from Market St. onto the freeway ramp. The City positioned a temporary, electric sign posting the "No Right Turn" message at the infamous intersection, as well as a new row of white, "soft-hit" posts separating car traffic from bicycles and pedestrians. The Police Department added extra enforcement at the site.

"We appreciate the improvements the City has made at Market & Octavia in response to the tragic collision earlier this week," says Leah Shahum, of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition (SFBC), a 6,100-member group promoting bicycling for everyday transportation. "But far more significant and long-term improvements are needed to stem the dangers at this intersection."
If you are a bike commuter facing challenging streets, the best investment you can make is support for your local bicycle advocacy organization. It has worked in San Francisco, and it will work in your community.

Images: Paul Dorn.
Visit: League of American Bicyclists
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Monday, January 22, 2007

"Sharrow": Appearing Soon on a Street Near You?

Image of a sharrow road marking, improving safety for bicyclists
At its just completed winter meeting held January 17-19 in Arlington, Virginia, the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Control Devices voted 35-0-3 to endorse the shared lane marking ("sharrow") and forward it to Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) for potential inclusion in the next edition of the federal Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD). (Read more.)

I'm a big fan of "sharrows," which were introduced in San Francisco in 2004. The city's study demonstrated that "sharrows" improved roadway positioning of both bicyclists and motorists, getting cyclists well outside the dangerous "door zone," while drivers gave more clearance when passing. The "sharrow" also reduced wrong-way riding by bicyclists.

After San Francisco's experience, the "sharrow" was adopted as an official marking by Caltrans, the California Department of Transportation. Many cities, including New York City, Portland and Los Angeles, have begun painting "sharrows" on their streets. The pavement marking is now advancing through national road authorities for approved use on streets across the U.S.

True, a Class II (on-street striped bike lane) facility is preferred. But where government agencies are reluctant to remove parking to create a bike lane, a "sharrow" is a great improvement. It legitimizes bicycling on streets, providing a strong visual cue to both motorists and bicyclists, transcending language barriers to clearly illustrate proper lane placement.

Image: Paul Dorn. Sharrow on Steiner Street in San Francisco.
Visit: "Sharrows" aim to help cars and bikes share roads, Christian Science Monitor, 08.31.05
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Bikes primed for comeback in Atlanta

From the Atlanta Journal-Consitution, 01.16.07:

Bikes primed for comeback
If Atlanta makes room, expect more pedalers

I have a dream. That one day the streets of Atlanta will look (something) like the streets of Peking in days gone by...Imagine if you will, an Atlanta with bicycle lanes four and five feet wide, clearly marked with heavy paint, and perhaps alternate surfacing, on both sides of nearly every major street...The popularity of bicycling has seen a definite upsurge, and there are bicycles on the market for every pocketbook and level of fitness and skill.

If we built a truly extensive network of well-marked, safe bike lanes, the numbers of Atlantans who would opt to cycle would be more than just "significant." The numbers would be huge.

It's no great leap to imagine the positive impact this would have on air quality, not to mention physical health and the quality of our urban life. (Read more.)
If you build it, they will come. This is certainly the experience in San Francisco, where the streets have become far more bike friendly in the past 15 years, resulting in a doubling in the use of bicycles for transportation. There is no reason to doubt that even sprawling Atlanta couldn't see an increase in bicycling activity if it commits to more bicyclist-friendly streets.

The hopeful vision for Atlanta expressed in this op-ed by Karl Terrell could become a reality, with a push from bike advocates.

Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Mandatory helmets in Salt Lake City?

Image of naked female bicyclist, covering breasts with a pair of bike helmetsFrom the Salt Lake Tribune 01.21.07:

Rocky tells bikers: Get your helmet on

Hoping to make Salt Lake City streets safer for two-wheel commuters, Mayor Rocky Anderson is proposing a mandatory helmet law.

But bicyclists--even ones who faithfully snap on their headgear--are fighting the proposal. They say it would impinge on their personal freedom, give the impression that cycling is unsafe and could deter bikers from commuting. They would rather the city spend time preventing collisions instead of blaming the victim.

"Wouldn't it make more sense to reduce the rate of accidents than to mitigate their damage through helmets?" wonders Rob MacLeod, a member of the Mayor's Bicycle Advisory Board (MBAC) who wears a helmet as a regular cycle commuter. "Helmets are an easy fix."

"We'd rather see the environment change, rather than just a helmet law," (Lou) Melini (chair of MBAC) said. "In Europe, the environment is more pleasant. Bicycling is an accepted form of traffic. Here, the environment we consider a little more hostile. The attitude is we shouldn't be on the road." (Read more.)
If you have the opportunity to travel to Europe or Japan, you will observe a very different street environment. Motorists have far less sense of entitlement, and bicyclists don't wear helmets. That's not a coincidence.

Government policy in the U.S. for much of the past century heavily privileged motorists, while neglecting the needs of other road users such as transit riders, bicyclists, and pedestrians. Predictably, American motorists feel a great sense of entitlement regarding public streets; they resent any intrusion into their "exclusive" sphere by bicyclists and others.

Some cities, such as San Francisco, Chicago, or New York, have made great strides recently in enhancing the streetscape to encourage bicycling. These strides have included traffic calming, bike lanes, bike paths, bike route networks, signage, "sharrows", and other types of "Complete Streets" measures.

And other cities offer mere lip service for safer bicycling. In Salt Lake City, Mayor Rocky Anderson is proposing mandatory helmets for bicyclists, for their "own good" of course. Helmets don't prevent collisions; helmets don't overcome poor bicycling skills; helmets don't improve motorist behavior; helmets don't encourage greater tolerance between drivers and bicyclists.

Bicyclists are safer when streets are safer. Streets become safer through better design.

Image: Web capture.
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Cold-weather cycling in Washington

From the Herald in Everett, WA, 01.20.06:

On winter's dark, wet, sometimes snowy days--when most of us wince at the thought of getting out of bed--Philip Smith of Everett is putting on long underwear, a fleece jacket, a bright yellow waterproof coat and black rain pants.

Next come the bike shoes, socks, a helmet, a Velcro-attached visor, safety glasses, gloves and lights--lots and lots of lights.

"It wasn't so bad once I was geared up for the winter. I'm not after pain," Smith said. "It's just nice to be outside. You miss a lot from a car."

"There's this Thoreau-esque contact with the elements, with the air, with the wind blowing in your face, seeing the birds and wildlife, the 360-degree view," he said. (Read more.)
This favorable article also includes a helpful list of tips for cold-weather winter bicycling, something I'm not very experienced with, living in San Francisco. More suggestions for cold-weather cycling can be found at

Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Friday, January 19, 2007

Spring training draws near

Image of Paul Dorn in Red Sox sweatshirt near Davis CaliforniaLike many bike commuters, I'm an avid baseball fan. (Cursed by ancestral heritage to be a Red Sox fan.) Major League Baseball's spring training season starts in less than six weeks. The Red Sox, for example, open on March 1 with some split squad games in Ft. Myers, Florida.

Baseball is a great sport for bicycle commuters. For one thing, baseball occurs during the warm spring and summer months, when bicycling activity is at its peak. And every game is broadcast on radio, offering entertainment for the long bicycle commute home, provided you have a good portable radio. If there isn't a game on, baseball-loving bike commuters might also listen to a podcast on their Ipod, such as ESPN's Baseball Today with Allen Schwarz or Corn, Gordon & Flanagan on the Red Sox.

And for some fortunate bicycling baseball fans, there may even be a stadium within easy riding distance. Some professional baseball franchises, such as those in San Francisco and Sacramento, even offer secure bicycle parking.

When I was executive director of the California Bicycle Coalition, I wrote an article on bike parking at stadiums for the organization's newsletter, hoping to encourage baseball franchises in the state to offer better transportation alternatives for their fans, including bicycles.

Let's play ball! Oh boy, I can hardly wait! Go Sox!

Image: Paul Dorn, on a bike outing near Davis, California, standing behind wife's mixte frame.
Visit: Baseball, Apple Pie, and Bicycling?, article published in CalBike Advocate.
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Watch out Davis, your monopoly on platinum may end

Image of ARC at the University of California, DavisAs many are aware, I am an enthusiast for bicyclist-friendly Davis, California, where I lived for five years (and may again). Davis is the first and only city in the U.S. to have earned a platinum-level award from the League of American Bicyclists' Bicycle Friendly Communities program.

However, according to a January 11 article in the Bicycle Retailer & Industry News, Davis may soon have a strong challenge from fellow college-town, Madison, Wisconsin. And Madison, near the global HQ of Trek Bicycles, has some major bike industry support:

Pacific Cycle Supports Mayor's Platinum Bicycle City Charge

JANUARY 11, 2007 -- MADISON, WI (BRAIN)--Pacific Cycle, owner and distributor of the Schwinn, Mongoose and GT Bicycles brands, is supporting Madison's charge to become a platinum-rated "Bicycle Friendly Community."

Pacific Cycle has provided funds to help the Madison’s Platinum Biking Committee create a bicycle plan that, once implemented, will take Madison to a new level in biking. (Read more.)
In the 1960s, Davis was a pioneer in facilities such as bike lanes and bike paths, at a time when bicycling was largely in retreat as a transportation mode. Today, these innovative, proactive measures to encourage bicycling have resulted in Davis having the highest mode share for bicycling of any city in North America.

However, many believe Davis has been resting on its laurels. The city has changed considerably in the past 40 years, spreading greatly in a low-density fashion that discourages walking and bicycling. Davis has also become less of a classic college town, and more of a bedroom community for nearby Sacramento and even the Bay Area. The new residents have been less inclined to bike. The result has been a decline in the mode share for bicycling in Davis, from more than 20 percent of all trips in 1990 to about 15 percent of all trips in 2000.

And the city's political leadership also hasn't demonstrated much creativity in bicycling promotion. Davis' latest "effort" to reduce traffic danger wasn't innovative street design or infrastructure, but a prepackaged "Street Smarts" feel-good PR campaign.

According to the city website: "Street Smarts addresses traffic problems at their source: in the minds of drivers, pedestrians and cyclists." Uggghhh. Traffic problems don't start in the "minds of drivers." Traffic problems begin with bad street engineering that encourages speeding or reckless driving.

I've always believed that infrastructure is a better method of regulating motorist behavior than "laws" or PR appeals. This latest "Street Smarts" nonsense from Davis is truly disappointing. Maybe Madison has a chance.

Image: Web capture. The ARC at UC Davis.
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Avoiding a riot best done on a bicycle

Interesting item in the Christian Science Monitor, 01.10.07:

Tough Streets: The streets in Dhaka, Bangladesh, are virtually empty of traffic at the moment, as protests have embroiled the city, notes correspondent Mahtab Haider (see story). "On Tuesday, there were rallies and protesters clashing with police," he says, adding that "the police were exceptionally brutal."

Mahtab notes that there have been a number of blockades in the past months, and there was violence in October. "But this is a new level, and the political implications now are more far-reaching," he says.

Mahtab has changed his commuting habits in light of the violence, opting for a bicycle instead of his car. The commute doesn't take him any longer, though: "Normally, the streets are clogged with traffic, so it takes me just as long to drive as it does now to bike the route."

Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

"Share the road" means what, exactly?

Image of a share the road sign in Oregon

There is an effort to create a "Share the Road" specialty license plate in California, similar to those in other states, such as Florida, Colorado, or, my favorite, Texas ("Share the Road, Y'all").

This petition effort has inspired some discussion on a few of California's bicycling listserves and blogs. In San Francisco, the mood is rather tepid: "We're beyond that."

One posting to SFBIKE suggested:

I've signed the petition though I think the wording is obtuse for those obtuse drivers we're trying to send a message to. Something more blatant like "Watch for Bicycles" would be better.

Another SFBike poster expressed support for the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition's "Coexist" campaign, dismissing the "Share the Road" slogan in general:
In communities where similar programs were pursued, drivers immediately misinterpreted the [Share The Road] slogan to be aimed at cyclists they perceived as hogging the road and getting in their way. It's a terrible slogan.

My friend Jym Dyer agreed with this post, adding:
=v= Seriously, though, San Francisco trumped "Share The Road" with the far, far, superior "Allowed Use of Full Lane" signage. I see no point in investing State resources into the far, far, inferior slogan when we've got this great precedent already.

During my brief tenure as executive director of the California Bicycle Coalition, we heard a few inquiries about a "Share the Road" specialty plate. It wasn't a priority then, and I don't think it should be a priority now. The benefits for bicyclists would be negligible. Such a plate would, at best, have symbolic significance, rather than practical benefit. At worst, a specialty plate campaign is a distraction from more pressing needs.

Symbolic victories are important to any movement in the early stages of organizing, helping to build momentum and credibility and to attract new members. In California, we should be far beyond settling for "symbolic" gains. We need political organizing that leads to substantive improvement for California bicyclists.

Images: Web captures.
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Bicycling against oil war insanity

Image of bicycle with bicycling against oil wars plastic plateToday, President George W. Bush appears set to announce the insane escalation of the failed oil war in Iraq. It might be useful to recall that bike commuting--in addition to being fun, healthy, efficient, money saving, and eco-friendly--can, for some of us at least, also be a political statement.

Imagine how many bike lanes, bike paths, bicycling education programs, bike stations, or multimodal transit improvements that might have been created with the money spent on the killing in Iraq.

I've had this "Bicycling Against Oil Wars" license plate on my commuting bike for almost four years. I obtained this sign from my friend Chris Carlsson, who created it with a group of his friends in San Francisco. Carlsson is notable as one of the founders of Critical Mass, as well as an historian and theorist of the mass bicycling event.

This "surge" will only prolong the killing. Let's stop the insanity.

Visit: Purchase "Bicycling Against Oil Wars" Plate
Visit: International ANSWER
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Monday, January 08, 2007

Bicycle riders are commuters, too

From the Danbury News Times, 01.08.07:

"The [Connecticut state] 2006 transportation strategy includes a significantly increased emphasis on bicycle and pedestrian travel. Effective bicycle and pedestrian networks result in a reduction in vehicle trips."

The study recommends:

- Bike space be created on all trains.
- Bike racks be installed on all buses.
- Bike routes to transportation centers be identified.
- Bike storage and parking areas be created or fixed.
(Read more.)
This article seems to be the result of effective lobbying by a Danbury bicyclist. An inspiration to us all! Call and write your local news outlets; educate journalists about the benefits of bicycling. It takes patience and persistence, but it can pay off.
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Interview with Lane Kagay of CETMAracks

Image of a CETMArack, made in San Francisco.
Over the years, other types of bicycling activity have influenced bike commuting. Mountain biking inspired the use of suspension on commuting bikes; racing bikes have introduced many new types of frame materials, such as carbon and alumninum. And bike messengers continue to inspire bike commuters. I know I love my custom Timbuk2 bag, even though I've never delivered a parcel.

San Francisco's CETMAracks is a one-person operation run by working messenger Lane Kagay. The CETMArack is mounted over the front wheel, which is the stronger wheel and provides more stability. Recently Kagay agreed to answer some questions about his great product.

Bike Commute Tips: How did you get started making racks? What inspired you? On your site, you feature images of vintage bike messengers and French newspaper couriers, who all carried weight on the front wheel. Where these an inspiration?

Lane Kagay: You know what did it? I broke another good frame while carrying a 40-pound file box on a rear rack. I don’t know if your readers know this, but bike messengers earn more on large and heavy freight deliveries, so the bigger, the better. So of course the frame broke at the rear dropout. A few nights later I was at the bar talking to a guy about racks and freight transport. He got me hooked on the idea of making a front rack. I don’t think I’d seen the French couriers yet.

So I had a small metal shop at home, and a few days later I made a front rack. I built it to be absolutely indestructible with multiple mounting holes so I could use it on different bikes. Drilled some holes for bungee cords and clear coated it. The notion that other people might want to buy these never occurred to me.

For years, messengers have been cutting their baskets down to work as a flatbed. They cut away the front and sides to leave only the back and bottom part, so what’s left is an L-shaped platform. It eliminates unnecessary metal, and works better with over-sized boxes, which don’t always fit into a basket. I liked that. So this too, was a big influence.

Bike Commute Tips: Why hasn't any major bike manufacturer created a broad front rack similar to yours. I know Jandd and Blackburn make racks that can be used on the front, and Wald and others make front baskets. But why no platform rack for the front? Do you think they have concerns about liability? Or do they just think there isn't a market for durable freight racks?

Kagay: I really don’t know! It seems like most of those racks are made for “light commuting and across-town jaunts,” and never for grocery shopping or carrying firewood, or kitty litter, or gallons of water or books or whatever. You know, utility. I want a BIG platform that I KNOW can handle heavy stuff, and I want it in front of me where I can keep an eye on it and know the frame isn’t going to break or the wheel won’t be destroyed. The racks I’ve seen don’t provide any of that.

The baskets I’ve tried always seem top-heavy with way too much extra metal there. And what happens when you need to carry something too big for the basket? A flat-bed rack is way more versatile and a perfect alternative. For me, at least.

Maybe there isn’t a big enough market for them. I don’t know. Bikes are mostly used for commuting and recreation, not work and utility. But maybe that’s changing. High gas prices, choked freeways, urban sprawl, and good ‘ole global warming seem to have more people considering alternatives to the car. Also, I think movies like Fast Food Nation and recent media focus on “Fat America” have folks thinking about getting some exercise.

Bike Commute Tips: From your site, it seems the working messenger was the initial target market for your racks. Is that still the case? Are messengers still your primary market? My site is mostly for commuting cyclists. Do you think the CETMA rack works well for commuting? How would you compare it to the alternatives, such as a rear rack.

Kagay: Initially, I didn’t market to anyone. Other messengers came to me wanting them, so that’s who got ‘em. But that quickly changed. Now I sell equally to the commuter crowd. My wife uses hers for shopping. She has a cardboard box that bungees to the rack, like a removable basket. She loves it.

But for messengers that need to carry fileboxes and heavy freight, a CETMArack is indispensable.

Bike Commute Tips: How did you get started with metal fabrication? Where did you learn your metallurgy? How did you select steel, rather than aluminum (or titanium)?

Kagay: I started welding and metal work over ten years ago. I took a class, learned the basics, and got a job welding in the Los Angeles area. I did that off and on for about four years, and always had metal projects going at home.

Steel is inexpensive, somewhat flexible, and easy to work with. Other metals just aren’t as practical for this sort of thing.

Bike Commute Tips: Are all of your sales from your website and select stores? Have you been approached by any distributors? Are most of your sales to cyclists in California, or all over?

Kagay: All my sales are through the CETMAracks website, a few stores around the US, and people on the street. I don’t have distributors.

From early on, I began getting emails from people around the US wanting CETMAracks. I don’t know how they heard of them, but since then, I’ve sent racks to people in nearly every state in the country, and someone in the UK bought one last week.

Bike Commute Tips: You feature some photos of interesting loads carried by cyclists using your racks. Do you have a favorite story about a load carried by a CETMA rack?

Kagay: I’ve heard a few stories of guys carrying their girlfriends on their CETMAracks! One guy here in SF carries his daughter around on his.

A friend of mine loaded his CETMArack up with a car battery, stereo system, and speakers, and sent me a pretty cool picture of the whole setup.

A guy in Oakland uses his for transporting CO2 cylinders. I wouldn’t recommend it, but hey.

A few months back I was sent to pick up “a few” large padded envelopes to be delivered around downtown. When I got there to pick them up, it turned out there were no less than fifty of them. So I piled as many as possible on the rack, and the remainder went into my bag. There’s a picture of the huge stack on the CETMAracks website.

Aside from that, I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been able to carry two stacked fileboxes on my rack when the original messenger sent to do the job couldn’t handle it.

Or how many times I’ve heard messengers tell me that the rack paid for itself within the first day, because they were now able to do high-paying freight deliveries.

Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Former ranger is still rolling along

Image of bicyclist and ranger Dan Winkelman
From the Sacramento Bee, 01.04.07:

Q: What's working well on the [American River Parkway bike] trail?

A: It's clean. It is well-maintained. The accesses to the roadways are good. It is a major way to get through Sacramento away from traffic in a beautiful setting. An additional plus for cyclists is that in the summer on the bike path, the temperature is 10 degrees cooler down by the river. For cyclists, that's a godsend. (Read more.)
As readers of this blog know, I am a great enthusiast of the American River Parkway bike trail, also known as the Jedediah Smith Memorial Trail, one of the premier bicycling facilities in the U.S.

This article is an interesting profile of Dan Winkelman, a park ranger, bicyclist, and bike advocate who is responsible for much of the trail's modern development. It's nice to see some of the pioneers of today's bicycling community get the recognition they deserve.

Image: Sacramento Bee/Bryan Patrick
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

More on AB 60: 3-foot passing legislation

Image of motorist passing a bicyclistLate last month I wrote about AB 60, a bill by California Assembly Member Pedro Nava to require a 3-foot minimum passing distance by cars overtaking bicyclists. My opinion is that this bill will offer negligible improvement for bicyclists, and is a distraction from more pressing priorities. AB 60 is a trifling piece of legislation for California's bicycling community, which has many legislative needs and, sadly, minimal political clout.

AB 60 will have its first committee hearing on January 4. Most of California's bicyclists are blissfully unaware of AB 60, reflecting the general indifference to politics afflicting most of the state's residents. Bike legislation rarely makes headlines, especially when lacking a strong advocacy push. Media coverage for AB 60, apart from a news article and an editorial from the Sacramento Bee, has been scarce.

However, among many politicized bicyclists in San Francisco and elsewhere, the bill has initiated considerable discussion. Support seems to be mixed, and largely informed by the level of political development of the respective bicycling localities.

Jim Baross of San Diego posted to listserves for the California Bicycle Coalition and CABO:

A 3-foot space is an arbitrarily derived distance. It's not enough in some cases and unnecessarily wide in others. A pre-determined minimum passing distance does VERY LITTLE to address hit-from-behind collisions; the kind of crash that apparently set off this legislative effort... overtaking collisions are the most feared but also the least frequent of collisions bicyclists get involved in.

Passing a new law about a 3-foot minimum passing distance MIGHT get the attention of some motorists, and might discourage their likelihood of attempting to pass us too closely but the driver who hits a bicyclist from behind isn't going to be deterred or even effected by a this law -- that the driver didn't see the bicyclist AT ALL! Besides, it's going to take a significant legislative effort to pass this legislation. I don't think it's worth it.
An important point about the likely political course of AB 60 came from Jym Dyer of San Francisco, who reminded bicyclists of AB 60's predecessor bill in a post to several listserves:
One troubling aspect of the wrangling over AB 1941 (similar bill to AB 60 that failed in committee during 2006) is that some politicos pulled the "if you get something, you have to give something up" game. One version of the bill had rules enforcing single-file riding and language to make bicyclists at fault for such things as not being in a bike lane. That sort of thing is unconscionable when a bill is about saving lives. Thankfully, we didn't stand for it then, and we must not stand for it now.
A handful of bicyclists indicated minimal support for AB 60, on the grounds that it is "better than nothing" or "a good start." I replied to one such comment on the SFBIKE listserve:
Sadly, the idea that "ANY bill is better than NO bill" is a recipe for failure. My objection isn't so much about this specific 3-foot minimum passing legislation, which offers, at best, negligible improvement for bicyclists. Motorists shape their driving behavior according to their "needs" and prevailing conditions, not minutia in the vehicle code.

My objection is more about why this bill at all? Why wasn't this well-meaning legislator guided by advocates to a more meaningful reform (say increasing funding for the BTA)? Why does California's sizeable bicycling community have so little political muscle in the state capital, despite notable success at the local level in many communities? Having close experience with the situation, my opinion is it's about the difference between STRATEGIC and OPPORTUNISTIC.

A STRATEGIC advocacy organization solicits member involvement and feedback, discusses options with allied organizations, analyzes the political landscape, establishes clear priorities, identifies and pursues resources needed to achieve priorities--and offers a proactive legislative and activist agenda for advancing bicycling. A strategic bicycle advocacy organization focuses on building the political strength of its constituency, not on diversions.

Lacking any strategic sense of what its priorities should be, an organization becomes vulnerable to OPPORTUNISM--leaping on whatever project might assist the group in the short term. Frankly, CBC's involvement with AB 60 smacks of opportunism. It's always easier to join policymakers's efforts for greater state repression than to lead or push them in an expansive direction. Where does this bill fit into an overall strategic vision for bicycling in California? Or is it simply this year's "feel good" measure?
In the dubious event that AB 60 becomes law, I and many bicyclists, and most motorists, will simply shrug our shoulders and sigh, "whatever." We can do better than AB 60.

Image: Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center
See: Assemblymember Pedro Nava
See: California Bicycle Coalition
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Bicycling "arrives" in car-crazy Los Angeles

Image of bicyclist Monica Howe in Los AngelesFrom the Los Angeles Times, 01.02.07:

Bicycling is an expression of curiosity, (Monica) Howe (above) said: "the need to scrutinize and question the world around us."

Los Angeles on a bicycle is both a more intimate and a vaster place. Because the rider is exposed, and vulnerable, it is a more engaging landscape.

"To ride a bike in L.A. is to examine the accepted ways of doing things," she continued. "It's a way of stepping out and seeing things in a different way."

After all, the means of travel define a journey just as surely as its destination. (Read more.)
You know that something has "arrived" when it receives substantial sympathetic consideration in the mainstream media. This profile of Monica Howe, outreach coordinator of the Los Angeles County Bicycle Coalition, is a nice feature for readers in traffic swamped L.A.

It reminds me of the extensive interview with David Snyder of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, published by the San Francisco Chronicle in August 1997 in the wake of that year's Critical Mass upsurge. That was a watershed year for San Francisco's bicycling community.

Perhaps this could be a landmark year for bicyclists in Los Angeles, already a city with a considerable bicycling community and host of Bike Summer 2005.

Image: Al Seib/Los Angeles Times
Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips

The case for separated bike lanes

This is a provocative film posted today on StreetsBlog.

I'm proud of the strides that San Francisco has made toward enhancing bicycling, thanks to the efforts of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition. However, it seems that other cities, such as Chicago and New York City, have overtaken the Bay Area in terms of innovative bicycling encouragement. And we continue to lag behind notable bicycling friendly communities such as Portland, Oregon and Davis, California.

Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips

Monday, January 01, 2007

Broken derailleur messes up New Year's Eve

Image of broken SRAM derailleur
Image of broken SRAM derailleurLast night, on New Year's Eve, on my way to a friend's open house, my rear derailleur broke. I've never had a derailleur fail before. (Broken frames, yes. But not broken components.) But all of my previous derailleurs have been Shimano. This SRAM 7.0 derailleur came spec'd as original equipment on my Bianchi Boardwalk.

Visit: Paul Dorn's Bike Commuting Tips Site