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The Monday Roundup

Posted by Elly Blue (Columnist) on December 6th, 2010 at 8:44 am

National Bike Summit - Day three-209
Biking in DC is on the rise and
it got noticed by NPR.
(Photo © J. Maus)

Here's the news that caught our eye this week:

- In the UK, heavy trucks are being equipped with sensors that are designed to detect people walking and bicycling in blind spots.

- The city of San Jose, California, is taking its arcane bicycle registration law off the books. The registration program had become obsolete and did not pay for itself, officials said.

- As electric cars begin to creep into the market, there's a growing chorus of voices pointing out the obvious—that besides running on coal rather than gas, electric cars are the same as any other cars, and that the bicycle may still be the only truly sustainable personal vehicle.

- Citizens of Dubai are steadfastly finding effective ways around a new law that imposes a hefty fine on helmetless bicycling, though the cheap helmets that have flooded the market are less effective for protecting against injury.

- Are bicycle helmets part of an effective campaign in the auto industry's war against bicycling? One famously helmetless blogger in Copenhagen suspects as much.

- Local bicycle club members in Kuta, Bali, are thrilled by a weekly carfree night on the town's main tourist street.

- Dutch bicycle paths are becoming overcrowded and there's little room for expansion. Worse, moped traffic on separated bikeways is increasing. There's even talk of letting people ride bikes on the motorways.

- Is a person using a motorized wheelchair a pedestrian? Or are they operating a vehicle? Police in St Petersburg, Florida are stymied by what would otherwise be a simple traffic violation.

- The number of people taking to the streets of DC on two wheels is growing steadily, and much credit is given to a bike friendly city government that has created lanes, parking infrastructure, and a bike sharing program.

- Some of those DC bicycle riders find encouragement and incentives to ride at their workplace, as this NPR story describes colorfully.

- According to census data, more households in San Francisco are going carfree, though it's unclear if this is out of choice or necessity or both.

- If you don't own a car, what do you do in an emergency? Especially when you have kids? Two essays this week take on this concern: A bus-riding mom points out that some emergency situations are easier to handle without a personal car. And a cargo-biking mother writes that being stuck at home when someone is sick can be a blessing in disguise.

- Video of the week (below): A nice audio slideshow introduces us to a carfree family with four young children living the good life by bicycle in Eugene, Oregon.

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  • mabsf December 6, 2010 at 11:04 am

    I remember that one mom gave me the third degree about emergencies before leaving her child with us, the car-free family. I told her the following: On the one emergency room visit I had with my son (so far!), the nurse practitioner told us to call a cab because an ambulance would take longer.
    All our neighbors also know that we are car-free and all of them offered emergency drives as well...

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  • mmann December 6, 2010 at 11:12 am

    I heard the NPR spot last week and was kind of taken aback by the "look what some brave souls are doing" tone of the report. Maybe it's because I live in PDX - one of the cities they profiled - but geez, it's just bike commuting. ;-)

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  • Chris December 6, 2010 at 11:20 am

    Regarding the electric car article: What's the point of being sustainable if you are unable to be mobile? It really is a trade-off.

    Instead of biking, taking MAX, switching to a bus, then another bus to get to work and taking up two hours (one way) of my time, I'll be able to drive my electric car in about 50 minutes. This will allow more time to do things like causal biking and other recreational activities for my health, where I'm completely beat every day due to my commute right now...

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    • Elly December 6, 2010 at 7:52 pm

      Chris, that's a good point. It's true that people who commute from southeast Portland to west of the hills are underserved by Trimet. The solution to that, though, should be improving transit service rather than changing the type of heavily subsidized, polluting, non-renewable fuel used by cars.

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      • Michweek December 7, 2010 at 11:00 am

        Also, we need to work on suppling jobs closer to where people live and encouraging people to live closer to where they work. That's sort of the goal with some of the multi use buildings going up next to max stops, creating neighborhood hubs that bring jobs in and connect people to the wider region.

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        • Paul Johnson December 7, 2010 at 5:49 pm

          Tulsa has Portland beat on that. The way the streets are laid out in my part of town, I can go on a five minute walk from my living room to my office. Given that it takes 10 minutes just to warm up the car when I leave and 10 minutes to find parking if I drive, or 20 minutes to find parking if I'm on a bike, unless I have errands to run after work, I'm putting shoeleather on pavement to get to the office.

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    • Paul Johnson December 7, 2010 at 5:46 pm

      Am I the only person offended by the notion that bicycles are primarily recreational? Sure, they're fun, but that's not their purpose in life.

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      • michweek December 8, 2010 at 9:07 am

        I am a little as well. But recreational biking was/is my mothers first step of getting back on a bike. Now at least she has gone on a few destinaton/errend rides with me.

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        • Paul Johnson December 8, 2010 at 8:43 pm

          Nobody starts driving a car for transportation either, though; they start by circling high school or Tektronix parking lots.

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  • RyNO Dan December 6, 2010 at 12:19 pm

    I guess it never occured to me that Dutch cyclists can't use the motorways.
    And do mopeds have a choice to ride on the bikeway or motorway ?

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  • aaronf December 6, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    I like the Eugene writer's "emergency" solution: call Grandma and ask her to run errands for you with her car, or ask a neighbor with a car for help. Or make sure that it's one of those emergencies where you don't actually need to leave the house or do anything about it.

    And the snow solution: live in a very urban area where you can walk everywhere you need in a hurry.

    As long as you live someplace with good taxi services you'll do OK, thank goodness for Taxis I guess!

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    • rider December 6, 2010 at 1:30 pm

      Here in PDX we also have Zipcars which allow you to not own a car but have easy access to a car without depending on others. As demand increases so do availability of these types of options.

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    • Pete December 8, 2010 at 9:25 pm

      ...or pedicabs.

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  • Ted Buehler December 6, 2010 at 11:54 pm

    With regards to San Jose shutting down their bike licensing system, I'd like to see licensing systems ramped up a bit instead. Point of sale licensing, national database of serial numbers, a single "license" sticker universally recognizable to thieves, etc.

    As always, thanks for the Monday Roundup.

    Ted Buehler

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  • Dave December 7, 2010 at 11:05 am

    I was just remarking to my wife the other day that if people didn't have cars, they would probably be much more likely to stay home and rest when they need to (when sick or extremely stressed or whatever).

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  • Ely December 7, 2010 at 1:55 pm

    re: motorized wheelchair, this is why laws need to cover the consequences of actions rather than just the actions themselves. Instead of arguing whether he was jaywalking or driving recklessly, they could just charge him with causing someone's death and get on with it.

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  • aaronf December 7, 2010 at 3:38 pm

    But Elly, the scooterist's role in the collision is still under investigation even. Maybe they "came out of nowhere!" or were speeding. Plus, no helmet! And the wheelchair guy is always making quips and cheering people up according to someone at the facility he lives in. What do you want to do? Send him to jail?

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    • Tacoma December 8, 2010 at 7:07 am

      aaronf, were you addressing "Elly" or "Ely"?

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  • Paul Johnson December 7, 2010 at 5:40 pm

    Oregon allows bicycles on most motorways. In Washington County, the shortest, safest, fastest route by bicycle between any two points vaguely near it's ramps is the Sunset Highway.

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    • wsbob December 7, 2010 at 11:27 pm

      It is for anyone that cares to put up with the noise, pollution and visual drudgery of riding along a highway that's often packed with cars traveling at speeds over 55mph.

      That the Dutch are considering allowing cyclists to ride on motorways in that country could open up interesting possibilities, should great numbers of cyclists take advantage of such an opportunity.

      West of Portland, it's rare to see a cyclist riding along the shoulder of Hwy 217 or Hwy 26. If instead, hundreds of cyclists were riding there during commute hours, that could make quite an impression on people that are skeptical of the idea that bikes are being used for serious transportation.

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      • Paul Johnson December 8, 2010 at 8:45 pm

        It is for anyone that cares to put up with the noise, pollution and visual drudgery of riding along a highway that's often packed with cars traveling at speeds over 55mph.

        ...also known as every street outside downtown Portland wide enough to sling a car down.

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  • Tacoma December 7, 2010 at 6:13 pm

    Speaking of NPR, Weekend Edition Sunday had a program about "How to Thrive" that contained this Q&A:

    HANSEN: You write you found the happiest people in San Luis Obispo, California. So what makes them happy?

    Mr. BUETTNER: In the 1970s, city council made a very clear decision to shift away from an environment that favored commerce and one that favored quality of life. They outlawed drive-thrus so you didnt have idling cars polluting the air. We know dependably one of the things that Americans hate on a day-to-day basis is commuting in their car. So they made bicycling easier.

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