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The Monday Roundup

Posted by Elly Blue (Columnist) on May 2nd, 2011 at 9:30 am

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

- California is getting set to pass a law that would require passing someone on a bike with at least 3 feet to spare and no more than a 15mph speed difference.

- A Maryland transportation official responds masterfully to a perennial complaint about bicycling on rural roads.

- The behavioral psychology of convincing people to ride bikes.

- Could investing in bicycle infrastructure be an effective belt-tightening strategy?

- An exurban developer is attempting to lure buyers with the offer of a free car.

- Can we rebuild the suburbs into economically thriving, agriculturally viable equivalents to inner cities?

- Will declining trends in car use in wealthy countries continue? Which is to say, have we reached "peak car?"

- China's extensive new high speed rail system is coming under scrutiny for suspected corruption and safety shortcuts.

- Apparently the NYC anti-bike lane law suit has no legal leg to stand on.

- The story of the last days of two family owned bike manufacturers and their seemingly inevitable fates.

- Advice from a bike shop manager on bike shop customer service.

- A triathlete got back on her bike and completed her race after pausing to save another racer's life.

- Breathless bike design roundup: A kid's book on a bike frame! Wood bikes with all-wood components! Bicycle chandeliers! Helmets with halos! Expensive bikes are chic, buy them!

- Video of the week: Yes, you really can do that on a unicycle!

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  • Tomas Quinones May 2, 2011 at 9:43 am

    Cycle Wild led 20 cyclists out to the Gorge to camp at Ainsworth State Park.

    http://www.flickr.com/photos/tomascosauce/sets/72157626626435230/

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  • f5 May 2, 2011 at 9:50 am

    The link to the Maryland article doesn't seem to work, FYI.

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  • 9watts May 2, 2011 at 9:59 am

    Good to hear about the safe passing distance law in CA. In Germany, though, the distances understood to be safe are greater: 1.5 - 2.0 meters:

    http://www.umkehr.de/Fahrrad/Radler-Ueberholen.html
    "Sicherheitsabstand beim Überholen
    Im Prinzip ist das Überholen in der StVO und durch die einschlägigen Rechtskommentare und Urteile einigermaßen klar geregelt. Der Teufel steckt jedoch im Detail. Im vierten Absatz des Paragraphen 5 StVO werden die Belange der zu überholenden Radfahrer und Fußgänger gewürdigt, in dem ein "ausreichender Sicherheitsabstand" angemahnt wird. Für diese Forderung wird kein konkretes Maß angegeben, in der Rechtsprechung werden anderthalb bis zwei Meter gefordert. Bei den Urteilsbegründungen sind deutlich Wissenslücken erkennbar."

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  • wsbob May 2, 2011 at 10:53 am

    For the Maryland article, try this:

    http://www.waba.org/blog/2011/04/that%e2%80%99s-safe-cycling-not-arrogance-says-mdot/

    It's a kind of complicated article. Points made in remarks by Maryland's director of bicycle and pedestrian access for the Maryland Department of Transportation, responding to a drivers complaint letter are good, but not great. There's too much 'back at ya' tone to it along with good, basic realities about sharing the road.

    He does a fair job of explaining why cyclists don't always want to be riding trails near a roadway. On that, one of the things he says, which most people here know, but many drivers may not: "Common speed limits on trails are 15 mph, a speed easily exceeded by skilled bicyclists. ".

    He gets lost in an aimless rationalization as he attempts to counter the letter writers point about a couple car/bike collisions on a certain road.

    Included in his windup remarks is "Bicyclists must travel in a lawful and courteous manner in the name of roadway safety and reinforcing the image of bicyclists as legitimate roadway users.".

    The article's writer has the best bit, as he finishes up the article:

    "... But the main problem is that most drivers do not know what it means to share a narrow road. A key principal of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices is that road signs should have a clear meaning, but it seems that to many, “Share the Road” signs do not have a clear meaning. Given this lack of clarity most “Share the Road” signs on roads without shoulders should be replaced with the new (R4-11) signs that say “Bicycles may use full lane.” No ambiguity there." (Jim Titus, member of WABA’s Board of Directors from Maryland)

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  • Don May 2, 2011 at 12:13 pm

    That Maryland article is the greatest pro-cycling response to angry motorists I have seen in a long time. So awesome.

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  • 9watts May 2, 2011 at 12:33 pm

    signage is often confusing, or worse. At the entrance to the parking garage that site atop Powell's Books Burnside store, cars have to cross the sidewalk to enter or exit. The sign which greets pedestrians warns them of cars crossing. Ha!
    Who is crossing whose path? Why does the sign (predictably but I think falsely) suggest that the cars have the right of way in that situation?

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  • April May 2, 2011 at 1:25 pm

    On the subject of sign ambiguity: I saw a sign once that just said:

    CAUTION
    CYCLISTS

    And I seriously couldn't figure out if they were trying to caution people on bikes or people in cars!

    Also reminds me of a time I was forced to take the lane during rush hour traffic. Needless to say, I was already stressed out, and then the guy behind me started honking. Repeatedly. I finally just pulled over between a couple of parked cars, and he yelled "Share the road!" as he passed me. Ugh.

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    • Tacoma May 2, 2011 at 2:48 pm

      i.e. "Share the Road" = "Get off the road so that I can drive faster."?

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    • matt picio May 3, 2011 at 9:24 am

      This would be the flipside of "sign ambiguity": http://www.flickr.com/photos/mattpicio/2183186635

      Let's hope Oregon never requires this level of signage. BTW, that downhill curve is about the same as N Michigan at Going St.

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  • 9watts May 2, 2011 at 1:29 pm
  • spare_wheel May 2, 2011 at 2:40 pm

    '“Share the Road” ...should be replaced with the new (R4-11) signs that say “Bicycles may use full lane.”'

    Yes!

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    • Gregg Woodlawn May 2, 2011 at 6:55 pm

      Spare Wheel.
      I love it. Where can I get 100 at a low price?

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    • Pete May 6, 2011 at 11:10 pm

      "Bicycles may use full lane" = MUCH more sense than "Share the Road".

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  • Gregg Woodlawn May 2, 2011 at 6:55 pm

    Where can I try on those Halo Helmets locally?

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  • jim May 2, 2011 at 7:30 pm

    So if your on a road, highway, freeway, doing 55mph and there is a bike doing 5mph- you have to slow down to 20? That might cause more accidents than it saves

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    • wsbob May 2, 2011 at 10:43 pm

      What's prompting you to devise such an example, and for what purpose? Cars sometimes travel at 5mph. Depending on how fast they drop to that speed, it can cause other motorists to successfully, but not always so, take emergency measures to avoid hitting cars traveling at that speed.

      Unless there's an obstruction on the roadway, bikes usually travel faster than 5mph; easily 10mph, often 15mph, and it's not uncommon for them to travel 20-25mph on flat terrain, and 35-40mph downhill.

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      • jim May 2, 2011 at 11:40 pm

        In areas of Oregon where bikes can ride on I-5, would cars have to slow down to 40 to pass a bike. I know this is a Cal thing, I was just using Or for an example.

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        • wsbob May 3, 2011 at 11:10 am

          jim, doesn't I-5 in Oregon generally have broad shoulders that cyclists would generally be riding on, rather than them taking a main travel lane? The only reason cyclists would be taking the lane on these roads is to avoid road debris, or to get around motor vehicles stopped on the shoulder.

          It's out on two-lane highways in Oregon, far away from the metro areas, that motor vehicles are more likely inclined to have to slow down (from 55mph and perhaps more) for cyclists taking the lane. Out in the country. Beautiful Oregon country, not heavily populated, naturally an increasingly big draw for cyclo-tourists.

          Even here, cyclists will generally be holding to the far ride side of the road unless hazards cause them to need to take the lane. Oregon most likely won't ever have the budget to add, just for cyclists, broad shoulders to these type roads out in the broad expanses of Oregon.

          Slowing down for slower road users is a simple reality of using this type of road. If rural Oregonians or people driving through rural Oregon can be prepared to slow down for wildlife, cattle, and farm equipment, they should be able to be prepared to slow down for cyclists too.

          So, if you have constructive suggestions as to how to better address situations of motor vehicle operators accustomed to traveling high speed over lightly used roads, having to slow down for comparatively slower traveling cyclists, put those suggestions before everyone here.

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          • jim May 3, 2011 at 11:11 pm

            Rural roads it's just common sense. Hopefully bikes will hang to the right on those roads also.
            I noticed since they painted those sharrows around town that bikes tend to ride right on top of the arrows instead of to the right. Some roads have the sharrows right down the middle. It's not safe to pass these bikes ridding out in the middle of the road as it puts your vehicle too far to the left, which could be hazardous if someone were to come around the corner and meet you face to face. Perhaps we need to educate people on bikes on how to ride on greenways. I see little kids with training wheels riding right down the middle of the road like it was sunday parkways or something. There should be a fine for parents teaching kids bad habits.

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          • wsbob May 4, 2011 at 9:39 am

            "...share-rows/sharrows...little kids on bikes..." jim May 3, 2011 at 11:11 pm

            I don't have first hand familiarity with riding on share-rows, but I do think I understand the way in which they're intended to work.

            Which is, that if it's determined that a particular street's dimensions or character doesn't allow bike traffic to safely hold to the far right of a particular section of road, the 'share-rows, or sharrow is put into effect to give bike traffic authorization to ride right down the center of the lane...specifically so that road traffic of nearly all types following bike traffic on these roads so marked, is disinclined to pass.

            On roads with this treatment, bikes are not supposed to ride to the far right side of the road; bikes here are supposed to ride in the middle of the lane. Following traffic is not supposed to attempt to pass bike traffic here.

            What I understand the sharrows designation to be, is a road treatment of relatively short length. In other words, it's not a designation that goes on for an entire street's length, but may extend for several blocks or so to allow traffic's safe passage through pinch points or some such thing. My understanding of this may not be accurate, so if it is, I welcome a correction.

            On kids.... . I suppose you mean kids 3-4 years of age. Kids riding bikes with training wheels, down the middle of the street are not kids being taught bad habits. They're kids that haven't yet learned the good habits their parents are working to teach them. And fundamentally...they're kids. What do you expect from kids. It takes them awhile to get the learning down.

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    • matt picio May 3, 2011 at 9:31 am

      Not necessarily - you could also go around them. You're even permitted to cross a double yellow line to pass a cyclist so long as there is no oncoming traffic to present a hazard (learned that at Ray Thomas' legal clinic). It's a driver's responsibility to be alert for and avoid any and all traffic in front of him. If a rockslide lay across the road, the driver would be responsible to safely stop before hitting it. If the road conditions (weather, curves, hills, other factors) prevent one from seeing more than say, 250', then a motorist couldn't legally drive 55 on the road, since stopping distance at 55mph is about 265' on average. That sign is a MAXIMUM limit under ideal conditions. Yes, they are routinely violated, but it's fascinating how many people will justify speeding yet condemn a cyclist who doesn't come to a complete stop for a stop sign. Either infraction can cause a collision - and speeding above 40mph is far, FAR more likely to result in someone's death.

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      • jim May 3, 2011 at 11:19 pm

        Those yellow lines are meant to keep people from passing because of unsafe conditions. I wouldn't want to try and explain to a traffic cop that it really is ok to pass there even though there is a yellow line.

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        • wsbob May 7, 2011 at 6:50 pm

          That's right: unsafe conditions relative to a car or other type 4 wheeled motor vehicle passing a car or other type 4 wheeled motor vehicle , almost all of which are 6 feet or more wide. Add a couple feet to that just for a safe margin, making 8', meaning a passing motor vehicle would need to cross almost entirely over into the opposing lane in order to pass.

          Compare that the general width of a bike: the width of my drop handlebars is 18". Add an additional 3' for a safe passing margin for a total of 4.5 feet. That's nearly half the road width required for a motor vehicle to pass another motor vehicle. So a car passing a bike would likely only need to cross about 5.5 feet over into the opposing lane.

          Other things favoring motor vehicles passing bikes on the road, is that bikes length (about 5.5'...cars 10' and more...except maybe micro-cars like the Smart) is shorter, and of course, bikes tend to not travel faster than 30mph, allowing motor vehicles to pass bikes more quickly than they could most motor vehicles.

          All this is for bikes traveling singly. It gets tougher cars and other types of motor vehicles to pass bike road users when bikes are in greater numbers together.

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  • 9watts May 4, 2011 at 8:00 am

    jim
    I see little kids with training wheels riding right down the middle of the road like it was sunday parkways or something. There should be a fine for parents teaching kids bad habits.

    That's o.k. Soon (long before those kids are grown up) it will be Sunday Parkways every day.

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  • Pete May 6, 2011 at 11:28 pm

    I think you might want to double-check the facts in that referenced article about 3' and 15 MPH. I've been told it's 3' or 15 MPH, which makes sense to me. I've been grazed by more than one car down here - not hit but grazed. One lady who came so close I felt her engine heat (well over the fog line) was pulled over by a motorcycle cop who I suspect then cited her for being on the phone (I thanked him while riding by).

    Ironically in a recent story from North Carolina the 3' passing law there was argued to be a safety reason to ban cycling from certain roads. But think about it - if you're driving by another car at greater than 15 MPH faster you tend to leave close to 3' of space, why not with a cyclist?

    Frankly I'm happy with 1.5', and I think laws like this are mostly pointless but they do give an educated officer ammo to pull over an unsafe driver and point out that behavior correction is necessary.

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  • John A May 7, 2011 at 10:34 am

    cars should just be limited to 20 mph, this would solve everything

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