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The Monday Roundup: Banal traffic, JSK for hire, activist kids & more

Posted by Michael Andersen (News Editor) on December 16th, 2013 at 9:03 am

Click for full comic.
(Detail from Bikeyface.com)

Welcome to the week. Here are the best bike and transportation stories we came across last week...

The banality of traffic: "As far as I’m concerned, the only thing worse than spending hours of your life stuck in car traffic is spending even more hours of your life talking about it," writes Bikeyface's Bekka Wright, introducing a comic that rings true.

Child activists: You haven't seen a street demonstration until you've seen a street demonstration performed almost entirely by children under the age of 12. The year was 1972, the kids were Dutch, and the 8-year-old with the microphone was chanting "cars go away." It worked. (Tip: skip to 7:10 in the video.) (Update: MSNBC's Rachel Maddow highlighted this video in a piece about gun reform on Friday)

Too rich to blame: A 16-year-old Texas boy who was driving his dad's pickup at twice the speed limit and triple the legal blood alcohol limit and killed four people (two of whom had stopped on the roadside to help fix a vehicle) will get 10 years' probation. "A psychologist for the defense said the teen suffered from 'affluenza,' a condition where a person feels shielded from problems by money, having led a life of privilege paid for by his parents."

Specialized backpedals: After widespread anger, bike manufacturing giant Specialized struck a deal to let a small Canadian bike shop keep using the word "Roubaix," a region in France whose name Specialized claimed to be an off-limits trademark. Here's the founder's letter of explanation and apology.

Armstrong post-Oprah: "The Gulfstream is gone," the former racing champion sighs in a new interview. "I'm on JetBlue and United. So I spend a lot of time on airplanes with other people and in terminals or just traveling around and going to restaurants or whatever."

Bike polarization: "The bicycle is emerging as a new conservative front in the culture wars," argues a persuasive and foreboding trend piece in the Boston Globe.

Janette Sadik-Khan-1
NYCDOT's Janette Sadik-Khan: Coming soon
to a city near you.
(Photo by J. Maus/BikePortland)

Traffic laws work: A multi-state comparison of traffic death trends has found that — surprise! — harsh penalties for intoxicated or distracted driving, restrictions on young drivers and seatbelt laws substantially reduce fatalities.

Less effective helmets: Bike helmets tend to reduce the severity of head, face and neck injuries by people on bikes, but apparently less than they used to, a new survey has concluded.

Brakeless bike ban: Bicycles without brakes are now banned from trails and bike paths in Ventura County, California.

Mandatory reflectors: In England and Wales, new rules would require every bicycle, even those with lights, to have a rear reflector and two on each pedal. Also, police would get more power to fine bikers who break rules of all sorts.

Portland vision: "If it’s vision PBOT needs, I suggest adopting a zero tolerance policy for traffic fatalities," writes Hart Noecker, commenting on the death this weekend of a 70-year-old woman on a part of Powell Boulevard that lacks sidewalks. "If a person walking or cycling is killed by a driver, there should be an automatic funding trigger of $6 million ready to fix the area of the fatality." (That's the estimated economic cost of a road fatality.)

Legal victory: A Massachusetts town has agreed to pay $27,500 in legal fees and acknowledge that a man had the right to ride a bike in the middle of a busy traffic lane. The case resulted in "the first federal opinion anywhere" affirming that this is sometimes necessary for safety.

Exporting NYC: Revolutionary New York City Transportation Commissioner Janette Sadik-Khan will join a new "government in exile" funded by her outgoing boss Michael Bloomberg that will offer free consulting services to cities who want to apply New York's lessons to their streets.

Curb-separated lanes: Chicago, the city whose 50-odd miles of new protected bike lanes have given America lots and lots of white plastic bollards, is moving upscale.

Road diet works: The Ashland City Council unanimously voted to make permanent a formerly controversial road diet on North Main Street.

OTREC timeline: The PSU-affiliated transportation research center is seven years old, and it's racked up some impressive accomplishments. (Nice work, all! Next time maybe ask PNCA for some help with the infographic...)

Bike share trouble: "Something is going badly wrong with London's bike-share scheme," writes Atlantic Cities: after prices doubled, ridership fell 30 percent (averaging 17,000 per day in November) and its lead sponsor pulled out. It's a sign that "creating a system isn't enough … you need an extensive, safe cycle network."

Bike share triumph: Something is going very right with New York City's bike share scheme: Last Wednesday, when the temperature barely rose above freezing, ridership was 19,000.

Bike share exclusivity: NPR reviews the evidence that very few poor people use bike share systems and concludes that nobody really knows what to do about it. However, Darren Buck has a terrific summary of things various cities are trying.

Carbon savings: Hitting national targets for carbon reduction would add £85 billion to the British economy, thanks to advantages like less congestion, cleaner air, noise reduction and other benefits of increased biking and walking.

Parking-free apartments: There's a nationwide boom in apartments without on-site parking, even as Portland "pulled the rug out" last year by banning such buildings in much of the city.

Unaffordable parking: Underused and underpriced on-site parking lots add about $246 a month to the rents of apartments in Seattle, the Sightline Institute calculates.

Bike salmon rampant: The New York Post accidentally makes the case for more bike lanes.

Ignoring homicide: New York City has a new online crime map. So why doesn't it include vehicular homicides? Why, because they're perfectly legal, jokes Eben Weiss.

Finally, I'm pretty sure a few of the jumps in your video of the week were photoshopped.

But wait, there's more! Check out this Rachel Maddow segment on traffic safety and gun reform:

If you come across a noteworthy bicycle story, send it in via email, Tweet @bikeportland, or whatever else and we'll consider adding it to next Monday's roundup.

Correction 11:50 am: An earlier version of this post incorrectly described the new Ventura County law.

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  • GlowBoy December 16, 2013 at 9:59 am

    "As far as I’m concerned, the only thing worse than spending hours of your life stuck in car traffic, is spending even more hours of your life talking about it."

    Driving and traffic are a huge part of people's lives, in terms of dollars and time spent, as well as stress generated. Of course people are going to talk about it. C'mon. Don't most of us cyclists tend to find the other cyclists in the office and spend (what seems to others) inordinate amounts of time talking about it?

    If you decide not to follow sports, you don't go around whinging about people talking about sports all the time. You go on a special or restricted diet, don't expect everyone else to avoid talking about that great burger place they just found. You don't drink, don't expect people to not talk about their favorite IPAs when you enter the room.

    You're the one who opted out and shoved yourself away from the mainstream, and hey maybe you're a little better person for it. But when you do that, don't (either self-righteously or self-centeredly) expect everyone else to follow, and change their interests to match yours. They're your coworkers. Not your friends.

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    • 9watts December 16, 2013 at 9:24 pm

      I'm going to disagree a little bit, GlowBoy.
      "Driving and traffic are a huge part of people's lives, in terms of dollars and time spent, as well as stress generated. Of course people are going to talk about it. C'mon."

      Your (counter)examples all involve conversations about things the people talking enjoy. The nauseating part (at least to me) about listening to people talk about traffic is the absence of any reflexivity about their own participation in producing the lamentable circumstances they are bemoaning. You know, the old 'you are not stuck in traffic, you are traffic!'

      "You're the one who opted out and shoved yourself away from the mainstream."

      Remember the twitter storm (reported here on bikeportland a few years back) by those folks on their way to the gym and irate at being stuck in traffic? Here it is (4/9/12 Monday Roundup) -
      http://www.howwedrive.com/2012/04/04/about-that-moment-of-silence/

      I don't know. If that is what the mainstream sounds like I don't mind being a little smug.

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      • GlowBoy December 17, 2013 at 9:57 pm

        I don't think that twitter thing is analogous. Driving to the gym is patently insane if you think about it (full disclosure: I did this myself for a year or two when I was a much younger man). Driving to work is merely unfortunate, and for many it is unavoidable.

        I guess you're right that the examples I gave were all things that people enjoy, but I don't think that's a distinguishing difference. There are plenty of negative topics where it's ridiculous to whine about people engaging in normal conversation, just because you happen to have made a personal choice not to have no stake in it.

        One example that comes immediately to mind: coffee. Lots of people loooove to talk at great length about bad office coffee, and go into equally excruciating detail what's wrong with how this important drug ritual is being done wrong. Not being a coffee drinker I have no interest in these conversations. But that doesn't mean I go around whining when people complain about the coffee.

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        • 9watts December 18, 2013 at 8:31 am

          Alright, here's my analogy.
          Whining about traffic/one's car commute is different from the examples you give, including the coffee, insofar as those who are doing the driving, congesting, whining have first polluted everyone's commute, qualitatively and quantitatively, and now they are polluting the rest of (everyone else's) day with their unreflexive recounting of the injustice of it all.

          And I don't think driving to the gym is all that different. Many people who now drive could, if they really put their minds to it/gas cost twice as much/their peers started giving up their car commute, bike or get there another way. And if they tried it they might wonder what took them so long to make the switch. I fully concede that some folks have hellish/long car commutes they would prefer not to have, and it isn't practical here and now to jettison their car. But the set of those in that category and the set of those who now commute in a car is, I think, very much not identical.

          Maybe it is just that some of us have a short tolerance for whining in general. Let's face it most things we whine about we could do something to fix--talk about practical steps we might take to fix it--instead of all the whining.

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    • q`Tzal December 16, 2013 at 10:08 pm

      Because if the "mainstream" normal people are doing it it must be the right thing. Herd mentality is never wrong.

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      • GlowBoy December 17, 2013 at 9:58 pm

        Never said it was right. Just that it's understandable for people to want to commiserate about one of the big stressors in their life, and that whining about people talking about traffic is worse than the actual talking about traffic.

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  • wsbob December 16, 2013 at 9:59 am

    Public dismay shared by word of mouth and social media around the world played a big part in Specialized having to re-evaluate its actions taken against people the company feels may be infringing on its trademark. Here's a link to another story about this:

    http://velonews.competitor.com/2013/12/bikes-and-tech/specializeds-disastrous-trademark-case-is-unnecessary-to-defend-the-brand_310878

    Specialized's Mike Sinyard's most recent letter of explanation and apology, posted to the company's facebook page, is good though, and does in some detail, emphasize one of the better reasons it's important for companies to fight against trademark infringement: production of shoddy, dangerous goods produced by counterfeiters upon which they slap a quality manufacturers name.

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  • John Lascurettes December 16, 2013 at 10:06 am

    Regarding the social media's outrage over "affluenza" (and I'm guilty too), we simply don't have all the details of the case because we weren't sitting on the case. Just keep that in mind. The McDonald's infamous coffee case comes to mind as far as public overreaction goes.

    http://ethicsalarms.com/2013/12/12/ethics-observations-on-the-affluenza-sentence-and-none-of-them-involve-criticizing-the-judge/

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    • wsbob December 16, 2013 at 10:42 am

      John...the Ethics Alarms article was very good, offering much more thought and information about the case and the judges decision than the NYtimes article does. Thanks for posting the link.

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  • Todd Hudson December 16, 2013 at 10:08 am

    Calling this weekend's pedestrian fatality "violence against women" is dishonest and manipulative.

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  • Champs December 16, 2013 at 10:12 am

    It's not going to soothe anyone in the no-brakes crowd, but to be fair, the Ventura County ban is on brakeless bikes. Personally, I prefer the front brake for emergency stops and the fact that tires are more expensive than some brakes, much less replacement pads.

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  • Mike Healey December 16, 2013 at 11:03 am

    "Finally, I'm pretty sure a few of the jumps in your video of the week were photoshopped"

    I'd love to know which ones Jonathan. Bear in mind that Martyn Ashton (former British Bike Trials champion) had to pass on part of the video to Chris Akrigg and Danny McCaskill because he's partly paralysed after breaking his back when a stunt went wrong.

    Hard to do that while Photoshopping - and having seen Akrigg doing trials on a fixie (!!), I'm not sure that he'd need to fake it - tho' I suspect some of the outtakes are pretty hilarious/painful

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  • John Carter December 16, 2013 at 11:40 am

    "Fixie ban: Fixed-gear bikes are now banned from trails and bike paths in Ventura County, California."

    No they're not. Bikes without brakes are banned. Fixies are not banned.

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor) December 16, 2013 at 11:53 am

      You're right. An error in the original news story, which has since been corrected, propagated. Fixed above.

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  • Opus the Poet December 16, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    Can anyone tell me what kind of wheels they are riding in that video? I'm looking for new rims for my LWB recumbent that I converted to dual 700c.

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  • Glen K December 16, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    OTREC link isn't working?

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  • Barney December 16, 2013 at 4:30 pm

    I don't get the connection between child protesters and another Rachel Maddow rant on gun control. Maybe its because the link is broken. I own more bikes than guns, but just barely. That does not make me less of an advocate for cycling issues however.

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    • Hart Noecker December 16, 2013 at 4:55 pm

      Would have been nice if the Maddow segment about kids getting rid of cars was about Americans getting rid of cars.

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    • q`Tzal December 16, 2013 at 10:19 pm

      The connection is that the reforms in street safety were poineered by Dutch children despite the fact that the adult establishment was of the opinion that road safety was an unsolvable problem. At that point in Dutch history they had given up, much as American has, to the dominance of the automobile. Until kids decided to push the issue.

      The parallel with firearm safety is that America as a culture has given up on the idea that guns can be controlled or regulated. Most polled firearms owners agree that some regulations and controls are a good idea, however, the industry has pumped enough money in to the public discussion that there are only 2 solutions: anarchy or totalitarian rule.

      Rachel Maddow's comparison kinda seems like an admission that we are giving up on our own generation being able to accomplish anything positive. We as adults have balkanized ourselves in to radical camps; perhaps only children are capable of seeing and implementing the compromises that solve these problems.

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  • Pete December 16, 2013 at 5:53 pm

    I can't stand when a writer emphasizes safety as an issue when writing about subjects irrelevant to the actual safety of bicycling. The Atlantic Cities author - who doesn't even live in London - makes a dubious link to "danger" as a cause of reduced popularity of their bike share system (yes, 6 cyclists were killed, but were they even on bike-share bikes?). That thought crossed my mind when I read your summary, and sure enough another commenter raises that point of the main article. I suspect that raising the cost of the subscription on par with public transit may be the most substantial factor.

    RE: parking-free housing - I would be all over this as a developer! Higher liveable density equals more profitable square footage. Sounds great if you can actually guarantee units selling/renting to car-free people, otherwise a great way to escape the responsibilities of urban planning.

    Oh, and get well soon Martyn Ashton!! What size is that beautiful C59 you won't be riding in the meantime...? ;-)

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    • wsbob December 17, 2013 at 12:55 am

      You're most likely referring to the article accessed by this link:

      http://www.theatlanticcities.com/commute/2013/12/londons-bike-share-crisis/7844/

      The writer makes fair observations, and writes in the article:

      "... So why has London's bike-share scheme gone awry?

      In order of gravity, the answers seem to be cost, danger, and patchy maintenance. ..."

      ...and also:

      "...These deaths are not the fault of London's bike-share scheme, of course. The arguable culprit there is London’s cycle lane network, which provides the illusion of safety with its conspicuous blue markings, but offers no real, segregated protection from motor vehicles. ..." London's Bike-Share Crisis/Feargus O'Sullivan/Dec 11, 2013

      The word certainly has got out that London's street infrastructure available for riding bikes upon, including bike share bikes, apparently is having some problems in terms of being safe for bicycling. The boris bike share bikes are probably very reliable and safe in and of themselves. Unfortunately, that alone can't make bicycling safe in London.

      In the article, check the numbers indicating the drop in boris bike use for the month when the spate of cyclists' death by collision occurred. Those numbers could mean that people's confidence in the safety of bicycling in London was dramatically shaken by those deaths.

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      • Pete December 17, 2013 at 10:48 am

        Hard to say. He's comparing 11/13 to 11/12 and the price doubling occurred in 1/13 (I clicked through to the charts as well). The deaths also occurred at the beginning of London's winter, with average temps at their biggest drop and rain at its peak, so I think ranking "danger" as second in "gravity" is still tenuous at best - not that I'm arguing that it's not a factor whatsoever.

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        • wsbob December 18, 2013 at 1:40 pm

          Pete...possibly, and of course, people don't know exactly why use of boris bikes has declined, which is why discussion about it and possible contributing factors apparently are being so actively pursued of late.

          There's been a bunch of articles written about bike share in London, London's street infrastructure and its adaptability to use by bikes after having been, like that of many cities, thoroughly overwhelmed with motor vehicle traffic. I've read peoples' descriptions of London's street infrastructure as being very quirky, some of the streets very narrow and twisty. Like much of other things today, they can probably be seen using Google Maps.

          I think it's a known historical fact that London kind of chose not to transition to a modern urban grid plat after the 17th century fires. So the city has these streets that are somewhat archaic today, re-purposed for heavy motor vehicle use, upon which the city hopes people riding bikes will also somehow be able to find comfortable and safe. That can be a tall order in many cities, but probably a much bigger challenge for London.

          London's emerging bike specific infrastructure...the 'bike super highways', I think they call them, have been hyped strongly. Apparently though, despite the breathtaking name, the London bike super highways are just bike lanes 5' or so wide, painted blue, directly adjoining main travel lanes.

          In our own area, it's not too hard to find out just how safe people consider bicycling to be with the help of bike lanes. For people committed to biking, bike lanes can help make street travel by bike, easier...on the other hand, much of the public may consider bicycling, even on bike lanes, to be a not particularly safe thing to do amongst motor vehicles.

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  • 9watts December 16, 2013 at 9:02 pm

    In light of the ruling and settlement in the Massachusetts case, the author of linked article took an odd approach--he spent the second half of the piece playing the sore loser, reiterating five different times what people biking had to do/should not do:

    - "law requires a slower-traveling bicyclist to pull to the right..."
    - "a slower traveling bicyclist is required by state law to pull to the right ..."
    - "bicyclists are prohibited from unnecessarily obstructing..."
    - "may only pass 'when it is objectively safe...'"
    - "have a duty to allow motor vehicles to overtake them."

    counterpoised by this one concessionary statement:
    - "under state law, bicyclists are entitled to ride in a position anywhere within a single lane on a road..."

    ...makes one want to be brush up on one's content analysis skills.

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  • Ethan December 17, 2013 at 9:08 am

    Dear BikePortland... actually, OTREC doesn't need to go nearly as far as PNCA to get professional help with their graphics. Instead, they could just go to PSU's own School of Art+Design, and its highly regarded Graphic Design program, for some truly wonderful help. Even BikePortland should know that!

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