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The Monday Roundup: Roadside ethics test, glowing bike & more

Posted by on March 24th, 2014 at 7:40 am

Police in Belarus created this scene to test drivers.
(Photo by Tut.by)

This week’s Monday Roundup is sponsored by Urban Office Renewal, owners of a historic, newly-renovated, bike-friendly office building at SW 9th and Oak.

Here are the bike links from around the world that caught our eyes this week:

Driving test: A team of Belarus police mocked up the scene at right to see how people driving past would react. Nine of 186 passers-by stopped.

Super-reflective bike: “The Lumen is the latest bike from the artisanal builders at San Francisco’s Mission Bicycle Company. The entire bike — frame, fork, and rims — has been sprayed with a retro-reflective coating.”

Speed cameras and behavior: In Chicago, automated speed cameras have cut extreme speeding by 90 percent. They’re so effective that the city is making almost no money from them.

Speed cameras and privacy: “When it comes to dangerous driving … privacy interests are minimal and safety concerns considerable,” the celebrated civil rights lawyer Alan Dershowitz concludes in a reasoned endorsement of red-light and speed cameras.

Youth driving: The New Republic looks at the decline in youth driving and makes the point that outside New York City, most zero-car households are poor, but misses an important fact: the driving decline is driven more by a rise in low-car life (owning cars but only driving sometimes) than by a rise in no-car life. Meanwhile, Portland’s own Community Cycling Center looks closer at demographics of zero-car households.


Rethinking LOS: Latest awesome tidbit from the Brown administration in California: it’s admitting that preserving the speed of cars, aka “level of service,” is a ridiculous way to measure the “environmental impact” of a project. (PDF)

Citi Bike cash crunch: Citi Bike is operating in the red despite huge popularity among New Yorkers because not enough tourists have been buying daypasses (in part because fritzy software doesn’t always let them) and because software glitches are driving up operating costs such as battery recharging and bike rebalancing. Gizomodo, however, says everything’s going to be fine. Citi Bike’s Portland-based parent company, meanwhile, seems to finally be looking for outside capital investors after years of running its operation on a relative shoestring.

Hidden car costs: The AAA’s much-cited estimates of the cost of driving don’t include parking fees, speeding tickets or car washes, MarketWatch points out.

Pothole lawsuit: A British man is the latest to sue his local government for not fixing a pothole that contributed to a bike crash.

Guerilla safety: A traffic sign retail company has been donating official-looking “20 is plenty” speed limit signs to Brooklyn street-safety activists. The company’s content director calls their do-it-yourself signage campaign “ballsy” and “necessary.”

Pedal deliveries: Nimble and congestion-proof, cargo trikes are frequently faster than cargo trucks, in Sweden as in Portland.

Helmet cam works: A Glasgow man is banned from driving for 48 weeks after he used his uninsured car to buzz and then brake-check a man biking with a helmet camera. “Without the footage the case would never have been brought to court,” the victim said.

Your video of the week might be your best chance ever to experiment with YouTube’s “speed” setting (click the gear). Check out what happens to a biker and a passing mattress truck at 0:21:

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.

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  • I’m a big supporter of bike visibility, but I find the marketing for the new “Lumen” bike to be slightly misleading and possibly dangerous. The videos on their kickstarter page show people biking with these reflective bikes, but little to no active lighting. The bikes are super visible when light is shined on them but if you’re not riding directly in the path of someone’s headlights, you’re still invisible. Because of how a retroflective surface works, you’ll only be seen if a light source coming from near somebody’s eyes is directed towards the bike.

    Also, note that most of their pictures/videos are from the side. It’s true that more bikes get hit from the side than behind, but often the cause is that the driver is in front of the bike and doesn’t notice it coming. Retroflective won’t help in that case, because the bike is approaching from the side, but the car’s headlights are pointing forwards. The reflectors will never be lit up. The surface area of the retroflective material is necessarily smaller on the front and back of the bike, which reduces its effectiveness from those angles.

    I’ve already seen some comments online from people excited that this new bike design could mean they’d no longer need to use lights, and how that would look a lot sleeker than having lights on their bikes. Retroflective material is a great addition to active lighting, but is not a replacement. I hope that when Lumen starts producing these bikes, they include a huge disclaimer that riders ought to still use sufficient bike lights. Otherwise, it’s only a matter of time until somebody gets hit because they think they’re so visible when in reality they’re not.

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    • JV March 24, 2014 at 11:09 am

      And really, what are they marketing , and to who? An odd combination of the perceived safety of the bike, with the style least associated with safety : the urban singlespeed. All anyone needs is the Halo paint to be distributed to powdercoaters and in spray can form, and they they also can have a retroreflective bike.

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  • TOM March 24, 2014 at 10:02 am

    >> Roadside Ethics Test

    I read the BBC article , that phrase does NOT appear , so it seems MA has labeled the test as such.

    Are you now making ethics calls for us ?

    Stopping for an injured cyclist is desirable, commendable , helpful, maybe heroic ,, etc etc , BUT not stopping is “Unethical” ?

    I think the excess hyperbole is best left to the Enquirer.

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    • are March 24, 2014 at 11:03 am

      leaving an injured person unattended by the side of the road increases the likelihood the injury will worsen, etc. therefore your inaction contributes to harm.

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    • wsbob March 24, 2014 at 12:50 pm

      The BBC story offers some info on the ‘why’, but is kind of short on details as to exactly why Belarus police enacted this particular roadside situation. Story quotes a traffic official as saying danger to people riding this road is “unfortunately pretty high”.

      Basic insight as to the likelihood that people driving motor vehicles, would stop to check on a person, possibly injured or dead, lying to the side of the road, is apparently one reason it was decided to enact this situation. I suppose I think though, the question of road users’ ethics, relative to what their response to given road or roadside situations, certainly would be something the police and traffic officials would have on their minds.

      All of which leads to suggest that though not specifically stated in the short BBC story, the situation enacted may have served as a kind of ethics test.

      That just nine people stopped, out of 186 cars, at face value, seems astonishing, but then again, the story was very short, offering very few details about the road situation. In some road situations, such as those with high levels of traffic, or lack of safe places to pull over, many people driving may not feel there’s sufficient opportunity to pull over and check on a possibly injured or dead person lying on the side of the road. Even so, personal ethics most likely would be a factor, even for a road user ultimately making a decision not to stop.

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      • Caleb March 25, 2014 at 6:08 pm

        These questions are rhetorical and meant for anyone rather than aimed at you, wsbob: If you are on a one-lane, one-way road, traffic is heavy behind you, and there is no shoulder, do you not stop for the car pile-up in front of you? If you slow down to stop for that pile-up at a pace which allows those behind you sufficient reaction time, are you held liable if they rear-end you and cause another pile-up? My propensity is to answer both question’s with “no” and conclude that traffic’s heaviness is not logical reason to avoid stopping for someone whose appearance indicates severe injury. Traffic can wait, just like we can and do wait when obstructions are in our only path.

        But I would agree with your assertion that many people may not feel there is sufficient possibility to pull over and check on someone in the midst of heavy traffic, because I’ve seen first-hand situations in which a driver’s mental reaction to traffic’s heaviness influenced them to make poor decisions.

        The first example that comes to mind is a friend who passed a cyclist in a bike lane on a rainy night, then signaled for a right turn, and after being unable to see the cyclist, assumed the cyclist had passed and started turning due to the pressure this person felt in reaction to rearward approaching traffic, and only applied the brakes and let the cyclist pass after I yelled “STOP” more than once, because I knew the cyclist was still in the car’s blind spot.

        In that case, we had nowhere to go. Oncoming traffic was immediately left, the cyclist immediately right. Rearward approaching traffic just had to wait…which is just a part of traffic sometimes. So even though it looks to me like the picture accompanying the article (presumably of the referenced test) shows sufficient space for one to pull their car over, even if there were no space, I would say again that traffic could wait while we stop, turn on our hazards, and check on the body.

        When traffic flow trumps human life, we have problems, so while I’m not astonished (because to me that word implies surprise) that only 9 of 186 stopped, I am disappointed and left hoping people’s priorities will change. That stands whether one wants to label this a matter of “ethics” or not.

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        • wsbob March 27, 2014 at 11:50 am

          Since the Belarus police are said to have set this road side depiction up, they may have chosen a location on the road that allowed room enough on the shoulder for people to pull a car over to check on someone. With an article so short on essential details, whether the police did this or not, is left somewhat to wonder.

          It’s easy for important, essential details to be lost in reporting about incidents, with the oversight in this respect turning into distortion or misconception of what really happened. Different situation, not traffic related: On that point, the Wall Street Journal recently published a review of a new book, ‘What the neighbors did not see’, written about the massive controversy provoking Kitty Genovese murder of long ago. Here’s the link, but it looks like paywall country to read it:

          http://online.wsj.com/news/articles/SB10001424052702303775504579394850699594502?mod=rss_opinion_main&mg=reno64-wsj&url=http%3A%2F%2Fonline.wsj.com%2Farticle%2FSB10001424052702303775504579394850699594502.html%3Fmod%3Drss_opinion_main

          Stopping at the side of a road can be very dangerous. It seems frequently in the news, are stories where someone stops at the side of the road to help another person in distress, and winds up getting run over.

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          • Caleb March 27, 2014 at 1:12 pm

            I’m well aware how critical can be small details which one can easily overlook. I’m not as hasty to make uninformed conclusions as you may believe I am. If you look at the original article about the test in Belarus, you can see pictures showing ample space for pulling over: http://auto.tut.by/news/gai/390817.html

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            • wsbob March 27, 2014 at 4:38 pm

              The amount of parking available in the test location for people passing by, was just one of, I think, numerous details about the test situation not covered by the story.

              Use of stories that similarly run short on depth and important details, to lead certain types of readers to vaguely based presumptions, seems to be a fairly common practice in some quarters.

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    • Matt March 24, 2014 at 2:24 pm

      Then prove to us that it is ethical.

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    • matheas michaels March 25, 2014 at 4:45 pm

      wow.

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    • Caleb March 25, 2014 at 6:24 pm

      At what point is hyperbole not excessive? Are you making hyperbole calls for us? :P

      But really, everyone has their own opinion of what’s “ethical/unethical”, which is governed by their beliefs telling them what’s “right/wrong”, “good/bad”, etc. Seems to me that something involving neglect for a human body at the side of a road could be classified as an “ethical” issue under most, if not all, belief systems, and MA neither said nor implied not stopping is “unethical” or “ethical”, so I think your use of the word “hyperbole” hardly fits.

      Plus, if one can trust Chrome’s translation when looking at the comments on the original article, we can see at least one Belarus commenter saying, “That something is wrong in our house.”, which would support MA’s characterization of the test as one of “ethics”.

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  • q`Tzal March 24, 2014 at 11:10 am

    RE: Citi Bike cash crunch:
    Also, as the WSJ article captions on their lead photo for the link: “The harsh winter took a toll on the Citi Bike ridership numbers. Associated Press”

    Don’t discount the affect that an old fashioned winter has on old fashioned fears of bicycling in snow.

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    • dwainedibbly March 24, 2014 at 5:39 pm

      Snow would make me MORE likely to get on a bike share bike, just for the experience.

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      • q`Tzal March 24, 2014 at 6:54 pm

        I’ve found the near complete lack of other cyclists to be the most enjoyable feature of cycling in inclement winter weather.
        You get the path all to yourself and if you encounter any other cyclists they are usually experienced and highly skilled enough to not be a hazard to your ride. Unstable noobs don’t get far.
        YMMV: I preferred line entry MS-DOS over Windows.

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  • Jonathan Gordon March 24, 2014 at 12:15 pm

    The more helmet cam videos I see, the more I want one.

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    • Tacoma March 24, 2014 at 12:41 pm

      Me too. Is there a mention of the brand of camera used here?

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      • JOH March 26, 2014 at 1:15 pm

        Didn’t see mention of brand, but I know several who have Hero cams & luv ‘em. For helmetless PDX riders Hero also offers a chest strap mount and a handlebar mount. Available @ REI among other places.

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  • El Biciclero March 24, 2014 at 12:22 pm

    I skimmed through the Chicago speed camera articles, and from what I can see, the touted reduction in speeding is actually a reduction in the number of speeders per day (which I would consider still valid), but according to the article it seems the cameras are only “catching” those that are going at least 10 over. So it seems that the reduction should really be characterized as a reduction in egregious speeding–but speeding is still a regular occurrence. Given the astonishing prior numbers of egregious speeders, it would seem that Chicago would be a very hazardous place to try to walk to school or the park.

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    • Michael Andersen (News Editor) March 24, 2014 at 3:46 pm

      Good point. I changed my phrase to “extreme speeding.”

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    • gutterbunny March 24, 2014 at 4:19 pm

      Not sure why they programmed the cameras at 10 mph over, even dropping it to 7 seems kind of excessive. What’s wrong with 3 or 4. I’m practicable enough to understand that on hills (Chicago hahaha) a small window for adjusting speed might be needed, especially with heavier vehicles going down a hill, but come on.

      If the speed limit is say 40 mph, 47 mph equates to about an extra 12% increase in over all speed. If the speed limit is 25 (school zone after all) it’s a 28% increase in speed. Which seems a little too much. And that is at the +7 MPH mark. Numbers are worse at the +10 MPH mark. Where it’s a 40% increase in MPH at 25 mph, 50% increase in a 20 MPH zone if it’s like the school zones here.

      I admit putting it percentages instead of actual MPH, makes it seem worse. But injuries don’t increase on the MPH scale, they scale as percentages per MPH, and thinking about speeding in percentages rather than straight MPH gives one a better idea of the potential danger in speed.

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      • wsbob March 27, 2014 at 11:22 am

        “…What’s wrong with 3 or 4. …” gutterbunny

        Barring constant use of cruise control devices which many people’s vehicle may not have, speed being traveled at is going to vary slightly from minute to minute, whatever the mode of travel used. I don’t think citing for 3 or 4 mph over, allows enough latitude for reasonable vehicle speed maintained on the road.

        Set the cite point at over 5 mph, so any speed 6 mph over posted or default speed warrants a citation. This gives range for people to be reasonably expected to maintain their vehicle’s speed so that it doesn’t venture too far from the posted speed.

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  • G Schuldt March 24, 2014 at 12:44 pm

    If (09/186 =< .05%) of passing motorists had any interest or bothered to stop for the perceived bicycle accident in Belarus, what would be the comparison % different cities in the USA be–where we're just as autocentric if not more?

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    • wsbob March 24, 2014 at 6:10 pm

      There was no report in the story, that police stopped people passing by the enactment, to ask them why they didn’t stop. There’s nothing in the story that says Belorussians are auto-centric. The story says the road is dangerous, but other than that a lot of trucks use the road, it doesn’t detail what about the road makes it dangerous.

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  • Dave March 25, 2014 at 8:18 am

    It is great to hear that someone who has been such a vigorous defender of individual rights as Alan Dershowitz say that they have limits regarding driving. Bravo, sir!

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  • Dave March 25, 2014 at 8:22 am

    They don’t take pictures, but a Garmin will prove you were where you said you were when you said you were there–data from Garmins have been used to convict drivers who were in the wrong in bike/car collisions.

    Tacoma
    Me too. Is there a mention of the brand of camera used here?
    Recommended 1

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  • jim March 26, 2014 at 12:14 pm

    It would be interesting to try different kinds of manikins. I would guess people would stop for child manikins more than others, perhaps female more than male, spandex clad the least?

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  • K'Tesh March 28, 2014 at 3:17 pm

    Love the Lumen! However, active lighting should always be part of a cyclist’s safety regimen.

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