Urban Tribe - Ride with your kids in front.

The Monday Roundup: Bike ambulances, tire pressure app and more

Posted by on August 19th, 2013 at 9:21 am

Ambulance, Uganda-style.
(Image: CA Bikes)

Here’s the bike news that caught our eyes this week:

Bike ambulances: In much of Uganda, they’re the most sensible way to get to the hospital.

Tire pressure app: How much should you pump up your tires? I mean, exactly how much? There’s an app.

Speeding brag: If you hit and kill somebody with your car, you should not boast about it on Twitter.

Hit-and-run dog: A “big dog” who allegedly ran in front of a bike in Kentucky remains at large after the hospitalization of two teens.

Bike harvest: Bikes were the perfect tool for a recent Urban Gleaners trip to harvest residential fruit trees for social service agencies and summer schools.

Bikeshare expansion delay: “New York’s Citi Bike is already the biggest bike share program in the country, but it was supposed to be bigger by now.” This story may be especially relevant as people criticize Portland bikeshare’s plans to focus its service downtown, just as every bikeshare system in the country does.

SF to LA in 35 minutes for $20: Electric auto/space travel/digital payment/solar energy entrepreneur Elon Musk has a plan for the future of intercity travel. As long as I can pack my bike for an optional $5 extra, Elon.

Road diet works: An upstate New York town convinced its state department of transportation that more auto lanes was the opposite of what its Main Street needed. NYDOT conceded, and a renaissance has resulted.

Teen driving drop: The AAA is concerned that by learning to drive later in life, more teenagers are missing driving classes. OK, AAA, so you’d support bike education classes instead, right?

“Defensive walking”: Schools should be teaching that, two California senators say.

Teens and bikes: “Taking my daughter cycling may be the best thing I’ve done as a parent.”

Turkmen president backs bikes: Memo to the haters: this is what an actual dictatorial endorsement of biking looks like.

Protected lane rebuttal: Bicycle Quarterly’s Jan Heine continues his nuanced pushback against physically separated bike lanes, saying people should listen to the preferences of longtime bike users, “many” of whom he says prefer to ride in the middle of the road. (He doesn’t offer any numbers to back up this claim, however.)

Categorizing bike crashes: Some academics have designed a new system based on street categories in Denmark.

Traffic and the global poor: “Poor countries account for 50 percent of the world’s road traffic, but 90 percent of the traffic fatalities. Road accidents will soon become the fifth leading cause of death in these countries, leapfrogging past HIV/AIDS, malaria, tuberculosis and other familiar killers.”

Bloomberg’s streets popular: As New York’s mayor prepares to leave office, his citizens are closely split over plenty, but not his active transportation policies: 72 percent like his pedestrian plazas, 64 percent his bike lanes and 73 percent his bikeshare program.

Danish bike rap: Finally, your video of the week, via Copenhagenize, is a Danish rider who can both (a) build a bike camping trailer for his girlfriend and (b) throw down. At the end, he gives it to a homeless person.

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.

NOTE: We love your comments and work hard to ensure they are productive, considerate, and welcoming of all perspectives. Disagreements are encouraged, but only if done with tact and respect. If you see a mean or inappropriate comment, please contact us and we'll take a look at it right away. Thank you — Jonathan

  • TonyH August 19, 2013 at 10:17 am

    Good stuff! Would love to see a detailed breakdown of HOW the bicycle caravan was made.

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  • DM August 19, 2013 at 11:12 am

    Looks like the bike fruit tree harvest was done by Portland Fruit Tree Project volunteers, not Urban Gleaners. Or did PFTP then take the fruit to Urban Gleaners for them to distribute? Either way, awesome stuff!

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  • Mike August 19, 2013 at 11:15 am

    An app telling you how much to pump up your tires?? yeah I’ve heard about the app, took a look at it then straight away thought that it would be a good idea to create an app describing the best technique for wiping your butt. Because you know…if we can’t figure out how much air pressure we need in our tires without using an app then I thought it best (or safest) to preempt any “accidents” by creating a butt wipe app. Here’s an idea, pump up your tires and go for a bike ride sans technology. blaaaaaaa…..

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  • BikeRound August 19, 2013 at 11:33 am

    I think Jan Heine’s position on protected bike lanes and separated bike paths is extremely unfortunate.

    Let’s imagine a city where a large portion of the residents use bicycles for daily transportation, and let us also imagine that in this city not only are the inhabitants perfectly law-abiding, but they are also impeccably courteous to each other when it comes to interacting on the roads. In such a city, the right-hand lane of a standard four-lane arterial road that is ubiquitous in American towns would become the bike lane and the left-hand lane would become the car lane through a process of natural segregation on the roads. Since the bikers riding in the middle in the lane on the right would be going an average of 10 mph or so, the motorists would end up always driving in the left hand land at the speed limit. And while some strong bikers may be able to maintain 20 mph on average, in a healthy, active community the whole cross-section of the population uses bikes for transportation, and the maximum speed in the right-hand lane for cars would be determined by the slowest bike riders out on the streets.

    So in this imaginary city, the right-hand lane in effect becomes the separated bike lane. Wouldn’t it then make more sense to just officially just designate the right-hand lane as the bike lane? Unfortunately, in a more realistic scenario, most people would be scared off from riding bikes on four-lane arterial roads and bike transportation would fail to take off as a viable alternative for most residents to driving or riding in a car.

    Cars and bikes cannot mix because their natural speeds are just so different. This is true even if the speed limit on all residential streets were 20 mph, and all drivers strictly adhered to that speed. The only solution for most streets are protected, separated bike lanes.

    I also read some of the comments in Jan Heine’s blog with consternation. I have been to Amsterdam on four different biking trips, and I can report back that the separated bike paths are extremely safe and that Amsterdam has an excellent biking infrastructure even by Dutch standards (if there was one town that was in need of improvement in this area it was Rotterdam). While it is certainly true that in the U.S. drivers would need to be trained to look out for bikes when turning right, this obstacle can be overcome through public education campaigns, highly visible signage, and by painting the bike lanes a different color from the rest of the road surface. Since protected bike lanes are to be found on almost all streets in Amsterdam aside from the narrow passageways in the oldest section of town, the Dutch have been able to create a biking network that is so safe that all age groups ride bikes regularly (without a helmet, of course), and moms feel safe in taking their youngsters in bike trailers or in handlebar-mounted kid seats.

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    • Dwainedibbly August 19, 2013 at 12:30 pm

      I have learned a lot from (Vintage) Bicycle Quarterly (long time reader, have every issue, etc), but I have to agree that his position on infrastructure makes me question some of his other points. If the strong & fearless want to mix it up with motorized traffic 100% of the time, great, but they really shouldn’t be trying to make the rest of us ride there with them.

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      • Todd Boulanger August 19, 2013 at 12:43 pm

        Ditto. I would hate to have to lump Jan in with the Foresterites and thus end my long time subscription to VBQ. ;-(

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    • dr2chase August 19, 2013 at 12:38 pm

      Unfortunate? It’s boneheaded. “American cyclists” are an unrepresentative self-selected minority — you will not learn things that generalize to the larger population by talking to them. The cyclists who should be interviewed are the “cyclists” in places that have actually obtained the high ride shares.

      Or heck, maybe we should just copy their infrastructure, transportation taxes, and licensing requirements wholesale.

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      • spare_wheel August 19, 2013 at 3:05 pm

        Mode share numbers here in the USA have absolutely no equivalence to the numbers from Amsterdam and Copenhagen. My better half bikes at least 5 times each week but commutes by car. In CPH 50% of her trips would be bike while in the USA ZERO are counted.

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    • Alain August 19, 2013 at 12:49 pm

      I completely agree. Jan Heine knows a lot about bicycles, and I love Bicycle Quarterly, but I think he is way off regarding separated bicycle infrastructure. Way, way off.

      I used to race bikes, and have been commuting by bike for 20+ years, and now ride touring and town bicycles. For me, to go fast on a flat ground is going 14 MPH. Jan Heine might easily go 20 MPH (or more), and even ride (in the middle of the night) from Seattle through the Cascade mountains on gravel roads to return a bicycle he was testing to a Portland bike builder, but this is far from common… Jan, people are not like you, and encouraging people to be tougher will not have the effects you hope for.

      If people have to be tougher to ride their bicycle on the road, the numbers will stay what they are and we will never see the mode share split we desire.


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      • daisy August 19, 2013 at 4:17 pm

        And I might choose to bike in the middle of the road when I’m by myself, but I’ll never take my 8 year old on that route.

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    • Chris I August 19, 2013 at 1:27 pm

      We’ve had decades to try out vehicular cycling in America, and the results have been horrifying. Our cycling death rates per mile traveled are appalling compared to other developed countries. Cycling has boomed recently because of separated infrastructure, not in spite of it.


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    • davemess August 19, 2013 at 2:01 pm

      BikeRound, what you describe in the first paragraph isn’t a separated bike lane, it is just a bike lane. There is nothing separated about it. Heine seems to be promoting bike lanes from the few times I’ve read his work. Having traveled to the Netherlands so extensively I assume you understand the difference between designated and protected.

      “Cars and bikes cannot mix because their natural speeds are just so different. This is true even if the speed limit on all residential streets were 20 mph, and all drivers strictly adhered to that speed. The only solution for most streets are protected, separated bike lanes.”

      Have you ridden in downtown Portland? Bikes and cars can coexist just fine. They timed the lights to about 12-15mph, and the bikes keep up sufficiently with the cars. Have you ridden on SE Ankeny or SE Clinton or SE Lincoln, or any of the bike boulevards? They all are great examples of bikes and cars coexisting.

      We need to get past comparing everything in the US to Amersterdam. They have done many things right, but they’re not us. They don’t have the size country we have. They don’t have the auto dependance we have. We require some new solutions (notice I said some, as I am not saying everything they are doing won’t work in the US, but to continually hold them up as the absolute is not going to be the best way forward for us.).

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    • spare_wheel August 19, 2013 at 2:38 pm

      “Since the bikers riding in the middle in the lane on the right would be going an average of 10 mph or so, the motorists would end up always driving in the left hand land at the speed limit.”

      Average speeds on Williams or even the Hawthorne bridge are far higher than 10 mph. Moreover, many routes are downhill. Most cyclists have absolutely no problem hitting 20 on a gradual descent. Heck, I have to hit 33+ to clear the field on the Hawthorne bridge ramps! Moreover, Jan Heine and I are advocates of a context-specific mix of infrastructure. This could look like the wide bike lanes common in Berlin (mode share of ~17%) or the ever so slightly raised cycle tracks of Kobenhagen (mode share ~25%). Both offer absolutely no physical segregation but are quite successful.

      “Cars and bikes cannot mix because their natural speeds are just so different. This is true even if the speed limit on all residential streets were 20 mph, and all drivers strictly adhered to that speed. The only solution for most streets are protected, separated bike lanes.”

      You just contradicted standard practice in Denmark and Holland? There are plenty of low-speed and traffic-calmed shared spaces in Denmark, Holland, and Germany. Moreover, if we were to upgrade our bike boulevards to the German standards that Heine described, we would have some of these facilities here too.

      “I have been to Amsterdam on four different biking trips, and I can report back that the separated bike paths are extremely safe and that Amsterdam has an excellent biking infrastructure even by Dutch standards”

      With all due respect you anecdotal experiences as a tourist are not very relevant when it comes to assessing safety. Moreover, since bike lanes in Holland and Germany are far safer than bike lanes in the USA its hard to argue that complete segregation is a safety panacea.

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      • BikeRound August 19, 2013 at 6:45 pm

        There are not a lot of mixed use spaces in the Netherlands. The side streets in the old town of Amsterdam are mixed bike-car spaces, but car traffic is very light there, and in many instances delivery vehicles block the only available lane, making it impossible for a car to travel down the street. I have seen many occasions when a car simply had to back out of a street.

        There are also some mixed use spaces around other narrow residential streets, but any street that goes for any length of significance has separated facilities.

        It is not just my perception that Dutch roads are much safer than American ones: traffic fatalities in the Netherlands per 100,000 inhabitants is 3.9 versus 12.3 in the United States. Those are the facts.

        I am not sure exactly how you would know how much experience I have living in the Netherlands. I even speak elementary Dutch. Wil jij in Nederlands praten?

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        • davemess August 20, 2013 at 7:15 am

          You know that statistic is an unfair comparison. Two completely different countries that vastly differ in size, population, and auto use.

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  • Ciaran August 19, 2013 at 1:24 pm

    You all are missing the subtleties of Jan Heine’s position, which I’ll try to paraphrase below. If you read through Jan’s earlier posts, it’s not that he opposes separated cycle tracks altogether, it’s just that in most North American cities, with their grids and frequent intersections, cycle tracks are of dubious value:

    They cost a lot.
    They don’t necessarily make things much safer at the numerous intersections, and might make things more dangerous by decreasing visibility.

    Rather than creating a cycle track on a major street in a grid, why not create a parralel neighborhood greenway a block over, with traffic calming diverters and the like? Essentially limit these roads to local motorized traffic only, while allowing bikes to use it like a highway. Doing this would be much less expensive and more politically possible (no fights about killing parking etc.) than creating a network of separated bicycle paths.

    Portland’s own neighborhood greenway system is pretty good, but for a lot less than a network of cycletracks, we could make it great. In some ways, a really good greenway is like separated bicycle infrastructure, but instead of a lane, you get a whole street with excellent visibility.

    Separated paths are appropriate where they are parallel to major highways where there are few intersections, or no parallel grid on which to put an improved greenway. Certainly there are excellent candidates for this in and around Portland (we need something better heading south out of Downtown). But, to take Downtown Portland as an example; why not put in a bunch of diverters to make the park blocks essentailly closed to motor vehicles? And do the same with 24th, Johnson, or Overton in NW? These measures would make those streets excellent bikeways for minimal cost.

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    • dr2chase August 19, 2013 at 2:48 pm

      You’re missing the subtlety of the statistical anti-argument, which is that Jan Heine is incredibly unrepresentative, as are all the rest of us in the biking-on-US-roads-for-decades 1%. You might as well ask a sea lion what they want in a swimming pool (“water, lots of it, and plenty of fish”) — or ask a weightlifter to help you design luggage (“well, it could be bigger, couldn’t it?”).

      And we might, if we care, attempt to analyze his recommendations to see if we think they are right, but why bother? If what we want is more butts in saddles, the thing to do is study where there ARE butts in saddles, find out what they did, and copy it (or *minimally* adapt it — “we’re special” is the standard lame excuse for stalling, diverting, and undermining change), and not continue to navel-gaze here in the land that can’t get cycling right.

      In my opinion, if there were one person who was most suited to comment on this (who also does comment on this), it would be David Hembrow — someone who lived where there was a system much like ours (i.e., England), and who then moved to the Netherlands, and who rides bikes. He is more likely to notice the differences and how they matter than someone who grew up with them and might take things for granted.

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      • Ciaran August 19, 2013 at 3:22 pm

        FWIW, I haven’t been biking on US roads for decades. I moved here from NYC two years ago and started riding again for the first time in years. Most people in NYC don’t own a car. Why? Because it’s simply too inconvenient and expensive, not because the sidewalks are separated from the streets.

        I agree that the goal is to put more butts in saddles, but I think looking at Europe is a lousy way to do that. Why? Gas taxes are one major reason. Our gas taxes are so low that driving is much more appealling comparatively. Second, the streets are laid out differently (grids vs. medieval cow paths) such that parallel greenways are not really an option in many European cities. Third, population density is still much much higher in most european cities than it is here. This means: fewer roads, more people, higher tax base, and therefore more ability to implement the relatively expensive separated paths on the relatively low number of roads that need them.

        Here, we have fewer people, with more roads. Moreover, we *have* the less expensive option of doing really good greenways.

        It’s true that a separate cycle path might be more appealing than a greenway to a new cyclist. But what good is it if there’s only a mile or two of separated path? Don’t get me (or Jan Heine as I understand him) wrong–cycle paths have their place. But they should be jused judiciously are are not the “gold standard” in all situations.

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        • Ciaran August 19, 2013 at 3:56 pm

          cycle paths have their place. But they should be jused judiciously are are not the “gold standard” in all situations.
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          PS – SW Barbur is a perfect example of where segregated cycling infrastructure makes sense. There isn’t a nearby parallel road that could be used as a greenway. Portland’s various bridges also qualify. But putting a cycletrack in on Hawthorne or Burnside just doesn’t make as much sense.

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          • davemess August 19, 2013 at 5:18 pm

            And another key point is that there are VERY few intersections on that 2 mile stretch of Barbur.

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      • spare_wheel August 19, 2013 at 3:26 pm

        “If what we want is more butts in saddles, the thing to do is study where there ARE butts in saddles, find out what they did, and copy it (or *minimally* adapt it….”

        Holland saw at best only small increases in mode share associated with its massive build out of separated infrastructure. Germany on the other hand has had an absolutely meteoric ride in cycling mode share while de-emphasizing physical segregation.

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        • dr2chase August 19, 2013 at 3:41 pm

          I assume (since you do not show your work) that you are taking the ratio of percentages, which allows Germany, with their much smaller ride share, to look better than the Netherlands. The denominator never got quite so tiny in the Netherlands, so it is much harder for them to obtain an awesome ratio.

          To be more specific, if you want to obtain 50% ride share, it would make sense to look at the best cities in the Netherlands. Groningen (57%) is similar to Boston-Cambridge-Somerville in terms of population, density, demographics (students), and climate.

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          • spare_wheel August 19, 2013 at 3:55 pm

            Holland had a high reported mode share in the 50s with very little physically-separated infrastructure. In fact, I am not aware of a single example where build out of a large network of segregated infrastructure resulted in a large increase in mode share. I believe that mode share is better correlated with motor traffic calming/reduction than the installation of a particular form of infrastructure.

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            • BikeRound August 19, 2013 at 6:52 pm

              In the fifties, bicycling may have had high mode share in the Netherlands, but by the seventies it was starting to drop precipitously as more and more people acquired automobiles. It was only due to the kindermoord (“child murder”) movement in the seventies that bicycling became safe again and the mode share recovered.

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            • dr2chase August 19, 2013 at 7:09 pm

              We all had higher bicycle mode share in the 50s with very little physically-separated infrastructure. This is more a matter of economics than road design, and in the case of the Dutch it may have been safety in extremely large numbers – traffic calming through truly critical mass (that is certainly what the older newsreels look like).

              If you start instead in the 70s, after decades of decline in Dutch (and everyone else’s) ride share, when the Dutch decided to reverse trends of increasing car use and an unacceptable level of child deaths on the road, you’ll see an increase, during the same time that they started to redesign their roads and infrastructure. For example, from Pucher, “Making Cycling Irresistible”, figure 7 ( http://www.policy.rutgers.edu/faculty/pucher/Irresistible.pdf ) you’ll see a Dutch increase of 1.7 to 2.4 km/person-day between 1976 and 2005 (+.7 km/p-d). In that same time period the Germans increased from .6 to 1 (+.4km/p-d).

              The German ratio is larger (1:1.66 vs 1:1.41) but the Dutch put more butts in saddles, because the Germans were starting from a lower base.

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              • davemess August 20, 2013 at 7:16 am

                I would love to see your evidence of more people bike commuting in the US in the 1950s than today.

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              • dr2chase August 20, 2013 at 7:59 am

                Hmm, turns out, I would love to see it, too. I’d swear I had seen it, but Google’s not finding it for me. Best I can do so far is US Census — higher bike to work in 1980 (0.5%) than in 1990 or 2000 (0.4%). That’s a decline, but not one I’d care to extrapolate from. And before that, the census did not bother to collect that data.

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    • BikeRound August 19, 2013 at 6:58 pm

      Maybe we are missing the subtleties in Heine’s position, but that street of which he posted a picture of as an example of where he lets his son ride should have separated bike facilities on both sides. The question we always need to ask is would a mom with two kids in tow ride on that street, and I think the answer unambiguously no. That street does not provide adequate protection for bicyclists.

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      • davemess August 20, 2013 at 7:22 am

        But a bike boulevard (green way) doesn’t? I think most that argue against a one size fits all separated cycle path, fully support varied infrastructure depending on the street. The same way autos have freeways, arterials, and neighborhood streets, bikes can have varied levels of infrastructure depending on the street going from bike lanes on street all the way to separated MUP (This is what we clearly seem to be doing in Portland with some pretty good success).

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      • Alan 1.0 August 20, 2013 at 9:09 am

        You mean this Seattle street with his son?

        Do you also think that that Groningen one “should have separated bike facilities on both sides?”

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  • Alan 1.0 August 22, 2013 at 6:04 pm

    Oh yeah, saw this last week and waited to to see if it would make this Round Up and then it slipped my mind…

    Congratulations to Colby Wait-Molyneux of Vancouver for winning the Washington State Bicycle Association Time Trial Championship on Sunday, Aug 11, in Tenino, and best wishes to him this coming weekend in the Eugene Celebration Stage race.


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