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The Monday Roundup: A car vending machine, pro bike x-rays, a very strong woman, and more

Posted by on March 26th, 2018 at 10:07 am

Here are the most noteworthy stories we came across last week…

Uber’s epic fail: There was a ton of great reporting and hot takes on Uber’s Tempe tragedy last week. The most interesting piece we came across was this in-depth analysis from an AV expert who said, “This will set Uber’s efforts back considerably, and that may very well be the best thing.”

Car vending machine: Ford is behind a cat-themed machine in China that allows people to walk up and buy a car.

Bike summit recap: We didn’t make it to the National Bike Summit in Washington D.C. this year, so we were happy to find this short-but-sweet recap from Bicycle Times Magazine.

A strong woman: Endurance athlete Lael Wilcox was featured in a Wired video where she details how she trains and stays motivated to ride 20,000 miles a year.

Better buses everywhere: It’s interesting how cities around North America experience the same challenges at the same time. As Portland delves into “enhanced transit,” officials in Toronto are singing the same tune.

Vroom room: As if they didn’t have enough challenges detecting doping inside human bodies, the governing body of international cycle racing has a new x-ray trailer that can spot engines built inside bicycles.


LA’s housing debate: Lisa Schweitzer is an urban planning professor at USC actively shared her thoughts about California’s controversial housing bill (SB827) via Twitter and her blog — until she received so many personal attacks she decided to take a step back.

B2V: Before Uber’s deadly crash in Tempe, the bicycle industry didn’t make much noise about the threat AVs posed to bicycle users. Now at lead one industry leader says bicycles should come standard with equipment to communicate with these new robot cars.

Bike share vandalism: Seattle’s DOT issued a warning to users of its dockless bikes: Someone has been purposely cutting the brake cables.

Dockless pile-ups: Photos showing huge piles and parking lots full of dockless bikes in China are still going around. What’s funny to me is that lots like this full of cars can be found all over the world — even right here in Portland (been out to Kelley Point Park lately, or did you see that huge fire at a car junkyard in northeast recently?) — but it’s so normal no one notices.

Motorized bikes more dangerous?: This news tidbit from Korea confirms one of my fears about e-bikes: That the speeds they can reach pose a danger to people who haven’t learned how to control it.

Another reason to ride: The obesity trend in America is still headed the wrong direction.

Plastic wands don’t work: Looks like drivers in New York City, just like here in Portland, can’t stop running into those plastic delineators that “protect” many of our bikeways.

Video of the Week: Hundreds of people turned out for the Women’s Ride on Queens Boulevard in New York City:

— Jonathan Maus: (503) 706-8804, @jonathan_maus on Twitter and

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47 thoughts on “The Monday Roundup: A car vending machine, pro bike x-rays, a very strong woman, and more”

  1. Avatar chris says:

    Where can i get one of these bikes with a hidden motor? most e-bikes look so ugly and bulky.

    1. Avatar Austin says:

      Just read in the most recent Bicycle Quarterly that Davidson up in Seattle can build one for ya!

    2. Avatar Paul says:

      Faraday is not fully hidden but it looks pretty nice.

  2. Re faster Toronto buses: can someone point me to a write up (or video?) or discussion of the idea that once a city matures to the point where car travel becomes congested, making the next-fastest-choice (transit, bike, etc.) faster actually makes car travel faster as well? Induced demand gets a fair amount of discussion, but the “economic” equilibrium that results from “rational” mode choice doesn’t even seem to have a name (?).

  3. Avatar Buzz says:

    Re. equipping bikes with AV sensors – maybe for new bikes, but what about the millions of existing bikes?

    1. There are many ways this could be done — cell phone app, independent beacons (maybe built into components such as taillights), etc. If the technology is being deployed in AVs, seems like it should also be making its way into regular vehicles.

      The question is how these would interact with vehicles. Desirable behavior is obvious enough on open highway with few cyclists. It’s not so obvious in dense urban environments with a lot going on and many cyclists.

      1. Avatar Buzz says:

        If AVs can’t ‘see’ peds and bikes the technology is far from ready for deployment.

        I’m not going to wear any antennas or whatnot just for the AVs. That’s actually a stunning admission of failure by the AV companies.

    2. Avatar Doug Klotz says:

      What about the billions of existing people?

      1. Avatar Rain Waters says:

        Yes, we must all pander to whatever AI wishes. .

        I’m sorry Dave.

    3. Avatar q says:

      Sensors will also be needed for children, dogs, boxes that fall off trucks, orange cones, branches, and (from the other article) plastic traffic-control wands.

  4. Avatar bikeninja says:

    An answer to cars mowing down the pylons, intersperse them with ” cat claws”, meow!

    1. Avatar q says:

      Yes, they should at least take a stab at doing that.

      Putting steel tubes set in concrete inside a few of the plastic wands could work similarly.

  5. Avatar CaptainKarma says:

    E-bikes (aka mo-peds) should be required to have beacons, liabilty insurance, and use the main travel lanes.

    1. Avatar soren says:

      one of the reasons i love e-bikes is that they frustrate “experienced” cyclists.

      1. Avatar Dave says:

        I have a friend and client who is a cyclist since the early 1960’s and an e-bike is the only thing keeping him able to cycle. I can’t knock ’em.

      2. Avatar Lester Burnham says:

        They frustrate everyone. A little warning would be nice from e-bikers before they blast by you at 25 mph in the bike lane.

        1. I’ve been passed rudely and without warning by all types of people. I don’t think it has anything to do with electricity.

        2. Avatar Trikeguy says:

          I don’t have an e-assist and I know a few cyclists who’ve said the same thing about me.

      3. Avatar BB says:

        You love the idea of ignoring trail etiquette and endangering other users because, what, it freaks out the squares? Nice.

        1. Avatar q says:

          Not sure how you got that from the comment.

      4. Interested in learning more how they’d frustrate only “experienced” cyclists without also frustrating less experienced cyclists. Why would someone be frustrated unless they had their safety threatened by someone operating illegally and/or dangerously?

        The other question is why suggesting that frustrating cyclists is a good thing gets likes on a bike blog.

        1. Avatar Dave says:

          Everything frightens and frustrates beginners. A person needs to log a certain number of hundreds of hours riding in order to figure out what “cycling normal” is. We all spent some time getting freaked out by shit that we realize is trivial once we’ve spent enough time awheel. The cycling environment can’t be padded or smooth-edged enough for some people!

          1. Avatar Dan A says:

            It’s freaky to be pedaling slowly up a 12 percent grade with nobody behind you, and then a minute later somebody blasts by silently.

            1. Avatar B. Carfree says:

              I used to do a lot of riding in Sonoma County. That happened pretty regularly, but the person blowing by was usually a cat 1 or pro racer. I don’t think they were using motors other than their hearts, lungs and legs. Beautiful to experience, especially towards the end of a long day in the saddle.

              1. Avatar soren says:

                i felt the same way about the dad on the long-tail with child seat who blew by me
                while i was climbing up terwilliger.

                imo, many of the complaints about e-bikes originate from the belief that e-cyclists are getting away with something, not paying their dues, encouraging the less skilled/able to cycle. drivers often feel very similar emotions when people cycling filter past them.

                the *OTHER* is going faster than me!!!1!!

                i love the fact that e-bike sales are outpacing antiquated unassisted bike sales in several european nations. if people cycling are going to help prevent AV-adoption from turning into a dystopia, we need as many people “in the way” of these vehicles as possible. besides, it is my *hope* that e-bikes may eventually outcompete AVs for trips under 10 miles or so (e.g. most trips).

        2. Avatar B. Carfree says:

          Many people are frustrated by some things people on bikes do that they feel reflects poorly on all cyclists. This “You’re not doing it right” attitude mostly seems to come from those I consider newbies (less than 200,000 miles). More experienced folks usually figure out that it makes no difference one way or the other how people ride.

          I must admit to a certain amount of inner smiling when I see their knickers twisted over some little thing. Maybe that makes me a bad person, but I also get an inner smile just seeing people on bikes (even the ones who are upset that someone isn’t doing it right) and I even try to move that smile to the outside sometimes.

          1. Avatar soren says:

            when i use “experienced” i’m not actually referring to experience but rather to the posturing that often occurs when someone bikes “year round” and feels that they deserve special recognition and a participation trophy.

            1. If it’s posturing, just call it that. The attitudes you describe are not so common among riders who are actually experienced.

              The sensation that people deserve special recognition and a participation trophy is widespread. Some people believe they should be recognized as better than others simply for using the roads that everyone uses just because of how they like to travel.

              1. Avatar soren says:

                territorialism (you are in my way! my bike lane!), anti-social competitiveness (don’t pass me! shoaler!), rude comments (helment! move over! get a light!), and unsafe behavior (passing rudely, tail-sucking, cycling too fast for conditions) are fairly common and largely associated with the “experienced”. in fact, i’ve never seen someone riding at a moderate pace (<14 mph) on a utilitarian bike engage in these behaviors.

                just because of how they like to travel.

                i not only favor people cycling over the “experienced” but i’d like to see “experienced commuter culture” outcompeted into extinction.

    2. Avatar SaferStreetsPlease says:

      100% disagree. You’re treating those riders the way some uninformed folks want to treat all cyclists. E-bikes are a pathway for the casually interested crowd to take up cycling, which is nothing but great for the broader cycling community (and our needs). Why put restrictions on it that would essentially decimate the market? Who in their right mind would ride the lane on Broadway instead of the bike lane just because it’s an e-bike? It’s the same vulnerability we all experience. What I would support is capping the top end speeds at <20mph.

      1. For me it’s the brakes. Many people, myself included, don’t check disc pad wear and tear as often as we should. At 8-12 mph this is no big deal, even with raw steel-on-steel you’ll likely stop…eventually. But at 25+ mph, that worn set of sintered pads could be pretty fatal, especially down a hill and/or at a busy intersection. And let’s face it, electric bikes are very attractive for otherwise lazy people who might not be as mechanically-inclined as they should be.

        1. Avatar B. Carfree says:

          I think you’re making a mountain out of a mole-hill. The only bike I have with a disc brake is a tandem. I’ve very often worn the pads down to bare metal. The thing is, I can feel the difference in braking power as it begins to lose the pad, but sometimes it’s too good a weekend to pass up some riding even if I don’t have a spare pad. It doesn’t suddenly become a non-brake, it just takes a wee bit longer to slow down from 50 mph to 20 mph on the descents we enjoy. One brake with a completely worn pad will still stop us safely even when it is completely worn.

        2. Avatar soren says:

          my bikes stop very well indeed when i wear through the pad and am braking with the metal backing. in fact, i’ve found that the screech of alloy on alloy is one of the few things that shocks drivers out of their somnambulent driving trances.

        3. Avatar Chris I says:

          How many fatalities have occurred due to this? Any?

  6. Avatar Paul Atkinson says:

    New York’s traffic safety bollards should probably look more carefully and make eye contact with drivers before entering the roadway if they don’t want to be hit.

    They also have no business being out there without blinking lights and high-viz clothing. A few little reflectors aren’t enough for any driver to be expected to see.

    It’s just common sense.


  7. Avatar bikeninja says:

    What the article about the Uber AV caused pedestrian death makes clear is that the builders of AV’s have many choices about what kind and how many sensors to install. In this instance Uber was running this one with no Lidar in an attempt to save money on designs in the future. As the article points out, Lidar would have likely seen the pedestrian is they began to cross the road. There will be great pressure in the future to strip down AV’s as much as possible in the interest of making money and there needs to be uniform standards in place to keep penny pinching from turning AV’s in to speeding death machines. We should not allow the industry to “outsource” some of the cost by requiring beacons, or comm gear on non-motorized users of the streets.

    1. One AV killed a pedestrian, versus a record number of ped deaths from human drivers numbering in the thousands, and AV gets banned. AV is lookin’ good…compared to the alternative…

      1. Avatar soren says:

        a human driver kills every 85 million miles or so (which is already incredibly immoral). uber’s AVs have killed someone in around 2 million miles.

      2. Avatar Chris I says:

        Actually, with this death, AVs are now several times more deadly for pedestrians. This incident should be very concerning for anyone that bikes or walks around vehicles.

  8. Avatar Champs says:

    So many “told ya so” articles in one batch today.

    Speculatively financed bikes going from factory to scrap in a year without a single paying customer are a very different story than the many automobiles in ports and junkyards at the bookends of their lifecycle. I called this out in a much older roundup.

    In other dog-bites-man news, empirical studies prove what we already knew: wands don’t work (for more than about a week), and 28MPH motorized vehicles don’t belong in bike lanes.

    I guess that’s the segue for this reminder of what the bike industry is really about. What do you suppose they *really* like about new bikes with motors and beacons?

    1. Avatar Dave says:

      Motors and beacons? You talking’ about Motobecanes?;)

    2. Avatar Buzz says:

      Easy, they get to sell everyone with working existing bikes another new one!

  9. On the other hand, chips are already commonly inserted into pets (for location and tracking) and some humans have chips inserted for time-release for medications and door access, so one could presumably see communications between AVs and those sentient creatures that have chips. And of course most of us carry cell phones – even among the poorest of people they are considered necessities now.

  10. Avatar B. Carfree says:

    Whoever is vandalizing the brakes on bikeshare bikes in Seattle should be prosecuted for attempted murder and dealt with as a terrorist under the otherwise awful PATRIOT 2 act. I’m generally not big on aggressive prosecution of property crimes, but vandalism that can kill someone just for choosing to use a bike is so far beyond the pale that I question whether such a person can live in a civilized society (and I wish we had one to ban them from).

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