Esplanade closure begins February 1st

The Monday Roundup: Cheap gas cheerleading, cycling’s diversity problem, Uber’s deadly failure, and more

Posted by on May 29th, 2018 at 10:28 am

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The Pioneer Century – June 2nd – 5 routes in an around Canby, Oregon.
A benefit for the Portland Wheelmen Touring Club.

Welcome back from the holiday weekend.

Here are the best stories we came across last week…

Defend our cities: With last week’s horrible hit-and-run downtown, it’s time for Portland to follow the lead of other great cities like Madrid and prohibit driving in some busy central city locations.

Good clean fun: Seniors at a Rockford, Illinois high school filled their parking lot with dockless bikes as a prank. Kids these days.

Driving is toxic: When it comes tracking fatalities, car crashes get the headlines. But when you look closely at the numbers, the emissions are what really do the damage to human beings.

Central Oregon’s dirty bike lanes: The city of Bend has a bike lane maintenance problem.

Marketing jargon: Surprise, surprise, a private corporation (Tesla) uses a word (autopilot) to market a key feature of their product that is not only deceptive, but dangerous.

Bike lanes are for cars: Seattle Bike Blog makes the intriguing case that bike lanes are really for people who drive.

Cheap gas is a bad thing: Among the basic transportation policy tenets Democrats need to master is that we need gasoline to be more expensive — not less.

Sladda recall: Ikea’s practical and smart bike has been recalled due to possible breakage of the belt drive.

Worrying sign for e-bikes: For some crazy reason, the European Commission has ruled that electric-assist bicycle riders must carry third party liability insurance.

Momentum for free transit: One reason it’s important for government agencies to educate the public about the true cost of driving is that it makes the idea of providing free transit seem much more reasonable.


Quick and dirty critique: There’s a debate about whether it’s best to plan large and costly capital projects on specific corridors or spread street updates out to an entire network by using cheaper, temporary designs. The experience of Calgary should be a lesson for Portland.3

An opinion about cycling activism: In a new song, Portland musician Stephan Malkmus hints that the energy of bike activists could be put to better use on other issues.

Uber’s deadly mistakes: The Uber driver’s car that was involved in the fatal Arizona crash “saw” the woman crossing the road but failed to brake. The Economist explains the tech behind the crash and says the car’s on-board computers got confused, leading to a system design failure.

Bike-to-vehicle standards: Trek, Ford and software company Tome have partnered up on an effort to make sure that the confusion from self-driving cars in the link above is less likely to happen again.

Portland’s “century of exclusion”: Housing writer Michael Andersen took a closer look at maps and zoning policy to reveal why some of our neighborhoods continue to exclude multi-family housing nearly 100 years after classist policies passed.

Promising Apple tech: If the new iOS can unlock doors, one of our smart Twitter friends @quicklywilliam wonders if unlocking dockless bike share bikes could be next.

Cycling diversity: The cycling chief of London opines that it might be time to set official diversity targets. What’s also interesting about this article is that — like some academic/activists have warned — pushing solely for a “build it and they will come” approach might result in simply more white men and no greater portion of women and people of color.

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

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  • Al May 29, 2018 at 11:28 am

    The Uber car that killed Elaine Herzberg didn’t “fail” to brake. The Volvo XC90’s Autonomous Emergency Braking system was disabled by Uber. It didn’t brake because of a very conscious decision that Uber made. They also reduced the number of employees in the vehicle from 2, one to drive and the other to monitor the system, to 1 to perform both duties. Guess what the employee was doing at the time of the so called “accident”, monitoring the system rather than driving. Both of these decisions led to a very predictable outcome and one for which Uber executives should be criminally prosecuted.

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    • Chris I May 29, 2018 at 12:37 pm

      I’d like to see some repercussions for the local police department, as well. The victim-blaming lies (including the doctored video) they put out immediately after the crash are indicative of corruption, or at the very least, extreme bias against pedestrians.

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      • Dan A May 29, 2018 at 1:38 pm

        The video was doctored? I’d like to hear more about that.

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        • Chris I May 29, 2018 at 2:28 pm

          Several people that live in Tempe recorded videos from the same location. Watch and compare with the footage Uber provided and the Tempe police released without question:

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        • Spiffy May 29, 2018 at 2:55 pm

          from what I’m reading the video is WAY darker than the actual night conditions were in that area, and the timestamp was blurred… so Uber wants us to think that it was too dark to see this person on a street lined with streetlights who walked slowly across a lane before being hit… and they don’t want us to know how much time they had to react to it…

          people are also mentioning that the video is an outside front camera and is not the view from inside the vehicle where the view is wider and allows more reaction time to periphery objects…

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      • Spiffy May 29, 2018 at 2:29 pm

        the victim-blaming was pretty bad… they mentioned that the person crossed in an area where there were signs prohibiting people from crossing… they failed to mention that those signs face the other way and are not readable by people on the center median where this person was at… and they could have come onto the center median from the south, never having seen any signs prohibiting crossing the street…

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      • bikeninja May 29, 2018 at 3:09 pm

        The victim blaming by police departments with regard to self driving cars may change soon. This morning a Tesla in ” autopilot mode” crashed in to a Laguna Beach Police car that was parked along side the road. Luckily the officer had just stepped out of the car so he/she was not injured. But my guess is they might not be cutting the “autopiloters” much slack in the future.

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  • Jim Lee May 29, 2018 at 12:04 pm

    I have said this before, but the human sensorium has many orders of magnitude more processing power than ever could be crammed into a automotive automaton.

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    • Dan A May 29, 2018 at 12:16 pm

      So how do we equip a focused computer with the human sensorium? Many humans are unable or unwilling to drive safely.

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    • Chris I May 29, 2018 at 12:41 pm

      More processing power, yes, but we have pretty crappy sensors, due to our evolution (the eye evolved in water, and then animals moved onto land). We can hardly see at night, and our reaction times are poor. Humans are also easily distracted.

      The Uber car identified the victim with enough time to stop, but was programmed in a way that it ended up hitting her. Self-driving cars will eventually be safer than human drivers.

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      • B. Carfree May 29, 2018 at 7:45 pm

        And when an autonomous car has a defect that makes it hazardous, the entire fleet with that defect can be corrected all at once. Right now, each motorist has to be taught individually, and many of them take multiple lessons, just to learn basic driving skills like speed limits, traffic control devices and right of way. It’s just not working.

        I’m good with sacrificing a few tens of thousands of lives on the way to getting near zero with autonomous vehicles rather than continuing to kill off many tens of thousands of people per year. I guess that lets you know how I’d answer the train crash ethical question. Yes, I’d select the choice that kills fewer, even if I have to take direct action that leads to the killing/saving.

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  • Spiffy May 29, 2018 at 12:12 pm

    “Winter road maintenance means sanding materials — basalt rock on city streets and red cinders on roads maintained by Deschutes County and the Oregon Department of Transportation — accumulate in bike lanes because roads slope down from a center peak to keep rain from pooling in the street.”

    the roads are peaked like that to get water off the streets quickly so that cars can go fast…

    so cyclists suffer with debris in their legally mandated lanes because drivers want to be able to go fast during rain storms…

    this peaking also has the added benefit of directing driverless vehicles to the sides of the roads into vulnerable users rather than into oncoming traffic… that Burnside Bridge crash comes to mind…

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    • Kyle Banerjee May 29, 2018 at 3:38 pm

      I’m no fan of the junk they throw on the roads. Aside from causing the exact problems you mention, it encourages drivers to not sweat traction on inherently slick surfaces. That’s why the mayhem on the Portland roads makes the national news every time we get an inch or two of snow.

      However, designing to drain water to the side of the roads is a good idea. It’s desirable for debris to gradually work its way to the side, and it’s also good to get water away as quickly as possible as this reduces potential for black ice conditions which are extremely dangerous for everyone.

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  • Spiffy May 29, 2018 at 12:20 pm

    “Marketing jargon: Surprise, surprise, a private corporation (Tesla) uses a word (autopilot) to market a key feature of their product that is not only deceptive, but dangerous.”

    I just don’t think that’s true… users are told what it does and they go against the directions and improperly use it…

    planes have autopilot… do pilots blame it? no, because they know it’s their job to be in control and monitor the automated systems… drivers have the same responsibility…

    most marketing terms are deceptive, and if you don’t apply common sense can also be dangerous…

    how about we bring back fairness in journalism and revisit all the news over the last 30 years…

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    • Chris I May 29, 2018 at 12:46 pm

      Aircraft autopilot systems will disengage when anomalies are found (aircraft proximity to ground, airspeed, altitude, engine performance, etc). No commercial aircraft has flown into the side of a mountain with autopilot engaged, because the system won’t allow it.

      Tesla’s system is not advanced enough to use that term.

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      • John Lascurettes May 29, 2018 at 1:53 pm

        Additionally, pilots are specialized professionals. There is still a pilot or co-pilot always monitoring the flight, even with auto-pilot on.

        Really, Tesla’s “auto-pilot” is more of an “auto-copilot” — it should *never* be relied upon as being monitor-free. Language has meaning to people and “auto” means fully automatic to the lexicon of most people. And Tesla knows it.

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        • Chris I May 30, 2018 at 6:57 am

          I think “Highway Assist Mode” would be an appropriate term.

          They should also rename their “insane mode” to “reckless driving” mode.

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      • Spiffy May 29, 2018 at 3:04 pm

        so maybe we can expect Tesla to put in a kill routine that shuts off all automated controls whenever there’s such an anomaly… then we can expect people to complain about that…

        the point being that nothing with “auto” in the name is actually automatic… not the autopilot, not the automobile, not an autobiography… why would people think that? they don’t, they just like making things up to get out of responsibility… this is nothing new… even in the modern world we only use the term to refer to specific parts of flying, or as a surprised epiphany when we’re not paying attention and do something out of habit…

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        • John Lascurettes May 29, 2018 at 3:46 pm

          At the very least Tesla should program it to come to an expeditious and safe stop until automation can resolve the anomalies. I don’t care if the richies that can afford a Tesla don’t like it. Either Tesla makes it ready for prime time, or they get to let their customers suffer the fallout of their beta software.

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    • Stephen Keller May 29, 2018 at 6:51 pm

      Road pilots should be as well trained as air pilots.

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  • Spiffy May 29, 2018 at 12:38 pm

    “we need gasoline to be more expensive”

    I’ve been saying this for a long time… long before I stopped driving everywhere… even as a driver it’s obvious that gas prices should be at least twice what they are…

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    • paikiala May 30, 2018 at 9:10 am

      A friend of my daughter reports gas in New Zealand is $4 a liter.

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      • John Lascurettes May 30, 2018 at 1:21 pm

        That’s $15.16 per gallon (now, is that NZ$ or US$?). Even accepting for that being New Zealand dollars, it’s still over $10 per gallon ($10.61/g).

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  • Spiffy May 29, 2018 at 12:50 pm

    “Sladda recall: Ikea’s practical and smart bike has been recalled due to possible breakage of the belt drive.”

    I guess I assumed that this used the Gates Carbon Belt drive system but it seems that it’s using some cheap alternative… no big surprise there… I tried to find another belt drive online but I couldn’t… I assume the cheap knockoffs exist because: China…

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    • Spiffy May 29, 2018 at 12:50 pm

      also, there have been no reported incidents… no this is just Ikea being cautious… not sure what they did in their tests to break the belt…

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      • John Lascurettes May 29, 2018 at 1:56 pm

        The “remedy” is to refund. So they’re not offering to replace. I wonder if they’re going to give up altogether or re-release the bike later.

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        • Spiffy May 29, 2018 at 3:06 pm

          all of the accessories are still for sale on their site… so they must be planning on bringing it back…

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    • Matt May 29, 2018 at 9:31 pm

      Sladdas’ belts were made by Continental, not exactly a fly-by-night company.

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  • Mike Sanders May 29, 2018 at 12:53 pm

    This idea that streets are for cars only, and that bikes should get out if the way, is another example of the trash that the Trumpsters give out on a daily basis. Bike lanes are for bikes. Period. This idea is so illogical that one wonders where they get their illogic from. How do we make them understand that the world does not roll on automotive axles exclusively? The kids who filled a parking lot with dockless bikes to make a very important point are on the right track. The continuing push to remove Better Naito “because it hinders traffic” is a good example of the car lobby trying to prevent progression to a better, more liveable society.

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  • bikeninja May 29, 2018 at 1:05 pm

    Way back in the 1970’s some of the most forward thinking energy economists were advocating a gas tax that ramped up over time to provide an incentive that everyone could count on to maximize car fuel economy and ultimately phase out car use before we ran out of oil and an atmosphere to dump auto pollution. This was a significant missed opportunity, because if we had done it our cities would be completely different today, many fewer people would own cars, we might have controlled climate change ( if the rest of the world followed) and SUV’s would only be in museums.

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    • Chris I May 29, 2018 at 2:34 pm

      Alas, our Federal government provides rural voters with outsized influence (2 senators per state, regardless of population, electoral college, etc). Once the majority of citizens began living in auto-dependent places, we were effectively doomed to our current state. Much like the financial bubble, I have a feeling our addiction to fossil fuels will continue to build until it all comes crashing down in a catastrophic way.

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  • Spiffy May 29, 2018 at 1:19 pm

    “An opinion about cycling activism: In a new song, Portland musician Stephan Malkmus hints that the energy of bike activists could be put to better use on other issues.”

    that’s now how I read it…

    he states that there’s a lot of energy in forums like these, and that they sometimes produce results… he then wonders what other people are into, why they don’t have the same level of organization and energy to effect change that people in bicycle forums seem to have…

    as he said, he picked bike lanes to stand in for those causes because it’s just one of the number of silly Portlandia things he could have used as an example…

    so what I take away from that is he’s saying that all of you that aren’t bicycle advocates: what are you into and where is your energy going?

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    • Greg Spencer May 29, 2018 at 3:51 pm

      Re: “Bike Lane by Stephen Malkmus: yes, it’s pretty clear the song is making light of cycling activism, juxtaposing it in the lyrics with the fight against police brutality, and including a repeating refrain “another beautiful bike lane” “and another, and another, and another”. As if our transport system’s already safe and healthy and earth-friendly, and any activism to make it better is silly. In the interview, it seems Malkmus considers cycling activism emblematic of a wider class of activity he calls “Portlandia bullshit.” I don’t have much patience with people who knock activism because it’s a waste of their (in Malkmus’s words) “helping time.” I think this criticism comes mainly from people who don’t participate in and don’t understand social activism. I, for one, applaud anyone who gives their personal time to help their community, no matter their particular cause or calling. I’d like to know what Malkmus does with his “helping time” if anything at all.

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  • David Hampsten May 29, 2018 at 1:22 pm

    “Bike Lanes are for Cars” is a really good technical, budget and attitude analysis that the chief traffic engineer here in Greensboro would readily agree with. However, he would add that bike lanes + transit-moving-at-the-posted-speed-limit is the ultimate traffic calming tool, now endorsed by 3/9 of our city councilors, and not yet opposed by the other 6. Our DOT effectively has no bike lane budget – instead they use the repaving budget from another department to pay for the new bike lanes (buffered whenever there’s enough space – we’re still a year or two away from protected.)

    Basically, Portland and other places don’t need $12 million bike lane budgets, they need a change in attitude by planners, engineers, politicians, and most importantly by activists. Bike lanes and protected intersections are simply tools designed to make streets safer for cars (and other users), along with signals, street lights, striping, sidewalks, etc. In fact, there’s very little of a transportation budget that isn’t available for bike lanes (bridge repair and general administration come to mind.) I felt this way when I lived and advocated in East Portland and now feel all the stronger about it here in Greensboro. It’s nice now to see a well-written article about it.

    If you want an easy-to-do short-term bike lane victory, find out which streets are getting repaved (the list is published in January), then campaign like crazy to get the “free” re-striping (which they have to do anyway) into a configuration that helps bicycling: car lanes as narrow as possible (9-10 feet), 3-lane road diet, buffered bike lanes, boxes at intersections, crosswalks, chicanes, etc. Next, grab money from the signals budget to upgrade signals at busy intersections along the street being repaved, including and especially the new blue-light signals for bikes. Make sure the signal loops are bike compatible – if not, ask that they be upgraded. Use the street lighting budget to upgrade and/or fix existing street lights. Want planters in the lane? There’s probably a separate budget for landscaping – it may be in the BES budget rather than PBOT, so you’ll have to do a bit of work connecting the 2 budgets. When you have your community-lead plan, present it to the PBOT staff (did you know that all PBOT meetings, including staff meetings, are “public” meetings? Most PBOT staff don’t even know that.) But also present it to the PBOT Bureau Advisory Committee, to the commission in charge of transportation (make an appointment), and to the City Council (you’ll need to schedule it in the morning, before their other business; schedule a time with the City Clerk.)

    Do let us know how it turns out.

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    • Spiffy May 29, 2018 at 3:11 pm

      that last paragraph was awesome! have you written any articles about this process?

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  • David Hampsten May 29, 2018 at 1:55 pm

    In Michael Anderson’s “Maps: Portland’s 1924 Rezone Legacy Is ‘A Century of Exclusion’”, I’m very surprised he never mentions the power of neighborhood associations to oppose any development they don’t like. For the neighborhoods he calls out in blue, all have very steady boards dominated by single-family home owners who are obviously trying to protect their investments (including in Argay in East Portland), while most development away from downtown is in those neighborhoods where the boards are weakest with the highest rate of turnover and the fewest participants (Powellhurst-Gilbert, population 31,000, for example.)

    He also uses 2018 (1992) city boundaries to compare a 1924 law – he should be using the 1924 boundaries and comparing those areas.

    What he really needs to do, of course, is run a multi-variable correlation of his data.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty May 30, 2018 at 4:20 pm

      What power is it the NAs have, exactly?

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      • David Hampsten May 31, 2018 at 1:44 am

        In any city, NAs can help focus community desire in favor of certain types of projects and/or community angst against development (NIMBY) and sometimes fatally delay development.

        Specific to Portland, NAs have certain legal powers:

        Neighborhood Associations’ role in the land use review process
        • Notices list neighborhood association and coalition contacts
        • Appeal fees are waived for neighborhood associations

        Communicating about development projects
        • For some projects, developers must provide early notice ‐ Neighborhood Contact requirement.
        • Option to invite developers to come to a neighborhood association or other meetings.

        (From ONI/BPS ABC’s of Land Use:

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        • Hello, Kitty
          Hello, Kitty May 31, 2018 at 1:53 am

          Those are mighty powers indeed. The truth is that NAs have very little ability to influence development unless developers want to be cooperative. Some do, many don’t. Delaying most types of development, even when adjustments are required, is very difficult. NAs are pretty much impotent in this arena.

          I do wish they had more of an ability to focus community desire — I believe in self-determination, and the more locally that happens, the better.

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  • David Hampsten May 29, 2018 at 2:04 pm

    “(Illegally) Unlocking Bike Share Bikes” – Kids under 16 here in Greensboro have at least since last fall figured out how to hack into the Lime Bikes here in Greensboro using their cell phones. Not only are they not paying for their rides, but they are also legally too young to be using the bikes. So I’m a bit surprised to only now be reading that in the highly advanced West Coast are people even speculating about this. Greensboro is normally a bit backwards, even by NC standards, so are our poor kids just more motivated? Or are they far smarter than we give them credit for?

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  • David Hampsten May 29, 2018 at 2:27 pm

    Cycling Diversity – The excerpts you cite are not really helpful nor to the point of your headline.

    I live in a city that is 43% black (40% white) and where over 55% of cyclists are black, according to the Census. The LimeBike folks here are getting similar usage rates. Most of the black cyclists I’ve talked with here get harassed less often on their bikes than while driving, by the police and other drivers, in spite of this city being rated #1 in the USA by Waze for being car-friendly. So when I see an article like this, I just assume they are writing about a city that is dominated by whites, such as on the West Coast or anywhere in Europe. Yeah, metro London has black areas, but it is still dominated by whites, including people commuting to work from the surrounding suburban Home Counties. “Riding while being black” can be very intimidating in such areas, more so than “riding while being white” is for me in the numerous neighborhoods and cities here in the South, where most people are incredibly friendly and wave and say hi to you, no matter your (or their) race, national origin, or gender. So IMO for such white cities, until you can get the police and residents to entirely stop harassing non-white cyclists and car drivers over race, you are always going to get low usage rates for such users no matter what infrastructure you put in or where it’s put.

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  • Jim Lee May 29, 2018 at 3:16 pm

    Come back, Dave…please come back, Dave!

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  • Kyle Banerjee May 29, 2018 at 3:25 pm

    “[regarding mandatory insurance for e-bikes] In an explanatory introduction to the proposal, the European Commission claims that pedal-assisted cycles should already currently have full motor vehicle insurance (not transport, bicycle, personal or household insurance but full motor-vehicle insurance).”

    I’m surprised this ridiculous ruling didn’t irk more people — maybe because it has no chance of happening here? I’m struggling with the logic as the Euro e-bikes are speed limited well below non assisted speeds for many riders.

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  • soren May 29, 2018 at 5:20 pm

    tailpipe emissions are a serious and, largely, unnecessary health risk for both children and adults but are largely ignored while far less risky emissions (e.g. bullseye glass) cause mass outrage.

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    • Hello, Kitty
      Hello, Kitty May 30, 2018 at 4:22 pm

      People fear certain threats more than others; most people think their wood smoke is harmless, for example, while they go berserk over fluoridation.

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  • Champs May 30, 2018 at 9:16 am

    I don’t see what’s “crazy” about additional requirements for additional features, i.e. insurance to operate an e-bike. It’s not taking away anyone’s freedom to ride a plain old bicycle.

    What’s crazy is the collective shrug about equipping bikes for autonomous vehicles. This is a de facto mandatory new requirement for absolutely nothing in exchange except not to be blamed at the end of an article about your death for the high tech equivalent of “not wearing a helmet.” The bike industry will gladly sell you that peace of mind as a retrofit, but conveniently for them it’s going to be much better if you buy a new bike.

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    • Kyle Banerjee May 30, 2018 at 10:31 am

      Why should e-bikes be subject to additional requirements unless additional risk can be demonstrated? Class 1 and Class 2 e-bikes are limited to speeds that make them slower than regular bikes except when going uphill.

      As for equipping bikes for AVs, why resist the idea before we even know what it is? Where is anything mandated or even demonstrated to be part of the bike? The devil is in the details. Simply warning drivers of every cyclist in a city full of cyclists doesn’t sound very helpful and may in fact be harmful.

      If you want to harsh on goofball technology, check this out:

      Basically, they want cyclists to use LIDAR to warn them of approaching vehicles. Unbelievably, at least two of the authors are cyclists who seem unaware of that mirrors deliver far better and precise tracking of vehicles at a fraction the cost, size, and weight.

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