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The Monday Roundup: E-bike criticism, peak bike, cheat the wind, and more

Posted by on July 16th, 2018 at 11:09 am

Welcome to the week! Here are the best links we came across in the past seven days…

Sponsored by Efficient Velo Tools: Don’t trust traffic – scan your surroundings with the Safe Zone Helmet Mirror.

Stay in the pack: A study on wind resistance in a large cycling peloton demonstrates that a rider in the middle of the pack gets a minuscule 6 percent of the wind resistance they’d face riding on their own.

Two ways to kill dockless bike share: The City of Chicago said bikes from dockless giant Ofo must be locked to something (not just themselves). So Ofo picked up their ball and went home. In Australia, it was the mandatory helmet requirement that scared Ofo off.

Copenhagenize, the e-bike critic: Famed urbanist and media producer Mikael Colville-Andersen got into hot water for a tweet that denounced e-bikes and the people who use them.

Peak bike: Bike industry insider Rick Vosper says the baby boomers who fueled biking in the past half-century will leave the market and are not likely to be replaced.

Counterpoint: In response to Colville-Andersen’s tweet, Modacity made the case that e-bikes portend a much more inclusive future for cycling.

Uber and Lime team up: The latest turn in the very windy dockless scooter and bike road is a major partnership between Uber and Lime.

Cars are bad, reason #1,358: A major new study finds that particulates from cars are worse than thought and can lead to diabetes for people who live close to busy roads. (Another reason why it’s unconscionable for ODOT to expand I-5 adjacent to Tubman school in north Portland).


A jacket. Seriously: Ford — the company that makes and sells some of the most unsafe, unnecessary SUVs ever to hit the market — made a bike safety jacket.

Interested but concerned cops: In Denver, bike-mounted police officers admit that they ride on sidewalks because they are afraid of sharing the roadway with drivers.

Vancouver coming to grips: Not a surprise what’s causing a rise in collisions in Vancouver — but at least the City seems to have identified the problem and some solutions.

E-scooter must-read: Michael Andersen writes that Portland’s 25-cent per ride charge to e-scooter operators should be a boon for bikeways.

Lazy Danes: It’s amazing how behaviors shift when you make biking more convenient than driving.

Denver advocates get loud: Advocates in the mile-high city have started to use a “public health crisis” framing as a way to create urgency around improving access for bikers and walkers.

Car companies are evil: U.S. car companies don’t care about anything but profit and their attempt to stave off safety regulations for driverless cars is just the latest example.

“Shared active transportation”: NACTO has released a very useful guide to managing dockless bike and scooter programs.

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

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122 thoughts on “The Monday Roundup: E-bike criticism, peak bike, cheat the wind, and more”

  1. Avatar Dave says:

    Mikael Colville-Andersen needs to go for a nice bike ride, maybe have a cup of coffee after, he’d feel better.

    1. Avatar Steve Scarich says:

      Over here in Bend, his observations are pretty much spot on.

      1. Avatar B. Carfree says:

        They’re not consistent with my experience in the Southern Willamette Valley. I have elderly friends who wouldn’t be able to ride without the assist. I’ve met severely disabled people who can get out and enjoy the sights only because they are using electric assist. I met a woman during tax season who only enjoys riding when she rides with her husband, but can only keep up with him because her trike has electric assist. Just last month I rode home from a meeting with a young man of limited financial means who had purchased a kit to convert his bike and was absolutely loving it; he lives on less than $20k/yr, so he’s hardly affluent.

        Every person I see on a bicycle, electric assist or not, warms my heart. Sure, I see the occasional bit of questionable behavior, but I believe people tend to ride like they drive and I’m happy such folks aren’t driving at that moment. Our tribal tent needs to be large enough to encompass e-bikes, otherwise cycling modal share will trend towards zero, imo.

      2. Avatar Gary B says:

        Or maybe your observations aren’t accurate? I just started on an electric-assist. You wouldn’t know it by looking at me, but a year ago, I shattered my leg, major fractures in 3 places. Surgeries, rehab, and 10 months removed, I was able to pedal my bike ok, but only short distances and couldn’t handle substantial hills without awful pain. My new electric assist is the only reason I’m out commuting beyond my neighborhood on my bike.

  2. Avatar bikeninja says:

    The overall picture a rational visitor from another planet would get upon studying our transportation system is that Automobiles are our technological heroin. Once addicted, most of the population can’t quit ( for personal, economic and geographic reasons). But like an addiction to opioids we can only save ourselves ( and our planet) by getting the monkey off our backs. Hoping that driverless cars will solve our problems is like the Heroin addict solving their problems by switching to Oxy.

    1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

      You could make the same statements about a great many transformative technologies: computers, electricity, etc. We certainly could live without these (and did so quite well through most of our history), but the costs of restructuring ourselves to do so would be quite high.

      1. Avatar Middle of the Road Guy says:

        I’d respond with a longer answer, but my memory span has been eroded by a beeping device that demands my attention.

  3. Avatar turnips says:

    from the Columbian article about Vancouver:

    “In the future, the city plans to incorporate broader community discussion about potential changes in part of the transportation plan update.

    The city plans to ask if streets should change to reflect trends shown in collision analysis; how existing roads can improve safety for all users; and if the safety and accessibility needs of vulnerable commuters should be prioritized.”

    I hope I’m wrong, but I’m not optimistic about how that “community discussion” will go.

    1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

      “if the safety and accessibility needs of vulnerable commuters should be prioritized.”

      That’s not a data question; it’s policy, and it’s where opinionated feedback is most useful.

    2. Avatar Resopmok says:

      Interestingly, the article listed distraction as a major cause for the collision increase but failed to mention which part of the city’s plan would address it.. Improved intersections and bike/ped facilities may help, but these things have probably seen the least amount of change, and therefore don’t really correlate as identified causes of an increasing collision rate. I don’t mean they shouldn’t be improved, but the logic/math doesn’t really add up. Meanwhile, cell phone use and cars that are easier to drive fast have increased in the same time period – what is the plan to address these causes?

    3. Avatar Alan 1.0 says:

      I hope I’m wrong, but I’m not optimistic about how that “community discussion” will go.

      Plans like those always take too long to realize, and all too often are too little, too late, but for what it’s worth, when I’ve gone to open house type Vancouver street planning meetings, I’ve been favorably impressed. There have always been active transportation staff at the meetings, engineers have been approachable and willing to listen and respond, and there have been good feedback channels including maps, markers, stickers, pens, and feedback forms with both specific questions and open-format sections. I have seen – and continue to see in progress – such suggestions for bike and ped facilities being built. There are still rough edges built recently (e.g. 137th roundabouts), but the input process seems OK to me. It does take time that I don’t have lately, so my thanks to others from VBC, Bike Clark County, WA Bikes, or just interested folks, who are showing up.

      Thanks for the news about the northern hinterlands, Jonathan! 🙂

  4. I understand there are lights … but a BLACK safety jacket?! Seriously.

    1. Avatar BradWagon says:

      Wore entirely black this morning, no issues. Wear entirely black with black backpack on mostly black bike all winter… people will see you if they are looking, if they are not they won’t no matter what color your special bicycling hazard clothing is.

      1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

        If this is true, why do companies world-wide invest in brightly colored safety clothing?

        1. Avatar BradWagon says:

          Safety clothing? Like PPE?

          If you’re talking about bicycling clothing it’s obvious majority of people take the “be seen be safe” campaigns to heart and believe dressing in bright clothing makes them less likely to be hit by a vehicle. It’d be great if drivers instead could bear their own responsibility to just have their eyes open enough to see something as basic and obvious as another human being. But, cultural norms are hard to break.

          1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

            Does it have to be one or the other? I think we need both, since it is well know that even people looking, with their eyes open, miss things. It’s part of the imperfections of human cognition and perception. Maybe you’ve experienced this yourself.

            1. Avatar BradWagon says:

              That’s fine, I have lights in low viz conditions and much of my equipment has small reflective features. However, none of even these basic things would be needed in an environment absent of cars.

              1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

                Even if this were true, does this somehow mean that we should not have overlapping and redundant safety systems?

              2. Avatar q says:

                I’ve been listening to construction backup beepers all day for several weeks now, and it’s made me jaded to the idea of safety. Now the vehicles with beepers are honking when they go near people or pass by doors because after people hear beepers several hundred or thousand times per day they are meaningless. It would be safer if they were turned off. I read California (I think) has mandated that backup beepers be readily audible for a long distance from the FRONT as well as the back, meaning you’re alerted to a vehicle moving away from you with the same sound it makes when it’s backing towards you–meaning now people who hear the beeper may assume the vehicle is moving away from them, so they’ll learn to ignore the sound.

                So….black safety coat? If streets become like construction sites, with so much fluorescent orange and green that it becomes a background color, maybe black is the way to get noticed. Meanwhile, I’m seeing more and more black Ford trucks with black wheels, black glass, black grills, and black trim.

              3. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

                Flat black is the new fluorescent.

              4. Avatar rachel b says:

                Poor q. 🙁 We lived next construction for 8 years straight. It can drive you cuckoo, and so much of Portland has been experiencing this inescapable stress for 18+ years, now. We kept moving, like idiots. That was before I realized you cannot escape Portland within Portland anymore.

                Apparently Great Britain did away with the obnoxious beepers and switched to white noise over a decade ago. I had a contact sent Union Pacific RR a video about white noise “beepers.” Don’t know if they ever switched over but I kinda doubt it.


              5. Avatar 9watts says:

                “Even if this were true, does this somehow mean that we should not have overlapping and redundant safety systems”

                You’re really not hearing folks on this issue. Q (as always) makes a great case for treading more carefully. I’d only add that these overlapping and redundant safety systems you seem to endorse tend—in this country—to responsibilize only one party, and not, incidentally, the party whose presence necessitates the equipment in the first place. This is not logical, fair, or likely to lead to better outcomes in the long run.
                Six inch spikes projecting out from the center of steering wheels, on the other hand, would.

              6. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

                That white noise reversing beacon is ASWESOME. If it really works as well as they say, I’d be 100% on board.

              7. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

                7watts — If your argument were true, we’d see increasing auto fatality rates as roads and cars became safer. But, for some strange reason, we don’t.

              8. Avatar 9watts says:

                “we’d see increasing auto fatality rates as roads and cars became safer. But, for some strange reason, we don’t.”

                Well we have been seeing increasing fatalities of those outside of autos, have we not? How do you explain that?

              9. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

                Phones? They’ve changed the game in terms of distracted driving.

  5. Avatar hotrodder says:

    I have a collapsable silicone colander that looks a LOT like that Devo helmet in the Ford Jacket picture. Only difference is, mine is red.

  6. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

    Danes bike because they’re lazy; the article talks about how easy and convenient biking can be. And then I think of all the apartments we’re building where bikes are supposed to be stored in-unit, and most of that convenience and ease seems to go out the window.

    Am I thinking about this wrong?

    1. Avatar Alex Reedin says:

      I think you might be – I could well be wrong on this, but isn’t non-in-unit bike parking mandatory in City code for most multifamily buildings now?

      1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

        It might be, but is it required to be built in a way that is usable? As I was writing the above, it did occur to me that if I had a bike trailer, for example, it might be more convenient for me to take the whole thing, bike and trailer (full of groceries) directly to my apartment, and just store both there, rather than make a detour to the bike room.

        If I did that, I would almost certainly invest in a good folding bike.

  7. Avatar bikeninja says:

    It seems like a lot of the heated discussion around ebikes is caused by confused terminology. I think it would be simpler, more constructive to simply refer to these vehicles as electric scooters and then rank them by speed or power. We could then tailor our laws with regards to where they can be ridden based on these criteria. Ebikes are kind of like when cars first came out and were referred to as horseless carriages. They looked like carriages with motors beneath them and no horses. I think ebikes are like that right now. There is nothing wrong with a diversity of human and electric powered transportation solutions but for gosh sakes lets not mess things up with hokey marketing terms and half baked solutions.

  8. Avatar Bkl says:

    For us with disabilities each bikes open a whole new world

    1. Avatar X says:

      This looks like two great comments merged into one.

  9. Avatar Steve Scarich says:

    My subjective reaction to Colville-Andersen’s comment, at least based on who rides e-bikes in Bend, is that he pretty much go it right.

    1. Avatar Alex Reedin says:

      Welp, based on my small travels there, Bend seems to have relatively few people who bike for transportation and relatively many who bike only for recreation. So it makes sense that most of the e-bikes would be toys there – if my anecdotal observations reflect the larger pattern accurately, most of the regular bikes are toys too.

      In Portland, the majority of e-bikes that I notice are cargo bikes with kid-carrying setups. And, I see a lot more on the streets (which I interpret as mostly transportation trips) vs. on bike paths (which I interpret as a higher percentage of recreational trips).

      1. Avatar Steve Scarich says:

        There are some parents with e-bikes and cargo/kids. But, most of the e-bikers are middle-aged, apparently prosperous, white people (OK, that is 90% of Bend) and lots of tourists. The e-bike is a BIG deal for tourists; you can tell that they are tourists because they travel in packs at about 8 mph. And, btw Bend is about 3/4 easy terrain, with lots of hilly stuff on the Westside.

        1. Avatar Chris I says:

          Most of the low-income residents of Bend live on the fringes, or the east side, where cycling is more dangerous. I would expect that the patterns you observe related to e-bikes are true for cycling in general. Very few poor Bend residents cycle for transportation.

  10. Avatar Steve Scarich says:

    I have commented twice, not offensively in anyway, and both of my comments were quickly deleted. Is their something sacred about agreeing with Mr. Colivlle-Andersen that I am missing, or is it personal?

    1. Avatar 9watts says:

      do you mean sacrilegious?
      It looks like your comments have reappeared. I see two (plus your meta comment).

      1. Avatar Steve Scarich says:

        Yes, sacrilegious, thank you…..and my comments re-appeared shortly after my whine.

    2. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

      Never attribute to malice what can easily be attributed to wordpress screwing something up.

  11. Avatar 9watts says:

    Peak Bike: staking one’s hopes on continuing to sell exponentially more bikes every year seems like a questionable strategy (never mind measuring the activity: bicycling with this statistic). I mean, most bikes (e-bikes perhaps excepted) can be made to last basically forever. We could all bike for decades without buying a single *new* bike, or am I missing something?

    1. Avatar B. Carfree says:

      The peak year for units sold of bicycles was 1974. Coincidentally, my trusty town-bike of the past twenty years, a 1974 Schwinn Hollywood that was originally purchased new for my mother, finally gave up the ghost recently when the bottom bracket shell broke open. I’m still deciding if it’s worth the trouble of having it repaired. Meanwhile my back-up is her 1984 Stump Jumper

      That was a long-winded way of agreeing with you. I guess I could add that my primary joy-ride bike is a 1981 Trek 720, and my wife’s is the same thing but from two years later. Yep, they do last a long time.

      1. Avatar X says:

        You could drop one of those Bosch motors in there 😉

    2. Avatar BradWagon says:

      Agree some of the assumptions regarding number of bikes one person owns while true for some is pretty unstable long term. Especially if we’re hoping to grow cycling, vast majority will have just one all around bike and maybe one specialized bike if they start to enjoy it for recreation.

    3. Avatar Dave says:

      I’m a bike industry lifer and an incurable optomist. In 1970 nobody saw the “bike boom” coming. In the late 70’s nobody within most of the industry took BMX or mountain bikes seriously. Cyclists themselves reinvent the bike on a regular basis and industry plays catch-up.
      I mean this in the best way possible–the bike I ride most of the time would be marketed as a “randonneur” bike if it was new and had a Taiwanese frame instead of being something I put together on a 50’s frame with customer castoff parts.

  12. Avatar bikeninja says:

    I Know I should like Ebikes. They are a huge improvement over driving around in autos, and they beef up the number of riders on the street improving everyone’s safety. But lately whenever I see someone on an Ebike they remind me of the kind of people who play online video games by buying characters from someone else that have already been built up with extra powers, weapons and skills so they don’t have to go through the trouble of doing it themselves.

    1. Avatar soren says:

      comments like these really motivate me to buy an e-bike.

      1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

        Sweet, sweet revenge!

    2. Avatar Paul says:

      This reads like bigotry against those with less athletic ability.

      1. Avatar Steve Scarich says:

        There is some of that. But, it is also the phenomena of people finding the least tasking way of doing something. In other words, you could walk or pedal, and get some exercise, or you could e-bike, and get little or none. Our population has become frighteningly obese just in my 70-year lifetime, partly because we figure out ways to NOT exercise.

        1. Avatar Billm says:

          I’ve been listening to a lot of the psychologist Johnathan Haidt’s podcasts lately. Much of his work is around the purity/disgust dynamic. His claim is something like that conservatives are more purity/disgust motivated and that there ideas of purity tend to revolve around nationalism and sex, hence their disgust response is concentrated in these areas as well. He did most of this work in the nineties and early naughties.

          I think it’s become abundantly clear in the last few years that liberals have their own purity/disgust dynamic, and that rather than revolving around nationalism and sex it revolves around food and exercise.

          Seen in this light, anti-ebike sentiment is a disgust response to the “corruption” of “pure” cycling. I can think of no rational explanation for this contempt for what is likely to be the single most impactful (in a good way) transportation technology of this century, if not ever.

          1. Avatar 9watts says:

            Thanks for those stimulating thoughts.
            “anti-ebike sentiment is a disgust response to the ‘corruption’ of ‘pure’ cycling. I can think of no rational explanation for this contempt ”

            I am not in a position to dismiss this out of hand, but as someone who has asked questions, pushed back against what strikes me as the hype around ebikes (and autonomous vehicles and renewable power and energy efficiency and curbside recycling and fuel economy and pretty much all other darlings of people like us) I think it is possible to have thoughts, concerns, reservations about any of these matters that arise from subtler concerns than your characterization allows.
            As I’ve said here on more than one occasion, e-bikes (and mopeds) are many things (good, bad, in between), but to suggest that the differences between them and human-powered bikes is too small to discuss, that objections will be categorically rejected, seems foolish. The history and philosophy of technology (two academic fields) speak to these distinctions, how we have made sense of these technologies, and found meaning in them.

      2. Avatar BradWagon says:

        I read it as a knock to those that are removing one of the primary joys of riding a bike, human power. To me this is the primary aspect of cycling that I and many I know enjoy about it. Would removing that from cycling change the way culture at large starts to interact? If everyone is on e-bikes trying to get somewhere as fast a possible how is that different from them doing so in cars from a mindset or cultural point of view? (Obviously it is safer, more efficient, etc.. plenty of good reasons but the hurried aspect of it seems problematic.)

        1. Avatar 9watts says:

          an excellent observation, and one we’ve not heard here in the comments about ebiking I don’t think. Thanks.

        2. Avatar Alex Reedin says:

          Your read is very charitable. I (an ebike rider) do bemoan the speed. It’s just not as nice an experience, doesn’t lend itself to noticing and talking to friends, means I have to pay very active, a little bit worried/anxious attention (which I do!) in order to fulfill my legal and moral obligations to pedestrians, etc. And, I have noticed other speedy bike riders (ebike and only-pedal-powered alike) who are much ruder to people walking. The slow bike riders are a much smaller problem – almost hard to present much of a danger/scare factor to pedestrians if you’re toodling along at 10-12 mph.

          However, the true, underlying problem isn’t the me or my ebike, or the other people and their bulging calves, unobtanium road bikes, and/or ebikes. It’s our built environment, where things are so spread out, and our housing market, which has encouraged me to live further from work, and likely caused them to go fast for a variation on the same reason.

          Don’t like speed? A Portland in which everyone could afford to live in appropriate housing <3 miles from work if they so chose would decrease speed markedly. If there were dramatically more housing close to downtown, it's at least conceivable that that housing would be affordable to middle-income households, and that biking would serve those households needs quite well. I certainly wouldn't own an e-bike in an alternate-universe Portland in which inner Portland out to say SE 30th was all apartment/condo blocks, offices, grocery stores, medical offices, etc and I lived in a 5-story apartment building in the alternate-universe Ladd's Addition.

          1. Avatar BradWagon says:

            That’s fair, that comments specific tone was definitely more degrading however I usually assume my above interpretation is closer to the generalized root of the criticism than just mean heartedness.

        3. Avatar billm says:

          It seems to me that the market is in the process of making a categorical distinction between “pedelecs” or pedal assist e-bikes, and throttle based e-bikes. The latter are more akin to scooters, whereas the former ride like bikes with the breeze always at your back.

          It’s clear that you’ve never ridden a pedelec. If you had you’d know that you can get as much exercise a you like on one.

        4. Avatar Paul says:

          As an anecdote, on my ebike, averaged over time, about 3/4 of the energy input comes for me and 25% from the motor. But it sure is nice to have it when I need it.

        5. Avatar soren says:

          “one of the primary joys of riding a bike, human power.”

          i don’t care about cycling as a recreational or pleasure-seeking mode at all. in fact, i’m somewhat hostile to those who excessively promote cycling as “fun” because this reinforces the pervasive societal stereotype that cycling is not a valid transportation mode.

    3. Avatar X says:

      My friend S., who kept her road bike chain on the big ring by default, got an ebike about 10 years ago. I laughed. “You don’t need a motor!”
      S: “I get to work and don’t need to change or shower.”

    4. Avatar Dave says:

      They remind me of a friend and occasional client who has heart damage from chemo and can’t be as much of his own motor as he’d like anymore.

  13. Avatar Kathy says:

    Regarding Ford’s “cycling jacket that will make the road safer for cyclists”: It’s just one more way to put the burden of safety on the person riding the bike and avoid creating a road environment that is less car-centric. I can’t even imagine wearing it on a day like today where–in my world–our temperatures were in the 90s, as was our humidity. I wonder how it would work out in January when the temperatures are in the teens and I’m all layered up to ride my bike.

    1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

      The existence of this jacket puts exactly zero burden on you.

      1. Avatar 9watts says:

        “The existence of this jacket puts exactly zero burden on you”

        That is not correct either. Take the widespread deployment of high-viz garb in construction. The cultural expectation that people not in cars adorn themselves with retrospective this or fluorescent that is a straight line. We have seen a responsibilization of people not in cars to do something about this problem (which incidentally derives more from the inherent difficulty of seeing well from within a car, not to mention the speed differentials, than it does from the color of the person out biking or walking).

        1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

          In most cases construction garb/reflective industrial clothing is to help people be seen by professional equipment operators, not random car drivers.

          I do not argue we should not be making cars safer (we should, even if risk compensation erodes a fraction of the gain). We don’t live in a binary either/or world.

          Complex problems often require multi-pronged solutions.

          1. Avatar q says:

            This is an aside…I’m sure you’re right about reflective construction clothing being meant to help workers be seen–at first. Now, it’s nutty. I know construction workers whose company safety policies require reflective gear to be worn when they’re working on tenant improvements in office spaces where they’re working during the day when the offices are occupied. They’ve even had to wear hard hats.

            So there they are in their reflective vests and hard hats, moving some ductwork around while the paralegals sit five feet away at their phones and computers.

            And the construction companies that are the worst for safety always seem to be the ones with safety slogans on their trucks, and several pages on their websites about their safety practices.

            1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

              If you were a safety officer crafting rules to keep your workers safe (or, more likely, your company safe from being sued by an injured worker), would you make rule that said “hard hats shall be worn at all times”, or one that said “hard hats shall be worn whenever you are doing something you anticipate will actually be dangerous when you leave your home/vehicle/office and remember to grab your hat”.

              The push for simple, clear rules sometimes creates situations that appear rather silly. Or not… I talked to someone who ran a manufacturing company for 20 years (with all sorts of dangerous tools and chemicals), and he told me his number one source of injury was office workers falling off chairs they were standing on to change a bulb/reach something high/etc. Sometimes the actual hazards are not apparent.

              1. Avatar q says:

                I agree that’s likely how the rules are made. The drawback is that it also teaches people that the rules can be silly, and that the requirements may have nothing to do with safety in a particular instance. It’s a similar situation with traffic rules.

              2. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

                I know I’ve learned that lesson well!

    2. Avatar El Biciclero says:

      Anyone else notice the irony of how over-designed this jacket is so that bicyclists can operate with minimal audio/visual distractions (vibrating sleeves, passive “signal” lights, bone-conducting sound system to keep ears uncovered), while their SUVs offer ever more insulation from the outside world and increasing amounts of info-tainment available on a touch-screen that you have to look at to know what you’re touching? Where is the driver’s “safety” jacket that has such features? Where are the sensors that detect when the driver’s eyes are looking down while moving, the steering-wheel sensors that detect when you’ve removed a hand to reach for something distracting? I mean, if Nintendo can detect one’s “gestures”, can’t Ford?

      1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

        It’s a jacket for bicyclists, so I think the irony is lost on me. I agree, however, that it is over-designed. There is zero possibility I would ever wear one of these.

        1. Avatar El Biciclero says:

          I guess the irony is that a car company puts so much “thought” into designing a jacket that purportedly makes an already mostly harmless road user less distracted by requiring them to wear a jacket that is likely suitable only for a very narrow range of temperature/weather conditions, while simultaneously doing their best to eliminate feedback and increase distractions for the most harmful road user of all, the SUV driver. They are also concentrating on selling only the most dangerous of vehicles, SUVs and Mustangs, while discontinuing sales of passenger sedans or compacts in the U.S. The car company should, IMO, concentrate on creating a safer product and enabling safer operation by its product’s users.

          “We’re just gonna clog up the streets with these giant tanks piloted by operators that we’ve distracted with in-car screens. But don’t worry, we’ve made everything safe: alls you hafta do is wear this jacket (don’t wear it in the rain or sweat in it too much or you’ll mess up the electronics) and stay alert and out of the way!”

          1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

            You’re probably right about what Jim Hackett (president of Ford) was thinking when he ordered the London office to design this jacket as component in his larger global car selling strategy.

            Or, less likely, someone saw an opportunity to work on a fun project, sold it to their boss, and ran with it.

            1. Avatar Alex Reedin says:

              Um, the large companies I’ve worked for have more product discipline than just letting two low-level folks decide to make something random. No, not a C-level decision, but my guess is that a case had to be made to a bunch of directors and maybe fleetingly a VP as to why this jacket contributed to Ford’s larger strategy given that bike jackets are exceedingly tangential to Ford’s core product line.

              1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

                This is not a new product line, it’s a one-off experimental jacket that the designer hopes will grow into something, but is more likely just a neat platform for getting experience with some new tech.

            2. Avatar El Biciclero says:

              Well, maybe—like many things—it’s the visible source of the product/idea (Ford Motor Company) that can make a mostly innocuous thing seem worse than it may be, intrinsically. I guess to me, it feels like being car-splained: “Your problem is you don’t wear enough complicated, heat-trapping specialty-wear—it’s not the SUV’s fault, you know.”

              1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

                What I love about this site is that here, for a few precious minutes each day, I don’t feel like I am the most freakishly cynical person in the room.

    3. Avatar Tait says:

      It sounds like a great idea to me, and I could easily see myself wearing one if it works well. I don’t follow your connection from making helpful (innovative, at least a little? convenient?) bicycling gear to creating a more car-centric environment; that doesn’t make sense to me.

      There’s an argument that anything Ford does eventually turns into supporting more cars, but then nothing Ford ever did would earn your support. That seems to be Jonathan’s view too, given the tone of the summary. If the exact same product were made by a bicycling apparel company, I imagine the summary would be positively glowing. I would rather paint with a finer brush, encouraging the good and decrying the bad, even when either comes from outside the usual sources.

      1. Avatar q says:

        It is relevant, and something of a story in itself, that Ford is making it. What if a gun manufacturer marketed a bullet-proof vest to the general public? I think reporting should go beyond a review of how well it stops bullets. Of course it may make the wearer safer, but what’s the bigger picture? As many have said, at the same time Ford is coming out with this coat, it’s loading its vehicles with features and characteristics that make them more of a danger to everyone else on the road.

        1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

          The bigger picture would be that criminals would buy the vest along with their guns, and become more formidable when they’re doing crimes.

          I can’t imagine anyone making the ludicrous argument that now that this vest is for sale, gun owners can start shooting in their back yards, or that everyone has some responsibility to wear this vest. That’s essentially the argument you and others are making here, and it just doesn’t make sense.

          But you can prove me wrong. Body armor has been available for a while. Show me where we’ve put the onus on non-gun owners to get a vest.

          1. Avatar 9watts says:

            “I can’t imagine anyone making the ludicrous argument ”

            Whether you can imagine it or not isn’t the most important thing here.
            I included several links to explorations of these to-you-unimaginable scenarios in comments earlier. I’d be curious for you to read them and report back to us what you think of the arguments outlined there.
            #moral hazard
            #risk compensation

            1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

              I didn’t read all your links, but perhaps you can point to one that shows that risk compensation made the safety feature counter-productive, rather than just less effective than it might otherwise have been.

              Bonus points if you can show that it somehow applies to cyclists and the availability of a jacket like the one that Ford has prototyped (it is not the first high-tech jacket, nor will it be the last).

              There is plenty to wring your hands about; decrying the development of safety equipment (assuming you accept that being visible makes you safer) seems like an odd battle unless you can show some actual or likely (rather than just theoretically possible) harm.

          2. Avatar q says:

            I wasn’t making that argument.

          3. Avatar Chris I says:

            You missed the argument completely.

          4. Avatar El Biciclero says:

            “…now that this vest is for sale, gun owners can start shooting in their back yards, or that everyone has some responsibility to wear this vest.”

            Well, imagine if gun “accidents” were treated with dismissive attitudes to the point where they were barely investigated, and those responsible were usually told, “well, just try not to do that anymore.” Imagine the saying was, “People don’t kill people, sometimes guns just happen to.” If people just rolled their eyes and patched bullet holes like it was an expected part of normal life. Then if someone marketed a vest with copy like “you know all those bullets flying around that we just don’t seem to do anything about? Well, you’re the one who stands to lose—unless you buy our bullet-proof vest.”

            It’s not a matter of anyone starting to do anything…

            1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

              You mean like how you can shoot someone in a hunting “accident” and not even lose your hunting license?

              Actually, as I think about it, hunting creates an interesting parallel — an inherently dangerous activity with minimally trained participants, where inflicting mortal injury on others happens not infrequently, and there are similar questions of “how could you not see him, he was standing right there!” often apply.

              In that context, advice to not walk in the forest wearing brown during hunting season doesn’t feel like victim blaming or fashion policing.

              1. Avatar Alex Reedin says:

                Your analogy is not compelling due to the below differences.

                Number of times per year that even a hiking/birdwatching/whatever enthusiast might don orange – less than a dozen. Personally, I almost never do (by the time hunting season rolls around, I’d rather be in the Eastern Gorge rather than in the woods).

                Number of times per year that a “biking or walking for transportation enthusiast” might don hi-viz under the recommendation you’re espousing – 500+? 1000+?

                Number of events with a social expectation of normal clothing per year that said hiking enthusiast can be expected to hike to – 0

                Number of events with a social expectation of normal clothing per year that said “biking or walking enthusiast” can be expected to bike or walk to – 200+? 500+? (Say, going to work every workday, or kid dropoff/pickup plus some errands).

                Just because it’s a safety measure doesn’t mean we can advise that everyone do something. Safety measures have a cost. If the benefit is not greater than the cost to a given person, they’re probably not going to choose to do it. The cost of hi-viz while biking/walking is wildly greater than the cost of hi-viz while hiking/whatever. That’s why hi-viz has not been adopted by a sizeable percentage of people who bike or walk for transportation, and why it probably will never be.

              2. Avatar 9watts says:

                We’ve also been introduced here on bikeportland to studies that purport to show that wearing hi-viz makes no statistical difference when it comes to the safety of person-on-bike.

              3. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

                Alex, most of your points are made from an urban perspective. People who live in rural areas, whose yards may abut areas where people hunt, experience the issue quite differently.

                Another interesting parallel with hunting is that hunters are usually absolved of shootings unless malice is demonstrated, even when they were being careless (ref: Dick Cheney).

              4. Avatar Alex Reedin says:

                I thought about that – but there’s a key difference. Let’s imagine a rural community where people whose yards abut hunting areas actually do wear orange every time they leave the house on foot in the fall (my admittedly few friends and relations whose yards abut hunting areas do not do so, but I’m willing to believe that there are places where people do). In those rural communities, wearing orange at the destinations where the orange-wearers were going would be normal! There wouldn’t be social pressure against it!

                Contrast that to here, where the minority of bike riders who wear hi-viz while riding almost universally take it off at their destination – because of said social pressure.

                It’s really not the inconvenience of hi-viz that’s the reason people don’t, and probably never will, use it widely when biking or walking for transportation in urban areas (although the inconvenience is certainly a major factor). It’s the desire to look normal, to wear one’s own style, to look nice (whatever that means to a person).

              5. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

                I have a jacket that you would never know is high-viz unless you shined a light on it, so I think the fashion issue is a diversion. The more fundamental issue is the idea that taking steps to be visible is somehow acquiescing to victim blaming, or doing the driver’s duty for them. Those arguments certainly could apply to a hunting setting, and let us examine some of these issues removed from the emotional energy we all have about the urban cycling context.

              6. Avatar Alex Reedin says:

                The fashion question *would* be a diversion if we lived in an alternate universe where stealth-reflective jackets were a choice that everyone had, for the same price and in a similar style, in a display right next to the jacket that they actually bought in this universe.

                But given that life is as it is, and that one has to go well out of one’s way (and usually pay a hefty premium) to acquire a normal-looking reflective jacket and that one has to fit one’s personal style into the tiny percentage of jackets available that are normal-looking and reflective, I don’t think the fashion question is at all a diversion.

              7. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

                It’s not relevant to the point I was trying to make.

  14. Avatar Granpa says:

    I have a collapsable silicone colander that looks a LOT like that Devo helmet in the Ford Jacket picture. Only difference is, mine is red.Recommended 1

    I own that Devo helmet, only in tan. It was a gift from a museum gift store. The design is way styled, and note in the ad the model has it collapsed in another photo. The helmet collapses like your colander. Good ideas can transcend their silos.

    1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

      Devo was never a good idea.

      1. Avatar Toby Keith says:

        Says you.

        1. Avatar Rain Panther says:

          Devo was an unmitigatedly great idea. Says Mark Mothersbaugh. And me too.

      2. Avatar rachel b says:

        Blasphemer, HK! Devo rewls.

  15. Avatar X says:

    The Ford jacket wasn’t designed by SUV builders in the U.S., it was put together by self-identified cyclists in the U.K. So, there’s that. But, instead of grotty clothing, why didn’t they take a hack at integrated signals for bikes, something durable, weatherproof and inexpensive that would put all that functionality on the actual vehicle? Ford isn’t doing wearable fashion for car occupants. Maybe that helmet though? Can’t be too safe. Cars are coffins, what?

    1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

      Maybe someone else with a different vision will fill that niche.

  16. “The City of Chicago said bikes from dockless giant Ofo must be locked to something (not just themselves).” That’s not quite the case. Chicago’s DoBi pilot rules originally said all wheel-lock-only bikes like Ofo’s had to be off the streets after two months, but as the deadline neared the rules were changed to allow the WLO companies to keep their (only) 50 bikes out. But the rules do heavily favor “lock-to” bikes in an attempt to prevent the sidewalk blockage and vandalism (and resulting eyesores) that have been issues in other DoBi cities. Lock-to helps reduce theft as well, although that’s not really the city’s concern. The Chicago lock-to companies (currently Zagster/Pace and Jump) are allowed to deploy up to 350 bikes each.

    1. Avatar Kathy says:

      The jacket doesn’t create a more car-centric environment; it’s an effort to make bicyclists safer–putting the onus on them–so there is, seemingly, no reason to make the environment less car-centric.

      1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

        The same way helmets do. Or bike lights do. Or any cyclist safety gear does for that matter. Or even bike lanes.

        It seems your argument is the way to change things is to make cycling more dangerous. I don’t buy it.

        1. Avatar 9watts says:

          Kathy’s point is astute. Are you really not able to see what she’s getting at? The concept of moral hazard touches on this.

          You brought up helmets. We know that in most of the countries where biking is more common than it is here (where helmet use is relatively high), biking is actually statistically safer.

          1. Hello, Kitty Hello, Kitty says:

            Uh…. what? The facts you say are true (helmet use higher here, bike riding safer elsewhere), but you imply a causal connection that I think is utterly unsupported.

            1. Avatar 9watts says:

              I was responding to your statement: “The same way helmets do.” If I’m not mistaken you were suggesting a causal relationship.

              1. Avatar Tait says:

                I think it’s the opposite of that. “The same way helmets do” was a rhetorical question whether bike helmets, bike lanes, etc. create a more car-centric environment. It was asked as a way of expressing doubt at the premise.

                While I see Kathy’s point, I don’t agree with it. I’ll take at face value your statement that people drive faster with seatbelts, although that sounds reckless and irrational to me. I certainly don’t drive with less care because of airbags, seatbelts, helmets, or bike lanes. But an important clause was, “although usually small in comparison to the fundamental benefits…” The net effect on safety might be smaller than otherwise, but it’s still a net positive effect. Ford is still doing something good here, and they should be applauded for that. (And yes, at the same time they’re chastised for the safety-harming things they do adding distractions to cars, but the latter does not justify antagonism for the former.)

              2. Avatar q says:

                Still…outside of any context, Ford may be doing something good by creating this jacket. With context considered, it’s murkier.

                If a business donates money to fight litter, that’s good, right? What if the company makes money by selling non-recyclable drinking cups, and advertises to encourage people to buy those instead of recyclable or non-disposable ones? Or the pesticide company that gives some money to the wildlife sanctuary? Or the soft drink company that comes out with an exercise product, or sponsors a diabetes clinic? Or the strip-mining company that picks up litter on a mile of highway?

                I’m a bit dubious of Ford’s motives behind the jacket. Even if they’re sincere, I don’t give Ford the credit I would if the same jacket were made by another type of company.

        2. Avatar 9watts says:

          Here’s another one for you, Hello, Kitty:

          “Risk compensation is a theory which suggests that people typically adjust their behavior in response to the perceived level of risk, becoming more careful where they sense greater risk and less careful if they feel more protected. Although usually small in comparison to the fundamental benefits of safety interventions, it may result in a lower net benefit than expected.

          By way of example, it has been observed that motorists drove faster when wearing seatbelts and closer to the vehicle in front when the vehicles were fitted with anti-lock brakes. There is also evidence that the risk compensation phenomenon could explain the failure of condom distribution programs to reverse HIV prevalence and that condoms may foster disinhibition, with people engaging in risky sex both with and without condoms.

          By contrast, shared space is a highway design method which consciously aims to increase the level of perceived risk and uncertainty, thereby slowing traffic and reducing the number of and seriousness of injuries.”

  17. Avatar Jim Lee says:

    What is “safety?”

    Avoidance of dangerous adventitious incidents?

    It is very difficult to define a negative.

  18. Avatar Billm says:

    I fail to see how, exactly, 200 million Chinese people on e-bikes constitutes “white privilege”.

  19. I have plantar fasciatis (spelling?) in both feet and was driving everywhere. I took one of my bikes and made an e-bike (e-bike store!), I cut my car use 75%. Would you rather I drove? E-bike haters get a life. I cut my carbon footprint significantly, if that matters to you? and it should. I haven’t had an e-bike for 7 years, but am currently looking. Like phones and computers, e-bikes are better, go further & faster and are price competitive. The e-bike changed my life and it could change yours, for the better.

    1. Avatar 9watts says:

      “Would you rather I drove? E-bike haters get a life.”

      Is it necessary to be so aggressive? Since when are people who ask questions automatically haters? Since Nov. 9, 2016?

  20. Avatar billm says:

    If I were to hazard a guess regarding Ford’s bike jacket its this-

    They’re doing a lot of work on autonomous vehicles, but cyclists, as we discovered earlier this year, are one of the things AVs struggle with.

    I suspect that most AVs will include some sort of device that advertises their position, vector, and velocity to other AVs in the vicinity, and my guess is that this jacket is something of an opening attempt at extending such capabilities to cyclists. The Swedish helmet maker POC is working on something similar.

  21. Avatar Bernard says:

    Hi Jonathan,

    Great effort for putting this weekly roundup. It’s now on my reading list.

    Sharing with you an article on bicycle safety tips that we recently updated. Thought you might find it useful.


    1. Avatar q says:

      This may be slightly dramatic, but when I’m out walking, standing, sitting or biking and someone comes towards me with a bright headlight on strobe mode, I feel like they might as well be wearing sign saying, “My safety is worth blinding you”. Not that I’d be able to read it if they did have the strobe on.

      1. Avatar X says:

        Not dramatic. High intensity lights aimed into line of sight? Definitely bad for your vision, as well as being rude and annoying. I block the offenders from view with my left hand. If only they would point their rayguns at their hi-vis clothing.

    2. Avatar Dan A says:

      Some of this is useful information, and some of it is a little weird/debatable.

  22. Avatar Mick O says:

    Soren writes:

    “i don’t care about cycling as a recreational or pleasure-seeking mode at all. in fact, i’m somewhat hostile to those who excessively promote cycling as “fun” because this reinforces the pervasive societal stereotype that cycling is not a valid transportation mode.”

    There should be a Hall of Fame for bikeportland comments so this one can properly be enshrined. I am not sure I have ever read anything like it. You made this reply to one person saying cycling was fun for him. If that is what you consider “excessive” then .. I .. I don’t know how to complete this sentence.

    How is this “Hostile to Fun” platform working? It must keep you very busy in that you’ve not seen very many automobile advertisements in your entire life. Since you have missed it, ad agencies seem very often to rely on the “joy” of driving as a key selling point. Fun, it seems, has helped autos.

    The very notion that promoting cycling as fun is what’s hurting cycling adoption is so bizarre, so antithetical to what being human means to me that I wish to highlight this. If you really must be hostile, why on Earth would you be hostile to people having fun? You’ve thrown my mind so off-kilter I’m probably not making sense to you — not that I would have made any sense to you to begin with.. you are hostile to fun, and I actually seek fun.

    I guess I can say that if you gave me one moment of your time and listened to my viewpoint, please reconsider this hostility to fun. There are other ways to go about saving the world. And if you save the world, but remove all the fun….

    I don’t know. Internet comments are the worst.

  23. Avatar Mick O says:

    And by that, I mean *I* am the worst

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