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The Monday Roundup: GM’s e-bike, no helmet needed, make driving dangerous again, and more

Posted by on November 5th, 2018 at 10:06 am

Today’s Monday Roundup is sponsored by Greenfield Health who invites you to an Open House at their Lloyd clinic (700 NE Multnomah) this Wednesday November 7th.

Here are the most notable stories we came across in the past week…

Walmart-ville: In a fascinating turn of events, U.S. mega-retailer Walmart now wants to turn its massive parking lots into “town centers” — so they can re-create the vibe that used to exist before Walmart opened in the first place.

No helmet for me: A respected cycling writer explains why he no longer wears a helmet; but only after his editor is so worried about it being controversial he feels obligated to post a disclaimer at the top of the post.

GM in e-bike business: General Motors sees the writing on the wall and is placing a small bet on an electric, foldable electric bike.

Influential pedalers: The Guardian published a list of people who belong in the Everyday Cycling Hall of Fame. I’m not a fan on lists like this in general; but it’s nice to see transportation — and not just sports — heroes get attention.

Make Driving Dangerous Again: In his latest creative take on traffic culture, Bike Snob says our streets would have far fewer absurdly-sized SUVs and will be much safer overall if we make driving more dangerous.

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Car dependency: The BBC has just now discovered the fatal flaw of sprawl and car-oriented suburbs.

Uber with a hint of Lime: Lime, one of three companies involved in Portland’s e-scooter pilot program, just became even more Uber-like by hiring the ride-hailing giant’s former business chief.

Negative ads: In 2018 it should be unacceptable for any company to promote a service with the intention of creating more car trips in an urban area.

California’s great trail: Golden State lawmakers have passed a bill to start planning a 300-mile trail along an abandoned railroad line that would connect San Francisco to Humboldt.

USA Cycling Q & A: The leader of USA Cycling is moving on and in an exit interview with VeloNews he said one of the biggest challenges the org faces is how to stem the steady decline in race participation.

More inclusive: “Upstream the dialogue,” from communities of color and make streets safer to use are just a few of the ideas from a panel discussion on expanding cycling held as part the kickoff of a bicycle exhibit at the Design Museum of Chicago.

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

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

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John Lascurettes
Subscriber

Making Driving More Dangerous: I’ve been saying this for years. Keep protecting the passengers with airbags, seatbelts and curtains. But put a spike on the driver’s steering column. You’d see a pronounced change in the way people drive. 😉

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

The author lost me at removing backup cameras. These are an unmitigated good.

bikeninja
Guest
bikeninja

I don’t agree about back up cameras being an unmitigated good. Without them people with poor parking skills, trying to squeeze in to tight parking spaces, dented up their cars and hastened their long skid to the scrapyard thus removing them from trashing the planet and innocent pedestrians just a little sooner. I would rather make timed parallel parking in to a tight space with only rear view mirrors a mandatory element of the drivers test. Don’t have the skill to accomplish this, no drivers license for you.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Even if I accepted your rather tortured reasoning, which I don’t, I would take 1000 scraped fenders over one squashed child. Backup cameras are an unmitigated good.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

People with backup cameras look at their backup cameras when they backup. People without them look everywhere behind them when they back up.

However, I rented a new car that had such a small back window that I had to rely on the backup camera due to the lack of visibility. Design flaw. So, if you’re going to design a vehicle with poor visibility then I guess a camera is better than none.

Brian
Guest
Brian

I have one and I use it for the audible signal while I look backwards.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

Yes, I do like the beeping that gets quicker as you approach an obstacle.

9watts
Subscriber

My bike is so old it doesn’t even have a backup camera. What am I going to do?

Resopmok
Guest
Resopmok

I’ll be impressed when I see you (and I mean you, not a pro trick rider) riding your bike backwards. Not impossible, but I tried it once and failed hard.. and yes, it was a fixie.

Brian
Guest
Brian
9watts
Subscriber

That is very clever. Thanks!

Brian
Guest
Brian

You’re welcome. I’m here to help.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

Lately I’ve been watching people fail in their attempts to parallel park. Practically every day I see someone attempt but have no idea how to do it. I was astonished to find out that parallel parking is no longer a required skill to pass our (admittedly pathetic) test for a license. Heck, I had to parallel park a semi trailer into a rather tight spot to get my CDL, and one practically never has a need to parallel park a semi.

jeff
Guest
jeff

I’ve often joked that should be the entire driving test – one shot to parallel park, reverse only, and if you miss you can try again next year.

PS
Guest
PS

Yes, what we need more of is people driving around looking for parking they know they can fit into (and quickly no less, since they needed to do it fast to pass their drivers license test) rather than a technological assistant to help guide someone into a spot that may look tight from the drivers perspective. Let alone as HK notes, also provides a wide range of view at precisely the height of say a toddler right behind the vehicle.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

My dad backed up over my bike when I was a kid because I left it in the driveway behind our van. Wish we’d had a backup camera on that vehicle.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

Your dad would have flunked out of both the driver’s ed class I had in high school and the CDL class I took in grad. school for failing to do a walk-around before entering the vehicle.

It’s foolhardy to attempt to use technology as a substitute for knowledge and skill. For example, my wife was using a car with a back-up camera. She did her walk-around, but then it took several minutes to get her mother buckled in and ready to go. Even though she didn’t see anything out of the ordinary on the view screen, she didn’t just put it in reverse and go. My wife did another walk-around, just in case. Imagine her surprise and relief when the torso of a man emerged from the manhole cover behind the car. This could have ended poorly if she didn’t do her job right.

Allan Rudwick
Subscriber

I agree about back-up cameras. I rarely came close to hitting things when i didn’t have the camera, but with the camera I had a couple close calls before getting used to the strange view that it gave me. Luckily none of them involved physical contact with anyone or anything. Back-up cameras are not a world-saver, but I can see how they might help with some vehicles that have practically no visibility out the back.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

If you see a kid or a dog or whatever in the camera, you’re going to stop, regardless of exactly how close you are. In almost every vehicle, you have a restricted view of short people/animals/objects that may have wandered into the scene immediately behind you.

That’s why they’re so useful.

9watts
Subscriber

Lipstick on a pig

turnips
Guest
turnips

chroming a turd.

Champs
Guest
Champs

It may depend on whether the camera’s display is purely informational (rearview in a U-Haul) or part of an “infotainment” system (the 17″ Tetris-playing tablet in a Tesla).

Few have the strength to ignore a hungry screen’s desperate pleas for the attention they crave.

Tom
Guest
Tom

Backup cameras are extremely dangerous for vulnerable users because they only look directly back. A proper implementation would include rear side cameras, with 3 panes on the screen. People would previously look back and to the sides, but now just look directly back. The cameras have actually cost more lives than they have saved. They also led to rear window designs that are more difficult to see out of.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Cost more lives than they’ve saved? That’s an interesting assertion for which I’d really like to see a source.

Al
Guest
Al

I can’t believe there’s an argument about backup cameras. They work. They’re good.

Just because some people don’t use them correctly doesn’t mean that they should be done away with.

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

It’s amazing to me that there is so much vitriol towards this technology. I’m a confident, safe, skilled driver, and I think backup cameras are fantastic. Dozens of children are backed over every year. Even if you turn to look out the rear window, you can’t see a child that is shorter than your trunk height. Backup cameras should be used in conjunction with your side and rearview mirror. More information is a good thing.

world's slowest mamil
Guest
world's slowest mamil

Backup cameras are a way of coping for poor modern designs and flawed parking strategies. Cars have become taller, with less glass all around due to crash protection laws, so the camera and myriad radar nannies are needed to mitigate for the massive blind spots that have been introduced. Also, most people pull into parking spaces and then back out. The safer method is to back into a parking space and pull out.

The cameras would be a lot more useful if they were integrated into the rear view mirror. Having drivers look in two different places for a rear view, depending on context, is a UX fail. You could also do some cool AR stuff with a camera-augmented rear view mirror.

austin
Guest
austin

plenty of cars have the screen in the rear view mirror. Here’s an anecdote: My parents were happy that their new car had the backup display in the dash, because when it was in the rearview mirror in their previous car, the display was so small they had a hard time seeing it.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

The way I heard it said is that cars won’t be safe until they’re designed so that the driver’s legs dangle over the front bumper.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

I think we could reduce driving speeds by getting rid of windshields 🙂

Jim Calhoon
Guest
Jim Calhoon

Then why do motorcyclist tend to drive faster than people in cars.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Face shields.

I’m curious how fast one might comfortably go without something blocking the wind from your face. Plus, I hate tinted front windows.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

There are many whose helmets have no face shields. Some drive at highway speeds. Or look at people in the states were no helmet is required at all.

Pete S.
Guest
Pete S.

Next best thing would be to require all vehicles on the road to be VW Vanagons.

Daniel
Guest
Daniel

This is actually a big part of the reason why I bought a stickshift for my last car, believe it or not. I’ll admit that I get tempted to look at my phone while driving, like everybody else. Having something important to do at all times with my right hand makes it much easier to just put the phone down and wait until I get where I’m going to write that text; it’s no longer a timesaver to do it while driving, because the text probably won’t be finished until I’ve stopped anyway.

Plus, it’s way more fun to drive, and nobody who’s a terrible driver ever asks to borrow it because they wouldn’t be able to drive it anyway.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

You’re never accidentally moving without giving it gas when you have a stick shift. You’re not hitting the breaks when traffic slows rather than just letting up on the gas. I feel that the automatic transmission has done a great job of making people into terrible drivers. Point and click!

Glenn
Guest
Glenn

To take this as general as possible, adversity in the best case breeds skill enhancement.
But every successful human technology eliminates some kind of adversity, and obviates certain skills. So people start to lose those skills. After a generation, they’re gone. I bet you suck at handling horses. I suck at remembering anything (now that there’s Wikipedia).

Chris
Guest
Chris

Agree. Manual transmission drivers are better drivers. We are forced to pay attention to what is going on, not so much with automatic transmission drivers.

Dan A
Subscriber
Dan A

Manual transmissions are great, and much cheaper to repair too. But I was never able to successfully teach my wife how to drive stick so we had to switch to an automatic. Wish there was a school around to just teach that skill…

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

That’s why no one died on American highways until the automatic transmission was invented.

todd aloha boulanger
Guest
todd aloha boulanger

And the other thing we all forget (in addition to safety enhancements mentioned)…is that almost any new basic commuter car out performs most pre1960s sport cars…thus the reason our streets have turned into raceways. I for one forgot how far cars had come since I started driving when I borrowed a late 1960s sedan and found myself spending more time trying to stay on the bench seat and in control of the brakes and accelerator….thus moderating my average speed.

Champs
Guest
Champs

Interesting to see that Walmart is trying the same cringey concept that Apple announced a couple years ago. I was pleased to read that Stockholm was pushing back on that idea, but the Reddit thread about it put my faith in humanity back in its place: https://www.reddit.com/r/apple/comments/9t90x9/stockholm_says_no_to_apple_town_square_in_its/

Also on that note, why is Pioneer Courthouse Square operated by a corporation?

Mike R
Guest
Mike R
Tim
Guest
Tim

Make Driving More Dangerous – I think one of the reasons driver behavior is so poor in this country as compared to Europe is the narrow “dangerous” European roads.

Rural roads are often one lane with stone walls or hedges on both sides. If you don’t understand decision stopping distance, repeated head on collisions will stop you from driving.

Even secondary roads are only 20 feet wide with no shoulder and lots of truck traffic. No room to text.

Narrow roads and medieval streets require cooperation or nobody is going anywhere. You will need to let the delivery van finish its turn or nobody is going anywhere.

Driving is often impractical, so even wealthy suburbanites take fast comfortable public transit.

Everybody walks and most ride a bike. There is less of the us against them battle of the streets.

Jim Calhoon
Guest
Jim Calhoon

I think it is more a product of the driver training they have to go through in order to obtain a drivers license. My nephews wife who is German said it cost her about $2500 in training fees to get her license. But they are rewarded with a freeway that has no speed limit.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Helmet article: Many good arguments, and well presented. And yet… he still makes his kids wear helmets.

X
Guest
X

Maybe because it’s a law? The fine is only $25, I think, but parents face double jeopardy these days if they do something Other People think is not safe. Especially if there’s a well-intended law to bop them with.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

I usually wear a helmet when it’s the law (in Vancouver), and when riding with my kid so that he doesn’t feel that he’s the only one that looks like a tool.

Ali Corbin
Guest
Ali Corbin

I also no longer wear a helmet. I stopped a little while after signing on with biketown, when it quickly became awkward to carry a helmet on the off-chance that I was going to use a bike.

Also, I haven’t had a close call for years while on a bike. But when I’m on foot it seems like I’m in danger on a nearly daily basis. I blame my age and gender. In our society, old ladies are invisible, and so motorists simply don’t see me when I’m in a crosswalk. But old ladies on bikes are unusual, and are actually visible. (Which is another reason for me not to wear a helmet. It makes the gray hair more obvious.)

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

From the comments section on Negative Ads, which I thought was pretty much spot on:

>>>The lesson of TNCs over the last 3-4 years is that a material portion of transit riders are willing to pay considerably more for a convenient & comfortable ride.

In my opinion, that’s cause for quite a bit of optimism for transit agencies. There’s tremendous opportunity out there to improve the quality of service & the ridership base has spoken that they are willing to pay for it. Our agencies are losing ridership to a mode that often costs 5+ times as much.

An analogy is everyone was staying at the roach motel and a ritz carlton opened across the street & took half the business. Don’t double down on the motel model. Get better. <<<

X
Guest
X

Transit hater much? Instead of looking for love in the comments, try another article:

https://usa.streetsblog.org/2018/11/05/checking-in-on-americas-pioneering-bus-rapid-transit-systems/

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Not much. But it doesn’t mean that the 100+ year old model we currently have is the best we can do.

soren
Guest
soren

Unfortunately, cash-strapped transit agencies that are losing ridership (and bond voters) to venture-capital funded TNCs do not have the spare billions to “compete”. Are we as a society going to allow high financel capital to disrupt public transportation? I hope not.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Cash-strapped Baby-Bell telephony companies* are losing customers (and ratepayers) to venture-capital funded cellular startups (that don’t need to provide universal service) and do not have the spare billions to build the entirely new networks needed to “compete”. Are we as a society going to allow highly capitalized firms to disrupt basic telephony?

I’m glad we did.

*Not the perfect analogy. But good enough.

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

It might be a good enough analogy if we needed phones.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Seriously. Who uses phones these days?

Johnny Bye Carter
Subscriber
Johnny Bye Carter

Yuppies.

I see the phone cords running to their briefcase and know they’re important.

Gary B
Guest
Gary B

I’m not sure it’s good enough. There are 5 cell networks in the U.S. Two of them were created BY baby bells (Verizon and AT&T). Two others were created by other legacy phone corps (Sprint and U.S. Cellular). The 5th–T-Mobile–is the only example that kind of fits your analogy, in that the network wasn’t built by profits made on existing U.S. landlines. But of course, that network was built by Deutsche Telekom, a legacy German phone system.

The point being, each of those companies was able to exert monopoly power to amass large profits and invest in a next generation technology. You know, the exact thing Trimet can’t do.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

My point is that disruption is what moves us onward. If someone can outperform TriMet, why not applaud them?

9watts
Subscriber

“Disruption is what moves us forward”

Ugh.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

As it always has.

9watts
Subscriber

Your quip glosses over the fact that in a capitalist system the kind of disruption you seem to have in mind generates mostly losers, and reliably sends the profits to the top. I’m struggling to think of an example of this sort of disruption that doesn’t fit this description.

Uber? Amazon? Apple? Google? Concentration of wealth and power, lengthening of supply chains, driving down wages, hollowing out local economies. I could go on.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

There are tons of example, but I’ll pick one you’ll like: automobiles. Put a lot of horse people and manure sweepers out of business, but generated far more wealth, for a larger swath of the population (and probably greatly improved the average lot of all subsequent generations of horses). And we may now be on the cusp of that industry being itself disrupted.

If it is in fact true that a portion of TriMet riders would be willing to pay for better service, and TriMet doesn’t take advantage of that, someone else will, whether you, or they, approve or not.

I’ve said before that I think TriMet’s days of operating as it is are numbered.

9watts
Subscriber

Generated wealth… That is your metric of success.

O.K.

Hello, Kitty
Subscriber
Hello, Kitty

Look, I get you don’t like technical progress, but really… you are the one that brought up economics. I’m done.

9watts
Subscriber

“I get you don’t like technical progress”

Don’t be silly. Taking a generally skeptical view, resisting boosterist cant, is hardly the same thing as ‘not liking something.’

“you are the one that brought up economics.”

I did?

“I’m done.”

No need to get huffy. JoAnn Hardesty won!

Chris I
Guest
Chris I

Because we have legitimate concerns that the end-result will be worse for everyone; even those of us who don’t take transit or TNCs.

B. Carfree
Guest
B. Carfree

I’ve been following the rail to trail thing in NorCal for the better part of a year. It’s an exciting project and I hope it comes to fruition.

That said, I’m still burning over the decision of Oregon to spend tens of millions of dollars to buy and refurbish the rail line from Coos Bay to Eugene. It hauls one small load of lumber every day or two. Imagine if we had instead spent a fraction of that amount to extend the Willamette Valley Scenic Bikeway as a rail-to-trail on that broken rail line. I’ve ridden most of this rail line and it goes through some very pretty country. There’s also a nice low-stress/high beauty route back to Eugene along the Smith River, so people could easily make a loop of it.

Ah well, maybe we’ll go all 21st century and start doing some rails-with-trails.

Al
Guest
Al

This is the first I’ve heard of the NorCal trail. Exciting news.

I’m also excited about the Salmonberry Corridor which is supposed to provide a Springwater like connection from Banks to the coast. How exciting is that? It can’t come soon enough.

Jim Lee
Guest
Jim Lee

A good friend still drives a 1966 Volvo 122s he bought new that meets all of BS’s conditions–except that it has “air”–which however cannot be used because Freon no longer is available.

My own story involves a 1965 Plymouth Barracuda–273 ci V8, 4 barrel carb, high compression heads, high lift cam, low restriction exhaust–classic factory hot-rod, advertised as generating 235 hp. BS. That thing had at least one hp per cubic inch.

Also 2.92 rear end, 4 speed trans. Absolute high speed beast. Could eat current BMWs for breakfast.

To operate such a thing in some semblance of control required not only ordinary mastery of a “stick,” but ability to double-clutch and “heel-and-toe” on downshifts: drop it into second at 65 and have fun overtaking lesser animals.

I never crashed it–never have I crashed anything–not even a ticket. But three idiots crashed into it–two when it was parked, one who attempted a “parallel lane change” on HiWay 101 in Lincoln City.

Nobody ever “saw it,” not even the cops.

I sold it when I moved to Australia. Wrong side of the road, and all that.

But the best time I ever had motoring was on my 70th birthday, when I took a ZipCar Miata on a midnight spin around the Mount Hood Loop. ZC cars always are automatics, and the Miata had “paddle shifters” on the steering column: I could play Formula 1 on HiWay 35 down to Hood River. Very different car from the ‘Cuda, but required equal skill to get best results. With automatics one always should brake with the LEFT foot.

Final note: “air-bags” are no such things. They contain only ammonium nitrate, the same explosive Tim McVeigh used in Oklahoma City. In future ages folk will muse, “They rigged the insides of their cars with explosives in the name of “crash safety!”

X
Guest
X

“One should brake with the left foot?” I’ll stipulate that it works for you. Have you ever been behind a driver who was resting their left foot on the brake, speeding and slowing with the brake light on at all times? That “one” should never brake with the left foot unless perhaps they are on a closed course. Then they can do as they please.

Andrew Kreps
Guest
Andrew Kreps

Is there a link for “Upstream the dialogue”?

Anne
Guest
Anne

JMaus, is there a missing hyperlink in this item: “More inclusive: “Upstream the dialogue,” from communities of color and make streets safer to use are just a few of the ideas from a panel discussion on expanding cycling held as part the kickoff of a bicycle exhibit at the Design Museum of Chicago.”?

world's slowest mamil
Guest
world's slowest mamil

The dangerous car that bsync is talking about sounds awfully like my cute lil’ Miata, which I feel is the safest car I’ve ever owned. Driving a big tall isolation tank is always a white-knuckle experience for me, because they all drive like a numb floaty mess, which makes me feel less like I’m in control, and more like I’m suggesting what the vehicle does and hoping it’ll follow suit. Worse, being caged in makes me feel alone and miserable. In my car, having the top down means I’m not in a cage, more like I’m sitting on a lawn chair in a tub, and I’m not isolated from pedestrians, cyclists, and other road users. Even with the top up, it’s more like I’m in a tent or something, and I’m still close to what is going on outside. I feel like this is really important, as it seems that one of the factors that causes road rage is that isolation from other humans. People shouldn’t be locked up in little boxes!

As for the decline of USAC, they need to come up with ways to encourage racing that appeals to people who don’t have deep pockets, massive time budgets for training and making epic journeys to regional races, or the desire to go pro. It would be fun to have officially sanctioned races that resemble the LeMons (yes, LeMons, not Le Mans) auto races, where the entrants can only spend a very limited amount of money on their equipment, and they can bring whatever bike they can find, so long as it passes a safety inspection. Or they could have something like Spec Miata, where everyone is riding the same relatively inexpensive racer, like a Trek Domane AL2 or whatever the MTB equivalent is. Of course, it would also help if the good training roads weren’t dangerous due to the preponderance of cars. But USAC can’t do anything about that.

KTaylor
Guest
KTaylor

This is probably my favorite thing I’ve seen all week:

“Sure, autonomous cars are unlikely to take over the roads anytime soon, but they’re already perhaps the greatest excuse for doing fuck-all that the world has ever seen.” (Bike Snob)