Monday Roundup: Speed limiters, super drivers, red asphalt, and more

Welcome to the week.

Here are the most notable stories our community came across in the past seven days…

Carbon admissions: Never one to shy away from controversy, Eben “Bike Snob” Weiss says that only pro racers fully benefit from carbon fiber bikes and regular folks like you and I should never buy them. (Outside)

Thank you, San Francisco: In a bid to reduce traffic deaths, a California state senator has introduced a bill that would require speed governors in new cars that prevent the vehicle from going more than 10 miles over the speed limit. (SF Standard)

Red over green: Austin is copying Dutch cities by using red-tinted asphalt to designate bikeways, a choice it says lasts much longer than the green thermoplastic paint used by most American cities (including Portland). (Fast Company)

Driving is a privilege: A concerned mother worries that her soon-to-be 15-year-old isn’t ready to drive and — lo and behold — a mainstream outlet affirms her choice and recommends not getting that permit just yet. (Slate)

Quitting cars is cool: Excellent overview of the rationale, implementation, and political ramifications of bold moves by cities to reduce car use. The takeaway: Just do it! (BBC)

Protective paint: The latest edition of the Manual on Uniform Traffic Control Devices (MUTCD) helps bolster the case for painting intersections as an avenue toward safety and Portland gets a shout-out in this op-ed from Janette Sadik-Khan as an early adopter of the practice. (Washington Post)

Prescription for “super drivers”: In companion opinions, noted troops in the War on Cars, Kea Wilson and Charles Komanoff, offer different ways to respond to a report that found just one-tenth of American drivers consume more than a third of U.S. gasoline. Wilson says we should target EV subsidies only to these drivers and Komanoff argues that higher gas taxes are the way to go. (Streetsblog USA)

Deadly by design: A new study analyzed 3,375 crashes from a federal database and found clear evidence that people who driver cars with tall hoods are more likely to kill pedestrians. (Ars Technica)

In related news: New research from the UK finds that the average width of new cars now exceeds the minimum width of on-street car parking spaces — effectively reducing space on the road for other users. (GCN)

City liable for bump: The City of San Francisco will pay a whopping $9 million to settle a lawsuit that claimed a bump on a bike-friendly street caused a bike rider to crash and suffer serious injuries. (SF Standard)


Thanks to everyone who sent in links this week. The Monday Roundup is a community effort, so please feel free to send us any great stories you come across.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

39 Comments
oldest
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Cyclekrieg
2 months ago

The Eben Weiss article is (almost) spot on. Unless you are looking to do some serious (i.e. prize money, not just congrats hugs) racing, there is no need to buy a carbon bike. Ever. That being said, I do think his argument about steel being the only answer is a bit off.

Steel can be strong and light and durable. But those frames aren’t cheap. Cheap steel is heavy steel. It’s easier to build a light, cheap, and decently durable aluminum frame (yes, aluminum fatigue fails, but that takes a lot of riding). My recommendation for the beginner cyclist is to get a good quality aluminum frame “gravel/all-road” bike. You can put fenders on them, racks, most have enough tire clearance for a wide range of tires, etc.

If you want to drop coin to impress people or only buy one bike forever, then titanium is your jam. Go get ’em.

But yeah, carbon is dumb unless you are racing.

John V
John V
2 months ago
Reply to  Cyclekrieg

It’s my understanding also, that carbon wheels are the best bang for your buck, and they can go with you to different bikes. I haven’t tried it, but I hear you really can feel the difference accelerating (and turning), because that’s weight at the outer edge of your wheel you have to spin up to get going.

That said, I haven’t done any of that and I love my steel Surly Midnight Special. I also loved my inexpensive steel Novara bike I just replaced because it only had tire clearance for like 30 something mm tires.

quicklywilliam
2 months ago
Reply to  Cyclekrieg

You’ll probably never see me on a carbon fiber bike, but telling people what kind of bike they should or should not buy/ride is elitist and gate-keepy. There are already wayyyyy to many people in the bike industry who believe that their ideal for bikes is the only way and are ready to give you their unsolicited opinion. The end effect of this is for it to make biking seem more intimidating and arcane to newcomers.

Ideally people wouldn’t have the preconceived notion that they *need* a fancy carbon fiber bike to get into biking, but if they do – or if they just want one anyway, then so what? Bikes are cool, let people ride whatever the hell they want.

blumdrew
blumdrew
2 months ago
Reply to  quicklywilliam

Carbon fiber bikes are the most expensive bikes you can buy, it’s hardly elitist to tell someone it’s maybe not a great idea for real, practical reasons. Bikes are cool, spending 10 grand on a carbon fiber bike that becomes structurally unstable after a crash is just not a good idea.

quicklywilliam
2 months ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Not gonna disagree with you – Carbon is super expensive! Money might be a gate keeping people out of biking – but it isn’t the only one. If someone new to biking wants to buy a fancy bike, I just don’t think anyone is in their place to tell them not to.

Matt
Matt
2 months ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Implying that CF bikes are all $10,000 is unhelpful hyperbole. There are plenty to choose from at $3000 – a price that can also buy you a really nice steel bike that even Eben could appreciate.

Asher Atkinson
Asher Atkinson
2 months ago
Reply to  blumdrew

I just checked the canyon website (in my experience good bikes at a good price) and you can get their Endurace 8 AL (aluminum) for $1799 vs $1999 for the Endurace 7 CF (carbon). That’s a $200 premium for comparably equipped carbon bike with a 1.4 pound weight savings. I know what’s considered expensive is relative, but to suggest a carbon bike is way more expensive and costs 10 grand isn’t true. As for structurally unstable after a crash, it will depend on the nature of the frame strike, should there be one. Plenty of enjoyable riding can be had on any frame material and these days the choice depends far more on the intended use and desired ride quality than on price.

BB
BB
2 months ago
Reply to  blumdrew

This is really a clueless statement… the most expensive bikes you can buy locally are custom steel bikes like Vanilla and others.
My most expensive bike is a Surly I built up to weigh less than 20 lbs. With stupidly good expensive components. It cost more than my $3000 carbon Specialized which I have crashed twice with Zero structural damage.
The biggest waste of money are $3000 E-bikes which depreciate to nothing in a couple years.

Jim Calhoon
Jim Calhoon
2 months ago
Reply to  blumdrew

So let me get this straight. If I buy a Trek FX Sport 5 (Carbon Fiber fitness bike) at $1799.99 I am elite, but if I buy a Co-Motion Americano (Steel Touring Bike) at $5195.00 I am not. Judging fellow bike riders based on what they spend on there ride is wrong. In the world of excessive spending, buying a 13k bike pales in comparison to say spending 40k for a side-by-side or 80k for a aluminum fishing boat or the worst, 150k for a boat just to wake board. I use these examples because this is money spent in the name of recreation.

Art Lewellan
Art Lewellan
2 months ago

Re Speed Limiters, I’ll be glad to hear more on this AV tech and less about “driverless” car nonsense. I imagine motorists learning how to drive more cautiously or conscientiously when their car restricts speed in roadway situations where reduced speed is determined advisable.

One more comment on speed control: I live on a corner where cars blast through around the clock in all directions and on one corner make right turns never mind marked crosswalks and frequent pedestrian crossing. On this corner I’d like to experiment with a 4-way flashing red forcing motorists to stop.

It seems to me that reckless motorists see a green light ahead and speed up to beat the light. This is NW 9th and Lovejoy. The stoplight up the ramp to the Broadway Bridge could be a 3-way flashing red. On the other side of the bridge, another 4-way flashing red to end traffic blasting through that stoplight. Lastly, a 4-way flashing red at NW 13th and Lovejoy at busy Safeway.

blumdrew
blumdrew
2 months ago
Reply to  Art Lewellan

I don’t really think speed limiters are AV tech, they’ve been around for ages. Cincinnati had speed limiters on the ballot in the 1920s, but failed due to pressure from automotive interests. Granted, new-ish tech around GPS location makes them more flexible now than they were 100 years ago but the lift is still political rather than technological

Art Lewellan
Art Lewellan
2 months ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Speed limiters can be called AV (autonomous vehicle) tech because they electronically detect a posted speed limit. Frankly, I don’t believe early mechanical speed limiters you mention is worth mentioning.

blumdrew
blumdrew
2 months ago
Reply to  Art Lewellan

I guess it’s a semantic point, but is something like an adaptive cruise control or automatic braking AV tech? I suppose it is, I’m just used to seeing “AV” mean something higher order on the self-driving side of things.

I do think the lesson of mechanical speed limiters is useful though, because the issue is about political control over cars – something that are culturally emblematic of freedom. Speed limiters will draw a political fight, and knowing the general tactics and points that were used in an analogous historical moment is important imo.

Phil
Phil
2 months ago
Reply to  blumdrew

I would love to see some mechanical speed limiters as well. A hard limit preventing any road legal car from going over 100 MPH would be a good place to start.

It’s kind of silly that my ebike was factory limited to 20 MPH, but I can go buy a car that will do 150 MPH

Watts
Watts
2 months ago
Reply to  Phil

It’s kind of silly that my ebike was factory limited to 20 MPH, but I can go buy a car that will do 150 MPH

There are ebikes that go that fast. People tend to refer to them them as “motorcycles”, but the difference seems to be primarily one of degree, nomenclature, and a somewhat arbitrary categorization of motorized two wheeled vehicles.

Art Lewellan
Art Lewellan
2 months ago
Reply to  Watts

At higher speeds, the risk of serious injury in an accident on a bike is worse. Speed Limiters on bicycles makes the same sense as on cars. Manufacturer liability however is higher on an electric bicycle.

Aaron
2 months ago
Reply to  Phil

It should be illegal to drive a car on a public road that is capable of exceeding the maximum speed limit in the country, period. All cars should at minimum be sold with a governor that caps the speed at 85mph (the fastest US speed limit) as standard practice. People wanting to go faster than that can do it on private property with vehicles that are not street legal due to their speed capabilities.

This proposal for dynamic speed limiters based on the current posted speed limit should just be an extra thing that we’re adding but it shouldn’t be possible to exceed the maximum US speed limit in any vehicle without illegal modifications.

Steve C
Steve C
2 months ago
Reply to  Aaron

I’m surprised insurance agencies haven’t gone all in on this with lower rates for speed limited cars. Is there not a business case for pricing in speeding? Don’t some people have those OBD2 port dongles that record driving behavior? I remember lots of ads for those for a while and not so much anymore.

Also seems simple to have a big red override button for private roads or whatever emergency speeders can concoct that would require them to speed. Just makes a record of that intentional de-limiting and they can explain it later to the cops or their insurance after the fact. Gang of ninjas chasing you? Slam the scram button and sort it out later. But in all reality, there are very few if any situations that justify speeding.

Just as commercial airplanes record overspeed or hard landings and pilots need to explain themselves to their company or maybe the FAA, cars can record and report this events too.

Art Lewellan
Art Lewellan
2 months ago
Reply to  blumdrew

I’d rather hear comment referring to the experimental 4-way flashing red stoplight idea, bd.

blumdrew
blumdrew
2 months ago
Reply to  Art Lewellan

I think it’s a good idea. I’m not fond of traditional stop lights, though I think roundabouts are even better than flashing reds (probably not possible in the urban context of the Pearl though). The streetcar makes more extensive traffic furniture difficult I presume.

Art Lewellan
Art Lewellan
2 months ago
Reply to  blumdrew

When a normally operating stoplight encourages speeding to beat the light, a 4-way flashing red can be a simple low-cost solution. Lake Oswego has a few roundabouts, unquestionably impossible anywhere in the Pearl District. The Portland streetcar exceeded expectations. I’m supporting the extension to Montgomery Wards, but not the extension to Hollywood. Instead the new line would run on the Eastside Loop to the OMSI station and there reverse direction.

Art Lewellan
Art Lewellan
2 months ago
Reply to  Art Lewellan

edit: Montgomery Park – the old Montgomery Wards store.

stephan
stephan
2 months ago
Reply to  blumdrew

It would be a big step forward to have such safety technology in vehicles.

I don’t quite see why it would only limit going >10mph over the speed limit though. So the effective speed limit on a 20mph street would be 30mph — perhaps not a bit difference when traveling in a car, but it is a bit differences for those outside of a vehicle. Why not prevent vehicles from going over the speed limit, period? I mean, it is called a speed *limit* for a reason (though many see it as the speed you should drive). Or should we set speed limits to 10mph on residential streets so that people cannot drive more than 20mph on them?

blumdrew
blumdrew
2 months ago
Reply to  stephan

Oh definitely it would be good. And I hate the social norm of “10 over is fine” with a deep burning passion, and always drive at or under the speed limit. Saves me lots of money on gas when I drive out of town too.

Pkjb
Pkjb
2 months ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Political will is difficult to come by when it involves going up against the auto lobby (and public opinion, to some extent). The EPA was aggressively going after the widespread use of diesel emissions cheat devices in heavy duty pickup trucks. They were able to successfully prosecute a number of companies that were responsible for distributing thousands of units (though the people that installed the units remain unimpacted, afik). But midway through the Biden administration, the EPA quietly announced they would be “deprioritizing” these investigations, effectively signaling that people would be free to illegally modify emissions control devices from now on with no repercussions. We aren’t serious about safety or pollution control in this country. Freedom to kill, freedom to pollute, freedom to do whatever the hell we want, or what the marketing agencies tell us we want, that’s what America’s about. Speed governors would make people marginally less free. We can’t have that.

blumdrew
blumdrew
2 months ago
Reply to  Pkjb

Yeah the whole “cars = freedom” piece is a frustrating bit of American culture that is so deeply ingrained that it often feels futile to fight against. Ultimately, some level of cultural shift is needed to change normative ideas about cars and it won’t be done by asking nicely

Watts
Watts
2 months ago
Reply to  blumdrew

Yeah the whole “cars = freedom” piece is a frustrating bit of American culture that is so deeply ingrained that it often feels futile to fight against.

That’s because most of us who were once teenagers know that on some level it’s true.

jakeco969
jakeco969
2 months ago
Reply to  Watts

Not just teenagers (and it was indeed a magical feeling), but when I was in China in 1990 most people hadn’t actually ridden in a car and all of them wanted one or access to one. Having freedom of movement is something taken for granted by those that have always had that freedom.

Aaron
2 months ago
Reply to  Watts

It’s only true because previous generations chose to build our infrastructure and housing in a way that forced it to be true.

Watts
Watts
2 months ago
Reply to  Aaron

It’s only true because previous generations chose to build our infrastructure and housing in a way that forced it to be true.

Perhaps so. But it is the infrastructure we have, and we have to build from our present reality, not some alternative world where our predecessors made different choices.

Changing our urban configuration is possible, but would be a very expensive multi-generational project even if everyone wanted to do it, which they don’t.

Steven
Steven
2 months ago
Reply to  Watts

If that’s true, then why are dense, walkable neighborhoods always more expensive to live in (read: desirable)?

Steven
Steven
2 months ago
Reply to  Watts

It’s true because the built environment most people live in makes a car essential to participate in society. Change the built environment and you will change the culture.

Andrew S
Andrew S
2 months ago

I’ll throw this into the roundup too. Interesting survey from the UK on what safety and usability improvements people consider as encouraging them to ride more. General road safety Probably some useful lessons here for Portland and US cities.

https://road.cc/content/news/seven-out-ten-people-say-they-never-ride-bike-306281

Separated infrastructure was a close second in the survey to general “road safety.” Improved surfaces and direct routes were also pretty high up there.

Pkjb
Pkjb
2 months ago

Regarding red asphalt vs thermo plastic paint, pbot workers forgot to mix grit into the thermo plastic they used to repaint the bike lanes on Williams five years ago. I was one of dozens who crashed on the slippery plastic, and was lucky to only ride away with road rash. Once they realized their mistake, pbot had to go back, grind off the faulty installation, and repaint the lines. I’m sure that wasted tens of thousands of dollars.

Maybe it was just a one off incident, but I’ve never trusted any thermo plastic paint since then. I’d love to see pbot move away from using it.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
2 months ago
Reply to  Pkjb

The state of Montana uses scoria, a natural rock, to make all their asphalt reddish.

Steven
Steven
2 months ago

Fast Company: Painted bike lane coatings aren’t used in the Netherlands because they get slippery in the rain.

Washington Post: Want safe streets? Paint them!

Something’s not adding up here.

Charley
Charley
2 months ago

I have owned steel, carbon, and aluminum framed road bikes. They’ve all worked great for one thing or another!

I did race the carbon fiber frame bike, but of course not super competitively, Weiss would be disappointed to learn. What I found about the bike though, is that it was SO MUCH fun to ride! The lightness makes climbing more fun, the handling benefits from stiffness where needed, and the relative lack of road vibration is due to the frame’s softness, where needed.

Is all that possible on a steel framed bike? Maybe so. But here’s the thing: I’ve owned three steel framed road bikes and none of them have been as fun to ride. My Gunnar Roadie felt “noodly” in turns, and never felt “snappy” on acceleration. My Kona Sutra feels perfect for gravel at a certain speed, but it’s never felt light while climbing.

I’m sure those drawbacks could be addressed in a higher-end steel road bike, with a more expensive selection of wheels, tires, fork, etc. But going to all that work to “tune” an already expensive steel bike to compete with a totally typical stock carbon fiber bike kind of negates the point!

If riding is supposed to be fun, and money and durability are no objection, then why not ride a carbon fiber bike? Does maximizing for longevity the point for most of us, or maximizing the joy or riding?

Weiss is a a treasure. I still remember his responses to a few kind of clueless questions:
“if I could only buy one bike, which one should it be?” He suggests a dual suspension mountain bike because you can ride it on roads, while riding a road bike on a downhill racecourse would go poorly.
“How do I convert a bike into a commuting bike?” He says “Ride it to work.”

A lot of his thinking and writing is effectively anti-consumerist, which is just a great perspective on the world, even if it makes him sound blind to the actual experiences that riders have. In other words, he’s writing in a way that discounts the actual felt experience of riding a carbon fiber bike, relative to the real concerns he mentions.

Matt
Matt
2 months ago
Reply to  Charley

Yeah, the only bike I’ve ever test ridden and immediately gone “Wow, this thing is a blast!” was a CF gravel bike–which I proceeded to buy ASAP and have happily ridden ever since.

David Hampsten
David Hampsten
2 months ago
Reply to  Charley

As my frame-building bro says, aluminum is designed to eventually crack, and once cracked, is impossible to re-weld. Not that it has stopped me from riding aluminum – but I have to consider that it’s eventually going to break and I’ll have to get a new frame – and as long as I’m okay with being part of a consumerist culture of disposal and built-in obsolescence, I’m good to go.

But all this is in the upper-income high-end market. In the lower 90% of the market, that of Chinese and other low-wage bikes imported into the United States, the Huffies, Magnas, Next, and so on, what is far more scary are the all-steel bikes made to look like aluminum, with thread-on disc brakes, freewheels, and parts designed to never be repaired.

Going after tiny base consumers of carbon fiber bikes as being wasteful is a huge waste of our time and efforts to create a “clean” industry.