Posts belonging to Category Bikes and the law



Attacking Bike Thieves

bait_bike_stickerBike thieves suck. Plain and simple.

A recent article on Gawker tells the story of one unique approach to the problem – public shame and fear. But does this approach actually work?

San Francisco Police Department has been using this approach for some time now in full force. Part of their active approach involves the deployment of bait bikes – bikes locked up around the city with GPS tracking devices in them. This program has been coupled with a PR campaign run in conjunction with the nonprofit Safe Bikes in an attempt to erode the brazen attitude of serial bike thieves. Local cyclists have snapped up the free stickers, placing them on their personal bikes. This proliferation serves as a constant reminder to bike thieves of the presence of the bait bike program.

Only time (and statistics) will tell if these programs have an impact on the alarming number of bike thefts occurring here in San Francisco. Until then, of course, the best action to take is to learn how to protect yourself and your bicycle.

Winner Winner Chicken Dinner!

29_smrightturnWe’ve got our winners in the “How do I signal a right turn” contest. The question was regarding how to properly and legally signal a right hand turn while riding a bicycle.

In truth, the question was kind of a gimme – there are two correct answers. The first, which most people gave as their answer, is by holding the left arm out, bent at a 90 degree angle pointing up. This is the signal required by the DMV for use in automobiles – which makes sense. This is also what motorcyclists use, so the right hand can remain on the throttle. So yes – right arm at 90 degree angle is correct.

However, the DMV also has this to say: (more…)

Do you know how to properly signal a right hand turn?

putthefun_sticker_white_smHand signals. We all use them when riding on the roads. Right? Right?!? But do you actually know how to do it properly?

Between now and noon Feb 1, I’ll be taking your answers to the following question. 3 random folks will be selected from the correct answers and get a complimentary “Put the fun between legs” sticker. Postage paid. $0.00 out of pocket. Just answer this question correctly: (more…)

Mainstream media and bicycle helmets

Photo Credit Ross Del Duca / VeloReviews Media. Used with permission.

Of all of the things I’ve written about here on JustAnotherCyclist, few subjects tend to spark as much disagreement – from both cyclists and non-cyclists alike – as my posts regarding bicycle helmets. Many seeing me roll up to work or wherever without my helmet on have referred to me as reckless, stupid, crazy, nuts, or even… well, you can probably imagine. I’ve been told I’m an irresponsible parent, setting a bad example for my children. I’ve been told I make drivers on the road nervous, thus increasing motorists/cyclist contention. I’ve even been told I “deserve to crack my skull open” because I opt to sometimes ride without a helmet.

I’ve never once encouraged anyone to ride without a helmet. Instead, I’ve spoke of my own opinions and ideas on the subject, encouraging others to find out the facts and make an educated, reasonable decision on their own.

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Viva la Zealotry!

Nothing makes an article worth reading like prodigious use of the word “zealot.” And I’m in luck! Today’s round of randomly picked (by Google) bicycle related web happenings returned two different posts that were fortified with 200% of my daily allowance of claims of zealotry. Oh yea – and a couple of straw men thrown in for good measure.

The first of these two appeared on a blog titled Cal Watchdog, written by Katy Grimes. This piece, titled “Bicycle nuts driving local traffic issues,” caught my attention because I could relate to it in a very specific way. This OpEd piece is about the desire to get bike lanes on a specific stretch of road in Sacrament, CA. It just so happens that I used to live in one of the neighborhoods served by that road, and I’ve in fact ridden on the stretch in question. As with many OpEd type pieces, it was full of hyperbole (good thing I never do that in my articles. *cough* *cough*). But there are some rather specific statements from Ms. Grimes that just beg for rebuttal:

 The City of Sacramento, run by mostly arrogant liberals, has been trying to ram through approval of more bicycle lanes on very busy streets and major arteries of auto travel.

Here, Ms. Grimes is strategically framing her argument to be as polarizing as possible. Specifically, she’s maneuvering towards the all-to-often used tactic of making it an “us versus them” argument. The emotional reaction by many is to read “cyclists (the “them”) are specifically targeting busy streets to take away lanes for cars (the “us”). We’ll see more of this tactic later. What she refuses to acknowledge is that bicycles take up significantly less road surface compared to cars. What does this mean for the cars? Well, the more people that feel comfortable using bicycles as a means of transportation, the fewer actual cars on the road, and thus those “very busy streets” become not so busy – for everyone.

Moving on….

Freeport Blvd. is a heavily traveled street and frequently backs up in the downtown areas.

Well this is just factually inaccurate – and anyone that lives in Sacramento (as Ms. Grimes claims to) would know that. Freeport Blvd in fact ends at Broadway, no where near downtown. The normal course into downtown from Freeport Blvd would be to veer onto 21st, which is already a one-way street with existing bike lanes. Nothing being “taken away” from the motorists in the downtown region here. The only logical conclusion about her throwing in this obviously erroneous statement is an attempt to further persuade her readers into the “us vs. them” frame of thinking.


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The utopian bicyclists, who unabashadly state that there should not be autos on the roads, keep finding ways to keep this project alive.

This is my favorite part. I especially love the line “…who unabashadly state that there should not be autos on the roads…” Really? Who says that? More “us vs. them” – this time stopping just short of telling the poor, poor motorists that us cyclists will also steal children in the night. The “us vs. them” argument frankly just doesn’t hold water. The vast majority of cyclists also … wait for it … drive cars too! We’re not anti-car, but we may be a little anti-getting-killed-by-cars. We own vehicles, purchase gasoline, pay property taxes – all the things Ms. Grimes seems to be implying that cyclists are a threat to.

For those interested, the actual proposal can be found on the City of Sacramento Department of Transportation website.

But that wasn’t the end of the claims of zealotry for the day. In fact, I found a second article, this one entitled “Bicycle Zealots Run Over Common Sense with New Laws.” But wait! Check out that byline. Why, this article is also by none other than the prolific Ms. Grimes! Now, if I were to adopt her style, I’d immediately decry Ms. Grimes as an “Anti-Cyclist Zealot” with an agenda to “deprive me of safe riding conditions and continue to push for policies designed to endanger my life and well being.” But luckily, I’m not like that, so I won’t make such statements.

This second piece is an attack on recent legislation related to cycling:

The California Legislature just passed three bills allowing the state’s bicycling extremists the upper hand on streets designed for autos.

Sigh. “…bicycling extremists the upper hand…” Yet more “us vs. them” propaganda. One of the bills in question is SB 1464 - the so-called “3 Foot Passing Rule.” Not sure why she picked this one to complain about. This isn’t actually a new law, but rather clarification of a somewhat vague existing law that requires motorosts to pass cyclists at a “safe distance.” This law clearly defines “safe distance” as 3 feet. What’s wrong with removing ambiguity from laws? We updated our laws from “to drunk to drive a car safely” to “blood alcohol level equal to or above 0.08.” Was that a wasteful law too?

Ms. Grimes goes on to characterize the previously passed Complete Streets Act with this gem:

In 2008, the Legislature passed the California Complete Streets Act, which required roadways to be designed to accommodate all users: bicyclists, pedestrians, transit riders, disabled people, children, older people and motorists.

Obviously, no one talked with a physics professor before writing this legislation.

I’m actually not sure what relevance a physics professor would have in this discussion, given that the folks that were actually involved know how to make this a reality. How? Well, among them were planners and representitives from cities all over the world where roadways already exist that were designed to accomodate all users. Sorry Ms. Grimes, your attempt to question the intelligence of the legislation by implying that it is impossible to achieve falls apart when you can find existing examples of the goal already achieved in real life.

For me the real clincher was her closing remark though. Keep in mind that her article started out by claiming in the title “Bicycle Zealots Run Over Common Sense…” So she throws in this final thought:

I am hoping that legislators introduces a bill mandating bicyclists to follow traffic laws. If California is really going to become bicycle-friendly, it’s time for cyclists to follow all traffic laws; because when bike-auto collisions occur, often the bicyclist is part of the problem, and not always the victim.

So her “common sense” approach is to hope legislatures pass a law, that will mandate that cyclists follow the laws. Not only is that an absurd and ridiculous idea, it is a tired old argument that doesn’t hold up. I grow weary of the “cyclists never follow the laws argument.” Or worse “I’ll share the road when cyclists follow the rules of the road.” Implicit in that statement is the idea that motors actually follow the laws themselves. Every hear of the California Stop Ms. Grimes? An illegal maneuver so common it has a nick name in common parlance. Ever drive the speed limit on the freeway only to find that every other motors it changing lanes to pass you? And frankly the characterization that all cyclists are law breakers is yet more of the apparently standard Ms. Grimes attack strategy: “us vs. them.”

Oh… but wait! Let’s go back to the first article regarding the bike lanes in Sacramento where she writes this statement:

Bicycling on this street is not safe, and never will be. There are too many businesses and too many cars. When I am on my bike, because I have a stong sense of survival, I avoid riding on Freeport Blvd.

Huh. So on the one hand you claim to be a cyclist yourself, then on the other hand claim that cyclists are a danger that don’t follow the laws.

Sorry Ms. Grimes. I love a good, passionate opinion piece as much as the next gal. But I call B.S. on your drivel.

Cell phones and cyclists in California

Ooops…  Looks like there were some inaccuracies in my original story.  I’ve taken the content offline while I do more research.

Commuter benefit before Governor

California SB 582 has passed and is now awaiting signature from the Governor Jerry Brown.  This bill allows regional planning authorities to require employers to offer commuter benefits – pre-tax deductions that can be use for public transportation or cycling costs incurred by bike commuting.  That’s right, you may soon have the opportunity to pay for those tires shredded by road debris with pre-tax funds.  Folks familiar with Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) for health care will be familiar with this concept.  These plans are, in essence, an FSA for commuters.  Jerry Brown has 12 days to either sign or veto.  You can get the details of the bill, including the full text, here.

 

Rider risks injury to beat bike lane ticket

Bike Lane Sign with Speed LimitBike lanes are both a blessing and a curse, and anybody that has done much commuting in urban environments has likely experienced both sides of that.  On the blessing side, studies have demonstrated that bike lanes do, in fact, encourage more folks to ride.  However, it may also create a false sense of security, and can even create greater danger in some situations.  Here in US cities, most bike lanes are right in the “door zone” along parallel parked cars, causing cyclists to need to dart into traffic unexpectedly should a car door get opened in front of them.  Couple that risk with the pretense of “Mandatory Use Laws” and the dark side of bike lanes shows itself.

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More Bicycle Licensing Madness

It is human nature – when you are aware and think of a particular topic, you tend to find things related to that topic in the world around you.  Even so, my eyes kinda bugged out of my head when I ran across an article about a New Jersey lawmaker Cleopatra Tucker wanted mandatory license plates for bicycles.

Umm…  wasn’t I just talking about this just the other day?  The motivation for this bill was identical to what I speculated about in my previous post:
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Mandatory Use Law

Bicycle lanes are something of a double-edged sword in certain circumstances.  Study after study has shown that the presence of bicycle lanes has a positive effect on overall cycling.  However, some will argue that traditional bike lane placement – especially on city streets – comes with its own problems.  Usually, bike lanes are placed in the exact spot where drivers would get out of their cars when parallel parking next to the curb – the “door zone.”  Bike lanes can also put cyclists in conflict with motorists that are making right hand turns at stop lights.

One of the less obvious conflicts, however, are laws that are often referred to as “Mandatory Use Laws.”  California has just such a law on the books in the form of CVC 21208:
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