In the culmination of a 20+ year project, the new eastern span of the San Francisco Bay Bridge opened up. And included on that new bridge was a separate bike and pedestrian lane. Those familiar with the area will quickly point out that this bridge only gets you half way across the bay, and that there is a second bridge that still lacks bicycle access that prevents a bike ride completely across. So for the short term at least this is a recreation trail only with no commute benefits. Keep reading →
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.
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.
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.
It is far too easy to write nasty articles about “those damned motorists” and how they endanger all of us cyclists on the road. Because it is so easy, there are probably far too many of them. This inadvertently presents the image of cycling on the road as an inherently dangerous, hostile experience to be undertaken only by the most seasoned of cyclists. In truth the overwhelming majority to trips I make by bike are completely uneventful. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve exchanged words with a driver from the saddle (and I can tend to be a little hot tempered too.)
That being said, there are going to be times when something will go amiss. Someone won’t see you, or will assume you are going to move in a direction different from your plans, or whatever. This risk exists no matter what your vehicle of choice is – car, SUV, bicycle or favorite pair of Pumas. These situations are stressful by nature, but the person that stays calm almost always comes out on top.
So, I submit for your approval the following video. Consider it a training video. A demonstration of precisely how to act when you do end up in a conversation regarding a traffic incident.
I’ve heard rumors through the grapevine (or on the mailing lists, if you want to get technical) that the Amtrak Capitol Corridor trains were considering changing their policies regarding bicycles aboard the trains. Currently, they allow you to take a complete, assembled un-boxed bike on board the train and store it in one of the spaces provided. These spaces include a standing floor rack, or hooks you can hang the bike from. These accommodations vary by train car and equipment set configuration, but cars generally have space for either 3, 8 or 13 bicycles at a time.
Currently, if and when all spaces become full and more bikes want to get on, passengers are allowed to continue to board the train and place their bikes … wherever. There is a walkway with a handrail that has been a particular favorite of many, as well as a large empty spot allocated for wheelchairs.
The rumors flying around are that conductors were going to start denying passengers access if all “official” bike spots were already taken. The facts behind this rumor were revealed in a blog post on the CapitolCorridor website:
You may have heard or read public comments about the Capitol Corridor’s Joint Powers Authority’s (CCJPA) new on board bike storage policy. I want to clarify that on February 1, 2012 we will start our “get acquainted period” to help educate riders who bring bikes on board the importance of proper bike storage. We will begin implementing the new policy several months afterwards in order to give riders time to prepare and acclimate to proper bike storage practices that allow for adequate access and safety.
Kurtrosky further explained the need for this policy change by citing “…our [Capitol Corridor trains] growing ridership and the corresponding increase in bike usage over the past few years.” However, the official policy statement stops short of saying that people will be denied the right to board, using much gentler language:
Several months from now, when the Capitol Corridor’s new bike policy is in place, passengers who board trains with bikes will be required to:
- Secure bicycles to prevent the sudden or uncontrolled movement of bikes in the event of a sudden train stop; and
- Store bicycles so that all passengers (including those in wheelchairs) can safely navigate the train aisle-ways.
Kurtrosky’s blog post gives further details, and a response to the anticipated “why don’t you make more space for bikes” questions. I’ll personally be keeping a close eye on this, as I’m on the cusp of changing from once weekly commutes to 4 times a week. Of course my bike is an integral part of that commute.
Thanks to VeloReviews member, and fellow Amtrak rider Paul Crescione ( @paulcrescione ) for bringing the Amtrak blog post to my attention
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.
Bike 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.
On May 5, 2010 Doris Matsui (D-CA) has introduced H.R. 1780 – The Safe & Complete Streets Act of 2011. This legislation is poised to place requirements on projects that utilize federal funds that necessitate the adherence to a ‘Complete Streets‘ policy. While submitted by Matsui, the bill also lists Steven LaTourette as co-sponsor. LaTourette previously sponsored the Complete Streets Act of 2009.
…require each state’s department of transportation and metropolitan planning organization to put in place a Complete Streets policy that ensures all Federally-funded transportation projects accommodate the safety and convenience of all users. Complete Streets policies ensures roadways are built with all users in mind – including bicyclists, public transportation vehicles and riders, motorists, freight vehicles, and pedestrians of all ages and abilities. This bipartisan legislation is cosponsored by Congressman Steven LaTourette (R-OH).
According to an Examiner.com article, Sacramento is ready to start adding more painted bike lanes to downtown Sacramento streets over the next 18 months.
The plans aim to create an environment downtown which resembles the bike-friendly portions of midtown, where cycling is popular and bikeways are more common.
This seems in line with what appears to be a growing trend of bike-friendliness throughout the region.
According to the City of Folsom newsletter, folks traveling to Folsom on bike, light rail or other options will have a secure facility to park their bicycles in downtown Folsom.
Folsom continues to make moves to accommodate bicycle infrastructure. These actions are in line with Folsom’s ranking of a Silver level Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists.
I’ve recently been thinking a lot about cycling to work from the employer’s point of view. Are there gains or losses to revenue to be had by employers adopting a particular policy on cycling to work? Are companies actively encouraging employees to cycle to work? Are they doing this through awareness campaigns, or by providing facilities like showers and bike lockers. Perhaps they are actively encouraging employees – sponsoring bike to work days or other such programs.