Wow. Rush hour can be fun

Finally. Out of Europe. Video evidence that rush hour traffic can actually be enjoyable! And a little less noisy too.

All of GoldSprints equipment stolen

West Coast GoldSprints trailer was stolen. Read the story at http://www.bikemonkey.net/?p=9125#more-9125. Spread the word in any way you can. Help them find their equipment.

GoldSprints are indoor (i.e. on trainers) cycle racing.  Often taking place in a party type atmosphere, these events have ties back to the pubs of Europe where (it is my understanding) they got their start.  West Coast Gold Sprints is one of the premier promoters of these type of events on the US west coast.  These events require a whole lot of equipment – including not just bikes and trainers but audio/visual equipment, computers, etc.

West Coast GoldSprints is also the orginization staging at least some (if not all) of the Mike’s Bikes hosted races.

If ever there was a time to be part of the “cycling community,” it is times like this.

Am I invisible, or did you just not look long enough?

If you ride your bike on the public streets, it is inevitable that someone will pull out in front of you.   Sooner or later, you’ll be forced to grab a handful of brake lever (or worse) as someone darts out of their driveway or turns in front of you into a parking lot.

Ever since my previous post on car/cyclist interactions, I’ve been thinking about this more and more.  To be very honest, I ride in the flow of traffic quite a bit, and I’ve never really had any major troubles.  I’ve had a few close calls, but nothing really more significant than the countless close calls I’ve had behind the wheel of a car.  I did get into a tangle with a car that pulled a right turn directly in my path, but neither myself, my bike nor the car was significantly damaged, and the driver was apologetic and basically just made a mistake.  In short – I’m not hostile to cars, nor do I feel particularly threatened while I ride on the roads (perhaps just my naivety.)

However, I had one of these near misses just the other day.  I was traveling along (in a marked bike lane, for the record) when a driver approaching from the other direction turned on her left turn signal.  She stopped, preparing to make her left turn into a parking lot, and clearly looked right at me.  I continued at my current speed (maybe 15-18 MPH)  Then … she turned right in front of me.  It was when her car was completely blocking the bike lane that she again looked out of her passenger window and saw me.  Unfortunately she did the absolute last thing I wanted her to do.  She slammed on her brakes, completely blocking the bike lane I was riding in and stared at me with a completely startled and bewildered expression.

I managed to swerve around the back of her vehicle without incident, but I considered how this may have happened for the rest of the ride home.  Coincidentally this general situation was brought up on episode #158 of The FredCast.  In that podcast, David Bernstein describes “being invisible”, attributing situations like the one I experienced to motorists not even seeing cyclists.

However, I’m not so sure that is always the case.  In my situation, I clearly saw her look right at me.  Is it possible that she looked at me without actually seeing me?  Did she just look right through me as David Bernstein suggests?  Or is there possibly something else going on here.

Obviously we all (all of us that drive cars, that is) make turns in front of other cars.  However, usually we do this in a way that ensures we’ve completed our turn before the other car comes anywhere near us.  In other words, we look at oncoming traffic, judge their speed, and make a decision to proceed if we believe that we can complete our maneuver safely without getting in the way of the other car.  Usually this is done automatically – watching the other car for a period of time long enough for us to determine the relative speed.

I propose that a good deal of these “invisible cyclist” incidents are actually more of a “poorly judged cyclist speed” situation.  And why would drivers be prone to misjudge a cyclist’s speed?  I think it may just be due to assumptions about how fast most folks ride their bikes.  I don’t think that she didn’t see me – but rather she saw that I was on a bike and immediately made the assumption “slow” without taking the time to actually watch me and accurately judge my rate of speed.  Maybe this woman’s only experiences with bikes include spinning along at 5MPH on her beach cruiser, or watching the grandkids riding circles in the driveway.  Perhaps the possibility of a cyclist traveling at 15, 20, 30 or more miles per hour is just not within her realm of expectation.

Interestingly enough, I first came up with this idea not related to cycling – but rather while driving an old 1971 VW Bus.  It seemed that folks tended to pull out in front of me a whole lot more driving that big green bus then they did any of my other cars.  I couldn’t figure out why for the longest time – I mean, it is a lot easier to see a VW Bus that most sedans and sports cars.  However, it occurred to me one day that those Volkswagens just look slow.  They’re boxy and have a reputation for not going very fast.  There are a lot of different inputs that us humans use to judge our environment – and many of them are based on past experiences and memories.  If you are used to riding slowly on a bike, or seeing others ride slowly on a bike, you are more likely to assume that all bikes go slow.

Ultimately it really doesn’t make any difference why someone pulls directly into your path (either on a bicycle or in a classic VW) as the end result is the same – you’ve got to be ready to take some quick evasive actions.  However, if there is any validity to this “y’all just think I’m slower than I am” theory, it can mean that you become more likely to run into these situations as you become a stronger and faster cyclist.

Just something to think about as you’re spinning along our highways and byways.

From http://bicyclesafe.com. Used with permission.

Addendum: Now I’m not so arrogant as to assume I’m the first person to think of this, but it was interesting that almost as soon as I’d saved this post I ran across a mention of a similar idea on http://bicyclesafe.com/ in their description of the “right hook” car/bike accident:

A car passes you and then tries to make a right turn directly in front of you, or right into you. They think you’re not going very fast just because you’re on a bicycle, so it never occurs to them that they can’t pass you in time.


Second coolest wedding ever

I’ve spent a few hours recently plotting and scheming about how to get my hands on an XtraCycle (and a steel frame to attach it to) when I stumbled across this set of photos.  This has got to be the absolute coolest weddings ever – well, aside from my own of course.  Although it looks like the wedding party came up a little short.  While they did a great job on the streamers and such – shouldn’t there be some more cans tied on the back of that Surly Big Dummy?

Sacramento to Portland – via Seattle

There are now only about six weeks remaining until the group Health Seattle to Portland Bicycle Classic.  My wife Melissa and I will be doing the double century in two days.  This is actually a ride I’ve been waiting to do for quite some time.

Keep reading →

Why drivers and cyclists don’t get along

It is an interesting look into the nature of the strained relationship between cyclists and motorists that some of the most vehement, hate-filled arguments between the groups will take place in the comments of articles posted online on local newspapers websites.  It seems that whenever an article about a cyclist getting hit by a car and seriously injured or killed is put up, those that believe cyclists shouldn’t be on the road come out in force to voice their outrage at the situation.  In almost all cases, this ends up with statements about how the cyclist just shouldn’t have been on the road in the first place, and ties in many generalizations and stereotypes about how all cyclists are reckless and cyclists never follow the rules of the road.

So why do some motorists view cyclists in such a negative light?  Are cyclists out there, running rampant across our roads, looking for every opportunity to thumb their noses in the face of drivers and their “rules of the road?”  Well clearly  there are cyclists that do break the laws.  For many different reasons – which I will go into shortly – cyclists have been known to roll past stop signs without stopping, or creep through red lights before they turn green.  So there, I’ve admitted it right?  I’ve clearly acknowledged the motorists point of view that cyclists are a bunch of law breakers.  Not so fast…  The motorist’s argument suffers from two flawed assumptions.  First, by talking about what “cyclists” do the statement implies that all cyclists do the same things and for the same reason.  Any reasonable person would see this as a falsehood.  Secondly, the motorist making this argument states that cyclists don’t belong on the road because they are all lawbreakers.  However, this argument only works if motorists are not lawbreakers.  In fact on almost any trip down an interstate highway you will see numerous motorists breaking the speed limit.  Should we perhaps argue that the freeways should be shut down – cars banned – until motorists stop being “a bunch of lawbreakers?”  I’ve also noticed that, especially at the suburban 4-way stops that I may be likely to roll through on my bike, a fair number of motorists don’t come to complete stops either.   The term “California Stop” refers to cars – not bicycles.

Once we acknowledge that folks operating both bikes and cars can and do routinely break the law, where does that leave us?  At this point many of the anti-cyclist crowd will begin to cite unequal punishments for cyclists.  The first of these arguments is often along the lines of “cyclists don’t need a license, so there is no punishment for them.”  I bring this argument up first because it is the weakest.  In no state does the application of traffic fines or other punishments require the violator to have a license.  For example, in my home state of California I can receive the exact same fine for rolling through a stop sign on my bicycle as I can for driving through it in my car.  Furthermore, because I actually am a licensed driver, moving violations on my bicycle actually are recorded as any other traffic infraction – resulting in increased auto insurance rates and potential license suspension or revocation.

The more educated of our anti-cyclist debaters, however, will cite that police just don’t seem to stop cyclists that roll through stop signs or stop lights with the same vigilance they would with cars.  While I have no actual numbers, my own personal experience as both a cyclist and a motorist would be to agree with this statement.  Unfortunately the common human reaction is one of “if I can’t get away with it, why should anyone else.”  However, if we actually consider the job of the police officers we will see that this apparent lack of enforcement is probably not some sort of preferential treatment, but rather just common sense.

Our police officers obviously can not catch all crimes.  Instead, they have to make decisions about how best to use their time and limited resources to do the greatest good for society as a whole.  As an extreme example, if an officer sees a person jaywalking, while a fist fight has started across the street, no one would claim preferential treatment for law breaking pedestrians if the officer did not take the time to ticked the jay walker and instead dealt with the assault situation.   This is just common sense.

Even more so, it is about the actual damage potential to society.  Argue the fairness of it all you like, it is simply far less dangerous to society for a bicycle to be ridden through a stop sign without coming to a complete stop than it is for an automobile.  The potential for damage caused by a bicycle hitting something or someone is just far less.

When I think about these arguments, however, there is one fact that occurs to me that I believe might be fundamental to the differences between the sides – and hopefully key to bridging that gap.  The vast majority of cyclists on the road also drive cars.  This means that many cyclists see both sides of the issue, know what effect a cyclist can have on a driver as they share traffic lanes, and thus would hopefully have a more rounded and balanced viewpoint.  The reverse, however, can not be said.  The vast majority of motorists do not ride bicycles on the roadways.  They are not aware of some of the issues faced by cyclists trying to find safe space on the road.  Perhaps if we can increase that understanding and awareness all of those comments following the online news posts would be more about identifying dangerous intersections and pushing for improvements as opposed to the continued “cars rule, and if you bike you’re a fool” mantra.

Brand new name, same great taste

Well, after much soul (and web) searching, I’ve finally decided on a more proper domain name for this blog – finally codifying into Internet lore that Ross Del Duca is, in fact, Just Another Cyclist.  I could be many other things, but I am not.  I’m not the VeloFellow, nor am I the CycleGuy.  Heck, I’m not even sure I can call myself a VeloCommuter.  Nope – I’m JustAnotherCyclist, at http://justanothercyclist.com.  Enjoy.

Family leaves San Francisco heading south – way south.

I happened to run into a couple of heavily laden bikes with some rather interesting signage while on my commute home.  Signage that claimed these folks were on their way towards South America on bike.  I seized on the opportunity to get a quick interview with them.  The full audio is available here in mp3 format:

[Text transcript of interview]

Ross Del Duca: We’re here at the Caltrain station at 4th & King in San Francisco and we’ve got a couple of heavily laden bikes that just made their way off the train.  What are you names?

Jessica: I’m Jessica.

Antonio: I’m Antonio.

Ross: I see you’ve got a couple of other passengers, who are they?

Jessica: Twins

Antonio: Sophia and Tonio

Ross: And so, what are you guys starting today?

Antonio: Today we’re starting our way down the coast of the United States and the coast of Mexico through Baja and into central America.  And we’re not really sure how far into south America but that general direction.

Ross: Are you doing it entirely on the bikes I see in front of us?

Antonio: Both the same, yea.

Ross: So, have you done long trips like this before?

Jessica: This is our first one.

Ross: This is your first one?  That’s amazing

Antonio: We didn’t know much about bicycles like three months ago.

Ross: Oh really?  That’s incredible.  So what prompted you to take this on?

Antonio: We were running a hostel in Las Vegas.

Jessica: We had a guest named Mark Doherty, and he was cycling around the world.

Ross: Oh interesting…

Antonio: It was interesting to hear his adventures, and follow him on his blog.  We have our own blog now and also we want to start our own hostel.  We didn’t really like Las Vegas, it wasn’t for us.  So we’re kinda hoping that a South American beach somewhere will be our home.   We like that kind of living where we live at home and clean up after people and meet people…

Antonio & Jessica: laughs

Antonio: The cleaning up is just part of the job.

Jessica: It’s like traveling without having to go anywhere.

Ross: Nice.  Anything else that you’d like to let people know before we sign off here?

Antonio and Jessica together: Check us out on FunkyMonkeyFamily.com

Ross: Excellent.  Thank you very much.

Antonio and Jessica together: Thank you.

Don’t let their relative newness to cycling fool you though.  These are definitely not folks who just jumped on their bikes and started pedaling.  In fact, if you check out their list of gear purchased for their trip, you see some very smart purchases.  Their pair of Surly Long Haul Truckers are, to some, the very definition of touring cycling.  They have clearly done their homework.

Another interesting tidbit picked up after the recorder was turned off: they were actually starting their ride in San Francisco following a Critical Mass ride.

So join me in wishing Antonio, Jess and the twins a safe, interesting and enjoyable trip.  I know I’ll be following their blog with interest.

Landis creates another doping scandal – without a single positive test

It is with both frustration and great satisfaction that I watch the madness unleashed by Floyd Landis’s accusations of doping.  Despite my previous post to the contrary, I do in fact have opinions on this issue.

The frustrating/satisfying part for me, however, is the sheer number of investigations that have started as a result of his allegations.  I find it frustrating that the major headlines on cycling are again broadcasting to the mainstream audiences the idea that cycling is a drug-riddled sport.  However, it is satisfying to see the ghusto with which the cycling governing bodies are moving to address the accusations – to either confirm or deny the claims being made.  As stated in a VeloNews.com posting:

For Armstrong the U.S. anti-doping agency (USADA) has been mandated to carry out a probe while McQuaid has also asked the Belgian federation to probe the claims concerning Bruyneel.

The federations of Australia, Canada and France have also been asked to investigate after Landis’ claims respectively implicated professional Matthew White, Michael Barry and John Lelangue, Landis’s former manager at the Phonak team, who now manages the BMC team.

That’s a whole lotta organizations, doing a whole lotta investigation, all without the impetus of a single positive test taken from a rider at this time.  If this doesn’t show that the cycling world is serious about stamping out PEDs (Performance Enhancing Drugs) than I’m not sure what will.

Family takes it “easy” biking along the California Coast

You may not have heard of them before, but you’ve really got to check out The Woodward Family.  I honestly do not recall how I found these folks initially, but their blog details a ride they did together across the United States – from the east coast to the west coast.  Right now (yes – possibly this very minute) they’re at it again – only this time they are traveling the California coast line.  They are posting blog entries, videos and photos along the way.   You can also keep track of their travels via twitter feeds @zachwoodward and @somewhereonabike.

Join me in wishing them the best of luck, no flats, safe roads and tailwinds all the way.