Monthly Archives: February 2010

police & bicyclists

“Angeles Police Department Chief Charlie Beck told a group of bicycle advocates that department-wide training would be implemented to highlight the rights of bicyclists on the road and ensure that officers know how to deal with incidents involving bikes.

Beck’s statements come amid growing complaints from cyclists that their rights are being infringed by drivers. It marks the first time top LAPD brass has publicly addressed the issue.

Beck said bike riders are “our most vulnerable commuters” and that the police department needed to do a better job protecting them.

“We hear you, we know we need to do a better job for you,” Beck said.”

quoted from: Salty Dog Cycling

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see also: Los Angeles Times

I do wish that was true for the San Antonio Police Department, too. But maybe I expect too much if I hope that Chief McManus would read , let alone heed his colleagues’ good sense.

read

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Filed under bicycling, in the news, laws & ordinances, police

not riding for a while

As I had to leave for Germany [for personal matters] last week, I won’t be riding my bike for the next 3 weeks [till March 19]. I could, of course, have taken one of my bikes on the plane, as Lufthansa offers to take a bike for €150 one way. I don’t think that’s too much. But still, just for three weeks I didn’t want that. Neither did I want to take my bicycling clothes and then rent a bike here. I just don’t have time enough.

But I didn work on my calendar of bicycle events in Texas. It’s not quite up-to-date yet, but it certainly does have quite a few events listed.

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I’m back in the saddle again

Finally I’ve done it and got on the bike again. The weather has been much too nice in the last few days to pass this opportunity. So I did 17 miles yesterday and 37 miles the day before yesterday. And now I hope again that I can reach my goal(s) for 2010.

Minimum is more than last year, which was 2.158 miles. Better would be 10 kilometers per day on average, which would be 2.263 miles. Amd most ambitious – for me – would be 10 miles per day on average. Well, it all depends on the weather here in deep southern Texas.

And long-term goals would be:

  • 10 miles in each county here in Texas
  • 10 miles in each of the lower 48

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armchair bicyclist

Well, I hate to admit it, but I’m not quite into my old stride of last year again. I keep finding reasons why I don’t want to ride my bike. So far, it’s only been 124 miles this year – far from my goal of 10 kilometers per day average. Ok, true, the weather hasn’t always been good for bicycling – like just now. But then, far too often I have just told myself it wasn’t good enough to be outside on the bike.

Nevertheless, I have been doing something re bicycling: editing the LBJ100bicycletour’s website. And that’s fun, too. As is writing this blog. Re the website: today added a page with our sponsors’ logos. And also update the information about the jerseys: there still are jerseys. Just send an e-mail to George Culp of the Friends of LBJ National Park and let him know you want one and he’ll come back with the order information.

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Filed under bicycling, clubs, events, HCBTC, LBJ 100 Bicycle Tour, Texas

bicycling to work

The following article was first published in the Southwest Cycling News, February 2010, and has been reprinted here with the kind permission of the author, Fred Meredith.

Ride Safe, Ride Smart

Gutting it up and getting it out the door the first time

by Fred Meredith

Remember summer and the record-breaking string of triple-digit temperatures left so far behind us? Your daydreams may have returned to the contemplation of a bicycle as your commute vehicle instead of an air-conditioned motor vehicle.

Sure, it’s a big step, but it is also easier to contemplate with gas prices still above two dollars a gallon – with the likelihood of going higher when the economy improves – and congestion still increasing on major arterials adding time to your daily round trip.

[Have you noticed how the morning gridlock lasts nearly until the lunch hour congestion, which is slowly closing the gap with the evening rush home?]

It’s high time somebody pulled his or her car out of that mess. Why not you?

A popular cycling-centric bumper sticker reads, “If I had ridden my bike today, YOU could have parked here.” While it doesn’t have quite the impact it would in Manhattan or Washington, DC, where parking-fees are astronomical, it still gives you pause for thought.

Where should you start?

Ideally, you want a route to your work or school and back that is safe, efficient and enjoyable, so before you invest in special equipment, clothing or especially a new bike, there are some other questions to answer.

A primary consideration is what to do with the bike and its accessories at your work destination. Is secure parking available or an option to bring your bike inside and stow it where you can keep track of it? If you have to park your bike outside somewhere in a rack, that will probably impact what bike you ride and what accessories you carry. Depending on distance, terrain and job description/costume, you may also need to inquire about showers and lockers for bike commuters.

With that behind you, you will next want to find a reasonable path for you and your round-trip commute and check it out. While you are at it, look for features that will help you prove to yourself that you are willing to bike-commute often enough to make your investment of time and money worthwhile and improve your quality of life.

How should you choose the route?

There are at least a couple of parts to planning a bike-commute route and a close look at a good map should be the first step. A bike-route map – Austin has a pretty decent one – will highlight major thoroughfares and connectors for bicyclists and give some clues as to the anticipated stress level or degree of difficulty of those major options.

What a bicycle map may not give you will be all the necessary street names. A regular city map or an online map may help with the details.

The idea is to come up with a low-stress route that is reasonably direct and sufficiently rewarding, given your own expectations – training, exercise, economy of time/money, “no sweat” transportation or just enjoyment of the endorphins kicking in. To borrow a mnemonic I’ve come up with for my someday-to-be-written book for bike ride organizers, use the 4 “S”s to craft your ride route. Keep it Safe, Simple, Smooth and Scenic. That way you will enjoy it much longer and it will be a ride to look forward to.

Once you have a route tentatively mapped out, there are a couple of ways to go about testing it – use either or both.

On a quiet Sunday morning, ride your bike over your proposed route, asking yourself the following questions. Are the streets reasonably free of potholes, broken glass and other debris? Can I avoid the door zone on any narrow streets with parallel parking? How long does it take me each way? Is that acceptable? How hard is the ride and did I sweat a lot? If there are unanticipated difficult sections, explore alternatives (It is Sunday) or venture farther afield in the second testing mode.

At your usual morning and evening weekday commute times, drive your car along the proposed bike-commute route. Ask yourself these questions. How heavy is the motorist traffic on that route? How comfortable would I feel on my bike in this traffic density? Are there sufficient traffic controls to allow me opportunities to cross busy streets? Are there any intersections that are beyond my comfort zone?

Based on your answers to these questions and those you may have from cycling the proposed route, fine-tune your route with decisions that will change any “undesirable” answers and if you are still not comfortable or think your cycling skills are not up to the task, sign up for a Traffic Skills 101 class if one is offered in your area. Austin area classes and contacts can be found elsewhere in this issue or on the ACA website at <www.austincycling.org>.

Now, put that bumper sticker on your car for the days you don’t bike-commute.

Let’s go over it in practical terms. The next time you drive to work, think like a cyclist. Pay attention to the entire route. Make mental notes of the roads that have shoulders wide enough to accommodate a bike as well as of narrow stretches that might make you uncomfortable. Use this as a starting point when mapping out your bike route.

You may need to go back to the map. With either a detailed road map of the area your route will traverse or a big-screen look at an online mapping program, tackle the logistics of it. Focus on the parts of your driving route that you feel comfortable on. Find alternate routes that run parallel to the sections you want to avoid – choose side streets, parks and neighborhoods rather than high-traffic roads. Also be sure to plan your route through well-lit streets – remember, you’ll most likely be riding alone and, often, in the dark depending on the latitudes and time of year.

Troubleshoot the actualities. A section of road that initially looked rideable may turn out to be more difficult than you thought. Find a way around it and mark it on your map. Do this until you have reached your destination. Test-drive it on the way back.

Test-ride the route and see how long it will take you. You may find this time that your trip has too many small turns and not enough long stretches (remember, Safe, SIMPLE, Smooth and Scenic). Maybe you can save time by taking short cuts on paths, or through parks or alleys cars can’t go. Experiment until you get it right.

Head off burn-out and boredom. Once you’ve designed your ideal route and are comfortable with the time it takes to complete, you’ll be riding to and from work without even a second thought. There’s the problem, no thoughts equals no fun. Turn towards a different street on your way home, check out a new neighborhood or incorporate a park trail. Keep the ride exciting and the scenery entertaining, and soon you’ll be discovering places you would never find driving your car.

Good luck. Next time – before the cold season is totally out of the picture – we’ll talk about gutting it up when the thermometer says, “No way, Jose!”

copyright © Fred Meredith, 2010

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Filed under bicycling, Southwest Cycling News

safe passing ordonance approved

” […] the [San Antonio City]  council approved the new road rules, which require motorists to change lanes when passing a cyclist, pedestrian or other “vulnerable road user.” If changing lanes isn’t possible, and if conditions allow, drivers must give three feet of clearance when they pass.

The city will launch an education campaign this spring to emphasize to San Antonio drivers they legally have to share the road with users who’ll always lose in a collision with 2,000 pounds of steel.

The council OK’d the same version of the rules passed by the Legislature last year, a measure that took 10 years to craft and garnered widespread bipartisan support.”

quoted from the San Antonio Express-News

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Even if that’s a long overdue measure, I really doubt if it’s going to help very much. On the one hand, who’s really going to enforce it? As the Express-News reported the other day, drivers disobeying will not be cited unless there is a law-enforcement officers present watching the incident. And then, three feet is certainly not enough in many circumstances. And considering the overwhelming number of irresponsible comments as to the various reports on this matter in the news, I really don’t think passing this ordinance will change an iota in the behaviour of motorists – and of bicyclist, at that. Let’s face it: there are irresponsible people on either side of the spectrum. But, and that’s the up-beat, the irresponsible drivers and bicyclists are an absolute minority. And what I’m actually really afraid of when I’m on my bike is not those drivers who yell and/or honk at me, because that means they have seen me, but those who – for various reasons [maybe they’re texting or on their cell phones, maybe they’re just having a sip of drink, maybe they’re simply alseep at the wheel or as blind as a bat and still driving] – do not see me at all. What we actually need is better education for both drivers and bicyclists. And, starting with bicyclists, those measures being taken up by schools now to get more children on bikes [see my posting on that and cf. here and here] are excellent as these are the future drivers and hopefully they’ll be more bicyclist-friendly then. But then, also, a real working law enforcement would, of course, help to eliminate the few rotten apples in the barrel of good drivers. The opinion expressed by the SAPD, that relieving officers from  issuing tickets would free them for more patrol duty is callous, to say the least. Or would anybody say they should not pursue a burglar, e.g., so as to be able to patrol the streets more?

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not our fair share

According to the report “Bicycling and Walking in the United States: The 2010 Benchmarking Report“, published in January, bicyclists and pedestrians are at a disproportionate risk of being killed while they receive less than their fair share of the money spent on transportation:

While 10% of trips in the U.S. are by bike or foot, 13% of traffic fatalities are bicyclists and pedestrians. Biking and walking receive less than 2% of federal transportation dollars. Seniors are at an even greater risk. While adults over 65 make up 9% of walking trips and 4% of biking trips, they account for 19% of pedestrian fatalities and 9% of bicyclist fatalities.

cf. the press release on the website of the Alliance for Biking and Walking

for the full report, click here

for a fact sheet, click here

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safe bicycling in groups

Check out Phil Hallmark’s “Tips to keep it together on group rides“, which I reprinted with the author’s kind permission on my personal website. This article was first published in the Southwest Cycling News, February 2009, p. 3.

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Getting Kids to Ride Their Bikes to School

What a great initiative!

Patsy Sommer Elementary School [Round Rock ISD] is the first Texas school which uses the Freiker [FREquent nIKER] programme to encourage its students to ride their bicycles to and from school. By using RFID technology the students will be monitored when they use their bikes to get to school and there will be a variety of incentives to reward regular participation.

This programme not only tackles traffic congestion around the school, but also health problems such as obesity and diabetes, and schools already in the programme report that it creates other benefits, too, e.g. improved attendance, better test scores, and a greater sense of community.

Found in: Southwest Cycling News, February 2010, p. 2

cf. also KVUE.com

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Risky News: Cycling in “new San Antonio”

In the above article Richard Rivard, editor of the Express-News, writes about his experience of riding a bicycle in the newly developed areas of northern San Antonio.

“I turn onto TPC Parkway and murmur a prayer. This might be the new route that thousands of well-heeled visitors will travel to the handsome, upscale resort, but it is as unfriendly to cyclists as any legacy avenue in the city. There are no bike lanes and no right of way. I have the legal right to ride there, but I realize many drivers do not know the law and others simply do not accept it.”

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