Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Flashback to the 1940s for Scary Safety Rules

I came across this old brochure on Retronaut at lunch and no wonder so few Americans let their kids ride bikes, if this is what they have been peddling since 1940. You are not even allowed to look up at an airplane or some car will mow you down. Skull fracture and death awaits you at every turn. Nothing has changed, except now they would add, "Alice wasn't wearing a helmet." It isn't for the faint of heart; never have you seen so many heads smashed in and sweet young kids killed. And those pesky kids almost always deserve it, turning left without warning, running into the backs of trucks with dropped tailgates, looking at airplanes.

And it is so totally this kid's fault, hitting that bad pavement so that the poor car didn't have time to avoid or brake. He deserved everything he got for being there in the road in front of that car.

And really, the kid deserves the right hook for not getting out of the way of the oil tanker overtaking him on the corner. It is like that through the whole guide; a scary tale of what happens if cyclists get on the roads that clearly belong to cars.

More at the Retronaut

Monday, February 20, 2012

Moscow Bike Mapping

With its chaotic traffic, aggressive drivers, and brutal winters, Moscow seems an unlikely candidate to be a bike-friendly city, as authorities are promising to make it within five years' time. But for those who want to venture out on two wheels, help is at hand: A set of DIY bike maps created by cyclists themselves.

Cyclist/activist/artist Anton Polsky has sparked a "movement to create a participatory, informal bicycle map for Moscow," the urban-ideas blog Pattern Cities reported earlier this week.

After making the first-ever map of bike routes in Moscow in 2010, Polsky uploaded it to his website and began encouraging people to "download, print, mark their favorite routes, and drop off the maps at galleries across the city," Pattern Cities writes. Symbols on the maps note the locations of bike rental shops, bike parking spots, local landmarks, and dangerous intersections.
In addition to regular commuter routes through the city, special maps have been created for bike transportation to eco-friendly events such as the 10/10/10 Global Work Party for climate action and last year's Sdelai Sam (Do It Yourself) festival, which included a cycling parade, "an eco-themed scavenger hunt in the city," a Really Free Market and tree planting and park clean-up activities.

Safer cycling options could certainly ease mobility problems in Moscow, described last year as a city "on the brink of transportation collapse." Currently, would-be bikers must navigate busy roads and limited connections to public transportation. Many say the 25 new kilometers of cycling routes promised by 2016 are insufficient for a city Moscow's size. But Polsky's project could give the government initiative a good head start.

"The importance of this project lies in that findings can be shared with local, city authorities as they begin to create the city’s bicycle infrastructure," Pattern Cities writes. "This kind of activism and community involvement is a starting point for effective urban design in Moscow."

Thursday, February 16, 2012

The Montreal Man Who Lived on His Bike

For those of us who imagine living on one's bike year-round to be not very fun, leave it to a Montrealer to show the light-hearted side of such an endeavor. In this short, very much tongue-in-cheek video, French-born artist and copy editor Guillaume Blanchet films himself eating, sleeping, washing clothes, even falling in love while at the handlebars -- for 382 days.

THE MAN WHO LIVED ON HIS BIKE from Guillaume Blanchet on Vimeo.

Dedicated to his 64-year-old father Yves who has biked 74,564 miles and is still going strong, Blanchet writes that:
I love being on a bike. It helps me feel free. I get it from my dad. After 382 days spent riding through the streets of Montreal, being sometimes quite cold, sometimes quite hot - and sometimes quite scared, I dedicate this movie to you, Yves Blanchet.
Pedalling through some of Montreal's distinctive neighbourhoods, Blanchet's catchy video goes through the seasons (slugging through snow) and even an encampment (Occupy Montreal?). Throughout it all, Blanchet seems to ride on, hands-free without a care, embracing life as it comes. It's certainly a positive and humourous take on the often mundane act of commuting on a bike, day in, day out.

Please note: any litter made in the making of this film was picked up, says Blanchet. More of Guillaume Blanchet's works on Vimeo.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

San Francisco Gets E-Bikes for Bike Share

As awesome as the bike is as a way to get around, sometimes human muscles don't quite pack enough oomph to deal with hilly terrain. Tour de France cyclists might see steep inclines as a challenge, but most of us would welcome a little assistance. That's why it's such a great idea for San Francisco - far from a flat city - to add electric bikes to its City CarShare fleet (a local nonprofit).

The New York Times wrote:
The Federal Highway Administration’s Value Pricing Pilot Program awarded $1.5 million for the initiative through the San Francisco Metropolitan Transportation Agency, the project’s fiscal sponsor. Ultimately the money will go to the local nonprofit City CarShare, which plans to integrate the e-bikes and trailers with its existing car sharing service, and to the Transportation Sustainability Research Center at University of California, Berkeley, which is responsible for assessing the impact and lessons learned from the project.

In essence, the goal is to find out how many car-share trips will be replaced with electric bicycle trips, and what factors influence the switch. City CarShare will receive $760,000 of the grant money, covering some 40 percent of the costs over three years for 90 e-bikes at about 25 locations.

The organization plans to roll out 45 bikes in the second half of this year and 45 more by the end of 2013, mostly in San Francisco but in Berkeley as well.

It's a great idea as long as the execution is good. People need to be made aware that these e-bikes are available (it would be even better if there was more of them, of course), and they need to be located within areas where they will be most useful. They also need to make sure that the batteries are always being charged when the bikes are back at the stations (or at least overnight). If all of that is done well, I think electric bikes will be a big hit in SF, and I hope they'll also be added to bike fleets in other cities (even cities in flatter landscapes could benefit from e-bikes).

The photos above are of an Enerloop and a Terra electric bike. I'm just using those photos to illustrate the post, but I don't know which model will be used in San Francisco.


Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Bikes Allowed to Run Red Lights In Paris

In most cases, traffic rules are designed to vehicles and their occupants from succumbing to the pitfalls of Newton's laws of motion -- but until now, bicyclists have been subject to the same rules and regulations as the multi-ton vehicles with which they share the road. Following a nationwide pro-cycling campaign, French lawmakers recently issued a decree allowing cyclists in some cities to disregard red lights at certain intersections, not merely because such regulations work against cycling physics, but because it actually makes roads safer for everyone.

The newly relaxed rules of the road for cyclists is now being tested across 15 intersections in Paris, though with it bike-commuters aren't given full liberty to blow through crossing points unreasonably. Law will continue to require that cyclists yield to pedestrians and opposing traffic, though that's quite likely consistant with the standards of etiquette and personal safety most cyclists abide to anyways.
According to The Telegraph, the lawmakers believe that the new decree will prevent some of the dangers which arrise from too many cyclists proceeding through an intersection only once the light turns green. In fact, allowing riders to rely on their own judgement may actually be safer:
The measure is already being tested in Bordeaux, Strasbourg and Nantes, where "these experiments have led to no rise in the number of accidents," according to Paris' town hall.
"On my daily bike run I go through three red lights so it saves me time," Caroline, a cyclist in Nantes, told RTL radio. "I just need to look left to see whether a car or even a bike is coming. It works very smoothly." Belgium, Germany and Scandinavia already apply the rule.
"It makes cycle traffic more fluid and avoids bunching up cyclists when the traffic lights go green for motorists," said municipal authorities.
Unlike many traffic rules aimed at reinforcing common sense among all-too-easily unengaged drivers, France's new biker-friendly ordinance isn't merely a sensible move in terms of public safety -- it's a long-overdo nod to cyclists' greatest asset: the instinct of self-preservation, powered by 'self'.

Monday, February 6, 2012

NACTO's 'Cities for Cycling' Meets to Make Chicago More Bike Friendly

NACTO's "Cities for Cycling" Roadshow Rocks Chicago from Streetfilms on Vimeo.
The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO), which recently authored a great urban bikeway design guide, held a meet of its 'Cities for Cycling' project in Chicago. Experts and activists from the city and from the rest of the country met to share ideas on how to make Chicago a more bike-friendly city. Streetfilms were there and interviewed many of the participants.

It's really great to see so much cooperation and sharing of best practices. It'll make things happen much faster than if each city had to individually reinvent the bike wheel on its own... Kudos to NACTO and all of those who participated!
Via Streetfilms

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Transportation Bill Cuts Bicycle and Pedestrian Funding - Take Action Now!

Top 10 Reasons the House’s Proposed Transportation Bill is
Bad for Biking and Walking
10. No traffic calming.
Under current law, traffic calming and bicycle/pedestrian safety are eligible for funding from the Highway Safety Improvement Program (HSIP). The House’s proposed bill would make traffic calming and bike/ped safety ineligible for funding, encouraging faster, more dangerous streets.
9. More unsafe rumble strips.
Current law requires that rumble strips on roads “do no adversely affect the safety and mobility of bicyclists, pedestrians or the disabled.” The proposed House bill eliminates this language, allowing for unsafe placement of rumble strips that create deadly safety hazards for people riding bicycles.
8. No bike/ped technical assistance.
Currently, when a state or local community is interested in making their streets safer for bicyclists and pedestrians, they can turn to clearinghouses for information about funding sources, best practices, and other technical assistance. The House’s transportation bill would eliminate bicycle/pedestrian and Safe Routes to School clearinghouses, making it harder for states and local communities to find technical assistance.
7. No state-level staff support.
Today’s federal transportation laws require states to keep Bicycle/Pedestrian specialists and Safe Routes to School Coordinators on staff. As huge agencies with thousands of employees, state Departments of Transportation benefit from having one or two people familiar with biking and walking issues. The House bill would eliminate these positions, effectively making state DOTs less familiar with bicycling and walking safety.
6. No transit funds for bicycling.
Under current law, transit funds can be used for projects that make it safer and easier to ride a bike to and from bus stops, subway stations, and train stations. Even though bicycle parking at transit stations, bike access to transit, and bike-sharing are cost-effective fixes that improve safety, the proposed House bill would eliminate federal support for these projects.
5. No rail trails.
Current transportation laws allows for the use of federal funding in converting abandoned railroad corridors into walking and biking trails. The House’s proposed transportation bill makes rail trails ineligible for federal funding.
4. No safe access on bridges.
Under current law, when states do work on a bridge that has bicycle or pedestrian access on either side, they are required to build safe bicycle or pedestrian access across the bridge itself.  Even though it’s only logical that people on traveling by bicycle or by foot should be able to cross bridges safely, the proposed House bill eliminates the requirement that states provide bridge access for walkers and bicyclists when it makes the most sense.
3. CMAQ is gutted.
Under current law, states can receive Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality (CMAQ) funding to support projects that reduce transportation-related pollution. Currently, states use CMAQ dollars to support bicycling and walking infrastructure, which are proven to help reduce air pollutants by encouraging people to walk or bike instead of drive.

No longer. The House bill would change CMAQ by making congestion reduction, not air quality, the operative measure for eligibility. In other words, in order to qualify for CMAQ funding, a project doesn’t need to reduce air pollution; it just needs to be “likely” to reduce congestion. Under this new definition, the construction of new highway lanes qualifies for CMAQ funding. If the House bill were to become law, states would likely allocate CMAQ funds for highway construction at the expense of bicycle- and pedestrian-friendly projects.
2. Safe Routes to School is eliminated.
In the House bill’s own words, the Safe Routes to School Program is “repealed.” This wildly successful program helped communities fund transportation infrastructure and education to keep kids safe on their bike rides and walks to school and encourage healthy activity.
Despite the program’s success and very low cost, the House bill would completely eliminate the program, reversing years of progress in making streets safer for kids.
…And the number one problem with the House transportation bill is…

1. Transportation Enhancements is gone.
For the past twenty years, Transportation Enhancements has helped communities build the sidewalks, crosswalks, and bikeways that keep people safe on the streets. As less than 1% of all federal transportation spending, this tiny yet effective program financed projects that made it easier, more convenient, and much safer to walk or ride a bike.

The proposed House transportation bill eliminates bicycling’s most significant funding source by making Transportation Enhancements optional. Rather than finding new ways for towns and cities to keep bicycle riders and pedestrians safe on the streets, states will be encouraged to use these dollars to build wider, faster, more dangerous arterials and highways.

Please  TAKE ACTION today to save cycling!
In addition to BikeLeague.org, please visit AmericaBikes.org for more on the transportation bill.