Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Airbags on Cars?! What Will They Think of Next


Fast Company shows an airbag designed for cars that protects cyclists and pedestrians. Morgan Clendaniel describes it:
The exterior airbags cover the lower portion of the windshield, creating a softer landing for a human skull flying through the air at 25 miles per hour than, say, a pane of glass. A camera positioned beneath the rear-view mirror can determine if the car is approaching any pedestrians or cyclists, and if sensors in the car’s bumper detect contact--here comes the airbag.
Then it's the War on the Car in comments, with drivers saying "So.....car drivers should carry even more weight, cost and responsibility for the actions of irresponsible cyclists." and "Cyclists need to take the risk that roads were built for cars, and cars belong there.... not cyclists."

In fact, drivers should be applauding these; studies have shown that drivers with antilock brakes follow more closely, and that people in seat belts often drive faster. It's called Risk Compensation, defined in Wikipedia as "whereby people tend to adjust their behavior in response to perceived level of risk, behaving less cautiously where they feel more protected and more cautiously where they feel a higher level of risk." With an airbag on the front, drivers can just go faster and mow down more cyclists with impunity.

Over at the Urban Country, James Schwartz has a better idea to increase safety:
The best way to increase safety for pedestrians and bicyclists is to remove seatbelts from cars and put metal spikes on the steering wheel facing the driver. This will guarantee that drivers will be more cautious while driving.
How about we just slow down.

Monday, January 21, 2013

Japanese Bike Parking Technology

This is some of the coolest and unique technology to park bikes safely from theft and bad weather...

Sunday, January 20, 2013

NYC Bike Advocacy Getting Stronger


Local Spokes is a New York City-based coalition of nine different local organizations that does bike advocacy in the Lower East Side and Chinatown (you can see a list of the nine at the bottom of this page). They do a great job, working particularly hard to reach low income people, immigrants, young people, etc. Elizabeth Press has a great video providing an overview of the work they do:

To understand the transportation needs of the neighborhoods, Local Spokes conducted an extensive survey in 2010 and 2011 and held a series of workshops in Chinese, English, and Spanish.
Last summer Local Spokes synthesized everything the coalition had gathered from this process into a neighborhood action plan for bicycling [PDF]. The goal of the action plan is to ensure that residents of the Lower East Side and Chinatown will have a role guiding decisions about bike-related policies and initiatives for their streets, and to create a model for community-based bike plans in other neighborhoods. (source)
The action plan has been published here (pdf).
Via Streetfilms

Monday, January 14, 2013

Austin's Separated Bike Lanes Are on the Right Track

Searching the web today for work comps and I ran across some of the new stuff happening in Austin. Austin implemented a new two-way, buffered bikeway on Bluebonnet Lane and Melridge Place, which runs about seven-tenths of a mile from near Rabb Road (up the hill from Zilker Park) to near South Lamar Boulevard. The track, installed by the city of Austin a couple of months ago, is a harbinger of what is likely to be many such segregated bike lanes around the city. Right now, Austin has three of them — Bluebonnet, Rio Grande Street for five blocks near the University of Texas and the off-street portions of the Lance Armstrong Bikeway.

But another is under construction on Barton Springs Road, the Rio Grande track will be extended another four blocks, and more are planned over the next year or so for Rainey Street, South Congress Avenue south of Live Oak Street and Berkman Drive in Mueller. The city is working on an overall network of “low stress” bicycle tracks. The thinking is that many more people would use a bike for basic transportation — including getting to and from work — if the element of fear could be removed from cycling. Cycle tracks, which separate the bike lanes from car lanes with a series of plastic pylons rather than merely a 4-inch strip of white paint, are seen as a way to provide that comfort.
Based on a U.S. census figures, about 1.9 percent of Austinites used a bike regularly to commute in 2011. That number might seem small, but it is about twice what census numbers have generally shown for Austin and three times the national average. It puts Austin in 11th place among U.S. cities.
The city’s goal is to have cyclists make up 5 percent of commuters by 2020. Thus the cycle tracks.


The four types of cyclists: less than 1 percent fall into that “strong and fearless” cohort, 7 percent are “enthused and confident,” 60 percent are “interested but concerned” and 33 percent say “no way no how.” It stands to reason that making biking safer would increase the commute percentage. Portland, which has installed an array of bike facilities over the past generation, saw the portion of commuting cyclists go from 1.2 percent in 1990 to a best-in-the-country 6.3 percent in 2011. But to get this perceived and actual bicycle safety, and the resulting increased use, motorists will have to sacrifice.

Rio Grande between Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard and West 24th Street used to be a two-lane street, with parallel parking on both sides. Now, with the cycle track, it has either two lanes and no parking or, for several blocks, one lane and parking on just one side of the road. On Bluebonnet and Melridge, parking has been lost on the west side of the street where the track runs. But there was no loss of driving lanes, and lightly traveled streets like these are probably well-suited for giving cyclists an alternative to a harrowing trip on South Lamar. The trade-off could be worth it. And not just to the enthused and confident.