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  1. #1
    Senior Member randya's Avatar
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    Revelations of a curb-hopper

    Revelations of a curb-hopper
    As long as transportation costs continue to increase, the ranks of bicycle-riding voters will grow.
    ALBERT HOWELL
    Toronto Globe and Mail April 11, 2006
    http://www.theglobeandmail.com/servl...0&%20Arguments

    Now that spring is here I'll be riding my bike more. I want to explain my bike-riding habits: I am a curb-hopper, which means I occasionally ride my bike on the sidewalk or travel the wrong way on one-way streets -- I've even run red lights. I don't like doing these things but as long as current traffic laws put cyclists in harm's way, I'll do whatever I need to so I don't end up crushed under a truck by a driver who didn't see me.

    No cyclist wants to ride on the sidewalk; it's slow and full of obstacles but when the alternative is being injured or killed by a car, I go where I have to. And to those who yell at me "It's called a sidewalk!" let me say this: if you have ever jaywalked you've given up your right to be upset. Nine times out of 10 a cyclist is on the sidewalk to avoid danger but all jaywalkers knowingly put themselves in danger for the sake of convenience (I have yet to see a cyclist yell at a jaywalker "It's called a road!"). I've even had pedestrians stand in front of me on the road, not moving, looking for a break in traffic and forcing me to swerve deeper into that traffic just to avoid them.

    Another reason I curb-hop is that I am riding a bike. There's a mistaken attitude that a bike is the same as a motorized vehicle. A person on a bike has far more in common with a pedestrian than with the driver of a car. You put someone on a bike and you've increased their weight by maybe 40 pounds, given them a top speed of 30 kilometres and hour and added no protection except for a helmet. You put a person in a car and you've increased their weight by some 2,000 pounds, given them a top speed of 120 km/h and encased them in a steel frame.

    I'm not saying cyclists can ride on a sidewalk the same way they do on a road; they have to be respectful of the people walking. But there's also no reason for pedestrians to treat bicycles like they are some huge danger, the most recent statistics that I could find show that in Canada, vehicles kill one pedestrian every day, on average. Bikes are not killing you, cars are; either quickly by running you down or slowly by fouling your lungs.

    Governments, in the meantime, keep advocating bike riding as a fun and cheap alternative but refuse to build proper bike lanes to make it safer. It's the equivalent of telling people to go walk in traffic, but wear a helmet. What cyclists need is one uninterrupted lane that is physically separate from traffic and pedestrians. I wish painted lines were enough but drivers either don't see them or don't care.

    Unfortunately, cycling gets only lip service from governments. So I've thought of three things cyclists can do to that might help light a fire under the seat of politicians:

    Stop calling bicycles "alternative" transportation. It makes cycling sound weird and dangerous. From now on refer to a bike simply as transportation or non-polluting transportation.

    Always wear a pollution mask. Not only is it good for your lungs, it's a nice visual reminder to drivers about how bad the air is. Take a picture of yourself in your mask in front of a local landmark and send a copy to your city's tourism board and let them know you'll be sending this photo around the Internet. Since the government won't listen to cyclists maybe the local tourist industry can encourage them to make cycling safer. (While you're at it, get an air horn; it makes people think you're a car and noise is the only offensive weapon cyclists have.)

    A lot of cyclists are involved in an event called Critical Mass, where a large group of people ride bikes together. Drivers don't take this seriously; they see it as a temporary nuisance. If we really want to build an appreciation for what bicycles do then let's consider changing Critical Mass from bike-riding to car-driving. On the first workday of every month, every cyclist would drive a car into the city, to show the government how many cars aren't on the road when people ride their bikes.

    One press release I read estimates there are more than 930,000 cyclists in the greater Toronto area. If only 10 per cent of those were willing to participate, that's still 93,000 cars being added to the traffic -- that should attract some attention. This, I hope, would get commuters screaming and governments seem to listen to commuters more than to cyclists. To really illustrate the point, you might put a sign in your car window that says "When you build a bike path then I'll ride my bike."

    A lot of people think that cyclists make up a small minority and don't deserve much attention. Well, there are more of us than you think, and as long as gasoline, insurance and parking costs continue to increase in price the ranks of bicycle riding voters will continue to grow.

    I'm not anti-car, I drive a car; cycling is simply an easier way to travel through my neighbourhood. I just don't think I should have to take my life in my hands just to get around and until the government makes it safer, I will do whatever I need to avoid being added to an already too long list of cyclists killed in traffic.

    Just a side note: Drivers, when a cyclist is eyeballing you it's not an insult or a challenge, we're simply watching you to see what you're going to do. If you make a mistake in traffic it's an expense; if a cyclist makes one, it's a lot of pain and possibly death. And pedestrians, when a cyclist rings a bell, we're not giving you attitude we're just letting you know we're there.

    Albert Howell rides his bike in Toronto.

  2. #2
    Banned. Helmet Head's Avatar
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    Stop calling bicycles "alternative" transportation. It makes cycling sound weird and dangerous.
    Amen. Beck, are you paying attention?

  3. #3
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    Quote Originally Posted by randya
    I want to explain my bike-riding habits: I am a curb-hopper, which means I occasionally ... even run red lights. I don't like doing these things but as long as current traffic laws put cyclists in harm's way, I'll do whatever I need to so I don't end up crushed under a truck by a driver who didn't see me.
    Well, that didn't make any sense...


    What cyclists need is one uninterrupted lane that is physically separate from traffic and pedestrians.
    But that sure did!


  4. #4
    ♋ ☮♂ ☭ ☯ -=(8)=-'s Avatar
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    Great article , Randya !!!!
    This quite succinctly sums up all the stuff Ive been
    trying to say since I started posting here !!
    -ADVOCACY-☜ Radical VC = Car people on bikes. Just say "NO"

  5. #5
    Senior Member closetbiker's Avatar
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    I sent in my letter late in the day so it wasn't published in todays paper (maybe tomorrows it'll make it?) but there were a couple in todays paper that blasted the bozo for riding on the sidewalk, running red lights and riding the wrong way up one way streets.

    My letter also mentioned the stupid point of cyclists and not motorists wearing masks and separated roads for cyclists.

    Gee, I wonder why this guy thinks it's not safe on the road?

  6. #6
    Ride the Road Daily Commute's Avatar
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    What cyclists need is one uninterrupted lane that is physically separate from traffic and pedestrians.
    Quote Originally Posted by Blue Order
    But that sure did [make sense]!
    The only "noninterrupted lane that is physically separate from traffic and pedestrians" is a bike path where from which pedestrians are banned. Do those exist anywhere? The'd pretty much have to be along a river or an old RR right-of-way. We have a great one along a river in Columbus, but pedestrians are allowed.

    Edited to correct type-o.
    Last edited by Daily Commute; 04-12-06 at 08:47 PM.

  7. #7
    No-Pants Island bbonnn's Avatar
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    I like the idea of driving to work on Critical Mass days. Instead of the message being "We're here, we're important, and the streets are ours too," the message would be all those things PLUS "... and we're doing a good thing by biking, see?"

    And, it would be the Evil Cars doing the road blockage, not the Evil Bikers Making Me Late For Work Oooh I Hate Them So Much (says the car commuter).

  8. #8
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    Quote Originally Posted by Daily Commute
    The only "ninterrupted lane that is physically separate from traffic and pedestrians" is a bike path where from which pedestrians are banned. Do those exist anywhere? The'd pretty much have to be along a river or an old RR right-of-way. We have a great one along a river in Columbus, but pedestrians are allowed.
    My understanding is that bicycles are separate from both automobiles and pedestrians in some European cities.

    Regardless of whether they exist or not, the point is we can conceive of them, so it's therefore possible for them to be built.

  9. #9
    Senior Member rando's Avatar
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    I like it. it says very succinctly and eloquently what I've wanted to say for some time.

  10. #10
    No-Pants Island bbonnn's Avatar
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    Speaking of pollution masks, does anybody here wear one? I've seen some quasi-stylish (read: not lawnmower style) ones online, but they're still too out-there for my own sense of vanity. This opinion comes to you from a dork who completely reflectorized her bike, stuck a red LED on the back of her helmet, and wears an orange jacket so bright it'll make your fingernails hurt ...

    Just wondering, because if you took a pic in front of a local landmark, I wonder if the tourism board would even know what it was ... probably think you were some kind of ninja ...

  11. #11
    genec genec's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by bbonnn
    I like the idea of driving to work on Critical Mass days. Instead of the message being "We're here, we're important, and the streets are ours too," the message would be all those things PLUS "... and we're doing a good thing by biking, see?"

    And, it would be the Evil Cars doing the road blockage, not the Evil Bikers Making Me Late For Work Oooh I Hate Them So Much (says the car commuter).
    I prefer a T shirt that says "One more parking space... For YOU."

    I can wear it everyday and not have to participate in wall to wall traffic.

  12. #12
    Ride the Road Daily Commute's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blue Order
    My understanding is that bicycles are separate from both automobiles and pedestrians in some European cities.

    Regardless of whether they exist or not, the point is we can conceive of them, so it's therefore possible for them to be built.
    Not really. As I understand it, on European side paths, bicycles still must interact with cars at intersections. So you can't really call them "noninterrupted lanes." Do you know of any cities in Europe that have bike-only facilties that aren't interrupted at intersections? Maybe their bike paths really are bike paths.

  13. #13
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    Quote Originally Posted by Daily Commute
    Not really. As I understand it, on European side paths, bicycles still must interact with cars at intersections. So you can't really call them "noninterrupted lanes." Do you know of any cities in Europe that have bike-only facilties that aren't interrupted at intersections? Maybe their bike paths really are bike paths.
    Maybe. I don't have any first-hand knowledge of European bike facilities. I don't really see intersections as a big issue, though. So you're in the mix at an intersection, and then you're back on your route. I'd be fine with that set-up.

  14. #14
    Dominatrikes sbhikes's Avatar
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    I don't really get the article. Traffic isn't really all that bad and the need for sidewalk or wrong way riding is nil when you have adequate bike lanes.

    I do agree with the part about having one uninterrupted lane that is physically separate from traffic and pedestrians. I might get a new job and if I do, I'll get to ride on one of those on my way to work!
    ~Diane
    Recumbents: Lightning Thunderbolt, '06 Catrike Pocket. Upright: Trek Mountain Bike.
    8.5 mile commute. I like bike lanes.

  15. #15
    Year-round cyclist
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    ... So at each intersection you have to wait for a special signal that gives you very short time to cross, because otherwise cars would be backlogged. And you cannot turn left except by doing a two-step left turn and waiting at both red lights. And in many places you have to zigzag between posts that could easily impale you. And you have to ride through uneven surfaces: brick, stone dust, concrete, asphalt, borders, etc. And you have to ride on a dusty soft surface because you cannot legally use the paved road. And you have to avoid many important intersections because the legal cycling way (and only legal one) goes around it, otherwise it would be "too dangerous". And at unprotected intersections, you have to stop because cars have priority (i.e. no stop sign).

    Well, that's roughly the way it is in the Netherlands.
    Except that if a car driver – which has priority – injures or kills a cyclist or pedestrian, he is termed responsible. The only thing is that you need to be injured first.
    Michel Gagnon
    Montréal (Québec, Canada)

  16. #16
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michel Gagnon
    ... So at each intersection you have to wait for a special signal that gives you very short time to cross, because otherwise cars would be backlogged. And you cannot turn left except by doing a two-step left turn and waiting at both red lights. And in many places you have to zigzag between posts that could easily impale you. And you have to ride through uneven surfaces: brick, stone dust, concrete, asphalt, borders, etc. And you have to ride on a dusty soft surface because you cannot legally use the paved road. And you have to avoid many important intersections because the legal cycling way (and only legal one) goes around it, otherwise it would be "too dangerous". And at unprotected intersections, you have to stop because cars have priority (i.e. no stop sign).

    Well, that's roughly the way it is in the Netherlands.
    Except that if a car driver – which has priority – injures or kills a cyclist or pedestrian, he is termed responsible. The only thing is that you need to be injured first.
    There's no requirement that because its a separate lane, it must be like that. One could easily paint a worst-case scenario of riding in traffic that sounds far, far worse than that.

  17. #17
    Senior Member randya's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Michel Gagnon
    ... So at each intersection you have to wait for a special signal that gives you very short time to cross, because otherwise cars would be backlogged. And you cannot turn left except by doing a two-step left turn and waiting at both red lights. And in many places you have to zigzag between posts that could easily impale you. And you have to ride through uneven surfaces: brick, stone dust, concrete, asphalt, borders, etc. And you have to ride on a dusty soft surface because you cannot legally use the paved road. And you have to avoid many important intersections because the legal cycling way (and only legal one) goes around it, otherwise it would be "too dangerous". And at unprotected intersections, you have to stop because cars have priority (i.e. no stop sign).

    Well, that's roughly the way it is in the Netherlands.
    Except that if a car driver – which has priority – injures or kills a cyclist or pedestrian, he is termed responsible. The only thing is that you need to be injured first.
    Actually, I believe bikes have priority in the Netherlands, special advance bike traffic signals and so forth. And most utility cyclists in Europe don't ride like they think they are Lance Armstrong on steroids, either...so there needs to be some rethinking of how we cycle in North America, as well as how we drive, before we can emulate the European model...

  18. #18
    Avatar out of order. MarkS's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Daily Commute
    The only "noninterrupted lane that is physically separate from traffic and pedestrians" is a bike path where from which pedestrians are banned.
    There's something like that in a couple places in San Diego. The bike lane is separated from the road by a continous raised ridge of asphalt (like in parking lot). At intersections the lane becomes a regular bike lane. Sometimes its done well, sometimes not At other places it crosses with exits, posing the same danger that you would have biking on the sidewalk. The day I was on it, there were wrong-way bikers and occasional joggers (who apparently didn't want to use the sidewalk 5 feet over). Its probably against the rules, but who's going to enforce that?

    The lane is too narrow for a street-sweeper, so I doubt it ever gets maintained.

    For long stretches of unbroken, high-speed road, its a neat idea. But for frequent interruptions/intersections, its worse than bike lanes in that there is no leaving the lane until the edge opens up.
    Cars kill 45,000 Americans every year.
    This is like losing a war every year, except without the parades.

  19. #19
    Dominatrikes sbhikes's Avatar
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    There are only a few stop signs on the bike path between Santa Barbara and UCSB. No traffic signals. It's basically a straight shot completely away from traffic. You can really let 'er rip except when traffic is heavy. I mean bike traffic.
    ~Diane
    Recumbents: Lightning Thunderbolt, '06 Catrike Pocket. Upright: Trek Mountain Bike.
    8.5 mile commute. I like bike lanes.

  20. #20
    Recovering Retro-grouch CRUM's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sbhikes
    I don't really get the article. Traffic isn't really all that bad and the need for sidewalk or wrong way riding is nil when you have adequate bike lanes.

    I do agree with the part about having one uninterrupted lane that is physically separate from traffic and pedestrians. I might get a new job and if I do, I'll get to ride on one of those on my way to work!
    Having quite a few years under my belt as a anarco-crazed city bike rider in Baltimore and Philadephia when I was younger, I can testify that being aggressive and scoff law was often the only way to survive in a mass of huge machines that have no problem taking me out. Have a few idiots throw their doors into you and a bus or two squeeze you into the curb and breaking some rules makes sense. I will always say obey the rules of the road first. But if the cars aren't, do what you have to to make the round trip in one piece.


    Good article Randya. Some realism for a change.
    Keep it 'tween the ditches

    My Blog - Lost in the Bo Zone

  21. #21
    totally louche Bekologist's Avatar
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    Actually, I believe bikes should be so mainstream, Serge, to deserve preffered lanes for velotransit.

    Alternative, compared to Helmet Head's Recreational Vehicle -which I believe he describes he drives like a bicycle? - or Vespa.

    Alternative, i.e. 'no gas'- the semantics aren't that damaging, Serge.
    Last edited by Bekologist; 04-13-06 at 08:54 AM.
    "Evidence, anecdote and methodology all support planning for roadway bike traffic."

  22. #22
    My Duty to Ride dwightonabike's Avatar
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    I like changing critical mass to driving cars, and refraining from calling cycling "alternative". Besides that, I don't agree with much of what is said here.

    Most car/bike collisions occur at intersections, where a "separate lane" would have to interact with auto traffic anyway. Bike lanes and paths collect glass, nails, trash and dirt because cars do not generally drive in them and sweep these things out of the way. And then when you go into a "real" traffic lane to avoid this, car drivers resent you for getting in their way. Separate lanes reinforce the idea that urban cycling is dangerous; that scares people away from it. And I can't think of anything that would scare potential cyclists away more than seeing every one on bikes wearing gas masks.

    What is it about the current traffic laws that endanger cyclists? There are good laws about not passing too closely, laws against aggressive and threatening behavior. It seems better enforcement is what is called for.

    I don't always follow the traffic laws to a T, and would never argue against breaking one to maintain your safety, but riding the wrong way down one-way streets and running red lights seems more likely to be a convenience thing than a safety thing.

    Do we need better facilites? Yes, but I don't beleive that seperate facilities are better. They make left turns harder, increase the chances of a right-hook, are generally kept in worse condition, you still have to deal with the door zone, make you less visable to other traffic, and they don't eliminate the (already very small) chance of a hit-from-behind accident.

  23. #23
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    We dont need bike lanes. We need to eliminate on-street parking, and put in wide lanes that can fit a cyclist next to a bus.

  24. #24
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    I'm afraid that I find the article highly misleading to non-cyclists.

    I've ridden in Toronto on a number of visits and found it a safe activity. Didn't need to ignore red lights, wrong-way ride, or hop onto the sidewalk. I simply applied the same traffic riding techniques that I do in the UK and found the same results:
    1. Drivers saw me
    2. I looked for drivers who apparently hadn't seen me and rode accordingly
    3. Rode according to commonsense aka EF, aka Cyclecraft principles.

    Didn't have any frightening or unpleasant experiences.

    Liked the Don Valley Greenway, by the way

  25. #25
    Al noisebeam's Avatar
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    One (odd) behavior I've observed quite often where I live is curb-hopping cyclists who ride in the BL or WOL on intersectionless stretches then hop up on the curb at intersections and hop back after using the x-walk. I almost creamed one who hopped back into lane in front of me after an intersection.

    The pollution mask thing is rediculous. Any mask that allows enough air delivery while cycling is not going to be effective. Those 'carpenter' face mask (i.e not the rubber mask with disc HEPA type filter) let in most of their air at the seams and are not fine enough to filter 10 and 2.5 micron particles, let alone gasses.

    Al

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