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  1. #1
    Mr. Cellophane RainmanP's Avatar
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    In another thread, Badger said something that I have been thinking about for a while and have started several times to pose to the group. When he said
    "One of which was me, the other was a custodian that couldn't afford a car so he rode a Huffy. I respected that guy a lot.", he echoed my thoughts. Almost every day I pass 2-3 people who are obviously commuting by bike because they either can't afford a car at all or can't afford to drive it to work. These are the people you see riding without lights, in dark clothes, often on the wrong side of the street, raising concerns among the more informed of us for their safety as well as our own.

    But think about it. These people probably don't know any better. If they can't afford to drive a car, they certainly don't have a computer at home or a propensity to read up on things like cycling safety. They probably don't give it any thought. Just get on the bike and ride to work to make some kind of living. These are the people who really need better provisions for cycling in traffic areas, the ones who have no choice.

    We ride because we want to for some reason. To save money, for fitness, for the fun of it and all the reasons we have shared before. I would venture that many of these people have no choice. I have a lot of respect for all of them. Luckily the streets I ride are lighted well enough for me to see them coming and give them space. I always give them a wave and a "How's it going?"

    Here is another thought, and I swear this just occurred to me and was not the point of this post. Maybe these are the people for whom we should be advocates of better cycling infrastructure. The less-advantaged who ride to work because they have no choice, and put themselves at risk every day. Bike paths in parks and along the lake are great, but they do little for someone commuting to a downtown location. Bike lanes or at least wider shoulders would do more good. Bike paths in parks, etc., only perpetuate the "bikes are toys" mindset. And, let's face it, the image of people riding to work in their work clothes because they can't afford the alternatives would get a lot more favorable response than the image of someone wearing $200-300 worth of special shorts, jerseys, shoes, etc. riding a $2000 bike to work to get in some extra training time (I know, I know, not really us, but an image some have when they think "cyclist", especially in high-falootin' places like Washington, DC).

    Maybe these are the people we should talk about when we write our legislative representatives. What do you think?
    Regards,
    Raymond
    If it ain't broke, mess with it anyway!

  2. #2
    Carfree since '82. Grrr! JonR's Avatar
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    Good points--especially about bike paths. Bike paths lead nowhere but to the extinction of cycling--which is just where their designers want them to go.

    Bike lanes, I have mixed feelings about--they're a little too much like bike paths: something "special" that has to be done for those poor misguided souls who don't drive SUV's.

    Yet bike lanes probably provide a slight margin of safety that wouldn't exist otherwise. (Has anybody designed a road-rage-proof lane, though?)

    Forgive me, please: I'm in a mood these days when nothing short but the death of the car would delight me. Cars are useful, but 90% AT LEAST of trips are unnecessary; cars and TV--the enemies of civilization.

    I better shut up.

  3. #3
    Mr. Cellophane RainmanP's Avatar
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    I agree, Jon, that even bike lanes are, to a certain extent, at least, kind of a copout. And, to tell the truth, I am very lucky that most of the streets on which I ride are 4-lane boulevards with extra-wide parking lanes which provide an extra 2-3 feet of margin, even when there is a parked car (as long as no one opens a door unexpectedly, at least). However, there are many busy streets that some people have to use that have zero margin for error or escape. Having a bike lane would provide that extra margin.
    Having said that, I wonder what some bike lane designers were thinking. I was in San Francisco last week where there are bike lanes in several places. I was thinking how cool this was until I noticed a few things. In one spot, a bike lane, actually a path adjacent to a road, apparently just ended, feeding the cyclist out onto a very busy artery with 55-mph traffic with, as far as I could tell, no alternative. Cyclists familiar with the area probably don't even use that stretch of path and know to take a different route, but what about visitors? In another area a bike lane along another 55-mph artery was overgrown in places with overhanging trees, forcing any user out on to the traffic lanes for 20-30 feet at a time. In other places on slower, but still busy streets, the bike lane markings did not continue across intersections where streets kind of forked off. The lines just stop then pick up at the other side of a wide intersection. Granted there is at least a lane, but continuing the markings would remind motorists to be alert to cyclists.
    Bike lanes at the very least, give some comfort to slower or less experienced cyclists and even the more experienced when they have to make a sudden move to avoid an unexpected hazard.
    FWIW,
    Raymond
    If it ain't broke, mess with it anyway!

  4. #4
    TriBob
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    Suddenly ending bike lanes is addressed in the Effective Cycling material. It is a problem for cyclists and cars. A lot of the road around me are barely wide enough for two cars so we don't have many bike lanes.

  5. #5
    Carfree since '82. Grrr! JonR's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Ba-Dg-Er


    I don't know about where you live, but down in Tucson people use bike lanes as turn lanes whenever possible and the cops allow it. They are also often filled with glass and nails thrown out by "rednecks," often trying to cause some sort of bodily injury to cyclists.
    Ah! Well, somehow that doesn't surprise me, but it does reinforce my longstanding skepticism about bike lanes and other "ghetto-izing" of cycling.

    My worst redneck encounters (or maybe that's noneck) were two episodes of thrown firecrackers, from pickup trucks, naturally. They were pretty good marksmen, too: one scorched me, and damaged the hearing in my left ear.

  6. #6
    Sumanitu taka owaci LittleBigMan's Avatar
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    Cycling is safest when traffic patterns are simple. Adding paths and lanes raises the chance of wrecks.

    On the road, a cyclist has about equal rights with all others. Paths and lanes make cyclists yield to all other traffic. Even when the signs say, "Yield to Bicycles," a cyclist has to be very careful.

    "Separate, but equal" really means, "We get the best part, you get the rest."

    There is nothing new under the sun.

  7. #7
    Senior Member jramsey's Avatar
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    The worst experience I had involved a pickup inhabited by two young males of the species - **** sapiens erythrocollar. About 7 years ago, riding along a four lane thoroughfare, in midtown Kansas City, as a pickup passed me, I felt something cold hit me in the arm and chest. The passenger had a Super Soaker water ***. My first thought was, what would have happened if I didn't have strong nerves?

    Angry, I grabbed my frame-fit pump and gave chase. They hadn't factored in the traffic lights and flat to slight downhill terrain. I merely pulled near them waving my pump, but the thought of taking out a window did cross my mind. That notwithstanding, I let my demonstration of possibilities stand.

    Jonathan
    Playing and singing the music of Ireland
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  8. #8
    Carfree since '82. Grrr! JonR's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Ba-Dg-Er


    I was riding this past Thanksgiving day, there was little to no traffic and the weather was perfect. About 60 miles into my ride some rednecks passed me honking and screaming obscenities. I was watching my heartrate at the time so I didn't really pay any attention to them or give them a response. Before I knew it they were behind me again this time tossing bottles and cans at me. One can hit my in the shoulder, one bottle shattered on my stem and cut my legs and another shattered on my helmet cutting into my head. It's kind of a cool scar, but I could do without it.
    If that's how they celebrate Thanksgiving, what must the other 364 days of their year be like?!

  9. #9
    Senior Member jramsey's Avatar
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    I've been thinking of Raymond's initial post.

    Raymond, you make some very good observations and raise some good questions. Mainly, it looks at the needs of bicycle tranportation from a different angle.

    How do we do these things?:

    Raise public awareness (Hoi Polloi)
    Raise awareness of government officials
    Educate police officers
    Educate bike commuters who aren't "enthusiasts"

    Public awareness:

    For people to understand what is, to them, a new concept, they need to read, see, and hear about it several times.

    Radio and TV PSAs - especially during popular drive-time shows.
    Billboards.
    School programs.
    Press releases covering group activities, forums, and other public venues where safety and infrastructure concerns are taught and discussed.
    High profile people (mayors, news anchors, governors, actors, pro athletes) who commute or use their bikes for transportation.

    Government awareness:

    This one gets discussed a lot online. The traditional ways of dealing with this is getting city councils to discuss the issue at public hearings. Proposals are brought about bike lanes, etc. I think the best thing is for them to see that people are using bikes for transportation. I think it would be great to get a few city council members to commute by bike a few times so they can see the issues. A local bike shop could lend the bikes, helmets, and other gear.

    Everything that helps raise public awareness should help with government officials.

    Police awareness:

    This is an issue in some cities more than others. At any rate, once the police all know the rules, they could establish methods of educating cyclists and SAV drivers when they see problems. Traffic patrolmen should always be armed with well-written educational materials for both cyclists and homicidal soccer moms. Like the recent, periodic "Road Rage Patrols" that law enforcement agencies have used, in areas that have a certain mass of bike commuters, they could have traffic patrolmen watching for problems with autos and cyclists.

    Non-enthusiast Bike Commuters:

    Raising public awareness will always help here. School programs will also, but mainly for future commuters. Having well-informed police and other commuters that can educate them could help, as well. These are the people that Raymond mentioned. Possibly, if the right type of community existed, they could be brought into that group. This could be a venue for education. This would need to be a low-key community that wouldn't have too strong of a fanatic element. More of a support group.

    Jonathan

    Jonathan
    Playing and singing the music of Ireland
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  10. #10
    Sumanitu taka owaci LittleBigMan's Avatar
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    Originally posted by Ba-Dg-Er
    I was riding this past Thanksgiving day, there was little to no traffic and the weather was perfect. About 60 miles into my ride some rednecks passed me honking and screaming obscenities. I was watching my heartrate at the time so I didn't really pay any attention to them or give them a response. Before I knew it they were behind me again this time tossing bottles and cans at me. One can hit my in the shoulder, one bottle shattered on my stem and cut my legs and another shattered on my helmet cutting into my head. It's kind of a cool scar, but I could do without it.
    Sounds like assault and battery to me, Badge. Get this, it's a real article, very good:

    Copied from Chainguard's website:

    (Gwinnett County is part of Atlanta's metro area)

    USA TODAY, June 10 (1999? Date not complete)

    Lawrenceville, Ga. - A 65-cent candy bar wound up costing James Holcomb $1,000. A Gwinnett County jury handed up the final bill, deciding that Holcomb must pay for tossing two last bites of his Baby Ruth out of his van
    and striking a cyclist in the leg. "I saw him, but I didn't think it would hit him," Holcomb, 20, said after the two-day
    trial. "He had every right to feel it was dangerous. I definitely learned from this." Cyclist Brendan Kerger swerved when the bit of candy struck him, but he didn't fall. His leg was bruised and he missed a few days of work, but Kerger didn't decide to sue until Holcomb tried to make a joke of the incident with police. "It was a matter of principle," said Kerger, 47. "I wasn't very seriously injured, but I could have been killed."

    Excuse me, "I saw him, but I didn't think it would hit him?" How do you accidentally hit a cyclist from the driver's side ("his van," remember)? :confused:

    If a bit of candy costs $1,000, how much could you get for a can, two bottles and facial lacerations?
    Last edited by LittleBigMan; 04-26-01 at 11:35 AM.

  11. #11
    TB Player A F Baker's Avatar
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    Rainman, I"m glad you brought up the point about being an "advocate of better cycling" to the less advantaged. It seems like I'm the only person to understand your original point. Nothing pleases me more than to pass a migrant worker who has ridden his bicycle to work as I'm on my way home from my own place of employment. Sure, I carry a pannier stuffed with clothes...mostly so I don't get chain-ring tattoos all over my pants; I got a good one on my bare skin today. Last week I passed a Mexican who didn't speak a bit of English, he wasn't wearing a helmet, and he was covered in dirt from, I assume, planting tobacco. Although I speak a little bit of Spanish, I didn't say anything. I just smiled at him, which he returned instantly.

    I would love to help the less fortunate on their bicyling skills, but I think I'd be afraid that I would offend them. "Umm, excuse me, are you aware that you should be riding WITH the traffic when on your bike. Oh, and also you really should be wearing a helmet. I promise not to use any grandiliquent cycling jargon." This scenario is too easy with a child, but sometimes a bit uncomfortable with an adult. I used to be an adult education teacher (GED, ESL, adult reading) so I know how to instruct adults without offending them, but I think I'd still feel a bit wierd approaching someone on the street. Do you have any suggestions on approach?
    'No other folk make such a trampling,' said Legolas. 'It seems their delight to slash and beat down growing things that are not even in their way.'
    The Two Towers, The Lord of the Rings
    JRR Tolkien

  12. #12
    Mr. Cellophane RainmanP's Avatar
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    AF,
    Good points. Although I am all for better education for cyclists, realistically there will always be uninformed cyclists. A very famous man, whome many of us know well, once said "... the poor will be with you always." There will always be a certain portion of the population that just doesn't get it. Whether you are talking about money, safe cycling, common courtesy. I don't think, as some in Washington apparently do, that we can pass laws to protect everyone from either their own ignorance or other people's ignorance, stupidity or deceit. We can try to make things safer for most people, and that is about all we can hope to accomplish.

    I would suggest to someone who seems receptive that they wear a helmet. If someone is new and obviously wants to learn or is at least open to learning, fine. But you are correct that it might be insulting and counterproductive to try to teach everyone you meet going the wrong way without a helmet. It will probably take some public service ads on TV to get the message out to a large part of the population. I doubt we will see that anytime soon, though.

    I never throught too much about safe cycling infrastructure until I started riding to work and see how unnerving it can be on the streets. Only lately have I been getting more interested in this issue. How can we expect the average commuter, whom we might be slowing down or otherwise unwittingly inconveniencing, to give cycling issues much thought, at least much positive thought. There just aren't enough of us out there yet to be a really familiar sight to most vehicle commuters. They don't know how to deal with us and generally don't realize that we have as much right to be using the street as they do.

    There are many advocacy groups who have been struggling to get the word out and get improvements for years. I plan to join the local advocacy group to see how I can help.
    Regards,
    Raymond
    If it ain't broke, mess with it anyway!

  13. #13
    Senior Member jramsey's Avatar
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    Originally posted by A F Baker
    It seems like I'm the only person to understand your original point.
    Ouch.

    Here's what I got from Rainman, in a nutshell:

    1. There are people who ride to work because they have to, not because they just love bikes - non-enthusiasts, pragmatic riders, incidental riders, cyclists of necessity.
    2. They are heros. (Main point)
    3. They do, however, pose safety concerns - for themselves and others.
    4. This is likely due to their lack of connection to the bike enthusiast community - no computer, and no motivation to join a club just because they have to ride their bikes to work.
    5. These are the people who would benefit most from infrastructure improvements.
    6. The rest of us, however, could choose other options.
    7. These are the ones for whom we should be lobbying to improve streets and public awareness. (Addendum to primary thoughts, and a minor tangent generated from point 5.) Raising government awareness of the needs of these incidental cyclists might get more done than any apparent "Protect the Downtrodden Lycra and Oakleys Crowd" campaigns.

    I thought all the posts above at least touched on one of these points, if not the *main* point. Tangents are the norm in forums, and I thought the deviation here was less than typical, all focusing on issues raised by the presence of the mentioned riders.

    Jonathan
    Playing and singing the music of Ireland
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  14. #14
    Sumanitu taka owaci LittleBigMan's Avatar
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    I have deleted my original post about cycling safety and cyclists who do not follow the rules of the road because I
    think it is more applicable in another thread, at a more appropriate time. Let me just summarize the thoughts that
    I had previously written here:

    Wrong way cycling, as well as engaging in other unsafe cycling practices, is dangerous. Sympathy for the plight of cyclists who have no other "wheels" should not prevent us from teaching them safe cycling. We must insist upon this for their sakes and ours.

    Pete
    Last edited by LittleBigMan; 04-30-01 at 10:32 AM.

  15. #15
    Carfree since '82. Grrr! JonR's Avatar
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    This strikes me as a particularly meaningful and thought-provoking thread. Browsing here (again), I was suddenly reminded of an incident that happened to me on New Year's Day, 1994, here in Kansas City.

    Since I didn't want to make this a 4-KB post, and don't see a way to attach a text file, I've FTP'd the excerpt from my journal (with a few minor changes) to my webspace, and if you're interested you can read it at http://www.microlink.net/~jonr/John_F.htm.

    Please note if you type that URL by hand, that the file name is case-sensitive.

    I hadn't even intended to go out riding that New Year's Day, but that's the way a lot of these strange encounters happen! It's as though fate wanted it that way....

  16. #16
    Mr. Cellophane RainmanP's Avatar
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    Jonathan, you got my point(s) exactly!
    If it ain't broke, mess with it anyway!

  17. #17
    Love Me....Love My Bike! aerobat's Avatar
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    Rainman, an excellent thread. I too have gotten so involved with new equipment, good bikes, cycling clothes etc., that I've forgotten those that are more utilitarian cyclists, and now look at them in a new light.

    I commuted to a seminar the other day, which took me right through the city, as opposed to my normal commute on the highway where I seldom see another cyclist. On those days I saw more people riding to work, school etc, and a lot of them weren't wearing helmets, were riding on the sidewalk etc., and it made me think of this thread.

    As some others have mentioned, I have a little trouble going up to a complete stranger and offering advice, safety related or otherwise, as it could be taken the wrong way. I do, however try and be friendly, but I think when those cyclists look at someone in lycra, helmet etc. they look at us as somewhat different, too, and I frequently don't get an acknowledgement of a wave or "Hi".

    For these reasons, I believe public education is the key to these safety issues. There should be as much publicity given to bicycling, as drinking and driving, seat belts and other safety promotions.

    Pehaps even if safety equipment such as helmets were promoted using less expensive items it would be a start. It's easy to see why a "migrant worker" wouldn't buy a helmet if they think they have to have a $100.00 Giro!

    In the meantime, I guess it's up to us, as established cyclists, to at least set a good example and try and promote safe cycling in our own way.
    "...perhaps the world needs a little more Canada" - Jean Chretian, 2003.

  18. #18
    dark and cynical PapeteeBooh's Avatar
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    Rainman, I"m glad you brought up the point about being an "advocate of better cycling" to the less advantaged. It seems like I'm the only person to understand your original point. Nothing pleases me more than to pass a migrant worker who has ridden his bicycle to work as I'm on my way home from my own place of employment. Sure, I carry a pannier stuffed with clothes...mostly so I don't get chain-ring tattoos all over my pants; I got a good one on my bare skin today. Last week I passed a Mexican who didn't speak a bit of English, he wasn't wearing a helmet, and he was covered in dirt from, I assume, planting tobacco. Although I speak a little bit of Spanish, I didn't say anything. I just smiled at him, which he returned instantly.
    Here in Albuquerque, there are many different types of cyclists with very different habits. Public transport are very lacking in NM (it is much worse in rural area). The main types of cyclist one sees are:

    a) students who generally ride in regular road.
    b) recreational cyclist with fancy equipment who one can meet in the recreational bike trail.
    c) urban poors who mostly ride on pavement downtown.

    Although I believe that there are active bicycle lobbying groups here, they only represent group a and b.

  19. #19
    Mr. Cellophane RainmanP's Avatar
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    JonR,
    I didn't get to go read your account of the New Years Day encounter when I first saw your message. I have since read it and was quite moved. Thanks for sharing it.
    Regards,
    Raymond
    If it ain't broke, mess with it anyway!

  20. #20
    Every lane is a bike lane Chris L's Avatar
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    I seem to be in a rather unique position here. I can't afford a car, but wouldn't buy one if I could anyway. However, I will offer my opinion on this thread (which I find rather interesting).

    I think those off-road paths that go nowhere are a total waste of money. They might be useful for teaching children to ride, but serve no other purpose at all. Some of them are dangerous (like the one I saw a few weeks back that ended by diving straight into a creek bed), and we would be better off without them.

    On road-cycle lanes are about the same value as a road with a decent shoulder. Yes, people will turn across them and park in them and whatever else, but the fact that they are a bike lane probably has no bearing on that anyway. The problem here is the ones that end suddenly with no apparent warning (usually just before an intersection).

    I think the only real solution is to incorporate some kind of "watch for cyclists" component into driver training (backed by a bit of decent law enforcement). That is the thing that is really lacking at present.

    Chris
    "I am never going to flirt with idleness again" - Roy Keane
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  21. #21
    Sumanitu taka owaci LittleBigMan's Avatar
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    Yes, I agree, Chris. Motorist education (and law enforcement) is crucial. Motorists are WAY too foolish and need to be seriously corrected, permanently, not like we do now, just sort of winking at risky driving.

    You said it somewhere else: driving puts you on edge, making you do "road rage" kinds of things. If anyone needs to be held in line, it's motorists.

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