Wednesday, December 24, 2014

Goals for 2015

Every year, I draw up a wish list or plan to strive for in the coming 12 months. No exception this year, though my rough sketch is only taking shape as I type this. As ever, it's all about the bicycle, though the larger goal is trying not to drive.

The ultimate goal, of course, is to make it possible for everyone not to have to drive.

#1: Bike 3,000 miles, mainly on public streets. In 2014 at this writing, I am just short of 3,300. In 2013, I managed over 2,500 miles. In 2012, I put 1,900+ miles under me. Assuming no other big changes, this should be do-able.

#2: Be in at least as good physical condition on December 31, 2015, as I am on January 1, 2015. During the year, I will turn 57. I'm doing okay so far. I've never been anything close to an athlete. Being able to think about biking 3,000+ miles, mainly through commuting, I suspect is more than some people half my age would attempt. Well, more power to them, too.

#3: Write a blog post about my car-lite municipal travel experiences, at least once a week.

#4: Video record my everyday travels as often as my technology allows, and share any bits I consider relevant to others' edification.

#5: Continue experimenting with knotweed control on trails and other spaces impeding bike and pedestrian travel. Document what I learn.

#6: Video record every street and trail in McCandless Township, by bicycle, and make my knowledge and experiences known via a blog.

#7: Lead Critical Mass rides just as I did in 2014 and 2013, and document my experiences.

#8: Enhance working relationships with the Pittsburgh cycling community, and others in leadership positions for furthering cycling, transit, and pedestrian transportation.

#9: Employ my speaking abilities developed through Toastmasters to speak publicly about cycling, transit, and pedestrian transportation.

#10. Press to get the Wabash Tunnel opened for routine unrestricted bicycle travel.

I could go on, but it's safe to say that anything I said I would try to do in past years is still in play in the coming year. Contacting legislators. Participating on rides and marshaling. Fleet maintenance. Being a leader.

Achieving world domination

I am not really a fan of the People For Bikes plan for installing exclusive bike lanes on Pittsburgh streets. I can understand their point, but have no desire to rehash here their good and bad points. All that matters is that we have a couple miles of these tracks now, which are great for publicity and promoting the idea of cycling as a normal, acceptable, expected, and respected way of getting around. So far, so good, I think, but it does not come close to accomplishing world domination.

They are ballyhooed as being safer, but from what I've seen of them so far, I don't buy the safer bit. Safety aside, for all their cost, both monetary and political, they do not even start to address cyclists' need to travel on the thousands of miles of streets that do not have and will not ever get such lanes. It is to those other thousands of miles of streets that I direct your attention.

The way I see it, the paramount issue facing cyclists everywhere is not being able to bike down any street they want or need to. They face opposition from all levels. Whether motorists, truckers, police, highway departments at all levels, media figures, politicians, pedestrians, or even other cyclists, nobody, it seems, is willing to grant that cyclists have the right to travel everywhere they already do have that right. The opposition takes different forms, but all forms share the central belief that we are not supposed to be there.

That must change. It will. I will help it change.

Here's the thing: By accomplishing that, I am achieving world domination. By cyclists. And we will prevail.

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Playing "Thread-the-Needle"

On Monday, Dec 8, a series of drivers played “thread-the-needle” with me and oncoming traffic. Explanation: On any given road, in any given lane, only one vehicle may be in that lane at a time. Specifically, a car and a bike cannot both be in a 12-foot-wide lane, side by side, at the same time. There was no crash or other altercation, but the incident serves as an example of the problem.

In PA, if a motorist wants to pass a bicycle, PA law requires the motorist to pass at least four feet from the cyclist. Really, this means change lanes first, pass the other vehicle (the bicycle), then pull back in, same as you would when passing a car. Other restrictions about having sufficient space for oncoming traffic still apply. Not to do that is unsafe passing, also a ticketable offense (§3305) .

I was inbound between the Shop ‘n Save and Rita’s Italian Ices shop on Babcock Blvd at the north edge of Millvale. The first of four cars passed me with a decent amount of space probably about three feet. The second and third were more like two feet off. The fourth managed to squeeze between me and oncoming traffic, maybe a foot away. All of them were going close to 35, the posted limit, but certainly not “within not less than four feet at a careful and prudent reduced speed”, as directed by §3303a3.

Fortunately, both front and rear video cameras captured what happened. Here are two-minute excerpts of each. I tried to align them such that I reach the end of a bridge at the 10-second mark.

Front video:
Rear video: (rotate 90 degrees)

These start at Babcock and Douglas, about a quarter mile north of the Shop ‘n Save. Note the decently wide shoulder at the start of the video. I am on the shoulder here, as I have been for about the past mile. It’s paved and six feet wide, so why not.
0:08 – This bridge was rebuilt Summer 2014.
0:15 – Car passes me without incident by the “1717 Sigmas” building. I often use this building as a landmark.
0:25 – The shoulder narrows considerably after the “Around the Corner Bar”, so I merge into the traffic lane. (I did signal to the car behind me.)
0:28 – Unrideable shoulder. Car passes me a bit close, but not a problem. I choose to ride in the right tire track.
0:36 – Large hole on edge of traffic lane on bridge. No shoulder at all. I remain in right tire track for the duration of this video. (I really should fully take the lane.)
0:50 – Passing Shop ‘n Save. Dark-orange SUV waits for traffic; this becomes the fourth car, which passes me very closely.
0:55 – First of four cars passes me, maybe three feet clearance. Could’ve/Should’ve gotten fully over, there is no oncoming traffic.
0:59 – Note the huge hole, which is actually a drain grate I reported on the dangerous-drain-grates thread several years ago.
0:59 – Second car passes me, only about two feet clearance. This one, too, was not in imminent danger from oncoming traffic, though a lot closer than the first one.
1:06 – Third car, a black Jeep, also only about two feet off my elbow, playing thread-the-needle between me and oncoming traffic.
1:18 – Fourth car passes me much too closely, only about a foot away, with oncoming traffic right there. PA plate HVX-6133. A screen shot at the 10:54:15 timestamp in my front video shows that the oncoming car was itself on the white line. However, HVX-6133 is not over the yellow. It’s just narrow through here.
1:44 – As soon as I pass the light at Rita’s, the lane widens considerably.

Here is what I want to see happen:

  1. Reduce the speed limit from 35 to 25 from the 1717 Sigmas building to the existing 25 zone at the north end of Millvale, by Rita's.
  2. Enforce that.
  3. Fix those drain grates so they won't throw a cyclist, as well as other transient holes in the road.
  4. Sharrow the road at least up to the Shop 'n Save.
  5. Add "Bikes May Use Full Lane" signs from Rita's to 1717 Sigmas.

This bit of road is maintained by Allegheny County.