Saturday, January 5, 2019

Never mind fault, nobody is looking at the real problem

The Washington Post ran a story a few days ago about a fight between a cyclist and a motorist on M Street in the District, a four-lane street. Apparently, the cyclist was in the right lane, the motorist came up behind and honked, the cyclist took offense, the motorist grabbed the guy's bike, and the cyclist responded by clobbering the driver with his U-lock, sending the guy to the hospital to get 18 stitches. Lots of other stuff involved (drugs, a non-functional ankle bracelet, lots of stuff involving race).

After reading the story and about a hundred comments, the one thing everyone missed is that a driver came up behind a cyclist on a four-lane street and honked at the cyclist. All else is downstream of that.

The cyclist was legally in the lane. Ignore for now any inebriation. Not relevant to the upstream issue. Cyclist was biking slowly, as if that mattered. It doesn’t matter if the cyclist was totally stopped. Four-lane street, you change lanes and go around, regardless of what the obstruction is. That’s what four-lane streets are *for*.

I will assume the driver was at or below the speed limit. I have no reason to think he was speeding, though my own experience from 10 years of on-street cycling tells me that 50% are 5 mph over, 10% are 10 mph over, and 1% are more than 15 mph over. But even if he was at or below 25, there’s no reason for him to lay on the horn. Just silently change lanes and go around.

Not doing that started the chain of events. So, why’d he honk instead of changing lanes? There’s the fundamental problem, never mind everything else. That is what every cyclist deals with on a constant basis, whether city, suburb or rural. Drivers simply do not know what to do when there’s a cyclist ahead. Cyclists are startled or annoyed, or scared out of their wits when this happens.

We have a cyclist who lives in the same area as where I bike occasionally, who’s regularly been in the news for being difficult when approached from behind. At the base of it, he’s right for insisting on lane control, but he’s been known to block cars trying to pass legally, and once brought rocks into a courtroom to pelt anyone he disagreed with. So, yeah, there are some idiot cyclists, but that does not excuse motorists who didn't just go around him, thus triggering the bad interactions.

I blame state departments of transportation for not educating drivers what the rules are. If everyone had to take a written exam every four years when renewing their license, and had to show they know what the rules are regarding interaction with bikes (and motorcyclists, horseback riders, pedestrians, motorized wheelchairs, etc.), maybe we’d see less of this.

We will only get significantly greater cyclist mode share, and have a hope of reducing the nation’s carbon footprint, if we can reduce driver stupidity on this.

Tuesday, January 1, 2019

Bicycle goals for 2019

It’s 10:47 p.m. on New Year's Eve, so I’ll scribble down some ideas off the cuff. I won’t refer back to my similar post from 2012, but instead start over. (Though it was fun to re-read that entire thread!)

1. I know I am riding less than I was, since I work from home a lot, and often don’t leave the house for days in a row. So a good goal would be to have at least one purposeful ride per week, somewhere.

2. The biggest problem with traveling downtown is poor to non-existent bike parking in downtown buildings. Steel Tower has only 16 slots for a population of several thousand workers, 2 PNC doesn’t have a single indoor rack for a 34-story building. Trying to get any of this rectified would be wonderful.

3. Toward riding in traffic, trying again to get local cops to be able to use radar for speed control.

4. Toward driver licensing, trying to require better driver education through implementing a written test at each license renewal. I don’t care if we hand them the answer key along with the test, so long as they pick the right answer and sign their name to it.

5. Toward my own situation, improve my indoor storage space and set up space for the bike stand I got for my birthday.

6. Clean out the trash. I have about 10 bikes I either don’t ride or can’t ride. I need the space, and frankly most are little better than scrap, or are clearly scrap.

7. Continue participation in Walk//Bike Ross, Walk Ride North Side, Walk-Bike Shaler, and Bike-Pgh to further the cause of cycling on a community basis.

8. Similarly, set up or assist someone else with setting up a McCandless equivalent to Walk//Bike Ross. I have ideas for defining a set of on-street paths for getting from one place to another within McCandless without having to deal with its high-capacity, high-speed stroads.

9. Ride my 29″ unicycle in group rides. It worked really well on the one Underwear Ride.

10. Finally properly resolve my Rule 9 problem. I’ve never found rain gear I like that actually works.

That’s enough for a half hour of thinking. Howzbout yinz?