Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Petting an Owl Looks Like Fun.

 So cute!

It might not be a good idea to get too close to that beak though - you might never play the piano again.

Friday, 21 June 2013

A Response to 'In Defense of Cyclist Salmoning'

Jake Dobkin, of The Gothamist, wrote an article that my trusty bicycle news radar picked up today: 

It's an interesting read. Incredibly stupid and liable to get unskilled and naive cyclists killed if they take it seriously, but interesting. First, as a counterpoint to an argument for salmoning that he never actually makes, the author claims that salmoning is suicidal. Then he recounts a story in which he rides against traffic because he's late, gets yelled at by a woman for doing it, then asks said woman why it's too dangerous, she is too angry at him to answer coherently, so I guess he figures she's just ignorant. After all, he can salmon safely - he's done it a few times - it's fine when you're late, if you do it slowly and carefully - and hey, New Yorkers live for danger anyway and (presumably) 'Danger' is Jake Dobkin's middle name.

Now Jake's probably never going to find his way to my little corner of the internet, so I've posted the following to his article's comments section. And I recognize that I'm kinda preaching to the converted here, but that is my stock in trade. What I hope is that other 'Jakes' will come here, find this and maybe it will do some good. So here's my response to all the Jakes.

So, Jake, let's make one thing clear - salmoning is not suicidal - no form of cycling is. Cycling is very safe, no matter how stupidly we choose to do it, though that is no guarantee that even the safest cyclists cannot be hit and/or killed in a collision. No matter what you do, as snake oil salesman Allardyce T Meriweather says in Arthur Penn's great movie 'Little Big Man', "life contains a particle of risk".

Many people ride against traffic all the time and they don't die. They do tend to have lots of accidents though, and a few of them do die - probably 9-12 times more of them die than those of us who travel confidently on those "scary" streets with "hairy traffic" and past "popular corners to die at" where realistically only about 1 in every 10,000 cyclists die. However, salmoning does increase danger - it has been shown in studies to be 9-12 times more dangerous than riding with traffic. So if salmoning cuts your trip length by a factor of 9-12, then I guess it would be arguably just as safe as riding in the street with traffic. The problem is, in most real life cases, salmoning reduces trip length by only a factor of 2-3 - if that.

I don't salmon because I prefer survival, and I prefer to reduce my risk as much as possible, so that I can survive longer and in a healthier state. So far I'm doing okay - 40 years cycling in the road, mostly in big cities and not a collision, not a fall, not even a scratch so far, so I must be doing something right.

The fact is, those cyclists who are liable to salmon are already in the group that is far more likely to be killed while cycling. This group does not understand the real risks of cycling, so they already ride in ways that greatly increase the risk they're taking. These people fear traffic so they try their best to avoid it by riding on the sidewalk (3x more risk than riding in the street, well away from the curb with traffic), by riding on the sidewalk against traffic (6x the risk), by riding in the gutter (2x the risk), etc. No one who seriously considers salmoning rides well into the travel lane to avoid the gutter and the door zone - many probably don't even know what 'door zone' means, and they certainly do not know that the way they fear to ride most - well into the travel lane with cars, fully visible to other road users - is actually safest.

So, Jake, you ride how you want. I admit I don't like seeing news articles about folks like you getting killed, but I recognize that it's your life and you have to make your own mistakes: nothing I've learned, no study I've read, no safe cycling courses I've taken, and nothing I say based on those things can change that. I suspect that everyone has to come to the conclusion that vehicular cycling is best on their own - when experienced cyclists try to tell others about it, they tend to be seen as either elitist or worse.

At some point, Jake, you may come to understand that heavy traffic and the design of a certain intersection are only small parts of what makes it "a popular corner to die at" (as you put it). How you ride through the intersection is the biggest part of the equation that determines whether you survive to get to the other side. Hopefully you'll find that out sooner rather than later, or soon enough rather than too late.

In the meantime, I advise you to always leave for important deadlines on time. If you can't and you're late, ride with traffic on the streets, or walk those wrong-way streets and be late. Is your boss going to kill you if you're late? No. But a motorist might accidentally do so because of your suicidal desire to be early when you failed to start out in time, and if that happens, your boss, your family and friends (and me, as it happens) might not be too happy.

Bicycle Infrastructure Studies

Saturday, 15 June 2013

Cletus Asks Cyclists #3

This question wasn't even up for a day before it was deleted. Still, it was a classic, so...

"let me be clear; I don't mean to offend anyone, but why do cyclists use the road?
- Most of them don't obey the rules of the road (just today, a cyclist almost got hit because he did not stop at a stop sign and give way to the car stopped before).
- they are a real pain for car drivers, cyclists do 20 km/h in a 50 km/h zone, and getting around them is just a hassle and very dangerous for both the cyclists and other drivers.
wouldn't it be safer for everyone if cyclists use sidewalks and just swerved around people using that sidewalk? or, if cyclists wanted to use the road, they should get a license plate on the bicycle and learn to follow the rules of the road and pedal faster. what do you think?"

Hot dang! Cletus has got hisself a car! No more sittin' in the dirt at the drive in!

Poor motorists! It's such a pain to drive a car with cyclists in the way. And what's the deal with having to turn the steering wheel when passing cyclists anyway? If only motorists could all point their cars in the desired direction, then choose their desired speed and just go - life would be so much easier (and shorter).

Cyclists just need to ride on the sidewalk and 'swerve' around pedestrians (sounds REALLY safe). Or they need to get a license plate and pedal faster. Lazy goodfernothins!

Alternatively, Cletus could just get a copy of his state's Driver's Handbook and learn his responsibilities to other road users - stuff he should have learned before he got his driver's license. But who am I kidding? Cletus don't want nothin' to do with all that booklarnin'.

Wednesday, 5 June 2013

I'm Getting Tired of This!

We were honked at on the way to school again today by a Taxi driver - a professional driver who one would think should know the rules better than most. We were honked at for taking a central position in a lane that was too narrow to share, which is perfectly legal. The most common problems I see on the road relate to the following:

Many motorists are unaware of...

Maryland Transportation Code § 21-1205. Riding on roadways or on highway.
(a)  Riding to right side of roadway.- Each person operating a bicycle or a motor scooter at a speed less than the speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing on a roadway shall ride as near to the right side of the roadway as practicable and safe, except when: 
(6) Operating in a lane that is too narrow for a bicycle or motor scooter and another vehicle to travel safely side by side within the lane.

Maryland Transportation Code § 21-1209. Throwing object at bicycle, motor scooter, or EPAMD.
(a)  Drivers to exercise due care.- Notwithstanding any other provision of this title, the driver of a vehicle shall: 
(2) When overtaking a bicycle, an EPAMD, or a motor scooter, pass safely at a distance of not less than 3 feet.

Maryland Transportation Code § 22-401. Horns and warning devices.
(b)  When to be used.- The driver of a motor vehicle shall, when reasonably necessary to insure safe operation, give audible warning with his horn, but may not otherwise use the horn when on a highway.

There was no necessity for the taxi driver to use the horn. Nothing bad was happening, UNTIL HE HONKED, at which point I was startled and swerved. The horn caused the danger.

Since this has been an almost daily occurrence over the last few weeks, I made a sign the other day with quotes from the Maryland Driver's Manual:

Showed the sign to the guy today, told him he was supposed to know this stuff. It didn't make any difference. He was using a cellphone to film me as if I were the one breaking the rules! I'm really getting sick of this.

Monday, 3 June 2013

Hassled Again Today

Riding home from my daughter's school, we got hassled again. We were taking the lane approaching a stop light. I usually take a center-left position here in what is a wide lane, to leave room for cars to legally turn right on red, because we go straight through the intersection.

The light that had just turned red when I heard a honk behind me, and then another as we stopped at the light. I pulled back alongside the car and this older guy is motioning that my daughter and I ought to be riding far right or on the sidewalk. It's hard to have a conversation with a man who is afraid to open his window, but I did my best to inform him that we have both the right and the responsibility to be on the road and to take the full lane for safety's sake and to facilitate the movement of right-turning traffic - I mean, heck, in part I'm doing it to be nice for crying out loud! He wasn't having any of it though and he obviously thought that what I was doing was unsafe even though this particular road gets about two cars per minute. I mean what can you do with people like this?

It would be nice to simply be able to cycle on the road without the risk of being hassled by morons.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

Cletus Asks Cyclists (part 2)

Here we go again. This time, a question from the UK:

Why is it that some cyclist choose to cycle on the road when there is a cycle lane available for them?
"I am not anti-cyclist as I myself often use a bike as well as car but I cannot fathom why it is some cyclists choose to ride on the road when there is a cycle path made for them. Can anyone think of what their reasons for this might be?"
My answer:
"The road is wider, better maintained and the cyclist is in the general traffic lane, meaning that he's less prone to intersection collisions and passing collisions and has safer and faster access to right turns (left turns outside the UK). I've never understood why so many cyclists prefer a bike lane or a bike path when the option of using the road is more efficient and shown in around 85% of studies to be safer.

Also, you say you're not anti-cyclist, but why would anyone who's "not anti-cyclist" be urging cyclists to use a less safe choice of road position?"

Interestingly, cycling questions on Yahoo Answers are usually asked in one of two categories: 'cycling' or 'cars and transportation'. When the questions are asked in the latter category, the answers are often ignorant, anti-cyclist rants. When they're placed in the 'cycling' category, the answers are often more knowledgeable.