Sunday, 26 May 2013

Robins





We found three lovely sky blue robin's eggs in a nest in one of our bushes just outside our front door last week. One of the eggs got stolen on Friday, maybe by a squirrel or another bird. The two remaining chicks hatched on Saturday.

Today (Sunday), when the mother was hunting, we had to chase off a Crow who was paying a bit too much attention to the nest area. Strangely, a Bluejay and a Catbird also gave the crow a hard time. It was almost as if they were trying to protect the baby Robins.

Tuesday: sadly, this morning the nest is empty. The chicks were still way too young to fly, so they must have been taken by a cat or a crow. Very sad. Sometimes things just don't work out and for many animals, the odds are stacked up against them. Robins apparently have only a 20% chance of surviving a year. Even so, it would have been nice to see the little guys fly. Sometimes life seems so unfair.

Tuesday, 21 May 2013

No War on Cyclists?

Emma Way, a motorist in Norwich, UK tweeted this on Sunday:


Police are investigating and the internet is all in a flurry:

 http://grist.org/list/worlds-worst-driver-hits-biker-and-brags-about-it-on-twitter/

http://www.bikeradar.com/road/news/article/cyclist-recovering-after-being-hit-by-driver-who-tweeted-bloodycyclists-37398/

http://road.cc/content/news/84212-norwich-police-seek-driver-who-tweeted-about-collision-cyclist

http://ipayroadtax.com/no-such-thing-as-road-tax/i-knocked-a-cyclist-off-his-bike-i-have-right-of-way-he-doesnt-even-pay-road-tax/

http://www.treehugger.com/bikes/uk-driver-knocks-cyclist-bike-brags-about-it-twitter.html

Apparently, someone spotted the tweet, wasn't amused and tweeted the police. The police were also sent other examples of her poor driving: she had taken cellphone photographs of herself tailgating other motorists, and even photographed her speedometer showing a speed of 95mph. So, she's not exactly the brightest bulb.

Somehow, I think karma is going to be a big factor here. In response to internet anger, her employer, the 125 year-old chartered accountant firm Larking Gowen, wrote:
“Please be assured that this is not a view held by the firm and we most certainly do not condone this behaviour. We are taking the incidents very seriously, and a full and detailed investigation will be carried out and appropriate action taken. We have already spoken to Norfolk Police.”
Larking Gowen apparently sponsored a charity bike ride in 2010. Four of the five charity riders are partners, the other is a Managing Partner. I wonder how they feel about one of their trainees calling them 'bloody cyclists'?

Somehow I think Norwich's unemployment line will soon be a bit longer. In the meantime, I'm sure Emma Way is learning a lot about road tax and the rules of the road, courtesy of the Norfolk Constabulary.

[EDIT] The incident has now been picked up by mainstream media:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/bike-blog/2013/may/21/twitter-hit-and-run-boast-road-tax

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/crime/i-have-right-of-way-he-doesnt-even-pay-road-tax--driver-in-bloodycylists-storm-puts-her-job-at-risk-8625947.html

http://www.huffingtonpost.co.uk/2013/05/21/cyclist-twitter-emma-way-knock-down_n_3311809.html?utm_hp_ref=uk?ncid=GEP&just_reloaded=1

http://www.ibtimes.co.uk/articles/469526/20130521/toby-hockley-cyclist-knocked-bike-driver-admitted.htm

Ms. Way has now deleted both her Twitter account and her Facebook page. I suspect this week is not going to go down as one of her best.

The 2012 Teschke Study - When Scientists Get It Wrong


See that 'cycle track' data point in the above graph? That's what they call an outlier. It's just way out on its own there. I wonder why? Well, John Forester saw the study and he figured it out:
"...what we actually have before us is the result when total ignorance of traffic engineering combines with bicycle advocacy ideology."
"In the much more impressive cycle-track issue, the authors proclaimed enormous crash reduction without informing the readers of the two relevant facts. First, that their data came from only one installation. Second, that that installation was not along a typical city street but in the only situation in which a plain cycle track could possibly be safe, a place without crossing or turning movements by motorists, cyclists, or pedestrians"
Mr. Forester was mistaken on one point - there was more than one cycle track in the study, but all had minimal or no cross streets, so are not at all useful in predicting the results of cycle track installations on standard roadways

The Teschke study (‘Route Infrastructure and the Risk of Injuries to Bicyclists: A Case-Crossover Study’ is yet another example (like the many so-called ‘studies’ done by John Pucher, Ralph Buehler, Anne Lusk, Conor Reynolds and other health and wellness advocates) of how cycling advocacy within the scientific community can create unscientific research that is marred by expectation bias. Dr. Teschke and her associates are involved in public health research and while cycling does have overwhelming health benefits, neither Dr. Teschke or any of the people involved in the study appear to be specialists in transportation injuries or collisions.

In fact, Teschke, Reynolds, Lusk, Harris et al seem to have built much of their careers around support for bicycle infrastructure that most respected researchers find to be dangerous. These folks are essentially paint and path advocates whose advocacy undermines their attempts at science.

The study is based on self-reporting, which is prone to volunteer or referral bias, and nonrespondent bias. Also, like the infamous Lusk study of 2011, it is based on a route comparison, and these have proven to be very prone to selection bias. I would urge cyclists to be very wary of this study, as 85% of studies done by those who ARE experts in the field of transportation find that cycling infrastructure INCREASES the risk of injury, especially at intersections. Almost every study finds that the increases in injuries at intersections more than counteract any safety gains between road junctions.

See the following link for details:
http://ianbrettcooper.blogspot.com/2012/08/bicycle-infrastructure-studies.html

Friday, 17 May 2013

Adventures on (Motorists) Bike to Work Day

So today, my daughter and I went to downtown Silver Spring to pick up our (Motorists) Bike to Work Day T-shirts. No problems on the way there. On the way back, this was part of our route:


On the way back, we took Sligo Creek Parkway, which is a very nice but narrow 25mph road with a bike path running next to it. We did not use the path because I wanted to get past Colesville Road without using the pedestrian crosswalks that cyclists using the bike path must use. Amusingly, as we passed Colesville Road (at point A on the map) one motorist started honking continuously for a good 30 seconds behind us (I enjoyed this) and then, as he passed, he yelled, "use the bike path!" I yelled back with the "Fuck off!" that I reserve for idiots when I have only time for a very terse phrase. I actually saw him flinch when I yelled it, so I think he heard me.

All of this happened as we passed this 'Bike Route, Share the Road' sign:


Until today, I had never been urged to use the bike path on Sligo Creek Parkway. Under Maryland law, bike path use is not mandatory. I'm hoping that this sort of thing isn't a regular problem on this road, because in the summer of 2014 our commute to my daughter's middle school will take us on this road every day of the week.

A couple of minutes later, on the way north up Brunett Avenue (at point B on the map), a very quiet 30mph residential road, a cyclist approached in the oncoming lane and yelled "Use the sidewalk!" I yelled back, "No!" This took place about here:


I have never been urged to use the sidewalk by a cyclist before. While Montgomery County allows cyclists to use sidewalks, it is not required for anyone. Yes, I was cycling with a 10 year-old, but she is very competent on the road now. I can only assume that the cyclist in this case was not really a cyclist - (Motorists) Bike to Work Day is probably the only time he cycles, other than vacations, so he assumes that kids should always cycle on the sidewalk. This supports my theory that (Motorists) Bike to Work Day is not really a day for cyclists.

After we got home, my daughter asked me to cycle with her to school, so I caved. The original plan was to walk with her to school today (my pitiful way of protesting), but the kid got caught up in the energy downtown and she really wanted to bike to school. So I cycled with her to school as usual. The journey to school was uneventful.

So although I didn't mount my (Motorists) Bike to Work Day protest, I did have some adventures to do with motorist anger and incompetence.

In closing, I figure I'll repost an article that states how I feel today, but does it better and with less blood-pressure-raising.

From Jack R. Taylor's blog Devil's Bicycle Advocate:

WASHINGTON DC— The League of American Bicyclists (LAB) announced today that it is beginning a campaign that the League hopes will double the amount of bicycling being done by that organizations 40,000 members. The campaign will attempt to convince LAB members that cycling can also be done on Saturdays. "We want to see our members out there both days," said LAB spokesperson Patrick McCormick. McCormick said that the League also hopes to expand its annual "Bike to Work One Day" held each May, by asking members to individually commute a second day, probably a nice cool day in the fall.

Saturday, 11 May 2013

My Ideal Bike Lane

My ideal bike lane is one that's wide enough for the relatively wide turn radius of a bike, one that gives us plenty of room for safety and one that can easily be integrated into the existing traffic system.

So I propose a bike lane that's 11ft wide. It's even wide enough so that motorized vehicles can safely and fully merge into it for turning right (so that we avoid the problem of right hooks that today's bike lanes have) and buses and other motorized vehicles can merge into it and stop to pick up passengers. On roads that do not have multiple travel lanes in one direction (and even on those that do), I'd be happy to share the bike lane with slower moving motor vehicles, as long as they allow me to share their lanes on multiple lane roads when I need to turn left or overtake. Fair is fair.

The best thing about this novel bike lane proposal is that it will cost nothing - not a penny - to implement. We already have laws in place that support the use of these lanes as I've explained above. We also have millions of these lanes already in place, so  Heck, we don't even need any new government scheme implementing the change, because this type of bike lane exists on every road in the world: it's called 'the curbside general traffic lane'.

Yeah, this is the bike lane. Get over it!
So is this.
So is this, when we're turning left.

And hey, if bike lane advocates and government want to paint my proposed bike lane green or blue, or some other color (as they have a tendency to do), I'm okay with that, as long as the paint doesn't get slippery when wet.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

What if Cars Suddenly Disappeared?


I read a quote this morning on the blog Roads Were Not Built For Cars. The quote, by Senator Chauncey Mitchell Depew says:

“I imagine that one fine morning we shall wake up with apparatus ready to take us to our offices by an automobile carriage…But…I cannot conceive our active Americans adapting themselves to the pursuit of pleasure in carriages moved…by any other motor but the horse. What has made the bicycle so universally popular but the one fact that it permits of action on the part of the rider, that it affords excitement?”

It made me think about the fact that cycling is indeed a whole lot of fun. However, it becomes less fun because I must share the roads with 2-ton motor vehicles whose drivers have both a deep sense of entitlement to the road and who are, more often than not, less than competent to operate their vehicles safely (at least in my experience).

It got me to wondering how life would be if cars were simply gone - taken up by some kind of supernatural force. All of a sudden roads would be a lot safer. People wouldn't have any reason to be afraid of cycling - there would be little to fear apart from maybe a few bumps and bruises from the occasional collision with another cyclist, or from the occasional fall. I wonder how many people would take up cycling if our national road system existed purely for cycling? Even if there were a faster alternative mode of personal transport (hey, whatever happened to the flying cars we were promised in the 1960s anyway?), my guess is that there would be a whole lot of folks who would choose to pedal.

It seems to me that the automobile is little more than a burden on society. Over the past century we've built a dystopia based on automobile dependency, and it's ruining us. I reckon the sooner we're rid of motor cars, the better-off we'll be. Sadly, I don't think it will happen in my lifetime. But thanks to rising gasoline prices, my daughter may be a bit more fortunate (as long as our society can effectively manage the decline of the age of oil).