Focus on Driving

This morning on my ride to work I noticed a smashed up car pushed off the road along Alki Avenue.

Someone had to be driving pretty fast to push a car off the road (or be pushed).

As my Nordic-American people say, it could have been worse.  In fact, here’s a sign to show how it could have been worse, probably caused in the same crash:

Meanwhile, rather than focusing on the carnage caused by inattentive and/or angry motor vehicle drivers, some people seem more concerned about this “obnoxious” “visual pollution.”

I think we should focus on driving, whether we are the drivers or we are just affected by them.  Cars kill. Tipped over bikes… not so much.

For instance, not much further along my commute, I came upon this car, rapidly backing down the bike path.

Let’s keep our eyes on the ball… or our eyes on the cars.

Eye in the Sky

Washington Bike Law is helping a new company called Placemeter get accurate traffic counts that can not only specify bikes, people, cars, buses, but track their speeds and directions as well.  It can even count crashes and close-calls.

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Today’s new technology post has a soundtrack… from 1982 (it sounds better than I remember and seems to be on-point here):

How is Washington Bike Law helping?  It’s not by coding I assure you!  Our office is merely a test location for one of the Placementer sensors… we’ve been monitoring the intersection of Second and Cherry for a few months now, including traffic on the Second Avenue Bike Lane.

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This new technology is starting to get press.  Fortune magazine and Fast Company just did stories on it and… 15 Minutes of Fame… our view over Second and Cherry is in both articles.

2nd and cherry

What about privacy?  Is the “eye in the sky” “The Man“?  Not really.  According to the Fast Company article, Placemeter “won’t use facial recognition to pinpoint individuals, nor will any people watch the video feeds. It is purposefully staying away from any security-related applications or customers … and couldn’t, say, help with a police search even if it wanted to.”

Who cares then?  We do.  Bike people.  Fast Company quotes Placemeter’s CEO Alex Winters as saying that bike activists interested in making the case for bike lanes could find it useful. “Typically, that kind of data has been out of reach for most community groups”.

Now how might more data be helpful in Seattle, land of process and little action?  Consider this recent PI headline:

Superyacht marina ownerclaims Seattle cycle track may threaten environment

The Yachties assert that the Westlake Cycletrack “will create unsafe conflicts between pedestrians, cyclists and commercial business traffic.”

Having easy access to accurate data might help.  We don’t want more endless litigation like with the “Missing Link” stopping transportation improvements.

Perhaps it’s naive to think that facts could help resolve conflicts, but I am hopeful.  And, hey, right now “I am the eye in the sky…”

The Sound of Freedom… on a Bike

In honor of MLK Day I planned to post this video illustrating what I think might be called “The Sound of Freedom”:

Some people in Washington think that this is the Sound of Freedom:

The purpose of this post is not to debate military issues.  Instead, as a different King once asked us, “can we all get along?”

The answer is yes… through BIKE-partisanship.  Dr. Martin Luther King was a great leader for civil rights… and he rode a bike:

MLK on a bike

Yesterday, as the Seattle Seahawks qualified for the Superbowl, what did Michael Bennett, Jr. do?

He rode a bike.  Riding a bike is a great way to celebrate.  Riding a bike makes the sound of freedom.  Riding a bike makes you King.  And we need more Kings!

Bikes, Skateboards and Ramps… Oh My!

Recently, I noticed a cement ramp added overnight to a bridge support column for the West Seattle Bridge along the bicycle and pedestrian path.  I suspected that it might be a gorilla skate ramp and, when another skate park item was cemented into the path a week or two later, I was sure of it.

The ramp is on the top of this photo, it’s a bit hard to see, but that’s my concern… someone may hit the side of it and crash.

skate add

This expanding skate park is in the middle of a bike path intersection with limited visibility and bicyclists coming downhill from the right with a fair bit of speed.

I’m concerned that bicyclists and skaters could collide here.

skate bad

Now why would skaters do this?  Aren’t there safer places to skate… like this waterfront space (complete with anti-skating bars and NO SKATEBOARDING signs):

skate why

I suppose I’m willing to cut the skateboarders some slack, but I hope no one gets hurt.

I’ve also noticed some other new ramps in Pioneer Square  that I whole-heartily endorse

good ramp

Seattle is so inconsistent with its curb cuts for wheelchairs and bicyclists.  Some intersections have them, some do not.  In Pioneer Square there are some very high curbs with no cuts.  At this intersection, the new ramps serve multiple purposes.  They help people on wheels cross the street and the slow traffic on the street making it a safer area for all users.  Well done SDOT!

 

New Infrastructure Protects Drivers Who Speed into Bike Lanes

Yesterday I attended the Grand Opening of the new South Park Bridge.  South Park is a neighborhood in Seattle on the other side of the Duwamish River from Georgetown.  I lived there for almost 14 years and know how important this link is to the community.  I was happy to see the bridge finally open.

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Bicycle, pedestrian and transit advocates often criticize road projects for their focus on individual car travel.  The South Park Bridge will benefit trucks, buses, emergency services, as well as single occupancy motor vehicles, and has some significant improvements over the bridge it replaced.  The sidewalks are much safer and there are marked bike lanes on both sides of the bridge.

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But here is the thing that makes no sense to me.  To the right of the bike lane, the area that is supposed to be safe for bicyclists to ride, there is a giant impact absorber.

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This is a city street with, at this time, a 30 mph speed limit.  Someone decided that, just in case drivers veer out of their lane and drive through the bike lane, they should be protected from a high-impact, high speed collision by this impact absorbing device.  People inside steel cages with seat belts and air bags.

You on the bike… good luck.  And wear your helmet… is this the message our infrastructure should send?

 

There’s No War on Cars; Bicyclists Help Drivers!

The tired rhetoric of a “war on cars” has yet to be retired.  Recently, an on-line commenter said this:

war on cars comment

to this sad new item:

news

Instead of using inflammatory rhetoric or vehicles as weapons, people who drive and people who ride should both try to actually help each other out.

How do we do that?  It’s easy.  Here’s one example.  Often, when I am at a stop light on my bike, a car will pull up behind me wanting to make a right turn on red.  I move over to the left and frequently get a “thank you” or a thumbs up.  Once, however, I almost got hit by a car sprinting out in the left lane as the light turned green, so be careful being nice…

Yesterday, at a dangerous intersection for bicyclists underneath the West Seattle Bridge, I prevented a head-on collision between two cars.  The area looks like this:

area

It’s frequently dicey for bicyclists in the crosswalk on the left, because cars come around the bend at a high speed and many drivers don’t expect a crosswalk or just don’t believe that they have a duty to yield to bicyclists in it.  I always slow down and stick my neck out to look left before crossing.

As I was doing this, I saw a rental car enter this one-way street from my right.  There is a sign that says do not enter:

problem

But there is also this, much larger, sign before it:

confusion

It can be confusing, especially for an out-of-towner.  “No No NO!” I yelled, “wrong way!”  The driver slowed, then stopped, and he began backing out just as another driver zipped around the corner.  One car on car (collateral damage in the War on Cars?) collision avoided, thanks to a bicyclist.

I know I’m not the only to help out people who happen to be driving rather than riding.  But fewer of us have made movies about it.

A few years ago, some friends and I made “Bike Man Versus the Fossil”, a two minute unedited Super-8 film.  It’s pretty awesome, if I do say so myself, and it’s got a great message:

 

 

Who’s Watching Your Back?

Yesterday, Bike Snob NYC posted a video of an angry man driving around in a truck (with his high beams on) grousing about how he hates bicyclists and buzzing a couple of them.  If you’d like to see what things look like from the perspective of those who yell at us, watch this.

Clearly, angry high-beam man could use some education about the need to share the road. This Norwegian video (via copenhagenize.com) is less scary than the video from angry high-beam man.  The text says that 70% of bicyclists [in Norway] have experienced aggressive behavior and the video demonstrates this behavior in a different context. It’s unlikely to enlighten angry high-beam man, but it might actually be effective for people who are less hateful.

The bizarre hatred of bicyclists is not limited to men with southern accents driving pickup trucks dangerously.  Recently, in one of Seattle’s famous never-ending process meetings, it reared its ugly head in a more passive-aggressive text-based  way.  But wait there’s more.  More aggressive, but still thankfully text-based.  These photos come from Babecycle.

Although being rear-ended on your bike is highly unlikely, if you are rear-ended, and especially if you are rear-ended by someone like angry high-beam man performing a “watch this“, the result could be fatal.

fatalities by type

Vox recently posted an overview of “How and why bicycle deaths happen in the US”.  The graphics in this post were lifted from it.

Bicycling is usually safe and is often the quickest way to get around in urban areas.  When people are on bikes, they are not in cars… and therefore it’s easier to drive and park.  Why don’t the angry high-beam men of the world get this?

What we who are riding need to do is work with pedestrians (ie- everyone) to improve our infrastructure.  Meanwhile, bicyclists need to watch our backs… even in Seattle.  Urban areas are where people in the US are killed:

location

Washington Bike Law works to make our streets safer for everyone.  But, if you are hurt while on your bike… we’ve got your back.

A Good Sign

On my ride in today I noticed that SDOT fixed the bicycle and pedestrian crossing sign I reported down last year.

Thank you SDOT!

photo 1

Maybe it was my haphazard shoving it the ground that spurred SDOT into action. It’s safely in the ground now (not unlike it was when I first praised it)

photo 2

 

I know that SDOT has numerous responsibilities and that many good people work there.  I suspect that, like me, SDOT and its employees want our roads to be safe for all users.  Still, it can be frustration to see the lack of action and even more so to see the wrong actions (and the wrong signs).

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This is the context for the good sign/bad sign.  The earlier blog entry is here.

A Bad Sign

This morning, while commuting to work near where another bicycle commuter was killed earlier this year, I saw multiple SDOT trucks.  One of these trucks was parked on the sidewalk that I and many other bicyclists use when coming from the West Seattle Bridge.  This resulted in bicyclists taking to the street, albeit the wrong-way.  In fact, I found myself “salmoning” on the bike lane… Ooops.

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Thankfully, I made this unwise and illegal move (not unlike the bicyclist pictured above) without incident.  Why is SDOT creating this dangerous situation?  Why, to add safety signage, of course.  This:

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Unfortunately, this pedestrian sign pointing at a crosswalk only reinforces the INCORRECT understanding that many people (including far too many police officers) have that crosswalks are for pedestrians and not for bicycles.  This is the actual law:

The operator of an approaching vehicle shall stop and remain stopped to allow a pedestrian or bicycle to cross the roadway within an unmarked or marked crosswalk when the pedestrian or bicycle is upon or within one lane of the half of the roadway upon which the vehicle is traveling or onto which it is turning. For purposes of this section “half of the roadway” means all traffic lanes carrying traffic in one direction of travel, and includes the entire width of a one-way roadway.

RCW 46.61.235(1).

I asked one of the many SDOT workers on site whether it was too late to change the pedestrian sign to a bicycle and pedestrian sign.  He said he had never heard of such a thing.  “Oh, they exist,” I assured him, “they’re just not used enough.”  They are certainly allowed by law.  In fact, SDOT even installed a couple just west of this spot at the entrance to the port.

I appreciate that SDOT is working to improve safety in an area that needs it.  However, these signs will only add to the confusion about what a crosswalk means.

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Please SDOT, use a better sign.

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Elections and the so-called War on Cars

So it looks like Seattle’s Mayor McGinn will lose to Ed Murray. Here are the current returns in King County.

Though I thought Mayor McGinn was a more articulate debater than Ed Murray, governing is not the same as debating.  McGinn and Murray are both progressives and simply not having the monicker “Mayor McSchwinn” may make improving Seattle’s  infrastructure for bicycling easier.

I don’t think that Murray will join with those who claim that there is a “War on Cars”.  One might argue that you’d have to be smoking crack to believe that there is a “War on Cars” in North America.  At least one promoter of the “War on Cars” really was smoking crack… And his name is synonymous with cars… Rob Ford.

Ford

The New York Times noted that “Mr. Ford vowed to end the city’s “war on cars,” the preferred mode of transport for suburbanites.”

Murray is no Mayor Ford.  And, don’t tell the “War on Cars” people, but his name really was a bike brand:

my_murray_eliminator

Let’s hope MURRAY will work to improve bicycling in Seattle.