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.

IMG_3853

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.