Iceland is for Brave Bicyclists

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This is a super-highway in Iceland:

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There is no shoulder. Sometimes, ther is no pavement. Here is a bicyclist, bravely peddling and wearing a helmet even:

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I suspect that these bikes are part of a tour. Note the kickstands on mountain bikes.

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Truth be told, I’ve been driving a Suzuki mini 4×4. Iceland is full of mountains and glaciers and, in the summer, rain. Not ideal bicycling, but people still do it. I’ve been giving them lots of space. Here’s a bicyclist who is likely freezing. She’s not so cold that she wants to wear her helmet, however.

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More road. Lots of road before sunny Seattle.

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It’s an amazing place, Iceland. Complete with icebergs.

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Beautiful Bicycling Diversity

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Last weekend was especially lovely in Seattle.  After a rainy Friday, the clouds parted and, for some of us, the Dead Baby Bike Club’s annual downhill race was a great experience.  I understand that this event is not for everyone.  In fact, only one of the three lawyers here (I, Bob– the one without kids) attended.  But we should all appreciate the diversity of those who love bikes.

There are commuters who would never race.  There are racers who would never ride to a store.   There are recumbent riders who can’t understand those who hunch over their bikes.  There are upright riders who think similarly to the recumbent riders, but then would never ride a recumbent.  There are BMX riders and tricycle people.  There are those who ride with everything all fluorescent and flashing and riders who wear all black and remove their reflectors.

This much is true: whenever we ride, we are not driving a car.  We are exercising.  We are seeing things and (hopefully) we are seen.  For the most part, it really is all good.  So let’s all get along…

I’ve never been injured in a Dead Baby event, but attorney John McHale has been injured multiple times in organized bike races.  Is the Downhill dangerous?  Sure.  It’s also dangerous just waiting at a red light on my ride to work.

On the other hand, it’s hard to view tall bike jousting as anything but dangerous… and fun.  I’ll remain a spectator, thank you very much… Here is a short video: jousting

On Sunday my wife and I rode our 1952 Schwinn tandem from West Seattle to Ballard for brunch and then around Magnolia and back to West Seattle.  That’s pretty much the Tour de France on that bike.  It was fun, but again, not without risk.  I noticed one of Seattle’s famous wheel-swallowing sewer grates inside a marked bike lane in Magnolia.

I was too busy avoiding it to take a photo, but here is one that my office played a part in getting replaced:

grate

In Ballard, we visited the Farmer’s Market and chatted with a nice Cascade Bicycle Ambassador.  He and I traded spoke cards:

spoke cards

Cascade’s spoke cards address what to do in case of a collision, whereas Washington Bike Law’s spoke cards provide a summary of bike laws.  About 90% of our work is representing bicyclist who have been in crashes, so one might expect our cards to be more like Cascade’s.  Instead, ours provide citations to the actual laws that many people (including police) do not understand.  Both cards are free for the asking and, this being Washington, both are waterproof.

Like the diversity in people who love bikes, both are good!

On a Positive Note (with soundtrack)

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Yesterday I grumbled about the West Seattle Bike Counter.  Today it counted me once as I rode over it once.

More importantly, I would like to acknowledge that, while I am often frustrated by Seattle’s bicycling infrastructure, occasionally we do get it right.  As the Seattle Bike Blog points out, city traffic engineer Dongho Chang seems to be making genuine improvements at SDOT.

Go Dongho… make SDOT change!

Here is the soundtrack

Bike Counter or Random Number Generator?

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I understand that hard data can be helpful for planning.  Seattle has had a bike counter in Fremont for a while now and recently added one on the West Seattle Bridge.  I’ve noticed that, since the West Seattle Bike Counter was finally deemed operational, when I crossed it, it either didn’t count me or it counted me multiple times.

This morning I stopped to determine whether this was something unique to my big fat Dutch Bike, or if this thing is actually a random number generator.  Conclusion: It does seem to respond to bikes, but it only does so every now and then and adds another number or two.

I’m not sure that this counts as hard data.  In fact, seeing low numbers on this clunker may actually hurt the case for improving bicycling infrastructure.  We’ve got this counter now…  let’s make sure it actually counts.

Video: IMG_1802

Can Copenhagen’s Bicycling Ideas Work in Seattle?

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I am starting to prepare for a trip to COPENHAGEN.  I plan to meet with some of the folks behind that city’s rolling to the top of the cycling world and hope to bring back ideas to use here.

One of the ideas I’ve been advocating for the last few years is a change in our laws so that motorists who hit bicyclists or pedestrians are PRESUMED to be at fault without evidence that, for instance, the bicyclist was riding at night without reflectors or lights.   My understanding is that this is the law in much of Western Europe, but it’s hard to get clear information about exactly what these laws are and how they came to be.  I hope to get a better handle on this during my visit.

Do you have other questions or concepts for me to research?  Please let me know.

If you haven’t heard about Copenhagen as bicycling Nirvana, WATCH THIS video celebrating Copenhagen bicycling.  Also, this blog is excellent.

 

Merging with Traffic? But Bikes ARE Traffic…

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I recently noticed this sign, “BIKES MERGE WITH TRAFFIC”  in Seattle’s International District:

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I remember the Critical Mass cry, “We ARE traffic”…

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There shouldn’t be a debate about whether bikes qualify as legitimate traffic; we really are legal traffic in Washington State.

And, while some bicyclists do occasionally block other traffic to make a point (which is usually illegal), bicyclists are also the best traffic to have on the road– no matter who your are.

Why? Because motorists pretty much always block other motorists.  On my ride in this morning I noticed motorized traffic blocking not only other motorized traffic, but the bike lane as well.

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As traffic, I rode outside of the bike lane (which is legal in Washington), and continued to the light (where I stopped and took this photo).

I’m not sure what SDOT means with its “BIKE MERGE WITH TRAFFIC” sign, it seems to perpetuate the myth that we are not traffic.  I like this sign better:

WeAreTraffic

 

 

 

Seattle’s Schizophrenic Approach to Bicycling

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I went to SDOT’s Bicycle Master Plan Open House yesterday after work.  It had some competition, with the sunny evening making it lovely for actual bike riding… but I went, thinking that this was the right thing to do, and knowing that it would still be sunny to ride home afterwards.

When I arrived at City Hall, there were multiple bike racks set up on the rain plaza area by the red doors.  I locked my bike and confirmed that there is still no way to enter through the translucent red doors.  I went to the main lower entrance and found those doors locked.  I then trudged up the stone stairs/waterfall to these doors:

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They were also locked.  So I walked halfway down and noticed other bicyclists starting to head up the stairs and a few people walking north to another set of doors.  I yelled some greetings to our fellow bike people and advised them not to bother with the main entrance, but to follow the people walking to the north middle area doors.

Unfortunately, those too turned out to be locked.  So a small group of us walked around the block, past the permanent bike racks with a sign saying that there was more bike parking below (good luck getting in) and found a single open door to City Hall:

No Bikes

The sign on it said, “NO BICYCLES ALLOWED INSIDE THE BUILDING   THANKS”.

After talking to multiple people about the locked doors including a security guard who said that he planned to open the west doors if there was a crowd in front of them, and several SDOT people who didn’t seem to be concerned, I recognized SDOT’s Kevin O’Neill from prior meetings and told him.  He promptly left the hall and presumably got the doors opened for others.  Thank you Kevin.

The meeting was fine, the plan sounds great… it’s just that I am not overly confident that Seattle has it in it to actually DO what it PLANS.

The locked doors are one illustration of this problem.  SDOT even acknowledges that “a consistent approach and partnership are necessary to implement bicycle programs efficiently.”

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But when SDOT uses staff and consultant time to do outreach and spends money advertising to bring people to City Hall when the doors are locked, that can’t be efficient.

Another example of Seattle bicycle schizophrenia is our Police Department’s failure to provide adequate training on the rules of the road for bicycles.  We can’t expect police to do their jobs when they don’t know what their jobs are.  Washington Bike Law has represented numerous bicyclists who have been given tickets for being cut off in bike lanes, hit while riding in crosswalks, or for having the audacity to get doored.

Talk about adding insult to injury… “a consistent approach and partnership are necessary to implement bicycle programs efficiently.”

Let’s Do It! Let’s Do More than Plan for Bikes…

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Seattle is a world-class city for planning;  let’s also become known for our doing.

Tonight (June 5) at 6 pm in Seattle City Hall, SDOT is hosting an open house on Seattle’s newest Draft Bicycle Master Plan.  We still haven’t gotten far in implementing or funding the 2007 Bicycle Master Plan, which claimed to be a “visionary, yet practical, action strategy to make Seattle a world-class city for bicycling.”

We’ve got a long way to go before we are world-class… Seattle’s bike count increased by 4.7% from 2011 to 2012, but the percentage of people bike commuting is still in the single digits.  In Copenhagen, for instance, 52% of residents’ in-city trips to work or education are made by bike.

More people riding will make our streets better for everyone– safer for bicyclists and easier for drivers who will be less likely to be stuck behind other drivers…

It’s good to plan, but unless we are going to act on these plans, why bother?  Let’s make sure the Bike Master Plan is something that can and will be fully implemented.

Have You Been Missing T Time?

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Bicyclists are often frustrated by traffic lights that respond to cars, but not to bikes.  Here is a line of bicyclists waiting under the West Seattle Bridge yesterday:

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After a few signal cycles, what can you do?  Well, sometimes you can do this:

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But, at the intersection pictured above (and lots of other places in Seattle), bicycles actually haven’t been forgotten.

Look for the T painted near the stop line:

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Ride up to it, stop directly on it, and (eventually) you’ll get a green light.

This has been around for a few years now, but it seems like many people don’t know about it.

Spread the word about T-time !