Grate Way to Celebrate 50

Yesterday Washington Bike Law took the afternoon off to go for a bike ride in honor of John’s birthday.  I (Bob) ended up in the rear most of the way.  But, in defense, Dave’s family bike has an electric assist and, Mister Fifty– John– is a bike racer, not just a bike commuter.  Anyway, if you are not the lead dog, the view is always the same.  Something like this:


We went, on John’s request, to see an enormous yacht apparently owned by some Russian vodka billionaire.  John was inspired, I think, but he ended up getting a bit smaller vessel  for his birthday– and, sorry for him, one without a landing pad for a helicopter or a crew of 50– a single kayak.


We rode by a dangerous sewer grate that I had noticed before, but could not remember the location.


Thankfully, as we age, we have smart phones to record what we forget:


So this dangerous grate is not the worse I’ve seen… that would be this arm-breaker:


The grate we saw yesterday is actually in a bike lane. How is it that SDOT has not replaced it?  Let’s let them know, shall we? But how?  SDOT has a pothole reporting form, but no obvious way to report a dangerous condition that it affirmatively created.

Cascade’s Bikewise has a form for hazards… let’s try it.  Hmmm… I must have forgotten my password.  Reset… No email helping me yet.  I hope this danger does not continue… Can anyone else report this?

One possible outcome of such a grate is a flat tire.  That would be the least of someone’s worries, but that is what happened to me on our ride (though not because of the grate).

Thankfully, a tow truck took my bike in and, by the time I walked to the bike shop, it was ready to roll.  About that tow truck… watch it in action here: tow truck


Yielding, a Good Idea That Motorists and Bicyclists Should Both Follow…

Bob is back from Copenhagen and other European places where bicycling is much safer than Seattle.  In my absence SDOT started a safety campaign that involves small election-style signs like this:


I agree that bicyclists should yield to pedestrians… and even if I didn’t, it’s the law.  But it should also be the law that motor vehicle should yield to bicyclists.  Why this is unfathomable in the United States, I don’t know… and I’ve been trying for years to shake some of that unfathomability off.

Bicyclists are faster than pedestrians and, if there is a collision, the pedestrian is more likely to be hurt.  So bikes yielding makes sense.  But that’s nothing like the situation between bicycles and motor vehicles is it?  Is it?

Part of my recent trip involved touring Iceland.  It is a beautiful place with incredible landscapes.  And yet, similar to our Alaska, my impression was that not too many people identify as environmentalists.  Restaurants frequently offer whale and puffin and, while those dishes may be tourist-oriented (not me!), many people seemed to like reindeer pizza.  Nevertheless, in spite of an apparent love for monster trucks and limited infrastructure, the law in Iceland is clear that, if a motor vehicle hits a bicyclist, the driver is at fault.

Thanks to Copenhagenize’Mikael Colville-Andersen, I was able to meet with a couple of really nice representatives of the Icelandic Cyclists Federation, Árni Davíðsson and Morten Lange:

iceland meeting

Árni said that the last bicyclist killed in Iceland was in 1997 and that all of Iceland’s bicycling  fatalities have been in urban areas, not on the often scary narrow rural roads.  He thought that the 30 KM speed limit in residential areas that they’ve had for the past 15 years may have helped.  30 KM is less than 20 mph.  Slower speeds certainly save lives.  Seattle’s Mayor McGinn is right about that.

Although Iceland has strict liability for drivers involved in collisions with bicyclists, drivers can defend with evidence of extreme recklessness on the part of the bicyclist, but neither Árni nor Morten were aware of any examples where a bicyclist had actually been found to have contributed to a crash.  In Iceland, unlike Washington, it is illegal to ride a bike under the influence of alcohol, but the standard in Iceland for bike riding is the same as horse riding– basic ability to control the bike.  For motor vehicles there it’s .o5% blood alcohol, whereas we have a .08% limit here.

Iceland, unlike Copenhagen, was not a place I thought that I would bring back bicycling inspiration, and yet in many areas, Iceland is ahead of us.

If we want to make bicycling safer in Seattle, we should change our laws to start with a presumption that, when motorists are involved in collisions with bicycles, the motorist is at fault.

Iceland is for Brave Bicyclists

This is a super-highway in Iceland:


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


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


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.


More road. Lots of road before sunny Seattle.


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


Beautiful Bicycling Diversity

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:


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)

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