Friday, June 22, 2018

KSFR "Wake Up Call" Interviews Two Bicycling Advocates Regarding the Santa Fe Police Study of Bike Crashes

"This morning on KSKR’s Wake-Up Call, reporters Ellen Lockyer shares New Mexico reaction to Wednesday’s Executive Order from President Trump, ending his policy of separating families at the southern border. Also on the program, Tom Trowbridge discusses the recently-released City of Santa Fe study on bicycle crashes, which is getting the thumbs-down from local bicycle advocates. Also, the Marketplace morning report and a local news update."

Note that Tim and I didn't offer any thumbs; this was the lead-in to the interview. For the actual interview, I'll just redirect you to the station link for the recording. KSFR News Director Tom Trowbridge extracted the bike part into its own podcast.

And now, a word from our resident cartoonist, his Maddoggiest, Patrick O'Grady.

Saturday, June 16, 2018

"How Many Idiots Can There Be? Some Say Its One Out of Three..."

With all the recent sturm und drang regarding bicycling crashes in Santa Fe and the need for safer cycling, we can't simply throw time and money at problems. Especially if people are doing their level headed best to defeat the existing safety system, as rickety as it might be.

Tonight while walking the dog, we were passing through the Alamo and Camino de las Crucitas intersection, which has a four way stop. Crucitas is a very popular cycling route as it connects the city to the quiet country roads north and west of the urban center as well as to the La Tierra Trails. As we walked past the intersection, a bicyclist in tight lycra was barreling downhill on Crucitas from the west as fast as he could pedal, hunkered down on the drops. He simply blew through the four way stop without so much as looking for traffic. I think he was going between 30-40 mph.  I had barely contained my amazement at Mr. Testosterone when a lady in a midsize SUV likewise cruised through the four way at about 15-20 mph without slowing or braking or looking. Go figure.

Carlos Mencia had it right. We have a lot of Dee Dee Dees who think safety is someone else's problem. No amount of throwing scarce tax dollars at safety will stop the bloodshed as long as idiots think responsible behavior is for other people. Yeah, I know...getting that personal best time onto the laptop in the Tour de Strava is pretty damn important; its definitely more important than slowing down at a stop sign or thinking about consequences. Not sure what Blondie The SUV Girl was thinking. Maybe she was thinking about dinner. Or chasing Mr. Lycra.


Thursday, June 14, 2018

Santa Fe Police Study of Bicycle Crashes: Are They Primarily "Somebody's Fault"?

Santa Fe bicycle crash map. 
Credits to SFPD and the New Mexican
The Monday New Mexican ran a front page story on a recent SFPD investigation of bicycle crashes in the City Different. I have a few concerns.

First, I was concerned that not a single member of the BTAC or any other cycling organization or cyclist was quoted for the article. I don't know if the reporter contacted cyclists or BTAC members. The result is a focus on who was at fault in crashes rather than on root causes such as how design affects behavior (flagrant use of cell phones and other forms of lawbreaking notwithstanding). I attended the May BTAC meeting where the police presented their study and indeed, it focused more on the actual crashes than on the role of design although the BTAC and audience members did bring design into the conversation. Also, before I forget, I don't think adding signage fixes bad underlying design. The sign on the hideous St. Francis/Cerrillos/Railrunner crossing warning cyclists not to crash on the tracks comes to mind, i.e., "we goofed, so don't get killed here".

My friend and fellow cycling advocate, 
the late Dr. Gail Ryba, 
worked tirelessly to improve cycling conditions 
for Santa Fe's cyclists and fought the NMDOT 
over its redesign of St. Francis Drive
Although we know that cycling crashes are under-reported unless there is death or serious injury involved, number of crashes reported to the police is the database that was presented.  That said, the article indicates that the police found cyclists and motorists about equally responsible for the causes of the crashes, which is consistent with what the League of American Bicyclists teaches in our classes.  What we don't know is how many cyclists are on the roads, i.e., how many crashes per total number of cyclists, which is a usual metric for safety. We also don't know how many minor crashes went unreported.

In a glaring omission perhaps understandable, no one questioned the role of infrastructure as bearing on "fault". That's not surprising because police are charged with deciding who made a mistake or committed a citeable offense that causes a crash, not whether the infrastructure is properly designed to be shared or whether design contributes to human failure or misuse. So looking at this study, its not surprising that Councilor Mike Harris thinks that operator error is the major problem.

But if you look at the crash map in the article, which I have included above, the major state managed arterials are heavily represented. Many studies have been written about the role of infrastructure in increasing or decreasing crash frequency and risk, i.e., the Vision Zero concepts. For example, as far as turning and crossing crashes, which the study said are a major cause of crashes, its hard enough for motorists and cyclists to see each other at a busy intersection but when you make the roads extremely wide such as the Cerrillos, St. Francis, and St. Michaels arterials, aka "stroads",  picking out small vehicles or pedestrians in busy traffic is even tougher on a wide multilane design. But to be fair, these three arterials are state roads under the jurisdiction of the State of New Mexico Dept. of Transportation, so its not clear to me if the city has the authority to change or influence the design.

The article says most cycling crashes involve male cyclists, but doesn't tell us whether the cycling population is overwhelmingly male. One might wonder if male cyclists are risk-takers. But at least some sources indicate that male road cyclists far outnumber female road cyclists in the U.S. so the proportion might just statistically represent each population within the city. We don't know.

I just moved here so I don't want to go around condemning people or institutions. That said, I spent a dozen years on the Los Alamos Transportation Board (often enough as chair or vice-chair), wrote or contributed to three urban bike plans and a complete streets ordinance, and am a longtime League Cycling Instructor who twice reviewed Santa Fe's Bicycle Friendly Community application.  I am a little perplexed that this article or the police study it covers did not take on a broader, deeper scope and talk to a few more people. The city has been making great strides in providing trails and other resources for cyclists but in a city where it is still more practicable to get from Here to There and Back Again on the roads, we need to pay attention to roadway design, not just decide who gets the traffic ticket.

Stay tuned.

Monday, May 7, 2018

May 18th is Los Alamos Bike to Work Day

To celebrate bicycling as a green, fun, and healthy way to get to work, the Laboratory is providing coffee, tea, water, 100 Virgin Pulse points, and snacks to (LANL-badged) cyclists who roll up to the J. R. Oppenheimer Center, (TA-03, Bldg. 207), May 18, 7–9 a.m.

“The Lab sees more bicycles on the road during the summer weather, so this is a good opportunity to increase awareness for both motorists and cyclists. It is important that respect exist amongst all employees who utilize LANL roads—each of us wants to arrive home safely after each work day,” said Debra Garcia, Vehicle and Pedestrian Program Lead.

The County is providing coffee, water, snacks and prizes at the Lemon Lot from 7 to 9 a.m. on May 18. They’re also sponsoring a Community Bike Party at Ashley Pond on Wed., May 16, 4–6 p.m., with a kids’ bike rodeo, free hot dogs, and prizes.

REI Corp. Throws Cyclist Safety Under the Bus for a Questionable Political Statement

Or, why does it have to be "guns or helmets" just in time for Bike Month?

I went down to REI yesterday to look for some tires for the cross bike, as I wanted something a little fatter than those 700-32's that left my teeth chattering during a recent downhill ride on a rocky trail. Sure enough, a set of Donnelly MSO's were beckoning to me and some electrons substituting for greenbacks changed hands.

When we sell guns like we sell cars
what does one expect?
Bushmaster ad, discussed by 
David Yamane
 What was not beckoning to me was the wide variety of bike helmets and Camelbak water systems that usually grace REI's shelves. Why? Because REI has decided to boycott Bell, Giro, and Camelbak products until those companies parent corporation,Vista Corp, cleanses itself of the sin of guns. Vista owns Savage Arms, which makes "black rifles" and Vista owns several ammo companies; Federal ammo helps underwrite the sometimes sophomoric and obnoxious NRATV. As far as Savage, it makes a lot of traditional rifles, as well as those euphemistically referred to as "modern sporting rifles" whose actual "sporting" purpose is overprinted onto a design based on shooting people in combat, benign civilian sporting use notwithstanding (of course, so many guns are based on "weapons of war" designs that this can be a meaningless, political phrase, too). But to fill in the blanks, the modern US military "black rifle" was originally designed by Eugene Stoner and the Armalite company (hence "AR" actually originally stood for Armalite Rifle although it has been generalized to black rifles of all types). Civilian, semiauto-only versions have proliferated in the decades since and although the vast majority never make the news, some, as readers know, have been used to ghastly purpose (Newtown, Pulse, Las Vegas, Parkland, etc). For the record, I don't own one; my interest here is in policy, not hardware.

Now its popular right now to make extreme political statements for and against guns and organizaations. I agree that gun violence, and how to reduce or suppress it, is a valid topic for conversation (and policy). But according to various sources, one here, handguns make up the lion's share of guns used in murders (and by inference, criminal activity in general); that number being around 7000 in 2016. Rifles of all types, ARs included, make up a minimal fraction of murders, a little under 400 in the same year. Several thousand firearms murders were undetermined as far as gun type. If you ask people in violence-drenched cities like Chicago, St. Louis, or Baltimore what gets people shot, they will likely respond that its lunatics armed with hand cannons doing the bloody work. The roughly 100 million law-abiding American gun owners are scratching their heads wondering how to get out of no-man's land in this discussion.

Oh, and back to helmets.  According to the CDC, there were over 1,000 bicyclists killed and close to half a million bicycle-related injuries in 2015; head injuries are serious business. One can thoughtfully ask what the cost-benefit is to society of having unrestricted civilian ownership of ARs (how many mass shootings does it take to negate whatever benefit these have in unrestricted distribution) but why would REI compromise the safety envelope of a huge number of bicyclists to do so, helmet wars notwithstanding?   Especially when REI doesn't sell guns. Perhaps a letter writing campaign to Vista or a movement to get bike products out from under the Vista umbrella, and meanwhile, keep the brain buckets on the shelves. Note to readers: Vista may be considering dumping Savage and Stevens Arms but not its other gunsport stuff.

I think REI is ignoring cyclist's safety needs to make its Board of Director's point (less than 25k petition signatures, not all REI members, out of 6 million co-op members does not a majority make). I would suggest that any cyclist worried about wearing a helmet, or about getting a little dehydrated this summer on a long rural or mountain ride, ought to take his or her business elsewhere and I say that as an REI member.

Road deaths per 100,000 people. (source: Angie Schmidt article in Streetsblog).
 Netherlands 3.4
 United States 10.6

Since we are talking about public safety, if REI is really worried about the safety of its client base, perhaps it ought to dissuade people from driving to its stores. Replace those parking lots with parks and trees and multiuse paths.  I suspect a lot of the deaths and more serious injuries suffered by bicyclists are due to the misuse of a certain four-wheeled contraption called a motor vehicle rather than misuse of something with a breech and muzzle called an assault rifle. Especially since the safe operation of either is determined by the operator, not the item itself. Given my time behind the wheel or handlebars in Santa Fe, its more likely to be a distracted, drunk, or clueless motorist who is going to kill me. Meanwhile, this weapon of urban destruction is still legal and acceptable at REI:

Sunday, April 29, 2018

More of the Rail Trail

I decided to turn around at the top of the descent down to Lamy. The trail was getting really rough and primitive and my teeth were knocking as I rode on those 700-32's. Plus, as the going got slower, the water in the Camelbak was not being used up any slower. Between the Camelbak and a water bottle, I got back home with about an ounce in the tank. But nice ride.

I suppose if I had taken a map and realized I was about a quarter mile from my destination, I would have bombed on down...