Friday, February 27, 2015

Left Turning Motorist vs. Cyclist in Thru Bike Lane Crash--Teachable Moment

I refer folks to John Allen's bike blog, to the post "When Slow is Too Fast" and the embedded video of a crash. I've seen this situation develop more than a few times on Diamond, when headed southbound between Orange/Sandia and West Road. Rush hour traffic can back up there and cyclists in the bike lane can be passing slowed traffic in the two lanes (and left turn bays) on their left. Meanwhile, northbound motorists can be turning left into Metzgers, the donut shop, UNM-LA, or at several other locations, which creates potential conflicts with thru bicyclists who may be screened from the turning motorist's vision. I was nearly knocked off the BMW in that scenerio, only saved by my curiosity of "gee, I wonder if someone is about to turn left in front of this stopped school bus".

As I mentioned on John's blog, the telltale in the video to watch is there is a break in traffic at the curbcut. One can assume a possibility the drivers are allowing left turning traffic to turn by creating the break. The cyclist moving forward is screened from left turning cars by stopped traffic, especially that big, black SUV in the rightmost travel lane.

In light of the last two blog posts, this would obviously be a good time to wear a helmet. But a helmet wouldn't do much for this guy's collarbones, hands, or knees. Heightened situational awareness and training in an emergency stop might have avoided the crash.

Take a look over to John's blog. Be nice to get all comments in one place.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

All the Gear, All the Time

Just to be clear, I think both bicyclists and motorcyclists should pay attention to relevant safety gear. All the time. Some examples. Click on the pictures if you want the full resolution.





Sunday, February 22, 2015

Why Helmet Laws Turn Safety on its Head


Schuberth makes a comfy helmet. 
Its my choice.
There are two motorcycle helmet bills currently before the New Mexico Legislature. These will be heard on Tuesday. One is SB308 and the other SB327. One bill mandates helmets and sets a $300 penalty for a first offense. One includes a "buy out option" allowing a motorcyclist to opt out of a helmet by paying an annual registration fee of $692, calculated to reflect the costs of helmetless riders to the public. While I support wearing helmets and wish I had been wearing one on a fateful day in 1979**, I do not support these bills in their present context. They do nothing to prevent crashes, instead transferring to the crash victim (and a little bit of plastic and styrofoam) the job of crash survival.

Note. Today, 2/24, according to the New Mexican, the Senate Public Affairs Committee killed both bills.A version of this blog post had been sent to the members of the Public Affairs Committee, as testimony, over the weekend.

A helmet law turns safety on its head. A high quality (Snell Memorial Foundation, etc) and properly fitted helmet can protect from or mitigate impacts that can cause skull fracture or traumatic brain injury. But like any form of personal protective equipment (PPE), a helmet is a last line of defense. One's main line of defense is to avoid the crash, because a helmet will not protect against all brain impacts and does nothing to protect the rest of your body from potentially catastrophic crash injury(1). Crash avoidance includes training, good roadway engineering, research into how people crash, and policies (law enforcement, insurance premiums) that reward good behavior and penalize the bad. It is therefore exasperating to the motorcycle community that the same Senate that wants to require helmets has refused, repeatedly, to require greater roadway accountability via enhanced penalties for careless drivers who injure or kill. There is yet another enhanced penalty bill in the hopper this year, SB 651.

David Anderson's Ghost Bike
The penalties proposed are disproportional to the act. Texting drivers who create dangerous conditions on the road are fined $25, when the law is enforced at all. Other moving violations that raise risks likewise have paltry penalties. Miranda Pacheco, who killed bicyclist David Anderson while driving carelessly (she lost control of her car on Paseo del Norte, went over an embankment, and killed Anderson as he cycled on a nearby bike path), was subject to the same fine as the proposed first offense of not wearing a helmet, $300. Thankfully, she got a little jail time too. Very little.

This bill will do nothing to change the deadly driving culture in New Mexico that extracts a staggering cost to New Mexicans, most of which has nothing to do with motorcycle use. While physicians Fleegler and Nolte suggest that helmetless riders may cost New Mexicans $40 million per year, that is not even a blip compared to what dangerous driving costs the public (note added later: The NM Legislature, in its fiscal impact report on 327, suggests that NM would save $48 per registered motorcycle. In the fiscal impact on 308, it claims 63,000 registered motorcycles. Multiplying these, you get $3,024,000. Hmmm). The New Mexico Dept. of Transportation (pg. 173) puts the annual human cost of traffic crashes at about 1.4 billion dollars and the total costs at over 3 billion.  Interestingly, in a post to the Albuquerque Journal, Warren Woodward, the Legislative Chair of Street Bikers United Hawaii, claims that helmet laws don't reduce the death/accident ratio. They just reduce riding. His stuff is here.

Yours Truly...
 As pointed out by NMDOT, (pg. 88) vulnerable users such as bicyclists, motorcyclists, and pedestrians are overrepresented in traffic casualty counts, simply because we are not shielded behind tons of steel. New Mexico has a sorry record on this topic, ranking second nationally in the per capita killing of bicyclists. Mandating helmets for those of us on two wheels will not change this, as it puts no burden on others to drive safely.  Only by looking at our lack of a safety culture will we change these dreadful statistics and put helmet use into a proper context, i.e., as the last line of defense under a traffic safety paradigm that ensures those of us with helmets will rarely, if ever, need them.

If the NM State Senate wants to help, it can assist us in working towards a Vision Zero safety culture and by better understanding motorcycling, rather than simply trying to put a helmet on a rider and falsely claiming victory. I am sure we in the moto community would be eager to help.

Ref. (1) "While the use of a motorcycle helmet has been estimated to be 37 percent effective in preventing fatal injuries to motorcyclists who are involved in a highway crash, only 59 percent of motorcyclists who sustained fatal injuries were reported to be wearing a helmet at the time of their crash. (as quoted in Kerns et al)

Other stuff.
NHTSA (2010): The Economic and Societal Impact of Motor Vehicle Crashes

 The Economic Impact of Traffic Crashes, M.J. Kittelson, M.S. Thesis, Civil and Environmental Engineering, Georgia Institute of Technology, 2010

National Center for Bicycling and Walking Traffic Justice Initiative (2006)

 Vision Zero Initiative

Motorcycle Safety Foundation Research Library

On bicycle helmets, by John S. Allen and the late Sheldon Brown

** Was riding my bicycle to work when a motorist made an unannounced left turn in front of me. Went over the car and onto Mr. Pavement where I was out cold, suffering a TBI.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Can You See Us Now? Not If You're Not There


Not if you are a no-show...

Excellent bike rally at the Roundhouse today. Biggest turnout on record. Two parking lots full of of mostly Milwaukee Iron. Some sport bikes and some tourers. The Roundhouse Rotunda was packed to the gills and overflowed into both entryways and the second floor. Thanks so much to the New Mexico Motorcycle Rights Organization, Duke City Wheelmen, and retired Rep. Rick Miera, who was honored at the rally, for tireless, hard work in advocating for two wheeled riding and trying to make those roads safer out there through greater motorist accountability.

Not to sound too negative, but Jennifer Buntz and I were the only folks I could see who were from the bicycling community, albeit I showed up courtesy of Bavarian Iron with a yellow BikeABQ hat topping off my leathers. Maybe a few more from the human power side were there, but not enough to clearly notice. This in spite of plenty of advertising and the fact that the New Mexico Motorcycle Rights Organization and Duke City Wheelmen (aka, Jennifer) have been carrying our water with enhanced penalty bills for the last few years. There is one enhanced penalty bill in the hopper this year as well, SB 651.

To me, it is insane that cyclists who cry foul due to traffic safety issues don't show up in droves when the people doing the hard work are trying to get some face time at the Legislature. One would think at least the Santa Fe folks would be out in force. Well, next time you bitch about shitty laws, lousy infrastructure, or worse drivers, make sure you bitch to the guy or gal in the mirror.

Two bills are in play this year that cyclists should oppose, both having to do with mandatory helmet laws for motorcyclists. One is SB308 and the other SB327. Why? Because bicyclists could easily be next. One bill mandates helmets, one bill provides for a high priced sticker to exempt riders from helmet wearing, i.e. a bribe. Mandatory helmet laws are generally opposed by both the bicycle and motorcycle community. Helmets don't keep you from being smattered to oblivion by a badly driven car, but the gist of helmet laws is they transfer the responsibility for your safety from safer streets to a bit of styrofoam on your head. Plus, in many situations, the lack of a helmet puts the implicit blame on the rider for his injury, even if the injury is caused by someone else's negligent or careless behavior. It is, as we all know, more complicated than wearing a helmet. These bills are both scheduled for 2/24 in Senate Public Affairs.  The irony is the penalties for not having a helmet are likely to be higher than for careless drivers who kill. Contact the committee and oppose these bills.  Here are their emails.

jortizyp@msn.com
oneillsd13@billoneillfornm.com
 jacob.candelaria@nmlegis.gov
ron.griggs@nmlegis.gov
daniel.ivey-soto@nmlegis.gov
ggkern@valornet.com
mimi.stewart@nmlegis.gov
craig.brandt@nmlegis.gov
Scene outside
scene inside

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Bicyclist and Motorcyclist Day at the Capitol--This Saturday, 21 February

Join the festivities, honor Rich Miera, who has worked tirelessly for enhanced penalty legislation, and meet your legislators. BCNM also support this.


Saturday, February 14, 2015

First They Came for Chuck Marohn....Then They Came for Me

 “First they came for the Communists, but I was not a Communist so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Socialists and the Trade Unionists, but I was neither, so I did not speak out. Then they came for the Jews, but I was not a Jew so I did not speak out. And when they came for me, there was no one left to speak out for me.”  --Martin Niemoller

Chuck Marohn, a licensed engineer and certified planner in Minnesota, recently had a complaint filed against him with his licensing board by a fellow engineer, Jeffrey Peltola as discussed in the Streetsblog article and related links. Peltola, according to Streetsblog, supports a group (MOVEMN) that lobbies for more transportation spending. Countering the complaint to the licensing board, there is a statement in support of Chuck's First Amendment right to criticize his profession (without retaliation, of course) written by the Union of Concerned Scientists.

Why the dustup? Not because a bridge Chuck designed collapsed. Not because he took money under the table to get a contract or committed some other civic sin. Why? Because he criticized the current system whereby massive amounts of public money are thrown at new construction of sometimes dubious virtue which not only ignores the needs of existing infrastructure but often leads to really bad (unsustainable) urban planning and dangerous compromises in multimodal design. Here is an example of his writing that pisses people off. Of course, he is poking at the bread and butter of fellow engineers who make their dime on the public payroll. As well as bike ped advocates who, as he points out, lunge for the table scraps of the big bucks in the transportation feeding trough. He does this on the Strong Towns blog, which is his blog and one of the ones on this blog's highlight list.

Those of us who have worked in the public realm, either as professionals, or as I have been involved, as an appointed volunteer on the Los Alamos County Transportation Board, know that there is plenty good and plenty to criticize in how transportation planning is done and how it impacts successful urban design. I was deeply involved with writing the 2005 Los Alamos bike plan and in the formulation of, and eventual adoption by Council of our 2010 Policy for the Design of Streets and Rights of Way. I have worked with our public works professionals including former DPW director Kyle Zimmerman and former Traffic Manager Nancy Talley and now, with current DPW director Philo Shelton. I've reamed the NMDOT a new one many times for its lapses of judgement in multimodal design and its failure to maintain roads properly, i.e, partial paving of roadway shoulders. Because I'm a volunteer, there is not much anyone can do other than not reappoint me. If it was my livelihood, I would be vulnerable.

So if you care about engineers being thoughtful rather than just taking the big bucks by supporting the existing, sometimes flawed paradigm (see video below!), support Chuck in this one. Here is his own discussion of what happened, on the Strong Towns blog. For another perspective on Chuck's thinking, check out this National Resources Defense Council piece.

My two cents? A fellow engineer who filed such a frivolous complaint should have his own license in the balance.