Friday, October 31, 2014

Why Are The Major Players Spun Up Over the Governor's Report?

From the People for Bikes Blog. Hence the promotion 
of Safety in Numbers
A similar trend can be seen for auto fatals on the IIHS page
People for Bikes, LAB, Bob Mionske, and others are all railing against a recently released Governor's Highway Safety Association report that in a shrill manner, showed a 16% uptick in the number of bicycle fatals from 2010-2012. One of the best discussions demolishing that report is by Michael Andersen over at Bike Portland. The GHSA study is admittedly short on details and poor on interpretation, so I'm not about to trade my Salsa LaCruz for a Hummer for my daily commute. More alarming perhaps is that report is the superficial stuff that politicians and their advisors will be reading.

Bicycling is and always was pretty safe. From the chart, one could calculate that at two bike trips per day, one would have to live practically seven thousand years to die in a bike trip. Heck, even Moses didn't live that long. Also note that this trend has been on a downward trajectory long before the current bike boom or cycletracks. Safety in numbers? Perhaps. Maybe safety as cycling becomes acculturated and our roads improved. Certainly, the French and German troops at Verdun or Ypres didn't feel like there was safety in numbers, i.e., there has to be a reason or two while safety in numbers works.

Some of the findings are not surprising. Used to be that kids were the biggest class of fatals. But with the rise in bicycle use by adults, especially, as city transportation, it could be that that adult fatals now dominate for several reasons. One, simple exposure hours. Two, more complicated infrastructure to negotiate and this done during peak commute hours. Three, inexperienced riders taking up cycling, something some have not done since they got their first car.

From PfB, Michael Andersen's post. 
Short term bumps, 
pretty flat long term trajectory
I wonder if some of the heated rejection of this report, which sadly, tells us to stay sober and wear a helmet as two of its most prominent findings, is that the last few years also happens to be the time when the bike biz and its lobbyists are promoting newfangled city infrastructure and designs (i.e., NACTO, etc) that are supposed to make us safer. But we see that damned uptick. The Gov's study is too shallow to draw any relationship between deaths and anything else, nor does it claim a statistical relevance above random variation, nor are those three years of data even normalized to bike trips, exposure hours, or rainfall in Arizona per year, but there is that glaring, if meaningless correlation. Hmm. Could this be a case of shooting the messenger?

A more useful report would look at those crashes and determine if the kinds of crashes were changing, even if the crashes/trip or crashs/exposure hour are continuing to decline. For example, the Forbes report that Bob Mionske and Rick Bernardi reference says that while nationally, bike commuting rose by 40% between 2000 and 2010, it rose by 77% in some cities. That's almost 8% per year or 23% in three years in high growth cities and 4% per year, 12% in three years overall. Does a fatality rise of 16% in 3 years (5.3%/yr), slightly higher than the overall commute growth rate, mean anything statistically significant?  Perhaps the fatality rate of commuters is higher than for the general cycling population? Perhaps more people are texting while driving?
Stolen from Darren Flusche's post at the LAB

The lesson to me is to look not just at statistics, but at some of the old common sense safety stuff that folks like John Forester have told us and update it to the modern bicycling era. We know new riders and children crash more due to inexperience.  One can usually survive that "I should have been hit" situation with skill sets that include situational awareness and bike handling (famous last words, of course). So rather than just putting new riders on cycletracks, the bike biz needs to do what the motorcycle biz did long ago--actively promote and underwrite adult and childhood cycling education before pushing all those folks onto its vaunted protected facilities. I wish PfB, which is funded by the bike biz, would see the logic in that. That doesn't mean we have to choose infrastructure OR training. We need both, because even in a city with infrastructure, life on two wheels gets complicated.

But really. Cycling is not dangerous, and as individuals, we are not passive statistics. We can ride better and "beat the reaper". Hell, even after a year of taunting fate in the lane of a high speed highway, Cherokee Schill could only be forced off the road by virtue of being tossed in the hoosgow. Go figure.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

"...The League is working towards a world where it doesn’t take courage to ride your bike..."

Did the League throw Cherokee Schill under the bus? Or Not?

Cherokee Schill has lost in her day in court. Now, whither to appeal and where to go? From the discussion on both the LAB site and in Keri Caffrey's long post, which I bookmarked a couple days ago, it seemed that even the prosecution's expert witnesses in Cherokee Schill's trial supported assertions on why she rides like she does on some pretty shitty Kentucky roads. LAB Bicycle Friendly Communities guy Steve Clark says it well here:

 "...Her route? Highway 27, a road with a 50 mile-per-hour speed limit, and a shoulder strewn with debris, gravel and rumble strips that make it very difficult, if not impossible, to ride on safely..."
Note to readers: Read Bikeolounger's comment on the state of this road, which is appended to this post.

Steve Clark asserts that the LAB education program tells cyclists to do what Schill has been ticketed, tried, and convicted of doing in practice. In his discussion, though, League President Andy Clarke says that the League, after discussions with its law team, has decided not to support Schill's appeal, which basically means she has been run off the road by some potentially spurious interpretations of law (see Keri's and Ken McLeod's posts). That said, the League will work to improve conditions for KY cyclists via legislative and regulatory means. That second part is good news. Not so sure about the first part.
I'm actually kinda sympathetic to Andy's position....its a bit like Cherokee's, politically speaking

I'd really like to have seen the members of the LAB legal team, including LAB and BCNM Board member Diane Albert, Esq, and Schill's defense attorney Steve Magas (who won the Selz vs. Trotwood appeal and discusses the Schill case here) publish individual opinions so that we could see the legal details for this decision laid out rather than Mr.Clarke's summary of the League's position. It seems that by publishing a summary, we see a shitstorm of protest in response to Andy's discussion. But without knowing the details as laid out by the legal panel, I'm not willing to opine on whether this was a good or bad move, although a decision by a panel of the League's lawyers should not be dismissed lightly, even for the skeptical.

"When people get into it and look at it a little closer, they realize it's a complicated case," 
"..."I ride on the shoulder in a case like that. ... I'm sympathetic to her as a person, but it's a messy case."

Read more here:
 --Cycling attorney Bob Mionske, as quoted in

Read more here:

Sometimes one doesn't take a case on appeal because one doesn't want to lose, and end up in a worse place than where one started--if the trial judge did not err, then the decision is reinforced at a higher level.  Indeed, states that the judge in this case only required Schill do ride on the shoulder when it was safe to do so. Interesting. But I wonder how a judge who doesn't ride a bike would know when it is safe to do so?  Sometimes one takes a case because it is the best way to force the issue in the direction we want, and that includes better laws. Sometimes one takes a case to refute a miscarriage of justice. On points 2 and 3, this seems to fit the bill. But Steve Magas, the defense lawyer in this case, has opined that even the landmark Selz vs Trotwood, OH case could have gone either way. Indeed, it was a split decision; had it gone the other way, Ohio cyclists would be worse for it.  But so too, as John Schubert, an expert witness at the Schill trial, asked, "...“She (Schill) is the bellwether for: ‘Do we have the right to use the road[way] or not?’ Not when it’s fashionable, not when it’s yuppies in Portland, but when it is a single mom who needs to get to her job."

I'm no fan of taking a lane on a 55 mph road if there is a decent shoulder, but often enough, there is not a rideable shoulder and you gotta do what is just and legal--use the travel lane.  For example, the heavily trafficked commuter section of NM 4 between White Rock and East Jemez Road is posted 50 mph, is nearly shoulderless, and is an unavoidable portion of road for anyone doing the Bandelier Loop or riding without a Dept. of Energy badge between Los Alamos and White Rock. Indeed, living in a place where my own state (New Mexico) has destroyed numerous roadway shoulders through inadequate maintenance paving in the name of financial expediency, I really do think we have to push back on cases like this, whether in court, the court of public opinion, or in the legislatures of the land. Whether KY or NM, the state must provide good roads and fair treatment.

With few exceptions, every road should be a bikeway. Cherokee Schill should be able to ride on the roads that KY provides without going to jail, without the League asserting that it takes "a special act of courage" to ride there and thus invoking that terribly patronizing idea of the "few and fearless" Type A rider, and without KY demanding the rider be as far right in the highway right of way as is practicable, i.e., off the traveled portion of the right of way. Also, if there is something in Andy's post that troubles me, it is the suggestion that this special act of courage " not normal..." and seems to put Ms. Schill outside the mainstream, and somehow easier to decide to not defend. Indeed, Cherokee doesn't ride on shit roads for the love of taunting fate or the state. She does it because there ain't a better option.

Bottom line is what Andy says, even if an appeal would be successful, this will still be a grim ride under present conditions. Plus, one cannot predict what the KY legislature might do. Bottom line is the facility sucks. If there is only one reasonably direct route between towns and it is a high speed, heavily used road, it should have good, paved, unobstructed shoulders or some other contextually-correct, thoughtfully built and efficient way to accommodate cyclists. There are data, FWIW, (e.g., the Solomon Curve) suggesting that very large speed mismatches on highways increase the chances of collisions, hence the problem here. Thus why we require slow moving vehicles to keep right and in some states, require slow moving vehicles to use flashers. It makes sense for cyclists to have a safe place to ride to the right of high speed traffic on busy highways, so why don't we provide such? Of course, that means careful treatment at intersections where turning and crossing countermeasures are needed, etc., etc. But until these roads are improved, we still should have the right to ride on them, warts, potholes, and all, without being relegated to a crap or nonexistent shoulder.
Solomon Curve

If there is good news, its that perhaps LAB and the cycling community can change the law, if not the road, in KY. Not to mention, most of us are fortunate that we don't ride our bikes under such lousy conditions.

But whether LAB should underwrite an appeal? I don't know. LAB needs to lead the way in doing something constructive. What that is? Stay tuned.

Bikeolounger comments here as another expert witness.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Daylight Savings Time Ends Sunday, November 2

Are your lights mounted and in working order?

Monday, October 20, 2014

Alleged Drunk Driver Finally Kills

From today's Albuquerque Journal.  Not sure anyone is re-introducing HB12/68/etc.....Just as Clarence finally got his wings, hopefully Gabriella will finally get her bars.

Dead motorcyclist ID’d; car driver had prior charges

Court records identify Steve Reider, 54, as the man killed early Saturday when a speeding car slammed into his motorcycle in a suspected drunken driving crash at Montgomery and Eubank NE.

Albuquerque police arrested Gabrielle Erin Moya, 20, on charges of vehicular homicide and aggravated driving while intoxicated in connection with the 2:50 a.m. accident. Moya remained in the Metropolitan Detention Center on Sunday in lieu of $200,000 cash or surety bond, according to jail records. 

Moya also faces charges from a drunken driving arrest last month.

Moya was arrested Sept. 20 on charges of aggravated DWI and failure to yield right of way, court records show. She was released on bond after an Oct. 8 hearing.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Pass or Fail, Charter Amendment 2 is no guarantee against folly

Maybe we need to put these in mailboxes
Along with all the meaningless B.S. I've been getting in the mail from various special interest political groups, there is a constant influx of mostly thoughtful letters to Carol Clark's newsblog about the Charter Amendments, particularly Amendment 2, regarding the relationship between the Board of Public Utilities and County Council.

I've not got the strong feelings others have about it although on balance, I remain skeptical, especially in light of Council trying to run around and brand our backsides with e^x. But either way, good governance is not the sole purview of Councillors, Board members, county staff, or the public alone. Good governance only happens when we are all engaged.

A while back, we went through the Second Battle of the Roundabouts on Trinity Drive.  (The Diamond roundabouts being the First Battle of the Roundabouts). The county hired a consulting firm to redesign Trinity Drive and the design focused on roundabouts. Several astute citizens with science and engineering backgrounds (I'll call them the "citizen's committee" until I look up all of their names) were skeptical and started doing their own calculations, going so far as to buy their own copies of the roundabout modelling programs. When they, and finally the Transportation Board (yep, I'll take my lumps because I was chair) repeatedly pressed the county's consultants on details, the consultants were vague on their numbers and uncertainties. Finally, consumed by our own growing doubts and the continued work of the citizen's committee, the Transportation Board insisted on an independent review from one of the two best roundabout engineering firms in the country. The firm substantially agreed with the citizens committee on key shortcomings of the plan and the proposal was given an unceremonious funeral.

So I guess my bottom line is that regardless of the vote, we all need to be engaged and be checks and balances on folly. As far as public utilities, one of my own role models in this regard is former Councilor Robert Gibson, who was arguing for community broadband when the rest of county government was building lavish governmental and golf buildings and then saying we didn't have the funds for broadband. Sigh. As Mr. Gibson says, community broadband is a key 21st Century public utility, and is part of the underlying strength this community needs to build if we are to be a strong enough economic force to support the nice perks we have here, such as beautiful public parks, nice public buildings, and excellent roads and trails to ride on.

County Branding Party?

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

What Most People Don’t Understand About the Cherokee Schill Case

  The story of Cherokee Schill, posted by Keri Caffrey on I Am Traffic, is worth a careful read. Be sure to listen to the interview of John Schubert by the Outspoken Cyclist, which is embedded in Keri Caffrey's story. John was an expert witness at the trial and is a long time cycling advocate and accident reconstruction expert witness.

Cherokee lost her driver's license. So this single mom has been riding her bicycle on a state route in Kentucky, 18 miles one way, to her job as a fork lift operator. She lost 90 lbs in the process. She was arrested for careless driving for riding in the travel lane, and four expert witnesses, two for the prosecution, actually agreed this was the correct course of action as the shoulder was unsafe. The judge disagreed with all four experts and convicted her. I guess its gotten worse since then.

Schubert is right. Nothing is gained if the only cyclists who have a "right" to travel by bicycle are in places like Portlandia. None of us is free unless all of us are free. That's why the Bicycle Coalition of New Mexico took issue with new Santa Fe Police Chief Eric Garcia's past comments criticizing our right to travel on public roads.
“She is the bellwether for: ‘Do we have the right to use the road[way] or not?’ Not when it’s fashionable, not when it’s yuppies in Portland, but when it is a single mom who needs to get to her job.” — John Schubert, expert witness.

Go read the story, and don't get mad, get active.

Also, a good discussion, including numerous comments, on the LAB site.