Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Council (Finally) Notices that Trinity Drive Is A Problem

In the 10 September Los Alamos Monitor, we see Citizens' petition prompts action on 20th and Trinity.  

"...A citizen’s petition submitted by Doris Roberts, owner of All Individual First, has prompted action on getting either a signalized intersection or a HAWK (High Intensity Activated Crosswalk) signal at the corner of 20th Street and Trinity Drive...."

Actually it has long been obvious that the County has been enthusiastically developing destinations on the South side of Trinity (NM-502, owned by the State DoT). In the last decade, we have seen more housing developed, a Laboratory technical area, a satellite of St. Christus Hospital, small businesses, and Smith's Marketplace all added to what was already there. Indeed, the county and LA schools have been eager to cash in on the newly liberated turf that was previously tied down with dilapidated school buildings, thus increasing local public revenues (i.e., cutting down on financial leakage off The Hill) and making BombTown a more balanced place to live. Once TA-21 is cleaned up, we can expect yet more development--hopefully well thought through.

But as anyone who followed the ongoing Trinity Corridor discussion knows, Trinity Drive continues to be a somewhat schizophrenic road. It is both a wide, fast highway carrying commuters and residents on and off the hill and is increasingly a main street in a business district. There are inadequate pedestrian amenities along much of the road, with most of what do exist concentrated on the segment between Smiths Marketplace and 20th Street. Today, I clocked 0.7 miles between the last traffic light at Oppenheimer and the Trinity/Diamond intersection. People wanting to cross at Ashley Pond do so at their own risk. Likewise, there are other long gaps between areas where one can safely cross the street with any street controls. So more examples like the Hawk system are definitely needed, as Trinity Drive has many of the attributes of pedestrian-unfriendly suburban development.

Several years ago when I was Chair of the Transportation Board, I made sure we put into the T Board work plan that the T Board should be working with Planning and Zoning and other agencies to ensure that our road designs are examined to ensure they go hand in hand with surrounding development. Indeed, the whole point of the Designs for Streets and Rights of Way (itself a very contentious product that saw its original drafting committee disbanded before the T Board finally produced product that Council adopted) was to ensure we got the roads to safely support the kinds of activity that surrounding development would create. Sadly, the latest version of the Work Plan had a lot of this language deleted by the Council subcommittee that examines work plans. But on second thought, I shouldn't despair, since even better than language in a work plan is language we have in county government, to wit, from the Designs for Streets and Rights of Way! Here, from the Resolution as passed by Council:

1.1 Street and right of way design and land use decisions shall be mutually reinforcing, to create effective synergy between streets and rights-of-way and land use decisions.

So while I am happy to see Council being prompted to action, as in 7-0 advising Staff to work with the DOT, did we really need a petition to Council to do what our own policy already states in plain language? Did Council want political affirmation from the public? Heck, all one has to do is look at the damn street and the problem is obvious. Pardon my frustration, but we shouldn't still be dicking around with this issue. The last thing we need is to let a Cerrillos Road creep into our midst because we don't put planning ahead of execution.

I'm not all that grumpy at Council, actually, because this has long been a topic of a political nature, as the "Downtown Streets Committee" discovered. More important than the local context, historically, is that the deck has long been stacked against pedestrian needs, especially when a highway enters a town. Ped amenities are often treated as impeding the movement of traffic and "warrants" must be met to impede the Holy Motorist. Until the public changes its attitudes and forces these engineering writs to recognize that when a highway enters a town, peds don't impede traffic but are an equally important part of traffic, these issues will remain gnarly. NMDOT must be one of the agencies that changes.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Adapting SAE reflectors and other stuff

Steve over at DFW Point to Point posted a discussion of using SAE reflectors rather than the stuff available at your local bike shop. I adapted an LED rear light and a 3 inch diameter SAE reflector to a commercial rack using hardware available at the locall Metzger's hardware store. I am sure other creations can be engineered as well.

I use a reflector with a small hole in the middle meant for nailing or screwing to a post. I put a small bolt through the hole and attach the reflector to a right angle bracket that I bolt to a rear rack. In some cases, I drilled a small hole in the rack and used that to screw on the angle bracket. The rear strobe was similarly adapted using a stainless strap on an existing rack. Parts here.

Bottom line is the more ingenious you are the more ways you can put really effective lighting and reflecting on a bicycle. Neale Pickett showed me a very inexpensive and very powerful Cree LED headlight he got online for a fraction of the cost of a genuine bike shop light. Not sure what it was, but it looked a lot like this. There is no good reason to be the Invisible Bicyclist as winter and short days approach.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

When Not To Time Trial.....

I sent this to a couple of the local bike lists.

Yesterday I was riding the moto to work (red BMW with full faring) and passed a cyclist in full kit and backpack riding south on Diamond. He was between Orange/Sandia and Central (where he turned left) in the bike lane. The guy was on his TT bars when I saw him, with elbows on the elbow pads and arms on the clipon aero extensions.

Being in such a position in heavy traffic and where there are numerous side streets and parking lot entrances makes you extremely vulnerable to being hit by a car turning across the bike lane from oncoming or parallel traffic (left cross or right hook crash).  It is far more difficult to immediately brake or or make a quick turn when on clip-ons than when on the drops or brake hoods. Try it. I’ve seen several people clobbered in that location by clueless motorists and have dodged a couple bullets myself using instant turns.

For complicated urban traffic, I suggest riding on the brake hoods (where you are more upright and can see down the road a lot better) or drops, but not on the tops and definitely not on the TT bars. Save the TT bars for the open road.  That is the beauty of clip ons--they don't take the place of regular drop bars, but add the aero position option to the existing choices. 

There are times when the bicycle is definitely not a piece of sports equipment, and this is one of them. Avoid being cut off at intersections and curbcuts by being situationally aware, in a good position to respond with bike handling, and trained to handle your bicycle.  

Good video on preventing right hooks is here thanks to Keri Caffrey.

Khal Spencer

Who, believe it or not, used to race.
League Cycling Instructor

In this video, the cyclist, who initially is tucked down in an aero position and moving fast, finally gets onto the tops when he realizes he is going to be cut off, but is not able to avoid the classic right hook. Remember, in the urban environment, your first priority has to be situational awareness and an expectation that other people will screw up.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Some suggestions for cycling on multiuse paths

Since the county is plannng on continuing the Canyon Rim Trail to the Smith's Marketplace and since there are other trails in the county, some sarcastic words from John Allen about trail/path etiquitte.

Also, this Vimeo,
And, just because.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Mercury in Fish: Consumer Reports Dodges the Truth

Buy More Stuff!
In the October, 2014 Consumer Reports, responding to high levels of mercury (Hg) that is bio-accumulating into top predator, long lived fish stocks, the magazine asks "How does Mercury get into fish?" CU responds with a brief synopsis of how big fish eat little fish and then seemingly blithely comments "Mercury levels in the northern Pacific Ocean have risen about 30 percent over the past 20 years and are expected to rise by 50 percent more by 2050 as industrial emissions increase....".   CU might as well have ended the sentence with "meh".

Are we purposely dodging something important?  The elephant in the room is that the major source of global (as well as U.S.) anthropogenic mercury (Hg) emissions is coal burning, which currently powers the factories in the Far East that build all that cheap shit from you-know-where that CU is constantly evaluating without serious concern for what high levels of consumer consumption mean to the environment. And, the Northern Hemisphere Westerly Winds blow all that Asian industrial pollution over guessed it, the North Pacific.   Indeed, "Coal-burning power plants are the largest human-caused source of mercury emissions to the air in the United States, accounting for over 50 percent of all domestic human-caused mercury emissions (Source: 2005 National Emissions Inventory).".  Well, coal is coal and we know where Far East energy comes from.

I've long had mixed feelings about Consumer Reports, given its selective blindness to the not so hidden costs of human overconsumption of product.  This article, which featured IMAX CEO Richard Gelfond poisoning himself from eating at the top of the fish food chain, didn't help. Rather than suggest less consumption of consumer product, CU tells us to avoid eating certain fish. Mr. Gelfond, according to CU, managed to get his blood Hg up close to 80 micrograms Hg per litre of blood (normal is less than 10) because he could afford a lot of top of the food chain fish and not knowing the consequences, was on a high fish/high mercury/low cholesterol diet. All that saves a lot of us is we don't have the greenbacks to poison ourselves quite so easily.

So it goes.

Sunday, August 31, 2014

Bicycling's "Light Up the Night" Suggestion for a Headlight

Or, Why This Is A Bad Approximation At Best

I was reading through the latest Bicycling issue (October, 2014). On page 26 is a one pager on lights and reflective stuff. Interestingly, the article states that a 100 lumen headlight should work "for most situations". But then down in the lower right hand corner of the page is a little picture that is titled "the right light" and which suggests that a 100 lumen light is good to a range of ten feet while a 500 lumen light illuminates to 50 feet and 1000 plus lumens to 75-100 feet.

Ten feet?? A commuter cyclist riding at 10 mph covers ten feet in about two thirds of a second. Assuming Bicycling has its numbers right on light range, 2/3 of a second is barely time to think "oh, shit" as you note the pothole or piece of lumber you are about to hit.

There is a lot more to lighting then lumens and more to this story than lumens. For one, the shape of the beam and thus the focusing lens determines how the light is distributed, which affects lux, which is actually more important.  Lux is a measure of how brightly something is illuminated, i.e., lumens per square meter, so a light that puts all of its lumens in a narrow beam will illuminate brightly for a longer distance but leave anything west or east of dead ahead in blackness. A well shaped beam concentrates illumination where you need it rather than in the eyes of oncoming traffic or out into space.The link from the Appalachian Mountain Club used the example of a full moon illuminating the earth to about 0.25 lux. Likewise, not all of us have equally good night vision and some of us need more lux than others. Luck, too. So let the buyer do some serious R and D before purchase.

But just taking that little graphic in the corner of pg 26 at face value, what can one say about how much light you need to get out to a distance of say, 1 to 3 seconds. 1 to 3 seconds is the broad measure of human reaction time in traffic. So what really matters to avoid that pothole is to be able to see it in time to do something besides hit it. I put Bicycling's range vs. lumens into a graph and used that relationship to solve for a 1 to 3 second range at various speeds. This is what I got.

Bicycling's 3 points put on a graph

At a given speed (abscissa), the number of lumens (ordinate) will, in Bicycling's model, illuminate the road 1 to 3 seconds ahead
As Stuart mentions in the comments, the linearity in Bicycling's article is a little strange given that if you assume the light is illuminating to a given distance and that the beam widens with an angle, say, theta, the area illuminated increases with the square of distance. Hence, you should need lumens to go up as the square of distance at constant lux. Is that correct? My hunch is that Bicycling's numbers are not rigorously scientific, but rough estimates as to what works. But I'd be surprised if it should be linear.

Mind you, this is more of a thought exercise and not hard and fast advice, but if you are thinking of buying a light (and Fall is coming up fast), you need to think about how fast you are going, the roads you are on, and therefore, how far out you need to see. You also need to think about whether you need a light that distributes light side to side (to avoid those raccoons darting out from the side of the road, etc).  That is a highly individualized decision and goes far beyond "...should work for most situations".

Other stuff on this blog having something to do with lights.