Sunday, September 30, 2007

Neon? Tron?

Not sure this qualifies as neon, but its more fun to ride than to write about it. Bye for now, and please join LA Bikes!

Friday, September 28, 2007

Vision Zero: Zero Traffic Deaths?

Some interesting reading on the subject of traffic safety.


By Neal Peirce

Vision Zero-- no more deaths from highway accidents.
The idea was born in Sweden, where its had spectacular success in reducing traffic fatalities. Now zeroing out all traffic fatalities must become an explicit U.S. and worldwide goal. Otherwise we have no prospect of taming the appalling roadway death toll -- 42,000 lives lost yearly in the United States, close to 1.2 million worldwide....

Wednesday, September 26, 2007

You light up my life? (bicycle lights, that is).

Its getting to be the time of year when commuter cyclists need to dig out their lighting systems. Mine is a decade old, so I am thinking of upgrading or replacing.

My pet peeve right now is that many bike catalogs do not clearly compare all their lighting products with useful units. Some lights are only listed with power consumed (watts) while others list lumens or candlepower. What we clearly need are good data. Illumination, such as in lumens. Power available, i.e. lighting duration in watt hours or whatever. And, beam pattern and useability.

I am looking for good reviews with this information and will post what I find. If you find a good source, please add to the discussion under the comments section. I also emailed Consumer Reports and suggested they test and rate high-zoot bicycle lights. Scott has a great HID light. Not sure the multi-LEDs have caught up in light quality.

here are a few sources of info, not sure all are up to date.

By all means, make sure you are visible out there. While many riders use taillights or reflectors and bright clothing, you need to make sure you have actual forward illumination, not just reflection. A car turning across your path will not illuminate your front reflector or clothing until it is too late, since their headlights have to be pointed at you to reflect light back to the driver.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Why I Teach

In his book Effective Cycling John Forrester proposes the concept of "Cyclist Inferiority Complex". He asserts that it is responsible for cyclists doing dumb things like weaving in and out of parked cars or riding the wrong way down the street. It causes cyclists to mistakenly assume that cars are attracted to bicycles, and cyclists are safer if they avoid cars at any cost. Unfortunately, "riding as though you were invisible" goes hand in hand with being invisible, and cyclists who avoid cars wind up surprising drivers when they inevitably cross paths (at a driveway, say, or when going around a parked car). Cyclist Inferiority Complex feeds on itself by encouraging unsafe behavior; unsafe behavior begets injuries; injuries beget the feeling that cycling is dangerous.

As has been confirmed time and time again, nobody wants to run into anybody or anything. By making yourself visible and clearly demonstrating where you're headed, you help everybody achieve their goal of not hitting you. Teaching cyclists that they belong in the road with the rest of traffic,and why it's safer and more enjoyable, seems to kill Cyclist Inferiority Complex. As a result, students who pass LAB Road I (the class I call "The Art of Cycling") are safer, more confident, more relaxed, and more predictable on their bikes. And that's why I teach.

The more cyclists we have riding out in the road, acting predictably and responsibly, the better it's going to get for everyone.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Looking for a solution to the animosity

If the discussion in the Monitor had a positive outcome for me, it is an attempt to reconcile the animosity with a solution. Mr. Ragsdale and others like him don't want to share the road. Cyclists want to be able to ride free from harassment. Both are held hostage to a bad paradigm.

Two issues overlap.

First is attitude. Negative attitudes and stereotypes reinforce each other. A cyclist harassed into getting off the road will ride with less respect for others than one who is offered respect in return. A motorist who is flipped off or who has to dodge imbecilic riding will not offer respect to cyclists. As you can see, this is a downward spiral.

Break the pattern.

Second is facilities. If lousy facilities put everyone on edge, people are more likely to want to find fault with each other since we are typically stressed out anyway. So if a narrow road lacks shoulders and someone in an F150 comes over a blind rise or around a curve and into a stressful situation, one will want to find fault. If a cyclist is told it is his/her fault for simply being there, one will want to find fault.

The answer is that we need to respect each other. This means not blaming each other for things beyond our control, trying to accomodate each other, and designing roads that do not drive us crazy. The last of these is called the Complete Streets movement: in this case, put a paved shoulder on NM 4.

It is up to all of us to get out of our own skins and treat each other with some additional respect. For example, West Jemez has a lot of blind rises. These may not be apparent to cyclists due to our slower speed. They are obvious to 55 mph motorists--I have carefully considered them when I drive. Try to ride in consideration of the bloke who has topped one of these rises and suddenly runs into a disorganized double paceline which is spread all over the road. For the motorist, drive the speed limit so when you run into this gaggle, you have some non-fatal options.

See the world (and the road) from someone else's shoes. Respect each other, fix what is broken, and improve our community.

We called that the Traffic Justice movement at last summer's Pro-Bike/Pro-Walk. I'd like to talk about that to who ever will listen.

Final comments on Mr. Ragsdale's letter?

Reasons for printing letter not good

Dear Editor,

First, I would like to thank Khalil Spencer for an excellent letter to the Monitor on Sept. 13 in response to the juvenile and antagonistic Ragsdale letter. I was stunned by the publication of the first letter and contacted the editor/publisher. I wish to comment on a few reasons he gave for publishing the Ragsdale letter.

First, he cited the right to freedom of speech. However, I believe this freedom does not permit infringement on the rights of others.

Every person should be incensed if a letter referred to an ethnic group as "targets for the Sportmen's Club." Yet, similar injurious terminology ("mobile hood ornaments") was published in reference to cyclists. This is blatant discrimination with hostile intent, which threatens the rights of cyclists to the road.

Second, the editor claimed to be encouraging debate. However, I challenge that no healthy debate was ever initiated with insults. Such "debates" collapse into shouting matches that inevitably end with an injury or death. There was no kernel of useful debate material in the Ragsdale letter. It was simply an unsettling verbal assault on a part of our community.

Finally, the editor claimed the Ragsdale letter may have been an attempt at humor. However, those who have been threatened by drivers while on the bicycle, or who knew someone killed by a hostile or careless driver, cannot laugh about this threat to their physical well-being.

I am disappointed in any person who finds humor in the injury of others.

Please don't seek a violent outlet against another for the discouraging climate within our county. We, as a community, all face similar frustrations. Let us not add senseless acts of violence to our list of challenges right now. And I ask the Monitor to not encourage such destructive modes of thinking.

Lisa Dougherty

Los Alamos

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Let the sun shine in...

Well, folks. Interesting newspaper today in Los Alamos.

Perhaps Tom Ragsdale's letter in the Los Alamos Monitor (appended below after the responses) was the best thing that ever happened to cycling and civil discourse in Los Alamos.

The responses to his hateful tirade were universally bike friendly, and spanned the breadth of discourse from a Ten Commandments of cycling and motoring rules, written by one of cycling instructor Neale Pickett's recent Road I grads, to a discussion of hate speech as it applies to cyclists, blacks, and gays, written by a local resident. Both are quite important.

I am especially happy that someone else picked up on the hate speech angle. I had a discussion with the Monitor owner/publisher on that topic, but he had already agreed to publish one of my letters and not two of them. In retrospect, my concern at the balance of wisdom of publishing hateful speech was vindicated in favor of free speech when the hate speech was blasted by the community. As former ACLU Ex. Director Ira Glasser used to say, the best medicine for bad ideas is letting the disinfecting sunlight shine in on the rot.

Let the sun shine in.


Negative letters serve no value

Dear Editor,

Publishing letters with currents of violence barely concealed in them does not help our nation or community. For some reason, "traditional values" voices are often allowed a level of anger beyond any civil discourse in this country, and such is the voice of Thomas Ragsdale in your Sept. 10 letters page. His expressed attitudes are identical to precursor dialogs of countless past hate crimes, and we expect better of the Monitor than to propagate same.

I trust other writers will address the thin substance of Mr. Ragsdale's remarks; here I will not give them the credence of further discussion. But in the future, please don't imitate the Limbaugh-Imus-Coulter axis by broadcasting the seething hatreds of our "Back to the Good Old Days" citizens. We'd appreciate you, instead, moderating a reasonable dialogue in our well-balanced community. Let's keep the James Byrd and Matthew Shephard horror stories in Texas and Wyoming; New Mexico and the United States deserve better.

Mark E. Dunham

Los Alamos

All vehicles need to share the road

Dear Editor,

As both a cyclist and a motorist, I understand where John Pawlak and Tom Ragsdale come from. But it is important to remember the simple issue of respect.

Motorists should respect the right of the cyclist to be on the road, while the cyclist should respect and be aware of the dangers posed by being there. This includes, but is not limited to, being passed by angry and obnoxious drivers.

I think it is important to take a step back (maybe even take some deep breaths) and consider some safety precautions for traveling on the road, whatever your vehicle may be.


The same laws that apply to motorists apply to cyclists. Obey all traffic control devices.

Use hand signals to indicate stops and turns to other users.

Always ride in the same direction as traffic. Use the furthest right lane that heads to your destination. Slower moving cyclists and motorists stay to the right.

Ride in a straight line. Don't swerve in the road or between parked cars. Check for traffic before entering street or intersection.

Anticipate hazards and adjust your position accordingly

Wear brightly colored clothing that provides contrast. Use a white front light in low light conditions. Use a red rear light in low light conditions. Use a reflector or reflective tape or clothing anytime. Announce yourself by making eye contact with motorists.


Reduce speed when encountering cyclists. Don't tailgate, especially in bad weather.

Recognize hazards cyclists may face and give them space.

Bicycles are considered vehicles. Cyclists should be given the appropriate right of way. Allow extra time for cyclists to traverse intersections.

Scan for cyclists in traffic and at intersections. Do not blast your horn in close proximity to cyclists. Look for cyclists when opening doors.

When passing, leave four feet between you and a cyclist. Wait for safe road and traffic conditions before you pass. Check over your shoulder before moving back.

I recently attended a fabulous biking class (here in town!) taught by Neale Pickett, an experienced cyclist and member of the League of American Bicyclists, with an actual curriculum.

It opened my eyes to safe cycling, and safe driving, since I now know both sides of the situation. It would be useful for cyclists and motorists alike, and I encourage everyone to take it. Contact Neale at Also, visit

Emily Powell

White Rock

Look and be considerate

Dear Editor,

In response to Tom Ragsdale's article: First off, automobile drivers must be responsible. Bikes have the same rights as any motor vehicle. Cars should give bikes the same courtesy as if they were cars. It is their right. If you wouldn't pass another car, don't pass the bike.

I've been run over by a car once. That's enough. The car turned into a side street as I was passing the side street. I heard the girls yelling "you hit a bike" as I was hanging beneath the car being dragged along the road.

Just think about that when you are passing a bike. It's usually the idiots in the cars that think the same way as you do.

James Lindsay

Los Alamos

Show respect to all others

Dear Editor,

Dear fellow bicyclists: Watch out for Mr. Ragsdale.

Don Krier

Los Alamos

'Mobile hood ornaments'?

Dear Editor,

You chose to publish a letter by Mr. Tom Ragsdale that is inflammatory, hostile, offensive and threatening ("mobile hood ornaments"). It is laced with name-calling and is therefore poor journalism. Surely the Monitor is not encouraging hostility toward law-abiding cyclists?

I think an apology from the Monitor to the Los Alamos County cycling community is in order. The last thing we need in Los Alamos right now, given the challenges we may face in the next year from potential loss of jobs from our principle employer, is more misdirected anger, especially anger which can be turned into road rage.

As far as N.M. 4: Shoulderless roads are a hazard to everyone, whether it be a driver who has to pull off the road with a disabled vehicle, a pedestrian walking from a disabled vehicle, or a cyclist trying to get where he or she is going.

This road needs to be fixed, but until then, we must operate on it safely. Road rage, as it happens, contradicts safety. I am a little miffed that you allow your paper to be used for such inflammatory nonsense.

As far as ignoring the vehicle and traffic code? The Monitor's Police Beat is routinely dominated by moving violations committed by motorists. There is nothing constructive in having the pots call the kettles black.

Khalil J. Spencer

Former Transportation Board member

Los Alamos

And, the original.

First off, bicyclists must be responsible

Dear Editor,

In his letter of Sept. 6, John Pawlak opines that the local drivers do not show proper reverence to the local bicycle aficionados. He even goes so far as to remind us once again that some twit made it into law that these mobile hood ornaments are given the same rights and responsibilities as a motor vehicle (though, strangely, I never see them keeping up the responsibilities end of that arrangement as they breeze through stop signs and traffic lights), citing 66-3-702 of the state code.

Unfortunately, Mr. Pawlak stopped reading the statute a bit too soon. If he had pressed on to 66-3-705-C, he would have found that "Notwithstanding any provision of this section, no bicycle shall be operated on any roadway in a manner that would create a public safety hazard."

On a two-lane highway with a very narrow shoulder, such as N.M. 4, any encounter with one of these gasping gits dressed as a reject from "Tron" is a safety hazard. Some probably experience a wonderful thrill when faced with a Buick approaching at 50 miles per hour in the wrong lane as it swerves around one of these rolling senses of entitlement, but I am not such a thrill-seeker.

Having repeatedly stress-tested my brakes coming around the curves of N.M. 4, and finding myself forced to choose between an oncoming truck or a panting, day-glo clad lawsuit, my sympathies lie entirely with the motorists Mr. Pawlak described expressing their anger at being forced to suffer these fools.

Tom Ragsdale

White Rock

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Shooting one's self in the foot (or pedal, I suppose)

Cyclists will always have to deal with the occasional Ragsdale letter. As Neale said, we are fortunate that Los Alamos is actually a pretty nice community from the standpoint of cycling. Furthermore, roads under County jurisdiction are becoming more bike-friendly and even those roads which are not overtly bike-friendly (State Road 4) have sufficiently low volume that it usually isn't a problem.

Of a more serious note than the occasional letter to the editor are some of the behaviors that lead motorists to think cyclists are a little, um, different. Today while leaving CMR, I saw a cyclist riding down the wrong side of Diamond Drive, directly into oncoming traffic (and to make matters worse, there is no shoulder).

There are two problems. One is giving the public the impression that cyclists are daft. Face it, a cyclist riding down the wrong side of the street straight into the teeth of an oncoming car is a little more obvious than a motorist driving 8 mph over the speed limit. The second is that such behavior is more likely to land you in the ER than proper vehicular cycling. John Forester (Effective Cycling) said it best: Cyclists fare best when they behave as the operators of vehicles. Most of the needed concepts can be had from your motor vehicle manual as well as on the web (such as on John Allen's web page . Specific laws regarding cycling can be found here, at least for Los Alamos.

Let's be smart and careful out there.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Why I love cycling here

So, gang, what do you think of the Ragsdale letter? Here's my response:

Be it for work or errands, I'm on my bicycle almost every day of the year, in the road as has been repeatedly shown safer in studies (Moritz 1998, to name one). For the last three years I've been counting how many times I'm harassed by motorists. The startling number: 5 shouts or honks in 3 years. In the last year, it's only happened once (not counting the truck full of high school girls who shouted "you're hot").

Los Alamos is the friendliest town I've ever had the pleasure to cycle in. Motorists are courteous and friendly to me, sometimes even rolling down the window to chat while we're waiting for the light to change.

Mr. Ragsdale's letter, fittingly published on September 11, uses scary imagery and name-calling in an attempt to terrorize current and would-be cyclists into forsaking their bicycles. If more than a handful of county residents were the sorts of hotheads with whom Mr. Ragsdale sympathizes, maybe he would have a point. But if his letter does anything, it will evoke a sense of solidarity: the calm and polite county residents I've met own bikes in addition to cars (some are pedestrians, too!), and neither cyclists nor motorists are fond of swerving, angry drivers.

Perhaps Mr. Ragsdale has just been cooped up in his car for too long and would benefit from some fresh air and exercise. A nice bike ride would be just what the doctor ordered!

Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Saturday rides

Starting this weekend, I'm going to start leading weekly relaxed rides around the county. Meet Saturdays, at 9:00 at Urban Park between the tennis courts and the picnic tables, and we'll figure out a route based on who shows up and what they want to do. We might just cruise around town, we might head out toward Bandelier.

I'll have my 2½-year-old daughter in a trailer, so please, don't expect to go fast.