Sunday, November 30, 2008

Diamond Drive: Before and After


Well, I said I would wait for the barrels to be gone but got impatient to get this post up. So here it is: Diamond Drive recreated. These photos were taken at approximately the same place--about a hundred feet or so West of the golf course crosswalk near 35th Street. The first photo was taken in January of 2004 before work began to improve Diamond Drive, and the second on 28 Nov. 2008, when almost all of the work on Phase II has been completed. Note the bike and ped friendly improvements: bike lanes rather than the ditch, the bus refuge for our new bus system, and the new sidewalks as well as the pedestrian refuge in the middle of the road. And, better signage and oncoming traffic separation. Click on the pics for higher resolution.



Still not sure I admire the huge footprint of the road--most of the time the asphalt is relatively empty; even during rush hour its not so heavy compared to a "real" rush hour, i.e., New York, San Franciso, Albuquerque, Honolulu, etc. I think a three-lane "road diet" would have more than sufficed to move the number of people we have here with minimal inconvenience.

But at least for cyclists and pedestrians, its a considerable improvement to Los Alamos, considering that Diamond Drive connects virtually all of our housing and businesses to each other (see below). This critical "complete streets" improvement should, when all four phases are complete, encourage more cycling without the lane-changing chores for motorists overtaking cyclists, cyclists having concerns of riding in busy vehicle traffic lanes, or cyclists being forced into nasty situations such as that old gutter! Having said that, bike lanes and crosswalks are not magic bullets: cyclists need to exhibit skill to ride safely, peds need to be alert, and motorists must abide by the law and respect other users sharing the roads.

Thanks go out to all of those involved for these improvements going from the drawing board, through the planning process, and out to the asphalt and concrete world.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

My response to the LAB anti-hate speech solicitation

Dear Andy, Elizabeth, and Jeff
League of American Bicyclists Executive Staff

Just read the solicitation letter on responding to and addressing the hate on the Internet and elsewhere. Fine as far as it goes.

We are running into a problem larger than cyclists alone. A letter to the editor in the Los Alamos Monitor was written by a local resident who, walking into County offices to vote early, heard two men say, one to the other, "you aren't going to vote for the n*gg*r, are you? ". The letter-writer was perhaps as naive as cyclists regarding undercurrents of hate?

The rise of anonymous forums on the Internet and to inflammatory radio has lead to people feeling free to say crap they would never dare to if they had to sign their names or have their faces seen in the newspaper. Perhaps from our perspective that is good--we get to see the worst of the hate speech which otherwise is underground.

On the other hand, I don't buy that perspective. I think the rise of anonymous hate speech reinforces it, due to the "me too" effect. You cannot reason with or confront a fictitious name for an Internet troll in Topix, etc. I've really gotten disgusted with organizations such as Topix which get their income by fanning anonymous hate. Our local paper, the New Mexican, has tossed its lot in with Topix. Too bad, since our previous forum kept it reasonably civil because we were all real people. The level of discourse has recently gone into and beyond the toilet bowl.

One antidote I advise is making our own faces public. When I walk into the County offices to chair our County Transportation Board meetings, its often with my bicycle, and I toss bike and helmet in the corner, walk to the nearest rest room, and come out in street clothes as Clark Kent. At work, a cyclist is chair of our LANL-wide traffic safety committee and is active in other safety issues on the technical side.

So it is obvious that I am a cyclist. You want to hate me? Take a good look. I look just like you do. Its a little tougher when we put a human face on it. Get more people active in their community as public ambassadors for the greater good--not just the cycling good.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

On reducing friction between motorists and cyclists

This post was offered by Fred Meredith on the League Cycling Instructor e-list as a suggestion for increasing cyclist-noncyclist (i.e., motorist) cooperation from the cycling perspective. The context was addressing and reducing anti-cycling attitudes. Fred has been a writer, a nuclear reactor operator, college student, and trainer of League Cycling Instructors. He rides bikes a lot, too; check out his web site.

Read on.

From Fred:

All of us out there on the road, regardless of the vehicle we are "driving," have the same needs that apply in the rest of our lives. We need to be acknowledged and we need to be validated.

When you ride in the traffic lane whether alone or in a pack, if you never turn and look at the roaduser behind you until you need to make a course change, you are not doing much to acknowledge their presence.

Unless the roaduser behind you understands about helmet and eyeglass-mounted mirrors and spots yours, they have no assurance that you know they are there. Acknowledging their presence is important.

Why?

If, upon their approach behind you, you do not acknowledge their presence by a look back in their direction or a change in your behavior (a move toward the shoulder, a singling up of the group or a cooperative hand signal, whichever is appropriate), you not only fail to acknowledge their presence, but you fail to validate their right to be there and the right of faster traffic to receive cooperation from slower traffic, when possible, to help facilitate their progress.

Acknowledgment and validation are COOPERATIVE behaviors. Appearing to totally ignore the needs of any overtaking roadusers is none of the above. It is often interpreted as defiant, hostile and self centered (like motorists who race up a vanishing lane to get in front of everyone else on their daily commute -- it's about them, and nobody else.)

Even though I am a cyclist, when I am driving and come up behind a group of cyclists, or even a single rider who makes no indication that they know I am there or care whether I am being impeded "unnecessarily," I feel some negative thoughts creeping in. I can only describe those feelings as righteous indignation that builds as the duration of the "ignoring" grows longer.

In cyclist vs. cyclist terms, the feeling is similar to what I feel when I give a nod, a wave or a verbal greeting to another rider (traveling either direction) and they respond by totally ignoring me. No return acknowledgment. I usually think of them as snobby SOBs even though I know their brothers and sisters will come to their defense with excuses like, "They are so focused on their training that they probably didn't see you." Yeah, right, focused. More likely it is that I have a rack trunk or a pannier on my bike and I'm wearing a bright yellow t-shirt instead of a jersey.

I have a theory that THESE individuals are some of the prime candidates for pissing off motorists.

As they tick off the number of negative incidents they have with motorists, they will insist that they have done nothing wrong to provoke such reactions. Well, maybe so, but they haven't done enough right, either.

Part of being professional out there on the road, is being cooperative and working with others to keep the situation safe and flowing.

This is long enough for this post. Some time in the future I will expand on my theory like explaining how one cooperative act is an acknowledgment and two successive cooperative acts (with the same motorist) becomes a validation. The former may get a friendly wave, but the latter almost always will.

Fred (ruthlessly longwinded) Meredith

When in doubt … ride your bike, or at least write about it.

Fred Meredith
P.O. Box 100*
Manchaca, TX 78652

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

The Phase II Bike Lanes liveth, sort of

Well, its nice to have the Diamond Drive "phase two" section of bike lanes finished...sort of. I say "sort of" because until the actual construction is completely finished, barrels removed, and the lanes swept of all the gravel and grunge, they are still a tad lousy to ride in. Also, some of the pavement appears to have been hammered by heavy equipment.

Patience is a virtue, I guess.

But there is a down side. During the worst of the construction, I found that it was much more fun and peaceful to ride around through the back roads on my way to and from work. Added a little over a mile and considerably more climbing each way. After a few months of this, I found I was climbing Arizona in a bigger gear.

Well, with Conoco Hill no longer a chore, I'm back to the main road. Its just too easy (read lazy) to spend an extra ten or fifteen minutes checking email and drinking coffee in the morning. I guess there goes all that extra training...back to big cogs...darn.

As far as the current striping at the Conoco Hill Intersection. Some questions have arisen as to whether the striping was done "correctly", i.e. should the bike lane end, become dashed, or be solid striped right to the intersection. According to Jill Carothers, this is not the final striping and when the final top coat of pavement is added next year (when it gets warm out), the lane will be re-marked and stenciled along with the Phase III work. See below for details.

Meanwhile, on riding in this morning, I noticed that the car lanes have a stop line about six feet shy of the ped line, while the bike lane is not striped with a stop line before the ped line. That actually works in our favor, because it allows a cyclist to get an advanced position ahead of a motorist stopped prior to making a right on red. I would advise cyclists approaching the light on a red light to take an aggressive position to the leftmost part of the bike lane and stop right at the ped line. That makes you visible and gives you a ROW jump.

As far as potential right hooks? Yeah, I am worried. I think we will need to be vigilant and watch to see how the situation develops.

I'll make a further comment here as a cyclist, as well as an LCI. Its hard for me to see exactly where the bike lane ends as I ride south off of Conoco Hill and into the left curve by the First Baptist Church. Having the last segment dashed and maybe add an arrow pointing left would help me (and presumably others) figure out that The End (of the bike lane) Is Near, and I can start signalling my lane change before I run out of lane and risk freaking out motorists. I try to key in on that driveway into the other church, just past the Conoco station, and use that as a visual cue to merge left.

I do plan on posting a before and after picture of one location that always gave me the creeps. Will do that as soon as the barrels are gone.

Now, here is Jill's email, with a minor editorial addition via yours truly. A final, "official" copy will go out from Jill to the LA Monitor. I'll re-edit this post when that comes out and put the final copy in here, too.

Khal & Neale,

I just talked to Rey, Kyle, and Alipio Mondragon, Traffic Division Manager, and they confirmed that the bike lanes throughout the entire project are/will be official bike lanes.

Phase II bike lanes do not have the dashes leading up to intersections or bike symbols yet because there is still another layer of road surface (Open Graded Friction Course, OGFC) to be applied to the entire phase; however, the current lane marking and posted signs do meet all traffic regulations.

OGFC is the top mat that will help even out the driving surface, make the drive smooth and quiet, etc... The two layers that have been placed are completely functional and structurally sound; the OGFC layer will just make the drive nicer. The decision was made to wait until next spring/early summer to place this final layer due to temperature requirements. If the OGFC were placed in undesirable temperature conditions...i.e. too cold... the material would peel off; loose material and "holes" would be on the roadway, similar to the situation at the San Ildefonso Roundabout this previous year. We have chosen to prevent that scenario.

The permanent bike lane markings and striping will be placed once the OGFC mat has been laid. This work will be included in the Phase III contract for next year.

Hope this answers your questions. Please let me know if you think of anything else.

Thanks!

Jill Carothers
Senior Office Specialist
Public Works Department
Los Alamos County

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Bicyclist dies in Las Cruces

"...Trujillo said the best thing cyclists can do to avoid injury is do their best to avoid a crash all together...."

Can someone please ask Officer Trujillo how a bicyclist can avoid a crash if he/she is lawfully riding in broad daylight and is hit from behind? How can you "not see" a cyclist at four in the afternoon? The wording of this article concerns me.

A substantial number of cyclists in Los Alamos simply do not trust that the police can adequately enforce lawful vehicle operation nor do they trust motorists to pay attention to their driving. This is a bright, shining example of why.

Bicyclist dies after Telshor accident

By Jose L. Medina Sun-News reporter
Article Launched: 11/13/2008 12:11:42 AM MST



LAS CRUCES — A bicyclist on his way to work was struck by a vehicle Tuesday afternoon and later died at an El Paso hospital.

Anthony Lemieux, 45, was riding his bike about 4 p.m., traveling southbound near the 500 block of Telshor Boulevard, when he was hit from behind by a 2006 Chevy Aveo, police spokesman Dan Trujillo said.

The driver of the Aveo, 23-year-old Stephanie Parra-Perez, was on her way to work as well.

Trujillo was unsure where Lemieux worked or if he was wearing a helmet. The cyclist was transported to Thomason Hospital where he died, police said.

Parra-Perez said she did not see Lemieux prior to the crash, police said.

The crash remained under investigation Wednesday and there was no immediate word on whether charges would be filed or citations issued.

"It's pretty sad, it's scary," said Jesse Johnson, an avid cyclist and employee at Outdoor Adventures. "Everybody here commutes to work (on a bicycle) every day. It could have been anyone of us. It could happen."

Avid cyclists like Johnson said that news of the fatality was not surprising in a town that Johnson considers unfriendly to cyclists.

"They're kind of ignorant to cyclists on the road and kind of oblivious," cyclist Ryan Blickem said of Las Cruces drivers. "Not that they're malicious or anything, it's just they don't really notice you or take the time to see you."

Both Johnson and Blickem said Las Cruces is also unsafe for cyclists because there are very few shoulders or

bicycle lanes on city streets. The portion of road where Lemieux was struck lacks such features.
Trujillo said the best thing cyclists can do to avoid injury is do their best to avoid a crash all together.
"That means they should follow all applicable laws, and more importantly, the common sense rules of the road: ride defensively, do all they can to make themselves visible to other riders and motorists, and avoid heavily congested areas if at all possible," Trujillo said.
Trujillo also urged motorists to be considerate and share the road with bicyclists.
Trujillo said Lemieux's was the second traffic-related fatality of the year within the city's limits.

Jose Medina can be reached at jmedina@lcsun-news.com; (575) 541-5447

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Law Officer's Guide to Bicycle Safety

Some nice bicycling safety videos here.
http://massbike.org/police/

Welcome and Overview
Welcome to the Law Officer's Guide to Bicycle Safety. In 2002, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) awarded a grant to MassBike to develop a national program to educate police departments about laws relating to bicyclists. Initial seed money for the project was provided by the Charles River Wheelmen. The program is intended to be taught by law enforcement officers to law enforcement officers as a stand-alone resource. The major objective of the program is to give law enforcement officers of all backgrounds the tools they need to properly enforce the laws that affect bicyclists. The program focuses on all police officers, including those who may not be interested in bicycling or who are not able to attend in-depth trainings. The program will also be useful to police departments who wish to do outreach to the bicycle community or other organizations.

NHTSA is currently restructuring the program so that police can receive continuing education credit for completing it. The materials MassBike developed are available here for free downloading by interested citizens, officers, and advocacy groups.

If you would like a complete CD with all of MassBike's police training materials, please send a check for $15 to MassBike at the address listed at the bottom of this page, along with a note indicating that you would like to purchase the CD.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

Lights


I had a harrowing ride through the construction zone the other day, as even my 15 watt NiteRider halogen light was inadequate to pierce the visual clutter in the face of oncoming headlights. I was worried that if there was something lurking in the road, I'd find it the hard way.

So when I noted one of the national catalog stores had a twenty percent off sale on headlights, I bit. A new HID Light and Motion headlight is on its way here. While the newest versions of LED and HID have higher output, this one is supposed to put out 550/675 lumens, way more than my old beast.

I'm sure there are other great lights out there and this is not an endorsement for any one model, but it was on sale already and had an additional discount applied. I'm cheap. These lights cost an arm and a leg, but so does a bad crash. Lights are better than the alternative, which is not being seen or knowing what is waiting for you out there.

So the NiteRider will be returned to its original configuration: a ten watt spot beam, and mounted as a backup light on my helmet.