Tuesday, March 30, 2010

If this is a pothole, bring 'em on...

Picture of Diamond Drive bike lane, looking ...umm..west, at this location (thanks for the correction, Stuart).

Secretary LaHood has gotten quite a bit of grief from the usual suspects after his policy statement supporting cycling as transportation (see some responses here). Interestingly, an AP story making the rounds on various news outlets posts a picture of our very own Diamond Drive bike lane as an example of the kind of features we might see under Sec. LaHood's tenure. This pic has appeared on Google, ABC news, and elsewhere. The ABC News story shows this picture under the caption "Transportation's Bicycle Policy Hits Potholes"

Heck, if readers see this picture as representing "potholes", bring 'em on! How can they resist this policy? Readers might think that bicycling is positively idyllic. The policy and link is below:

United States Department of Transportation Policy Statement on Bicycle and Pedestrian Accommodation Regulations and Recommendations

Signed on March 11, 2010 and announced March 15, 2010

Policy Statement

The DOT policy is to incorporate safe and convenient walking and bicycling facilities into transportation projects. Every transportation agency, including DOT, has the responsibility to improve conditions and opportunities for walking and bicycling and to integrate walking and bicycling into their transportation systems. Because of the numerous individual and community benefits that walking and bicycling provide — including health, safety, environmental, transportation, and quality of life — transportation agencies are encouraged to go beyond minimum standards to provide safe and convenient facilities for these modes.


This policy is based on various sections in the United States Code (U.S.C.) and the Code of Federal Regulations (CFR) in Title 23—Highways, Title 49—Transportation, and Title 42—The Public Health and Welfare. These sections, provided in the Appendix, describe how bicyclists and pedestrians of all abilities should be involved throughout the planning process, should not be adversely affected by other transportation projects, and should be able to track annual obligations and expenditures on nonmotorized transportation facilities.

Recommended Actions

The DOT encourages States, local governments, professional associations, community organizations, public transportation agencies, and other government agencies, to adopt similar policy statements on bicycle and pedestrian accommodation as an indication of their commitment to accommodating bicyclists and pedestrians as an integral element of the transportation system. In support of this commitment, transportation agencies and local communities should go beyond minimum design standards and requirements to create safe, attractive, sustainable, accessible, and convenient bicycling and walking networks. Such actions should include:

Cyclist Greeting Standard

While driving my family to Sonic yesterday, I saw Khal pedalling up Diamond. I recognized him from a good 600 feet away based on--get this--his gait. I knew it had to be Khal based on his high, steady cadence. I felt like I should shoot him a friendly "hi", but how? Honking would probably be the worst thing to do. Yelling would be second worst (yelling at a cyclist from a car sounds a lot like "blaamafaafuh!" to the cyclist, regardless of what you yell).

Then it hit me, how about a shaka sign? shaka sign

This means "hang loose" to most Americans, which at least when I was in a desert elementary school in the 80's vaguely meant "enjoy your physical activity". It doesn't demand the attention of the cyclist: either they see it or they don't. It makes the temporarily car-bound person feel like they're still in the cycling community--and let's face it, a high percentage of this town is in that community. Lastly, if someone else on the road sees it, it'll lower their blood pressure if it does anything.

Whaddya guys think?

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Whither a League of American Bicyclists Legal Defense Fund?

...I'm the innocent bystander
But somehow I got stuck
Between a rock and a hard place
And I'm down on my luck
Yes, I'm down on my luck
Well, I'm down on my luck...

From "Lawyers, Guns, and Money" by the late
Warren Zevon (1947-2003)
Once again, we are lucky we live in Los Alamos where cyclists are treated fairly by the Police and county government. And by most people, too. You could be stuck in Black Hawk, Colorado. They just banned bikes. Really.

But in response to some highly visible (on the Internet) prosecutions of a few cyclists occurring elsewhere (Reed Bates in TX and Eli Damon in MA) and the resulting discussion of these on the Internet, I made the suggestion to the League of American Bicyclists (LAB) that it establish a Legal Defense Fund (the late and great Warren Zevon said it best) in conjunction with the bicycling industry. Why the bicycling industry? Well, it has deeper pockets than LAB and has a lot to lose if cyclists are subjected to hostile legal actions for riding our bikes in what we would assume is a legal, law-abiding fashion. Or, when cyclists are facing harsh and discriminatory laws. The LAB LDF could back up local and state bicycling organizations in critical cases. Selz vs. Trotwood, OH, was an example.

Having said that, not all cyclists actions are defensible and not all worthy cases are winnable. For example, I am not taking a stand on the TX or MA cases I mentioned above but merely supplying them as examples. Carefully considered opinions on those cases should be offered by those with legal expertise and "boots on the ground" in those states. Indeed, some strict guidelines and oversight of a LAB-LDF would have to apply before resources are committed. Obviously, some people would feel they were not represented but this is the real world we live in; checkbooks are not infinite and hard decisions have to be made.

Should the League establish a LDF, I would write a check. Here are some guidelines we used, assuming I remember them correctly, when I belonged to a labor union and was a member of the Board of Directors of the University of Hawaii Professional Assembly (UHPA):

We paid our law firm an annual retainer out of union dues.

When a faculty member got behind the 8 ball at work and filed a formal grievance, a grievance committee would meet and taking advice from our legal counsel if needed, vote on whether it was a valid case that we wanted to pursue.

If our lawyer's services were needed for further work, the hired guns would be called in, I think by our Executive Director.

Our lawyers were experts in labor and contract law and how that applied at Hawaii public universities.

Getting grievance committee and ED approval, a case involving a major commitment of the law firm would go to the full Board for a vote on whether to support it since a legal battle involves substantial union resources. We did not want to spend scarce resources on foolish cases when people voluntarily and willfully screwed up. I recall voting on at least one of these cases--in support of a faculty member whose work I detested but who had been legally screwed by the administration.

I imagine most organizations have some sort of vetting protocols in place.

That is my member suggestion to our LAB Executive Board. Perhaps the League and BikesBelong could convince a prominent person such as Bob Mionske to join our Executive Board as Chief Legal Counsel.

As it happened, our UHPA lead attorney, Tony Gill, was also the captain of my USCF racing team. Small world.

Support the League. Join and get involved even if it means being a PITA.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

New AASHTO Bicycling Design Guide is out for comments

The new AASHTO draft bike guide is online. Here is the document. Over 200 pages and 8 Mb, so not sure everyone will want hard copy.

Some good stuff there and some good definitions. I especially like the AASHTO explicit statement on what is "as far right as practicable, on page 46. Most is in Los Alamos Code except the explicit "right tire track" guidance, which should be good for police and good teaching material for citizens who think we should be riding in the gutter.

Apparently, comments from critics have to go through an AASHTO committee member. I sent one to Richard Moeur, who is a cyclist and state transportation engineer licenced in AZ and who was involved in AASHTO. I emailed State BPE coordinator Tom Trowbridge to see if someone from New Mexico can take comments.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Downtown Streets Plan and Bicycling

I have asked to have the revised Downtown Streets Standards proposal put on the agenda for this Thursday's Transportation Board meeting. The original wording regarding bicycling approved by the Transportation Board is first. Then the new wording, which the Transportation Board just received to look at.


Objective 1C: Bicycles: Street standards will strive to incorporate elements that enhance safety, comfort, and mobility of bicyclists
1. Develop a long range plan for a network of bike routes;
2. Street standards will include marked bike lanes, shared lanes or separate bide/ped paths as appropriate to the street type and bicycle network where possible;
3. Bike Facilities: Street standards will include bike racks and other bicycle storage/parking facilities appropriate to the street.


1.1. Bicycles. Street designs will strive to incorporate elements that enhance safety, comfort, and mobility of bicyclists. Some elements to be considered are listed below.
1.1.1. Plan Adherence. Designers shall, to the extent possible, adhere to any County plans for a network of bike routes.
1.1.2. Bike Lanes. Wherever possible and appropriate, street designs should include marked bike lanes, shared lanes or separate bicycle pedestrian paths as appropriate to the street type on which they are located.
1.1.3. Bike Facilities. To the extent feasible and appropriate, street designs should include bike facilities including but not limited to bike racks, and storage and parking facilities.
1.1.4. Separate Pathways. Where feasible, bicycle paths separate from the street right- of-way shall be considered.

My concern is the original wording put all types of facilities on an even basis, and left facility design to be "appropriate to the street". The new wording specifically calls for a primacy of separate bike paths where feasible, i.e., "shall be considered".

I have two objections. First, this diminishes our rights to the road by encouraging the thinking that bicyclists don't belong there but on a separate facility. Secondly, I wonder if the DT Streets task force fully understands what they are asking for. Adding paths complicates street design, needs more right of way, and if not done right, can make bicycling more inconvenient and no more safe since if a path looks like a glorified sidewalk or sidepath, it will have the same problems as riding on the sidewalk, i.e., increased conflicts and confusion at intersections. This is why the American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials (AASHTO) does not endorse sidepaths built alongside roads if the paths intersect the roads. So a bike path would have to be carefully designed to do any good and once built, you would be expected to be using it.

Cycletracks are an ongoing experiment in Europe and are being tried in some U.S. and Canadian cities. They are designed to defeat the hazards cyclists face on road-parallel sidepaths through extensive engineering features such as separate colors, dedicated bicycle-specific traffic signal cycling to hold cars while bicyclists have right of way and vice-versa, and other engineered features designed to manage traffic at conflict points and where turning and crossing are required. Further, they dismiss with the notion of "bike-ped multiuse paths" seen so often in U.S. design. These therefore cost money and while may be a good idea in big cities with big city problems, I am not convinced we need them here.

Your comments now or at the Board meeting are welcome

John Allen's table of contents on bike paths. He has thought about these a lot.

Alta Planning on Cycletracks
Alta Planning: Cycletracks Lessons Learned (pdf)

Two points:
1. Whatever we do, cyclists cannot be less welcome or more inconvenienced on our roads.
2. If cyclists want, and special facilities are built in BombTown, we write the check to do it right based on all the available best practices and lessons learned.

League of American Bicyclists Equity Statement