Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Canyon Rim Trail

On a lark today we finally tried out the new Canyon Rim trail (I think we may have been the last people in Los Alamos to try it, but better late than never). It was a really relaxing ride, and stunning to boot. We're really excited to have this option to bike out to the new Los Alamos Co-op when it opens next year, but since that isn't open just yet we made our destination De Colores. I never thought that restaurant would be accessible by bike!

Rumor has it that 502 will have bike lanes when they're done updating that road, which will be another option to reach the edge of town. In the meantime, the only challenging section was turning left back onto 502 to get back into town when we reached the end of the paved trail. My only advice is to have patience and be safe. But definitely check that trail out if you haven't.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

How to talk about bicycling to a conservative

Given the party makeup of our new County Council and the U.S. House of Representatives, I think everyone should go read this eminently sensible post.

I've never had a hard time working with a Council made up primarily of Republicans. Heck, they even know I'm a Donk...

How to Talk About Cycling to a Conservative

by Tom Bowden
Tom Bowden
Tom Bowden is a bike commuter from Richmond VA, a “suit – a corporate lawyer with an MBA, and a conservative.
 A lot of the pushback cycling gets is less about cycling than about some of the ways that the cycling advocacy community has positioned itself on issues not tightly wound around cycling. Surely there are some in Congress who firmly believe bicycles are toys and are therefore hostile to us asserting that we are legitimate transportation. But I suspect plenty of the new crowd can be reached with Tom Bowden's approach.

Some comments on this issue that I left at the LAB blog.
As I recall, we had a Republican majority on our County Council when it passed the 2005 bike plan and when we passed our "complete streets" style ordinance this year. It can be done.

The Gipper and friend on a tandem

Friday, December 17, 2010

No jail time for Martin Erzinger

As shown in today's Friday's Foaming Rant. W/permission

  In his “Lives,” writing of the Athenian statesman Solon, Plutarch said the philosopher Anacharsis “laughed at him for imagining the dishonesty and covetousness of his countrymen could be restrained by written laws, which were like spiders’ webs, and would catch, it is true, the weak and poor, but easily be broken by the mighty and rich.”

--Patrick O'Grady, in this week's Friday's Foaming Rant.

Patrick O'Grady goes on to quote F. Scott Fitzgerald in The Great Gatsby, in prose written a couple thousand years later than Plutarch but strangely reminiscent of the same problem. “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.” 

 Some things indeed never change. There is no better example of how money can buy justice in the modern day United States than is seen in this nauseating case from Vail (Eagle County), Colorado.

 "Vail, Colo. (VN) — Martin Erzinger (a wealth manager who juggles billions for Smith Barney) was sentenced to a year’s probation and a suspended jail term on Thursday after a Colorado judge accepted a controversial plea bargain in the case of a cyclist who was the victim of a hit-and-run last July."

In a Vail newspaper, and in VeloNews the state's prosecuting attorney, Mark Hurlbert, was quoted as saying "...felony convictions have some pretty serious job implications for someone in Mr. Erzinger’s profession, and that entered into..." presumably, entered into his decision to offer a plea bargain. As Charles Pelkey wondered, WTF???. So if you are rich in Vail, the D.A. sure wouldn't want your resume to suffer for your indiscretions. After all, Vail exists on the whims of the rich and famous. One cannot interfere with marketing. Other people will have to clean up the mess they make.

The prosecutor in this case, according to Velonews and the Denver Post, is not averse to throwing the book at really serious criminals. Mark Hurlbert, a stellar example of what can go seriously wrong with the criminal justice system, recently charged two bike racers with felonies for exchanging race numbers before a race. But they didn't have deep pockets.  Hitting someone pretty damn hard with your car and leaving the scene (see pictures of cyclist Milo here if you have a strong stomach) and being caught calling Mercedes-Benz to get the crash damage on your 2010 luxury Benz fixed a few miles down the road? Feh...

Bottom line? We can boycott Vail. Put a dent in the community's tolerance for electing the Mark Hurlberts of the world. And, quite obviously, remember that in your own community, the only thing standing between you and a Mark Hurlbert in a courtroom is you standing at the polls voting for a better candidate.

Charles Pelkey's epilogue to this fiasco is here.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Bill Hoffman resigns from LAB Board. More damage to the League

This is more bad news for the League of American Bicyclists. I'm sorry Bill resigned. His letter, of which I've only snipped some short excerpts below, is at the LAB Reform page, linked here. Go read it.

"...LAB is no longer a true membership organization; it is now a political pressure group that happens to have members.  And I might add, LAB membership is 27% lower today than it was as recently as 8 years ago—14,836 as of Oct., 2010 vs. 20,257 at 9/30/02...The reasons I joined in 1971 and became a life member in 1976, and why I am the second-longest serving volunteer in League history, are no longer at the fore...over the past dozen years or so there has been a gradual erosion of members' rights and autonomy over the organization, without a vote to move in this direction ever being taken."

---Bill Hoffman, in his resignation letter to the League of American Bicyclists Board.

Bill is a cycling enthusiast and beyond that, has put a huge amount of sweat equity into cycling and LAB governance over his 40 years as a LAB member (and life member).  Like many of us, he rides his bike because he loves to ride his bike. He has done it competently and is a longtime LCI. He has demanded high levels of excellence in LAB and its members.  Not to dismiss all the work the League is doing, some of which is quite good and could potentially be outstanding, but there are basic core values in self-reliance and in keeping high standards. For example, the LCI program promotes self-reliance and high standards. We lose these, or trade them in bits and pieces for government-funded programs, at our peril.

I have my doubts that Bill's resignation will do much to change the present course of LAB governance. If anything, it removes a dissenting voice from the Board. Like I said in my own critique of the recent election petition fiasco, LAB governance has become an insider game. Members have limited, if any, control over LAB's corporate governance and therefore organizational direction. To some members, that is just fine. To others, it is galling. To that 27% who are now former members, perhaps it meant voting via a closed checkbook.

I remain a LAB member. But I don't need to tell you what I think, as I already did.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Death at Comanche and I-25

An experienced cyclist, Albuquerque attorney Timothy Vollman, 64, was killed last week when inexplicably, he (according to the police report) "lost control" of his bike and was run over by a garbage truck while starting out from a red light at Comanche and I-25. The bike lane he was riding in was two feet wide (you read that correctly) next to a busy traffic lane with heavy truck traffic in it.Two feet plus a gutter pan with a ridge on the edge of it.

Check out this video on KOB TV for some details.Here is a more recent one.

My hypothesis, since no one seems to know why a competent (see below) cyclist would simply fall under a truck, is that Tim may have been deflected by contact with the gutter pan ledge (see video) or incidental contact with the truck causing an unfortunate "instant turn" or loss of balance while navigating in these tight quarters. Or perhaps he miss-stepped onto a bike pedal and lost his balance. Perhaps he or the truck driver tried to squeeze into too small a place at the same time. Its presently all conjecture. If we ever find out more information, I'll post it here. See comment # 3 for a recent update.

From a BikeABQ e-post from an experienced Albuquerque cyclist who often saw Timothy riding, and who is livid with the cursory investigation: "...Tim Vollman was an experienced commuter who rode often enough for me to recognize him from the trail, not some wobbly-kneed kid or weekend warrior on a Wunderbike. Experienced commuters simply don't fall over of their own accord.."

I've been bike commuting since 1979 and agree--experienced commuters rarely pull an Arte Johnson, i.e., simply fall over. But shit happens. Systems fail and even good people make mistakes. That's why we don't build exceptionally marginal "two foot" bike lanes in Los Alamos as an expedient to limits on right of way or cost considerations. There is not a single plausible reason I can think of to build a bike facility that has zero margin for error built into it. Accident theory researchers like Charles Perrow (Normal Accidents) and Scott Sagan (The Limits of Safety) indicate why carefully designed safety margins need to be built into complicated, tightly coupled high hazard systems (specifically, things like air traffic control, nuke or chemical plants, Strategic Air Command systems, etc.). I think urban traffic fits that description to some degree. Hence things like five foot passing rules, three to five second yellow light cycles, and AASHTO-minimum width bike lanes.

So build it right or don't build it at all. Don't advocate for, or design facilities that guide cyclists and motorists into unsafe situations and think you are doing them any favors. We don't need more ghost bikes.

This is not Comanche and I-25. Used for illustrative purposes only
Most LCIs and knowledgeable people I know will advise cyclists to think first about where one should be riding in order to be riding safely and where one will not be hooked, cut off by traffic, doored, sideswiped, or otherwise endangered. If the bike lane stripe conflicts with safe riding, there is something wrong with the lane, not with you. Consider, with John Allen, where it is safest to ride when establishing your position. Your safety has a higher priority than the stripes.I would prefer to attend your citation hearing and testify as an LCI, should you be cited for being outside an unsafe bike lane, than attend your funeral.
Diane Albert, President of the Bicycling Coalition of New Mexico, has contacted two members of the Albuquerque city  government about the conditions at this location, comparing actual conditions with AASHTO standards.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

A hui hou, Eve DeCoursey

A good friend from times gone by left last week for that great ride in the sky.

We need more cyclists like EveDeCoursey around. Eve was the longtime Executive Director of the Hawaii Bicycling League. I worked with her throughout the 1990's before moving here. She later left Oahu for Washington, D.C. (after first working with the Honolulu Dept. of Transportation Services as Pedestrian and Traffic Coordinator, promoting the traffic calming Pace Car program and the Red Sneakers program to encourage childhood mobility) and becamee a senior staffer on WABA. Eve knew that to grow cyclists into a great cycling movement, you first had to grow the love of cycling into a lot of cyclists and she did that with uncanny enthusiasm and an intuition into how to reach new and old riders. She was also a concert-quality pianist and several times was the Hawaii Women's State Road Racing Champion.

Eve passed away after a long illness last week. Mahalo to WABA for their memorial to Eve.

As for the rest of us. We need to go ride our bikes.

Eve DeCoursey

Cyclists Pedal Faster on Wednesdays?

Thanks to old friend Roger Snodgrass for this post.

Posted: 30 Nov 2010 09:10 PM PST
The first analysis of data from shared bicycle networks in Europe, reveals some surprising urban cycling patterns
In 2005, the French city of Lyon introduced a shared bicycle system called Velo'v that has since inspired numerous other schemes around the world.
Velo'v differed from earlier schemes in its innovative technology, such as electronic locks, onboard computers and access via smart cards. The system now offers some 400 bikes at almost 350 stations around the city. Most residents agree that the system has transformed the city from a grid-locked nightmare to a cyclists dream, with some 16,000 journeys now being completed each day.
All this presents researchers with an interesting opportunity. Since its introduction, the system has kept track of the start and finishing location plus travel time of every journey. Today, we get a detailed analysis of this data from Pablo Jensen at the École Normale Supérieure de Lyon and a few amis.
They looked at 11.6 million bicycle trips in Lyon between May 2005 and December 2007. The result is the first robust characterisation of urban bikers' behaviour, they say.
Some of what they found is unsurprising. Over an average trip, cyclists travel 2.49 km in 14.7 minutes so their average speed is about 10 km/h. That compares well with the average car speed in inner cities across Europe.
During the rush hour, however, the average speed rises to almost 15 km/h, a speed which outstrips the average car speed. And that's not including the time it takes to find a place to park which is much easier for a Velo'v bike than a car.
Other results reveal the habits of the urban cyclist for the first time. For example, there is a clear peak in average speed at 7.45 am and 8.45 am on working days, when presumably there is rush to get to work. The average speed drops to a more leisurely 10 km/h at weekends.
Curiously, the Wednesday morning speeds are systematically higher than on other days, even though there is no change in other factors such as the number of cars. This, say Jensen and co, is probably because women tend to stay at home and look after their children on a Wednesday in France. So the higher proportion of men pushes up the average speed.
The data also shows that bike journeys between two points are shorter in distance than the corresponding journey by car. There are no bike lanes in Lyon so this suggests that cyclists use other techniques to make short cuts, say Jensen and co. Their shocking conclusion is that cyclists often ride on the pavement, along bus lanes and the wrong way up one way streets.
That kind of information will be useful for urban planners. For the first time they have real data to show where to build cycle lanes and how well they will be used. So expect to see more of this kind of analysis as data from smart bike systems in other cities becomes available.
Ref: arxiv.org/abs/1011.6266: Characterizing The Speed And Paths Of Shared Bicycles In Lyon