Thursday, May 26, 2011

John Allen: When the Marketing Dept. Plays Traffic Engineer

The product shown in the picture below, small raised barrier lane dividers designed to be installed between bike lanes and regular travel lanes, are critiqued on John Allen's bicycling page. These are marketed as "...a smart, safe solution that provides a visual separation between vehicle and bicycle lanes. ...."

The raised protuberances are marketed as "a smart, safe solution that provides a visual separation between vehicle and bicycle lanes."

But the design seems to add a (not so) hidden hazard.

Keeping cars out of the bike lane in itself is not always a good idea, since in this case the fix also keeps cyclists from merging into traffic to make left turns or for any other reason that requires leaving the bike lane (obstructions, overtaking, etc). It could also force cyclists and motorists into "coffin corner" situations at intersections if applied right to the intersection. It also makes street cleaning difficult. At least for the bike lane.

More seriously, raised features such as these, which are somewhat analogous to shoulder paving lips, could induce diversion falls if hit at a grazing angle. The two sides of the small barriers are advertised as asymmetric, but I'd hate to hit one at a glancing angle nonetheless (did anyone do an experiment?). Striking these at a glancing angle might possibly cause a cyclist to lose steering and balance (in the same way a shoulder lip can do so) and topple over into the travel lane.  John Allen discusses this possibility in his own post, citing MUTCD sources that warn against installing such features.

Anyway, its important to ask the questions in advance. It seems to me that if someone INSISTS on a passive barrier more compelling than a paint stripe along the edge of the bike lane, something like a narrow rumble strip would be preferable. A rumble strip is negative in profile rather than positive and would be aggravating but not dangerous, seemingly far less of a problem. Plus, it would have the same effect--a warning to a distracted motorist, perhaps, that he/she is encroaching on a bike lane. These barriers are certainly not going to stop a car but could have unintended consequences to a cyclist.

With Trinity Drive reconstruction on the table, I'd hate to see something like this suggested by a non-cyclist.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Riding on the sidewalk in a business district

There were some comments at last night’s council hearing to the effect that its against the law to ride on a sidewalk in a business district in Los Alamos. Here is the actual code. (A) does not prohibit sidewalk riding, it simply says to do so safely.  Note that in (b), there used to be some private signs in town prohibiting sidewalk riding on private property. A private posting doesn’t have force of law under 38-553, but could result in the landowner asking you to leave the premises. I am not aware of any County signs prohibiting sidewalk riding under authority of 38-553. I will copy Kyle and Charlie Trask to check.

Sec. 38-553. - Riding on sidewalks.
(a) No person shall ride a bicycle upon a sidewalk within a business district with careless or reckless disregard for pedestrians or other vehicles.
(b) No person shall ride a bicycle on any sidewalk or street when signs are posted prohibiting bicycles on the sidewalk or street.
(c) When signs are posted requiring bicycles to use sidewalks or paths adjacent to a street, no person shall ride a bicycle on the street adjacent to the sidewalks or paths.
(d) Whenever any person is riding a bicycle upon a sidewalk, the person shall yield the right-of-way to any pedestrian and shall give an audible signal before overtaking and passing a pedestrian.
(e) A person propelling a vehicle by human power across a roadway upon and along a crosswalk shall yield to pedestrians in the crosswalk.
(Ord. No. 85-218, § 2, 1995; Code 1985, § 10.11.013)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Roadway Design by Petition?

Sent this to Council

Dear Council

I'll start out by saying I am sending you this in my capacity as a voter and resident, speaking for myself.

The Sunday Monitor reported that you will discuss on Tuesday the recent petition drive(s) on Trinity Drive design since approximately 500 people signed petition(s) on its design.

First, I don't think I need to remind Council that 500 people don't make for a majority. I respect those who are alarmed enough to sign petitions, but I also looked up the results of the last election that resulted in the present Council:

County Council (2010), votes for each candidate

James Hall (R)                 4,952
Ronald Selvage (R)         4,750
Geoffrey Rodgers (R)      4,454
Frances Berting (R)         4,368
Kenneth Johnson (D)      4,027
Deborah Gill (D)             3,939
Betty Ann Gunther (D)   3,222

(based on the State House District 43 race (local results), at least 8647 people in LAC voted in the election).


Even the seventh place Council candidate (who lost) had roughly six times the votes as these petitions have signatories; those who won had over eight times the votes.  So if Council decides that we need to make a decision on Trinity by referendum rather than by our professional staff, Council vote, and multiple county board advice to Council, then we really ought to first screen the designs to ensure that only those designs which meet professional engineering standards (and meet design guidelines Council recently adopted for county streets) are put forward, and then put the successful ones to a vote.

Different designs will require different compromises. A 35 mph four or more lane highway will need more ped overpasses, underpasses, or stoplights in order to ensure that we can safely cross the street. I think that is one of the issues that consistently gets glossed over. No design that successfully meets our recently accepted design criteria (i.e., that provides good pedestrian crossing connectivity and serves motorists, bus riders, and others with adequate throughput) and serves development South of Trinity will escape compromise.

I see that the petitioners have mandated four travel lanes and bike lanes. This may result in some pretty serious design flaws (i.e., bike lanes that result in a high likelihood of intersection crashes) if done wrong. Roadway design, like brain surgery, should not be performed by amateurs. This could lead to disaster.

Finally, I was sent this following link on signalized intersection non-compliance. Makes for interesting viewing. Mind you, I'm not convinced that any roadway design is completely foolproof unless citizens respect the law and respect each other's safety. But when signalized intersections are criticized for providing high risk types of crashes, this is what is being discussed:


Khalil J. Spencer

Sunday, May 22, 2011

I'm shocked, shocked...

Had to take a shower after watching 60 Minutes. Others were bored. Can anyone think that the epidemic levels of professional doping that went on in pro cycling could happen without all levels of team and management being complicit? And then there was that question of a Swiss doping control lab and donations to the doping control authorities...hmm...I suspect there will be more shoes to fall before this is over.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Subaru to Customers: Hang Up and Drive

The following was in the most recent Subaru e-newsletter I found in my Inbox.  I wish more companies would get on this particular bandwagon rather than showing insane driving to the tune of fine print such as "Closed Course, Don't (wink-wink, nudge-nudge) Try This At Home".

If you have a Subie, make sure your dealership knows you read the post below, and as a cyclist, thank them. I did, and got a company response.

Their email address is "insider at subaru dot com"

INSIDER TIPS: Hang Up and Drive!

 You see it all too often: ­ drivers swerving, running red lights or narrowly missing collisions because they're paying more attention to their cell phones than their driving. "Still, people consistently assume that they can drive and text or talk at the same time," writes U.S. Secretary of Transportation Ray LaHood in the Orlando Sentinel (September 19, 2010). "The results are preventable accidents." Study after study testing the effects of distracted driving come to the same conclusion that talking and texting behind the wheel impair driving ability. Tougher laws, more effective enforcement, and public education are positive steps toward changing dangerous behaviors.

What You Can Do. Resist the temptation to use your cell phone for any reason while driving. Put it in silent mode or turn it off altogether. Wait until you reach your destination to pick up texts and voice messages, or pull off the road to a safe location. "The safest way to get from one place to another is to hang up and drive," LaHood writes. "Powering down your cell phone when you're behind the wheel can save lives, maybe even your own."

"People consistently assume that they can drive and text or talk at the same time. Powering down ... can save lives." ­ Ray LaHood, U.S. Secretary of Transportation

Monday, May 16, 2011

Santa Fe Century: Happily Blowin' in the Wind

The New Mexican covered the Santa Fe Century.  
This is their picture. Go read the article.

Nice article in the Santa Fe New Mexican about the Century yesterday.

So, to paraphrase Bob Dylan, how many roads must a cyclist ride down, constantly blowin' in the wind? The answer, my friends, in a New Mexico springtime, is "a lot". Nonetheless, those of us who enjoy organized century rides dodged some bad luck this year when Charlie Loesch took over from an apparently ailing Willard Chilcott and made sure the ride went off as planned after it looked like it might be canceled.

Many thanks to Charlie for stepping into the breach and to all the aid station volunteers. Also to the motorcycle police presence, the National Guard sag Humvees, and all the others who pulled this off. All we did was ride! Finally, best wishes to Mr. Chilcott, who has directed this ride for over a quarter century, for renewed good health.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

How to enjoy a major automotive tune-up

Nice view from the top

I had to bring the WRX down at some point, and usually that means a Friday on which I am off.  This was the 30k overhaul, which most people apparently do at 2-3 years. In my case it was 4.5 years thanks in part to a Salsa LaCruz being my primary commuter vehicle.

The friendly folks at Premier Subaru of Santa Fe told me it would take most of the day to do the work, which involves emptying, flushing, fiddling with, and refilling just about everything in the car. In past times when a major tune up was in store for one of my cars, I brought a bike and rode home. This time I decided to take a bike along and ride down the Turquois Trail on NM 14 for a 50-60 mile ride to kill time constructively. That is a beautiful ride. Heading south on NM14 from Madrid for the first time on a bicycle, I discovered this involved a five mile steady climb to a pass through the Ortiz Mountains. But the view along the way, and from the top looking South is to die for. I suppose if you do the full Santa Fe Century, this is not news to you.

I rode down the other side of the pass for a ways, looked around, and started back up over the pass as the water bottles were draining fast. The five miles from the summit back to Madrid, where someone is filming another movie, went fast. I was reaching speeds over 40 mph. Stopped at Java Junction for a smoothie and to refill the bike's water tanks (shoulda left the milk out of the smoothie in my case). Then back to Santa Fe and...the bill.

If you have to drive your sorry hind end somewhere to do a major time kill, bring a bike. There's a lot of fun to be had around here. And make sure you buy some gatorade at the Lone Butte General Store, about 10 miles south of Santa Fe on Rt 14. Nice place, nice people.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

A Zen Master asks, “Why ride a bicycle?”

Got a request from People for Bikes, aka Bikes Belong, to answer some questions about how and why I ride a bike. Perhaps because I'm distracted today, I filled it out. But that led me to recall a much simpler explanation.

With thanks to Commute Orlando for reprinting this:

From One India comes this little gem:
Five students of a Zen master was back from the market on their bicycles. As they dismounted, their master asked : Why are you riding your bicycles ?”
Each of them came up with different answers to their master’s query.
The first student said “It is the bicycle that is carrying the sack of potatoes. I am glad that my back has escaped the pain of bearing the weight”
The master was glad and said : ” You are a smart boy. When you become old you will be saved of a hunch back unlike me”
The second student had a different answer. ” I love to have my eyes over the trees and the sprawling fields as I go riding”
The teacher commended : “You have your eyes open and you see the world”
The third disciple came up with yet a different answer : ” When I ride I am content to chant ‘nam myoho renge kyo’”
The master spoke words of appreciation ” Your mind will roll with ease like a newly trued wheel”
The fourth disciple said : “Riding my bicycle in live in perfect harmony of things”
The pleased master said ” You are actually riding the golden path of non-harming or non violence”
The fifth student said ” I ride my bicycle to ride my bicycle”
The master walked up to him and sat at his feet and said “I am your disciple!”