Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Putting the cart before the horse?

In a valiant attempt to make our roads safer, Los Alamos County Views and LA Daily Post blogger (and a co-blogger on this site) Greg Kendall suggests we make the NM-502 hairpin safer from idiot drivers by adding lane dividers. This is in response to yet another crash on the hairpin, apparently caused when an allegedly drunk eastbound motorcyclist drifted into the oncoming lane and bounced off the side of a pickup truck. The occupants of the truck were taken to LAMC but it doesn't sound like they were seriously hurt. The motorcyclist was more seriously hurt and more seriously arrested.

I don't have objections to engineering our roads to be safer when it is possible and cost-effective. My concern with this response to this incident, though, is that there is simply not enough money in the budget to fix every hairpin turn or other sub-optimal traffic situation in Los Alamos County or elsewhere in Northern New Mexico in order to make our roads safe from dangerous driving as long as we continue to set the bar so low on what we are willing to tolerate from bad drivers. Fixing the 502 hairpin (or S-curve), to be sure, sounds like a good idea, but it probably won't come cheap, if it includes not only lane dividers but badly needed shoulders. That would probably require an expensive widening of the old road cut.

Not to mention, if we throw money at this location simply by adding lane dividers, it will do little to protect cyclists from bad driving. Virtually no cyclists ride Main Hill Road, and not just because of the S-curves. Virtually the entire stretch between the "Y" and the county line lacks shoulders and forces uphill riders to labor into a hard climb while sharing a narrow lane with 40-50 mph motorists hell-bent on trying their hand on the hairpins. I once almost hit a clown in an Audi who was drifting sideways into my lane as he stoked his ego heading up into BombTown. My fear is of the Law of Unintended Consequences: improve the road, and we will encourage more risk-taking.

Meanwhile, motorist and cyclist alike share all of our twisty, narrow mountain roads with drunk, drugged, reckless, and clueless drivers. We can't rebuild our roads fast enough to protect us from these folks.

What we need to do first is put the horse before the cart.  Get the bad drivers (drunk, careless, clueless, and reckless) off the roads by making repeated lawless driving more unpleasant than lawful driving. Then fix the segments of roads screaming for an engineering fix. But please, let's not throw scarce money into making the roads "safer" so that our drunk, drugged, and reckless drivers can continue to match their witlessness and egos against the expensive best efforts of our traffic engineers. In a battle between bad driving and good engineering, we are certain to lose--our shirts, if not our lives.


Friday, April 13, 2012

Fork failure and recalls

Fork failure and recalls 

 Thanks to Jerry Merkey for flagging this post from Dave Moulton's blog. I rarely hear of recalls on bicycles and suspect I'm not the only one who has not paid enough attention to these occasional high tech failures.
I did a quick search on bike frame and fork recalls and got a lot of hits. 
Here is an interesting source of info.

Some recalls are astoundingly stupid, like this one of Cannondales because they lacked a spoke protector inside the cassette. How many of us still have our spoke protectors installed?

But a broken fork can be pretty catastrophic. Reading Mr. Moulton's blog and the associated links it appears the fork, a True Temper built Wolf SL fork that had been recalled, could fail in the steerer tube.

From Dave Moulton's blog:

"Gary Lanoue from Rehoboth, MA died on Monday when, it appears, his carbon front fork failed.
He was found in the road by a police officer on his way to work.

Gary was riding his Cervelo Soloist bike, one that was subject to a recall in August 2008 because the True Temper Wolf SL fork had been known to fail. I can only assume that Gary did not know of this defect, because who would ride a bike with a suspect front fork when a company is offering to replace it for free?"

A piece from Velonews about carbon fork failure.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Watch out for Chimayo walkers this week

Photo acknowledgements to the Wikipedia source
Cyclists riding on U.S. 84-285 and its local access side roads and other nearby roads should watch for people walking to the Santuario de Chimayo as part of the annual Good Friday/Easter pilgrimage. Drivers should reduce speeds and if possible, move to traffic lanes furthest from walkers. Cyclists should be prepared to merge left to give adequate clearance to walkers but at the same time, make sure your intention when moving left is broadcast to overtaking motorists.

Walkers should walk as far to the right of the roadway as possible, wear reflective safety vests or brightly colored clothing, walk in groups, dress warmly, and carry a flashlight and water.

Law enforcement officers will provide increased patrols on roads leading to Chimayo, including DWI and traffic enforcement units and checkpoints, through Sunday afternoon. Additionally, the state Department of Transportation is placing temporary signs and flashing message boards reminding everyone to be aware of walkers.

Parts of this message shamelessly reprinted, with modifications, from the LANL Public Relations Dept. notice. Other parts are obviously mine alone.

Bike to Work?

Where does it say that if March goes out like a lamb, April comes in like a lion? Quite the little dump we had overnight, and its still snowing.

Last time I remember this much of a turnaround in the first couple days of April was a storm in Rochester in about 1974. Frisbee and Genny Creme on the Eastman Quad in balmy, seventy degree weather on one day, and trudging through the tundra to class in the snow the next after a cold front blasted through overnight.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Of fear, stereotypes, guns, SUVs, and bike paths. The selling of fear in America

  In a recent discussion on what is needed to be a good "cycling city", a commenter left this comment in his message on Andy Cline's web site: "...The second is a police force and court system that promptly arrests and jails dangerous car drivers for lengthy prison terms..."

I can't help but wonder if some cyclists are falling victim to what I will call the George Zimmerman syndrome. Sure, there are a few dangerous drivers out there and a fair number of clueless ones. But not all drivers are dangerous stereotypes deserving of three squares and a room in the Greybar Hotel. Not all, indeed very few, must be treated with fear. We don't need to build a wall (or even a curb) between us and them. Of course, drivers have been taught to fear each other as well. That's what sells 6,000 lb SUVs.

I think Mr. Trayvon Martin was shot because we have become a nation that likes to simplify things down to black and white, danger and safety. Left vs. Right. Right vs. Wrong. Good vs. Evil.  Stand Your Ground was presumably not written so individuals could pursue and shadow the stereotype of a lawless black youth and then shoot the real flesh and blood black man during a senseless confrontation. Of course since Mr. Zimmerman was shadowing and confronting a stereotype, he undoubtedly felt endangered and shot a stereotype, albeit a flesh and blood one. I suspect that since Trayvon Martin was being confronted by the stereotype of a while/Latino man as well as the real one, he likewise felt threatened and reacted accordingly. The rest was almost predictable. Frankly, if someone trailed me in their truck and then jumped out and confronted me, I would feel pretty damned threatened. Perhaps we should all carry sidearms, shoot first, and ask questions later. That, after all, is the lesson this incident will teach all young black men. Collateral damage? Ah, who cares. This is 2012 America.

Stand Your Ground is not flawed because it tries to provide individuals protection from crime. Actually, I've long had a problem with the presumption of retreat. Retreat can make you dead if you are not careful. The law is flawed because it is being brandished by those who are afraid of each other; its a license to panic first and worry about the outcome later. Although Trayvon Martin was the obvious victim here, Mr. Zimmerman, when he finally gets his day in court, will undoubtedly claim victimhood too.

A victim of his own fears and stereotypes, I would add. I'm sure more than a few bicycling advocates are just as much a victim of theirs. Let's keep our fears in perspective.