Saturday, December 30, 2017

Driver Found Guilty of Careless Driving in Irena Ossola Crash

Another cyclist down. 
Round up the usual cartoons
 From yesterday's New Mexican: Driver gets unsupervised probation for striking bicyclist.

Fair enough. Having looked at the definitions before, this fits the bill, at least in the USA. The article claims some cyclists wanted a pound of flesh but there was no evidence of impairment or malice, which would be requirements to raise this to a criminal offense. Besides, this could have been a really good driver who had a really shitty day. Certainly Irena did. Plus, no amount of flogging the motorist would bring Irena back to full health as though this never happened. I guess this could go to the usual lawsuits.

No, this crash was the symptom. The disease is that we don't take driving seriously. With cars sold for their speed, horsepower, and number of distractive devices, not to mention the number of good Santa Fe residents who drive while yacking or texting on their phones, these crashes are inevitable and if you are not safely inside a two and a half ton vehicle (or even if you are) you are the equivalent of road kill. Even when caught, moving violations are trivial. So while it was bad enough that we had to wait months for the motorist to be charged with failure to yield or careless driving, it is far worse that this happened in the first place, and we expect it to happen. If driving was taken more seriously, we would have fewer of these ghastly incidents.

I have to say that I was particularly riveted to this one. "I didn't see him/her" was the same refrain offered by the motorist who turned left in front of my stepdad's motorcycle back in 1970, leaving him with two broken legs, a shattered kneecap, and a broken hand. He now gets around with two bionic, titanium knees. That was also what the motorist said when he turned left in front of me in 1979, leaving me with a TBI and having to take most of a year off  before starting a different dissertation topic because for months after that crash, I could not read a technical paper.

Vision Zero isn't just a good idea. Its the difference between life and death on the road for a lot of people.

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

Is Santa Fe a Bicycle-Friendly Calamity or Community?

I wrote a letter to the Santa Fe New Mexican, copying Santa Fe's Mayor Gonzales and 1st District councilor Sig Lindell the other day after blowing a fuse while reading the followup story about Irena Ossola, who was left close to death and with massive upper body injuries after a motorist made a left turn in front of her on West Alameda near the Siler roundabout as she was on a training ride. Apparently, the SFPD did not cite the motorist and I wondered why. Letter below, after this rant.

While investigating that crash, I learned from a Santa Fe cyclist that League Cycling Instructor Gary Schiffmiller, shortly after writing this bicycle safety editorial to the New Mexican, was hit by a motorist. Gary was injured but fortunately not in need of the emergency helicopter ride to an ICU (not sure of his exact condition; I've only heard a couple indirect reports). In that case it seems the motorist was cited. Good. Unfortunately for the cycling community, the cyclist who just updated me on Gary's condition indicated that a colleague of hers was hit and seriously injured two weeks ago while cycling by yet another careless motorist.

And of course, Outside Magazine trashed Santa Fe's motorists and Santa Fe's Finest after one of its writers, Aaron Gulley, was whacked by a motorist while, ahem, riding safely on “the biggest bike lane in Santa Fe.”. Adding insult to injury, he was cited rather than the motorist because by the time the cops got there to write it up it was dark and of course his fun bike had no lights.

Go figure. The hits, as they say, just keep on coming.

The good news is the St. Francis underpass for the Acequia Trail is open and cyclists have yet one more car-free option. That allowed a little less adrenaline to flow in my and my better half's veins when crossing St. Francis Drive/Cerillos Road on our tandem, rather than my previous experience trying to carve a zigzag line while not dropping a tire into the train tracks or getting hit by a car not understanding why a cyclist can't cross tracks at an oblique angle. We took the underpass and then crossed to the Rail Trail and only had to cross Cerrillos as pedestrians once. Whew.

The bottom line is that it is easier to build stuff like trails than change roadway attitudes. But cyclists will always need and are entitled to the roads, not just the trails. As long as Santa Fe's motorists and cyclists have trouble coexisting due to things like Driving While Cellular or "I didn't see her", or much of the public treating traffic laws as user-optional, life for cyclists will have these terrible stories.

As someone with decades of experience as an advocate, LCI, and county transportation board member (not to mention, a lifelong cyclist and motorcyclist), I've twice recommended Santa Fe as a Bicycle Friendly Community in my review to the League of American Bicyclists. Its a good place, but not sure I would recommend higher than silver (or even silver) after this spate of crashes unless we see some changes in how policy is translating to roadway safety.  The good news is that the City Different is about to get a new police chief as the existing gentleman retired so this is a good time to speak up. And, we shall see how the new administration treats cycling. Mayor Gonzales was pretty pro-cycling. I think it is time for cyclists to descend on City Hall after the elections and pound a few cleats on the table demanding that the future chief, as well as the city administration, take the safety of cyclists, pedestrians, and other vulnerable users absolutely seriously. That means taking out the ticket book. I would be the last person to claim that cyclists should be treated like prima donnas entitled to special treatment. Rather, cyclists and pedestrians are the canaries in the coal mines. If we are getting splattered all over the roads, something is seriously wrong with the picture.

Carnage and Culture, as Victor Davis Hanson titled his book.

We cannot count on building our way out of traffic violence with total grade separation of users as our systems are far too integrated. We have to change attitudes. That is a lot harder as it means we have to work on changing accepted thinking that has taken decades to develop, i.e., that cars are used as casually as the kitchen toaster and with little thought to their unintended lethality when misused. Meanwhile, we keep finding ingenious ways to misuse them with driver distractions. We tend to stovepipe safety, i.e., MADD, New Mexicans to Prevent Gun Violence, etc. Its time we took an integrated approach to public safety.. Everything matters.

Related reading: Patrick O'Grady, "How to sell cycling when ‘street smarts’ keep buyers indoors?"

Now that letter....

Dear Will (Webber) (copy Mayor Gonzales, Councilor Lindell, 1st District, and Bill Nesper, Exec. Director, LAB)

regarding the followup Irena Ossola story

I read the Irena Ossola story and its bizarre that not even a traffic ticket was issued to the motorist for failure to yield right of way to an oncoming vehicle and causing tremendous injury, practically death, to a bicyclist. Your story does not indicate if it was SFPD or the SF County Sheriff that responded and investigated the crash. I don't know where the city/county jurisdictional boundary is on W. Alameda so don't know who was responsible. I would like to write a letter to the responsible law enforcement party but did not recall seeing that ever identified in the New Mexican. Do you have a copy of the police report and therefore an idea of who did the investigation and why the left turning motorist was not cited?

Just reading that story is infuriating to me as a bicyclist. The lady was almost killed and no one held accountable by law enforcement for a careless act behind the wheel. To vulnerable users, this is unacceptable.

I have twice been an outside reviewer of Santa Fe's Bicycle Friendly Community application (in my capacity as a League Cycling Instructor, nearby cyclist, and a longtime member of the Los Alamos County Transportation Advisory Board) and both times recommended the city as a bicycle friendly community. These incidents, however, scare bicyclists off the road because there is apparently no holding people accountable for deadly acts. We should expect fair and effective law enforcement protection from the cognizant authorities.

Given that my wife and I now own a home in Santa Fe (1st District) and I support our city with our tax dollars, not to mention our enthusiasm for Santa Fe, and we now bicycle on our city and county roads, I have a serious investment in how this plays out.

thanks for any help on this,

Khal Spencer

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Whither a Flow Trail?

I've sort of stayed out of the flow trail idea, not wanting to either rain on or cheer for anyone's parade. Given that my idea of mountain biking is huffing and puffing and getting my heart rate up, I don't have a dog in this fight as a cyclist as much as I do as a taxpayer and resident.  I have marginally followed the discussion, most recently offered by Mike Warren here and here. But here are some thoughts.

One, this would be a highly manufactured trail aimed at attracting a visitor industry. That is not a bad idea for a town with a circa 75 year old one horse economy; horses don't live forever. That said, I have seen a dearth of analysis of the realistic costs vs. benefits of such an adventure.  Being a highly developed trail, it would require an enduring maintenance and advertising budget to ensure we are both attracting visitors and not attracting litigation should someone auger themselves into an un-maintained curve. As far as costs vs benefits, I go back to my column regarding the Krogers Marketplace fiasco that has left a Mari-Mac size eyesore at the eastern edge of town (and I was skeptical from the start). We are not always good at predicting the future or managing outcomes. Like rain following the plow, tourism following money is a belief, not a fact. On that note, if this is such a good idea why isn't a private company ponying up cost matching with LAC?

Mike Warren made some good comments about the effects of such a trail on our canyons. Those are worthy of consideration. Some locations are more ecologically and historically sensitive than others and this could easily turn into a political fight rather than a community collaboration. From my conversations with the county, considerable thought is going into planning this potential development in a thoughtful fashion designed to do minimal impact to the sensitivity of the landscape. But that's just my opinion and we know all about opinions.

The notion that we could partially transform Los Alamos from a company town populated by coneheads to a significant tourist destination must be backed up with some facts.  Especially as we would be competing with established tourist destinations. I don't blame those who are putting their sweat equity into establishing recreational resources up here for trying and wish them well. Nor do I blame Council for trying to add a second horse to the economic team.  Certainly a more diverse economy, not to mention a more diverse community, could be good for the place as we are utterly dependent on Uncle Sam's largess, which is in part a result of our being a single business community and in part predicated on involuntarily taking other taxpayer's money by virtue of the vaunted GRT windfall resulting from privatization.  But there are a lot of ifs, ands, and buts involved in how to accomplish economic diversification and what such efforts would bring in the way of changing traffic patterns, a need for housing diversity, and ensuring a living wage for those service workers who would be making a living in a tourist business within a community predicated on high government salaries for people with advanced degrees. We need a fuller discussion with numbers on the table.

Again, going back to history, I recall the T Board finally recommending that we get a second professional opinion to vet the county's consultants on a roundabout project because the consultant offered rosy models not accepted by critics who did their own calculations. As T board chair, I eventually became exasperated with the difference between official projections and a private citizens group's more dire models. When the county hired a second, highly technical firm to do a numerical model as a form of peer review, the roses quickly wilted into dust.

Since this is public money and public space, we need a serious and quantitative as well as qualitative analysis of what we would put into this and what we would get in return. Its that simple.

Monday, December 25, 2017

Merry Christmas

No Christmas is complete without a bike ride. Hope your day was a nice one.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Solstice Ride

Sun finally makes an appearance over the
trees a little after 0745
Since it is a workday, the Solstice ride was a commute, but as in my last post, a bike ride is a bike ride and commutes are not second fiddle to anything. So as the sun finally got out of bed after sleeping late, I headed off to work.

The wind picked up, which I knew it was supposed to do, and of course it was a headwind. Other than that, all went well.

Happy solstice and if you, like me, are deeply touched by the darkness of the winter solstice, I hope you enjoy your cocoon of darkness as much as I do.

Salsa La Cruz in current battle dress. 
Those Schwalbe Marathon Plus tires mounted on Salsa's Delgado Cross hoops are massive (700-37) but pretty impenetrable to damage.

Friday, December 15, 2017

Even with a good bike plan, a lot is up to you

Road bike in battle dress for the ride up the ski hill
Appropriate gears for an old guy and light wheelset

Salsa LaCruz cross bike/commuter in winter commuting dress
heavier wheels with light knobbies, fenders, reflectors, lights
Lower wide range (11-34; 46-34) gearing, disk brakes
With the Laboratory beginning work on a site-wide bike plan, the County having just received Bronze level bicycle-friendly community status, and a plethora of good road and trail riding in Los Alamos and surrounding areas, there is a lot for local bicyclists to cheer about. That said, whether one is riding for fun, utility, or both, a lot still depends on the engagement and awareness of the rider in order to get out and back with the rubber side consistently down.

For fun, a bicycle need not be festooned with lights, fenders, or other utility stuff unless one plans on riding where that stuff is necessary. Fenders don't make a lot of sense in a desert environment but lights might be handy, if not mandatory, if riding before or after work during dawn or dusk hours. Gears appropriate for topography and one's strength and level of fitness are the difference between fun and misery. As is proper bike fit and good saddle/handlebar choices. Having a bike that has passed the ABC quick check  (don't forget your patches and tool kit) and sporting a rider prepared for potential inclement weather (I once was stuck in the Jemez in summer bicycling spandex as the temperature dropped by thirty degrees and hail pelted me until I found a rock outcrop to hide under) and who is competent at the handlebars is a must. Fun riding is often done in low traffic conditions but one must still be situationally-aware and know how to dance with cars.

And not to be left out...
 Commuting or utility riding is a little more challenging. A rider must be ready to work with heavier traffic if one is working at a location where a lot of other people are also headed, such as LANL. One can expect a range of conditions including separated bike paths or sidewalks, bike lanes, or plain old roads that must be shared. Good bike handling skills, situational awareness, and a respect for traffic law and other users (motorists, pedestrians, fellow cyclists) go a long way towards keeping one upright and out of trouble of one's own or other people's making. I've avoided crashes with situational awareness and an ability to execute instant turns and emergency stops.  Having a bicycle equipped for the range of conditions one can expect during the commute to and from the salt mines is important: rain, snow, wind, darkness, rough roads, or what have you.

Full dress commuter (fenders, etc)
 Effective commuting usually means more of a "utility" bike rather than a gossamer racer. My choices are touring or cyclecross bikes since they are more easily fit with fenders (to ward off rain and slush), larger and burlier tires (that can shed debris and possibly get you home in some snow or after hitting a pothole) and where you are not heartbroken over festooning a featherweight carbon bike with lights, reflectors, fenders, drop tanks, bomb racks, and a luggage rack to carry stuff. Plus, a longer wheelbase bike is more stable steering and, depending on chainstay length, can have more room between the backs of your feet and the panniers you might hang on a rear rack. These bikes can also be fit with a variety of tire widths and wide range gear trains useful for hauling you, your stuff, and a fully loaded bike back and forth to the factory.

Paying attention to the Five Layers of Safety is pretty important and puts a lot of stuff in context.  Its about being competent and effectively utilizing your skills, situational awareness, and the amazing abilities of your highly maneuverable bicycle to keep you out of trouble. Its also where the "wear a helmet" campaigns get it bass-ackwards. A helmet is the innermost layer of safety and you should hopefully never have adversity pierce those other four layers. Using your helmet up in a crash should be an extremely rare event (unless you are a gonzo mountainbiker or similar) but hitting your head can be a high consequence event. Avoid smacking your bare skull on something hard such as Mr. Pavement. Traumatic Brain Injury ain't fun and I have indeed experienced it, quite predictably, back when I was an inexperienced cyclist riding in traffic. Nearly ended my budding career as a scientist, if not my life.

Safe and effective cycling is a combination of good local policies and infrastructure, effective enforcement of traffic laws to keep people honest behind the wheel and handlebars, education/training so we all react appropriately when necessary, and finally, making use of the grey matter between the ears to integrate all of that within the scope of the bicyclist and his or her steed. Eventually, it all comes down to looking out for #1 and the best person to do that is #1.

Yours truly is a League of American Bicyclists instructor and was a member of the Transportation Board and 2017 bicycle plan advisory committee.  As both a past policy advisor and avid bicyclist, I wish to thank all of those who were involved in making Los Alamos a Bronze level bicycle-friendly community.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Where would we be today if Adam Lanza had picked up a Bianchi instead of a Bushmaster?

Today is the fifth anniversary of the Newtown Massacre, where Adam Lanza shot his mom dead, stole her Bushmaster, and shot up an elementary school before eating his gun. Adam was apparently a deeply troubled individual. I just wonder where we would be today if he had picked up a Bianchi rather than a Bushmaster to deal with his devils.

That occurred to me as I sat looking through my first issue of Bicycling in a while. Apparently, the League of American Bicyclists has reestablished connections with the granddaddy of bike mags after a layoff for whatever reason.  Having just returned my two year League membership fee, the first of a series of what looks like a somewhat skinnier and glossier issue than I remember arrived in the mail. Perhaps not surprisingly for an old coot, I felt some of that old excitement we felt back in grad school as the new Bicycling issue appeared, en masse, in our Stony Brook Geosciences mailroom. A number of us subscribed as there was a big contingent of riders in the department. Even several faculty members. Some good stuff in this one, too.

I had my own devils spinning in my head while in grad school. A TBI from being lofted over a car as I rode my bike, a painful and protracted divorce, and convincing myself to finish my Ph.D. rather than pump gas during a time of deep self doubt. At one point I unwisely (and in a fit of stupid self-pity) put up a news story of Theodore Streleski on my door with my own face pasted over his mug. Thankfully no one took it seriously enough to call in the men in the white coats. (I retroactively apologize to anyone I rattled.) I wouldn't dare put up that shtick today, in a world where too many people think the answer to their grievances is an M4 rather than therapy--and where, with our retreat from a committment to public health care, its getting harder to get good therapy than to get a Bushmaster. Fortunately, I took to Cannondales rather than carbines (except during deer season) and no one was the worse for wear from my bicycling addiction except that raccoon that ran in front of me on a ride back in 1986. Even he/she ran off apparently unscathed and all I had to do was true my front wheel.

Too bad old Adam couldn't find a more constructive outlet for his demons than mass murder. Solve your problems. Ride a century or two; it kinda grows on you. In that context,100 miles is more constructive than 100 rounds.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

Splash Pools and GRT Windfalls

Sent to the Daily Post


We have elections for a reason, and as Terry Goldman recently opined in the Daily Post, Council is empowered to make decisions on what to build and how to fund it subject to public input at regular intervals, i.e., election day, or at other critical times through referendum. The question of whether to build a more elaborate aquatic center is one of those decisions we as a community make, either directly via a bond issue or via a vote by council to spend our money.

Every community wants more stuff and ours is no exception. That said, once we build more stuff, we have the eternal obligation to maintain it. That costs money through staffing and maintenance outlays. Hence it requires us to raise these funds either through growing the economy or raising taxes.

Ever since LANL was privatized, Council and some citizens have seen this as a cash cow windfall. Indeed, Council has decided to speak for the work force in demanding that LANL stay private so that the county can continue to spend money like a drunken sailor on shore leave. Given the decision on who will manage LANL and what the terms of the new M&O contract will be are up in the air, all I call for is prudence.

I for one, having grown up in a community that saw its industries rust away, am a bit ashamed that one of the most financially well-off communities in the US might demand that the taxpayers of the Republic, many of whom can't afford a new roof over their heads, are being asked to pay a GRT surcharge so we can build a more elaborate swimming pool. At some point one has to ask if we have enough already.

Khal Spencer

Monday, December 4, 2017

Ode to Being A Bronze Bicycle Friendly Community

Acknowledgements and a tip of the 
brain bucket
 to Patrick O'Grady/Maddogmedia
(or, what a skeptical bicyclist might think about bike plans and metal colored awards. Heck, even Platinum Portland almost made the top ten in killing bicyclists)

Bike plan, bike plan, where art thou,
When every car gives me the plow
With every day I come and go
Some crazy motorist pushes me to and fro

So perhaps some day I will be free
To ride my bike without fear of thee
But until that day comes and I am loosed
Of someone's misdirected boost

I will remain quite skeptical of plans
Because every plan has left me damned
And all the virtue we so claim
(because we write our wishes in vain)
Does little to help when I'm always to blame

Burma Shave,

Thursday, November 30, 2017

Los Alamos Named A Bicycle-Friendly Community

Date: November 30, 2017
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE(I got this from Louise Romero in the Public Works Dept. --KJS)
Los Alamos County named a Bronze Level Bicycle Friendly Community by the League of American Bicyclists

Los Alamos, New Mexico— Today, the League of American Bicyclists recognized Los Alamos County with a Bronze Level Bicycle Friendly CommunitySM (BFC) award, joining over 400 visionary communities from across the country.

With the announcement of 65 new and renewing BFCs today, Los Alamos County joins a leading group of communities, in all 50 states, that are transforming our neighborhoods.
“We applaud these communities for making bicycling a safe and convenient option for transportation and recreation,” said Bill Nesper, Executive Director at the League of American Bicyclists. “We are encouraged by the growing number of leaders who see bicycling as a way to build more vibrant, healthy, sustainable and connected communities and be a part of the solution to many complex challenges faced at both the community and national levels. We look forward to continuing to work with these communities as we move closer to our mission of creating a Bicycle Friendly America for everyone.”

The BFC program is revolutionizing the way communities evaluate their quality of life, sustainability and transportation networks, while allowing them to benchmark their progress toward improving their bicycle-friendliness. With this impressive round, there are now over 400 BFCs in all 50 states. The Bronze Level BFC award recognizes Los Alamos County’s commitment to improving conditions for bicycling through investment in bicycling promotion, education programs, infrastructure and pro-bicycling policies.

Philo Shelton commented “Last year we earned an honorable mention from the League. Within a year, we worked hard to meet the League’s objectives in becoming a Bicycle Friendly Community and made significant accomplishments to earn a Bronze level award. We are only the fourth community in New Mexico to earn such an award joining Albuquerque, Las Cruces and Santa Fe as Bicycle Friendly Communities.”

These accomplishments include investment in bicycle infrastructure improvements such as completion of Phase 2 of the Canyon Rim Trail system and obtaining a sizeable federal grant to design and construct and a shared-use underpass for the Canyon Rim Trail beneath NM 502 near the Coop at Entrada Drive.  As part of bicycle promotion, education and outreach, County Council proclaimed May as Bike to Work Month which was followed with events celebrating Bike to Work Day.  Lastly, in June County Council adopted the Bicycle Transportation Plan which emphasizes the County’s commitment to bicycle planning as part of the transportation network.

The BFC program provides a roadmap to building a Bicycle Friendly Community and the application itself has become a rigorous and an educational tool.  Since its inception, more than 800 distinct communities have applied and the five levels of the award – diamond, platinum, gold, silver and bronze – provide a clear incentive for communities to continuously improve.

To learn more about building a Bicycle Friendly America, visit
The League of American Bicyclists is leading the movement to create a Bicycle Friendly America for everyone.

Motorcycle Shop

Motorcycle Shop

(a tip of the brain bucket to Marc, Frances, and the OCD family. Also, a quick thank you to my cousin, Lori Bonati-Phillips, for inspiration)

Someone forgot the heat shield
So there I sat, waiting for the gas to cool down
Looking across a wide field
The mountain road a lost cause, a frown

Men in smocks with bikes on lifts
Pistons and parts, those inventive industrial gifts
That get us down the road at speeds that blur
Pirsig has passed on, but his ghost is somewhere in this room
Is there Quality here, Phaedrus, or is my bike doomed?

An ancient R60 sits nearby, its pinstripe lines on black and chrome still alluring
Sometimes, old girls are sexier and more real than the young ones
This history book is still sitting where I left it
Everything about this oil-tinged place recommends it

Thursday, November 23, 2017


"Captives' Knoll". The three rock outcrops remind me of Madonna and Child due to the curling over of the top of the rock towards something in its center (l), Ganesh, as there looks like the head of an elephant embedded in the rock (c), and a Zen deity due to the tree growing out of the rock (r).

 Lots to be thankful for this year. For one thing, it is not 2016 any more, which was the year I spent half the months in stiches or casts. Plus, there was the minor issue of That Election. So on the annual Thanksgiving ride, this year done on the double boinger, I stopped at my usual contemplative place in Bayo Canyon, the little knoll I refer to as the Captives' Knoll (because the rocks remind me of Michelangelo's Captives) to spend a few minutes in reflective solitude, thanking Providence, the stars, recent supernovae, the family dogs, and whoever/whatever else out there one must thank, for a good year.

First, I'm thankful for celebrating 30 years with My Better Half, which proves that a Blue Dog Democrat (me) and a Progressive can live under the same roof. As long as we don't discuss gun control...

Secondly, I want to thank surgeons Rodney Barker and Sean Marvel for reattaching various moving parts and then sewing me up when I was broken, which was how I spent much of 2016.

Third, I want to thank whoever one thanks for bringing me in contact with that long lost brother Rich, who my parents had adopted out in 1959 when I was a mere sprout. I knew he existed but had no idea of the details of his existence other than that my parents shipped me off to Uncle Joe's for a summer and when I got back, mom was not pregnant and my parents gave me a puppy. I knew something was rotten in Denmark or in that case, Buffalo. Thanks to both Rich and my nephew Nick who, for unrelated reasons, each got one of those mail-order DNA tests and didn't check the "privacy box". So we four (five, if you count David, me, Rich, Steve, and John) were all eventually reunited. Interestingly, although Rich and I never met, we both turn out to be avid bicyclists, motorcyclists, gun nuts, politically left of center, and  have advanced degrees. Go figure...must be genetics.

Forth, I want to thank Randy and the rest of the Classification Group for offering me a welcome place to land when I decided to change jobs. Its been a riot.

There are too many other folks to think of right now, including work buddies, family, friends, the folks at the Maddogmedia Pickle Barrel, and those elsewhere, including Daniel Webster and Cassandra Crifasi at Johns Hopkins and Adam Winkler at UCLA who always make time to answer my emails when I bug them about things they research as scholars and which I look into as a rank amateur doing a one-man Statler and Waldorf Act. And others. Given that its almost time to take the fake turkey out of the oven, it is therefore time to hit "post" and get back to work on Turkey Day Enterprises.

Be well, all, and go ride your bikes.

I can see why Oppenheimer loved this place

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

"...Let Your Light Shine Before Teens, That They Be Not Splattered On Your Bicycle"

 So in followup to my Nov. 6th post, tonight I was riding home from work at a little before six (dark) o'clock on the Salsa La Cruz commuter. Upon cresting Conoco Hill (aka Shell Hill) I flipped my Nightrider Lumina 650 to high beam in anticipation of picking up speed on the downhill, as unlike the Nightrider 1200 on my heavy duty commuter, the 650 is a tad less powerful. The 650 throws a nice beam but stuff can still surprise you and at 30 mph, finding an obstruction in the bike lane the hard way ain't fun. Sure enough, after passing the golf course entrance on Diamond Drive and heading for the roundabout on the downhill right sweeper, I suddenly saw two teens looming out of the dark, walking down the middle of the bike lane towards me as I barreled onward at about 30 mph.

It startled me first and I let out a bit of a shriek as I veered hard to port to avoid splattering all three of us on the road. I think I scared the crap out of them. They did likewise to me.

The bottom line is that lights matter. So does situational awareness. I was thinking deer tonight but teens are just as much of a hazard. Don't leave your lights or awareness at home. I may upgrade the 650, which I previously thought was plenty of light. Tonight it was enough but barely.

Everyone should be thinking safety, but the bottom line is that Looking Out for No. 1 is best done by No. 1. Don't count on others to be thinking about your safety. Or their own. I did stop and call LAPD and told them someone should counsel those teens. I hope someone did so. Next bicyclist might be running a 100 Lumen Saturday Night Special.  That's the problem with bike lights--no standardization. Don't outrun your illumination.

Monday, November 6, 2017

"...Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your bicycle..."

With apologies to St. Matthew and the Good Book (for those not familiar, I borrowed that title from Matthew 5:15-16).

Its back to Mountain Standard Time and short days. If you have not put lights on your commuter or evening-ride bike, its getting a little late. Safety is not someone else's problem. Its yours.

Note that active lighting, not just reflectors, is critical for safety. Reflectors only reflect light shined directly on them, so they do not tell a motorist at a cross street that you are approaching at right angles or a motorist making a left turn that you are in the far bike lane (until it is too late). Also, reflectors do not warn YOU of road hazards, unlit pedestrians, nor do they keep you safe in those vexing hours around dawn and dusk.

Here is the Long Haul Trucker in winter dress.

Reflective stuff on sides.
Fenders keep grunge off of rider and as importantly, off of lights and reflectors.

Helmet with front/back lighting which can also be used as strobes

Retroreflective tape and reflector, two rear flashing strobe reflectors in case one fails

Headlamp with 1200 lumen max, retroreflective tape
Oh, and "ding" bell to get attention of pedestrians who are not wearing headsets

Thursday, October 19, 2017

"All of that said, accidents and emergencies are going to happen." To Hell With That.

"...As horrific as the Las Vegas murders were, we need to keep in perspective that motor vehicles kill about twice as many people in one day on average, day in and day out. We've just become so desensitized to it that it's simply business as usual for many people."--Joe R., on Streetsblog

I was amused by the Santa Fe New Mexican editorial about the multihour logjam in traffic that occurred last Friday in Pojoaque after a teen (who has, according to the New Mexican, been cited six times for traffic infractions since 2014) lost control of his Chrysler, careened into oncoming traffic, and caused a multicar fatal wreck which the New Mexican conveniently called an "accident". The New Mexican editorial board apparently was more concerned with driver inconvenience and less concerned with driving habits that kill.

This is  the same newspaper that has recently printed every editorial it could find blasting our lack of ability to prevent gun violence. One can only assume that the editorial board of the New Mexican drives but does not shoot. How else could we explain such a flagrant double standard?

Certainly the recent Las Vegas carnage as well as most other gun violence is deliberate while the teen who tied up Northern NM traffic for hours did not intend to kill anyone. That may be a fine point lost on the dead and their loved ones. Not to mention, all those inconvenienced motorists. Such a hair-splitting rationale for flagrantly bad driving was lost on me when I was hit by a car a week before I was scheduled to defend my Ph.D. proposals. I regained consciousness, covered in my own blood, in time for the ambulance to arrive. That incident eventually took about a year out of my grad school progress. We make a lot of excuses, most revolving around convenience, for bad driving. I was one of the lucky ones and can push back against those excuses. The motorist killed last Friday is mute.

Fig. 1. Traffic fatalities per 100,000 residents. Image: International Transport Forum
Source, Streetsblog, Angie Schmitt
Fig 2. Traffic deaths and gun (including suicide) deaths in the U.S.
Graph: Violence Policy Center via Transport Providence
Source: Streetsblog, Angie Schmitt
The New Mexican would have us put up median barriers on US 84/285 to catch bad drivers careening out of control and thereby reduce the tedious delays when our fellow citizens flagrantly put others at risk. That might be an acceptable but expensive solution to prevent some high speed crashes on highways, but does nothing to keep New Mexico from jockeying for the national lead in killing pedestrians and bicyclists on our urban and suburban roads. To reduce that carnage means we must address bad driving habits as well as use Vision Zero concepts to reduce the lethality of those inevitable mistakes human nature ensures we make. Instead, we are asked to implement half measures to deal with what seems like an endless litany of inevitable and socially-tolerated misdeeds. After all, for a pedestrian, bicyclist, or motorcyclist, wide urban arterials and high urban speeds coupled with sloppy, careless, or reckless driving results in catastrophic injury or death.

If the New Mexican editorial board treated gun violence like it does car violence, our solutions to shootings would be to all wear bulletproof vests rather than to reduce the number of shootings. So I don't have very high expectations for the media or my fellow citizens as there still seems to be little emphasis on serious efforts towards crash prevention (enforcement, education, and engineering) rather than more and more crash mitigation. I wish we would hold ourselves and each other accountable to higher standards regardless of what dangerous devices we wield in close proximity to our fellow citizens. Compared to similar high economic status nations, we have high gun as well as high traffic violence rates in the U.S. These problems don't have one size fits all solutions, but as long as we avoid meaningful solutions and pretend that all is acceptable as it is, the carnage will continue, whether at the business end of a firearm or a motor vehicle.

On a related topic, I have called SUVs "urban assault vehicles" in the past. Angie Schmitt made it official.