Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Sweat the Small Stuff

Here, I peel back the ends of the rim 
strip, to photograph how the ends 
were directly over a spoke hole. 
I think it was already in the eighties when I headed up Camp May Road on Sunday morning. I was sweating buckets and went through two 24 oz water bottles of gatorade in a 20 mile ride, albeit part of that involved hauling my fat carcass up to a close to 10% grade.

Interesting thing happened on the way down the hill. My rear tire blew out with a loud pop on one of those many steep curves coming down from the ski area. Made for an interesting way to do a controlled stop from +40 mph.

I took things apart by the proverbial side of the road to put in a new tube and was looking to figure out how the thing blew up. First I thought it was a fatigued valve stem, but no, there was a hole in the inner tube on the inside of the tube where it presses against the rim strip.

Turns out whoever put the wheel together put the ends of the rim strip directly over a spoke hole, with no overlap of the rim strip ends. Over the years the ends separated and the inner tube bulged into the sharpened spoke hole. On the way down it finally failed catastrophically.  Little things matter. Especially if you like high speed descents.

I tried to align the strip over the spoke hole as best I could and got back to the house in limp-home mode. Then I replaced the rim strip and overlapped the ends. I also checked the front wheel, which had a rim strip installed correctly. Thankfully. A front wheel blowout on a high speed descent would not be fun. I probably wouldn't be sitting here comfortably writing this today.

Thursday, June 16, 2016

Albuquerque Journal Misses Major Point in Discussion of Pedestrian Risk

Editor, The Albuquerque Journal

The Journal, in its 6-15 editorial, somewhat missed the point on pedestrian safety in New Mexico. Like the recent Journal article on the same topic, it omits discussion of the relationship between road and highway design and pedestrian risk.

Substance abuse is certainly part of the problem, but not the entire picture.  Our infrastructure is designed for fast car travel. Albuquerque Councilor Pat Davis said it best:  no one would design streets this way if pedestrian safety were really crucial.

We design major arterials (i.e., Central Avenue) with wide, fast multilane features, even in dense urban areas, to facilitate motor vehicle movement with minimal delays across our ever sprawling cities. Features such as crosswalks are often not built for pedestrian convenience on the scale of walking, but at intervals that minimize loss of vehicular level of service. Speed kills: a 40 mph impact will kill most pedestrians while at 20 mph, most will live. So why are speeds (and design speeds; meant to imply that, Steve) often set at close to 40 mph? To make matters worse, wide road profiles and busy traffic mean small figures like pedestrians are hard to spot.

Vision Zero means redesigning roads so that they are forgiving to mistakes. VZ slows things down such that the inevitable crashes that result from human error are not fatal. How that works with the urge to sprawl our cities is a good question.

Finally, suggesting pedestrians be held as accountable for sobriety as motorists must be further justified. Motorists are licensed as they are driving potentially dangerous vehicles. No such requirement is put on people walking around town. Certainly remaining sober enough to cross the street is a good idea, but the comparison must include the two modes capability to do harm to others.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Negligent Entrustment? Gee, tell that to the Kalamazoo bicyclists

Patrick O'Grady sent me an article about a lawsuit currently wending its way through a Connecticut court, arising from the Newtown mass shooting. Timely, since we have had yet another, yet worse one in Orlando. The idea being pursued is that, according to the quote in the article, it is Negligent Entrustment to sell so called assault rifles to the public. The idea of negligent entrustment in this scenerio is: "...a gun is carelessly given or sold to a person posing a high risk of misusing it....". The plaintiffs want to expand on the idea and substitute the American public for "a person" and say the public as a whole has a high risk of misusing these rifles.

The technical legal question is way outside my expertise as a geologist, but I am skeptical. Besides, this is a bike blog, not a law journal. My skepticism of the Newtown lawsuit as far as the negligent entrustment angle is several-fold. One, the Feds have not banned it, so it is a lawful product sold to the public. Two, Connecticut approved the ownership of these guns and indeed, licensed Nancy Lanza to have it, so the state has some responsibility in authorizing its sale to the public. Three, Nancy was not necessarily negligent. Adam Lanza shot his mother dead and stole it. Four, statistically, there are millions out there and the number misused, in geochemical parliance, is in the low parts per million. Its hard to rationalize from that the idea that the average owner is at high risk of misusing it. Wonder how that compares to motor vehicles?  Finally, the Protection of Lawful Commerce in Arms Act blocks these suits under most circumstances.

My guess is there are probably more motor vehicles used negligently in part because they are used constantly and not considered by their owners as particularly dangerous devices. Two multiple killings of bicyclists this year point to the dangers of their misuse, one happened in Kalamazoo that killed five and one in Tucson that killed two, including a Santa Fe Seniors on Bikes rider. So if Newtown is the gun manufacturer's fault, why isn't Kalamazoo the auto industry's fault? Where does corporate responsibility end and ours begin?  I go back to the Porsche analogy I used the other day: just because I once bought a car that can do 162 mph, it doesn't mean it is Ferry Porsche's fault if I do 162 mph in a school zone.

 I saw those shitty advertisements used by Bushmaster for "getting your man card", something mentioned in the Times article, but as a board member of the Bicycle Coalition of New Mexico, I once got into a metaphorical firefight with Bicycling Magazine over their running an ad for a Nissan (or might have been Acura) product that said buying that car was a way to express one's aggression on the road. Just what we bicyclists need: more aggressive drivers and more bad ads. Its not clear to me whether lousy advertising trumps individual responsibility, but we sure do see enough of those "closed course, don't try this at home" ads and so far, no one I know has sued a car company using the negligent entrustment idea.

PLCAA, the law that protects gun manufacturers when individuals misuse guns, is Federal law. This case is currently in state court. Not sure what that means, but suspect an appeal would be a no-brainer if this gets much farther.

Black rifles, like Porsches, are a lot of fun, as Adam Winkler said in an NPR piece, but the public assumes the risks as well as any public benefit. Orlando is the risk. That said, any car or gun, even a workhorse pickup truck or revolver, can be misused with devastating results.  As Winkler said in the article, more mass shootings are done with handguns, as is the overwhelming amount of gun crime carried out in the US. Still, as I commented to O'Grady this morning, the AR makes someone a pretty damn effective killing machine, which in the military context, is exactly the idea. Thomas Friedman makes a good case for technological lethality outrunning human social instruments of peaceful existence in today's NY Times. We cannot afford potentially highly efficient killing machines in our midst if they are going to suddenly go off the rails. I've said what I want to say on assault rifles before, in this piece, excerpted here:

"...if lunatics continue to use (assault rifles) to deliver high velocity carnage to schools, theatres, and fire departments, some sort of regulation is inevitable on public safety grounds (and is likely permissible under Heller). Constitutional issues aside, we let just about everyone drive (and some do a bad job of it, leading to more than 30,000 traffic deaths a year). We don't let everybody drive a Freightliner..."

It is wise to carefully craft anti-violence policies rather than push ham-handed/one size fits all solutions, as sociologist Andrew Papachristos points out (and here) and as his academic work suggests. But there are so many guns and cars out there that periodic accidental or purposeful mishaps, even on a grand scale, are inevitable, barring a Vision Zero approach to both. Hence calls to further regulate both of them, and strong pushback from both owner's groups, whether it be background checks and "assault weapons" bans or red light cameras and traffic calming.

I ran into one of my colleagues yesterday as I rode my bike to the chemistry building. She is gay, as was my brother in law and as were several of our geoscience Ph.D. students at the Univ. of Hawaii who I supervised, both as a mentor and for a while as chair of our graduate studies committee. Looked at my colleague and thought about Orlando and got the shakes. Adam Winkler is right--we need to use all the tools at our disposal to stop this shit. We just have to make sure we do it right rather than ham-handedly, which is more often the knee-jerk case.

I just wish we could get the public to hold motorists to the same standard. Seems that right now, the only form of mass butchery that is treated as "just another day in the USA" is killing by automobile. We kill about a hundred people per day on the roads: that is two Orlandos. If this suit succeeds, I think the car industry needs to start thinking about a Protection of Lawful Commerce in Cars Act. Conversely, maybe we all ought to read Friedman's piece and realize that we are inside the bubble, and a lot of people are senselessly dying because of it. Orlando was an obvious atrocity. Our roads are less obvious.

And now, from Streetsblog:

What Gun Violence and Traffic Violence Have in Common

Wednesday, June 8, 2016

Kalamazoo cycling community grieving after hit-and-run driver kills five, injures four.

Good grief. Just another form of mass murder.

Kalamazoo cycling community grieving after hit-and-run driver kills five, injures four.

Just a few comments from over at Maddogmedia

khal spencer Says:

Why don’t deadly drivers get as much press as the crazy guy with the AK-47? These cyclists are just as dead.

  • Patrick O'Grady Says:
    This one’s getting some traction, K. The NYT just picked it up. Ditto The Guardian. And the Chicago Tribune, which means The Los Angeles Times should have it directly.
  • Pat O'Brien Says:
    Lots of talking on gun control. No talking on truck control. Can’t win an election talking about cell phone bans. Not sexy enough I guess. Almost an instant replay of the murder by truck in Tucson a few months ago. It’s not my fault officer. My boss called my cell phone just as I was snorting some coke.
  • Patrick O'Grady Says:
    “You can have my iPhone when you pry it from my cold, dead thumbs!”
    Here in New Mexico The Fear® is a constant companion. Everybody texts, at least half of the texters are drunk, and a drunk driver can collect DUIs like a dead dog collects flies and it doesn’t seem to keep him or her from sliding behind the wheel with a tallboy and the old “smart” phone.
    Plus even the sober drivers couldn’t give a runny shit about traffic laws. “Aggressively bad” is the only way to describe them. Worst drivers I’ve ever seen, and I’ve lived in two countries, 11 states and 19 towns. There should be a no-bag-limit hunting season on the sonsabitches.

Monday, June 6, 2016

“No one would design an urban roadway like this today”--Albuquerque City Councilor Pat Davis

On Friday, the Albuquerque Journal ran a front page story "New Mexico is No. 1 in pedestrian deaths". Sadly, the Journal seemed to swallow the standard line that this is due to drunkenness and jaywalking. Its as if the Journal is so inside the prevailing paradigm of "car is king" that it does not even ask if there are issues other than blaming the dead. For example, infrastructure design.

Certainly substance abuse is endemic in some parts of the Duke City and is a major problem as inebriated people walk or drive into each others paths. Likewise so-called jaywalking is a problem, but in part because we have built the infrastructure on the scale of fast cross city car travel rather than on the measure of where people live and where they may want to walk to their nearby destinations. We might as well post No Trespassing signs for those on foot on our urban rights of way. Albuquerque Councilor Pat Davis, quoted in the LA Monitor, nails the elephant in the room: no one would design streets this way if pedestrian (or bicyclist) safety were really crucial. I am sure that James Anderson, Roy Sekreta, Matt Trujillo, and others would agree, if they were alive to comment.

Indeed, anyone who has spent any time in the Duke City, Santa Fe, or even Los Alamos knows that we design major arterials, including  Central Avenue in Albuquerque, Trinity Drive in Los Alamos, and Cerrillos, St. Michaels, or St. Francis in Santa Fe with wide, fast multilane features to facilitate motor vehicle movement with minimal delays--even in dense urban areas. Furthermore, the pedestrian safety features that the DOT adds to the design are often built at intervals that do not interfere with the vehicular level of service measures that are so critical to ensure that motorists can scurry back and forth between destinations in the ever sprawling American cityscape. NMDOT's refusal to add a crosswalk to NM 502 by the swimming pool on the east side of Los Alamos is an example. Likewise, fast speed limits ensure that anyone hit is likely to die while the wide "Stroad" profiles ensure small figures like bikers and peds are hard to see. See figure below for lethality vs speed.

From Literature Review on Vehicle Travel Speeds and Pedestrian Injuries, NHTSA
True human safety in our cities will only result from major changes in urban design. We cannot count on people slowing down when the roads beckon for speed. Instead, we need to engage in traffic calming so the road defines the speed rather than hanging useless signs that conflict with design. Vision Zero, if it is to be implemented, means redesigning roads so that they slow things down so that the inevitable crashes that result from human nature are not fatal. How that works with the ever present urge to sprawl our cities and pander to Level of Service is a good question.

Ain't it nice to ride in the Country?
Finally, months after surgery, I am actually getting my hind end out on the road again.
Nice, quiet roads. Fortunately.

Excerpted from Streetsblog, where  Bill Lindeke talks about St. Paul, MN:
Finding the Political Will to Fix “Four-Lane Death Roads” 

"...The key to a “vision zero” policy will be in making exactly the kinds of trade-off decisions that I’ve described here. A commitment to the safety of urban streets needs to say that no amount of automobile efficiency is worth the lives of people like Elizabeth Dunham, who was simply trying to cross the street. No amount of increased speeds are worth running over a kid like 11-year-old Bikram Phuyel, who was hit by a driver while crossing Rice Street to get to school in 2014. No amount of LOS improvement is worth the life of Kunlek Wangmo, hit by a turning driver while crossing St. Clair Avenue with her husband by West 7th Street last year. Or Shelby Kokesch, who was killed while walking her mother from the History Center across Kellogg Boulevard earlier this year. The list goes on… “Vision Zero” needs to start focusing on these kinds of difficult street design changes, and road diets are the least expensive, most effective option on the table..."

Saturday, June 4, 2016