Archive for the 'Transportation' Category

No ghost bike for me, thank you. But…

Ghost bikes.

Ghostcycle: this makeshift monument appeared b...
Image via Wikipedia

Someone suggested them again this weekend as a way to mark the spots where cyclists have died on the roads. The thinking seems to be that these eerie memorials will raise the awareness of those who pass by and maybe prompt them to drive more carefully.

For the record: I understand the impulse and the sentiment, but if I should fall victim to a careless motorist I do not want a ghost bike.

I don’t want people to be afraid to ride their bicycles. I don’t want anyone to waste their time putting a ghost bike by the side of the road when it almost certainly will be removed as junk before very long.

What I want instead, and what I suggest that you do for other victims rather than mark the spot with a bicycle painted white:

  • Call and write to your city council representatives, your law enforcement people, your state legislators and your federal elected officials.
  • Go to meetings where decisions are made and make your case.
  • Say out loud what you think and what you want done to make the roads safer.
  • Hold officials accountable until they make and laws that will make a difference. Those people work for you.
  • Demand action.
  • Don’t stop.

Put up ghost bikes for other people if you like, but do these other things, too.

They will be more effective.

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Copenhagenize.com – Building Better Bicycle Cultures: Free Hugs (Sorry, not for drivers)

Fun video, rewarding folks for not driving…

Copenhagenize.com – Building Better Bicycle Cultures: Free Hugs (Sorry, not for drivers).

Click it. Enjoy.

Want to be bike-friendly? Take cyclist deaths seriously

Cedar Rapids, Iowa – This town has made some progress in recent years toward becoming a more “friendly” place to move around by bicycle rather than car or truck.

There are a few bike lanes. There is a city Bicycle Advisory Committee. There are Bicycle Ambassadors, and now and then people make an effort to accommodate and encourage the bicycling public by providing special parking areas, generally staffed by a few volunteers and city employees.

Although most people didn’t know it, largely because of a lack of timely promotion by city officials and lack of interest from the local media, there was even a Bicycle Safety and Driver Alertness Month back in September.

All well and good.

How “bike friendly” is it, though, when a local cyclist can be killed in a collision with a motor vehicle and it takes months (nearly three in this case so far) to decide about charging the driver?

A lack of charges in a timely fashion says the death is no big deal to the city. (The toxicology tests cited as a reason for delay certainly could have been completed by now if this were a priority.)

That there is no serious penalty for careless driving that causes serious injury or death says such injuries and deaths are not very important to the state.

A community that accepts this is not “bike friendly,” no matter how hard it tries to pretend that it is.

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What makes cyclists do dumb things?

Some questions in search of answers:

  1. Can cycling clubs “police” themselves to change members’ behavior, as suggested in a column in the Orange County Register?
  2. What makes some cyclists think they’re in a peloton that can run stop signs with impunity, as this other story describes?
  3. Why do so many people roll right through controlled intersections just any old way they please?

Those articles turned up in my daily Google alert, reminding me of what I saw just last night in a few short minutes parked by a bus stop. Unfortunately, such sights are all too common:

Most people driving cars were also talking on cell phones. More than a few made what has come to be known as an “Idaho stop,” which is not actually a stop at all and we weren’t in Idaho. None of the cyclists I saw actually came to a complete stop at the four-way stop, either, and at least one didn’t even slow down.

A few thoughts on those three questions:

  1. I hope so, but I’m not optimistic. Even if well-organized clubs can clean up their acts (a challenge akin to herding cats), those are the people who tend to be most knowledgeable about riding in traffic. Many who need to be educated do not belong to these clubs.
  2. My theory is that it’s the same phenomenon of unthinking selfishness that leads people to text or talk on the phone while driving. It isn’t malicious, but thoughtless and careless.
  3. See No. 2. Add as a possibility that they don’t know any better.

All of those situations might be improved through two of the “5 Es” of the Bicycle Friendly Community program: Education and Enforcement.

Exercising some simple common courtesy would go along way, too.

What’s your solution?

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CEMAR trail work a positive, if a bit late for some

As some Eastern Iowans just learned, it’s a good idea to pay attention to what’s going on in your neighborhood.

You won’t be surprised like they were the other day, as explained in this story about a Cedar Rapids recreational trail being built behind their back yards.

And no one will have to spend their time putting on yet another informational meeting.

The initial reaction of some to this “news” that has been around for years was like so many others that people have when something changes: This is a bad thing.

They couldn’t be more wrong. In a November 2008 post that has gotten a lot of attention over the past few days, I pointed out some of the benefits:

More people who live in the NE neighborhoods will pedal, walk or skate to those connecting trails rather than drive to them, as many do now. They’ll spend time and money downtown. When CEMAR is completed all the way to Marion, it will be an even more valuable and attractive link in our trails network.

Since Mrs. Smith and I decided to set our sights on Colorado a few months ago, I see as I re-read that post that something else I said has some new meaning:

The trail can’t get done soon enough.

Still, it’s a good thing, people. Enjoy it when it’s done. Maybe we’ll come to visit.

Pedal on.

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State senator’s bike ride today in E. Iowa district

For my Iowa friends:

State Sen. Rob Hogg’s annual district bike ride is this afternoon. He wants to know what constituents think is important. I’m planning to pedal along from the 3 p.m. start to Papoose Park at 4:30. See you on the route?

His email to constituents about this event:

This e-mail update is to invite you to join me for my Fifth Annual Bike Ride Across Senate District 19 this Sunday, August 22.  My bike tour is always a great chance to visit with constituents about the issues important to you.

This year’s bike tour will begin at 3 p.m. at Cedar Valley Park in the Rompot neighborhood at the intersection of Memorial Drive and Otis Road SE.

It will end at 6 p.m. with a picnic at the Creekside Pavilion in Noelridge Park off of Golf Street NE (near Harding Middle School). The picnic is being sponsored by the Cedar Rapids Education Association.

The complete list of stops includes:

3:00 p.m. – Cedar Valley Park (corner of Memorial and Otis Road SE).

3:45 p.m. – Anderson Park (corner of 5th Avenue and 21st Street SE).

4:30 p.m. – Papoose Park (end of 30th Street Dr. SE east of Indian Creek).

5:15 p.m. – Bowman Woods Park (along Boyson Road NE).

6:00 p.m. – Creekside Pavilion, Noelridge Park (off of Golf Street NE).

I hope you can ride along, or join me for the picnic or for one or more of the stops on my tour.  I look forward to seeing you Sunday.

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Asking the mayor for Bicyclist Awareness Month

Updated 8/27/2010: No response so far to this or to a follow-up email sent later.

* * *

A letter emailed to Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett a few minutes ago:

Dear Mayor Corbett:
You can save lives in Cedar Rapids by doing your part to educate the public about bicycle safety and responsible driving.
My letter is prompted by the death a few weeks ago of Susan DeSotel, who was riding her bicycle when she sustained fatal injuries because of a careless driver, and by this article about similar situations and how another mayor stepped up to help protect citizens:
That town’s mayor declared August to be Bicyclist Awareness Month. I am asking you to do the same for September and to do everything you can to promote bicycle safety and safe driving — before, during and after the Mayors’ Bike Ride on Sept. 6.
I look forward to your reply, which I will post along with this letter on my blog at https://bjsmith.wordpress.com.
Thank you.
B.J. Smith
If you would like to contact Mayor Corbett with your own version of this letter, other advice or even a different opinion, here’s his contact information.
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