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Two months pass without charges for cyclist’s death

This white bike was chained to a post in Oxfor...
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Still waiting.

It has been 61 days since the July collision that resulted in Susan Desotel’s death.

No charges have been filed, and police are still waiting for results of toxicology tests.

Charges won’t help Susan, of course, but they should be filed – and soon – to show that careless driving that takes a life will not be tolerated.

C.R.’s Bicycle Safety and Driver Alertness Month will end this week.

The public awareness it was intended to promote needs to continue.

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The hazards and joys of night bicycling

You’ve certainly noticed by now, if you’re a Northern Hemispherian, that we’ve had fewer and fewer daylight hours lately.

While in reality the Earth goes in an orbit ar...

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In a couple of days, in fact – around about September 23 – we’ll experience our annual autumnal equinox, when the days no longer last longer than the nights, and the darkness begins to rule.

You know what that means, right?

If you’re not prepared to bicycle in the dark, you’re going to miss out on some fun.

Nearly anyone can ride a bicycle in broad daylight. Only those bright enough to adorn themselves with a little reflective material, and their bikes with headlights and tail lights, can pedal safely into the night and the wee hours of the morning.

A few tips for those who haven’t already tried this:

  • Slow down, particularly when you’re riding on an unlighted trail. Since you can’t see as far ahead as you do during the day, and not very far at all off to the side of the trail where scary things wait to jump out in front of you, slowing down gives you a little more time to react.
  • You won’t see many runners, skaters and walkers pushing strollers on a trail in the middle of the night, but don’t assume they aren’t there. Stay alert.
  • Also be ready to encounter and dodge any dim-bulb cyclists who are out riding without fresh batteries or even entirely light-free.
  • Assume that every driver on the road is drunk and/or stupid. (This might be a good rule for daytime cycling, too, by the way.)
  • Enjoy the cool, quiet feeling of privacy and freedom that makes night cycling a unique, exhilarating experience.

Pedal on.

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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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Bicycle Safety and Driver Alertness Month

Woman with a step-through frame bicycle in the...

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You may have trouble finding this anywhere else, as the local media so far have largely ignored the idea, but here is the actual text of the proclamation that Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett made on Labor Day during the Linn County Mayors’ Bike Ride:

Whereas, the bicycle is a practical and environmentally sound form of transportation that is used daily by thousands of Iowa citizens for both recreation and commuting; and

Whereas, residents will experience the joys of bicycling through educational programs, races, trail riding, charity events, commuting to work or simply venturing out to enjoy the weather; and

Whereas, rising concerns about health, fitness, increased energy costs and the environment have increased the number of cyclists on our roads in recent years.  Motor vehicles and cyclists are obligated to share the state’s roadways; and

Whereas, Bicycle Safety and Driver Alertness Month asks cyclists to share the road, safely accommodate motorists, wear the proper safety equipment and riding gear, strictly follow all laws of the road, operate with extreme caution and learn expert techniques that provide for a heightened level of safety while riding; and

Whereas, it is a privilege to recognize Cedar Rapids’ appreciation for the outdoors, and remind all citizens of their responsibility to be safe and alert so that everyone may equally exercise their right to enjoy our wonderful community.

Now therefore, I, Ron J. Corbett, Mayor of Cedar Rapids, Iowa do hereby declare September, 2010 as:

“Bicycle Safety & Driver Alertness Month”

in Cedar Rapids and encourage all citizens to identify and learn the various aspects of bicycle and motor vehicle safety as it relates to sharing our public roads in an effort to make Cedar Rapids’ streets some of the safest in the state.

Thanks, Mayor Corbett.

A quibble, if I may:

I probably would have asked the motorists to share the road in that fourth paragraph. They’re the ones piloting the big, heavy machinery after all.

Anyway, here’s hoping a lot of motorists get the message about being alert – maybe even some that weren’t there to hear Corbett read it aloud. Most of those folks were on bicycles, right?

Spread the word.

Pedal on.

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Motorists liable until proven otherwise? Hard to imagine

The concept of strict liability for motorists involved in collisions with people riding bicycles was so foreign to me that I had to watch this twice. Imagine…

Thanks to tweeters @alicestrong and @bikecommutenews for calling attention to that video.

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September to be Bicycle Safety Month in C.R.

Cedar Rapids Mayor Ron Corbett plans to declare September “Bicycle Safety Month,” says an email posted Friday afternoon on Dave Glandon’s blog.

It also says Corbett plans to participate in the Linn County Mayors’ Bike Ride on Sept. 6.

That’s good news for a couple of reasons:

  • The proclamation – depending, of course, on what it says – will help spread the word that people need to be more concerned than they have been for the safety of others, specifically for the safety of citizens who ride bicycles on our streets.
  • His participation in the ride means at least two of the 17 Linn County mayors plan to participate in the ride named for them.

Two?

That’s how many had said “yes” as of Friday.

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Questioning Sen. Hogg about the consequences of careless driving

At the second stop on State Sen. Robb Hogg’s fifth annual bike ride through his Eastern Iowa district on Sunday, he was asked about the potential consequences of one of his fellow bicyclists’ being killed by a careless driver.

Paraphrasing my own question here: Shouldn’t a person whose careless driving causes the death of another person face time behind bars as a possible penalty?

Well, the answer seems to be, now paraphrasing Sen. Hogg’s various comments:

  • I’m not sure we should be sending people to prison because of legitimate accidents. (I agreed that not every incident should be resolved by throwing someone in jail, but maintained that the state should allow for jail or prison time as a possible outcome for someone whose carelessness causes death or injury.)
  • Sometimes accidents just happen. (I said we could have quite a long debate over what deadly situations can be prevented and what might be termed – legitimately if vaguely – “accidents.” Most traffic “accidents” can be avoided if people take their driving responsibilities seriously and pay attention to what is going on around them.)
  • We need to do more to make bicycling safer. The Iowa Senate did pass a bicyclists’ Bill of Rights. (True on both counts, but that Bill of Rights is meaningless without corresponding success in the Iowa House and a governor’s signature. What have you done for us lately? What will you do now?)

Presently, I can turn my motor vehicle in front of you as you ride your bicycle down the street, causing a collision that leads to your death, then drive away with a simple traffic ticket and, maybe, a guilty conscience.

As Sen. Hogg and others have asked, in one way or another, “Isn’t it enough that I will have to think about that for the rest of my life?”

Well, no. It’s not.

You should think about the consequences of careless driving before your careless driving kills someone. If you know you could wind up behind bars, maybe you will think harder when it counts.

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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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