Posts Tagged 'Traffic' – Building Better Bicycle Cultures: Free Hugs (Sorry, not for drivers)

Fun video, rewarding folks for not driving… – Building Better Bicycle Cultures: Free Hugs (Sorry, not for drivers).

Click it. Enjoy.

Let officials know you want action when cyclists are injured or killed

Some phone numbers you might consider calling to ask what is being done in the wake of Susan DeSotel’s death (see previous post):

  • Cedar Rapids Police Department: (319) 286-5491
  • Mayor Ron Corbett, City Hall: (319) 286-5051
  • Mayor Ron Corbett, Home: (319) 365-8187

Those numbers are all from the city’s website. You can find your council representatives there, too.

Let the police and the mayor and the others know you care about this.

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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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Bicycle Safety and Driver Alertness Month

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

Image via Wikipedia

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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Spelling it out for motorists: Share the Road signs

A followup to last year’s prediction:

Linn County officials did agree to take ownership of Share the Road signs funded by cyclists – now being put in place as explained in this story – and very reasonably won’t charge cyclists for maintenance.

A few quick thoughts:

  1. Cyclists who pedal those county roads for the most part already knew they had to share the roads with motorists. It’s kind of hard not to know you are sharing that space when you’re on a bicycle. It is motorists who need to be educated on the concept.
  2. Yes, sometimes cyclists can be rude. So can motorists. Welcome to the world.
  3. Mrs. Smith and I helped pay for those signs, along with a bunch of other individuals and the Hawkeye Bicycle Association. I still maintain, however, that it’s the equivalent of asking individual motorists to take up a collection to install yield signs or paint yellow “no passing” stripes on the highways. Such signage should be treated just like any other public infrastructure, just as alternative transportation should be included in all road planning.

You’ve probably heard it’s National Bike Month. Good time to be educating the motoring public and your elected decision-makers. Let ’em know what you think.

Be polite.

Pedal on.

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Get the Iowa bike safety bill passed (update)

The latest (2-7):

The Iowa Bicycle Coalition says the 5-foot passing distance could still become law.

Check this out and send your emails.

Another update 2-3:

The “5 Feet to Pass” effort in the Iowa Legislature is now down to “3 Feet to Pass.”

Let’s hope that’s enough margin for error. As we all know, people are not all that skillful in controlling their motorized vehicles – and sometimes the same applies to their bicycles.

That seems to have improved the bill’s chances of getting passed.

What do you think? Is 3 feet enough to require?

Passing along an update 1-26:

“You can pause your emails on the Bike Bill.  It has been introduced and amended.  Ready to move forward.  I will send a message when you need to make more connections.”

Too late to pause mine.

Earlier today:

It is hard to imagine bicycles being banned from Iowa’s roads, but a message this morning from Mark Wyatt of the Iowa Bicycle Coalition to supporters of the Bike Safety and Responsibility Bill was alarming anyway.

Wyatt said:

These legislators are hearing more from people who want bikes off the road than people who support the bike safety bill.  WE NEED YOUR HELP.

“These legislators” are members of the House Human Resources Committee:

Rep. Mark Smith (
Rep. Deb Berry (
Rep. Linda Miller (
Rep. Ako Abdul-Samad (
Rep. Dwayne Alons (
Rep. Clel Baudler (
Rep. Greg Forristal (
Rep. Dave Heaton (
Rep. Lisa Heddens (
Rep. Bruce Hunter (
Rep. Kevin Koester (
Rep. Mary Mascher (
Rep. Tyler Olson (
Rep. Janet Petersen (
Rep. Renee Schulte (
Rep. Chuck Soderberg (
Rep. Sharon Steckman (
Rep. Phyllis Thede (
Rep. Linda Upmeyer (
Rep. Roger Wendt (
Rep. Beth Wessel-Krieschell (

They need to hear from us. Wyatt suggested this as a sample email.

Dear Representative NAME,

Please support the amended SF 117, the Bike Safety and Responsibility Bill.  The bill is fair to both bicyclists and motorists.

The required passing distance could save lives.  The dangerous behavior towards vulnerable highway users should not be tolerated in Iowa.



Now, go send some emails. Requiring drivers to pass carefully isn’t too much to ask.

Q/A coming for Tower Terrace Road plan

The Corridor MPO staff will host a question and answer session at 6 p.m. Thursday on the updated Tower Terrace Road Corridor Management Plan.

The Q/A will be at St. Mark’s Church, 8300 C Avenue in Marion. An email announcement said information collected from previous stakeholder and advisory group meetings has been incorporated into the plan.

If you are unable to attend the question and answer session, you can get an electronic copy of the updated plan from Tara Bradley (

The plan is described as bringing together “several years of planning efforts into a single concise document for use by the Corridor MPO and affected member entities in the future development of the Tower Terrace Road corridor.”

The last version of the plan that I saw included bike lanes and wide sidewalks.

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Public meeting about Springville intersection: Tell DOT what you think

Springville, Iowa

Consider stopping in at American Legion Post 331, at 252 Broadway in Springville, on Tuesday (1/12/10) for a public info meeting of interest to cyclists and motorists alike.

The Iowa DOT is hosting the meeting between 5:30 and 7 p.m. to discuss proposed changes to the intersection of U.S. 151 and Linn County Road X-20 (AKA “Springville Road”).

HBA member Lisa Paulos says the modification plans initially did not include accommodations for cyclists or pedestrians. She reminds us that we need to continue to make our concerns known when these things come up. Sooner or later, maybe, planners will not need so much prompting to keep all road users’ needs in mind.

A DOT news release on Dec. 30 said the meeting will use an “open forum” format. No formal presentation, but DOT staff members will be there with plans, displays and other information and ready to discuss the project “informally.”

More detail from that news release:

“Left turns would be allowed from U.S. 151 across the median. Linn County Road X-20 left turn and through traffic would be restricted with the use of J-turns. Right turn lanes would be construction on U.S. 151 at the intersection.

“For general information regarding the proposal or the public meeting, contact Catherine Cutler, transportation planner, District 6 Office, Iowa DOT, P.O. Box 3150, 430 16th Ave. S.W., Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52406-3150, telephone 319-364-0235 or 800-866-4358, e-mail”

Let ’em know what you think.

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On the road or on the trail, you have to look back

Bike Mirror
Image by Dawn Endico via Flickr

Don’t trust that little voice inside your head saying, “Don’t look back.” (Listen to that as you read on…)

Understand that Satchel Paige was wrong.

You have to look back – frequently – if you’re on a bicycle. At least a couple of dangerous sorts of things might be gaining on you:

  • A speeding motor vehicle, whose driver is drunk, sleeping, talking on a cell phone, texting and/or doesn’t think you belong on the road…. (I could go on.)
  • Another cyclist who is going to pass you without saying anything. (Don’t get me started on these people. How difficult is it to say, “On your left”?)

Since few of us are truly skilled enough to look over our shoulder without swerving into traffic, get a mirror.

Use it on every ride. Check it often.

Take evasive action as needed.

Live to ride another day.

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