Archive | July, 2012

Two Sides of the Coin

26 Jul

Photo credit: City of London Police

One of the most confounding issues associated with cycling for transportation is this vicious circle: cyclists not being treated as legitimate users of public roads, and cyclists not acting like legitimate users of those roads.  When cycling advocates lobby for, say, a state law that would require at least 3 feet of distance when a car driver passes a cyclist, they often hear the retort: “Why should we pass a law to protect people who constantly break the law?” (Never mind that plenty of motorists break laws without being disqualified from legal protection, but that’s another issue).  At the same time, cyclists are not infrequently told to “get off the road” or are otherwise harassed by motorists who see them as nothing more than a nuisance.

This dilemma is coming even more to the fore as cycling increases in U.S. cities.  At some point, hopefully, the presence of cyclists on the road will be so common that no one will think twice about whether they really belong there.  And hopefully that will also mean that more cyclists will embrace their status as drivers of vehicles and the responsibilities that this entails.

A couple of recent NY Times pieces suggest that we have some distance to go.  The most recent article explains that New York City, which has seen a marked increase in cycling over the last few years, has started sending cyclists to the equivalent of driving school when they get written up for traffic violations.  In one sense this is exactly what is needed: cyclists being treated the same as motorists, with everything that entails.  On the other hand, one does come away with the impression that the NYPD has been a bit overzealous in its enforcement in some cases.

A popular video by Casey Neistat points this out in a bitingly humorous, slapstick sort of way, and captures the dilemma described above very well too: after being cited for not riding in the bike lane, he films himself crashing into all sorts of obstacles blocking the bike lane, including a police cruiser.

Another Times article published just a few days earlier shows how some cyclists have been able to document harassment and other bad motorist behavior using small digital video cameras.  Given that cyclists are at a huge disadvantage in relation to cars, anything that tips that balance just a bit is welcome.  The article speculates that drivers in general might take more caution if they think a lot of cyclists are wearing such cameras.

At the same time, I wonder if this indirectly exaggerates the danger of cycling.  I ride in Richmond and the surrounding area constantly, and although I’ve had a few “encounters,” so far they’ve never ended in injury or a crash (just attempts on my part to convey the message “WTF??!!” with hand signals on the chance that he or she is looking in the rearview mirror).  It doesn’t happen often enough for me to feel the need to document every ride on video.  At least not yet.  But if wearing cameras becomes enough of a trend for motorists to think twice about how close or fast they’re passing, for example, I’m all for it.  In the meantime I’d like to see more lobbying of relevant officials to teach drivers how to interact with non-motorized vehicles in driver’s education classes and on tests.

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Technical Difficulties

23 Jul

I’m not sure how many readers this has affected, but I have discovered that my entries for the past couple of months have been posted to Facebook on my personal page rather than Bikeablerichmond.  If you access the blog that way and have wondered about the dearth of posts, I was actually blogging all along, just being a bit daft with respect to wordpress settings.  This post will hopefully confirm that I finally have it right.

Bike Parade?

19 Jul

Richmond.com mentions a bike parade to be led by bike-riding artist Chris Milk as one of the activities for the Downtown Artwalk Block Party planned for this Saturday, July 21.   Great idea!  Unfortunately that’s all it says, and I haven’t been able to find any further details elsewhere.  Anyone have the scoop?

While I have your attention, just a reminder that the public input session for Richmond Connects, the city’s multi-modal transportation plan, is today (Thursday, July 19) from 5:30 to 7:30pm at the VDOT Central Office Auditorium, located at 1221 East Broad Street.  Unfortunately I made travel plans before the meeting was announced, so I won’t be able to attend, but I hope a bunch of cyclists can make it to evaluate the recommendations for bike infrastructure and how it will mesh with other transportation modes, not to mention reinforce how important cycling is and will be for the city.

Richmond Connects

12 Jul
The city contracted a firm a few months ago to develop a multimodal transportation plan, and this effort has been organized under the banner of Richmond Connects.  Needless to say, bicycling will be a key component of a truly multimodal tranportation system, and the city’s transportation system as a whole will play an enormous role in how livable and attractive the city is in the future. 
 
The planning team has already held some public forums to gather input, and on Thursday 7/19 they will be doing so again, this time for the main principles and recommendations they’ve developed.  Please consider attending the meeting and offering your input.  It’s not always easy to tell in what ways and how soon a plan like this will produce change or other concrete results, but they offer the opportunity to discuss visions for the future, and decision-makers do refer to them.  Below is the text from an email that recently circulated with further details:
 
This public workshop will be at the VDOT Central Office Auditorium, 1221 East Broad Street from 5:30 to 7:30 pm on July 19th.  Mayor Dwight C. Jones is scheduled to speak at 6pm.  The public workshop will provide you an opportunity to prioritize the guiding principles for the plan and to review draft recommendations.  If you cannot attend the meeting you will find most of the material covered on our website at http://www.richmondgov.com/TransportationPlan/.  

Bike-Friendly Employers

3 Jul

In addition to improved infrastructure (lanes, markings, racks, etc.), one of the biggest things that promotes more biking for transportation is for employers to offer facilities and incentives to their employees to bike to work.  Amy over at RideRichmond has an informative post on what employers can do to make it easier and more attractive for their employees to do so.  Check it out here.  The League of American Bicyclists also has a program that recognizes bicycle-friendly businesses.  Click here for the brochure, and here for the complete list of BFB’s.

A standard type of bike rack often designed and purchased by people who probably never have to lock a bicycle. It really accommodates only two bicycles easily, one on each end. Photo: Missouri Vocational Enterprises.

One of the easiest things an employer can do is provide a safe, secure place to store or lock bicycles.  If you can convince your employer to invest in one, try to get her or him to avoid the kind pictured here, which safely accommodates only one bicycle on each end, along with others that only allow you to lock the wheel of your bike — a method that makes the work of bike thieves all too easy.  Putting in only two of the type now being installed on Richmond streets, for example (see previous post), would accommodate twice as many bicycles very easily.

Providing a convenient place to change and shower is another big one, especially where more formal appearance and dress are expected.

Other retail businesses could also follow Ellwood Thompson’s lead and offer a discount to customers who use a form of transportation other than a car too.  It frees up car parking and saves money in terms of the number of spaces needed: you can fit about 10 bicycles in the space needed for one car.

Do you know of other bicycle-friendly businesses and employers in Richmond?  And if your employer is not yet bicycle-friendly, consider asking about facilities — maybe one smaller thing first to get the ball rolling.