Archive for the ‘bicycling’ Category

According to Australian mainstream media, Bicycle Network is that country’s one and only group for representing the interests of cyclists. This is the organization which, for the past 30 years, promoted mandatory helmet laws. With friends like that who needs enemies?

But now, I guess in an attempt to stay relevant, Bicycle Network has been conducting a highly publicized survey on the issue of mandatory helmet laws. The good news is that the survey result showed agreement on repealing Australia’s mandatory helmet laws. However, a substantial number of respondents (40%) want to retain the law for children.

This survey result is typical, especially when the bicycle gearheads discuss helmet laws on the internets. Children, it is argued, need to be protected because they are more vulnerable to traumatic head injury. Like everything else involving helmets, that argument is based on superstition instead of hard data.

Children are actually not all that vulnerable to head injury. In fact, if there is one age group extremely vulnerable to traumatic head injury it isn’t children but the elderly. Rates of head-injury deaths in the US were highest for those aged 75 and older. Similar results are seen in Europe. From a safety standpoint, it is ludicrous to single out the age group least at risk:


TBI-associated death (Eurostat)

Now to be clear, this data is for all TBI-related fatalities, not just ones involving a bicycle. The point here is to show that children do not have some biological issue that requires special head protection.

And of course, we already know that mandatory youth helmet laws is ineffective by looking at places that implemented such laws, including California and parts of Canada. Oh, and Australia.



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UK Roads Minister Jesse Norman doesn’t think enough is being done to dissuade cycling. He is conducting a safety review that may result in some new laws:

A review into cycling safety announced last month would be broad, possibly including whether cyclists should be forced to wear helmets and high-visibility clothing, Norman said. But he promised any conclusions would be led by evidence.

On possible laws for helmets and high-visibility clothing, Norman said the review would “ask very general questions and if the feedback is that we should consider that stuff, then we’ll look at it”.

He added: “Obviously there will be some people who feel very strongly that there should be hi-vis, and there will be plenty of people who think very strongly the other way. It’ll be the same with helmets. The literature on risk is quite a well developed one, I don’t need to tell you.”

Norman’s safety review was triggered by the tragic fatality of a pedestrian, Kim Briggs. She was struck by a cyclist as she crossed against a light. The cyclist was jailed because his bike lacked front brakes. Norman has proposed increased penalties for what he calls “dangerous cycling”.

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Oakland screws up a simple road-diet

On the list of “low-hanging fruit” for bike projects in Oakland, it is hard to top Joaquin Miller Rd. It is a popular cycling route for accessing parks in the Oakland hills. But the road is grossly overbuilt for the minuscule car traffic it carries — 4 travel lanes, plus parking, and a wide median. As a result, there is a huge amount of speeding. A speed survey found 90% of drivers exceeding the 35 mph speed limit (with 50 mph not uncommon).

A road diet was the obvious solution for reducing speeds and providing improved bike/ped facilities. And so here is the re-striping plan that Oakland’s professional planners came up with:


As you can see, the uphill side (shown on the left) retains the two travel lanes. This of course does nothing to slow the speeding. And then there is the mess on the right: they removed one of the travel lanes, but did not use the extra space to create a bike lane. Instead there is a weird median buffer, for what purpose I have no idea.

It is hard to overstate the incompetence shown here. The road is sufficiently wide for buffered bike lanes, or perhaps even parking-protected cycle-track on both sides of the street. Instead we got a useless median buffer. Uphill cyclists are especially vulnerable due to the huge speed differential. And pedestrians will still have to contend with crossing a multi-lane arterial with speeding traffic.


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Civil engineers in the US have a blind spot for any work done in foreign countries (especially non-English speaking ones). One example comes from a recent bike safety study done by Georgia Tech.

Researchers in the Ga Tech Civil Engineering Dept. tried to analyze which bike facility provides the most effective safety benefit:

Shared lane markings. Bike lanes painted a bright color. Bike boxes at intersections. Cycle tracks that provide physical barriers between bikes and cars.

Communities have built these and other flavors of infrastructure to try to make it safer for people to ride their bikes along roadways or through neighborhoods. But which ones work best?

The short answer is, we really aren’t sure yet.

That conclusion comes from a group of School of Civil and Environmental Engineering transportation researchers who analyzed studies on the effectiveness of bicycle safety infrastructure. Their work appears in the June issue of the Journal of Safety Research.

“There’s just so little research that we really have no idea how well most of these pieces of infrastructure are working in terms of keeping people safer,” said Kari Watkins, Frederick Law Olmsted associate professor and one of the study’s co-authors.

In fact, we have very good data as to what kind of bike infrastructure works because the Dutch (and Germans and Danes) figured this stuff out decades ago. They have published numerous papers, not to mention design manuals.

So why don’t researchers look at any of the results from Netherlands? Because…

Watkins said researchers may have missed relevant and insightful studies from other countries where much more bicycling infrastructure exists, like Germany and the Netherlands, simply because the work has not been translated into English.


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As a bicyclist, this makes me extremely nervous. The Tesla Model X has a convenience “feature” whereby the car door opens itself. It is very gee whiz, until this happens:


And here is a video taken by a Tesla enthusiast as he discovers this feature:

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Slide-BIKE-SHARE_t180The timing is hilarious.

On June 1st, Baltimore Mayor Pugh announced that the Potomic street cycletrack would be ripped out, and downgraded to a dysfunctional and unprotected bike lane. This was done to placate residents upset over the loss of a couple parking spaces.  The Mayor also wants to “evaluate” other bike projects, which means this could be a precursor to other removals.

A mere 48 hours later, Mayor Pugh released a statement expressing support for the Paris climate accords:

My endorsement of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals, including goal thirteen which specifically addresses climate action related to greenhouse gas reduction, recognizes the complexity of these challenges. As a city we cannot ignore the urgency of these issues.

It is true we have grown accustomed to politicians who lie and say one thing but do another. But even so, you have to wonder what the Mayor and her staff were thinking when they drafted this statement while working to remove a major bike project.

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Today marks the anniversary of Italy’s liberation from Nazi occupation. There were many heroes in the resistance. One you may not have heard of is Gino Bartali, two-time winner of the Tour de France:

Twice winner of the Tour de France and three times champion of the Giro d’Italia, the Italian cyclist’s greatest achievement was the part he played in the resistance. In fact, he used his skills on two wheels to save the lives of Jews, by transporting false identity papers between cities – hidden in the seat of his bicycle.

Later, Bartali moved on to physically transporting Jewish people to the safety of the Swiss Alps in a wagon pulled along by the bike. His fame proved to be a valuable asset, as he was able to tell patrols that his various journeys were simply part of his training – though he aroused suspicion, as a national hero, police likely didn’t want to risk upset by arresting the cyclist.

It is unknown exactly how many people Bartali saved, as the humble cyclist refused to be interviewed about his rescue activities.

Bartali was featured in the 2014 documentary My Italian Secret: The Forgotten Heroes:

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