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Archive for the ‘bicycling’ Category

For several decades, Australia has been under the thumb of mandatory helmet laws. Those laws depressed cycling levels and diverted resources away from actual safety measures. The one most responsible for those laws is Dr. Raphael Grzebieta, Emeritus Professor at the UNSW Transport and Road Safety Research unit. He has now been recognized as Australia’s Engineer of the Year for his work on a “road transport system in Australia that aspires to zero deaths on our roads”.

So bravo Raph! This is fantastic recognition for a lifetime’s work of…um…giving Australia one of the worst records for cycling. As for the real engineering professionals who achieved huge gains in road safety, this is what he thinks of those bozos:

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If HB2262/SB1263 passes, Virginia can be added to the list of states implementing the Idaho Stop. Called the Bicycle Safety Act, the bill would also require drivers to fully change lanes to pass bicyclists, and eliminate the requirement that cyclists ride single file. The Senate version has already passed out of the Transportation Committee:

Given some drivers’ distaste for cyclists, the most controversial component of the bill will likely be allowing people on bikes to treat stop signs as yields as long as they do so “with due care.”  Tyndall considers it a critical safety measure. “The ‘safety stop’ is the law of the land in six states now,” he said. “Delaware did a 30 month-long study before and after their law changed and found cyclist injuries at intersections dropped 23 percent. Idaho saw a 14.5 percent reduction in bike crashes. It mitigates the chances of being rear-ended [by a car].” Unlike the pioneering “Idaho stop,” Virginia’s “safety stop” still requires cyclists obey red lights just like any other vehicle on the road. Durham hopes passing the bill will allow localities to redirect limited police resources to more important issues.

State Sen. Joe Morrissey, D-Richmond — the Senate patron of the legislation — doesn’t expect any bumps along the road to passage. “I haven’t heard anything negative about it, and I don’t expect any opposition,” he said. “I don’t see why there would be any angst with bicyclists treating a stop sign as a yield sign. Who could object to changing lanes to pass? I don’t see a problem with letting people ride two abreast.”

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The GHSA just tweeted this:

There is a lot to unpack here. Let’s start with the fact that this report was put out by the automotive industry. The report actually found that countries with the lowest helmet use (Netherlands, Denmark) were much safer for cyclists compared to countries with high helmet use (UK). Based on that, one would conclude helmets provide no benefit. Tanya Mohn, who is a self-described travel blogger, somehow misconstrued this as saying helmets save lives. The policy “experts” at the GHSA then retweet Mohn’s posting to its audience.

So this is the state of our discourse today — though given GHSRA’s history of promoting helmets over bike infrastructure, none of this comes as a surprise.

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Nobody could have predicted:

Seattle police have written a decreasing number of citations under the county’s all-ages helmet law, even as bikeshares like Lime and Jump arrived in recent years. However, of the citations the police have issued since 2017, at least 43% were given to people struggling with homelessness, according to an analysis of court records by Crosscut. Since 2019, that number was 60%. The total is almost certainly an undercount.

Even Dr. Fred Rivara, UW Medicine’s chief of general pediatrics, who has become an outspoken advocate of wearing helmets, questions the law’s efficacy. “I still firmly believe in the importance of helmets,” he said. “Whether having a law enforced now would help to boost that, I don’t know. It’s an open question.”

Dr Rivara is, of course, obscuring his role in promoting helmet legislation:

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Over the past decade, NSW police doubled the number of fines handed out for riding without a helmet, and the cost of the fine increased by more than 700%. That is one of the conclusions of Dr. Quilter (Policing mandatory bicycle helmet laws in NSW: Fair cop or unjust gouge?). Dr. Quilter also found the helmet law was disproportionately used against cyclists in low-income areas and youths:

“We were seeing people with $10,000 to $50,000 worth of fines,” Dr Quilter said. “In some cases, a huge amount [$5000-$12,000] worth of fines were bicycle offences alone. Some people got 10 fines in one interaction.” Sometimes fines were given to a child riding both to and from school on the same day, she said.

Bike fines have become the “quickest and easiest route” to a search and the “socio-economic litmus test” of policing as they disproportionately hit those in lower-income areas, Redfern legal centre police accountability practice head Samantha Lee said.

Often for a young person, a bike is their only mode of transport, and if they get stopped for riding on the footpath, asked why they haven’t got a helmet, that escalates into a search and they may get annoyed and swear. “It leads to the trifecta,” Ms Lee said. “Fine for not wearing a helmet, fine for offensive language, and then fine for resisting arrest.”

Meanwhile, there is not much policing of actual hazards:

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Sacramento St in Berkeley is currently under construction for what is described as a “complete streets” project. Here is the existing conditions:

As you can see, this is an extremely wide 4-lane arterial running through a residential neighborhood. The roadway has very low traffic volumes, leading to speeding and dangerous passing. The obvious solution would be a road diet to reduce speeds and space for buffered bike lanes (or perhaps even cycletracks). Instead, the city is only proposing to put in some new intersection treatments without doing any lane reductions or other measures to reduce speeding.

Let’s compare to a very similar project going on along Oakland’s 14th Ave. Here is the existing road configuration, which as you can see is also a 4-lane residential arterial:

Given the similarity of the two streets, one might expect these neighboring cities to implement similar solutions. But aside from the intersection treatments, the approaches are quite different. Berkeley is not adding bike lanes and will maintain its street as a dangerous high-speed thoroughfare. Oakland is doing a full road diet to calm traffic. Thus, the Oakland project is complete, the Berkeley one is not. The sad thing is that the Berkeley project sits directly outside a BART station and connects to a popular bike trail. The top community concern in meetings was slowing traffic, so how did Berkeley end up doing the bare minimum?

Oakland 14th Ave road diet
Berkeley “Complete” Streets project

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A critical section of Bay Trail running past Golden Gate Fields was opened this past June linking Berkeley and Richmond. This wildly popular segment is useful for both recreational and commuter cyclists.

But not everyone was happy about this path. Back in 2013, Norman Laforce filed a lawsuit against the EB Regional Park District over the EIR for the project.

This was hardly the first time Laforce had battled the park district. I first heard about Laforce in 1995, when he tried blocking construction of another Bay Trail segment. He has a long history of filing frivolous lawsuits and trying to prevent the public from accessing their public parks. His world view is that parks are to be fenced off from the public. He has tried to remove kiteboarders and dogs from Albany Beach, prohibit cyclists from riding on fire roads, and even opposed the Berkeley High girls crew team from rowing in the Aquatic Park lagoon.

Laforce is now running for a seat on the EBRPD Board of Directors. Hilariously, his website features a picture of him with his dog on a trail, and talks about the importance of improving park access to “urban youth”. If you live in EBRPD Ward 1 (Berkeley/Richmond area), it is critical that you vote for his opponent, Elizabeth Echols.

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Merchants in the Northgate section of Telegraph Avenue are complaining about the new cycletrack installed by the City of Oakland, and want it removed. But ironically they admitted it improves safety:

Businesses have said that they have lost customers who like to pull up for just a moment.

The double-parking along Telegraph by UberEats drivers has been one of the main hazards for cyclists. Restaurants should figure out a new business model that does not depend on dangerous double-parking.

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Just a reminder: 99% of bicycle fatalities involve a collision with a motor vehicle — and bike helmets do not protect against that type of impact. If you don’t want to take my word for it, then here is Eric Richer, Giro’s Brand Development Manager, explaining it:

“There are many misconceptions about helmets, unfortunately,” says Giro’s Richter. “We do not design helmets specifically to reduce chances or severity of injury when impacts involve a car. As mentioned earlier, the number of variables is too great to calculate – the speed of the car, the mass, the angle of impact, the rider, the surface, the speed of the rider, did the driver or rider swerve a little or hit the brakes before impact. All of these variables and more are unique in every instance, and there is no way to accurately predict what is going to happen or the forces involved.

“What we do is work to make riders more visible, create helmets that provide relevant coverage so that riders wear them whenever they ride, and advocate for better infrastructure to help reduce the chances that you’d encounter an impact with a car.”

 

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Common sense prevails in Tacoma:

Tacoma will no longer require people to wear helmets when bicycling, skateboarding, roller-skating or riding a scooter in the city limits. Tacoma City Council approved the first reading of an ordinance on Tuesday that in part repeals a section of city code requiring helmets for certain modes of transportation.

The changes come after the city completed its micro-mobility pilot program, which began in 2018 when the city entered into an agreement to allow companies Bird and Lime to deploy scooters and bikes on Tacoma streets with the intent of evaluating new and environmentally friendly transportation options.

“This code review was spurred by our team’s work on micro-mobility; however, as we dug into the Tacoma Municipal Code as it relates to active transportation, it quickly became apparent that there’s some outdated, inconsistent code language that doesn’t align with best practices or city and state policy.

 

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