Archive for the ‘bicycling’ Category

The idiotic Australian helmet law strikes again:

Melbourne police officers succeeded where scores of action movie villains have failed when they stopped Hollywood tough guy Arnold Schwarzenegger in his tracks on Monday.

The intervention began after photographs began circulating on social media of the American actor, bodybuilder and politician riding one of Melbourne’s blue share bikes. The Terminator and Predator star was wearing bike-matching blue shorts, but not a bicycle helmet.

“I saw a group of cyclists riding ahead of me and we just went up to do a routine intercept,” Senior Constable Gillson told Fairfax Media on Tuesday.

“Then we noticed that Arnold Schwarzenegger was in the crowd. “We spoke to him briefly and had a little chat with him about the reason why I pulled him over.”

The constable said he often chose to educate tourists from countries without helmet laws rather than fine them.

Someone needs educating, and it isn’t the tourists.


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This Is Not A Cycle Track

Here is a “cycle track” that was just installed in Alameda, along Shoreline Dr:


And here is a cross-section diagram of the “cycle track” (click to enlarge):


Can you spot what’s wrong? The answer, of course, is that there is nothing protecting the cyclists from the cars. A cycle track should have physical separation between car and bike traffic (preferably with a concrete curb). Alameda is only installing paint and stanchions. The other option for protecting cyclists is to put the cycle-track behind parked cars — but that was only been done in a few places during daytime hours. Alameda put most parking on the wrong side of the street.

For comparison, here is how a cycle track is supposed to look:

Amsterdam cycle track

Amsterdam cycle track

Alameda is hardly an isolated case. Here is what they are calling a “cycle track” in Minneapolis:


There is no reason cyclists should have to put up with this substandard infrastructure.

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I was hoping to avoid comment on Senator Liu’s mandatory bike helmet law. It is a zombie idea that pops up every so often in the US. The California legislature last considered the idea in the early 1990’s. That was during the height of bike helmet hysteria, and even then Legislators thought it was a bad idea. Two decades later, the idea has even less traction now that we can look at the experience of nearly a dozen places that tried it. Senator Liu has yet to explain why it would work in California when it failed miserably in Canada, Spain, Australia, New Zealand, and Seattle.

One argument frequently heard is that mandatory helmet laws are just like mandatory seatbelt laws. There is actually a lot of validity to that argument: Both are feel-good measures and yet counter-productive for safety.

Now you are probably thinking that seatbelt laws have saved tens of thousands of lives. You are also thinking that automobile fatalities have been on a long decline, and that seatbelts are largely responsible. You may also have watched slow-motion videos of crash-test dummies. But the inconvenient truth is that while seatbelts are good to have in an accident, there is no evidence that mandatory seatbelt laws improved safety:


That figure comes from work done by Dr. John Adams. It covered 80% of the world’s car population at the time of publication. If you have not heard of the name and believe he is some crank, it is quite the opposite. Dr. Adams literally wrote the book on modern risk analysis.

Here is another figure, showing how fatalities and injuries increased when the UK passed its mandatory rear seatbelt law:


And here is what happened when Australia implemented the law. Note again how fatalities went back up:


It is worth considering why mandatory seatbelt laws have negative consequences. One reason has to do with the idea of risk compensation:

Risk compensation is a theory which suggests that people typically adjust their behavior in response to the perceived level of risk, becoming more careful where they sense greater risk and less careful if they feel more protected. Although usually small in comparison to the fundamental benefits of safety interventions, it may result in a lower net benefit than expected.  By way of example, it has been observed that motorists drove faster when wearing seatbelts and closer to the vehicle in front when the vehicles were fitted with anti-lock brakes.

A consequence of risk compensation is that motorists drive faster, causing increased risk for pedestrians and cyclists. It is a major reason why pedestrian and bicycle fatalities have not declined.

Another reason why seatbelt laws didn’t work is because they were implemented instead of making changes in the infrastructure. It is a similar problem to bike helmet laws, which legislators also prefer to implement over more costly infrastructure improvements.

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A good first step, but this really needs to be implemented nationally as a Federal safety mandate:

At least 200 municipal trucks will be outfitted with side guards this year as city officials try to cut down on pedestrian and bicyclist deaths. The side guards — actually rails — to be installed between the trucks front and rear wheels help keep people involved in a collision with a truck from being dragged underneath, Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office said in a news release.

While trucks make up less than 4 percent of vehicles on city roads, collisions with trucks account for 12.3 percent of pedestrian fatalities and 32 percent of bicyclist fatalities, city officials said.

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I have a hard time believing drivers in Honolulu are as dumb as merchants make them out to be:

The owner of Brian’s Fishing Supply has had a drop-off in drop-in customers. He blames the bike lane moving metered stalls farther from the sidewalk.

“It almost appears as if your vehicle is sitting in first lane of outside traffic,” Brian Kimata said. “A lot of people are hesitant to park there because they feel like their car is going to get rear-ended.”

Kevin Key works at the King Street Apartment Hotel. A handful of small businesses lease space fronting King St. “Businesses are losing money,” he said. “Even for the vendors who are coming, basically they don’t know where to park or don’t have anywhere to park.”

The city said there’s been no change in the number of parking spaces.

Shop owners also said drivers continue to get stuck behind parked cars. When they see it happen workers in a hair salon now hold up a cardboard sign that reads, “You’re behind a parked car! Yes…it’s parking ahead.”


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Just Why?


ht: reddit CrappyDesign forum

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NHTSA Punts on Truck Sideguards

Trucks are one of the greatest hazards for bicyclists and pedestrians. The problem not just the poor visibility, but also the lack of protection around the wheels. Sideguards would greatly reduce that vulnerability, by deflecting bikes and peds away from the truck in a collision. Most trucks in Europe and Japan are required to have sideguards, but no such regulation exists in the United States.

In April 2014, the NTSB issued a recommendation for sideguard regulation. The NTSB is only an advisory body, however, so any regulation must be implemented by the NHTSA. On July 10, 2014, the NHTSA published its response to the NTSB recommendation:

NHTSA is planning on issuing two separate notices—an advanced notice of proposed rulemaking pertaining to rear impact guards and other safety strategies for single unit trucks, and a notice of proposed rulemaking focusing on rear impact guards on trailers and semitrailers. NHTSA is still evaluating the Petitioners’ request to improve side guards and front override guards and will issue a separate decision on those aspects of the petition at a later date.

When the NHTSA says it needs more time to study a problem, it usually means the agency will not take action. In this case, I would be happy to be proven wrong, but it does not appear that the NHTSA is interested in the safety of bicyclists and pedestrians.


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