And it’s a pretty short list.
Malmö is a city of 300,000 just a short hop from Copenhagen but a city well worth visiting in its own right. Full of history, sports, museums, architecture and boasting its own token castle as well as a thriving theater scene, Malmö also hosts a booming bicycling culture that will give cities like Amsterdam, Copenhagen and Stockholm a fierce bike ride for their money.
Malmö already has 255 miles (410 kilometers) of bicycle paths, outpacing Copenhagen’s network by a few miles. Bicycling has accelerated the past several years to the point at which 40 percent of all work related activities and 30 percent of all transports occurs via bicycles. Sensor systems at key intersections flip traffic signals to green if automobile traffic is light and a bicyclist approaches.
Now Sweden’s transportation authority has approved a four line bicycle superhighway (or a bicycle-bahn?) between Malmö and Lund, a nearby university town. The 10.5 mile link would be for the most part adjacent to rail tracks, feature exits but no intersections and offer wind protection from hedges. Bicycle service stations would also be included on this link. The proposed highway would also have links to bicycle and pedestrian paths to other towns in this southern tip of Sweden.
Here we go again. Over the past three or four years I have noticed an improvement in how the Tucson Police Department handles cycling incidents. It has been some years since I have filed a police complaint, which used to be a common need. There was a time when I was constantly confronting situations where cyclists were cited with some kind of made-up infraction after getting in a collision with a motorist, even when the motorist was demonstrably at fault.
But after Sgt. Tim Beam got moved out of traffic investigations, things improved a lot, and most of my clients have reported fair treatment from TPD officers. It’s also been a little while since I had a cyclist charged with, say, failure to yield after being hit by a driver who ran a stop sign. That sort of thing used to happen a lot.
But in the last few weeks I’ve gotten several reports that have me worried. I’ve been hearing about cyclists being charged with failure to control speed after getting right hooked or hit in intersections where they had the right-of-way. And now this: a cyclist who took the lane in a construction zone was yelled at, honked at, and then challenged to a fight by a motorist who sped ahead of him and pulled over. The motorist also pointed a semi-automatic weapon at him.
The cyclist got the license plate and a good look at his assailant, but the police refused even to visit the address to which the vehicle is registered. The advice given by TPD was simply that the cyclist should find another route to commute to work.
What am I missing? They have the license plate, they have a victim who can identify his assailant — why not pay the registered owner of the vehicle a visit? Is it because the victim is a cyclist, and TPD is resurrecting its former institutional disdain for people who commute by bike?
It’s worth checking out Alain Delormes’s photos of Chinese cargo bikes and the people riding them.
A reader just pointed out that the original site (Huffington Post) updated their site to clarify the photos are digitally altered. It did look a little over the top . . . .
This article from The Economist, just sent to me by A.C., pretty much just nails it about the dangers of cycling in America.
With a very few exceptions, America is no place for cyclists
Sep 3rd 2011 | SEATTLE | from the print edition
DYING while cycling is three to five times more likely in America than in Denmark, Germany or the Netherlands. To understand why, consider the death of Michael Wang. He was pedalling home from work in Seattle on a sunny weekday afternoon in late July when, witnesses say, a brown SUV made a left turn, crunched into Wang and sped away.
The road where the 44-year-old father of two was hit is the busiest cycling corridor in Seattle, and it has clearly marked bicycle lanes. But the lanes are protected from motor vehicles by a line of white paint—a largely metaphorical barrier that many drivers ignore and police do not vigorously enforce. A few feet from the cycling lane traffic moves at speeds of between 30 miles per hour, the speed limit for arterials in Seattle, and 40 miles per hour, the speed at which many cars actually travel. This kind of speed kills. A pedestrian hit by a car moving at 30mph has a 45% chance of dying; at 40mph, the chance of death is 85%, according to Britain’s Department of Transport.
Had Mr Wang been commuting on a busy bike route in Amsterdam, Copenhagen or Berlin, his unprotected exposure to instruments of death—namely, any vehicle moving at 20mph or more—would be nearly nil. These cities have knitted together networks for everyday travel by bike. To start with, motor vehicles allowed near cyclists are subject to “traffic calming”. They must slow down to about 19mph, a speed that, in case of collision, kills less than 5%. Police strictly enforce these speed limits with hefty fines. Repeat offenders lose their licences.
Calmer traffic is just the beginning. In much of northern Europe, cyclists commute on lanes that are protected from cars by concrete buffers, rows of trees or parked cars. At busy crossroads, bicycle-activated traffic lights let cyclists cross first. Traffic laws discriminate in favour of people on bikes. A few American cities have taken European-style steps to make streets safer for cycling, most notably Portland, Oregon, which has used most of the above ideas. The result: more bikes and fewer deaths. Nearly 6% of commuters bike to work in Portland, the highest proportion in America. But in five out of the past ten years there have been no cycling deaths there. In the nearby Seattle area, where cycling is popular but traffic calming is not, three cyclists, have been killed in the past few weeks.
Flagstaff cyclists ought to work on fixing this. Turns out in Flagstaff, bicyclists must yield right-of-way to right-turning motorists, even when in a bike lane/route.
Here’s the code:
“Section 9-05-001-0015 Right of Way At Intersection: Upon approaching an intersection, any person riding or operating bicycles in a bicycle lane shall yield the right of way to all vehicles within or approaching such intersection; except, that all vehicles which must stop or yield before entering an intersection because of a stop or yield sign and all vehicles making a left-hand turn at an intersection shall not proceed into such intersection nor make such a turn without first yielding the right of way to all bicycles within or approaching such intersection, and shall proceed only when it is safe to do so.”
Translation: if you are in a car you don’t need to be concerned about any cyclists to the right of you when making a turn — it’s their job to avoid you. And if you are on your bicycle and run down by a car in this fashion, don’t expect to collect from the driver’s insurance company, because you were “per se” negligent under the law.
My favorite part about this is that bicyclists even have to yield to cars that are behind them, approaching the intersection but overtaking them.
It’s pretty much not possible for a cyclist to cross an intersection in Flagstaff without putting herself at risk, because she would need to know the intentions of the drivers that may overtake her (and run her over) on the way through the intersection.
It’s from a NY Times article on Honduras that has nothing to do with bicycles. But what a mysterious, powerful photo. And a girl on a bike in a Central American country, that’s forward progress at least.
Friends of mine somehow pried me out of my house yesterday to attend Grist columnist Elly Blue’s presentation at El Mercado last night. It was an old-fashioned road show, with a great presentation about bikes and economics followed by some short movies, mostly extolling and scrutinizing Portland’s biketopia. There was good food, too. It was a fun evening.
And there was some astute analysis in there, and discussion of exactly how Portland got from where it was to where it is. Something that came up more than once was the role of raucous, extra-legal or semi-legal or illegal actions of the locals. There was mention of a “People’s Department of Transportation” and of course critical mass. I’ve never been a fan of critical mass here in Tucson but I do admit that civilly disobedient challenges to the status quo have played an important role in bringing about change. The Stonewall Riots, for example, and of course the sit-ins in the ’60s that inconvenienced the privileged classes in the Jim Crow South. Why shouldn’t we inconvenience motorists here in Tucson sometimes?
But I see so much progress in Tucson on this issue that I question whether antagonizing drivers is ever going to be the right way to go. Even the Tucson Police Department is finally coming around to acknowledging that bicyclists are legitimate road users who have a right to exist and survive their trip. That’s a big step forward from just four years ago, when cyclists were treated with open disdain and contempt by the TPD traffic division and its supervisor, Sergeant Tim Beam. (Beam used to be supervisor of the traffic investigations unit, but now heads up the photo-radar department and thankfully does not have the involvement with cyclists he once had. His replacement is, I think, a big reason we have seen such a change in how TPD handles motor-vehicle/bicycle collisions and the lighter hand taken with traffic tickets given to cyclists.)
That said, we obviously have a long way left to go. Tucson is plagued by sprawl and wide roads that encourage people to drive fast and go long distances for what they need. And there’s a freeway that needlessly cuts our city in half. It’s going to take some bold vision and planning to reverse course, and that’s where I see us as having a different challenge than Portland had. We need to retrofit whole communities and lifestyles to get people on their bikes. We need to knock it off with the cookie-cutter developments in the hinterlands and we need to start giving people alternatives to their mode of transportation and to where they need to go in the first place. No number of bike lanes will help the person who needs to go three miles in the hot sun to a decent grocery store. That person needs better bus service and a closer grocery store. And they might also appreciate living arrangements that offer an option to live closer to work. Which means more building up and less building out.
How can we make those bigger design changes happen? Is there a role for rabble rousing to solve our problems? Or is it hopeless until gas finally hits $6 or $8 or $15 a gallon?
Not to be too churlish about this, but have we fallen so far as a people that a half-mile walk through the woods calls for a New York Times article and a nation-wide round of self-applause?
Hurricane Irene left an astonishing mess on Vermont and elsewhere, and I would never minimize that. One community there has had paved access to the rest of the world cut off, so they have taken to using an unpaved path into town, largely by foot. They drive or shuttle to one end, walk the half mile through the forest, then catch school buses or whatever on the other end.
The New York Times wrote about it here.
Hurricane Irene had washed away large stretches of the road down from Killington, Route 4. Huge craters left Route 100 impassable.
But on Wednesday, Aug. 31, at 7:55 a.m., three days after the storm closed down much of the state, the four school buses pulled up right on time, and off hopped 18 children from the dark side of the mountain (their electricity was still out).
“They were so proud,” Ms. Prescott said.
They had reason to be. Their families had discovered a half-mile-long forest path that they could walk, from Route 4 across the mountain to their school bus. At first, the woods were still and unsettling. “My hands shaked a little bit,” said Jillian Bradley, a second grader.
. . .
Porta-Pottys donated by A1 Sewer and Drain have been placed at each end of the forest trail. Volunteers sit under tent canopies supplied by Celebration Rentals, giving out sandwiches, beverages, doughnuts, gummy bears and red licorice. Six golf carts from Green Mountain National Golf Course transport the elderly and infirm. All-terrain vehicles from Central Vermont Motorcycles and the Hendy Brothers John Deere dealership are used for safety patrols.
Okay, so I’m a churl. But safety patrols? Nourishment? Porta-Pottys? For a half mile walk?? Are we really that helpless and pitiful when a half mile of our pavement is taken away?
From the “Not all news is bad” Department, a great video taken from Cunningham’s piece in today’s NY Times (above), with Cunningham talking about Park Avenue’s weekly closures to motorized vehicles here.
Eleven years ago the machine in the above video was stolen, but I learned it has just resurfaced in Phoenix, and it’s designer/builder/rightful owner will be picking it up and bringing it home.
You might recognize one of his other designs here.