Sunday, June 1, 2014

Biking is Not Dangerous

Does the perception equal the reality? Not hardly:

Will a helmet really make you safer? If you want to feel safer, then go ahead and helmet that head. But then you should also wear a helmet when you walk or drive...

If we stick to the numbers, we find that compared to a lot of things people do every day, bicycling is relatively benign.

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Conversation with Rob Forbes, founder of PUBLIC Bikes

I'm starting an issues and ideas forum, called ChromiumForum. Not an online thing, but in real life.


Rob Forbes, founder of PUBLIC Bikes and Design Within Reach, has agreed to be my first guest.

The event is scheduled for 5:30 PM on Wednesday, September 21st, at my agency's office on 440 Brannan Street.

Hope you can come. Should make for an interesting evening.

Bicyclists are Not Above the Law – We're Below It

Riding from North Beach to my office in SoMa a couple of weeks ago, I was doing my usual pedal-pause-and-drift through the stop signs on Mason down to the bike lane on North Point, when I heard some muffled shouting from behind me. A fellow in a non-descript sedan had rolled down his passenger-side window and was leaning toward it as he loudly and belligerently proclaimed his knowledge of the California Uniform Vehicle Code.

"You've got to STOP at the STOP SIGNS! You've GOT TO STOP AT the STOP SIGNS!" He was damn near giving himself a heart attack trying to save me from either harm or citation, but I couldn't exactly tell which of my interests he had in mind. He was also putting himself and everyone else on the road in danger by not keeping his eyes on the road and his body in the driver's seat, but that didn't seem to enter into his overwhelming concern for my adherence to the letter of the law. "You bikes aren't ABOVE THE LAW!" he blasted out the window as he roared past me toward Bay Street.

He's right, I thought, nobody's above the law, after all. But as far as bicycles are concerned, the laws about when we should stop fully, yield mostly, and where we should ride sometimes, all the time, or (in the case of most highways) none of the time, put us way below the automobile in rights and receiving our fair share of the infrastructure we all pay for through the general fund.

I do come to a full stop at red lights. I may not wait out the entire light cycle, but I stop. Mostly to see if there's a policeman in the vicinity before I proceed. But I only proceed if there is absolutely no opposing traffic within a reasonable distance of the intersection.

My rationale? Traffic lights, in addition to adding safety for motorists, cyclists, and pedestrians, are designed to regulate the flow of automobiles. The flow of bicycles does not really need much regulation at this point, so if there's no danger, off I go. Once there are so many bikes on the road that their movement needs regulation, I'll gladly stop. Did it in Amsterdam. Would do it in Copenhagen. Might even do it in Portland if asked to.

But stopping at stop signs? Now we're in different territory.

Imagine, I always say to motorists who ask me if I always stop at stop signs, if at every street the law required you to switch off the engine, get out of the car, get back in, and switch on the engine again before proceeding. They wouldn't stand for it, but that's essentially what is required of a biker if we're to follow the letter of the law.

So, to the irate motorist who yelled at me that morning I say, "Enjoy your heart attack!"

I will continue to insist that it's different with bikes.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Barcelona at the Cusp of the Car

This wonderful, evocative movie really captivated me.

Take a look. People and bicycles owned the streets.

There was probably some public notice that this movie was being made, given the antics of the citizens (esp. the kids), but just look how everyone is so social and unafraid of crossing the streets!

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

The PUBLIC Goes to the Polls

Vote your own interests, not somebody else's deviously-constructed wedge issues. Mostly, just get out on your bike and vote.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

My New D3...tres jolies, eh?

Just stopped in to see Rob, Dan, and all the other cool folks at Public Bikes here in SF, and to pick up my nifty and delicious D3 with the Brooks saddle. The almost existentially beautiful, matching-orange rear rack is on back order, but even without that finishing touch, this ride is making me smile and turning heads as I pass.

Thanks, Public!

Now I can ride around this afternoon instead of putting in an honest day's work...

Friday, April 16, 2010

SF Parking Operators Endanger Cyclists to Make a Buck

In San Francisco's South of Market District, two parking operators have brought their fight for customers out into the street – literally.

In an attempt to be the first to snag a would-be parker, the two lots under the I-80 overpass on Second Street between Harrison and Bryant have moved their signs onto the public right-of-way. Not only are the signs using public property without a permit or compensating the City, but they also deter motorists from using the metered street parking, depriving the City of revenue.

But much more egregious, in the eyes of your two-wheeled correspondent, is the danger these signs pose to bicyclists, who must ride in the traffic lane to avoid them. The second lot operator apparently feels geographically disadvantaged by his position in the relative darkness under the freeway, and so has put a flag on top of the sign. This flag is at the perfect height to catch a biker's shoulder or messenger bag, and causes bicyclists to swerve even further into the lane in avoidance of the obstacle.

Of course, given all the hazards cyclists encounter on a daily basis, these signs are, at the moment, just an annoyance. However, there will come the inevitable time when a car is exiting the lot, a biker is passing by, and a truck is in the lane. I think those of you who ride on a regular basis can envision the scenario.