Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Bicyclists at fault for 60% of crashes in Bay Area

Some excerpts from the article:

Bicyclists were twice as likely as drivers to be at fault in the nearly 2,000 collisions that killed or severely injured Bay Area bike riders in the past decade, an analysis by The Chronicle shows.

(Bicycle and safety) advocates say large numbers of cyclists fail to follow the rules of the road, running stop signs and red lights, and drivers are becoming more aggressive. "There is a juggernaut out there - the tension between the cyclists and the drivers is so high that it's become a war," said triathlon coach Marc Evans, who is starting a campaign to get the cycling community, drivers and motorcyclists to put more focus on avoiding deadly collisions on the roads.

Bicycling advocates said the statistics might in part reflect a bias among police officers, who they say often "blame the victims," especially because cyclists might not get to tell their side of the story as they are being carried off on stretchers. "There is a prevalent perception among police officers that bikes don't belong on the road," said Leah Shahum, executive director of the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.

Yet even the most staunch cycling advocates acknowledge that some cyclists give others a bad name by failing to obey traffic laws. "When I see a rider run a red light, I cringe," Shahum said. "Not only is it totally unsafe, it makes me and all other cyclists look bad."

The number of serious Bay Area crashes in which cyclists were at fault has hovered at about 100 per year for the past decade, but the number in which motorists were blamed has steadily risen - from 38 in 1997 to 61 in 2006, the last full year for which data were available. In addition, the number of accidents involving drivers hitting cyclists and then fleeing has spiked in recent years. Hit-and-run drivers killed four cyclists and severely injured 26 others in 2006 - significantly more than any other year in the past decade.

"There seems to be a natural tension between bicyclists and motorists," said Susan George, town manager of Woodside, who finds the streets in and around her hilly San Mateo County community swarming with cyclists, motorcycle riders, equestrians and drivers out for a good time on weekends and lunch hours. Groups of dozens or even hundreds of bicyclists sometimes take over the roads, blowing through stoplights and disobeying signs, she said. At the same time, some motorists retaliate aggressively, tailgating the bicyclists, honking at them and trying to force them off the road. The majority of cyclists obey the rules, and the motorists, too, but then you get these outlaws," George said. "It's an ongoing battle, and in recent years the tensions have gotten worse."

full article

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Climate Benefits from Biking and Walking

An interim report to Congress, confirmed by the US Department of Transportation, states that there are climate benefits when a community works to incorporate bicycle and pedestrian travel into its street network. The report outlines the plans for the federal Non-Motorized Pilot Program, and an evaluation process that includes challenges to implementation.
Interested readers can view the interim report here, and the final report will be published in 2011.

This report summarizes the progress and initial results of the four pilot communities' participation in the Nonmotorized Transportation Pilot Program (NTPP) from its inception through May 2007. The NTPP was authorized in August 2005. Over the span of 4 years, the legislation provides $25 million in contract authority for each of the NTPP's four pilot communities (Columbia, Missouri; Marin County, California; Minneapolis, Minnesota; and Sheboygan County, Wisconsin) "to construct ... a network of nonmotorized transportation infrastructure facilities, including sidewalks, bicycle lanes, and pedestrian and bicycle trails, that connect directly with transit stations, schools, residences, businesses, recreation areas, and other community activity centers."

Already, the research team estimates that walking and bicycling for utilitarian purposes reduce driving by about 1 to 4 percent, depending on the community. Because of the large populations involved and the ongoing nature of this reduction, this seemingly modest contribution leads to significant long-term results: the total reduction in all four program communities, over the course of an entire year, is estimated to be in the range of 156.1 million miles of avoided driving.

(It will be interesting to see what the final results since I doubt any, or many, physical projects have been built yet with this funding. Keep in mind that just because the program was authorized in 2005 doesn't mean the communities got the money anytime close to that year!)

Awareness Ad

This is the best share the road-type ad I've seen. The British really know how to do humor...

Friday, March 7, 2008

Most Innovative Commuter Bike Ever

Trust me, you've got to see this to believe it. If someone gets one here, please let me know!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Year of the Bicycle

By Neal Peirce

Bicycling’s best year since the start of the auto age? That’s the argument likely to be made March 4-6 as hundreds of cyclists from across the nation gather in Washington for the National Bike Summit sponsored of the League of American Bicyclists. A crescendo of trends and developments makes the case.

First the trends: oil costs are surpassing $100 a barrel, global warming alarm calls are mounting, polluting autos and trucks increasingly clog city streets, and health concerns about a sedentary and fattening society are mounting.

And now the developments: Handy bike-for-hire stations are proving instant hits in Paris and other European cities and seem poised to invade urban America. Moves to add painted bike lanes along city roadways are being eclipsed by proposals for entire networks of “bike boulevards” -- roadways altered radically to accommodate cyclists and pedestrians. And a companion “Complete Streets” movement -- making roadway space for cyclists and pedestrians, not just cars and trucks -- is gaining traction nationwide.

Rep. Earl Blumenauer (D-Ore.), founder of the Congressional Bike caucus (now 160-bipartisan members strong), claims a new pro-bike politics is forming, that it can mobilize a 1-million-plus national constituency and force clear recognition of the role of bicycles in the next (2009) federal transportation bill. He and the Bike Summit will be pushing a sense of Congress resolution recognizing the potential of bikes to undergird a greener, healthier and more efficient national future.

Cycling, nationwide, still counts for tiny portions of commuting and shopping trips. But Portland’s experience shows the potential, Blumenauer insists: since that city’s bike program began in the 1990s, the “modal split” for bikes has quadrupled and a $100 million industry of bike shops, bike sales, a start of manufacturing and bike tourism, accounting for 1,000 jobs, has emerged.

Paris’ “velib” bike rental program -- the name combines “velo” (bicycle) and “liberte (freedom) -- opened last July and registered an astounding 2 million trips in its first 40 days. Twenty-thousand bikes are available at 1,450 cycling stations across the city. Insert a credit card to sign up ($1.50 a day to $43 a year) and you can drop your bike off at any other station, the first 30 minutes free. Paris’ sturdy bikes have three gears, good hand brakes, adjustable seat levels and “sit-up” handlebars. They’re equipped with antitheft and global positioning devices. Cost of the biking operation is offset by revenues from advertising at bus shelters and other “outdoor furniture.”

Almost identical systems are sprouting up across Europe -- in Lyons, Rennes, Barcelona, Oslo, Stockholm, Seville, Brussels, Vienna. Many others are soon to come including London and Rome. There’s also reported interest in Moscow and Beijing. This April the first serious U.S. fast bike-rental system is due to open in Washington, D.C., followed shortly by San Francisco. Considering the idea or in active negotiations are Houston, Tucson, San Antonio, Portland, Cambridge and Boulder.

Among possible U.S. cities is Chicago -- Mayor Richard Daley tested a Velib bike in Paris last summer and came back a fan. Add Louisville: the health giant Humana has bikes for its own workers and Mayor Jerry Abramson likes the idea of a citywide system. And the U.S. Capitol complex -- It’s a small city of 12,000 workers and, Blumenauer suggests, “government needs to lead by example.”

On the bike boulevard front, London sprang to world leadership with Mayor Ken Livingstone’s February announcement of a £400 million ($787 million) system of 12 two-wheeler superhighways connecting popular residential areas to city center. The roadways will have continuous, wide cycle lanes, dedicated junctions and clear signs, cutting a swath through traffic. Planners hope the London system will attract a “critical mass” of cyclists. Even diverting 5 percent of people from their cars and the tubes and buses, it’s estimated, would result in 1.7 million cycle trips each day. The Londoners also hope to set up special cycle networks around 15 suburban towns, connecting residences with schools, train and bus stations, parks and shops.

Portland has its own version of bike boulevards -- remakes of residential streets that had been degraded by motorists using them as cut-throughs. With a minimum of traffic-calming devices such as speed bumps and traffic islands, cut-through traffic was effectively excluded. Contentious when they were first introduced a decade ago, the Portland bike boulevards have created quality environments raising nearby home prices significantly. But perhaps most important, they’ve marked a major shift from meeting needs of expert and intermediate cyclists. The focus, instead, is on making cycling welcoming for everyone -- kids, families and novice cyclists included.

And in the long run, that’s what the worldwide and U.S. bike reforms will have to achieve -- a world of safe cycling for people of all ages, both sexes, all skill levels. If we get there, you can mark 2008 as a big year on the route.

© 2008 Washington Post Writers Group