Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Shocking Arizona Statistics

Some folks on the BikeSpeak forum are still insisting that I'm advocating unsafe cycling practices. Some even have agreed with the non-biking "experts" that the "fact" that "3.8% of bicyclists hit from the rear" is a negligible statistic that we really can't do anything about.

I've alway been suspicious of the 3.8% "fact." It never seemed to track right with my personal, anecdotal experience driving and biking in Phoenix. So, I went to the AZ Bike Law Blog - 2009 NHTSA Statistics.

There were a total of 25 car/bicycle fatalities in Arizona in 2009. I confirmed that in 11 of those accidents the rider was hit from behind. There are 3 other accidents which are sort of sketchy about what actually happened because, of course, the bicyclist is dead and there are no other witnesses. In only one of those 11 accidents did I find that the bicyclist was at fault because he swerved into traffic (although the reason he swerved is unclear). In three of the those fatal accidents the bike rider was in a marked bike lane.

Okay, so if you discount those three accidents in which my brief research could not discover the accident particulars, and even take out that one where the bicyclist swerved and "was at fault," that STILL leaves 10 accidents out of 25 when the bicyclist was in the "right" --- even riding in the bike lane on three occasions --- and was hit from behind.

But no matter WHO was at fault, that statistic means 44% of the bicyclists killed in Arizona in 2009 were hit from behind.

Does ANYBODY STILL want to argue with my contention that sometimes yer just flat safer on the sidewalk?

I've said it before and I'll say it again: Most traffic laws were created by people who drive, but don't bike; as a result those laws do not take into account the special vulnerability of bicyclists, pedestrians and even motorcyclists.

Hey! My fire extinguisher is still FULLY CHARGED!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Here Come Da Traffic Law Judge

Okay, so I'm not a judge, but I am an opinionated old goat, and in this day and age that seems to count just as much. I was taken to task by someone on another forum (someone who's opinion I usually respect) about my belief that some traffic laws currently on the books just simply are not safe for bicyclists to follow. This person feels that bicyclists should obey ALL traffic laws ALL of the time, and that is something I simply cannot agree with.

Y'all already know my take on riding on the sidewalk as a result of my comment about The Solidly Safer Sidewalk. I will say, without hesitation, that even if it were illegal to ride on the sidewalk in Phoenix (as it is in other communities around the world) I would still ride on the sidewalk and risk a ticket: in order to be safe, sometimes you just have to break a law which shouldn't apply to your vehicle in the first place.

The web site Bicycle Safety has this to say about Collision Type #10: The Rear End:

"A car runs into you from behind. This is what many cyclists fear the most, but it's actually not very common, comprising only 3.8% of collisions. However, it's one of the hardest collisions to avoid, since you're not usually looking behind you."

Uh, gee whiz, "only 3.8%," eh? Gosh, considering that there are around 600 bicyclists killed every year on American roads, 3.8% means we might have saved "only" around 23 lives every year if those folks could ride on the sidewalk. Not bad, eh? Unless, of course, you're one of a group of about 23 "special" people!

Here's a suggestion from Bicycle Safety about avoiding Collision Type #10: The Rear End:

"The best way to avoid getting Rear-Ended is to ride on very wide roads or in bike lanes, or on roads where the traffic moves slowly, and to use lights when biking at night." (Emphasis is mine.)

Note that NONE of those suggestions work for the road pictured in The Solidly Safer Sidewalk.

Here're some other comments from Bicycle Safety about Collision Type #10: The Rear End:

"Avoid busy streets. One of the biggest mistakes that people make when they start biking is to take the exact same routes they used when they were driving. It's usually better to take different streets with fewer and slower cars. Sure, cyclists have a right to the road, but that's a small consolation when you're dead. Consider how far you can take this strategy: If you learn your routes well, you'll find that in many cities you can travel through neighborhoods to get to most places, only crossing the busiest streets rather than traveling on them." (Emphasis is, again, mine.)

I would LOVE to find a different way to the destination of the photo in The Solidly Safer Sidewalk, but, no, my destination is on the south-west corner of an intersection of the busy north-south road you see in the photo and another, just as busy and bike unfriendly east-west road north of this location.

And that apartment complex you see on the right? Where that driveway is? If you think you could ride into the parking lot and exit out the back into the adjoining neighborhood you can think again: every single business or apartment complex south on this road, for over a half mile, has a solid, six-foot block wall running the entire length of their property.

The soonest you can get off of this road, to head west, is at that traffic signal you see about a quarter of a mile down the road. It leads into a credit union parking lot and from there into a neighborhood road.

Another law which I find inapplicable to bicyclists, for safety reasons, has to do with the one which proscribes "California Stops" at stop signs and stop lights.

I make no bones about my opinion on this: If I'm rolling up to a stop sign or a red stop light, and there is NO cross traffic, I will slow down but I will NOT stop.

The reason is simple: Starting and stopping are the two most vulnerable times on a bike. If these maneuvers ain't necessary, I ain't gonna do 'em, ESPECIALLY if some motorist is pulling up behind me in the traffic lane, and ESPECIALLY if it is dark.

Rather than go into my OWN, lengthy dissertation on this, I'll refer everybody to the excellent, informative and entertaining video presented by Urban Velo at Bicycle Rolling Stop Animation – Idaho Stop Law. (The ONLY quibble I have with the Urban Velo presentation is a minor semantic difference: they feel "blowing through a stop sign" is something you do at high speed, whereas I feel it is something you do as a result of disobeying the law at ANY speed.)

Most traffic laws were created by people who drive, but don't bike. As a result those laws do not take into account the special vulnerability of bicyclists, pedestrians and even motorcyclists.

Bring on the flames! I got my fire extinguisher at the READY!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Dos Amigos

Last Monday I rode The Roadley up to Starbucks for a nightcap.

When I came out with my Chai Latte, I noticed a young fellow with a long ponytail looking over my bike. I surmised, by the backpack with the bike light on it, that he was the owner of another Giant which was parked a few feet from mine:

I was right, his name is Jim and for the next half hour he and I chatted about bicycles and various things. That well-used Giant of his is a REAL working bike: he frequently uses it in downtown Phoenix as the engine for his pedicab business. From his description, I believe he has a "trishaw" sidecar add-on, where a couple of key points of the sidecar frame bolt to the bike frame.

He was really interested in the inverted tread tires on The Roadley, along with that comfortable Brooks seat of mine. I was really impressed that he would work an 8 hour day hauling around 300 to 400 pounds of people on a bike!

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Tres Hermanos

I rode Hardiboi up to Target. When I came back out THIS is what I found:

If the riders of these other two Specialized hardtails hadn't been right there locking 'em up, I woulda thought the Boi had had PUPPIES!

Right after I had unlocked my Specialized, and was preparing to go, an older fella rode up on a Schwinn, looked around and asked me if Target was selling Specialized bikes now!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

The Solidly Safer Sidewalk

Over on the BikeSpeak forum, we're having a conversation about whether its wise, or safe, to ride on the sidewalk. I'm of the school of thought which believes there are certain roads which demand that bicyclists ride on the sidewalk for their safety.

I got a late start this morning, and I was headed south on a road which I ride almost every day. There was much more traffic than I usually encounter on this road at around 5:15 a.m., and I decided to stop to see if I could take a picture which would illustrate why I believe this particular road falls into the category of having a Solidly Safer Sidewalk. With a single shot, I got results better than I could have paid for! Look closely at this photograph:

The speed limit on this road is 35 mph, but I can assure you that not one of the three cars in the photo were going that speed or below. The Jaguar in the left-hand lane, the blue compact SUV in the center lane and the gray full-sized SUV in the right-hand lane were all going faster than 40 mph.

It is important to note that I framed this photograph looking south, and then looked back over my left shoulder to the north (so I could time taking the photo to catch these cars in it), the big gray SUV was still behind the blue SUV in the center lane. When the gray SUV began his pass by switching lanes, he was parallel with my bike sitting on the sidewalk. If my bike and I were in that right-hand lane, rather than being safely on the sidewalk, I can almost guarantee you I would have been run down by the gray SUV.

And there is an element in this photograph which supports that contention. Look closely at the photograph again and tell me if you can see what it is.

Also look closely at that nice sidewalk ahead of my bike. The driveway just ahead of me has all of the landscaping set well back of the roadway, which allows me a clear view of automobiles pulling up to the road, and provides them a clear view of me approaching on my bike. The next driveway opening is far enough down the road that I can safely spin up to full speed and then have plenty of time to slow down when I reach it.

This is a textbook case of a road with a Solidly Safer Sidewalk.