November 16, 2013

Future class-action lawsuits and apologies

One of the joys of cycling
The government has had a fair amount of effectiveness in recent years with safety campaigns against smoking and riding in a car without buckling your seatbelt. Other safety campaigns have seemingly evolved more organically, such as the backyard trampoline going out of fashion. 

On the other hand, it's considered smart, cool politics for politicians to encourage bicycle riding.

Bike paths with their own right-of-way are a wonderful urban amenity. When I lived in Santa Monica three decades ago, I rode the Venice Beach bikepath a couple of times per week. I used to ride to Chicago's Loop down the lakefront bikepath most weekends during the warmer months. I didn't ride anywhere else in Chicago, however, because I'm not nuts. 

Unfortunately, retrofitting bicycle lanes with right of way on top of existing street grids can be immensely expensive.

Moreover, the trend toward gentrification is even worse for safe cycling than the old trend toward suburbanization. Bicycling to school down broad Riverside Drive in leafy Sherman Oaks in the 1970s was dangerous, but, leaving aside improvements in helmets, bicycling down a 19th Century street in crowded Silver Lake in the 2010s is more so.

Yesterday evening I drove from the Arclight movie theater in Hollywood (we saw Nebraska) through Silver Lake, Mayor Garcetti's old council district, to the gentrifying arts district of Atwater Village, north of downtown, where my wife was seeing a production of Cyrano de Bergerac with friends. For various GPS-related reasons we took Franklin Blvd. through Silver Lake, which is a two-lane street barely wide enough for two cars to pass without smacking side mirrors. 

Being a trendy place, Franklin in Silver Lake has lots of bike lane markers painted on the asphalt. Being a trendy place, Franklin is also lined on both sides bumper-to-bumper with parked cars so there is no actual separate space for a bike lane whatsoever. To avoid hitting oncoming or parked cars, you have to drive with the passenger seat of your car directly over the bike lane logos. Councilman Garcetti perhaps could have gotten the city to outlaw parking on Franklin to make room for cyclists, but he liked getting re-elected, so he didn't. Bicycles and parking spaces are a zero sum game, so it's more fun to act Pro-Bycycle just by painting logos of a happy cyclist right in the middle of traffic.

Since, contra Freud, most human beings lack a death wish, the number of bicyclists was fortunately tiny, perhaps 0.2% of all traffic going down Franklin Blvd. Nonethless, the two cyclists who were on Franklin caused no end of anxiety. In most places in Los Angeles, cyclists (who primarily consist of guys with too many DUIs and/or illegal aliens) just ride on the sidewalks, on the sensible grounds that pedestrians are softer objects to crash into than SUVs. But in Silver Lake, there were actually two cyclists who took all the government's bike path propaganda seriously and insisted on riding in the street.

Driving through bicycle-friendly Silver Lake is kind of like getting stuck on a busy two lane highway in Mexico behind a truck full of chickens. The only way to get past the cyclists was to slow down to their 10 miles per hour. (Whatever happened to bicyclists dashing about on aerodynamic Italian racing bikes? Compared to modern bicycles, the Singing Nun rode a speedster.) Then, when a narrow gap opened in the oncoming traffic, floor it and charge out into the oncoming lane, then slash back in to your legal half of the street without, hopefully, nipping the front tire of the cyclist. Unlike the chicken truck, however, cyclists feel free to re-pass you when you are stuck at a redlight, so then you have to do it all over again.

I found these statistics on the website of a personal injury law firm, so I won't vouch for their authenticity. Still ...
- U.S. Department of Transportation statistics show that more than 8,000 bicyclists died and 700,000 were injured in motor vehicle-related crashes in the past decade. 
- More than one-third of all bicycle fatalities involve riders 5 to 20 years old, and 41 percent of nonfatal injuries occur to children under the age of 15. 
- Each year, more than 500,000 people in the US are treated in emergency rooms, and more than 700 people die as a result of bicycle-related injuries.

My recollection was that cycling became immensely fashionable in Los Angeles during the "ten speed" craze of the early 1970s. It was kind of a post-hippie thing. I insisted upon biking to high school everyday, and was only flattened by a car once. 

After awhile, though, people noticed that bad things sometimes happened to cyclists (for example, the head coach of the Lakers, Jack McKinney, suffered a near fatal head injury in a cycling accident during the 1979-80 championship season, and got fired). And automotive traffic continued to worsen as population density increased, so in the later 20th Century cycling became this thing that people paid lip service to, but didn't actually do, at least not to the extent they did in the 1970s.

Now, though, there is a lot of political pressure to encourage cycling, and negligible media attention on the dangers. But, this too shall pass.


Ichabod Crane said...

I'm just looking forward to the day when cars have built-in machines that allow the driver to do a cardio workout during the commute.

In the meantime, I'll take my chances on my bike.

While those personal injury stats worry me, most people die younger than they have to for lack of exercise.

Anonymous said...

In San Francisco there is a great increase in bicycling and it seems people being killed by large trucks. Off the top of my head I recall fatalities 3 in the last 6 months.

Anonymous said...

Bike paths with their own right-of-way are a wonderful urban amenity. When I lived in Santa Monica three decades ago, I rode the Venice Beach bikepath a couple of times per week. I used to ride to Chicago's Loop down the lakefront bikepath most weekends during the warmer months. I didn't ride anywhere else in Chicago, however, because I'm not nuts.

I didn't know you were a bike guy. I didn't think you'd be a bike guy since you're tall and laid back.

Anonymous said...

DYork said...

I didn't think you'd be a bike guy since you're tall and laid back.

They have recliner bikes now for that type.

I have biked a lot including on the side of the road in small towns and suburbs and I can sense what to expect from coming vehicles. The type of vehicle and often the type of driver.

High end vehicle owners are the most aware, maybe because they don't want my blood and intestines all over their expensive vehicle or a law suit.

The worst are the spatially clueless females and worst of all BY FAR, and here I will racially profile, are White men in pickup trucks (esp. older trucks) and to a lesser extent White males in "muscle cars".

Plus, White males, esp when there is more than one of them in the vehicle, are pretty much the only people who feel compelled to yell something or just yell out the window at me as they pass.

I don't know what the psychology of that is, I've always suspected its some kind of conflicted homosexual feelings on their part that they are at war with.

Anonymous said...

I have heard that a lot has been done in New York recently with bike lanes, anyone have first hand experience of this.

I will say that if you can live in a bicycle/pedestrian friendly city it is great, the way cities are meant to be.


Moshe said...

"While those personal injury stats worry me, most people die younger than they have to for lack of exercise."

Maybe, but a goodly percentage of traffic bikers die A LOT younger than they have to due to deer-in-the-headlights smug thinking like yours.

Just as you don't have to be a racist to be a race realist, you don't have to hate biking ti be a bike realist.

There's no rational place for them on car-busy roads at all.

agnostic said...

Politicians etc. are pushing bicycle riding because they get to score enviro points while knowing that few people will follow their advice and put a dent in the driving culture. Win-win.

Riding a bicycle peaked in the late '80s and has been declining like mad since:

Those data end in 2006, so it'll be even lower today.

David said...

"Share the Road" is insane. The danger of bicycles, tricycles, unicycles and who knows what all traveling the same roads as two-ton cars and weightier tractor-trailers should be obvious even to a child. It seems that if anything works, there is a contingent of wreckers hell-bent on ruining it. Here is an interesting recent article.

The streets are for passage, not for toys. Toys should be indulged in on private property, or in space allotted to their use in public parks.

Likewise, street festivals, "runs for the cure," marathons, dog shows, and ticker-tape and other parades should be reserved for public parks. To shut down commerce and create traffic jams by playing in the street is the height of inefficiency and idiocy. Most of us were taught to play in yards or in parks, not in the street; the latter is a practice of the lower and lowest classes. Why governments should indulge this practice is unknown, especially considering the outlay on public parks, the metropolitan examples of which seem to be largely and incomprehensibly abandoned to perverts and criminals.

Share the road? No - Bahn Frei!

Mr. Anon said...

With the advent of Obamacare, and whatever Obamacare 2.0 will prove to be, people who smoke or who are overweight will likely be penalized in some way. This will all be justified on the grounds that these people cost the system a disproportionate amount of money. Never mind that both smoking and overeating are on a sliding scale. If you smoke a pack a week you will be treated no different than if you smoke four packs a day. If your bmi is just a few points over optimal, you will be classed no different than if you were morbidly obese.

But will people who engage in dangerous pursuits, like bicycling, kayaking, spelunking, skiing, mountain climbing, and skydiving be so penalized? What is the net economic cost of a productive thirty year-old who has a bicycle accident and is rendered a quadruplegic for the rest of his life? What about the sexually promiscuous? Especially the homosexually promiscuous? Are thier premiums going to rise to reflect the costs they impose on the health-care system?

No, I thought not.

Mr. Anon said...

"DYork said...

I don't know what the psychology of that is, I've always suspected its some kind of conflicted homosexual feelings on their part that they are at war with."

Perhaps guys wear skin-tight spandex riding togs ought not to be throwing around the "latent homo" charge.

I myself have nothing against bicyclists, except that so many of them behave like selfish dicks.

Glossy said...

Last year I got on a bike for the first time in a decade and a half. It's true what they say - you never unlearn it.

It's the only fun way to exercise I know of. I've tried running, push-ups and a little bit of weightlifting recently, and they all felt grueling. I'm not a masochist. Biking feels great. You feel the speed much more than in a car's enclosed cabin, and it's a cool feeling. You also feel very light, especially right after you get on a bike. Plus there's a bit of tinkering with cool gadgetry.

I live in New York and biking is definitely a battlefield in the swipple vs. everyone else class struggle. Bloomy has been backing swipples big time, drawing a lot of motorists' ire and new bike lanes. I don't use them 'cause they're scary. I mostly bike along an old local parkway and in Prospect Park.

Bloomy has also instituted a city-run bike rental program. There is a row of branded rental bikes now on almost every block in the lower half of Manhattan and in a bit of upscale Brooklyn. You swipe a debit or credit card, take a bike, then return it to another station. I tried one out. It was OK.

Steve mentioned the 10-speed craze. The current craze is actually for 1-speed bikes. They look unbelievably light and quite elegant. Also toy-like. I've noticed that the chains are plastic on some of them. This is what a lot of the cool kids are riding.

epobirs said...

I recently took up bicycling again after last owning a bike in my teens, 35 years ago. The exercise is great but my neighborhood is ill suited to it. This is largely because it is so hilly that the only place I can get in a good ride is a road that parallels the I-5. I use the same side both ways as you'd have to insane to try being on the right for the northward return trip. Not because of bad drivers but because there simply isn't adequate space.

I'm looking for a good deal on a car mounted bike rack so I can get my riding done in places that don't put me in the way of cars just trying to get to work or whatever. It means I won't ride as often but I feel like I'm pushing my luck right now.

Anonymous said...

Now, though, there is a lot of political pressure to encourage cycling, and negligible media attention on the dangers. But, this too shall pass.

Lance Armstrong's success and fame and deification in the media beginning in the early 2000s definitely played a role in the recent increase in popularity of cycling. There was a noticeable uptick in cycling, especially on the road. Before you'd see few people biking on the road. They'd mainly bike on the sidewalk or on trails or in parks. You also started seeing regular guys suiting up in spandex and expensive gear and road cycling.

I wonder if Armstrong's downfall, and the negative reputation of competitive cycling with respect to drugs has had a negative effect on cycling's popularity.

Mr. Anon said...

"Anonymous said...

You also started seeing regular guys suiting up in spandex and expensive gear and road cycling."

Out west - in California at least - the SWPL bicycle craze started back in the early to mid 80s - long before Lance Armstrong started cycling. At that time, they used ten-speeds - expensive ones, not Schwinns. And this was long before the term SWPL had even been invented. The one thing required for this phenomenon however - Spandex - had been invented.

Glossy said...

If you Google for "hipster bikes", stuff like this comes out. That's what I was talking about above. As you can see, it's a one-speed.

Chief Seattle said...

I had the same thought as Steve's post about biking a while back. I'm a bike commuter, but I know it's dangerous and I take precautions *and* pray each day. And my commute is relatively safe.

On the other hand, after 4 years of it, I simply don't get winded any more, no matter how many stairs I climb or what work I do. It's an amazing feeling, really liberating.

The things I'd recommend are 1. Obey traffic lights and signs. Be predictable, earn the respect of drivers. 2. Get blinky LED lights and use them during the day as well as night. Drivers give more space to vehicles with lights. 3. No spandex. Dress like a normal person and you have a better chance of getting treated like one.

Anonymous said...

Out west - in California at least - the SWPL bicycle craze started back in the early to mid 80s - long before Lance Armstrong started cycling.

Yeah I imagine it was in California before. You never saw it on the East Coast until recently.

Anonymous said...

This guy in the D.C. area commutes 70 miles per day by bike, even in the winter, although sometimes he also takes a train or bus in addition to biking. He gets up at 3:30 in the morning to do so.

"On most mornings, Ken Schantz starts his 70-mile commute at 4:20 a.m. It takes him two hours 40 minutes to travel 35 miles from his home near Mount Vernon to his office in Rockville. He loves every minute of it.

That’s because he leaves his car at home.

Schantz, 62, travels by bike and sometimes rail. Occasionally, he tosses a bus ride or two into the mix.

He knows driving would cut his commute time by more than half, but what fun would that be?

“It can be 40 degrees in the middle of winter or 90 degrees in the middle of summer — but I am the happiest when I’m out there turning the pedals,” he said.

It’s one thing to get from Point A to Point B without a car in Washington — a relatively compact 68.3 square miles. But navigating the region’s far-flung suburbs — never mind crossing through two counties and the District — offers an entirely different challenge. Doable certainly, but not for the faint of heart."

"Most days he’s up at 3:35 a.m. His breakfast of choice is a three-egg cheese omelet accompanied by a bowl of fruit (the coffee comes later). It’s dark when he leaves his home near Mount Vernon in the Hybla Valley section of Fairfax County around 4:20 a.m.

Of the 70 miles he does each day, it’s the first one he dreads most.

“You’re not warmed up, your body’s not working and you’re figuring you’ve got 34 more to go,” he said of his 35-mile trek to work."

John said...

I live in New Orleans, and experienced exactly what you described on two separate occasions last week as a motorist on lower Magazine St. The city recently re-paved much of Magazine St, and in so doing painted those obnoxious little logos, thereby creating bike lanes where thy didn't exist before. Like Franklin Blvd, Magazine St is, for the most part, a 2-lane street jammed pack on both sides bumper-to-bumper with parked cars so there is no actual separate space for a bike lane whatsoever. Given that most streets in New Orleans are rutted potholed messes, cyclists naturally gravitate to the smooth contours of Magazine St to get from point A to point B. Of course, motorists do as well, which leads to the showdown you so eloquently presented.

Anonymous said...

Men in trouble in China too. Lol.

Auntie Analogue said...

Bicyclists: If you can't take the heat, get out of the kitchen.

By an immense number of federal & state laws, passenger motor vehicles must incorporate crush-resistant roof pillars, safety glass, anti-burst door locks, unibody-integral crumple-crush zones, padded dashboards, padded sun visors, anti-whiplash headrests, anti-lock brakes, seat belts, and air bags - for all of which motorists pay a hefty chunk-O-change, a huge upcharge on the price of their property (drivers also pay more to maintain and, if necessary, to repair all those safety contraptions, which means insurance firms get to inflate motorists' premiums).

But NONE of this applies to bicycles:

1) Aside from a cheesy walnut shell plastic helmet, the law does not require that bicyclists have ANY of the sophisticated, costly protections which, by law, must be incorporated into a motor vehicle. Are motorists' lives and limbs somehow worth more than bicyclists' lives and bodies? (Yes, I know that quality bicycling helmets are not inexpensive - but they're still not designed for a rider to survive anything like the forces involved in motor vehicle accidents.)

2) By federal law motorists must secure babies and toddlers in safety seats whose fixtures and performance are strictly legislated and regulated. Meanwhile, bicyclists just sling their young over their backs in papoose sacks, or simply poise their "child safety" seats atop their rear wheel, right out in the open. Why aren't bicycles required to have crumple-crush zones, air bags, padded handlebars, total safety shell-encapsulated baby pods?

3) Bicyclists have the same rights and obligations of the road as motor vehicle drivers have, so why are bicyclists not required to carry any vehicle comprehensive, collision, or operator liability or medical payments insurance? Why are motor vehicle operators forced to pay the entire safety-equipment and insurance burdens? Why are bicycle accident statistis not used to assess and impose upon bicyclists' obligatory insurance?

4) In many states motor vehicles must pass a state safety inspection. Why do bicycles get away with not having to pass ANY inspections before their owners get to straddle them and wobble and swerve their way all over the highways & byways?

There's more here, as well:

5) Why are bicyclists not reqired to be of driving age for them to operate a human-powered vehicle on public roadways - while motorists on those same roadways, under the same rules of the road, must be of legal driving age? Why are bicyclists not operator skill tested and safety tested, and why are they not required to pay a fee to have a bicycling license privileging them to operate a bicycle on roadways where bicycles are completely outclassed in mass & performance by motor vehicles whose operators pay a registration and a license fee for the privilege of operating a powered vehicle on public roadways?

6) To defray roadway upkeep and improvement costs, some states impose an annual personal property tax on motor vehicles - why are bicyclists who pedal on the roadways exempt from this tax?

7) Why does law forbid motorists from wearing music headphones but allow bicyclists to pedal about with their skulls full of Personal Space music or Talking Books or NPR-babble?

8) Why are bicyclists who have a history of moving violations and accidents not barred from bicycling on public roadways? After all, that penalty is imposed upon motorists with bad driving records. Why do bicyclists get a pass here? Where is "equal justice under law"?

9) The urban public space a parked two-wheeled human-powered conveyance occupies is not free any more than a motorist's parking-metered space is free: bicyclists should have to pony up to park, and thus help to pay for the streets they traffic - and for the painting of all those little International Bicyclist Symbols painted on public pavements.

Okay, Sailermates, the blood's in the water, so come on, sharks!

Alcalde Jaime Miguel Curleo said...

Lived in downtown L.A. in my 20s, where the streets are wider, flatter & marginally better paved than Franklin or Wilton or any of those 1920s-vintage canyon passes you mentioned, but still never encountered a bicyclist who wasn't a legal services messenger w/ heavy ganja fragrance. I only ever chanced biking on Sunday morning, "Omega Man" style. Otherwise you contest with the multicultural right-on-red driving philosophies of taxis or people who just exited one of several accident-riddled freeways in the area. After buying a car rack I could drive to Griffith Park to bike there, admittedly not very carbon-neutral

Alcalde Jaime Miguel Curleo said...

With Unintended(?) Consequences in the mix the "bike path" vogue will probably bring as much but qualitatively different deaths & injuries. This owes to the inconsistent, half-assed implementation at local level. In my unincorporated area of densely populated N. Cal. the county put up signs and painted cycling lanes onto some major streets, but these interrupt every few blocks (sometimes with no sidewalk either) until randomly resuming down the road. My opinion's influenced by getting flung to the ground last week when my front tire snagged on a low hard curb which turned out not to be a shallow curb as thought, 50 ft. earlier, because I'd been weaving into and away from the street to follow their crap route. So with the bureaucratic approximation/illusion of safety I figure now hordes of would-be sportsmen will falsely trust these to be deliberately regulated bike lanes. Hopefully Victor Davis Hanson does not steal my story for yet another "California decline" anecdote

Whiskey said...

I used to bike to work, it was fun. Until a few near-death experiences changed that. There have been a few nasty incidents on the trails. Various homeless or gang member thugs knocking people off bikes, kicking the hell out of them, and running off with their bike.

Oh well there's mountain biking. Good thing Orange County has no record of mountain lion attacks on cyclists.

Oh wait.

dearieme said...

I used to cycle to work in a city where most of us did. Its street plan is wildly unsuitable for cars. (Some blame the Anglo-Saxons, others the Danes.) And anyway there's nowhere to park the bloody things when you reach your destination. Parking on the roads with cycle lanes is banned. It's really that simple.

dearieme said...

I should add that there are problems for people who are too sissie to cycle, or too ill.

GMR said...

One reason Rob Ford won in Toronto was his opposition to bike lanes.

Big Bill said...

The GEO Metro and Chevy Sprint made 50+ miles to the gallon back in the mid-1980s, but were regulated out of the market because (as cars) they were 'unsafe".

Think about it: we have had better-than-Prius mileage with significantly reduced manufacturing costs and way WAY greater safety than bicycles or motorcycles for thirty years and legislated it away.

At the same time, SWPLs fight for bike lanes and bikes in spite of the fact that they are much more dangerous mile-for-mile than the Geo Metro.

This is one of the weirdest cognitive-dissonance perception-of-risk problems I have ever encountered.

Sooner or later the SWPLs are going to catch on and ban motorcycles.

DYork said...

Mr. Anon said...

Perhaps guys wear skin-tight spandex riding togs ought not to be throwing around the "latent homo" charge.

I myself have nothing against bicyclists, except that so many of them behave like selfish dicks.

I have never worn tight fitting clothes or even shorts as a biker. I ride in long cargo pants and unlike you I never mentioned male genitalia.

The fact that you did gets back to my point.

Harry Baldwin said...

With the advent of Obamacare, and whatever Obamacare 2.0 will prove to be, people who smoke or who are overweight will likely be penalized in some way.

I've wondered about this: since blacks and Hispanics make up a disproportionate share of the obese, how will it be politically feasible to penalize them? Disparate impact and all. "Obesity Epidemic: Blacks and Latinos Hit Hardest!"

Discriminating against smokers is not such a problem as the proportion of black and white smokers us about the same, and Hispanics less.

Anonymous said...

Okay, Sailermates, the blood's in the water, so come on, sharks!


chucho said...

Unlike LA, the thing about biking in NY is that it's very seasonal. Now that it's November, only the hardcore are out there. On very hot days in the summer it's not feasible either. So as a "transportation alternative" it's not much of an alternative.

Public safety has definitely suffered a net negative from the increase in bicycling in NYC. First, in bike vs car (or worse, truck or bus), bike loses, badly. There's also injuries to pedestrians by bikers, which doesn't get much attention but is a real problem. The placement of bike lanes between parked cars and sidewalks was a stupid idea, and it's not natural to look for oncoming bicyclists in those lanes. Worse, bicyclists routinely run red lights and clip unsuspecting pedestrians on the crosswalk.

It's amazing that the simple act of riding a bike, previously the province of children, has been turned into this quasi-political statement of coolness and rebellion. But these are the times we live in.

Poppop said...

Auntie forgot to mention one thing that always causes me to cringe: I see a parent towing a very young child in some sort of bicycle trailer thingy in traffic. I guess the progeny provides the crumple zone at least if he's rear ended.

Anyway -- I just had an absolute epiphany! Brings green energy, mass transit, and bicycling trends all together successfully. And reintroduces all the old-world charm of ancient maritime travel. How about the galley-bus? Rows of stationery bikes which all the passengers pedal furiously to generate electromotive force to propel the bus.

Anonymous said...

Auntie Analogue said... durr durr durr..

I wonder if the respective destructive powers of a 2 ton, 200hp car and a 200lb, 0.001 hp bike rider have anything to do with it?

Pasadenite said...

As somebody who bikes in Pasadena, I'm not sure that biking on the sidewalk is really safer.

I've tried it a few times and given up because of the extraordinary danger from people pulling out of driveways.

Biking works decently well in Pasadena because most roads have two lanes and are relatively light in traffic. Therefore, the drivers can just go around you.

I also don't feel bad biking in the middle of the right lane on a two lane road. That's also the safest way to bike - though DMV propaganda tells us to keep to the right, it's unclear if that puts you in more danger from drivers to your left who can't see you or being doored by a parked car to the right.

On the other hand: when I worked in Germany, I discovered the wonders of paved bike lanes that were separated from car traffic by being raised onto or next to the sidewalk. During the summer I biked to and from work (about 7 miles from my home in the countryside) and never felt any discomfort. Well, except for that one afternoon that it hailed.

E. Rekshun said...

I can remember a whole bunch of 10-speed bike-commuters starting up at the time of the '70s gas crunch. Middle-aged family men in my neighborhood peddled off to work each day. Some, like my father, went out and purchased used Honda motorcycles, or mopeds. All because gasoline had cracked $1 per gallon. The new commuting practices lasted just a couple of months before these guys all realized the danger and impracticality of it all.

My city simply steals a couple of feet from the car travel lanes, marks it w/ white paint, and calls it a bike lane. (I think there are some federal transportation dollars granted to do so.) Cars still whiz by at 60 MPH just inches from any bicyclists.

I'll stick w/ my indoor spinner bike. But what do I know, I ride a Kawasaki Ninja 500!

Pasadenite said...

Auntie Analogue:

1. Motorcycles were moving in that direction in the 1950's, but the smaller motorcycle makes blocked it because of price. But it any case, there is no sane safety equipment that can protect one from a collision with an object going 5 times as fast with 10 times the mass. i.e. 50x the momentum.

2. Because those are meant for people taking their children to the park, not for driving on the road.

3. If you pay for a car insurance policy, it pays also for accidents on the bicycle. So many actually do carry such insurance. Or: the insurance companies don't care enough to lobby for that.

4. In many jurisdictions (e.g. NYC) police check for working lights and issue fines.

5. Bikes are much less dangerous to others than cars.

6. Damage to roadways go as pressure to some absurdly high power. 3 or 4. Bicycles therefore cause nil damage to roads.

As an aside, our current system of paying for highway maintenance is a gigantic subsidy to the trucking companies as they cause 99% of road damage. Next time you drive around multi-lane freeways, take note of how much worse shape the lanes that the trucks use are in.

7,8. Because nobody has been bothered to yet. The conditions on these are quite different in Europe.

9. There's the pot calling the kettle black! Car parking is incredibly subsidized! Read Dr. Shoup's manifesto on the subject if you are interested.
"The high cost of free parking."
And as a Pasadena local, I can truly tell you that charging market rate for car parking can help transform a dilapidated district of pawn shops and strip clubs into a beautiful place to shop, eat and congregate.

Anonymous said...

7) Why does law forbid motorists from wearing music headphones but allow bicyclists to pedal about with their skulls full of Personal Space music or Talking Books or NPR-babble?

This is very interesting. An moreover any kind of enforcement would likely make a lot of bikers opt out of biking.

d..... said...

"I have heard that a lot has been done in New York recently with bike lanes, anyone have first hand experience of this."

I do.

The proliferation of bicycles in NYC and Manhattan in particular is a function of two things: food delivery and the new Bloomberg-inspired Citibikes program.

Before this, we had many bicycle messengers. They were insane speed-freaks who caused many an accident, and a near miss. I myself was nearly killed by one of these sociopaths. And no, Steve readers, they weren't black. They were mostly punky looking hate filled white boys.

The bicycle messengers were destroyed by the advent of scanning and email, and by public vilification. Good riddance.

Then came this modern plague of food delivery men, and Bloomberg-inspired yuppies on public bicycles.

The theory behind the Citibikes program is that somehow bicycles will reduce....what? The number of people taking public transportation? Cabs? Being pedestrians? I have absolutely no idea, and Bloomberg never clarified this.

Thus, Bloomberg has introduced a variable into the complex transit fabric, not taken away a variable.

As a pedestrian, I can tell you that it has made walking in Manhattan a nightmare. Literally a day does not go by where I don't see a near miss. Bicylists are supposed to follow traffic laws. They don't. They will kill people, if they haven't already and it's being hushed up.

d..... said...

PS to my previous. My embittered heart is hoping that a few bicyclists get smashed by buses and that the popularity of bicycling in Manhattan dies before too many innocent pedestrians, especially kids, get killed. The reason I say bus is that no one argues with their presence on NYC streets, whereas cabs are associated with the 1%. Maybe the transit workers union might get in on the act. I will support them if they do.


Anonymous said...

Five cyclists dead in London in nine days. Trucks and buses turning left seem to account for most deaths.

London now has hireable "Boris bikes" in racks all over the centre - wife and kids love riding them, when they're down there. But it is dangerous fun.

Anonymous said...

Ichabod - "I'm just looking forward to the day when cars have built-in machines that allow the driver to do a cardio workout during the commute."

More pertinently, why aren't there more desks that allow exercise? If I'm sitting down, I may as well be pedalling.

Thomas O. Meehan said...

I was part of the 10 speed craze back in the late Sixties and was a fanatical bicyclist as a kid. The difference I see in todays cycling world is the incorporation of a European cycling mentality.

When I grew up in a major northeastern city, cycling in traffic WAS cycling, period. No one cared if you stopped for lights, or cycled against traffic, etc. Common sense prevailed. The only safe way to ride a bike was to never assume that motorists saw you. Even if they did they might easily do something stupid. So you rode defensively, with agility and short distance speed as your only tactic. In all the years I biked, I only had one, non-serious accident with a car. And that was from assuming that a driver saw me crossing visa path. I usually rode against, rather than with the flow of traffic. This was for the very food reason that drivers approaching me could gauge my direction and intention better than those following. Also, I could better anticipate car door openings. Many a cyclist has been deflected out into traffic by a suddenly opened car door.

Riders need to understand that the laws of physics overrule the laws of the road. Forget any idea of right-of-way and you will be safer.

I now live in an area where adult biking is very popular. (Bucks County PA-Princeton NJ) And yes, a great many bike riders are illegals on their way home from restaurant jobs. There area a lot of spandex-clad road bikers as well.

Some of these types insist on European style road etiquette, which drives me batty. They will ride too far to the left in effect occupying a whole lane, backing up traffic. They will stop in the middle of the lane to make a left hand turn, slowing down traffic behind at short-duration green lights, then lumbering slowly forward from their dead stop. Compounding this, is the silly insane reluctance of mostly female drivers to pass cyclists, even when the cyclist keeps far to the right.

My experience with bike lanes is via Washington DC. They are a royal pain in the ass when one is trying to make a right turn. The cyclists stop for the light, blocking your path. They also are not shy about upbraiding you for occupying "their" lane.

Finally, e-bikes are beginning to catch on. I refer you to an interesting column by Paul Mulshine of the NJ Star Ledger about the legalities of their use in the People's Republic of New Jersey

Anonymous said...

I enjoy riding my bike on dedicated trails. One local trail parallels the commuter train tracks, and another winds through the county forest preserve.

But I'm not a fan of cycling on city streets, even when there are dedicated bike lanes, and even when those bike lanes are allotted sufficient space.

For one thing, cars need to cross the bike lanes to get in and out of turn lanes. Having cars cutting across bikers with different speed and acceleration profiles seems imprudent.

Glossy said...

"Then came this modern plague of food delivery men..."

In Manhattan these come in two flavors: mestizos, who use normal bicycles and Chinese, who use illegal electric, battery-powered bikes. They look much more like bicycles than like motorcycles, but they do have motors. They're everywhere. And they all look the same. These guys must number in thousands.

What they're doing is both dangerous (weaving in and out of Manhattan traffic, competing with buses and trucks) and illegal (no number plates, even though these are motor vehicles), yet there's been no crackdown. Bloomberg's paternalism or whatever you want to call it has been entirely cultural. It's not about safety per se. Swipples hate fat people and red-state gun owners. They don't have any feelings, positive or negative, about Asian delivery men. Drivers do, but swipples don't drive in Manhattan.

Anonymous said...

At the same time, SWPLs fight for bike lanes and bikes in spite of the fact that they are much more dangerous mile-for-mile than the Geo Metro.

Well now they have Smart cars, which are smaller than the Geo Metros were. I see Smart cars on major roads, zipping along. They look like death traps.

Anonymous said...

I ride my bike or my motorcycle to work sometimes. When I ride my bike, there is a nice bike path for about 70% of the trip. It intersects with streets fairly often but between those intersections it is completely isolated from traffic and it's quite enjoyable.

Riding my motorcycle is a very different experience. It's a sport bike so it has some serious power which can be fun. But riding prudently can be stressful. There is a lot of pressure from drivers to always go fast. Especially around blind corners. I live in an area with a lot of deer. After almost hitting one at 60 mph last week on my bike (on a highway exit ramp), I've been a little more careful about my speed as I wonder what deadly surprise is around the next corner. Car drivers have no patience for this. What are you doing that is so important that you are willing to kill me to get there 5 minutes faster? Are you taking your kid to little league? Then by all means kill me, that sounds pretty important.

It's making me consider selling my motorcycle next summer. I find myself never wanting to ride unless conditions are perfect.


I've lived in a few cities across the country and visited a lot of others. My experiences...

San Francisco: Beautiful city. Lots of fun hills and twisty roads surrounding the city. I learned to ride motorcycles here. A great place to have a bike and/or a motorcycle. Because of the twisty roads, hills, trolley tracks, and heavy traffic, it's also a great place to get yourself killed.

Chicago: I agree with Steve. Along the lake is a great place to run or ride a bike. The streets are too narrow and too busy for riding a bike generally. Weather sucks for a motorcycle. Too hot in the summer and too cold in the winter.

Washington DC: A great place for riding bikes. From Northern VA, there are some great bike trails completely separated from traffic. Once in the city, there are great parks to ride around.

Miami: You don't need a helmet if you're over 21. I was stunned at the number of people riding motorcycles and scooters not only without a helmet, but without a shirt. It's pretty fun to tour South Beach on a bike though.

John Doe

David said...

>I wonder if the respective destructive powers of a 2 ton, 200hp car and a 200lb, 0.001 hp bike rider have anything to do with it?<

You mean automobiles and bicycles are not equal?


Anonymous said...

I started riding a ten speed in 1969. Raced in the seventies. Have toured 5000 miles and logged countless miles in daily riding. Started commuting on a single speed in 1978--years before the current craze--still own that old track bike.

Without a doubt the best biking is in the Netherlands where there are dedicated bike paths everywhere. Most are offset from traffic by a three foot wide painted safety area. Some are just lanes painted on roads as described by others here. Since half the country is on bikes, the attitude of car drivers is much more tolerant. The law requires that drivers turning right must yield to bikes proceeding straight through an intersection.

I ride as little as I dare on roads today, preferring to stick to Rails to Trails--the availability of which was an important consideration in determining where I chose to retire.

Cell phones have changed everything. Texting is phenomenally dangerous. I refuse to share the road with today's inattentive drivers. I've given up.

I've ridden on roads I had no business being on, but as the other experienced rider said in the comment above, I too always assumed the driver didn't see me and that he wouldn't necessarily yield if he did. Eye contact is critical. A nod of the head, recognition and proceed. Point to where you want to go, let the driver know what it is you are doing. If there's no eye contact, then don't go. And so on.

Three accidents. One my fault for which I apologized profusely. One the driver's for which he apologized profusely. And one a berserk freak who ended up being found guilty of felony reckless endangerment. No injuries except the usual road rash.

The thing about cyclists is that they have some of the same concerns as truckers driving an 18 wheeler. Ridiculous huh? Both need to conserve momentum. That's the name of the game and that is why cyclists roll through stop signs and red lights (after looking both ways). This aggravates motorists, as some comments here attest. But just like big trucks do when they go over the speed limit and ride your bumper when going downhill in order to have more momentum to get up the other side so cyclists have their own ways of conserving energy.

I don't agree with the attitude and behavior of all cyclists anymore than I agree with all motorists. Most (experienced) cyclists are bright people who know the risks and proceed carefully. Most drivers are courteous and considerate; very few act like jerks.

No one should text while driving. No cyclist should hold up traffic.

Ray VonMartin said...

A tragic two-fer...
Florida Today, 11/18/13: Accident on US 192 claims lives of bicyclist, motorcyclist.

"A motorcyclist and bicyclist died after an accident Saturday night on U.S. 192 that also involved a sport utility vehicle, according Florida Highway Patrol...a motorcyclist traveling west on U.S. 192 struck a bicyclist, who traveled into the path of the [the bicyclist] lay in the westbound lane of U.S. 192, an SUV ran him over..."

Anonymous said...

From reading this it sounds like cycling is more dangerous in the US than in the Netherlands were I live, were cycling is very common for some reason.
Almost nobody wears helmets here except the people with fast sport bicycles and recently it has become a little more common to let little children wear helmets is my impression.
I also imagine there aren't nearly as many cycle path's in most in US cities as here.

Dahinda said...

When I was a kid I used to ride the Prairie Paths outside Chicago. You could ride for miles on them safely. The trouble was getting to and from the Prairie Paths. One time my friends and I were cruising down York Rd. in DuPage County and cars were zooming by us as we went along. One car came by with a bunch of jerks who held a baseball bat out the window of the car causing us to duck and fall into the gutter. If we had not seen it coming at least one of us would have been hit.

Anonymous said...

I ride my bike like I've got a bulls-eye on my back and drivers get a free tank of gas if they hit me. Unfortunately, too many cyclists feel they own the road, kind of a silly attitude when facing down a 6,000 lb. Chevy Suburban!

International Jew said...

Maybe I'm just lucky but in 40 years of biking, the only accidents and near-accidents I've had took place on bike-only trails. Like the dumbass who turned into my path last spring. Or wobbly children coming at me (though no collisions with any of them yet). Types that would have been culled, if they rode on roads, survive on the trails. Likewise, people who drive cars are overwhelmingly past the stage where they hit things on the shoulder.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget Agenda 21. And oh, now that we've dished on bikes, how can we forget skates?

neopaleohipsters said...

According to some profile I read in 2001, Rich Lowry skated to work before moving to the Manhattan office; I think that was using a skateboard though.

Anomaly UK said...

Very topical in London:

Steve Sailer said...

The 10 speed bike craze was well underway in Los Angeles in 1971. I can recall biking to school in Sherman Oaks on the day before the famous Nebraska-Oklahoma football game on Thanksgiving 1971. I was never very cool and I can recall feeling I was catching up with what was in by biking to school. I got hit by a car riding home from high school in the fall of 1972 or 1973, I think.