Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Coming Back At You

Or, "Reflections On Being Seen At Night"


Texas requires:

"SAFETY EQUIPMENT. sec. 551.104 ...(b) A person may not operate a bicycle at nighttime unless the bicycle is equipped with:

(1) a lamp on the front of the bicycle that emits a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet in front of the bicycle; and
(2) on the rear of the bicycle:
(A) a red reflector that is:
(i) of a type approved by the department; and
(ii) visible when directly in front of lawful upper beams of motor vehicle headlamps from all distances from 50 to 300 feet to the rear of the bicycle; or
(B) a lamp that emits a red light visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear of the bicycle."

So where do I go to find out what reflectors are "approved by the department"?

So do either of my bicycles comply with the law? My single-speed above or my main ride below?


If my front light is operating, and my Planet Bike Super Flash (PBSF) tail-light is not, then only my single-speed would be legal, as I have no red reflectors on the back of my main bike, though I do have a red patch of reflective tape on my helmet. This is assuming that my reflective tape would meet the approval of "the department".

Legalities aside, is the minimum lawful requirements adequate? What can be done to maximize nighttime visibility? What is reasonable? What are the compromises I have made and why?

For all practical purposes, reflectors are helpful to be seen by overtaking and oncoming traffic only, and leave you invisible to cross traffic vehicles. Reflectors, by their nature, "send back" to the source a portion of the light that falls on it. Different reflectors and reflective tape are better at this than others. There are a lot of sites dedicated to the question of which one is better, and for what purpose, with side by side pictures and stats and on, and on, and on... It is a guy thing. I am going to cut through all that static for you and talk about the stuff that works with cycling, so you don't have to plow through considerations for aviation, railroads, marine use, trucking, chemical exposure and on, and on, and on...

Rigid plastic reflectors, of the type that came on the bike when it was sold to you, in general do a better job of returning light to it's source than tapes. (Absolute brightness) But absolute brightness is just a part of the equation. There is also perceived brightness.

A reflective surface will always be have a greater perceived brightness the greater it's area. Thus a reflector of a greater absolute brightness can seem to be "dimmer" than an inferior reflector if the inferior's reflective surface area is a lot bigger.

This leads me to the conclusion that the minimum legal requirements of a red reflector to the rear is inadequate for the task of being seen at night. A positive light source is necessary to be seen from the side or from an angle. You can trust me on this: reflectors only work when headlamps fall on them, and it is a surprisingly narrow angle of observability. The more frequent hazard to a cyclist is from crossing traffic, and a cyclist's reflectors are invisible to them. For a brief, but clear explanation, see John Schubert's essay on it. To find source data and a rant about it, this is the best!

I have discarded the notion of using rigid reflectors, as they are small and I dislike hanging hardware on my bicycle. The best reflective tape for our purposes is DOT/NHTSA 49CFR571.108 and SOLAS (Save Our Lives At Sea) rated tapes. SOLAS tape reflects about the same as DOT tape, and tends to be more durable, but DOT tape is easier to find. Both are spendy.

So you can see that I have gone for "area" in applying reflective tape!





When it comes to lights, there are basically three categories. Lights to "see by", lights to "be seen by" and inadequate. Lights to "see by" are so costly I have chosen to get lights to "be seen" instead. And since that is my goal, to stand out on the road, I run my positive light sources on "blink" mode. My tail light, as mentioned before is a PBSF, and my headlights are Cateye HL-EL135. While looking for the model number, I noticed their Uno which according to them is a bit brighter and lighter. (Whoo hoo! But it will require more frequent battery changes.) They will likely replace my present ones when they need to be replaced.

On my multi-speed bicycle, I have slung the light underneath the handlebars for aesthetic reasons, but it is not designed to operate that way. To prevent the battery cover from coming off (I ride on fairly rough roads) and another mount failure, I have employed a rather inelegant "electrical tape solution".



Because I am car-free, I can expect to travel after dark. So I want to have lights on my bikes at all times, and I carry spare batteries. I don't run them in the daytime beause, after all, I ride in the left third of the lane!

I am careful at night to ride on familiar roads, avoiding roads with known hazards. This is an operational compromise for not running with lights to "see by". My single-speed is expected to be pressed into service on foul weather trips, and it has more area for tape to be mounted because of its fenders. I also put both spoke reflectors on the front wheel. As Steve pointed out, not likely to be of much help, what can I say? (ChipSeal shrugs)

However, I will dispute his contention that I have put reflective tape "on the sides" of my bike. Reflective tape has the ability to reflect back to its source even when struck from a very high angle. Here are two pictures, taken with low sun, at an approximate angle displayed to overtaking and opposing traffic.



Oh, and one last thing, sometimes tape has uses beyond reflective duties! I ride on gravel roads with some frequency, and carbon fiber is allergic to dings. I have put reflective tape on the underside of my down-tube to protect it from pebbles and stones thrown up from my wheels.


Sunday, July 26, 2009

An Amusing Interchange

Alternate title: ChipSeal Has Too Much Time On His Hands!

The newsOK has a rather poor story highlighting a number of attacks on cyclists by bully-motorists. Naturally, the comments to the story is where the fireworks are! Once again, I couldn't help myself, and now I am subjecting both of my beloved readers to my illness. You may be excused if you wish.

My comments will be in blue and the commenter's will be in red.

GRANT said: Hmmm. 180 pound man on a 25 pound bike vs. a 180 pound man in a 3000 pound car. I wonder who wins that one? Sorry bikers. I don't condone the acts of borderline violence, but I also think you guys need to get off the road... especially when you ride as large, slow-moving packs that back up traffic. [Hmmm. We need to get off the road because when we are the majority of road users at a particular location, we define what “normal traffic” is, not motorists, like you are used to. Color me un-persuaded.]

I'm all about your right to ride and exercise and save gas and all, [Pay no attention to my previous comment where I opine that you ought to get off the road!]but I'm more afraid that I'm gonna kill one of you. I about nailed a guy riding on Broadway extension, going about 20 MPH, during rush hour! [So you are admitting that you are a poor driver, one who is likely to hit other vehicles in the road in front of you?]He was single-handedly making three lanes of traffic very dangerous, all because he wanted to be defiant and prove that he had a right to the road. Come on! [Who was making the conditions dangerous? Are you able to read minds? How do you know what motivated this cyclist to travel on the PUBLIC road?]

Give me a safe, bike only route that connects major hubs of the cities (using railroad or utility right of ways or roads with wide shoulders), and I'll join you. I'd love to ride SAFELY. [So would we. Perhaps it is folks with attitudes like yours that are making it dangerous.]I just can't believe that we keep talking about spending $8-10 million or more on light rail service (that will never be utilized fully and always lose money), and yet we don't think about spending a fraction of that on a bike route that connects Edmond, Norman, Moore, Yukon, Tinker AFB, and Downtown. [We already have plenty of bike route connections between those cities; They are called PUBLIC roads, thank you very much!]

KRISTI said: This issue has been so irritating this summer. Bicycles should NOT be allowed on the road. [Bicycles are allowed by law. Call your state representative.] If you can't ride 3-wheelers, 4-wheelers, dune buggies, or golf carts on the road, why is it legal for a bicycle that can't even get up to a decent speed? [Because our right to travel by our own power ought not be limited just because automobiles have become more powerful. Our right-of-way is to be accommodated as would any other slow moving vehicle.] Not only are they dangerous for everyone involved, they also hold up traffic which makes tempers rise even more. Its just ridiculous. [It actually seems that it is the unwillingness of motorists to respect the right-of-way of bicyclists that is producing the dangerous conditions. Are cyclists throwing trash and objects at automobiles?

Cyclists ARE traffic according to state law. It is not cyclists that are producing rush hour gridlock. Automobiles, buses, and traffic lights are holding up a lot of traffic, bicyclists- well, not so much.]

If you absolutely must ride your bike, ride it in a park or on the sidewalk where it belongs and where the only person you can hurt is yourself. [Because everyone knows that bicycles are toys, and motor-cars are serious grown up toys. Kristy, what part of “public“, in public road, don‘t you understand?]

I live on a section line road and its very hilly. There are no sidewalks. The speed limit is 50 but unfortunately everyone drives faster on it, whether they should or not. [Damn those scofflaw motorists!] But if someone flies over the top of one of those hills and a bicycle is there, guess what? Someone's going to get hurt or possibly killed because the cyclists didn't have enough common sense to stay off the road. [Yep, it is those darn cyclists! It has nothing to do with the operators of the automobiles driving too fast for the conditions, failing to exercise due care, recklessly driving in a willful or wanton disregard for the safety of persons or property. Naw, that ain’t it!]

I wish I knew what genius decided that not only are bicycles street legal but that they should have the right-of-way. [It would seem your idea is to have faster traffic have the right-of-way, and all the slower vehicles must yield to overtaking traffic. I bet I could drive a motor-car faster than you Kristy. Will you stay out of my way?] Earlywine Park in OKC has a nice walking track, and its marked so you know how far you've gone. Ride your bicycles there where your [sic] safe.

CHRISTOPHER said: Why would you ride your bike on a road without a wide enough shoulder?
[Because it is not as safe, for many reasons. We have a right to the road, so it is really none of your business.] Be considerate to others and maybe you will not get attacked. [We are considerate, we are lawfully operating our vehicles on the public road. Are you justifying violence?]

I support people getting out and about but there is a line. Some people have to be places and you are upholding their progress. [Why is your trip on the public road of more importance than mine?] I often am the one found cussing behind a cyclist just because they want to enjoy the scenery. [How considerate of you.]

My job requires me to be somewhere quickly. Just to top a hill and see someone doing 10mph that I can not pass without putting them in danger puts me in a pickle. [If your job were so important that slower traffic needs to get out of your way, we would have equipped you with red lights and a siren. Since you are apparently not THAT important, may I suggest you manage your time better, leave earlier or use a different route.]

Recently in Edmond a cyclist almost got creamed by me. [You are a poor driver too?] Not on purpose. [You wish you could be a good driver but you just can’t seem to manage it?] Just the fact he was riding ignorantly. [Really? Do explain!] He was in the right lane in heavy traffic. [What lane should he have been in, if he were not’t so cussedly ignorant?] He was also in the middle of the lane. [So were you!] He also had a sidewalk he could of used. [Yes he could’ve, but THAT would have been an ignorant move! Dangerous too, about eight times more dangerous than riding where he did ride. It was probably illegal as well. I am not so sure it was the cyclist that was the ignorant one in that encounter. Isn’t the freedom of speech great! It makes it so much easier to spot the idiots among us!]

Point blank cyclist [sic] be considerate of others. Pick your path wisely for your safety. [Point blank Christopher, learn the rules of the road. Motorists have a duty to drive their automobiles with due care and in a safe manner. See to it that you are mindful of that.]

Grant I love your idea. That is truly actually an awesome one. One that would probably prove useful. That is also why they probably will never use it. LOL

TERRY said: Just the other morning I am driving down old 77 and two bikers [sic] are driving on the shoulder causing me to move to the left some. Unfortunately there were 3 cars driving the opposite direction.
[Goodness! What ever could you do! I hope you applied your brakes and waited for a gap in traffic so that you were able to perform your primary duty of using due care.] Fortunately I did not run anybody off the road.

I have no problem with bikers [sic], I have problems when they use the road when there are sidewalks that can be used.
[Why do you drive your automobile on the road, and avoid driving it on the sidewalk? The answer that that just popped into your mind is a reason why cyclists do not travel on the sidewalk.] These bikers [sic] need to use some common sense when they are riding.

People can exercise free speech but violence in any way is not right.

TIM said: Are you people serious? Terry, riding on sidewalks is ILLEGAL in Oklahoma City, Edmond, Norman and many other cities. Riding on the road is LEGAL. Taking the lane when needed is LEGAL. It has nothing to do with defiance, it has everything to do with using a bicycle as a legal, non-polluting healthy means of transportation.

Christopher, the cyclist you described was not riding ignorantly by taking the lane, he/she was riding safely. Why don't you folks try slowing down, paying attention and treat ALL road users with respect.

KRISTY comments again: Tim, are you serious? Or are you just trying to rile everyone up?
[Tim is serious. You however, are about to display near criminal hubris.]

Surely you can see how dangerous it makes the roads when a bicycle is on it? [What makes you think it is the cyclists that are creating dangerous conditions?] Cyclists are lucky that people do pay attention or there would be a whole lot more deadly accidents. [So it is not cyclists causing the problems, it is the inattentive operators of automobiles! I see that you agree with Tim. So it must be you that is trying to “rile everyone up“!]

To be fair, it isn't only bicycles, but walkers and runners as well, although they usually do get over. [Is that on the hilly section line road that you said everyone is speeding on? It sounds to me that the reckless scofflaw motorists are the lucky ones! Lucky they are not in prison for manslaughter.]

Perhaps we should all start a petition to get the laws changed so that cyclists are allowed to ride on the sidewalks where it is safer, and not allowed on the roads. It makes so much more sense and everyone wins. [Ah, yes. I want to take away cyclist’s rights because they occasionally inconvenience me and force me to be a more careful driver. Just say it Kristy; “It’s all about me! I should always be able to drive at top speed!”]

TIM responds: Kristi, statistically it has been proven that due to obstacles, curb-cuts and intersections is is exponentially more dangerous to ride on a sidewalk than on a road. That is why it is illegal.

Now for a history lesson; were it not for the efforts of the League of American Wheelmen (now known as the League of American Bicyclists) you would not HAVE paved roads to drive on.
[A wee bit over the top, Tim, but your heart’s in the right place. It is a bit unreasonable to imagine that not one motorist in 150 years would come up with the idea of paved roads. But from what I’ve read here, I am fairly sure the imaginative motorist would not be from Oklahoma!]

Bottom line, we have the right to be there, are subject to the same rules and bear the same responsibilities.

STACY chimes in with: No wonder there are tensions[.]

I don't like cyclists myself, they don't pay attention to the laws while riding, they exepect [sic] you to let them run an intersection[.] if [sic] you don't they get mad, [sic]

they [sic] have little side mirrors on their helmets, which is a waste [sic] because if they used them [sic] they could see the 10 cars stacked of [sic] behind them on [sic] get the #$@# over instead of insisting [sic] riding 2 and 3 wide on the roadway.
[You have made a very confusing series of statements. On one hand, you are upset at the cyclists who break the laws. And then, astonishingly in the next breath, you are upset at cyclists who are obeying the law!]

Tim then says: And we don't like you either. So there.

While being snarky can be fun, I am trying to make a point. These folks are a very small minority of drivers. They have self-selected themselves and so cannot in any stretch of the imagination be considered a representative sample of any diverse population.

But they also do not hold their opinions in a social vacuum, either. Outside of those who acted out and physically attacked cyclists, these folks are the extreme edge of those who are hostile to cyclists. However, their positions reflect at least some of the community attitudes about traffic, the responsibility of motorists, civility on the highways, notions of right-of-way and impeding traffic.

I hope that some of my snarky comments really do point to a place that once was; Where lawfulness and civil behavior on the public way was expected of one another and common, and where I long for America to return to.

A difficulty that we face is that operating a motor vehicle today has become such an everyday common event that we have become callous to the terrible consequences of mishaps, and we have become cavalier about driving on the public way.

We have become a people who like to style ourselves as victims. We cannot countenance the idea that we may have some personal responsibility for the circumstances we find ourselves in.

We expect to be treated with grace and kindness, but feel no duty to extend such gifts to others. We are quick to take offense, but judge our own actions with gentler standards. We expect to receive the benefit of the doubt, but assume the worst motivations of others.

Hard times are upon us, perhaps it will be a catalyst for good. Bicycle advocates should watch for opportunities to shape the public's notions of what it means to be a good citizen in public spaces.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Have a Seat

One of the recent upgrades to my single-speed was to replace the standard seat with a Specialized Toupe Gel saddle. This was also one of the upgrades I did when I bought my Giant, so I have standardized my saddles. This has increased my comfort on my single-speed.

But when taking pictures last weekend for Beginning Bicycle Commuting, I noticed that there was some wear showing on my older saddle. That is to say, wear other than that suffered in crashes!

Here are side-to-side photos of the older saddle and the new one for comparison. Well, above and below then...


You can see that the rails and seatpost clamp show wear. The helpful markings on the rails are completely worn off, as is some of the paint, and the seat-bag is also showing wear.

Here is a different angle so that you can see some of the damage wrought by crashes:


The trailing "wing" on the left has lost the plastic covering accent, and the right side one has had some of the silver paint worn off of it.

I have found this saddle to be quite comfortable for me. A good guide for finding stuff that works is to look to racing. They need stuff that is light, durable and can be used for hours at a time. If the components they use don't work well, they are altered or replaced. That is why they use drop handle bars, for a variety of hand positions to use on extended rides. They use seats that fit human physiology and fit your "sit bones" rather than using loads of padding, or leather saddles that have to be "broken in". It has to either enhance comfort or speed.

But as a guide, it breaks down in some areas. For example, professional racing restricts frame design, and so in many ways deprives us from possibly better designs. (Recumbent.) Retail bicycle manufacturers are generally unable to market innovative designs successfully if the design isn't "validated" in the consumers mind, generally meaning racing. But it is easy to see in other areas that racing inspired innovation has been very beneficial to the transportational cyclist. (Helmet design.)

I point this out because I have sensed that many non-racing cyclists see racing oriented gear as elitist or impractical. Some of the racers trade-offs are not of value to an urban cyclist. For instance, racers will accept a much harsher ride in trade for lower rolling resistance. But one lesson casual cyclists could benefit from racing is that tread patterns are unnecessary for street bikes! Cycling specific clothing (Lycra) is universal in racing and deserves another look by those who are rejecting it for style reasons alone.

As my saddle wear demonstrates, there is a lot friction going on, but I was completely unaware of it. I am thankful for that, and I attribute my lack of abrasions to the clothing I choose to wear.

Steve, that white patch on the top of the top-tube is a route list taped onto the frame. (Your welcome.)

Sunday, July 19, 2009

More Photos of Body Parts!

I am not one to stand in the way of some popular trends. (Though this one is probably mis-guided.) I present you with another edition of Selected Blogger Body Parts!

We have all enjoyed Keri's feet, Rantwick's butt, Steve's foot/farmer tan and the handsome portion of PM's face.

And this time, in the true spirit of ego blogging, I present to you a dog bite in process of healing, or a scar wanna-be:


Oh for crying out loud! As you can plainly see, I am as inept at this photo upload stuff as Steve is with his video camera! (HERE) This shouldn't have come up in my "dog bite" search, because she is such a sweetie.

That right there is a picture of the boss of me, Shawlee the lazy dog. She is so lazy she leans up against the house when she barks! She and I take long walks in the fields around here; She annoys the bunny population and I feed the mosquitoes. (I wouldn't slander her like this to her face, mind you, but I have it on good authority that she doesn't read my blog.)

I'm not really sure how I got her on here... Let's try again... Here goes nothin'!

For your viewing pleasure, I present to you a dog bite in process of healing, or a scar wanna-be:


Gosh darn it! That's the the one taken the day after I got bitten. Giving it another try... (ChipSeal grunts with effort)

I present to you a dog bite in process of healing, or a scar wanna-be:


At last! Owww! (I think I pulled a muscle patting myself on the back.)

Now of course, this is truly ego blogging. If you had any idea how many pictures I took to get that shot! I got the late afternoon sun, a good flex going to show off my muscles, six or seven different angles, sixteen or so shots from each angle- Oh yeah! Ego blogging for sure!

But when I slow down to consider the marvelous way the healing process takes place. It must be a vastly complex process. Have we ever made a machine that can heal its self?

I have to wonder where the information comes from. Not just the raw information held in the genetic code, but how such data is transmitted. The vast amount of data available is just a part of it, the data must be "read" on a cellular level too.

A lot of information can be transmitted by Morse code, for example, but unless you can understand the language, it is meaningless to you. How could such a complex language be developed by chance? It seems to me it must take a lot of faith to believe such an implausible notion.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Responding to Steve

Handle-bars. Both of my bikes have goofy handle-bars.

As can be seen in my previous post, the Red-line has "mustache" style bars. This was standard issue for the 2007 model year, and it lent the bike a unique profile. It apparently met with limited success, because they went with different bars in 2008.

It was a good decision on their part, I think. These bars do offer about three hand positions, but the overall drop from seat height to bar height is too much for me.

When I was a youthful bicycle racer in 1976-1981, I had a six inch drop, and I was comfortable with it. As you can see of my Giant, that drop is just right for me now, but not nearly as big as my Red-line

I will be on the look-out for a yard sale bike so that I can get a handle-bar like PM favors for my Red-line. (I don't think I am man enough for a basket though!) This bike is my spare and wet weather bike. I crash on it when it is wet because I don't slow down enough. A more upright position could be a big benefit for me if it helps me slow down a bit.

I have "customized" the bars on my Giant. I never use the drops. So I cut them off. It turns out I could have removed another half inch or so with out a problem, and I may yet do so. They are long enough for my fingers to rest while "on the hoods" without touching the edge of the bar end. I haven't yet decided if I am going to use that extra bar space to mount my cyclometer or not.

What is harder to notice is the extra material used when wrapping the bars. I have used strips of inner tubes to make the round bar more flat. That is, to provide a wider, flatter surface to rest my hands on.

The handle-bar that that most desire is no longer being manufactured. A Cinelli track bar #65. The bar began it's curve two inches or so from the stem in a long graceful arc. Not only did it look cool with brake handles, it provided six distinct and comfortable hand positions- perfect for long hours of saddle time!

Road bars provide multiple hand positions, which is helpful on long rides to keep your hands from hurting. I do all my braking with my hands on the top of the hoods, and so I have adjusted my brakes on the loose side for better leverage. No doubt Steve has a dozen more questions about all this, and I will answer them as he (or anyone else) asks them in the comments.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Ego Blogging

Ego blogging: Showing off my stuff. You will probably not find any of this interesting, which is why I have put off doing such rot. Let's see if I can make it a bit more interesting. I will not be showing any photos of my butt. I am not Rantwick after all!

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The above and below photographs are of my fendered single speed Redline 9 2 5. This is my backup bike so I can get around when I break a spoke on my other bike, and the one I crash... er, ride on in stormy weather. There is a red side and a white side. Both colors are made by applying reflective tape. Remember, it is area that is important!

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The bridges above are two of the three on Novy Road. It is both scenic and charming but poorly surfaced. The third bridge is quite similar to these two.

Below is my road bike. It is a 2007 Giant OCR C zero carbon fiber full Dura Ace equipped 30 speed. I have 10,100 miles on it and I am swiftly closing in on fifty cents a mile cost! I keep lead weights in the seat bag just to keep it from floating away. I rarely lock it, preferring to take it with me into restaurants and stores.

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The "white accents" on the forks and stays is reflective SOLAS tape. The water bottle is one third filled with custom dog repellent.

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Since it has come to my attention that I may have slandered the Ellis County road maintenance department, I am posting some photos of other roads in my area. Above is Central High Road, showing it's charming bridge and then a shot looking away from the bridge.

Below is FM 879. FM stands for Farm to Market. It indicates it has met certain design standards and can support heavy truck traffic. If I am in error about this, I am sure PM will set me straight and I will announce the correction. Behind the camera it is 35 MPH and the pictured part has just changed to 55 MPH.

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This is more of FM 879. Rolling hills, very rough chip-seal surface, with the worst area between the two tire tracks. Between here and the far-off distance there are three dogs spaced out along there who like to run with me when I come by.

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Below is North Main. This road collects all the bike riders between Palmer and Ennis. It is lightly traveled because I-45 is about a mile to the east and running parallel. The surface is smooth, but there are a few sections that have a lot of damage. Two railroad spurs come off the rail line to the left of the photo, that cross North Main at a bad angle. Both these factors cause me to avoid this road at night and in the rain.

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Friday, July 10, 2009

Hardware Fix for a Software Problem

A new study concludes that more than half of United States highway fatalities are related to bad roads.

"The group said its research concluded that roadway deficiencies contribute to more than 22,000 fatalities, with poor roads leading to 10 roadway-related crashes every minute (5.3 million a year) and contributing to 38% of non-fatal crash injuries."

So ask myself; "Self, what do they mean by "road deficiencies" and is that really the problem?"

"Miller added that PIRE’s [Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation] study identifies ways transportation officials can improve road conditions to save lives and reduce injuries. For example, he said immediate solutions for problem spots include: replacing non-forgiving poles with breakaway poles, using brighter and more durable pavement markings, adding rumble strips to shoulders, mounting more guardrails or safety barriers, and installing better signs with easier-to-read graphics.

The report also suggested more significant road improvements should be made, including adding or widening shoulders, improving roadway alignment, replacing or widening narrow bridges, reducing pavement edges and abrupt drop- offs, and clearing more space adjacent to roadways.

Although behavioral factors are involved in most crashes, avoiding those crashes through driver improvement requires reaching millions of individuals and getting them to sustain best safety practices,” Miller pointed out. “It is far more practical to make the roadway environment more forgiving and protective.”

Once again deflecting the dreadful driving skills of American motorists. Changing the culture is too hard. Let's blame an inanimate object instead of the operator of the automobile. If only the highway were more "forgiving" and not so mean, we would be just fine. I am not responsible, I am a victim here! Sheesh!

All of the "fixes" proposed (Highlighted above) are attempts to allow drifting or out-of-control motor vehicles more room to recover. I find this appalling! Is it not a reflection of our societies tolerance of irresponsible behavior? Better to install break-away light poles than expect Americans to avoid steering their automobiles into them.

It is foolishness to think we can reduce the carnage by making safer roads while ignoring the attitude of society toward responsible public behavior. There is no shame in poor driving skills, and no scandal if you cause a wreck and property damage. Changing this cavalier attitude would be more effective than "fixing the roads".

Technology is doomed in an arms race with fools; There are so many of them and they are persistent and innovative!

Addendum: A sad commentary highlighting this sad state of incivility and accepted carnage can be found at Carbon Trace.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Police Bully

Tuesday evening, I was traveling east on Ennis Street, through our downtown area. There is a two block span of the road that changes from a four-lane to a two lane to accommodate angle parking. The approach looks like this-

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In spite of the traffic sign ordering through traffic to merge left, and no traffic control lane markers to indicate side by side travel, folks continue as though the the street configuration has not changed. This traffic crime is never enforced, and so scofflaw motoring is the order of the day.

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I, not wanting to join the lawlessness and be a scofflaw cyclist, obey the law and merge left to travel in the left tire track near the center line because of the hazard presented by automobiles pulling out of the angled parking spaces. At the end of the two blocks, after this intersection and on the approach to the railroad tracks, it becomes a four-lane again.

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As I approach the railroad tracks, I do a shoulder check, and finding the lane clear, I merge right and continue in the left tire track of the right lane.

Behind me a motorist honks his horn. I ignore him. Traffic flows past me in the next lane. The motorist honks again at me, and then finally decides to roar past me in a huff. I spit in his general direction as he does so. The second photograph below is about where we were at that point.

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The motorist, in a full size diesel pick-up truck, brakes hard to give me a piece of his mind. (Rather dangerous. He has so little of the stuff!) Of coarse he overshoots as I continue at a steady pace. I then come to a stop at this intersection at the stop line. He pulls up beside me with the passenger window down...

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Angry Motorist: "Don't you dare spit on my truck!" (He is leaning forward, screaming past the passenger, a woman about his age.)

Me: "Don't bully law abiding citizens!" (I raise my voice enough so he can hear me, but I refrain from screaming.)

Angry Motorist: "You are not allowed to ride in the middle of the street!"

Me: "Do you just make up the laws as you go along?" (He surprises me by becoming apoplectic at this statement.)

The angry motorist pulls out his wallet and flashes a badge at me.

Angry cop "I am a cop, and you have to get out of the road!"

Me "If I broke the law write me a ticket!"

(He says something here, about me breaking the law or I have to ride differently, I don't remember. He was so wrong I wasn't listening carefully to him. After each statement of his I just repeat my challenge to him to write me a ticket if I were breaking the law. After two more go-rounds like this...)

Angry cop "Do I look like I'm on duty here?" (He was pulling at his shirt to display it to me, indicating that it wasn't a uniform.)

Me "Either write me a ticket or shut up!"

At this point the conversation ended because the light turned green, and we proceeded on our way. He- getting an earful from his passenger- and me, controlling my narrow lane.

Naturally, we think of better things to do or say immediately after it is over. Sadly, I missed a great opportunity here. At the next signal that can barely be seen in the last two pictures, he turned left, which coincidentally was where I was headed on my errand.

He pulled into a gas station, and I went to the store in the next building. As I was about to don my street shoes, it occurred to me that it would be good to find out what police department he worked for, as he could use a little brush-up on Texas bicycle law. As I rushed back to the gas station, I began to hope that I could get his photograph as well!

Alas, I was too late, he was pulling out as I approached. He fled from me, the coward! (Ha! Not really. He seemed to be getting some emphatic advice from his passenger after they saw me riding up. I can only guess who has the power in that relationship!)