Archive for November, 2011

Three Foot Passing Law and Human Instincts

November 30, 2011

Despite my constant work on my mind–especially when cycling–I still get angry when buzzed.

Getting buzzed is when a motorist passes you too close for comfort. It’s like they were going to murder you, but got cold feet at the last minute. The only thing that I hate more than a cold blooded killer is a weakling who fails to follow through. πŸ™‚

Seriously, I am reading a great book called _Body Language_ by Allan and Barbara Pease.

In it, it talks about comfort zones, including those felt by motorists.

Even in countries where the personal bubble is smaller, three feet is pretty close especially when you are being passed by a highly dangerous lump of steel.

In fact, according to this book, and my experience, the personal zone is between eighteen inches and four feet. This is only less intimate than the intimate zone which is a bit closer.

Thus, the motor vehicle is getting close enough to be a really good friend who is talking with you about something you both like. But this isn’t a friend, it’s a stranger. Thus, even if you were not on a bicycle and they weren’t on a bike, you’d wonder why they got so close to you. In some place, they’d even think you were hitting on them or harassing them.

In a vehicle, it’s, of course, more terrifying. Also, in the United States, the distance is on the far end, closer to four feet than to two.

Thus, the three foot passing law allows for cars to get closer to cyclists than humans normally would in social occasions unless the two were close buddies or lovers.

Allowing someone to penetrate you personal space hardly seems to be burdensome.

Also, these are cultural more and animal instincts. In fact, animals that are too crowded have died from stress alone. Thus, to say that this is hard to figure out when you are driving too close to someone goes against the direct experience, culture, and biological programming of a normal human, and it suggests that the person is somehow mentally damaged.

However, many organizations came out against this law for various reasons, but nowhere in the debate did I see that this isn’t really a burden, but rather the law is more permissive than good manners and our human brains dictate.

But there’s more!

According to the Peases (and other researchers), in a care, people feel that their personal bubble is much larger. In fact, a typical motorist feels entitled to twenty five feet of space in front and in back of their cars. If this space is violated in front, they feel angry due to being “cut off”. In the back, they feel “tailgated.”

Surely such a person, who demands over EIGHT TIMES the law in space, should find it child’s play to estimate three feet of passing space for a cyclist.

In fact, I see this all the time where they get really close to me, a human, just like them. Then they veer off to protect an unfeeling inanimate object of a parked car ahead.

That is, when I drive in the parallel parking area, cars feel compelled to come in and buzz me, but they give parked cars much more room. This is very consistent, and to me bizarre behavior.

But I blame the system more than the motorist.

This effect has been confirmed by several motorist who, also saw themselves becoming monsters when motoring. This alienation is one of my major complaints about motoring as it is so universal, and in my mind, toxic.

After learning how humans are set up, I think that the three foot passing law is too little, and I think that the people who voted against it need a bit more education (or perhaps introspection) on how their own minds operate.

Bufferin Bike Lanes

November 30, 2011

Yes, this is a post which is supposed to be a pun on the old school buffered aspirin which anyone will need if they follow this debate.

To bring newcomers up to speed, forces of darkness are receeding, but not fast enough.

All of us want the same thing, even if we don’t know it yet: bicycles off the road, out of harms way.

But for every punchbowl, there’s a turd, and in this case it goes by the name of VC. (More info is found on my pages on VC and Quisling advocates).

Anyway, the latest battle is waging over buffered bike lanes.

The debate is similar to the kind of argument that would break out when we discover flying carpets. There’s always going to be someone who, instead of enjoying the air rush their hair while they sit on the silken carpet, is going to argue whether the flying carpet is really an airplane or a floor covering.

Similarly, we are getting debates on whether a buffered bike lane is really a bike lane at all!

How original.

First of all, what is a buffered bike lane?

Here is a good photo:

Buffered Bike Lane

Buffered Bike Lane

Looks pretty cool, right?

No, because some people are arguing that sticking a bike lane next to a hatch mark makes it not a bike lane at all!

“Bike Lanes Β are defined as preferential lanes in Section 3B-22. Β A preferential lane is considered a Bike Lane when a ‘bike lane’ symbol is placed within.”

So it is a bike lane.

But why put this in?

Buffered bike lanes have allowed more people to ride their bicycles (warning MS DOC).

In Philadelphia: “Bicycle Usage Up 95% on Spruce and Pine Bike Lanes…During the same time period, the percentage of bicyclists who used the sidewalks on Spruce and Pine Streets fell by 41-75%.”

But will this make things more dangerous?

No, buffered bike lanes make streets safer.

“Prior to the project, PBOT counted approximately 7 injury crashes each year in the corridor. In the full year after the project, PBOT has seen 2 serious injury crashes in the corridor.”

But won’t this appropriation of the roads lead to anger at cyclists and, in our zero sum world, get our rights to the road taken away?

Not at all. From the above link, it appears that there is a small number of people who hate cyclists. Removing paint from roads will not turn these people into bicycle lovers. Many of them appear to be depressed or angry who’s limited ability to control their emotions may put them in jail. Ironically, their anger at cyclists may remove their licenses, and they too will join us out on the streets. (Hey, I can dream of a safer world on my blog). πŸ™‚

From the same article:

“Overall, Stephen felt like the meeting “represented some good news in the face of that Holladay project and other setbacks lately.” His final impression? Of nearby residents, “70% were very happy, 25% probably didn’t care, and 5% were noisy and cranky.”

Reader Megan wrote in to say some in the crowd weren’t just cranky, they were downright rude. “The vocal group last night was extremely disrespectful to anyone who didn’t support their point of view,” she comments below, “calling out names while people commented and talking loudly during the roll-out of data. They were there to bully and intimidate.”

For their part, PBOT project managers Greg Raisman and Mark Lear both felt the meeting went very well. Lear told us the meeting was “amazing” and that there were “more supporters than people in opposition.” The primary reason many now support the project are the safety benefits.”

Here’s a visual where green man is the tiny strips of paint on the road and the little person is the mad 5%:

What’s Luck Got To With It?

November 29, 2011

This blog is supposed to be about the cotton candy and rainbow aspect of cycling. Instead it gets into the dirty politics as well as enumerating every problem from a little annoyance to hellish nightmares that are brought upon by choosing to cycle in a place which spends billions of dollars to discourage it.

Nevertheless, I have learned that I need to embrace all of my emotions, so I’ll do that.

One of the things that really makes my blood boil when it comes to cycling, aside from the boring, sadistic jokes, is the notion that I’m somehow “lucky” that I can cycle to work–and everywhere else.

The one thing I am not is lucky.

Well, yes, I am lucky for many reasons, such as for having a wonderful princess. However, I am not lucky to be able to cycle because like I said, the government as well as private industries spend a shit ton of money to stop me from cycling or at least to make it seem scary and hellish.

There’s the nearly total lack of cycle parking, to the hidden government subsidies for motoring, to the ubiquitous red carpet that private industry lays out to motorists. There’s also the nightmarish aspects of my commute as well as the fact that there are wall–I mean freeways–which block my “right to the road” at every turn.

Yet, I cycle everywhere. Why?

Luck! πŸ™‚

No, silly, it’s probably because of force of habit. At this point, I really don’t know why.

But it’s NOT due to luck.

Here’s how luck is made.

First of all, we chose to live in the most pedestrian friendly, and biking friendly neighborhood. This place was chosen to be near my and my princesses jobs. We also chose it to be close enough to ride to the beach at least once a week.

Next, we don’t have a car. If something can’t be biked to in ten miles of less: IT DOESN’T EXIST.

There’s nothing “practical” about this lifestyle.

That is, I totally hate it when people say it’s not “practical” to cycle to my job or with my kids or whatever else.

Clue train: We don’t live in Soviet Russia.

Automobiles are really, really expensive and they take a long time to maintain. Can someone with children really be expected to look after the sheer amount of paperwork and the amount of money spent motoring?

What about food and medical care not to mention college money. Isn’t it a bit, say, impractical, to waste this money on motoring when it’s just as easy and convenient to walk and cycle everywhere, if you choose to?

The government doesn’t choose where you live and work, unlike Soviet Russia. Thus, if you say it’s “impractical” to cycle that’s because of a series of choices that you made and are continuing to make.

If you have the cash to pay for a place that requires a car, you definitely CAN live some place where it’s practical to cycle IF YOU CHOOSE.

So it’s not luck which got me here. It was a series of pretty easy and obvious choices. If you look for a place to live on foot only then by default you’ll wind up in a place where you don’t have to drive to.

Plus, if you factor the extra money you save on a car into rent, you can pay more.

But there’s more! We don’t pay more. In fact, some of the more expensive places cater to automobiles only. In fact, it’s been shown that rent is as much as 25% higher due to the price of a mandatory parking spot. If we got rid of this, we’d all be 25% of our rent or housing payment richer! Not to mention the automobile richer.

Plus, think of what happens if you hit someone and go to jail. How practical will your commute be then?

So overall, there’s zero luck involved in my lifestyle. I chose it and anyone who has the vast amount of wealth to the part of the tiny percent who can actually afford an auto can join my very non-exculsive club. Also, practical, has no meaning the absolute sense, but only means something when you have all ready decided what to practice.

So if you are going to live in an elite, fancy pants neighborhood, then cycling may look ridiculous. But if you spend a fraction of the time you using waste on oil changes, and insrucance and all that other motoring nonsense, and do the research, you’ll discover that no matter what your excuse, you can bicycle.

And if you are so terribly disabled that you can’t bicycle, why are driving? Seriously, don’t be another statistic and kill someone. I know this sounds harsh, but it’s not nearly as harsh as selfishly continuing to drive until someone gets hit, and we collectively throw up our hands and pretent that it was just another preventable accident. It’s not.

Have a nice day. πŸ™‚

Bike Summit: Fat Roads

November 28, 2011

The next speaker was totally brilliant. He was from the Netherlands, but he worked in the United States for many years as a traffic planner.

 

He had just completed a bicycle tour in the Netherlands, where there are many more cyclists. Still, he noted that the code for roadway design in the United States is superior to that of the Netherlands.

That is, the standard design for bicycle infrastructure is much higher in the US than in many parts of Europe. Therefore, he noted that the roadway manuals, which many people would like to improve in the United States, as a way of making cycling better, are all ready good enough.

However, we do have a unique problem in the United States which is caused by many factors including our reluctance for through streets (in Southern California especially), our reliance on “arterial roads”, and our lack of understanding of basic traffic flow concepts like induced traffic.

Thus, the problem is that our roads are too wide.

No matter how excellent our infrastructure is, it can not mitigate the problems caused by overly fast, noisy, busy, and wide roads.

Even if we have perfect cycle tracks everywhere, this problem of fat roads remains.

The problem of fat roads is NOT caused by design manuals nor by engineers (on their own).

Rather, it’s caused by politicians who want to placate their constituents.

Thus, the only real solution to the problems of our dangerous roads is to shrink the roads.

This is done by a road diet which currently is a very tough sell because of people’s basic lack of understanding of many things.

This can, in part, be accomplished by changing the status quo.

Currently, the car is the controlling agent.

This is so true. Think of the places you can get to by train, bus, or by bicycle.

Now think of the places you can get to by car.

Thus, the car is the “controlling agent”.

Future planners should think of a bicycle as a “design vehicle”.

There was much more said by this amazing person. I was totally enthralled, and if not married, I would have propositioned this guy! πŸ™‚

Rarely do I hear a talk so inspiring and so challenging to even my radical beliefs in urban design.

However, there were many of these talks both before and after this one, that inspired me in similar ways.

Still, of all the talks, I was happiest to have gone to this one due to it’s sheer brilliance.

The Chain of Destruction

November 23, 2011

This is the next installment of my mission to fix my bicycle.

Yesterday, my sweet Princess suggested that we meet at Adams Bicycle Shop so we did.

There, I met a brilliantly named mechanic called Freddie who worked with me to figure out what went wrong with my bicycle and how to fix it. He had that rare combination of intelliegence and kindness rarely seen in bicycle mechanics.

Looking at my cassettes, he agreed that they were stripped which is one of the reasons why things skipped. He admitted to trying to fix up older bicycles, and it just made things worse.

What most likely happened is that once I changed chains, I created a situation where the new strong chain quickly stripped the cassette teeth much quicker than the older chain which had aged along with the casettes.

Take home lesson for me is that if the chain skips, I will have a new front and a new back cassette ready to change before I bother changing the chain. I could have saved myself from such pain if I had done this.

I also ordered a new seat because I had destroyed the old one, probably by riding too hard. It’s tough being a strong, bad-ass cyclist. πŸ™‚

I also ordered a new back tire. Freddie pointed out that the front tire had ridges on the sides which allowed it to perfectly line up with my light from Sweden.

Usually bike repair and especially going on about bicycle parts bores me to tears, but in this case, I was somewhat interested as this was a path out of the pain I face now where I have to climb a hill in second gear, and I’m even slower starting up from a stopped position.

Thank-you Freddie for cheering me up and giving me hope. Also, thanks as always to Princess.

The Case of the Skipping Chain

November 22, 2011

Since a bicycle has so few parts, you’d think that this would result in things being easier to diagnose. This is true some of the time, however, sometimes, it’s still a mystery at least to me.

Take my latest woe, the skipping chain. This really, really sucks especially going up a hill. It sucks the energy from each turn of the pedal when you need it the most.

At first, I thought that this was due to a dirty chain. Cleaning my chain had worked wonders in the past. I was especially heartened when I saw that there was a big build up of grease on my bottom cassette which was pushing the chain off the teeth.

After I spent two lunches cleaning my chain, cassette, and derailleur, things got worse!

I knew what I had to do, I had to change my chain.

So I pedaled the dangerous trip that it was to my “local” bicycle shop, and I bought a new chain.

Of course, I put it on wrong–I always put it on wrong. There’s always some piece of metal or another that it needs to be over or under and I mess it up. Plus each time, there’s a different way to put it on. In the past, there was the difficult, but reversible chain breaker. Then they went to the five dollar bolts that you had to buy each time you used. Plus you needed to snap them off. What a strange thing. Next, they moved onto the master link which seemed great, but once you get it on, you can’t get it off!

Since I all ready sealed the deal with my master link, I was stuck using the chain breaker which is not recommended for my chain (9 speed) because it “weakens the chain”

I had no choice other than to use another chain (which I made sure to buy). I was doing all this work outside the bike shop in case I messed something up. Haha!

Being frugal, I wanted to try to save the expensive chain so I did use the chain breaker. However, it wasn’t breaking right, it was warping the chain!

Ug, can nothing go right? Finally, I managed to get the chain on in a ghetto fashion. The fact that things worked at all amazed me.

Of course, once the chain was on, did this cure the mysteriousness chain skip.

Hell no!

In fact, it was worse than ever. Much worse.

So bad that I had to use the middle speed, only, which makes going up hills, really, really tough.

More tomorrow as the plot thickens.

Qualcomm Stadium Bike Paths and Rain Checks

November 20, 2011
Rocky Bicycle Path

Rocky Bicycle Path

Long time readers know that part of my lovely commute takes me across Qualcomm Bicycle path which is really a strip of land that the stadium allows for bicycles (and mostly pedestrians) to travel through.

I love the path for many reasons, and one of them is that I become far more relaxed once I get to the parking lot because there’s usually less traffic, and it’s much quieter.

However, one of the downsides is that it becomes a small pond every time that it rains.

Thankfully, it does not rain too often, but when it does, it floods.

Readers not from San Diego probably know that things do not have to be this way.

There are such notions as “drainage”.

But the problem extends beyond a few feet of water in a parking lot.

The other problem is run off in the form of silt and stones.

Previously, I have blogged about the efforts done to dredge the nearby creek.

However, there are more obvious things that can be done.

One of them would be to build a wall which is large enough to contain most of the silt and stones.

Additionally, many of the silt and stones can be removed.

This same problem is evident along Fairmont as I had previously talked about. I feel that there’s a similar solution possible for this problem.

Sea Of Stones

Sea Of Stones

Bike Summit: Complete Steets I (and a rant about gentrification)

November 18, 2011

Before I go on, I want to link to an article which is unrelated to this post, Excuses for Not Cycling.

On to regularly scheduled post:

This was a very well attended meeting. The goal was for us to discuss complete streets.

The agenda was: figure out our goal, increase cycling, tally up pluses and minuses, find allies and opponants, and finally determine some tactics.

As per the normal tradition, by the time most of you hear this you’ll have to realize that the cool kids have moved on.

Sure Complete Streets are cool, but the avante guard among us is now talking about Complete Communities. πŸ™‚

At the beginning of the talk, I asked a question about how to visualize complete streets. I thought it would be nice to see a map where we were coloring it all in so I could track progress.

I was told that Complete Streets isn’t so much about building a network as it is a process on a case by case basis. Thus a street can become more and more “Complete”.

During the meeting, I found that the Long Beach reps were super-helpful because they all ready had a success story to share. Long Beach is giving the rest of the state something to go after, a target.

Next, we identified allies which were business improvement districts, home owner associations, media, and enlightened engineers.

I found this interesting as it brings up that dreaded term “gentrification”.

Ug, how I hate that word because it’s such a hot button issue, but unlike other hot button issues, it’s so vague.

I mean, we all know what a gun and an abortion is, but what’s a gentrification?

Making things better in poor areas. And why is that bad? What’s the opposite of this? Slumification. And that’s good? We need poor people to live in slums?

But we need to have places for poor people to live.

So build them all ready and make them nice. I had very little money for years, and I did not want to live in a shit hole.

Talk with any poor person and ask her what her problems are. You can go for hours and never hear about gentrification.

Why?

Because poor people want to live in nice places.

In fact, I bet one of her long term goals is to get enough money together to get the fuck out of her slum and to move into a nice GENTRIFIED area.

In fact, instead of worrying about keeping slums as slums how about focusing on getting more money to poor people so that they can pay higher rents?

What I am saying is that among all the poor person’s problems living in a nicer place is the goal NOT a problem.

While I’m ranting, I’m sick of how people use the words like “slum” for non-white areas, only. A neighborhood can have low crime and have a strong community, but if it’s non-white, it will be called a slum.

Then you will have old white dudes coming in to tell the government that they shouldn’t do anything to fix the place up because rent will be too high.

I suggest a better alternative is to make the areas nicer and to help the people who live there to stay. This will make an even stronger community.

Also, it’s helpful not to think in terms of “nice areas” and “slums” but to travel freely to all parts of town. The whole notion of a slum is a creation of the human mind, first, and it’s reinforced by people’s prejudices.

So if a standard is good for one area, a “nice one” then it should also apply to another area no matter who lives there.

Have a nice day.

Bike Summit: More Gems and a Scarlet Dot

November 17, 2011

We had a session where we were to give our ideas on how to make cycling great in California. After lunch, we were to vote on these ideas. I only wrote down a fraction of the shiny gems.

They stated by talking about how transportation budgets actually distort our communities because we wind up focusing on how to spend the money we have instead of what we want our community to look like. For example, if 80% of the money is for motoring and bridges only, that’s what we are going to get. So we should make the budgets more flexible to remedy this problem.

We can also work on fixing existing roads instead of building new ones. Personally whenever they are making new roads, I do envision everything paved over. I did see some of that, last night, in Mission Valley which is essentially all pavement with a few tiny buildings in between cars which are moving really quickly.

There were many more ideas. My friend said that he endorsed all of them. However, we had one vote AGAINST an idea.

I did vote against the studying of health effects of cycling infrastructure because I don’t like ANY kind of metric or microscope put on cycling only.

I noticed, in the past, that this is one good way to kill something: to study it to death. The more info, only, on a single thing, the more risk it will be canceled.

I would have been happy if they looked at the health effects of ALL modes. However, I can only vote on what is in front of me.

During lunch, another friend asked me why I voted against this idea, and I explained, but she said that I misunderstood.

My friends wanted to vote against me!

Indeed there were some people who walked around with negative votes, the scarlet red dot, on their name tags. πŸ™‚

Bike Summit: Selfishness

November 16, 2011

While some of the speakers were talking, there were a few assumptions that sounded good, but I wasn’t sure whether I totally agreed with.

One of them was the notion that we have to buy into motorists selfishness in order to “sell” cycling.

In many ways, that does sound reasonable. After all, good advertising functions best when it can tap into preconceived impulses and ideas. It’s a fool’s errand to try to change human nature.

On the other hand, how selfish are we, really?

Although there are many ads on TV that promote selfishness, I wonder if that’s because it’s necessary to be selfish in order to crave their products.

On the other hand, is there any way to tap into people’s natural feelings of altruism?

I don’t mean people’s guilt, I mean their wanting to help others. For example, there’s usually a huge outpouring for disaster victims and there was a huge groundswell of support for US soldiers aka “support the troops.”

In the same way, why does it always have to be motorists vs. cyclists?

Why can’t motorists voluntarily give up some of their space, money, etc, for cyclists?

I’m not saying that this is the only way to go.

Selfishness does exist. Motoring ads and lifestyle encourage and tap into infantile selfishness.

But people are not simple creatures who are all selfish or all altruistic.

Perhaps by merely mentioning and trying to play into people’s selfishness, we make them more selfish.

If I talk about food, you become hungry. If I talk about selfishness, you will probably think along those lines. I wonder how many people will think altruism if this is presented to them in the right way?

Anyway, these are just some of my own personal thoughts while listening to speakers.