Here are my thoughts on some of the big bicycle stories of 2010.
Jim Obsertar ousted.
Minnesota Representative Jim Oberstar chaired the US House Transportation Committee, where he championed Federal funding for bicycle related projects. He lost his seat in this year’s election in an upset victory by his Republican opponent. With GOP control of the House of Representatives, the Transportation Committee chair passes to Florida Republican John Mica.
The last Federal transportation authorization bill, SAFETEA-LU, expired in 2009. Because of other pressing issues such as the economy and military adventures, Congress failed to act on a new Federal transportation program. Funding has continued only through numerous stop-gap reauthorization measures from the US Congress. These stop-gaps make long term planning difficult for state DOTs, which receive their funding from the federal gas taxes and other funds distributed through the Federal transportation program. Besides maintaining the Interstate highway system, funding for transportation enhancement projects and programs for transit and cycling such as Safe Routes to School are funneled through SAFETEA-LU.
Mica’s position will heavily influence any future transportation funding bill, and he’s already signaled that enhancements are on the chopping block.
2010 was the year of Dan Maes and his bicycle conspiracy theory. In a three way gubernatorial race in Colorado, political newbie Dan Maes represented the Republican party. Among his many political gaffs was his claim that the “bike agenda” to promote bicycling is a “well-disguised” United Nations plot that “threatens our personal freedoms.”
Denver Mayor and bike nut John Hickenloop won the governor’s race with 51% of the vote. American Constitution Party candidate Tom Tancredo took 36%. Dan Maes trailed at third place with just 11% of the vote. The GOP just barely managed to avoid a complete disaster; if Maes polled below 10%, the GOP would have been classified as a minor party until 2014, which would list all of their candidates on the ballot alongside the Libertarian and Green Party candidates. This could be worth a number of points, which are important in close elections.
Meanwhile, in Toronto, Ontario, Rob “roads are for cars and trucks ONLY” Ford became mayor of Canada’s largest city. At his mayoral inauguration, his friend, CBC TV ice hockey commentator Don Cherry, opened with his own conspiracy theory: that cyclists are all “pinko … left-wing kooks.”
With the exception of Toronto and San Francisco (where Mister Mayor rode in a huge custom “command vehicle” SUV while running his campaign for vice governor), 2010 seemed to be a big year for bicycling mayors. Denver Mayor (and now Governor-elect) Hickenlooper promoted the B-Cycle bikes used in his city’s bike share. Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa famously broke his elbow after he was doored by a taxicab. Long time transportational cyclist Celia Wade-Brown won the mayor race this year in Wellington, New Zealand, partly on a platform of more sustainable transportation and development. Other long time utility cyclists include Seattle Mayor Mike McGinn and Vancouver’s Gregor Robertson. The bike share program in London, England is nicknamed “Boris Bikes” after Mayor of London (and bike wonk) Boris Johnson.
Google Maps bicycle directions.
It’s a little hard to believe that Google introduced U.S. bicycle directions to their popular Maps program only last March! Google uses 12,000 miles of bike facility data from the Rails-to-Trails Conservancy along with data imported from 150 U.S. cities.
Last November, Google Maps expanded bike directions to Canada, with bike path and bike lane data from a handful of Canadian cities.
If you need bike directions outside of the USA and Canada, I invite you to try my (mostly) international bike directions service. It’ll even try to route you across the handful of park paths in Singapore, among other places.
Fixed gear Mormons.
There’s apparently a rumor the Fixed Gear Apocalypse hasn’t happened yet. This should put a nail in that coffin, if you still have doubts.
2010 was also the year Bike Snob NYC’s book was published. It’s easily the most hilarious bike book I’ve read.
Interbike changes 2011 date and location.
Interbike normally takes place in Las Vegas every September. When their contract with the Sands Convention Center expired this year, Interbike looked at the surveys that all concluded “Vegas Sucks” for a large number of bike show attendees. After looking at their options, they announced a return to its show roots in Ahaheim, California for August 2011.
The result was something like Coca Cola’s announcement of “New Coke” — everybody hated it, and they loudly let Interbike know. After the huge industry outcry drowned out the “Vegas Sucks” crowd, Interbike meekly announced “never mind” and went back to the same Bat Time (September) at the same Bat Channel (Vegas).
The casino town of Black Hawk, Colorado banned biking through their main streets. Cyclists Jamie Webb, Jeff Hermanson, and Mickey Jeronimus rode through town, received tickets, and fought the ban through the city court with the help of Bicycle Colorado and pro-bono legal representation from Andrew Shoemaker and Paul Schwartz at Shoemaker Ghiselli + Schwartz LLC, with additional help from Brad Tucker at ColoBikeLaw.com, Rudy Verner at Davis Graham & Stubbs LLP, and Duke law student Gael Hagen. The part time city judge at Black Hawk, unfortunately, rejected the cyclists arguments and ruled against them on December 2. For now, the bike ban stands.
In St. Charles County, Missouri, County Councillor Joe Brazil introduced a bike ban bill of his own that would ban bicycle riding on several state roads that happen to run near his home. The county council — including bill sponsor Brazil — voted against the ban, but passed a new permit requirement for group rides of 25 or more riders.
Beyond the usual collection of school bike bans was the California middle school that banned a boy from riding his bike because of his American flag.
Chip Seal in Texas and Governance.
You might remember the plight of Reed Bates aka “Chip Seal” in North Central Texas. He rode his bicycle several times through Ennis, Texas where police routinely stop and ticket him for “impeding traffic” although he wasn’t actually impeding any traffic. He was taking the right lane, but traffic is typically light, and the passing lane is almost always clear.
Bates fought the tickets and lost. Bates’s supporters see his case as an important for cyclist rights, and asked for help from the Texas Bicycle Coalition and the League of American Bicyclists (LAB). There’s a little bit of he said/they said from all sides, but the long/short of it is that Bates was left to himself and, according to his supporters, hung out to dry.
Bates’s case was used to rally people on the issue of LAB governance, and received wide coverage on a number of cycling related blogs. Officially, the LAB is a membership organization: members join and select their board of directors to act on their behalf. If members don’t like the board’s decisions, they can vote the members out at the next election. The reality: Five of the 12 board seats are appointed, not elected. With a recently approved change in board makeup, the ratio changes to seven of 15 board members who are appointed, further diluting membership control. Finally, all elected members must first pass through a nominating committee to even get on the ballot for a vote.
Organizations use this type of governance specifically to lessen the influence of the membership, usually to keep the group on track with their mission. For an example, consider a hypothetical membership group that promotes gun control. Gun enthusiasts could join en-masse and replace the board of directors with one that is more friendly to their point of view.
A number of long time members have quit their LAB membership over what they perceive as a basic shift in mission from cyclist advocacy (protecting the rights of existing cyclists) to cycling advocacy (promoting cycling as an activity). Life member Bill Hoffman recently resigned from board membership over what he says is an idealogical shift that occurred without the direction or discussion from the membership. “Had this paradigm shift occurred with the full knowledge and approval of the members, I could accept it as legitimate, even though I might disapprove,” he writes in his resignation letter. “What happened instead is that over the past dozen years or so there has been a gradual erosion of members’ rights and autonomy over the organization, without a vote to move in this direction ever being taken.”
Some of these governance challenges have taken place at the local level as well, with the Cascade Bicycle Club in Seattle being one of the more notable examples when they fired their long-time executive director, Chuck Ayres.
Federal economic stimulus spending brought a bonanza of capital improvement construction, with several bicycle related “shovel ready” projects. The brakes had to be put on many of these projects, however, with a shortage of white road paint, of all things. It’s been only the last couple of months that cities have been able to find supplies of white paint to mark bike lanes and sharrows on the pavement.
In San Francisco, the bike project injunction was finally lifted, and the city transportation department went wild with dozens of new projects as local cyclists (mostly) rejoiced. They painted miles of bike lanes and added bike racks and experimented with street closures and traffic diversions.
A number of American cities boasted of double and even triple digit increases in the share of people who bike to work. Whether that’s due to more bicycle infrastructure or not remains debated, although the increases themselves seem very real where I ride in the San Jose, California area.
Radio Shack sponsored a new cycling team starring Lance Armstrong, who continues to be dogged with allegations of performance enhancing drug use. Armstrong’s old Astana teammate Alberto Contador won the Tour de France (again) by 39 seconds after dropping Andy Schleck in the Pyrenees when Schleck lost his chain; Contador then revealed some tainted Spanish beef could have performance enhancing benefits. Fabian Cancellara had to deny a different type of performance enhancement allegation: a miniature electric motor powered his wins in Paris-Roubaix and Flanders.
A non-American won the Tour of California for the first time, when Australian Michael Rogers took the Golden Jersey from California favorite Levi Leipheimer.
The Tour of California was the only US pro stage race in 2010, with funding and sponsorship drying up in Missouri and Georgia. Next year, we’ll also see the Quizno Pro Challenge in Colorado.
Now you’re caught up on an entire year’s worth of bicycle blogging. Besides the Vail, CO thing, is there anything else important that I’ve missed?
I hope you have a great New Year. Here’s to another year of cycling!