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Tuesday, November 03, 2009
  Ft Collins analyzes bike accidents
By Yokota Fritz 
It was about a week ago in conversation a friend told me she was 'hooked' when a car driver passed her then immediately made a right turn into her.

Right hook

"It was so weird," she told me. "I've never heard of anyone get hit like that before."

I, in my super knowledgeable bike advocate smarminess, informed her that this collision is, in fact, the most common type of bike vs car collision. It even has a name: The Right Hook.

It turns out I'm wrong, at least in Ft. Collins, Colorado. The city traffic department analyzed accident reports involving bicycles from the year 2000 to June 2009. The infamous Right Hook -- or what the city calls "Overtaking Turn Accidents at Intersections" -- is the second most common collision at 13% of the total in their count.

The most common collision is "The Broadside," at 60.5% of crashes. That's when a motorist goes straight through an intersection even when there's a bike right in front of him.

The Coloradoan article on this analysis highlights the fact that of the 214 "broadside" collisions, 123 of them involve a cyclist riding against traffic. Naturally, the public comments section focuses on the scofflaw cyclists as the cause of this traffic mayhem.

What the article failed to mention is that in 10% of the broadside collisions, the motorist failed to stop at a stop sign or even a red light. Two of the drivers were DUI. In 130 instances, the drivers were cited for "failure to yield right of way."

To be sure, cyclists should ride with traffic for safety, but that's not the only problem. There's a problem with the bull in the china shop, and that bull should be controlled (to use the methaphor from Copenhagenize).

Left Cross

The third most common collision type is the left cross at 9.3% of collisions. This is when a left turning motorist slams into a cyclist going straight through an intersection. Of the 33 left crosses, 3 involved a cyclist riding on the sidewalk, 2 were going the wrong way, and two failed to stop at a signal or sign. The overwhelming number of these were motorists who just kept going in spite of the presence of a bike in their path.

Hit from behind

After that, the next collision type is the dreaded "Hit From Behind." The 30 "sideswipes" recorded account for 8.5% of bike collisions. With the exception of a single head on, all fatalities are these types.

The report also counts 25 severe injury (including fatalities) collisions out of the 354 bicycle accidents in the analysis. About half of the severe injuries are from the "Broadside" collisions.

Many risks are controllable while cycling and the city report highlights some of the contributing factors that involve bicyclists -- you should generally ride with traffic, avoid sidewalks, and obey traffic control signs and signals. There's still work to do to reign in the bull as well -- Ft Collins with a population of 137,000 has a serious injury accident almost once a month.

But is it dangerous?

For the 9 year period that Ft Collins examined, the accident rate is 0.93 per 1,000 population. Compare that against an injury rate of 7.7 per 1,000 population for all people involved in car accidents. There were four bicycle fatalities in Ft Collins in nine years, compared against two to four traffic fatalities total each year.

While bicycling is generally a safe activity, there are risks in bicycling, and it's good to see Ft Collins quantifying some of those risks.

Download report PDF here.


Friday, October 30, 2009
  Don't ride like this
By Yokota Fritz 
I'm being a gutter bunny and filtering to the right of traffic on Mission Street in Santa Cruz, California. It's generally a bad idea to ride to the right of moving traffic, and you should never pass trucks on the right.

I mitigate the risk somewhat by slowing behind vehicles when crossing intersections, but I still invite "right hook" collisions as I cross several driveways. Another risk: there are plenty of people coming the other direction waiting to make a left turn. They might try to shoot across a gap without seeing the cyclist (me) coming into the gap at the same time.

Beside the two biggies of the left cross and right hook, what are some other possible risks in passing on the right like this?


Saturday, February 28, 2009
  Modu phone handlebar mount
By Alison Chaiken 
The modu bicycle jacket is intended for easy fit on your bicycle when going for a casual ride. The modu bicycle jacket features a large visible and easy to use screen that can be easily attached and detached to and from the center of the handlebar. This jacket offers an additional unit that can be reached from the handlebar grip and allows easy operation of the modu phone's main features using only your thumb.

-- Modu web site

Good idea or insanely dangerous? We can't criticize drivers who text if we do so ourselves, but we will!

Tip of the hat to Sean from Engadget Mobile.

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Wednesday, February 18, 2009
  Non-custodial ex-husband forbids children riding bikes
By Yokota Fritz 
Does anybody know where Randy's girlfriend can get help for this situation? Posted here with his permission. They live in Longmont, Colorado.
I am writing this on behalf of my girlfriend and her two kids. There has been an issue with my girlfriend's Ex-husband about the fact that we allow her two children (age 7 and 11 as of March 9th 2009) to commute to school by themselves on a bicycle. The Ex contacted there Mediator Arbitrator and complained, and the Med/Arb set a ruling forbidding the children to commute by bicycle by themselves.

All of us commute by bicycle all over town, and my girlfriend and I both commute to Boulder. If we were to continue to transport ourselves by bicycle, her two children need to go it alone to their school in the mornings. We had ridden with them for over 4 months, the same route everyday, and taught them all of the rules of the road.

As we felt the youngest lacked the responsibility to do this on his own bike, we set them up with a Yuba Mundo (www.ilikebikeonline.com), a cargo bike that is built to transport multiple passengers as well as cargo. I installed an extra set of handle bars on the rear of the bike for the youngest to hold on to. My girlfriend and I made several test rides with them to and from their school to ensure they not only operated the bicycle safely, but that they also felt safe on the bike and the route.

The route they travel is as safe as any route in town, and 90% of it is on streets with bike lanes, the other 10% in on streets either wide enough to have a bike lane, or little to no traffic. They use crosswalks with lights, or intersections with stop lights or 4 way stops to cross major intersections.

I feel a very dangerous precedent is being set here that should concern us all. I am asking for your help to fix this situation.
Given that my major mission is to promote bicycling as a safe activity, I'm very concerned about these kinds of misinformed rulings.


Tuesday, February 03, 2009
  Danny and the Demoncycle
By Yokota Fritz 
This 1972 bicycle safety comic book from the Highway Safety Division of Virginia is a like a Jack Chick tract for safe cycling.

Danny and the Demoncycle

Flip through the whole comic at Comics With Problems and follow "Dan the Disaster" as he learns his lesson to become a safe cyclist. Scofflaw cyclists, repent of your wicked ways and take this important lesson to heart!


Saturday, December 20, 2008
  Hey Sioux Geonz, look what I found
By Yokota Fritz 
I got a Safe Turn review unit and promptly lost it. We moved after Thanksgiving, we're empty boxes and look what showed up! I finally found the Safe Turn bicycle turn signal.

Safe Turn bicycle turn signal

The yellow flashing LED is mounted to a wrist band that you slip onto your wrist. A position sensor detects when you lift your arm to signal a turn to activate the flashing amber LED.

It's a clever idea and it works well. The position sensor is adjustable. You turn the light on and off by pressing the top of the lens down, and a activation delay ensures random hand motions won't set the blinker on. It's almost magical how well it works. The designers obviously put a lot of thought and testing into the design of the Safe Turn turn signal light.

Drawbacks: the light isn't bright for daylight use. The LED is powered by a pair of LR44 button cells that are not available as rechargeable batteries, though given the size constraints I'm not sure there's a good solution to that problem. Since I'm a multimodal commuter, I throw everything into my bag when I'm not riding, resulting in the lamp getting turned on and off all the time, which means I drained the batteries in about a week of riding. A friend of mine with a similar commute just leaves the Safe Turn light on his wrist for his entire trip to avoid that problem.

There's a USA distributor, but the easiest way to get this light is directly from the manufacturer which accepts PayPal and ships internationally. About $19 plus shipping, order fulfillment is very quick. SafeTurn.com for more information and to buy.


Tuesday, September 09, 2008
  Highlight the fun of cycling
By Yokota Fritz 
That's the take home message in this news from Science Daily, which highlights research showing that the more cyclists there are on the road, the safer it becomes. Motorists change their behavior and driver more safely when they see more cyclists and pedestrians on the road around them.
Experts say the effect is independent of improvements in cycling-friendly laws such as lower speed limits and better infrastructure, such as bike paths. Research has revealed the safety-in-numbers impact for cyclists in Australia, Denmark, the Netherlands, 14 European countries and 68 Californian cities.

"It's a positive effect but some people are surprised that injury rates don't go up at the same rate of increases in cycling," says Sydney University's Dr Chris Rissel, co-author of a 2008 research report on cycling.

"It appears that motorists adjust their behaviour in the presence of increasing numbers of people bicycling because they expect or experience more people cycling. Also, rising cycling rates mean motorists are more likely to be cyclists, and therefore be more conscious of, and sympathetic towards, cyclists."
Lloyd at Treehugger goes into more detail on the safety aspect, pointing to Bike Commute Tips where Paul writes, "Amen to this. Stop perpetuating the myth of bicycling as a dangerous activity. Leave your helmet at home."

Copenhagenize highlights this part of the article:
Dr Rissel says transport authorities should highlight the fun, convenience and health and environmental benefits of cycling, rather than what he views as an undue emphasis on danger and safety messages, which can deter cyclists: "We should create a cycling friendly environment and accentuate cycling's positives rather than stress negatives with 'safety campaigns' that focus on cyclists without addressing drivers and road conditions. Reminding people of injury rates and risks, to wear helmets and reflective visible clothes has the unintended effect of reinforcing fears of cycling which discourages people from cycling."
Other responses:
  • Carbon Trace in Springfield: In Springfield the number of bikers on the road (and every other available surface) has increased dramatically in the past three weeks because college students are back in town. And I’ve noticed less honking and other cranky behavior by motorists.
  • Amsterdamize: We already knew this, but hey, let’s keep science right smack in the middle of the ‘discussion’ and spread the word, ok?

Images: Catalog photos from Velorbis and Specialized. Guess which is from which?


Tuesday, September 02, 2008
  Above average drivers
By Yokota Fritz 
Just like the children in Lake Wobegon, all of us are "above average" drivers.

I'm reading the book Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do by Tom Vanderbilt. Vanderbilt quotes former New York City traffic commissioner Henry Barnes, who says, "As times goes on the technical problems become more automatic, while the people problems become more surrealistic." Traffic discusses the "surrealistic" people issues of driving -- the psychology and sociology of traffic.

Chapter 2 discusses the "Lake Wobegon effect" -- that we all think we're better than the idiot drivers around us. Vanderbilt talks with Rusty Weiss of DriveCam in San Diego. To improve safety for commercial fleet vehicles, DriveCam installs video cameras that record the 10 seconds before and after an "event" -- a collision, sudden braking, hard steering and so forth. They capture the 99% of near hits that all of us take for granted and forget about in our daily driving, and use that video to coach drivers how they can drive more safely. Research shows that driving with the DriveCam improve safety dramatically, even with teen drivers. They also capture some dramatic crash footage, like this one of a cab driver who falls asleep at the wheel and ends up with his head in a rear window.

Higher quality and more videos are available at the DriveCam website. The middle video on this page shows a tow truck driver falling asleep at the wheel and driving several hundred feet in a bike lane before he's jolted awake when he hits the curb. The scary thing is that he's unaware of what happened even after the curb hit -- without the video, there's no way for him to learn how to improve his driving. If a cyclist was rear-ended at that point, no doubt the driver would have claimed he was correctly in his lane and the cyclist, naturally, must have veered in front of him because he's a good driver with a good driving record.

If you're involved in any kind of transportation or cycling advisory committee, I highly recommend the book Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do.


Wednesday, July 30, 2008
  Traffic safety: If you can't see, the speed limit is zero
By Yokota Fritz 
Two children in a marked crosswalk were hit by an SUV at Portola and 30th in Live Oak, California. The driver told officers she couldn't see the children because she was blinded by the sun. "It's the driver's responsibility to make sure they can safely drive without any obstruction," California Highway Patrol officer Grant Boles said. "Don't just drive blind into the sun."

Officer Dave Reed adds, "If you can't see, the speed limit is zero."

It seems self-evident, but *doh*. More at the Santa Cruz Sentinel.


Monday, June 30, 2008
  Texting and laptop use still legal
By Yokota Fritz 
The campfire smell seems to have gone away, but there was a layer of ash on my bicycle this morning.

California's new handsfree mobile phone law goes into effect tomorrow. The law does not ban texting while driving. I even saw this last Friday in moving traffic.

Laptop while driving

The handsfree law doesn't specifically exempt bicyclists, but Mr Roadshow says it doesn't apply to cyclists. Neither he nor I are lawyers. YMMV.


Friday, April 11, 2008
  Free range kids
By Yokota Fritz 
Happy Friday! I've been too cranky lately so I was planning to post something happy and non-controversial this morning, but then I saw this: a mother in New York City lets her 9 year old child ride the subway. Alone!
I met a guy at a party last week who makes his daughter phone home after walking one block to her friend's house. And he's in a suburb. The leafy kind! Two parents told me they won't let their kids walk to the mail box. There's too much "opportunity" for them to get snatched. Other parents told me that they'd love to let their kids start going out on their own - at maybe 13, or 14. Until then...

In they stay. Or they're driven around by their parents.

The fact that a child is literally forty times more likely to die in a car accident than at a stranger's hands makes no difference. Driving is seen as safe. Freedom - once a right of childhood -- is seen as suicidal.
When my son was nine he rode his bike to school alone, and many other parents thought I was borderline abusive for this. I recall a story from a few years ago of a teen who rode his bike in all weather to school - a "concerned" parent actually called child protective services in on the parents because the Boy Scout was forced to endure weather!

Admittedly, nine seems a little young to me, but if the kid is familiar with the route and knows his way, I'm not going to freak about a parent who allows this. In response to all the media attention and controversey, Lenore Skenazy started a new blog, Free Range Kids.


Thursday, April 10, 2008
  Over 500,000 children's head injuries are recorded each year!
By Yokota Fritz 
So protect your child and buy this product TODAY before it's too late.

I can see a legitimate need for that product (children with special needs, bruising disorders and so forth), but the extra padding for everyday children seems a bit much.

Something I keep meaning to mention is Cozy Beehive. Ron, the author of Cozy Beehive, is a mechanical engineer, avid cyclist, and a Category 4 racer. He's been blogging about bikes for a couple of years now but I first noticed Cozy Beehive a few months ago. I've bookmarked a whole pile of pages from his blog intending to link to them in posts here from Cyclelicious, but pretty much all of his posts are good so just go visit his blog and subscribe to his feed already.

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Wednesday, April 09, 2008
  Now read this
By Yokota Fritz 
Zakkalicious posts about Fear Mongering among some American cyclists. I think it was Bike Lane Hottie who wrote that cycling advocates continually gripe about how dangerous cycling is, and then wonder why nobody wants to ride a bike. Cycle Dog and I occasionally discuss this topic of ineffective advocacy over email.

Enjoy the ride and quick worrying so much about the traffic. They're not gonna hit you, and if they do it only hurts a little.


Wednesday, March 26, 2008
  Make cycling safer
By Yokota Fritz 
David R. Ragland, P.D., is the director of the UC Berkeley Traffic Safety Center and teaches traffic safety planning and injury courses in the UC Berkeley Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering and the School of Public Health. The San Francisco Chronicle posted his essay on improving cyclist safety in their Opinion section.
If we are going to encourage cycling and walking (and taking transit) for the "greater good," we must be sure we know the effect of our policies. We need to make sure that our efforts to encourage people to do the right thing don't place them in harm's way.
Ragland also, surprisingly, advocates for centerline rumble strips. In the past, cycling advocacy groups typically lobby against such strips, because they discourage drivers from crossing the centerline when passing cyclists.

The Chron also published an opinion piece by S.F. Bike Coalition Executive Director Leah Shahum:
In the wake of the tragic deaths of two cyclists in Cupertino, I am startled by a looming prejudice against those who choose to ride bikes, particularly in the media.

Though it is clear that these cyclists were not at fault when they were killed by a deputy sheriff veering across the road, what has surfaced is an inexcusable "blame the victim" sentiment.

We have seen articles about which streets are "most dangerous" for bicyclists, stories about how often cyclists are deemed at fault by police in collisions, and reports of bad cyclist behavior.

The Cupertino tragedy has been portrayed as a "bicycle safety" story, instead of what it really is, a story about the risks of dangerous driving. If that deputy had veered across the road into an oncoming VW Beetle or Mazda Miata instead of a line of cyclists, the occupants of that car would likely be seriously injured or dead, as would the driver himself.
Read more.


Tuesday, March 25, 2008
  Airbag for cyclists
By Yokota Fritz 
It's for motorcyclists, not bicyclists, but I can kind of see how something like this might work for bicyclists.

The video demonstrates the Dainese D Air racing air bag system, which is designed for use in Dainese motorcycle racing suits. Bicyclists don't tend to wear much protective gear -- we're usually much slower than motorcycle racers and heat can be a problem -- but this product brings some possibilities to mind.

Hat tip to Sue for this.


Thursday, March 20, 2008
  Santa Clara County bicycle fatality locations
By Yokota Fritz 
The San Jose Mercury News created this Google Maps map showing the location of bicycle fatalities over the past decade in Silicon Valley. Click on the markers to see details about the location and victim.

View Larger Map

The related article notes that many crashes (not necessarily fatalities) occur on six stretches of road: El Camino Real near Stanford Avenue, Palo Alto, nine crashes; Arastradero Road near Foothill Expressway, Palo Alto, 17 crashes; El Monte Road near Foothill Expressway, Mountain View 10 crashes; McLaughlin Avenue near Story Road, San Jose, 15 crashes; Snell Avenue near Blossom Hill Road, San Jose, 15 crashes; and Austin Way near Highway 9, Saratoga, 11 crashes.
The intersections nearby are high-traffic areas and popular with cyclists. Many of them are near schools and colleges. When drivers cruise through these spots, CHP officer Todd Thibodeau said they have to realize where they are, as well as what is going on in front of them.

"You've got to be aware that it is a bike route," he said, and be on the look out for cyclists.

In about 20 percent of crashes, drivers slide over the double-yellow or other dividing lines and strike cyclists.
Read the full article in the San Jose Mercury News.

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Wednesday, March 12, 2008
  Test your awareness and perception skills
By Yokota Fritz 
Take this test of your awareness skills, then come back for discussion. Spoilers/hints are below so take the test first before you read any further!

A couple of people already mentioned this test in comments elsewhere, and I posted it to CommuteByBike yesterday. I passed the test and saw that "surprise ending", but I knew what to look for because I was familiar with the UIUC perception study from a few years ago that Sue mentioned.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008
  Please pay attention
By Yokota Fritz 
If you hit another car in traffic, it's probably just another fender bender. If you hit a cyclist, you might cause a death or serious injury. Austin Murphy pleads with motorists to "Open your eyes!" in his Sports Illustrated column.
I was at the far right edge of the road. The car didn't stop. I overtook it, and was attempting to open the passenger door at approximately 15 mph when a very distraught woman rolled down the window and tearfully explained that she was just coming from visiting her husband in the hospital, and that she "didn't even see me."

I thought to myself: I'm rocking electric blue Lycra shorts and an orange jersey, not because I'm color blind, but because I want cars to see me! How could she miss me?

Nearly every cyclist in America has similar stories. We beseech you: Start seeing bicycles.

I live in a part of the country where traffic is expected to increase 250 percent in the next 20 years. We live on a planet whose addiction to fossil fuels has created problems that might be alleviated if people rode their bikes more often.

Bicycles are part of the solution. Start seeing bicycles.
Read more. For Yehuda Moon, click on the comic to see large.


  More cyclist deaths in the Bay Area
By Yokota Fritz 
From the San Francisco Chronicle:
The number of bicyclists killed in collisions with motor vehicles has increased 28 percent over the past decade - from 18 to 23 deaths per year, according to a Chronicle analysis of data collected by the California Highway Patrol.

That increase is despite a 22 percent drop in the number of regional bicycle accidents between 1997 and 2006 in the nine San Francisco Bay Area counties. The number of bicyclists injured in accidents over that period declined by a similar amount.

"That means more of the bicyclists who are being hit are being killed," said Sean Co, bicycling coordinator for the Metropolitan Transportation Commission.

Accidents in urban areas are most common but occur at lower speeds where injuries are more likely to be less serious. But accidents on rural roads or open highways are likely to involve higher speeds.

"Speed," Co said, "is probably the highest contributing factor in any bicycle collision that results in a fatality."

According to the CHP statistics, 179 Bay Area bicyclists have been killed and 25,715 injured in bicycle collisions with cars between 1997 and 2006. But the number of accidents and the number of injuries have each steadily decreased while the number of fatalities remained steady for years before jumping to 23 in 2006. And, based on an analysis of incomplete 2007 data, the increase in fatalities is likely to continue.
Read more in the Chronicle: Bicycle fatalities on the rise in Bay Area.

In Santa Clara County, where I do much of my cycling, there are about 100 automobile fatalities per year, of which about 4% are cyclist deaths.

Photo credit: "Car vs Bicyclist" by Allen in Nevada.


Sunday, March 02, 2008
  Z sez: Yield to Life
By Yokota Fritz 
Professional racing cyclist Dave Zabriskie started Yield to Life to engage in a vigorous awareness campaign to promote positive attitudes toward cyclists and replace any hostility that exists between motorists and cyclists with understanding, respect, and appreciation for all life on the road. Safety for every cyclist is the top priority of Yield to Life. The "About" page is worth reading:
We all travel life’s roads. I stand before you to ask for your cooperation in providing safe space for cyclists. When you see a cyclist on the road, please, yield to life.

As a professional cyclist I have ridden my bike all over the world, but, sadly, each of the three times that I have been hit by a car has been in the United States; the worst of the accidents was in 2003.

I had just flown back to Salt Lake after my most successful season to date when, on May 23, I was in Millcreek Canyon in Salt Lake City. I was enjoying one of my favorite rides when I was hit by an SUV on the way down. The SUV made a left hand turn directly into me. I flew through the air and landed on the ground, unable to move the left side of my body. After spending a week in the hospital, I left with pins in my wrist and my leg, and some cadaver bone in my knee. The doctors did not think I would ride again.

It took a lot of hard work and determination to come back from my injuries. I often wonder what I could have accomplished had I not had such a devastating set back. I also wonder what went through the driver’s mind when she hit me. If she had only thought of me as life, a living, breathing person, rather than an obstacle in her way. Did she ever consider the prolonged agony she was creating by her reckless attitude and wrongful acts? If she had just waited a split second for my safe passage, I would have not been reduced to a wheelchair for months, and then in need of a walker and painful rehabilitation to even walk again, let alone ride a bike.

It is my mission to humanize and personalize cyclists to help motorists to always be aware that we are "life" and that we deserve a safe space on the road. I love to ride my bike as do my fellow cyclists, but we should not have to place out lives at risk everyday for that enjoyment.

Yield to Life is a non-profit organization devoted to creating a safer environment for cyclists and, by so doing, encouraging more people to ride for their own health, the good of the environment and the well being of society.

By making cycling safer and promoting the activity as a responsible means of transportation and a healthy means of recreation, Yield to Life can contribute to tackling some of today's major concerns—from such issues as pollution and global warming to obesity and diabetes. In this way, Yield to Life can play a role in increasing the quality of life not only for cyclists, but for everyone—for our generation and those to come.
I already like David Zabriskie, and this effort makes him even more of a hero in my book. Via Human Powered Transport. See also this rancorous exchange between motorists, pedestrians and cyclists in San Francisco.

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Monday, February 04, 2008
  Cycling and right hooks
By Yokota Fritz 
The Seattle Times published this decent article on the danger of "right hooks" from motorists. This is the hazard of a motorist who passes the cyclist then turns right directly in front of the cyclist, which often results in the cyclist hitting the side of the car. It's probably the most common type of accident for cyclists and is sometimes fatal to the cyclist, especially when it's a truck that hooks the cyclist.
Stanford Right Hook warning sign
The Times article notes that bike lanes can increase the hazard to cyclists by creating a false sense of security for the cyclist.

I can't agree with the suggestion in the article that urban cyclists stay alive by assuming we're "invisible to all drivers" and to "ride paranoid." If I want to be invisible, I'll ride in the bike lane -- I ride to be visible by positioning myself in the traffic when necessary and by signaling my intentions. My last collision (and my first in over a decade) occurred when I was hooked last fall while I was invisible in the bike lane. I ride defensively, but I believe that's different from riding as if I'm invisible or paranoid. For the most part, motorists are not out to get me, if only to avoid the inconvenience of a police report and insurance claim on their part. (Incidentally, for the snarky straw man idiots in the A&S forum over at BikeForums.net, positioning myself to be seen and for destination does not mean blocking whole lines of traffic behind me also).
Lane-splitting is legal in California

Cyclists in California are taught to leave the bike lane or the right turn lane and position themselves for their direction of travel. The California Driver Handbook says this regarding bike lanes:
When you are making a right turn and are within 200 feet of the corner or other driveway entrance, you must enter the bike lane for the turn. Do not drive in the bike lane at any other time.
I should note that motorists are required to merge into the bike lane only if the lane is clear, the same as if they're merging right into a regular traffic lane. If everybody actually followed this rule, we'd cut down substantially on the number of right hooks.

Before anybody complains that "this is too hard", let me direct you to the photo below showing a ten year old boy to the left of a right turn lane on busy Saratoga Avenue at I-280 in San Jose, California. The photo doesn't show it (I wouldn't have snapped the photo when the traffic was heavy), but moments after the photo was snapped traffic caught up from the intersection behind us and passed us on the right and the left. The right turn lane in the photo is access to an Interstate Highway on ramp. The Santa Clara County bike map labels this intersection "extreme caution" because of the heavy and fast traffic.

Father and son ride
Here's another example of a cyclist positioning herself for her destination by moving to the left of the right turn lane.

Of course, the California "solution" is not a panacea -- there are still idiot drivers and even (dare I write it?) idiot cyclists. Here's a dramatic video from the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition showing a cyclist getting hooked at speed by a driver making an illegal right turn from Market onto Octavia up in San Francisco.

The solution? I believe increased education for both motorists and cyclists on the hazard of right hook can help. Awareness through general media outlets like the Seattle Times article is good. Oh, and it's a "left cross," not a left hook. See Bicycle Safe for other types of common bike collisions and how to avoid them.

Please be sure to hit the Digg, del.icio.us and CycleCluster buttons below if you think this article is worth sharing. Thanks!


Thursday, January 31, 2008
  Jail sentence for running stop sign
By Yokota Fritz 
Andrew Bamberg ran a stop sign, presented photos of a different intersection to "prove" the absence of a stop sign and then -- when a traffic engineer offered to take a look at the intersection -- switched street signs around to confuse the court.
The 42-year-old former car salesman was sentenced in San Mateo County Superior Court to a year in the county jail after he was convicted of three felonies - two counts of perjury and one of preparing false evidence - for trying to dodge a traffic ticket by taking photos of another intersection and then lying about it in court.

Bamberg was driving on Whipple Avenue in Redwood City when he allegedly ran a stop sign at King Street. Bamberg argued he had stopped at the sign at the intersection of Whipple and Copley avenues, but had not stopped at the intersection of Whipple and King because there was no stop sign.

In fact, King Street and Copley Avenue are the same street, but the name changes at Whipple Avenue - something prosecutors believe Bamberg tried to obscure when he was making his argument. The intersection is a four-way stop.

Bamberg, who was then representing himself, offered five black-and-white photos in his defense at a May 10, 2005, trial in traffic court, two of which he said showed no stop sign at King Street, according to court documents. Traffic Commissioner Susan Greenberg suspected those two photos were not of the relevant intersection but from one block away.

When Greenberg said she would go to the scene herself to investigate, prosecutors suspect Bamberg replaced the King Street sign at the Whipple Avenue intersection with one from Copley - essentially erasing any trace of the intersection of King and Whipple - in an attempt to confuse her.
I'm not familiar with this intersection in Redwood City, but Google Maps shows me a residential thoroughfare. I'd guess the four way stop is in place to slow traffic, and this abuse of stop signs leads poor stop compliance at these intersections. Bamberg probably got what he deserved when he tried to fool the court, but there are plenty of reasons to fight failure to stop tickets at these kinds of intersections. Multiway stops are appropriate for high volume streets, where there are a high number of accidents, where there are problems with visibility, or from balanced traffic volume at intersections. In most other cases, 4-way sstops are not appropriate because drivers (and cyclists) don't stop for "unnecessary" stops, stop signs don't slow speeds and in fact drivers speed up to make up for the perceived lost time, and the unneeded stops increase noise and pollution in the immediate area of the intersection.

For more about traffic calming and stop signs, see Victoria Transport Policy and the city of Kirkland, WA traffic calming page. Read more about Bamberg in the Chronicle.


Thursday, November 29, 2007
  Taking the lane: How it's done
By Yokota Fritz 
Dual Chase Productions creates a number of PowerPoint presentations with video showing how cyclists interact with traffic. These instructional videos are intended for cyclists, motorists, law enforcement, advocates planners and engineers. Instructional videos for cyclists are intended for LCIs and other educators. Cycling advocates can use the PowerPoint slides and videos to show planners, engineers, law enforcement and motorists road use and safety from a cyclist's perspective.

Samples of slides and videos are available for online viewing at Cyclist View. This lane control video, for example, demonstrates a cyclist "taking the lane" in 45 mph traffic in the motoring mecca of Orange County, California.

Another example is this presentation on "Inclusive Design and Planning", which is designed to help planners understand and inclusively plan for the diverse spectrum of cyclists by showing on-bike video of cyclists in traffic and combining this with road diagrams.


Friday, October 26, 2007
  No charges were filed
By Yokota Fritz 
"No charges were filed." That's the postscript of every single one of the cycling deaths that Bob Mionske reports in his latest issue of Legally Speaking. James also makes note of the extremely low rate of prosecutions against dangerously careless drivers in his state of South Carolina, where only 5% of "accidental" traffic deaths results in any charges being filed. Of 101 cyclists killed between 2001 and 2004 on South Carolina roads, only 18 citations were written.

Cycling is safer than many our perceptions lead us to think, but it can be made safer with little effort. The United Kingdom until recently had a cyclist fatality rate similar to the U.S. With a recent emphasis on traffic law enforcement, however, the cyclist and pedestrian fatality rate dropped significantly.

From my own participation in the political process and bicycling advocacy, I know cities and police departments are often reluctant to increase enforcement of unpopular traffic laws. Even after a tragedy occurs, the response from officials is often "blame the victim" for being in the "wrong" place. Bob and James both promise more on traffic safety and enforcement in the United States; I'm looking forward to what they have to write.


Wednesday, October 03, 2007
  They say cycling is dangerous...
By Yokota Fritz 
Silicon Valley Highway 101 Traffic Hell I don't know if this has made the national news yet, but three motorists on U.S. Highway 101 in the San Francisco Bay Area have been shot this week.
Highway 101 is one of the main north-south routes that runs the length of the San Francisco Peninsula along the west side of the Bay.

Elsewhere around the nation:


Sunday, September 23, 2007
  A Nice Morning Drive
By Yokota Fritz 
When I was a teen growing up in the early 80s, I was a huge fan of the Canadian "math rock" band RUSH. Among my favorite songs was Red Barchetta [video], which takes place in a future world where the "motor law" prohibits driving performance sports cars on public roads. In the song, the protagonist visits his uncle to drive his old Ferrari Red Barchetta sports car. "Alloy air cars" then give chase to run the Ferrari off of the road. The music is wonderfully evocative.

"Red Barchetta" was inspired by a short story in the November 1973 issue of Road & Track entitled "A Nice Morning Drive." In this story, author Richard Foster anticipates a future in which safety requirements for new cars results in huge "Modern Safety Vehicles" (MSV). Foster predicts way back in 1973 that "Cars became larger, heavier, less efficient. They consumed gasoline so voraciously that the United States had had to become a major ally with the Arabian countries."

"People became accustomed to cars which went undamaged in lO-mph collisions," the story continues. "They gave even less thought than before to the possibility of being injured in a crash. As a result, they tended to worry less about clearances and rights-of-way, so that the accident rate went up a steady six percent every year. But the damages and injuries actually decreased, so the government was happy, the insurance industry was happy and most of the car owners were happy."

In the world of fiction, some MSV drivers would purposely run older, smaller cars off of the roads simply because they could do it.

In the real-life 21st Century, cars have indeed become much safer, and in fact they are somewhat less likely to be in an accident because of safety improvements beyond just adding bulk to a vehicle. There has been one deleterious side effect, however: people drive faster and more dangerously so that the more vulnerable road users -- pedestrians and bicyclists, for example -- are now dying at a higher rate while overall road deaths have dropped. I'm hearing more often that "the laws of physics" mandates that I keep my bike off of the road, and that if I'm hit and killed it's my own fault.

I'm amazed that Foster anticipated the psychology of "mass rules" 35 years ago, but these things ought not so to be. ABS, traction control, stability control, rollover protection, adaptive cruise control, airbags, crumple zones and all the other advanced safety features of modern automobiles are great to have, but often these things only enable motorists to behave even more like boneheads when they're behind the wheel. And of course, when I say "bonehead" I include myself in that category, because better control almost naturally leads to faster driving.

Cycling still has about the same relative risk of serious injury or death as driving, but the risk seems to be trending upward for some areas. A real solution is to increase the number of bicyclists so that all road users expect to see us on the road and adjust their driving accordingly. I'm not convinced that tougher or new laws (such as the fad for 3-foot passing laws) is entirely the answer, though enforcement of existing laws would be a tremendous help. I'm also a fan of road diets and traffic calming, though these measures are generally appropriate for slow traffic areas such as residential neighborhoods.

I'm not clever enough to come up with the solution to this safer vehicle paradox. What are your ideas? What have you seen in the media or blogosphere on how to mitigate risk compensation?


Tuesday, September 11, 2007
  Bicycle risks and safety
By Yokota Fritz 
Raise The Hammer in Canada posts a good article about the safety of bicycling relative to the risks of other common activities such as driving and walking. The author, Ryan McGreal, uses real numbers and everything!
The fatality rate for every million hours spent cycling is 0.26, compared to 0.47 per million driving hours (on-road motorcycling comes in at a whopping 8.80 deaths per million motorcycling hours). For every million cyclists in the US, 16.5 die each year, whereas for every million motorists, 19.9 die each year.

Another way of evaluating risk is to examine the odds of dying if you do crash. The odds of dying from a bicycle crash are one in 71. This compares to one in 75 for a light truck (pickup truck, SUV, van), one in 108 for a car, one in 43 for a truck, one in 26 for a motorcycle, and one in 15 for a pedestrian.

In other words, the odds of dying in a bike crash are about the same as the odds of dying in an SUV crash. The false sense of security that comes from an SUV tends to produce far more dangerous driving behaviour.
The author discusses risk quite a bit more and talks about commute homeostasis and the factor of improved health of cyclists, but in the end he concludes that cycling is a relatively safe activity.

Part of my mission at Cyclelicious is to note that bicycling is a safe activity. There's a perception among too many that bicycling is a dangerous activity -- it seems counterintuitive that sitting exposed in traffic on a bike is about as safe as riding inside of a metal cocoon. McGreal makes an important point in his article that our riding behavior can have a significant impact on risk. Following the rules of the road and an educated awareness of traffic risks reduces the risk of injury collisions significantly.

If you want to be a safer cyclist, read Ken Kifer's archived information on bicycling safety. I recommend the book The Art of Urban Cycling by Robert Hurst, which is good for all kinds of city cycling, not just downtown urban cores. I also recommend the League of American Bicyclists bicycling education courses for instruction in safety and bike handling skills. Even if you're an experienced cyclist, you can learn quite a bit from taking the LAB classes.

A hat tip to Paul Dorn for pointing to the risks article. He also posted good commentary on motorist advocacy in Seattle.

Photo credit: "Hand Signal" from San Francisco Bicycle Coalition.


Friday, August 31, 2007
  Do as I say, not as I do!
By Yokota Fritz 
Warren stopped to take video of law abiding motorists at a stop sign. Unfortunately, he couldn't find any law abiding motorists. Because of the great damage and carnage that can result when motorists don't obey the law, motorists always obey traffic laws for the safety of everybody! That's the myth, anyway.

Cannondale folder update: Bike Designer Guy James found some more information about the development and design of the Cannondale folding bike, dubbed the Cannondale ON. Cool stuff.

Another bike-ish fitness device. Via Bike Horn and others.

Most of my U.S. and Canadian readers have a three day weekend with Labor / Labour Day coming up. It's also my 17th wedding anniversary. Other than a possible Eurobike update later today, posting will be sparse to non-existent. Enjoy the weekend, all!


Tuesday, August 28, 2007
  $1000 speeding ticket
By Yokota Fritz 
The state of Virginia recently hiked traffic fines so that going 20 mph over the limit can result in a fine of $1000. If you're caught driving under the influence for a third time or if you're "felony reckless driving," the fine is $3000. Other offenses result in similarly high fines.

While the motivation of the state legislators was to increase revenue, I applaud efforts to make dangerous driving more painful to those who commit the crime. While roads generally have become safer for drivers and car occupants, traffic fatalities have gone up significantly over the past few years. Safer cars with better crash protection, better suspension, better brakes, and more powerful engines just means you can drive even more like a bonehead. Drivers are more likely to wreck their cars, but the wrecks are more survivable as long as you happen to be inside the metal cage. Wrecks are also more likely for the more vulnerable users of our road systems -- pedestrians and cyclists -- but the improved crash worthiness protection doesn't extend to us.

Unfortunately, many Virginians are so outraged by these new fines that the state legislator will meet in a special session just to repeal the fees. If you live in Virginia and support safer driving, contact your local representative and let them know of your support.

One drawback to high fines: Police are less likely to write tickets if they feel the fine is excessive. That's one reason many cops don't enforce traffic laws on cyclists.


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Monday, August 27, 2007
  Motorist's brilliant suggestion to improve bike lanes
By Yokota Fritz 
From "Letters to the Editor" in the Menlo Park Almanac, August 22, 2007. This motorist clearly misunderstood the answer to his question and the problem. There's debris in the bike lane precisely because it's been swept there from the passing cars and trucks.

Bike safety in Portola Valley

I have asked various bike riders for their views on certain safety issues.

Q. Why do many bikers ride directly on the white line of the bike lane rather than within the lane?

A. Debris can be seen and avoided.

Based on the foregoing, one might ask why not put the white line of the bike lane in the middle so debris could readily be seen, and double yellow lines on the outside to delineate the lane, thus encouraging both the bikes and the autos to stay out of each other's lanes.

Name Withheld
Santa Maria Avenue, Portola Valley

Posted to the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition mailing list.

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Saturday, August 18, 2007
  Cyclist jacket with brake light and turn signals
By Yokota Fritz 
Raise your arm before a turn, and a tilt switch activates big amber LEDs to signal your turn at night. An accelerometer detects when you slow down to illuminate a big patch of red LEDs on your back. This clever cyclist jacket is the invention of Michael Chen in London, who won a design competition with this jacket. He hopes a manufacturer will pick up his idea in time to make the jacket available in time for Christmas for UK£100 (about US$200). This cyclist jacket is demonstrated in the video below.

Hat tip to Cycle Dog, who wonders how the wiring and electronics will hold up under constant use and wet weather riding.

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Friday, August 17, 2007
  City Traffic Commission: Cyclists are insane idiots
By Yokota Fritz 
Update: See Ms Ballingall's comment below for her apology and explanation.

The town of Saratoga, California is nestled in the foothills of the Santa Cruz Mountains south of San Jose, CA. It's a popular area for Silicon Valley road cyclists to ride to and through. While the city of Saratoga considers cyclist safety an important issue, Saratoga Transportation Safety Commission chair Brigitte Ballingall has a different view of cycling. "I think it's an idiotic sport to do on the road - it's just insane," she was quoted as saying in this news about cycling safety in Saratoga.

Cyclists are asked to "be nice" in their emailed comments to her as they explain that cycling is a relatively safe activity that can be enjoyed by almost anybody. For more information about the Saratoga Transportation Safety Commission, see the city website.

Hat tip to Paul on the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition mailing list for this news.

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Friday, July 27, 2007
By Yokota Fritz 

It's been a bad week in the Bay Area. Death Monsters killed an eleven-month-old baby, two drag-racing teens and two seniors in south San Jose and a still anonymous driver on I-280.

The baby died after his dad drove to work and forgot his son was in the car. Ian Takemoto perished in the back seat after outside temperatures reached 80 degrees. And people are a afraid to ride their bikes to work.

The anonymous driver was killed when a maniac driving 100 mph in rush hour traffic struck two cars, sending the maniac and another driving to the hospital and sending the third driver to his grave in a cataclysmic explosion that shut a major freeway down for four hours with backups along Highway 17, I-880 and surface streets for miles around. And people complain about bicyclists who hold up traffic.

The two teens were driving like teen drivers do on an empty residential road. They lost control, and hit two senior citizens out for a walk in the cool evening air before they hit a pole and were killed themselves. And the other night, a driver struck a police officer directing traffic in San Francisco. And people complain about the laws that cyclists break.

Death Monster photo from San Francisco by Allen & used with permission. All rights reserverd.


Sunday, July 01, 2007
  Crime and perception
By Yokota Fritz 

Accident on Route 46
Originally uploaded by leonfu
I believe cyclists should generally follow the rules of the road. One of my hot button issues, though, is the idea that cyclists who break the law are such a public danger that they require special enforcement attention and cyclists should be held to a higher standard than motorists.

While I'm ranting, this idea that I'm personally responsible for the actions of some idiot in San Francisco or Berkeley or NYC or London is just plain weird. CycleDog left a comment somewhere (I think at Masi Guy but I can't find it) about the secret instant cyclist internet that's built into every bike. We're jacked into it the minute we connect seat to saddle -- perhaps through a bionic USB connection? I don't automatically think my motoring friends are somehow to blame when I read of or personally witness one of the 340 traffic fatalities that occur annually in the San Francisco Bay Area, not to mention the countless insane wrecks that occur daily.

But enough ranting. Let's move on to facts and reasoned argument. Treadly and Me reports on some interesting statistics from Australia on running red lights. It turns out more than half of surveyed motorists admit to running red lights. I see it every single day on my commute in Menlo Park where Willow Road meets Bayshore Expressway. I was well into the intersection on a solid green last week, looked right and watched a truck coming at me at 50 mph with no indication that the driver intended to slow. I waited at the median as he flew by before I continued. One driver behind me even honked as I stopped, and no doubt felt like a moron she saw the reason I stopped. I probably saved her life, but I've learned to watch for light-running traffic at this intersection.

Back to Treadly, who writes:
And here is something that sticks in my craw: motorists who complain about the behavior of cyclists are expecting a higher standard of conduct from cyclists as a group than they are prepared to apply to their own group. Too often we hear the all inclusive complaint that bloody cyclists jump red lights, but when it comes to the in excess of one hundred thousand drivers who run red lights, well that’s just a few ratbag individuals. The vast majority of drivers are pure as the driven snow when it comes to red light running.

This all reminds me of an excellent article from Paul Dorn last week, who wrote in Vehicular Crime and Perceptions:
[Motorists] console themselves with the thought that...bicyclists are outlaws, and can't be permitted into civilized society. I set out to document the ridiculous nature of this claim on May 4th, during the height of the Critical Mass hatemongering by the Chronicle. On a single 30-minute walk home I photographed so many traffic violations by motorists that I ran out of storage on my camera.

For decades government policy has privileged driving and encouraged anti-social behavior by motorists. Drivers routinely roll through stop signs, drive at excessive speed, run red lights, fail to yield to pedestrians, block fire hydrants, double park in bike lanes, drive under the influence, and use horns excessively. Only a fraction of this vehicular crime is punished. Each and every year motorists kill more than 42,000 people, hospitalize hundreds of thousands more, and cause billions of dollars of property damage. Motorist endangerment is so ubiquitous that even the Vatican has issued 10 commandments for drivers. And yet the perception in the U.S. is that bicyclists are the greater miscreants?

My best advice to any bicyclist encountering such bias is to vigorously push back. Bicyclist behavior is entirely consistent with traffic behavior in general. Which transportation mode poses the greatest danger? Which mode offers the greatest social benefit?
So I arm myself with the fact and what I hope are persuasive arguments and vigorously push back. It seems like CycleDog wrote something about that also recently, but I can't find it. Help me out, Ed...

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Thursday, May 31, 2007
  Broke bike chain breaks teeth
By Yokota Fritz 
Human teeth, that is, not the teeth on the ring or cog. Tim Kelton of Wichita Falls, Texas, was commuting on his singlespeed bicycle when his chain snapped and sent him over the bars. See the gruesome aftermath here. "However expensive that derailleur and a few gears would have been, " Kelton writes, "this is more."

The only time I've snapped a chain is with a dérailleur-equipped bike. It beat my rear dérailleur into little bits before spooling around the rear cog and locking up my rear wheel in heavy traffic, but I managed to stay upright and avoided injury to my teeth or the rest of my face.


Monday, May 21, 2007
  Cyclist tips from a car driver
By Yokota Fritz 
Natasha now has her driver’s licence, so that pretty much makes her an expert. Watch the video for important safety tips for cyclists from a car driver. Natasha tells us why we should avoid opening doors ("I've had to replace mine three times!"), why motorists throw insults and objects at cyclists, and complains about bearded guys on those "lie-down" bikes.

Tips For Cyclists - video powered by Metacafe

The video comes from the ingenious folks at Bicycle Forest, via Treadly and Me and CycleDog.

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