Patience My Ass…


I know I keep urging that we all be patient in regards to the state of bike lanes in metropolitan areas. But frankly I am getting a whiff of scam each time I take a look at what is happening in Chicago. Just this morning another respondent to the thread on the lack of plowing of protected bike lanes wrote:

Reply by globalguy 8 hours ago
With all due respect, I too will withhold my accolades for a Mayor who wanted a certain number of bike lanes before the New Year, regardless of location, without any plan for sustaining new infrastructure. One self-congratulatory press conference or the usual suspects on Dearborn does not equal a long-term approach to building AND maintaining bike lanes.

h’ 1.0 said:
Blah blah blah

Adam Herstein (5.5 mi) said:
Did you honestly expect that Dearborn would get plowed this morning? This should come as a surprise to no one.

The Ideal Bike SuperHighway

What is more than clear is that someone is not paying very close attention to the details when it comes to laying down the paint and lines and PVC bollards. What is supposed to be a bicycle infrastructure design aimed at newbies (to encourage them to use city streets) is turning out to be like poorly written iPhone software that while pretty looking is woefully lacking in sound design and error capturing.

Background Reading

Dealing With The Pollyanna Approach

So one of my recumbent buddies wrote a reply to the thread on How Bike Lanes Work. His reply was as follows:

John Riley says:
Saturday, January 26, 2013 at 8:38 AM (Edit)

Some observations: I think it has been 20 years since Effective Cycling was first published. EC classes have been available for many years. If these ideas were compelling and powerful enough to dramatically increase cycling, I think it would have happened by now.

I think what is happening now is that you are in a transition phase. Both cyclists and car drivers (not to mention facilities designers) are all in learning mode. I used to do a large group tour every year. Always lots of bike/bike crashes and conflicts as people got used to riding in crowds. It settled down after a day or two. This will take longer, but in the long run, I think it will work out. Things seem to be coming together in San Francisco. This is happening in a much shorter time frame than EC has had. I would say keep the discussion going, but don’t throw the baby out with the bathwater.

I think the principles in the article are sound, but I think the number of people (including children) who are willing to challenge car drivers for lane space is always going to be a limitation of this approach. Car drivers also vary geographically. I have had some bad experiences with this in Miami.

As I say, I think the principles of EC are sound but in some situations, a jury might consider the EC approach to be contributory negligence. Their “common sense” tells them that cyclists should not be on busy roads, should not be in the middle of the lane, etc. I don’t have any specific examples, and the laws vary, but a lawyer I have spoken with, who argues at jury trials, thinks I have a point.

You can see it in the news coverage and comments. CYCLISTS often go into blame the victim mode if someone is hit while practicing EC. It happens that whole packs of cyclists (a bus?) are sometimes hit. Meanwhile a car hits someone off to the side, and the police say, “The cyclist was where they were supposed to be.”

Keep calm and carry on.

Now You're Talking...

Now You’re Talking…

The hell I will! I do not plan to keep calm. And I surely will not carry on. The fracking situations to the north of us (Dakotas) are signs that the process can be dangerous. What is interesting is that folks who are opposed to that pipeline are willing to offer the same drivel (“Keep calm and carry on.”) as the guys doing the drilling and despite these assurances are fighting it tooth and nail, while using that same sorry logic when attempting to explain away some of the issues we encounter with protected bike lanes. I say poppycock!

I see nothing wrong with holding the feet of every cycling activist and advocate to the fire so long as silly infrastructure designs keep getting released while needing almost immediate remediation. That is inexcusable. Heck if these same activists think that they can harangue the building management along Dearborn Street for pushing snow into the streets over what is now a bike lane (a practice which is longstanding, only the particulars have changed) then why not complain to them about having given the thumbs up to a crappy design that no one seems to have tested.

The lanes are too narrow for cycling traffic (in passing situations) and the west-most of the cycling lanes is uneven which causes water to collect and freeze. Besides all of this the width of the bike lanes is such that plows cannot easily reach them without fear of tearing up the chintzy PVC bollards which are supposed to delineate the parking lane. A real fustercluck in my book.

So please do not ask me to be patient. As long as guys like Ben Fried of StreetsBlog comes up with lines like this regarding the snafu with parking on the South Side:

“You really don’t want this to create a precedent where neighborhoods without much bike infrastructure continue to be left behind on street redesigns that make everyone safer,” he says. “That’s not fair to anyone. Church parking can’t take precedence over public safety.”

I called it a minefield. © Steve Vance

I called it a minefield.
© Steve Vance

As usual when you want something in a neighborhood that is hostile to your plans you try and couch the development in terms of (a) not leaving those neighborhoods behind and (b) the plan taking precedence over neighborhood wishes because of the overarching demands for “public safety“. I will give you the correctness of part b provided what you are offering is indeed “safe“. Painting over severely damaged pavement is not safe.

If the petition to get President Obama to ride a street route with cyclists involves traveling over the pavement which has been newly painted (this is not a lane which has deteriorated over time since being painted, it was this way when it was painted) then we have a very different notion of safety where StreetsBlog is concerned. And they of all people should know better.

Effective Cycling Vs. Letting Paint Think For You

Cycling has been on an unsteady trajectory in terms of participation everywhere in the suburban areas. Cycling clubs are getting older (in terms of the average age of their membership). Here in the western suburbs of Chicago clubs have been folding and their membership fanning out in search of new clubs to join. Elmhurst Bicycle Club has grown by leaps and bounds largely from this situation.

What had certainly been uniformly going down are the number of invitational rides that folks can find each summer to participate in. In the past the Chicago Bike Federation was the only really large ride in our area. Active Transportation Alliance has taken over that position with its Bike The Drive and Four Star Bike Tour. But what is painfully obvious over the years is the fact that riders are simply no longer observing the Rules of the Road. In fact the ride marshals for these rides are among the worst offenders.

We have gone from a time before the Boub vs. Wayne Township legal fight from being “allowed but not intended users” of the roadways to having all sorts of on-street routes mapped out across the various suburbs for cyclists to now having bike lanes appearing. The latter is a welcomed fact but it comes with a few strings attached.

Even law officers who should know better have begun to ticket cyclists for not using their lane.

Segregation Drinking Fountain

Segregation Drinking Fountain

It should come as no surprise because the implication is that bike lanes are for bikes and the rest of the road is for motorists. We have essentially become the “Coloreds” of the 21st Century who are no longer allowed to drink from the water fountains reserved for “Whites“.

Now it is fine by me if that is what the Urban Cycling community desires, but at least be honest in admitting that this is where we are headed. The problem with this approach however is that lots of spots all over the City of Chicago will never have protected or even buffered bike lanes, they are too narrow. Sharrow lanes is about as good as it will get on Milwaukee Avenue unless it is decided that automobiles cannot park on both sides of the street.

In fact there are so very many iterations of the protected/buffered/sharrow bike lane being offered up all over the city that I doubt the average motorist has any idea what he/she is supposed to expect from moment-to-moment. I think too that cyclists are a bit confused.

There are places where a lane on Jackson requires you to do three left turns in order to effectively make a right turn off of Jackson onto Morgan. Now whoever dreamt up that fustercluck is going to have to write 500 times “I will not lie about bikes lanes being safer”. Someone in charge of these bicycle infrastructure designs really needs to consult at least one commuter who can tell them which end of the box is up.

We Still Are Going To Have To Think For Ourselves

Until the majority of bike lanes across the city are as nice as the Chicago Lakefront Trail or what I hope the Bloomingdale Trail and Park will look like we will need some basic understanding as cyclists of how to handle unscripted situations. Remember that the stated purpose of these protected bike lanes is to attract “newbie” riders. That means to me that these lanes must be “idiot-proof” in the extreme. Currently they are anything but.

What is more disconcerting is that the majority of what I perceive as the urban cycling crowd is unschooled in how to ride on roads. These are folks who have taken up cycling not as a sport having ridden with a club but instead as a transportation mode and are frankly ill-suited for the purpose. They lack basic knowledge of what is right and wrong on streets and are easily tempted by half-assed descriptions from fixed gear riders of why stops at signs and lights are unwarranted.

At least one of the respondents to a thread on “Stop Sign Sting” told the essential truth about Chicago’s Urban Cyclists:

Reply by Spencer “Thunderball” Thayer! on August 20, 2010 at 8:57am
To the safety patrol and the law abider,

How do you account for the fact that people violate this aspect of traffic law most of the time, if not, every time they ride. Y’all would agree that this is an indisputable fact right? In the city of Chicago the majority of cyclists treat stop signs like yield signs. It’s such an excepted social norm that the Police, unless forced to, won’t even consider ticketing cyclists even when there has been a gross violation of the law right in front of them (we’ve all seen or done this).

How do you account for this? Doesn’t this absolute failure of law indicate that the law must be reformed? Wouldn’t it be more reasonable to change the law to accommodate and standardize how people actually operate a bicycle? When laws are adjusted according to the needs and socially accepted behaviors of a given society there is almost immediate wide spread adaptation and acceptance of the law. What this would mean in the case of the Rolling Stop is that with harsher penalties those who blow a red light while intersecting oncoming traffic will be singled out and dealt with accordingly. But currently since the law is seen as unessisary or completely invalid those gross violators of the law are given social safe space to behave as they do. And why not? If the law is idiotic and everyone agrees that it is then there is no standard to which one must be held and thus one can behave as one pleases. You see this in the microcosm that is this particular discussion thread.

So with that said. What could be the possible reason to be against a Rolling Stop law? I feel that is must be something more personal rather than rational because the argument from safety just doesn’t cut it. Bike accidents in the city primarily have very little to do with the yielding behavior. Though the largest majority of accidents are intersection related they are almost always improper use of lane or blind spot related. The remaining non-intersection collisions included those in which a bicyclist overtook a parked or parking motor vehicle, a motorist opened the door of a parked car into the bicyclist’s path, or a motorist or bicyclist changed lanes improperly.

I have emailed a few research bodies and universities to request access to their saftey statistical studies so that I can read them and create a solid argument against the safety meme. But until I have that and put it on or whatever I am gonna call it you’ll have to read these links for more scattered information.………

Spencer, Spencer… You Are Such A ‘Bad Boy’

Like what he has to say or not, he tells the truth about the frequency of law breaking that goes on in the Urban Cycling Community. A few writers shy away from being this honest. But this is what we have to deal with when considering how best to educate the cycling community. And as for the law needing to be changed, I guess that if enough people use crack cocaine he would argue that banning its use would be silly? Somehow that sort of logic is itself a bit wonky. But again this is what constitutes the majority of the Urban Cycling Community demographics. These are people who are not ready for prime time when it comes to group riding in suburban clubs. They would be an accident waiting to happen.

If we allow this next generation of cyclists to feel comfortable turning off their brains in favor of following the paint then, heaven help us.