Paul Andrews

Archive for August, 2009|Monthly archive page

Always something new in Marin’s hiker-biker wars

In Bicycle advocacy, Mountain Biking, Obama Bikes, Trail Access on August 31, 2009 at 9:37 am

The mtb wars in Marin continue apace. KTVU provides a video report (linked by Cyclelicio.us) updating tensions between mountain bikes and hikers. The report winds up being fairly sympathetic to the biking side, which is something of a surprise. Typical mainstream reports slant the blame toward the bikers.

One bromide does pop back up, concerning kids “screaming down the trails” on mountain bikes, supposedly endangering the health and well-being of hikers, children, dogs and so on. You know, I’ve yet to encounter a documented report of a bike colliding with a hiker and causing serious injury. And this is in nearly 20 years of mountain biking. I think I would have heard.

Not to dismiss hiker/pedestrian concerns, because I’ve been in a situation where bikes ripping down a trail too fast scare the bejesus out of me. But that’s as far as it goes. Yes it’s rude and disruptive. Still, every time I hear a complaint about the occasional bad actor on a mountain bike, I think of the scores of times I’ve encountered trails littered with trash, beer cans and other crap that mountain bikers have nothing to do with. Or the times I’ve been sworn at or blocked (by 3 or 5-abreast squadrons of anti-mtbers) or even swung at with a walking stick while riding on trails open to bikes. They don’t represent the vast majority of hikers, but they do exist.

There are jerks on both sides of this coin. But the majority should not be tarred with them.

The report notes some trails are being booby trapped. The most notorious case two and a half years ago involved barbed wire across an unmarked (that is, not specifically indicated as no-bikes, although not specifically permitted either; we avoid the vague and usually inappropriate term “illegal”) and widely used trail in Marin. Most of the current booby traps are of a less potentially homicidal nature — sticks, brush, and the ever popular blowdowns dragged across connector trails.

I enjoyed hearing Mark Weir‘s commentary, but in the pantheon of spokespeople available to address Marin mountain biking issues, he’s probably not the first guy I’d think of. Still, Mark’s attempt to get official approval for a pump track is worth noting. Not that most local and regional planning authorities even know what a pump track is or have a process to permit one, it’s nonetheless a shame that they turn a deaf ear in this case.

There’s considerable hope on the horizon. Marin has a hugely popular high-school mountain biking curriculum that is going to put a whole new generation of mtbers into mainstream society. Their mindset will be completely 180 degrees from the “ban the bike” intransigence of the old-line environmentalists. Someday, multiple use will be taken for granted in Marin and the U.S., the way it is everywhere else around the world.

Ride and Prejudice, Part II: When an error goes viral

In Bicycle advocacy, Obama Bikes on August 31, 2009 at 12:25 am

The links are flying on a (supposedly) new study that (supposedly) found drivers are to blame for 9 out of 10 bike–car accidents. This situation cries out for journalistic followup, but for now let’s see if we can clear the air a bit.

A Toronto study we reported on (along with Freakonomics, which was then picked up by The New York Times and went viral from there) had some interesting findings regarding car-bike accidents. Unfortunately it got conflated with a different, and relatively dated, New York report that found drivers are at fault for as much as 90 percent of bike/pedestrian-car collisions.

First, the Toronto study, which looked at bike-car collisions in Toronto police reports.

“The most common type of crash in this study involved a motorist entering an intersection and either failing to stop properly or proceeding before it was safe to do so. The second most common crash type involved a motorist overtaking unsafely. The third involved a motorist opening a door onto an oncoming cyclist.”

Fair enough. Sounds reasonable to any experienced cyclist. No one seems to question the Toronto findings. But there’s no “90 percent” figure in them, either.

Instead, the 90 percent comes from a New York study referred to in passing by the Toronto report. And the New York study has some shall we say issues.

First off, it was based on 1997 statistics (and published in March, 1999). Not to diminish its findings from the get-go, that’s quite a while back. Hopefully progress has been made — but let’s continue.

The study, called “Killed By Automobile” and written by Charles Komanoff and Right of Way, “a group of New Yorkers who are organizing for safe streets and for the rights of walkers and bike-riders,” analyzed the year’s fatalities for “culpability” (based “largely” on New York State traffic law). The data showed that in 22 percent of the cases, culpability could not be determined. Setting aside those cases, the study found drivers to be “strictly or largely culpable” in 74 percent of accidents, “partly culpable” in 16 percent, and not culpable in just 10 percent.

Two things should be noted about the data, however. First, it incorporated pedestrian accidents as well as cycling. Typically more pedestrians — quite a few more — are killed by cars than cyclists. Although today the assumption is that texting and iPods and whatnot distracting pedestrians are to blame, statistically the difference has been fairly consistent historically going well back.

Another factor is that there are simply more pedestrians than cyclists. Whatever the reason, to lump walkers in with riders kind of jimmies the New York study from the get-go.

The New York data involve 223 pedestrian fatalities and 19 cyclist deaths. If you break out only the cyclist deaths, drivers were culpable 70 percent of the time (not 90 percent).

Second, as Richard Masoner pointed out on Cyclelicio.us, the study acknowledges it “frames crash culpability primarily in terms of driver action” rather than that of the pedestrian or cyclist. This is a bit of a head-scratcher and again begs followup. Presumably culpability should be neutral rather than “framed,” and should emerge organically from analysis of the accident itself (as it does time and again in the case studies cited in the report). The New York study, however, says it places the onus for being safe on the driver, because drivers can kill pedestrians and cyclists, but pedestrians and cyclists cannot kill drivers.

True. But to incorporate a bias into a statistical analysis based on that reasoning to my mind muddies the waters. And needlessly so. The data seem to impugn driver behavior clearly enough without any “framing.”

It’s worth reading the full New York study to get a feel for what pedestrians and cyclists are up against (veteran cyclists will not be surprised). Discounting its emotionally charged prose, the study makes a compelling case for better police analysis and judicial-system followup of walking and cycling accidents involving cars.

And that, bottom line, is why the 10 percent figure got such wide play. Skewed as it might be, it reflects the reality of experience by avid and longtime cyclists.

Of the handful of fatal cycling accidents in Seattle so far this year (which has been a bad year for cyclists v. cars), only one involved a clear-cut mistake, or at-fault action, by the cyclist. In the other three, cyclists by all accounts had the right of way. They were simply mowed down due to “driver error.”

Granted, that’s only 75 percent. But yeah, we’re in the same territory as the New York study of yore.

Morbidly enough, there are several recent “life-threatening” injury accidents — that may turn into fatalities — where the cyclist apparently was not at fault (they are still under investigation). We may make 90 percent yet.

The point — and the reason I originally linked to the Toronto account (incorporating the reference to the New York study) — is this: Society carries a prejudice, regrettably amplified by police investigations, that automatically blames a cyclist in a car-bike collision. There are many reasons for this, but it’s simply wrong. It’s not statistically valid. It marginalizes cycling as a legitimate form of transportation and is inimical to progress for cycling as a healthy and environmentally beneficial alternative to the automobile. It vitiates legislative remedies to protect cyclists. It essentially excuses and perpetuates actions which, had they involved a second driver instead of a cyclist, would result in manslaughter or homicide charges being filed.

The Toronto and New York studies may not be perfect, but until we get something better, they’re a useful step forward in recasting public perception of car-bike accidents. Hopefully studies are under way now that will further put the issue in statistically and scientifically sound perspective. The growth of cycling advocacy — both on the road and off — attests to the exploding momentum for changing society’s tired old prejudices toward cycling.

Links: The Toronto report. The New York study (click on “Research” and “Killed By Automobile”). My initial mention. The Freakonomics reference picked up by The New York Times. Cyclelicio.us gut-check. Dangerous times in Seattle for bikes.

Daily Roundup: Rossland bike fest, Portland bike arrest, Fluidride Cup No. 5, Alice B. Toeclips is baaaccckk!

In Bicycle advocacy, Bicycle Racing, Daily Roundup, Mountain Biking, Obama Bikes on August 31, 2009 at 12:11 am

Rossland, B.C.’s first fat-tire festival will take place this weekend. How cool is that?

I spent a few days last summer in Rossland and was blown away, not just with the widely worshipped Seven Summits epic ride but all the close-to-town tech stuff. Rocky, steep, challenging, with hucks, structures and drops, the local trails will get your skillz up to spec in no time at all. My video of Seven Summits.

Portland takes its reputation as the nation’s leading bicycling city seriously. A man has been charged with intentionally crashing into a cyclist, a Class A felony, which “is used when police suspect there is an intention to cause serious physical injury…” More at BikePortland.org.

They may try to ban bikes on Grand County roads in Colorado. But they will never succeed in keeping bikes off of Grand County roads in Colorado.

Great Fluidride Cup. No. 5 in Port Angeles report from PinkBike. Some photos not for the faint of heart. Apparently you needed armor just to walk the course.

Delicious BikeHugger rant over airline charges for bikes as luggage … and how to get around them.

Cyclelicio.us: In Missouri you can run a red light, long as you’re responsible about it. One point is unclear: How do you tell a pavement-sensored light from a timed one? D’ya just have to sit there and wait?

In any case, a good idea, if somewhat dicey legally (e.g., what is a “reasonable” amount of time?).

Jacquie Phelan is back home in NorCal. Her pithy travel assessment of 60 days on two wheels: One Less Corpse. Ride on Jacquie!

Ride and Prejudice: Causalities and casualties in cycling accidents

In Rider Down on August 28, 2009 at 2:37 am

Not a good week for two–wheelers on the road. First off, we all know Ozzies are nuts, but running down a fellow cyclist and leaving the scene? If cyclists become just like other drivers once they get behind the wheel — and let’s face it, there is a certain psychology involved in being encased in two tons of steel — we really have lost hope in the traffic wars.

Another Seattle rider hit by car; life-threatening injuries. This has been a well-above-average year for cycling fatalities in the Seattle area.

In North Dakota, a semi trailer turning left ran over a woman on a bike. “Possible criminal charges” in the incident.

In Portland, man on a bike is killed by hit-and-run.

Bike building legend Dave Moulton blogs some intriguing statistics on bike v. pedestrian deaths over recent decades and concludes… well, nothing really specific. The problem is that although deaths can be statistically quantified, their context cannot. There’s no way to determine if the fault was the cyclist or the driver (at least, not tied to Moulton’s charts), or even a fatality-per-mile-ridden ratio that would lend some perspective. So we’re left guessing — and Dave’s guesses are as good as if not better than anyone else’s.

On a less global, but still pertinent, scale, a Toronto study found that, contrary to police prejudice and public perception, cyclists are seldom at fault in bike-care accidents:

While there is a public perception that cyclists are usually the cause of accidents between cars and bikes, an analysis of Toronto police collision reports shows otherwise: The most common type of crash in this study involved a motorist entering an intersection and either failing to stop properly or proceeding before it was safe to do so. The second most common crash type involved a motorist overtaking unsafely. The third involved a motorist opening a door onto an oncoming cyclist. The study concluded that cyclists are the cause of less than 10 per cent of bike-car accidents in this study. The available evidence suggests that collisions have far more to do with aggressive driving than aggressive cycling
.

Note a correction on the post that it is actually “several studies conducted by the Charles Komanoff and member of the Right of Way organization in New York that concluded that concluded that cyclists were strictly culpable for less than 10 per cent of bike-car accidents.” But the point is still clear.

We leave you with an inspirational story you have to like: In small town Cle Elum, Washington, a rider who got hit by a pickup’s side mirror chased down the motorist, who’s been jailed for hit-and-run.

As they say Down Under, Good on ya!

Daily Roundup: Planning for bikes, Crankworx numbers up? SF Bike Expo and more

In Bicycle Racing, Daily Roundup, Lance's Chances, Mountain Biking on August 27, 2009 at 10:30 am

SeattleLikesBikes: Why planners need — really need — the reality check of actual bike riders. “One intersection that looked fine on paper turned out to be a spot where a new streetcar track would be a nightmare hazard for cyclists.”

Bicycle Retailer: Crankworx attendance was up despite crappy weather. Really? It didn’t feel that way. It felt more like numbers were a bit down, and in any case I’d be curious to see the data. If you read the release carefully it says attendance was up the “final weekend,” which was fairly sunny. If so, it was not by much. The rest of the time was noticeably slack. You could just look at the lift lines.

No knock on the ‘worx, it’s a great event. Which is all the more reason it has no need to exaggerate.

BikeRumor: Camelbak’s new electronically monitored flow meter showing how much liquid you’ve sucked up on a ride. Christmas stocking stuffer, but otherwise file under Things You Could Probably Survive Without.

SF Bike Expo is set for November 21st in the Cow Palace!

Martha Hucker interviews Melissa Buhl. Next, how about Jill Kintner?

Buhly: “Women’s racing in the US has dropped off a bit. Not from lack of talent by any means, just the depth in entries at the events. I think a lot of it is because it is so costly for them and there is lack of support. Some of the race promoters don’t give enough incentive for pro racers to make the trip. We are racing for free or next to nothing at a lot of the events, and that’s unacceptable for any pro. There are so many talented riders here, but you’ll find them doing other events and other types of riding and racing they enjoy more. I hope we can get a consistent series going that offers that kind of enjoyment in racing again and bring them back.”

One last look back at this year’s Leadville 100. Yes Lance was King, but the ever-humble, gentlemanly and gracious Dave Wiens made a lot of fans too.

Evergreen Alliance calls for the question

In Bicycle advocacy, Mountain Biking, Obama Bikes, Trail Access on August 27, 2009 at 7:59 am

The Evergreen Mountain Bike Alliance, in the midst of member turmoil and a leadership shakeup, has reached out to followers to submit questions and raise concerns before next Tuesday’s Town Hall summit at 6 p.m. at Duthie Hill Lodge. Contact information is on the Evergreen Web site.

“We’ve received a great deal of input already, but I’d like to distill this into the core issues and be sure to cover them next Tuesday,” wrote board member Scott Edison in an e-mail to key Evergreen stakeholders.

Edison also noted there will be a ride at Duthie, where considerable trail work has been done recently, as well as a barbecue with food provided (people should bring their own beverages).

Edison noted the alliance already has received “a great deal of input,” including postings on the Yahoo! e-mail list as well as privately circulated group e-mails. Issues raised concern leadership, communication and advocacy, particularly on the wilderness front.

Some key points still to be addressed include:

Will John Lang, whose unexpected resignation takes effect on Tuesday, be replaced? As executive director, Lang oversaw progress on several fronts, particularly in reaching out to other trail groups and agencies. But paid talent comes at some expense, and the alliance is facing considerable financial challenges by the end of the year.

If Lang is replaced, how much will the membership be informed of the process and be able to provide input into the selection? Lang’s appointment in the spring of 2008 came as a surprise to the rank and file, in part because he was unknown in the mountain biking community. Whatever expertise and connections he brought to the job were overshadowed by questions over how much personal investment he had in the sport.

Fundraising: A crash fundraising appeal to members brought in $37,000 recently, but despite belt-tightening, finances remain a concern. Several ideas for fundraisers along the lines of organized rides and events have been suggested by members.

Communication: It’s been suggested that alliance leadership participate more in the Yahoo list and be more aggressive in inviting members to participate in decision-making, including attendance at board meetings. Interactive features on the Web site also could be a plus.

A new forum, GotSingletrack.com, has been started by Evergreen regulars Tim Banning and Erik Alston. Although not specifically an alliance endeavor, the forum addresses mountain biking issues and could play a strategic role in airing issues to a wider public.

The forum software also enables threaded discussions and archiving by topic as well as other features not possible in a Yahoo group.

Finally, what to do about alienated long-time members remains a pressing concern for the alliance. Several active and well-known BBTC icons have said they feel excluded and unwanted by club leadership. Drawing their expertise, networking capabilities, rolodex and popularity back into the mix has been raised as a key initiative facing the alliance.

A review of other issues in our report of July’s tumultuous board meeting.

Terrorism? Cyclists don’t need T-word to combat driver animosity

In Bicycle advocacy, Bicycle Commuting, Bicycling, Obama Bikes on August 20, 2009 at 7:11 am

Are car drivers anti-cycling “terrorists”? SeattleLikesBikes says yes, sometimes:

“Personally, my car was killing me before I started bicycling. The lack of exercise had me on track for a heart attack. I’ve made great strides, from being unable to climb 3 flights of stairs without being out of breath over 5 years ago to bicycling over 900 miles in the last couple months. The irony is that, despite my health gains, with the way some people drive the car may kill me yet.”

BikingBis discusses the horrific hit-and-run-with-dying-cyclist-on-board tragedy in Dallas, where a driver ran over a cyclist and then tossed the stricken victim into the back seat of his car: “The 27-year-old driver crossed the centerline, struck the bicyclist head-on, stopped, dragged him off his car and stuffed him onto the floorboard in the back seat.”

Cyclelicio.us asks if a Minnesota driver who “tried to run over a bicyclist with his pickup truck and then came at the cyclist with an ax” was engaged in terroristic threats, a felony. Good comments queue on Richard’s post.

These and innumerable everyday attacks on cyclists are indeed inhuman, cruel and even murderous. But terrorist? Probably not. The term should be used judiciously for repeated, conspiratorial and planned acts against humanity. The car culture in America may terrorize us cyclists in a general psychological way, but specific acts of violence against cyclists are more appropriately described and dealt with legally: Manslaughter, vehicular homicide, hit-and-run and so on.

The legal arena, in fact, is where there actually is room for expanded description and treatment of acts against cyclists. Legislation does not have to involve incendiary terms like “terrorism,” which takes the discussion into the realm of 9/11 and Oklahoma City, to provide an effective flashpoint of defense for cyclists.

One example: We at BikeIntelligencer believe that cycling should be considered for hate-crime status along with racial-, gender-, and sexual-identity-based aggression. In cases where there is a pattern of action against cycling or cyclists in general, and where perpetrators can be shown to carry severe antipathy toward cyclists just because they are riding a bike, the legal system should reflect a higher degree of prosecution and penalization.

The primary rationale for treating cyclists as a persecuted class would be to address the issue of driver animosity and raise our society’s general consciousness on the discrimination and aggression that cyclists face on a day-to-day, hour-by-hour basis. David Hiller, advocacy director for Seattle’s Cascade Bicycle Club, may well be right that drivers who hate cyclists are “people who hate people.” And there are a lot of the latter out there, as evidenced by the whackos waving swastikas and Hitler-moustached images of Obama at Town Hall meetings on health-care reform.

But people who hate people are a big problem for cyclists as well as for America. Passing enhanced legislation, as Hiller and other tireless crusaders for the cause of cycling are working to do, is the most effective means we have to further understanding, and protection, of people who ride bikes.

Most efforts now are focusing on 3-feet-please, legislation to expand the clearance that vehicles give to cyclists, and vehicular assault, laws that permit prosecution of drivers who act carelessly or aggressively toward cyclists. Several states are making strides, and even in cases like Texas, where Gov. Rick Perry vetoed a 3-feet-please law that had won an excruciatingly hard-fought victory in the state legislature, the seed has been sown. (A state legislator said she will reintroduce legislation after her cycling granddaughter was struck by a car.)

In Washington, vehicular assault and 3-feet-please legislation has been introduced in bills but never made it out of committee. As cycling continues to expand, both in recreational and transportation sectors, we need to continue to draw attention to anti-cycling behavior. Perhaps 2010 will mark the year when cycling makes encouraging inroads in the legislative arena to address the attitudes and hazards we all face on a daily basis.

Bikin’ Mike leads for mayor of Seattle!

In Bicycle advocacy, Bicycle Commuting, Obama Bikes on August 18, 2009 at 10:10 pm

With nearly half the ballots counted, “Mike Bikes” McGinn is the front-runner in the race for Seattle mayor, leading another challenger, Joe Mallahan, and incumbent Greg Nickels in a squeaky three-way dogfight separated by about 2 percentage points (and only around 1,000 votes) near the 25-percent mark.

Of the three, Mallhan is the most bike-unaware, although he seems teachable. In any case, Nickels is clearly finished as mayor of Seattle. Even if he makes it to the final, he stands to pull few voters from either Mallahan’s or McGinn’s camp to his side.

The cyclist dream final is Mike v. Greg. Both are strong cycling advocates, although McGinn wins on walking (riding?) the talk points. We at Bike Intelligencer have always felt that Nickels was in the game largely for political points and whatever extra funding comes with transportation projects featuring bike access as a strategic element.

Of course, if it is Mike v. Greg, then McGinn is in — for the statistical rationale expressed above.

At this point only Mike and his pollsters know the real reasons for his sudden surge in recent days, coming from a 9 percent margin to 16, then 18 and now near-27 front-running tally. A lot of it must have to do with McGinn’s people-to-people (word of mouth and word of Web) networking. The guy himself showed up at places like farmers’ markets, cycling festivals and civic events, doing the handshaking and button-holing thing. He had the social networking culture nailed.

When we posted fantasizing about having a mayor who actually commuted by bike, McGinn was quick to contact Bike Intelligencer for permission to link. I also volunteered to send a “Mike Bikes” message of endorsement out to around 1,500 names on various mailing lists I keep.

Over at SeattleLikesBikes, Michael Snyder did likewise, contacting around 2,600 folks by email. This isn’t easy stuff because ISPs limit the number of names you can include in an e-blast. But in the end, it has to be among the most effective ways to generate buzz and support for a candidate.

In any case, let’s hope the current trends stand through late absentee counts. If there is a big-city mayor who commutes by bike in the U.S., I’ve never heard of him or her. If McGinn’s a one and only, it can only mean good things for Seattle’s biking prospects and reputation.

Seattle Times election coverage. PI.com’s coverage.

Daily Roundup: Cranktrix, Lance to do Ironman, Riders Down, Texting while crashing

In Bicycling, Daily Roundup, Lance's Chances, Mountain Biking, Rider Down on August 18, 2009 at 9:34 pm

Great video of best tricks at Crankworx, with Greg Watts’ 360 whip and single flip whip losing out to Andreu Lacondeguy’s 360 flatspin seatgrab indian air. MTBR has more

Bicycle.net: Lance’s next throwdown: The Ironman triathlon in Kona. This is great stuff, bringing international attention to niche sports typically followed largely by the friends and families of participants. Should be great fun if he actually follows through!

FatCyclist talks about crashing at the Leadville 100. With all this guy has been through, including losing his wife recently to cancer, a header is about the last thing you’d wish on him. Better luck next year Elden!

Rider Down in West Seattle. You hate to hear the “life-theatening injuries” part…

The Stranger’s Dan Savage almost gets sideswiped by a woman texting while driving. I’m seeing so much of this bullshit that I’ve started screaming at the drivers to log off and drive! Dan includes pertinent video…

Daily Roundup: Old cyclist guys, Seattle Bike-In, David Byrne coming, Leadville & Crankworx wraps

In Bicycle Racing, Daily Roundup, Mountain Biking on August 17, 2009 at 10:39 pm

Today’s heroes: Septuagenarian cyclists still going strong, an inspiration to all of us callow sexagenarian cyclists.

Mark the calendar: Seattle Bike-In is this Sunday at Cal Anderson Park on Capitol Hill.

Cycle Killer, qu’est-ce que ce? On September 28, David Byrne will be at Town Hall with his new book, Bicycle Diaries. A $30 ticket gets you a copy of the book too…

Great video of Lance and Wiens at Saturday’s Leadville 100.

MTBR has roundup and Top 10 results.

A look back at the Top 10 reasons Wiens was sure to beat Lance.

Humble pie: Yeah I was wrong, Wiens couldn’t hang with Lance after all. Not a surprise, really, but wished it could’ve been a closer race. Sounds like Dave is hanging it up, so next year’s race (assuming Lance defends as he says he will and Levi can keep from breaking something) will be between Lance and Leipheimer. I’m going with Double L! Stay tuned!

Cyclelicious: Empire Grade Road closed due to fire. Richard is a roadie but notes the smoke covers huge mtb sections of the UC-Santa Cruz campus, Wilder Ranch and back down to Henry Cowell State Park. Let’s hope the disruption was only temporary. There’s not much else for mountain biking in that section of the Santa Cruz range.

Crankworx wrap: PinkBike has video of Greg Watts’ winning slopestyle run.

Mountain Bike Action has photos.

Sam Hill and Emmeline Ragot took top honors in the Canadian Open Downhill…with Seattle-based Evil’s Steve Smith taking a bronze. Smith has been putting in some standout results this season after signing with Evil, which was at Crankworx showing off some cool hardware. More later…

We close with a tantalizing thought. Jill Kintner creamed Emmeline Ragot in the “mini-Downhill” Grand Slalom at Crankworx. If Jill had run the Canadian Open Downhill and presumably won, it would’ve given her 3 golds (as well as a silver) for Crankworx 2009! We continue to suspect Jill (maybe nudged by BF Bryn Atkinson) will enter downhill comps some day soon…

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