Friday, February 29, 2008

Sharing the Road

It's been a while since I've gotten a good ride in, I've been on jury duty. Nothing like a week long trial to eat up your riding time. All the time off the bike has me thinking and reading about being on the bike.

I’ve been a little shocked lately to see some comments on various sites about bike car interaction.

"I have a real problem with cyclist having the same rights as I do as a motorist."

"It only makes sense to ride on a busy arterial if you can keep pace with traffic.'

"In the meantime you're holding up traffic, wasting a huge amount of other road users' time and gas, and put your life (and others') at risk…"

"…if you can't do the speed limit on a bike down busy arterials with no bike lane, its not a good idea to be there…"

"It is an irresponsible act to attempt to increase ridership when it is impossible to protect either physically or through proper enforcement those you are encouraging to ride"

"Common Sense", would have had you pull over to the side of the road."

"…dude...slide over..stop..let the guys pass and ride on..."

The shocking thing is that all these comments were made by "cyclists" or people who claim to be cyclists. Which got me to thinking…

What does it mean to share the road?

Well the Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines share as: to partake of, use, experience, occupy, or enjoy with others.

To me it means everyone on the road follows the rules of the road set forth in the statutes and we all have our piece of the road. Some cyclists, (yes I said cyclists) would have us believe that sharing the road is climbing a snowbank or taking a major detour from our route if there are vehicles behind us who are impatient.

If a cyclist has to leave the roadway to ensure that a motor vehicle can pass by 10 seconds quicker, that by definition is not "sharing" the road it is relinquishing the road. If the cyclist is no longer using the same road as the driver, by definition it cannot be sharing the road with the driver.

Now I’m not advocating riding where you have a right to, even if it’s dangerous to do so. If there is a dangerous vehicle around and you can safely leave the roadway. That’s probably not a bad idea. I’d also call the police once I got off the road as well.

The largers issue is, if we as cyclists don’t act like vehicles, that are entitled to use the road, we will not be treated as such. Whether it’s the scofflaw racer who blows a stop sign or the unsure commuter who apologetically limps onto the ditch, snowbank or shoulder, motorists will expect other cyclists to do the same.

I have heard recently that by "taking" my portion of the road, I’m selfishly hurting the cause of cyclists rights. I’ve also heard that if I anger motorists by pursuing legal action, they will dislike bike riders even more. Of course I’d like for all my interactions with drivers to be positive, but sometimes drivers have other ideas. Based on my interaction with motorists against whom I’ve pursued legal action, these drivers weren’t going to have warm fuzzy feelings toward cyclists any time soon no matter what I did. If whatever reprimand they get as a result of my actions causes them to not buzz cyclists again for fear of the consequences, I’ve succeeded in changing their behavior, and I care more about their behavior than their feelings.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Ask and You Shall Receive

Many of you have been asking for info on how I set up my cameras. Here is a quick video with some written instructions. I use the Oregon Scientific ATC2K camera. I have one facing forward and one facing the rear. The rear facing camera is mounted either on the drops of my road bike or on the bar end of the mtb. I mount it on top of the bar so I can work the controls without removing the camera. I use a piece of pipe insulation to cushion the camera where it contacts the bar and some other dense foam under the camera to get the angle I want. I attach both cameras with velcro. The camera comes with a short velcro strap and I bought some velcro from the local craft store, or Walmart. I also use a piece of rubberized stuff to keep the whole thing from slipping. I've seen this stuff used under carpets as well as cabinet liners and placemats. I record at the medium resolution and the 30frames per second and get about and hour and 45 minutes per 2 gig card. good luck and let me know if you get any good videos.

Sunday, February 10, 2008

Velonews response

I've received quite a response since Velonews published the article about my snow plow incident.

I want to thank everyone for checking out the blog and leaving comments. For those interested in my camera setup, I’ll try and get a tutorial put together in the next week or so. There are a few things that need to be said about the comments. Some of my thoughts are about the content of the comments and some are about the tone of the comments.

First the tone of the comments.

I started this blog with the 2 main goals. The first was to affect positive changes in the way motorists and cyclists interact on the roads. The second was to share fun experiences my cycling friends and I have on the bike.

In furthering my first goal, I assumed that there would eventually be some discussion in the form of comments regarding my using cameras and pursuing citations where appropriate. There has been constructive discussion, but there have also been unfounded assumptions, name calling and unsubstantiated rumors. I will not post any comments containing the latter.

Second, regarding the content of the comments.

The main criticism I’ve heard is that I should have moved over to let the plow pass. I believe I took the safe and appropriate action by continuing on my ride. The reason is simple. I had no idea what the plows intentions were. He could have been turning right at the first light, he could have been preparing to make a u-turn or turn at an upcoming intersection. In all of these cases, my pulling off the road may very well have put me in greater danger. I would also like to point out that I was going the same speed as the other cars on the road at the time so I was not slowing the plow down. There was a stretch of road about a 1/8th of a mile ahead with little or no traffic and no snow due to a different city’s salting operation, so the plow had an easy place to pass me if he had just waited 10 seconds to do so.
Also, every piece bike safety literature I’ve ever seen says the safest way to ride is to be predictable. That is what I did. It was easy to predict my path because it was the same as it had been from the time I first encountered the plow. If I had tried to pull off to the side and hit a patch of ice, (there were large patches of bumpy ice from a previous storm) my path would have been anything but predictable.

The larger point isn’t whether I used the proper common sense in riding as I did, it’s whether the driver broke the law and endangered my life in the process. He did.
If the drivers violation had been running a red light and he had come within inches of hitting a grandmother in a cross walk coming home from the bus stop, the video would have made national newscasts and there would be calls for the driver to be fired. But because his violation of the law put a cyclist at risk, some believe that it is the person behaving legally who has to modify his behavior to accommodate the person violating the law. That view is completely ridiculous
I’ve heard that my lights were insufficient and the driver couldn’t see me because of blowing snow. I’d like to know how someone could know the brightness of my lights from reading the column or my blog? At the time of the incident it was snowing lightly to moderately and there was almost no wind. I believe the driver saw me because he told me to get off the road.

Lastly I’d like to talk directly to Mr. Anonymous who commutes 70 miles a day. I didn’t call you out for posting anonymously, it was another persons comments. I will happily post anonymous comments as long as they meet the above mentioned criteria. You certainly seem to lose a little credibility though, when you post misdirected defensive comments. I don’t think myself a primadona, I began this activity not to draw attention to myself, but to the cause of bike safety. And yes Jeff is my real name, try googling it. I’m not ashamed to put my name in front of the cause of bike safety. I am a good ambassador for the sport. The only time I yell is at the point I’m about to get hit. I yell instead of using a horn.
Stay safe
Ride on

Friday, February 1, 2008

$186 and 3 points

That's what Mr. SUV's attitude cost him. The Waukesha Deputy called me back to let me know that he issued a citation for improperly passing a bike. This is the first citation anyone has issued since I've started using the camera.
I honestly was going to ask him nicely to give cyclists more room next time. He gave me attitude, so the Deputy gave him a ticket.
It is not nessecarily my goal to get people tickets, but if that's the only way they will understand and follow the law, that's what I'll push for.
More thoughts on this later.