Tips: Michael Shackleford, Roger
Baker, Michael Zakes
Contents From the Editor General Regional VEGAS: Pedicabs
to be banned U.S.: Cyclists
for Dean U.S.: TEA
party AUSTIN: Sprawl
mania AUSTIN: CAMPO
decides not to raid bike/ped funds Classifieds Car-Free World, a publication of and
©2004 by BicycleUniverse,
covers alternative transportation, especially
bicycling. No, we're
not naïve enough to think that everyone can do
without a car, but we do feel that people could
certainly use cars a lot less, which would result
in cleaner air, fewer deaths, stronger communities,
and a better quality of life. Articles are by the editor if uncredited.
Articles by others may have been edited for
grammar, clarity, conciseness, superstition, or
just for the hell of it.
From the Editor
VEGAS: Pedicabs to be banned
U.S.: Cyclists for Dean
U.S.: TEA party
AUSTIN: Sprawl mania
decides not to raid bike/ped funds
Car-Free World, a publication of and ©2004 by BicycleUniverse, covers alternative transportation, especially bicycling. No, we're not naïve enough to think that everyone can do without a car, but we do feel that people could certainly use cars a lot less, which would result in cleaner air, fewer deaths, stronger communities, and a better quality of life.
Articles are by the editor if uncredited. Articles by others may have been edited for grammar, clarity, conciseness, superstition, or just for the hell of it.
inventory at Waterloo ships to the 48 states for $40. Just
click to order. Inventory as of Jan. 12, 2004.
All bikes subject to prior sale, limited to stock
on hand, not responsible for typographical errors,
prices may change without notice, batteries not
Waterloo ships to the 48 states for $40. Just click to order.
Inventory as of Jan. 12, 2004. All bikes subject to prior sale, limited to stock on hand, not responsible for typographical errors, prices may change without notice, batteries not included.
From the Editor
Austinite Jeremiah Isaacs got
into the holiday spirit
Austinite Jeremiah Isaacs got into the holiday spirit
This follows the same path as the newsletter, which went from "Austin Bike News" to "Car-Free World" nearly two years ago. But someone unsubscribed from the newsletter not too long ago, saying the reason was that they'd moved out of Austin. That was disappointing because I've taken pains to make Car-Free World interesting and relevant regardless of where in the country (or maybe even the world) they live, but evidently not everybody has noticed, or at least agreed. Anyway, the new domain is part of the strategy of making clear that this stuff is for everyone, not just Austinites.
As part of a cultural exchange program (it's actually what marketers call a "cross-promotion", but "cultural exchange" sounds so much better), Car-Free World was recently advertised in an issue of The Wizard's News, a newsletter about Vegas and gambling, published by The Wizard of Odds. Basically, they mention my newsletter and I mention theirs. Their recent plug got us a bunch of new subscribers. So welcome, gambling people, hope ya like it.
So what are we all about? Are we so crazy we think that everyone can give up their cars? Hardly. We just think that cars are used way too much, and that that overuse has profound negative effects on our society -- air pollution, isolated communities, danger in getting around, wars over oil, economic enslavement (drive to work, work to drive), and corruption of local, state, and national governments. (Cars, oil, and roads are big business, and the desire to make money wins out over the greater public good time and again.)
Those are the obvious problems with cars, but some are not so obvious. America's obsession with the automobile means that we have a car culture, which introduces its own downsides. For example, at-fault motorists who injure or kill others are less likely to face penalties if the victim was a pedestrian or bicyclist. Hard to believe, but the facts speak for themselves. I can already hear a thousand mice clicking this window closed, but the truth isn't always pretty. Our job is to point out what's actually happening, even it's unpleasant. But we try to balance it with a fair amount of humor and interesting stories, so that the newsletter doesn't degrade into one big sheet of pessimism. Hopefully you'll like it. Our next reader didn't...
We don't please everyone. This came in in response to our recent article about the lack of justice afforded to cyclists and pedestrians. J. C. Bateman, Jr. writes:
Thanks for sharing your thoughts. I agree that nighttime cyclists without lights who get hit are at least partially at fault, I don't know why you'd think I'd feel otherwise. As for injustice in general, as I said in the newsletter, the facts about the lack of justice in car-bike collisions are a matter of public record. If you have a credible source that takes a contrary position I'd love to see it.
By the way, I don't ride at night without lights or multiple-abreast to the point that it blocks car traffic, nor do I ride on Critical Mass any more, if that makes you feel any better. Even if I did I'm not sure that would mean that it's okay for at-fault motorists to be unlikely to face penalties when they recklessly maim or kill pedestrians and cyclists.
By the way, as I write this I've just gotten word of a local cyclist who was beaten within an inch of his life and then left for dead last week. --Ed.
Update on CAMPO's raid on bike funds
Short answer: we won. Bike/Ped projects are preserved, at least for now. More details are in an article below.
Fans worldwide continue to translate our BicycleSafe.com into their local language -- or in some cases, into their local roadway style. Aussies and Brits ride on a different side of the road than most other countries, so we now have new British and Australian versions of BicycleSafe.com.
The Wisconsin State Journal points out that everyone is focused on the danger of drunk driving, while speeding is potentially an even bigger problem.
Yes, "everybody does it" - or at least 71 percent of licensed drivers, according to the American Automobile Association. Nationwide, 13,713 died last year in accidents caused by speeding. That's about 400 more fatalities than were caused by drunken driving in 2002.
While motorists scream and rant about the fact that some bicyclists run red lights (while ignoring the danger caused by other motorists running red lights), many of them think it's perfectly okay to find ways to cheat red lights themselves. WIRED magazine's Gadget Lab gave a gushing review to a black box that can change the traffic signal from red to green. The fact that the device is illegal didn't temper the writer's excitement over the product, other than to caution readers to try not to get caught using it.
With the MIRT (Mobile Infrared Transmitter) on my dashboard, traffic lights yield to my every whim! I jacked it into my cigarette lighter, hit the big green button, and the just-turned-red light on East Grand Avenue switched to green. I yelled "See ya later, 5UX0R5!" and rolled past confused, powerless commuters.
In the interest of full disclosure, I wrote a short piece for WIRED a few years ago. But mine was about household batteries, not breaking the law.
How do you express your frustration about Hummers, those behemoth road machines that are the ultimate testament to wastefulness and consumption? Well, one way is to take a picture of yourself flipping off a Hummer, and sending it to FUH2.com. I'm not sure it would make me feel better, but at least that option is available to those who want it.
We've been warning about the end of cheap oil for a while now. (Best estimates are for a permanent price surge some time before the end of the decade.) Ever since transportation activist Roger Baker turned us on to this idea many years ago the evidence has continued to pour in. The latest is an excellent piece in the U.K.'s Guardian, a condensed version of which appears below.
On Thursday, the government approved the development of the biggest deposit discovered in British territory for at least 10 years. Everywhere we are told that this is a "huge" find, which dispels the idea that North Sea oil is in terminal decline. You begin to recognise how serious the human predicament has become when you discover that this "huge" new field will supply the world with oil for five and a quarter days.
To the delight of local taxicab drivers, Las Vegas is moving to ban human-powered pedicabs. Cabbies cite the pedicabs as a "dangerous nuisance", a claim I find ironic since I can't count how many times a taxicab nearly ended my life early when I biked around Vegas last year. And it's really hard to imagine the threat posed by a vehicle that moves, at most, seven miles per hour. (full article)
By the way, I saw some similarities with Austin while in Vegas that kept me from being homesick, like seeing two black men arrested and in handcuffs for bicycling on the sidewalk.
UNITED STATES: Cyclists for Dean
While we're not really bowled over by Democratic presidential candidate Howard Dean, he certainly has some bicyclists behind him. A group called Cyclists for Dean is actively campaigning for the former Vermont governor, noting, among other things, that Dean's introduction to politics was his work as a citizen in getting a bicycle path built in Burlington.
TEA-21 is the federal legislation that funds surface transportation projects, and Congress is currently working on a new version. While few details are available yet on the direction that Congress is headed, we can make a safe prediction: Lots of money for highways and little for trains, bikes, peds, and everything else. We can also expect environmental considerations to be cast aside when there's a road project that lawmakers want to build.
Environmental Defense has a form on its website allowing visitors to send a message to Congress asking for some sanity in how federal transpo dollars are allocated. And the Washington Post has some more background on the issue.
U.S. Rep Bill Janklow (R-SD) was recently convicted of second-degree manslaughter for speeding through a stop sign and killing a motorcyclist. We covered the interesting circumstances surrounding his arrest in our Sept. 3 newsletter. At that time we pointed out Janklow's long history of speeding, and his unethical act as Governor of reducing the severity of speeding convictions, helping spare himself from losing his license.
The trial showed Janklow acting consistently with his past: a man who refuses to take responsibility for his actions. When our children misbehave, often our most fervent wish is that they simply acknowledge that they did something wrong. Even though the damage has been done, it pacifies us somehow if they own up to their mistakes. Why don't we expect the same of adults, especially elected officials? There was no doubt that Janklow recklessly killed the cyclist, so why didn't he own up to it? During the trial he argued that it somehow wasn't his fault that he recklessly killed another human being (because he was disoriented from being hungry) and even after his unanimous conviction he's asking the judge to set aside the guilty verdict.
Janklow certainly has his apologists. A ridiculous editorial in the Madison Daily Leader employed copious amounts of passive voice to carefully avoid any specific statement that Janklow had done anything wrong. They bemoan, quite passively, "the terrible tragedy" that ended Janklow's career, without mentioning that Janklow himself was responsible for that tragedy.
A recent survey showed that Austinites are overwhelmingly opposed to suburban sprawl and that they want growth to happen in existing areas rather than far-flung and often environmentally sensitive areas.
Then we see that all the neighborhood associations want to limit apartments, duplexes, and the height of buildings.
Maybe people don't get it, and don't realize that these goals are incompatible. You either have a dense central city, or you have sprawl. If the growth doesn't happen in the burbs then it has to happen in the urban core. But the citizens apparently think it's okay to oppose sprawl (and the congestion, pollution, and higher taxes that goes with it), while at the same time opposing plans to fit more people into existing neighborhoods.
You can't have your cake and eat it too, but that doesn't stop people from trying. A recent example was the opposition to the Villas project on Guadalupe, opposed by the neighbors and vilified by the same progressive lefties who also decry sprawl. Okay, the Villas definitely pulled some questionable political strings to get their project built, but the project itself is exactly the kind of development that's an alternative to sprawl.
In fact, there is one neighborhood association in Austin that welcomes increased density. What's different about them? It's the West Campus group (University Area Partners), where most of the property owners are investors who don't actually live where the denser housing will go. They want denser housing so they have more units to rent out so they can make more money.
A reader, Howard Lenett, makes some observations about sprawl:
In today's [Austin-American] Snakesman we find a letter from an reader who writes that "this is Texas," the land of plenty of room, and how dare these intellectual liberals from up east come tell us to live in urban centers. We need to raise our kids in "quiet" suburbs with lots of fresh air and room to play. He even goes on to mention how Texas parents don't want their kids learning to play stickball on the streets in front of high rise buildings.
In the last several newsletters we'd warned that CAMPO was planning to raid funds for bicycle and pedestrian projects and spend it on car-oriented projects instead. We set up a form on our website so you could email CAMPO members and ask them to not do that.
Amazingly, we won. Sure, hundreds of you wrote in, but that doesn't mean that CAMPO had any obligation to listen to us. Politicians, especially local politicians, frequently vote in direct opposition to what the overwhelming majority of the public feedback says. But in any event, this time we won. Bike/ped funding is safe, for now. Pat yourselves on the back for doing your part to demand transportation-related fiscal sanity from our leaders.
Below are some of the comments sent to CAMPO using our mail-in form.
I'm a member of Austin's Urban Transportation Commission. When you total all funding of local transportation, bike/ped projects receive less than one percent of the total. The 15% set-aside in this one category of federal funds provides roughly half that amount. Touching it in order to build even more roadways is an insult to the claim that your group is promoting alternative transportation.
I design bridges for a living. I also believe strongly in the benefits of increasing mixed-mode transportation. One might presume these two facts place me in a personal quandary on the CAMPO 15% Bike/Ped funding issue, but in fact this issue seems pretty straightforward to me. A little goes a long way when you are designing and building bike paths, striping roadways for bikes, and building sidewalks. It only goes 3/4 of a mile if you transfer the funding towards FM 2769. It's miles and miles of safe routes to schools and places of work for the bicycling and walking public vs. a 45-second long stretch of FM roadway. We need more roads, but not at the expense of bicyclists and pedestrians. Please keep what little funding that is there in place.
Please think about the bigger picture. Cars are so stupid. So, so, so stupid. Not that I don't drive a car. I do. It's just that if it's too easy to drive a car, none of us will ever get out of the habit. It's already way too easy for car drivers. Please think in a new way and don't throw money away for projects that ultimately threaten the well-being of your children, your grandchildren, and generations to come. We are not in that great a need that we need to be selfish about these poor people who will come after us.
While many of the roads through Austin are pretty hostile towards cyclists, even those with bicycle lanes are often quite rough. If cyclists and motorists are to ever get along they need to work together which would be a lot easier if cyclists had their own lanes so they weren't seen as impeding traffic. Additionally, there is a growing concern over the obesity of America's children. It seems as though sending children to school on bicycles and encouraging physical exercise would help combat this problem. However, to do so the routes must be safe. Please dedicate more time and money towards making Austin a bicycle friendly city.
And a letter from a reader in Wisconsin:
I understand a bit about your money problems. We fought 10 years to get $325k for the Fox River Trail, which counts 250,000 a year now. Right after that, The Green Bay Packers asked then-Gov. Tommy Thompson(R) for $9.5 Million to re-do the parking lot at Lambeau Field, and There Are No Bike Racks There Either! Then they asked for $4.2 Million to re-do 1 mile of street in front of the stadium. They got the money in less than 24 hours. Ain't it wonderful? Still no bike racks or bike lanes near the Stadium.
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That's all, thanks for reading!