In 1997, following thefact that a drunk motorist who killed a cyclistdidn'teven get a ticket for his crime, David Fosterorganized a bike ride to give local electedofficials an opportunity to show support forbicycle transportation, and to provide anopportunity for cyclists and elected officials toshare concerns and ideas. The ride, which becameknown as the Political Pedal, has happened inAustin every May since then, with incumbentcouncilmembers and candidates participating in theride. Congressman Lloyd Doggett (D-TX) has alsoparticipated. This year's ride is scheduled forFriday, May 16, beginning at 8th and Congress at4:30 PM. Riders will go to the Capital for afew short speeches, then proceed to an as yetundetermined site for a Bicycle Happy Hour. Doggetthas once again agreed to participate, and councilmembers and other elected officials has beeninvited. (Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org))
AUSTIN:Deathof the local bike movement?
Ten years ago, there was nopractically no bicycle movement in Austin. Therewas no Critical Mass, no city Bicycle Programoffice, no radio show, no Yellow Bike Project, noBicycle Month celebration,and no website. Thensuddenly, within four years, we had all thosethings. Each new milestone and project seemed tospawn another.
And now things seem to be dyingdown again. Reportedly only three people showed upfor the last Critical Mass ride. And this May isthe first time in years that a Bike Month programhasn't been actively planned and carried out.
Why did this happen? Well, it'scommon for activists to move on. (For me, facedwith the need to earn an income I've limited myactivities to maintaining the website andpublishing this newsletter. Others have limitedtheir activities or dropped out altogether.) Butusually those who move on in some movement arereplaced by a new, often younger, more enthusiasticcrowd. It just didn't happen in this case.
Things aren't completelydead, of course, but it's nothing like the glorydays of the mid-90's. And there's no reason itcan't happen again, if some committed people decideto throw themselves into it.
Below, Eric Anderson shareshis frustration with the fact that the communityfailed to put on a Bike Month this year.
To my knowledgethere will be no Bike Month Full Moon Bike Ride.In fact, there will likely not be any Bike Monthevents this year other than a probableWheatsville Bike Swap (date unknown) and thePolitical Pedal ride.
I am sorry to sharethis depressing reality of our Austin bicyclescene, but leading bicycle organizations havenot regarded Bike Austin! Month events as apriority, in spite of their past participationand some great ad-hoc community leadership bypeople like Katherine Otto inparticular.
I am perplexed by thedisinterest of Austin bicycle organizations insuch a no-brainer as an annual celebration ofbicycling. No wonder achieving barrier crossingsof 290 or 183, finishing the Pfluger Bridge, ora Nueces Bike Boulevard (etc., etc.) all remaindistant goals fraught with imponderablecomplexities, rather than immediate prioritiesbacked up by a broad-based coalition of bicycle,neighborhood and accessibilityconstituencies.
Someday perhaps thiswill all change, finally allowing Austin anhonest claim as a top-rated bicycling city.Until then, we can look forward to an everplummeting modal-split and ever more circularconversations.
San Antonio:Thong-wearingcyclist annoyspark-goers
Readers of this newsletterknow of my interest in that strange intersection ofbicycling and nudity. Here's another case of thoseconcepts colliding, courtesy of the San AntonioExpress news:
SanAntonio Park Police have received severalcomplaints over the past month about a man whocruises on a bicycle wearing only shoes and athong -- a swimsuit or undergarment that doesn'tcover the buttocks. Though he appears nearlynaked from time to time, Joseph Gottschalk islegally covered. According to state law, nooffense is committed if the man has 'his anusand genitals' covered, Castro said. Which thethong does, if nothing else. Gottschalk, 52, anunemployed truck driver who dabbles incarpentry, is aware of his rights and comparesriding nearly naked to driving the maximum legalspeed limit. (readwhole article)
Texas:Bicycliststo be driven off the road byredistricting
It's an old politicalgame: Politicians redraw the district maps tosecure their power. If Party A is in power andParty B has a large base of support in a certainarea, then Party B draws a line right through themiddle of it when redistricting to break it up.Presto: The supporters of Party B in that area havenow been divided into two separate districts,diluting their voting power.
That's what the Republicans are doing right nowin the Texas Congress. Austin's U.S.representative, Democrat Lloyd Doggett, may soon beout of a job. That's too bad, because Doggett hasbeen a strong supporter of bikes, riding withcyclists on the Political Pedal rides, and evenriding his bike to work at the Capitol inWashington. And the Texas legislators about toredistrict him into oblivion are those likeRepublican Senator Jeff Wentworth, the subject ofan ethics investigation, who in the last sessionintroduced a bill that would have banned cyclistsfrom the roads in certain conditions and whichwould have required cyclists to wear slow-movingemblem triangles. (The bill died in committee,thankfully.) (Readan article about the redistrictingmess)
NEW YORK:BikeLoop aroundManhattan
From the New York Times:"In its modest way, it has been a quest asirrepressible as sailing a ship around the globe.New York's Magellans on bicycles have long yearnedto complete a loop of Manhattan Island. The chiefobstacle has always been that Manhattan's shores,unlike those, say, of Paris, were designed forcommerce and commuting, and only in a few patchesfor pleasure. But slowly, the city has been hackingout a trail from the jungle of piers, railroadtracks, highway ramps, factories and scrap heapsthat ring Manhattan. By this fall, the Departmentof Parks and Recreation hopes to carve out (or inparts mark out) a 32-mile circuit that will takebikers from the Battery up the West Side, past theGeorge Washington Bridge almost to the northern tipof Manhattan, then down the Harlem and East Riversand back to the Battery." (readwhole article)
CHINA:What'sit like to cycle inChina?
Riley Geary shares hisexperiences on the Chinese bicycle culture of atwo-month trip there. He describes what kinds ofbicycles the Chinese ride, how they ride intraffic, how they deal with repairs, and more. Aninteresting look at Chinese bike culture. Read thearticle at: ChineseBicycles and the Cycling Experience.
Fueleconomy hits 22-year low
U.S. fuel economy hit its lowestpoint in 22 years. While it may be tempting toblame the big bad George W., that would be lazy:Bush is simply continuing the policies of theClinton administration. Fuel economy improved underNixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, and Bush Sr., and thencame to a grinding halt with the Clintonpresidency.
It's also tempting to lay the restof the blame on the automakers. But the fact is,they make more efficient cars, Americans justaren't buying them. Ultimately, the largest shareof the blame must go to those buying and drivingthe inefficient cars: the citizenry.
Here's a NewYork Times article on thistopic.
National surveyof bicycling and walking yields nosurprises
A new survey by the U.S.Department of Transportation finds that Americansdon't walk or bicycle very much. Fewer than 30% ofAmericans ride a bike even once during the summermonths. (readthe article)
City, suburbandesigns could be bad for your health
From USA Today:
Why don't Americans walk anywhere?
Old answer: They're lazy.
New answer: They can't.
There is no sidewalk outside the front door,school is 5 miles away, and there's a six-lanehighway between home and the supermarket. Manyexperts on public health say the wayneighborhoods are built is to blame forAmericans' physical inactivity -- and theresulting epidemic of obesity. (readarticle)
Dealing withaggressive motorists
advice from the email list
Michael Zakes writes:
When motorists honk or yell at me, Iwave at them like they're my best friend that Ihaven't seen in years. The more they honk, themore I wave. if nothing else it confuses thehell out of them since they aren't getting thedesired response of pissing me off.
That's a great tip, thanks. On Fridayon my way home from work I got honked at forbeing on the road, so I grinned and wavedhappily. This morning on my way to work apassenger in the car passing me yelled out thewindow for me to get off the road and onto thesidewalk. Again, I smiled happily, yelled hello,and waved vigorously.
I felt good and arrived at my destinationrelaxed and calm. This solution is great,especially for those situations where you reallydon't get an opportunity to inform and educateanyway. If a car is moving past me at anywherefrom 30-45 miles per hour, I only have a splitsecond to make an impact, so it's not realisticfor me to start my dissertation on cyclists'rights and the law. It's much more fun for me toenjoy myself, and also cause them to wonder -just why is she so happy when I yelled ather...hmmm...maybe there is something to being acrazy cyclist!
Fred Meredith writes:
If the motorist is still within earshotafter they yell at you, then smile, wave, andshout, "Hey, say Hi to your cousin, I haven'tseen (him or her) lately." It might drive themcrazy trying to figure out who you are and howyou know them.
Personally, I have tried to curb my habit ofgiving the finger or any negative gesture to amotorist who is in my way or seemingly actinglike a jerk. What if I flip the bird and thenrealize it is my aunt, uncle or cousin. Thatmight be embarrassing.
Lance Armstrongpushes SUV's
In a move that doesn't surprise us atall, sports cycling celebrity Lance Armstrong isgetting $12 million to push Subarus, includingSUV's. (readarticle)
Are bike lanesalways the answer?
Bike advocateTommy Eden is pushing for bike lanes to bestriped on the major downtown streets ofGuadalupe and Lavaca in Austin, Texas. Here atCar-Free World we like bike lanes, if for noother reason that we know that more people wouldride bikes if there were more bike lanes. Butthese posts to a local email list show that evencyclists have some reservations about bike lanes-- both on these streets specifically, and ingeneral. This is certainly food for thought forthose advocating for bike facilitieselsewhere.Questioning thesafety of bicyclelanes by Fred Meredith,May 1, 2003
You may FEEL safer, but it may be a false senseof security. The only thing that is going toactually make you safer on those streets is how youand the other road users behave....
If the bike lane is painted to the intersection,are you going to stay in it if you go straightacross the intersection?
What should the car turning at that intersectiondo? Should he/she come over into the bike lane tomake the turn? Do they know that?
Are you going to stay in the bike lane if it isright next to parked cars [any one of whichcould open its door in your path]? If cars areparked on the left side of a one-way street andthere is a bike lane on the left side, are therespecial considerations you should keep in mind?
Why is the bike lane any safer than being out inthe middle of the traffic lane? There are lots ofother lanes for the rest of the road users, whyshouldn't you have one? If you feel unsafe in atraffic lane, then maybe you need moreexperience/practice/or something. Maybe lessparanoia.Questioning theimportance of bike lanes on Guadalupe &Lavaca by Mike Dahmus,April 30, 2003
[This is what Mike Dahmus submittedto the Austin City Council.]
I'm a part-time cyclist and part-time driver whosits on the UTC with Tommy, and I respectfullydisagree with his position on bicycle lanesdowntown. Due to work and childcare issues, I won'tbe able to speak at the meeting. I believe theposition I hold represents fairly well theperspective of the cyclists who operate outside theimmediate center-city area, as well as theperspective of cyclists who also drive. I wouldwager that relatively few of those people will beable to speak at the meeting either; and thus, youmay be getting a fairly non-representative sampleof opinion. My bicycle route to work currentlytakes me down Guadalupe in the morning and upLavaca in the evening; so I feel quite qualified toassess the route's usability compared to thesuburban routes I've had to take to work at varioustimes.
More in-depth discussion why I think this is abad idea was already posted to the austin-bikeslist, and is available upon request; I havecondensed to the essential minimum here:
1. The bicyclist in question (whose death is theimpetus for this move) was riding on the sidewalk,even though he was supposedly an expert cyclist. Wecannot protect cyclists who ought to know betterfrom their own bad decisions. Additionally, thiswas at night; and he may not have had lights.
2. Guadalupe and Lavaca's automobile traffic iscurrently slow enough that most national bikefacilities experts would not recommend even a wideoutside lane as an appropriate bicycle facility,much less bike lanes. Traffic is held to a maximumof 25 mph (usually much slower) by signalization;which is a perfectly adequate speed for adultcycling in traffic.
3. Bike lanes on one-way streets with shortblocks present additional problems with turning atintersections (not my contribution; but I thinkit's a valid issue).
4. Nearby parallel routes exist with very lightautomobile traffic (nearby meaning less than 3blocks away).
5. Our city's bicycle funding and 'attention'should be spent where the biggest problems are -the outlying parts of the city of Austin (whereparallel routes as in #4 are miles rather thanblocks away).
6. More practically, it is a bad idea to pushfor a plan which results in the loss of a car laneor a parking lane downtown; this will result inbacklash which could impact other, more worthy,bicycle projects in the future.
As a cyclist and a driver, I ask you not tosupport a move which would install bicycle lanes onGuadalupe and Lavaca.
Thanks for your time,
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