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Car-Free World
alternative transportation news & views

Dec. 5, 2003
Email Us | BicycleSafe | BicycleAustin
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Tips: Patrick Goetz, Fred Meredith, Michael Zakes, Dan Connelly, Dick Ryan, Jeff Thorne
Editor: Michael Bluejay


From the Editor

Update on CAMPO's raiding of bike funds

Freeway Blogger

Cost of driving correction

Cross-promotion with WizardOfOdds.com


Bikers vs. Zombies

Car addiction a threat to children

At-Fault drivers get off the hook for killing peds

Triggering traffic signals

Kyoto global warming treaty all but dead

U.S. & SUV's: A deadly combination

Cars slower than you think



SPAIN: Naked rides

TORONTO: Critical Mass photos

AUSTIN: CAMPO's raiding of bike funds


Bikes for sale

Car-Free World, a publication of and ©2003 by BicycleAustin.info, 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.

CFW is published sporadically, and may be discontinued at any time without notice. We currently have over 800 subscribers. Here are links to subscribe or unsubscribe.

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.


Bikes for sale

KHS Flite 500 road bike, $400. Excellent shape--ridden less than 200 miles. Shimano 105/Tiagra components, Rolf Vector wheels, 56cm Reynolds 520 steel frame. Call 472-8604 or e-mail   09-03

VooDoo Bokor mountain bike, $450. Deore XT components, White Industries rear hub, Judy Rock Shox fork, Sugino 900 cranks. krsbrns(at)yahoo.com 8-03

Send us your bike ad and we'll post it. Ads are FREE for individuals and run for at least four months or until you tell me to remove it. Please keep it to four lines, don't write a novel. :)

Used inventory at
Waterloo Cycles

Waterloo ships to the 48 states for $40. Just click to order.

ATB/Mountain Bikes
$169 Nishiki Pueblo 19"
$199 GT Palomar 20"
$219 Trek 830 14", w/24" wheels
$369 Haro Extreme Comp 19.5"
$399 KHS Montana Comp 19"
$399 Diamondback Response 14"
$449 Diamondback Response Elite 20"
$549 Kona Lava Dome 20"
$699 Cannondale F400 21"
$699 Kona Sex One 20"

$179 Univega Activa 200 17L
$269 Sun Marathon 17L

Road Bikes
$ 99 Alpine Sporten 15"G
$149 Maruishi RX-3 21"
$399 Specialized Allez 53cm
$499 Giant OCR3 small
$499 Specialized Sirrus 58cm
$599 Diamondback Expert 58cm
$599 KHS Aero Turbo 54cm
$699 Bianchi Campione 54cm
BMX/Kids' Bikes
$99  Schwinn Aerostar
$129 Diamondback Impression

$950 $599 Kona Caldera 20"
$1050 $629 Kona Muni-Mula 21"
$1700 $999 Kona Explosif 18"
$1500 $899 Kona Mano Mano 14"

Inventory as of Oct. 5, 2003. All bikes subject to prior sale, limited to stock on hand, not responsible for typographical errors, prices may change without notice, batteries not included.

Easy Street Recumbents

Recumbent bicycle sales, service, and rental for Austin. Free Urban Cycling classes with your purchase of a bike.

click to visit


Guide to Cheap Airfare
Easy digital camera software
Search for medical jobs
Online casino games

Drive to work, work to drive.

From the Editor

Update on CAMPO's raid on bike funds

    As usual, the big update on CAMPO's planned raiding of Central Texas bike funds is at the end of this newsletter, but here's a summary:

  • Bike & ped projects are indeed on the chopping block. Staff's recommendation is to cut bike & ped funding in half, killing off the Upper Boggy Creek Bikeway and miles and miles of sidewalks, and instead blow $4.1 million on FM 2769.
  • The meeting where this gets decided one way or the other is still set for Mon., Dec. 8th. If you live in Central Texas and haven't yet let your legislators know how you feel, please use our handy form to do so. The ACA removed their form because the public comment period was over, but we think you should be able to talk to your legislators whenever you want, so our form is still up.

Freeway blogger

    In our last issue we reported on anti-car and anti-war signs being put up along California's freeways, which are chronicled on NobodyDied.com. (See example at right.) We neglected to mention another fine site chronicling these signs: FreewayBlogger.com.

Cost of driving

    This is what I get for doing some of the calculations in my head. In the last issue we reported that investing the money saved by not having a car at 8% from ages 25 to 67 would yield over a million dollars. In fact, it would yield 2.3 million dollars! (Okay, so inflation reduces that to about $638,000 in today's dollars. It's still a hell of a lot of money.) In this issue we'll look at how fast a car actually goes after you convert money into time.

Cross-Promotion with the Wizard of Odds

    I'm doing a cross-promotion with my friend Michael Shackleford, better known as the gambling expert the Wizard of Odds. Some of you will be surprised that I have a friend who's proud to profess his right-wing politics but hey, I don't tell you how to choose your friends. Anyway, I'm mentioning his newsletter in my newsletter, and he's mentioning mine in his. The Wizard's News contains gambling tips, exclusive online gaming offers, and news about Vegas. It's a complement to the top-rated website WizardOfOdds.com. You can sign up for The Wizard's News here.

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Bikers vs. Zombies

    Cycle Messengers for World Domination (CMWD) had this to say about the zombie film 28 Days Later:

Apparently the lead character in 28 Days Later is a bike messenger, before he wakes up and finds that he's the last man on earth. Only having seen the television ads, where the dude is wandering along with a shopping bag, CMWD wants to ask: if you were a messenger, and you were alone in the city, wouldn't your first stop be the local bike shop, where you'd hook up with a sweet-ass ride and just, you know, ride away from the flesh-eating viral zombies?

Car addiction a threat to children

    A website called TheAnti-Drug.com parodies anti-drug materials by pointing out the addictive nature of automobiles and their threat to human health, especially where children are concerned. The feature "Kids and Cars: Not a harmless high" includes testimonials such as these:

Car User Tells Kids It Will Destroy Your Life
I've been driving for 20 years. I wish I never started. It destroys your body little by little. If you're a kid and reading this, start learning how to live car-free now, you'll thank me later.
Teen Tells Parents All Types of Kids Drive
I'm not a parent but a 17 year old high school student. I want to tell everyone that there is no one certain group or clique that uses cars. My high school is small (about 650 kids) and, no exaggeration here, the majority of the students are "into" cars. It's not just the "skaters", the "punks' or the "white trash", its EVERYBODY. Almost all of the jocks drive, the prom queen, the cheerleaders, and nobody pays any attention because they think that only the "bad kids" drive. The preppy rich kids with the good grades and perfect home lives are no exception. Even the cops' kids drive. I know, I've been in a car with the son of the chief of police. So if you think your child is not the type to get sucked into the dangerous car-culture by peer-pressure, you'd better think again, because there is no certain type.

Our favorite bit was the commercial "Okay" about how drug money funds terrorists, cleverly edited to be about how oil money funds terrorists. (see MPG commercial)

At-fault drivers get off the hook for killing cyclists & pedestrians

    One thing that got me into anti-car activism was the 1996 case in which bicyclist Tom Churchill was killed by a drunk driver. The driver got no fine or jail time, and not even a traffic ticket for his crime. I came to find out that this case wasn't unusual -- motorists are less likely to suffer a penalty if they kill a pedestrian or cyclist instead of another motorist. I started keeping track of some of these cases, documenting them on BicycleAustin.info and reporting about them on the radio program I hosted at the time. I got flack for saying that the lack of justice for cyclists was a civil rights issue, and more than one person thought I was going "too far" by seeing persecution wherever I looked.

    But the truth is that the injustice is there whether we admit it or not. I'm simply one of the people who's pointing it out. And I believe more firmly than ever that when your killer is less likely to be penalized because group you belong to (e.g., blacks, gays, or pedestrians & bicyclists), that's exactly what a civil rights issue is.

    When the driver who ran a red light and killed cyclist Ben Clough in Austin didn't even get a ticket for her crime, more than one cyclist here opined that the best way to avoid getting a ticket for running a red light was to kill a cyclist while you're doing so. The thing is, it's not just happening here. A new study by the Silicon Valley Bicycle Coalition in California claims that three out of four at fault drivers were never even cited for hitting and killing pedestrians. (The study also showed that 22% of fatal pedestrian crashes involved hit and run drivers. It's sobering to look around and think that 22% of the people you see around you wouldn't even stop if they hit you.) Similar story in New York: RightOfWay.org reports that drivers are at fault in 70% of cyclist deaths and 92% of pedestrian deaths there. And 74% of them didn't even get a traffic ticket. (Incidentally, Right of Way also reports that in over 90% of pedestrian fatalities the driver is male. So much for the stereotype about incompetent female drivers.)

    The fact that injustice is widespread isn't surprising. I explore the reasons for this in my Why no justice? article, but the main reason is simple enough: The cultural bias against non-drivers, conscious or subconscious, is all it takes to keep the various actors in the criminal justice system from aggressively prosecuting our killers.

    I gave up aggressively researching injustice cases years ago because it took too much time and frankly I wasn't seeing that it was making any difference. Maybe I made a few more people aware of the problem, but the problem was still there. These days I usually update the No Justice? section of the website only when someone forwards a case to me that's already fairly well documented in other media. Seeing this research by the East and West Coast groups validates the message I've been preaching, but it puts me in a conflicted position: On the one hand I'd like to feel good that my claims about cycling injustice have been substantiated credibly by others. But can I feel good knowing that the existence of injustice is very real and widespread?

    So what to do? I don't have any easy answers, but I have a suggestion for where to start: The next time a cyclist or pedestrian is killed by an at-fault motorist in your community, do something about it. There are many things you can do, limited only by your creativity. In St. Louis, people are painting entire bicycles solid white and leaving them at locations where cyclists have been killed by cars. (website) This doesn't bring back the dead, and it doesn't guarantee that the motorist faces justice, but it's a bold interjection into a culture that turns a blind eye to the carnage caused by cars. We can't open the nation's eyes about this overnight, but we can open them one person at a time.

Triggering traffic signals

In a previous issue we reported on one rider's attempts to use magnets to trigger traffic light sensors. In response we got this message from an engineer who designs traffic light sensors:

I read your article on triggering traffic signals with a bicycle and would like to tell you a few facts about vehicle detectors as I am a designer of these units. Firstly, magnets have no effect at all on loop detectors (unless of course the magnet is so big that it acts more like a big mass of metal.) If you want to trigger the traffic lights with 100% certainty, simply get off the bike and lay the front wheel of the cycle flat over the loop towards one corner for a second or two. The rim of a cycle wheel acts like a big short circuited turn of wire and used in this way will produce a bigger signal than most automobiles do. The reason for this is that you can place your wheel flat on the ground so that it is about 10 x closer to the loop than most automobiles can reach. -- Graham Lill, Dept. of Infrastructure, Energy, & Resources, Tasmania
Graham wrote back in May 2004 to add the following:
Further to my earlier note, I have been alerted to the fact that bicycles are now available that use plastics and carbon fibre etc instead of metal. If anyone has such a bicycle then it would be a simple matter to install a single turn of copper wire around the rim and solder the ends together in order to make the wheel detectable when laid over a loop. If you put this under the inner tube, take care to remove any sharp ends and also cover the join with tape or heat shrink sleaving. The size of wire is not critical but don't use anything as thin as bell wire, something more like one of the conductors from an appliance cord or even automotive wire would be fine. There is nothing magical about putting the wire loop in the wheel, it could also be attached to the triangular frame of a plastic bike and be quite effective so long as that part of the bike is placed flat over the loop. I don't know what American practice is regarding loop detectors, passage detectors only require a momentary actuation, but presence detectors may require a longer period of actuation otherwise the signals controller may conclude that the "vehicle" has left the loop and no longer requires a green light. You could best determine this yourself for the local conditions because it is likely that different administrations set the equipment up differently.

    Thanks again to Graham for the useful info.

    We've heard of plastic wheels but not plastic frames. Maybe we're just behind the times...

R.I.P for the Kyoto treaty

    Remember the Kyoto treaty to curb greenhouse gases to end global warming? Well, thank the U.S. for effectively killing it. While 120 countries ratified the treaty, it can take effect only when approved by enough countries to account for 55% of 1990 emissions. Without Russia (17.4%) or the United States (36.1%), where the Bush administration rejected the treaty, the deal is sunk.

    No one has to point out the irony about the countries most responsible for global warming being the ones who won't help clean up the mess. (more in the NY Times article)

U.S. & SUV's: A deadly combination

    A recent reports shows that SUV's are deadlier to child pedestrians by about 18%. Does this really surprise anyone? (source: NTSA) And when ranking the safest places to drive among industrialized countries, the U.S. has been steady slipping and is now in ninth place. (Common Dreams)

Cars slower than you think

    In the last issue we reported on how much money you could have by investing the money you would have spent on a car. ($2.3 million if you invest your savings at 8% from ages 25 to 67). We also showed how if you convert money into time, the typical American spends three months each year just to pay for the car. Drive to work, work to drive.

    Another way to convert money into time is to figure out the average speed of a car after accounting for the time needed to earn money to pay for it. The average speed for an urban auto is 25.6 mph (source). Based on a 7-mile one-way commute, that takes 137 hours a year. Once we add in the 517 hours required to pay for the car, we have 654 hours total, which brings our average speed down to 5.35 mph -- slower than a bicycle.

    By the way, we know our source for the average speed of urban autos is weak, though the 25.6mph does seem about right, maybe even generous. If anyone has a better source, we'd love to see it.


From Amy's Alphabet of Grievances:

H-Horns. Horns are for emergencies. Horns are not for expressing how pissed off you are. When I run the world, car buyers will have to make a deposit on their horns, which will buy them what ought to be an acceptable, lifetime supply of honks. (Residual honks would transfer to the driver's next car.) If they run out, they'll have to go through a grueling application process to get another batch. They'll have to document how they used their honks - that they were truly necessary. If they can't, they'll have to pay a big pile of money and take an annoying class.

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SPAIN: More naked cyclists

   In an earlier issue we reported on the mass of crazy Spanish bicyclists who took the streets stark raving naked in broad daylight. Here's another site covering the phenomenon.

TORONTO, CANADA: Excellent Critical Mass photos

   As the webmaster for a directory of Critical Mass websites around the globe (CriticalMassRides.info) I've seen plenty of sites offering CM pics, and most of them are fairly uninspiring. But these photos from Toronto made me as excited as a little girl: Toronto CM pics.

AUSTIN: Update on CAMPO's raiding of bike/ped funds

    CAMPO, the regional mobility authority (RMA) for Central Texas, has been planning to raid some of what little funding is set aside for bike/ped projects and spend it on amenities for cars instead. They'll make their decision at the Monday, Dec. 8th meeting, at the Thompson Conference Center at UT (26th & Red River). Meeting starts at 5:45pm but it'll be a while for them to get to this item, #4 on the agenda.

    Recently CAMPO posted a PDF document on their website detailing exactly how they intend to steal the bike funds. You've gotta hand it to them, at least they're doing this in broad daylight. Here's our summary of their proposal.

    In the table below, the green rows show projects that will likely be funded no matter what. The gray rows are the bike/ped projects on the chopping block, and the red row is the roadway project they want to spend the money on instead.





S. Congress, from Williamson Creek to Eberhart Ln.



S. Congress, from Eberhart Ln. to Boggy Creek



Loop 82/Post Rd. Int/Sig/BP Improvements


Traffic Signals

RM 620 (183 to Parmer)


Intersection Improvement

S. Congress/Stassney


Intersection Improvement



Intersection Improvement

Lakeline/Pecan Park



I-35 Williamson (FM 3406 to Travis Co.)



I-35 Travis (Loop 275 to Hays Co.)



I-35 (Braker to Ben White)



Loop 1 (Stratford to 360)



Loop 1 (Parmer to 2222)



Airport Blvd. (Bolm to 183)



S. Lamar Bike/Ped barrier removal



Upper Boggy Creek Bikeway



Ed Bluestein (290 to 71)



290 (Joe Tanner to S. Congress)



Airport Blvd. (Bolm to 183)



FM 2769 from north of 620 to 620


    The first thing you might notice is that bike/ped raiding or no, there's a fair amount of bike/ped project funding here. But that's deceptive, because this table covers only one source of CAMPO funds. When we consider all of CAMPO funds, bike/ped projects get less than 1% of total funding, according to an estimate by UTC commissioner Mike Dahmus.

    The next thing to notice is that CAMPO doesn't have to cut all the bike/ped projects to build their road. They're trying to cut $4,950,850 of bike/ped projects to build a $4,100,000 roadway. But there's plenty of money to build one of two sidewalk projects slated to be cut and still build their roadway anyway. Do they want to cut the extra sidewalk project out of spite?

    So what is this "Upper Boggy Creek Bikeway" they want to cut? Oh, nothing much, just a path that would run alongside the railroad tracks from around 12th St. in East Austin all the way up to Airport & Lamar! (more on the bikeway) Seriously, this would provide an incredible, safe route across town, linking the east side with the west side, and would be one of the most important bike projects ever built in Austin.

    If they don't cut it, that is. I'm starting to think that maybe we should appeal to CAMPO using a different message. "You hate all those bicyclists on the road, and who can blame you? Obviously they're not real Americans. So why don't you build this piddling bikeway for them, so when they use it there will be fewer of those pesky cyclists on our roads?"

    Let's talk about the roadway projects. The "ITS" stands for "Intelligent Transportation Systems" and includes such thing as loop detectors for triggering traffic signals, traffic light synchronization, and signs that indicate if there's an incident up ahead or a detour due to construction. Okay, we're not gonna complain about that. What we are gonna complain about is the $4.1 million they want to spend on FM 2769 instead of bike/ped projects. The plan here is to turn a two-lane undivided road into a four-lane divided road -- all 3/4-mile of it. That's right, 3/4-mile of roadway compared to miles and miles of sidewalks and bikeways.

    There are some other interesting things in that PDF file about the planned funding raid. First. they printed the name of the 160+ people who sent in the email form asking for bike/ped funding to be saved. Whoo-hoo! Bet you didn't know that the fact that you spoke out would be a part of the public record, and available on the web no less. (I didn't.) I also note that CAMPO listed the person's email address instead of their name, presumably when a person didn't give their name. Bad move, because spambots will now lift those addresses from CAMPO's file and add them to junk mailing lists. Interestingly, my own name didn't make the list of commenters. I wonder if only a few of us got snipped or whether a bunch of us didn't make it. Finally, all four letters that CAMPO received on the subject were printed in the packet. Maybe next time we do a campaign we should send letters by postal mail instead....

    In our last issue we said that Karen Sonleiter was the only legislator to respond to our request that CAMPO not raid bike/ped funds. In fact, Sonleiter was the only one to respond by email, but state Senator Gonzalo Barrientos responded by postal mail, saying, "As I am a long-time advocate of a multimodal approach to transportation, I intend to support continued allocation of 15 percent of STP MM money for bike/ped."

    And as long as we're quoting people, here's another sample comment that a reader sent to CAMPO with our form:

I'm one of those pesky bicyclists who wants to use the bike to actually carry out work and to get back and forth to work. I make an effort to run errands on the bike, even hauling a trailer to pick up groceries and the like. When I have lots of time, I even commute back and forth to San Marcos, where I work. As congestion builds and roads continue to lack shoulders these trips become more questionable in terms of safety. I'm 58, so I'm pretty good at making my way. However, the ideal would be not only bike lanes, but bike paths. I visit other cities that have commuter-friendly bike paths. Some of them seem to facilitate helping people get somewhere. Bikes can't make a major contribution to traffic reduction if the planners only consider them as forms of toys for adults, riding only for recreation and health. Since some funding is supposed to be for bikes, why don't we get it? Instead of just keeping Austin weird, let's also keep it liveable.

If you live in Central Texas and haven't yet let your legislators know how you feel, please use our handy form to do so. The ACA removed their form because the public comment period was over, but we think you should be able to talk to your legislators whenever you want, so our form is still up.

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That's all, thanks for reading!