Category Archives: Traffic

Some Things

Pedaled to Daily Grind for coffee beans.  As I passed my local cop shop, traveling over fresh new pavement adorned with blinding white sharrows in the middle of the lane, with officers getting into cars and what not, a dude in a Cadillac pick up honked at me.  Wanted me to get over.  Wasn’t safe, so I didn’t.  He honked again.  I didn’t.  Then the parked cars were no longer and I pulled over to let him pass, which he did.  I pedaled the next block smelling the stank from his stogie and storing away the experience.  Tossed it in a big pile of similar ones under which I have placed a cardboard sign that says “Laws Don’t Mean Shit.”  Not when people don’t know them.  Not when the police don’t enforce them.  They are just there, raising our expectations for a very brief moment until we pedal in the real world and find we’re all basically alone (Andrew Bird–Imitosis).

Got a mediocre falafel at a new to me falafel hole on Lark.  Guy said he’d been open for two years.  Huh.  It came with tzatziki sauce (yogurt).  Huh.  I need to get out more.  I forget that some folks make falafel with yogurt (rather than tahini).  Didn’t have the energy to talk to him about it.  Next time I will just go to Hot Dog Heaven and have them fry me up a Field Roast dog (hope that train is still running).  Got my beans and crossed the street to Fuzz Records.  Bought Dum Dum Girls’–Only in Dreams.  Surfy goodness is punching out of the hifi now.  Pedaled home.  A block before the cop shop I got two more honks to pull over.  Didn’t until it was safe, then they passed.  On the block of the cop shop a car passed me within a foot.  I pulled up next to the driver at the light and asked her to leave three feet when she passes.  I said it was the law.  She said she didn’t know that was the law.  I said now you do.  That was that.

All very cool, but golly it would be nice if the city ran a PSA with a few helpful tips.  Something like learn then follow the ef’ing law a-holes.  I’ve been doing great ignoring losers but when they accrue on a short ride, my deputy dog badge starts a tinglin’ right through my vest pocket. I sometimes can’t help myself.  I interact.  Don’t want to, but there I am doing just that.  Gotta cut those puppet strings.  Anyone have some comically big scissors?

Parts & Labor are still making me smile.  Just watched them cover Kanye’s Runaway.  I stopped the video half way through to check out Kanye’s work.  I hadn’t heard the song.  Glad I did.  Muy pleasant, and fits with my sort of cross mood courtesy of my motoring neighbors.

Part’s & Labor’s version:

Part’s & Labor killed it, don’t you think?

Have a swell weekend, folks.




Forward Fast

It was here that I wrote about the New York Manual of Uniform Traffic Control Devices and, specifically, the elimination of my favorite sign–Bicycles May Use Full Lane.  I don’t know that the sign has been added back to the manual, but I was invited to comment on a policy regarding sharrows advanced by the New York State Department of Transportation and the policy suggests the signs may come back in one form or another.  The NYDOT wanted input on four proposed signs.  Each is placed under a yellow diamond sign depicting a bicycle.  A:  “May Use Full Lane.”  B:  “Using Full Lane.”  C:  “Using Lane.”  D:  “In Lane.”  I still think A is the right way to go and said so.  A beats B only because A is more familiar.  Otherwise B is a tie.  C and D–not so good.  When the word “full” is omitted, it isn’t clear that bicyclists can leave the right side of the lane.  The policy also directs sharrows to be placed way out in the lane–very nice.  Finally, the policy discusses sharing in more detail than usual.  “Share the lane” is about as far as anyone thinks it through, but you know I like to break it down into two distinct kinds of sharing–side by side sharing for wide lanes and one after the other sharing when lanes are narrow.  I am impressed with the efforts from the NYDOT and look forward to more good work in the future.  Three cheers!

Deep Breaths

Long time!  I’ve been here and I trust you’ve been there.  Work is the dominant theme in my life and about that I don’t care to share more.

Scrabble with the men’s group last night.  I left between the two games.  I tried to leave with grace but I was pretty upset.  One member wants to limit conversation so that he can concentrate.  Me, I’d rather talk than play.  I accept his reminders and acquiesce, but last night I stewed.  Rather than stew through game two, I went home to Lacey.  That felt great.  This morning I wrote him a note to explain my feelings and got a most wonderful reply.  Sometimes communication works.

Pedaled the Rivendell Road to a FedEx drop box to send a package for work.  Saving twenty minutes by driving is in no way better than getting a few lungfuls of air.  I was in a marked bicycle lane (about where the northwest bound red car is in the image below) and a car passing on my right honked as they passed.  It is a stupid narrow bicycle lane and the lanes to the left and right are narrow too.  I am sure it complies with zero traffic design criteria.  It is always a bit of a pucker moment as cars race by (at 45) on my left and right as I pedal the tightrope bicycle lane.  So the honking.  If you pedal, you know how scary this can be.  This time my heart jumped into my throat and I replied HEY, but that’s not the end of the world.  Still.  If you want to be mean, honk.  Very effective way to increase anger.  If, on the other hand, you are scared that you are going to hit a bicyclist, don’t honk.  Slow and follow at a safe distance until it is safe and not scary to pass.  Please?

Just walked Frida.  Lovely weather just now.  I say hi to most everyone I pass.  Somedays I get no replies and feel invisible and sad.  Today everyone replied cheerfully and it felt great.  Give out hellos, folks.  They are a free and unlimited resource.  If you don’t want to initiate the exchange, at least participate in it when invited.  You’ll be doing someone a big favor.

Stopped in the drive of my new friend and had a cry with him.  His wife died recently and we talk about it most every time we see one another.  Today he shared his regret for sitting at the end of the bed as his wife passed.  He wishes he would have been laying next to her, holding her, in her last moments.  My poor, poor friend.  So happy to be able to cry with him.

If you know me, you know to what I am referring when I use the term the house that got away.  It is for sale again and I talked to the owners in the driveway.  I am sad to report it sounds like they took a lot of the good out of it.  The average joe will probably love it, but for me it was the time capsule nature that made it all good.  We might go have a look at it this weekend, just to be sure.  I would be shocked if we made a move within the same city, but looking is fun.  Full report to follow.

Lunch time.  Have a great weekend.

Strength and Weakness

I feel like doing a little preaching.  If you aren’t in the mood, you’ve been warned.

My sermon will concern itself with the evils of scorching.  Que?  When bicycles first appeared in our communities over 125 years ago, they were some of the fastest things on the road.  As they became more common, good folks everywhere were up in arms over the dangers presented by “scorchers.”

Quaint historical oddity with zero relevance to contemporary civilization?  I think not.  Bicycles are no longer the fastest things on the road and the word scorcher has fallen out of use (as applied to fast pedalers), but people still worry about scorchers.  Every time a law to protect bicyclists in enacted, commenters jump at the chance to complain about about scofflaw bicyclists.  By in large, I think they are right to complain.  Bicycles can injure and kill.  Predictable road manners promote safe road sharing.  Following traffic laws is a great way to be predictable (when traffic laws were uniformly followed by all road users).

Are you a scorcher?  Shame on you!  You are making it easier for folks to be hating on all bicyclists (not to generalize, but you have to admit haters are famous generalizers).  I’ve had enough hate, thank you very much.  Let’s stop giving them ammo!  Repent!

I’ll start by giving scorchin’ sinners the benefit of the doubt.  Maybe they ride fast because it makes them feel safe.  When pedaling on city streets, even cars going the speed limit seem to be going dangerously fast.  They are.  Maybe scorchers feel that keeping up with traffic is safer than being passed.  If you pedal fast enough to keep up with traffic, though, you are simply trading risks, and statistics suggest you’ve made a bad trade.  While pedaling in a city, you should worry more about stopping than being passed.  Bicycles are very rarely sideswiped or rear ended by cars.  Sure it can happen–it did to a friend of mine–but there are statistically greater dangers.  If you get hit, odds are it will be either a left hook (oncoming vehicle makes a left turn into your path) or a right hook (passing vehicle makes a right turn into your path).  In the face of a left or right hook, going fast is more often than not a liability.  Stopping is very often your only hope.  Pedaling slower to begin with will increase the chance you’ll be able to avoid the statistically greater risk.  Worried about getting passed more?  Get a helmet mirror!  It helps!

Some scorching churchgoers may not be persuaded by statistics or fear of injury.  If you can ride safely without worrying about getting injured or injuring others, I offer a heartfelt amen! to you.  I have enjoyed this feeling at times.  More when I was younger and never for long.  Now I often think about the dangers I face (and present) even before I get on a bicycle.  I have even skipped rides when I decided the errand was not sufficiently important to justify the risk.  You might think this is sad, but for now my fear is of a quantity and quality that I count it as my friend.  It’s a healthy fear which allows pedaling joy to coexist.

Maybe you have little or no fear, though, and you think it is your right to go as fast as you can make your bicycle go (up to the posted speed limit).  Because the traffic bible says so.  Maybe you are late for work, training for a race or just enjoy hauling ass.  Bad ideas all.  Read your scriptures more carefully.  Fully understood, the speed limit is the lesser of (a) the posted limit and (b) the speed that is safe under the conditions.  Conditions to be considered are traffic, weather, visibility, road conditions, the condition of your vehicle and the presence of pedestrians, animals or other vulnerable road users.  Who cares about speed limits, though?  Almost unheard of for a bicyclist to get a speeding ticket, so why worry?  Tough to be so nonchalent in a courtroom when facing criminal charges or a civil suit.  If you hit someone while pedaling, you want to be able to show both that you were going under the posted limit and under the speed that was safe under the circumstances.  The only way you can assure that outcome in the courtroom is to pedal slower than the posted speed limit and the speed that is safe under the circumstances every time you pedal.  You never know when the pedestrian is going to step off the curb.

Still feel like scorching?  I understand.  Let it be known I was the worst of the worst as a kid.  I used to terrorize pedestrians along the lakeside multi-use trail in Chicago.  Never hurt anyone, but that was pure luck.  In NYC, I did once use as a crash pillow an investment banker (had the suit, anyway).  He must have been a football lineman in his college days–he was huge!  I went over my bars and crumpled into his chest.  He didn’t fall over.  He didn’t even budge an inch!  He walked away without a word and I collected myself and pedaled away.  I’ve all but given it up, but once in awhile it does feel good to go a little faster than normal.  For me in the city that means maybe 15 mph on the flat, a little more downhill.  Never enough to raise an eyebrow, but still maybe too fast if the planets line up wrong.

What to do?  The thought that keeps me in check more effectively than any other is my desire to be a good neighbor.  To survive and thrive in a city, I need to be concerned about myself and others every time I go outside.  Every interaction matters.  I can either have a positive impact on my community or a negative one.  I get to decide.  Too abstract?  Picture yourself on the front page of your local paper following an accident you caused.  That’s enough to get me pedaling backward on my coaster brake hub.

One more amen!, please, as my need to preach (and confess) has been purged.  I’d be pumped if you read through this and learned not a thing (because you knew it all already).  I’d also be pumped if a few scorchers read it and gave it some thought.  If you still think a city is a good place to bicycle at high speeds, just let me know before you head out for a ride.  I will gladly stay inside and listen to my hifi.  I’ll try harder to pedal safer, too.


Civility and Not

Albany tweed ride is, for us anyway, in the history books.  Warm memories are all I have.  Big thanks to Ethan for setting it up.  Big thanks to the Olde English Pub and Pantry for the round of drinks on the house.  Made mine a Wee Heavy from Bellhaven.  Yummers!  

The Olde English Pub is hella cute and the folks that care for visitors are super nice.  Go if you haven’t.  You won’t need encouragement for the return visit.  A few vegan items on the menu would be welcomed, though.  Keeping with the English theme, I suggest beans on toast, fake sausage and mashers, and maybe a veg curry and flat bread plate.  Easy way to make another 5% of the population feel welcome.  What do you say, friends?

Such great folks on the ride!  Six years have passed since I have had this feeling, and oddly enough it went down a few feet away from the Olde English.  We finished our first Albany Critical Mass ride, nearly seven years ago, at the Albany Pump Station, just across the alley.  There we met most of the folks that were to be our friends for the next six years (and hopefully many more), and were invited to a party where we met the rest of our local friends.  We met more wonderful folks today and with any luck and effort our group of friends will grow.  Ride pics here.  Joys all around.

On the way home a Saab beeped at us as it was passing.  It was a no beep situation, as we hadn’t delayed the car in any way, shape or form, but still the beep.  Lacey nearly jumped out of her skin.  Don’t cross my girl, fool.  I fantasized about reaching into my basket for my U-Lock and tossing the same at their rear window.  The daydream continued with  their window breaking, them stopping, and then I retrieve my lock and beat the driver silly for the needless honk.  It was a bad dream, mind, you.  I want to have nothing to do with bothering anyone, let alone hurting anyone, but the unwelcome fantasies arose with the unjust honk.  Glad to report I did nothing, but people need to behave.  Folks other than me may not be in control of their passions.  Just be nice, for heavens sake!  We are all neighbors!

On the whoopsie daisy front, I just bought a new to me bike.  A 1993 Bridgestone RB-2.  I bought it because I need one of its Ritchey Vantage Comp rims for my yellow RB-1 (the rear rim on my yellow RB-1 has a flat spot).  If the front rim on the RB-2 is perfect, I will move it over to the RB-1 rear and then replace the front on the RB-2 with a spare RB-1 front wheel I have on hand.  The spare wheel was purchased to solve the RB-1 flat spot problem, but the sticker is different (so it just won’t do).  I want the yellow RB-1 to be perfect.  Sickness flourishing.  Sigh.

Now it is time to batten down the hatches in preparation for the nor’ easter on its way here.  Should arrive in the next hour or so.  If I am reduced to talking about the weather, that’s enough from me.  How are you?  I sincerely hope you are tip top and happy as a fool.

Bicycle Campus

A car-free space designed to help pedalers learn to pedal on roads.  Why has this never happened before?  When will it be repeated?  That’s all I have to say, except have fun, folks.

Virtue Liberty and Independence

Pennsylvania has their act together.  To my eye, this is the clearest and most agreeable collection of laws aimed at fostering safe and harmonious sharing of roadways.  Good that their supplemental laws go into effect on April 2 (rather than April 1).  Otherwise I would have trouble believing I wasn’t just another April fool.

The Pennsylvania Bicycle Driver’s Manual is spot on, too.  The only thing I would suggest is that the Bicycle Driver’s Handbook be added to the general driver’s manual, rather than be printed and posted as a stand alone manual.  I am afraid a separate manual will be ignored by the majority of cyclists and all almost all motor vehicle users.  Put them together and add questions relating to the Bicycle Driver’s Handbook to the driver’s test.  Maybe the bit about how to install and use toeclips can come out, too.  Or at least change the image.  How many people are running Lyotard Marcel Berthet pedals and Avocet shoes (other than me?). 

New York should follow suit.  Three things specifically.  (1) Adopt the supplemental law.  (2) Build the Bicycle Driver’s Handbook as a new chapter in the general driver’s manual.   (3) Add questions relating to the Bicycle Driver’s Handbook to the driver’s test.

Image from here.

The New York State Bicycle Coalition (NYSBC) should drop what they are doing and make this happen.  Perhaps we could induce them to act by pledging a donation to the NYSBC should they make these three things happen.  I’ll start the ball rolling with a $100 pledge.  Make it happen and the money is yours.  Make your pledge here or perhaps someone else could organize a more formal pledge drive.  Albany Bicycle Coalition?  Make it happen for all our sakes.

UPDATE:  Maybe the Penn laws aren’t so special (if one bothers to read them–ahem).  I was attracted to the presentation of the laws by the author of the article.  Here are the relevant sections of the law, so you can decide for yourself.  

§ 3301. Driving on right side of roadway.

(a) General rule.–Upon all roadways of sufficient width, a vehicle shall be driven upon the right half of the roadway except as follows:

(1) When overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction where permitted by the rules governing such movement.

(2) When an obstruction exists making it necessary to drive to the left of the center of the roadway, provided the driver yields the right- of-way to all vehicles traveling in the proper direction upon the unobstructed portion of the roadway within such distance as to constitute a hazard.

(3) When and where official traffic-control devices are in place designating a lane or lanes to the left side of the center of the roadway for the movement indicated by the devices.

(4) Upon a roadway restricted to one-way traffic.

(5) When making a left turn as provided in sections 3322 (relating to vehicle turning left) and 3331 (relating to required position and method of turning).

(6) In accordance with section 3303(a)(3) (relating to overtaking vehicle on the left).

(b) Vehicle proceeding at less than normal speed.–(1) Upon all roadways any vehicle proceeding at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic, or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, except when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction or when preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into an alley, private road or driveway.

(2) This subsection does not apply to: (i) A driver who must necessarily drive in a lane other than the right-hand lane to continue on his intended route. (ii) A pedalcycle operating in accordance with Chapter 35 (relating to special vehicles and pedestrians).

(c) Pedalcycles.–

(1) Upon all roadways, any pedalcycle operating in accordance with Chapter 35, proceeding at less than the normal speed of traffic at the time and place and under the conditions then existing shall be driven in the right-hand lane then available for traffic, or as close as practicable to the right-hand curb or edge of the roadway, except when overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction or when preparing for a left turn at an intersection or into an alley, private road or driveway.

(2) This subsection does not apply to: (i) A pedalcycle using any portion of an available roadway due to unsafe surface conditions. (ii) A pedalcycle using a roadway that has a width of not more than one lane of traffic in each direction.

§ 3303. Overtaking vehicle on the left. (a) General rule.–The following rules shall govern the overtaking and passing of vehicles proceeding in the same direction, subject to the limitations, exceptions and special rules stated in this chapter… (3) The driver of a motor vehicle overtaking a pedalcycle proceeding in the same direction shall pass to the left of the pedalcycle within not less than four feet at a careful and prudent reduced speed.

§ 3307. No-passing zones. (b.1) Overtaking pedalcycles.–It is permissible to pass a pedalcycle, if done in accordance with sections 3303(a)(3) (relating to overtaking vehicle on the left) and 3305 (relating to limitations on overtaking on the left).

Sec. 3331.  Required position and method of turning.  (e) Interference with pedalcycles.–No turn by a driver of a motor vehicle shall interfere with a pedalcycle proceeding straight while operating in accordance with Chapter 35 (relating to special vehicles and pedestrians).Required position and method of turning. Limitations on turning around. Moving stopped or parked vehicle. Turning movements and required signals. Signals by hand and arm or signal lamps. Method of giving hand and arm signals.

§ 3505. Riding on roadways and pedalcycle paths. (a) General rule.–Except as provided in subsections (b) and (c), every person operating a pedalcycle upon a highway shall obey the applicable rules of the road as contained in this title.

(b) Operation on shoulder.–A pedalcycle may be operated on the shoulder of a highway and shall be operated in the same direction as required of vehicles operated on the roadway. All turns shall be made in accordance with section 3331 (relating to required position and method of turning).

(c) Slower than prevailing speeds.–A pedalcycle operated at slower than prevailing speed shall be operated in accordance with the provisions of section 3301 (relating to driving on right side of roadway) unless it is unsafe to do so.

(d) One-way roadways.–Any person operating a pedalcycle upon a roadway which carries traffic in one direction only and has two or more marked traffic lanes may ride as near the left-hand curb or edge of the roadway as practicable, exercising due care when passing a standing vehicle or one proceeding in the same direction.

(e) Limitation on riding abreast.–Persons riding pedalcycles upon a roadway shall not ride more than two abreast except on paths or parts of roadways set aside for the exclusive use of pedalcycles.

There’s more (helmets, lights, etc.), but these provisions cover the sharing aspects of the Penn laws.  Not that different than New York.  So what can I get in a lather about?  First, the article (first link in this post) is great.  It would be nice to see such an article in our local paper.  In all papers.  Every Spring.  Most recitations of bicycling laws in the press are slanted in favor of motorists rights.  For instance, they remind cyclists to stay to the right and omit the exceptions when cyclists can leave the right side of the road.  Never a mention of cyclists controlling the lane.  That’s huge!  Second, the Pennsylvania Bicycle Driver’s Manual.  I read that and stand by my support of it.  The same thing should be a chapter in the general New York driver’s manual and questions relating to bicycles should be in the drivers test.

That’s enough of that.