BikeCommuters.com

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Growing pains in our nation’s capital

We’ve written about “bicycle backlash” before here on Bikecommuters.com — the continued friction between motorists and the growing ranks of cyclists on city streets. Some of this is happening in cities that have seen recent surges in bike infrastructure and the people using that infrastructure, including our own Washington D.C.

Over the past couple of weeks, there’s been an acrimonious back-and-forth in the Washington Post consisting of editorial columns, one of which resulting in a two-wheeled protest in front of the newspaper’s offices. Here’s a good roundup from another WP columnist so you can catch up on all the action:

The great bicyclist-driver clash of Washington is so on.

Bottom line: Everyone is right. And wrong. Too many cyclists ride the streets and sidewalks like they’re above the law and own the place. Too many drivers haul around town in a ton of metal, oblivious that a careless right turn can kill someone.
As Rodney King once asked: Can we all get along?

Apparently not.

Read the rest by visiting the Washington Post page here.

Friday Musings: “Naked bike rides” and bike safety

Did anyone out there in readerland participate in the World Naked Bike Ride?

If you did…or you participate in other group rides and bike events of the more clothed variety, you may actually be helping to make biking safer for EVERYONE:

Just when you thought everything had been said and (blush) done in connection with this year’s World Naked Bike, along comes an compelling theory about the annual event’s societal benefits: It makes traffic safer.

In fact, according to a story on the Treehugger blog, the Portland Bureau of Transportation’s safety experts are big fans of the group rides (not just the naked ones) that are rolling through the city daily as part of June’s Pedalpalooza bike-culture festival.

Read the full article by visiting the Oregon Live page.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on bike events like this — do you feel it helps make us all safer? If so, why? Please leave your comments below.

High-tech bike theft prevention

Over the past few years, we’ve posted articles about bike theft prevention, from locking your bike, to web series about catching thieves, to Kickstarter-funded bike trackers, among many others.

In yesterday’s New York Times, there was a great article about the efforts of the San Francisco Police Department in combating bike theft using a variety of high-tech tools and techniques:

SAN FRANCISCO — Officer Matt Friedman fights crime with modern tools: Twitter, which he uses to publicize pictures of suspects and convicted criminals, and a GPS device, which he uses to track down stolen property.

In both cases, his lure is stolen bicycles — including the “bait bikes” that have recently been seeded throughout the city to tempt potential thieves. Equipped with GPS technology, the bicycles, which exist to be stolen, can be tracked down in real time and the thieves can be arrested.

Take a look at the complete article by visiting the NYT page here.

These aren’t run-of-the-mill “bait bikes”, either. SFPD doesn’t play around; they use expensive rigs equipped with GPS trackers to guarantee that when they catch up with offenders, they can charge them with a felony, not a slap on the wrist. Bike thieves, beware!!!

The problem with Census data

By now, many of you have heard that the U.S. Census released new data (based on 2012 surveys) recently that shows bike commuting up by around 60% over the past decade. This sounds great, doesn’t it?

But seasoned bike advocate and author Elly Blue has some concerns about the way those numbers are collected, interpreted, and presented. Like her, I’ve often felt that the Census data collection on bicycle travel left a lot to be desired, and Blue sums up her concerns very eloquently in a recent Bicycling Magazine blog post:

New census numbers are out for 2012 (press release). Any time you hear anything in the next few years about the number of people who bicycle in the US or in a specific city and state, there is a very good chance the numbers will be from this survey. Proceed with caution: They don’t necessarily mean what we want them to.


Spin on over, give it a read, and then come back to tell us what you think — do you sometimes feel that bike commuters get under-represented? Are there more of us than the numbers show? Any other thoughts — we’d love to hear them!

Friday Musing: The “Idaho Stop”

The other day, I stumbled across a great essay on the somewhat controversial “Idaho Stop”, where cyclists are allowed to treat stop signs as yield signs if the coast is clear. The concept tends not to be too popular with “vehicular cycling” proponents, who believe that bicycles must follow all of the rules and regs that are applied to motor vehicles. The rub is that in a number of areas, the “Idaho Stop” is a law on the books, geared specifically to cyclists’s unique road needs.

If you’ve looked around a city lately, you might’ve noticed that many cyclists don’t obey many traffic laws. They roll through stop signs, instead of coming to a complete stop, and brazenly ride through red lights if there aren’t any cars coming.

Cyclists reading this might be nodding guiltily in recognition of their own behavior. Drivers might be angrily remembering the last biker they saw flout the law, wondering when traffic police will finally crack down and assign some tickets.

But the cyclists are probably in the right here. While it’s obviously reckless for them to blow through an intersection when they don’t have the right of way, research and common sense say that slowly rolling through a stop sign on a bike shouldn’t be illegal in the first place.

Take a look at this thoughtful and comprehensive essay by visiting the Vox page here.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the Idaho Stop, and other cycling-specific laws or practices. Leave them in the comments below.