Monday, August 31, 2009

Worst bike route in Denver

This is the worst stretch of bike path in Denver.

It's Route D9, along 38th Street, between Lafayette Street and Arkins Court. There are posted signs here indicating that D9 continues on the sidewalk.

There are three problems right away with this.

  1. It is otherwise illegal to ride on the sidewalk! This is another case, along with prejudiced traffic lights, where the city is not consistent in its message or in its standards when it comes to cyclists.

  2. Riding on the sidewalk generally agreed upon to be a very dangerous thing to do. Pedestrians aren't expecting to see you, and motorists pulling out of driveways, alleys, and parking lots can't see you.

  3. Lastly, this particular stretch of sidewalk is particularly nasty. It's always covered in debris and broken glass, and at one point it goes under an overpass where it's dark and spooky. You're guaranteed at that point to encounter broken glass, chances are very good you'll have to ride around some cardboard boxes somebody was sleeping on earlier, and I've more than once had to stop and get off and walk around somebody either walking on that very narrow bit of sidewalk or actually still sleeping on the cardboard.

Last week, I was riding along on this sidewalk after a long ride on the river trails when what is happening in the above illustration happened to me. This old purple Buick in a driveway inched toward the sidewalk ahead and to my left, and then stopped. The windows were tinted and the sun was glaring, so I couldn't see the driver very clearly, but the car had stopped and I was close and in plain sight so I assumed they saw me.

Apparently they didn't, for when I was almost at the car, it lurched forward to turn across me and enter traffic. I could see that its Trajectory Of Lurch intersected my own forward trajectory just a couple feet ahead of the two of us, so I pulled hard on my brakes and yelled, "STOOOOOOOOOOOOOP!"

The car did stop, and I bumped gently into it with my front tire, which wedged neatly between the back of the front right tire and the front of the front right wheel well. The driver had her hood sticking out slightly into traffic, and so put the car in gear and starting backing up. I hollered again, "Wait, wait, wait!" as I kind of hop-scooted along with her to prevent my front tire from binding up in the wheel well and getting all kinds of messed up.

She stopped and I extracted myself, backed up, swung around and continued across the front of the car to the other side -- the driver's side -- where I stopped. The lady jumped out and apologized effusively, saying she hadn't seen me because she was looking the other way at the oncoming traffic.

We both assured each other and ourselves that we and our prospective vehicles were okay, and that there were no hard feelings anywhere, and then we continued on our own separate ways.

That, folks, is why riding on the sidewalk is bad!

Don't do it. It's against the law.

I resolved at that moment not to do it even when the posted signage indicates that I should.

I will from now on be observing a self-imposed Mandatory Detour around that stretch of D9. Because it's dangerous and shouldn't be ridden on.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

PABST: Prejudice And Bias Suck. TOTALLY!

The problem

Pirates and cyclists both know what it's like to suffer the prejudice of those who are biased against their lifestyles and proclivities. We learn to deal with it, address it where necessary, and combat it when needed to.

The chief focus of the PABST Project is to combat, draw attention to, document, and otherwise correct the problem of biased and prejudiced traffic lights.

Cyclists are by state law entitled to the same privileges and responsibilities of the road. When traffic control methods fail to recognize them, it creates inequality amongst road users that lawfully should not exist, and it creates a situation in which a cyclist must choose between running a red light and leaving the road to press the pedestrian crosswalk button to get a green light. Neither of these options are acceptable because

  1. one must break the law, or

  2. one must leave the road and to press the crosswalk button. Cyclists are not pedestrians, and this is humiliating. It causes an even bigger problem for scooterists who are unable to bring their vehicle with them up onto the sidewalk to press the pedestrian crosswalk button.

Identifying and prioritizing Prejudiced Lights

Firstly, prejudiced lights can be ranked by the perceived urgency of their repair.

  1. High Priority traffic lights are lights that exist on designated bike routes, but which fail to recognize or perceive bicycles in the intersection. An obvious mistake! And one requiring immediate attention!

  2. Medium Priority traffic lights are lights that are not on designated bike routes, but which exist on roads heavily used by cyclists, and which fail to recognize bicycles in the intersection. In these cases, it would be nice for the lights to change for cyclists, but it is not of the highest urgency.

  3. Low Priority traffic lights are lights that do not recognize or perceive cyclists, but which exist in intersections that cyclists are unlikely to be using. Such as at the intersection of two major highways. Low priority lights are unlikely to be identified because cyclists rarely encounter them!

Prejudiced traffic lights will be identified and documented on my map of Denver bike routes.

The solution

The solution is making lots of noise!

An unordered list of suggestions:

  • Report the traffic light as malfunctioning.'s traffic FAQ provides a phone number for "traffic signals that are not working properly:" 720-865-4000. (This number, incidentally, can also be used to report signage that is blocked by trees or other things.)

  • Send letters, emails, and phone calls to local representatives and local bicycle advocacy groups.

The short term fix for these intersections is to change the light from a sensor (induction coil) to a timer.

Video detection and laser sensors have also been used effectively.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Other people's collisions

I've been reading a lot of stories in the local news about bikers getting run over.

In one such story, the cyclist was decidedly at fault, and he died.

In another case, the cyclist was decidedly not at fault, and he lived.

When I hear about stories like these, I get agitated and worked up and excited and up in arms, and so I go tell my girlfriend about it. Because, you know, she's the person I talk to about stuff.

And as I'm telling her about people getting bounced between cars like pinballs, or having portions of their limbs torn off by vehicles, she gets pale and wide-eyed and I know that I'm creating a situation in which she dreads it more and more a little each time I get on my bike.

A situation in which I'm pretty much guaranteeing that she won't ever get on one of her own.

And so I understand that I should save stories of cyclist calamity for people who don't have as much of an invested interest in my personal well being.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Best commute.

Had an Epic Ride this morning of the Elite Mega Advanced variety. Timed every light, didn't have to stop or put my foot down once. Didn't shift out of my high gear.

I got so excited that I sprinted the whole way to work, and was well winded by the time I got there.

It wasn't a perfectly Lawful ride. I Idahoed all the four way stops. And the two way stops for that matter. And I did run a red light, but it's a red light that I always have to run anyway because the sensors won't recognize my bike. So, in all, a pretty Unlawful ride.

But no stopping, no shifting! Shazam!

Monday, August 24, 2009

impress - force someone to serve in an army or navy. commandeer for public service.

As you sail the high seas, in your efforts to impress other cyclists in Bike Piratitude, it'll help to have some supplies at your disposal.

  • Give-away blinky lights. Obviously. The Prime Directive of the Bike Pirate is to eradicate the Bike Ninja. Light 'em up!

  • Chalk. You may at times find it helpful to leave little messages on the trail, or to elaborate on posted signs if they are vague. Merely drawing an arrow if a trail or path takes an odd turn. "Proceed through alley." "Use sidewalk ahead." If you're especially proud of a certain chalking, you might return later with paint and a stencil.

  • A pump and a give-away patch kit. Obviously you want to be able to "mend your own sails" if you get a flat. I realistically wouldn't carry a give-away patch kit. That seems a bit much. I'll definitely help somebody patch their tube though.

  • Give-away maps. This is a new idea for me. I was discussing the problem of people riding in unsafe conditions when there might be adequate infrastructure a block over. I would imagine this happens because the cyclist just isn't aware of the surrounding infrastructure. My first thought was to chalk sidewalks and roads with something like "Designated E/W bike path: one block south." Then I wondered about how effective handing out maps would be. Not expensive $5 - $8 maps you buy at the bike shop, but over-simplified, maybe hand-drawn ones that point out the highlights. Ones you can make copies of at work. Maybe a link at the bottom to a high-res PDF of the city's bike path grid if there's one online. (Denver's is here.)