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Do separate bike paths improve safety?

She came flying up to the intersection; driving way too fast.

I could tell by her speed she wasn't going to stop, even though there was a stop sign. I touched my brakes and moved out to the center of the road near to the yellow line.

I could see there was no traffic coming towards me, and I already knew there was nothing immediately behind me.

Two things told me this: 1.) My ears; I could hear no vehicle behind me, and 2.) The fact that she was not intending to stop. She was looking right past me further down the road.

Had I not moved out to the center I would have run smack in the side of her. She saw me at the last second and slammed on the brakes; a little late because by now she was right out into the lane I had been riding in. She might as well have kept going because by this time I was over the yellow line and in the opposing lane completely out of her way.

Anyway, she stopped and let me pass, and I moved back over to the right. As she passed me slowly, I saw her passenger side window roll down and I was actually expecting an apology. She called out, "Why aren't you on the bike path?" There is a bike path that runs along side this road.

Somewhat taken back I hesitated for a second, then told her. "If I had been on the bike path you would have hit me for sure." I don't know if she even heard me because by now the window was rolling up again and she was speeding away.

I would have liked to explain that she had not intended to stop at road intersection, and was certainly not looking to see if there was anyone on the bike path before she came to the road.

Had I been on the path I could not have stopped in time because she came up so fast, and there was nowhere I could go to avoid hitting her. On the road I was at least able to move to the left and give her room.

I dislike this type of bike path. It gives the city planners the impression that they are doing the right thing to improve safety for cyclists. It gives the inexperienced cyclist the impression that they are safe, but are they?

On the road there is a remote possibility a cyclist will be run down from behind. However statistics show that this is the least likely accident that can happen. An accident is more likely to occur at an intersection; either someone pulling out of the side road, or turning into it, in front of a cyclist, or a vehicle passing the cyclist then side-swiping them as they turn. (The right-hook.)

Although the cyclist on the bike path has zero possibility of being run down from behind, they are at even greater danger at each intersection than if they were on the road, because they are less visible.

In addition, as I have demonstrated on the bike path there is no room for the cyclist to take evasive action. Then you have the added hazard as in this case a driver pulling up to the intersection and the cyclist runs into the side of the vehicle.

If planners are going to install this type of bike path, why not move the stop signs back behind the bike path, so at least in theory a vehicle will stop at the bike path then move slowly forward to the intersection.

The bike path crossing should be clearly marked on the road with lines and possibly the bike symbol. And what is a cyclist to do at every intersection? I'm sure the planners will say he should stop every time, but if bike rider is on the road he has the right of way to ride straight through the same as other vehicles.

Personally, I would rather see bike lanes on the existing highway. Cheaper to install, and certainly easier to keep clean. It gets the bike rider used to riding in traffic, the cyclist is more visible, and it lets the car driver know that cyclists have a right to be there.

I like the idea they have in Denmark where the bike lanes are painted a different color at the intersection.(Picture above right.) Speaking of Denmark, yesterday’s post on Copenhagen Girls on Bikes explains their Green Wave System:

“The 'Green Wave' system coordinates the traffic lights to give cyclists a 'green wave' all the way along the route.

This means that if you ride 20 km per hour (12.5 mph.) you'll hit green lights the whole way.

Some people have bike speedometers - not many - but most can adjust their speed using their experience, without electronic interference, and enjoy an uninterrupted ride to and from work.

Most of the stretches featuring the Green Wave have 15,000 - 30,000 bikes per day.”

Now that’s what I call bicycle friendly.


Two years of blogging: Realizing my baby is ugly

Today marks two years since “Dave’s Bike Blog” started.

Having a blog is in some ways like having a child that demands constant attention. Like a real baby, conceiving it is the easy part. At first, it is fun, it sleeps mostly and you wake it up occasionally to feed it.

It gives its parent a great deal pride and feeling of accomplishment as it grows, but the hungry little bastard needs feeding all the time, and if it doesn’t like what you feed it, it will spit it back at you.

This past weekend I was left to wonder, “What the hell was I thinking?” I am realizing how difficult it is to keep coming up with interesting, and informative articles, two or three times a week. Especially when related to a single subject like the bicycle.

Last Friday’s fiasco was a wake up call for me. Okay, I agree the post was not one of my best. However, after spending hundreds of hours writing 183 articles over the last two years; I write one or two pieces that go against popular opinion and I am told, in no uncertain terms, to fuck off. (See my previous post.) Did I really deserve that?

I give free advice and comment for Cris’sake. It’s like going to a free concert and booing the act. If you don’t like the act, walk out, but don’t boo and tell the performer to fuck off. The guy making the comment says he is taking my blog off his RSS Feeder, like he’s canceling his subscription. WTF.

If I was like Bike Snob NYC who blogs under a pseudonym I could care less. However, I blog under my real name, so I take these comments as a personal attack, and I take it seriously. If you make a personal attack, at least have the balls to include your full name, and the city you live in, and not hide behind anonymity.

I allow anonymous posts because not everyone wants to go through the hassle of signing up for a Google account just to post a comment. It is not there for people to hide behind and hurl abuse, or to post multiple comments, giving the impression they come from different people.

I have always stayed away from politics and religion in my posts, and the biggest mistake I made last Friday was mentioning the “Feminist” issue. It was only meant as a way to lead into the story, which was a comment about, twenty-something young men, who care little about their appearance.

I grew up in and era when we wore suits, ties, and shined our shoes, when we went out on a date with a girl. It was a mark of respect for the girl we were taking out; it also showed respect for ourselves. Of course, this was in a time before God invented tennis shoes and the subsequent decline of civilization, as we know it.

I just put forward a point of view in the hope that it will stimulate thought; I fully realize that I am not going to change the world. You can take it as advice, you can take it any way you like; you don’t have to agree.

You can take it as an insult, leave, and not come back. But when you come to this blog, you are visiting me, not the other way around. Telling me to fuck off is like coming to a party at my house and telling me to leave.

I have put too much work into this baby to abandon it completely. My Stat Counter shows that I get around 500 to 600 hits a day, and the child is still growing. It has just reached the “Terrible Twos” so who knows what will happen in the next year. There will always be a win some, loose some situation with readers.

I’m sure there are some who will say I should lighten up, and grow a thicker skin; I have been told that many times. But this is who I am, my sensitivity to this kind of thing is part of my make up; without it I would be a person who had gone through life in some mundane job.

There would be no Dave Moulton who once built bicycle frames, and this blog would never have existed.


Where are the Masculinists?

We have Feminists, but what is the equivalent in the male world? There is no such word.

Most of today’s women dress in fashionable clothes and do all they can to look their best. The way men used to dress. It is all about self-esteem, feeling good about yourself.

Back in the 1940s and 1950s men dressed with style, wore suits, ties, and hats. Even into the 1970s, men wore stylish clothes, with close fitting shirts and pants, showing off their bodies with pride.

I’m not sure what happened between the mid 1980s and now, but today the average American man has to be the worst dressed in the world. Not only the worst dressed, but in the poorest physical condition.

I am not just talking about middle aged men here, I mean guys in their twenties. It is a fact that the US Military has a hard time finding recruits in acceptable physical condition.

Have you also noticed how men are constantly ridiculed and put down in television commercials, and sit-coms? If women were portrayed with such negativity, there would be public outcry. And it is a standing joke that the only men who care about their appearance are gay men.

The sad thing is, this has become accepted. I look around me and I see young men, in their twenties, bordering on obesity, dressed in shorts and an old tee shirt. No thought what-so-ever put to a hairstyle, and invariably wearing a sun visor, indoors, at night.

Their girl friend on the other hand, is slim, attractive, and extremely well dressed. I am not saying there are not obese women out there, but I see a lot of young girls in their teens or twenties out running or jogging. It is on rare occasions I will see a young man of similar age exercising.

So why should today’s twenty something male even make the effort to stay in shape, if he can still get a girl friend? If you are obese in your twenties, you are going to have serious health problems by the time you reach forty.

Diabetes, heart disease, and now even cancer are linked to obesity. You will probably die in your fifties. So if you are twenty-five and obese, consider yourself middle aged.

Everything worthwhile in life takes a degree of effort. It definitely takes effort to exercise and become physically fit, and having done that, how much extra effort is to take the time to dress in stylish clothes.

But my old tee shirt, baggy shorts, and flip-flops, are comfortable, you say. Let me ask you this; how would you feel if women, started dressing in this fashion? No make-up, or hair style, no attractive shoes and clothes. For me the world would become a dull and less beautiful place.

Would you like to live in a society where everyone, men and women, dressed in the same drab uniform? Don’t you think a little quality of life would disappear? A man can dress casually and for comfort, without looking like a slob.

It will probably be another 50, or even a hundred years before men wake up, and realize what has happened to them. Men will be where women were a hundred years ago. Maybe then, there will be a masculinist movement.

In the mean time it is up to the individual; get on a bicycle and loose some weight. There is no greater feeling in the world than the feeling of being physically fit. In addition, it is all about self-esteem and feeling good about yourself.

Once you are in good physical shape, go out and get some fashionable clothes. Dress like a movie star, and you will feel like one. I guarantee you will become successful in every aspect of your life.

An attractive, fit, healthy person dressed well will always turn heads. That goes for men as well as women.

Addendum: Before you post further comment on this piece, read my response to the comments posted so far.


Poetry in motion

Our friends over at Copenhagen Girls on Bikes recently posted a piece in defense of what they are doing.

When I posted "Womankind you can Save Mankind" I got a fair amount of flack saying the site was sexist. Comments were posted here and on other forums.

Technically, you can say the site is sexist because it only shows photos of women. However, would anyone call it sexist if it showed only pictures of men on bikes? I doubt it.

Does the site show women in a bad or degrading way? Absolutely not; in fact it is doing the exact opposite. Showing women doing something good for themselves, the environment, and looking extremely good while doing it.

Many of the bikes on the Copenhagen site are the vintage ladies loop frame style of bikes. Others are replicas, styled after the older bicycles.

This is a tribute not only to the durability of the vintage machines but their beauty. With their upright position, and laid back angles, they have a style, and grace all their own, equal to any sleek racing model.

Place a woman on one of these with her clothing and hair flowing in the wind, and you have pure poetry in motion. Form and function; motion that can be captured perfectly in a still photo. Art, pure and simple, like the ballet.

Those who see something voyeuristic, dirty, or degrading in these images, maybe have a dirty mind.

If it offends you, the answer is simple. Don't go there.


Discussing Helmet Use: Like peeking at a snake in a pool cue case

I can’t think of a more controversial subject to write about than bike helmets and the wearing thereof. Nothing will get a cyclist’s anti-bacterial padded shorts in a knot more than saying they should or should not wear a helmet.

To borrow a line from my own novel, “It’s like trying to peek at a snake in a pool cue case.” Let’s see if the bastard will turn around and bite me.

I believe the subject is like religion or politics; an individual should do what they believe is right, but should not necessarily try to force their beliefs on others. I wear a helmet when I ride, but it is not my place to tell others to do the same, anymore than it is my place to say others should wear a seat belt when they drive.

People get extremely passionate on both sides of the fence, and get very upset when others oppose their view. I wouldn’t say I am passionate about the issue even after my accident last December when an SUV made a left turn in front of me. I slammed head first into the side of the vehicle.

I was wearing a helmet, but still came away with a hairline skull fracture; I also damaged a nerve in my right eye. This has left me with double vision that persists even after almost a year has elapsed.

The helmet broke, and it is my view that it did absorb some of the impact. Without it, my injuries might have been worse, even fatal. On the other hand, I could argue that I hit the vehicle at 20 mph and the helmet failed to protect me.

I continue to wear a helmet when I ride, but because they don’t offer total protection, I wear it only as a last line of defense when all else fails. Far more important in my opinion is avoiding the accident in the first place.

A recent report on child related bicycle accidents stated that there are 10,700 children hospitalized each year in the US because of bicycle accidents. The report goes on to say a third of this number had traumatic head injuries, and wearing helmets would reduce these head injuries by 85%. I guess I was one of the unlucky 15%; that is if you consider a skull fracture a traumatic injury.

The report states 30% of the accidents involved automobiles. However, there is not a single mention of safety training for children, or drivers of automobiles. So in other words, buy a kid a bike, put a helmet on their head, send them out on the streets, and they’ll be fine. I don’t think so.

Try to get children and teens to wear helmets by all means, but proper road safety education, I believe, would cut these numbers far more than helmet use, even mandatory use. Of course, this is the parent’s responsibility, but it is the parents who need educating first. Most of them don’t ride a bike themselves, so they don’t have a clue.

Don’t get me wrong, I am not anti-helmet use; I just think some of the pro-helmet advocates would be doing more to help the cause of cycling, if they put their energy into pushing for road safety education, with helmet wearing as part of that.

Bicycle helmet use is still very much an American thing. It began in the US in the 1970s and is slowly spreading to the rest of the world. However, it is not practiced, preached, or accepted in other countries at the level it is in the United States. Certain countries have more of a cycling culture where almost every car driver is also a cyclist; I would feel perfectly comfortable riding there without a helmet.

Many people will not ride a bike if they are forced to wear a helmet, or even if they are made to feel like some social misfit if they ride a bike without one. Helmets have been accepted by roadies because they have been accepted by the pro racers. If you wear the Lycra jersey, shorts and shoes, then the helmet goes with the whole ensemble.

But, put a road helmet, with its bright colors and duck’s arse styling on a guy in a business suit commuting to work, and he looks a total dork. Some will say putting appearance over wearing something to protect your head is stupid, and it may be.

However, try telling that to the teenage kid who is wears a helmet as he cycles to school, and has to run a gauntlet of abuse from other kids. He will quit wearing the helmet, and if forced to wear it, will quit riding his bike. And that is a damn shame.

Some kids are wearing the round skateboard style helmets while riding their bikes, because they “look cool.” This should be encouraged and helmet manufacturers should take note. Produce some plain oval shaped black helmets.

Forget for a moment the safety issue of bright colors and being seen. Get people to ride a bike and feel comfortable about wearing a helmet first; they will come around to wearing bright colors later. Look how many motorcyclists when legislation forces them to wear a helmet, they will opt for a small, plain black one.

I hope I never see the day when there is widespread mandatory wearing of bicycle helmets, for the simple reason they do not offer total protection; manufacturers need to keep working on that one. I realize it is difficult to make a bicycle helmet light enough to be practical and offer full protection.

However, bring in mandatory helmet wearing, and before long governments will push for full protection standards. Then we will all be wearing motorcycle style helmets and dying of heat exhaustion.

Okay, just my point of view and it is not my place to force it on others. Feel free to disagree and even put forward an opposing viewpoint; all I ask is, please be civil about it. But just in case, I’m going to get my snake bite kit ready.