Toronto Scramble

This mesmerizing time-lapse video of Toronto’s first “scramble” intersection was created by Spacing Toronto and photoblogger Sam Javanrough.

Scrambles are intersections where cars are stopped in all directions and pedestrians are allowed to cross in all directions at once, including diagonally.

Of course, bicycles are vehicles too, so cyclists must stop on the vehicle red light, though bikes can be walked through the intersection on the pedestrian light. It’ll be interesting to see if cyclists adopt some sort of modified dismount/walk/remount behavior—à la cyclocross—to take advantage of their ambiguous status and have it both ways.

Wet Weather Riding Tips from the PNW

Here are a few winter riding tips from the Portland Office of Transportation, a place where they know a thing or two about wet road conditions.

Stay Dry and Warm
You don’t need the latest and greatest cycling gear to get around town by bicycle. A decent rain jacket and pants are your best defense. They both cut down on wind and keep you dry. If you can afford it, GoreTex or other breathable fabric will keep the rain out and keep you from feeling clammy. Fenders are also a very good investment — they keep your clothes from getting gritty and dirty. Nice extras include waterproof gloves, a snug hood or cap, a synthetic layer next to your skin to wick away moisture, and rain booties to go over your shoes.

Use Front and Rear Bicycle Lights
Lights are required by law when riding after dark. A white light visible at least 500 feet to the front, and a red light or reflector visible at least 600 feet to the rear. These lights allow other people to see you from the back, front and side. For more visibility at night wear bright clothing, an orange vest, or use reflective tape. The more reflectors whether blinking, flashing or solid, the better.

Brake Early and Often
Allow plenty of stopping distance. Gently squeeze your brakes in the rain to clear the water from you brake pads before you need to stop.

Avoid Some Painted and Steel Road Surfaces and Leaves
Steel plates, sewer covers, grates and other metal can be very slick in the rain. For paint, Portland City crews use non-slick paint and plastics for bike lanes and bicycle markings (and those blue bike lanes); however, crosswalks and other painted surfaces can be slippery. Avoid using your brakes or turning on these painted surfaces and on leaves and oily spots.

Stay Out of the Puddles
While it is tempting to splash through puddles especially if you have really good rain gear, a puddle can disguise a very deep pothole.

Slow Down on Newly Wet Roads
That first rain brings all the oil on the road to the surface making for a slippery ride. This is especially true after a long dry spell. Give yourself longer stopping distances and keep a firmer grip on your handlebars.

[via BikePortland]

Ciclovía Miami

With the first-ever Bike Miami event coming up on November 9th, Miami joins the growing list of cities to host a Bogotá-style Ciclovía “street opening” festival.

Bike Miami is an initiative by City of Miami Mayor Manny Diaz to promote bicycling, liveable streets and the growing urban neighborhood of Downtown Miami. The event will close Flagler Street from the Courthouse to Bayfront Park, as well as South Miami Avenue from 10th Street (Mary Brickell Village)to SE 4th Street and then north on 1st Ave to Flagler for pedestrians and bicyclists.

Bike Miami
Ciclovía Bogotá @ StreetFilms

[via Cyclelicious]

Easy Racers Makes Huggacast 70

Bike Hugger

How’s Your Commute?

I ran across this interesting graphic in the Victoria Transport Policy Institute’s report titled “Valuing Transit Service Quality Improvements“, by Todd Alexander Litman (2007). From the Abstract:

This report investigates the value travelers place on qualitative factors such as comfort and convenience, and practical ways to incorporate these factors into travel time values for planning and project evaluation. Conventional evaluation practices generally assign the same time value regardless of travel conditions, and so undervalue comfort and convenience impacts. Yet, a quality improvement that reduces travel time unit costs by 20% provides benefits equivalent to an operational improvement that increases travel speeds by 20%. This report recommends specific travel time value adjustments to account for factors such as travel and waiting comfort, travel reliability, and real time transit vehicle arrival information. It describes how service quality improvements can increase transit ridership and reduce automobile travel.

The walking and cycling numbers really jumped out at me. The report is written for transit planners, so it naturally focuses on getting people out of cars and onto public transit, but I was surprised that the ped/bike numbers were virtually ignored in the document text. It would have been nice to see a column for Mixed (Cycling & Transit), my usual mode. It’s interesting that Automobile Only fared better than Transit Only, but the two combined fared the worst.

So what does all this mean? Ride your bike to work and be happy! :-)

Night Riding: Safe or Insane?

I have friends who think I’m insane for riding my bike in the dark. They’re convinced riding at night is asking for it, akin to skydiving, tight rope walking, and alligator wrestling. They tell me I’m crazy for commuting in the winter, that riding in the dark everyday is playing a game of Russian roulette, and that I should put the bike in the rafters until spring.

The funny thing is that I find the early morning hours, before the heavy commute gets going, to be the most peaceful and relaxing time of day to ride a bike; and arguably, the safest. Traffic around here is nearly non-existent before 5:30 in the morning; our commute really gets rolling around 6:30-7:00 am. Prior to that, the roads are quiet and the occasional car can be heard and seen from a great distance. And drunk drivers, probably the biggest threat to any nocturnal rider, are already off the roads and passed out somewhere by that time of the morning.

I have friends who think I’m insane for riding my bike in the dark. They’re convinced riding at night is asking for it, akin to skydiving, tight rope walking, and alligator wrestling.

It goes without saying that if you’re going to ride in the dark, you need high quality front and rear lights. My approach is to use a number of smaller lights and strips of reflective material placed here and there to produce a “road hazard” effect. Doing so causes motorists to give me a wider berth at night, when they don’t know what I am, than during the day when they know what I am and they don’t perceive me as a threat.

It’s also a good idea to slow down a little at night. Even if you have a ridiculously high-powered lighting system, we tend to overestimate our ability to see road obstacles in the dark. In his excellent book on traffic, Tom Vanderbilt cites a study that concluded automobiles should be driven no faster than 20 mph at night to allow sufficient time to react to obstacles in the road. For complex physiological reasons I won’t go into (and don’t understand anyway), all of us, whether on bikes or in cars, underestimate the amount of reaction time we need at night to respond to unexpected obstacles, whether they be potholes, raccoons, or SUVs.

Statistics do show that a high number of cyclists are killed at night. But if you dig deeper, the numbers seem to indicate many of those riders were caught after dusk without lights, riding at a time when traffic is still relatively heavy and motorists are tired and distracted. I’d argue that with proper lighting and a little restraint, riding in the dark can be as safe as riding during daylight hours, and I’d even venture to say the early morning hours before sunrise may be the safest of all.

Bicycle Mirror Pros & Cons

I wanted to thank everyone for keeping the ongoing helmet discussion civil. It’s one of those tough subjects that, for some reason, tends to polarize people.

I may be pushing my luck here, but since we’ve had such a lively, yet civilized discussion on helmets, I thought we might take a look at rear view mirrors as well—another subject that always seems to elicit passionate opinions.

Bicycle accident studies are conflicted on the question of how frequently cyclists are struck from behind by cars. I don’t know if this is a result of where the studies were conducted, which demographic was studied, or what. The general consensus seems to be that cyclists overemphasize the danger of being struck from the rear, although that doesn’t change the fact that a substantial number of cyclists are killed this way every year.

It goes without saying that anytime you change a lane or move across traffic you must look behind to make sure the lane is clear. The question is whether it’s best to use a mirror to assist in the process, or whether it’s best to just look over your shoulder.

Whether or not you perceive being struck from behind as a grave threat, looking behind is an essential technique for riding a bike, just as it’s an essential technique for driving a car. It goes without saying that anytime you change a lane or move across traffic you must look behind to make sure the lane is clear. The question is whether it’s best to use a mirror to assist in the process, or whether it’s best to just look over your shoulder.

Personally, I advocate the use of mirrors. I’ve used helmet mirrors for the better part of 25 years and I feel half-blind without one. I’m so accustomed to using one, that I often look up to use the mirror-that-isn’t-there while I’m walking through a parking lot. I’m an active user of rear-view mirrors in cars as well. I believe mirrors give us a better sense of situations as they develop behind us, and as a result, give us that few more seconds to react if necessary. Mirrors have helped me to avoid accidents more than once—both in the car and on the bike—possibly saving my life in one instance.

There are valid arguments against the use of mirrors, the most common being that they distract the rider from the road in front of them. The other is that they may tempt a rider to be lazy and take a lane without actually turning to look over their shoulder. I don’t buy the distraction argument—there are so many things that constantly distract us on the road, I don’t believe adding a mirror to the mix significantly changes the equation. And while I agree that a rider should always look over their shoulder before taking a lane, there’s no reason why adding a mirror will necessarily cause a diligent cyclist to suddenly drop their guard.

On the question of helmet versus handlebar mirrors, I say both! But if I had to choose one or the other, I’d pick the helmet mirror because it allows me to scan a wide arc behind me with a small head movement. Plus, handlebar mirrors can sometimes rattle and project a blurred image. The down side to helmet mirrors is that they take a while to get used to and, theoretically at least, they create a small blind spot in front of the rider. And, of course, there’s the question of whether you wear a helmet.. :-)

Ultimately, whether or not we choose to use a mirror is a personal decision very much like the helmet decision, but in this case we have even fewer statistics to support one position over the other. That said, my personal experience leads me to believe mirrors are an important tool that, if used properly, can help safeguard us on the road.

© 2011 EcoVelo™