Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Some of the Laws That Change

32-26-15: The driver of a vehicle upon a highway shall yield the right-of-way to police and fire department vehicles and ambulances if they are operated upon official business and the drivers give an audible signal by bell, siren, or exhaust whistle. The provisions of this section do not relieve the driver of a police, fire department vehicle, or ambulance from the duty to drive with due regard for the safety of all persons using the highway nor does it protect the driver of any such vehicle from the consequence of an arbitrary exercise of such right-of-way.
Well this is interesting. Not only will I no longer have to get out of the way of approaching emergency vehicles, they can’t run over me. Unlike laws for operators of ordinary vehicles, THEY have to look out for MY safety! Someone should alert the sheriff!
32-26-3: Drivers of vehicles proceeding in opposite directions shall pass each other to the right, each giving to the other at least one-half of the main-traveled portion of the roadway as nearly as possible.
You’re on a group ride. Sally’s driving and dialing, drifts from her lane and takes out your riding buddy. Don’t use this law in court, you’re not a vehicle.
32-26-13: When two vehicles approach or enter an intersection at approximately the same time, the driver of the vehicle on the left shall yield the right-of-way to the vehicle on the right. The driver of any vehicle traveling at an unlawful speed shall forfeit any right-of-way which he might otherwise have hereunder.
You’re on the Tour deKota. Steve’s checking out his new Honda at 100mph, comes over a hill and takes out your front wheel with the left side of his car. Don’t use this in court, not only did you not have right-of-way, it doesn’t matter to your case that he was going 100 either.
32-26-14: The driver of a vehicle about to enter or cross a public highway from an alley, building, private road, or driveway shall yield the right-of-way to all vehicles approaching on such public highway.
Get run over by Linda as she’s leaving the brand new Wal-Mart on the edge of town? She pulled out of the driveway without looking because she was fighting with her kids over the toy they just got. Sorry, there is no legal expectation that she bother to notice that you were there.
32-26-19: The driver of a vehicle within an intersection intending to turn to the left shall yield the right-of-way to any vehicle approaching from the opposite direction which is within the intersection or so close thereto as to constitute an immediate hazard. The driver after having so yielded and having given a signal when and as required by this chapter, may make such left turn.
You get the picture. Here are some others. Please make up your own narratives.
32-26-26: The driver of any vehicle overtaking another vehicle proceeding in the same direction shall pass at a safe distance to the left thereof. The driver of an overtaking vehicle shall pass at a safe distance to the side of an overtaken vehicle and may not cut in front of the latter until safely clear of the overtaken vehicle.
32-26-34: No driver of a vehicle may drive to the left side of the center line of a highway in overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction unless such left side is clearly visible and is free of oncoming traffic for a sufficient distance ahead to permit such overtaking and passing to be made in safety.
32-26-40: The driver of a motor vehicle may not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicles and the traffic upon and condition of the highway.

I’m Wrong Again (still HB1190)

The new story on HB1190 is being told! And yes, here I sit, wrong again. I’m ok with that.

Hennies – my understanding is he wrote the bill -
Hennies said he's heard from cycling advocates on the issue. "I have answered them all, and they're wrong," he said. "They just won't accept the answer. It's not a motor vehicle. They'll still be subject to the laws inside any city."
And The Owner says –
"I know for a fact that this law is not designed to do anything to cyclists, but (legislators) don't have much control over what lawyers say tomorrow," he said. "This law is a step in the wrong direction.”
(isn't he good! And I get to be friends with him.)

Break it down –

“I have answered them all” – I believe this to be correct. I appreciate it too. My own district Senator cannot make the same claim.

“and they’re wrong” – as this blog proves, I base much of my life on being wrong about Global Warming. I’m willing to be wrong on this bill too.

“They just won’t accept the answer” – this guy is good, he’s right again. No one in the legislature, not even the governor himself could convince me to accept this answer. A court is one of two entities that could convince me to accept this answer and that’s part of my point for fighting this bill. I need to be certain BEFORE I’m in court that a bicycle IS a vehicle.

“It’s not a motor vehicle” – Wow, he’s right again! SD Law clearly indicates that motor vehicle is a self propelled version of vehicle.
(39) “Vehicle," a device in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a public highway, except devices moved by human power or used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks; including bicycles and ridden animals.
(17) "Motor vehicle," a vehicle, as herein defined, which is self-propelled;
Suddenly! Clarity – the problem HB1190 is trying to address is that DUI laws shouldn’t apply to bicycles. But the forest is right here amongst all these trees! Hennies says it himself! If DUI laws apply to MOTOR VEHICLES, then DUI laws don't apply to BICYLES! Therefore, there is no need to change the definition of vehicle!

“They'll still be subject to the laws inside any city" – I have to argue this one. I’m no lawyer; buy my lay reading of the 1994 Supreme Court case, a case right here within my own city, I think proves differently.

In addition, Hennies surely realizes that cyclists actually do, believe it or not, sometimes ride far enough to find themselves outside of a city. In fact, some cyclists have the ability to leave one city and arrive sometime later in an entirely different city. And then they turn around and ride all the way back! Even in South Dakota, where the cities are so far apart and the wind blows so hard. ADDITIONALLY, 90% of our local cycling population actually PREFERRS to ride this way.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Why Motorists Should Join the Effort/Isn't It Ironical?

I was on the periphery of a conversation today. The conversation started with talk of the efforts being made to change HB1190. The conversation turned to the common argument; “maybe cyclists should begin by obeying the laws that exist.”

Yes cyclists should obey the traffic laws! I agree! Let’s start by keeping the definition of vehicle as it is…so that the laws will still apply to cyclists!

Who's Got More Time For 1190?

Cyclists Against 1190 - Fact Sheet

•HB1190 – “an Act to specifically exclude ridden animals and bicycles from the definition of vehicles.”

•This bill is not intended to affect the use of bicycles on the roads.

•The story being told about this bill is that it will allow drunken people more legal options to get home from the bar.
o“’We don't want these people driving cars,’ Willadsen said, and the bill is a broad-brush stroke to encourage intoxicated individuals not to drive.”

o“’We should not push people to stop driving when they've been drinking, and at the same time penalize them if they get on a bicycle when they're drunk,’ the former police chief said.”
•We think it’s time to tell a different story about this bill.

•To accomplish the intent of this bill, legislators seek in part to change the definition of vehicle (SD Law 32-14-1), to explicitly remove bicycles.

•We believe, whether intended or not, this bill will affect the use of bicycles on South Dakota roads.

•Currently every state has laws that define bicycles as vehicles or they have laws specifically granting that bicycles have the same rights and responsibilities as vehicles. South Dakota should to.

•Changing the definition of vehicles to exclude bicycles consequently affects ALL laws affecting vehicles and, hence, bicycles.

•Excluding bicycles from the definition of vehicle would leave bicyclists in South Dakota without the protection of the law in terms of rights to the road and obligations when on the road.

•The bicyclists we're concerned about include our children, on their way to school, when they're on the road, even if they're following the rules of the road that we've taught them.

The example from right here in our backyard:
June 16, 1986 two Sioux Falls cyclists collided on Tomar Road. They sued each other. During the trial, one of the cyclists attempted to use, as part of his argument, SD Law 32-26-3, which grants that drivers going in opposite directions shall pass each other to the right and give each other half of the road.

The trial court rejected the cyclists’ use of this argument after they misinterpreted (according to the SD Supreme Court) the legal definition of vehicle (SD Law 32-14-1) to exclude bicycles.
We reasonably conclude that if the trial court had been correct in their interpretation of 32-14-1, then 32-26-3 would not have applied. If 32-26-3 doesn’t apply then all the rest of the Rules of the Road written for vehicles don’t apply. If no laws apply, then there is no legal protection for cyclists on South Dakota roads.

Please, do not exclude bicycles from the legal definition of vehicle. Do not allow HB1190 to pass as it is currently written.

Who's Got Time For 1190?

Here is an e-mail I got from a local bicycling Yahoo! Group.

Tomorrow. January 31. 12-noon. Downtown public library. A press conference.

It is time to change the story of HB1190 from jocularity and hilarity to the serious situtation it's passage will put us cyclists in.

This is worth taking a long lunch for. This is worth taking time off work for.

HB1190 is attempting to exclude bicycles from the definition of vehicle. Many of us are absolutely convinced it is critical this bill not pass. If bicycles are excluded from the definition of vehicle, rules of the road will not apply, the protections the law gives you as a cyclist will not apply.

Please come!!!

The best page for information - here.

And Suddenly! Clarity

Isn’t it funny how every so often life tosses you into unexpected situations? Often that situation is the last place you expected to be, or more likely, the last place you wanted to be? But somehow, miraculously, as you’re working through the situation you have a rare moment of clarity, and you learn something that you didn’t know before, and wouldn’t have learned if you hadn’t been placed in the unfortunate situation to begin with?

Here is what I learned this morning:

Ripstop nylon is quite possibly a miracle fabric. Light enough to be comfortably worn on a bicycle (unlike leather), yet tough enough to protect the skin and clothing from damage as the left side of the body is being applied to pavement in a very rapid braking maneuver.

No, I wasn’t drunk. Perhaps asleep, but not drunk.

And remember kids, two hands on the steering wheel at all times; especially in the dark.

Drunk Cycling – The Disconnect (HB1190)

The local daily ran an article that mentioned HB1190. Some legislators are in town holding meetings to inform the public what’s been shaking in Pierre for the 2006 session. The paper hasn’t gotten the right message yet.
Senator Dempster predicts HB1190 will be a national story. “[The bill that] no longer recognizes horses, mules, other riding animals and bicycles as vehicles for the purpose of DWI arrests.”
The legislators believe what they’re being told. “This bill is for DUI purposes.” I believe sometime this week, legislators will be told, intentional or not, this bill is more than a DUI bill. It's more than a DUI bill because it seeks to rewrite the definition of vehicle to exclude bicycle. I've already described here why I think that's a problem.

The more I see this bill gain momentum the more interested I get in the DUI aspect of it.
“The bill responds to the case of a South Dakota man who rode a horse home when he felt he was too drunk to drive but was still arrested and convicted of a fourth DWI.”
This mixes two anecdotal stories about this bill. I’ve read the man suffered this fourth DUI on a bicycle. I suggest the problem with the man on the bicycle is repeated intoxication, not his bicycle. The other story is a drunken man on a horse who (successfully I presume) argued that the horse knew the way home.
"We don't want these people driving cars," Willadsen said, and the bill is a broad-brush stroke to encourage intoxicated individuals not to drive.
Willadsen should either get a smaller brush or take his broad-brush elsewhere. I suggest bar parking lots if he doesn't want drunk people driving.
"The number of people who can be impacted by a drunk driver," said Weems, "is far greater than by someone on a horse or a bike."
Let's try to put some measure on "far greater."
1a. Drunk guy gets in car, hits power pole, dies: 1
1b. Drunk guy gets on bicycle, hits power pole, dies: 1

2a. Drunk guy gets in car, hits pedestrian, pedestrian dies: 1
2b. Drunk guy gets on bicycle, hits pedestrian, pedestrian dies: 1

3a. Drunk guy gets in car, hits family of four in Hummer, dies: 1
3b. Drunk guy gets on bicyle, hits family of four in Hummer, dies: 1

4a. Drunk guy gets in Abrams Battle Tank, drives through residential area and over houses on way to arena for game, parks tank on section 2, people die: 40 (drunk lives!)
4b. Drunk guy gets on bicycle, drives through residential area and gets run over at uncontrolled intersection by Abrams Battle Tank, dies: 1
Ms. Weems believes 2b will never happen to her. I believe "far greater" is far smaller than she realizes.

Which of the 66 house members (2 dissenters) who passed the bill do you suppose are willing to be run down by a 12mph drunk bicycle as research for the Senate while they deliberate this bill?

Friday, January 27, 2006

HB1190 v The 1994 Supremes

This, is a follow-up to this.

The bottom line: After today's research I remain firmly opposed to HB1190.

In 1994 two South Dakota cyclists sued each other after colliding. The arguments for each side are complex, but a quick summary of the collision is:
The accident occurred around 10pm after a 9:10pm sunset. It was dark. Apparently the cyclists were not aware of each others presence until they collided.
The cyclists were traveling in opposite directions on a curvy city street. Both were traveling downhill…quickly.
Cyclist A did not have a headlight.
Cyclist B “was on the wrong side of the geometric center of the road but was close to the perceived center.” – I tried to use my own words for this but couldn’t find a way to do it without implying that the cyclist was in the wrong lane, therefore at fault.
The cyclists collided on their right sides. Normal traffic flow would have them passing each other on their left sides.
Both of the riders suffered serious injuries, one suffered injuries that could not be repaired, resulting in practical loss of a limb.
(Local readers who’ve lived here for longer might recognize this accident.)

A quick summary of the case seems to be:
The trial court jury did not declare an award for either cyclist.
Both cyclists appealed.
In the appeal the Supreme Court wrote quite a lot about the law attempting to be changed by HB1190, SD Law 32-14-1.
The Supreme Court allowed that there were enough problems with the first trial to warrant a new trial.
Cyclist B’s argument in-part was that Cyclist A did not meet the requirement of SD Law 32-26-3, “…drivers of vehicles proceeding in opposite directions shall pass each other to the right, each giving to the other at least one-half of the main-traveled portion of the roadway as nearly as possible…”

I think it’s clear that Cyclist B was arguing that the other cyclist was negligent by taking too much of the road, causing the collision.

The trial court ruled that this law (32-26-3) did not apply to the case because a bicycle is not a vehicle under SD Law 32-14-1, “’Vehicle,’ a device in, upon, or by which any person or property is or may be transported or drawn upon a public highway, except devices moved by human power or used exclusively upon stationary rails or tracks; including bicycles and ridden animals.”

The Supreme Court majority opinion determined that the trial court ruled in error. They wrote that the language of 32-14-1 “specifically provided” that a bicycle is a vehicle.

The Supreme Court dissenting opinion was more fun in stating that “while this definition is not a paragon of clarity, bicycles are still clearly vehicles.”

It is apparent to me from this case, that rewriting 32-14-1 to exclude bicycles (which HB1190 wants to do) means that, in the case of a jury trial, laws governing vehicle rules of the road for cyclists will not apply, putting cyclists at a gross disadvantage against other vehicles, or in this case even other cyclists, in the courts.

The day I find myself being parted out at the bottom of Tomar hill by an errant DeVille, and my life insurer refuses to pay because I’m involving myself in risky behavior, I want my wife to have every advantage possible in the courts to ensure that her house gets paid for and my kids go to college. That includes being able to argue that my life insurer should pay my policy because that car ought to have been on the proper side of the road according to state law.

(It’s pretty ironic, I think, that this case happens to be between two cyclists.)

After today's research I remain firmly opposed to HB1190.

I remain grateful to the Progressive on the Prairie for providing me with the Supreme Court document that this post is based. Again, please realize, any revelation of stupidity in this post should be known to reveal my stupidity, not his.

Thursday, January 26, 2006

HB1190 – Redefining Vehicles (Leaving Bicycles Behind)

The South Dakota Legislature is currently working on a bill that will make it legal to ride a bicycle while intoxicated. Two anecdotal stories are being told about this bill. There’s the guy who suffered his fourth DUI, but the punishment apparently seemed excessive because the fourth time he was on a bicycle. Another person was charged with DUI while operating a horse. His argument was that the horse knew the way home so he shouldn’t be found guilty.

Welcome to the frontier!

The dangerous part of the bill is that it wants to remove bicycle (and ridden animals) from the definition of vehicle. While there are plenty of murky (but perhaps good) arguments about whether or not changing this definition actually changes a bicycle’s ability to use the roadway, I think there’s also a very good argument to me made that the only way to know for sure what effect changing this definition will have on the law is to test it in court. I surely don’t want to be the one testing this new definition after getting driven over on a state roadway. I’d rather know that I’m a vehicle with equal rights to use the road.

I’m told that there was a 1994 South Dakota Supreme Court case that determined that the way the vehicle definition is currently stated, bicycles are included in the definition. I’m seeking details on this case because it would be interesting to see what might have happened had the court determined that bicycles weren’t included in the definition of vehicle.

Below is a statement I’ve sent to a few places regarding this bill. If you feel compelled, please write to your South Daktota State Senator about your (or my) opposition to this bill. The Senate Transportation Committee gets the bill next, and then it’s on to the Senate.

Thank you.

Additional thanks to the Prairie Progressive for making a morning interpretation of this bill for me. Please, any mistakes or gross errors I make in writing about the bill should be attributed to myself and not to his assistance.
I believe this is a bad bill for cycling and bicyclists. If you have an interest in keeping the bicycle somewhere in the realm of being a legitimate form of transportation, and not further relegated to a recreational endeavor or worse, a toy, you should consider voicing your opposition to this bill.

I believe the change to the definition of vehicle (Section I of the bill) needs to be opposed because changing definitions changes the reading of the laws in all chapters that use that definition, not just the "drunk bicycling" law it's attempting to focus on. Bicyclists' rights on the public roadways rely heavily on the recognition of the bicycle as a vehicle. My use of a bicycle on the public roadway relies heavily on the legal recognition of the bicycle as a vehicle.

I think the drunken cyclist section of the bill (Section II) is a bad idea, but driving under the influence is not an issue I feel compelled to argue about here, except to say the State ought to realize that cycling is dangerous enough sober.

If I was forced to compromise on the bill I'd object to Section I and keep Section II. Section II suggests excluding bicycles and animals from the laws related to drunk driving which would cause the stated purpose of the bill to remain intact. The Section I change isn't necessary for Section II to work, and eliminating it, eliminates the side effects that I'm concerned about.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

I'm Not Dead...

I'm just resting. Sleep has managed to move itself up a couple positions on my personal list of things are important. Unfortunately, this cuts into my writing time.

It also happens to be that time of year again. Yup. January 24. It's an important day in the life of The MinusCar Project.

It was a year ago today that I read this article in the morning - "Jan. 24 called worst day of the year. British psychologist calculates ‘most depressing day’" Ironically I think that calculation factors in winter weather which hadn't been exactly clear and present for a couple years now.

Later that afternoon I read this article - "Climate Change: Countdown to Global Catastrophe. Report warns point of no return may be reached in 10 years, leading to droughts, agricultural failure and water shortages" - which turned my world upside down...and left it there.

January 24 this year I found myself reading something generally a little more hopeful. It's Al Gore's January 15 speech where he is sharply critical of the executive branch. But then there was this nugget -
"And today one of the leading scientific experts on global warming in NASA has been ordered not to talk to members of the press and to keep a careful log of everyone he meets with so that the Executive Branch can monitor and control his discussions of global warming."
So, yes. It's a tough time. Nothing a little sunshine won't fix, eh? So tomorrow, I'm going to get back on my bike and enjoy as best I can our 37th day in a row of above normal temperature.

Why don't you join me? Bike to work if you haven't lately.

Monday, January 16, 2006

Paper Clips v. The Internets

I watched Paper Clips on DVD this week. I had an interesting experience surrounding the rental of the DVD.

As I was participating in my rental transaction with the Blockbuster employee he informed me that they were just putting Paper Clips back on the shelf. He said that Blockbuster had previously asked them to remove it.


So upon returning home I fired up the Google thing and found a paragraph from the Anti-Defamation League mentioning that Blockbuster's removal of Paper Clips from shelves was just a rumor.

The ADL posting was two months prior to my rental.

I suppose Mahmoud Ahmadinejad could have complained. I sure didn’t find anything offensive.

Report: January 9-15

Trips -
MinusCar: 12
Multi-occupant Auto: 4
Single occupant Auto: 3

These numbers are almost better than summer! Of course, the weather seems a lot closer to summer than what should be normal for January. MinusCar trips were aided heavily by a couple lunch dates and a Saturday morning meeting. Saturday afternoon I rode with The Boy 7 to the park so he could play with some mates. Later I rode back to pick him up. It was nice of him to play along with The Project, eh?

There was one day I broke down and just couldn’t ride. Sigh.

My Car Miles: 28
My Bike Miles/Hours: 85/7.9

An 85 mile week! I haven’t seen that many since Thanksgiving.

Sunday, January 15, 2006

I’m Cooler Than You

Recently I was readying myself to order a shipment of Clif Bars. I visited their site to see if any hot new 2006 style flavors were available. I found this instead:

Imagining myself with a hard plastic credit card size tag to hang off my bag I quickly ordered five. They’ll make great gifts, right? To my dismay, “tags” apparently means something else in Clifbarlandia. They’re way more like bumper stickers than “tags.”

Maybe I’ll adorn the first five Humvees I find.

Anyway, there was an additional sticker in the envelope that I would have much rather had 10 of than the five “tags” I can’t use:

Friday, January 13, 2006

Red Lights/Red Mist Part 3: Rights (Why I Hope I Get Ticketed for Running a Red Light)

The law says, “Every person driving a bicycle shall have all of the rights and all the duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle by this Code…”

In light of the rights portion of this law, I think it would be interesting to present this problem to a court and see if it would determine that the city was not providing bicycles the provisions of the law.

I don’t see this as an argument that would bring sweeping changes to the way the city installs traffic sensors. It’s hard to imagine a court or this city declaring improved signal sensors a necessity for the 6% of the population that might ride their bike through this city this year.

I do think it’s a reasonable argument against paying a fine for violating the duties portion of this law. Someday I’d like to test it.

This approach allows for eayste’s quite agreeable suggestion that bicycles will never receive equal treatment.

It also fits uneasily into H’s Citizenship pillar of Character Counts!

“get involved in community affairs” – it was at a community bicycle planning meeting where the city transportation planner answered this problem with the suggestion to get off your bike, walk to the button to press it, and get back on your bike.

“respect authority” – I will not run from the policeman who would ticket me for riding through a red light. I will respect authority by challenging authority in the most appropriate of places, a court.

“protect the environment” – well, yeah. Perhaps you’ve heard of The MinusCar Project.

“obey laws and rules” – sigh, I can’t.

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

McASP and Related Business

The recent surge in the stock market has been helpful to McASP. Since McASP began the portfolio has been mostly below zero. Over the past week or so I’ve found it above zero for a change.

DSTI - DayStar Technologies (-27%)
ENER - Energy Conversion Devices 13%
ESLR - Evergreen Solar 50%
SPIR - Spire Corporation (-16%)

Evergreen Solar remains the best choice in the portfolio with a $131 gain.

Energy Conversion Devices is helping out too with $35 in gains. On December 27 this stock gained $7.36/share after sealing a deal with Samsung for their memory technology.

In other news…a couple more crackpot CEO’s have voiced the need to focus on renewable energy. One because he acknowledges the dwindling supplies of world oil and the other because he recognizes some sort of responsibility to reduce greenhouse emissions.

Bill Ford, CEO of Ford Motor Company, is the first. Interestingly the headline of the article, “Auto Industry Goes Green” is unfortunate, because Ford’s stated reasoning has nothing to do with the environment and everything to do with the problem of peak oil. If you haven’t heard of the Ford Reflex Concept Car you can read about it here.

The second CEO is Jim Rogers. He’s the head of Cinergy, a Cincinati power company that burns 30 million tons of coal a year. A MinusCar reader (thanks dad!) alerted me to a special episode of Public Television’s NOW Program that explored the science of climate change. You can read the transcript of the show here.

Jim Rogers says:

My greatest fear is that we stonewall this issue so long that we wake up one day and go, "Oh, my God, we've got to solve this in the next five years."
The longer we postpone acting on the issue, the more extreme the measures might have to be to deal with the issue in the future.

Sometime this year Cinergy and Duke Energy plan to merge into one of the largest energy companies in the nation. Duke Energy is an energy company that has announced support for taxes levied against consumers of green house gas emitting fuels. You can read about that from the publisher of JunkScience.com, at Fox News..

Report: January 2-8

Trips -
MinusCar: 6
Multi-occupant Auto: 4
Single occupant Auto: 3

Finally, a week that has some trip numbers closer to what I hope for. The week wasn’t without its frustrations though. Wednesday I went so far as to completely dress to ride my bike. As I was walking out the back door I fully realized if I rode I’d be really late for work. I switched clothes and drove in.

My Car Miles: 17
My Bike Miles/Hours: 37/3.9

Nevertheless, 17 miles added to my car this week. That’s better than a lot of summer months. The low miles owes mostly to the warm weather reducing snow on my favorite bike route to work.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

Red Lights/Red Mist Part 2: Responsibility

Background: December 1st I wrote about recognizing the problem of red light running as a vehicular problem, not just a bicycle riding problem.

Background: December 10th I wrote about the upcoming Annual City Bicycle Plan Meeting and a question I was prepared to ask it.

Section 10-34 - Every person driving a bicycle shall have all of the rights and all the duties applicable to the driver of any other vehicle by this Code…

So, there you go. It is the duty of every person driving a bicycle to follow all the applicable ordinances. Section 40-116 says vehicle drivers must obey traffic controls. Section 40-119 even bothers to provide the definition of a red light. It’s not just a color.

I ride through some red lights.

One of the ways cities try to improve vehicular traffic flow is to cut down on the number of red lights on high volume roads. A way to do that is to install what I call “switched traffic controls.” These traffic controls tend to be used for intersections where high volume roads meet significantly lower volume roads. The control stays green for the dominant road, until a switch is activated on the less dominant road.

The switch is activated for cars by metal detecting sensors embedded in the pavement in areas where they’re likely to stop for the red light. The switch is activated for pedestrians by pushing a button usually located in areas where they’re likely to stop. For bicycles, well…yeah that’s the thing.

At previous city bicycle plan meetings the request to make these sensors stronger to detect bicycles has been dismissed on the grounds that stronger sensors introduce the problem of phantom red lights caused by cars passing by the sensors, not specifically stopping and expecting the light to change. I’m no rocket scientist but I think it’s arguable that phantom red lights isn't just a traffic flow problem, it's a psychological one too. An increase in phantom red lights correlates to an increase in ignoring red lights. A “never cry wolf” problem.

The answer to the problem for cyclists, given to us by representatives of our city, is literally to get off the bike, walk to and push the pedestrian switch, and get back on the bike. My answer to the problem is to wait at the red light until the road is reasonably clear and cross against the red light. Hopefully, to a reasonable reader, reading that I ride through these red lights seems like a reasonable thing to do. If you don’t, I'd really like to know your better suggestions.

I acknowledge a problem with my choice of behavior. I experience intersections like these all the time. I know which ones they are. I know that they are not going to change for me, no matter how long I wait. When I come to one of these I stop. If it’s clear, I go. I can’t find every possible observer and explain to them what I’ve described above so that they know I’m making a carefully thought out and reasonable decision to break the law. Therefore, a driver, pedestrian, or child, observing me, would think that I had just completely disregarded the red light.

It's also a psychological problem for me. I already go through lights that I know won't change for me. What about lights at intersections I'm not familiar with? How long do I wait to determine whether or not this traffic control will switch for me? I'm pretty sure an independant observer would probably find that the number of minutes I'm willing to wait to find out if a traffic control is going to switch for me is linearly connected to the air temperature at the intersection.

Stay tuned for Red Lights/Red Mist Part 3: Rights

Friday, January 06, 2006

Full-Face Helmets and Therapists and Weathermen, Oh My!

As I bounced along the river on the rutted, footprinted ice this morning I checked the time to see if I was early enough to check in with Full-Face Helmet Guy. Seeing I was a few minutes late I looked across the river and there he was, ahead of me by just a little. I realized if I was going to get my “thumbs-up” this morning I was going to need to put in some work. It was a half-mile to the bridge that I use to cross the river. I put the hammer down, got to the bridge ahead of him, and was crossing over just as he went under. I made it; “thumbs-up” for everyone involved.

I stopped off at my favorite locally owned coffee shop this morning and found The Therapist standing in line. Yes, The Therapist being the person who sat and listened to me a few times during the dark months from February to April last year. There I was in full winter bike regalia (balaclava included) sharing the line with him. He asked me if I was keeping warm out there. He correctly assessed that it probably wasn’t too bad today. Then he said he was happy to see I was still at it. I’m pretty sure he was thinking maybe I really am crazy. No charge for that though, I guess.*

Finally, usually terminally cheery local weather dude Shawn Cable, who daily sends me a local forecast, is no longer terminally cheery when he reports that the 10 day forecast shows temperatures 10 to 15 degrees above average. Two days in a row now his text forecast has been facts only, no hyperbole. Maybe it's post holiday doldrums. Maybe it's bad tacos he ate Wednesday. Or maybe it’s that temperatures are terminally 10 to 15 degrees above normal.

*this paragraph is for entertainment purposes only. Any inference, real or imagined, that I believe The Therapist says one thing and thinks another is pure irony. I had great respect for The Therapist long before a year ago, and continue to now.

Thursday, January 05, 2006

Been Caught Stealing

"Words can never express my sorrow and profound regret," Abramoff told U.S. District Court Judge Ellen Segal Huvelle. "Nor can they express my sadness and regret for my conduct," he added. " I ask for forgiveness and redemption from (the) Almighty."

Getting caught sure changes a guy.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

Bars Raised, Limits Extended

Tuesday ended up an inspiring day, but the morning was a slog. I cycled to work. It was froggy out. I used lights in the morning for the roads even though the sun was up.

The beautiful bike trail conditions I raved about for the New Year's Day Ride were now covered by a thin sheet of ice. Riding through it was similar to a ship coming off Lake Superior in January. My tires chomped away making a very unique indescribable crunching sound. It was tough watching my average speed drop sometimes as low as 4mph for parts of the worst 3 mile stretch. A few riders had come before me, enough to make riding harder. Sure riding in their tracks makes for easier rolling but the bike then wants to respond to what had been their shifting weight, creating a disconnect now. I knew I was in trouble when all the tracks abruptly departed the trail and aimed for a nearby pasta restaurant…and I continued, halfway through the hardest portion, now through virgin ice. The resturant isn't open for breakfast anyway.

I exited my more common route to try my hand at the sloppy but perhaps more passable roads. This was a good choice even though one combination of slop and ice had me so sideways I unclipped my feet to catch myself…but did not dab. I finally arrived at work…very late.

I had all day long to think about the ride home. Should I. Shouldn’t I. At 5pm I put in an 11th hour call to The Wife to check the possibility of a carpool. She had left work early and was already home. She’d come get me, but you know, that’s not really what The MinusCar Project is about now, is it?

I put off my departure another 20 minutes by hanging out with my workmates. Outside, on my way to change clothes, I discovered the same froggy stuff from the morning with additional freezing drizzley mist. I was debating a bus catch, but my brain said ride. Ride. It will be EPIC. And it was.

As I rode I felt enclosed by so many elements it was surreal. The cold, fog, mist, darkness, the layers of warm clothes each offered something similar to support. Each independent beam of the handlebar mounted TripleShot could be identified and seemed almost to be made of physical matter, like tubes of water extending from the handlebar. The helmet mounted DoubleShot was a light saber, visible almost point to point, especially as it connected with the face of an SUV driver internally debating the pros and cons of running over me to get to the latte.

Without the pressure of being late to work I was free to enjoy the three mile ice breaking effort. With each pedal stroke came the realization of strength, the thought that I had perhaps found the longest, steepest hill in southeastern South Dakota, and it is pancake flat.

The end of my commute includes a natural uphill from river valley to bluff. Always occurring toward the end of any ride, this bit often seems like a slap. But this night, like a batter swinging for the fence after warming up using three bats, I hit the top feeling awesome.

The phone rang shortly after that. “Do you need rescuing?” The Wife asked. “Nope, I’ll be home in a couple minutes, save me some pork loin.” And she did.

Report: December 19-January 1 (two weeks)

Trips -
MinusCar: 8
Multi-occupant Auto: 14
Single occupant Auto: 11

A lot of bus trips and the weather warmed up enough to clear my preferred/safe/short bike route to work. Most single occupant auto trips are part of driving to catch the bus to work.

My Car Miles: 113
My Bike Miles/Hours: 66/6.1

I touched a milestone the week of Christmas. I surpassed 1000 miles on my car since the beginning of this project. I think that translates to 4 maybe 5 tanks of gas since May 26. Honestly that’s more than I wanted.

The above average temperatures melted enough snow to make my short/safer/preferred route to work passable. It’s taken some experimenting still to determine what is rideable. Generally the mornings work well because the nighttime cold freezes the wet gravel hard. One evening on the way home after a day of low 30 temperatures, I found the same gravel stretch to be the consistency of peanut butter. That makes for a tough 2/3 miles.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Happy New Year

It’s been quiet around here. I’m going to reverse the flow and see what I can dredge up from the past 10 days.

New Year’s Day Ride @ The LBS – the hourly forecast said the ride start would coincide with the start of some freezing rain. In spite of that a few people (100? 150?) turned out for this 19th annual ride and the rain held off until I arrived home.

Caught on film -

As always the conclusion of the ride involved free chili, cheese and oyster crackers from Wendy’s. Also on hand was complimentary Jittery Joe’s coffee. Nice!

I rode and spoke almost exclusively with The Pastor which never fails to satisfy. He’s in the picture above in a Waldian sort of way. Also in the picture is a former 24 Hours of Afton Race Day Nemesis of mine.

And the ride? Best Ride Ever? Best Ride So Far This Year? There was snow on the ground for 80% of the ride. Not enough snow to make the ride effort anything extraordinary, just enough for some traction and some crunchy sounds. The wind was from the north for the east/west ride and the temperature was 30-ish.

Oh, and the Balance/Universe/Wheel guy’s parents rode on a tandem.

New Year’s Eve – we participated in the 2nd First Night celebration. It ended up much more multicultural than I expected. We learned a bit of Irish drum. The leader called it a boron but I refuse to accept that as a way to pronounce Bodhran, even if it is Irish. Mariachi, and Native American Hoop dancing added to the mix.

Caught on film –

That’s a cheap Bodhran not a pizza box. Interestingly, having all those clean pizza boxes around made it pretty plain that a high percentage of the scent of delivered pizza involves cardboard.

Conversations – I took the long way home on Wednesday and as I was stopped along the local trail to put my lights on along came a bicycle commuter. He stopped to chat. He asked about studded tires and the New Year’s Day Ride. I’d never seen him before. He rides to work often.

The day before, a very cold looking African woman asked me about riding the bus downtown. Oh how I wished I could tell her to walk over to that road and stand there and within 30 minutes a bus will come by and pick you up. But I had to tell her to go to that street and walk against traffic until she sees a bus stop because they only pick up every four blocks. I told her I thought it was a sheltered stop which would make it easy to identify (I was right that it was sheltered!). The transit company phone number is now stored on my phone so I can call them if this ever happens again.

Christmas – was spent with family and was very nice and very normal. I’ve got some new books to read. I’m going to try to knock three of them down before the end of January.

That’s it. End of story. Thanks for reading.