Thursday, September 30, 2010

Return the League of American Bicyclists to Greater Democratic Governance

From Wikipedia: An oligarchy (from Greek ὀλιγαρχία, oligarkhía[1]) is a form of power structure in which power effectively rests with a small segment of society distinguished by royalty, wealth, family ties, or military control. The word oligarchy is from the Greek words "ὀλίγος" (olígos), "a few"[2] and the verb "ἄρχω" (archo), "to rule, to govern, to command".[3] Such states are often controlled by a few prominent families who pass their influence from one generation to the next.

Dear Friends

Along with fellow LCIs Eli Damon and John Brooking, I am attempting a petition candidacy to run for the League of American Bicyclists Board of Directors. Why? Because the current LAB governance rules give the sitting Board overwhelming power to skew our elections, including the right to screen candidates and reject any whom they disapprove. Furthermore, those who wish to be on the ballot without existing Board member approval must obtain an almost impossible 5% of the membership's names in petitions. These are dire warning to not attempt to buck the power structure. Finally, the sitting Board appoints seven of the fifteen new members. Many of these election rule changes were put in without member input. There are good reasons for sitting boards to want to cherry-pick candidates, but the good is balanced or outweighed by the bad--the board amasses a huge amount of power at your (the member's) expense.

Three of us are attempting to break into this closed loop in the December elections via the petition process. Go here to sign the petition adding us to the ballot, if you wish to do so and are a LAB member.
The three of us represent divergent viewpoints (our statements and qualifications are at the link above or here) but for the common view that League members must have greater voice in League governance if we are to call ourselves a membership based organization. We are working together because it is a difficult job to qualify. By supporting this petition, you are not voting to put us on the Board or voting to appoint us in a bloc, but petitioning that our names be added to the ballot, where we take our chances with the other candidates. To me, that is the important part.

Imagine if the sitting U.S. Congress was empowered to internally elect 47% of the next Congressional delegation without your input, change the election rules on their own, and internally screen those who are allowed to run for office. Its not hard to imagine that the present members could control the agenda and the political point of view of Congress indefinitely, cutting you, the voter, out of the loop. That's what the present governance policies of the League of American Bicyclists governance have produced. If you object to this bad flavor of organizational democracy, this is your chance to act.

That's not to say that some of the "approved" candidates are not excellent, including our own Bicycle Coalition of New Mexico President Diane Albert, whom I worked with establishing the Los Alamos bicycle plan and who we all MUST vote for (check out her statement on the BCNM site!  Jennifer Grey Fox likewise had a compelling c.v. as a Board-appointed candidate. But this is about fair elections, too.

Our platforms are in the link below. As for me? This blog is my transparency as well as my outlet for hot air.

No hidden agenda on my part, and thanks for reading,

Khal Spencer

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Look before you leap...

I had the car today because I had a lunchtime errand and agreed to do the Smith's grocery shopping, therefore justifying taking Old Belchfire to work. On the way home, I was driving up to the Conoco Hill intersection. A cyclist in the bike lane was slow and wobbly on the ascent. I wondered, given he was riding right on the line between the bike lane and right travel lane, if he was going to change lanes. So I slowed.

Without looking, he veered directly in front of my car. I'm glad it was me he veered in front of since I was sorta expecting it. Thankfully, he did not veer in front of a dualie that was accelerating.

I mentioned "look before you leap" as I passed on his right since at that point he was in the center lane preparing for a left turn. I think cyclists need to learn the "over the shoulder scan" technique we teach in Traffic Skills 101. It both allows the cyclist to see what is approaching behind him and telegraphs to following motorists that the cyclist is changing lanes. Here is a Mass Bike video showing how its done.

Positioning for turns
  • Before a turn: turn and look back at traffic (turn your head) and scan, signal, negotiate, and when you verify it is safe,  move into the lane that leads to your destination. (Practice this maneuver in a safe place such as a parking lot or soccer field because if not done correctly, you might veer when you turn your head and upper body, inadvertently pulling on the handlebars.)
  • If you feel like you are wobbling or veering too much while turning and looking, try doing the head turn while out of the saddle and accelerating, which may tend to stabilize your steering by freeing up your upper body a little. I suggested this to a cyclist who was uncomfortable with the seated version of the maneuver, and he said it actually worked.
  • Ride in the right third or middle of the lane, as lane width dictates
  • To traverse multiple lanes in busy and faster traffic, move one lane at a time, scanning and signaling each move

Traffic Skills is better than Traffic Kills...

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Steve Magas: Why "Share the Road" Stinks

If you read nothing else on cyclist's rights, read this essay.

From Steve's essay:

"...“Sharing” is not a concept mandated by law, but is an altruistic concept that relies upon the goodwill of the Share-or to give up a little bit of that which he owns to the Share-ee.  No law says that the motorist owns the road and the cyclist may borrow it sometimes, IF the motorist feels like sharing.  Yet, motorists frequently act like my two year old son did almost 20 years ago – he got in the face of the proposed “Share-ee” and said, MINE!”...But this is not the law.  Rather, the law is that a PERSON wishing to use the public roads has the right to CHOOSE the vehicle on, or in, which to travel. A bicycle and a car and a truck and a bus and an Amish buggy and a large piece of farm equipment are equally valid, legitimate and lawful choices as vehicles. When it comes to the right to be on the roadway, a person who chooses to ride a bicycle on the roadway has exactly and precisely the same quantity or bundle of rights as one who chooses to operate a car..."

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Support Diane Albert for League Board...and by the way...

Diane Albert, now a practicing attorney in Albuquerque and President of the Bicycle Coalition of New Mexico, is on the ballot for the upcoming League of American Bicyclists Board elections. I strongly urge you to vote for her if you are a League member (consider joining if you are not). Diane started Los Alamos Bikes and was a strong advocate for decent cycling when she was a LANL scientist here and a County Councillor; her work as a Councillor was key to the passage of the 2005 Bicycle Transportation System for Los Alamos County, which was the legislative basis for our new bike lanes on Diamond Drive. Her work at BCNM has resulted in pressure being put on the NM DoT from the Governor to cease lip-paving of shoulders, and she has worked successfully on establishing a statewide Bike Ed program.

By the way, I'm attempting a write-in to be on the ballot since my application to run was rejected by the League. This in no way takes away from Diane's candidacy or my enthusiastic endorsement of her. That information can be found here.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Phase IV: Removing the construction barrels

Phase IV, looking south. High School at left,  Med Center straight ahead. LANL over horizon.
Woo-hoo. I noted on Thursday that much of the final pavement was being put down in front of Mezgers and across from the High School, meaning Phase IV of the Diamond Drive rebuilt is just about finished. So Phase I, II, III, and IV now are largely history and cyclists, walkers, and bus riders no longer have to feel like they are in the back of the Great Transportation Bus.

Yesterday was taken up with running errands down in White Rock and off the Hill so my bike was sitting at home when I drove back to town to see that the new striping was in place. I put the small Olympus C765 in the rack trunk and rode back to town to shoot some pics. Sorry to George Glass and his friends who escaped being photographed.  They were riding on the other side of the road just as I got off my bike and unpacked the camera.

The bike lanes look as advertised except they seem a tad narrow where they were fudged under the H.S. flyover (i.e., pedestrian overpass), which was done without moving the flyover. Moving the flyover would, I think, have required a total rebuild to ADA requirements. But even there I think they look at least four feet wide--I will ride back with a tape measure and at any rate, no one will have to hold their breath riding under the ped bridges.
Bike lane looking north under H.S. flyover

Cyclists and motorists must be really careful in this section. Most of the Diamond bike lanes are in areas with few side streets and other turning and crossing points. The newest section, Phase IV of the project, are in a very busy area of town. Motorists and cyclists must be CAREFUL to avoid the usual turning and crossing hazards typical to these installations, i.e., a cyclist overtaking slower traffic on the right in the blind spot of a motorist who is about to make a right turn, and a motorist overtaking a cyclist and then braking to turn right. Both these common scenerios result in the cyclist hitting or being hit by the side of the car. Read my long winded discussion here or view the relevant video here on the Mass Bike site.

Be careful out there. These nifty new bike lanes don't take the place of active personal safety and smart riding. If anything, they require a higher degree of vigilance! If you want a tutorial, contact yours truly, Neale Pickett, or Amy Pickett.

Keep the rubber side down. And oh, yeah. I got bored with the old blog design and changed it. Unfortunately, it looks like once you get rid of the old format, you can't go back.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Callous disregard...

She thought she hit an animal... Check out what her car looked like here.

From the LA Times story:

"...Pettigrew was riding her bike southbound, just south of Campus Way in Largo, when a 2005 Cadillac Escalade, also headed south, struck her, said Greg Shipley, spokesman for the Maryland State Police.

The SUV did not stop. A severely injured Pettigrew was taken to Prince George's Hospital Center. While police were at the scene of the accident, the SUV driver, Christy R. Littleford, 41, of Upper Marlboro, called Prince George's County Police to report that she had struck something.

Littleford told police she assumed she had hit an animal but when she arrived home found a bicycle lodged under her vehicle, Shipley said..."

Please be careful out there. Follow the story here.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Biker down...

Got a call from Carol Clark this morning. Apparently there was a bicyclist-motorist collision on Bathtub Row this morning. Biker hospitalized, but not critical. See more here.

Monday, September 13, 2010

LAB Establishes Cyclist Legal Defense Fund

You saw it here first...back in March.

Ride for the League at el Tour de Tucson
The League of American Bicyclists is a beneficiary of the 2010 El Tour de Tucson, held annually the Saturday before Thanksgiving. Sign up online to ride for the League, and raise money for our new Cyclist Legal Defense Fund. This year's tour is also dedicated to John Howard, the three-time Olympian and 18-time national masters cycling champion. Find out more here.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

W. Jemez and Pajarito repave: no more shoulder lips

The Bicycling Coalition of NM and the Los Alamos County Transportation Board have both been critical of the NMDOT and DOE/LANL past practice of partial shoulder paving, i.e., putting the final layer of new pavement only onto the travel lanes and often ending it halfway onto the road shoulder where it forms a lip or edge. This technique, used rarely in the U.S., may save a few bucks but often makes the shoulder impassible or hazardous to cyclists and motorcyclists because the lip can disrupt steering. Good examples of this technique can be found all across NM-4 in the Jemez Mountains, where the lip at times becomes a veritable cliff, and on some parts of Truck Route. Riders on NM4 in the Jemez, for example, have no choice but to use the travel lane whether they want to or not.

Thankfully, it seems that the folks now in charge of roadway maintenance at LANL have stopped using this technique. The new pavement being installed on W. Jemez and Pajarito Road goes edge to edge, leaving a safe, smooth, fast shoulder to bicycle on.

As others have said on the pajarito-riders bike list, "Thank You!" to LANL/DOE for thinking of all of us!

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Cycling Attorney Steve Magas on Reed Bates case

  1. Steve Magas Says:

    I’ve been swamped and haven’t been keeping up as closely on this case, or this controversy inside the case, as I should I suppose.

    In Ohio, I handled the Selz case. Case came out 10 yrs ago. Steve was either riding in the middle of the lane or the right, depending on whether you believe the cop or Steve. I suppose there was some sort of “shoulder” he “could have” ridden on. There were five lanes – 2 each way, one turn lane in the middle.

    The appellate court found that the key factor was that Steve was going at a speed which, FOR A CYCLIST, was appropriate. Steve fit the definition of “traffic” under Ohio law. Steve was permitted to ride on the road and the 2-1 court of appeals decision made it clear it wasn’t going to allow Steve to be banned from riding on State Route 49 just because some folks, i.e., the judge and prosecutor, thought it was not safe.

    The roads are PUBLIC WAYS and in most states people have the right to use the public ways in a variety of ways. Some are faster than others. Slow moving vehicles include bicycles, farm equipment and, in Ohio, Amish buggies. Faster traffic is MANDATED to accommodate slower traffic. In Ohio, bicycle operators are either allowed to use to use the roadway, or they are not. There’s no rule that says “use the road, but if it’s too dangerous, or the cars are going too fast, use the shoulder.”

    I represented Tony Patrick this year. Tony is the guy who tussled verbally with a deputy who told him, and his riding partner, to “Get off the F-ing Road”. Tony chose to banter with the officer and told the officer, quite correctly, that he had just as much right to use the road as the officer… didn’t go down well.

    Deputy said Tony and his buddy were riding two abreast and “impeding traffic.” He tried to run them off the road with his cruiser, stopped in traffic almost had the kid nail him from behind and then zoomed ahead and Tony ended up tussling with the cop before he was Tasered by a 2nd cop. The “charge” was “Riding a Bicycle on the Roadway.”

    Tony beat the criminal charges – including felony charges. The judge issued an interesting decision. He said under Ohio law two riders HAVE THE RIGHT to ride two abreast. They SHOULD, but DO NOT HAVE TO move to a single file line. The court said they were not doing anything wrong so the actions of the officer were not “lawful.” The distinction is between what is a RIGHT versus what they SHOULD do.

    The point is that people who allow themselves to get shoved into an envelope by police, or even courts, end up with rights that..well… fit into an envelope. Civil rights cases are not filled with people who caved in and didn’t push the envelope…

    I don’t know enough about TX law to comment on this case. I guess on a first impression level I don’t see how you can do something that is LEGAL and be found “RECKLESS.” Under Ohio law, reckless is defined in a way that would imply that acting LEGALLY is a defense to a claim of recklessness.

    Are cyclists REQUIRED to use a “shoulder” in TX? If a shoulder is next to a road do cyclists need to use it? If not, then what’s the rub? Are we arguing what is “legal” over what is “nice” or “preferred?” In Tony’s case, he probably should have pulled over and not ignored the cop’s order to “pull over.” In general, cyclists riding two abreast SHOULD go to single file but under State v. Patrick, they are clearly not required to do so and cannot be ticketed for “impeding traffic” if they do.

    Anyway, that’s the first of my two cents…

    Steve Magas

and later

"To me, the punishment doesn’t fit the “crime.” I can understand why some might balk at supporting Reed’s behavior, but to me you have to stand up and SCREAM that jail time was ridiculous. In MANY hit/run cases involving the death or maiming of a cyclist, the motorist gets NO time in jail. In cases where people physically attack other people, there is no jail time. I don’t understand why the jail time was so excessive, but I also haven’t had time to read through all of these comments, let alone read about the case itself in any great detail.

In Ohio, right now, Michael Hart has been in jail since JULY 21 for TALKING TO government officials. He is charged with “Intimidation” and “unlawful restraint.” He was complaining to a county commissioner about the lack of enforcement of the DOG LAWS in the county. He remains jailed today. Agree or not with Michael’s aggressive and verbally confrontational tactics, he has spent more than 30 days locked up and is awaiting a hearing in OCTOBER for TALKING to someone…"