Thursday, September 20, 2012

Cyclists Harrassed by Driver

Posted by on Thu, Sep 20, 2012 at 6:12 PM

A friend posted this this viral video of two cyclists in Colorado on my Facebook wall this week after reading about it on RTV6's webpage. In it, the cyclists are harassed by a motorist, who rides dangerously close to them honking his horn for more than five minutes. (The short two-minute video only shows a portion of the whole event.) All the while, the SUV holds up cars behind it, who are ultimately forced to pass both the honking car and the two cyclists.

According to the YouTube post, the pair of cyclists ended up slowing down to a point where the car was forced to pass. After posting their video online, they've found fellow cyclists in the Northern Colorado area who have had run-ins with the same driver. They've also taken legal action through the Colorado State Patrol.

Curious about the illegality of passing on double yellow line? The Bicycle Safety Act, passed in 2009 in Colorado, states that cars must give bicycles at least three feet when passing and that when safety permits, cars may also cross a double yellow line to pass a cyclist.

True, I found this video astounding. How can you not feel for the guys on bikes trekking breathlessly along in the thin Colorado air as an enraged driver harasses them? But what I found even more intriguing were the range of responses in RTV6's Facebook forum, which reflect the divergent feelings Hoosiers have toward cyclists in our own city.

Many took up the cause of the cyclists, sharing their own views on how to safely encounter bikes on the road. Others in the same camp resorted to the less tasteful tactic of name calling referring to the driver as "douche bag," "crotchety old man," "idiot" and even "dick."

Facebookers on the other side of the argument weren't very gracious either. One commenter suggested that all cyclists deserve to be ticketed for impeding traffic. Another even thought that the driver should throw a milkshake (of all things) on the cyclists before burning rubber.

"They should go ride at one of the parks or many trails that our tax dollars have paid for," wrote Jason Linthicum. "They were made just for that reason. Why endanger themselves or cause further road hazards. They share the same rights on the road, but don't always follow all the laws of the road."

To which Brian Phillips replied, "It's pretty much impossible to achieve adequate training on most trail systems. For purely recreational cycling, trails are sometimes okay, but in training for events and serious fitness, we usually need open road and lots of miles."

Laura Andersen summed it up very diplomatically saying, "We just need clearer rules for bicyclists and motorists in regards to bicyclists. Something that is fair to all and allows those who use their bikes to get to work every day, no matter where they live. To do so in a safe and lawful manner. The laws are not clear enough and they need to be. For all over, not just bigger cities."

What do you think, friends? Do we need better laws, better bicyclists or better drivers?

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Thursday, September 13, 2012

Bicycle Count

Posted by on Thu, Sep 13, 2012 at 6:40 PM

DSC_0243.jpg

Last Tuesday, I had the pleasure of volunteering for the "Bicycle Counts" project run by the Office of Sustainability. The sheer fact that this bike blog exists is proof that the bicycling community is gaining in numbers. Undoubtedly, we can all agree that with the added bike lanes and trails throughout town, we are seeing a sharp increase in bicycle usage. But what we see and feel in our community isn't enough to gain future funding and grant opportunities to continue improving the biking and walking infrastructure. We must quantify hard data thus providing evidence that we, as a community, deserve to see even more bike lanes and paths across Indy.

That's where "Bicycle Counts" comes in. I found out about the project through a e-newsletter from Bicycle Garage Indy. BGI's call for volunteers that afternoon (and this coming Saturday) caught my eye. I called the coordinator, Jamison Hutchinson, immediately. As the Bicycle and Pedestrian Coordinator in the Office of Sustainability, he put me on the volunteer list.

"Coyne?" He asked when I told him my last name. "Like Wayne Coyne?"

"Yes, exactly!" I replied. "I love The Flaming Lips, but we're not related."

I met him at the City Market that afternoon, where he gave me my assignment: a count of both Illinois Street and the Cultural Trail. He handed me a packet of information about how to count pedestrians and bicycles, sort of like a radar traffic counter that sees only people who cross in front of it. I would count the East-West line of the Cultural Trail and the North-South line of Illinois Street on two separate data sheets.

I arrived at the required intersection a few minutes before the two hour count was set to begin at 5 p.m. Settling into a shady corner near an bright pink azalea bush in full bloom, I got my clock, pen and data sheet organized.

The first 15 minutes were pretty exciting: 14 male cyclists and 8 female cyclist passed me on the Cultural Trail, while only 6 males and 1 female passed on Illinois. With each passerby, pedestrian or cyclist, I made a hatch-mark in the appropriate column: male or female (a total of four categories for those keeping count). There was also an "Other" column for skateboarders, rollerbladers and the like (of which I only saw three).

Every fifteen minutes, I would move into a new row, starting the count over again. But soon my excitement and attention began to wane. After the novelty of the activity wore of, it was incredibly dull to say the least. For 45 minutes, I watched as one after another bicycle or pedestrian passed, trying my hardest to not space out. After all, missing even a single eligible person for my count could make the difference in millions of dollars of funding for bike lanes. (Did I mention making the stakes impossibly high was a central focus tactic for me?)

Amazingly, after an hour and fifteen minutes had passed, my sense of boredom began to fade. I noticed the smell of the blooming flowers beside me. I took in the beautiful stone work on the back of the Scottish Rite Cathedral across the street. I saw a second burst of businessmen leaving their offices just after 6 p.m., and felt the sun setting at my back. I even began to hum along to the chiming of the cathedral bells every quarter-hour. I found my zen place in the midst of this mind-numbingly important activity. All the while, I continued counting.

I began to think about how inappropriate it seemed to make snap gender assignments, which took my brain down a lovely rabbit hole. I listened to snippets of passing conversations, hearing one woman complain to her male counterpart, "I hate having a fixed gear." To which I script a ten minute conversation about the merits of rear-derailers.

At one point, I even decided to contrast my count of environmentally friendly movers to the cars passing on Illinois, but was discouraged after counting 29 single passenger cars in just one light. The number would have risen easily into the hundreds, dwarfing my pitifully made hatch-marks. I gave that tactic up quickly.

Before I knew it, the bells chimed 7 p.m., and my two hour count ended. I packed my bag, put on my helmet and left the cozy spot I had carved out for myself in downtown Indy. The next step: turn in my data and wait for the overall report. Stay tuned...

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Thursday, September 6, 2012

Why Drinking and Biking Don't Mix

Posted by on Thu, Sep 6, 2012 at 11:41 PM

Katelyn, sober.
  • Katelyn, sober.

Wednesday night I ventured to the White Rabbit Cabaret for the third installment of the uproarious "Mom and Pop Porno Shop." I think I enjoyed the show and the cabaret's beer selection a little too much and my poor bike suffered because of it. Enjoying the innovative and cheeky show has become something of a Wednesday night ritual for me and a few friends. One that generally ends with a big bar tab and a splitting head ache.

After a drink too many, I paid my bill and made for the bike racks outside. My head was swimming from the final beer as I fumbled with my steel lock. I swung my right leg over the seat and lost balance tumbling to the ground. Thankfully, my helmeted head was protected from the impact. In fact it was the very first time my helmet was employed to do its duty.

I had already decided to catch a ride home with my dear friend Marti, but wanted to ride my bike to her car. Not a great idea, obviously. Marti lifted me off the ground. I decided to walk my bike to her car instead of riding it. In the parking lot, I over-zealously pulled on my front tire's quick release latch. Out came the axel, and two little springs disappeared into the ground.

We searched around for a bit, but finding a small metal object on a black top in the middle of the night is akin to the proverbial needle in a haystack challenge. Add my beer goggles to the mix and the challenge doubles in difficulty.

I reluctantly gave up, pushing my bike into Marti's back seat and throwing my detached wheel on top. Once home, I began the terrible process of sleeping off my clumsy stupor. That night I dreamed fitfully about searching for bicycle wheel springs. Plucking one off the ground in broad daylight, I'd triumphantly yell: "Found it!" The next morning I awoke having learned a valuable lesson: never fuck with your bike while you're drunk.

That afternoon, I turned up at Bikes on Mass Ave expecting the worst. Would I have to buy an entirely new bicycle wheel just to replace two tiny springs? Would I be forced to pay through the nose for a miniscule piece of coiled metal?

But the wonderful Bikes on Mass Ave reminded me of the fundamental difference between big corporations and locally owned businesses, the human element. I told them my story, but before I could finish the clerk nodded interrupting, "You lost your springs?" I hadn't even told him I was drunk, but somehow he knew. Perhaps this was a classic mistake made by reveling cyclists.

Regardless, they gave me two springs, free of charge, from a box of spare parts. Reminded of the satisfaction that comes from connecting with the bicycling community, I re-attached my wheel and swore off drinking altogether, at least until the next installment of my favorite live sitcom.

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