Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Non-profit pro-helmet group in Canada sponsored by automobile producer

In September 2010 Prohab organised some kind of helmet-themed art show, and in a subsequent entry in their blog they thanked this sponsor for their support of the show.

In a related video, the (presumably) staff of Profab pilot "borrowed" samples of sponsor's product in order to show how they could avoid obstacles in a modern city.

p.s. Also related.


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Monday, November 22, 2010

The Conditional Surrender

 Traffic congestion in the Dutch capital, including a Prius and a bunch of brand new cars. From The Hamperium.

A video from Mark Wagenbuur in the latest post at Copenhagenize is an extremely dangerous (way to talk about) history. Please watch it before proceeding.

First of all, in response to Mikael Colville-Andersen's brief comment, a comparison of the situation which "vehicular cyclists" deal with (and perhaps enable to some extent) with that in the Netherlands leaves out at least one alternative...

I love what Mark Wagenbuur does. Many videos on his You Tube Channel are also on the excellent A View From the Cycle Path (this a direct link to a post with another great Wagenbuur video), often accompanied by interesting comments.

The not-recent history of surface transport in the Netherlands is mostly new to me (and I appreciate this very much). The problem in the story starts with railways, which - relatively-speaking - introduce a kind of precursor to or early-stage hypermobility to the country. Trains, like trams, increased the distances between destinations, making speed necessary to compete, and thus addictive. But until various decades in the first half of the 20th century this still kept cycling popular and/or dominant.

The fatal error came - as the video shows, but with a different take on it - when cities introduced a design style from the countryside. It seems that this was not seen as a fatal error by enough people at the time: Either there were three options in the cities (i.e. keep streets the way they are OR separation for cyclists OR keep the motorized vehicles out) or just the first two. The video does not make clear exactly who made the decision. Were people predicting the situation about 50 years later in the 1960's (my understanding is that this was the nadir of cycling in the NL as well as in Denmark)? If so, were their voices ignored? If there were not many voices - and so not three choices - it is fair to say that this was bad and wrong, but we must also appreciate everything which has been done to fight back (very much including the new design elements in the video which I provide the link to in the Hembrow blog).

So, these days, when at its best cycling modal share is about 50% (as it is Groningen in the north of NL) and innermost parts of Amsterdam, Copenhagen etc.) is the glass half-full or half-empty? This beverage also contains collective public transport (nearly and chronically ignored in some cycle-cheerleading), but what if the non-PT and walking split is half private automobiles and half bicycles? Should we be half-happy or half-sad? (re: cheerleading, notice how that story does not mention collective PT?) It depends on who is writing or showing the history, yes? Indeed, could the private automobile lobby show a video on their You Tube channel, boasting about how they have managed to hold on to a huge modal share despite all the traffic jams, parking costs, "green" and health issues?

Cycling in the Netherlands is great - safer, etc. than here in Germany, where the separation model has been used often at the expensive of pedestrians - but I don't think it is accurate to say that the bicycle has "won" there (as someone told me recently). It is more truthful - and more objective - to say that the car has had a (very) conditional surrender (I am reminded also of something my father told me: During WWII - my Slovak father was a tween/teen at the time - the German radio referred to everything post-Stalingrad as a "strategic withdrawal").

Still, there is news which we can agree is good and which deserves strong praise: The bikes move faster than motor vehicles much of the time on separated paths in cities when the motorised lanes are congested, so actually these paths can more positively be called "mobility express lanes" (not just "bicycle highways")! But at the same time there are still a very high number of people trapped in their cars, and they are not the only ones who are suffering. Noise and gas/particle emissions still exceed allowed limits in parts of the Netherlands (and Denmark, and of course in many other European countries), and this hurts everyone.

Looking back over 100 years it is perhaps easy to condemn a decision, or how it was made, or indeed if anyone cared, but allowing (especially private) motor vehicles (which kill on contact at only half of their design speed) inside cities was a mistake, and is proving a very, very difficult one to correct.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Melbourne Bike Share: Helmet dispensers, but no one to help adjust fit

Are 7-Eleven employees in Melbourne trained to fit bike helmets?

The State of Victoria, Australia, requires all cyclists to wear helmets. This reduces the chance to use Melbourne Bike Share spontaneously, a problem its operators are trying to solve by making helmets available near this 3rd Generation system's docking stations.

As I saw on the Bike-sharing Blog, 7-Elevens in Melbourne now have bicycle helmet dispensers. It is well-known that helmets have to fit properly with straps adjusted in order to fulfil levels of protection promoted by helmet advocates. The Melbourne Bike Share website - copying regulations for the State of Victoria - says:

"Bike Helmets - The rider of a bicycle must wear an approved bicycle helmet securely fitted and fastened on their head."

"Securely fitted" seems to very clearly mean expertise is needed, either from personal experience, or from an experienced friend, or of course (as the default) from the staff in the establishment selling the helmet*.

I found nothing on the Melbourne Bike Share website to indicate that any help is available from 7-Eleven staff. The vending machine (see photo) has clearly indicated large and medium sizes (perhaps the small size is hiding) and some text with the title "How to Ensure a Proper Fit", but without graphics. 7-Eleven issued a press release on 13 October which seems to indicate a lack of understanding of the importance of helmet fit:

“7-Eleven makes every effort to stock what you want, where and when you want it. Just as you might pick up your bottle of water, sunscreen and snacks for your picnic, now you can pick up a helmet for a bike ride along some of Melbourne’s scenic parks.” - from Julie Laycock, 7-Eleven Head of Marketing.

Click to enlarge the photo, which is from Capital Bikeshare in Washington, D.C. I am not certain if everyone involved understands how helmets are supposed to fit. (Where do all these cyclists in the photos on the website keep their helmets or is this wishful thinking?).

A poor-fitting helmet can increase injury even more than other inherent design faults of a bicycle helmet (such as rotational issues, often discussed in helmut forums). So if a poorly-fitting helmet increases the injuries to a Melbourne Bike Share user, who is liable? Who is responsible?

Also, it is my understanding that when not being worn a helmet is vulnerable (e.g. just hanging on a backpack) as it is designed to have strength in aggregate with a skull. Perhaps this can be explained in an analogy of a large ship in water, and what happens if it a large part of it leaves the water. I may be wrong about this.

If anyone can provide some answers or thoughts it would be appreciated.

- T

*Certainly, mail order helmets can create the same issues, and of course mail order can also create problems in bike fit which can terminate an interest in cycling... but as we all know the bicycle manufacturers in general prioritize selling stuff over creating more cycling.

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Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Amazing and Fashionable Airbag Bike Helmet

OK. This is so terrible that we should waste as little time as possible on it. A crew from Malmö, Sweden at the design firm Hövding has created what Treehugger calls an "airbag for your head". It normally sits around your neck as a huge, stupid, puffy, totally impractical collar. See also Bike Snob's take on it, this and David Report.

Is there some international police force, Interpol, etc., someone at the UN who can go make a visit - here is their address - and arrest them for this total garbage? A citizen's arrest, even? OK, like I said, can't take more time with this... thanks for your cooperation.

See more on bicycle helmets here. I am pro-choice on helmets, and generally refer to the position of the great CICLE from Los Angeles - my home town! - on this subject.

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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Lux-Narcissism (Was: "Don't Believe the Hype-rillumination")

Cycling is generally very safe.

For celebrations on a "bike theme" or not, certain special events etc. the MonkeyLectric Bike Wheel Light is lovely and wonderful, but it represents an extreme version of what I call "Hyper-illumination" creating both acute (at the moment of use) and chronic (cultural) danger for other vulnerable road users (VRU's, both pedestrians and cyclists), even those - only in the case of cyclists, of course - who are legally illuminated.

Less extreme Hyper-illumination includes reflective vests (which should only be worn by emergency or construction workers or related), reflective jackets, an excessive number of normal lights or reflectors, projections of bike paths around cyclists, or even "bright clothing at night" which many authorities and organizations recommend, also for pedestrians.

Fundamentalist hyper-illumination is exemplified by having the stoker on a tandem carry a torch or flare gun, or getting the air force or army to clear your path with napalm or phosphorous.

Acute Hyper-illumination means visually-obscuring other VRU's in immediate proximity, in other words making the eyes of drivers of motor vehicles adjust to the brightest thing, which means they can't see the darker stuff (and pedestrians can wear all the black they want).

Chronic Hyper-illumination is obscuring over time and in relation to place, i.e. it relates to learned behaviour. This means that when a driver becomes accustomed to a lot of VRU's being hyper-illuminated, they will not look for normally-illuminated VRU's elsewhere.

Something both Acute and Chronic relates more to cyclist-pedestrian interactions: A cyclist with no lights and only some passive hyper-illumination device such as a reflective vest may think that they are visible to pedestrians, but they are generally not more than normally because their vest is designed with car headlights in mind.

If you agree with me on this take on things I hope you also agree that its use for commercial advertising purposes should be illegal, or least very expensive. I would not go as far to say they should be illegal for non-commercial use at any time, but this is only because bikes should just be as close as possible to wheels attached to your feet, with things like "rider's licenses" never necessary.

There are slightly less extreme hyper-illumination devices than the MonkeyLectric, such as The Down Low Glow (and I really like other Fossil Fool inventions) which to its credit seems to intentionally exclude the "unique advertising opportunity" thing. This website mentions "...cyclists feel safer..." and subjective safety is important as long as it is not at least out of balance with objective safety. It would be good to know if The Down Low actually makes things safer compared with bikes with typical, legal lighting.

These things could be useful for community police bikes, ambulance bikes or perhaps - if modified to be tamper-proof - as part of a theft-deterrent/triggered visible alarm feature. Even if they are fun (and obviously people have to purchase and install them) they distract from efforts for the promotion and implementation measures which make travel safer for ALL vulnerable road users: Slower speeds, less cars or obviously no cars, default liability for drivers and perhaps making cars softer (unless it causes risk compensation such as anti-lock brakes).

I would also be curious if cars tend to be driven closer to Hyper-illuminated VRU's.

Interestingly, the MonkeyLectric has dealers in many places, also in Europe. But not in the Netherlands, the safest place to ride in Europe (not perfect, to be very clear. No one should ever let the Dutch slack). Coincidence? Well, at this point the typical response is "... when our city is as safe as Amsterdam we will not need this stuff...". So the question is does having this stuff really move things forward towards an Amsterdam (or Dutch) level of safety?

I think the answer is no.

* Another related attempt at a solution here, a backpack with turning and other signals. That the signals are not quite standardized might not be an issue, but having HUGE removable lighting certainly is! When it comes to normal city cycling, fixed front and rear (hub) generator lights, basic reflectors and proper turn signals with eye contact are really all that is necessary, right?)

* Continuing on in this Fall of Fear, this Autumn of Angst, see the continued rash of useless garbage cruising for a landfill in Treehugger.

* Bike Snob calls the video "Let's Get Visible" by Momentum magazine and partners the "worst PSA" he has ever seen. It features products from MonkeyLectric and Lazer helmets. See it here on "No Mandatory Helmets at Velo-city Global 2012 in Vancouver" on Facebook.
* I also recently had an exchange with FIAB (the Italian Cyclist's Federation) about this issue. They promoted hi-viz vests (tunics, really) starting early this year and I question the connection to the more recently implemented national law in Italy requiring the wearing of vests outside of urban areas and in tunnels (France and Hungary have a similar law. The European Commission has a guide to helmet and vest laws in member states, but some of the information regarding helmets is incorrect).
* In November the UK Guardian ran an article about bike lighting. The comments are full of dozens of guys shamelessly comparing the size of their lumens.

Thanks to Workcycles for showing me the light.

Related (26 April 2011): London cabbie launches 'Lightmare' campaign against menace of HID headlights

Related: Please "Like" "No Mandatory Bike Helmets at Velo-city Global 2012 in Vancouver" on Facebook!!

Friday, August 27, 2010

Ring My Bell

Oh, I am sure the birds will love that nonsense. Further explanation necessary can be found on Treehugger.

But really, isn't something both universally-recognized and thus powerful all that is necessary, even on a motorized conveyance? Could be simulated or not. Found that here.

Or is a very low-frequency warning actually necessary? This system does not seem to go too low... are they testing it with hearing-impaired persons, who can... feel the bass?

Speaking of dancing and older machines being more appropriate, here is some music for you.

Bottom line is that users of faster vehicles in both good and worse mixed-traffic situations (in Japanese cities cyclists generally have to share pavements with pedestrians) must never assume that they are noticed until they get the necessary body language. In Berlin many cyclists riding on pavements (generally illegal) who approach from behind communicate not a thing....

Thursday, July 1, 2010

Does your street have special bike clothing?

This is the first of at least two parts about defining "streets".

Mikael Colville-Andersen from Cycle Chic travels to Dublin as part of events held by the Danish Cycling Embassy in the capital of Ireland. Looked like lots of chic-y fun. About the same times on it's sister blog, Mikael - the analyst-provacateur - comes down hard on "Vehicular Cycling" and gets lots of reactions (best to read that first before you continue here).

As always "infrastructure" is mentioned as something necessary for lots of cycling.

But was this always the case for Dublin...

Vehicular cycling in Dublin, 1961. Photo courtesy (Mikael). A great photo he has used more than once to show how popular cycling used to be in Dublin and how it could be again.

Or in other cities?

Vehicular cycling in Copenhagen, c. 1950s. Photo courtesy Even if this is not literally Vehicular Cycling - if the cyclists have some XXXL bike lane - they so dominate the road that any cars would need separated facilities to protect them from the cyclists!

With all due respect, am I missing something here? Why does Mikael use two examples of what is - more or less - vehicular cycling - with a small "v" and a small "c" to show that separated infrastructure is needed?

I feel very safe cycling in Copenhagen and Amsterdam and so on. The authorities, designers, advocates and activists do a great job. I am not arguing for VC in these cities under current conditions (primarily too high speeds). Perhaps the whole frame for this discussion is a little off, so I want to suggest alternative definitions of the two ways bikes and cars are dealt with in cities:

Vehicular Cycling: In its pure sense, this follows a serious underestimation of the subjective and objective danger cyclists feel towards drivers.

Separated infrastructure: While definitely better in encouraging a higher modal share of cycling, it is the result of accepting that heavy, privately-used vehicles traveling at 50 km/h (30 mph) or higher are necessary, or inevitable, in built-up areas.

A few years back - if I remember correctly - many cyclists in Dublin protested the plans for separated infrastructure, and it seems like they lost.

So... is separated infrastructure special bike clothing? Are bike paths helmets? Mikael and many others in the "Cycle Chic" movement have fantastically shown that people can wear whatever they want - or as nice as they want - whilst cycling, but how come this logic does not carry over into how the streets themselves are adorned?

What kind of street do you live on? How is it clothed?

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

"Freedom Muffins!!" - USA government, aided by automobile industry, prepares attack on UK

The U.S. Department of State held a surprise press conference in Detroit late on Tuesday evening to announce that it would launch a pre-emptive strike on the UK on the Fourth of July of this year, the 234th anniversary of the USA's automobile-enabled victorious revolution against British rule.

At the press conference, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton announced that English muffins would now be called "Freedom Muffins" The spokesperson for Google, the owner of You Tube, introduced a short video which it said it would help go viral.

The spokesperson for Chrysler-owned Dodge said that the video would speak for itself.

The USA ambassador to the UK, Louis B. Susman, was summoned to 10 Downing Street. But the ambassador instead went to a T.G.I.Friday's restaurant in London, where he was joined by a large, patriotic crowd of armed "American" expats, who robbed journalists of their equipment, thus ending reporting at the scene.

Sources later reported that the Yankee mob later moved throughout the UK capital, leaving armed men and women at key Italian government entities and businesses, which they pledged to protect, due to Fiat's minority ownership of Chrysler.

(Please also see this related story)

Monday, June 14, 2010

Sailing safer than driving?

Probably many readers know the story about Abby Sutherland, a 17 year old "American" who just got rescued from her boat the "Wild Eyes" in the Indian Ocean. Earlier, she was trying to become the youngest circumnavigator of the planet, but she had some problems earlier near South Africa or something, which somehow disqualified her, but she decided to continue the voyage.

Of course, billions - including sailing experts - are complaining about this, some saying it is child abuse.

So, the first question to ask is how safe are different types of boating? Quite obviously - so obvious that I will not provide a reference link - the two best things to do are to wear a life vest and take classes. However, the unavoidable still happens, so probably the best thing to do is to not mix sailing and war. (Once when I went sailing --- okay at the risk of sounding unadventurous or poor, I will state more accurately: the one time I went sailing was in Long Beach harbour in 1982. At the time the USS New Jersey was being retrofitted there, destined for subsequent service in the Lebanese Civil War.). In other regards, well, think about it, boats have huge permanently-installed airbags in-between them called "water". Boats for the most part do not have brakes -- this also means that they are safer, because if you don't have brakes you don't need them.

On the other hand, cars are relatively much more dangerous, whether you are drinking sea water, milk or caffeinated drinks, and slightly more if you are drinking alcohol.

But comparing boating to driving? Perhaps traveling on the Congo River vs. driving a car (are there equivalent roads?) is possible. If someone can do it, I will make a link to it here.

In the meantime, I will start to end this voyage with a quote by Abby Sutherland's father, taken from the UK Guardian:

"I never questioned my decision in letting her go. In this day and age we get overprotective with our children," Laurence Sunderland said. "Look at how many teenagers die in cars every year. Should we let teenagers drive cars? I think it'd be silly if we didn't."

In closing, while I would support driving age and voting age being the same in USA, I think a great supporting measure would be massive investment in ocean and fresh water boating for transport (and e.g. floating "boat ins" for movies) and not just de-paving of the roads of the world, but their transformation into canals.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

"Unmanned Commercial Flights Could Become A Reality"

Ha ha ha, I sometimes cannot believe the crap they spend our money on.

From PSFK: "The US Federal Aviation Administration is undertaking a research project to explore the possibilities of pilotless commercial flights. The project is part of its NextGen initiative which is aimed at modernizing the country’s flight infrastructure."

At first all lifts had an operator, now almost none do and no one questions it. Driver-less metros have been operating for some time in many places and are said to have improved things by reducing operator errors, but they operate on a track, in two dimensions.

Are there plans for captain-less boats and ships? Or riderless bicycles?

Better might be unmanned, virtual reality flights :-) or at the very least, flying only when there is no convivial land transport option.

While some military investments trickle down into civilian technology (well, often not "civil", per se...), I wonder if this is a kind of trickle-up thing, and The They Corporation wants to use this tech to fly huge bombers long distances. In other words, indirect military budgeting.

Staying on the science fiction theme, 35 years ago the movie Airport '75 showed (taught) us how a justifiably crazed flight attendant could guide a jumbo jet with damaged controls through the Rocky Mountains, with no training, a bad radio connection and a joy stick. More recently, a group of better trained persons were said to have flown several normally-operating commercial airliners into high value targets in the eastern United States.

Image of Karen Black from Cinema de Merde

Friday, June 11, 2010

Se beber, não ande de bibicleta e nem a empurre

From AMOBIKE, this video has two titles: The one above says "Drunk pushing a bicycle" and in the video itself it says "Drunk on the Road."

In scenes like this one of the first things I notice is the reaction of passersby. In this case, first another cyclist seems to have some concern, but perhaps it is only because he notices that this is being recorded.

But after the guy collapsed my strong assumption was that the first car would not stop... and I was happy it did: Perhaps readers could share experiences of the same or opposite... or if as a cyclist they have helped a driver. As always, the videographer's lack of intervention should be questioned.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

The Netherlands: "Volvo introduces helmet to protect against Volvos"

Couldn't possibly think of something better, so I took the title for this entry from the latest at Bakfiets-n-Meer, from Henry Cutler of Workcycles in Amsterdam. (Cartoon by Wulff Morgenthaler via Copenhagenize).

Volvo Cars is promoting bicycle helmet use for Dutch children.

Very sad, the Cult of Dangerization which has its object and lead symbol the styrosafetycap, is infecting one of the best practice national examples of both urban and rural cycling, ever, in the entire universe: the Netherlands. That the Ford Motor Company-owned Volvo Cars is behind it is not surprising, but also sickening. It is perhaps also ironic this campaign will very likely continue after the completion of the sale of Volvo Cars to Geely Automobile, based in China.

Up until recently these activities were focused on the south or southwest of the country, but the virus is creeping northwards, as the Volvo Cars project was focused on Amstelveen, a suburb of Amsterdam. They are targeting the kids with parents who travel to Amsterdam daily or quite frequently for work or pleasure.

So check out that new entry in Henry's Blog as it also leads to other related good places... I first heard about this new campaign in a short article in Bike Europe, which takes some info from the press release Henry refers to his Blog.

The article ends with some words by the marketing director of Volvo Cars Netherlands: “It’s important for the helmet to also withstand an accident caused by a third party, as such accidents are usually linked with high speeds and extreme impact situations. This is a crucial breakthrough in the current thinking about bicycle helmets.”

Ha. The "also" he refers to is the product he is promoting, and I think the illustration above shows how helmets deal with the "accidents" which he refers to.

But before that the article also notes that this give-away is controversial: "Volvo’s activity in this field gets a lot of flak as it would make people afraid of cycling. Critics say that Volvo should make their new pedestrian safety detection system standard on each car, instead of offering it as an option on just one model the Volvo S60. Handing out free helmets for kids was received with skepticism and seen as the next step of the automobile industry to get a bicycle helmet mandatory. Experience in countries like Australia has shown that mandatory helmet laws only results in a reduction of cyclists."

As I mentioned to a new friend in the Netherlands, pro-choice (or anti-) helmet forces are still in the lead.... so, what to do? Provinces take the lead in communication, but laws are national, so let's hope that today's election does not lead us to the right, or more specifically the wrong side of helmet regulations.

Further, we need our own pro-choice helmet campaign, perhaps loosely inspired by this, something which makes me proud of the looser end of corporate media in the USA (For some details on that Photoshop hack job please also see here).

For those fortunate enough to be able to attend Velo-City in Copenhagen, near the end of this month, I hope at least some brain-storming can be accomplished, as conference co-organiser ECF is focused on the helmet issue.

Perhaps one point which could be addressed is the conference's co-main sponsorship by Clear Channel, which has done some nice things for cycling in places like Barcelona, but also works extensively and intensively with the automobile industry in advertising and facilitating the function of its products. (No, I don't have the numbers, I am sure their business with the automobile industry dwarves their bike share activity).

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(Full transparency: Velo-City Global 2010's other co-organizers are the City of Frederiksburg and the City of Copenhagen. The Danish capital and the adjoining local authority held the Copenhagen Bike Share Design Competition last year, in which my team shared a first prize).