Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Safe Passing Done Right! (Almost!)


So the city council of Dallas is set to pass an ordinance for the safe passing of bicycles by car drivers. The language reads as follows:

The proposed ordinance would require the operator of a motor vehicle to: (1) vacate the lane occupied by a vulnerable road user when passing, and reenter the lane occupied by the vulnerable road user only after passing at a safe distance; (2) not turn right in front of a vulnerable road user unless safely clear of the vulnerable road user; and (3) not throw items at a vulnerable road user. A vulnerable road user includes operators of bicycles, hand cycles, unicycles, and other human-powered wheeled vehicles on a street or highway. A motor vehicle operator violating the ordinance may be subject to a fine not to exceed $500. The motor vehicle operator is provided a defense if the vulnerable road user was not complying with laws governing the operation of bicycles on streets and highways. A defense is also provided if the motor vehicle operator cannot change lanes because of a physical barrier or obstruction or because the change of lanes would be unlawful, and then passes the vulnerable road user at a safe speed and distance.

This gets a few things right, and a few things could be better, but this is some of the best stuff I've seen yet though I could do without the vulnerable road user designation. I should start by saying that this ordinance only makes clear what is already required by our state transportation code, namely that a vehicle may not pass another within the same lane if it is unsafe to do so, and instead must fully change lanes to execute a pass. This is a matter of temptation for car drivers because cyclists have a narrow profile, and often it seems like you could squeeze by without changing lanes, but in reality you can only do so by creating a risk to the cyclist. This just spells it out plain and simple: pass a bicycle just as you would any other vehicle, like a car or motorcycle.

My biggest tweak to this would be to state clearly that when traveling on a road with multiple lanes in the same direction of travel, cars in adjacent lanes shall not be considered obstructions, and that a car is expected to slow, yield the right of way to cars in that lane, then occupy the next full lane and execute the pass at a safe distance. Of course, there will be some argument over what a 'safe distance' means. What seems safe in a car may not seem all that safe on a bicycle.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

And for Comparison to Texas...

I give you excerpts from the Louisiana Drivers Guide for Classes "D" and "E" description of sharing the road with bicycles...

Sharing the Road with Bicycles
...Many drivers find it hard to know how to react to bicyclists riding in the street.  For the safety of both drivers and bicyclists the following precautions should be taken while driving and bicycling.

• Be aware that bicyclists not traveling in the extreme right of the lane may be trying to avoid gravel, debris, bad pavement, sewer grates and other obstacles.
• Be cautious of bicyclists moving legally into the center of the lane because of road hazards or into the left lane because of a left turn.
• A three foot distance must be present between the passing automobile and slower traveling bicyclists.
• Railroad crossing can cause bicyclists to slow down and possible [sic] zig zag in order to cross the tracks.

Bicycling Safety
• Obey the instructions of official traffic control signals and signs.  Stop at stop signs and for stoplights just like a motor vehicle
• Ride on the right hand side of the road with traffic.  if you are making a left hand turn, ride on the left side of the turn lane.  You may ride in the center of lane [sic] to avoid hazards
• Be predictable by riding in a straight line and follwing traffic laws

Now, none of these things are untrue.  But they give an incomplete picture, and make cyclists sound like deer crossing the road at night; you never know quite what they are going to do.  And this does little to explain the obligations and responsibilities of car drivers and bicyclists.  I should note here that the laws that govern cycling in Louisiana are virtually identical to those of Texas, and of every state in the Union.  They can be found here:


The most glaring exception is the 3' passing rule.  I've heard both sides of the argument for this rule, I come down against it,  mostly because people aren't good at discerning distance, especially at higher speeds.  Many people dont realize that the stripes on the road can be as long as 10', and struggle to park closely to the curb while parallell parking.  Just for fun, ask your friends to show 3' with their hands and see how close they are.  Now imagine showing 3' with a moving vehicle.

I think Louisiana could do a much better job of explaining the rights and responsibilities of cyclists in this handbook.  It's just an example of what Texas does right that Louisiana does not. 

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

From the Texas Drivers Handbook

You know, the document that every pimply faced teenager reads and must understand before successfully completing the drivers test?  Without further ado [commentary in brackets]...

Sharing the Road with Bicycles
Bicycle Rules for Motorists
1. A bicycle is a vehicle and any person riding a bicycle has all of the rights and responsibilities as a driver of a vehicle.

2. Bicyclists are required to ride as far to the right as possible only when the lane can be safely shared by a car and a bicycle, side by side [i.e. when the lane is wider than 14'].  Even then, there are certain conditions that allow a bicyclist to take the full lane such as:
     a. The person is overtaking and passing another vehicle proceeding in the same direction [In heavy traffic, this does happen from time to time, especially around city busses that make frequent stops]
     b. The person is preparing for a left turn at an intersection or onto a private road or driveway
     c. There are unsafe conditions in the roadway such as fixed or moving objects, parked or moving vehicles, pedestrians, animals, potholes, or debris [It's like they wrote this one with Dallas in mind...]
    d. The lane is of substandard width [which describes the majority of roads in and around downtown Dallas] making it unsafe for a car and a bicycle to safely share the lane side by side.  When this is the case, it is best for the cyclist to take the full lane whether riding single file or two abreast.

3. Bicyclists are not restricted to the right lane of traffic.  One-way, multilaned streets are one example.  Another instance is when the bicyclist is changing lanes to make a left turn.  The bicyclist should follow the same path any other vehicle would take traveling in the same direction.

4. Motorists should merge with bicycle traffic when preparing for a right hand turn.  Avoid turning directly across the path of bicycle traffic.

As you can see, it's right there in the drivers handbook, page 9-7, link is here:

Don't tell me you had forgotten about this already?

Friday, September 21, 2012

How Drivers Licenses Should Work

I like to pride myself in experimenting with a multitude of ground transportation options in Dallas.  So far, these options have included Walking, Cycling, Bus Riding, Driving and Train Riding.  Over the last five years, I've experimented with all of these, and with combinations of these to get where I am going.  Growing up in Louisiana, these options weren't really available or viable because public transportation was weak and destinations were sprawled out.  Within the next few weeks, I will be adding another mode: Motorcycling (more specifically, scootering :)

This inspired me to look at how licensing currently works in Texas, so first I looked at my drivers license.  I have a Class 'C' license that permits me to "drive...a single unit vehicle, or combination of vehicles that is not in  class A or B and a single unit vehicle with a gross vehicle weight rating of less than 26,001 lbs..."  Class A would include any vehicle or combination of vehicles with a gross vehicle weight rating of 26,001 lbs with weight towed in excess of 10,000 lbs.  Class B is the same, but permits a person to drive a bus with a seating capacity of 24 passengers or more including the driver.  Motorcycles are a class M, and are 'off to the side' if you will, conferring the same privalages as the Class C, and is awarded in tandem with C, so licenses are class CM.

What this says is that there is some escalation of licensing for operating vehicles on the road.  Most users are Class C, but if you want to drive something more challenging, you need a higher classification, additional fees and testing; and this is exactly how it should work.  One should crawl before he or she walks.  But I think that we have skipped a few steps.

Shouldn't licensing be about operating within a public right of way, a road, and sharing that road with all road users?  I personally feel like people don't give driving the serious attention that it deserves, and often, the education for sharing the road begins at motorized vehicle use (excepting mopeds and motorcycles in Texas).  I think that there should be at least two steps of escalation prior to obtaining  a class C license.

First, people should learn how to be pedestrians.  I know this sounds stupid, you put one foot in front of the other, right?  You'd be surprised how often you see pedestrians do things that compromise their rights and safety as pedestrians within the city.  Crossing against a signal is a popular one, often not even looking both ways before doing so.(Sec. 552.002)  Another is crossing mid block, where technically drivers that already occupy the lane have the right of way (Sec. 552.005).  It may not be illegal to cross mid block in certain circumstances, but pedestrians must yield the right of way to do so.    There also seems to be confusion about crossing the street at uncontrolled intersections, especially where a all-way stop is not present (hint:  pedestrians should look both ways).  One you see in my neighborhood is using the streets for walking or jogging which is against the rules if a sidewalk is present. (Sec. 552.006, walkers and joggers have my sympathy, our sidewalks are very poorly maintained by the city of Dallas)  If we can't be pedestrians, how can we expect to drivers to operate safely with pedestrians in the same roadway?

Second, people should learn how to safely operate bicycles in the street.  This is another class of road users with whom automobile drivers will need to share the road space.  This is a big step because this is the 'lowest' form of vehicle that has to obey traffic laws that apply to automobiles. (Sec. 551.101...I hesitate to use the form lowest, perhaps lowest cost, lowest impact to roadways...)  This is the first opportunity for someone to understand the flow of traffic, the navigation of right-of-way.  There is no age limit, insurance requirement, and the barrier to entry is very low.

I don't think pedestrians or cyclists should require a license because the consequences of failing to follow the rules mostly rest with either the pedestrian or the cyclist.  However, I do think that a demonstration of knowledge of both should be required before obtaining a license to operate an automobile.  There should be a mandatory class for children in school to learn first how to be a pedestrian.  The rules are simple and the consequences of failure are apparent.  Then they should take a test to prove an understanding of the concepts.  Likewise, there should be a kind of driving school for cycling that is mandatory for children, and again a test should prove an understanding of the rules of the road.  Only after successful completion of these should a young person be allowed to operate a 2,000 lb machine that is potentially a deadly instrument on the road.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Ride to Plano | Thoughts on Trails

So this is the ride to Downtown Plano from Oak Cliff that I made yesterday.   I had started planning this trip years ago, and had just never gotten around to making the trip.  Now I have a reason, I'm trying to build up distance every week to become a stronger rider and train up to a century ride.  This particular route involved the use of trails both in Dallas and in Plano because I was looking for a more relaxed and scenic ride.

Which is a great way to use these trails, for recreation or taking in the scenery.  I really enjoyed riding around White Rock Creek up to the High Five at US75 and I-635.  However, the remainder of the trip until the Chisolm Trail was mundane to say the least.  It looked more like a swath of prairie land cut through endless suburbia, punctuated by the occasional arterial street.

As you might imagine, the trails aren't really suited well to commuting, most of the trail heads do not occur near any center of commerce or some location where a person could reasonably expect to be employed, they were designed for exercise and recreation.  And to that purpose they are well suited, near residences where people are more likely to use them for this purpose.  I'll set aside questions about jogging or biking under power lines.

But it's this purpose that makes me realize that the behavior, the rules of these trails differ from those of riding in the road.  I would argue first that the rules of the road are better established and understood, and that those rules don't really translate well to trails.  There are people who do strange or erratic things, there is an expectation of courtesy and respect that may or may not materialize.  As I was approaching the White Rock Lake trail through a neighborhood in Lakewood, two cars came up behind me on a residential street.  Since there was room to pass, I kept my position near the right of the road, and they passed slowly and safely.  Just ahead of me was a walker on a cell phone in the middle of the road.  The same cars that passed with care to get around me pulled up behind her and honked to move her over.  I am almost certain she was headed for the trail and this kind of behavior on the trail is expected or understood.

The other thing that shouldn't surprise me but always does is the behavior of cyclists on the trail, especially around White Rock Lake.  The trails are multi-use, and there are many walkers, joggers, roller bladers, people with baby strollers, and finally cyclists, many of whom are bedecked in professional cycling clothing and gear.  The utter lack of respect that I see from these cyclists towards pedestrians on these trails disgusts me.  There is nothing wrong with wanting to log some miles or move at a higher speed, but there is a problem with those things if you do not exercise the due care to pass around pedestrians safely.  Many people weave around people, cut pedestrians off, pass too closely, or just speed and think nothing of it.  These are the worst ambassadors of cycling, even worse than hipsters on fixed gear bikes with no brakes.  If I were a pedestrian and knew nothing of cycling, I would probably think these people are ass holes, and therefore all cyclists are ass holes.  And it's a good bet that the very people to whom so little regard is given are owners and operators of automobiles, and will be given to extend the same courtesy to cyclists on the road.

As glad as I am to have made this ride, it's more likely that in the future, I'll stick to the roads for these rides. They are less crowded, safer for everyone to share, and I think there is more to see.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Tour of Oak Cliff

This is my self-styled 'Tour of North Oak Cliff.' As you can see, it hits many of the highlights of North Oak Cliff including the following:

- Winnetka Heights Neighborhood
- Scenic Colorado Blvd Through Kidd Springs
- Methodist Hospital
- Lake Cliff Park
- Bishop Ave Neighborhood
- Bishop Arts District
- Stephens Park Golf Course
- Kings Highway Conservation District
Route includes a stop in the Bishop Arts District halfway through for a much deserved beer and pizza, a la Eno's!  Route as presented is right at 10 miles, and makes for the perfect preparation for the 20 mile Tour of Dallas next weekend.  See you there!

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Bike to St. Patricks Day

This is my route to the St. Patrick's Day Parade yesterday, totalling 12 miles one way!  Total time was a little less than an hour (with two stops on the way).  Also, took the Katy Trail from Downtown to the M Streets because it has relatively few stops, no stop lights, so it is quicker or at least as quick as a more direct route like Ross to Greenville.  Riding a bike to something like this has its perks, such as not having to park the night before :) I should note that my pannier was fully laden on the way up, and since I only had one, one side of my bike was a little heavier than the other.

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

To the City of Dallas


While you scratch your heads wondering where the money to implement our new bike plan will come from, might I suggest the link above?  Why is it that we can afford signs warning vehicles about the presence of horse drawn buggies, but some paint and a couple of signs seems to be out of reach?


If you want to see people riding bikes on the streets of Dallas (complete or otherwise), please affirm their right to be there first.  It's not cost prohibitivie to demonstrate to motor vehicle drivers that bicycles belong on the road and that we all must share. 


If we intend to push for change, let us be certain we are all facing the same direction first.  Just saying.

Thursday, February 2, 2012

When to Leave a 'Debate'

How does one know when to leave a 'debate?'  These words or phrases can serve as red flags:

"New World Order"
"Zionist" anything
"Wake Up!"
"Open Your Eyes"
"You Need to get Educated"
"You Should See This Documentary"
"You Don't Know How Government Works"
"Corporations Control The Government"
"Wealthy Elite Control The Government"
"Your Vote Doesn't Really Count For Anything"
"Monsanto" (I list this because I'm almost 100% sure this won't be germain to whatever conversation you are having, but it seems to come up from time to time, somebody has seen their Food Inc...)
"9/11 Was An Inside Job"
"Communist" (Unless you are actually talking about Communists)
"Nazi" (Unless you are actually talking about Nazis)
"Facism" (Unless you are actually talking about Facism)
"Race War"
"Water Fluoridation"
"Acorn" (Unless you are actually talking about acorns from trees, or a funny episode of Dilbert)

Other evidence might be extreme leaps of logic.  For example, "Environmental Sustainability is essential for our National Security."  Someone may also try to dump their entire belief structure on you in the hopes that you make the same convoluted connections between facts and data that they did.  For example, if you start by discussing tax policy and then all of a sudden you are hearing about global warming, then it's probably time to leave.

And why should we walk away?  Because I'm doubtful that anyone out there is persuasive enough to convince somebody to move out from under the house of cards that they spend so much time putting together.  In fact, you may find that they become more entrenched than ever before.  Don't believe me?  Just look up the 'Monty Hall problem' on Wikipedia and tell me that you accept the premise on its face.

My good friend Karl also has a couple of good thoughts on when to just walk away:

"When whatever we are discussing goes from discussion to argument, and the internal response of, "this is not enjoyable for me anymore".

"Catch phrases and terms used obviously in a fashion of aping intellectualism. They make me think, "I don´t listen to you anymore because you are a fucking idiot, lazy in your thinking and now all I want to do is be really mean to you and shred your beliefs that you obviously don´t understand; watch you get angry at me about it because you can´t defend these beliefs or yourself because they don´t stem from ideas or thoughts of any kind but, feelings - a distinction you clearly don´t understand. Don´t bring that broke ass shit in here, and this won´t happen"

Solutions Oriented Thinking

Is it ethical for a politician to hold stocks in companies when his or her votes and actions will affect the value of the stock?  The answer is no, this is a major conflict of interest and would result in censure, or loss of licensure for professionals, or even action by the SEC for any citizen in the private sector.  Well, rather than whine about this problem and dance around it with minor tweaks to rules for money and investment that apply to Congress, I would like to make an alternative recommendation.

Upon being elected or appointed every Senator, Representative, Justice of the Court, the President and every major Cabinet Member of his or her administration should be forced to sell their investment grade assets (Stocks, Bonds, Mutual Funds, ETFs, rental properties, precious metals or any other share of ownership in a business of ANY kind) and convert their assets to U.S. Dollars.  These dollars should then be put in a physical 'lock box' and kept as a deposit at the Federal Reserve, and their money should be available for the purposes of providing liquidity to that bank.  No interest.  No electronic bank account.  Just real foldin' money printed on paper in a metal box with a lock on it and a guard posted outside.

What would this accomplish?  First, it would eliminate the glaring conflict of interest with private businesses and the American public.  Second, it would align their interests with our currency and the plight of many every day Americans.  I imagine that their attitude toward rampant deficit spending and quantitative easing would rapidly change if it meant that their holdings were about to quickly diminsh in value due to impending inflation.  This would also dissuade politicians from inflating our currency to service the national debt. 

Unfortunately, I don't think this measure would actually diminsh corruption in Washington, but at least then the American public might have some parity with other competing interest groups.  They can put money in politician's pocket.  Under this plan, we could take it away by virtue of irresponsible governance, no oversight committee or regulatory agency required.

Monday, January 23, 2012

Rules of Destruction

Remember, as we set about demolishing a brick wall, at some point every brick in that wall shall become the highest and the next slated for demolition. And without a brick wall, of what use is the foundation?  There is only one of two fates for the lowest portion, either it is buried by a new and more magnificent wall, or destroyed and replaced entirely.

Monday, January 16, 2012

How Do I Know?

Life is unfair, and this is how I know.  I work hard and earn a good salary, but out there are two people.  One who works more and earns less, and one who works less and earns more.  But let there be no doubt that this system, though imperfect, yields the greatest benefit to all.  One may live in a fair society, but it is one that keeps man from living to his greatest potential.

Should an accountant plow a field?  Should a doctor dig a ditch?  Should a politician clean septic tanks?   The answer to the first two is no.  They can do greater good for all as doctors or accountants.  And they will be compensated handsomely for their scarce knowledge and expertise.


James:  I think this [gold plated 1911 pistol] is what I'd recommend you get.  I'd buy a pair and get them engraved with some cool roses, maybe some thorns, to represent the dichotomy of good and evil.  A couple of skulls on the grips would be a classy move as well.

Bruce:  Personally, I would recommend a grenade launcher (like the HK M320) becuase getting the bad guys is worth destryong all your possessions and possibly killing your family members and/or neighbors

J.T.:  I like the grenade launcher machine gun (GMG), a novel concept if I may say so.


This encounter would have ended very differently with a fully automatic grenade launcher.

Bruce: You're right.  The headline would have read, "Chuck E. Cheese's In Flames After Grandmother Defends Family with Grenade Launcher"

Witnesses say the first grenade maimed the offenders and also destroyed the table at which they were sitting.  Then the woman continued firing what's being described as a "grenade machine gun" amidst the chaos of screaming and running children until she "cleaned up their language for them,"  shes's quoted as saying.  The restaurant said the woman won't have to pay for her meal but will have to pay approximately $350,000 for damage done to the structure, ball pit and play area, and the animatronic singing animals.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

A Most Important Question

If I could think of a single question that when asked would do the most good for any human being, it would be, 'What do you Want?'

Why this question? Because it begins to clarify the desired outcome; we can develop intent and make that intent the guiding principle by which we make all future decisions.  What do you want?  A million dollars?  A steady job?  Peace on Earth?  You can see the outcome, and start to work backwards and trace a path.  Even as you read this, I bet you're finding it easier to sketch a path towards a million dollars (education, work, save, invest...)

The other powerful effect that this question has is one of economy.  If I want something, like a material good, I am willing to divert my energy and resources to obtaining that thing.  I am at peace with not having all of the other things that I do not want.

I feel like I am in a fog when I don't know what I want.  I can't orient myself and provide motivation towards a goal.  Coming into work, sitting down and asking myself, 'What do you want to do today?' has a profound effect on my day for the better.   If your job sucks, then asking the question becomes just that much more salient.

Life can be simple and better if we just ask ourselves what we want and work towards those desires.  We would be a happier nation.  We wouldn't be jealous of others either.  When you see someone driving in a nice car or taking out an expensive toy, just tell yourself that they wanted those things, and like everyone else on the planet, had to forgo something else to obtain those items.  Some may get more and some may get less, but none gets it all.

You can have anything that you want, but you can't have everything.