What I learned this week, May 23, 2014

Uptown Cyclovia

The crowd at Ciclovia Dallas on the Houston Street Viaduct with the Dallas downtown skyline

The crowd at Ciclovia Dallas on the Houston Street Viaduct with the Dallas downtown skyline

Uptown Ciclovia: An International Perspective

Have you ever dreamed of leisurely peddling on your bike without having to subconsciously worry about traffic? Ever wanted to walk down the middle lane of a typically busy street to get to Klyde Warren Park? Well, your dream will become a reality this Memorial Day!

Uptown Ciclovia (if you don’t know about it yet, Ciclo-what should catch you up to speed) is a car-free experience that will connect the Katy Trail to Klyde Warren Park via Cedar Springs Road on May 26th. By closing the street to automobiles, people may enjoy the street however they so choose- run, walk, bike, skip, hop, dance, roller-skate, etc. The best part? There will be no cars to get in your way. I repeat- there will be NO cars! Have you ever been on a Dallas street and without seeing cars? Exactly.

I am really looking forward to this.

The last Dallas Cyclovia was a couple of years ago on the causeway over the Trinity River. It was a lot of fun and this one looks even better. A Cyclovia in Uptown will be cool.

Music at Ciclovia Dallas

Music at Ciclovia Dallas

I’ve been to the Wyly theater more than a few times. I’ve written about it:
Sherlock Holmes, The Final Adventure
The Fortress of Solitude
Black Swallows the Red
As Flies to Wanton Boys
The Elaborate Entrance of Chad Deity
We Are Such Stuff As Dreams Are Made On

It is an amazing place.

Follow the rules, bikers

We need to rethink our urban areas. They need to be redesigned around a new set of values, one that doesn’t seek to accommodate bikers and pedestrians within an auto-dominated environment but instead does the opposite: accommodates automobiles in an environment dominated by people. It is people that create value. It is people that build wealth. It is in prioritizing their needs – whether on foot, on a bike or in a wheelchair – that we will begin to change the financial health of our cities and truly make them strong towns.

Rich college presidents linked to poorer teachers, students

A new report from the Institute for Policy Studies looks at the salaries of top administrators at many of the public universities around the country and draws some very interesting conclusions that any graduates of these schools with high debt loads will not be surprised to know. The most fundamental of these is that high pay of university presidents goes hand in hand with lower pay for faculty members and higher student debt on average.

Bike lane merging with right turn lane at Beltline road.

Bike lane merging with right turn lane at Beltline road.

Did Cooper Stock really have to die?

It is possible, even probable, experts say, because of the way Americans have designed their streets for hundreds of years — essentially viewing pedestrian fatalities as the cost of doing business, as the collateral damage of speed and progress.

“Traditionally we build assuming that drivers and pedestrians will do the right thing even though we know that humans are flawed,” says Claes Tingvall, the director of Traffic Safety for the Swedish Transport Administration, in an interview with Yahoo News. “You don’t design an elevator or an airplane or a nuclear power station on the assumption that everyone will do the right thing. You design it assuming they will make mistakes, and build in ways that withstand and minimize error.”

For nearly 20 years, Sweden has been building on that latter assumption, rethinking and revamping its transportation system, both the philosophy and the nuts and bolts. They call this 1997 legislation Vision Zero — meaning the goal is to reach zero pedestrian deaths in all of Sweden — and under the program people are valued over cars, safety over efficiency. Streets have been narrowed; speed limits have been lowered. Above all, the Swedes have declared an end to the argument over whether safety violations should be punished or prevented. Voting for problem solving over finger pointing, they view collisions as warnings that some fix — a differently timed light, a better lit intersection — is needed.

Reading about this terrible tragedy made me think of the near misses I’ve had lately. They all were in the same situation that killed that poor boy. Crossing in a crosswalk with a green light and the little walk light is a death trap for a pedestrian or a cyclist. The problem is that the left-turning cars are not looking in the crosswalk – they are looking at the oncoming traffic. They say to themselves, “I can make this turn if I hurry up!” – step on the accelerator and turn into people in the crosswalk.

One cause is the poor design of intersections. The root cause is people driving too fast. Both can be solved with better road design, but it takes a paridigm shift – one that I think can only occur in someone that is walking and/or biking a lot in the city.

Rail crossing on Arapaho road.

Rail crossing on Arapaho road.

New Report: Every Bicyclist Counts

A terrible string of fatal bike crashes in the Tampa area in late 2011 and early 2012 left the local bike community reeling.

As they shared each awful tragedy with us, we too felt frustrated and powerless. We also realized how little we really knew about the circumstances of serious crashes between bikes and cars, and how woefully inadequate (and late) the available data was at the national level.

For a 12-month period, we set about the grim task of tracking and documenting every fatal traffic crash involving a bicyclist captured by relevant internet search terms. We also wanted to offer a place to remember the victims and raise the hope that their deaths would at least inform efforts to prevent such tragedies in the future.

The result was the Every Bicyclist Counts initiative: everybicyclistcounts.org

Magazine Street, New Orleans

Magazine Street, New Orleans

Slow Ride: Biking Doesn’t Have to Be a Race

Believe it or not biking does not have to be a full-fledged cardio workout every time you go for a ride. In fact, a lot of countries seem to be on to something that many of us in the States have yet to fully embrace, the idea of a “slow ride.”

My whole idea of cycling is to ride as slowly as possible (and still get to where I need/want to be). Unfortunately, a lot of this is the fact that the engine on my bicycle is old and worn out. I like riding slowly, but I do miss having the options.

The rise of
 cycle cafes

The march of British cycle cafes seems irrepressible.

Unfortunately, for me, a bike ride from Texas to England for a cup of joe or a bite is a bit much.

Bike Riding in the Big Easy

My Xootr Swift folding bike on the bike route over Interstate 10 in New Orleans. Downtown and the Superdome are in the background.

My Xootr Swift folding bike on the bike route over Interstate 10 in New Orleans. Downtown and the Superdome are in the background.

We had a trip to New Orleans planned for Tulane Graduation. Lee actually graduated in December, and didn’t plan on walking, but we wanted to go anyway… sort of a closure.

This was the first out of town trip that we had taken since I had bought my folding Xootr Swift bike. One of the reasons I wanted the folder was to be able to take it along, collapsed in the trunk, and pull it out for a ride whenever the opportunity presented itself.

Lee’s friends had arranged a party for the graduates and parents at Parkway Bakery and Tavern. A few years ago I had seen a television show that claimed Parkway had the best Shrimp Po’ Boy sandwiches in New Orleans. That’s a pretty salty claim – but I have eaten there before and can’t really argue (though Domilise’s is close). No way am I going to miss a meal at Parkway, and I wanted to ride my bike. As early as I could rustle my rusty bones out of our guesthouse in the Garden District I walked to the car, unfolded my Xootr from the trunk, and set out across the city.

I had no real idea of a where I was going, but used my phone and the Bicycle Route little green lines on Google Maps and was able to find my way. One good thing is the way the Crescent City is laid out, as confusing as it can be, all the roads seem to run to Parkway’s ‘hood.

I have been going to New Orleans for decades, and I think this was the first day of really, really nice weather I’ve ever seen. I had ridden my commuter bike around Tulane in December, but the wind was howling cold spitting rain.

New Orleans has been working hard on making its streets more bike friendly and they have succeeded. There are bike lanes and recommended streets. There aren’t a lot of dedicated trails, except in a few key choke points – like crossing Interstate 10.

There is no comparison to Dallas (which is well known as the worst city for cycling). First, let’s face it, the city of New Orleans itself isn’t really very big – it’s only four miles or so from the river to Lake Pontchartrain – as opposed to the hundred miles from Mesquite to Benbrook.

New Orleans is hell to drive in – which, ironically, makes it easy to ride a bike in. The streets are narrow and choked which slows and “calms” the traffic. I could ride across town as fast as I can drive. In Dallas it’s not unusual to come across cars going a mile a minute – which is rolling death if you aren’t wrapped in a steel carapace.

The one downside to riding there are the cracked pavement and the potholes. I had to keep my eyes open and those tiny wheels on the folder transmit every shock right to my spine. I learned quickly to stay off the side streets and use the lanes on the larger thoroughfares – the pavement had been better repaired.

But, other than that – it was a blast.

I became lost less often than I had predicted (only once) and arrived at Parkway an hour early. That gave me time for a quick ride around City Park and along the shore of Lake Pontchartrain. City Park is beautiful and huge (though people tell me it is a shadow of its pre-Katrina glory) and Pontchartrain feels like an ocean shore.

My Xootr Swift along the shore Lake Pontchartrain, New Orlean, Louisiana. You can see the Pontchartrain causeway on the horizon.

My Xootr Swift along the shore Lake Pontchartrain, New Orlean, Louisiana. You can see the Pontchartrain causeway on the horizon.

I didn’t have time to waste so I kept pedaling and still made it to Parkway before the festivities. I locked the bike out front until Candy and Lee arrived in the car – then all I had to do was fold it back up into the trunk.

Another advantage of the ride – that Shrimp Po’-Boy sure tasted extra good.

Bikes locked up in front of Parkway, New Orleans, Louisiana

Bikes locked up in front of Parkway, New Orleans, Louisiana