Ride Boldly!

Bikes, bicycling, and road safety.

May 9, 2018
by julie

Helmets Shouldn’t Be A Question in the Snelling-Summit Bike Fatality

Today, in St. Paul, a cyclist was killed when hit by a school bus. The accident happened at Snelling and Summit, which is a complex intersection involving service roads. You can get a sense of it from this Google map:

The cyclist was headed westbound, straight, per witnesses. The bus was turning left. The students on the bus saw the cyclist lying bleeding in the street near the bus’ front bumper.

Naturally, during the briefing with police at the site, two questions were asked:

  • Did the cyclist run the red light?
  • Was the cyclist wearing a helmet?

Because we are talking about a cyclist going straight and a left-turning bus, if the cyclist ran the red, so did the bus. There is no left turn signal. Instead of asking “Did the cyclist run the red light?” someone might as well ask “Do you believe the cyclist was actively suicidal?”

Per pictures in articles covering the crash, the cyclist was hit by a flat-front bus.

A flat-front bus is also known as a Type D bus. It typically is over 10,000 pounds gross weight, and generally between 10 and 11 feet in height. The picture above gives a sense of scale compared to the nearby police SUV. The bus driver will be looking over most vehicles in traffic.

If you are hit by a flat-front bus, accelerating through a left turn, a helmet is the least of your worries as a cyclist. You are not going to die from the head wound. You are going to die of blunt force and internal injuries to your torso. It doesn’t take experience in trauma, in collision science, or even a passing grade in high school physics to realize this. A recent study by the Insurance Institute for Highway Safety found that SUVs, with high-riding style, flat front ends, and higher total horsepower are likely to strike pedestrians higher on victims’ bodies — at the chest rather than in the legs — and strike with more force. And they’re smaller than these buses!

So what are the right questions to ask? Well, here are some ideas:

  • “Was the bus driver the regular operator for this route?”
  • “Do the signals at this intersection have a Leading Pedestrian Interval, to allow pedestrians and cyclists to start crossing before motorists get a green?”
  • “Do the east and westbound signals change simultaneously, or are there timing gaps to allow turns to occur?”
  • “Was the bus coming from the service drive, or the main through lanes?”
  • “Was the cyclist riding the service drive, or the main through lanes?”
  • “Are we aware of anything that could have blocked the bus driver’s view of the cyclist?”
  • “What were the injuries to the cyclist, per paramedics at the scene?”

There is plenty of history in this intersection, including a 2009 death and a 2014 crash leading to long-term rehab. Plenty of questions can be asked from this history. The articles I have read so far all neglect to even mention the past.

If “severe head trauma” is indicated, sure, ask if the other injuries were survivable had there been a helmet. But a helmet doesn’t protect your spine, torso, ribcage or any internal organ except sorta your brain against 10,000+ pounds of flat-front, left-turning bus. And a helmet is not a virtue signal. “He was wearing a helmet” is not shorthand for “did not deserve to die,” and “was not wearing a helmet” is not a flag for “that awful bicyclist the commenters in the Star-Tribune told you about.”

I like bike helmets. They are often useful. But they shouldn’t be in the first 25 concerns anyone has about this particular collision. Stop wasting media briefing time on the helmet question. Stop pretending that helmets save lives in these situations, because they don’t. And let’s figure out how to stop these deaths from happening, again and again.

April 21, 2018
by julie
1 Comment

Yeah, Yeah: I Am A Slacker

But the good news is I have the Event Calendar operating again! Updates are ongoing, but May and June are (mostly) fleshed out, with public meetings being the next stuff to be added.

I promise to try to be less of a bad webmaster. Less bad. Not “not bad.”

August 14, 2017
by julie
Comments Off on Blaine Approves High-Density Housing; World Doesn’t End (Yet)

Blaine Approves High-Density Housing; World Doesn’t End (Yet)

On a 6-1 vote on August 3, the Blaine (MN) City Council approved an actual high-density housing development.

As of 11 days later, the world hasn’t ended (even if there are signs it’s trying to get there).

Of course, there are caveats to how this unlikely thing occurred after years of bizarre hand-wringing over putting high-density housing in other locations, like in The Lakes development.

1. The site is next to a Gun Club. Arguably, this is not where you want your next golf course community, am I not right?

2. The “affordable” units will be for seniors, because poor seniors are okay, while poor single parents are obviously drug users. (The seniors probably cannot afford their medications, so may or may not be drug users. Depends on their Medicare D option.)

3. Beyond the senior housing component, there are few specifics about the 32-acre development yet.

4. They somehow believe they’ll get the magic new grocery store some council members want on the site as part of the retail component, even though there’s already a Super Walmart, an Aldi and a Cub right there.

5. Did I mention the Gun Club?

There was also concern about the lack of mass transit near the site, as though that isn’t true for pretty much everywhere in Blaine.

Canadian Best Choise: slotsonlinecanada.ca

Nonetheless, it is good to see that Blaine realizes that we need some higher density development. Even if it has to be via putting affordable senior housing next to the Gun Club. (Note: They’d also talked about putting a K-4 school next to the Gun Club, which obviously was also a great idea.) Next thing you know, they’ll build sidewalks, and we’ll have an explanation for the crumbling of society’s foundations.

Share the Road Sign

June 11, 2015
by julie
1 Comment

One Soccer Mom For Bike Lanes

Proposals to get St. Paul up to a higher standard of multi-modal joy abound. One key proposal is the City of St. Paul Bike Plan. It is a comprehensive approach to closing gaps in city bikeways and bikeability to allow more people to choose a bicycle over other modes of transport.

As I’ve ranted, raved and otherwise covered in heavy detail, over half of all daily vehicle trips are under 10 miles. (See page 28 of this FHWA PDF for details.) A significant number of these are actually under 5 miles.

Which brings us to noted bike-hater of the Pioneer Press Joe Soucheray, co-opting and mansplaining the experience of being a mom. Specifically, he is hand-wringing that mini-van driving moms of 3 will have fewer places to park on Cleveland Avenue in St. Paul — a neighborhood I know well, having once lived near St. Kate’s, and having graduated from St. Thomas. He cites the Ford Little League fields and schools. He claims that all these moms will be “harrowed” by new bump-outs and roundabouts, or new narrowed lanes that reduce traffic flow.

Hogwash, says this mother of two. The biggest danger to kids? Bad urban design! And if you really want to inconvenience a mom, injury to one of her kids is pretty damned inconvenient, traumatic and generally no-good.

Traffic calming is better for families. Bicycles are a key element of traffic calming. Bicycles and pedestrians are the canaries in the city’s coal mines. Calmed traffic means that children and seniors can more easily cross streets, rather than leaving their mothers and daughters praying for their safety crossing high-speed stroads. Calmed traffic means that the family can walk several blocks on a fine evening. Calmed traffic means that the family can walk several blocks on a fine evening. This mom approves.

We are all well-served by bike lanes, bump-outs and roundabouts that enable pedestrian and bicycle traffic. We are all well-served by having fewer vehicles on the road, moving more slowly through our neighborhoods.

And, for heavens’ sakes, parking near Ford Little League fields? Has this man ever been to a suburban soccer tournament? You park in a concrete sea, and march across multiple fields, hunting for the field where your kid is scheduled to play. Heaven help you on your first trip to a tourney at the National Sports Center. You’re walking more than a “few blocks” there, believe me. (I would be delighted if it were more possible to bike into that NSC, but that’s another rant for a different day.)

This isn’t a matter of bikes or cars. This is a matter of building multi-modal streets, for people. The following Tweet by the former chief planner of Vancouver really sums it up:

Count this soccer mom in for bike lanes. Because it’s not about bikes, or cars, or parking. It’s about better cities. Multi-modal cities make it easier and more pleasant to get around – including drivers.

NSC Velodrome.

January 2, 2015
by julie

Velodrome in Limbo: What’s Next?

Following up on our last post about the NSC Velodrome, the current state of affairs remains a hazard for the beloved Velodrome.

The NSC Foundation, along with the Friends of the Velodrome, have appointed a group to find a “viable” financial solution to repairs prior to the 2015 season. Current estimate is that $75,000 in repairs could help keep the track open an additional 4 to 6 years. The Foundation also claim the Velodrome itself is responsible for $45-50,000 in losses each year at the overall NSC facility.

Questions really come into play about the stewardship of the Velodrome — not by the friends, who are not the owners, but by the NSC Foundation. The reality of the Velodrome is that as a wood structure, outdoors, it has always had a design life of 20-25 years. This should not have been a surprise to the NSC. This is not a surprise to anyone who has ever owned a wood patio or deck, even with regular sealing and cleaning. Wood has a design life, and 2015 will be the 25th year of operation of the Velodrome.

Where has the strategic plan been around the financials of Velodrome replacement? Yes, they say the facility has been operating at a loss, but has there been no plan for 25 years? The loss also shouldn’t be a shocker. Utilization rate shouldn’t be a shocker. Marketing and outreach has occurred, but at what scale or support? Has the NSC truly supported its own facility, either in planning or long-term finances? (Surely all those craft shows, vendor fairs, and trade shows aren’t operated at losses, are they?) Has the Velodrome had representation amongst the voices for hockey and soccer on the Board?

I don’t know the answers to these questions. But the current situation seems like an issue of poor planning. Nothing that is occurring should be a surprise, and the Board’s intent of throwing up their hands and saying “bye bye Velodrome!” is rather disturbing in light of these questions.

Meanwhile, the Friends seek out “significant” corporate sponsorship.