Ride Boldly!

Bikes, bicycling, and road safety.

May 29, 2018
by julie
Comments Off on Still Life: Bikes, With Stroad

Still Life: Bikes, With Stroad

bikes

Outside the Spring Lake Park Dairy Queen.

Current bike line up are a black Surly Cross Check (with the pink bar tape), a grey Surly Cross Check with a Weehoo bike trailer, and a jolly red Specialized Hot Rock for the elder child.

For all this image is in front of Central, the ride to this DQ is nice – mostly lower-traffic road with shoulder, and a cut through via a park trail alongside a lake that smells of lilacs right now.

May 26, 2018
by julie
1 Comment

Summit Avenue Fatality: No Charges, No Change?

On Friday, the Ramsey County attorney’s office announced that no charges will be filed against the school bus driver involved in May’s fatal Summit Avenue crash.

Initial gut response: WTF, with a side helping of “you announced this on the Friday before a holiday weekend for reasons, didn’t you.”

Reading further into the reports, it becomes abundantly clear that the attorney’s office is not filing charges because they see this as an unwinnable case, and thus a poor use of prosecution resource. From a government point of view, this is a responsible choice.

The quote from the attorney’s office states:

“Based on the facts presented to us by the St. Paul Police Department, we have determined that we cannot prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the driver operated the bus in a grossly negligent manner which is the legal standard required to bring a felony level criminal charge.”

Which gets us into the findings of the St. Paul Police Department. Based on eyewitness interviews, they concluded that Alan Grahn went through a red light, striking the bus.

Oy.

Let’s unpack that a little. For Alan Grahn to “strike a bus,” in the middle of the Summit/Snelling intersection, by entering in a red light, the bus was left turning through that red light. In addition, the bus would have been in the intersection — or at least moving into it — at the point the cyclist was apparently blowing the red signal.

What?!

I said previously:

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?”

We have the answer, as it were. A spokesman for the SPPD said:

“At some point, the light turned red and the westbound traffic cleared the intersection,” Linders said. “That’s when the bus driver began to turn north onto Snelling Avenue. At this point, the bicyclist rode into the intersection, through a red light and into the bus. Witnesses say the bicyclist never stopped at the red light.”

The mechanics of this statement simply don’t pass a logic test. What they do suggest is eyewitness bias: Cyclists are bad. They run red lights. Meanwhile, per this same narrative, the bus was left-turning on red, which doesn’t seem to be in compliance with Minnesota Statute 169.19, Subd. 1, Section g:

(g) Whenever it is necessary for the driver of a motor vehicle to cross a bicycle lane adjacent to the driver’s lane of travel to make a turn, the driver shall first signal the movement, then drive the motor vehicle into the bicycle lane prior to making the turn, but only after it is safe to do so. The driver shall then make the turn consistent with any traffic markers, buttons, or signs, yielding the right-of-way to any vehicles or bicycles approaching so close thereto as to constitute an immediate hazard.

Photos of the crash scene place the downed bike in line with the front of the bus.

Nonetheless, the SPPD narrative leaves the attorney unable to make a solid felony case, and lower level charges are problematic relative to the resources required to prosecute. The eyewitnesses say the cyclist blew the light. While they could do diagrams and provide science facts (like how fast a bus should be moving from a stop at that point, or how fast an average cyclist might go at that point on Summit), they just won’t secure a conviction with those eyewitnesses and their “cyclist blew red” story in play. And prosecuting the driver won’t bring the cyclist back.

The statement of the SPPD, based on eyewitness interview, amounts to “cyclist’s fault.” This makes it easy for state and local agencies to minimize the need to redesign the intersection, especially in the face of neighbor opposition. This is not the first fatality there, and there have been other, life-changing injuries in that intersection. But they’ll point to cyclists blowing red lights, and shrug.

This is the world we’re cycling in, friends. It’s not a safe one.

There are things you can do, although they may not feel powerful in the face of these kinds of non-actions:

Summit Avenue is known throughout the Twin Cities, and is a frequent ride of both locals, and those who may not hail from St. Paul. It needs to be better. Stay noisy.

May 9, 2018
by julie
Comments Off on Helmets Shouldn’t Be A Question in the Snelling-Summit Bike Fatality

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.

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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.