Archive | October, 2012

Police Think We (Cyclists) Are Pedestrians

25 Oct

You know how some business hire police officers to direct traffic in and out of their parking lots during busy traffic times?  Well yesterday, I was visiting such a business on my bicycle.  While I was inside, I noticed that every time someone tried to leave the business in a car, a police officer would walk out into the middle of Peachtree Street and block all four lanes of traffic so that the car could enter the roadway.  I see this all the time in Atlanta and didn’t think much of it.

Well now it is my turn to leave.  I hop on my bike, cruise up to the edge of the street, signal a left turn, and wait… and wait… and wait…

Traffic is miserable (I think Paul Ryan was in town or something), there is no way that I’m getting into Peachtree Street without a little help.  That’s when I look over to the police officer and ask him for a hand.

[Paraphrasing] He says “No, you are on your own.”  This doesn’t surprise me, but it does pique my curiosity.  I’m in no hurry, so I dismount and walk over to the officer and ask him why he can’t help me.

He says, “Because you are on a bike.”

I say, “So, what difference does that make?”

He says, “If you were in a car, it would be different.”

I ask, “How so?”

He says, “If I helped you into the street, and you got hit, then I would be held liable?”

I said, “But if I was in a car or on a motorcycle, you wouldn’t be held liable?”

He says, “I don’t know, I can’t help pedestrians cross the street.”

I say, “I have to follow all the same rules as a car, and it is seems stupid to me that I wouldn’t be given the same treatment as a car in this case.  Especially considering that I am much more vulnerable than someone in a car.”  It really irritates me to have to explain the law to a police officer, but he was being friendly, so I tried not to get riled up.

He says, “Sorry, I can’t help you.  I wish I could. It’s policy.”

I say, “I know you don’t make the policies, but if that is the actual policy, then it is absolutely stupid.  Is there something I can do to get that policy changed?”  I tried not to be a prick, but I did want him to consider the absurdity of that policy (I highly doubt any such policy exists.)

At this point, he was getting a little tired of answering my questions.  He walk into Peachtree Street stops all four lanes of traffic and lets me through.  It was awesome.

I thanked him as I rolled past.  I hope I didn’t come off as too much of a jerk.  He has a very difficult job, and I didn’t want to show any disrespect, but it is crazy that bicyclists are asked to follow the same rules as motorists, but aren’t given the same assistance is situations like this.

I know cyclists are guilty of riding on sidewalks, going the wrong way in traffic, blowing past stop signs and a host of other bad behavior.  But I almost never do any of those things.  I try to behave as any other vehicle on the road, and I expect to be treated as such.  Anyway, it was a small victory.

My next challenge…Getting service at a Drive-Thru.  Seriously, if McDonald’s closes their dining room at midnight, purchasing a $10,000 car suddenly becomes a prerequisite for ordering a delicious McDouble.  That doesn’t seem right.

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Cyclists! Stand Up and Be Counted!

21 Oct

 

A great new app is now available for bicyclists in Atlanta.  It is called Cycle Atlanta.  This isn’t just another bicycle route tracker.  This app gets bicycle lanes built and infrastructure funded.  It does that by providing hard data to city planners and politicians about WHERE cyclists travel, WHEN they travel, and WHY they travel.

When planners and bicycle advocates go to City Hall and Capitol Hill, this data will make it much easier for them to persuade law makers to fund infrastructure. It will also help city planners build the infrastructure that is most needed in Atlanta and build it in the most effective locations.

How can you help?  Download this app (available for both iPhone and Android). Downloading this app will allow you to record any bicycle trip you make and send that trip data to the Georgia Tech researchers managing Cycle Atlanta.

The app is very simple to use. The first screen that you see has a large button on top to Start Trip! (As well as a list of previous trips that you have submitted.) Then you just ride.

As you ride your path is recorded and statistics about speed are displayed to the user. I suppose if you had a mount on your bike you could watch this live. I’m not sure that I would recommend that. I just keep my phone in my pocket.


When your trip is over, hit finish and you will see the following menu. Here you can tell the planners what sort of trip you were taking (Shopping, Work, Social, etc.) and you can even leave comments about the trip. I have used this comment field to suggest locations for bike lanes and report intersections where the induction loops do not detect bicycles.

Finally, your trip map is shown to you with some basic statistics and the points where your location was recorded. This is the exact sort of information that can really improve cycling routes in Atlanta. For instance, look at the map below. Notice that I took a very indirect path between by origin (green thumbtack) and destination (purple thumbtack). This is not the route that I wanted to take.  It was the shortest route that I deemed acceptably safe. I left a comment to this effect for the planners.

Anyone who cycles in Atlanta should download this app. The more people that use this app, the easier it will be to find funding for bicyclists and the more information planners will have about where to build infrastructure.

Let the planners know that you are out there on your bike.  Millions upon millions of dollars are spent planning for automobile traffic.  This app levels the playing field a bit.  By crowd-sourcing this information, bicyclists don’t necessarily need the million-dollar studies to build proper infrastructure.  It lets us actively participate in the planning process by telling the planners and politicians exactly where we go and exactly what we need to improve our experience.  

Cyclists, download this app. Use it.  Stand up and be counted!

In other awesome news:  MARTA has opened up its schedule data and real-time data to the public.  Expect many awesome apps coming to Atlanta very soon.

Cycling in Atlanta is Moving Forward

17 Oct

Friday marked the ribbon cutting for the 5th Street and West Peachtree intersection improvements for cyclists.

The improvements will make it easier for cyclists to continue eastbound on 5th Street without having to illegally ride on the sidewalk as well as make it possible for cyclists to travel westbound across West Peachtree Street without exiting the bike lane.

While this may seem like a small step (and it is), I find it very exciting for two reasons. 1) It is the most innovative and advanced bike lane in Atlanta and 2) the ribbon cutting ceremony demonstrated to me that bicycling in Atlanta is moving beyond a fringe group of enthusiasts and into mainstream, accepted culture.

1) What makes this bike lane special?

In the global view of bicycling, this lane is nothing major. But in the context of Atlanta, it is a significant step forward for bicycling. It is the first bike crossing in the city (at least that I know of) to include crossing buttons specifically for cyclists. Previously, cyclists would have to hope that a car would come along to flip the induction loop sensor or they would have to dismount their bikes and walk over to a pedestrian crossing button. Thanks Atlanta for recognizing this issue and installing this button. Waiting at a light that never changes is a very frustrating experience.

Additionaly, we have colored lanes for added visibility, (the first that I have noticed around the city) and we have a contraflow bike path adjacent to the road to help bikers avoid having to illegally maneuver along the sidewalk with pedestrians. In the past, I felt like city planners were content giving bikers options that were “good enough”, but this project demonstrates a clear consideration for specific needs of bikers and meets those needs.

See the images below for a diagram of the project and a few photos. Click the pictures to enlarge them.

Diagram of Bike Lane [Top of Map Points West]Fancy Copenhagen Left with Crossing Button for Cyclists 

Bicycle Ramp: Eastbound Towards West Peachtree Street

Contraflow Bike Lane Along W. Peachtree Sidewalk

2) Look who showed up.

The second reason that I am excited about this lane, is the large political support behind it. Biking in a Atlanta can be a lonely experience at times. It is easy to feel like you do not belong here and that you are some crazy weirdo for trying to ride a bicycle 2 miles to pickup bread instead of using a 2 ton vehicle for that purpose.

The ribbon-cutting for this bike lane showed me that is changing in Atlanta. It was awesome to see the turnout for this event. More than 100 attendees shows up to hear Mayor Kasim Reed, Georgia Tech President Bud Peterson, Atlanta Bike Coalition Executive Director Rebecca Serna and others sing the praises of cycling in Atlanta and promise to advance the cause of cycling in this great city. It was awesome.

See a few pictures of the ceremony below. It was a good day for Atlanta.

That reminds me. It’s time to renew by ABC membership.

Mayor Kasim Reed

George Tech President Bud Peterson “Bicyle lanes are cheaper to build than roads and highways.”

Ribbon Cutting from http://www.atlantabike.org

Just for fun. My bicycle parked inside city hall. One minute bicyclists are outcasts, the next we are at city hall.

Up next, Cycle Atlanta, an app to help city planners determine where cyclists are going and help build infrastructure to meet their needs. More cool stuff!

Cycle Atlanta

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