Wednesday, January 19, 2011

No More Ghost Bikes: HB1683 & SB928.

As it stands now, any driver in Virginia can get away with killing a cyclist by simply claiming, "I didn't see them."

The awesome guys at the Virginia Bicycling Federation have been working on the state level to introduce legislation that would create safer roads for cyclists. Senate Bill 928 and HB1683, the "Three Foot Passing Law," would increase the legally-required minimum passing distance from two to three feet. If enacted, the law would also require motor vehicle operators to maintain a safe, reasonable distance when following ANY vehicle on the road, be it a bicyle, a moped, an electric wheelchair or a scooter. The law doesn't absolve cyclists from the responsibility to ride in a safe manner, and as close to the right side of the road as is practical, but it will afford us legal protection.

Senator Yvonne Miller, of Norfolk, and Delegate Jeion Ward, of Hampton, are members of their respective Transportation Committees, which will shortly be considering Senate Bill 928 and HB1683, the "Three Foot Passing Law." If you live in Hampton or Norfolk, please contact them TODAY. Below is an email that I sent to Senator Miller:
Dear Senator Miller,

As your constituent and a practical cyclist, I urge you to support Senate Bill 928, which has been referred to the Transportation Committee. SB928 would require motorists to maintain a reasonable, safe distance behind not only cyclists, but also persons using electric wheelchairs or mopeds. Such vehicles would still be required to operate as far to the right on the road as is practical and safe, but motor vehicle operators would be required to pass them at a distance of three, instead of two, feet.

You may recall that less than two years ago a local cyclist, Dan Hersh, was struck and killed from behind by an inattentive driver on Shore Drive. Dan was a retired Navy SEAL, a father of two, and a very experienced cyclist. In the opinion of the Commonwealth Attorney, Harvey Bryant, Dan was operating his bicycle in a responsible manner, with all required safety equipment. The driver who rear-ended and killed Dan claimed that she "didn't see him," and Harvey Bryant declared that there was therefore no existing legal basis for prosecution. The driver did not lose her right to operate a motor vehicle, receive points on her driver's license, pay a fine, or even pay restitution

As it stands now in Virginia, a motorist can be absolved of any responsibility for killing a cyclist by simply claiming, "I didn't see them." The cycling community in Norfolk and Virginia Beach was outraged to learn that while we have the legal responsibility to follow all the rules of the road, we are not afforded the right to justice under the law.

Our Governor, Bob McDonnell, has declared that we must be innovative in solving our transportation problems. When ridden in a safe and responsible manner, bicycles can be a low cost, local solution: 25% of all trips are made within one mile of home, yet 99% of the time, that trip is made by car. If we create a legal environment where cyclists are respected as equal road users, we will see more people choose their bicycle instead of a car for short trips. That in turn will result in less consumption of gasoline, less wear and tear on our roads, less cost in maintaining our roads, less pollution, a healthier population, lower healthcare costs, and a higher quality of life for all persons.

Thank you for your support,

Wes Cheney

If you don't know your the name of your delegate or senator, it's just a few mouse clicks away: check out Who's My Legislator?

If you want to learn more about "vulnerable road user laws," check out the VBF blog, written by local cycling advocate Bruce Drees.

And if you need any more reasons to go by bike, check out 1 World, 2 Wheels.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Fotobywes: facebooked...

So AltDaily has given me a great forum for creative nonfiction. The big pieces.

And Facebook has become my recording tablet of odd & amusing miscellanea.

Now I'm spending my days in my garage, building bikes and (hopefully soon again) a boat.

I'm shooting timelapse movies with my Nikon D90. Advocating for a velophilic Norfolk through Bike Norfolk. Starting a small business: Velo Bamboo. Flipping bikes. Dreaming up bamboo long bikes. Napping on the couch with 4 year old Abby. Rubbing my pregnant wife's hips. Staining my calluses with hub grease.

So it's not that I don't love you,, it's just that I'm not in love with you.

Monday, June 21, 2010

I've got skillz: urban bike skillz!

Listen up, folks!

This Friday & Saturday there's an awesome opportunity to learn to ride more confidently in the city.

Bruce Drees will be teaching "Traffic Skills 101," a course aimed at the neophyte urban cyclist, here in Norfolk.

It's a two-part class: classroom & on-the-road. A bicycle & helmet are required. There's a $35 fee to cover instruction materials.

So if you want mad bike skillz, this is the class for you!!/event.php?eid=112424382137838

Friday, June 11, 2010

Norfolk Cop: "Don't give me SH*T!!!"

“Don't come over here and give me SHIT for riding on the sidewalk!”

So said Officer Rogers of the Norfolk Police Department, standing astride his bicycle on the sidewalk of Plume Street in downtown Norfolk during the opening hours of Harborfest 2010.

I was riding my bike home on Plume Street (with traffic, in the street), a little after six o'clock, when I saw Officer Rogers and Officer “Blank” riding the opposite direction on the sidewalk (the nametag was missing from the velcro strip on Officer Blank's uniform).

I looked behind me and made a u-turn on my bike as Officers Rogers & Blank stopped on their bikes, too. I pulled up in a driveway to a construction site, and asked Officer Blank as he started to ride around me,

“What in the performance of your duties requires you to ride on the sidewalk right now?”


“Why do you feel the need to ride on the sidewalk right now?”

“Because I can ride on the sidewalk.”

“I understand that you're legally allowed to ride on the sidewalk, just as you have the legal authority to drive through a red light when you are in your cruiser. But you don't drive through red lights unless required. So what part of your duties right now requires you to ride on the sidewalk?”

“Well, I'm patrolling.”

At this point, Officer Rogers rode over on his bike, looking rather agitated. Officer Blank looked like he had been hitting the donuts: a chunky guy, over 35% body fat. Officer Rogers was shorter and leaner: the bantam weight boxer to Officer Blank's linebacker. Officer Rogers joined in the conversation,

“Let me ask you something: what do you do for a living?”

“I'm a photographer,” I replied,

“Do I come around and give you SHIT while you're taking pictures of flowers? NO! So don't come come over here and give me SHIT for riding my bike on the sidewalk!”

“I'm not asking you not to ride on the sidewalk, I'm asking you what in the performance of your duties compels you to ride on the sidewalk. See, you're setting a bad example: there are thousands of people downtown for Harborfest. You're riding on the sidewalk. People see cops riding on the sidewalk, and they think it's OK. In fact it's illegal in Norfolk, and it's four hundred percent more dangerous than riding in the street, with traffic!”

At this point, Officer Blank chimed in, “Well we're cops because we like danger: maybe that's why we ride on the sidewalk.”

Officer Rogers went back on the attack, “Have you ever taken a PHOTOGRAPH of a dead police officer?”

“Actually, yes, I have,” I replied, stretching the truth only slightly: from firsthand, forensic photography I know the punchline to the joke, “What do you call a guy floating in the ocean with no arms and no legs?” Answer: “A naval aviator.” (I spent some time photographing in the morgue of the Portsmouth Navy Hospital, and Navy pilots are the cops of the ocean skies.)

“Don't you have anything better to do?” Officer Rogers continued,

“I think it's quite important for our police to model good, law-abiding behavior: you don't run red lights just because you can. You run them when you need to. You shouldn't ride on the sidewalk, just because you can.”

“And you rode your bike over here ON THE SIDEWALK to tell us that?”

“Actually, officer, I'm not on the sidewalk,” I observed, looking down at the curb cut and parking lot driveway where I was standing, astride my bike.”

Officer Rogers was furiously quiet for a few moments as he realized that I was, indeed, in compliance with the Norfolk city code. Then he gathered himself up and presented the best justification yet,

“We are patrolling the downtown area and keeping citizens safe. For that reason, we are riding on the sidewalk.”

I think Officer Rogers knew that it was a lame excuse, but strong enough to stand up, should his Sergeant inquire. And I look forward to hearing from the Norfolk Police Department as to their guidelines for officers exercising their legal permission under Section 23-398 of the Norfolk Municipal Code to operate bicycle on the sidewalk:

“Because I can,” is not a sufficient reason.

Monday, March 22, 2010

North American Handmade Bike Show, 2010

Eighty seconds of bike porn, without me pimping myself to the camera. Enjoy!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Host Our Coast Contest: Blog Submission

Host Our Coast is looking for both a video and a sample blog. So, here's the blog to tell the rest of the story of the 3rd Annual North American Handmade Bike Show:

Bikes on the roof, wheels in the backseat, and another I-64 traffic jam in front of us. We're usually impatiently waiting to ride when stuck on the highway, but today we had hit the road to look at bikes. From Ontario to Delmarva, almost 7,000 cyclists headed to Richmond, Virginia for the 3rd Annual North American Handmade Bike Show, held February 25-28. When the show started in Portland, Oregon two years ago there were just 700 tickets sold.

Like music, bicycles have become both a commodity and an art form. Taiwanese mountain bikes are churned out almost as fast as teeny-bop MP3s, and have just as brief a lifespan. “Real” bikes, like real music, are a labor of love, crafted with patience and attention to detail by artists, treasured and shared by often-fanatic followers. With a punk rock, D.I.Y. ethos, bike builders start tinkering in garages. Many labor on in obscurity, a few make a living at it, and only rarely do any gain fame. For every Gary Fisher or Alex Moulton (near-household names on their respective sides of the Atlantic), there are dozens of lesser-known, but equally gifted, master builders.

The hallway outside echoed with the tick-tick-tick of freewheel hubs as cyclists pushed their bikes to the indoor valet parking. Inside, a humdrum convention hall had been invaded by a caravan of callused hippies and their temporary emerald city of chrome and pedals. A minimalist bike of mercury and silver glowed under tracklighting—two wheels, two pedals, a handlebar and a seat on the sleakest of metal frames. No brakes, no gears, no handlebar tape, no bells, no whistles. A track-inspired "fixie," or fixed-gear bicycle: without a freewheel, the pedals and rear wheel are chained together, and the cyclist's legs become the brakes.

Bilenky Cycle Works out of Philadelphia was awarded “Best road frame” in the show. Owner Stephen Bilenky brought his staff along with nearly all the tools, fixtures and dust from their shop- a dozen unfinished frames lined the back wall of their “display booth” above a workbench, invoices hung on clipboards beneath a decades-old clock. Potential patrons lingered around single and tandem bikes, pointing to details, talking and dreaming of riding.
Just down the aisle was the legendary Craig Calfee, a bike messenger turned bike builder. In the Nineties he was on the forefront of carbon fiber bikes, and now in the 21st Century he is a pioneer and prophet of bamboo bikes. A three-seater road bike with bamboo tubes as thick as oil cans stood next a “traditional” carbon fiber road bike.

In years to come, the third annual North American Handmade Bike Show may become our generation's cycling Woodstock: many who were never there will nonetheless say they were for the significance of it: Rock 'n' roll is here to stay, and so are handmade bikes. All you need is three gears and the truth, the rest is up to you.

Host Our Coast Contest!

I need your vote to Host Our Coast! I'm one of 34 journalists vying to get a 3 month gig covering ecotourism on the Delmarva Peninsula...Vote and video views drive the selection process. Check me out, and the competition, too.

Big thanks go out to the Hebners for being such great hosts and keeping an eye on Abby while Liz & I chased after a story.