Thursday, September 3, 2009

Sponsored by Pringles?

It's a Chevy Nova.
Why would anyone bother repainting it, buying new wheels, registering it as an "antique," and slapping the Pringles logo on the side?

Is this part of a new urban trend?
I saw a Nestle Quik motorcycle, with matching helmets, the other day.


On my commute into work this morning, I saw a Canada Goose lying dead next to the road.

I guess somebody was sorry.

Norfolk Bike Cops- Get Off the Sidewalk!

I was on my way to join the Wednesday night road ride out of the Norfolk Conte's when I saw a squad of bike cops riding north on Granby Street, single file, along the sidewalk. They stopped at the 7-Eleven at 38th & Granby for refreshments, and I took the opportunity to engage them.

While adult cyclists in Norfolk are legally obliged to ride in the road, Norfolk bike cops can ride on the sidewalk whenever they darn well feel like it.

Well, I got three different answers to that question from a squad of Norfolk's "finest." I'll leave you to judge the lameness:

1. "The department won't buy us rear-view mirrors."
2. "The sidewalk is safer because we're targets."
3. "The Supreme Court says we can."

So let's take a look at each of these excuses for failing to follow the rules of the road:

1. "The department won't buy us rear-view mirrors."
Rear-view mirrors are not necessary to ride safely on the road. A cyclist is far more likely to be injured by what's in front of them than by what's behind them. And it's hard to lend much credence to budgetary woes when the officers in question are riding $2,000 bikes, and their utility belts are sagging under the weight of radios, handcuffs, tasers, batons, pistols and pepper spray. The Norfolk Police Department can't pony up $5 for a helmet or handlebar-mounted rear-view mirror? Please...

2. "The sidewalk is safer because we're targets."
One of the younger members of the bike squad asserted that it was safer for bike cops to ride on the sidewalk because they're targets in the road. But if some enraged driver wanted to run over a bike cop, I doubt that a six inch curb would be much of an impediment. I'll hazard a guess that the injury rate for bike cops is statistically proportional to that for civilian cyclists: in North America a cyclist is more likely to be injured and killed when they're riding on the sidewalk.

3. "The Supreme Court says we can."

Well, I can't argue much with this one. The Norfolk City Code allows city employees to ride on sidewalks. The Supreme Court has upheld that police officers are legally allowed to use lethal force and ignore traffic laws in the performance of their duties. I hardly think, though, that riding to 7-Eleven is a part of their official duties.

To argue by analogy, let's consider another police officer heading north on Granby Street to 7-Eleven. It's late afternoon, and traffic is heavy, so the officer decides to drive their squad car/motorcycle/paddy wagon on the sidewalk. In the abscence of any emergency, I believe that most law-abiding citizens would consider such behavior to be an abuse of power. Just because you can doesn't mean you should.

What our public servants should do is teach by example: Green light means "go," and red light means "stop." Signal before changing lanes or turning. Obey the speed limit. And if the protection of the public safety warrants, drive the wrong way down a one-way street, through a red light, or, on the sidewalk.

There is a commonly held misperception that cyclists belong on the sidewalk. More than once I've been told on the streets of Norfolk, "Get on the sidewalk!" When bike cops abuse their authority to ride on the sidewalks, they endanger themselves in the short term and their fellow citizens in the long term: In the short term, it is more dangerous to ride a bike on a sidewalk for anybody, bike cops included. In the long term sidewalk-riding bike cops endanger their fellow citizen cyclists by
enforcing the public misperception that the sidewalks are where bikes belong.

Bike cops neither protect nor serve the public when they ride on the sidewalk. In the abscence of a compelling duty, they need to get down off the sidewalk and into the gutter with civilian cyclists.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Bike parking for all

95% of American car trips end in a "free" (in reality: indirectly subsidized) parking spot.

Automobiles spend 98% of their time parked.

So maybe it's time for "free" bike parking.

Read Slate for more details.