Rss

Bike Month 2014 – Events are coming!

Believe it or not, National Bicycle Month is just around the corner in May. We have been working to plan several exciting events to celebrate cycling and those who love it, as well as to organize activities to encourage new butts on bikes. We thought it would be nice to toss up a quick post (ya, ya we know it’s been a while…we’re working on it) to give you an update on some of the events coming up in May.

Some of the details are still being worked out so we won’t be sharing exact dates and times yet, but you can keep an eye on our calendar page and Facebook page for details in the coming days/weeks. We are doing our best to get the word out on these events more than a week or two ahead so you can plan accordingly this year. If you are interested in sponsorship, volunteer, or other opportunities please email BicycleLafayette@gmail.com.

Main Street Mash - Bike Month Kick-Off Ride for the whole family

Adult Trike Race with Friends of Downtown – If you haven’t seen the pictures of this amazing relay race, check out our Facebook page.

Star City Polo Tournament – Come see some of the hottest Bicycle Polo Teams from the midwest compete at our very own Riverside Skating Rink.

CycloFemme- Join us and women across the nation on this ride to celebrate women!

Ride of Silence – Across the country cyclists are hit and killed far too often than anyone likes to acknowledge. Just last year we experienced a death right here in Greater Lafayette. Join us and thousands across the country as we ride in silence in memory of our fallen comrades, home and abroad.

Bike to Work Day – It’s the 20th anniversary of BTWD! Come out for some coffee and conversation on your ride to work.

Bike to School Day – Hop on your bicycles with the kids and ride to work with children around the country.

Tour de Fun – We plan on sending bike month off in style with a ride to a beautiful spot of land where we will invite everyone to camp over night with us and enjoy some fine adult beverages, smores, and good times.

Lastly we fully intend on having some very exciting news to announce with our friends from the City of Lafayette. Last year was the year of West Lafayette. We’ve been working with the slightly more cautious city of Lafayette during the winter to help make cycling a priority in Lafayette and we hope to be rolling out some big news come May!

Spring is coming!

cycle-into-spring

A little Monday bike poetry

A submission from a Purdue student.
For more information about cycling on campus check out www.purdue.edu/bikes

A Cyclist’s Concern: Part One

It’s ten until ten.
I’ve slept in again!
My alarm, I swear that it’s broken.
I sleep as it beeps,
Or maybe I creep and silence the wake up call motive.
I manage my snooze.
And often throw shoes, to pause the start of the day.
I wake in a bind.
It’s always I find, I try, but I’m late anyway.
Sloshed morning thoughts.
Can’t find my keys, my pants, my watch.
Of course I’ve forgot the numbers to the lock.
Oh, pretty please!
I twist the bike lock free!
Might make it if I flee!
Check the rear view to watch traffic carefully.
I ride up the hill, I don’t have the skill.
I stall, I slip, I perspire.
I move up the curb just missing a swerve
from the truck with the sudden flat tire.
Straight peddling on, til the looks are all gone
while I calm the fear I’ve acquired.
Police turn round the corner,
I stare in pure horror as one motions for me to dismount it.
Truck nowhere in sight, and I get the slight,
as he writes me a ticket for riding my bike where pedestrians tread,
can all this be right?
Did nobody see that freight give me fright?!
Confound it!
Shamed, shunned, despair.
I’ll walk, I don’t care. The doctor suggested fresh air.
I glance to my wrist- it’s Sunday the fifth!
I don’t have to be anywhere!

Claud Capuano Dec. 2013

Hosting a Bicycle Rodeo

rodeos

October 19th Bicycle Lafayette will be hosting the groups’ first bike rodeo with New Community School. Bicycle rodeos are usually run by local police departments. Police Chief Rosanne M. Sizer of the Portland, Oregon Police Department said, “It’s important that our children understand bicycle safety. This is an opportunity for area youth to learn important skills and in the process get to know some of our bicycle, traffic, and reserve officers.” The Kiwanis clubs, who originally began these exciting events, still run rodeos with the police departments in many cities across our country.

Bicycle Lafayette hopes to teach the children of New Community School about safe riding in the Greater Lafayette Community through a fun afternoon of hands-on activities and interactive stations. These stations aim to teach skills such as scanning for traffic and avoiding debris or other dangerous hazards on the roads among other best practices. In addition to teaching the children of NCS Bicycle Lafayette hopes to also take away some lessons of their own from this first bike rodeo so that larger events may be hosted in the future to involve other children from around the community.

This event is being sponsored by Ivy Tech Community College, Hodson’s Bay, Virtuous Cycles, ISPhotographic, 100Copies, Mirrycle, and RoadID.

Keep an eye out for pictured and recaps of the event coming soon!

Riding Bikes With A Teenager

Another swell article from a good friend of Bicycle Lafayette who is out riding the streets just like a real person! Taken from her blog with permission. Lots of great stuff to read there so go check it out!

Not my kid(s).

Not my kid(s).

There are so many pieces out there about riding with young kids, but not many about riding with older kids, so when I started riding with my older child, a young teenager, I felt like we were on the steep end of the learning curve. The Big Kid learned to ride a bike when he was little, had no issues with balance, distance, or speed, but I found that street riding in a more serious way was an exercise in parent-child anxiety. I was constantly yelling, “STOP!” “GO!” “WATCH OUT!” “OMG!” and freaking out about nearby drivers, intersections, and near-accidents, which inspired a serious lack of confidence in BK.

Confidence and safety go very much hand in hand on the road. The two things I noticed that were crucial to his success as a new cyclist were:

GEAR

Riding bikes with a toddler is about having the right gear. Riding bikes with a teenager is about having gear that is both for safety and for confidence.

Convincing him that a helmet was a necessity and not a fashion item was the first hurdle. Admittedly I was not the best role model until we started riding on a regular basis. Once I had some real solo experience on the road — and with the aggression of drivers — we wore helmets. No excuses, no exceptions.

Another crucial step was finding a bike that fits his body. Teenagers seem to grow inches overnight. They are constantly growing. Can’t keep this kid in shoes or jeans. While he once was fine on a youth bike, very suddenly he was too tall for it and required an adult bike — but still one small and light enough to fit his frame. We went through several used bike configurations* before finding one that was comfortable that he could navigate with feet on the ground at stops, and that he could start easily at intersections. That said, some cool lights, some bike stickers, and a helmet that didn’t make him feel dorky were pretty important too.

KNOWING THE RULES OF THE ROAD

At some point I realized that in order for him to feel confident on the road, I had to get myself to a level where I was confident and knowledgeable myself. I started reading bike blogs, paying more attention to the local biking advocacy group, and asking annoying questions at my local bike shop. I also had to learn the local laws of the road and get familiar with using turn signals and taking the lane.

As I learned these rules, I’d pass them on as we were riding together. With practice, BK began signaling his movements and taking the lane alongside me. He knew what to to at stop signs and stoplights and when a car was approaching in any direction. He got comfortable in bike lanes on busier stretches of road, and began to learn the side streets in our section of town. I haven’t given him carte blanche freedom to go wherever he wants by bicycle, but I’m confident in his skills.

OTHER RELATED OBSERVATIONS

  • This time riding together has made us closer. This is the time we have to be fun and playful together, to race, to joke, to tease one another about our skills (i.e. “Mom is so slow”), and leave behind stern conversations about life and school and household responsibilities.
  • The confidence = safety factor was never clearer to me than the day we added another teen to our bike crew that didn’t have the experience we do. The addition of an inexperienced, hesitant rider to our group made us all less confident and more jumpy on the road. Over the course of the ride, BK and the other teen were commiserating about how to ride, where to go, and what to do, which bolstered the other teen over the course of the outing. BK got to be the authority and teach his buddy some of what he knew. It turned out to be a really fun day. Which is to say, as I always do, that it’s beneficial to all to build one another up rather than leave one another behind.

All this said, before I sat down to write this post, I googled a lot about teenagers and bikes and found that most of the top stories online are of drivers targeting teen cyclists for violence nationwide. Kids are shot at and run off the road for the offense of sharing the lane. This is terrifying. It both underlines the need to educate the greater public about cyclist safety and road rights, and emphasizes the pervasive social enmity we have against teens and older children. Even living in a bike-friendly — or bike-friendlier — community, we have experienced some scary interactions with angry and/or ignorant drivers that remind me that no matter how safe and knowledgeable we are out there, we are always at the will of the people behind the wheel. My job as a parent is to make sure that BK knows how to minimize that risk on the road as a cyclist, and later as a driver as well.

* Craigslist Bikes is your friend.

RE-Post : Some answers to just about any bike forum post I’ve ever read

I love this little post. It’s from a long time ago but will always apply. Just ride your bike, friends! Also, long live Surly!

surly_logo

posted by Skip Bernet

Thursday, June 16th, 2011

 

If you think your bike looks good, it does.

If you like the way your bike rides, it’s an awesome bike.

You don’t need to spend a million dollars to have a great bike, but if you do spend a million dollars and know what you want you’ll probably also have a great bike.

Yes, you can tour on your bike – whatever it is.

Yes, you can race on your bike – whatever it is.

Yes, you can commute on your bike – whatever it is.

26” wheels or 29” or 650b or 700c or 24” or 20” or whatever – yes, that wheel size is rad and you’ll probably get where you’re going.

Disc brakes, cantis, v-brakes, and road calipers all do a great job of stopping a bike when they’re working and adjusted.

No paint job makes everyone happy.

Yes, you can put a rack on that. Get some p-clamps if there are no mounts.

Steel is a great material for making bike frames – so is aluminum, carbon fiber, and titanium.

You can have your saddle at whatever angle makes you happy.

Your handlebars can be lower than your saddle, even with your saddle, or higher than your saddle. Whichever way you like it is right.

Being shuttled up a downhill run does not make you a weak person, nor does choosing not to fly off of a 10 foot drop.

Bike frames made overseas can be super cool. Bike frames made in the USA can be super cool.

Hey, tattooed and pierced long shorts wearin flat brim hat red bull drinkin white Oakley sportin rad person on your full suspension big hit bike – nice work out there.

Hey, little round glasses pocket protector collared shirt skid lid rear view mirror sandal wearing schwalbe marathon running pletscher two-leg kickstand tourist – good job.

Hey, shaved leg skinny as hell super duper tan line hear rate monitor checking power tap train in the basement all winter super loud lycra kit million dollar wheels racer – keep it up.

The more you ride your bike, the less your ass will hurt.

The following short answers are good answers, but not the only ones for the question asked – 29”, Brooks, lugged, disc brake, steel, Campagnolo, helmet, custom, Rohloff, NJS, carbon, 31.8, clipless, porteur.

No bike does everything perfectly. In fact, no bike does anything until someone gets on it to ride.

Sometimes, recumbent bikes are ok.

Your bikeshop is not trying to screw you. They’re trying to stay open.

Buying things off of the internet is great, except when it sucks.

Some people know more about bikes than you do. Other people know less.

Maybe the person you waved at while you were out riding didn’t see you wave at them.

It sucks to be harassed by assholes in cars while you’re on a bike. It also sucks to drive behind assholes on bikes.

Did you build that yourself? Awesome. Did you buy that? Cool.

Wheelies are the best trick ever invented. That’s just a fact.

Which is better, riding long miles, or hanging out under a bridge doing tricks? Yes.

Yes, you can break your collar bone riding a bike like that.

Stopping at stop signs is probably a good idea.

Driving with your bikes on top of your car to get to a dirt trail isn’t ideal, but for most people it’s necessary.

If your bike has couplers, or if you have a spendy bike case, or if you pay a shop to pack your bike, or if you have a folding bike, shipping a bike is still a pain in the ass for everyone involved.

That dent in your frame is probably ok, but maybe it’s not. You should get it looked at.

Touch up paint always looks like shit. Often it looks worse than the scratch.

A pristine bike free of dirt, scratches, and wear marks makes me sort of sad.

A bike that’s been chained to the same tree for three years caked with rust and missing parts makes me sad too.

Bikes purchased at Wal-mart, Target, Costco, or K-mart are generally not the best bang for your buck.

Toe overlap is not the end of the world, unless you crash and die – then it is.

Sometimes parts break. Sometimes you crash. Sometimes it’s your fault.

Yes, you can buy a bike without riding it first. It would be nice to ride it first, but it’s not a deal breaker not to.

Ownership of a truing stand does not a wheel builder make.

32 spokes, 48 spokes, 24 spokes, three spokes? Sure.

Single speed bikes are rad. Bikes with derailleurs and cassettes are sexy. Belt drive internal gear bikes work great too.

Columbus, TruTemper, Reynolds, Ishiwata, or no brand? I’d ride it.

Tubeless tires are pretty cool. So are tubes.

The moral of RAGBRAI is that families and drunken boobs can have fun on the same route, just maybe at different times of day.

Riding by yourself kicks ass. You might also try riding with a group.

Really fast people are frustrating, but they make you faster. When you get faster, you might frustrate someone else.

Stopping can be as much fun as riding.

Lots of people worked their asses off to build whatever you’re riding on. You should thank them.

Riding Bikes with a Toddler *Repost

Check out this awesome little article from a friend and Bicycle Lafayette member about riding bikes with her baby! Originally posted HERE.

When wee Baby Cletus turned about a year old, I located a helmet that fit her head and promptly began sourcing iBerts on Craigslist. I liked the idea a lot — baby rides in front between your arms, you can talk and communicate with each other without yelling into the wind. It worked great last year when she was still small, but it didn’t work out all that well this year, now that she’s big, she hit the terrible twos, and has big opinions.

This year my knees bumped up against the iBert seat and I had to pedal with my legs akimbo. My chest kept bumping into the back of the girl’s head, and she took that as an invitation to play the fun game “Head Butt Mom in the Sternum While She Struggles to Pedal Uphill.” Back on Craigslist, I found a gently used Schwinn cart that I can pull behind the bike. It’s the best thing that happened to us this summer.

My steed. Wait, I think I'm the steed.

My steed. Wait, I think I’m the steed.

THE BIKE: I’m not racing, I’m not riding trails, we’re looking to get out of the house and see the world. My bike isn’t that great. My friends with money and willpower are riding around on $2K Konas, but my Craigslisted Wal-Mart Schwinn does all right. My favorite bike, in fact, is a 12+ year old generic Wal-Mart bike I got second-hand from a friend.

If you’re like me and get embarrassed and apologetic about your uncool bike from the big box store, remember: The best bike for you is the one that fits your body and your lifestyle. Does it feel good? Good. Don’t let the bike snobs snob you out of a ride.

We don’t use anything fancy. A bike, good helmets, a headlight and a flashy tail light in case we’re riding at dusk, and a smallish backpack to carry my phone and wallet. I spent maybe $200 for this set-up, a mixture of used and new. Once it’s all set up, it just sits in the garage taking up all my parking space, ready to go.

Note: If you don’t have storage, garage, or shed space handy for gear, be prepared to find space not only for a bike but something roughly the size of a small armchair.

THE CART: The cart is pretty fantastic. The aluminum frame is covered with colorful canvas and has reflective lights attached to the front and back. On the outside, two large flaps lift up in the front and back to give you access to the child seating area and the “trunk.” These attach securely with snaps and velcro. The “trunk” is large enough to carry a couple of bags of groceries or a large tote bag. The seating area can fit 1-2 children and has a five point buckle for each child. Each child has access to a spandex cup holder and a little pocket for snacks and toys. The front flap can be used with open air mesh, or with a second solid plastic flap in case of rain.

Here’s what Baby Cletus discovered very quickly. She can either ride on the front of my bike and cuddle/headbutt mom, or she can ride in the rainbow chariot with a snack, a drink, and an entourage of stuffed animals. Which one do you think won out?

20130523-105538.jpg

Snack, check! Bike hat, check! Cold beverage, check! Giant Brobee, check!

THE BABY: Baby Cletus doesn’t like to sit at home and she is happiest outdoors. Riding bikes is perfect for her needs and temperament. She has a routine she likes to do to get ready for the ride: shoes, snack (cereal, dried fruit), drink, toy(s), bike hat (helmet), all of which provide plenty of entertainment when we’re on a boring stretch of road.

We talk about everything we see on the ride, including birds, dogs, cats, trucks, construction equipment, funny sounds, fountains, trees, flowers, road, rocks, you name it. I usually try to have a destination for our rides, like a small park or a business or landmark. Living near a university campus means there are a lot of restaurants, fountains, statues, and businesses nearby. A ride to the library is always pleasant. Occasionally we pick up another neighbor kid and ride around (which is an extra 60+ lbs for me to haul and quite a workout).

Biking is the magic touch for her. Baby Cletus can be quite a handful and sometimes going out is a crapshoot as to whether or not you’re going to have to apologize to a restaurant/library full of people for her dramatic toddler displays of temper! discontent! and indignation! But these bike rides? She loves them! Which is why we do it almost every day. There are places to see, people to meet, and many fountains to run through. We go places by bike, and we’re happier for it.

Be Part Of The Solution

We’ve been doing this for going on 10 months now. This group was started when a passing wind of indifference fanned the coals within the hearts of a couple local cyclists into a fire of passion. Things had to change and we were going to be the ones to do it. It started out as little more than an idea to unite everyone who loves bicycles under one banner. We just wanted to try to raise awareness and bring people together. For me, every conversation I would have with someone who rode a bike, a person who had experienced the dangers of the road, or the joys of a trail, merely fanned the flames of my fire. To this day, every time someone shares a story good or bad, about an experience involving cycling I am only reminded why I believe in what we are trying to accomplish.

 

I have learned several things over the past 10 months. I have learned important lessons about working with people who have the ability to enact the changes I want to see, as well as how to interact with those who don’t. I have learned that just showing up is 80% of the work. I have learned about the duality of the bureaucrat who insists upon debating the merits of a change that would clearly have positive benefits thus standing in the way of progress in the name of progress while simultaneously encouraging change and improvement at a grass-roots level. I have learned that no person can do what I am hoping to do alone. Most importantly I have learned that I don’t have to.

 

For the most part, it has been a positive 10-month start to our little organization. We have moved from a group who just met weekly in our favorite local bar to talk about bikes and share a brew, to meeting at Virtuous Cycles and leaving the beer at home in favor of productivity. Our meeting numbers have dwindled in part because of that, but our effectiveness has grown. We have begun attending as many political meetings as possible in an effort to be able to speak for the cyclists where possible and ensure that our voices are heard. We have finalized our first round of educational materials, which we hope to distribute at the July Mosey and several events thereafter. We have lobbied and fought for the passing of the 3-foot ordinance in West Lafayette and plan to do the same in Lafayette before the end of summer. We have countless other projects in the works. In short, we are busy, but we are seeing the beginnings of a positive change forming within our community.

 

So why am I writing this now? The truth is, I am very passionate about what we are doing. I would imagine that is fairly obvious. Passion is a driving force in my life, often taking me places I didn’t even know I wanted to go…sometimes to places I really didn’t want to go. Sometimes I find myself in these places and I suddenly have to take back over to make sure that my passions don’t run me into the center of a fire just because it looked pretty. Bicycle Lafayette has been met with an unbelievable amount of support from many in our community, and we are eternally grateful for that. As such it has been easy to ignore the voices of dessent…until recently. It truly is exciting and encouraging to know that members of local government, the mayors, even the police departments, and so many more are supportive of our cause. However, the vast majority of those we share the road with on a daily basis…are not supportive. It’s easy to work or hang out downtown or on campus and forget that the vast majority of citizens of this community don’t live or visit those places all that much. Unfortunately the reminders of these facts come quickly when you take a trip on your bicycle outside of the safety of these small pockets of support and realize that the vast majority of those cyclists share the road with do not respect us. In fact, I would wager that most of them don’t even know Bicycle Lafayette exists, and if they did they wouldn’t really care all that much.

 

But now I am done. I am fed up with the people who want to yell at cyclists. I am tired of people who think we don’t belong. I am angry with the people who continually want to point out the cyclists who run stop signs or lights or break other laws as a way to imply that change isn’t needed or worse isn’t deserved. I’m tired of cyclists saying they don’t care what drivers think, they will do what they want because of “freedom” or some such nonsense. Is all of this valid? Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. The point is what are YOU going to do about it. If you are a cyclist and you don’t think the laws make sense for you, then do something to change it. Come to our meetings and give us some ideas. Hell, come to our meetings and tell us we are doing it wrong, I am ok with that, I promise. If you are a driver and you think cyclists don’t belong on the road, then come tell me why. Come explain to me why 35mph versus 15 mph is such a big deal. Help me understand why arriving at your destination 5 minutes earlier than if you had stayed behind that cyclist for a few seconds until you could safely pass is such a big deal. Quit hiding in your car and acting like you know something everyone else doesn’t. If everyone that has taken the time to point out how “they think it’s really great what we are doing, but yesterday they saw a cyclist without a helmet run a stop sign and ride off into the sunset dragging a kitten behind their bike and screaming about anarchy all while reading Mein Kampf” and instead provided one possible solution to improve things for cyclists and drivers…perhaps we could actually begin working together to make a change.

 

Consider this a challenge. The next time you want to swerve at a cyclist riding their bike somewhere to be funny, throw something, yell something, share some kind of opinion about your superiority for driving versus cycling…instead…don’t. The next time you come to a light or a stop sign on your bicycle and decide you don’t need to follow the rules like everyone else stop and think about why that is for a minute. Write down whatever you felt when you were going to do/say that and bring it to Virtuous Cycles at 6pm on Sunday. We meet nearly every week outside of special occasions. Bring me your piece of paper and let’s talk about how we can make it better for both of us. The beauty of our group is that there is no danger of being wrong. Bicycles bring people together. We want to make that true for more people. You can tell us whatever you want, in person, to our faces. We aren’t here to cause problems, we are here to help make it better so how about everyone quits standing in the way and starts to consider contributing to the solution instead.

 

If you don’t want to take the challenge that is ok too, however you should know that I am not going to quit yelling about what I think needs to happen. Right or wrong, until someone comes to provide me with a better solution, I am going to continue presenting my own. I don’t believe in sitting back and complaining about things. I believe in taking action, so that is what I am going to continue to do. The more unified our voice, the louder we can be, the faster we can make changes happen. Quit being part of the problem and come be part of the solution.

Bicycles as Traffic vs. the Law

On June 10th, Aaron Kleber was cycling with a friend heading south up the Ninth Street hill. Ninth Street is a direct route to many places for vehicles and Kleber informed his friend that he had seen a bike lane further south. Unfortunately, sharing the road in the early evening hours with parked cars and two directions of steady traffic can be difficult on this street near downtown. The cyclists were riding two abreast and near State Street were pulled over by the Lafayette Police Department. The officer informed Kleber that he was obstructing traffic. A surprised Kleber was not issued a ticket.

First things first.

Bicycles are vehicles, Lafayette and West Lafayette laws dictate that these vehicles should be operated in the roadway, and as such bicycles are traffic. It is not illegal for motor traffic to be impeded by traffic signals or crosswalks; farm equipment, garbage trucks, postal trucks, police cars, buses, and cars which have slowed for weather or other safety reasons. It is not illegal for other traffic to be impeded by a bicycle that is following the rules of the road and cannot operate at close to the speed limit for motorized vehicles.

If bicycles are, by law, vehicles, belong in the roadway with other vehicle traffic, and represent a reasonable encounter within the range of normal traffic in a motorist’s path from point A to point B, then we can move on to concerns about how to best share the streets.

Look, motorists, most of you don’t actually hate the cyclists and most of the cyclists don’t hate you. They don’t wish to make you late or confuse you. Yet there are smart practices employable which, admittedly, may very well be lost on you or not in every cyclist’s repertoire. After covering a few points on a cyclist’s behalf, also included here is a timely concern for the cyclist on the driver’s behalf.

Above all, a cyclist wants to be visible and predictable to a car. They are going to ride right of center only far enough so they can continue in a straight line out of the way of parked cars, parked car doors about to be opened, potholes, gravel and random trash, dead animals, and questionable pieces of metal whatsit. Any of these can cause a cyclist to swerve uncontrollably, wreck, or pop a hole in a tire. When a cyclist tries to give a driver more room than this he will, yes, surprise you at times with weaving in and out.

A cyclist will take up even more room in a lane when there is a greater perceived threat to their safety. If a cyclist needs to change lanes to turn left or get out of what’s becoming a right turn lane, if they’re being smart they’ll not only use the hand signals found in the Indiana Driver’s Manual, they’ll also make their moves early. By ensuring visibility with what seems like a “Hey look at me!” display, a driver may be forced into a position where they can’t pass the cyclist. The same logic applies to a cyclist who needs to turn left right after a traffic light. There are usually too many cars at the start of a green light for a cyclist to change over to the other side of the street.

The same hypothetical intelligent cyclist may also take up more room on the right side of the road at red lights and stop signs. Unlike the instantaneous and effortless speed acquired with the foot pressed to gas pedal, the cyclist may be a little wobbly getting their momentum up and then have a small lull while they get their speed as fast as possible to get through the light and out of other vehicles’ way.

Most importantly a cyclist will take up more room when they fear there is so little give that a faster-moving motorist will unsafely pass them. Red flags include but are not limited to road work zones, uphills, downhills, narrow roads, busy roads, and cycling with inexperienced riders or children in tow. This is not unlawful and the cyclist has a right and responsibility to safely operate their vehicle on any non-highway road unless otherwise posted. While a driver does not have a right to insist an adult cyclist choose an unfavorable alternate route simply because they can’t go as fast as is preferred, they can ask for traffic infrastructure which improves upon a well-grounded nature of getting around town for all vehicles sharing the road.

Our local law, like most, states that cyclists can ride no more than two abreast in traffic lanes shared with motor vehicles. Usually a motorist should be able to wait a moment and overtake the other lane to pass safely. The problem for a motorist occurs in a street, probably with only one lane of traffic in each direction , where flow is dense enough that this maneuver cannot be carried out easily and traffic actually becomes backed up.

Interpretation of bicycle law by the Florida Bicycle Association suggests that even if two single-file cyclists would take up as much room as two abreast, single-file is the best choice because it less impedes the overall flow of traffic. A lawyer from a practice in Arizona and Utah pushes the same view while highlighting that a motorist who hits one of the cyclists in such a situation would still be at-fault for the collision. This advice could help to communicate a cyclist’s respect for the other vehicles sharing the road, even if it’s unclear whether the act would help traffic proceed faster. That being said, cyclists riding two abreast can get through intersections faster, increase visibility, and further discourage a motorist whose chance to pass is unsafe.

 

Can We Say “Yes” to Cycling?

 

Lafayette/West Lafayette enjoyed a successful May Bike Month thanks to Bicycle Lafayette, <a href=”http://www.thinklafayette.com/2013/05/31/beginners-guide-to-lafayette-all-bike-everything/” title=”area cycling shops and organizations” target=”_blank”>area cycling shops and organizations</a>, and the two cities’ Bike to Work Day meet-ups. The month was able to showcase what the area can offer for a variety of cyclists: we are family-oriented riders, we play hardcourt bike polo, we are commuters, we ride mountain bike trails, we are bike intellectuals. There was a lot of just plain fun to be had too, at the Annual Tricycle Race co-sponsored by Friends of Downtown and Bicycle Lafayette, and the fundraiser held at the Lafayette Theater where there were drawings, cookies, and performances from Cap’n Dangerous, snorb!, and Anthrop. Our excited cyclists enjoyed the support of these artists, aforementioned and other local businesses/organizations including People’s Brewing Company, D T Kirby’s, K. Dees Coffee and Roasting Company, and Jelly Entertainment, and their fellow community members who came out to participate with them.

While these May successes are full of bounty, in this same month the cycling community felt anger and loss over the hit and run accident wherein Gregorio Felipe knowingly left Rodney C. Smith on Ninth street and Smith then died less than a week later. Those who are cycling regularly know by the way motorists drive or yell things that don’t make sense like, “Get off of the sidewalk,” and “You’re blocking traffic,” that they are not always comfortable to share roads with non-motorized vehicles. Smith’s death brings up a cyclist’s greatest fear, because she knows that she cannot win in this match-up; that she will not return safely to those that love her, despite her best efforts to be aware and safe.

Perhaps a law regarding a safe-passing distance of three feet between a motorist and cyclist could have in some way helped to save Smith’s life. Maybe not, without knowing the details of how the collision transpired. West Lafayette Mayor Dennis seems to believe that such an ordinance has a place in the law book. At the second and final passing of the safe-distance law on Monday, Dennis explained that he had been passed with less than a distance of three feet over the weekend when helping his daughter move, and believed it was a matter of inches that barely kept him from crashing. Perhaps it is not ironic that on this evening I was passed by a speeding truck in a construction zone by less than three feet only to watch this unsafely-executed pass result in the truck rear-ending and totaling the car only a few feet in front of me. Luckily myself and my companion cyclists made it safely to the West Lafayette City Council meeting in time to hear the ordinance discussed and passed. There is hope that this new ordinance can reaffirm and reclaim the adult cyclists’ safe place in the road not only in West Lafayette but also Lafayette.

A continued challenge for improving bicycle culture in the greater Lafayette area is education for all who are using the road. This is not lost on your average cyclist, motorist, or Councilman Ann Hunt when she asked Bicycle Lafayette Co-Founder Aaron Madrid if he had any ideas about how to educate the public.

Let’s discuss some of the initiatives supported by Bicycle Lafayette and aligned with the Bicycle Friendly Community program.

Starting with education, family-oriented rides and workshops for youth and adults with instruction by Bicycle Lafayette, outreach to high school and college students, and an attempt to rekindle Safe Routes to School are ways to get cyclists riding safely. Educating motorists appears more tricky from the cyclist standpoint and may require changes in official driver education courses and bringing government-funded awareness campaigns into our locale. Some of the facts awareness campaigns may focus on include health benefits, encouraging fitness, economic savings, reduced air pollution, less traffic congestion, and other quality of life factors, in addition to obeying the law and increasing safety for all with rights to share the roads and sidewalks. Recognized Bicycle Friendly Communities often score highly in rankings as favorable places to live.

Another avenue that can be pursued to strengthen our local cycling experience is to further develop bike culture to encourage cyclists. We have two solid shops and community groups for just about any cycling interest. Executing and employing traffic counts, cyclists can work with the governments and local businesses so that we can come up with a map of preferred and safe cycling routes. This will be of special value to incoming Purdue students and Lafayette organizations and businesses thar would like to attract them across the bridge. Also, the cycling and business communities could both benefit from a program like <a href=”http://www.bicyclebenefits.org/” title=”Bicycle Benefits” target=”_blank”>Bicycle Benefits</a> where businesses offer discounts to patrons who show their helmets.

These imperatives are no guarantee to safety, but they are important steps. With an educated and integrated bike culture we can hope to assert a need for changes in traffic engineering and infrastructure; the more expensive, time-consuming goals. Both motorists and cyclists can feel more safe and aware of their surroundings with more bike lanes, a comprehensive system of linked trails and bike lanes, increased and easy-to-use bike parking, and improved implementation of traffic signal systems such as better vehicle detection and use of “head start” markings at certain intersections. Last year, Indianapolis made a commitment to the Complete Streets program. For Lafayette/West Lafayette to do so would not mean that every street would need to accommodate the best access for every mode of transportation, but instead would show a commitment to making the two cities accessibly networked for everyone.

The initiatives covered here only represent a core subset for a vibrant cycling community in the GLA. Let’s look forward to working together for a future that embraces what is good for cycling, motoring, and Lafayette/West Lafayette.

 

 

Thoughts on the Death of RC Smith

Screen Shot 2013-05-25 at 10.13.36 PMI’ve started and restarted this a dozen times.

I wanted to write a response to the hit and run involving a cyclist a short while ago.. A response is a poor word for it…I guess I just wanted to share my thoughts.

This past Sunday, 5 days after being hit and left for dead at the side of the road, RC Smith passed away. I wanted to talk about how angry I am. I wanted to tell you how much more people could have done both to prevent and to respond to this tragedy. I wanted to stomp my feet and call for action and talk about how this incident should serve as an example of just how little people in this community care for cyclists.

In the end, I decided that none of that would really benefit anyone, least of all the memory of RC, his family, and his friends.

This terrible incident serves as a reminder to me of the dangers of riding a bicycle. I have been reminded of just how fragile life is and how much faith I am putting in the people who I share the road with. Most importantly I have been reminded why I believe Bicycle Lafayette’s mission is so vital.

When a person riding a bicycle enters the road, they aren’t just taking their own life into their hands; they are putting their life in the hands of motorists as well. Even after we began relaying our information regarding RC we saw responses regarding helmets and riding safe being the responsibility of the rider suggesting that somehow Mr. Smith was responsible for his own death. Without any details regarding the accident even divulged, people began pointing fingers, both cyclists and motorists alike. Everyone is looking to blame someone instead of talk about how we can prevent this, myself including, at first. Everyone wants to talk about if a cyclist should have been on the road or not… why isn’t anyone just upset that a man has died? Where is all the outrage at that?

The truth is no helmet will protect a cyclist from an impact with a car. No amount of coming to a complete stop at a light or stop sign is going to guaranty a driver won’t swerve just a little too close and clip the cyclist. No amount of bright clothing is going to prevent a driver from falling asleep at the wheel, or sending a text message while driving… or just making a small mistake, and causing the unthinkable. When we go out onto the road we are trusting that a motorist will respect our choice to ride, our safety, and us as fellow human beings. We don’t need motorists to love bicycles or even give us free reign of the road we just need respect.

The man that hit Rodney Smith had no respect for him or anyone. Not only did he run Mr. Smith down, but also he got out of his vehicle to check on him before getting back in his car and running away. This fact might be the most upsetting. He didn’t even have enough respect for the man to call the police himself, he just ran.

We need to change the conversation. It’s not just about a right to the road. It’s not just about following the rules or creating new laws. It’s most certainly not about pointing fingers and placing blame. It’s about changing perception. It’s clear that to many, the perception is that all cyclists are disrespectful of city ordinances and those that travel the road with us. You need only ride through town one day to understand why that isn’t true, but the perception is there, and no one can change it but us. As a cyclist, I don’t believe you need to follow the rules just because they are rules. I believe you need to follow the rules to change the perception and because some of them will give you a better chance at safety. You can yell about being in the right, how you are more aware of your surroundings than a driver, and how stop signs and lights don’t work the same for you all you want, and I will agree with you, but in the end, no one that doesn’t ride a bike is going to understand and the perception will remain the same.

Ordinances exist not only for the safety of riders, but to remind drivers that cyclists belong on the road as well. Laws and ordinances validate our existence as cyclists, but if we ignore them ourselves, they lose any effectiveness. It’s not about enforcement; it’s about education. Bicycle Lafayette is striving to provide that education and so far the majority of our community has been receptive to our message of mutual respect. We have a long way to go to change the perception that most people obviously have about cyclists in this community, but if we all commit to the change then I believe we can do it.

I’m not saying that if everyone followed the rules that RC would still be alive. Accidents will always happen, and people who make bad decisions will always be around to make bad decisions. However, if we all work together to change the perception, if we all learn to show some respect for our fellow man, then at least it might give some people a better chance. If it could save one life in the future, then that is a fight that I think is worth fighting and it starts with education.

I didn’t know Rodney, but I know I spent a year of my life riding his route every day. I know I ride my bicycle around town almost every day and I know how I am treated on the roads. I know that my wife and my daughter want me to come home every day, and if I can do something to make that more likely for me or for anyone else who rides a bike then that is a battle I am willing to fight.

Rodney will be laid to rest aside his parents on Tuesday May 28 1:00 pm at East Hill Shrine Mausoleum, 779 East State Road 44, Rushville IN.

A celebration of life will be held in Lafayette Wednesday May 29th from 4pm to 8pm at the Elmwood Church of Christ, 2501 Elmwood Ave, Lafayette, IN  47904.  Please enter from the south side of the building.

The Rodney Smith Memorial Scholarship in the College of Agriculture has been created at Purdue University.  Contributions can be made by contacting the Purdue Foundation, 403 West Wood Street, West Lafayette IN  47907-2007, 800-319-2199, gifts@purdue.edu or directly at www.purdue.edu/giving.

-Aaron Madrid