Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Sharing the road - what hasn't been said

With three cyclists killed by drivers in the last three months in Vermont, the amount of discussion about cycling, road safety, and other topics related to cycling has increased dramatically.  Articles have been written by journalists, reporters, a police chief, and leaders of advocacy groups have made statements in print and other media.  The Transportation Secretary issued a statement.  The State Police released a new PSA.  My social media accounts have been filled with discussion of it, but for the most part I have remained publicly quiet about it.
I’ve seen countless discussions about lights, reflective gear, and more bike lanes to make things safer for cyclists.  Most of these discussions have focused on things that cyclists should be doing to stay safe.  I have also heard many people blame cyclists for being on the road in the first place, that they do not belong there.  On the back of a truck I saw someone write “Bicyclist of VT it’s time to register, inspect and insure or GET OFF THE ROADS!!! your no longer pedestrians, follow traffic laws”, as seen in the picture below.
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I’m not writing this to get bogged down in debate about any of those things.  Yes there are cyclists that do not follow the law, and there are cars that drive dangerously.  I’m writing this because through all of the articles, blog posts, media interviews and statements, there is something I have not heard anyone talk about.  The laws regarding cycling on the road.  Why aren’t we talking about that?  The State Police PSA does not explain it.  The Transportation Secretary, leaders of advocacy groups, reporters, nobody has talked about this in detail, and it is clearly misunderstood.
One of the local advocacy groups actually has a flier that puts it all in very plain, easy to understand language. (http://www.localmotion.org/documents/safety/Safe_Streets_brochure_2010_–_low_res.pdf).  Another cycling group has a link to a page that contains all the relevant laws in their actual language on one sheet (http://thegmbc.com/VTBikeLaws.pdf).  So even though I understand that some people would like to see changes regarding bicycles on the road, as it stands right now there are laws currently in place that we should be talking about.
With very few exceptions that are clearly marked such as I89, bicycles have every right to be on the road.  That’s the law.  In the simplest terms, bicycles are on the same roads with the same rules.  They are supposed to be there.  Bicycles have the exact same rights as cars have, and they have the same responsibilities.  That means stopping at stoplights and signs, signaling before all turns and lane changes, having lights on at night.
According to the law, cyclists are required to ride with the flow of traffic and as far right as is safe.  What is safe is determined by the cyclist, not the driver following or passing them.  What may look safe from your car is quite often a field of ruts and debris that is unsafe to ride on.  There are many shoulders that are not safe to ride on, and there is no law that states cyclists are supposed to ride there.  In fact the law makes it clear that they are not required to.  Again, the law states to ride as far right as is safe.  There are also bike lanes that are not safe to ride on, and once again the law is clear that cyclists are not required to use the bike lane.  Just last week the bike lane in Winooski was obstructed by an automated radar/speed display.  The bike lane on Pine St in Burlington is horribly damaged and unsafe to ride in many areas.  These are just a couple examples or reasons why they are sometimes unsafe, but again it is not required to be used.  Bicycles have a right to be on the road.
This next part is only my opinion, but I believe many cyclists need to do a better job of actually riding in the lane, as far to the right as is safe, but actually in the lane instead of on the shoulder where they end up weaving back and forth between the shoulder and the lane.  This weaving from shoulder to the lane is one of the biggest complaints I hear from drivers. However, drivers need to understand that bikes will drift left and right the same as a car does within it’s lane.
When it comes to passing a cyclist the law is also clear.  Cars should only pass when it is safe, and provide extra clearance between the vehicle and the cyclist when passing.  A good rule to follow that is actually law in other areas, is to give at least three feet of space between the car and the bicycle.
That’s the law in simple language that everyone can understand, and links to the laws themselves.  I understand not agreeing with things and wanting them to be different, but that’s not the point.  As of today, according to the law, a bicycle on the road is supposed to be treated the same as a car.  They are also supposed to follow the same laws as a car.
I’ve seen Facebook posts showing groups of cyclists pulled over by police for running a stop sign with a caption of share if you agree.  For the record, I agree.  I’ve also seen pictures of the back of a bus that says “every lane is a bike lane”.  I agree with that as well because it’s the truth, it’s the law.  The new PSA from the Vermont State Police says “Share the road”.  Let’s be clear about this.  This statement has always been directed at cars.  There is no cyclist in their right mind that believes they don’t have to share the road with cars.   If you see a cyclist blowing through a stop sign, failing to signal a turn, riding without lights after dark, or riding three abreast blocking the flow of traffic you should report them.  If you see a car passing too close, passing too fast, cutting off a rider, yelling/honking at a rider while passing, or harassing in any way, report them.  In Chittenden County there is a phone number 802-861-3344 or website (www.reportrecklessness.org) that you can use that will also be referred to the proper police department.
I ride my bicycles a lot.  For every car that passes too fast or close, honks or screams while passing, and is flat out dangerous, there are at least 100 cars that are following the law, and another couple cars that are even extraordinarily kind and courteous.  I have found the same to be true of cyclists when I am driving my car.  The guy riding toward me in my lane of traffic on North Ave the other day had me cursing out loud, but I ride with and see far more riders that are safe and responsible.
I’m certainly not saying to stop talking about all of the other issues people are bringing up because of this.  Discussion is a good thing, but could we please start by following what the law actually is?  If the drivers of the cars that killed three cyclists had been following these laws, three amazing people with hundreds of friends and family members would still be alive today.
Cyclists
  • Same road, same rules
  • Ride as far to the right as is safe
  • Ride two abreast only when not impeding traffic
  • Follow all traffic laws, stop signs, lights on at night, signal all turns
  • Report unsafe driving and harassment
  • Be nice, smile and be courteous
Cars
  • Cyclists have the same right to the road as a car
  • Slow down when passing and pass only when safe
  • Give extra space when passing (at least three feet)
  • When in doubt, yield
  • Report unsafe or unlawful cycling
  • Be nice, kind, and courteous

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Police investigate fatal car-bicycle crash in Ferrisburgh

The wife of a Williston Police officer was processed for suspected driving while under the influence with death resulting following a fatal car-bicycle crash in Addison County on Wednesday evening, officials said.
Holly Gonyeau, 36, of Ferrisburgh was issued a citation to appear on June 29 in Vermont Superior Court in Middlebury on a charge of DUI with death resulting, Capt. Donald Patch said.
The charge stems from the fatal crash about 5:50 p.m. on Greenbush Road in Ferrisburgh, state police said. The crash closed down the road during the investigation.
Dead is Kenneth Najarian, 60, of Charlotte, Patch said.
Gonyeau's preliminary breath test showed 0.123 percent alcohol, police said. Adult drivers are presumed to be under the influence in Vermont at 0.08 percent.
She is the wife of Williston Police Officer Keith Gonyeau, a 15-year veteran, authorities said.
EARLIER COVERAGE
Patch said Holly Gonyeau was southbound on Greenbush Road when her 2013 Chevrolet Cruz struck the southbound bicyclist.
Najarian died at the scene as a result of the injuries sustained from the crash, Patch said.
The Vermont State Police crash reconstruction team was summoned to assist troopers from the New Haven barracks.
Lt. Garry Scott, commander of reconstruction team, arrived at the scene at about 8 p.m. to begin combing the scene to recreate what happened.
The State Police were assisted at the crash scene by the Vergennes Police Department and Rescue Squad and the Ferrisburgh Fire Department.
The case remains under investigation at this time. Anyone with information relating to this crash or who may have witnessed it is asked to contact Trooper Brett Flansburgat 388-4919.
It is the third bicycle-motor vehicle fatal crash in nine weeks in Vermont — and all within 20 miles in western Vermont. Four people have died.
Kelly Boe, a manager of the central biomass heating plant at Middlebury College, was killed April 14 in Weybridge while riding with his wife, Kathleen, a Middlebury lawyer.
Nathan Dearing, 27, of Whiting, a familiar face at Vermont Superior Court, pleaded not guilty the next day to charges of driving while intoxicated with death resulting forBoe, 55, of Middlebury.
Dearing also denied a fifth offense of driving while his license is suspended and violating probation by driving a car.
Police said Boe was killed by a drunken driver who crossed the center line and struck the bicyclist on a remote road in Weybridge. His wife managed to avoid the collision.
On April 26 Hinesburg Community Police said Joseph Marshall, 17, of Hinesburg was driving at least 83 miles per hour in the village when he struck a bicyclist, Richard F. Tom.
Both Tom, 47, of Hinesburg and Marshall, a Champlain Valley Union High School senior, died in the Sunday morning crash on Vermont 116, police said. The crash happened where the speed limit was increasing from 30 to 40 mph.
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Contact Mike Donoghue at 660-1845 or mdonoghue@freepressmedia.com. Follow Mike on Twitter at www.twitter.com/FreepsMikeD.

Denver bicyclists test pilot program for traffic light changes

A new Denver bike initiative hopes to give the green light to safer, friendlier intersections for drivers and bicyclists alike.
Denver Public Works has installed bicycle detection technology at seven intersections across the city as part of a pilot program, said Rachael Bronson, bike planner at City and County of Denver.
Bicyclists ride onto a green symbol painted on the road, Bronson explained, where a camera hanging from the adjacent traffic light pole will detect the bike and alert the crosswalk.
A sign is in place at these seven locations to guide riders, she said.
"Instead of having a biker go up on the sidewalk, where they are not supposed to be, or ride through a red light, this will allow a bike to be noticed and should make traffic for drivers and bicyclists flow more naturally," Bronson said.
Cara Jo Miller lives in the Denver area and said she often bikes 20 miles a day for her commute and daily life.
"I think this will help cyclists be more respected," Miller said of the detection system. "Sometimes Denver roads are a hot mess for drivers. Then you mix bikes in, and it becomes this free-for-all, but I think this will alleviate some of that."
The initiative is a study funded by the federal Congestion Mitigation and Air Quality program that is looking to test the effectiveness of the detection systems through October, Bronson said. She hopes more systems can be added after the study.
Elijah Marquez and Jessie Espinoza wait for the light to turn green on Wednesday morning at the intersection of East 17th Avenue and CIty Park Esplanade,The $100,000 systems are made up of two cameras per intersection intended to capture cyclists coming from each direction, Bronson said. The pilot program is testing to see whether infrared cameras or thermal cameras work best.
The intersections being studied are West 35th Avenue and Federal Boulevard; West 17th Avenue and Federal Boulevard; East 17th Avenue and City Park Esplanade; Colorado Boulevard and Montview Street; York Street and East 23rd Avenue; Evans Avenue and Oneida Street; and East First Avenue and Gilpin Street.
If the equipment proves beneficial and further funding is granted, Bronson hopes to incorporate the local biking community in selecting the best locations for additional detection systems.
She encouraged concerned cyclists to attend the monthly Mayor's Bicycle Advisory Committee to voice their suggestions.
"We've got limited resources and hundreds of intersections that need it," she said, "so we welcome help identifying the highest-need areas."
Elizabeth Hernandez: 303-954-1223, ehernandez@denverpost.com or twitter.com/ehernandez

Bicycle Financing Available at VSECU

Taking out a loan for a bicycle may sound a little unconventional, however when you’re serious about riding you know that means you’re serious about spending.
Bicycle options have evolved and bicycle commuting is more popular than ever in Vermont. Whether you’re in the market for a mountain bike, cargo bike or an electric assist bike for help getting up those steep Vermont hills, there are options available to you that don’t require emptying your savings account or pulling out a credit card.
VSECU member Matt Cherry was riding his old mountain bike to work every day partly because he loves cycling, and partly to minimize his environmental impact. But when Matt needed a new ride, better suited to his 10-mile round-trip bike commute in Putney, he came to VSECU.
“It was hard for me to afford a new bicycle so the option for a low-interest loan was really helpful. It allowed me to get a great bike that I can start using now,” Matt said. “I was able to get a bike that fit my needs, is of great quality, and it should last a long time.”
Not only are newer bikes more costly but the accessories are too. We’re here to help you get the bike you need with the accessories to make your ride safe and practical. You may need electric assist to get to and from your destination, you may need cargo options for carrying groceries or other items, and of course everyone needs a good helmet.
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Our VGreen program offers a loan that can be used specifically for the purchase of a bicycle, the Energy Improvement Loan. Originally designed for unsecured energy saving purchases for your home, this loan can also be used to finance a bike purchase with the same discounted rate. Complete an online application to get pre-approved before you shop.
If you’ve recently purchased a new bike and would like to use VSECU financing to pay down another line of credit, such as a credit card, you may have used to make the purchase, contact us to see what options are available for you. A copy of your purchase agreement/receipt will be required.
“I am bike commuting because I love riding bikes,” said Matt. “It’s great exercise, great for the environment, and it’s a wonderful way to be outside.”
Let VSECU make your bicycle purchase as easy and affordable as we did for Matt.
Resources for Vermont bike enthusiasts:

1 man killed in Ferrisburgh bicycle accident

Posted: Jun 17, 2015 10:07 PM EDTUpdated: Jun 18, 2015 12:47 AM EDT
FERRISBURGH, Vt. -
Police are investigating a fatal accident involving a car and bicycle.
60-year-old Kenneth Najarian was killed just before 6 p.m. on Greenbush Road in Ferrisbugh after police say he was struck.
Police say Holly Gonyeau was drunk behind the wheel when she struck Najarian.
She faces DUI charges.
This is the third accident involving a car and bicycle in the last nine weeks.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Hinesburg Police chief on deadly crash

From the Burlington Free Press
GLENN RUSSELL/FREE PRESS FILE
Hinesburg Police Chief Frank Koss has written a blunt letter about the crash more
Frank Koss put pen to paper days after a tragic crash that killed two residents as a way to deal with his thoughts — a first for the self-labeled "politically correct" police chief in Hinesburg.
The product of his reflection was bluntly direct.
"If Joseph Marshall had not lost his life, he would have been charged with second degree murder," Koss wrote in a letter published Thursday in The Hinesburg Record. "This was not going a little fast or even distracted driving, it was gross careless and negligent driving. ... Although bicyclists are always aware of the inherent danger from speeding or distracted drivers, this event crossed an unimaginable line."
Koss said he felt it necessary to write the column, which he shared with the Burlington Free Press. "The message was lost on a lot of the kids," he said. "This wasn't an accident at all."
"I've had 35 years of not being candid. As a police chief, you're supposed to be sensitive and be careful of what you say, and I felt it was time to, as far as I'm concerned, tell the truth on what happened," the chief said. "I'm very sorry for Joseph's death, but the reality of the situation is had he not died, he would have literally been arrested for second-degree murder."
ELIZABETH MURRAY/FREE PRESS FILE
Crews inspect the scene of a crash on Vermont 116 in Hinesburg after the vehicle lost control and hitting a bicyclist April 26. The driver and the cyclist were killed. Police say speed was a factor.
Marshall, 17, a Champlain Valley Union High School student, and Richard Tom, 47, a lifelong bicyclist, both were killed in the April 26 crash. Hinesburg police have initially deemed excessive speed on Marshall's part as the cause of the crash.
He was driving more than twice the speed limit, investigators say.
In the column, Koss wrote that police had spoken to Marshall several times about the teenager's driving and his car. The police department was accused of targeting Marshall after making multiple contacts, Koss said.
Marshall's family did not respond to a message Thursday from the Burlington Free Press.
GLENN RUSSELL/FREE PRESS FILE
A roadside memorial on Vermont 116 in Hinesburg is seen April 27 at the spot more
"For those young people that want to honor Joseph, do more than stand at a tree for a few minutes," Koss wrote, alluding to a candle-light vigil at the scene that took place the night of the crash. "Realize that your actions can have devastating consequences and drive like you care and respect others just like others should be toward you."
Koss said Thursday that Vermont State Police have officially estimated Marshall's speed to have been about 83 mph in a zone where the speed limit was increasing from 30 to 40 mph. Marshall's car hit Tom as the vehicle came around the curve and left the roadway, and the car came to rest after hitting a tree. Police are waiting for toxicology results.
"If you drive in Hinesburg with no regard to others on the road, we will make sure that you are targeted until driving habits are either changed or you are taking a bus," Koss wrote. "Bicyclists and pedestrians are seriously vulnerable to mistakes by motorists and we will have zero tolerance to unsafe driving that puts lives at risks."
Hinesburg Officer Anthony Cambridge said he addressed at least five incidents with Marshall, several of which he witnessed while off-duty. Marshall received tickets only for defective equipment, including one related to the front license plate and another for noisy exhaust. The first incident happened last year while Cambridge was off-duty, and Cambridge said he notified dispatch.
ELIZABETH MURRAY/FREE PRESS FILE
Crew work to remove a car from Vermont 116 in Hinesburg after the driver lost control and hit a bicyclist April 26. The driver and the cyclist were killed. Police say speed was a factor in the crash.
"I was in my personal vehicle in Hinesburg going home, and he came up behind me at a high rate of speed and passed my vehicle ... and then he passed another five vehicles in front of me," Cambridge said. "He went into the other lane of traffic. ... We were in a 50 mph zone, and he passed me as though I was stopped."
Cambridge said Marshall guaranteed at the time that he would never be behind the wheel of that particular car again or drive that way in the future, but more incidents followed. Marshall was driving other cars than he was the day of the fatal crash, Cambridge said.
"As a police officer, you always wish you can do more," Cambridge said Thursday. "I did everything I could given that I was off-duty at the time, and I did an investigation. ... One of the hard parts at the time is you don't like writing tickets, but you know you're slowing people down to save lives."
Chief Koss, in his column, wrote that one the crash's lingering effects is he now has "an officer Monday morning quarterbacking all of his dealings with Joseph and wondering if he could have done more."
Reflecting again on the incident Thursday, the police chief told the Burlington Free Press he will carry the memory of this crash with him. He said this was one of the most "personal" crashes he has investigated, because the victims were well-known in a small community.
"I truly hope this wakes up the teenagers a little bit," Koss said of his column. "Vermont's roads are very unforgiving as far as no shoulders or very narrow shoulders. You have to be very careful."

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Protected bike lanes are now official federal policy

Michael Andersen, Green Lane Project staff writer

Oak Street, San Francisco. Photo: SFMTA. 
Protected bike lanes are now officially star-spangled.
Eight years after New York City created a Netherlands-inspired bikeway on 9th Avenue by putting it on the curb side of a car parking lane, the physically separated designs once perceived as outlandish haven't just become increasingly common from coast to coast — they've been detailed in a new design guide by the Federal Highway Adminstration.
The FHWA guidance released Tuesday is the result oftwo years of research into numerous modern protected bike lanes around the country, in consultation with a team of national experts.
"Separated bike lanes have great potential to fill needs in creating low-stress bicycle networks," the FHWA document says, citing last year's study by the National Institute for Transportation and Communities. "Many potential cyclists (including children and the elderly) may avoid on-street cycling if no physical separation from vehicular traffic is provided."
Among the many useful images and ideas in the 148-page document is this spectrum of comfortable bike lanes, starting with bike infrastructure that will be useful to the smallest number of people and continuing into the more broadly appealing categories:
In addition to a brief review of scientific literature on protected bike lanes in the U.S. context, the new federal guide also offers renderings of many designs that are becoming familiar in some U.S. cities but are still new to many street designers, such as bend-out bike lanes at intersections:
Or a proper way to step back auto parking from a parking-protected bike lane as it approaches a signalized intersection:
Or an effective way to send bike lanes behind bus and rail stops without interfering with people walking:
The guidance comes two years after the FHWA used a public memo to endorse the somewhat similar third-party design guides from NACTO and the Intstitute of Transportation Engineers. It's also a few months after a different sort of milestone: as of last November, protected bike lanes are on the ground in more than half of U.S. states.
Amid so much enthusiasm for the new designs, the federal government's decision to create a national guide makes sense, said Betsy Jacobsen, bicycle and pedestrian section manager for the Colorado Department of Transportation.
"They're becoming more common and this reinforces that," Jacobsen, one of the technical experts who reviewed the FHWA's project over the course of many months, said in an interview Tuesday. "There are a lot of questions about what's the safest way to implement them, what's the best practice."
The biggest winners on Tuesday, Jacobsen said, will be cities, states and other agencies that don't yet have in-house expertise in the many nuances of protected bike design.
"I think it was really good that they jumped on it when they did and provided some direction, particularly for communities that have no idea how to approach it," she said. "You frequently will have a local planner or engineer who may never have heard of it. It's like, 'What are you talking about?' And this will help with that."
The Green Lane Project helps U.S. cities build better bike lanes to create low-stress streets. You can follow us on LinkedInTwitter or Facebook or sign up for ourweekly news digest about protected bike lanes. Story tip? Write michael@peopleforbikes.org.
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