Category Archives: Advocacy & Local Issues

Bicycle advocacy both local and national, as well as discussion of local bicycle incidents with the community and/or police

To The Sea! (in the rain) Plus lecture about visibility

My bike taking a rest next to the Bridge of Death marking the start of the steep section on Tunitas

My bike taking a rest next to the Bridge of Death marking the start of the steep section on Tunitas

OK, yes, some might think it a bit crazy that I did a solo ride out to the coast and back via Tunitas, in the rain. And some might think crazier yet that I look forward to that sort of thing and was bothered that it didn’t really rain as much as I wished it had. People thinking such things might have a point. Especially since I had a way out, when Kevin didn’t want to ride because he wasn’t feeling well. Had it been nice & sunny would he have felt better? Can’t say.

I finally got out the door at noon, two hours later than planned, and wasn’t at all sure I’d be making it all the way out to the coast. I started thinking about alternatives; maybe heading up West Alpine instead of Tunitas? Or just doing a quick run up Old LaHonda and then maybe a loop through Portola Valley? But the plan was to ride out 84 to the coast and return via Tunitas, and why not? As usual I started feeling better as I got going, and in no time at all it just seemed inevitable that I was going to make my date with Tunitas. Besides, how long has it been since Tunitas Creek actually had water?

Water. Rain. Not enough of it, really. I had a light rain and occasional drizzle the whole ride, but none of that epic sky-is-falling stuff that legendary rides are made from. But it was pretty gloomy out there, without even a brighter spot in the sky that would let you know where the sun was hiding, and that made for ideal conditions to notice the visibility, or lack thereof, of the few other riders I encountered.

Why aren’t people paying attention to their visibility??? There are modern, low-cost lights available that make an amazing difference in whether you can be seen, and it was surprising that maybe half of the cyclists out today had no lighting whatsoever, and half of those who did, had only rear flashing lights. Only a very small number of headlights, and that’s just nuts. Even on a bright sunny day a flashing headlight can make you stand out from the background, and on a day like today?

There are lightweight, inexpensive, easily installed & recharged front lights that we couldn’t have dreamed of just a few years ago. Lights that will help you be seen not just from the front, but the sides as well. I have literally seen people at intersections do double-takes as I approached, stopping them in their tracks instead of plowing on through and requiring me to slow down or take evasive action.

  • Normal daytime lighting- Serfas Thunderbolts front & rear (both in flashing mode)
  • Darker daytime lighting- As above plus Niterider Lightning Bug 100 added to the front, standard red light in the rear, both in flashing mose.
  • Night use- Serfas Thunderbolt plus Niterider 350 up front (Thunderbolt in flashing mode, technically not legal), with Thunderbolt & standard flashing red tail lights in the back.

Is this excessive? I don’t think so. It’s not even expensive. When you consider what you had to spend for a bright front light just a few years ago, spending $90 for a pair of Thunderbolts (one front, one rear) is pretty reasonable, and far more effective. Double that for darker days and you’re still under the price of a high-end helmet. If you want to go totally minimal, you can get something like the Blackburn Flea, but my concern with those is that there’s just not enough there there. Half as bright as a Thunderbolt or Lightning Bug 100, without the Thunderbolt’s side visibility or the Lightning Bug’s usefulness as a night-time see-where-you’re-going light.

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Why I want MORE red-light cameras

This is the norm, not the exception. The lead car might have made it into the intersection while yellow. Might. The following car? Not a chance. Simply ran the red light, never slowed down. This is at Jefferson & Farm Hill, and it happens more often than not.

This is the norm, not the exception. The lead car might have made it into the intersection while yellow. Might. The following car? Not a chance. Simply ran the red light, never slowed down. This is at Jefferson & Farm Hill, and it happens throughout the day (this was at about 10:10am on a Monday morning).

What is going on out there? 10 years ago I didn’t see nearly the extent of red-light running and “California stops” that I see today. The red-light running occurs mostly on 4-lane streets, rarely 2-lane. And cities are removing red-light cameras daily, because they’re too much hassle???!!!

Two common varieties-

  • Drivers making left-hand turns from a signaled left-hand-turn lane, and as long as they’re close enough to the car ahead of them, they just keep moving through, even after the light’s turned red. Not much speed is involved, since the car in front of them isn’t flying through (they’ve got a green or maybe just-turned-yellow light, after all).
  • Flying through a just-turned-red intersection. They’ve had plenty of time to see the light turn yellow, but instead of slowing down, they barrel through. They’re so focused on trying to “make the light” that they don’t even pay attention to cross-traffic.

That’s why I’m a fan of red-light cameras. There needs to be a lot less subjectivity when it comes to dangerously-heavy & fast objects moving through intersections. I do recognize a double standard here; that a red-light camera can do much for catching cyclists flagrantly violating the laws, but I suggest two things. First, that there’s a greater public purpose served in reducing accidents, injuries and fatalities than in extracting punishment for cyclists breaking the law. Both are needs, but one is far more important. And second, the motorists are getting worse over the years, picking up on the worst behaviors of cyclists, while I believe, really do, that cyclists are getting better.

Let’s be careful out there at intersections. The good news is that potential accidents are almost-entirely avoidable by being cautious and assuming the worst (that they’re going to run the light right after it turns green), and the cost of doing so comes down to, at most, a couple seconds of time. A reasonable exchange to safeguard the rest of your life. –Mike–

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