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Tuesday, April 26, 2005
 Those stupid, drunk pedestrians 
For some reason, most police efforts on pedestrian safety focus on pedestrians and not motorists. Maybe it's because they're easier to catch and intimidate. But aren't drivers in 2 and 3,000 pound vehicles the ones doing the damage? Even the police admit that the majority of the time motorists are at fault in pedestrian crashes. In Europe, motorists are often accused of being at fault in pedestrian crashes regardless of the actions of the pedestrian. Drivers are taught in drivers ed classes to always be aware of the possibility of a pedestrian darting into the road.

The following is from an article in the Washington Post on April 24, 2005. According to the Fairfax County police, the number one problem in pedestrian crashes is "People getting drunk and trying to cross a five- or six-lane road where the speed limitís 45 miles per hour." Not inconsiderate motorists who don't stop on right turn on red, who usually go 10-20 mph over the speed limit, who bully pedestrians trying to cross the street, whether they're in a crosswalk or not.

Questions and Answers With. . .

As traffic thickens on area roads, police have become increasingly bedeviled by problems with pedestrian safety - both pedestrians walking lawfully in crosswalks and those darting out into traffic. Last Monday, a District resident who frequently complained about bad drivers was struck and killed as he used a crosswalk at 16th and U streets NW.

Last year, 17 pedestrians died in accidents in Fairfax County. Officers in the Mount Vernon area of Fairfax launched a month-long initiative in March to reduce pedestrian accidents, using education and enforcement tactics, particularly in the area along Route 1.

This month, the county's traffic division is targeting potentially dangerous high-traffic areas in McLean, Franconia and Mount Vernon. Capt. Mike Kline, commander of the Mount Vernon station, recently spoke with staff writer Tom Jackman about how the police are trying to reduce deaths and injuries among people walking near or across major roads.

Q Are the people who are being struck by cars typically in crosswalks or out?

They're out of the crosswalks.

So who isn't getting the message to cross the street in crosswalks?

I don't know. We spent a couple of weeks before we did the actual enforcement distributing educational letters in English and Spanish to the local papers, and we posted them at bus stops, convenience stores and apartment complexes. We asked apartment managers to distribute them to tenants. We sent them home with backpacks at elementary schools. We had social services assist us with distributing them.

Then what did you do?

During the week of spring break, we used neighborhood officers, school resource officers and auxiliary officers to patrol Route 1. Iíve worked down here 14 of my 23 years on the department, and pedestrian accidents have been a historical problem on Route 1, with people getting [struck] by cars as they walk across the street.

It just seemed to me, as the weather was warming up, more pedestrians were coming out. I decided to up the ante. We wrote 95 tickets for pedestrian violations, and another 4O-plus warnings. And of all the people who we stopped for that, we didn't get one complaint.

Do drivers observe the crosswalks?

I think they do. Our intentions are, if there are violations, stop people. And we've even been writing tickets to the people who've been hit by cars, if they were in violation.

What's your expectation now?

You'd hope the word gets out. As I drive up and down Route 1, Iíve not seen people doing the "darting out" thing as much.

What's the biggest problem contributing to all these accidents?

People getting drunk and trying to cross a five- or six-lane road where the speed limitís 45 miles per hour. It seems to happen during the dusk-type hours. And not all just on Route 1. A lot of the people who are hit, their [blood alcohol content] is up over 0.30. Thatís been the number-one problem.


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 Catbirds are back 
Spring must really be here; the catbirds have finally returned. We heard on last night and tonight as I pulled my bike up to the deck after work I caught a glimpse of one. We've had catbirds at our feeder for the past 10 or so years. We put out currants for them and the robins. When they first return they are usually very shy, having made their long migration avoiding any trouble and they seem to be on edge for a while before they settle in and start building their nests.


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Saturday, April 23, 2005
 Safe and Complete Streets 
Senator Harkin just introduced the Safe and Complete Streets Act of 2005: "...to help create more sidewalks and bike paths, and improve pedestrian and bicycle safety."


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Thursday, April 21, 2005
 Bicycle Master Plan 
The new Washington DC Bicycle Master Plan was just released. This is the kind of work that gets produced when a community finally appoints a bicycle coordinator and commits to improving bicycling conditions.


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 Stewart Brand 
It's always worth listening to one of the great pioneers of our time, Stewart Brand. A World Made of Cities is a summary of his lecture on the role of cities in slowing population growth and allowing the rural poor to escape poverty, and Environmental Heresies in which he states:
Over the next ten years, I predict, the mainstream of the environmental movement will reverse its opinion and activism in four major areas: population growth, urbani≠zation, genetically engineered organisms, and nuclear power.


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Wednesday, April 20, 2005
 Grain of salt 
The Post is reporting that two tech reporters, James Oppenheim and Corey Greenberg were being paid by the producers of the products they reviewed on the Today Show and other tv programs. So much for journalistic impartiality.


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Tuesday, April 19, 2005
 Anti-tax = selfish 
On 60 Minutes this week Andy Rooney was ranting about doing his taxes, about how cumbersome the tax code has become and that over half of the population needs help preparing their returns. But it was something that he said in an offhand manner that struck me. He doens't mind paying his taxes, as long as the money is spent well, which he thinks it generally is. I've always felt the same. How else do we expect our sidewalks and bike lanes to be built, our parks to be maintained, and all the other services on which we depend to be financed. There is so much an anti-tax rhetoric being spewed everywhere and it is rarely challenged. Saying you like paying taxes seems absurd, and yet most of us accept that burden. It occurred to me that the reverse is true, that being anti-tax is basically being selfish, to say that your needs are more important than those of the community.


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 Environmental ship design 
I've supported the Rocky Mountain Institute for some time. They facilitate good environmental design, often working with large corporations. They believe in working within the system, making sometimes small incremental progress. They support use of the Hypercar concept,
...designed to capture the synergies of: ultralight construction; low-drag design; hybrid-electric drive; and, efficient accessories to achieve 3 to 5-fold improvement in fuel economy, equal or better performance, safety, amenity and affordability, compared to today's vehicles.

They recently started work on The Good Ship Ethereal, a yacht being commissioned by Sun founder Bill Joy. Using an integrated team of designers and scientists they are taking a very wholistic approach to enviornmental ship design that could produce some breakthrough technologies for the future.
Replacing standard incandescent lights (mainly tungsten-halogen) with the latest natural-color light-emitting diodes (LEDs) and other advanced technologies would save enough energy to pay for the LEDs quickly. However, some of the biggest benefits of this change are indirect. LEDs last ten to twenty times longer than their conventional equivalents, saving crew time spent on replacing bulbs. More efficient lights also release less heat into the boat's living spaces, meaning less air conditioning would be needed. This in turn would not only save energy in the air conditioner, but would also allow a smaller air conditioning system to be installed, again saving cost and space.


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Sunday, April 17, 2005
 A Short History of America 
by R. Crumb, in 12 panels.


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 Cool, clear days 
This is a beautiful time of year in Northern Virginia. The cherry blossoms and redbuds are in full bloom. The blooms on our Bartlett Pear tree are the fullest I've ever seen. It's time to take advantage of the cool weather as the heat of summer will suddenly be upon us before long. Yesterday we rode out to Ashburn, distributing Bike to Work Day posters on the way, getting ready for the May 20 event.


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Tuesday, April 12, 2005
 Hell of the north 
You wouldn't know it from reading the mainstream press, but George Hincapie of Lance's Discovery Channel team made history this week when he became the first U.S. citizen to finish second in the great Spring classic, Paris-Roubaix. You can read about George's thoughts on the race in an interview with Jonathan Vaughters at Velonews.


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Friday, April 08, 2005
 Google maps and images 
I've wasted too much time checking out images of places like San Francisco, New York, Reston, etc. in the new Google Maps site that now contains satellite imagery. For many locations the resolution is low, but the imagery for most urban areas is very detailed. Google continues to blow me away.


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 10//2 
Lance is now selling a new line of clothing under the 10//2 label, 10/2/1996 being the day that he was diagnosed with cancer. Nike.com is one of the most frustrating Web sites I've seen lately. Users are forced to suffer through endless Flash animations. Despite that, it contains the video of one of the best commercials I've ever seen, the one where he rides through the countryside encountering various people and places, with a very catchy musical score.


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 R. Crumb 
The Guardian Unlimited recently published an interesting series on the artist R. Crumb. As with many artist with representation styles, he seems to have gained some populartity in the art world of late. He has just released The R. Crumb Handbook, an autobiographical comic.


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Wednesday, April 06, 2005
 New seat mesh 
I've been unhappy with my Rans seat for some time. I was always feeling like I was sliding forward. Recently I tore my seat mesh which required replacing it. The new one is much better, with cordura nylon side pieces, buckles instead of zip ties in the back, and installing the water bottle cage doesn't require poking a hole in the nice new mesh on the back.

The seat came with a sheet of paper discussing fit. Some people had complained that this new mesh made them feel like they were sitting on the front edge of their seat, which was my case. They suggested loosening the bottom strap so that the lower back support has a little slack to it. The lower strap on my new mesh was already a bit slack compared to my old mesh. I think that was part of the problem, that my old lower back mesh was too tight.

The next time I sat on the bike I decided to test my leg position. I seem to be constantly moving the seat forward and back to get a comfortable position. I found that using the test that I apply to customers, gauging the seat distance by placing my heal on the the fully extended pedal/crank, there was about a 1.5 inch gap between my foot and the pedal. After moving the seat forward that distance, and with the new mesh, I have a much more comfortable ride and I've got more power as I can use the additonal leverage of my back against the seat support. Time to mark the seat position once again.


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 Hawk and fox 
On my way down to the county government center to testify before the Board of Supervisors to ask for more funding for bike and pedestrian facilities I saw a beautiful hawk perched on a chain link fence adjacent to the Fairfax County Parkway trail. I've never been that close to a wild hawk. I think it might have been a broad wing hawk. It had a banded tail and was about 15 inches long. Sitting in the light of the setting sun, it looked impressive. A short distance beyond the hawk I saw about 5 doves clustered together along the top of one of the sound barrier walls. They looked scared.

After finally testifying at around 10 pm I returned via the same route. It was a beautiful, cool evening. Along a very developed section of the trail I caught a glimpse of what I'm quite sure was a fox, running into a narrow patch of trees between some apartments and the 4-lane road. Life must be tough for them in the burbs. There's lots of food sources, but lots of big, 4-wheeled predators.


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 Summer... I mean Spring is here 
It's hot today, after cool weather earlier in the week. There was a 40 degree temperature range yesterday, from a low of 33°F to a high of 73°F. Today it's over 80°F. It was a good day to ride around town and start placing Bike to Work Day rack cards. Mark your calendars; Friday May 20 is Bike to Work Day.


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Saturday, April 02, 2005
 Motorists responsible in bike/ped crashes 
...a bill making motorists automatically liable in an accident with cyclists and pedestrians has passed the European Parliament and will soon be before the European Council, the union's main decision-making body. If the council adopts it, all member nations will within the next two years have to pass similar laws guarantee cyclists compensation if they are involved in a crash with a motorized vehicle.
See the article at Bicycle Retailer.


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