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Need a last-minute gift for your cyclist or pedestrian friends and family?

Five gift ideas to keep your friends and loved ones safe on the road

Still looking for the perfect last-minute gift? Here are five holiday gift ideas perfect for those friends and family members whose preferred mode of transportation is not always a car!

Vespertine Haute Réflecture reflective clothing
Price: Varies

One of the best things about this gift is its versatility. Reflective clothing is useful for pedestrians, bicyclists, motorcycle riders, or anyone else who might not be clearly seen on a road in the dark of night. Vespertine offers a range of reflective tops, vests, jackets, dresses, accessories, belts, and even jewelry. Most of the reflective materials surpass the ANSI and EN 471 regulations, so wearers can be seen in a car’s headlights from up to 2,000 feet away. Even better, these clothes are made with eco-friendly fabrics, and they are all made in the USA.

Bike2Power hub-mounted USB charger
Price: $119

This handy gadget allows bicycle riders to charge their USB devices while they ride, including smart phones. It fits most existing bicycles and can be installed on the front or the rear wheel. It can also be switched from bike to bike.

Serfas Thunderbolt USB headlight
Price: $45

This USB-rechargeable light can be mounted almost anywhere on the front of a bicycle. It puts out up to 90 lumens, and it has run times ranging from 1.25 hours (high) to 7.5 hours (low flashing). It also comes in eight different colors.

TiGr® Bow-Locks™
Price: $124.99-$199.99

This bicycle lock is simple, light, and easy to store when not in use. It is also highly resistant to lock picks, bolt cutters, and sawing.

Stemrack
Price: $29

Stemrack can be attached quickly to a bicycle to securely hold just about any type of handheld device, including phones, iPods, and GPS devices. With the new hands-free law going into effect in Austin in January, this is a must-have for cyclists!

Austin converts direction of several downtown streets from one-way to two-way

Some downtown streets in Austin are going to be changed to two-way streetsIn a somewhat controversial move, the city of Austin has decided to convert Seventh, Eighth, Brazos, and Colorado streets in downtown Austin from one-way to two-way streets. The city claims that this change will slow down traffic and make the city’s streets safer for Austin’s increasing number of pedestrians. Plans for the construction to effect this change are already underway.

Conversion of the section of Brazos between Cesar Chavez and Sixth will take place in January of 2015, and changes to the section between Sixth and 11th streets will take place sometime later in the year. The change on Colorado Street (from 10th Street to Cesar Chavez) will be effected in fall 2016. It has not yet been decided when the changes will be made to Seventh and Eighth streets.

These streets were originally two-way streets. However, they were converted to one-way streets in the 1970s. A rapid increase in the number of pedestrians within the city has caused the city to reevaluate street directions in an effort to decrease the number of pedestrian accidents in Austin. Changing these streets from one-way to two-way streets should help to achieve this, as it will decrease traffic speed. Slower traffic in general will lead to fewer accidents overall.

Some have also questioned whether the city ranks pedestrian safety and other concerns over the safety of bicycle riders. Currently there is only one dedicated bike lane that runs north-south. This bike lane is located on Lavaca Street, which is very traffic-heavy. When questioned about the feasibility of adding additional bike lanes to other streets, however, the reply was that there wasn’t room to add a bike lane without losing space for parking. While parking is certainly an important issue in downtown Austin, some are upset by what they feel is the city’s prioritization of parking over the safety of bicycle riders.

What do you think about Austin’s plans to convert these streets from one-way to two-way streets? Does the city need additional bike lanes, even if they come at the expense of some of the street parking downtown? Let us know in the comments below!

Win cash for the holidays

Win Holiday Cash from Shefman Law

Win Holiday Cash from Shefman Law In the spirit of giving back to the community for Giving Tuesday, Shefman Law is giving some holiday cash. To enter the drawing, find the trees we’ve decorated on Loop 360 and take a photo with the silver ornaments.

Then, follow us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram and share your photo with the hashtag #360trees. You can enter up to three times (once for each social media platform) but you can only win once.

We will be drawing the winners at 10am CST on December 15th. If you win, you’ll have until the 18th to pick up your cash at our office (we want to make sure you get it before we close for the holidays).

Prizes are as follows: 1 prize of $150, 3 prizes $100 and 1 prize of $50.

Austin's new handsfree law goes into effect Jan 1. 2015.

Austin passes a new hands-free law to help protect against the dangers of distracted driving

Austin's new handsfree law goes into effect Jan 1. 2015.In the wake of the many injuries and deaths caused by distracted driving (an estimated 421,000 people in 2012), many cities and states are passing hands-free laws to help protect the safety of their residents. Austin is now among that list, having recently adopted Ordinance No. 20140828-041, which makes it illegal to operate portable electronic devices while driving a car or riding a bike.

Prohibited devices include cell phones, PDAs, mp3 players, e-readers, portable computers, pagers, GPS systems, electronic games, or any other type of portable communication or computing devices. However, drivers can still utilize hands-free systems and permanently fixed GPS systems. There is also an exception for calls to 911 or 311 to report an accident or a crime, but drivers are highly encouraged to pull over and stop before making these calls if at all possible.

State-wide laws currently only ban cell phone use by new drivers, drivers under 18, those driving in school zones, and bus drivers. However, shortly after Austin passed its hands-free law, San Antonio followed suit. Other Texas cities such as Houston and Dallas still have yet to pass hands-free legislation.

Austin’s new hands-free law goes into effect on January 1, 2015. After this date, driving while operating these types of portable electronic devices will be a citable offense, with a fine of up to $500. The city hopes that this new hands-free law, like the ban on texting while driving that is already in place, will help cyclists and those operating motor vehicles to focus and pay more attention to their surroundings, ultimately resulting in fewer injuries and fatalities.

Distracted driving endangers not only the driver operating the electronic device, but other drivers, passengers, cyclists, pedestrians, and even bystanders. With the numerous accidents and deaths each year caused by distracted driving, passing this ordinance in Austin is definitely a step in the right direction. So far there has been a great deal of publicity surrounding the new law. Let’s just hope that the momentum continues and that the law will be strictly enforced after it goes into effect so that the streets of Austin will be safer for all.

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