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Bicycles Blending in the Shade of Night

It has been one full year since “Chops” Ramirez was hit in early October 2012, when Brian Lindquist was run over from behind and left for dead by the deeply drugged hit and run driver, and where Cody Johnson lost his life also, run over from behind by a drunk driver. None of these cyclists share any responsibility for their fate. They each shared at least four things in common. All three men, rode a bike, in the fall, in Austin, Texas. What does this have to do with riding at night? Only highlights the fact that, at this time of year, with cooler temps, and earlier night fall, there are a few more things riders should consider when blasting out into the great big open on their favorite two wheels.

Every rider out there knows that with cooler days and nights, riding is pure joy after excruciatingly long hot summer days. If you are a new rider, know someone just starting out and picking up their first bike at any of our amazing 40 bike shops here in town, or new and joining your organized ride, lend a hand or a bit of knowledge where you know it might be needed.
I know nobody wants to sound like a killjoy and or take the initial “whee” out of those first rides for any enthusiastic newbie rider. If you see someone doing something though and you know it could get them killed or harmed, just take a sec and with whatever tact you have, share with that rider a better, safer way.

Using reflective tape on clothes, attaching reflective stickers to your bike where it is visible from all directions, your helmet, glasses arms (thank you Andrew McCalla for this little gem) and even water bottles can increase your visibility.
If you see a rider without lights and dusk is approaching, make sure you share your knowledge about how important it is to be seen and if you have a spare light, help the rider in need get home and pick it up from them later. If not, take the lead and keep them on the inside of the bike lane so they remain visible with you until you get to the shop to buy a set of front and rear high lumens lights- or, until you are all safely at the destination. We mention high lumens lights because it is super important you not only have a light that will allow you to be seen, it is equally important that your light show you where potential road hazards are ahead of you.

Now that night is falling earlier, anyone staying or “caught” late at work could end up in the dark on the way home. Please stay safe, think ahead, and brighten up that ride. No need to be any more vulnerable of a vulnerable road user.

Austin’s Vulnerable Road User Law and How It Protects Motorcyclists, Bicyclists, Pedestrians, Scooters and Horseback Riders

Austin has adopted the three foot passing rule as between autos and bikes and a six foot passing rule as between trucks and bikes. The Austin law defines those protected as “vulnerable road users” as follows:

“(1) a pedestrian, including a runner, physically disabled person, child, skater,
highway construction and maintenance worker, tow truck operator, utility worker, other
worker with legitimate business in or near the road or right-of-way, or stranded motorist
or passenger;
(2) a person on horseback;
(3) a person operating equipment other than a motor vehicle, including, but
not limited to, a bicycle, hand cycle, horse-driven conveyance, or unprotected farm
equipment; or
(4) a person operating a motorcycle, moped, motor-driven cycle, or motor assisted scooter.”

The law also states as follows:

“(b) An operator of a motor vehicle passing a vulnerable road user operating on a
highway or street shall:
(1) vacate the lane in which the vulnerable road user is located if the highway
has two or more marked lanes running in the same direction; or
(2) pass the vulnerable road user at a safe distance.”

The law then defines safe distance as:

“(c) For the purpose of Subsection (b)(2), when road conditions allow, safe distance
is at least:
(1) three feet if the operator’s vehicle is a passenger car or light truck; or
(2) six feet if the operator’s vehicle is a truck, other than a light truck, or a
commercial motor vehicle as defined by Texas Transportation Code Section 522.003.”

The law makes provisions for vulnerable road user right-of-ways where oncoming traffic is making left hand turns:

“(d) An operator of a motor vehicle that is making a left turn at an intersection,
including an intersection with an alley or private road or driveway, shall yield the right-of-way to a vulnerable road user who is approaching from the opposite direction and is in
the intersection, or is in such proximity to the intersection as to be an immediate hazard.”

The autos and trucks that speed up to pass you, they are breaking the law. This is what the law says about this manuever:

“(e) An operator of a motor vehicle may not overtake a vulnerable road user
traveling in the same direction and subsequently make a right-hand turn in front of the
vulnerable road user unless the operator is safely clear of the vulnerable road user, taking
into account the speed at which the vulnerable road user is traveling and the braking
requirements of the motor vehicle making the right-hand turn.”

There is even an anti-harassment provision written into the law:

“(f) An operator of a motor vehicle may not maneuver the vehicle in a manner that:
(1) is intended to cause intimidation or harassment to a vulnerable road user; or
(2) threatens a vulnerable road user.”

The law places the due care responsibility on the auto or truck UNLESS the vulnerable road user is in violation of the law:

“(g) An operator of a motor vehicle shall exercise due care to avoid colliding with

anyvulnerable road user on a roadway or inan intersection of roadways.
(h) It is an affirmative defense to prosecution under this section that at the time of
the offense the vulnerable road user was acting in violation of the law.”

This information is directly quoted from § 12-1-35 VULNERABLE ROAD USERS Austin Ordinance.

Dangers facing Austin pedestrians

On top of heat cramps, heat stroke, heart attack, dehydration, and good old heat exhaustion, summer walkers also have cars to worry about.
In Austin throughout 2012, 28 pedestrians were killed on Austin roadways and three cyclists. There were 12 auto v. pedestrian crashes in 2010 and 22 in 2011. One third of the pedestrian deaths have happened along side I-35 typically in lower income areas.
While Austin does not have any direct studies showing a correlation between poverty and walking deaths other states are investigating this phenomenon.
In fact, Newark, New Jersey Research from “Rutgers University has shown a strong correlation between low income neighborhoods and high pedestrian crash totals. Daniel Kravetz, who conducted the research as a graduate student, says “The higher the income level, the lower the likelihood for crashes to occur in an area.” It may seem logical to conclude that the wealthier residents are equipped with cars and simply don’t walk the streets of Newark as often. But Kate Hinds points out that pedestrian infrastructure is a major factor in the Newark accident rates. Intersections in many low income neighborhoods are lacking crosswalks, pedestrian signals, curb cuts and sidewalks.” The Dangers of Walking While Poor, JERINBRENT .
So that makes things even more tricky, walking while poor a new extreme sport. The research goes on to say that really the danger is in the lack of infrastructure for those needing to walk to get from point A to point B on surfaces that are made to keep pedestrians out of and away from the flow of vehicle traffic. Infrastructure is the key word here. Then there are the dangers of walking alone. Walking while texting we know to be dangerous, after all you have to be able to see where you are going. Then there is the danger of walking on ice, walking home alone, and the often unmentioned danger of walking too little.
I have been doing it all my life and taking for granted just how dangerous walking can be. I say this in all seriousness.
The Washington Post reported “In 2010, there were 32,885 traffic deaths in the United States, according to a new brief (pdf) from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Roughly 13 percent of those, or 4,280, were pedestrians. That’s down considerably from a decade ago, but it’s also up slightly since 2009. As NHSTA puts it: “On average, a pedestrian was killed every two hours and injured every eight minutes in traffic crashes.”
The same Washington Post article cites drunk driving responsible for 14% of pedestrian deaths. The real culprit even in this article is again, “more than 52 percent of the 47,067 pedestrians killed… between 2000 and 2009 died on principal or minor arterials. These wide, straight roads are often extremely hostile to pedestrians. They feature little to no facilities for walking, so drivers aren’t looking for people on foot.” Id. In other words, lack of infrastructure.

So, in a time when our nation is at an all time high for incidence of diabetes: According to the American Diabetes Association data from 2011 says, “ 25.8 million children and adults in the United States—8.3% of the population—have diabetes.”
When we need to be walking and riding our bikes the most, we keep focusing on motor vehicle sustainability. While our Interstate highway system is part of the reason we are an economic superpower, along with our railroads, shipping capabilities, and air transport, it is also bringing to life a too real version of Disney Pixar’s Wall-E. Interestingly, if you have been to Disney World or Disneyland lately you will also notice, this is the only production that is conspicuously enough not advertised, except by the number of humans being transported by mobility scooters. In Burlington County New Jersey the belief is that stiffer penalties for law violators will be the cure. While other sources say anything from drivers being more responsible road scanners to the opposite extreme where some folks actually say people shouldn’t be walking at all!

In this writer’s humble opinion, there are far too many preventable accidents and crashes out there. Creating infrastructure is key, especially in neighborhoods where you have higher ratios of people moving around on foot. Alcohol consumption and responsible serving of alcohol has got to be a goal insisted upon by the citizenry and the citizenry can get there with citizen alliances insisting upon harsher sentencing, stiffer penalties, and more policing of establishments that serve alcohol as well as policing roadways during the hours when most of the alcohol related incidents occur. Certainly there are more creative solutions out there and we can get there, as soon as we respect original transportation (bi-peds) as viable, necessary, worthy, and worth the tax dollars to protect because after all, who can actually argue that they simply don’t walk.
Then there is the no brainer stuff. People…..Pay Attention When You Are Driving Your Car or Truck. We the people may be walking, jogging, or riding our bikes there…..

Kirk Watson’s Bill SB 275 just passed the Senate. Onward through the House

For those of you not following this legislative session, SB 275 just passed through the Senate unanimously. The measure was authored by Austin Democratic Sen. Kirk Watson.

Senate Bill 275 enhances prior punishments and ups the anti. If a driver flees the scene of a crash s/he will face up to 20 years in prison, a $10,000 fine in what is charged as a second degree felony.

The case where a Capitol Hill aide, Nestande, hit, and fled the scene leaving Courtney Griffin in the road without medical assistance where she ultimately died has raised great attention from lawmakers such that this pass flew through the Senate. Now, onward to the House.

KVUE wrote this article
and the Statesman’s coverage of the same is here

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