Helmet Failure

No, I didn’t crash but my helmet failed anyway. We talk about replacing helmets, even those that haven’t been in a crash, after some time. The normal time that people talk about is three to five years.

Normally we talk about degradation of the Styrofoam due to heat and sunlight. That may have occurred in this helmet as well but what failed was the adjusting mechanism which makes the helmet pretty useless.

Broken adjustment strap on a bicycle helmet
Helmet adjustment strap snapped cleanly.

I am not sure when this happened. When I picked up my helmet to go riding it was like this so I assume it happened the last time I rode. I haven’t crashed in years so that wasn’t the cause of the failure. Maybe old age.

The sticker inside the helmet says that manufacture date was Apr 2008 and the helmet is a Trek Sonic, a mid-price-range helmet. So I got at least 4 years out of the helmet before failure. That works out to about $15 a year for insurance against TBI if I do fall. I can afford that…in fact I can’t afford not to do that.

I think I will send helmet back to Trek and see if they have seen other failures like this or they can get an idea of what happened.

Got a new helmet at Bicycle Sport Shop (Research) and I’m back on the road. Got in 22 miles before the rain this morning. I just had to get the part in about the rain…LOL

I’ve looked at the old helmet and have found at least three cracks in the Styrofoam. I have never crashed so I think the cracks must come from packing the helmet in my suitcase with my folding bike. When the baggage handlers toss the suitcase around it must torque the helmet. Maybe that is what happened to the strap as well.

Here are some photos of the cracks.

Posted in Austin, Education, Equipment | 1 Comment

Cycle Tracks Austin

the old and the new in Austin, Texas

Anyone who has ridden Austin’s first attempt at a cycle-track, the 20-year-old two way bike lane on Great Northern, can be forgiven for being skeptical about Austin’s cycle-tracks. Built along the Union Pacific railroad side of Great Northern, this two-way bike lane on a two-way street is one of those oops moments. The concept is great. Build a way for cyclists to move out of traffic along this road that is long and straight and doesn’t connect directly to anything. This road should have low traffic volumes and speeds.

Separation of traffic looking south

This is a view southbound showing the large separation between opposing flows. Unfortunately southbound motorists face northbound cyclists with only a white line to separate the flows as show in the following video.


Fast forward to April 2012 and the introduction of the latest and greatest in bicycle facilities for Austin, the two-way separated cycle-track on Rio Grande running right through west campus. Now this is the way to design and build a cycle-track.

View south on the new cycle track

Built on the west side of a one-way north street, this cycle track separates the southbound cyclists from the northbound motorists with a northbound lane of cyclists and a painted buffer.

The ribbon cutting for the new cycle-track on Monday April 23, 2012 was a real party with lots of dignitaries including Council member Chris Riley, the head of City of Austin Public Works Howard Lazarus, Bicycle Program Manager Annick Beaudet and, on hand all the way from Boulder CO to announce that Austin has been named one of only six Green Lane cities, the head of the Green Lanes project of BikesBelong, Project Director Martha Roskowski.


Speaker Martha Roskowski, members of the audience, Chris Riley, City Council Member; Howard Lazarus, Public Works, Tim Starry, Yellow Bike Project, Pam LeBlanc, reporter, Austin American Statesman.

The Green Lane Project is leading the effort to catalyze the installation of world-class bicycling facilities in the U.S. “We are seeing an explosion of interest in making bicycling stress-free on busy city streets, ” said Tim Blumenthal, Bikes Belong president. “The selected cities have ambitious goals and a vision for bicycling supported by their elected officials and communities. They are poised to get projects on the ground quickly and will serve as excellent examples for other interested cities,”

In addition to Austin, the Green Lane cities include Chicago, Memphis, Portland, San Francisco and Washington.

Intersection of Rio Grande and Martin Luther King

Martha Roskowski called this intersection a “work of art” as it brings cyclists across Martin Luther King into the cycle track where Rio Grande goes from two-way to one-way. The small blue light below the signal indicates that the signal has registered the presence of a cyclist and lets the cyclist know that the signal will be changing soon.

This cycle track is the beginning of making Rio Grande a bicycle friendly street from downtown Austin through the University of Texas campus. While this is the first (or second) cycle track in Austin, the public works department has been doing great things with simple changes.

Next Blog: Road Diets in Austin

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

We have met the enemy…

I’ve recently had the pleasure of spending some time talking with the transit operators at CapMetro, the local transit company in Austin, Texas. It has been educational for me in many ways but mostly I was surprised at how much bus operators don’t like cyclists.

As part of a regularly scheduled safety training program, the local bus company invited me to spend about 20 minutes, out of a 90 minute program, talking about how to drive safely around cyclists. I got the call because I am the Education Director for the Austin Cycling Association. I put together a quick PowerPoint presentation and got ready to talk seven times over two weeks to all the transit bus operators. CapMetro also has a rail system and special transport but this is the bus operators.

My approach is that the operators are professionals and are in control. They have a duty to serve their passengers and to be safe, which can put them in a situation where they have to make hard decisions. The cyclists have a right to the road by law so at some point, the bus operators must just take it easy and do the best they can.

After just three sessions some things are becoming clear.

  • Cyclists are their own worst enemy (hence the name of the article)
  • Some cyclists pass buses on the right when the bus is pulling over for a stop.

A couple of “staged” videos about the problems of coming up on the right side of a bus.

  • Some cyclists pull around buses on the left and then stop to put a bike on the bike rack forcing the driver to suddenly apply the brakes…not good for the passengers.
  • Some cyclists filter forward at lights and make the bus operator pass them again.
  • Some cyclists don’t obey the law on: signaling turns and stops, stopping at stop signs and red lights,

I am hearing lots of other complaints and will compile them and distribute to the various lists I post on. 

Buses make cycling better in many ways. They take cars off the road, they allow cyclists to go part of the way by bus and the rest by bicycle and they allow us to build cities that don’t rely solely on the automobile for transportation.

When I finish these presentations I intend to sit down with the CapMetro safety team and investigate the options we have for working within the system to make a difference. Of course it would be good if we could do an advertising campaign about how cyclists can be safe around buses. I find it hard to believe that cyclists are passing on the right but maybe so…

Posted in Advocacy, Conflict, Education | 4 Comments

Both Hands

I was in Denver on business recently and had a chance to ride the Cherry Creek trail. On the one hand, the trail was smooth wide, concrete trail paralleling the creek and the busy road on either side.

On the other hand, on the way back from coffee, what a great way to start a day, biking to coffee along a flowing creek, we got on the road to see the contrast.

The road surface was a disaster, patched, bumpy and poorly marked. We took the lane in 45 mph traffic and were cool with that but the road surface reminded us that it’s not just about how we ride but also about how a city accommodates bicyclists. Remember, accommodations for cyclists include smooth pavement. They don’t have to be about bike lanes or cycle-tracks.

But to talk about the title of this post…on the way back as we bumped down the main lane, we saw a student going to school with his large stringed instrument in a case on his back and a cell phone caught between his ear and shoulder, going the wrong way…but he had both hands on the handlebars…and he was using his bicycle to go somewhere.

Posted in Education, Facilities, Training | Leave a comment

Manslaughter charges filed in San Francisco

It appears that the prosecutor in San Francisco is charging a cyclist with manslaughter for crashing into a pedestrian who subsequently died of injuries sustained in the crash. I think the following facts are true…

Cyclist ran a red light on a fixed gear bike.

I am torn between cheering and wailing.

Just as we demand justice for cyclists who are hit by motorists driving onto the shoulder I think we should demand justice when a cyclist makes an unsafe decision and someone else is hurt or killed.

On the other hand…is the felony charge of manslaughter the proper charge? What does it accomplish? Is putting this cyclist in jail for years going to make a difference when the next cyclist buys a fixed gear bike and rides it down a hill through a red light into a pedestrian crosswalk filled with people? The prosecutor says:

“I’m hoping this case serves to raise awareness that rules of the road apply to everyone,” Gascon [prosecutor] said in a news conference Thursday.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/us/2012/06/17/cyclist-faces-manslaughter-charges-after-fatal-collision-in-san-francisco/#ixzz1y9wVNE3U

I would love to start a rational conversation here and will delete any comments that get away from civil discourse.

Posted in Courts, Justice | 1 Comment

What is Advocacy

Just to keep it straight, we’re talking cycling advocacy here, and now I’ll do the dictionary definition.



The act of pleading or arguing in favor of something, such as a cause, idea, or policy; active support.

The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition copyright ©2000 by Houghton Mifflin Company. Updated in 2009. Published by Houghton Mifflin Company. All rights reserved.

So it is activity (note the words act and active) in favor of something. Boy that’s broad!

A cause, idea or policy. So how do we define cycling advocacy in these terms?

One of the problems with defining cycling advocacy is that cycling is so ubiquitous. It is available to everyone and everyone does it a little differently. Trying to put cyclists in neat little boxes like mountain biker, commuter, racer, recreational or utility doesn’t work very well. Many cyclists do all of those things at some point during the month.

In the United States the cycling industry sells about $6 Billion each year. Yes, that is B as in Billion.

So what does that mean for cycling advocacy in Austin and the 11 counties of central Texas?

Maybe we should just define cycling advocacy as getting more people riding more often. No distinction about what kind of riding, what kind of bike or where.

That definition does a lot of things. It helps the local economy. It increases the health of our citizens. It reduces air pollution. It relieves congestion. It saves people money. What’s not to like…oh yeah, it’s dangerous to cycle…or is it?

Cycling is not inherently dangerous.

There are no accidents. Every cycling crash can be traced to an action or set of actions that could have been avoided. That says that behavioral change could significantly reduce the number of crashes.

So if cycling isn’t inherently dangerous and could help a whole plethora of issues then why don’t more people cycle?

There isn’t an easy answer to that question. There are lots of reasons and they all pile up to keep a majority of people from riding.

That is why the question of what is cycling advocacy is so difficult to define. But one thing is clear; it needs to be a comprehensive approach. Engineering cycle-tracks like the one on Rio Grande isn’t the only answer. Education of the cyclists and motorists isn’t the only answer. Enforcement of the laws equally for motorists and cyclists isn’t the only answer. Encouraging more people to ride through government policy isn’t the only answer. But a combination of all of these approaches can make a difference and we can’t start any sooner.

Posted in Advocacy, Austin | 2 Comments

Paired Sharrows

Overhead view of Guadelupe street in front of Travis County courthouse

Austin Public Works department has marked Guadelupe and Lavaca (paired one-way streets) with paired sharrows in the outside lanes as can be seen in this view of Guadelupe in front of the Travis County Courthouse.

It is wonderful to live in a city where the elected officials, the public works administration and the community works together to create change that benefits all road users.

In Austin, TX one of the changes that has made life a little easier for cyclists traveling north/south in the downtown area is the addition of paired shared lane markings (sharrows). Note in the picture, just below the intersection, both of the outside lanes are marked with sharrows. These streets are major north/south arterials with four lanes of traffic and parking on both sides.

Texas law (most states) states that on a one-way street, cyclists may ride as close to the left edge or curb as is practicable as well as as close to the right edge or curb as is practicable. The cross streets on this pair of one way streets generally alternate between one-way to the left and one-way to the right. If you are going to turn left it makes sense to use the left lane. The sharrows in the left lane help cyclists remember to control the lane and give motorists and indication that cyclists will be there.

Many thanks to our bicycle staff in the City of Austin Public Works department!

Posted in Austin, Facilities | Leave a comment

Road Diets: Austin

Austin has lots of wide streets. As is common in most cities, particularly in the South, where population growth has been rapid since the end of World War II, Austin has lots of suburbs with wide streets. Neighborhood collectors of 40 feet or more in width are not uncommon. The street in front of my house is one of those streets that measure 40 feet from curb to curb.

This is a view of a typical neighborhood street with a 40 foot cross-section and long blocks. The bike lanes are five feet wide, which leaves 15 feet for the travel lanes so road humps had to be added to slow traffic to near the posted 35 MPH.

Local road with 40 foot cross section

Neighbor hood road with 40 foot cross section split into two travel lanes and two bike lanes.

The City of Austin Public Works department has taken advantage of these wide roads to provide space for bicyclists in various ways, notably with differing forms of “road diets.” Typically, a road diet is where a wide road with four or more lanes is re-striped to provide a center-turn lane, one travel lane in each direction and a pair of bike lanes, one on either side. Variations on this typical treatment are many and Austin Public Works has used at least three in modifying streets in the city.

Jollyville Road

Jollyville Road is a neighborhood arterial that runs parallel to US Highway 183 (Research Blvd) for about five miles. With a limited number of driveways and long distances between intersections, this road is well suited for traditional bike lanes. Configured with four travel lanes (12 feet wide) and a center-turn lane (16 feet wide) and having a posted speed of 45 MPH speed limit, this road was not a bicycle friendly road and traffic frequently exceeded the posted limit.

By narrowing all five lanes by two feet and striping bike lanes on each side the city was able to create a great bike facility. Speeds are now down closer to the 45 posted speed due to the narrowing of the travel lanes to 10 feet and cyclists are able to travel along Jollyville Road without taking a lane in front of high speed traffic. While not a “typical” road diet with removal of travel lanes, the narrowing of the travel lanes has achieved much of the same effects. This road has become a commuter route of choice.

Jollyville Road in Austin TX

Five lane road converted to five narrow lanes with bike lanes.

North Loop

North Loop in the section from Burnet Road to Lamar Boulevard has been converted into the quintessential road diet. Formerly a four-lane road, it was converted to a two-lane road with a center-turn lane and two bike lanes. Also typical of a road diet, it garnered a large amount of negative publicity from the local community when it was first planned and even more after it was installed.

Once the community realized that the center turn lane cut down of many of the conflicts that occurred on the former four-lane road the furor tended to settle down. Now, some two years into the change, the “new road diet” is being treated as if it has always been that way. Traffic through put has remained about the same and the crash rate has not increased.

What has changed is the large number of cyclists that use this road for commuting each day. Connecting a large residential community with a major north/south collector with the state government health complex and the north end of the University of Texas campus this route is a natural for commuting.

North Loop in Austin, TX

A traditional road diet, four lanes converted to three lanes with two bike lanes.

Shoal Creek

Shoal Creek is one of the major north/south bicycle routes in Austin. It runs roughly parallel to the actual Shoal Creek and its character varies greatly over its length of roughly 10 miles. On the north end, where it connects Highway 183 (Research Blvd) to Steck Avenue, a distance of roughly 1.3 miles, the City Public Works department has recently created a special version of a road diet.

What was once a four-lane road with center-turn lane and very narrow bike lanes has become a much better bicycle facility. It still has many driveways that create turning conflicts but the wide bike lanes with the painted buffers make the probability of a turning crash much less likely. Instead of being hidden by two lanes of automobiles when a person is turning left, the cyclist is much more visible and also has a better chance of seeing the turning vehicle.

Shoal Creek in Austin, TX

Five lanes with narrow bike lanes converted to three lanes with buffered bike lanes.

The following short video is interesting in that it appears that the driver merged into the buffered bike lane to turn right. This is the proper, legal and safest way to make a right turn but it likely would not have happened in the old configuration.


This video shows the view of a cyclist riding from the old cross section to the new cross section.


The engineering staff in the Public Works department has demonstrated an amazing ability to be creative when repaving roads. The city is repaving and restriping about 15 miles a year of road and each one is evaluated for how it works for cyclists. It appears that we have been successful in taking road space away from motorists and rededicating it to cyclists.

Three roads, three different solutions. Five lanes to five narrower lanes with bike lanes. Four lanes to three lanes with bike lanes. Five lanes to three lanes with buffered bike lanes. The Public Works department is to be congratulated.

Posted in Austin, Facilities | Tagged , , , , , , | 2 Comments