Our news intern Ansel is smart, he's a good writer, a swell guy—also very earnest—and we like him a lot. But I gotta disagree with his whole philosophy about riding a bicycle "fearlessly without a helmet."
Yesterday, Ansel pointed out that certain research, which finds wearing a helmet is effective at preventing head injuries, contradicts other research. For instance, one famous study out of Seattle in the 1980s found they reduced head injuries among riders by 85 percent—but those results were anomalous and aren't much cited anymore. Moreover, wearing a helmet is a capitulation to fear of being hit by vehicle, and it's a "protruding sign strapped on top of your head of submission to the status quo," he wrote. Because Ansel wants the city to be safer for cyclists, he went on, he embodies that reality by riding without a helmet.
Like I said, Ansel is swell (and lots of comments on his post hurled personal insults he didn't deserve—he didn't say anything mean to others). But still, I think he's wrong on this.
While the data is decidedly mixed—I'll cede that—of the credible studies, many seem to show significant-to-modest reduction to head trauma among cyclists who wear helmets. And we can quibble over just how effective they are, but let's just say instead of 85 percent percent reduction in head injury, it's instead just 50 percent... or even 15 percent.
Those thin odds of saving my brain are good enough for me.
Tom Fucoloro at Seattle Bike Blog has the skinny on the federal government's abandonment of a study that claimed bicyclists who wear helmets suffer significantly lower injury rates:
The often-cited and influential 1989 study was conducted in Seattle by Robert Thompson M.D. for Group Health. It has been heavily influential in discussions about municipal all-ages bicycle helmet laws. Not surprisingly, King County is among the only major metropolitan areas on the planet to have such a law. After all, if you could reduce head injuries by 85 percent just by wearing a helmet, then of course we should make them mandatory!
However, subsequent studies have not been able to repeat the 85 percent figure found in the Seattle study. Results vary, but have consistently been lower. After urging from the Washington Area Bicyclist Association in DC, the CDC and NHTSA will no longer be promoting the 85 percent conclusion.
The city should make riding without a helmet a secondary offense, which would help Seattle's bike share program get off the ground, Fucoloro says, because unlike helmets, "safety in numbers is 100 percent certain to lower the collision rate for people on bikes.
I think we should do away with helmet laws for adults altogether. Mandatory helmet laws discourage usage of bicycles. "Seattle's mandatory helmet laws are the biggest blockade to creating a comprehensive bike sharing program," local nonprofit Sightline found in a study last year. Four out of five bike share riders in Boston and Washington, DC, ride helmetless. Grist points out that the data is decidedly mixed on whether helmets provide significant protection from head injuries (some studies say it actually makes you less safe), but that that debate obscures the more important one over bike infrastructure.
I don't wear a helmet when I use my bicycle to get around Seattle. Friends and family worry and have been imploring me to wear one for years. Why subject yourself to needless danger, they ask? While I drafted this post, Eli wrote to me, "Wear a helmet! You make your living WITH YOUR BRAIN!"
Six thousand bright blue bicycles were released into New York City's streets yesterday in the launch of what will be the nation's largest bicycle sharing program. Alta, the same company contracted to run NYC's program, is also set to build Puget Sound Bike Share (PSBS) here in Seattle.
NYC's bike sharing launch has coincided with no small amount of bickering and complaining (watch the video, it's kind of hilarious) over the placement of bike racks. Still, it sounds like the program is off to a great start. The New York Times reports that some 13,768 miles have already been logged on the bicycles.
Worryingly, Alta was hit with labor complaints in Portland today, largely from rebalancers, who "drive trucks around cities to pick up bikes and move them around to balance inventory to meet demand at busy docking stations," alleging unpaid wages and benefits. But things still look promising for PSBS, which bills itself as a public/private partnership. PSBS received a $1 million federal grant on Friday, meaning it's on track to launch in early 2014, Tom Fucoloro at Seattle Bike Blog reports. Fucoloro points out that now would be the perfect time for a local corporation to step in and fill the remaining funding gap for PSBS:
Look at all this amazing exposure for Citibank [sponsor of NYC's Citibike program]. Being a big sponsor of Puget Sound Bike Share would be an incredible marketing deal. PSBS is actively searching for a company to step up with a big enough sponsorship to gain naming rights, and that door could swing shut soon (some ideas: XBikes, Amazooms, Starbikes, LOLBIKES or I Can Has Bike Share, REI BIKE, Vulcancycle, QFCyles, COSTCOcycles, Velo Nordstrom, PEMCO Bike, F5 Bike, Velo ZymoGenetic…)
So let's hear it, folks. Presuming Alta deals with its labor issues and a Puget Sound Bike Share comes together as planned...
The Seattle Public Library launched a new pilot program today called Books on Bikes, which sounds exactly like what it is: A small, portable library hitched to the back of a bike.
“I thought it would be great to combine two things Seattle loves: our libraries and bikes,” explained Jared Mills, the Montlake Branch Librarian who brainstormed the idea (full disclosure: Mills is my hilarious and talented friend. If that sounds like I'm bragging it's because I am bragging).
Throughout the summer, librarians will pedal around to parks, block parties, KEXP concerts at the Mural, and other neighborhood events throughout the city. Each place they go, they'll tailor their shelves to suit the needs of the community: think kids' books for pop-up story time in parks, or gay erotica for the Pride Parade, as well as an array of new and best sellers. Librarians will also be on hand to make book suggestions and sign people up for library cards—basically, they'll provide all the services of a brick-and-mortar library, short of accepting book returns.
If you want to track the Books on Bikes trailer this summer, follow the Seattle Public Library on Twitter, @SPLBuzz.
Today, Mayor Mike McGinn's office announced that it had secured $1.2 million to fund the final design and possible construction, depending on cost, of a dedicated cycle track along Westlake Avenue, on the west side of Lake Union.
The cycle track is part of $3.25 million in new transportation investments, which were made possible by savings from the Spokane Street viaduct project. In total, the cycletrack is projected to cost $2.3 million and will "improve separation between bicycles and vehicles and link the Ship Canal trail to South Lake Union." It's no bicycle superhighway, but it does sound good.
It'll sound even better if the city's cycle track can be linked up with Amazon's proposed cycle track slated for 7th Avenue. "That's exactly what we're studying right now," said mayoral spokesman Aaron Pickus when Cienna called to
tell him how to do his job politely demand that the two cycle tracks be linked together.
You can find details on the city's other proposed transportation improvements—including "interim cycle track options" in East Marginal Way in SoDo, street improvements around the Port, and Pedestrian Master Plan implementations—over here.
Consumer alert: bike rack edition. Until a few weeks ago, the corner of Pine and 11th had a bike store on it, and so there's this feeling in the air that this corner might be a good place to lock up a bike, kind of a muscle-memory thing, since this corner used to be so friendly to bikes, used to be the place where you could go to fill up your tires with an automatic pump instead of having to pump the pump yourself, and buy bike lights, and flirt with Velo employees. But now that Velo has moved downtown and the former entryway to the bike store has become a face-picking station for junkies, this rack has become the worst place to lock up your bike in America. If you leave it just for a few daylight hours, you're probably okay, but if you leave it overnight? Now that there are no eyes on the street anymore? Expect it to be dismembered beyond recognition.
At about 7 a.m on May 1, Lance David was killed in a collision with a truck on East Marginal Way while biking to work. His was one of 11 bike fatalities in Seattle since 2007. West Seattle Bicycle Bike Connections is hosting a memorial bike ride for Lance David and all of the other cyclists who have lost their lives in traffic accidents. It starts at 5:30 p.m. on May 7, at Seacrest Park, and will wind its way from there to the site of Wednesday's accident. (More details are on our news and politics calendar.)
The ride will remain exclusively on protected bike paths, follows a 3.2 mile flat and relaxed route, and is accessible to anyone who can ride a bike.
Charles has serially waxed rhapsodic about the supergreen Bullitt Center, which is grand-opening at 15th and Madison, where C.C. Attle’s used to be, right this very moment. Indeed, it is impressive. More importantly to my bicycle, part of the grand opening is free bike repair, carried out on the spot by a very nice man named Matt, who runs the Polka Dot Jersey bicycle shop in Leschi. (The reference is to the winner in the climbing stages of the Tour de France—if you can demonstrate any knowledge about this, Matt will be gratified.) My bike had been changing gears all on its own, as if by an unseen hand, or indeed, as if there were a ghost in—or on—the machine. Matt remedied this situation in approximately four minutes, and also added air to my tires, changing the relationship of my bicycle—indeed, my very self—to the road.
The point here is: This building may be beautiful, it may be green, it may know when to shade its own windows, it may have composting toilets, but this building has done me a concrete service—you might even say a service involving concrete itself. The building has also, for a brief moment on a sunny day, thrown off the shackles of capitalism, escaped the unseen hand of the market, giving this concrete service that at any other time requires payment in kind for no kind of payment at all. This is a thing that changes one's relationship to architecture.
It is unclear how long Matt will be there, but go now, and change your bicycle's world.
Last week, Bethany posted an open letter on Slog that was sent to us from a bicycle enthusiast by the name of Mike. In Mike's letter, which he addressed to Mayor Mike McGinn, he suggested that Seattle create two bike-only streets in Seattle, one running north-south and the other going east-west. Well, Mike, today the mayor actually responded to your letter on his own blog. Now, Slog has created—for the first time—legitimate Mike-to-Mike correspondence.
Mr. McGinn was not completely enamored with your bike-only street idea, Mike. However, he did voice his commitment to creating great north-to-south and east-to-west routes for bicycles. He also pointed out the fact that—although not necessarily on par with carless streets—Seattle is in the process of creating multiple protected bike right-of-way routes throughout the city. His crown jewel so far is the protected lane that just opened on 65th Avenue Northeast between the Burke-Gilman trail and Magnuson Park.
Read his full response by clicking here.
This is regarding bikes in Seattle:
I know you like bikes. So do I. I have a proposal for Seattle which could put it squarely in the spotlight as the most bike-friendly major city in the US (which as we know is a magnet to all those hip, educated, 20/30-somethings that are the lifeblood of a city’s future). And, as far as transportation infrastructure goes, it's really, really cheap.
It's called "1NS/1EW." One bike-only street that goes north-south and another that goes east-west. Cars get hundreds of streets, bikes should get one!
Cars have the right-of-way everywhere in the US. European cities often have big carless plazas and bike-only streets. But except for Mayor Bloomberg’s pilot in Times Square, cars are literally, literally everywhere in the US. Isn’t it about time we ask for one little strip of their domain?
This idea, by the way, is much different than a greenway. This isn’t a trail that skirts AROUND a city. And it isn’t tens of millions of dollars in cycle-track redevelopment. This is a NORMAL street.
We take a standard, low-vehicular-traffic, two-way street that is centrally located. We change it so that, except for major intersections, cross traffic must stop. Then we sign it so that it is “Local Access Only”—in other words, cars and trucks can still travel half a block to load/unload/park as needed. Then we tell the city and the world that Seattle just invented the first major bike-only street in America for the cost of a few signs and some green paint. Done.
Yes, it would be a small inconvenience for drivers, but it’s counterbalanced by the fact that it keeps cyclists "out of the way" of busier/faster streets. It’s like the “green streets” concept that Portland pioneered, only smarter.
I’m not a realtor, but I have a hunch it would be pretty cool to live or work on the bike-street. It’ll be quieter, safer and more pedestrian (aka shopper) friendly. I think property values would be driven up.
Hey, I’m a driver too. And I know that Seattle, with all its water, is hard as hell to navigate. But to me, getting cyclists safely off the thoroughfares and onto their own is worth the sacrifice of one street. Let’s try it. Let’s pilot it. And if it doesn’t work, it’s a song to undo.
Let me know what you think.
I say: Hear, hear! What do you say?
State Rep. Ed Orcutt, R-Kalama, shifted gears Monday morning, apologizing for telling a bike-shop owner last week that bicyclists create carbon pollution, simply by exhaling.
“First of all, let me apologize for the carbon emissions line of an e-mail which has caused so much concern within the bicycle community. It was over the top and I admit is not one which should enter into the conversation regarding bicycles,” read Orcutt’s Monday email to Seattle Bike Blog.
But before we forgive and forget, Orcutt should have to breathe nothing but cyclists' breath for a month straight for his stupidity.
Or so says a study of Portland. Long post short: cyclists spend less per visit, but visit more often and are more likely to be regular customers of small neighborhood businesses. Another argument for more bike infrastructure, even at the cost of parking spaces for cars.
Sidewalk, curb, bike path, parking, traffic.
Of course we could never do this in Seattle. Because nothing that works anywhere else—even things that work everywhere else—works in Seattle. Our streets are too narrow (all of them), our hills are too steep (every street in Seattle goes oneway uphill), our weather is too rainy (except for the last six months), our cyclists are too crazy (totally crazy! totally crazy!), our drivers are too entitled (war on cars! war on cars!), etc., etc. Let's list all the reasons something like this couldn't work in Seattle—not even on wide streets, not even on flat streets—in the comments thread.
UPDATE: Whoops. I seem to have violated—brutally violated—Slog silence. In my defense, um, I'm in New York City and it's 1:30 PM here.
UPDATE 2: As Dominic wrote on Slog back in April, this is the kind of shit that ruined Paris.
It just looks like a scarf. But it still seems pretty amazing. Have y'all seen this already? It's been flooding my internets for days. Two Swedish students-turned-businesswomen have invented a bicycle helmet that instantly inflates when you crash, like a head airbag. It is kept under a fashionable outer wrap and activated via "accelerometers and gyros." Here, see video:
Thanks, Slog Tipper Jon E.!
Posted by news intern Mike Gore
Embattled seven-time Tour de France winner and cancer-fighting badass Lance Armstrong is being knocked around by the United States Anti-Doping Agency, and might be down for the count. He's no stranger to controversy or doping allegations, but the latest round might be damning.
In June, the USADA formally charged Armstrong with using performance enhancing drugs. Because of this, he isn't eligible to compete in Ironman triathlons for the rest of the year, as he had planned. Armstrong tried to sue the USADA and have a restraining order placed on the USADA. Judge Sam Sparks said (basically) that the suit was ridiculous.
This might sound like a whole lot of falderal that will eventually go away, just like every other doping allegation aimed at Armstrong over the past 15 years. I think, however, that this time is very different.
Why? Everyone else is hunkering down.
The Cascade Bicycle Club today posted its annual ratings of Washington State lawmakers on the merits of their pro-bicycle voting records, finding that, generally speaking, urban lawmakers tend to do better than their exurban and rural counterparts. For example, Representatives Judge Clibborn, Joe Fitzgibbon, and Andy Billig (respectively from Bellevue, Seattle, and Spokane) all got 100 percent voting records. At the bottom, folks like Senator Tim Sheldon (D-Only Technically) of Potlatch was given an 11 percent rating and called out as the only member of his party to vote against a bill granting more flexibility when designing bicycle infrastructure. The report card is based on votes for nine bills, from letting cities reduce speed limits to appropriating cash to bicycle projects.
Based on voting records alone, none of the ratings are shockers.
But here's where there's some interesting nuance: Senate Transportation Committee chair Mary Margaret Haugen (D-Camano Island), who earned plaudits by swinging her vote in favor of marriage equality last winter, got a 100 percent rating. However... she still won a broken chain award as an opponent of safe cycling.
"Don’t let Sen. Haugen’s voting record deceive you—her actions demonstrate that she does not support bicycling," her scorecard explains. "As chair of the Senate Transportation committee, Sen. Haugen actively works to block pro-bicycling legislation and funding. She worked to sabotage the passage of SHB 1217, the 'Neighborhood Safe Speeds bill,' and HB 2370, including health in the state transportation system policy goals, while standing as the single largest roadblock to securing local transportation funding options."
I'm glad that the Cascade Bicycle Club didn't let Haugen off the hook. Too often these sorts of voting scorecards look superficially at voting records. But the influence of legislators, particularly powerful committee chairs, is often in shaping legislation or never allowing votes to happen in the first place. So, yeah, Haugen voted correctly, but she used her post to make sure things she opposed would never even reach the senate floor.
He didn't break any traffic rules. He was just riding where cyclists are supposed to ride on every street—in that channel between the cars lanes and parked cars. And the driver didn't do anything wrong, exactly, except not look to see if a cyclist was coming. Now my friend is facing upwards of $5,000 in medical bills. "Getting doored" is common enough that it's happened to five or six people I know in the last few years.
There's no real solution except to say: Be careful, drivers, and open your doors slowly after checking to make sure no one is coming. There's literally nothing a cyclist can do in that situation to avoid a car door when he or she is pinned between traffic on the left and a row of parked cars on the right.
And City Hall, when people talk about building protected bicycle lanes—physically separated from traffic—it's not because they fetishize Europe. It's basic infrastructure that serves public safety.
... Here's just one more and then I'll shut the fuck up.
A good friend of mine, Jess, is searching for witnesses to a bike wreck that took place on 12th Ave at roughly 5:45 p.m. on June 8.
For a full rundown of the accident, check out Seattle Bike Blog. The long and short of it is, Jess was riding southbound in the bike lane near Seattle University, headed towards Marion Street, when a driver opened his door into the bike lane and doored her. The problem is, she passed out briefly when her helmeted head hit the ground and admits that the details of the accident are fuzzy (although she distinctly remembers being doored), so police decided to take the driver's word—corroborated by his wife/passenger—on what happened.
Their story basically is, "she spontaneously fell next to our open car door."
Without witnesses, the driver won't be held responsible for fracturing Jess's wrist and elbow, or for damaging her bike. So: If you happened to be around SU on June 8 and see a pretty girl eat asphalt after being doored by a car, please email email@example.com.
Posted by news intern Joseph Staten
Just in time for our fantastically beautiful spring, the Seattle Department of Transportation has released a new, fully-updated Seattle Bicycling Guide Map featuring every single bike route in the city, including green bike lanes and bike boxes.
Order a paper copy from SDOT here or download a digital copy (.pdf). You can also plan your bike trip in advance using SDOT's interactive bicycle map. And don't forget, Bike to Work Day is tomorrow. Yeeeehaw!
Please enjoy/misinterpret/hate upon:
Thanks to Slog tipper Jamey.
Slog reader Melanie writes:
The little be-sweatered trees around the courthouse are back to being nude. Does anyone at The Stranger know why?
Dominic points out that trees are people, too, and no one wants to always wear the same sweater.
For my part, may I direct your attention to what happens to these cozy, cute sweaters applied to inanimate objects when they are left there forever by neglectful knitters? This is on the bike rack where I lock my bike every day and IT IS GROSS and THERE ARE TWO, ONE ON EACH END. Why don't I remove them myself? 1.) I didn't put them there, and 2.) DOG-LEVEL. The horror.
Thanks, Rob Man.
*Kidding! Only 50 percent of the men and 58 percent of the women bicyclists who read Bicycling magazine and answered its 2012 Readers' Choice survey are crazy.
If you ever get pulled over for a traffic violation, don't try to flee on foot.
But if you do flee, take care not to touch yourself anywhere near your waistband.
You've been warned.
Here's a favorite:
Shenandoah Davis (Shenandoah Davis): I regret agreeing to stay in a place called “Shit Mansion” in Buffalo, New York. It smelled like cat pee, human pee, cigarettes, and decomposed food. I also regret sitting through a performance in Provo, Utah, where a young singer-songwriter mourned the successes of Barack Obama. It was called “Black Butterfly” and was met with violent applause. Ick.
Read Charles Mudede on Sting, Paul Simon, Gregory Issacs, and Bruce Springsteen shows... a quarter century ago in Zimbabwe.