Here are two examples here where I don’t think the drivers were being intentionally obnoxious or dangerous, I think they are just treating bicycles as they would cars – a problem inherent in the design. I don’t think these lanes are conducive to getting more people riding in Australia.
People confident on bikes are probably okay in situations like this. But do you think this is suitable kids getting to school? What about older folks, do you this is good for gran doing the shopping? How about people who just don’t really like being around by heavy vehicles? Riding with friends or a date? What about you? What type of rider are you? (‘Strong & Fearless’, ‘Enthused & Confident’, ‘Interested but Concerned’ or simply not interested? – Four Types of Transportation Cyclists)
Are people on bikes more like cars, or pedestrians?
Anyone following Bicycle Dutch will surely see this as sub-standard.
Much of my work involves designing software. In the discipline of software engineering we have the concept of ‘design patterns’. Its a notion we borrowed from those clever architects. Design patterns provide template solutions to common design problems, that may not be immediately apparent. Thought of another way, you can stand on the shoulders of giants. It’s one of the reasons working in software is so exciting – in a highly collaborative industry, the continual improvement and refinement of ideas is remarkable. Outmoded paradigms are shattered, smarter ideas quickly become the norm.
However, it was us software boffins that came up with the concept of ‘anti-patterns’. The Wikipedia article sums it up perfectly:
An anti-pattern (or antipattern) is a common response to a recurring problem that is usually ineffective and risks being highly counterproductive.
Patterns and anti-patterns seem to have enjoyed their greatest success in the software world. Searching online, I can’t find much reference to them in the context of architecture or civil engineering, but I’m not sure if that’s just because they are overshadowed by software engineering’s large online presence. While councils and governments strive (or claim to strive) for greater participation rates of cycling, it’s apparent traffic engineers are not engineering “getting more people on bikes“. They are stuck in a decades old paradigm, forged around moving cars, with less (or no) concern for other road users, including people on bikes. The results can be uninspiring, demotivating, or downright dangerous. How do we move forward? We need to learn from our mistakes, we need to collaborate, we need a list of…
Bicycle-Related Traffic Engineering Anti-Patterns
Disclaimer: written by some guy whining, and not a civil engineer.
Gutter lane. Are your bike routes in the gutter? Are people on bikes dodging potholes, metal grills and broken bottles? Are they bumpy and broken up? Are bike facilities afforded the cleaning and maintenance standards of the roads? These problems send a very clear message to people on bikes, which is: “You are second class. You don’t matter as much as a person in a car.” This will dissuade many from cycling long-term. I have to wear nice and fancy clothes whilst riding my bike just to prove I’m a first-class citizen that just happens to consciously choose the gutter for my commute! Surface smoothness affects bicycles far more than a car. Apart from being jarring to the user, it wastes forward momentum. Could any bike facility in Australia pass the “bottle test“?
FUBL. The ‘FUBL’ (rhymes with ‘bubble’) is related to the gutter lane, but is more sinister. ‘BL’ stands for ‘bike lane’ and you can work out the rest. Unsuitable as it may be for a professional document like this to contain offensive language, it’s important to convey the absolute level of contempt that the FUBL engineer holds for cyclists: the motivation for creating a FUBL could only be to reduce the number of cyclists through serious injury or death.
Melbourne’s famous Collins St FUBL
Bus-and-bike-lane. A FUBL variant. Thankfully, I don’t see this often in Australia, but the U.K. videos online are terrifying (I think I’d be a strict side-walk cyclist there). A bus weighs in the order of 10 ton; you don’t need a strong background in physics to understand the momentum of a moving bus will be largely unbothered by a cyclist. Furthermore, you are relegating two of the most efficient forms of transport to the ‘second class citizen’ lane to make space for private car use. Double fail.
Car-canyon. Don’t put people on bikes in a ‘car canyon’. You may think it “optimizes traffic flow” or something, and whether or not your crash statistics indicate it’s safe, if feels dangerous (and noisy and smelly). To have a bus on one side, a truck on the other, and innumerable cars driven by texting maniacs is threatening. This will dissuade people from cycling. The main problem, however, is the engineered conflict point leading up to the car canyon. This is also a high-speed conflict point. The intersection will be lower speed.
Conflict by design – car canyon.
Unfinished intersection. All to common situation: riding along the “second class gutterlane”, which, on approaching an intersection disappears suddenly, leaving you behind three lanes of cars in front and more bearing down from behind. Do your job, traffic engineer, the bits that are hard to design for are the bits we are paying you to be an ‘expert’ on. Your bike infrastructure must be contiguous and continuous and safe.
Trunk in my junk. Bike lanes behind angle or right-angle parking pose two problems. They are often obstructed by long vehicles protruding into the lane, and motorists cannot see approaching bicycles and sometimes reverse quickly. If I had a dollar for every time I rode on a bike lane obstructed behind 90 degree parking, I could buy the flipping Winnebago that is sticking it’s bum out over the lane. Swap the order, bike lane inside, 45-90 degree parking outside.
Efficiency over safety. I think I might scream if I hear another traffic engineer talking about intersection throughput while designing less-safe solutions. Mechanical and electrical engineers don’t design vacuum cleaners that will have a “low incidence” of electrocuting you or severing a toe. How can you in all reasonableness design an intersection that puts pedestrians and cyclists at a higher risk just to squeeze one more car around a corner at a green light (that in all likelihood, has a single occupant)? Do no harm, traffic engineer. Are you trying to get people on bikes, or not? (Refer to improbability factor)
Insensitive traffic lights (jerks). My commute involves a number of traffic lights that don’t detect bicycles. This is bad implementation. Message: bicycles don’t exist! Needing to push a pedestrian beg-button while on a bike is an absurd act. And those damned cyclists that run those never-changing red lights!
Space waste. A common situation in Australia, is to have a large empty vacuum in the middle of the road and claim there is “no space” to put in bike lanes. While people riding bikes enjoy having calmed and slower streets, I don’t think we’re yet ready to have a queue of angry motorists stuck behind us either. Relegate the space to a bicycle track!
Three bike lanes?
Bluestones. If bluestone pavers help people fantasize they’re riding a horse down a historic main street in 1850 instead of their noisy buzzbox, then go for it. Just keep them them away from anywhere bikes need to go, including crossings. Refer bottle test above.
Insufficient loading zones. Commerce is important. I imagine finding loading zones is often difficult for delivery personnel, and no doubt frustrating under a schedule. You can hardly blame them for parking in bike lanes. Same goes for taxis. Fact is, it’s going to happen. But it’s going to dissuade the vulnerable from cycling (people with kids for instance). If you implement door-zone bike lanes, allow enough loading zones for delivery vehicles and passenger pickup and drop-off. These are important to local businesses, and for safety of road users. They take precedence over private vehicle storage space. Furthermore, foster adoption of cycle logistics.
Design, Planning & Policy
I feel there must be a lot of oversight at the higher level planning and policies that filter down into lousy bike infra.
Circuitous routes. Count the number of turns between a source and destination for a route (a) via car and (b) via bike. Are the turns required by the bike route greater? Is the distance greater? If so, that is a marker of this anti-pattern. While enjoyable enough, cycling requires manual exertion. Driving, although frustrating, requires next to no exertion of force – just a little dorsiflexion and plantar flexion of the ankle joint. Existing urban environments can be hard to alter to accommodate new bicycle facilities, but in the context of engineering “more people on bikes” this is an anti-pattern that favours motor vehicle usage and punishes bicycle users.
Unscalable design. I work on scalable systems, and they are of great interest to me. (Public systems like Youtube and Facebook are good examples of systems that must work at massive, mind-blowing scale.) There are many aspects of designing for scalability, and it’s often not about faster or more powerful computers (Google popularised scaling on cheap, commodity hardware). Designing an adequate and simple solution goes a long way. As a thought experiment, imagine instead of cars, everybody commuted via helicopter to work. What a mess that would be! Imagine the parking! It simply would not scale. While cars are a (probably) a better solution than helicopters, a similar argument can be made for cars compared with bicycles in urban environments: bicycles scale better than cars. Cars consume an order of magnitude more space when moving, and when parked. They are many orders of magnitude heavier, costlier, resource consuming and damaging (to roads, the environment, and our well being). For regular scenarios of getting to the shops, school and work, cars are grossly over-engineered. Given they reduce our safety, this is especially tragic.
Wrong enforcement (harassment). Most people will feel a bit picked on when ticketed by the police. Regardless of your opinion on mandatory helmet laws, targeting riders for riding without helmets (or bells etc.) while allowing cars to park in bike lanes, infringe upon bike boxes and so on (‘Insufficient loading zones’) sends a message that people on bikes are a nuisance. People should feel safe in protected bike areas – keep cars out. People should feel the cops are looking out for them. Encourage people to get on a bike and feel good about it, don’t penalize it. What’s more, mandatory helmet laws are a cop-out – like we don’t need to build decent bike infrastructure, you have a little plastic hat to protect you from that bus! While you are relying on MHL, your bike infrastructure really sucks! While your infrastructure sucks, enforce the right laws, keep cars in check, they are the things causing serious injury to people.
Orphan bike share scheme. It’s understandable councils would like to shift the risk of these relatively new bike share schemes to the market place, but bike share should be public transit. Bikes can complete a commute from a train station to destination quickly and efficiently. You should be able to use your public transit pass to take a bike, not yet-another-key-fob or card in your wallet. Melbourne’s Myki system cost tax payers *mumble mumble* billion dollars. Let us at least rent a damned bike with our $6 Myki card! China totally gets it, by the way.
Ideas to contribute? Please do! firstname.lastname@example.org
I found an abandoned bike in the park near my house. It was an old Repco RT Sport. Back in the 80′s, when Repco’s still made decent bikes (at least according to my granddad) I had a Repco ‘Tracer’. It was an awesome bike. But it got stolen one day, and police later reported the corpse had been found in a bush by the lake in my neighborhood. These thoughts immediately returned to me upon finding this deserted soul. Had it been stolen? Vines growing through the wheels suggested this had been laying in the bushes for months. In fact, I think the owners of the adjoining property had just tossed the unwanted bike over the fence. I’m pretty sure that qualifies as bike cruelty. I decided to take it in, and give it a new life. Well, I have been on the lookout for a beater… but the frame is too large for me, so I decided to rebuild it for a family member.
Unloved and deserted
I took it into my awesome local bike store – Bikeforce in Richmond – who through many previous visits and repairs have proven themselves knowledgeable and professional without being elitist, and above all friendly and helpful (despite numerous tire-kicking visits by me). And my dog is always welcome there. They helped me flesh out a plan for re-fitting out the RT Sport as an urban commuter. We decided repainting the bike would lose some of its appeal.
Some goals for the rebuild:
I’m a little over derailleur maintenance, and for an urban commuter I wanted to try out an internal hub. The Shimano Nexus three speed was not available in a 29″ wheels, but Bikeforce got me a decent deal on a Alfine eight speed hub built into a wheel from Shimano.
However, internal hubs are only now becoming more popular on road-ish bikes with drop bars. I felt using the regular flat bar grip shifter was a bit awkard, as were the trigger shifters. Online I found the marvelous little company Jtek Engineering, who make some innovative custom-machined bike components, including bar-end shifters for internal gear hubs! I ordered this directly from JTek.
I ride with a messenger bag, because I never wanted to detract from my bike’s appearance, or add additional weight. However, I was quite smitten with the Tubus Fly rack when I first spotted it on a handsome Orbea Arama tourer in the store some weeks prior. It’s not chunky, has nice sleek lines that rather accentuate a road-come-commuter frame.
Steve of Bikeforce Richmond presents the finished rebuild
When the bike was ready for pickup, I was pleased with the result. Fitting it out with predominantly black components allows the faded blue frame and decals to make more of a statement. It definitely retains some charm, and is understated but handsome. I’m glad we decided against repainting the frame. I love the old decals.
The ride is fabulous. The bike rides nicely, and having the Alfine with bar end shifter makes it a breeze to take a relaxed cruise around, or really put your back into it. It feels very efficient, and somehow I’d say a little ‘classier’ feeling than a derailleur. Great fun!
Here you can see the rather understanded Tubus Fly rack. The black Alfine eight speed seems to be a little more covert at hiding it’s bulk than it’s silver counterpart.
Since moving to Melbourne, with it’s unpredictable skies and generally mucky streets, cycling without mudguards has become an unviable mode of transport. Despite the resulting wet ass situation, it’s not nice for the bike, and sends a clear message that, “hey, I don’t love my bike!” Like Agro Vation used to say, “keep it clean, team!”
So I went on the lookout for some mud guards for my Dahon Hammerhead 7.0. There is not a lot of choice for a 20″ wheel size, and the SKS Dahon special mudguards (although very good) don’t visually fit the slim lines of the Hammerhead. When researching our Dahon Cargo Bike options, I came across Sykes Wooden Bicycle Fenders, claiming to be strong, lightweight, flexible and darn good lookin’! Just the ticket. Finishing my fit-out with a new rear Kinetix Pro wheel, I think the results speak for themselves. You be the judge.
It’s a well known fact that dogs love going for trips. They’re always wanting to go for a walk somewhere new, they’ll leap at the chance to go for a drive in the car, hell, the internet is full of videos of skateboarding and surfing dogs!
This little project started with our desire to take our little doggie with us when we head out on our bikes. The original idea was to get a front basket on the bike. You can’t really carry much more than 5kg on your handlebars, and the choices are more limited if you have a long handlebar stem like most folders. Klickfix has some good options, and the new Dahon luggage truss is genius in it’s simplicity.
We decided instead to go for a rear-mounted system. Again the choices are a bit more limited for a 20″ wheel bike (especially in Australia) and the range is not great to begin with. After seeing some poorly made and some ugly choices, we ended up getting an antique wooden crate, and went about investigating how to mount that on the rear of a Dahon. My conclusions were:
Klickfix – although I like the Klickfix systems, their rack idea doesn’t play well with panniers
Pletcher – another of the better options, but I didn’t like the mounting system too much.
Basil – good availability, and excellent bags, but their rack mounting systems are poorly designed and don’t offer a mounting plate. They have a dog basket with a lousy mount, it’s super heavy and was rated “ugly” by the missus.
Topeak – Workable system, but ugly. They don’t have racks for 20″ bikes, and I just have a bias against their products, I don’t think they are good quality or good looking.
Racktime – A spin-off of Tubus, meaning great quality and good looking racks. Works with regular panniers, they sell a clever range of attachments for their racks, and you can buy an adapter to make anything work with it. I think popularity of this system is set to boom with major players in the industry offering compatible products for it.
With the lack of stuff in Australia, I hunted around online and ended up ordering from the kind fellows at bike-x-perts.com. Europe has all the goods for commuting type gear, and Germany in particular. I purchased:
…and then began the waiting for my delivery to arrive. In the mean time, even my doggie seemed to get impatient to go for a pedal. We discovered together, that my ChromeMetropolis messenger bag is A-OK for doggie portage.
Anyway, yesterday, my exciting package finally arrived from Germany, time to get to work…
You will need a bike tool, or hex keys, and probably a hacksaw depending on your bike.
This is the Mu P8, with the Rackime FoldIt Fix 20″ rack attached. As you can see, it’s a handsome rack!
Foldability is not affected. It adds a bit of bulk over the wheel (as expected) but gives you a nice handle.
You will probably need to hacksaw the front stays to the appropriate length for your frame. The bolts for the front stays are hard to tighten, since they face the middle. My installation guide shows regular bolts, but mine were not. A right angle hex-key will be easiest (like you get with Ikea furniture) otherwise you might have to get them in place, take it apart and then tighten.
This is a SnapIt adapter clicked into the rack.
The adapter comes with a set of screws and large washers which could be used to affix a basket or bag very easily. The base of my box is 20mm thick, so I needed to get longer screws. It didn’t seem as secure to run through the wood fixing into the base, so I instead pulled out these little rubber lugs, screwed through the mounting into the box. Not sure if this is the intended installation, but definitely stronger.
From here, I can now snap on my box for an instant Dahon cargo bike!
The rack plays nice with panniers, and I think you could tour just fine with them. You may need to mount the bags as far back as possible to get heel clearance.
Post-edit: The ClampIt would work well as a human-sized mouse trap. Getting it on is easy, getting it off… expect some very sore fingers!
[Updates about some problems with the light at the end]
I thought I’d write a quick entry about my trusty Planet Bike lights, since they saved my ass twice tonight. Although bike lights are vitally important, they often seem rather ineffective. Car lights are much brighter, and in the city, there is a lot of ambient lighting, some of it flashing, meaning bike lights sometimes don’t register with motorists and pedestrians until just before the moment of tragedy.
The Planet BikeSuperflash tail light was the first product of theirs I bought. Bloody brilliant. This light is impossible to miss. It has two bright LEDs that flash rapidly, and then an astoundingly bright LED that flashes less frequently, making for a dazzling discotheque, proudly asserting your presence on the road. I bought this with the CatEyeOpticube – a respectable (and slim) head light.
Chuffed as I was with my lighting rig, riding home one night I encountered a solar flare approaching me from the other direction. Holy shit, is that a motorcyclist on the path? A stray comet!? No! It was a cyclist with a bike light! I saw him the following night again. That light! So obnoxious, so brilliantly bright! I headed into Sid’s bikes on 19th and asked about this super bloody bright bike light I had seen. They kindly directed me to the Planet Bike Blaze, and the Blaze 1W (one Watt!!).
Holy cow… is that mother bright! Like the Superflash, it has a rapidly pulsing bright light before blasting your eyes out the back of your head with a laser beam every fourth flash or so. You can also just turn it on. Bright. Unbelievably bright. And that’s only on the half setting, click the button again, and you have thermonuclear bright. According to the manufacturer, you can see it a mile away, but I’d be pretty surprised if you couldn’t see it from the moon, possibly even from the dark side. Trust me, if you haven’t seen one of these, your bike light is like riding around with a candle compared to this thing. At the time, my Opticube was about the brightest thing I’d seen, but I can look into this thing without causing eye damage… the Blaze? Even on half setting, you’ll be seeing colors for a minute if you stare into it. In defense, it is possible my Opticube’s batteries are running down… [brief interlude] yes a little, but even after swapping the batteries around, I have a big purple blob in the middle of my field of vision from looking into the Blaze. There is something about the reflector and lens in this thing that is so effective.
While I was recently back in Oz visiting family, I took my bike lights with me for night cycling. I clip the Superflash onto my Chrome bag, so no problems there. The Blaze, however, has an absolutely brilliant mounting system. Very quick to adjust, easily removed, and consequently very easy to transfer to any other bike. There is a snap-style adjustment for course tightening, and then the clasp allows you to screw in to tighten it right up. The clasp then clicks in beautifully to marry your Blaze to your handlebars with no possibility of divorce. You don’t even need any tools – possibly a key to help if you need to loosen the snappy bit, but you probably won’t need to. The design of this thing is head and shoulders above any light I’ve seen. I love it. Especially compared to the finger bleeding procedure involved in getting the fucking Opticube onboard. Arsehole thing.
Borrowing my brothers rather cool Giant XTC, I noticed he had some pissweak Guppy lights, or something similar. In the interests of keeping him alive, I donated my Blaze and Superflash to him. So on returning home, I bought another Blaze, and the Superflash Stealth. Wow, possibly even cooler than the regular Superflash! Maybe even brighter!
I keep the Opticube, since it’s by no means a slouch, and use it in conjunction with the Blaze, setting one to ‘on’ and the other to flashing. I feel this is the best of both worlds. So anyway, riding home tonight, in the cold, dark winter evening, some impatient dickface driver was about to swerve around a slower vehicle before BLAMMO! Take some of that Blaze in your faze, sucker! Later, riding down 18th, a bus, blocked by a cab, was about to pull out in front of me when it slammed on the brakes. The Blaze had saved my ass again, as the bus driver quite obviously saw me and my truck light coming, or possibly went into seizure, and slumped over the wheel. Doesn’t matter… drivers can see me now, I’m no longer drowned out by bright car lights and ambient city lighting noise.
Oh yeah, and remember Planet Bike donate 25% of their profits to bike advocacy… that gets my vote!
[update Jan 2010] – As much as I do like the light, I have to concede that I have had issues with the mount. The clip that holds the light into the bracket is not secure. The light sits unbalanced on the bracket, and hitting rough patches (say cobblestones) can rattle the light out of the bracket. Mine has ejected itself numerous times, causing some impact damage to the light, and eventually cracking the plastic base that holds it into the bracket, making it worse and even more likely to jump out. It is now held together by electrical tape. Hopefully Planet Bike will redesign the mount. If you are on smooth roads, it’s a great light, if you hit rough patches, this light is not for you.
In the mean time, I have ordered a pretty kick ass looking Cygolite MiliOn USB – bright, light, and USB rechargeable! …Still awaiting delivery.
I just bought a new blender to replace my old one, which quite literally, blew up. Anyway, I’m not here to blog about kitchenwares, but cycling home with my blender proved to be a nice illustrative review of my messenger bag – the Chrome ‘Metropolis’.
It took a while for me to see the advantage of a messenger bag over a back pack, but they really come into their own when ferrying large loads. A work colleague has the Chrome ‘Kremlin’ bag, and I decided to get one after trying it out. I tried to figure out what size would suit me and finally settled on the Metropolis. It fits about two large shopping bags worth of groceries in it. As for the blender, well it fit, just!
[for the curious, box dimensions = 23 x 32 x 39cm or 9 x 12.5 x 15.5"]
I guess I looked a bit like an ant carrying a sugar cube, but at least this ant was able to get his sugar cube back home! I’m glad I didn’t go any smaller than the Metropolis and would certainly recommend it, or indeed the Kremlin. My work colleague has transported his Mac G4 in his Kremlin!
Overall the bag is excellent. Superior build quality, reflective straps, zip pockets, stabilizer strap plus lots of bike hipster bonus points. My only complaint is that the shoulder padding doesn’t extend beneath the seatbelt buckle! This seems crazy – possibly validating my local bike store’s assertion that all Californians are stoners – but when carrying heavy loads, the buckle can press a little uncomfortably into my bony chest.