Thursday, January 31, 2008

Making the Lane

O.U.R.S. in action, from from the Toronto Star

It wasn't long ago that the "Other Urban Repair Squad," a band of enterprising Canadians, went into business painting their own bike lanes in Toronto (See ; and more at ...

Now a Hoosier of the same stripe (pun intended) is taking up the same tactics for his fellow pedestrians. Read it here:

And with typical situations in the average city like this , it's no small wonder that people become frustrated and start blazing their own trails...
We've been thinking about adding some fog lines to the edge of the NLR side of the River Trail in a few needy places. Hmmmm...

Friday, January 25, 2008

Zen and the Craft of Bike Ed

Nope, this wasn't quite the way they taught it at the LCI seminar, but I likes the style:

"A Zen teacher saw five of his students returning from the market, riding their bicycles. When they arrived at the monastery and had dismounted, the teacher asked the students, "Why are you riding your bicycles?"

The first student replied, "The bicycle is carrying the sack of potatoes. I am glad that I do not have to carry them on my back!"

The teacher praised the first student, "You are a smart boy! When you grow old, you will not walk hunched over like I do."

The second student replied, "I love to watch the trees and fields pass by as I roll down the path!"

The teacher commended the second student, "Your eyes are open, and you see the world."

The third student replied, "When I ride my bicycle, I am content to chant nam myoho renge kyo."

The teacher gave praise to the third student, "Your mind will roll with the ease of a newly trued wheel."

The fourth student replied, "Riding my bicycle, I live in harmony with all sentient beings."

The teacher was pleased, and said to the fourth student, "You are riding on the golden path of non-harming."

The fifth student replied, "I ride my bicycle to ride my bicycle."

The teacher sat at the feet of the fifth student and said, "I am your student!" "

Road I Courses -- First Quarter 2008

Well, I finally put a Road I class on the calendar (March 7-8, 2008), and we’ll see how demand goes. After the initial surge last September, Willa reports that attendance has been steady, but small. Maybe it’s the cold weather… and with the spring riding season coming up, it’s good way to get pumped up.

River Trails Rentals is our host for this class, which will not only be a great and convenient location, but also a good chance to show off their facilities and what they can do for the local cycling community.

Road I (I labeled it as “Smart Cycling,” which is probably a little more descriptive of what the class is about) is the League of American Bicyclists’ primary course in traffic and bicycle safety. What we try to do is cram several years’ worth of riding experience into some nine hours of theory and practice, and make you a much more aware and safe rider.

We’re in a culture of instant gratification, and there has been a good bit of interest in doing the classroom portion on-line, and then simply showing up for the road ride and test. Willa is steadily working on getting this set up. I’m a little more old-school, I guess, but what I’ve found to be the most beneficial parts of the Bike Ed classes that I’ve attended was the seminar-style, group discussion and participation where everyone seemed to feed off of and become enthused by the contributions of all the group members. Anyway, that’s the sort of class structure I’ve tried to set up. Friday night looks like one of those “death-by-PowerPoint” ordeals, but hopefully it’s set up to keep attention, participation, and enthusiasm high. And you’ll get a set of the slides to take home and jog your memory after the class is long over.

As for on-line access, I’ve loaded most of the class material and the outline to the web site here (see the Class Resources box to the right of this frame), so you can read ahead, and see if this sort of thing is for you or not.

Friday Night, March 7 -- Street Cycling Skills: About 4 hours in the classroom using discussion, demonstrations, computer presentations, and videos. Street Skills covers the basics for skilled and enjoyable cycling, including riding in the Little Rock metropolitan area, necessary equipment, hazard and crash avoidance, and your legal rights and responsibilities. A bicycle is not required for this part of the course, but you may want to bring your helmet, since we will be covering helmet fitting in this session.

Saturday Morning, March 8 -- Street Cycling Skills Practice: About 5 hours. Prerequisite: Successful completion of Part 1- Street Cycling Skills. Most of this class will be on the bike. Street Cycling Skills Practice provides an opportunity to apply what was learned in the Street Cycling Skills course. We will be learning and practicing emergency maneuvers. We will ride in a variety of Little Rock traffic conditions to practice and demonstrate your knowledge and performance of vehicular cycling skills. Street Cycling Skills Practice includes a written multiple choice test and a riding skills evaluation on the streets of Little Rock. For this course, you will need to show up with a helmet that fits and a bike that fits and is in good working order.

A traditional road or mountain bike with multiple speeds is an ideal bike to use for this class. However, any type of bike is okay -- if you have to ride a recumbent for whatever reason, bring your recumbent. Some of the hazard avoidance drills that we will be doing are best learned on a traditional road or mountain bike with front and rear brakes. Fixed gear bikes are okay, if that is your only bike, but it needs to have a mechanical brake – not just trying to stop the pedals or drag your feet on the pavement – a freewheel bike is easier to learn on and is less likely to cause you to crash. And remember, this class will be focusing a lot on how not to crash, or how to get out of a crash situation – not to give you practical experience in crashing!

Don’t have a bike yet? Our host, River Trail Rentals, can provide a bike and helmet at for a nominal fee.

Road I is a course that you complete equally as comfortably in your cycling team kit or your regular street clothes. Bike gloves and bike clothing might make you a little more comfortable on the bike, but are by no means required for the class. We aren't going to ride a long distance at a strenuous pace. We are just going to do some riding practice, in open parking lots and on residential and downtown streets at an easy pace. Anything you can ride in is fine. Be aware that the road test will happen even in light rain. If there is rain in the forecast, come prepared. Relax, it is just part of the ride. We’ll stop for lunch in the River Market area toward the end of Saturday’s ride, and then finish up with the evaluations (yes, you get to grade me, too!) and head back to the start point for graduation.

Willa will be teaching Road I as well on February 8-9, if you don’t want to wait until March…

Either is a good deal, and I hope you’ll look at cycling in a whole new light once you’ve finished…

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Welcome New LCIs!!

I was rooting thru the Bike Ed database over at the League website last night working on getting a March Road I course put together, when I noticed that our own Jennifer Shaw of Maumelle has gotten her LCI certification at one of the seminars held last month in Houston. Also certified is Mitchell Durham of Greenwood. That gives Arkansas a total of 7 LCIs ( up from 2 at this time last year), with 5 of them here in the Little Rock metropolitan area. That sort of stuff is important when a community is looking at applying for the League's "Bike Friendly Community" classification.

Anyway, a hearty congratulations to Jenn and Mitch... having just gone thru that wringer, I know how hard it is to get that little certificate. It takes about 6 to 7 weeks after the seminar for the League to process the paperwork and issue you a certification number and certificate, but your LCI status is effective from the time you pass the seminar.

Willa will be offering the Road I Course again next month, on February 7 & 8, at the Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service headquarters on University Avenue (between UALR and Catfish City). The classroom phase is Friday evening from 5:30 p.m. to about 9:30 p.m., and they'll reconvene Saturday morning for the on-road phase at 8:00 a.m.

Monday, January 14, 2008

Thinking Outside the Boxes

There’s been a fair bit of discussion on the ABC forums and several of the other bike message boards about the initiative in Portland, OR to establish “bike boxes” at a number of intersections where cyclists have been killed, injured, or made to soil their chamois by motorists who fail to yield the right-of-way as prescribed by existing traffic law. One of the other ABC members brought the issue up on the club forum, where I responded by mentioning that the issue was also being discussed on the LCI list server, where the opinions weren’t favorable, since these things encourage several unsafe practices by cyclists who would use them. After some remonstration by an ABC board member, I deleted my post and took a resolution to stay off the forums for awhile. However, most of the gist of my response, plus a few extra opinions, are still here.

Here’s the original article (1/4/2008) in the daily Oregonian:
And the New York Times coverage:

John Allen (LCI #77 and the author of Bicycling Street Smarts and a host of state bike manuals based on that pamphlet) expresses his thoughts on the bike boxes at .

And another view on the boxes here, with some interesting (and sometimes valid) comments:

This last one notes that bike boxes area direct transplant from European traffic design... because they work over there, they ought to work over here, too.

I drove and cycled over in Germany for a little more than six years in a previous life, and the "it ought to work here" concept ignores a major difference -- traffic principles, especially the concept of "right-of-way," are drastically different between Europe and North America. Here, the principle of right-of-way is based on "first come, first served;" absent a yield or stop sign, if you're the first person to the intersection, then you have the right-of-way. The European traffic rules are different, and the absolute principle there is that the vehicle farthest to the right has right-of-way, and with multiple vehicles at an intersection, right-of-way proceeds left-wise from there as the next rightmost vehicle take their turn. Also in Europe, it's drilled into all drivers' minds that all vehicles are equal on the roadways, whether they be a truck, a BMW 750i, a bicycle, or a farm tractor. Little kids over there learn traffic rules from kindergarten all the way up. If there's a kid on a tricycle waiting on your right, then he/she has right-of-way and there ain't no quibbling about it.

Likewise, most European communities don't have a right-on-red rule, which is universally taken for granted here in the States.

Placing the bike boxes where they are in North American traffic sends two messages that actually decrease cyclist safety rather than enhance it. First of all, it invites cyclists to "filter" forward past stopped traffic in order to get in line ahead of the cars. Probably the most important piece of advice in avoiding getting "right-hooked" is don't pass on the right. Cars already in the right-hand lane simply aren't expecting anybody to pass them on the right, and keep a notoriously poor lookout in that direction. (See Collision Type #3 (The Red Light of Death) and Type #5 (The Right Hook, Part 2) for a fuller discussion at

Filtering forward like this is also poor manners, since the motorists waiting at the light may have had to strive most impatiently to pass you way back down the road, and now they have to do that all over again, boosting their level of road rage against those "lawless cyclists." The right (and safe) thing to do is to take your place behind the cars, and wait your proper turn ("first come, first served").

And since a slower cyclist can be just arriving at the bike box when the light turns green, he/she can still be right-hooked by a right-turning motorist who was waiting at the light.

As described in the Times article, Oregon law already requires motorists to yield to bicyclists in the bike lane. But the ability to look in two directions at once can't be legislated. Many motor vehicles (especially high-cab trucks) have blind areas at the right side and front so that the motorist might only see a bicyclist overtaking on the right by keeping attention on the right-side rear view mirror. That diverts his attention from the intersection ahead. The motorist is given a much more difficult task, and the bicyclist is given a false sense of security. There's a sizable "No Zone" around big trucks and buses where both cyclists and pedestrians need to stay out of unless they have a death wish. This includes pulling up even with them on their right side, where they really can't see you and usually aren't looking for you. (Ronnie Clark was killed in exactly this manner up in Fayetteville last July when a tractor-trailer turning right-on-red ran over him in the crosswalk.)

What I've learned, both on the road and in the League courses, is to wait behind the vehicle in front of you at a stop light or stop sign, and then take your proper turn going thru the intersection, and this is what we teach in Road I and the other Bike Ed courses. And as noted above, passing stopped or slower moving vehicles on the right is a symptom of a latent death wish.

Bike lanes create about as many problems as they attempt to solve, especially at intersections, where motorists turn across them, and again, they encourage the cyclists to slip up on the right hand side where motorists usually aren't looking. In most cases, dedicated bike lanes will terminate some distance away from major intersections, like the ones on Rebsamen in LR, and on North Hills Blvd in NLR. This is a different approach to the bike box solution, where cyclists are expected to merge into the traffic lane and behave, well, like vehicles.

One of the surprises to many fellow bike advocates is the negative opinion of the boxes shared by many of the League instructors. How can we be so strongly against something that’s obviously so good for emphasizing the rights of cyclists on the road?

As Ed Wagner notes at CycleDog, in a large sense, we are not purely bicycle advocates. That’s mainly for manufacturers and businesses that exist to sell bicycles. LCIs are bicycling advocates engaged in an effort to educate cyclists, motorists, law enforcement, and public officials regarding the best practices that make cycling enjoyable and safe. This demands an approach that reviews what's effective. And, by and large, bike lanes have not been effective at providing real safety since the crash rates are essentially the same whether a bike lane is present or not.
Bike lanes have an undoubted psychological effect, because people believe they're safer.

However, the statistics don’t support this belief. Bike lanes make intersections more complicated. People fear being hit from behind, the one type of crash that bike lanes are supposed to prevent. Yet hit-from-behind crashes make up only about 10% of all bicycle/motor vehicle accidents, with 6% attributed to cyclists “swerving” in front of cars. Of the remaining 4%, about half result from a motorist not seeing a cyclist. These crashes are nearly always at night and involve a cyclist without reflectors or lights. The majority of bicycle/motor vehicle crashes, 85%, involve turning or crossing movements. Typically, that means intersections. In fact, the accident rate where bike lanes exist is 2.3 times greater than where there are no lanes at all. (Source - Effective Cycling by John Forester, and The Art of Urban Cycling by Robert Hurst), by the way, has a passionate thread going on concerning the effctiveness of separate bike lanes:{36EA5C91-D12A-425E-9769-04EAB123AD84}&numPost=all

Both cyclists and motorists regard the solid white line delineating a bike lane as a wall between their traffic lanes. Cyclists think that motorists will never cross it to the right, and motorists think cyclists will never cross it to the left. In reality, the painted stripe merely provides the illusion of safety. People will cross that line when necessary, and the danger is that the unprepared motorist or cyclist can be caught unaware.

The division between facilities advocates (bike lane supporters) and vehicular cyclists (who believe cyclists should act and be treated as merely another vehicle on the road) is a fundamental disagreement about human nature. In very broad strokes, on one hand you have one group that tries to influence behavior through engineering, paint, and concrete. The interstate highway system is an excellent example of this approach. On the other hand, you have a separate, sometimes overlapping group that tries to change behavior through education and training. Driver's Ed and the League's Bike Ed are examples of this approach. The first group strongly advocates the painting and establishment of bike lanes wherever there’s room; the others acknowledge that under the law, every lane is a bike lane, and that we should teach motorists and cyclists alike to share the available facilities.

Both BACA and the League play both sides of this fence, by advocating for bike paths wherever possible for those riders who simply will not venture out into the streets, and by providing educational courses, classes, and outreach for those who pursue the vehicular cycling principle and lobbying/litigating against those who would restrict cyclists’ rights and access to the public roads. It’s not being two-faced… It’s a simple realization that as cyclists we have the best of both worlds.

Cyclists are unique, because we are the only highway users that have a choice. We can follow drivers’ rules on the roadway, or step to the side of the curve and off the bike, and become pedestrians. And after a situation clears, we can check for a safe space in the traffic flow, hop back aboard, and pedal off again.

Yes, you and I fare better in traffic when treated as any other road user (for the most part), but the laws cannot assume that all riders are perfect cyclists. They have to take into account that there are just ordinary people who jump on a neighbor's bike from time to time. Furthermore, most people believe that since they learned to ride a bicycle in the fourth grade, they don't need bicycling education. That their knowledge hasn't progressed much since then just doesn't occur to them. Surprisingly, the most resistant group is composed of experienced cyclists.

Recent tragedies in Boise, Portland and Seattle, where cyclists were killed in the bike lanes, highlight the perfect storm of bad law, bad design, and bad choices on the part of both drivers and cyclists. It's truly sad that it takes some deaths to make cyclists, motorists, public officials, and law enforcement re-think the issues regarding bicycle lanes and question the initial assumptions that lead to their implementation.

"If I can dodge a rock, then I can dodge a possum, too..."

Riding in the early evening on the west side of Burns Park and the Northshore Industrial area, I’ve gotten pretty familiar with the local wildlife over the past two or three months. The deer herd comes out into Gene Pfeifer’s hayfield just about twilight, and the bucks start venturing out around 7 p.m. or so. Other critters keep their own schedule… The squirrels are almost exclusively out in the daytime, the bunny rabbits, raccoons, skunks, and opossums venture out when it gets dark. With the increased bike traffic after dark this season, many of the critters, including some of the deer, have gotten quite bold and stay out in the path as you roll by.

Back the first of last month, I was on one of the ABC Monday night rides where we went over to the east side of North Little Rock’s Burns Park to ride through the annual Christmas lights display. After cruising through, we decided to go over to the Big Dam Bridge and see the lights there, as we had a couple of new riders who had not previously seen the BDB after dark.

Rolling up the RiverTrail past the new S-curve where the wooden low-water bridge used to be, we had a nice paceline rolling along at about 15 mph. I was on the front. Coming out of the second curve, I looked to my right and saw a ‘possum run out from the right edge of the pathway, headed right for where my front wheel was supposed to be. I’d practiced the Bike Ed course’s “rock dodge” for hours, and had even had a couple occasions to use it to dodge the occasional armadillo and one skunk which had apparently gotten mesmerized by my headlights and frozen in the center of the path.

“Okay, Thomas,” I muttered to myself; “if you can dodge a rock, then you can surely dodge a possum.” The problem is, however, that rocks stay still – but possums don’t. I hit that possum squarely behind the shoulder blades and felt my front wheel start to go out from under me. I had about enough time to instinctively tighten my grip on the handlebars, turn into the possum, and then stomped on the right pedal in an effort to roll over him like I would with my mountain bike.

To my surprise, and that of my pals, the maneuver worked. I bowled over the critter and sent him rolling to the side of the path (where he jumped up and ran away into the night) and I stayed upright and headed down the path, still in control of the bike. I had anticipated sampling a good bit of pavement, plus the domino effect of being piled on by the guys behind me, but the trick worked… When you feel your front wheel being pushed out from under you, tighten up on the bars, steer into the obstacle, and apply power like you’re trying to roll over it.

Several of our club rides have seen some nasty crashes this year, nearly all caused by wheel overlap. One of the main things we teach "on the wheels" in Bike Ed is hazard avoidance, like the rock dodge and the quick turn. My first thought was to teach cyclists and ride leaders how to recover from an overlap incident. But the more I thought about it, the more I knew the problem wasn't the actual overlap but rather the conditions that led to the overlap situation. Ride leaders need to know how to teach their groups proper group riding that stresses safe spacing, communication between cyclists, watching out for each other and how to "single up" when someone calls "car back." Our group ride disciplines need a lot of work.

The overlapping and touching of wheels need not spell disaster or a trip to the ER. There are techniques to disengage, such as I used against that pesky ‘possum up above. By practicing these skills, riders become more comfortable with proximity and become better pack riders.

Practice on a smooth grass field. Falling is likely at first, and grass is much nicer (and softer to land on) than asphalt or concrete. I like to use one of the remote soccer fields over at Burns Park when the soccer teams or moms aren’t around. Wear your bike helmet, old cycling or street clothes with long sleeves and legs, and gloves.

Find a partner to practice with, who should be equipped the same way. Take turns, until both of you can master the new skill.

Start with one rider leading and riding straight, at a constant speed, listening to their partner, but not looking back. The lead rider is in minimal danger of crashing.

The rear rider matches the speed of the lead rider, and brings the front wheel up to just the point of overlapping the front rider’s rear wheel. The rear rider must not be as far advanced as the lead rider's hub.

The rear rider positions the bike just an inch or two to the side of the lead rider's rear wheel, then taps or brushes the lead rider's rear wheel, then backs off.

The lead rider must continue to ride straight and steady, not swerve, slow down or speed up. The lead rider may be slowed slightly by the friction of the rear rider's front wheel.

The rear rider, with anything more than instantaneous contact, must momentarily turn into the lead rider's rear wheel to set up the steering and lean of the bicycle to bounce off. This counterintuitive technique is what allows skilled riders to avoid crashing. Practice touching from both the left and the right side until you can lightly touch wheels, maintain control of the bike, and not fall.

Then you should be ready for those road-raged marsupials…

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Critical Manners

Critical Manners will ride again from the parking lot at the Arkansas Arts Center at 4:30 p.m. on Wednesday, February 6th, 2008. It's a "helmet-wearing, bell-ringing, blinkie-sportin' good time for you and all your bike friends." Practice synchronized signaling, single file riding, stopping at stop signs and NOT blowing red lights. Critical Manners will brake for pedestrians, trolleys, and even the occasional SUV.

Last week's ride was derned COLD... Only Willa and I showed up at the start time in mild winds and 33 degree temperatures, and we made a quick swoop down to Main Street and the River Market in search of a warm restaurant for dinner. Velo Rouge (French for "red bicycle," it seems) opened a welcoming door to two scruffy, frostbitten cyclists, and the food was pretty good, too.

Yes, as Willa noted, this is indeed the time of year that tries cyclists' souls, with gale force winds, cold temperatures, and darkness that stretches from the time you get off work in the evening until you have to stumble back in the office door the next morning. Many have given up riding until warmer weather comes back around, others are retreating inside to Spinning classes and nautilus machines... still other poor, misguided souls are retreating to the couch in the den to watch football games. I have a CycleOps trainer that I bought over at Chainwheel a couple of years ago with the intention to use it through the winter months, but after half a dozen sessions or so, I felt too much like a hamster on one of those little ferris wheel things, and the trainer is currently stashed in the storage shed somewheres. Me, I get my satisfaction on the road or trail primarily, and there's that pesky New Year's resolution about riding every single week to keep up with. So, I joke with my friends about finding this new weight loss program that works by freezing off various body parts, but by the time I thaw out the next morning, it's all come back.

Critical Manners has picked up some nice press locally over the past month, and there should be an article on it in the next edition of Bicycling magazine, to balance the article they ran on the more belligerent Critical Mass rides a couple of months ago. I'm looking forward to reading it.

Now, back out into the cold...

Monday, January 7, 2008

Gearing up for 2008

On a personal basis, 2007 was a fairly good year on the bike. Mileage-wise, I logged 4,068 miles on the road and mountain bikes, a personal best, and nearly 1,500 miles more than my previous best years. Bad/cold weather got me off to a slow start, but I was able to get and keep up some momentum this summer and fall.

I started 2007 with three goals: to complete three specific events (the Tour de Rock, Hotter ‘n Hell 100, and the Big Dam Bridge 100). I did those, and in addition, took an opportunity to be a little more productive in the local biking community by seeking and attaining a Cycling Instructor’s certificate from the League of American Bicyclists. I took the Road I course in September here in Little Rock, then went out to Louisville, Kentucky for my LCI certification course in October. It was an educational and eye-opening experience, and I’m a lot better rider now for the experience.

2008 has opened a little slowly so far, having had to deal with some family health problems here and there. But it’s still time to set a few Big Hairy-Ended Goals for the coming year to firm up the resolve.

I use a software program called CycliStats ( to keep track of my rides and mileage, and after losing data in a computer mishap a couple of years ago, keep a backup of those logs over at Looking thru the numbers for 2007, there were 9 weeks where I didn’t ride my bike. When I did ride, I started using the middle chain ring a lot more and spinning, rather than trying to push a big gear all the time in the past. My average speed went down about a mile and a half per hour, but then I nearly doubled the mileage from 2006, when I was still thinking myself just about as much a riding fool.

I rode my first century in August, rolling up 103 miles at a whack at the Hotter ‘n Hell Hundred, and added a few more miles on top of that toodling around the event site and downtown area afterwards. Not half as hard as I had thought it would be, and a whole lot more fun… not only the ride, but also the friends from the ABC that I went down there with, and others met along the way.

So, for 2008, here’s the initial goals:

  1. Mileage. Trying for 4,000 miles again… but more than that, I want to focus on those 9 weeks of the year where I didn’t ride at all: The primary goal is to have zero weeks in 2007 when I don’t get at least one good ride logged in. Ride my bike to work a lot more. And to focus more on the joy of riding, instead of just being out there pedaling along to roll up some more mileage.
  2. Group Rides: Definitely the Hotter ‘N Hell Hundred again… in fact I already signed up, the 57th rider to do so for 2008. Other priorities are to keep the streak going by doing the CARTI Tour de Rock and the Big Dam Bridge ride. I’d like to do the whole BDB course this time around, just gotta keep working on my riding partner! Other rides in the plan include the Tour da Delta over in Helena and the Pineywoods Purgatory down in Texas, both of which had scheduling conflicts with other stuff I was expected to do this year.
  3. Share the Joy of Cycling. That’s a big reason I went chasing off after LCI certification this past year… After lots of time playing with PowerPoint and cutting lots of circles in local parking lots and cutting up tennis balls, I’ll hold my first Road I class next month, and plan to offer it at least every other month or so during the year. Also in the works are Group Riding seminars in late March or early April to get folks ready for the season, as well as the Commuting course in conjunction with Bike-to-Work week.
  4. Ride a race somewheres. Time to do some intervals here and start building up a little more power…

So there… I’ve come out and bragged about it, so now you folks can hold my feet to the fire…

2007 inthe Rear View Mirror

The Arkansas Democrat-Gazette ran an interesting article on the front of the Arkansas page of yesterday’s paper ( ) comparing the number of pedestrian deaths in the state between 2007 and 2006. According to the paper, and accident statistics kept by the Arkansas State Police, pedestrian traffic deaths are up this year – a total of 46, as opposed to 32 who were run over and killed on the streets and highways of the Natural State in 2006. And for those who keep track, motorist deaths were down a little less than 5% -- 630 people died in vehicle crashes in 2007, as opposed to 666 in 2006.

The article noted that at least two bicyclists – who are sometimes counted as pedestrians, sometimes not – were killed in traffic accidents, citing the cases of Celeste Bates, a young girl from Wynne who was killed by a pickup truck when she ran a stop sign in July, and Jason Elslager, a young boy from Jacksonville who was struck from behind and killed by an SUV while riding at night near Lonoke in early October. They missed the deaths most discussed on local cycling forums – those of Ronnie Clark of Springdale, who was right-hooked and killed by a tractor-trailer truck turning right-on-red in Fayetteville, also in July, and the bizarre case of Aaron Simpson, who was killed in December when he failed to obey a railroad crossing signal, ran into the side of, and was run over by a passing freight train in southwest Little Rock. That makes 4 Arkansas deaths in 2007, as opposed to the average of 3 in previous years.

Additionally, Phillip McDougal of Texarkana wasn’t counted, as he was killed just a few miles over the state line in Texas. Like Elslager, McDougal was struck down from behind by an inattentive driver, though in broad daylight.

Since we started the local tradition of the “Ride of Silence” three years ago when Jason Pratt was killed on West Markham by a drunk driver, I’ve paid a lot more attention to bike accidents and crashes. This was reinforced this past summer and fall when I started studying to attain my LCI certification. And as terrible as each individual death is, Arkansas is still one of the safer states as far as the bike accident statistics go, especially when you compare it to the carnage wreaked upon pedestrians (46 dead), motorcyclists, and motorists (630 dead).

The casualty count for 2008 has already started in other places. has an excellent thread to help keep track of these tragedies, and to learn from mistakes so as to try to avoid additional tragedy. The current thread is at{BBDBD8E4-2BF4-447A-9464-D313976F7A7B}&numPost=all .

One of the things we’ve added to the monthly BACA meetings for this year will be a short 10-minute pitch on bike safety, and ways to be a better (and safer) rider. I’ll try to incorporate these lessons into those programs; hopefully we can make 2008 a year where there are no cyclist casualties in Arkansas…

Ya’ll be careful out there now.. ya hear?

Friday, January 4, 2008

Well, here is the first attempt to set up an on-line presence for my Bike Ed activities and other goings-on... please bear with me a bit as I get used to the new format. I promise a little more real content in the near future...