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July 1, 2007


Here are the Albany Bicycle Coalition list serve posts about the albanyweblog June 10 post in the order that they came in, starting with the initial post by The Wife:

From Lynne Jackson Jun 12, 2007, 9:25 PM:

Dear All Bicyclists,

Did anyone see the letter to the editor blaming the bicyclist for her death? If you did not, I have pasted it below.

I am sick and tired of the media blaming the bicyclist. Death is too high a price to pay for using a gas-free, air-pollution free, quiet vehicle.

My husband (Dan Van Riper) and I went out to see the intersection where the bicyclist was hit.

This is what Dan wrote - an analysis of who really is to blame, and its not the bicyclist:

Lynne Jackson

From Randy Putnam, June 13 2007, 9:13 AM:

Great post. Thanks so much. I join you and everyone in mourning the loss of a fellow pedaler and a person who contributed mightily to the quality of life in our town. At the same time, I am encouraged that we are talking about this important issue.

I love the spirit of the post, but I came away fearing that some pedalers will use it to feel better about breaking the law. I think that would be a bad result. Here are the aspects of the post that are troubling to me.

1. "It is because these intersections are designed for autos that they appear absurd to bicyclists."

Suggesting that intersections appear absurd can discourage pedaling, and that is that last thing I want. Is the intersection at issue absurd? I walk, pedal and operate a motor vehicle. This intersection and most others work reasonably well for me. Something short of optimal design doesn't for me equal absurdity. Cities laced with paved streets in a grid are not perfect but they are what we have. Separate bike lanes with separate signals and traffic barriers would be better, but the fact that they are absent makes sense if one looks at the way our cities and roadways developed over time. Wouldn't it be cool if all cars were parked at the city limits in muni garages and all transportation within the city was by bike, foot or tram? I won't hold my breath, but if I develop a new city from scratch, you can be sure I will propose it. Existing roadways should be improved where money and space exist. New roadways should accommodate walkers and pedalers. I am not going to wait, though, for that to happen. I am going to walk and pedal today, and encourage friends and family to do so, too. When they ask for my advice, I am going to suggest they follow the traffic laws, which include in our great state the right as a pedaler to take the lane where the lane is too narrow to be shared by a car and a bike, or while the right side of the lane is dangerous due to potholes or debris. Taking the lane increases visibility and reduces risk. As soon as it is safe to do so, I also return the lane so motor vehicle users can hurry on to do brain surgery or whatever else it is they are in such a rush to do. I'd rather not see in an otherwise great post a suggestion that intersections appear absurd. This feeds into the all too real fear among non pedalers and even many pedalers that city streets are unsafe for pedalers. We die on roads and will continue to do so regardless of the changes made to our roads. So do users of motor vehicles, for whom too often the streets are designed. Pedaling introduces a risk into your life. Not pedaling does, too. I think the risks of not pedaling are greater. I want to encourage more people to pedal today.

2. "Moving a bicycle takes physical effort, thus every unnecessary stop is a tiring strain on the bicyclist." Separately: "Thus, bicyclists routinely and characteristically break traffic laws designed to regulate motorized traffic. They do so out of necessity."

In the context of the post, one might conclude that stopping at certain traffic signals is unnecessary. Stopping at all traffic signals is a necessary stop. It is the law. We all need to follow the laws if we are to safely and respectfully share the streets with one another. Also, many pedalers enjoy the physical benefits of riding bicycles. Bicycles are so efficient that riding at an even pace can sometimes reduce the effort to nearly zero. The strain of starting from a stop increases the physical benefits. Finally, not stopping sends a message to motor vehicle users, many of whom are never pedalers. Those messages can build up over a single drive or over a lifetime and lead to bad results. Motor vehicle users are humans that can become enraged. Not justified, but it happens. Rage can lead to bad acts. The bad act can be directed at any pedaler, not necessarily the one who planted the seed of rage. Why pedal in a way that makes some motor vehicle drivers angry and risk setting them loose on fellow pedalers (or their family, co workers or pets)? Please think about others when you pedal.

Again, I think the post is great and more like it need to go up. Its just that I get uncomfortable when I take away from a piece a sense that pedalers are more special than others (even though I sometimes think so, in the solitude of my bike littered home), and can break the law when the law and the streets aren't precisely what we want.



From Mary Lou Gillham, June 13 2007, 11:42 AM:

I also went to the accident site at the intersection of Western and University Place. I came away with mixed feelings about the cause of the accident. I wondered if the bicyclist was actually on the sidewalk and entered the road similarly the way a pedestrian would. I also found the distance that the cyclist was from the actual road very disturbing. Lynne, you have it in much stronger language than I could muster to write. If shock value is your intent then you have succeeded. I agree with Randy when he says, “I love the spirit of the post…” I also agree with Randy that we should follow the rules of the road. .
In this particular instance at intersection of Western/University Place I as a bicyclist was not aware of the traffic signaling difference. As an auto driver, I would have no choice but to stop for the red light. Now that someone has died at this intersection, it has made me rethink my bicycling habits and the reason I am supposed to follow the rules of the road.

Not as eloquent but I am hoping if I follow the rules of the road I will have many more years of cycling.

Mary Lou


From Joshua Popel, June 13, 2007, 12:13 PM:

While I would agree with Mrs. Reilly’s assessment that bicyclists do have a responsibility to follow the rules of the road, the fact is that our transportation system is very one sided and bicyclists are often left to fend for themselves. While it may be safer to ride with traffic and legally take the lane if necessary, most bicyclists don’t always feel comfortable interacting with traffic at that level. Not to mention the ire that we draw from motorists who scream at us to get off the roadways or get out of their way.

You can break this problem down into two different approaches: education and engineering. From the education point of view, neither the motorists nor the bicyclists are being properly educated. There are entirely too many drivers out there who don’t know and respect the fact that bicyclists have a right to the roadways. Bicycles are considered a vehicle under NYS vehicle and traffic law and have the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicle drivers.

As for the bicyclists, there is a definitely a problem of people riding against traffic and riding at night without a light. These are two of the most common scenarios leading to adult bicycle incidences. Having had conversations with numerous bicyclists over the years, I understand that people ride on the wrong side of the road because they feel that it is safer whereas that’s statistically not the case. Unfortunately, there is no formal mechanism in place to properly train bicyclists. There are education classes available through the NY Bicycling Coalition and other organizations that do teach safe cycling for adults and children but it’s a volunteer program and it’s not always easy to get people to participate.

On the engineering side, our roadways are often built with only the motor vehicle in mind, with little concern for people walking or bicycling. How many miles of bike lanes do we have in the city of Albany? Where are people supposed to ride if they don’t feel comfortable riding in traffic and there is little education in place to teach them how to safely ride in traffic?

The sad fact is that this is a growing problem not just for the Capital District but the country as a whole. As we hear more about global climate change and how to stem the problem, switching some of our short distance car trips (over a quarter of all trips made in this country are one mile or less) to bicycling and walking is a great way to combat the carbon emissions. Not to mention the health benefits that come with integrating this exercise component into our daily lives.

We are falling behind the curve in providing our residents with safe and accessible healthy transportation options. We need to stop victimizing the people who do make the decision to walk and bike in less than desirable circumstances and start making policy changes to make our roadways complete for all users.

Joshua Poppel
Executive Director
NY Bicycling Coalition
PO Box 8868 Albany, NY 12208
518 436-0889

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From Claire Nolan:

At the time of day that Diva was hit there would have been a considerable amount of traffic; drivers would have been lined up in the west-bound lane, waiting for the light to change. Diva, whether she was on the sidewalk or in the lane, would have appeared literally out of nowhere when she entered the intersection from behind the stopped cars.

Randy, can you go through your post and pull out the VERY useful information for responsible bicycling? And post that information again? Dan is not a bicyclist. And I think non-bicyclists need to be aware of what bicyclists are doing (or should be doing) and why.

As bicyclists we have responsibilities to follow the rules of the road, as drivers we have the same responsibilities.

Shameless Advertisement: NYBC will be offering the LAB Road One Class in the VERY NEAR FUTURE. and


From David Eilers, June 13 2007, 2:31 PM:

Hi everyone,

In light of the recent posts regarding intersections, cars, bikes and crashes here in Albany I thought I would share a few thoughts. I was riding south on 9w to the Hannaford Plaza in Glenmont to run an errand this afternoon. As I approached the left-hand plaza entrance I looked over my left shoulder and saw no traffic coming up from behind me. I looked ahead of me and saw no traffic coming toward me. I looked at the plaza entrance and saw a car stopped at the stop sign, blinker signaling to make a left turn on to 9w. Here is where it gets good. I signal with my left-hand my entry into the middle of my lane and ultimately my left turn into the plaza. I am riding at a quick pace to take advantage of the fact that there are no cars behind me or in front of me allowing me to turn left into the plaza. The driver turning left from the plaza onto 9w had a stop sign and according to NYS DMV law I had the right of way. See link "Right of Way" example 4.

So I take my rightful place in the lane as a vehicle operator, hand signal and begin my left turn into the plaza when the woman at the stop sign quickly pulls out and begins turning left onto 9w. She is headed right for me and screeches to a halt about 5 feet from hitting me. I safely complete my turn into the plaza and she goes on her way.

Now I know my rights as a cyclist of the roads. I take precautions to be visible (lights, reflectors, neon shirts.) Took a Road 1 bike safety course. Try to be as predictable as possible. Act courteously to other road users. That said, everytime I get on my bike I can't help but think "this could be the day that I die", so I loudly remind myself not to make poor choices while pedaling or else suffer the consequences. I guess my point in mentioning this is to keep in mind that life is filled with risks. Self-preservation is paramount in my mind when doing potentially dangerous things like riding my bike, hiking in the woods, swimming in the ocean, driving my car, chopping wood with a really sharp axe, all kinds of things I do.

In this instance I was following the NYS DMV rules. The woman driving her car didn't do anything wrong except be human and not see me. Happens everyday. Fortunately she saw me in time and what could have happened, didn't.

You can have the greatest laws, state-of-the-art intersections, whatever you want. Cars crash into people and things, and sadly sometimes people die. As a cyclist I don't have a metal cage around me, seatbelt or airbag to keep me safe, thus I am more vulnerable. I love riding my bike and will do so as often as possible, quietly reminding myself that in this world, car versus bike, car wins.

I hope everyone stays safe out there on their bikes and in their cars. We're all in this together.


David Farny Eilers
Professional Organizing
Less / Is / More

From Bert Schou, June 13, 2007, 3:27 PM:

I read the blog, some I can agree with only part of the message. I also know this intersection being close to my house. It would not take a speeding car to injure or kill a bicyclist running the redlight nor would it take much for the bicycle and cyclist to end up as Diva did a short distance away. If the woman going to work drove this route daily, would she have careened across two lanes? Was she driving carefully or was she late for work?

While I do not know all the details, a clear message is both drivers and bicyclist need safety awareness. Running a redlight with an assumption the ligth was red east and westbound is an unfortunate mistake that resulted in a tragedy. Could the vehicle have stopped in time? Did the driver use all precautions for viewing all potential hazards? Was it unavoidable? It is so sad that this happened. Where was the cyclist coming from? Was she aware the traffic signal allowing eastbound movement when red westbound? Was she aware of traffic and slowing down before proceeding through a redlight? Were both drivers focused on what they were doing? Just so many questions.

Where do most bicycle accidents occur? Intersections! We all mourn the loss of human life, in this case the bicyclist was well known compared to the unfortunate Hispanic man killed last year. We need to be more aware of our actions as both drivers and bicyclists. I was pleased to hear Diva's family wanted donations to NYBC 'Share the Road Program". Maybe there could be a fundraiser for free workhops for Effective Bicycling. I know that I was able to learn from the workshop although pedaling in traffic for years.

There is always room for knowledge. Share your on road skills with others. Make kind suggestions to those you see that may pose a danger to themselves as they ride. If someone is wearing their helmet far back on their head, offer to show them the correct position. Some really do not know the simple things about bicycling safety. Although I know there was a fatality at an intersection I cross everyday, I am also aware that as I pedal safely I know drivers are not out there waiting to hurt me. If you ride as traffic, you are much safer.


From Ariel Callaschai, June 13, 2007, 6:38 PM:

I don't have a whole lot to say about this subject that hasn't been said.

Regardless of the point that we theoretically should all be following the laws, I think that bicyclists who want to stay safe must accept a double standard. Drivers will drink, speed, run red lights, change lanes without notice, take advantage of their perceived relative quickness when at intersections, fail to stop at stop signs, open their doors without looking etc--all without consequences most of the time. While bicyclists also do many of these things and most of the time avoid any consequences, they're much easier roadkill than people surrounded by plastic and glass bubbles.

This is not to say we need to accept it because it's right (obviously) but only because it's true.

With more of us alive there are more of us to fight for better planning.

I'm a proud doomsayer for the car culture. Hopefully peak oil will rear it's ugly/beautiful head and most people won't be able to afford such luxuries as 1-mile trips to nowhere much longer. Hopefully everyone in public space will be less frustrated, at least on the road, when that time comes.

I hope you all have a safe night, and happy riding this weekend. I enjoy reading all of the posts but rarely respond, so thank you all here and now for the excellent rants and articles.



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