The Protected Bikeways Act – A Holistic Analysis of California Assembly Bill 1193


California Assembly Bill 1194 (AB1193) has been a bit of a divisive subject right now and has two of the states largest bicycle advocacy organizations, the California Bicycle Coalition (Cal Bike, CBC) and California Association of Bicycle Organizations (CABO), at odds with one another.

AB 1193 is also called the “Protected Bikeways Act” and, as CBC explains it, it would finally make protected bikeways legal in California. We’ll talk about issues in the legislation later, but first let’s clarify what these protected bikeways are.

What’s a Protected Bikeway?

Technically speaking, a “protected” bike way is any bicycle facility that protects the cyclist from physical harm posed by passing automobiles. The State of California already has design guidelines for these. They are called “Class 1 Bikeways”. Most people know them as “bike trails”, “bike paths”, or “off-street paths”.

However, the CBC isn’t fighting to make Class 1 Bikeways legal. They already are. They want “cycle tracks” to be legal in the State of California.

What is a Cycle Track?

A cycle track is a bicycle transportation facility immediately adjacent to the roadway, but physically separated from the roadway. Separation can be provided using a variety of methods in order of expense and with each option’s flaws in the caption:

Painted Buffers

While cycle tracks are often described as physically protecting the cyclist, this style, like bike lanes, only give the illusion of physical protection.


Bollard separation increases the visibility of a separated facility. However, floppy bollards don’t stop automobiles. When floppy bollards are used, it’s a sign of the municipality concerned more with automobile damage than with the physical safety of cyclists. Still, hard bollards are hazards to cyclists wherever they are used as they can catch handlebars. Moreover, any bollard inclosure makes it difficult for a cyclist traveling at speed to leave the bike lane to make  turns or avoid hazards.

Parked Cars

Parked cars a great protection against other automobiles driving into a separated facility. However, if no cars are parked, there is no protection. Additionally, using parked cars guarantees cross traffic across the bicycle facility, guarantees an increase in debris in the facility, adds the risk of passenger-side doorings without significant buffering.


Consider these as more expensive bollards with a significantly higher upkeep cost.

Curb/Grade Separation

Grade separated cycle tracks are elevated 2-6 inches above the existing roadway. In most cases, the cycle track is still mountable by a moving automobile, so the goal is not exactly to stop the automobile, but to alert the driver that he’s doing something he shouldn’t. Curb-separation provides significantly more physical protection, but anything requiring the pouring of concrete will be a major expense.

Combination Treatments

Hazards, costs, and utility will vary depending on design.

Why are Cycle Tracks Illegal in California?

Well, that’s the weird thing. They’re not actually illegal. That’s all just wordplay to rouse the troops! Currently, CalTrans doesn’t have any guidance on the construction of cycle tracks even though it was previously mandated that they develop guidelines. If you your city wants to install a cycle track in California, they have to submit a request to install experimental infrastructure. When CalTrans approves the design, they can build the cycle track.

There are multiple cycle tracks in existence throughout California. Some in Long Beach. At least one in the Inland Empire.

Why Does CalTrans Have to Establish Cycle Track Standards?

It’s all about liability and risk (AKA fear of lawsuits). CalTrans establishes all transportation engineering standards for all public transportation infrastructure in California. If you build something to CalTrans standards and someone gets hurt, you won’t get sued– CalTrans will. They’re the ones that said, “Trust me. This design is legit!”

Again, the problem is that CalTrans has been slow to establish these standards and certain organizations (planning groups, construction groups, some bicycle advocacy groups) want their cycle tracks NOW!

Why is CalTrans Taking So Long to Establish These Standards?

Well, I can’t speak to any bureaucratic issues, but I know that cycle track design is extremely intense.  When you install a bike lane, all you’re doing is laying down some paint X feet from the curb, spray painting “Bike Only” in the lane, and putting up some “Bike Lane” signs on each block, and you’re done.

Cycle tracks are much more complex. Just take a look at all the different methods of physically separating the facility from automobiles. Ignoring the high costs, each have their flaws ranging from supplying no better physical protection than a bike lane to manufacturing additional hazards for the cyclists using the facility. And then there are the intersection issues. In fact, let’s compare how each major type of bicycle facility interacts with automobiles at an intersection.

Class 1 Bikeway (Bike Path/Trail)

Class 1 Bikeways interact with roads like freeways– on-ramps and off-ramps.

Class 2 Bikeways (Bike Lanes)

While this image doesn’t show bike lanes, it accurately describes how bikes lanes interact with intersections (they don’t). The bicyclist leaves the bike lane to go straight or turn left. If he needs to turn right, he stays in the bike lane and turns right at the intersection.

Class 3 Bikeways (Shared Roads)

On roads without bike lanes, just move like a car.

Cycle Tracks

I don’t have an image for this because it usually takes a whole hour to describe all the intersection risks with cycle tracks because there are so many potential designs. I’m being serious, too. A poorly done cycle track actually increases collision risk. In my opinion, there’s only one correct way to implement a cycle track and reduce collision risk with automobiles and that’s to have fully separated signalization for bicycles and automobiles at every cycle track intersection while also making right turns on red lights 100% illegal.

And that’s all very expensive. And thus likely not going to be implemented.

Cycle Tracks are Extremely Complex. I get it. So Why Has There Been So Much Argument About This Bill?

Well, the first issues had nothing to do with cycle tracks, oddly enough. AB 1193 was so poorly written initially that it actually would have reduced the rights of cyclists on the road by mandating they use the cycle track if one was present.

Luckily, through good discussion, emails, and some voting in legislative committees, the bad wording was removed. The only things that remained are the bits that mattered: Allowing cities to create cycle tracks without CalTrans oversight and adding cycle tracks as a fourth class of bicycle infrastructure.

AB 1193 Has Passed! When Do We See All the New Cycle Tracks?!

There’s the rub, bub. You’ll probably not see a Nederlander cycle track paradise for decades to come. You probably won’t even see any cycle tracks built specifically because AB 1193 has allowed them. The cities, regardless of the law, don’t want to build cycle tracks without Cal Trans standards. Their goal is to minimize exposure to potential lawsuits and the best way to do that is to wait for CalTrans standards.


Because the California Bicycle Coalition proposed it and they weren’t going to back down. Because planning groups hope to get multi-million-dollar contracts out of it. Because there are a significant number of bicycle advocates who don’t understand transportation on the road and thus want bicycles off the road.

So it is of my estimate that there will be very few miles of cycle tracks to come directly as a result of AB 1193. The day CalTrans releases their cycle track standards, cities will be spending money like madness for their symbolic strips of cycle track, but they will still be relatively rare by comparison to greenway bike paths, bike lanes, and roads without bike facilities because of their cost.

Posted in Advocacy News, Bike Education, Bike Law | Leave a comment

Where’d all the “California Bike Law” Posts Go?

Look above you on the menu bar. By the request of some readers, I’ve made the California Bike Law analysis posts permanent pages for reference. As of this post, all the bicycle-specific CVC is posted. I also intend to post the state law regarding e-bikes/motorized bicycles in addition to Orange County Local municipal code.

Does this part of cycling interest you? Let me know by email or comment!

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Cycling Advocacy – Is it Possible to Over-Incentivize and Over-Amenitize?

The Research

There is a theory in the economics and social psychology (*cough* same thing) that says that if you use extrinsic incentives to affect behavior before allowing intrinsic incentives to materialize in behavior, you’re not only going to spend more time/effort/money than you need to see the desired behavior change, but people may be less willing to change their behaviors.

Mindsplosion in progress.

Sounds counter-intuitive, doesn’t it?

It’s called the Motivation Crowding Effect and was very well-researched in The Cost of Price Incentives: An Empirical Analysis of Motivation Crowding-Out. The paper describes a survey of Swiss citizens in 1993 when the government was siting two nuclear waste repositories. The Swiss citizenry was highly educated on the matter regarding nuke dumps and there was already significant debate on the matter.

These researchers surveyed one portion of the community asking if they’d be willing to have a repository in their area. 50.8% responded in the affirmative, 44.9% opposed the facility. 4.3% didn’t care. Such is the power of Swiss civic commitment! Try to get 50% approval for this in the States!

Wait what? 50% said “OK”!?

To test the effects of extrinsic incentives, the researchers repeated the exact question to a different selection of citizens within the same population, except adding that the Swiss government would compensate each citizen in the community either $2,175, $4,350, or $6,525 per year!

The level of acceptance dropped to 24.6%.

And then, everyone who rejected the $2,175/year offer was offered a 50%, 33%, and 25% increase on the respective offer. Only a single respondent who declined the first compensation was now prepared to accept the higher offer.

Blown away by the results, the researchers change communities altogether and go to Northern Switzerland. 41% would accept the nuke dump, 56.4% were against it, and 2.6% didn’t care. When offered compensation, the level of acceptance dropped to 27.4%.

These guys are really… cool?

So what’s going on here? Some are seeing the addition of financial incentive as proof of risk, liability, or some otherwise undisclosed downside. Others see the offer for some incentive and may want to hold out for a LOT of incentive.

Bicycle Commuter Incentives

Now how the hell does this affect the world of the bike?

Well, if you take a look at the business of bicycle advocacy, you’ll see a vast array of incentives and amenities available for businesses and organizations to demand and supply to make the lives of bicyclists better than non-bicyclists. Here’s a comprehensive list of bicycle commute incentives I’ve come across in the last 3 years, categorized by the style of incentive:


Ya, like that. That’s how we facilitate cycling. Doggie water-waiters.

Standard Bicycle Parking – Standard bicycle parking is easy to understand. It’s a bike rack that meets minimum security requirements placed so it can be fully utilized and seen by passers-by.

Guaranteed Ride Home – A guaranteed ride home program facilitates transportation home for people who have commuted to work without a car but need to get home in an emergency. This could come in the form of paid taxi fare, bus/train fare, being driven home in a company car,etc.

Occasional Parking Passes – An employer with a paid parking system that requires the lack of permit to receive any other incentives may still provide a number of one-day permits for those days when biking to work is impractical.

Education – It’s hard to understate the value of bicycle education in the realm of cycling let alone bike commute. Suffice to say that an educated cyclist is safer, less stressed on the road, and a better ambassador than those who are trying to just “figure it out”.

Security – Appropriate bicycle-relevant security includes having local security and/or police cognizant of the laws, policies, and enforcement tactics relevant to cycling. This is important to create a safe, secure, and welcoming environment for the bike commuter and even the bike itself.


Ya, I got that. That, too. I think I… ya, I got that.

Showers – Making showers available at the work place is frequently cited as an incentive to start biking and a great support option for existing bicycle commuters.

Storage Lockers – Implied by having showers, but able to exist on their own, some suggest providing storage lockers for cycling commuter so they can store their helmet, bike clothes, etc. before heading to their specific work sites.

Bike Cages/Rooms/Stations – A bike cage or BikeStation is a fully enclosed and secured area in which one parks his/her bike. Locking is recommended at varying levels of security depending on the site.

Bike Lockers – Not to be confused with storage lockers, bicycle lockers are little personal garages in which people park bikes. The bike locker protects bicycles from weather damage and obscures more expensive bicycles from interested thieves.


Don’t expect this much for riding a bike to work. But still…

Parking Cash-Out – The State of California requires employers that subsidize the cost of parking to give employees the opportunity to relinquish parking rights in favor of a monthly/yearly cash-out.

Bike-to-Work Awards – Some employers will literally pay employees to commute by bike. I’ve seen this range from $1/day to $5/day for biking. Some employers even commit to providing additional vacation days for those to choose a non-drive-alone commute or raffles, etc.

Bicycle Commuter Tax Benefit - In 2009, the IRS added the Bicycle Commuter Tax Benefit to the existing list qualified transportation fringe benefits (26 U.S.C. sec. 132(f)). Due to various restrictions, this perk is rarely actually cashed-in.

Unlike the parking and transit benefits, this is not a pre-tax perk for expenses– it’s an up-to-$20/month non-taxable reimbursement by the employer to the employee for qualified bicycle commute-related expenses (purchase of a bicycle, bicycle improvement, repair, and storage). Receipts of expenses must be provided. If you’ve ever worked within accounting or purchasing within a bureaucracy, you’ll know that it takes anywhere between $25 to $125 to process a reimbursement due to the oversight in processing such transactions.

The employer, as a result, gets to pay less federal taxes. But if your employers already doesn’t pay federal taxes (ie you work for a public agency or 501(c)3), there is no benefit. As such, it is very, very rare to see this benefit in actual implementation.

Bringing it All Together – Over-Advertising Rare Amenities

Imagine yourself as a an everyday drive-alone commuter. You drive 3 miles to work and 3 miles home. Work is well within a bikable and, arguably, a walkable commute. You’re likely within range of a transit option, as well. You’ve heard of people commuting to work, but thus far it’s not really for you.

But then you come across an article that says, “Hey, your employer could become bike-friendly in 5 easy steps!” You read on and the article says, “1. Bicyclists don’t want to go to work all sweaty. Build them bike showers!”

You think to yourself, “Ya… I don’t want to get to work all sweaty. I’ll consider biking if they install showers.”

Further on, the article reads, “2. Bicycle thieves can get through any lock. Build bike cages or install bike lockers!”

You think to yourself, “Ya… I don’t want to spend $600 on a bike only for it to get stolen. I’ll consider biking if they make a bike cage.”

Further on, the article reads, “3. People don’t want to have to deal with cars while biking to work. Locate your business near a major bike path!”

You think to yourself, “Ya… I don’t want to mess with cars, either! I’ll consider biking when I don’t have to set a single wheel on the same road as a car!”

And suddenly the article on bike commuting and what an employer can do to support bike commuters has instilled more hesitations and rationalizations than were natively in the the potential rider’s head.

But but… I can’t ride my bike to work without all these potential amenities! It would be a disaster!

The worst part is that not only are these types of bike commuter amenities rare, but they’ll always be rare because they’re all wrought with unreal expectations.

  • Bike Showers
    • Installation Needs – Separate room(s), plumbing, security
    • Risk – More than one person in a shower, peepers, accidental flashing, slip hazards
    • Drama – Time in the shower
    • Cost – Significant
    • Alternative – Have experienced bike commuters describe how well they get by without a shower after a bike commute and what particular steps they take to do so.
  • Bike Cages
    • Installation Needs – Space, construction, membership security system, cameras
    • Risk – Little
    • Drama – Little
    • Cost – Significant
    • Alternative – Educate on the best and worst types of bike locks in addition to best-case locking methods.
  • Bike Path Proximity
    • Installation Needs – Not within your control.
    • Risk – None.
    • Drama – The fight to get a bike path steered towards your work site or to have your work site change locations
    • Cost – None, usually.
    • Alternative – Accept that locating a bike path and business require levels of decision making and variable evaluation with which simple requests can’t compete. Instead, provide quality road bicycling education (TS 101, Cycle Savvy) to negate the professed need for bike paths.

Excellent. Now your potential cyclists won’t ride because they’re under the impression that all those things they heard about are fiscally possible and the only reasons you won’t implement such amenities is because you’re cheap!

Bringing it All Together – Over-Incentivizing

Incentives cost money, time, and effort. For the most part, there is no plug-and-play incentive or amenity out there aside from the “Support” incentives described above. Bike parking standards are well known (APBP), Guaranteed Rides Home are a standard practice within Transportation Demand Management, Free Occasional Parking is easy to wrap your head around, and all people understand the value of bike education (even if they’re unwilling to take part in it themselves).

Support incentives are also provide the best bang-for-the-buck. Having quality bike parking is a capital investment. Well-negotiated, you get install bike parking for $100/bike stall plus the land it occupies. And bike racks are built to last. Even with a campus of 12,000+ employees, we go through 2-3 GRH’s a month. Free parking is easy to organize if you control the parking. Bike education lasts a life time.

But consider the cost of the Amenities. Showers, storage lockers, bike cages, and bike lockers are all very expensive and you will likely need to recuperate their very high cost. That means limiting shower time, having to rent out the storage lockers and bike lockers, and charging a fee for use of the bike cage. So, instead of just capital expense, you have maintenance expense as well. The amenities will certainly be hits with existing cyclists,  but just how many NEW cyclists will you get from it?

Cash incentives are the worst. If your company of 1,000 has a 5% bike commute rate and you implement a $5/day bike commuter award, without a single new rider, you’re in the hole $5,250/month. And if you’re wise enough to limit such an incentive to *new* bike commuters only, you still risk them ending their bike commute when their temporary cash incentive ends.


This has been a very, very long blog post that I will likely have to come back and edit. Regardless of edits, though, the premise will stay clear: Do not blindly throw incentives and amenities at potential bike commuters. Every single incentive you provide should be financially sustainable and work to *increase* the number of bike commuters by directly attacking their most significant hesitations. If a cheaper method of supporting your potential bike commuters exists, try it out.

But above all, do not resort to extrinsic incentives before fully exploiting the most pertinent intrinsic incentives to bike commuting.

  • You don’t have to pay for parking.
  • You don’t have to pay for commute fuel.
  • You don’t put miles on your car.
  • You get exercise on your commute and thus feel better everywhere.
  • You lose weight/can eat more — or even both!
  • Depending on your location, your bike commute may be shorter than your driving commute.
  • You’re not polluting the air.


Posted in Bike.UCI Programs and Initiatives, Sustainable Transportation | Leave a comment

The Motorist is Absolved of Fault!

Time and time again, the actions of bad drivers are supported by the inaction of law enforcement. We all see tons of people using their cell phones while driving and we’re all aware of the danger that their actions place on themselves and those around them.

No, seriously. Glowing blue crotches are deadly. STOP LAUGHING. THIS IS SERIOUS!

April was distracted driving awareness month and some police departments took it seriously.

But in reality, while the revenue from tickets surely poured in, the effort didn’t continue past April. Why not? Because the cite-writers can empathize. They’re drivers, too. They fiddle with their phones when they shouldn’t as well.

But that’s not the point! That shouldn’t matter!

And then there’s the recent issue of motorists using pedestrian signals to decide whether or not they can increase speed to beat a light. When the driver ahead of them, contrarily decides to brake at the yellow, the considerate driver gets rear-ended.

This signal is to help people walk across the street. Nothing else. This is not a tough concept.

Now, liability is obviously with the motorist in the rear. Pedestrian signals are in place exclusively for the management of sidewalk-to-sidewalk traffic. At no place in law, MUTCD, or HDM does it suggest otherwise. Thus, the motorist is at fault if s/he uses a pedestrian signal to measure how to drive an automobile on the road and, in doing so, causes harm to person or property.

Moreover, California Vehicle Code 21703 explicitly states: “The driver of a motor vehicle shall not follow another vehicle more closely than is reasonable and prudent, having due regard for the speed of such vehicle and the traffic upon, and the condition of, the roadway.” That’s the citation to resolve the rear-ending issue. Increase the fine, advertise it well, and watch these kinds of collisions go down.

Do not pass go. Do not collect $200. You did wrong, you hurt people, and you’re unquestionably guilty of crimes.

And yet, somehow, these pedestrian count-down timers are being BLAMED for “causing” accidents and people are questioning whether or not they should be allowed. (NPR)

Now, let’s talk about why these signals exist. On any two-lane street (one lane of traffic going in either direction), these countdown timers are not necessary because the street is narrow enough for a pedestrian to get across in just a few seconds.

When you have these massive arterial roads, however, with 4+ lanes going in either direction, it can take a pedestrian 40+ seconds to get across. If someone’s showing up to the corner with the signal having already started, the pedestrian needs to know how much time s/he has to cross before deciding to jump into the crosswalk. Thus the need for the pedestrian countdown timer.

And this one doesn’t even have 4 crosswalks!

So the problem is giant roads. Moreover, the underlying problem is that there is an over-inflated value of convenience placed on the motor vehicle and driver in comparison to all others using the public right of way. This is why the pedestrian signal exists AND why it is being blamed for the issue instead of the offending motorists themselves.

Drivers of motor vehicles notoriously go un-cited for harming bicyclists and pedestrians in the course of violating traffic law and, recently, some people are picking up on the pattern.… []… []… []… []

The last 4 decades of city design have seen the expectation of free right turns and high-speed right turns– both of which make traveling by automobile faster and more convenient, but also increasing the amount of time it takes for a pedestrian to cross a road. With the increased crossing time requirements, it becomes more and more necessary to have countdown timers on pedestrian signals.

If you want an engineering solution to this problem, implement the 3 engineering change below:

  1. Tighten up corners to at intersections. This reduces the distance corner-to-corner, reduces the time needed to cross the street, and slows down automobiles so that they actually see the pedestrians crossing the street.

    Via the magic of geometry, we keep the same amount of roadway and decrease pedestrian travel distance by over 30%!

  2. Add pedestrian bulb-outs wherever there is street parking to further reduce the time needed to cross the road.

    Amazing… -ly standard engineering techniques completely ignored by city planners.

  3. Then, and only then, remove the count-down timer for pedestrian signals at that intersection.


  1. The right-turning automobile is slowed.
  2. Pedestrians cross the street quicker and red signal durations become shorter because it takes less time for pedestrians to cross the street.
  3. Pedestrian count-downs are removed due to lack of need thus removing the temptation from motorists to use them inappropriately.

While counter-intuitive, the answer is not further facilitating automobile transportation. Instead, it’s best-facilitating pedestrian transportation. If you stop trying to shoe-horn peds into a driving world and recognize that everyone lives safer and more conveniently when peds are catered to, we all get along that much better.

Can I get my honorary GED in Civil Engineering already?


Posted in Advocacy News, Follow Ramon, Sustainable Transportation | Leave a comment

Saddle Shopping – What a pain in the … !

I’m currently saddle shopping and it’s a major pain in the… soft tissue. The stock saddle that came with my 2012 Jamis Aurora has served me very well, but the upholstery is literally falling apart. I started my search about a month ago and had some specific needs:

  1. The saddle has to be brown. My bike is brown and orange and I really want to keep the motif.
  2. The saddle has to have either raised sit-bone pads or a significant cutout.
  3. The saddle has to be synthetic. My bike is used for commuting and is left locked up outside on a university campus. There’s too much risk of having a Brooks saddle stolen.
  4. The saddle has to be a bit on the wide side. I have a sizable derriere and, according to my at-home measurements, my sit bones are wider-spread than most men.

I visited about a dozen LBSs and the only brown saddles to be found were big beach cruiser saddles, so, I began shopping online. After much discernment, I threw down $50 and bought new brown saddle. On first ride to work (4 miles), it was just fine. On the ride home, however, the padding was so softened by the sunlight it received throughout the day that my sit-bones sunk right in and shoved a bunch of padding where it ought not be.

Ya, like that.

Moreover, on my first longer ride (18 miles), the last 9 miles were torturous with my feet going numb and my lower back starting to hurt from trying to find a “good enough” sitting position just to get home. All that soft padding was pressing all kinds of stuff best left not pressed.

This morning, I reinstalled my old stock saddle with a bit of duct tape in some key spots. I’m shopping once again for a new saddle.

Here is what I’ve learned thus far:

  1. The whole “women’s” and “men’s” saddle thing is a bit of a misnomer. There is nothing particularly specific about women or men that require they use different categories of saddles. What’s important is:
    1. Saddle Width – Sit bone distance for men and women overlap greatly. Separating them by gender tends only to limit the expectations of consumers.
    2. Cut-outs and Depth Variability.
    3. Amount and Softness of Padding — Hard/no padding is not for every type of cycling/cyclist. The same goes for soft padding.

      There’s more overlap than difference. Why label by gender? Why not just label with width and allow people to choose their saddles based on comfort and style?

  2. Having a style requirement when shopping for your saddle makes it very difficult to find the saddle you need. (I’m stubborn, though.)
  3. Buying a saddle online without testing it in person first is definitely risky. (I spent $50 on a saddle I won’t use. I will try to sell it for $30+).
  4. Go into saddle shopping blind of gender designations on saddles. Know what your body needs and shop for that. It doesn’t matter if it’s meant for a “boy” or a “girl” — a saddle that works for you just works.
Posted in Follow Ramon, Gear | Leave a comment

*COUGH COUGH* That’s a lot of dust!

I have been pitifully negligent of this site. There was a time when I couldn’t wait to write in it, but then work got so very impacted, that the blog was just pushed off the radar.

No, seriously. Plants need water. Blogs need entries.

Recently, 3 people (whom I have never met before) emailed me to tell me how much they loved reading my blog (apparently more like a book than a newsfeed) and asked me why I stopped writing. One just suggested that I simply pick it back up. Most popular post: the Fatlete, of course.

So here we go – the re-launch. And what are we starting with? A summary of advocacy opportunities past and yet to happen!

Newport Beach is currently developing a Bicycle Master Plan. Interested in seeing how these things get made? Want to learn about the committee process and place of a planner? Have input? Here’s their page. When the next meeting is scheduled, it will likely end up here. I’ll try to re-post the announcement here as well.

The City of Irvine is also working on an Active Transportation Plan. If you’re a frequent rider in Irvine, you know that it’s already a fairly easy place to ride. Still, there’s always room for improvement. If you have any suggestions, send them off to Mike Davis (

OCTA is continuing it county-wide arterial work to better facilitate bicycle transportation. Consider attending one of the public workshops.

While we’re talking about OCTA, they’ve recently created a TV spot (watch it here: that helps to remind everyone that there are cyclists on the road. It’s simple, correct, and effective. Their site even has a quick quiz for you to take.

More to come!!

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Bicycles – For When the Car Fails

It would be a pretty cheap shot for this blog to list all the things your average four-door sedan can’t do that a bike can, but in the event of a general emergency when fuel is short, automobiles are damaged, and there’s still the need for people and goods to get around, there will always be the bike.

I promise, my good man! The meter is off!

After the rain from Super Storm Sandy stopped, New Yorkers were hit with a fuel shortage and thus fuel rationing. Personal automobiles quickly became useless (if not from the lack of fuel, then from water damage). Public works, emergency responders, and transit were given priority for fuel and the lines to get on the running buses will go down in history.

For Pete’s sake, people! Please have the EXACT CHANGE ready when you board!

People had to get places and for most New Yorkers, the only way to get from point A to point B can be by motor. Still, there were others who not only got around without gasoline or diesel. They thrived.

Burning calories, saving money, traveling through a metropolitan wasteland — All in a day’s biking!

So just like any tech, when the most relied-upon gadget fails, people will always fall back on the most reliable gadget.

That brings me to actual preparation. While good people can always bet on good people helping out, it shouldn’t be governmental or organizational expectation that the needs of the masses will be met by those with simple good will.

I think there are maybe a dozen full-fledged, privately owned cargo bikes in the whole of Orange County as it is.

What we need is a back-up plan for when the automobile fails us. It  may be a quick unforeseen disaster (California Earthquake) or disaster that we can actually prepare for (Sandy), but either way we need to accept that our roads will become quickly useless in a mass-panic and evacuation.

Earlier in the history of this blog, I ran across an article describing the use of bicycles for EMT travel in London. That’s right, traffic is so congested  in London that it’s of genuine benefit for the community at large that some EMTs be on bikes. Here’s the official site (Click me to learn more!) I’ve loved this idea since I found it and have found many other versions under the term “Bicycle Emergency Response Team” or BERT.

Roads?… Where we’re going, we don’t need roads.

Fire trucks, ambulances, and service vehicles need roads. A bicyclist just needs a direction. How serious do I think it is to integrate the use of bicycles in emergency planning? Well, take a look at UC Irvine:

The campus is a set upon a set of very odd concentric shapes. That’s great in that it preserves a minimally-motorized central campus, but it also provides for multiple very-limited points of egress. If the area was struck by an 8.5 earthquake in the middle of week 6 of Winter Quarter, it’s easily imaginable that faculty, staff, and students alike would feel compelled to leave the campus to be with loved ones… especially if there  is news of injured loved ones. The bottlenecks would be Anteater Drive, Bison, and Campus drive wherever it touches the campus and Arroyo Drive would be useless when those parking lots empty.

We know this congestion as “rush hour” on a daily basis but with so many people scrambling to get out while emergency vehicles are scrambling to get in, we’re headed for gridlock. Gridlock is annoying, but it’s genuinely dangerous when people are trapped under heavy cabinets or if they’ve fallen down stairs. Response time is important and that’s why UC Irvine has the Campus Search And Rescue plan/team/training/thing.

UCI has a program similar to most major cities that trains willing students, staff, and faculty to respond to general emergencies in a hierarchical and organized manner. Resources, after all, quickly become limited and without some sort of organization, those resources can just rot when they can be used.

I completed this program recently, learned a ton, and will be taking the City of Irvine CERT training after the new year. If you would like to learn more about UCI CSAR or the City of Irvine’s CERT programs, just click on the links.

I mention all that because for at least 10% of each of the classes, I was thinking “Well, how will people be getting from one part of campus to the other with gear and in a hurry?” The obvious solution is to train people to bike with gear so that they could use that experience in daily life and emergencies, but it didn’t seem obvious to anyone else. Imagine the value of a cargo or touring cyclist in an emergency!

At the very least, I have my own top secret plan to release ~20 bikes to emergency responders on campus, but it’s of significantly lower value than people actually being prepared.

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The Evils of Deferred Maintenance

(From Early October, 2012)

Deferred Maintenance refers to the act of saving money now by not providing for one’s minimum standard of functionality and accepting the risk of failure and higher costs in the future. It is often a function of oversight or under-funding and is generally defined as a “bad idea”. After all, if you own something that requires maintenance, chances are that you don’t want it to suffer a catastrophic failure at any point during your possession of that object.

Well, a few months back, I was considering replacing my bike chain. I knew then as I know now that a bike chain can stretch in length and that stretching is bad because it would mean that the chain wouldn’t always meet up 100% with the teeth on a cog or chainring. Furthermore, I read that overstretched chains can lead to increased cog wear and vice versa. I also read the incredibly easy way to check if one’s chain is too stretched and requires replacement. What incredibly specialized tools are required to check one’s chain’s stretch? A ruler. Just a rule.

Here’s how to check the stretch on your chain:

  1. Have a ruler.
  2. Go to your bike chain.
  3. Choose a chain link on the left side of your chain.
  4. Place the start of your ruler at the center of one of the link pins (axle).
  5. Look at the 12″ mark. Is it in the middle of another pin? Then you’re good. Is pin center at the 12 1/16″ mark? Then replace the chain. Is the pin center at or past the 12 1/8″ mark? Then you’re likely going to have to replace your rear cogs and possibly your front chainrings as well.

That’s easy enough, right? And if it’s not easy enough, Park Tool has a chain wear measurer (of course).

Around April of this year, having done some further reading on the maintenance of various parts of a bicycle, I contemplated buying a new bike chain. I had read about the measuring the chain (like above) and also heard of “rules of thumb” such as replacing your chain ever 1500-2000 miles. I did some quick math and figured that I had ridden at least 1800 miles on the stock chain by that day. “It’s time to buy a new chain!,” I said to myself.

But I didn’t. I looked around and compared prices and then looked at other parts… but never got around to buying a new chain. I just put it off. After all, how bad could some chain stretch be, right?

More info on chain stretch.

Well, it turns out that a sufficiently stretched chain wears down cogs faster than a lesser-stretched chain, so right off the bat, you’re reducing the life span of some of your components when you delay buying a new chain.

What’s worse is the threat of chain skipping. When you have worn cogs and a stretched chain, your chain can actually slip from a larger cog to a smaller cog when under great stress. This could lead to the foot that’s currently in the down-pedal to move too quickly, slip off the pedal, and hit the ground. You and your bike would then quickly pivot around that planted foot and you fall.

And by “you”, I mean “me”. =\

That’s not me, that’s not how I fell, and I didn’t crash in the rain… but that’s how I felt.

That’s right folks, I made the silly, silly error of riding my bike for 1800+ miles under high weight and torque without replacing the chain. And boy did my knee regret it.

I fell crossing Michelson going northbound on Harvard. I had just started to stand up and put the torque on for maximum acceleration. My right foot was in the down-stroke and *WHAM* the right pedal spins, my foot hits the ground, my forward movement pivots around my right leg, and and I fall on my right knee.

I quickly jump up and move my bike gear out of traffic. I am angry. I don’t like falling in public. It had only *almost* happened once before. My heart is racing, my right calf is dripping a little blood, and my instinct is just to jump on the bike and get back to riding. But then I look at my bike.

The handlebars are tweaked. One of my two aluminum water bottle cages is broken. I’m not surprised, but, again, I’m annoyed. I pull off my panniers and pull out my multitool. I un-tweak my handlebars. I remove the now-jagged hazard of a water bottle cage. I flip my bike upside down and stop everything. I still feel my heart racing. With the combination of the extreme self-annoyance that came with the fall, being in the middle of the street, having to fix up my bike on the road, and what I’m noticing to be a fairly significant pain in my left knee, I acknowledge quite consciously that my blood is totally shot up with adrenaline and if I were to jump on a hastily repaired bicycle, it’s likely that my regular reactions would be exaggerated and I risk falling again.

This stuff can be a total blast… unless you need your calm wits about you.

I take solace in the dominance of my rationality. I sit on the curb, do an injury inventory, and just calm down.


  • Left knee swelling, getting hard to move in either direction.
  • 2nd toe on right foot a bit stiff. (I’m guessing that this was my pivot point)
  • Some blood on the back of my right calf. (Pedal spin and scrape.)
  • No hand injuries. (All praise to bike gloves!)
  • No head injuries. (Helmet never touched the ground.)
  • Left shoulder pain. (Likely a minor sprain.)

I get through it all, resolve that (with my knee beginning to seize up) I need to get home quickly, and get back to my bike. I adjust the front derailleur a bit. I check the rear derailleur. I check the spokes. I take a long stare at my cassette and chainrings. The wear is very evident. I’ve been voluntarily ignorant of the wearing of these parts. I have no one to blame but myself.

But everything is working within expectations (expectations being significantly lowered given my recognition of the chain slip issue). I pack everything up, re-attach my panniers, put my helmet and gloves back on, and wait at the corner for the light. I stretch my left leg a bit and it’s already stiff. The light goes green and I take what must have been the most leisurely acceleration from a stop I’ve pedaled in months.

I slowly climb over the Harvard bridge crossing the 405. I continue pedaling down the other side for fear that my knee tighten up in a relaxed state. It hurts just a bit to lift my knee to the peak of the stroke. Luckily the horribly-timed traffic lights in Irvine seem to be timed perfectly for bikes and I cruise the rest of the way home only being stopped once by a red.

I park my bike in the garage, remove my panniers, and start deciding on a path of investigation for my fall and, subsequently, the parts that will have to be replaced. My day ends with an ice-pack on an elevated, swollen knee, anger at myself for deferring maintenance that needn’t be deferred, and the fact that I will miss work the next day to rest the knee, see a doctor, and get some X-rays.

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Bicycling & The Law (Bob Mionske, JD) – Book Review

I read this book once through. It was like reading a combination of the California Vehicle Code and my undergraduate Constitutional Case Law book. And that’s a GOOD THING! This book feels heavier despite its narrowness because it is PACKED full of information. It’s my bike law bible. I read through the book once and, now, just refer to it as “What would Bob say?”.

This book covers everything from lane positioning to collisions to insurance (theft, health, and liability). Make no mistake- this is not a novel. This is not a story book. If anything, this is a textbook—a must-have textbook for any bicycle advocate in the States

The only flaw I find in this book is its use of the Uniform Vehicle Code- a nationally-recognized but 100% non-binding suggestion of state-level vehicle code that was, at one time, maintained by the National Committee on Uniform Traffic Laws and Ordinances… until it disbanded. Today, the UVC has little significance except in legacy. This one flaw does not, however, reduce the value of the book. It would have been an extraordinary burden, after all, to quote every single state’s relevant bike law as necessary. The UVC is sufficient in this case and if you need exact state details for your case, you should read what Bob says and then look up the law yourself. It builds character. ;)

If you would like to borrow this book, let me know.

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Pedaling Revolution (Jeff Mapes) – Book Review

This might have been the first cultural/historical book I purchased… and it was a good choice. It’s a very modern book in that it focuses on the theories, opinions, and cities of today instead of spending too much time trying to summarize was being a penny-farthing rider was like.

At over 270 pages, this isn’t a quicky read unless you know a good deal about the bike histories of Portland, Oregon and Davis, California. There’s great insight into the actual efforts made and trials walked to make a more bike-friendly place to live.

This is a great modern history of bikes, laws, and infrastructure and has appearances from names familiar to advocates like Birk, Blumenaur, Takemoto-Weets, Forester, etc. Additionally, there is an ample bibliography of articles (academic and periodical) and books in the back to keep you reading.

I would definitely suggest this book to anyone who already bikes and is seeking to understand recent bike history, especially those working in advocacy, transportation demand management, and urban planning. As usual with my reviews, if you would like to borrow this book and don’t mind random highlighting, just let me know.

Posted in Bike Education, Follow Ramon | 1 Comment