Ghost Cycles
August 2, 2005 10:00 PM   Subscribe

Ghost Cycle is a group in Seattle raising awareness for bike safety by displaying whited-out old bikes in places where cars have hit cyclists. They've also got an ingenious use of Google Maps to show you all the spots where accidents have been reported and where they've placed a ghost cycle, like this one. They also compile statistics on their reports ("1 in 5 accidents were hit and runs").
posted by mathowie (58 comments total)
 
Personally, I'm glad to see a bike activist group use subtle displays and some web technology to educate the public. I'm used to more in-your-face tactics used by groups like Critical Mass, which in my opinion don't always promote the cause in a good way and often alienate instead of convince the masses.
posted by mathowie at 10:02 PM on August 2, 2005


How long do they stay there until someone comes along with an angle grinder (the city road crew?) and takes those away?

The website is, probably, more permanent.
posted by Balisong at 10:20 PM on August 2, 2005


Being hit twice by a car myself while cycling I support any velo activists.

BUT ...

There are many crazy cyclists out there: aggressive driving, no lights at night and no regards for the rule anyway.
posted by homodigitalis at 10:31 PM on August 2, 2005


I've see this one each morning when I ride down Broadway around six or seven to get my morning cup of coffee, Then it's light out and there's no traffic. I wouldn't think of riding my bike there at night...

Man, it's only been there for about a week--and here's a link on MetaFilter already.
posted by y2karl at 10:35 PM on August 2, 2005


How long do they stay there until someone comes along with an angle grinder (the city road crew?) and takes those away?

No long I would guess. I don't know if it is a Midwestern thing (I would guess not) but people often put white cross on the side of the road where people were killed by drunk drivers. And very often road-crews come and take them, and there is outrage, etc.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 10:38 PM on August 2, 2005


(I cycle past three of these on my way to work here...)

In San Francisco they used to paint cyclists with wings on the pavement wherever there'd been an accident (they probably still do). Sadly I can't find the relevant image on the web.
posted by marvin at 10:45 PM on August 2, 2005


Can one of you bike riders that ride on the sidewalk tell me WTF is up with that?? I've been hit twice by bike riders on the sidewalk (not serious), and another close call where had I not jumped out of the way I would have been seriously injured.

True story: on my daily walk home around Lake Merritt a guy was weaving in and out between people on the sidewalk. I just happened to catch up to him (he was waiting to cross the street). I said, very nicely, that he should use the very large bike lane in the street (an unusually large one, I might add). He replied "do you know how dangerous the road is?" Now, that just floored me. My jaw dropped and I just looked at him, finally thanking him for trading his safety for mine. Clueless.

Someone. Please explain this madness.
posted by e40 at 10:48 PM on August 2, 2005


Cyclists should not ride on the sidewalk e40. A bike is a vehicle and should be ridden in a street and what you are seeing are people breaking the law.
posted by mathowie at 10:51 PM on August 2, 2005


I'll be honest--I'm a hard core cyclist. But some of the people who I see riding on the street just scare me. People need to start to read the rules. Riding on the sidewalk is pure stupidity--you're sure to get hit eventually. The number of people I see riding in traffic, going the wrong way. Crazy. Everyone needs to read this book.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:59 PM on August 2, 2005


mathowie: I know they are breaking the law. Is it just that they're unaware of the law? (When I tell most people, they either tell me to fuck off or ignore me.) Do they just not give a shit? I'd really like to know.

Last story: was walking in downtown Berkeley one day and this guy rides toward me, quite fast. He's got a T-shirt on that says "One Less Car" and he's got baskets on his bike. Some sort of delivery service. Since he's coming at me fast, I freeze, to let him go by. He gets annoyed. I get annoyed. I tell him he should be on the street. He tells me get bent.

I almost made up T-shirts that said "One Less Bike", but I figured I wouldn't make it very long walking the streets of Berkeley and no one would get the joke (except THAT guy).
posted by e40 at 11:07 PM on August 2, 2005


duff link ironmouth
posted by marvin at 11:12 PM on August 2, 2005


Oh man this is a pet peeve of mine. STAY OFF OF THE GODDAM SIDEWALKS, BIKE-RIDERS!! It is not only stupid, dangerous, and irresponsible of you to be riding your bikes on the sidewalks, but it is also illegal (at least in San Francisco). Stop it! Stop it! STOP IT!!!!!!!!!

e40: I had the same idea for the 'One Less Bike' T-Shirts... I still think we should print them up.
posted by trip and a half at 11:18 PM on August 2, 2005


98% of the cyclists involved in accidents were obeying the law? As both a cyclist and a driver in Seattle, I have a hard time believing this number. I frequently see people running red lights and switching between the road and sidewalk as they seem fit. According to the site only 34% of the accidents were reported, so maybe a large part of the other 66% are cyclists who are at fault.

Regardless of the statistics, the ghost cycles I've seen around town have made an impact. I'm more thoughtful of the two wheelers around town and the areas where accidents have occurred.
posted by lasm at 11:18 PM on August 2, 2005


1 in 5 were hit and runs?

What the fuck is wrong with people?
posted by dreamsign at 11:47 PM on August 2, 2005


Do they just not give a shit?

This would be my guess. Not to paint a broad stroke, but a lot of the cyclists I've seen and dealt with want to have the rights of a vehicle but not obey laws (red lights, turn signals, etc).

I almost hit a guy in Milwaukee who rode out in front of me (a 4-way stop, and I had the green light) as I made a turn in to a gas station. He then had the audacity to come and confront me as I pumped gas.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 12:03 AM on August 3, 2005


I count myself lucky not to have been in a serious accident yet while bicycle commuting. A friend of mine, one of the most responsible bicyclists I've known, was hit a few years ago and nearly died. The motorist who hit him was uninsured. Why he's not in jail, I have no idea.

There are an awful lot of stupid cyclists here in Seattle, though. I've twice come very close to hitting cyclists wearing dark clothes at night, with no helmet, reflectors or lights. What the hell, people? Wear a goddamned helmet.
posted by hades at 12:03 AM on August 3, 2005


Personally, I'm glad to see a bike activist group use subtle displays and some web technology to educate the public. I'm used to more in-your-face tactics used by groups like Critical Mass, which in my opinion don't always promote the cause in a good way and often alienate instead of convince the masses.

Critical Mass, feh.

Color me alienated.

When I cannot even cross the street when I'm trying to walk home (or catch public transpo), those self-involved owners of the fancy bicycles look to me exactly like the people in the stalled humvees they're trying so hard to piss off, except that they themselves are not even trying to obey the traffic laws.

Talk about delusions of 'entitlement'.

Bah.
posted by trip and a half at 12:05 AM on August 3, 2005


I don't like cyclists on the sidewalk here in Seattle much either, but it's legal. I guess I can't really blame them for wanting to avoid cars, but still.

This article makes it sound like Seattle DOT is supportive of their action. Then this one, quoting the same spokesperson, makes it sound like they are supportive, BUT...
posted by pitchblende at 12:18 AM on August 3, 2005


Riding a bike on the sidewalk may be dangerous, rude, and wrong, but in Seattle it is legal.
posted by fatllama at 12:30 AM on August 3, 2005


Um, yeah, what pitchblende said.
posted by fatllama at 12:30 AM on August 3, 2005


Interesting, I assumed cycle referred to motorcycles and not bicycles. I like this concept either way though and anything to raise awareness (in a good way because I agree that Critical Mass seems to be more about pissing people off than raising any awareness) is a good thing.

My sidewalk story is kind of funny. There's a great place to ride along the ocean in Santa Cruz called West Cliff. It winds along the coast and has great views and is generally just gorgeous. It also has a wide sidewalk to accomodate pedestrians and bikers. But when I get to Natural Bridges and turn around to come back with the wind, I stay in the street because I'm generally cooking pretty good the whole way back.

At one of the stop signs along the way, I had an idiot lady lean across her daughter in the passenger seat and yell at me "Why don't you ride that thing on the sidewalk and stay out of me way?" To which I just looked at her, looked at her mortified daughter and asked her if she had any idea what a truly ridiculous thing she'd just said. She obviously hadn't thought it through and just repeated it. I rode away, in the street.
posted by fenriq at 12:34 AM on August 3, 2005


I was surprised when I visited Seattle a few years ago to see policemen on bicycles riding on the sidewalk!

But it is very definitely against the traffic code here in San Francisco, and has been since the early seventies. And for good reason, in my opinion.

About 15-16 years ago, I was walking with a close friend along Fillmore Street in a popular shopping district, when a pre-teen came around the corner from a side street and gouged out a good portion of my friend's calf with the pedal of his bicycle.

It's simply unsafe to allow bicycles on sidewalks in urban areas. I hope Seattle and other cities catch on sooner rather than later.

I should also add that I was for years a cyclist in San Francisco, and I know it's dangerous to ride in the road, and tempting to ride on the sidewalks. But it is an elective option and a privelege to ride a bicycle, and thus carries responsibilities.

It seems to me that walking is the default mode of transportation for anyone, anywhere, and walkers should not have to constantly gauge whether or not some self-involved twit is bearing down on them at 10 times their speed on a giant hunk of metal.
posted by trip and a half at 12:44 AM on August 3, 2005


er, 'privilege'
posted by trip and a half at 12:49 AM on August 3, 2005


My Pet Peeve is cars on the road. They are dangerous,messy, noisy and rude. Plus the drivers frequently fail to obey the rules of the road.

Why is it whenever there is cycling safety thread some people always chime in with the Sidewalk rider bugaboo? It is as if cyclists riding on a sidewalk are somehow equivalent to being run over by a car.

I am both a pedestrian and cyclist and while I find it rude and a mild threat when someone cycles on the sidewalk it is nothing compared to how I feel every single day when I have my bicycle on the road. It is not even close.

Where I have lived cycling accidents are very rare because most people think it is absurdly dangerous to ride a bike. I used to cycle commute across the entire city of Mississauga every day and I would see only about 4 or 5 other cyclists. My coworkers all thought I was insane. That is the real impact of fear.

It seems to me that walking is the default mode of transportation for anyone, anywhere, and walkers should not have to constantly gauge whether or not some self-involved twit is bearing down on them at 10 times their speed on a giant hunk of metal.

Actually, I think this should be true for everyone - not just walkers.
posted by srboisvert at 1:09 AM on August 3, 2005


In San Francisco they used to paint cyclists with wings on the pavement wherever there'd been an accident (they probably still do).

Right of Way in New York do something like that.
posted by Pseudonumb at 3:46 AM on August 3, 2005


e40:
Someone. Please explain this madness.

Simple. The number of pedestrians killed by cyclists is utterly utterly dwarfed by the number of cyclists killed by motor vehicles, therefore, cycling on the sidewalk (where legal) reduces the overall death toll, which I am sure you will agree, is a good and noble thing. It probably also reduces the overall injury rate as well.

(FWIW, I walk my bike when using pedestrian crossings or ped areas, even though it's quite legal to ride it on pedestrian areas. I'm mainly commenting because I think you're over-reacting.)
posted by -harlequin- at 4:02 AM on August 3, 2005


Over here (a'dam) we ride a lot of bike; guess because the country is flat and not too big and we are cheap ;). Bigger roads have separate biking paths, mostly just a (indication of a) strip on the side of the road but this city is very accesable to cyclists.
Since almost everybody rides a bike at least once in a while, car-drivers know what it's like in traffic being a cyclist and note you. Actually, The law says it's always the cardriver's fault when in an accident with a cyclist or pedestrian' as protection for the cyclist.

Mopeds(max 30mph) are the most dangerous way of traffic here. For a long time they were supposed to ride the bike-path but that was causing problems with slower cyclists. You know; kids between 16 and 18 (allowed to drive a car at 18), tweaked moped being wild ;)
Now they are supposed to drive the car-lane and going faster then a cyclist but being about the same size, no-one notices you. I sometimes ride my Puch oldtimer for fun and already got cut badly off twice this year.

btw. what really seems wierd to me is wearing a helmet when cycling.. I never met anyone who had more then a light concussion after an accident where the head was involved. Or do you all bike above constantly above 15?
posted by borq at 5:32 AM on August 3, 2005


o yeah: from 2007 on the deathbar/ bullbar is forbidden by law in NL
posted by borq at 5:41 AM on August 3, 2005


from http://bicycleuniverse.info:
"Where cyclists die or crash

U.S. cyclists are three more likely to be killed than German cyclists and six times more than Dutch cyclists, whether compared per-trip or per-distance traveled. (Reuters, Aug. 28, 2003, by Maggie Fox)

Texas leads cycling deaths. Texas ranks 14th in number of cyclist fatalities per capita. (5)

Four states lead cycling deaths. Four states (California, Florida, New York, and Texas) accounted for 43% of bicycle deaths in 1999. (6)

Most deaths on major roads. Fifty-seven percent of bicycle deaths in 1999 occurred on major roads, and 37 percent occurred on local roads. (6)

Streets with bike lanes have a significantly lower crash rate then either major or minor streets without any bicycle facilities (38 and 56% respectively). (William Moritz, 1998)

Streets with bike lanes are safer than those without. Article also has information about the safety of bike paths. (BicyclingInfo.org, 2004)

Riding on the sidewalk is several more times more dangerous than riding in the street. (William Moritz, 1998)

Austin stats. Statistics specific to Austin are listed below."
posted by borq at 5:48 AM on August 3, 2005


ironmouth-I'm curious what book you linked to, the link is wrong.

I like this approach to cycle activism. I like critical mass also. I think there's room for both. I've seen so much bad behavior by drivers toward cyclists that it boggles my mind. Here in Baltimore they're awful, which is strange, because there's a HUGE jaywalking culture here that no one seems to mind.
posted by OmieWise at 5:55 AM on August 3, 2005


Seems to me that rather than raising awareness those spooky bicycles will just convince people that cycling is too dangerous.

Oh yeah, I ride in Chicago's Critical Mass sometimes and I'm always disgusted by the false sense of entitlement some of the riders have. I do it for the fun - but there's a noticeable percentage of massers who are there just to create confrontation with motorists.
posted by wfrgms at 6:25 AM on August 3, 2005


Ghost Bike in Park Slope

Cyclists should not ride on the sidewalk e40. A bike is a vehicle and should be ridden in a street and what you are seeing are people breaking the law.

Living and riding in Oakland, I felt strongly the same way. In Brooklyn, things are different enough to give me pause. I see with frightening regularity drivers becoming even more aggressive in the presence of bikers. The only protection under the law you have is the principle that drivers should respect your bicycle as they would any other vehicle; for some drivers, that means not at all.
posted by eddydamascene at 6:32 AM on August 3, 2005


After I was hit by a car (she ran through and intersection and totaled my bike) I rode the sidewalk for a week. In Chicago it's illegal for adults to do that, I actually was pulled over on my bike by a cop who told me so.

In my defense, I rode early in the morning where there really wasn't any foot traffic!
posted by mrs.pants at 7:15 AM on August 3, 2005


-harlequin-: I don't think I'm overreacting. As I said, I've been hit twice (one time was a hit and run... the person wouldn't even stop and didn't say a word), and nearly killed.

I think the cyclists that ride the sidewalk have made a selfish choice: trading my safety for theirs. I don't remember having a say in that.

Yes, where I walk, it is illegal for cyclists to ride on the sidewalk. I've complained to cops about it, but they seem to care little for the problem.

There are things cyclists can do to be safer. How's this: instead of riding on the busiest damn street in the area, how about using side streets? Countless times I've seen rides on the sidewalk of a busy street (College Ave in Berkeley, for example), but there is a perfectly nice parallel side street they could use. In the case of College Ave, it's really dangerous. Does that warrant riding on the sidewalk? Or, should they use their f'ing brain and move one block west and ride in the street in relative safety?
posted by e40 at 7:35 AM on August 3, 2005


what happened to this thread?!

this is about a way to honor dead cyclists. there is a ghost bike a block from my house that I wass everyday. It is for a woman named Elizabeth Padilla. A woman that I saw very often as she and I both freqented the same coffees shop and took the same route on our commute. I commute to work every single day on my bike.

She was killed when a truck driver opened his door in front of her and she was knocked under the wheel of a multi ton delivery truck that was illegally passing her too close. Her head was smashed under the wheel. No charges were brought against either one of the drivers. Both drivers said that they "didn't see her."

Ghost bikes are a very eerie and fitting marker of these deaths. Everyone needs reminding.

I am dissapointed that every, every, every bike thread on the blue immediately devolves into this same conversation. Cars are more dangerous, damaging and terrible than bikes by a long measure. I ask that people try to keep the dialog balanced.
posted by n9 at 7:48 AM on August 3, 2005 [1 favorite]


re: bikes on sidewalks. The best reason not to do this is that it is MUCH more dangerous than riding on the road. When you go across cross streets on the crosswalks you are doing just about the most dangerous thing that you can do on a bike. You can't be seen and cars are not looking for you there. This is the way that a *lot* of people get hurt killed. Everyone that knows about bike safety stats is very clear on this: bikes on sidewalks in urban areas are the worst idea, ever.
posted by n9 at 7:54 AM on August 3, 2005


how about using side streets?

e40 has a point that hasn't really been discussed in this thread thus far... finding the alt-route through and across interstitial places is both a strategic necessity and advantage to bicycle commuting... while i will echo the sentiments that riding on the sidewalk is most-times dangerous and wrong (here it's actually required along most of route 66 as it passes through town), i will always endorse the use of residential and sidestreets, as well as alleyways, vacant places, parks, trails, fence-holes, and even the occasional parking lot as a means to expedite the rate of and ensure the speed of my daily commutes to and from work/errands/wherever. cyclists should seek out the alt-route as a right and because it's just more fun to go where cars cannot. vigilance is always called for, of course... as is a bit of caution... but by getting off the street and into the inbetween places i genuinely feel safer for at least part of my ride
posted by RockyChrysler at 7:59 AM on August 3, 2005


re: bikers demand equal privs, but fail to follow the rules of the road.

Almost all cars are speeding almost all the time that they are not being held in traffic. Speeding means exceeding the posted speed limit. Speeding by even 5-10 mph in any speed range increases the chances of accident and fatality. Habitual speeding in my mind is equivalent to premeditation to murder. You know that you are putting lives at risk by breaking the law, but you are doing it anyway. Speeding in excess of a 55 or 65mph limit radically increases the chance of an accident occuring and deaths resulting.

Running red lights, splitting lanes and all the other typical bike do not increase the chance that the biker will kill someone (besides her/his self.) There has been 1 bike vs ped death of a ped in NYC in 20 years. There are typically more than 250 peds killed by motorists a year and more than 25 cyclists killed by motorists a year in NYC.

If you *never* speed then I suppose you could have a say about bikers ignoring traffic laws, but if you are a motorist the odds are that you do speed quite often and you should deal with that situation before you start in on bikers.
posted by n9 at 8:01 AM on August 3, 2005


how about using side streets?

In NYC this year four of the high-profile bike fatalities have been on streets designated as bike routes on the city's published bike map. In general side streets can be much more dangerous. You are more likely to get doored and hit on a narrow street where motorists are not paying attention.
posted by n9 at 8:04 AM on August 3, 2005


n9: My hat is off to anyone that braves the streets of NYC on a bicycle. I didn't even feel safe driving a car there, and I can't even imagine riding a bike on those streets.

As for what happened to this thread, it's my fault. I don't remember ever seeing this discussion on the blue, or I wouldn't have started it afresh.

For what it's worth, I love bike riding, and agree that more awareness of the dangers riders face is important. I completely support icons of fallen riders and pedestrians. The reminders can only do good for those at risk.
posted by e40 at 8:21 AM on August 3, 2005


Every morning, my bike route takes me through a residential neighborhood, a VA hospital's grounds, and finally a hospital's grounds. throughout the entire trip, I can maintain a constant speed that's very close to the posted speed limit (inside the VA and hospital's grounds, I can actually match the speed limit).

So far, my problem(s) aren't with inattentive drivers, but with drivers who refuse to believe I have any rights on the road. I've been cutoff, intentionally right hooked, verbally and physically threatened all because I'm on a bike. I really don't think anything is going to change with car/bike relationships until local/state governments continually remind drivers that cyclists have rights. Otherwise, I'll continue to be seen as an impediment by drivers.
posted by PantsOfSCIENCE at 8:22 AM on August 3, 2005


n9, I suspect this is one of those situations where cyclists are just going to be held to a (rather unfair) higher standard than motorists, just to be considered equals. On the up side, I don't think this is a can't-win situation for cyclists; I honestly suspect that if more cyclists obeyed the same rules that motorists have to follow, people would give them a bit more respect. As I said, it's unfair, but there you are.

Think of the situation from the perspective of a runner who uses city sidewalks, or someone who, for environmental reasons, chooses to walk to work rather than drive. In the bike-vs-car argument, these guys are definitely the lowest caste. I run a couple of miles a day, and I'm always amazed at the ignorance and rudeness I receive from a social group that's always complaining about the ignorance and rudeness they receive from motorists.

And personally, I'll take Critical Mass over pop hero worship any day.
posted by hifiparasol at 8:33 AM on August 3, 2005


n9: Running red lights... [does] not increase the chance that the biker will kill someone (besides her/his self.)

A car that takes evasive maneuvers to avoid someone running a red light can hit anything - property, someone in a car, a pedestrian, or someone on a bicycle or motorcycle. It's best for everyone if we look at it as if we are all sharing the road. Breaking the rules of the road puts other users of that road in danger.

This isn't a tit-for-tat game where you can say "I saw you speeding, therefore I can run this red light." The light is red for your safety as well as mine; running it puts more than you in danger.
posted by drstupid at 8:48 AM on August 3, 2005


over in boston, they're probably putting up ghost cycles that say "missed one here on 5/28/2004".
posted by muppetboy at 8:50 AM on August 3, 2005 [1 favorite]


Here in Tallahassee there are hardly any sidewalks outside of downtown, so whether or not to ride on them is something of a non-issue. Drivers not giving a rip about your rights as a cyclist on the road is a big issue, however.

Borq raises a good point in that most people in the US probably find it hard to empathize with cyclists because they never bike themselves. Awareness is a good start, but it seems as though giving people access to better cycling infrastructure (bike lanes, bike trails, route maps, public racks, etc.) might allow more people to reasonably consider a bike as a viable option for transportation. More cyclists, even occasional ones, may equal drivers more contientious of cyclists rights. In any event, making the road safer for cyclists is both relatively easy to do and relatively cheap, so why not?

Also, I was involved in two bike crashes involving automobiles when I lived in Seattle, neither of which was on the sidewalk. Only one so far here. Wish me luck!
posted by Pecinpah at 9:19 AM on August 3, 2005


in spite of it's reputation for being bike-friendly, seattle is decidely not a safe place to ride a bike. maybe 15 or 20 years ago it was, but not today.
posted by muppetboy at 9:27 AM on August 3, 2005


I've been on the receiving side of a hit-and-run. It was incredible. I was cycling down a hill, in full daylight, with no real traffic. I was obeying all laws. Some dude just pulled out of a side street, and t-boned me. I managed to pull my feet from the straps and jump at the last moment. I rolled up on his hood, denting it with my knees and elbows and came to a stop on his windshield.

The guy began *screaming at me*. He balled his fists up and started to come out of his car, presumably to inflict more damage on me as I lay hurt and panting on his windshield.

Fight or flight, eh? I chose to fight. I jumped up and began jumping on his car's hood, deliberately inflicting more damage to his car. I screamed back, "Yeah, get OUT. I am going to f*ing kill you, you worthless piece of ..." (You get the picture). He got back in his car, rolled up the window, waited for me to get off his hood, and then drove away.

The police later refused to take a hit-and-run report, even with eyewitness testimony available from a city bus. Too busy, I guess. Bikers aren't important to Minneapolis cops.

The thing I still find amazing is that the guy was furious at me for having been hit by him. His assumption of privilege was complete and utterly reflexive.
posted by Invoke at 9:37 AM on August 3, 2005


If theres a wide enough shoulder for a bike on the road, I have no problem with it. Most of the roads I drive on have no shoulders and are busy roads where cars have to change lanes and such to avoid some Lance Armstrong wannabe on the service road of an interstate highway.

Riding a puny bike with cars and trucks many times bigger that could kill or cripple you in an instant seems like bringing a peashooter to a gunfight.
posted by dr_dank at 9:54 AM on August 3, 2005


Invoke: You fucking rock, man. That's every pedestrian fantasy I've ever had.
posted by hifiparasol at 10:16 AM on August 3, 2005


I've noticed the ghost bikes when I was out bussing around Seattle yesterday. Surprising how many there are, and very thought provoking. I hope everyone who sees them takes a few moments to think not of the ghost bike but of who that person might have been, how much they're being missed by family and friends, etc.

On my own experience biking around the city, I am very well aware of how bad motorists can be out here. Dumb as a box of rocks. I was always very aware of my surroundings and intersections and cars passing, etc. when I was out biking around here. Can't do it now because of a back injury (not bike related).

The only time I was hit by a vehicle was when I was bicycling down one of those side streets a previous poster was suggesting we all ride on. It was a 'soccer mom' in a VW bus barreling through an intersection I was almost all the way through. She caught my right front handlebar and bounced me and the bike into the air. I came down balanced on both tires and did a quick 180, riding back at her swearing a blue streak. Her kids learned a whole new variety of cursing that day. . . She was very apologetic and paid for the repair of the bike tape on my handlebars and will probably carry that thought with her for the rest of her life that she almost killed someone because of her negligence. I know I will.

And yes, riding on sidewalks or against the flow of traffic is inexcusably rude and stupid. Bad bicyclists, *bad*
posted by mk1gti at 10:41 AM on August 3, 2005


Ghost bikes are a very eerie and fitting marker of these deaths. Everyone needs reminding. - n9

Just wanted to point out that the ghost bikes are not just marking cyclist deaths, but any auto/bike collision. Still an interesting project, but it's not as grim as that.
posted by raedyn at 12:03 PM on August 3, 2005


Invoke: Where in Mpls did that happen? Yikes.
posted by COBRA! at 12:22 PM on August 3, 2005


COBRA!, it was on Glenwood avenue, as you approach downtown (from the west I think, working from old memories here). There is a big hill right before the intersection leading to the impound lot. The guy had probably just gotten his car out of the police lot, which may explain some of his anger. I left Mpls ten years ago so things might have moved or been renamed since then.

I'm now living in Portland, which seems like a more bike-friendly place. However, I quit regular commuting via bike shortly after that accident, I was too bitter and violent toward cars to make it enjoyable any more. Carrying gravel in your basket to fling at think-they-are-invulnerable-jerks-in-cars, as I started to do, is not a healthy mental space to be in while cycling. I've recently been considering resuming biking once more, now that I've mellowed a bit with age.
posted by Invoke at 1:13 PM on August 3, 2005


Right on. For some reason, reading your story gave me this really vivid mental picture of getting t-boned while going down the huge incline on 50th st. in south Minneapolis (and that was before I got to the part where you said it happened here). Anyway, yeah, I think I know the place you're talking about.

For what it's worth, Minneapolis seems pretty bike-friendly these days. I bike to work 80% of the time and rarely have trouble. I do take a lot of comfort in the knowledge that the cleats on my clipless shoes would do a good job of fucking up someone's paint if they tried to force me off the road, though.
posted by COBRA! at 1:24 PM on August 3, 2005


Re: Safety of riding on the footpath. It IS safer. Riding out over cross-streets (without following ped proceedure) is extremely dangerous, but this is a seperate, and frequently correlated but not causal activity. Lumping the stats together is making an gross error. In the original example, the person stopped at the pedestrian crossing to wait for the cross-now lights. That's a completely different story. People can do dangerous things anywhere.

In my experience, cyclists who use footpaths because they are genuinely afraid of getting hit, are the last people to ride out over a cross-street, because the whole point of their behaviour is to be safer, and they are extremely aware of the dangers of things like that. :-) Cyclists who use footpaths for other reasons (skipping past traffic lights, or don't feel comfortable on the road, or are young and have been instructed by parents to stay off the road, etc etc) are more likely to do stuff like that.
posted by -harlequin- at 4:11 PM on August 3, 2005


Actually, that really needs a caveat. If there are crowds of people, the footpath is going to be more dangerous. Around here, hardly anyone walks anywhere, so the footpaths are pretty clear.

Also - safety tip for those worried about joggers, skateboarders, cyclists, rollar-skaters, wheel-chairs, radio controlled cars, etc on the footpaths - don't try to get out of their way, merely ensure there is always space to pass and leave the avoidance to them. The distance you look ahead increases with your speed, so normally they will have seen you a long time before you have seen them - even if you're just stepping out of a shop. If you notice them at the last minute, and make a fearful reflexive leap to get out of their way, chances are extremely high they were already shifting balance to avoid you, and you actually lept right into their path and now they can no-longer avoid you. Basically, you can't be avoided if you're dangerously unpredicatable.

I think my own scariest moment was a person in a wheelchair coming at me down a steep hill at high speed where the pavement was broken, packed earth, gravel, and rocks. The wheelchair was bouncing wildly, twisting back and forth, more wheels in the air than on the ground, like it was runaway completely out of control, heading straight for me, and very close. My default assumption was that anyone living in a wheelchair is unlikely to lose control like that, but fear ran high until it was clear the person in the wheelchair was not worried, so I figured there was nothing to worry about. They live in that thing, they know it's limits and how to operate it. They were right. By the time it reached me, it was on a completely different path. If I'd been stupid and started bouncing around the place unpredictably (thinking to avoid it), I probably would have caused an accident.
posted by -harlequin- at 4:58 PM on August 3, 2005


I often bike, both on the street and on the sidewalk. I adapt my behavior to the environment: on the sidewalk I am slow, ready to stop instantaneously, and aware that pedestrians can change direction suddenly for no apparent reason and that their motion does not respect any rules. On the street I am faster but more respectful of the rules, keenly aware of whether I am visible and to whom, and I try to always be in full control and know exactly how long it will take me to get to a full stop.

I've had 3 minor accidents. Once a car passed me and immediately turned right into a driveway, as if I was invisible. Bang! Bike was totalled, but I was going slowly enough to escape unscathed. Another time I was going past a parked car and the woman in the car opened her door with no warning. Bang! (Not much damage). Her excuse: "I have a stiff neck and couldn't turn my head to look behind before opening the door" ! The third time I was going straight at an intersection, after waiting at the red light I started going through after the light turned green, and a car facing me turned left as if I was invisible and went into my from wheel (which had to be replaced). His excuse: "I had my blinker on!", but once I pointed out that I had priority, he was very apologetic, gave me a ride back and paid for the repair.

All 3 accidents happened when I was riding on the street. Now I try to steer clear of parked cars and aim to make eye contact with drivers whenever possible.

Cyclist are less visible than cars. Car drivers approaching an
intersection may see that there is no car coming and start
pulling in a bit so as to be able to see better (past the parked cars, say), and if a biker was hidden by the parked cars and approaching very fast, his trajectory may well intersect the hood of the car and he may not be able to stop. It's too easy for the cyclist to say afterwards that he was "respecting all the rules": in the same way that a car driver is required to be in control of his vehicle at all times, similarly a cyclist should be required to control his speed.
posted by bikerdriver at 8:32 PM on August 3, 2005


To the poster who suggested bikers stick to side streets...

Many side streets are horrible for biking down. They might have less traffic, but they'll usually have less space too. With most busy streets, they are usually wider, offering plenty of space to stay out of the way of cars 95% of the time.

Some busy streets are insane to go down though.
posted by drezdn at 10:56 PM on August 3, 2005


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