Sharing the Road Means Sharing the Air

A recent study done by Canadian scientists from Health Canada, Environment Canada, and University of Ottawa warns cyclists of the health risks they take when riding in the streets.

Now, they’re not just talking about the everyday fear of being struck by a car, but specifically, the study shows that car pollution and tailpipe exhaust can cause heart problems in cyclists who share the road–and subsequently, the air.
In this study, the scientists attached heart monitors to 42 healthy, nonsmoking cyclists to measure their heart rates before, during, and after their cycling. They also attached air pollution-detecting instruments to their bicycles and assigned some to congested and others to uncongested roads.
It was discovered that those who traversed the more congested roads had a lower heart rate variability after their ride. Heart rate variability, as described in the SF Chronicle article about this study, is a way to indicate how efficiently the heart can respond to stresses like exercising. The heart of a person with a lower heart rate variability has a harder time responding than the heart of a person with a higher heart rate variability.
What is it about congested roads that make the air so toxic? According to the SF Chronicle again, the fine particles of pollution that escape through tailpipes are “small enough to lodge deep in the lungs. Tiny particles can also cross the blood-brain barrier, potentially harming the nervous system.” And the cars that are known to emit the most of these toxic particles are diesel buses and trucks.
So now that you are properly worried for your health, keep in mind some simple advice from these scientists: (1) Keep farther away from tailpipes, as the the small particles clump together the further they get away from the car, making them too large to lodge deeply in your lungs; (2) Avoid streets with heavy traffic.
While this advice might seem trivial, it is the common sense of it all that will keep you safe.

Plaintiff Magazine: Bike Law 101 by Shaana Rahman

As those of you who follow us on Facebook may know, our very own Shaana Rahman recently wrote an article for Plaintiff Magazine in which she outlines 4 key tips to bike law and to representing cyclists.

As explained in the article, the attention directed on cyclist-motorist collisions–and the laws concerning them–is a direct result of the rise in urban cycling.
While I highly recommend reading the article itself, here is a brief summary of the 4 tips Ms. Rahman offers:
  1. Remember that the California Vehicle Code applies to cyclists: “It is important to ascertain whether or not your cyclist was in a riding position that comports with the Vehicle Code.
  2. Get to know what type of cyclist your client is: “The best client will be someone who is an experienced rider, riding a bicycle that has all the requisite safety equipment, meeting the requirements of Vehicle Code sections 21201 and 21201.5 and who is wearing bright, reflective clothing (including a helmet) to maximize their visibility.
  3. Evaluate differently each of the 5 most common car-versus-bike collisions: “1) A vehicle making a right turn across the cyclist’s lane of travel; 2) A vehicle executing a left turn at an uncontrolled (or non-dedicated left turn) intersection; 3) Dooring; 4) The failure of the cyclist or motorist to stop at a red light or stop sign, and 5) A vehicle or cyclist passing on the right.”
  4. Identify the other causes of the collision, including defective roadway collisions: “If you can identify a dangerous roadway condition, you will need to pursue a claim against any public entity that owned, possessed or maintained the roadway. If the public entity retained a private contractor to perform the road work which gave rise to the defect, the contractor will also be a defendant.”

If you are a regular reader of our blog or Facebook, or even if you have just been in the city streets, you are probably more than aware of how important bike law and safety is becoming. These tips, particularly the 4th, are critically important to follow when defending your client, not only to aid the individual, but to prevent future accidents from occurring by improving the condition in which our cyclists are riding.

Make it your mission to protect and speak up for these cyclists if you want to see some real change to our city.

Folding Bikes on Muni

Muni has recently decided to allow folding bikes aboard all buses and streetcars, excluding the historic cable cars.

Bike advocates including Bert Hill, chairman of the SF Bicycle Advisory Committee, have been lobbying for all bikes to be allowed onto Muni buses. Nevertheless, Hill and others see this as a step in the right direction. Spokesman Paul Rose of the MTA believes this policy will promote the city’s transit-first policy which, according to the Chronicle, “aims to get people out of their cars to cut down on air pollution and traffic congestion.”
However, Rose also warns that officials need to keep an eye on how this change will affect commuters. Because while Hill and other bike advocates have responded positively to this announcement, many comments on this article–by mostly non-biking commuters–are not nearly as welcoming. The topics of criticisms range from demanding bikers pay extra to complaining that bikes will overcrowd already overcrowded buses. Such comments included:
JuniperoSerra: Bad idea! Who wants to get dirt from their tires or grease from the bike’s chain on their clothes when these folks take their folding bikes onto a crowed [sic] bus or streetcar.
ender_of_sf: Things are bad enough on our too often overcrowded busses [sic] as it is, espeically [sic] during commute hours. Why do bike riders think the public transit should haul their vehicals [sic] around at no extra charge when they don’t feel like riding them.
sfnative650: So now some guy rides his bike up to the bus and everybody has to wait for him to fold up his bike? And then they get to trip over it trying to get in or out the bus? Looks like lawsuits here…Aren’t bikes to be ridden and not ride on a bus? How about the bus tow a trailer behind it so you can store your car and ride the bus?
qframer: I’m a folding bike rider. I love them. I am a member of bicycle advocacy groups, and I want transit options for bikes.
But this is INSANITY. There is no way I can fit comfortably in any Muni vehicle with my folding bike unless it is nearly empty. I can’t believe both Muni and Bicycle Coalition people put this much effort into something that will only build resentment toward cyclists.
What are your thoughts?

Speed Limit for Bikers on the Golden Gate Bridge

The Plan
In the past couple of weeks, there has been a lot of talk about how officials with the Golden Gate Bridge District are planning on imposing a biking speed limit of 10 mph on the regular path and to 5 mph near the towers. Highway patrol will be using radar guns to monitor passing cyclists’ speed. Violators will be fined $100.
GGB spokeswoman Mary Currie told the Chronicle that this plan is to prevent bike and pedestrian accidents that are, according to GGB officials, commonplace on the bridge. A study showed that in the past ten years, there has been a total of 164 accidents, 39% of which involved excessive speeding. The solo bike crash happened 5 times more often than collisions between bikes and pedestrians.
The GGB’s Board of Directors will vote on the approval of this new project on May 13th. If it’s approved, the limit would most likely be in effect by the end of the summer.
Cyclists’ Criticisms
So far, the response has been generally negative. Hunter Ziesing of local cycling group ZTeam calls the plan a “smart” idea, but thinks the fine is too high and the speed too slow.
However, most others are not so agreeable. In contrast to the safety concerns raised by the GGB officials, many cyclists are arguing that this speed limit is unwarranted and unnecessary. In another article by the Chronicle, recreational cyclist P.J. Gallagher, who often bikes the Golden Gate, calls this plan “a joke” because “it’s a solution for a problem that doesn’t exist.”
Other cyclists have raised the complaint that it will be difficult for them to know what speed they’re travelling because most bikes are not equipped with speedometers. According to the study, the current average speed of cyclists on the bridge is 13-17 mph.
And even more have complained about the singling out of bicyclists when tourists are “the real problem” because, according to daily-commuter Lew Ketcher, “There are people coming right at you with a camera in one hand, looking out at the water. There are people stopping right in the middle of the path to take a picture.”
It’s too bad that, with money as the concern, tourists and unnecessary fines are the city’s best friends.

If you ever need a bicycle accident attorney in San Francisco, Paso Robles, or the surrounding Central California Coast area, contact us for a free consultation.

Bike Boxes: Good Idea?

In light of the new Market Street bike boxes, the SFMTA has provided a handy infographic on how to safely use them:

In their press release, the SFMTA said that bike boxes are “designed to improve the visibility and positioning of bicyclists at intersections with traffic signals and to prioritize bicycles as they move through intersections. Bicyclists stopped in a bike box are easily seen by motorists, improving safety at intersections. Bike boxes provide a separated waiting area for bicyclists and can increase pedestrian safety by improving visibility and decreasing both motorist and bicycle encroachment into crosswalks.”
Also included in the press release was additional guidelines to using these bike boxes. Whether you bike, walk, or drive, it’s very important to know these rules.
What Motorists Should Know
When the traffic signal is red, motorists must stop behind the white stop line behind the green bike box. Motorists should not stop on top of the bike box, but rather keep it clear for cyclists to use. Right turns on a red signal will not be allowed at these intersections.
When the light turns green, motorists and cyclists may move through the intersection as usual, with cyclists going first. Motorists turning right on green should signal and watch for cyclists to the right.
What Bicyclists Should Know
When a traffic signal is red, bicyclists must enter the bike box from the approaching bike lane and stop before the crosswalk.
When the light is green, bicyclists should proceed as normal through the intersection. Bicyclists should be aware of right-turning motorists, especially while in the crosswalk and the intersection.
What are your thoughts on these bike boxes? Do they seem more helpful than potentially harmful?

If you ever need a bicycle accident attorney in San Francisco, Paso Robles, or the surrounding Central California Coast area, contact us for a free consultation.