Bad Bicycle News

I used to be a hardcore daily bike commuter. (By “hardcore,” I mean I commuted 20-30 miles roundtrip every day in Chicago in January.) Lately, I’ve gotten lazy, especially since I now live about thirty seconds by foot from a train station that takes me to a spot about thirty seconds by foot from my job.

Also, since I’m now supporting two people (including my nearly two-year-old daughter), I’m a little more reluctant to get myself killed.

I was reminded of the perils of biking in Boston this afternoon when a 22-year old bicyclist was killed by a dump truck in an area where I used to ride daily:

The bicyclist, a 22-year-old man from Halifax, was riding between two lanes of traffic on Huntington Avenue when he was clipped by a taxicab near Northeastern University at about 2:30 p.m., police said. After being clipped by the cab, the bicyclist was run over by a McCauley and Sons Co. dump truck, police said.

When I was a bike commuter, I was fairly cavalier about this sort of incident. I realize it’s still fairly rare and biking may not be any more dangerous than driving. But we still see these events in Boston fairly regularly. I don’t think it can be fixed fully by better driver education/behavior (or better bicyclist education/behavior). There are just too many streets that are poorly designed and naturally hazardous.

On a related note, Nat mentioned this nasty run-in during a recent Critical Mass in San Francisco (the article is obviously from the driver’s point of view — there may be another angle on this):

Susan Ferrando, her husband, their two children and three preteens had come to San Francisco from Redwood City to celebrate the birthday of Ferrando’s 11-year-old daughter. They went to Japantown, where they enjoyed shopping and taking in the blooming cherry blossoms. Things took a turn for the worse at about 9 p.m., when the family was leaving Japantown — just as the party of about 3,000 bikers was winding down its monthly red-lights-be-damned ride through the city.

Suddenly, Ferrando said, her car was surrounded by hundreds of cyclists.

Not being from San Francisco, Ferrando thought she might have inadvertently crossed paths with a bicycle race and couldn’t figure out why the police, who she had just passed, hadn’t warned her.

Confusion, however, quickly turned to terror, she said, when the swarming cyclists began wildly circling around and then running into the sides of her Toyota van.

Filled with panic, Ferrando said, she started inching forward until coming to a stop at Post and Gough streets, where she was surrounded by bikers on all sides.

A biker in front blocked her as another biker began pounding on the windshield. Another was pounding on her window. Another pounded the other side.

“It seemed like they were using their bikes as weapons,” Ferrando said. One of the bikers then threw his bike — shattering the rear window and terrifying the young girls inside.

All the while, Ferrando was screaming, “There are children in this car! There are children in this car!”

Update 4/5/2007: the 22-year-old bicyclist had a myspace page.

Conference Bike

I just received what I guess is not a spam message about ConferenceBike. This is one of the strangest transportation-related things I’ve seen. Check out this QuickTime movie of people riding one around a park (you’d think it was actually the 1960’s).

Highlights from Critical Mass

Highlights from the San Francisco Halloween Critical Mass this Friday:

  • Friendster. That’s right, one of the riders was dressed up as Friendster. Unfortunately I don’t have a photograph, but it was immediately obvious to anyone who is familiar with the service that this person was, in fact, Friendster. I’ll leave it up to your imagination.
  • Matt Gonzalez, a leading progressive candidate for Mayor of San Francisco. He was wearing a suit and rode at least as long as I did on this ride, which must have included thousands of riders. Gonzalez has been endorsed, among others, by the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, and film director Michael Moore. Sometime I hope Boston Critical Mass will build the sort of political clout the San Francisco Mass has.
  • Blinky lights. Unlike Boston, there are some long open stretches in San Francisco that go up and down hills. At one point, it was possible to see thousands upon thousands of blinky lights, stretched out up a long stretch of Van Ness. A spectacular sight.

Bicycle Polo

Last night, I played Bicycle Polo for the first time, out in Golden Gate Park. It’s a pretty funny sport. You have to keep the mallet in your right hand (it also helps to switch your breaks so that you can break with your left hand without toppling over), so you spend a lot of time circling around trying to approach the ball on the proper side. It is possible, but difficult, to reach over with your right hand to the left side of your bike to hit the ball. You also have to come at the ball parallel to the direction of the field, which also causes a lot of circling and recircling.

They’ve got a pretty dedicated group here which seems to play every week. The field was close to the ocean end of the park and it was so foggy that it was difficult to see the other goal much of the time. There is also a nice beer break in the middle of the game, after which the quality of play increased markedly.