I spent 5 days in Seattle staying close to the U of W and the Burke-Gilman bike trail. Lime bikes are everywhere with what looks like an even mix of traditional pedal bikes and ebikes.
- Super-convenient. I never had more than a few minute walk to find a bike. Even when I was at the West Point Lighthouse, I found the one bike that was there (but wonder if I stranded the person who rode it). I had done a fairly long walk to the lighthouse and was really happy to rest my feet on the return trip.
- The bikes take a beating. Handlebars often are not aligned with the wheel and there are a lot of squeaks, rattles, and brake noise. Not surprising since many of the bikes are dumped on their side. I encountered one bike with a bent crank and one with a broken front basket. Out of 10 bikes I rode, 5 had an annoying issue but still could be ridden. 2 could not be ridden. The app has a tool to report issues but I have no idea how fast Lime responds.
- Easy to sign up and use the app!
- It’s expensive! $3-$4 for a 15 minute Ebike ride. Less for a pedal bike. I guess the cost reflects the convenience of finding a bike nearly anywhere and the (likely) high cost of maintenance.
- The Lime ebikes work well. Zippy on the flats and helpful on the hills. They seem to be speed-limited as I couldn’t get going very fast on the downhills. I know class 1 ebikes are limited to 15 mph with assist but assume they can go faster with pedaling. Not sure if this was a regenerative braking effect or whether the speed was intentionally limited.
- Like pedal sharebikes everywhere, they are heavy and slow. Not a problem on a short, flat commute but I had a long hill to climb from the lighthouse and I think I was slower on the bike than walking.
- I’ve always ridden with a helmet. Didn’t have one and was surprised how little I thought about it since I was mostly on some excellent separated bike paths. When I was mixing with traffic (especially bike lanes in the door zone) I was very vigilant watching drivers.
As a tourist I am very happy to see this option. Every day in Seattle, I mixed public transit, walking, and biking, choosing the best mode at the time. And I never missed not having a car. Certainly a boon for travelers like me.
Posted in Bike trails and paths, e-bike, Review, Traffic, Transportation, Travel, Trips
- Tagged bikeshare, e-bike, Lime, Limebike, Seattle, sharebike
I’m a big believer in the future of self-driving cars. There is clearly a lot of risk turning a complex and unpredictable task over to a computer and all the attendant sensors, but we already accept a huge amount of risk letting easily-distracted and self-centered humans continue to do the damage they do.
So, I have to believe that we will all be safer when computers take over. The occupants of cars are much safer in a crash than they were when I was young, but the safety advances haven’t benefited pedestrians and cyclists. We are just as likely to get hurt when a car hits us as we were 50 years ago. I’m hopeful that autonomous vehicles could be a significant safety advance for those outside the car.
Thus, I look forward to the safety benefits that automated cars should bring. However, I worry about adoption of the new technology. Will a robot car be allowed to speed? Will it be allowed to make unnecessary lane changes to move one car ahead of the ‘dipshit’ ahead of it? What about yellow lights? Can you set it so that it will ignore them? How will the industry get aggressive, type-A drivers to adopt technology that forces their car to drive as if they cared about the safety of those around them more than beating the car next to them to the next traffic light?
The solution is to have at least two control settings; One (of course) would be the ‘law-abiding’ setting and the other would be the ‘Jackass’ setting. Using this setting would allow the computer to take every advantage, no matter how small, that the Type-A driver would take so that the owner felt he was beating the guy next to him. Over many weeks or months, the algorithm could adjust to a safer driving mode until the car was following all the laws and even common sense. This is somewhat analogous to the sales technique supposedly used by successful Chevette salespeople many years ago; the buyers knew the Chevette got good gas mileage – that’s why they were at the dealer. You sold it by accelerating hard and whipping around corners – this answered the buyers unspoken concerns about the performance of the small car.
Don’t sell the robot car based on safety and convenience – sell it based on the advantage it gives the buyer over the schmucks who can’t afford a computer car – this will lead to much quicker adoption.
Posted in Cars, Commute, Technology, Traffic, Transportation
- Tagged autonomous vehicles, Google, Jackass, Mobileye, robot, Self-driving car, Tesla
The only thing more common than lifted diesel pickups and car washes on every corner in suburban Utah is the sight of cars idling. They idle at the drive thru’s, in front of businesses, houses, schools – everywhere. They idle in all weather – hot, cold and perfect. They idle with people inside them and with people running an errand.
When I first got here from the San Francisco Bay Area it was summer so I thought it was just the heat that was getting to people and they just had to keep the AC running. But I soon realized it was just custom. People in Utah just don’t think about the environment the way they do in California. I think a lot of people in California believed that their individual actions did have an impact. Maybe it was years of dealing with water shortages or seeing LA go from a smoggy disaster in the ’60’s and ’70’s to having relatively clear air today that led people to think they had to do something. Well, living in Utah is like stepping back 50 years in time. Car culture is big here. People spend big money on their cars and they take care of them. Within a mile of me there are at least 4 car washes (or Auto Spa as some are called) and they are always busy.
And talk about going back in time – there are more drive-thru’s here than the set of ‘American Graffiti’. I could see it if it was a time saver but when you see 10+ cars lined up I KNOW it takes less time to park the car and actually walk into the store to order. So, it’s not about convenience – there’s something else going on here – people just love being in their cars.
You see these signs all over SLC but I don’t know if they are having any impact at all
Doesn’t anyone make a connection between their actions and the pollution we get here along the Wasatch front? Utah is a pretty red state so there is a lot of blather about being business-friendly, but isn’t individual responsibility one of the (supposed) attributes of the Right? If so, when are the drivers in Utah going to take some ownership for the pollution they cause and our terrible air in the Winter months?
I moved here from California just over a year ago and was surprised to find that Utah drivers are worse than California drivers. They are more aggressive, less careful and more dangerous to other road users. The ONLY good thing is that it’s very rare to see someone get flipped off – I’m guessing that is mostly due to the old adage of ‘An armed society is a polite society’.
If you are new to the Beehive State here are some rules that will help you fit in:
- Speed – all the time. It’s your right.
- Don’t slow down for congestion. See #1.
- When entering the highway, merge IMMEDIATELY to the fast lane. Those drivers in front of you are too slow.
- Is there someone in front of you? Pass them no matter what speed they are going.
- Are there double lines on the road? See #4
- Are you pulling a trailer? See #5 then #4
- Turning left across a road? Just do it – that approaching driver will slow down.
- Stop in the crosswalk. Pedestrians are wimps.
- Right turn on red after stop in Utah? Yes. But drop the ‘after stop’ part.
- Driving a pickup? Jack it up. Then jack it up again.
I’ve had bike commutes from 6 to 20 miles before moving to Utah – some on narrow mountain roads around Santa Cruz and some on busy Silicon Valley streets both with and without bike lanes. I’ve ridden after dark on narrow 2 lane roads and some of my best memories are the ride back from Watsonville to Santa Cruz at 7 or 8 pm in the Winter with just a few cars on the road and a bit of a chill in the air. Larkin Valley on a crisp winter morning is particularly memorable. Even commuting this narrow road late at night wasn’t scary since the traffic was light and with my bright lights on I was probably more visible than in daylight. Plus I always assume drivers thought I was a bit deranged and gave me just a bit more room.
Larkin Valley Morning
I’ve ridden busy Silicon Valley roads mostly with bike lanes but some without. Some drivers seemed unconcerned with my safety and drove too closely or pulled out in front of me but mostly I felt fairly safe. I think the reasonably large number of cyclists was a constant reminder to drivers that we were out there and although they might not have liked us they figured they had to accommodate us.
So I’m fairly comfortable around cars in a variety of conditions. But I still surprise myself with the level of trepidation I feel every time I do my 2 mile commute to work. I finally understand the fear that others feel when riding in an unwelcoming environment. I also realize the importance of numbers – just having more bike riders on the road makes us all more visible and I think drivers pay a bit more attention.
6+ Lanes Crossing under the Interstate
The main road to work is a 6 lane feeder to Interstate 15. There is a bike lane but speeds on the road are 40-50 mph and I’m just one lone kook in the way. In California, I felt like drivers actually acknowledged me and acted with some sense of caution. In suburban SLC, I feel like I’ve gone back 20 years where car drivers have all the rights and cyclists just need to stay out of the way.
Just past the highway overpass shown above is an exit ramp from the Interstate. Those lucky drivers have their own lane coming onto my road but that is right where I have to move right to re-claim my bike lane. I’ll slow down in my lane before getting to the ramp then signal right – sometimes people give me a break and sometimes they don’t. Then the next issue is the disappearing bike lane below (ironically right after the ‘Right Lane, Bikes Only’ sign where my bike lane disappears into a right turn lane right where the right-hand car lane behind me disappears at the same time. I’m not really clear what the message on the sign means since the right turn lane is clearly meant for cars. So I have the occasional idiot using the disappearing lane to pass drivers in the middle lane all the while my bike lane is being consumed by a right turn lane. So I carefully take the lane while signalling and just hoping people look up from their phones long enough to see me. Once I make the right turn I do a quick u-turn so I can use the traffic light to cross my busy road. The thought of using the left turn lane in this direction of travel would be suicide. So then I get to sit at the light for a minute or 2 and count the red light runners – there are always a couple.
The old disappearing bike lane trick
So that’s it. Literally not even a 2 mile commute but it’s a hairy one.
In defense of Utah government, I do have to say that one of the pleasant surprises moving here is the large number of bike lanes on arterial roads and the seeming willingness to include them on new construction. However, as regular riders everywhere know, we rarely have continuous bike lanes and mixing uses on very busy roads is off-putting to many. A separated bike lane would go a long way towards encouraging others to get on a bike to commute and run errands. As the roads are today, the barrier is pretty high for many people – thus the low participation rates in Utah compared to California.
‘Worse than California drivers…’
But now I’ve lived 9 months in Utah and even my 2 mile commute scares me. It seems that I start or end way too many sentences with that.
Riding through downtown Mountain View the other night I had an encounter with an aggressive motorist who just couldn’t lose a few seconds behind me. I was ‘taking the lane’. It’s an expression that many of us cyclists know but I would wager that only a small percentage of dedicated motorists have heard. I started midway through one block as the road narrowed due to parked cars on either side. I signaled as I moved over and when he came up behind me at the first stop sign he honked a couple times. When I didn’t move over after leaving the stop sign he laid on the horn continuously. So at the next stop sign I put my bike down in the middle of the street and walked back to his car (yeah I’m one of those guys without a kickstand). His window was open so I yelled ‘The law says bikes have the right to the full lane’. His incredulous response, ‘The whole lane?’. ‘Yes – the whole lane – read about it’. I then walked back to my bike, picked it up and rode the 20 feet to my destination. His parting words, yelled through the window – I kid you not – ‘Share the Road’.
So it’s been a couple of days now and I can’t help thinking about this. Mostly drivers aren’t that aggressive around here. I get clueless drivers, distracted drivers, but rarely threatening drivers. When someone is honking at you just a few feet behind your bike you can’t help but think that the next step the driver will take is to push you aside. If you drive a car please understand this.
Besides the obvious threat to me, I was riding in a fairly dense urban area where pedestrians are constantly crossing in the middle of the block and I would guess the average speed of a car is only 10-15 mph due to all the starts and stops. So even if he got past me he would be stuck behind another car at the next stop sign and I’d probably be riding HIS bumper for the next few blocks.
Here’s a street view shot of the stop sign where our ‘discussion’ took place. The blocks are about 100 yards long and at 7 in the evening there are cars parked in every available spot – sort of like you see here. It’s a 4-way stop sign so everyone should wait his turn and in the next block is a stop light where he will likely get caught again.
So I have to wonder – How much time would this driver have saved if I hadn’t been ‘in the way’? This line of thought lead immediately to the realization that he didn’t care. He was doing something important and I was on a BIKE so I must not be doing anything as urgent. He owns a car to GET FROM POINT A TO POINT B AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE and I was interfering with his plan. So my not-very-fast-moving brain then thought, ‘I wonder if a sign could fix this?’. We’ve all seen the ‘Share the Road’ signs
And we see the occasional ‘Bikes May Use Full Lane Sign’ like this
However I realize that the problem with the sign above is that it implies to many motorists that it is an exception that applies only where the sign in posted. If they don’t know the law, how would they know that bikes are allowed to use the full lane when the cyclist deems it to be the safest option?
So my little brain then said ‘Maybe we need a new kind of sign posted at various places around the city’
That sign would look like this