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#1 2013-11-03 13:45:32

MichaelBluejay
Webmaster
From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,191
Website

The Bluejays will buy a car and give up bicycling

Two days ago my wife came home crying and shaking because yet another driver tried to end her life.  The only things she said between sobs were "I nearly died!" and "He tried to kill me!"  I tried to console her for a few minutes and then had to go to a meeting, and when I came back two hours later she hadn't moved from the couch, she was still staring off into space.  This follows three near-death experiences from last week (detailed in another thread), one of which, like this most recent one, involved a driver in a big vehicle suddenly accelerating into her path in order to cut her off, forcing her to either slam on her brakes or be killed.

That night, she dreamed that she actually did get hit by a driver and died.

So here's the fallout from all these repeated near-death experiences.

(1) We're making tentative plans to move to the Netherlands or Denmark in a couple of years, pending immigration issues and getting some other things sorted here.  In the meantime...

(2) My wife won't bike any more here.  She's too scared.  She's sad about it, because she really did like biking.

(3) Our daughter (14) won't bike any more.  That was a combination of both her fear and ours.  Sometimes I've woken up in the middle of the night worrying that she's going to get hit.  I worry about her more than the others because she's the smallest and because her safe-riding skills are weaker than the others (despite my best efforts).

(4) Our son (14) won't bike for at least two weeks, maybe forever.  (We'll revisit the decision in two weeks.)  The reason he's different from our daughter is that he's undaunted, and so we're reluctant to take biking away from him forever, though that might be exactly what we do.

(5) I'll continue to bike, but my wife is very worried about me.  Now whenever I leave she says "Please be careful!" at least five times.

(6) Because the rest of the family isn't biking, we're going to have to buy a car.  We can't fit 3-4 people in a Car2Go smart car, and Zip Car is horribly inconvenient.  We really hate that the "solution" to our problem with the car culture is to *become* part of the car culture, but the only alternative is for my family to continue to put their lives at risk, and my wife is no longer willing to continue to do so.  If we lived somewhere with good transit we wouldn't need a car, but that's not Austin.  I haven't owned a car for 27 years, so this is a big change for me.

(7) I'll get a driver's license, because I'll need to help with the driving.  I haven't had one since the 1980s.

Pretty ironic for the guy who runs BicycleAustin.info (among other bicycling sites), I know.  How do I hope for a world without cars when I'm driving one?

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#2 2013-11-03 15:05:20

savanni
Member
From: Austin
Registered: 2011-04-30
Posts: 82
Website

Re: The Bluejays will buy a car and give up bicycling

Nothing ironic about it.  Some times it is just time to admit defeat.  Four such encounters in two weeks, especially with two of them appearing deliberate, counts to me as such a time.

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#3 2013-11-03 18:00:54

cycling74
Member
Registered: 2008-09-28
Posts: 61

Re: The Bluejays will buy a car and give up bicycling

MB has done so much for commuter cycling in Austin, and this is the furthest thing from defeat. May I suggest an electric car? GM won't be able to kill them off so easily this time around.

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#4 2013-11-03 20:09:42

tstarry
Member
From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2010-02-22
Posts: 20

Re: The Bluejays will buy a car and give up bicycling

Really sad to read this but I completely understand.  There have been days when I felt like throwing my bikes in the river.  My wife (who won't bicycle because of fear) repeats the "be careful" mantra every time I leave the house.

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#5 2013-11-04 12:02:17

AusTexMurf
Member
From: South Austin
Registered: 2008-11-21
Posts: 439

Re: The Bluejays will buy a car and give up bicycling

Wow.
Great job this whole time, MB. An inspiration to us all, past, present, beyond.
Thanks for all that you've done for our community over the years.

My $0.02
We are on the precipice of great change or at least possibility, for cycling and transportation, here.
We lost sight of a lot of things between '98-present, around land development and sustainable transportation.
People made lots of $$$. And sold us out.

But there seems to currently be quite a bit of momentum for cycling choices, pedestrian advocacy, LoneStar, light rail, auto diets, bus priority in lanes, routes, etc...


It is very hard to go car free with wife and children (4 for us!).
We don't do it either.
The ten year old boy bike commutes to school and around town, nearly every day.
My wife and 7th grade girl have the hardest time of it.
Maybe because they are originally from houston and driving is built in to their way of thinking ?
And AISD has bizarrely undermined our neighborhood schools, particularly middle, spreading them out, forcing people to drive or ride the diesel burners.
And the girls, by nature, do more socializing, shopping, school friends, wanting to do social things in other parts of town with people that drive, to get there.
It is easier for me to forgo these activities, as many don't really interest me, anyway.

Unfortunately, we own a 2001 Toyota Sienna minivan, to use for road trips, shopping, wife's town driver. Paid for a long time ago and rolls only about 5-10K per year.
I also reluctantly own a large 6 passenger pickup truck. Resent it everyday. But drive it rarely. Sometimes only start it once a week or even two. Used one tank of fuel from Thanksgiving until almost Valentine's Day, last year.
I use it when needed for my work as an organic/veggie gardener/installer and carpenter. I also do my very best to plan ahead, completing carpentry at home and hiring a dump truck driver when warranted. I have been able to pull off some good sized urban farms and food scaping projects, as much by bicycle as I can figure out....
We also load the truck up for family camping trips and will use it again for such this thanksgiving, as we are headed up north a bit to bike camp on the northeast texas rails to trails system.
Perhaps soon, we can load our bikes on a train to get them to dallas and beyond, if so desired.

My point is, do what you need to do for your family.
It is much easier to risk oneself in traffic, than
to send your wife and children out into our auto dominated transportation soup.
So much at stake and others pay so little attention and care.
At least my wife also has a US driver's perspective, to deepen her understanding and awareness when moving through traffic on a bike.
Dual perspective does help, if cycling using a roadway shared with cars.

Please continue to work for change in the system.
We are getting more and more cycling infrastructure that protects people from cars.
And gives cyclists a safer place to learn necessary skills, hopefully to generalize. Intersections will still be a rough learning curve.
Facilities separate from cars, such as, Violet Crown, Walnut Creek, Hike and Bike MUP paths, WILLIAMSON CREEK!!!, Shoal Creek, and others.
Cycle tracks/Greenways/Bike Boulevards all help, too.
We need to connect our homes, neighborhoods, schools, civic centers, local grocers, farmers markets, etc.....a.s.a.p.

Aren't you in the cherry wood/maplewood area ?
Do you feel you need more/better cycling infrastructure in your immediate hood ?
Would that affect your decision ?
Your wife's comfort level ?
Your daughter's ?
Yours ?

Best, whatever you decide.

Last edited by AusTexMurf (2013-11-04 16:01:45)

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#6 2013-11-04 14:54:57

Jack
Member
Registered: 2013-03-27
Posts: 265

Re: The Bluejays will buy a car and give up bicycling

I am truly sorry to hear it.  I understand the motivation.  Driving instead of cycling is a choice one can make calmly and rationally for far lesser reasons than safety--simple convenience works fine.  I don't see a defeat at all. 

There is little doubt that cycling is a more dangerous way to travel than driving, but when choosing your mode of transporation, please keep in mind the pleasures of cycling, the benefits to you body of cycling, and the true nature of that increased risk (far safer than pedestrian travel; far safer than many other non-alarming ways to recreate).  Ride when you want to; don't ride when you don't want to--no matter what reason you don't want to.

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#7 2013-11-04 20:45:37

btrettel
Member
Registered: 2013-10-01
Posts: 47

Re: The Bluejays will buy a car and give up bicycling

MichaelBluejay, I'm disappointed to hear this. Best of luck with you and your family's future.

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#8 2013-11-05 13:46:00

MichaelBluejay
Webmaster
From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,191
Website

Re: The Bluejays will buy a car and give up bicycling

Thank you everyone for the kind words.

It does feel like a defeat to me.  Not merely because we're getting a car, but because (1) we feel coerced into that decision, and (2) the car isn't to *supplement* our biking, it's to *replace* our biking.

How can I hope for a world with more biking and less driving if my own family is going in the opposite direction?  How do we get people out of cars when it's dangerous for them to do so?  Back in the 1990s when I had a bike-themed radio show on KO.OP, one listener pointed out to me, "Bluejay, on the one side of your mouth you're trying to get people to ride bikes, and on the other you're always reporting every week on cyclists getting smashed by drivers (often hit-and-runs, and usually with the drivers facing little to no penalties even if their identities were known).  Why would that motivate anybody to get on a bike?"

I knew at that point that safety should be a big part of my activism, so I wrote How to Not Get Hit By Cars, which has been pretty popular ever since I penned it 15 years ago.  And maybe it's helped some people, but the existence of that article doesn't mean that cycling is safe.

The U.S. culture just isn't amenable to restricting driving or holding drivers accountable.  And as long as that's the case, cycling will be dangerous.

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#9 2013-11-05 14:31:24

AusTexMurf
Member
From: South Austin
Registered: 2008-11-21
Posts: 439

Re: The Bluejays will buy a car and give up bicycling

May not work, car replacing biking...others might also regret the decision.
Driving, or worse, riding, in a car,
Is terribly boring, dumbing, frustrating. Turns everyone into disgusted, stupefied observers. And by no means safe.

Riding your bike with your family is great big outdoor fun for all.
Kids pick fun lots.
Ask me, I know.
We have four, plus, me ?

Good luck in finding a balance that works for you, your wife, your children.

Last edited by AusTexMurf (2013-11-05 16:04:43)

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#10 2013-11-05 15:01:50

AWG
Member
From: North Austin
Registered: 2013-11-05
Posts: 11

Re: The Bluejays will buy a car and give up bicycling

I've lately noticed this kind of motorist behavior popping up more recently.   It really picked up around the return of students to UT.  I had two near misses on Guad/38th (inches) with cars accelerating and turning directly in front and one at Georgian/183 (it's that 2-5 second delay that really irks to them, huh?). 

We recently moved further north and now my commute is extended - longer miles wise, but much more direct thus making travel time very close to the previous route.  My wife and I have already talked about and except the fact that I could be killed every time I go and return from work.  She was distraught the other day when I came home late and she had missed my phone call.  I've consider myself lucky with only 3 collisions in 6 years. 

We own a Honda Fit that she uses for work. 

I sympathize with your feeling of defeat.

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#11 2013-11-05 21:01:40

AusTexMurf
Member
From: South Austin
Registered: 2008-11-21
Posts: 439

Re: The Bluejays will buy a car and give up bicycling

MichaelBluejay wrote:

I knew at that point that safety should be a big part of my activism, so I wrote How to Not Get Hit By Cars, which has been pretty popular ever since I penned it 15 years ago.  And maybe it's helped some people, but the existence of that article doesn't mean that cycling is safe.
.....
The U.S. culture just isn't amenable to restricting driving or holding drivers accountable.  And as long as that's the case, cycling will be dangerous.


Your How to Not Get Hit By Cars Page is a wonderful resource. I have seen links to it reposted on the international bike forums, Commuting and Advocacy/Safety sites, over the years. Also referenced on other cities' transportation cycling sites.
Although, received a msg from Joey Brooks in New Orleans that he finally caved and pulled down the local cycling site he hosted there for many years. I believe How to Not Get Hit By Cars and other info from your sites was referenced there, with due credit.

Last edited by AusTexMurf (2013-11-05 21:03:48)

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#12 2013-11-15 12:58:16

MichaelBluejay
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,191
Website

Re: The Bluejays will buy a car and give up bicycling

I just took a 6-hour online Drivers Education course (at DriversEd.com) as the first step in getting my drivers license, as taking and passing that course obviates my having to pass a written test at DPS.  The quality of the instruction was exactly as bad as you'd expect (the company producing it clearly cobbled it together to make some money rather than actually being interested in providing a good learning experience), but beyond that, I think they covered being careful of bicyclists for only 1-2 minutes, and cellphone use for about the same amount.

Incidentally, starting a few years ago, Texas started requiring all new drivers up to age 24 to take a drivers education course.  You can take the course anyway after that age in order to skip the written test at DPS.  But when my wife tried to sign up at one of the online course vendors (VDriveUSA, aka TexasDriverEducation.us), the signup form required her to agree, under penalty of law, that she was 18-24 years old, which she is not.  I wrote to the company to ask them to fix the form since she didn't want to lie on the form, but rather than simply fix the form, the owner of the company mocked me.  I then wrote to the state agency that oversees the course vendors and they made him fix it.

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#13 2013-11-15 14:15:43

dougmc
Administrator
Registered: 2008-06-01
Posts: 551

Re: The Bluejays will buy a car and give up bicycling

The written test was a joke nearly three decades ago ... I imagine it hasn't changed, but maybe it has.

Anybody at all familiar with the laws and how to ride a bicycle on the road should have no problems passing it with a 100%.

The six hour test you took ... that's just the "get out of a ticket drivers ed", right?  There used to be actual "how to drive" courses available, where they actually taught you how to drive with some actual time in a car, and that used to be required to get a license if you were under 19 or so.  Of course, they took way more than six hours -- more like 30 -- and they were almost exclusively teenagers taking them.

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#14 2013-11-15 14:57:23

AWG
Member
From: North Austin
Registered: 2013-11-05
Posts: 11

Re: The Bluejays will buy a car and give up bicycling

Did they get rid of the driving courses?  I remember years ago that they were easing the requirements for learner's permits - at least in my hometown.  Driver's ED in my day seemed to take almost all summer and required many hours of supervised driving time.  And then you had pass the dreaded ride along test with parallel parking -dum dum duummm!

I actually learned a lot from that course and the wisdom of my driving instructor has proved invaluable in driving and cycling.  It would be shame (and dangerous) if the State is cutting corners and relaxing requirements just to get people into cars.

I would occasional see the Driver's Ed cars on Woodrow.  Students were mixed - kids and adults.

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#15 2013-11-15 15:49:31

MichaelBluejay
Webmaster
From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,191
Website

Re: The Bluejays will buy a car and give up bicycling

dougmc wrote:

The six hour test you took ... that's just the "get out of a ticket drivers ed", right?

No.  There's a "Driver's Education" course for new drivers, and a completely different "Defensive Driving" course to get out of a ticket, which has very different content.

AWG wrote:

Did they get rid of the driving courses?...It would be shame (and dangerous) if the State is cutting corners and relaxing requirements just to get people into cars.

It's the opposite.

For 18-24 year olds, there's a new requirement that they must take and pass a class, either in-person or online.  Before this, any person 18+ didn't have to have any kind of training.  Now they do.  This is in response to the fact that 18-24 year olds are responsible for more crashes than any other age group.

14-17 year olds, then and now, must take lecture and hands-on driving training.  It's unclear whether an online class can substitute for the lecture portion (the DPS website and the online class vendor websites seem to disagree).

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#16 2013-11-15 17:20:02

dougmc
Administrator
Registered: 2008-06-01
Posts: 551

Re: The Bluejays will buy a car and give up bicycling

MichaelBluejay wrote:

This is in response to the fact that 18-24 year olds are responsible for more crashes than any other age group.

I thought it was the 16-17 year olds that were responsible for the most crashes?  That the odds of an individual crashing started high and dropped over time, and kept dropping until around 60 or 70 or so when they might go up somewhat due to some (not all) drivers who shouldn't be driving any more.

Of course, the 18-24 group covers 3x as many years as the 16-17 group so presumably it's about 3x as large -- possibly more so as not everybody is driving at 16 or 17 -- so that could make explain it causing more crashes, depending on how exactly we look at the stats.

But then again, even if 16-17 are the most dangerous years ... 18-24 are the next most dangerous years.

edit: This study seems to confirm what I remembered, especially the graphs starting on page 17, and I doubt that 2013 is that different from 1990 in this respect.  Though the jump in crashes for the older drivers is a lot larger than I guessed.

AWG wrote:

And then you had pass the dreaded ride along test with parallel parking -dum dum duummm!

I never did understand the fear of the parallel parking test.  They gave you 26' to park in, so if you had a compact car (my VW Rabbit was 13') it was trivial to park in.  And even if you just couldn't do it, it was only worth like 10 percentage points on the test and you only had to get a 70% or higher to pass -- you could just say "I can't do that" and not even try and still easily pass.

Last edited by dougmc (2013-11-15 17:29:40)

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#17 2013-11-15 17:23:51

AWG
Member
From: North Austin
Registered: 2013-11-05
Posts: 11

Re: The Bluejays will buy a car and give up bicycling

MichaelBluejay wrote:

It's the opposite.

For 18-24 year olds, there's a new requirement that they must take and pass a class, either in-person or online.  Before this, any person 18+ didn't have to have any kind of training.  Now they do.  This is in response to the fact that 18-24 year olds are responsible for more crashes than any other age group.

That's good to hear.  Has the written test has been updated?

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#18 2013-11-15 17:33:11

AWG
Member
From: North Austin
Registered: 2013-11-05
Posts: 11

Re: The Bluejays will buy a car and give up bicycling

I never had a problem with it either, mainly because of my instructor.  I think it's one of those things where a wild rumor starts about how hard it is to do and snowballs amongst learners.  They often give up thinking it's way above their skill level.  Not saying it can be difficult at times.  It's probably the one thing that makes drivers the most nervous.  I seen people go completely out of their way to avoid PP.

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#19 2013-12-09 22:17:46

MichaelBluejay
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From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,191
Website

Re: The Bluejays will buy a car and give up bicycling

I just found out that a friend of mine who'd been car-free for many years recently gave up biking to work, specifically because of the increased danger of cycling.

It's a chicken-and-egg thing:  We need more cyclists to make cycling safer, but cycling won't get safer until we have more cyclists.

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#20 2014-04-21 16:33:39

MichaelBluejay
Webmaster
From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,191
Website

Re: The Bluejays will buy a car and give up bicycling

Just an update:  We've pretty much ruled out relocating to a bike-friendly European country, because of the various difficulties involved.  In the meantime, biking in Austin is as dangerous as ever, with no reason to expect things to get much better.

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#21 2014-04-21 17:19:35

savanni
Member
From: Austin
Registered: 2011-04-30
Posts: 82
Website

Re: The Bluejays will buy a car and give up bicycling

I'm on my way to Oregon.  Follow me there?  Likely I'm going to land in the Eugene/Springfield area.  Admittedly, things like jobs and changing schools could make that almost as difficult as a European country.

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#22 2014-06-09 18:19:30

MichaelBluejay
Webmaster
From: Austin, TX
Registered: 2008-05-26
Posts: 1,191
Website

Re: The Bluejays will buy a car and give up bicycling

We're tempted, but my wife is wary of the colder climate.  It might happen, though.

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