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Austin Bike News
alternative transportation news & views
(We don't cover cycling for recreation or sport.)

February 9, 2001

Editor: Michael Bluejay   Contributors: Eric Anderson, Dan Connelly, Monty Newton   Tips: Dan Connelly


From the Editor

New newsletter format. Since the survey back in December showed that the overwhelming majority of you can see formatting in your email, your newsletter will now look a little more spiffy (and easier for me to put together, believe it or not). For the minority whose email can't see the newsletter like this, they'll still be able to read the newsletter online at BicycleAustin.info. For those who were worried that I'd put large graphics or annoying animated GIFs in the newsletter, don't worry -- I find those just as annoying as you do.

Contest Results: The winner of the $25 bike shop gift certificate, determined by random drawing, is James Strickland. (Congratulations, James!) Ironically, Mr. Strickland is the only person ever to complain about the content of Austin Bike News. (But please don't think that complaining will increase your chances of winning future contests....)

The contest was quite an event. Since only 23 of you entered last time for a $50 prize, I expected fewer entries this time for the lower $25 prize, but in fact over 200 of you -- more than a third of the total number of subscribers -- responded to the survey! This was more than I bargained for, and I spent a day tabulating the results, making the entries, and responding to questions & comments. A few people responded to the survey but said that they didn't need the prize and that it could go to somebody else if they won. How thoughtful! Let me reward these people at least by identifying them: Christine Josh, Bruce Mackey, and Kimberly Ritchey. (I'll see if I can find some kind of bonus prize for these folks. But this will be the last time, so don't all of you think you'll get a prize next time by telling me that you're waiving your prize.)

The responses I got were great (thanks very much for your help!). Many of you didn't just answer the question as to whether you could see the picture, you also included all manner of information about your system configurations. (And I thought *I* needed to get out more....) Some of you not only told me you could see the picture but were eager to describe it in great detail. Others argued that the color was actually lavender and not purple. One person said I was their hero (and now the Foo Fighters is ringing in my head), and another made a good pun: "Thanks for the 'drawing' (both of them)." Again, my appreciation for everyone's help (and for the amusing emails).

New Contest. The name "Austin Bike News" sounds a little too much like "Cycling News", published by the Austin Cycling Association, and is bound to cause some confusion. So it's time to rename the newsletter. Send me your suggestions for the name of the newsletter, as many as you like. There will be TWO winners: the one who suggests the newsletter name I like the best, and the one I draw randomly from everyone who writes to suggest a name. Each will get a $25 gift certificate at their favorite local bike shop. Suggestions must be received by email no later than 11pm, Thursday 2/15.

Volatility. I remind you that the newsletter is published only sporadically, and may cease publication without notice....

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Bill would ban bikes on Texas roadways

Senator Jeff Wentworth (R-San Antonio) has filed SB238, which would, in Texas:

  1. Prohibit cyclists from riding in groups of three or more on FM and RM roads in Texas with unimproved shoulders. (i.e., country roads with no extra paved space to the right of the traffic lane),
  2. Prohibit cyclists from riding two or more abreast, on ANY road, and
  3. Require cyclists to wear the "slow vehicle" triangle emblem, on ANY road.

Fortunately, we believe that even Texas politicians are smart enough to reject this bill. To help ensure the bill is defeated, you can call or send a polite letter to your elected representatives. (Find who your elected reps are here.)

There's little use in writing to the bill's sponsor, Wentworth, unless he's your Senator. He's already received a ton of mail from cyclists across the state, and he's not budging. (He filed the bill at the request of the Texas Farm Bureau, who have apparently had enough of pesky cyclists on their rural roads.)

The reasoning for the bill is pretty thin. If slow-moving cyclists pose a threat, then what about slow-moving school buses and farm equipment, which are much harder to pass? As for cyclists riding three or more abreast (a recent letter to the editor decried cyclists riding six-abreast), that's already illegal. The bill also ignores the big picture: cars kill 50,000 people every year in the U.S., and only a tiny fraction of those deaths involve cyclists on rural roads without shoulders. Of those who cyclists who are hit under these conditions, a large number of them were hit intentionally (e.g., William Sygtryggsson and James Morgan).

Further, this bill seems to conflict with the Senator's philosophy, stated on his website: "In the Texas Senate, Wentworth's votes are based upon his philosophy of local control, less government interference and regulation, and personal responsibility." If Wentworth really believed this, he would allow individual counties make the decision about whether to screw cyclists. (We've asked Wentworth's office to explain how his bill fits in with his philosophies of "local control" and "less government interference and regulation".)

This issue has received considerable attention in newspapers and television stations all over the state, and some beyond. Lance Armstrong weighed in from overseas, to comment that the bill is "a joke". (Yes, it's kind of embarrassing that the state which is home to the world's cycling champion is now trying to prohibit the kind of training rides which produced that champion.) Bicycle email lists are being flooded with an unprecedented number of posts, mostly saying the same thing. John Kelso had a humorous piece in the Austin American-Statesman recently, stating his opposition to the bill. (Link good until Tuesday.)

The Texas Bicycle Coalition (TBC) is actively fighting this bill. For more information, or to donate to help fund TBC's efforts, check TBC's website. To check the current status of the bill, visit the Texas Legislature website (and search for bill number "SB238").

By the way, this isn't the only bad bill in the works. Rep. Green intends to file a bill which would ban ALL cyclists (not just groups of three or more) from 55mph+ Texas roads without improved shoulders. And Rep. Gary Elkins (Houston, political party not listed on his web page) has filed a bill allowing cars to park across the sidewalk if the car won't fit in the driveway. Elkins has filed a total of five bills including this one; two of the remaining four include a bill honoring the retirement of the Reverend Earl J. Banning from Braeswood Assembly of God Church and one honoring the Katy Tigers for winning the Class 5A Division II football championship.

[Update: The Austin Chronicle reports on Oct. 18, 2002 that Wentworth is under criminal investigation by the Travis Co. Atorney for improper lobbying of state regulators on behalf of Metabolife nutritional supplements.]

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TBC pushes historic bicycle safety bill

SB238 is the bad news. The good news is that the Texas Bicycle Coalition (TBC) has been working hard to introduce the Matthew Brown Act, which they call "the most comprehensive bicycle safety bill ever attempted by a state in the U.S." They're not kidding. The bill would:

  • Provide funding for Safe Routes to School.
  • Provide funding for bike paths.
  • Require cars to allow at least three feet of clearance when passing bikes (6 feet for buses and trucks).
  • Make it a specific crime for a motorist to throw anything at a cyclist, whether they actually hit the cyclist or not.
  • Reword the traffic law to more explicitly indicate that a bike can take the whole lane when the lane is too small for a bike and a car to travel side by side.
  • Change the name of the DPS "Motorcycle Safety Bureau" to the "Bureau of Motorcycle, Bicycle and Pedestrian Safety", require increased reporting of collisions involving cyclists, and require an annual report identifying the causes of collisions and suggesting methods to reduce them.
  • Allow cyclists to take Defensive Cycling to dismiss traffic tickets, just like drivers can take Defensive Driving.
  • Permit cities and counties to institute helmet laws for kids ONLY when (1) the city or county has already instituted a comprehensive bike safety program for kids in schools, (2) the city or county has a program to make free helmets available to kids who can't afford them, (3) the first offense is dismissed upon proof that the child has obtained a helmet, (4) the maximum fine for a second offense is $20, and (5) the law is limited to those 15 and under.
Obviously, passage of this bill would be a BIG boost to cycling in the state. TBC is asking cyclists to contact their legislators to ask them to support the bill. More information about the bill is available on TBC's website.

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Austin Bike Summit

by Eric Anderson

What: A discussion of initiatives and policies facing bicyclists, with bicycle advocates, neighborhood representatives, parks and trail supporters.

When: Saturday, February 10th, 2001,  10am - 3pm

Where: Center for Mexican American Cultural Arts (CMACA), 600 River Street,, Austin, TX


10:00am - Introductions

Jeb Boyt, Austin Metro Trails and Greenways

Patricia McKenney, Bike Action Austin

David Foster, Political Pedal

Pete Wall, Yellow Bike Project

10:15am - Overview

Robin Stallings, Friends of Crosstown Greenway

10:30am - Morning "Project" Breakout Sessions

Choose your City quadrant

12:00 Noon - Lunch Break

Music by "Three on the Tree"

12:45pm - Reconvene

reports from each quadrant

1:30pm - Afternoon "Issue" Breakout Sessions

(1) Legislation workshop
     Gayle Cummins, Texas Bicycle Coalition

(2) May Bike Month
David Foster & Kathryn Otto, Political Pedal

3) Lance Armstrong Crosstown Bikeway Groundbreaking
    Eric Anderson

2:15pm - More Issue Sessions

(1) Assembling a TEA-21 application
     Linda Dupriest, COA bike program

(2) Bike Safety Awareness
Fred Meridith, "Cycling News"

(3) Fallen Biker Memorial
    Pete Wall & Dave Baker, Yellow Bike Project

The purpose of the Austin Bike Summit is to compile a prioritized list of bike projects for the Austin metropolitan area and strategize about how we can go about funding them.

The Bicycle Summit is well timed since TXDOT has issued another call for TEA-21 grant applications (due June 18th). Another possible funding source for bike projects is money that Cap Metro is planning to return to the City of Austin in the wake of the defeat of the light rail referendum last November.

The Summit is convened by:

Jeb Boyt, jeboyt (at) hotmail.com, 467-0753,
Patricia McKenney, patriciam (at) austin.rr.com, 261-1604,
Eric Anderson, bikeeric (at) earthlink.net, 476-7304
David Foster, dkfoster (at) flash.net, 707-8580
Mark Zahn, mzahn (at) swbell.net, 835-8411
Tommy Eden, tommy_eden (at) hotmail.com, 327-7817
Fred Meredith, bikin-fred (at) macconnect.com, 282-1987
James Burnside, spinning.wheel (at) prodigy.net, 835-7240
Chris Riley, chrisriley (at) shields-rusk.com, 478-1299
Pete Wall, austinyellowbike (at) juno.com, 478-9162
Dick Kallerman, Cedartex (at) aol.com, 444-1326
Girard Kinney, gkinney (at) texas.net, 472-5572
Bill Dorman, wdorman (at) austin.rr.com, 477-9260

[Ed. Note, 2-13-01:   Here's Eric's post-event report.]

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We occasionally take some of the more interesting posts from the austin-bikes email list and reprint them here.
Cars Kill
by Dan Connelly

While it is true that as a cyclist our fate is not in our own hands, it is also true as a motor vehicle operator one's fate is not in one's hands, either. The auto driver suffers the illusion of invulnerability from a very thin structure, an artificial environment, a definition of space which provides the aura of isolation.

As this is a cyclist list, we focus on bicycling fatalities, and ignore motor vehicle fatalities. And since cyclists are in general killed by non-cyclists, while motor vehicle operators tend to eliminate each other, we tend to take these fatalities more personally than do they. However, the fact is that the roads are a terrible place. Take a step back, examine the situation as would an alien or perhaps a time traveler from either the past or future, and it becomes so absurd it is beyond tragic.

Thoughts on the Car Culture
by Monty Newton
I quit driving 4 years ago, more or less, I have 40 year old Ford truck for hauling mulch, sand/gravel. It is only when one separates oneself from the car culture that you see what a death culture it is. It is truly horrifying and is reflection of a nation that refuses to recognize limits.
I realize that by not riding at night and taking an out of the way, maze through neighborhoods then I am conceding to cars. If I had more to ride with I would be braver. But I feel like cars hate me. That T-Rex chasing the tour bus in Jurassic Park is what I think of.
Actually I feel somewhat isolated because none of my coworkers and only a few friends ride (who head in opposite directions from me each morning). This mail list has been great to realize their are others out there like me.
Glad to see what they are planning to do with the bike lanes on Shoal Creek, they need to do Speedway now. I made it a habit to the point of annoyance to call the city traffic dept. to report the license numbers of each and every car that is parked in the bike lane each morning at 8am and evening at 5 pm when I go down Speedway. Nothing ever came off it. Several times the dispatcher, after entering the info in the computer, told me that the license number of the car in the bike lane was registered to someone who lived at that address. She told me that they never would enforce no parking in front of someone's house because in her opinion, "the bike lane is a privilege and courtesy would allow the homeowner to park in front of their own house". I pointed out that a homeowner does not own the street in front of their house, it is public space. I don't see anywhere on the "no parking 7-9am, 4-6 pm" where it makes an exception.
I wish I could figure out a way to slam into a parked car and damage the car and not hurt myself. Vandalism comes to mind, but I won't stoop to that.
During construction of parking garages or monuments to Jim Bob Moffett at UT, they allowed concrete construction trucks to go down Speedway on the UT campus, and they still have large, tractor trailer type trucks that occasionally will negotiate their way down the north end of Speedway as pedestrians walk in front, behind and to the side of the trucks. But after 15 years of biking down Speedway through campus (haven't killed a pedestrian yet) an officer stops me for riding through the new banned portion of Speedway - you know the "mall" with the asphalt surface. I am just coasting along at walking speed, and he tells me that bikes are banned here because it is too dangerous.

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Publication / Subscription Info

General Info: Austin Bike News (not to be confused with "Cycling News", published by the Austin Cycling Association), covers cycling as alternative transportation (not cycling for recreation or sport). We're not opposed to cars, we're opposed to the car culture. ABN is published sporadically, and may be discontinued at any time without notice.We currently have almost 600 subscribers.

Contact info & staff credits are here. Articles are by the editor if uncredited. Articles by others may have been edited for grammar, clarity, conciseness, superstition, or just for the hell of it.

Back Issues are here.

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Thanks for reading this far. Ride safely! :) -MBJ-

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