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Michael Bluejay Contributors: Amy Babich
From the Editor
Still breathing. Sorry there hasn't been a newsletter for a while, but I still put them out when I find the time. Since you last heard from me, I cycled from Austin to Baton Rouge, LA with a friend, and was interviewed by KEYE-42 about why head injuries are going up even though more cyclists are wearing helmets.
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Arrest of a Bicyclist, and Local Band Names
Yesterday at the peace rally at the Capitol, we witnessed a woman being arrested by Capitol police, for an unknown reason. (The officers wouldn't tell us why, the Statesman didn't cover it, and when we called the Capitol Police office they said they had absolutely no record of it.) Perhaps the officers were concerned by the sticker on the woman's bicycle, which read "This Bike is a Pipebomb". Though it may sound threatening, the sticker is in fact the name of a local band. Obviously, actual terrorists do not usually advertise their intentions quite so blatantly. (Note that the aircraft in last weeks attacks were NOT emblazoned with the message "This plane is going to crash into the World Trade Center.") Anyway, someone in plain clothes, possibly an officer, took a photo of the bike sticker during the arrest, for good measure.
Speaking of local bike/traffic bands, the Austin Chronicle reviewed the album of a local band called Swearing at Motorists in March. Other bike/car bands and music are listed at BicycleAustin.info.
Freebird's World Burrito
Here's an Austin-style food shop for you. Their menu has a list titled Things We Do, which includes "Support cycling in the community" (#4), which is right after "Provide a smoke-free environment", "Prepare all ingredients fresh", and "Recycle". There are other pro-bike declarations (like "Donate new bikes to disadvantaged individuals"), which you can read on their PDF menu. There's lots more that's just right about this place, such as the fact that tax is included and they round all prices to the nearest $0.25. (Why doesn't everybody do that?!) Naturally, they have plenty for vegetarians and vegans. Freebird's World Burrito, 41st & Red River, 451-5514
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Chevrolet brags about wasting fuel?
Maybe you caught the TV ads for the Chevy Suburban SUV. Pandering to local pride is nothing new in advertising, but even we were surprised when they seemed to suggest that it's patriotic to waste a lot of Texas oil: They bragged that the Suburban has "moved 10 million gallons of Texas tradition". Talk about gall.... By the way, Chevrolet would not respond to our requests for clarification, and they don't list fuel economy for the Suburban anywhere on their website (or if they do, it's well-hidden). A trip to the EPA's FuelEconomy.org reveals that the Suburban's gas mileage is exactly as pathetic as you'd expect.
[Note: After this article was published, reader Lee Wilson wrote: "I think the 'moved 10 million gallons of Texas tradition' comment is referring to 10-gallon hats, as in 'on the passengers.'"]
Amy Babich quote
We rarely excerpt any of Amy Babich's anti-car tirades from the Austin Chronicle, because the Chronicle is freely available, and also because there's no way we could keep up with Amy's output. But here's one gem you might have missed, since it came from a smaller publication:
"Austin is a car-based city, in the middle of a car-based state. Cars may once have seemed a boon to Austin, but now there are so many of them that they are a plague. The new cars are big and getting bigger. Curbs don't stop the big cars. One hundred people per day move to Austin, and most of them bring big cars." -- Amy Babich, Wheatsville Breeze, March/April 2001
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& Local Easy
State & Local
Easy Street Recumbents
After a year and a half of delayed trial dates, the case against the motorist who ran a red light and killed bicyclist Ben Clough is over. Prosecutors reduced the charge against Lauren Robishaw from Criminally Negligent Homicide to simple Reckless Driving, in exchange for a guilty plea. Robishaw was sentenced to community service, and will be required to visit the site of the crash scene monthly for the next two years. Ben's friend Dave Baker points out that since Robishaw now lives in Houston, ironically she will likely be doing even more driving now if she drives from Houston to the crash scene in Austin every month.
It's important to note that Robishaw was never charged with running the red light in the first place. Many Austin bicyclists pay fines or go to jail for minor traffic infractions, even though they didn't kill anyone. But according to the Statesman, Robishaw paid no fine and never saw the inside of the jail for running the red and killing Ben. (She wasn't arrested at the time of the crime and made to bail out, as might have been expected.)
It's not that we want the system to be punitive, it's just that we can't help but point out the disparity between justice afforded to motorists vs. cyclists. Perhaps a solution could be for the code to prescribe penalties other than fines and/or jail, such as suspending the driver's license of anyone found to be at-fault for killing another road user. Of course, that would require a group to lobby for such a change, and in this session the Texas Bicycle Coalition had its hands full with other bills. (See stories below).
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Bill which would have limited cycling dies in committee
The bill which would have banned cyclists in groups of three or more from riding on FM roads with unimproved shoulders, forced riders to be single-file in all circumstances, and required riders to wear the slow-moving traffic emblem on all roadways, died in committee, thankfully. Thanks to the Texas Bicycle Coalition for their work in opposing this bill.
Bike safety bill passes
Governor Perry signed a bike safety bill into law in earlier this month. The gazillion provisions originally submitted were whittled down to a small handful by the time the bill made it to the Governor's desk, but at least this is several steps in the right direction. The item we were most disheartened to see axed was the one that would have specifically criminalized throwing an object from a car at a cyclist. (One wonders why legislators thought keeping that in was a bad idea). Anyway, here are some of the items that did make it in are:
- Creates a Safe Routes to Schools program in TxDOT to review, plan and implement changes to create safe ways for children to walk or cycle safely to school.
- Clarifies that a bicyclist can "take the lane" in a lane that is less than 14 feet wide.
- Requires DPS to track bicycle accident reports that include death, injury or property damage to cyclists. (Still requires cyclists to file the reports.)
- Defines electric bicycles as those that do not exceed 100 pounds and can not exceed 20 mph unassisted.
- Allows the use of a rear red light instead of a rear red reflector for riding at night.
Kudos to the Texas Bicycle Coalition for shepherding this legislation into place.
Hyde Park activist killed by car
Ironically, cyclist Debra Prokop was killed by a car in May, mere days before she was supposed to speak to the Planning Commission about improving traffic safety in her Hyde Park neighborhood. (more)
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VILNIUS (Reuters, June 8, 2001) - The tinkle of bicycle bells in Lithuania's capital on Friday rang in the launch of a municipal plan to fight traffic congestion with bright orange bikes.
Vilnius, a city of ubiquitous car alarms and picturesque but narrow cobbled streets, decided to offer the use of 500 bicycles free to anyone in the city from dawn until dusk, when they have to be returned.
"This is a way to solve traffic congestion and parking problems in the city center... where the bicycle travels faster than a car,'' said Mayor Arturas Zuokas, at the launching of his ''The Bike's Invented, Ride Orange'' campaign.
Skeptics said the free bike campaign will be a bonanza for thieves, but Zuokas -- set on making Vilnius a bike-friendly city like Copenhagen or Amsterdam -- said the move was a good test for community morals.
A similar experiment in Amsterdam in 1966 proved short-lived. Anti-establishment groups placed bikes they had painted white across the city, with the idea that anyone could pick them up for free and set them down after use.
Some were taken permanently and repainted, while the police impounded others on the basis that ownerless bikes were street rubbish.
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The End of Oil?
The world has a finite supply of oil, and when the supply gets constrained, the price will surge. Whether you believe that this will happen by 2004 or that we have until 2050, the reality is that it WILL happen, sooner or later.
Feature: The End of Oil?
When gas prices soar, we'll see a return to trains, not just to move people but also to move raw materials and goods. We'll likely rebuild the nationwide rail system, after we abandoned most of it and let all that Chinese slave labor go to waste. We can also expect citizens to scream for rail solutions in metro areas. At that point Austinites might realize that they should have voted for rail when it was easy to get federal matching funds; good luck getting that federal money once all the other cities are competing for that same funding.
When gas prices soar and the demand for alternative transportation soars with it, we'll likely see such a flurry of new trains and bike lanes that it will dwarf the efforts of transportation advocates over the last couple of decades to get these same facilities on the ground. It does make one wonder whether we should continue to bang our collective heads against the wall, since the move to alternative transport is going to happen in a big way soon, whether we're actively pushing for it or not.
Transportation aside, the impact of soaring oil prices on transportation may ultimately seem insignificant to the effect it will have on the global economy. Once it becomes way more expensive to move raw materials and finished goods around, companies will have to jack up the prices for their products. Then consumers won't be able to afford to buy as much at these inflated prices, so they'll buy less. Those reduced sales will hurt businesses, which will lay off workers, who will be even less able to afford to buy products, which will cause more layoffs, and the cycle will continue. This could mean a global economic catastrophe which could make the Great Depression seem like a trip to Disneyland. Even scarier, some experts think this is likely to happen within the next decade, as you'll see below.
THE END OF OIL
Will gas lines in the coming decade make those of 1973 look short?
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Thanks for reading this far. Ride safely! :) -MBJ-
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