Full Lane signs are now on Hardin!

Driving home tonight I watched a cyclist riding the sidewalk northbound on Hardin coming down the hill toward Virginia. Our sidewalks aren’t very contiguous, so I knew this was going to be a bad idea. He ran out of sidewalk and exited onto Hardin right in front of the car ahead of me. He tried hard to stay right up against the curb and that car passed him within inches. I slowed and gave him room, but as I went around he was still fighting to stay against the curb. Right then we all passed one of the city’s new “Bicycles may use Full Lane” signs. Three cars ahead was another cyclist (McKinney Velo) who was riding where the driver of a car would be sitting, taking possession of the lane. Nobody was fighting to get around this bike, and yes we drove slower in the right lane.

I wanted to stop my car and tell the other guy what he needs to know – ride with intent and be clear. Don’t think you can sneak around cars, don’t jump out in traffic and  don’t hug the curb! These things can really make a mess of you and your bike. The city is making the roads safer for cyclists, but the part that’s missing is education.

We need some public service announcements, man.

“People of McKinney, learn to ride and drive in the same space!”  The On-Street Bicycle plan had all kinds of cool things in the budget, but apparently no education. In conversation with Gary Graham, city traffic engineer, they have a very tight budget for what they are able to accomplish, and no money for anything else. I suggested a billboard campaign on 75 to talk about how everyone should be behaving (stealing a page from Canada and 1970’s United States) and Gary said that would be a great idea but there’s no budget for it.

Without understanding what’s expected of people, signage and road painting won’t have the kind of effect needed. The money for a billboard is insignificant compared to creating a shared lane or widening roads. more importantly, the cost of an emergency room visit because someone rode the curb and got clipped by a truck mirror on a road with a sign that says “Bicycles may use full lane” far outweighs the cost of one advertising campaign.

The bigger problem might be a social problem. A lot of the cyclists who ride like this are people who have a bike as the main means of transportation. They are not riding a cool road bike with a graphite frame, and they don’t look good in lycra. They are trying to stay out of the way and get their day done without making waves, and riding the curb seems natural. These cyclists, the day to day commuters, the riders going to get groceries or going to meet the work truck are the ones we need to educate quickly. The guy I watched this evening was doing what he thought was best, and he almost got creamed into the curb on a street the city was already trying to make safe.

Ok, I need to get off the soap box.

Hardin! There are signs on Hardin!

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Recycles McKinney

One of our members has helped start a non-profit to put bikes under butts, donating bicycles in McKinney. Outstanding project and all the more reason to make our city a better place for bicycle traffic. Visit http://www.recyclesmckinney.com when you get a chance.

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3 foot passing law

Around this time last year the City of Plano passed a 3 foot passing law, the “Vulnerable Road User” article in municipal code 14-127 thru 14-129 that says cars cannot pass “Vulnerable Road Users” within 3 feet and trucks require 6 feet of distance. “Vulnerable Road Users” are cyclists, unicyclists, motorcyclists – essentially anyone who isn’t surrounded by a metal box. People in McKinney have talked about this law and if we should have one like it here – we’re progressive, we like bikes, Plano isn’t better than us…

The interesting part of this ordinance was the line about “An operator or passenger of a motor vehicle may not knowingly throw or project any object or substance at or against a vulnerable road user”. This just stands out as a surprising thing to have to legislate for a municipality. Isn’t that assault?

So the things that jump out are…

1) Is this legislation that already exists, and if so why did it have to be re-created?

2) If this legislation didn’t already exist, how the #$% did this not get created before now?

The Sherlock Holmes approach says to eliminate until the answer is what is left behind, and that approach might go something like this: People get arrested for assault in Texas, including pegging someone else with a rock or beer can, so that’s eliminated; using a vehicle in a manner that threatens or endangers someone not in a car is vehicular assault, so that’s eliminated; so what’s left? a measurable distance for vehicles to pass any vehicle that isn’t all-body steel (3 or 6 feet), and the distinction between pedestrians and vehicles.

Looking at the distance argument the legislation says 3 feet for cars or 6 feet for trucks. A good rule but how do you measure or enforce it? This is one of the common arguments against this legislation.

What is the purpose of the legislation? The general idea is that this legislation would help to educate drivers, but if you were to take a poll of drivers in the city of Plano there are precious few who even know this legislation exists. So the education part doesn’t work, and the enforcement part is questionable.

The pedestrian question. If you are on a bicycle are you a pedestrian? No. If you get cutoff by a car and it forces you into the curb or a wall etc was it vehicular assault? Only if you can prove intent, otherwise it was an accident between vehicles – regardless of whether or not one of those vehicles weighed 2 tons and the other weighed 12 lbs.

So… really, what is the legislation doing that isn’t already addressed with State Law?

Primarily it is making it clear that an accident involving a car (or truck) and a cyclists of any kind that was caused by the driver of the car or truck crossing into the cyclist is a crime, and it isn’t necessary to prove vehicular assault. It also defines the cyclist as distinctly different than the car, not just another vehicle.

Keep in mind that I am not a lawyer. I’m just this guy trying to understand why legislation needed to be passed in other cities that many folks believe is duplicate legislation already on the State Law books. So I am VERY interested in the opinions of others, especially those with legal education (hint hint).

Having said all this I would like to say a little more. If the goal was to help protect cyclists, I don’t think the 3 foot law accomplishes this. If the goal was to make things safer it would have been a better idea to put together a billboard campaign making it clear how the city expects motorists to behave around cyclists. The law only becomes helpful after someone has been hit – I would think the BIG goal would be to prevent the collision in the first place!

Tell me what you think. Is the 3 foot law a duplication of state law and pointless? Is the 3 foot law important and needed in McKinney? Should we ask the city to put up billboards? Inquiring minds wanna know.

Be Safe!

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Bicycles may use Full Lane

The signs are going up! Bicycles may use full lane!

So what does that mean?

Does that mean its safe for us to ride in the street?

Well, no, not really. Riding in general is kind of dangerous because of a lot of things, not the least of which is how far you are from the ground. Riding on the streets is dangerous doubly so because there are big metal things that can run into you. Be careful and aware always!

Does that mean it’s a bicycle lane?

Not exactly – a “bicycle lane” would be dedicated for bicycles. These signs mean the city is making it clear to both cyclists and motorists that the lane is defined as a Shared lane – motorists should expect and accept cyclists using the full lane just as a car would, but cyclists should expect car traffic in that lane as well. The theory is that cars would drive around cyclists that are moving slower just as they would drive around a car or truck moving slower.

What does this mean when there’s a lot of traffic?

It means bicycles may use the full lane. I spoke with the Chief of Police of McKinney to make sure we are all looking at this the same way. State law covers a whole lot of things and one of them is signs indicating how a roadway is expected to be used, so if the City says the lane is for shared use then that means always. HOWEVER – Common Sense doesn’t get thrown out! If you find yourself surrounded with cars trying to pass at 45 MPH at 5:10 rush hour, you might consider riding to the right of the lane (where the passenger tire is for cars) to allow traffic to get by and make your surroundings a little safer. There is still a chance that a police officer might ask you to ride to the right in situations like this since it’s the job of the Police to do what they can for the sake of “safety first”.

So what’s the bottom line?

The Bicycle may use Full Lane sign gives cyclists permission to use the full lane, but this permission is from the city. The guy in the car behind you probably wasn’t consulted when the city decided this, so the sign works as awareness and eduction for motorists – but it won’t make them less frustrated so don’t expect that to happen. As always Bike Friendly McKinney advocates cycling an a manner that makes your intentions clear – if the sign says Use Full Lane, then you should do exactly that. Be clear, be assertive. Don’t ride the shoulder if you intend to use the lane! Let drivers and riders around you know you are in the lane by being clear and consistent. The best way for everyone to learn how to behave with these new rules is to start using them regularly. Get out and ride!

and Be Safe!


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Collin County Transportation Meeting – Tuesday Feb 26th

The County is getting ready to update their Mobility Plan that addresses our general needs through the county for transportation. The local meeting for McKinney is planned to be in the McKinney Performing Arts Center (MPAC) on Tuesday evening, Feb 26th, from 6:30 to 8:30pm. This affects our city and our relationship with other cities as the Bike Plan they outline talks directly to the interplay of cities in the county. It also discusses rail, freeway recommendations and plans, airports etc. This only comes up once every 5 years or so which makes this a relatively rare opportunity.

You can review the plan from 2007 by clicking HERE, and you can see the official invitation by clicking HERE. For those of you who are interested in talking about DART this might be your best chance!

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Bike Sign Rollout

After hearing word that one of Bike Friendly McKinney spotted a “Bicycles may use full lane” sign I called Samantha Frison at the City to get some details. Here’s her response:

These signs have been installed over the last week (and more will follow):

Generally, the crews are working from west to east and hope to be finished before the end of spring.  Installation of signs are being worked in among the crews other day-to-day responsibilities.

Samantha tells me the signs are going up along the main arterials, which is to say ElDorado, Virginia, Hardin, Alma, Lake Forest and Stonebridge. I will try to get a more detailed list of where these are going up next week. She wanted to make it clear that the signs are going up as the road crews can work them in, so it will take several weeks to get everything covered.

Great progress!!

Be safe -

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Safe Bicycling

One of the things that comes up in conversation is how to make it safe to ride a bike. The answer, I think, is – you can’t. You can wear a helmet, you can make bike lanes, you can wear colorful lycra and you can have reflectors and mirrors all around. The things you cannot prevent are dangerous drivers, dangerous pedestrians, dogs running into your tires, wet pavement with algae (think riding on wet ice), all kinds of things. When you get up on a bike you are further from the ground which means it will hit you faster when you fall. You’re just plain vulnerable.

I say this largely because I don’t want anyone reading this happy blog to think Bike Friendly McKinney is telling the world it’s safe to ride a bike – its not. What BFM is trying to do is make our city a more friendly environment for taking that risk of riding a bike. It helps to make everyone aware that the person on the bike is taking a risk just by being there. That should (SHOULD) mean anyone seeing a cyclist would be more cautious around them. Unfortunately, people don’t. Some people also on bikes think it’s fun to challenge or horse around. Dog walkers don’t take a step away from a cyclist to keep the leash or the dog away from the wheels. Pedestrians aren’t going to step to the side of the sidewalk to let you pass. Notice all of these things have nothing to do with cars – these problems can happen on a hike and bike trail just as easily as the street.

Hitting the ground hurts. Sometimes that’s all it does, but sometimes it breaks you, sometimes it changes your life and sometimes it can end your life. These things are really important to know before you hop up on a bike and go for a ride. In 2010 there were 618 fatalities nationwide from auto-related bike incidents. That’s a statistical blip, unless you were one of the 618.

What does all this mean? Really it means be careful. Be really aware of your surroundings, be cautious of all others around you (dogs, cars, people, bikes) and know your limits. It also means education is a major big deal in making the city safer for bikes. Everyone needs to understand that riding a bike is ok, and show some courtesy. Getting signs up around our city making everyone aware that cyclists are present is a great first step – and one the city needs to take very soon. Education is key, knowledge is power!

Ride safely, be aware and be safe!

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