Let’s take a moment and look at two political philosophies and how they can even be applied to something as simple and mundane as a road (re)design. It may seem like somewhat of a reach, but stay with me for a story of regulation vs. self-regulation.
Alan Greenspan himself did not foresee the housing crash coming. His mantra had always been that the market should (and will) self-regulate. He may have, at one point during the crisis, re-considered his libertarian ideals, as the situation left him “in a state of shocked disbelief.”
I saw Alan Greenspan on Charlie Rose (relevant conversation at 51:16) where he discussed the 2008 mortgage crisis. I suspect that in the aftermath he did some research going backwards to see what could have been done to prevent it. He mentioned a change at the NYSE in 1970 that allowed broker-dealers to become incorporated. Prior to this, broker-dealers were required to be partnerships where all partners had “skin in the game.”
Greenspan postures that the partnerships inherently caused all partners involved to look closely at each investment to carefully assess the risk. In a partnership, losses meant a loss to their customers, a personal loss to his or herself as a partner, and all other partners involved. Needless to say, lending was done much more carefully. Voilà, some self-regulation that we sorely need today.
Admittedly, Greenspan is “frequently blamed for having set the stage for the recent crisis.” You still have to admire the guy for sticking to his libertarian guns, citing a law change (albeit in hindsight) which removed self-regulation decades ago.
In Road Design
What does any of this have to do with road design? Everything…
The Democrat: Regulate
Conventional wisdom leads many to believe that that you don’t need to change a street physically to make it safer – even if it has a record of poor safety. Instead, just add further regulation to the mix.
I’ve heard these complaints in person, during a road redesign proposal by Anoka County for Osborne Road. Citizens questioned the road redesign, even if it was just re-striping – not major construction. They insisted that for the safety of the kids crossing the 4-lane road to get to school, all that was needed is more police enforcement to set the tone.
Police can’t do traffic enforcement 24/7, so another way to regulate is with speed cameras. But some studies have argued in certain cases that the safety effects of cameras have proven to be statistically insignificant. I’m not saying that the cameras definitely won’t make the street safer. My concern is that the cost to install, maintain, and operate cameras is expensive, and we can do something cheaper and easier to provide safety.
The Libertarian: Self-Enforcement
Why not instead undo a little bit of what we’ve done with our infrastructure. It may seem counter-intuitive, but we can make things simpler, more cost effective, and more self-regulating…
First the road geometry can be changed to what is appropriate for the target speed. The current road design standard has wide lanes to give drivers a wide berth so they can make corrections before potentially causing a crash.
The roads have an extra-wide “clear zone” on either side – wide shoulders followed by an open area of grass free of “fixed objects” such as trees. This is to provide a margin of safety, but in reality the extra space simply makes the road feel faster. Probably because we’ve given many of our roads the same geometry as a highway.
We need to narrow the lanes and make the roadway feel “closer” in the cases where a slower speed is desired. Some studies have shown speed reductions of as much as 3MPH for every foot of lane narrowing. Let’s get rid of the highway geometries on 30MPH roads.
Then to really enforce the speed, reduce the travel lanes to one in each direction – prudent drivers will regulate those who speed. There are other safety issues that lane reduction solves, such as when one driver stops, but then other drivers try to pass in the other lane and don’t see the pedestrian until it’s too late. You can see the reverse effect on a road-widening, changing from 2-lanes to 4. Notice how the increases in through-put and travel time are marginal, but the injury and damage rate skyrocketed:
Stay safe out there everyone. Hopefully you can see a new perspective on an old problem. As Chuck says, keep doing what you can to build Strong Towns.
When it comes to winter bike commuting, I’m somewhat of a cheater: I only ride to work when it’s convenient.
For example, if I’m meeting someone on the other end of town after work, I drive. But it’s almost always more convenient to throw a leg over the saddle than to reach for the car keys – because I’ve made it that way.
It’s only October, but here in America’s snow boot we know winter is coming! Last year I had the opportunity to become a year-round bike commuter, thanks to a new job with a very convenient location. My not-so-new job has now moved to a new location, and my commute is 4 miles instead of 1, but it’s all do-able even in the winter. Here are some things I did to make it a no-brainer to spin to work on most days rather than driving.
My biggest cheat is by having two bikes. Being a bike “enthusiast” it’s natural that I have a couple of bikes. Every winter I put winter tires (and fenders) on both of them. They’re strategically set up for varying levels of winter weather, so I just ride which ever one is more appropriate for the weather that morning, or what is forecasted for that day. One bike is for nice winter days, and the other is for harsh winter days.
Bike 1: wet/slush
The bike for the “nice days” is my Surly Cross Check. It’s a road bike with a little more clearance all-around. It has tons of eyelets for racks and fenders, and a bunch of extra room for larger tires. For winter I put on full fenders and a set of WTB All Terrain tires.
— Justin Fœll (@justinfoell) April 4, 2013
This is the go-to bike when there’s guaranteed bare pavement all the way to work, or if it’s just wet and slushy (no hard ice) that you’ll likely encounter on the trip.
You can’t do this on just any road bike because many do not leave enough space in the front fork and the rear frame to install wider tires, let alone fenders for them. Sell that bike on craigslist or don’t ride it in the winter and get yourself something more sensible. It doesn’t have to be a “gravel bike” or anything specific, it just needs to have some extra space for wider tires and mounts for racks and fenders.
Bike 2: snow/ice
The bike for the harsh days is my mountain bike. Being a mountain bike isn’t what makes it great. Sure the tires are wider, the gearing lower, and the handlebar flatter. It’s really the studded tires.
If you’re planning on riding throughout winter, studded tires are a must. I can ride with confidence over the worst ice, with my laptop in my pannier without worrying about going down. When I’m riding I actually seek out a little bit of snow or ice to quiet the chatter (and wear) of the tire studs.
"Hope you have winter tires" – guy along my commute. How'd he miss the sound of 400 studs chattering?!? pic.twitter.com/emJpxkpkc3
— Justin Fœll (@justinfoell) February 2, 2016
Studded tires aren’t for everyone and you may just want to only ride on days when it’s not death-defyingly slippery. The cost of studded tires can get sort-of bonkers. Like per-tire cost greater than the winter tires on my Subaru – kinda crazy.
The rest of the stuff is just clothes. I have a few sets of gloves that I choose from:
- Cheap baseball batting gloves for 40-55°F (they also make great driving gloves)
- Lightweight gloves with a windproof mitten cover for 25-39°F
- Goose down gloves for 24°F or below
On the really cold days, I’ll wear ski goggles instead of sunglasses. It’s the only way to prevent icicles on your eyelashes.
Those temperatures aren’t exact, just guidelines. You’ll want to experiment and decide for yourself. Much depends on how far you’re riding and what your normal tolerances are. Other factors include whether the sun is out, how windy it will be, and if you’ll be riding after dark. The same goes for other clothing options: long johns, top layers, type and thickness of socks, etc.
Some people like to keep a journal of what they wore, what the riding conditions were, and how they felt. I might do that with my longer commute this winter, as I’m guessing I’ll actually build up more body heat with the longer distance.
If you’ve got experience in this department, please share. Otherwise I’ll report back in the spring!
As you already know, I’m a fan of Topeak’s rack systems. They work great for carrying kids, groceries, panniers, etc. I’ve gone through a couple iterations of tail lights from Ax-Man Surplus that I usually just stick to the back of the rack with 3M Very High Bond (VHB) double-sided foam tape and some 3M adhesion promoter.
The foam tape, when used with adhesion promoter, works great for all bumps, jumps and falls. The cheap Ax-Man lights however, left something to be desired. One quit after some moisture got into the housing, the other quit because it was just plain cheap – I’d never paid more than $5 for any of them at Ax-Man.
I doubted the rack-mount option would work on my Topeak racks, but I took a chance and bought it anyway since I recalled my rack has a couple of mounting holes:
I figured I’d have to drill a new hole to get the spacing right, but the Stix Reflector Mount turned out to be a direct bolt-on fit.
The Stix lights are rechargeable and charge via USB. They conveniently attach to the mount using the USB plug and it’s secured by a rubber hood.
Here’s an animation of how you take install/remove it from the mount:
Also, it has a useful feature where it indicates the charge whenever you shut it off. As you can see in this video, when you do a long press on the button, it shuts down. But before it shuts off, the LEDs will light at half-brightness indicating the charge level. The video shows two LEDs solid with the third blinking, so it’s approximately 83% charged.
This light seems like a great companion to my lithium-ion powered front light. I look forward to putting it through the paces over the winter.