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Action alert: Three foot legislation

Bike LawsAs I get older and wiser (hopefully) I realize there is a bit of a contradiction in advocacy. One part is I need to motivate you to write, that generally involves a sense of outrage, the other part is the the letters you write need to be positive in order to be effective. So...

Be outraged enough to be motivated to write or call, what's being said in the halls of Annapolis is enough to make you steaming mad but don't have that come across in your letters. Be positive and supportive of your representative and try to make your appeal palatable to someone who does not bike. Try to be short and to the point and ***please stay on topic, focus on safety and mention that HB 496 only applies to bicyclists that act lawfully.*** Also we have MDOT's support this year on this bill, that is significant!
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Winds of Change

Health & Environment[This comes from a very interesting blog generally about clean energy, link is at the end of the article.]

I’ve wanted to make a post about this since it was in the news last Thursday, but it slipped to the back of my mind.  The Washington Post had an article about how in Maryland it’s now cheaper on the electric bill for residents to buy renewable wind energy credits through the Rockville-based Clean Currents than it would be to just buy power through BG&E and Pepco.  This means if you’re in Maryland, you can lower your utility rates and take a significant step to greening your lifestyle at the same time.  Usually, being part of the Clean Currents Program costs ratepayers a little bit more, but the current economic climate has created different conditions.

“The decreased rates are the result of a steady decline in wholesale energy prices. Utility companies set their customers’ rates periodically and have not reduced them to reflect the lower prices they are now paying for energy to produce electricity. But Clean Currents and other companies have taken advantage of the downturn in the price and are offering residents as much as two years of power for 10 to 15 percent less than the utilities’ summer rates. They use some of their revenue to promote wind farms and the use of wind power.”

The article also talked about a family in Maryland who set up their own wind turbine to power their home in Charles County, where the wind is strong.

I’m hopeful this is a trend towards renewables that we’ll be seeing across Maryland and the United States.  One other recent signal that the winds of change are upon us is that there are now more wind jobs than coal.  For now, if you live in Maryland, there’s no excuse to not google Clean Currents right now and consider entering into a 2 year contract with them.  You can save money, and less your impact on the environment at the same time.

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Biking ElsewhereSen. Tom Carper said: “Today, we fund our transportation system through a gas tax, meaning we pay for roads and transit by burning gasoline. When people drive less, our transportation budgets dry up. This means states and localities that reduce oil use, lower greenhouse emissions and save their constituents money end up getting their budgets cut. But CLEAN TEA reverses this negative funding policy by sending money to states and localities based on how much they reduce emissions. Now, we in the Congress have the great opportunity to address many national problems at once – finding additional funding for transportation infrastructure, building money-saving transportation alternatives and lowering greenhouse gas emissions from the transportation sector.”

“Reducing emissions from the transportation sector will not only help us achieve our global warming goals, but will provide additional benefits to the environment, public health, the economy, and quality of life,” said Rep. Earl Blumenauer. This legislation will help finance our shift to a low-carbon transportation system that provides transportation choices, creates safe and healthy communities, and saves consumers money. I look forward to working with my colleagues to ensure that any climate legislation we advance in the House recognizes the opportunities provided by the transportation sector.”

“This bill represents an important step in lowering our nation’s greenhouse gas emissions, reducing our dependence on foreign oil and promoting transportation mobility,” Sen. Arlen Specter said. “Since transportation accounts for one-third of greenhouse gas emissions, it stands to reason that revenue generated from a cap-and-trade system should be devoted to creating a more sustainable transportation future.”

“Transportation accounts for 30 percent of our greenhouse gas emissions. CLEAN TEA addresses the difficulty of reducing these emissions by investing in strategies that make our transportation system more efficient and in transportation alternatives, such as mass transit,” said Rep. Melissa Bean. “This bill is a great example of how pro-growth and environmentally conscious policy can come together.”

“CLEAN TEA can’t come soon enough for our mass transit infrastructure,” Rep Mark Kirk said. “By investing in energy-saving projects like commuter rail, we’ll save money at the gas pump, decrease congestion and reduce greenhouse gases. Most importantly, we’ll create thousands of jobs throughout the country.”

“CLEAN TEA is a good benchmark to start the debate on climate change legislation. We cannot effectively address climate change without reducing the transportation sector’s contribution to greenhouse gas emissions,” Rep. Ellen Tauscher said. “This bill follows in the wake of historic legislation in California to address climate change by linking it to land use and transportation policy.”
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Portland Auditor’s survey: Fewer cars, more bikes, and safer streets

Biking Elsewhereimage
– In 2008, there were 140 “traffic injuries” to individuals on bicycles. That’s down from 196 in 2007 and it’s the lowest number since the survey was taken in 1999. The same goes for pedestrian injuries; there were 123 in 2008, down from 191 in 2007. There was also a major drop in the amount of individuals injured while operating an automobile; the survey reports 4,428 injured, compared to 5,429 in 2007.
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Speakers at the National Bike Summit

Biking ElsewhereUPDATE: see comment for updated links

Here are videos of the morning speakers at the National Bike Summit on Wednesday, March 11.

US DOT Secretary Ray LaHood
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US Representative Earl Blumenauer (OR-3rd)
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US Representative Daniel Lipinski (IL-3rd)
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US Representative Doris Matsui (CA-5th)
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Cyclists are important users of transportation systems

Biking ElsewhereFrom Trans Secretary LaHood -

On Wednesday, I had the pleasure of addressing the National Bike Summit. I was invited to speak as a member of the Obama administration, but I have been a supporter of bicycling for many years and was a member of the Congressional Bike Caucus when I was in Congress.

Still, I don't think the League of American Bicyclists knew what to expect when they invited me to their summit.

I hope they were pleasantly surprised because I am committed to investing in programs that encourage bikes to coexist with other modes and to safely share our roads and bridges. And there’s strong support in Congress for these goals as well.

In the Department of Transportation, bicyclists have a full partner in working toward livable communities. We're excited that the Federal Highway Administration is looking at best practices in Europe to improve safety and mobility for walkers and cyclists. We're excited that a federally funded pilot project to study the effects of improved walking and bicycling facilities in four communities is underway. I think I conveyed that excitement to the summit, judging by the early response (,

I welcome the vigor of the bicycling community in advocating for bike-friendly measures in the upcoming authorization bill, CLEAN-TEA. Bicycles are a critical part of a cleaner, greener future in American transportation, so keep those wheels spinning.
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Looking for local rides(ers)

Annual Event to Raise Funds for Autism Research image

BALTIMORE, MD – This year, families throughout the region will once again come together to “ROAR” for the millions of children with autism who cannot. Celebrating its 5th anniversary, Kennedy Krieger Institute’s annual fundraiser ROAR for Autism will be held on Saturday, April 25 at Oregon Ridge Park. Following a successful 2008 fundraiser that featured over 1,000 participants, once again teams of families and friends will participate in the activity-filled event that helps raise critically needed funds for autism research. Autism, a complex, life-altering, developmental disorder, affects 1 in every 150 children.

ROAR for Autism will feature events and activities for every member of the family including challenging 50- and 25- mile rides, a 10-mile ride for recreational bikers, a 5-mile ride designed for beginner cyclists, and a kid’s youth fun ride. For those who prefer to stay off the road and in the woods, hiking trails at Oregon Ridge will be open with guides available to lead tours. In addition to the hiking and biking activities, there will also be a family fun festival including face painting, children’s entertainment, and the popular Wegman’s Wellness Village featuring healthy food for all families including those with children on special autism diets.

With last year marking the successful introduction of the online team fundraising component, participants can once again go online to register, join a fundraising team, and to build a personal fundraising page to raise money from supporters. Additionally, “Snore for ROAR” is an option again this year for those individuals who can’t quite get out of bed that early but want to make their voice heard and “ROAR” for autism research. For more information about ROAR, or to register, visit or call 443-923-7300.

All cyclists and hikers can register either solo or as a team. Rest stops and bike repair services will be available along the bike routes.

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Buffer zone a good idea for cyclists, even the irksome ones

Bike LawsBy Michael Dresser | Getting There, Baltimore Sun March 16, 2009

Bicyclists are obnoxious.

On any sunny spring day, you'll find them infesting the country roads surrounding Baltimore looking freakishly fit in their Spandex outfits and dweeby helmets. You just know they're a bunch of smug, greener-than-thou elitists whose greatest joy - apart from forcing motorists to crawl along at 10 mph while they drift toward the middle of the road - is to lecture you about your carbon footprint.

So I can sympathize with those members of an Annapolis House subcommittee who would really prefer to kill Del. Jon S. Cardin's bill to establish a 3-foot buffer zone for bicyclists when cars are passing them. It would be galling to hand a victory to those irksome people - half of whom don't seem to think the rules of the road apply to them. Why reward their bad behavior?

Because it's a good bill. And it's needed.

House Bill 496, along with the companion Senate measure that received preliminary approval last week, would write into Maryland law an evolving national standard that has been adopted in at least 20 states. It won't cost the state money. The State Highway Administration and AAA have endorsed it. Nobody testified against it when it came up for a hearing. It could save a life or two.

Nevertheless, Cardin told me Friday, the bill's prospects are hanging by a thread in the House subcommittee. The Baltimore County Democrat said it isn't being lobbied to death, but it has touched a nerve of resentment among some legislators.

They've seen the way some bicyclists behave. They've seen them scoot through red lights where vehicles are stopped. They see them flagrantly going the wrong way on one-way streets. They see them riding side by side and taking up a whole lane of a two-lane road, oblivious to the vehicle traffic stacking up behind them. Why would anyone possibly want to pass a law on behalf of those people?

Because it's the right thing to do.

Whatever the rights and wrongs of who does what to whom on the roads, the mismatch in weight and vulnerability between motor vehicles and bicycles is extreme. And the law protects the vulnerable, even when the vulnerable get on our nerves.

And, hard as it is to accept, there are many law-abiding, courteous bicyclists who would never dream of lecturing you about your vehicular decisions. These bicyclists tell me the law is urgently needed.

Take Adam Berg, a 35-year-old recycling business owner from Stevenson, who said he does his best to stay close to the white line on the right of the road. But that doesn't stop some drivers from passing him as closely as possible - sometimes deliberately.

&quot;They still buzz you. It happens all the time,&quot; he said.

Berg said that the wind forces generated when a vehicle - particularly a truck - passes too closely alternately push a bicycle away and then pull it back toward the vehicle. He said that he hasn't been blown over but that he's come close to being dragged into the side of a passing truck.

One concern that always comes up in writing traffic laws is how they will be enforced. It's definitely an issue with the subcommittee chair, Del. James E. Malone of Baltimore County. And rightly so.

It's true there's no way to measure exactly the distance between every bicycle and every passing car, but this law would certainly be just as enforceable as the current statute on tailgating. We leave such judgment calls to police officers. Why not with vehicles passing bicycles? You're not going to see many officers writing tickets for vehicles passing 2 feet, 11 inches from bicycles. But many judges would give weight to an officer's estimate that a vehicle passed within a foot of a bicyclist.

And sadly, there are cases where there is actual contact - often with a protruding side-view mirror. It won't hurt the car much, but the damage to the bicyclist can be serious. For the motorist in such a case, a ticket for violating the buffer zone would be both deserved and provable.

Even if there aren't a ton of convictions for buffer-zone offenses, many bicyclists believe there is value in simply making it The Law.

&quot;It helps to educate,&quot; said Paul DeSantis, a 35-year-old bicyclist from Freeland in northern Baltimore County. Once the law is on the books, he said, the rule will find its way into driver's ed classes. Maybe even the driver's license exam. There's value in that.

If subcommittee members are still having trouble getting their heads around the notion of voting for a pro-bicyclist bill, it might help to put a face on a person it might protect.

Delegates, imagine your best friend has a young adult son or daughter who is enjoying a glorious day pedaling through the scenic valleys outside Baltimore. That bicyclist is obeying the law, staying as far right as possible. But the driver coming up from behind at 50 mph is in a hurry, feeling stressed and in a bad mood.

Consider the worst - and how you'd explain a &quot;No&quot; vote to your friend.

Besides Malone, the bill's fate lies in the hands of Dels. Saqib Ali, Alfred C. Carr Jr., Barbara Frush, Cheryl Glenn, Anne Healey, H. Wayne Norman, Andrew Serafini, Dana M. Stein and Paul Stull. If someone you love is one of those obnoxious bicyclists, you might want to let them know how you feel.
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London’s Cycling Design Standards: A Model for NYC or here?

Biking Elsewhere

As New York City begins fulfilling its commitment to build 200 miles of new bicycle lanes over the next three years, the question will increasingly arise: What kind of bike lane should go where? Currently, DOT seems not to have any set of guidelines to answer that question. So, take a look at how the City of London does it.

Transportation Alternatives' bike program director Noah Budnick pointed me to the London Cycling Design Standards book. It is a remarkable document and, perhaps, a great model for New York City to follow.

The chart below can be found in Chapter 4, page 62. With vehicle volume on one axis and speed on the other, it establishes a general set of rules for when a street should have a physically-separated, "segregated" bike lane versus when bikes should mix with "calmed" motor vehicle traffic. Note that London has long-since stopped debating whether or not physically-separated bike lanes are a good and necessary thing.


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B:C:Clettes vs. Sexy Back on Youtube

Biking ElsewhereI wear a helmet so you can drive like an idiot. And because it looks smart.

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Maryland should adopt the Idaho stop law.

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