Cars as Weapons and Worrying About Bike Safety

Maybe it's my age, or maybe it's because I've been getting rear-ended more than I like, but I am increasingly hating driving.

It was only yesterday about say 15 or 16 years ago that I could not wait to get behind the wheel.  Now, it's just draining.

Yesterday, I ran into an old high school classmate in Marina Del Rey who also expressed his hatred for driving LA's freeways.  Though he was wearing a plain LA shirt, he expressed his own desire to move to Colorado or elsewhere.

Traffic can get that bad, and THAT draining.

Yesterday, there were two separate car incidents in two different parts of LA County that strike close to places that I travel through fairly often on bike:  1)  a car crash in Wilmington three blocks from Banning High School on Pacific Coast Highway, and 2) a Suge Knight hit and run in Compton on Central and Rosecrans Avenue at the South LA-ubiquitous burger chain Tam's Burgers.

These incidents underscore a basic fact:  the car can be a very dangerous weapon.  Each of these incidents killed people.

In the first incident, the driver of the car lost control of a car and ended up driving on the wrong side of the road.  They smashed into a rideshare van, which unharmed the van, but instead killed two people driving that car.  According to one of my friends who knew them, that car was souped up and the driver couldn't quite handle it.

In the second 'incident', after arguing on set for the biopic "Straight Outta Compton", Suge Knight followed some guys to the burger joint, ran them over and backed up.  One of the men suffered injuries and the other died.  Suge has been charged with murder.

This is why I'm always looking over my shoulder when I bike --- I just never know when someone is going to lose control of their car, or if someone in their rage is going to use his car to do something harmful.

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Getting Worried about Bike Safety Here

Though Suge Knight's use of the car was probably intentionally directed at pedestrians, I was wondering about bike safety in the neighborhood in general.

Incidentally, I was headed towards Rosecrans and Central on 1/28 and managed to get some video.
I titled the video:  would you let your kids bike this? Or something to that effect.

Why would I title it that?

In less than a month, I'm going to be a dad.  Yep.  Crazy, crazy, crazy ish. 

However, I'm probably not the first ever to come up with an idea or with the sentiment to inspire more bike safety for the sake of their kids.  Apologies to whoever is on the front line and doing the dang deeds.

In the same way that I wondered how I could ensure bicycle safety for my little sister, and my mother, I've been wondering how I'm going to carry the baby while biking.

While Central Avenue in Compton has a bike lane, and I as a lone bicyclist feel somewhat safe, I really wouldn't like the idea of biking with a trailer.

But maybe that's just me being chicken.

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Measuring Bike Safety:  Indicator "Species" Counts

I think part of the reason I would not feel safe is because there's really no protection for my baby and me if something were to happen.  I simply would not want to take any chances.

That in mind, I keep thinking about how our spaces cater to the most vulnerable people.  Most often I don't think they do.  "Vulnerable people" being the elderly, the handicapped, the very young, and women of all ages.

Another confession:  part of my job includes counting pedestrians and bicycles at intersections for engineering companies.  The way we count bikes is pretty basic;  we just count them the way we would count cars with our specific handheld machines. 

While I know that the bike advocacy organizations have been on top of counting every demographic on a bicycle during their own volunteer-run counts, in my field, the work with traffic engineering firms, we often we don't take note of whether they are on the sidewalk, and/or gender.

Why would noting gender be important?

Women simply don't want to be anywhere where they'll be catcalled, harassed, or simply taken advantage of.  It's something as an able-bodied man that I have the privilege of not knowing.

Just as has been posted that the presence of women in a public space indicates a place's safety, I think that line of thinking can be extended to bike infrastructure.  In a closed structure where biking is somewhat more protected, like a bike path, you will see a lot more women.  On any given street, however, if you see anyone, you'll likely see guys.  I think it's important to note just because it can help explain why some use a space, and why some don't.

On occasion, a client will ask us to make a differentiation of pedestrians and bicyclists, and a person counting will note whether they are adults or children, but that's the extent of our classification counts when it comes to bicyclists.

I think some helpful things to start counting:  women on bikes, women pedestrians, bikes with child trailers, bikes on sidewalks vs. bikes on streets, people on wheelchairs (motorized and manual), people on skateboards

In short, I'd hope that engineers in particular start calling for new ways to measure bike safety, and call my company on it so I can keep having a job. 

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