Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Robert Schiro - a.k.a. Bob Schiro of Los Gatos is a plague on society

Several Years ago, Robert Schiro of Los Gatos hit cyclist Ashley Nelson and left her to die on the side of the road.

Here is a newspaper clip of his sentencing

Well, old Bob got out of the pokey, and raised the ante. Here is a post from Ashley as seen on the Noon Ride Facebook Page

Got ready to go for a run this am, then got am email about the man who caused my brain injury by hitting me with his BMW then running. He was sentenced to prison but got out. This is how the email went.... As it was most likely inevitable…Bob Shiro made an appearance in the village recently…causing quite a stir, which involved a wrecked car, lots of sheriffs and an arrest. He tried to go into the Plumed Horse and was asked to leave, he did have a few drinks at Casa de Cobre and then was told to wait while they called a taxi for him as they did not want him driving since he was so drunk. He left anyway…tried to get into a car that was not his (a small sedan) finally realized he was actually driving a Cadillac Escalade SUV (you can see how easy it would be to mistake the two right?!?) and got his keys to work in the SUV. He then started to drive away but hit the car in the parking space in front of him (another SUV which belonged to the owner of the 5 th Avenue second hand shop) but he couldn’t figure out what reverse gear was and decided just to floor the Cadillac in drive and force the other car forward enough to get out of his parking space. All the while people in the restaurants and the valets were yelling and screaming at him to stop and chasing after him. They got his license plate number, gave it to the sheriff, that they called when he started to drive off and they got involved. Alice, who is part owner of Casa was asked by the Sheriff’s to come along with them to identify him, as they knew from the license plate who it was. They know where he lives of course, so they drove Alice up to his house on the hill where the scene got even more interesting. Bob, making it home by some miracle without killing someone, could not figure out how to open the electric gate at his driveway, so what does he do, yes of course he floors the car and runs down the security gate at his house, thus causing a lot of damage to both the gate and his car. So much so that the air bags deploy and all his tires are punctured. So quite a scene to say the least. But of course Bob is not going to go easy is he…he tries to say his girlfriend (the Russian gold digger) was driving but even she is having none of that. The Sheriff of course know he was driving, they have a witness, Alice who states categorically that yes Bob is the one who got drunk and drove off after hitting the parked car, etc. The Sheriff told Alice that they have been watching Bob and waiting for a chance to arrest him again to get him off the streets as they know he is a danger to himself and others. I hope this gave them the ammo they needed to do just that.

A tale of two drivers.

The scene - riding North on Grove Street, Healdsburg, Ca. Speed limit, 35 MPH. One lane in each direction, with a row of sparsely used parking on each side.

The parking on Grove presents a nasty issue for cyclists - in the presence of unaware drivers. Generally the road presents itself to drivers as a super wide arterial - because the unoccupied parking makes the lane appear almost double wide. So surely the cyclist should be way over to the right, alongside the curb and out of the way of traffic. The problem with this is when you now approach a parked car, the cyclist has nowhere to go. Technically, you should ride as if there were a full line of cars parked on the road, just as if they were parked there, riding just to the left of the door zone. In practice, if there are no cars parked, I might just ride in the parking area in order to allow drivers unimpeded passing. I consider this being courteous in the lack of a safety hazard.

But if there is an occasional car parked alongside the road, it's important to establish lane positioning early, so that you don't end up approaching the parked car from behind while a driver begins their pass. An aware driver would sense that you will need to move laterally to the left to pass the parked car (with enough room to avoid the door zone) and slow to allow you your pass. In practice, most drivers don't see the upcoming merge that you will be making, and in many cases don't even see that you are there. So you need to establish position early such that the driver sees you.

Of course, just because the driver sees you occupying the travel lane, does not imply they will understand *why* you are "In the middle of the road!" instead of over there in that "perfectly good shoulder" which is not a shoulder, it's a row of parking spaces (a surprisingly large amount of drivers would call this row of parking spaces "the bike lane"). As such, some subset of drivers will get angry at you for being in the road instead of over to the right, oblivious to the fact that "over to the right" is blocked by a parked car.

On a recent trip down Grove, I saw two parked cars roughly 100 feet ahead, did a shoulder check, saw the lane was clear, signaled my intention to merge into the lane, established position, and roughly the point where I was passing the two parked cars, the driver behind me signaled their displeasure by laying on their horn, then making a rapid acceleration to pass in the oncoming travel lane. Anger issues and discourtesy.

On a later trip however, I encountered a very aware, excellent driver. Further down Grove the parking disappears to add a middle lane to allow for turns in either direction off of Grove. Here, I ride on the shoulder but in this case I needed to merge into the middle of the lane and then further left into the turn lane in order to turn left into my health club. I made a shoulder check and saw a car approaching from behind and decided to wait. I looked back again and the driver had slowed - this was a very situation aware driver. The driver noted me do my shoulder check and realized that I was probably preparing to make a left, and slowed to allow me to make my merge across. I signalled, merged, then gave the thumbe up to the driver, who returned the thumbs up as they passed on the right.

Situational awareness and courtesy. Not dead.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Lies, damn lies, and statistics

Richard Hall - a person with opinions from Marin - wrote a blog post and sent me the link.

The article is called Cyclists Disregarding Red Lights a Major Cause of Accidents

He goes on to describe this and gives us some statistics he gleaned from the San Rafael Police Department. He then comes to the following conclusion:

This reinforces the need for two programs here in San Rafael: - SRPD enforcement of traffic laws for cyclists, at red lights and stop signs.

Interesting. Let's look at his statistics. He starts off with a set of statistics that show that there were 30 cyclist/motorist collisions from March 2013 to March 2014. The stats indicate that 50% of the accidents were the fault of the cyclist. Thus, "Cyclists disregarding red lights are a major cause of accidents at red lights."

Of course, this stat is for all accidents involving cyclists and motorists, not just the ones at red light. He does then go on to give the stats for bike/car accidents at red lights. There were two . And they were both caused by the cyclist. So the question going back to his original premise - does two accidents equal "Major Cause of Accidents"?

We don't know. The fact that both bike/car accidents were caused by cyclists means they were the ONLY cause, not just the "Major" cause ... of bike/car accidents at red lights. The sample size is pretty small, and one could pick nits with that, but the real reason that Hall's conclusion is bogus is because he didn't give us the numbers for Car vs. Car accidents at red lights. If cyclists caused 100% of the two bike/car accidents, but motorists ran into each other thousands of times, the primary cause of any accidents at red lights would be cars (I think it's safe to assume in a car vs car accident at a red light, a driver of a car was at fault).

There is this conclusion, at least amongst anonymous (and Richard Hall) internet comment board members that cyclists are doing all sorts of crazy things. So Hall has made the conclusion that we need to crack down on the rampant cyclist misbehavior. To prevent two collisions annually, a stat which is based on one year's statistics. And maybe by magic this specific program will do something about the other 13 collisions that apparently didn't happen the red lights that SRPD will be focusing on.

Any police department has limited resources, and they should be targeted at what causes the most problems. Hall has cherry picked the data and is looking for who causes the most problems in a specific circumstance, but police resources should be focused based on overall data, not just for one kind of circumstance. This is even before we discuss the magnitude of damage caused by the offender, with motorists causing a lot more damage per incident like driving through the front of a restaurant.

Thinking about that last link, maybe I need a blog post "Motorists Disregarding the Front of the Building a Major Cause of Accidents" and show that 100% of car vs restaurant accidents are caused by Motorists, ergo the SRPD needs to enforce traffic laws for motorists, at the front of Home Cooking Restaurants. Admittedly the sample size is small, but in 2103 it happened again the ever popular Motorist Careens down Sidewalk, Guide Dog saves Pedestrian, Car smashes through Store Window That gives us two pieces of Car on Building violence in 2 years in San Rafael alone.

Please, SRPD, think of the buildings!

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Will compliance with laws get better cycling infrastructure?

In any debate on the internet about cycling, eventually some random person from outside the usual suspects for the given forum will chime in with their theory on cyclists and stop signs. Namely that no cyclists ever stop for stop signs.

This will then be followed with a rebuttal from someone who is a standup citizen when they are sitting on their bike, claiming that they stop at all stop signs, and that they hate the other N-1 cyclists who do not stop at stop signs. And that if only all cyclists obeyed these laws, then non-cyclists (a.k.a. drivers, or "cars") would respect the cyclists and cyclists would get more bike lanes.

This is, of course, a bunch of junk. History is littered with examples of populations that got short shrift and were told that if only they behaved, they'd be treated better. Don't believe it for a second.

Humans are inherently selfish, it appears, as well as short sighted. It doesn't matter how well cyclists behave, they won't get overwhelming support for bike infrastructure unless they specifically pay every penny for it without any subsidy from non-cyclists. Those non-cyclists of course, aren't asking for subsidy at all!

To make my point clear, let's reference another example that is tangentially related. The Golden Gate Bridge is considering raising their toll from the current $6 to $8. The toll for the bridge pays for maintainance of the bridge as well as subsidizing the fares of people who ride the ferries and buses operated by the Golden Gate Bridge District.

Unlike the hordes of stop sign running cyclists, whom are observed by the aggrieved gas-tax paying motorists as being scofflaws who hate civil society, bus and ferry riders are a genial lot, slogging their way onto shared transportation and pretty much not getting in anyone's way. It's nominally clear to almost anyone that the riders of the buses and ferries are reducing traffic by their choice to not drive over the bridge, so generally this group should be viewed as one that has a positive behavioral profile. Except for the fact that they are leeching off the toll paying public for their party-extravaganza on the crowded buses and ferries, of course!

I've ridden those buses and seen US-101 in Marin at rush hour. Without the people on transit, it would be a disaster. And the Bridge District, who runs these things, knows it.

"We're famous for the bridge," he said. "But in reality, we're really operating a regional transportation service."

The district's 2003 mission statement calls for it to provide transportation services within the Highway 101 corridor. Its buses and shuttles, officials say, take about 25 percent of the vehicle traffic off of the bridge.

"If you think traffic is untenable now, imagine it with 25 percent more cars," Mulligan said.

But don't tell that to the suffering motorist paying for the party

But many commuters don't think it's right that their bridge tolls should be helping to pay for someone else's bus or ferry ride.

"For people who don't ever use the buses or ferries, it seems a little ridiculous," said Simon Myatt, a 23-year-old Santa Rosa resident who crosses the bridge at least twice a week. "I know that, as a community, we need to stick together, but it's not exactly fair."

It is often noted that there are ancillary benefits to cycling usage - lower traffic, reduced competition for parking, reduced wear and tear on roads, reduced pollution. But these can be murky to someone not adept at looking at the big picture. But for the roadways from San Rafael to the bridge, there is no question that the fleets of buses and ferries are making the driving commute possible. Doesn't matter. No matter how much benefit the driver recoups out of their tolls via providing an incentive for others to take the ferry, the fact they are putting a penny into a ferry service that they don't directly use is "unfair".

Same goes for bikes. So spare me the argument that some crackhead riding the wrong way down Market Street is the reason you don't get a bike lane.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Bad cycling, Vehicular Cycling - Healdsburg edition

I saw some bad cycling in Healdsburg today.

I was walking out of the (fantastic) Taqueria Guadalajara and saw two cyclists headed South on Healdsburg Avenue towards the US-101 onramp. This is a pretty sketchy chunk of road - the typical path for cyclists from the corner of Mill St and Healdsburg Ave to points south is to follow Healdsburg's own little version of San Francisco's Wiggle , following Mill Street East and then taking every right turn you can to get to the Healdsburg Memorial Bridge, where you re-enter Healdsburg Ave, cross the bridge to the South and get onto the reasonable bike lane on Old Redwood Highway headed out of town.

When I first started riding up here, I - like any novice - just looked at the map and followed Healdsburg Ave instead. As you get to the intersection with Exchange Ave, the road has three lanes, the left onto Exchange, a straight lane on Healdsburg Ave that ends up at a stop sign at the crossing of the freeway offramp from US-101N, and the right hand lane which is the entrance to US-101S. I usually stayed on Healdsburg Ave. Now, I take the wiggle route, unless I am headed to Guadalajara, after which I wiggle over on Exchange back to Healdsburg Ave on a section which while not great, doesn't have a freeway interchange interleaved in it.

I watched these cyclists to see where they were headed. They were pretty close to the onramp and still hugging the right hand shoulder, which is the one place you don't want to really be, because well, it's the onramp to the freeway. They then proceeded to pass a big rig on the right hand side. Not good.

They sort of realized the pickle they were in and hung out there for a moment. There is a crosswalk from the gas station at that intersection to the opposite side, where they could make a box turn onto Exchange, but if they wanted to head SB on Healdsburg Ave that wouldn't work, and unless they *knew* that they could bypass it via Exchange, they wouldn't try. Eventually they made a really strange maneuver, which I caught on long distance video.

They sort of figured out that they needed to get across the onramp to get to the SB Healdsburg Ave continuation. They went through a light cycle or two, and then when the light turned green, they veered left in front of the lead vehicle in the offramp lane and into the SB HBG Ave connector lane. The big problem with this is that the SB traffic on HBG Ave also has a green and they just veered in front of it blind to that traffic's viewpoint, and the road narrows into a little slot lane to get to the crossing of the NB US-101 offramp.

This is the sort of odd behavior that drives a lot of the crazy internet comments. The ironic part is that these vitriolic comments are thrown at people in bike coalitions, clubs, and advocacy groups. Generally, the members of said groups have moved past such confused maneuvers. What was going on here? The cyclists I observed had rental bikes - Wine Country Tourists. Most of their route is straightforward, but the last little jog into Healdsburg is a bit confusing, and if they make a wrong turn they end up in a chunk of infrastructure that is not intutive to an inexperienced cyclist.

Me - if I am on that chunk of road, early on I check the traffic, move to the SB through lane or the left turn onto Exchange, position myself center lane, and do a tiny bit of "Vehicular Cycling". I don't really adhere to the consider riding for miles in the center of high speed roads "because we are a vehicle", but in this sort of intersection, the VC theories are correct - in places where you are pinched, assert yourself or get pinched worse. Even though those riders probably own cars, they don't assert their position because it isn't even something they comprehend.

What's the action item? We'd want better infrastructure such that inexperienced cyclists don't end up in pinch spots like this, but redesigning an intersection like this would be very expensive with little ROI. Healdsburg should probably start with some BIKE ROUTE signs at Mill and Healdsburg to keep people who are simply lost from entering that trap when a simple, more pleasant, and SHORTER alternative exists (not to mention that that alternative is where the bike rental shops are!). They could even promote the route - call it something neat like say... "The Wiggle". Then work on education, for drivers and cyclists. Fortunately drivers in Healdsburg proper tend to be overtly aware of cyclists and very accommodating, probably because everyone either is a cyclist, knows a cyclist, or makes their living from selling stuff to cyclists.

It's a non-trivial problem, for sure.

Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Polk Street

Hi all -

There is a streetscape improvment being proposed for Polk Street. Here is the pre-hullabaloo information about the project.

I am not sure if I have ever ridden on Polk, frankly - but what happens on Polk will influence what happens elsewhere. And no, I don't want to talk about JFK- if JFK is worse for you now than it was before it's still orders of magnitude less dangerous than Oak, or Polk, or the Chavez crossing of 101, or Division or even Market. JFK is a distraction. I'm forwarding some commentary from Jodie preceeded by my own experience which some of you youngun's may not recall even though it wasn't really that long ago

3 years ago there was a proposal to turn a chunk of Noe Street into a park. The road would be closed to traffic South from 24th Street for 60 feet, fronting 24th. This was after the first parklet at Mojo and the City was looking for a bigger streetscape project to mirror the Times Square closure. There was a lot of international interest. Well, some people who drive through there (or parked overnight in the four metered spots in front of their houses instead of in their garages) decided this would not stand, and told then Supervisor Bevan Dufty that the city was nuts and nobody would want this and they should kill it. I thought this would be a *GREAT* idea - to have a chunk of ground in central Noe where I could let my toddler run around, and it would eliminate most of the car/ped interactions in a very nasty intersection but closing off the through traffic.

So we managed to keep the thing limping along for a meeting. We worked very hard and got big numbers to show up. I gave a nice speech, countered by a crazy person rambling about how since she was a 68 year old fourth generation Noe Valleyan she and her gray haired friends knew what was best for the neighborhood - which as you know is rapidly changing (and boy do they resent it). This allowed us to merely fight to a draw and set up *another* meeting. That meeting was at 7 PM, which was awful for the primary proponents who were putting their children to bed and were somewhat dispirited by the first meeting.

This is what happened at Meeting #2

For 15 seconds I thought "No way Bevan Dufty caves into these crazy people - we win". Then I looked at Bevan and saw a *coward* and realized we lost. And now I realize that the people who are against streetscape changes that promote safety for people over their personal desire to have as much parking inventory as possible, have a straightfoward template for how to beat these changes. Show up to meetings and YELL AND BOO AS LOUD AS THEY CAN. Because they know IT WORKS. It worked with Bevan Dufty and it sure as hell will work with David Chiu. God bless David he knows what the right thing is but I'm sorry David - I have yet to see you stick your neck out on the line . So the ONLY way this project happens is if this meeting has HUGE numbers from people who want a calmer, safer, more inviting Polk Street.

I can't make the Saturday meeting because my in-laws are in town. But I'll be there Tuesday night. And I'll be buying beers afterwards NOT from any bar on Polk Street who opposes the project, and sending a scan of the receipt to David Chiu and every bar on Polk that opposes the project. As should you!

There has been a lot of progress since three years ago. Even though we lost that one, the NIMBYs talked about how they craved parklets, and put a lot of money into buying a PARKING LOT in Noe Valley and closing it down permanently for a park. Because they knew if they didn't start throwing us some bones, soon enough we'd be coming back after that street closure. I put a shit-ton of time into that and it got us the two parklets in Noe Valley and that helped popularize the concept. If you want improvements anywhere in the city, this meeting for Polk can be the thing that shifts the tide if we show up in NUMBERS.

Murph

Here is Jodie's pitch.

We need hundreds of people who care about this issue to attend one of these meetings to speak up for safety on Polk. We can be sure that the angry crowd of people who don’t value our safety will be there in force. And so, we need to publicly show there is support in favor of.

SFMTA Polk Street Improvement Project Public Meetings

Saturday, April 27, 10 am to 1 pm Tuesday, April 30, 5 to 8:30 pm Location: 1300 Polk St (at Bush) at the First Congregational Church Fellowship Hall

RSVP HERE

These meetings are not sit-down, drawn out, hours of your time. This is a QUICK, drop in, add your voice, a 20 minute stop that will make a world of difference.

In order to be sure we have the amount of force necessary to combat the crowd that is against parking loss on Polk Street, we are taking a head count, so RSVPing is important.

Polk Street is a BIGGIE --This is a make or break moment for the future of Polk Street, and biking in San Francisco. Despite the hundreds of letters of support and support expressed at past public meetings, decision-makers are actually beginning to publicly question whether biking and walking safety on this street deserves attention. This is not acceptable.

Many thanks,

~jodie

Know the Facts

Someone on a bike and walking is involved in a collision on Polk once a month. There are about 42 full-time and 5-6 part-time car travel lanes within a half-mile of Polk, and only about 0.5 bike lanes. Polk really is the only viable biking street to connect the center of the city and points North.

According to a City study, 85% of people on Polk Street get there without a car, and people who drive to Polk actually spend the least amount of money on Polk Street per month.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

Stolen Red Specialized Road Bike, Sonoma County?

Another potential use for cyclists and helmet cams...

Riding home through Wikiup California last night... (not sure if Wikiup is an official name or if I was in Santa Rosa or Windsor, or even if I was in Larkfield instead of Wikiup, but I digress...).

I noticed someone standing by the side of the road and glanced over at him, and then I noticed his very nice Red Specialized Road Bike. This is a bike that would sell for over $1000 new no matter what, and if it were a nicer version of the bike (depending on the wheels, shifters, etc...) could reach into the $5000 range. The guy with the bike was scruffy, smoking a cigarette, and most relevantly had no cycling gear/clothing at all, not so much as a helmet. Sorry, but it just doesn't fit. The bike is stolen.

I started thinking I needed to get a picture of the guy and the bike in case I might be able to find the owner. Then I realized I had my helmet cam on...

The video isn't the greatest for this purpose, especially after it's been dumbed down by YouTube, but here you go... at the 10 second mark...