Thursday, May 24, 2012

BAC Meeting

Sorry for the late notice, but I figure it's better late than never. The Riverside Bicycle Advisory Committee will meet tonight at 5:30pm in the Mayor's Ceremonial Room, 4th Floor, City Hall. The agenda is below.

1. Welcome & Self-Introductions

2. Grant Awards
a. Canyon Crest Separated Bikeway
b. University Avenue Pedestrian Improvements

3. Upcoming Events
a. Neighborhood Conference – June 2nd
b. Family Fun Ride at Fairmount Park – June 9th
c. Long Beach Bike Tours – June 16th and July 14th
d. Kidical Mass – TBD
e. Riverside Today Segment

4. Public Works Updates
a. Market Street Road Diet Study
b. Alessandro Bike Lanes at I-215
c. Trautwein Repaving
d. Santa Ana River Trail Sewer Line Construction

5. Inventory of Existing Conditions

6. Public Comment

7. Next Meeting

8. Adjournment

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Taste of Brews Riverside

Here at Riding in Riverside, we're no fans of driving generally-- but we find drunken driving particularly distasteful. Sadly, our area seems almost guaranteed to drive that result, with no late-night transit, few taxis, and parking minimums for bars. (Seriously. [PDF]) However, by happy coincidence (because it surely wasn't foresight and planning), Riverside is hosting an event that brings together two of my favorite things-- craft beer and transit!

The IE Taste of Brews, on 2 June, will be held in White Park downtown. Craft breweries from as far away as Oregon will be bringing their wares for Riversiders to sample. While the organizers obviously didn't plan for this to be a transit-centric event, the locale is happily situated a short walk away from Downtown Terminal, served by routes 1, 10, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 22, 29, 49, and Omni 215 (on weekends).

Tickets are currently being sold at early-bird prices- $30 general admission (1-4pm), $40 VIP (12-4), and you can get $5 off with promo code "TOB5." Hope to see you there!

Monday, May 7, 2012

Clock-Face Scheduling and the 16

There's a concept in transit timetables called clock-face scheduling. Basically, the idea is that you have a route run on a consistent headway every X minutes, and that you set X to a value such that the pattern repeats every hour. In Riverside, the #1 is scheduled so that departures from the Downtown Terminal are clock-face scheduled. Before 7:30, westbound departures are at :10 and :40 past the hour- every 30 minutes. Between 8:00 and 18:00, departures are every 20 minutes, at :00, :20 and :40 past the hour. At 18:00 they return to every 30 minutes, at :00 and :30 past the hour. This makes trip planning easy-- if you know the route, you know that it will pass your stop at a certain time past the hour, every hour. You simply remember that time, and you know when the next bus is coming without having to consult a schedule or web site.

Right now, the #16 is also clock-face scheduled, with eastbound departures every 30(ish) minutes from Downtown at roughly :10 and :40 past the hour-- although the schedule does lose time over the course of the day, eventually becoming at :01 and :31 and then fluctuating wildly past 17:31. I know that the westbound bus passes my stop at roughly :20 and :50 past the hour, and the eastbound at roughly :00 and :30. On weekdays, I never need to consult a schedule to figure out when to catch the bus-- I just need to memorize a few numbers, and I can plan my trip accordingly.

Which is why something that I'd normally be excited about-- increased frequency on the route that serves my apartment-- has given me some reason for pause, because the frequency is being improved from 30 to 25 minutes.

The disadvantage of clock-face scheduling is that you can't simply pick an arbitrary frequency and make it work. Only certain times produce repeating patterns every hour. 5, 7.5, 10, 15, 20, 30 and 60 minute headways work. 40 and 45 minute headways produce patterns that repeat every two hours, which is okay but not ideal. (This is the situation on the 15, for example.) Any other combination, and you're basically either checking the bus book or guessing. A 25-minute headway produces a pattern that repeats every 5 hours, which is basically useless for memorization. Furthermore, you don't gain all that much-- only two hours out of those five see three buses an hour (more than the 2/hour from a 30-minute headway). The average wait goes from 15 minutes to 12.5.

Thus I am torn. I'm always happy to see a frequency improvement, especially on the route that I use most. However, this improvement comes at a significant cost to system legibility. It means I now need to check the bus book/BusWatch site every time I want to use the system. And it isn't all that big of an improvement- the average 16-hour service day will only see 6 more buses, or one every 3 hours. Obviously, if they were to improve the frequency to every 20 minutes, it'd be fantastic, but I'm not sure if the increase in service is worth the significant drop in usability here.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Service Updates

RTA is updating bus schedules again (effective 13 May), and by and large there's not a lot of news. A lot of small tweaks (routes 1, 7, 8, 10, 11, 14, 15, 18, 19, 20, 22, 23, 24, 27, 33, 42), a couple of problems (routes 21 and 54), and one service improvement (route 16). I won't comment on the tweaks, so let's talk about the problems.

Route 21 will no longer serve the Pedley Metrolink station, presumably because it's in an awful spot to get to if you're trying to continue on Limonite. This is all well and good, and it makes sense from an operational standpoint, but I hate to see RTA blasting holes in intermodal connectivity. It still passes close to the station, but it's roughly a quarter-mile walk along the car-sewer that is Limonite-- which could make or break a tight train connection, or constrain possibilities for the mobility-challenged. I'm wondering whether the operational benefits are worth it.

Route 54 is a new trolley service downtown, set up for the duration of the widening of CA-91. (During the construction, county workers will be unable to use much of their current parking lot abutting the freeway.) It runs from an under-used Metrolink parking lot at 10th/Commerce to the county admin building on 12th/Lemon, almost as if there were a concerted effort to keep it from serving anything useful downtown. It'll also do the same thing that the old #52 did, serving morning, lunchtime and evening peaks only, making it useful for one and only one thing: getting county workers to and from their cars. This is a shame, because RTA could have used the temporary funding to actually show how a downtown circulator route could effectively serve downtown.

I'll write about the improvements to 16 in another post, because I think they constitute their very own "teachable moment."

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Bike Law in California

So I've realized, with yesterday's troubles, that many cyclists in my social circle have at least a few misconceptions about bike law in California. Thus, this post. I intend it to be a quick summary of cyclists' rights and responsibilities under the California Vehicle Code and Riverside Municipal Code, so that riders can at least be fully-informed in their decisions about conduct in the streets. Here goes! (Disclaimer: I'm still not a lawyer.)

The first thing that you need to know is that, unlike skateboards, roller skates, kick scooters, and any other sort of human-powered wheeled conveyance, bicycles are considered vehicles under California law. That means that, for the most part, you have all the rights-- and all the responsibilities-- of motor vehicles in the public right of way. That means that, yes, all of those pesky car laws apply to you too, cyclist. Ride on the right-hand side of the road, with traffic. Stop at all red lights and stop signs, signal your turns, and obey the speed limit (although that's usually an easy one on a bike). For turn signals, hold out your arm straight and level in the direction of your intended turn. (CVC 21200(a))

On the flip side, bicycles are permitted on nearly all public roadways in the state. They're banned from most freeways (but not all), but that's it. As a cyclist, you're entitled to use the right-most lane that travels in your intended direction. That means that you're allowed to use left-hand turn lanes, and you do not need to stay in a right-hand turn lane unless you're turning right. Ordinarily, you're required to stay as far to the right as possible practicable, but there are several important exceptions to that rule. It does not apply:
  • when turning left.
  • when passing another vehicle traveling in the same direction.
  • when approaching a place where a right turn is permitted.
  • when necessary to avoid road conditions such as debris, surface hazards, other bicycles, pedestrians, parked cars, etc. or when the lane is "of substandard width"-- that is, when the lane is too narrow for a "vehicle" to safely pass a cyclist. I generally interpret this section by replacing the word "vehicle" with the words "full-size bus," and the words "safely pass" with the words "pass with 3 feet of clearance."
  • You may also ride on the left-hand side of a one-way street.
    (CVC 21202)
There is no number of bicycles in a group which permits you to take the lane-- you have that right even if riding alone, should any of the above conditions be met. When utilizing the full travel lane, you should position your bicycle either in the center of the lane, or slightly to the left. This sends a message to cars behind you that there isn't room for them to pass, and that they should go around. If you position yourself in the right half of the lane, expect some cars to try and pass you.

If a bicycle lane or path is provided along your travel route, you are generally required to use it. That said, you are allowed to leave the lane should travel conditions within it become unsafe, or in order to pass another vehicle or avoid a hazard. (CVC 21208)

Your bicycle must be equipped with a brake that will cause one braked wheel to skid on dry, level, clean pavement. Fixie riders, this means that going brakeless is illegal, although you'll probably get a fix-it ticket if caught. Invest in a front brake. You must also be able to put your foot down, as well as hold on to the handlebars without raising your arms above your head. On most bikes, this isn't a problem. (CVC 21201)

If you're riding at night, you are required to have a white headlight and reflectors on your pedals (or shoes or ankles- these are good if you're riding clipless), sides, and rear. Everything should be either white or yellow except the rear reflector, which should be red. Your bicycle should come with all of these reflectors already installed. You may use a red light in lieu of the red rear reflector, and a headlamp attached to you in lieu of one attached to your bicycle. So you should already have the reflectors-- an inexpensive LED light set can have you legal for night riding in no time. (Of course, tiny LED lights won't make night riding safe. If you plan on riding at night a lot, you should look into getting a much brighter headlight.) (CVC 21201)

All of the above are state regulations, but there are also a few local laws to be aware of. RMC 10.64.170 requires that you park your bicycle in a bike rack while downtown-- a feat made much easier with addition of a couple dozen new bike racks downtown, which I'll post about in a bit. It only applies if a rack is available within 150 feet. 10.64.310 prohibits riding on the sidewalk unless there are signs specifically permitting cyclists. (The only such signs in the City that I'm aware of are at University/Iowa, in Arlington Village where the bike lane joins the sidewalk, and along the Victoria Ave. path.) There are also a good number of provisions that simply restate requirements in the CVC, albeit often less elegantly. (RMC 10.64.330, for example, is the equivalent to 21201, but it doesn't make the exceptions to riding to the right clear.)

Sorry that was long, but this is a reasonable summary of the rules and regulations that apply to you while you're riding your bicycle. I'm not going to say that you should always obey every law, but by knowing them you can make an informed choice about them.

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Bicycle culture? Not among the police.

DISCLAIMER: I am not a laywer, although I think these bike laws are pretty clear. This version of events is my own, and has not been verified by a court of law.

Yesterday, I spent a lot of time on my bicycle-- much of it with my brothers and sisters of Occupy Riverside, engaged in joyful, peaceful protest on the occasion of May Day. During a demonstration ride up 14th St. to the Community Convergence at Bordwell Park, however, things got a measure less peaceful-- thanks to the intervention of Riverside's finest.

Anyone who's ridden along 14th street from Downtown knows that the travel lanes are jammed in three-abreast, and are reasonably narrow. There is no bicycle lane, and no wide shoulder. So, as is our right under CVC 21202(a), we took the right-hand lane. There were people in the group who hadn't ridden a bike in a while, so we were going pretty slow, and this was obviously pissing off the drivers behind us (even though we never completely blocked the street). So of course, RPD came to their rescue.

Around Sedgwick Ave., an RPD patrol car came up behind us and began ordering us over the loudspeaker to "get on the sidewalk." This shows a lack of understanding of bicycle law on the part of the officers, because not only did we have a right to the road, but they were actually ordering us to do something that's illegal in Riverside. Here's RMC 10.64.330 (warning, PDF link):
Except for authorized police bicycle patrols, no person shall ride a bicycle upon a sidewalk or parkway unless signs are erected permitting use of such sidewalk or parkway by
bicycles. (Ord. 5924 § 1, 1991; Ord. 2940 § 11.9, 1961)
Of course, we had no intention of engaging in illegal conduct while being followed by a police patrol car.

 As I mentioned, we were riding to the Convergence at Bordwell Park-- something like a giant free community picnic/grocery-and-clothing giveaway/party, for those unfamiliar. Bordwell Park is at Kansas and 14th, literally the next major street after Sedgwick. I have no doubt in my mind that the officers in question knew that that was our destination. So what did these fair-minded crusaders for justice think was the appropriate response to this imagined lawbreaking? Did they choose to simply allow us to continue on our way, for one block, and deal with the minor traffic disruption?

Of course not. As we approached Kansas, an officer (who we believe to be officer A. Watkins) pulled his patrol car in front of us in order to block our progress, jumped out of his car with his Tazer drawn, and tackled one of our number off of his bicycle. This was his response to what he thought was a minor traffic violation (and what was not, in fact, a violation of any kind). When we rushed to start filming this brazen act of police brutality, as is necessary to hold our public servants accountable for their actions, roughly 30 more officers converged on the intersection in the span of a minute or so, tangling up traffic far more than a few bicycles ever did. They started pushing the protesters back towards the park, blocking the view of our cameras, and in the ensuing scuffle another of our number was beaten and arrested- I'm not aware of what he was charged with.

To reiterate my point- our ride would have left the roadway on the other side of the intersection where it was forcibly halted. The police knew that, as evidenced by the fact that they had a gaggle of officers standing by within a minute's drive. They knew who we were and where we were going. This officer chose to make an arrest, by force, for a traffic violation-- one that wasn't actually occurring.

Obviously, this is a worrying incident for the relationship between public and the officers sworn to protect them, but I want to talk about the impact it has on cycling in our city. It is no secret that developing a "bicycle culture" in Riverside is a priority of the current Mayor and City government. It is also no secret that our bicycle facilities are somewhat lacking, and taking the lane is a necessary maneuver in many cases. Finally, this is not the first time that I have encountered police officers that are seemingly ignorant of the law they purport to enforce, at least when it comes to bicycles.

What message does this send to people who want to join in the cycling renaissance in our city? "Hey, we'd like you to bike, but idiot drivers who don't know the law aren't your only worry-- you also need to watch out for police officers, who could run you down or Tazer you for following the law." Among the many, many things that we need to fix with respect to cycling in Riverside, some remedial bike law training for the police is pretty high on that list.