Blogging Bayport Alameda

August 11, 2015

Please guide me ‘pon your bike path of righteousness

Filed under: Alameda — Lauren Do @ 6:01 am

I was reading an article about Cambridge (in England) becoming a huge bicycling city, much like other cities that host a very large student population.  How did they do it?  Well a number of ways that will probably be politically untenable in Alameda, but one or two things that we do already have in place (aka low speed limits with, fairly, regular enforcement):

[I]t has lots of car-free areas in the historic center, protected with a system of bollards that raise and lower to admit buses, emergency vehicles, and some commercial traffic. Second, the city uses an approach called “filtered permeability,” which is a fancy way of saying that it puts up gates to block out cars from certain streets while allowing bike and pedestrian access (these gates can be quickly opened to admit ambulances and fire trucks). Third, about half the streets in town have a 20 mile per hour speed limit—and it’s enforced with speed cameras.

But it wasn’t that part that I found particularly thought provoking, it was this:

Drivers in Cambridge are more likely to have experience riding bikes, and thus more likely to be understanding and courteous toward cyclists on the road. “The more cyclists you have who are also car drivers, the safer the roads get,” says one bike shop owner in the video. [emphasis added]

And, for me, I find this absolutely 100% to be true for me personally.  I’m not a great cyclist.  I sort of putter around in my neighborhood and slightly beyond, but I’m (1) highly risk adverse and (2) kind of a chicken, so I’m not a fan of going any where on my bike that will be challenging from a me vs car conflict perspective.  I’m just not a very confident bicyclist.  But, I have found that what limited time I have spent on a bicycle has made me a lot more sympathetic to the plight of folks on bikes.

For example there is much talk based on recent enforcement in San Francisco to implement a law, like in the State of Idaho, the ability for bikes to view stop signs as “yield” signs as opposed to needing to come to a full stop as though they are a car.  I’m pretty sure that I recall my attitude about bikes used to be “grumble grumble, bikes are supposed to be treated like vehicles, grumble grumble” but then I started actually using my bike for more than just leisurely pedals around the block and actually getting and hauling around stuff.  I recognized how difficult it is to get cycling from a dead stop particularly if your bike is weighed down with groceries, scrapbooking paper pads from Michaels, and kitty litter.  As you can guess I’m a lot more open to this idea of stop signs as yield signs while on a bike because most people (not all but most) are highly risk adverse and not apt to take unnecessary risks with their lives and can make proper and appropriate judgments as to when it’s safe to execute an Idaho stop and when it is not.

I imagine that the folks who are most insistent that bikes be treated exactly like cars (or that they should be relegated to the sidewalks) are people who haven’t spent a whole lot of time recently on a bicycle.  But I’ll endorse that quote above that I think spending some time on a bike has made me, overall, a more considerate driver.  I’m certainly less road ragey and a lot less impatient when sharing a really narrow road with a biker.



  1. Bikes are cool- especially in Alameda, but are governed by the state vehicle code and must obey all traffic regulations for their own safety and that of pedestrians and other vehicles. it’s that simple. If for some reason you are in an accident because you consider a stop sign a “yield” sign on your heavily loaded bike, you will find your philosophy of biking is not a defense. You must have a big insurance policy. Downtown Oakland is awash with bicyclists zipping up and down Broadway weaving in and out of traffic, just like SF. I am on high alert when driving there and often shake my head as I see various risky maneuvers. Sadly these are accidents just waiting to happen. There are already complaints from pedestrians about bikes speeding and failing to yield the right of way around town. Every once in a while there is a serious accident. A combination of better enforcement, more safety equipment and licensing for bicycles would address the problems and keep them under control.

    Comment by Captain Obvious — August 11, 2015 @ 6:31 am

  2. it would take a very high ratio of auto drivers who bicycle and 100% of bicyclists yielding by slowing and NOT peddling for this to work well. I was just driving in SF and the bike use is amazing, but it’s also confusing because while stopped at a light, bikes came whizzing past me through the intersection. I didn’t have to negotiate a 4 way stop while in SF, but that is a situation where a bike absolutely must yield if there are cars and it is where drivers often won’t proceed until cyclists go, so if you are paused on a bike trying to be legal about alternating right of way at a four way, you can often end up coming to s full stop because the driver opposite freezes. Meanwhile some other cyclist may whiz right on through. It should be legal for a bike to yield and not stop, but it’s dicey where to draw the line and it would require a lot of enforcement of bikes who don’t yield getting ticketed.

    When I approach Shoreline on a bike on Park attempting a left turn, it requires surveying the auto traffic making the same approach starting a half block away. Once I insert myself in a legally assertive way, I again coast for a good thirty feet or more watching the cars roaring up to the four way so I can time my own arrival. It takes a fair amount of physical skill and I often see cyclists who don’t have the physical strength or acumen to pull it off. Increased volumes of both auto and bike traffic make it an exponentially more challenging proposition. With the new track, bikes entering and exiting the track make that four way even more confusing, especially since the green apron at that intersection requires an east bound bike to pause in the right of way of the oncoming bike lane while they try to re-enter the traffic flow. The apron at Grand is wider because of the lane of parked cars.

    Comment by MI — August 11, 2015 @ 8:17 am

  3. Bike riders need to have insurance in place at all times, must have a registered license on their bike and must register their bike each year. If Alameda is to become a bike preferred city, regulations must be put in place to protect the rest of us and protect the bike riders. The irresponsible bike rider far outpaces the responsible riders, thus we have to have rules and regulations in place soon. Just like bad automobile drivers, there are bad bike riders and we must plan for them.

    Comment by Bill2 — August 11, 2015 @ 9:30 am

  4. Can you point to any jurisdiction that requires: (1) bicycle registration license, (2) annual bicycle registration, and (3) insurance for bicycle riders? I’ve done some quick Google searches and haven’t been able to find any place — even the Netherlands where biking is a way of life — that requires that. And I’m not sure there are any studies that show that all three of those things equals greater safety for bikers, pedestrians, and cars.

    Comment by Lauren Do — August 11, 2015 @ 9:42 am

  5. Causes of Bicycle Accidents

    Bicycle accidents occur for many reasons, with the most common being dangerous road conditions such as potholes, debris and maintenance problems.

    Might Need To Focus on Repaving Our Streets and Sidewalks if were worried about greater safety for bikers, pedestrians, and cars.

    Comment by Cobalt Black Keys Johnson — August 11, 2015 @ 11:21 am

  6. Of the total amount of street miles in Alameda how much has been repaved in the last 15 Years?

    A new, well built, asphalt road should last at least 15 years before a major rehabilitation or full depth reconstruction is needed.

    Comment by Cobalt Black Keys Johnson — August 11, 2015 @ 11:31 am

  7. UK NEWS

    Cyclists ‘almost as likely’ to injure pedestrians as cars
    Jan 27, 2014

    Once distance travelled is factored into accident statistics not much separates riders and drivers

    Comment by Cobalt Black Keys Johnson — August 11, 2015 @ 11:45 am

  8. 7. nothing separating them except 3000 lbs of lethal steel. The cyclist in SF who fatally plowed the pedestrian on Market was an exception when it comes to bike causing fatalities. I did read that in the majority of bike rider fatalities in SF that bicyclist were at fault. That is Chronicle article I read in the last year.

    Comment by MI — August 11, 2015 @ 12:08 pm

  9. 3. making the costs of riding a bike disproportionate to just about every factor involved is a great way to keep people off bikes. We at I Drive Alameda love it!

    Comment by MI — August 11, 2015 @ 12:10 pm

  10. Lauren. There may be no cities that require bikes to have a license and insurance, but that certainly doesn’t support an argument that they should;t have them. Bike riders have limited guidelines that are enforced, thus they ride with a certain level of abandonment. That’s not good. Using Copenhagen is not a reasonable argument. They do not have the cultural diversity that we have here, thus their citizens tend to obey the law and work as a community to support those laws. You do not have that here. There is limited unity here, thus everyone seems to be out for themselves. Our world is a “me” world. Only the strongest survive, etc. I don’t agree with it or enjoy it, but it is the foundation in which Bay Area drivers, bikers, parents and shoppers work from. Me, me, me.

    Comment by Bill2 — August 11, 2015 @ 1:18 pm


    IF cyclists had to: pass a cycling test in order to cycle on city streets/renew their cycling licenses as often as motorists do/carry liability insurance/pay registration fees for their human-powered vehicles…they might take traffic laws more seriously.

    Comment by vigi — August 11, 2015 @ 1:28 pm

  12. As new road construction, laws and other biker rights and voices are integrated into our daily lives, I agree with Lauren’s point about requiring cyclists to register for identification and fees, get insurance and biker license. Motorcyclists are required to go through this process. Cyclists should be educated on the laws and pass both written and cycling tests. With our every day life for driving and walking changing quickly to integrate cyclists as a new mode of transportation, why aren’t these other considerations being given? If citations are being given out and people are being killed by cyclists, shouldn’t these other responsible rules be integrated into our society as laws and as a source of revenue to accommodate new street constructions, law enforcements and injuries that are happening now? Example: If I get hit by a cyclist today, how would my injury or other damages be covered? I think cities have been quick to make changes to accommodate biker requests, which is not a problem per se, but things should be thought out holistically with solutions before further changes are made.

    Comment by Onna — August 11, 2015 @ 2:02 pm

  13. Don’t know if they still do this but Oakland used to require registration, Alameda did when I was young

    Comment by Pete — August 11, 2015 @ 2:11 pm

  14. @12 = The point about requiring cyclists to register., etc. was made by Bill2 and vigi. We are not Lauren, although we appreciate the opportunity to comment on her blog post.
    Seems to this writer that Lauren is leaning the other way.

    Comment by vigi — August 11, 2015 @ 2:25 pm

  15. They do not have the cultural diversity that we have here, thus their citizens tend to obey the law and work as a community to support those laws.

    Seriously, I do not understand what this is supposed to mean.

    If we want to see how to make sharing road space successful we should look to what other jurisdictions do, not come up with arbitrary requirements (insurance, registration, license) that we think may improve safety.

    Here’s a good backgrounder on how the Netherlands — not Copenhagen, which is in Denmark — slowly changed from not bicycle friendly at all to where it is today.

    Comment by Lauren Do — August 11, 2015 @ 2:42 pm

  16. in 1973 when my bike got stolen the Berkeley police asked me for the registration which was technically required.

    The Sun had an article touting how one of it’s pedestrian letter writers ( pun intended) had gotten public works to study added signage to warn cyclists to look out for oblivious pedestrians stepping into the bike track on Shoreline.

    Insurance? Maybe pedestrians should have to buy it before they can walk anywhere. vigi, do you have an operating permit for your walker? Just sayin’. I’ll take an operators license test for a bike and acquire liability insurance when those are is required to own a f-ing hand gun. Maybe we should have to purchase liability insurance when we have kids, just in case they do something stupid,

    Bikes are egalitarian because for as little as $50 you have a mode of transport to get to a job,

    Comment by MI — August 11, 2015 @ 2:49 pm

  17. Your DMV fees go to:
    •Local government (cities/counties) 40.7%
    •CHP 25.7%
    •DMV 13.9%
    •State highways (Caltrans) 13.0%
    •Air Resources Board 1.7%
    •Other state agencies 4.3%
    •State General Fund 0.7%
    Insurance, registration, and license are not “arbitrary requirements”. They actually pay for something. Bicyclists are at present “not pulling their weight” in this arena, which could contribute to the animosity between motorists and cyclists

    Comment by vigi — August 11, 2015 @ 2:59 pm

  18. I think what Lauren is saying is that we can reduce animosity between motorists and cyclists by becoming a cyclist. I think it’s quite possible.

    Comment by Karen Bey — August 11, 2015 @ 5:03 pm

  19. vigi, the embedded costs of driving fossil fuel vehicles ( staring with environment), plus the cost of building and maintaining infrastructure, and the heavy wear and tear of cars and trucks versus bikes on said infrastructure, plus the cost of highway slaughter. I think your assessment that cyclists are “not pulling their weight” to be not just suspect but is laughable and ludicrous.

    Comment by MI — August 11, 2015 @ 6:10 pm

  20. Just back from Merry Old England and had noted that biking culture is seriously strong there. Two small factoids:

    * while we were there, they closed significant chunks of London’s roads for Ride London[1], where people brought their bikes in from hundreds of miles away to ride all over the city. By significant chunks, I mean buses rerouted and underground stops noted as not connecting with their normal city transit
    * in Bristol, bike lanes are everywhere, and where they aren’t, drivers are quite tolerant. As an Alamedan driving (mostly on the correct side) I was impressed with the local drivers’ ability to negotiate very narrow streets (<1.5 lanes) while sharing the road gracefully … and this despite feeling I'd learned to share the road with bikes fairly well.

    I have a whole new perspective.

    Comment by purp — August 11, 2015 @ 6:33 pm

  21. Gah, forgot the link:


    Comment by purp — August 11, 2015 @ 6:35 pm

  22. MI. Moving vehicles should be registered. The key word being vehicle. The gun, walking ad kids comparison is rather off target.

    Comment by Bill2 — August 12, 2015 @ 8:58 am

  23. 23: Skateboards? Why exactly is the key word “vehicle”? Why not “road-user”?

    The quality of driving in the US is a problem for all road users but especially for those not encased in steel. Compared to those in other countries, the driving test here is extremely easy. And it shows.

    Comment by BC — August 12, 2015 @ 9:43 am

  24. 17: Vigi, MOST bicyclists (myself included) drive cars and are registered, licensed drivers, so we “pay our fair share.” And it you are going to register bicyclists, you need to register pedestrians as well. D you really want to go there and pay a license fee on your walker?

    Comment by Jon Spangler — August 12, 2015 @ 2:37 pm

  25. For Lauren and others who are “not a very confident bicyclist,” I heartily recommend the FREE classes offered to aLL Alameda County residents through Bike East Bay:

    These fun classes are funded by a grant from the Alameda County Transportation Commission (ACTC) as a means to make our roads safer for everyone. You do not even need a bike to take the indoor classes. (Similar indoor and outdoor classes are offered for families and kids under 14.)

    The outdoor sessions (5-6 hours of on-bike skills training) WILL make you a more confident, capable, skilled, and happier cyclist, *whether or not* you decide to ride across the challenging steel roadways of the Park Street or High Street bridges in the traffic lanes or ride on Park Street during rush hour. (All of these are perfectly legal–and not particularly hazardous, either–IF you have the proper skills, judgment, fitness level, and bike to undertake them.)

    Again, these classes are FREE: all you need to do is find a convenient course and time, sign up, and show up. (You WILL need a bike and helmet that fit you properly to take the on-bike skills class sessions, of course.)

    You can also view lots of skills-related videos online at the League of American Bicyclists (LAB) website here:

    If anyone has questions about riding a bike in Alameda or how to bicycle safely on the streets, please call me (510-864-2144). As a certified League Cycling Instructor–like all of the instructors in the Bike East Bay/Alameda County program above–I have been teaching with the LAB since 2011 and involved with bike safety and advocacy for over 40 years. (Private sessions are available, too.)

    There are great Learn-to-Ride sessions every second Sunday at Alameda Bicycle, too–for kids as well as adults.
    Call Jim Burakoff at Alameda Bicycle (510-522-0070) for more info on learning to ride a bike, whether you are 3 or 73…

    Comment by Jon Spangler — August 12, 2015 @ 2:58 pm

  26. 22. guns may be another venue, but if you want to talk about liability insurance and when it is called for, I think guns are not so far afield. My point is about proportionality. How much damage can one do with a bike compared to a car? How much damage can one do with a gun? There is an owner license but no operating permits or liability insurance or training required for guns. But you think bikes should have liability insurance. You see the correlation?

    Comment by MI — August 12, 2015 @ 3:37 pm

  27. I also think vigi needs to register her walker if she uses it to cross a street.

    Comment by MI — August 12, 2015 @ 3:38 pm

  28. Unbelievable amount of hatred directed at the disabled by the cyclists. People pushing walkers generally don’t use bike or auto lanes. Neither do pedestrians. (although something probably should be done about idiots who insist on jogging in the bike lane).

    VEHICLES, as Bill2 points out, should be registered. If your feet need to touch the ground in order to achieve movement, I don’t think you meet the definition of being in a vehicle.
    Jon, if you think you can assume MOST cyclists OWN cars, why not assume the converse: most everyone who drives started out riding a bicycle and probably still has one.

    I take it you support the Bounty Hunters in pursuit of Stanley Roberts:

    Bicyclists Put $100,000 Bounty on Stanley Roberts’ Head Posted By Jeremy Lybarger on Fri, Aug 7, 2015 at 10:05 AM
    San Francisco bicyclists have always despised KRON 4’s Stanley Roberts, but since the SFPD launched a crackdown on cyclists who disobey traffic laws, Roberts has been elevated to cyclists’ Public Enemy No. 1 (with the exception, perhaps, of Park Station Captain John Sanford).

    The mutual antagonism between bikers and Roberts has now reached satiric proportions. An ad posted to Craigslist’s “bicycle parts for sale by owner” category is bluntly entitled “FUCK STANLEY ROBERTS,” and assigns a $100,000 bounty to his head.

    “THERE IS A WAR OUTSIDE. STANLEY ROBERTS = CYCLIST ENEMY #1,” the ad reads. There’s also a link to this Instagram video:[see link posted above]

    Comment by vigi — August 12, 2015 @ 4:02 pm

  29. @7: The article says that in 2012 one pedestrian was killed by a bicyclist in the UK and 253 pedestrians were killed by drivers, and doesn’t mention anything about who was at fault in these cases. While even one death is too many, it was an immense stretch for the article to make the claim that people riding bikes are anywhere near as dangerous to pedestrians as people driving cars. One single data point is a statistical anomaly, and for them to extrapolate that into “21 pedestrians per billion km travelled” is highly unscientific.

    @3: The City of Alameda, as well as the cities of Berkeley and Oakland, all still have old ordinances on the books which require people to register their bikes with the city and pay a small fee. These ordinances were enacted many decades ago in order to help combat bike theft and enable the police to return recovered bikes to their owners, but nowadays these systems are archaic, inefficient, and unenforced. Via Bike East Bay I have been working on getting these ordinances repealed in cities all around the East Bay, and working with police departments to instead endorse and use free, online registries like, which cost the city nothing, are much easier to use, and have a much better stolen bike recovery record. Police officers in most of the cities I’ve worked with agree that the municipal registration systems don’t work well, and yet the city code remains because often nobody cares enough to update it.

    @17: Local streets and roads are mostly paid for by non-user fees like sales, property, and payroll taxes that everyone contributes to, regardless of how much they drive. In fact, these non-user contributions have been going up and up over time as the amount drivers contribute to roadway construction and maintenance goes down and down via greater gas efficiency and more electric vehicles. This is why congress has raided the general fund for tens of billions of dollars to shore up the national highway trust fund. Some studies have shown that for every mile someone bikes they actually contribute MORE in taxes than they use in terms of infrastructure and maintenance, whereas every mile driven is a net loss for the city. So the argument could be made that people who drive less are actually subsidizing the ones that drive more, especially when considering that bicyclists and pedestrians are often restricted from massively expensive urban freeways, bridges, and tunnels that they still help fund via the taxes they pay.

    Comment by Robert Prinz — August 12, 2015 @ 5:01 pm

  30. @29 I lifted those percentages directly off the California DMV website. By all means, please provide references/links for your “some studies have shown”. Thank you.

    Comment by vigi — August 14, 2015 @ 1:56 pm

  31. An update on the ongoing debate in San Francisco on whether bikes should come to a complete stop at a stop sign.

    Comment by Mike McMahon — December 15, 2015 @ 7:41 am

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