Saturday, June 26, 2010

We've moved, please join us!

Carfree with Kids has moved to a new home at Please hop on over and check out the new site (we're very proud of it). And update your RSS feed to Thanks, and hope to see you soon!

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Kidical Mass North Cambridge

We're leading a Kidical Mass ride in North Cambridge this summer! The will be on July 18th at 10am, starting and ending in Rev. Williams park (corner of Cedar and Dudley). This will be a 3-mile ride on roads and bikepaths for parents and kids. Take a look at the route. The ride will start with some safety education, followed by the ride (no one left behind!), and ending with snacks, conversation, playing in the water at the Rev. Williams park. Please come with kids on bikes, on Xtracycles, in bakfiets, in trailers, or on trail-a-bikes. Don't be afraid to decorate your bikes!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

How common is courtesy?

This past weekend, my family took a walk to see the red-tailed hawks nesting in our neighborhood. On the way home, Dorea was yelled at by a fast-moving biker for stopping to say hello to someone. At the time we were on a sidewalk which is also used as a bike path, but contains primarily pedestrians. This started a conversation about sharing space, and my mother, who is deaf in one ear noted that this happens to her with some frequency -- bikers may shout "on your left" but that doesn't mean that she hears them and they bike past in a huff. This conversation really started my brain churning about the large number of discourteous things that drivers, bikers, and walkers do to each other:

  • Fail to stop for pedestrians in cross walks.
  • Fail to notice cyclists.
  • Stop in crosswalks.
  • Get angry at cyclists for taking up any roadway at all and seem to want us all to ride in door zones and on dangerous shoulders.
  • Honk for almost any reason. Honking startles pedestrians and cyclists, which can lead to erratic behavior.
  • Drive too fast down wet residential streets in the rain, splashing any poor pedestrian or cyclist just trying to get home where it's dry.
  • Fail to use turn signals.
  • Cut off cyclists with sudden right turns.
  • Fail to stop for pedestrians in cross walks.
  • Stop in crosswalks.
  • Ride on sidewalks, even in areas where there are lots of pedestrians.
  • Pass other cyclists on the right forcing slower riders into car traffic.
  • Ride erratically and unpredictably on streets, which makes drivers anxious.
  • Fail to obey traffic laws while claiming to want to share the road, which angers drivers.
  • Ride aggressively on paths shared with pedestrians. Pedestrians are startled by fast-moving cyclists, and calling out "on the left" is not a substitute for slowing down (note that drivers do the same thing to cyclists with they honk at us as a way of saying they're about to pass). Some pedestrians will be unable to hear a bell or shout and others will be unable to quickly change their path.
  • Let dogs walk off leash in crowded areas, which violates law in some areas, scares kids (and some adults), and causes bikers to make sudden stops.
  • Walk in groups in a manner that takes up an entire sidewalk.
  • Step between cars and into bike lanes to wait to cross a street. When you are between cars you are not very visible to anyone, including bikers.
  • Jaywalk.
  • Walk/jog on paths shared with cyclists in erratic ways that make passing difficult. When possible, it's useful to walk and run on the right.
  • Allow toddlers to walk on bike paths without very close supervision which causes bikers either to make sudden stops or to slow to a crawl for fear of hitting an unpredictable child.
Now I've pissed off just about everyone reading this, but please keep in mind that I've done a large number of things on all three of these lists. I've done a smaller number of things on the list for pedestrians and cyclists just this week. In fact, on a trip to explore some new biking routes just today I did several of these things either because I was uncertain of where I was going or I was anxious about safety. When we share transportation routes with other types of users, conflicts will always occur and hard-and-fast rules don't always keep us safe. We all sometimes allow our own sense of urgency and importance to outrank our desire to play nice with others. But I also have lots of pleasant and courteous interactions with cars, bikes, and pedestrians every day, and I know that most of us want to be thoughtful of others, but we also want to be sure that our own rights to shared space are respected.

After thinking about all of the ways we drive each other crazy, I spent a little time thinking about my personal rules of courtesy. Here they are:
  1. When you encounter someone moving slower that you, it is always your responsibility to keep the interaction safe and courteous. That means that you watch carefully for slow-moving traffic, slow down when approaching, be as clear (and as lawful) as you can what you are doing or are about to do, and keep in mind that slower traffic may be unable to get out of your way.
  2. When you encounter someone moving faster than you, you should strive to act as safely and predictably as possible so that the faster traffic can pass.
  3. Keep in mind that some of our spaces are not shared. Drivers have a right to expect that pedestrians will stay out of the roadway unless they are in crosswalks. Cyclists have a right to expect bike lanes free of stopped cars. Pedestrians have a right to expect sidewalks free of cyclists. If you are invading a non-shared space, do so with extreme caution and at least try to feel a little guilty about it.