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Truckers to Stage Fuel Strike

April 01, 2008 By: Peter Smith Category: Finances

So it hasn’t quite reached the point of civil unrest yet, but independent truckers are always among the first to really feel the sting of rising gas prices. Unfortunately for them, they don’t have a lot of choice in how they get from Point A to Point B:

Truckers To Stage Fuel Strike to Protest Rising Fuel Costs

In other economic news, independent truckers plan to stage a fuel strike today to protest the soaring price of diesel which now costs almost four dollars a gallon – a fifty cent increase in the past month. It is unclear how many truckers will pull their semis off the highway but some truckers say they will strike for several days. In Harrisburg, Pennsylvania scores of truckers took to the highways and streets around the state Capitol on Monday and blasted their horns in protest.

I’ve had to do a bit of driving lately and I am not looking forward to my impending visit to the gas station. $30+ bucks or more to fill a relatively small VW Jetta. I can’t imagine what SUV drivers are paying.

I grew up in New Jersey and when my mom and dad would hit Atlantic City for some slots, my dad would say, “I’m going to make my donation”, or sometimes he’d say, “Going to make my donation…to Mr. Trump…he’s broke - he needs a little extra cash to keep things going”. Of course, he was being facetious.

Well, when I go to the pump today, I’m going to making my donation to them - you know who ‘they’ are.

Bicycle Victoria

March 30, 2008 By: Peter Smith Category: Bicycle Maps

bicycle_victoria_logo-header.pngBicycle Victoria (wiki) (representing the state of Victoria, Australia) is in the news:

VICTORIA’S peak cycling body claims a major upgrade of Melbourne’s bike routes could cut car trips into the city by a third.

Bicycle Victoria yesterday released a network map to include possible new and upgraded routes as well as better facilities at railway stations.

It shows a full set of radial routes from about a 15km distance — a 30-minute bike ride — into the city.

The concept has been submitted to Premier John Brumby for further consideration.

“In January the Premier asked for new ideas to tackle congestion and this is our contribution, based on our philosophy that every bike trip that replaces a car trip cuts traffic congestion,” Bicycle Victoria chief executive officer Harry Barber said yesterday.

He estimates it could cost as little as $500,000 to improve a bike route.

“Roads need to have separation barriers and bike paths have to be made wider to cope with extra riders,” he said.

I couldn’t find a link to a map the newly proposed bicycle routes.

Bicycle Victoria has 40,000 members and 45 permanent staff. That’s no joke. By comparison, two of the largest - if not the largest - bicycle groups in the U.S. are the Cascade Bicycle Club in Seattle, Washington, with 9,000 members, and the San Francisco Bicycle Coalition, with 8,500 members. Zowie.

[Point of information - the League of American Bicyclists and the Adventure Cycling Association are both based in the U.S., and both have upwards of 40,000+ members. Bravo!]

VicRoads seems to be a quasi-governmental organization that basically serves as the Department of Transportation for the State of Victoria - they have some maps of bike lanes in the standard PDF format, and there is an interactive map tool, too.

I think it’s probably fair to say that the mapping tools and technologies currently available to the people of Victoria are similar in a lot of ways to the people of Texas, and people all over the world. We should all have better, more-effective mapping tools available to us, and I’m hoping Google can help us in this quest.

Our petition has definitely gotten a lot of support from Victoria (which includes Melbourne, and St Kilda, and the Espy) and all over Australia, so to all of our friends down under, good on ya! And good luck getting the funding for those new and improved bike routes.

Does your hometown newspaper have a bike column?

March 29, 2008 By: Peter Smith Category: Uncategorized

Boston does.

When I first read about that column, I thought, “Awesome! I wonder if Austin has a bike column?”

The answer appears to be ‘no’, but I’m not quite sure yet. Some towns may have a ‘commuter/traffic’-type column, but I think it’s important to have someone who is specifically looking at cycling issues.

I tried to launch a low-key campaign to convince my local paper, the Austin American-Statesman, to start running a regular bike column, but there hasn’t been much interest yet. I figure I’ll plug away on my own, as time permits, and just hope for the best. I really don’t know the best way to do it - I figure I’d just start writing emails and letters whenever I could, and try to keep track of people I’d contacted, maybe eventually follow-up with them - and that includes the newspaper, of course.

But, you should work on this for your town, too. I feel like there needs to be a lot more education on cycling - both for drivers and cyclists - and a newspaper column is an awesome way to achieve that. It just seems to me that cycling is such an important and growing part of our lives - a phenomenon, really - that we need to dedicate real resources to it.

Thanks to Rebuilding Place in the Urban Space for the reminder.

The Google Transit Earth Day Challenge

March 29, 2008 By: Peter Smith Category: Uncategorized

This effort to get bicycle directions provided in the native Google Maps interface is based, in part, on the belief that if you want something and you don’t have it, then you should go after it. And that might even require working with other people to get it done.

If your town does not yet have Google Transit available, you might want to think about pushing your city/town to make it happen. There are a number of reasons why getting Google Transit in your town might have a strong side benefit to our ‘Bike There’ efforts - the biggest might be the expertise and experience gained by your city’s transit and public works staff - both administrators and the actual techies who set up the data feed, etc. If we are able to pull off a Bike There feature on Google Maps, the solution is likely to look very similar to the ‘Take Public Transit’ solution.

Google has put forth a challenge on their LatLong blog - get your town up and running on Google Transit in time for Earth Day - April 22. It might be a bit late to accomplish that goal if your town hasn’t started yet, but you never know. And, better late than never.

Also, it appears to be a fairly straightforward process. For you techies, check out the Google Transit Feed Specification. There are already open source tools to help transit IT shops get their feed together. There are discussion forums, a wiki, and other things to help.

Here is the Google Transit post on this subject:

I recently attended a conference for technical staff in the public transportation industry. I told them about the great progress Google Transit has been able to make in the past year:

  • integrating transit information directly into Google Maps by making stations and stops visible and clickable
  • promoting transit as an alternative each time we show driving directions in an area where we have transit data
  • expanding coverage from nine agencies in the U.S. to more than 30 agencies spanning three continents

But, of course, we don’t do this on our own: we rely on transit agencies to share their data with us so that everyone — residents, tourists, and lifetime riders — can benefit from having the information at their fingertips. Taking public transport is a great option for people to reduce their impact on global warming, so I issued a challenge to those at the conference: get your agency up and running on Google Maps in time for April 22, 2008 — better known as Earth Day.

We’ve already had several agencies get in touch with us, but with over 200 agencies in the U.S. alone, we still have a lot of ground to cover. So now I’d like to extend this challenge to everyone: if your local agency isn’t already participating, get in touch with them and let them know that you’d like to see their information on Google Maps.

One of the coolest aspects of all this Google Maps-inspired technology is that we’re getting more open government. So, many towns, including Austin, have opened up their feeds completely to the public, which means we can analyze and even use the data to create applications ourselves - whether they are Google Maps mashups, or whatever.

RideFridays.org

March 28, 2008 By: Peter Smith Category: Uncategorized

Ride on Fridays - it’s a great idea:

What is this about?

It’s just an idea.

Fridays: Give your car the day off.

Going to work? Headed to the store? Have errands to run?

Try it without the car. Instead, carpool, take the bus, walk, ride a bike. You probably have even more options where you live.

Every little bit makes a difference! Just imagine if you turned those 1- or 2-mile drives to the grocery store into a walk or a short bike ride. That would change everything!

Maybe you’re already doing this? Let us know about it.

Or let us hear about it in the comments.

It’s just an idea …

Good job, RideFridays folks! :)

Google Maps Street Views for 13 more cities

March 27, 2008 By: Peter Smith Category: Uncategorized

Google Maps Street ViewToday, Google announced the release of the ‘Street View’ feature for 13 more areas (one of which was Austin), and expanded coverage for an existing 6 metro areas.

Be sure to try out the panoramic images - by clicking and dragging you can get a 360 degree view from any coverage location, and you can even look up and down with pretty good range, too.

The ‘Street View’ feature of Google Maps is huge for us cyclists because it really lets us get a view of what is going on any particular street just as if we were cycling there - and the images are a lot more recent than the satellite imagery. The camera that is taking the pictures is 6 or 7 feet off the ground.

If your city has the ‘Street View’ feature, you’ll see a button right in Google Maps, just next to the existing buttons in the upper-right - Traffic, Map, Satellite, Terrain. [Which buttons you have probably depends on coverage in your particular town.]

Check out a snapshot of San Jacinto Blvd in downtown Austin, Texas. It’s a one way with a bike lane, and it’s my main route into downtown.

You can imagine where the technology is going. If we can get bicycle directions on Google Maps, then we’ll be able to actually see exactly what our route looks like from where we start all the way to our destinations. We’ll be able to actually see the bicycle lanes - which ones are ‘real’ and which ones are just stripes on a narrow garbage-strewn shoulder. We’ll be able to check out any tricky intersections, how we are going to navigate left turns, and we’ll basically become better-prepared riders.

At a minimum, this is one more tool that would-be cyclists will be able to use to get more comfortable with using a bicycle for transportation.

This Street View addition for Austin will allow the Austin Bicycle Advisory Council and the City of Austin Bicycle and Pedestrian Program to have better information available to them during meetings. And groups like Walk Austin will certainly be interested to see street-level views of many of the dangerous intersections in town.

Good stuff.

…Streetsblog LA uses a helmet cam to show us a stupid bike lane, but now we could use Google Maps Street View to get at the same information - if not in full video. Incidentally, bike lanes that end without warning - all too common, unfortunately.

Signature Spotlight - Help Tasha Ride

March 26, 2008 By: Peter Smith Category: Uncategorized

We continue to get a lot of good comments. Here’s a good one:

28996. Henry Hsieh Los Angeles, CA, USA Your Google Map Tour “profile” video features a bicyclist. So why not have have the “Bike There” feature to help Tasha ride more? http://www.google.com/help/maps/tour/#profiles

Do it for Tasha! :D

Good catch, Henry! And thanks for signing!

Legitimizing Cycling

March 24, 2008 By: Peter Smith Category: Uncategorized

In particular, we want to legitimize cycling as a form of transportation. In most of America, at least, cycling is not considered ‘legitimate’ - by regular people, by authorities, etc. From all that I’ve been reading on the international scene, there is a long way to go overseas, too.

We can build Google Maps mashups forever - and many of us will - as well we should - but we want cycling to be seen by tens of millions of people as a legitimate form of transportation. That process will take time, but Google can help us get there by including bicycling directions in the core Google Maps service.

Tuscon Bike Lawyer tells us about some of the things his clients have faced:

The Arizona Daily Star has an article today on Tucson’s “bicycle friendly” nature. It features comments by Richard Corbett and others about Tucson’s desire to be the second city in the entire nation to achieve “Platinum” status by the League of American Bicyclists. This would put us at the very top in terms of how “bike friendly” our city is.

I have lots of mixed feelings about this, as readers of this blog know. For one thing, once you are at the top there should be nowhere else to go, but I see lots of room for improvement. Particularly in terms of how local law enforcement handles bicyclists who get assaulted by motorists, but also how it handles those who are injured.

I have clients who were hit in left-hooks, right-hooks, hit by baseball bats, shot at by paint-ball guns, struck head-on, deliberately struck from behind, and hit with fists — all of whom got next to no help from the police department. I have a client who was charged with misdemeanor damage because his body left a dent in the car that swerved into him.

I have another who was cited for not having a bike light on his bike after a motorist did an illegal U-turn and plowed into him in broad daylight, sending him to the hospital.

Be sure to read the whole thing.

The idea of this post is not to attack one particular group or organization - it’s to show how serious the situation is.

Yehuda Moon Bicycle Comic

March 22, 2008 By: Peter Smith Category: Uncategorized

yeahuda_moon_comic_strip_2008_03_22.gifIf you haven’t yet seen the newish bicycle comic, Yehuda Moon, then go check it out now - it’s pretty funny.

Way I see it, anything that helps us show the enjoyable/funny/quirky aspects of cycling is a very, very good thing. So, the existence of this comic strip is just tops.

There are no advertisements on the site, so you can support the strip by throwing a few e-bucks at them - there is no set amount. In return, you help support a great comic strip, promote cycling, get great karma points, and earn a spot for your name and the link of your choice on their ‘View our patrons‘ page. Sweet!

BikeZip.com

March 21, 2008 By: Peter Smith Category: Uncategorized

Montgomery Bicycle Advocates (MoBike) have an initiative called BikeZip.com that aims to help us get ‘Bike There’ directions, and it would be based on Google Maps - as a Google Maps mashup (a ‘mashup‘ is a generic term used to describe any application built using data and services from more than one source).

The effort seems similar to Bikely and other Google Maps-based bicycle route mashups. See other projects/efforts on the ‘Other Efforts‘ page.

While I think there are significant advantages to having Google Maps provide bicycle directions natively, we’re very happy to see so many people working so hard to make bicycle directions a reality via mashups. At the minimum, we’re getting more folks involved and we’re starting to consider the challenges of producting bicycle directions - which helps us become better-informed cyclists and better cycling advocates.

BikeZip’s accompanying ‘project’ page, BikeMapProject.org, talks about one of the key aspects for any bicycle directions solution:

GIS Data Sources

Government-based GIS databases contain plenty of street data, but when it comes to information useful to cyclists they are very limited, and what bike-related data they have is often inaccurate. They miss many routes and provide few details about suitability for cyclists.

Other scattered data sources exist but they too have problems relating to accuracy, scope and data format. Published bike maps like ADC’s in the Washington D.C. area are typically proprietary and may be based on spotty public data. Bike guide sites and advocacy sites contain lots of valuable information but cover limited areas and use a wide variety of data formats. In order to create a single map that meets our project goals, wiki-style collaboration is the ideal solution.

I can’t say I agree with all of this point of view on GIS/data, but it is a point of view that is expressed by many people, and it seems reasonable, and it is a big part of why many folks think that a wiki-style approach to bicycle directions is the best answer.

Montgomery County is just on the north side of Washington, DC.

MoBike works with various bicycle groups, including WABA, the Coalition for the Capital Crescent Trail, and the Potomac Pedalers Touring Club.

Good luck, BikeZip!