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Tag: bicycle

Make your carpool / ride-sharing commute even safer with this amazing plan to add strobe lights to your car—legally! Bicyclists love this one weird tip!

The issue:

One ever-present hazard for bicyclists is the possibility of being “doored”—hit by a suddenly-opened driver’s side door of a parked car.

A similar issue confounds carpool passengers: when exiting a full vehicle, the driver’s-side passenger must open the door directly into traffic (since they cannot exit on the curb side). This presents the obvious risk of being hit by a car that is swerving around the temporarily-parked carpool vehicle, as shown in Figure 1.

1-crash-scenario

Fig. 1: A) The ride-sharing vehicle (blue) is stopped in the farthest-curbside lane, and a passenger is about to exit. A fast approaching-car (red) in the same lane is about to swerve around the parked car. B) The passenger opens the door (purple) and will step out into traffic. C) The red car collides with the open door.

There may be a lot of blame to assign in the scenario in Figure 1 (“the passenger should have waited longer before opening the door” or “the red car shouldn’t have gone around the stopped car”), but it’s easy to see how it would occur without any egregious negligence.

Proposal:

In order to make it obvious that a car door may be opening soon (i.e., that there is an occupant associated with a door of a stopped or nearly-stopped car), the following is proposed:

  • A row of lights are placed on the edges of the car, near the doors. These lights must be easily visible from behind the vehicle.
  • When the door handle is operated, these edge lights flash (see Figure 2). This would provide ~1–2 additional seconds for a driver or bicyclist to react before hitting the door.
  • Optionally, weight sensors in the car seats could detect whether or not someone is likely to exit via a specific door (if there are no passengers in the car, there is no reason for any of the lights to flash except for the ones on the driver’s door). Weight sensors are already used to decide whether or not to deploy passenger air bags, so this wouldn’t be a huge engineering challenge.
2-warning-lights

Fig. 2: Flashing lights on the edge of the car can notify other drivers and bicyclists that a door might be opening soon (or is actively being opened).

Conclusion:

If you own an LED manufacturing plant, you should lobby your local government to make this feature mandatory, and try to avoid letting anyone do any scientific research to determine whether or not it’s actually effective.

PROS: Creates a new source of revenue for the LED light industry.

CONS: It is likely that there would be so many false positives—flashing lights for stopped cars at nearly every intersection, for example—that everyone would tune out these ubiquitous and uninformative warnings.

Uber and Lyft may have diminished the taxi medallion system, but the “medallion” idea can still be applied in other places! One weird local government tip.

Background:

Taxis in many cities operate under what is called a “medallion system” (Figure 1), whereby the supply of taxis is limited by a fixed quantity of tokens (“medallions”) that are issued in controlled quantities by the city.

taxi-medallion

Fig 1: An actual “taxi medallion” is apparently nothing like this.

Proposal:

For some reason, almost nothing else is regulated in this manner. But there are other services that are conceptually similar and could have their own “medallion” systems.

For example:

delivery-driving

Fig 2: Food delivery (e.g., pizza, Chinese food). Like a taxi, the driver operates a passenger automobile on public roads for commercial purposes.  A “delivery driving wedge” could be required in order for a business, such as a pizza restaurant, to deliver food.

dog-hypercube

Fig 3: Dog walkers make use of the public sidewalks and roads, and must abide by requirements that other pedestrians are not subject to (“pick up dog poop, do not allow the dog to bite anyone”). This “dog hypercube” would ensure that there was not an over-abundance of dogs on the sidewalks at any given time.

 

internet-cube

Fig 3: The medallion system could be applied to other activities with commercial potential.

  • Bicycles: Like a taxi, a bicycle consumes space on the public roads. Licensing of bicycles to a small number (see Figure 3, right side) would guarantee the availability of bike rack spots.
  • Internet usage could be prohibited without an “Internet cube” medallion (see Figure 3, left side). This could increase the available bandwidth for other purposes and could bring clients back to businesses like video rental companies and paper map retailers.

PROS: Opens up a new source of income: purchase a medallion, and then rent it out!

CONS: It may be difficult for City Hall employees to estimate the exact quantity of medallions to issue.

 

 

 

One Bicyclist’s Quest to Fix Traffic Congestion Forever

The issue:

Traffic laws are made with the idea that everyone is driving a car. In the US, four-way stops are all over the place, at almost every intersection. In a car, this isn’t a huge burden, since it requires no human effort to stop and then accelerate again.

But with a bike, this requires significant expenditure of energy.

(In the absence of cross-traffic, it is also rare to see any vehicle actually come to a complete stop.)

bike-logo

The idea:

Bicyclists could opt-in to a “EXTREME BIKING” program in which the following two traffic law changes are made:

1) A red light becomes a “STOP + YIELD” together — the bicyclist must stop at the light and must yield to any cross traffic. In other words, cross traffic (going through a green light) continues to have unimpeded right-of-way.

red-lightblue-arrowstop-and-yield

2) A STOP sign becomes the rarely-seen YIELD sign. A bicyclist can pedal right through it, but must stop and wait if there is any cross traffic.

stop-signblue-arrowyield-sign

All other traffic laws remain the same.

But: Drivers are generally averse to bicyclists playing fast-and-loose with traffic laws. In order to gain support among drivers, the program will be opt-in, and every bicyclist who wishes to abide by these new rules must put an “EXTREME BIKING” sticker on their bike.

In a collision with a bike with the EXTREME BIKING sticker on it, the bicyclist will be assumed to be at fault unless evidence implies otherwise.

Ideally the sticker should be something evocative of the danger, like a skull on fire or pirate flag of some sort.

skull-bike-sticker

Above: a suggested suitably-evocative sticker design.

Conclusion:

PROS: Recognizes the unreasonableness of requiring bicyclists to stop so frequently. Should increase average bike speed. May result in amazing Youtube dash-cam montages of disasters. Will increase the number of available organs for transplant.

CONS: None whatsoever!