24 March 2009

Cars you will not see in the HOURCAR fleet

We read, as I'm sure many of you did, about the Tata Nano in the New York Times. It's a small car, gets decent mileage (although emissions are not great, to reach the $2000 price tag things like a catalytic converter are more expendable), and lacks amenities like power steering and airbags and wheels larger than "dinner plates." We weren't chomping at the bit to grab one but were further deterred when one of our staff made the following comparison to another cutesily-named car, the Cozy Coupe II:


17 March 2009

Give 'em 3!

It's warm(er)! Which means that a lot more folks are going to grab their bikes and hit the trails, and the roads.

We know that HOURCAR members are, on the whole, walkers and bikers, so I'm sure that people are good about yielding right of way at crosswalks, marked and unmarked, but did you know that there are also legal requirements for passing bicycles?

Yup, according to Minnesota state law, three feet is necessary:
(3) the operator of a motor vehicle overtaking a bicycle or individual proceeding in the same direction on the roadway shall leave a safe distance, but in no case less than three feet clearance, when passing the bicycle or individual and shall maintain clearance until safely past the overtaken bicycle or individual.

That's not to say that there isn't a whole bit of statute regarding the operation of a bicycle, most of which is common sense (staying to the right, using lights at night). Only a bit is arcane, like not attaching yourself to a streetcar (ha, like we have those anymore). And cyclists do have to obey traffic laws, including stop signs (even if this is honored in the breach by some), although there's no law against passing four light-cycles of traffic on Lyndale at rush hour, and no law against chuckling when you bike over I-94 when it is a parking lot in both directions. There is some talk in the house last session about letting cyclists run lights and stop signs (when safe), but it doesn't seem to have gone anywhere.

So oil your chain, adjust your brake lines (or in my case replace your cogs, chain and casette) and get ready to ride, and if you're driving, especially in an HOURCAR, make sure to give bicyclists three feet of room. We appreciate it.

Some safe cycling links:

* State statute
* Info from MNDot
* Info from the Twin Cities Bicycling Club

07 March 2009

Keep an ear out

It's getting to be that time of year again. The sun is out later, the snow is melting (at least it is melting more quickly) and when you go out for more than five minutes you can still feel your fingers and toes. Soon, more and more of us will hit the streets, on bikes without studded tires and shoes which stay dry for more than a block.

It's great to see spring springing, and I more than anyone am excited about biking in to HOURCAR HQ every day, but it's time to remember that not only are we more likely to be distracted when driving by a phone or an iPod (phones in the car are legal, headphones are not, for what it's worth), but that it applies to walking too.

NPR had a piece a couple weeks ago about this. It turns out that we use more than one of our senses when walking or cycling. Having earbuds in blocks out a lot of other sound, like the bus approaching or the light rail train coming down the tracks or the hybrid HOURCAR coasting to a stop for a pedestrian (I'll assume). So go out, and enjoy the fresh air, and bring your music. It's probably fine if you are walking around Isles, but think twice about blasting your tunes if you are crossing a lot of busy streets.

(Am I a hypocrite? Well, yes, a couple days back I listened to my iPod walking from the 63 bus up to our office. There was only one main street, but I'll think twice going forward.)