Transit Tip 3. Take the lane!

Too many bicyclists try to ride as far out of the traffic stream as possible. This makes you much more vulnerable to hazards such as debris, potholes, suddenly opening car doors, turning cars, and cars/trucks passing too closely. Prevent all of these by being visible and claiming your position in the lane to discourage unsafe driver behavior. Take the lane whenever you need it. Car drivers don't feel bad about taking the lane for themselves, and you shouldn't either. See Bicycle Safe for more tips.

For what it's worth, bus drivers are also taught to take the lane in certain situations to discourage or prevent unsafe driving practices by others (i.e. when a lane is too narrow for a bus, or when periodic hazards are present in the right lane).

Transit Tips: a new feature

Transit Tips is a new feature on Critical Transit, offering quick suggestions to improve transportation services and bike and pedestrian safety. Some are cheap and easy; others take time to implement, but all are simple strategies intended to help us make real improvements for transit users in a practical manner without compromising our values. Further discussion is encouraged. Transit Tips will be posting several times each week.

Have an idea for a Transit Tip, or thoughts on an existing tip? Get in touch via the contact page or leave a comment.

Episode 43: Traffic signals with Matt Steele

A new year, a new challenge to the deity of traffic engineering: the traffic light. contributor and recent Minneapolis City Council candidate Matt Steele says we have too many traffic signals and explains why that's a big problem for everyone. Choosing alternative measures of traffic control offers significant benefits to pedestrians, bicyclists, cars and trucks, and even help transit run more reliably.

Links include Strong Towns, the relation between speed and death, roundabouts and a very successful shared space project at a busy junction in Poynton, England.

Today's news selection features a fantastic Bikeyface comic on what snow says about our cities' priorities, another cyclist hit without accountability, and another oil train derailment and explosion near Fargo, North Dakota. We recap the horror that is fracking (natural gas drilling) and play two songs about fracking ("We'll Be There" & "My Water's on Fire").

A listener suggests that automation in transit operations may actually decrease safety as the humans involved become less alert. The same has happened with private cars as they've become safer for the people inside. Very interesting stuff.

UPDATE: Here's a link to the book I couldn't remember the name of, about the phenomenon of drivers being less attentive given increasing automation: Traffic: Why We Drive the Way We Do by Tom Vanderbilt.

May 2014 be the year in which we finally take traffic violence seriously and focus our attention and investments on sustainable transportation modes: walking, cycling, skating and especially public transit.  Help support this show and my other work by sharing it widely and by making a donation to my Transit Tour Fund if you are able to.  I am headed to the northeast very soon; please get in touch if we might connect.

Episode 42: Bike Winter

An informative panel discussion with four winter bicycling veterans in Minneapolis. We cover bike handling, what to wear and how to prepare your two-wheeled vehicle for our favorite season. Sneak away from the holiday dinner for this special episode and get ready to ride across a frozen lake, visit an ice shanty, ride a ski bike, go mountain biking, make your own DIY winter tire solution or just buy a fat bike and impress your friends.

Alternatively, you could stay inside and read Kat's excellent Grease Rag post on winter bike safety & handling, all about Ice Biking, what not to ride in the winter, and get your snowy terminology in order. Then go back listen to Episode 33 for Low's perspective on building community and supporting new and old bicyclists.

Episode 40: Bicycling in the Rain with The Sprocket Podcast

Brock Dittus and Aaron Flores take a break from hosting The Sprocket Podcast to join me from rainy Portland, Oregon, for a discussion of biking in cold and wet weather. We discuss the three elements -- clothing, bike setup, behavior -- of a warm and dry trip, without any fancy gear or sacrifices.

Most importantly, do what works for you. And if you want to avoid the rain altogether you might try saving up for a velomobile.

Head over to The Sprocket Podcast for more info on these fine Cascadians.

Share your comments and suggestions for topics/guests by emailing, using the contact form or following my work on Facebook and Twitter.

If you enjoy what you hear, please consider supporting better, more frequent shows by making a donation, sharing it with your friends and colleagues, and leaving a review on iTunes and other places.

Episode 39: Safe bike driving with CyclingSavvy co-founder Keri Caffrey, and bikes in the news

Fear of cycling in traffic is the greatest barrier to bicycle transportation, but safe bicycling is possible when you take control of your space and drive defensively. Our guest today is cycling instructor Keri Caffrey, co-founder of CyclingSavvy and editor of Commute Orlando. She is working to increase confidence and prevent crashes by educating bicyclists on how to safely operate a slow, narrow vehicle on roads designed for fast, wide vehicles. Also check out this video in which Keri reviews the basics (and shows off her cargo bike). Later we share some interesting bike news (the good, the bad and the super cool), including: a New York Times op-ed on the near total lack of penalties for drivers killing cyclists, plus victim blaming, with a perfect response from the great Bike Snob NYC; a cyclist assaulted by an SUV passenger; a tool for finding apartments close to transit (may be helpful along with Walk Score); a kit for bicycling across water bodies (seriously!) and a DIY bicycle elevator.

We close with a listener email on highway bypass roads and other suburban wastefulness, including the difficulty of providing useful transit in such places. It reminds me of a recent experience in the suburbs of Denver.

Share your comments and suggestions for topics/guests by emailing, using the contact form or following my work on Facebook and Twitter.

If you enjoy what you hear, please consider supporting better, more frequent shows by making a donation, sharing it with your friends and colleagues, and leaving a review on iTunes and other places.

Guest appearance on the podcast

Oh look ... guess who's on the latest podcast? Yep, yours truly. We discuss the effects of last week's Minneapolis city election, politics and transportation. It's mostly with a local focus but most things also apply elsewhere. Go listen here. Remember you can also find my local transit writing on the same site. Hopefully the impending cold weather will mean more writing.

University Ave: designed to be dangerous

My latest post on Streets.MN is a perfect example of a "stroad" (a cross between city street and freeway which works well for nobody).  Somehow we designed a major transit corridor to be dangerous for transit users.

It is a known issue that most drivers don’t respect most traffic laws. Recently a reader wrote to us desperately trying to figure out what can be done to make drivers follow the law, specifically stopping for pedestrians at crosswalks along the newly reconstructed Central Corridor.

Nobody talks about this major problem, yet we have people jumping up and down to chastise bicyclists for selectively following the one law drivers seem to like (red lights).  First, let’s get the excuses out of the way. You know, the “I didn’t see you patiently (or angrily) waiting to cross the street” – in other words, “I am either lying or not paying attention.”

There are two ways to solve the problem: one involves a combination of frequent enforcement and expensive tickets. The other is street design: we need to plan and engineer transportation facilities that are safe and comfortable for people to use.

Read the full article and get involved in the discussion.

Episode 36: Open Streets Minneapolis

As cities respond to growing calls for safer streets and more open space, many have begun holding a series of Open Streets events where streets are closed to cars and opened to everyone else (people, bikes, skates and other non-motorized users). In most cases there is special programming including vendors, music, demonstrations and fun activities, but a few just put up some cones and let people have the street. And of course marathons, road races and charity walks are some examples of active use of streets and highways. For more info and a sampling of what different cities are doing, check out this Momentum Magazine article, the Wikipedia page and the Open Streets Project directory. Read all about the history of ciclovias (open streets) at Ciclovias Recreativas de las Américas. I took to Lyndale Avenue South on a beautiful Sunday in late June for Open Streets Minneapolis. This episode features "in the field" interviews with some of the organizations tabling as well as regular people trying out activities such and the pop-up cycle track and the slow race. Organizations represented are (in order): Metro Transit; Minneapolis Public Works Dept; Minneapolis Bicycle Coalition; Spokes community bike center; Bike Walk Twin Cities (Transit for Livable Communities, Non-motorized Transportation Pilot Program); Nice Ride bike sharing; Minneapolis Sculpture Garden; Hennepin County Medical Center; Bicycle Alliance of Minnesota.  The morning event I spoke about is the Brompton US Championship (photos).

Please send in your questions, comments and suggestions for future topics and guests to or via the contact page. Follow my work on Facebook and Twitter, and contact the people I interviewed for more information and inspiration.

Episode 34: Transit News, Listener Feedback, Lessons from Pittsburgh


Finally a new episode with your feedback as well as some thoughts on recurring transit strikes and worsening climate change. I share some lessons from my experience riding buses and trains in Pittsburgh, including what kinds of information is important to visitors, new residents and seasoned transit users.

Links to people, places and systems mentioned on this episode:

San Francisco BART transit strike; flooding in Calgary and Toronto; train explosion in Quebec; good news for wildfires; Progressive Podcast Australia; Bikes on Metra commuter rail (The Chainlink forum); riding Divvy bike share (Chicago); Port Authority of Allegheny County (Pittsburgh bus/rail operator); Bike PGH; struggling city of Braddock; ("mini-Detroit"); Stockholm congestion pricing; Bill Lindeke, GaryRidesBikes, Copenhagenize, StrongTowns, walking_boston, bostonrailfan, TheTAdventure.

UPDATE: Walking Bostonian (@walking_boston) wrote a great summary of the transit situation in Pittsburgh.

Please contribute to the growing conversation about sustainable transportation and spread the word by sharing my work on your favorite social media outlets.  Send in your feedback by emailing or using the contact form at