December 19, 2015

Twelve Days of Bicycles - Six Noodles Swaying

If there is one reason why cyclists should never be underestimated, it is for their creativity. One such instance occurred when the Ontario government approved Bill 31, a part of the first #CycleON action plan. The changes included increased fines for distracted driving and dooring cyclists, legalizing paved shoulders and contraflow bike lanes, and requiring drivers to give at least one metre of space when passing cyclists.[1] The last item was advocated by Parkdale High Park MPP Cheri DiNovo since 2010 and was a recommendation in the June 2012 Ontario Coroner’s Report.

Why a one metre passing rule? Cyclists need to ride one metre from the curb or parked cars to avoid getting doored. To illustrate this, I measured the amount of space it takes for a Honda Civic to open and it is just about one metre per the picture below. If a cyclist needs one metre to avoid getting doored (or curbside obstacles such as manhole covers), it is only fair they have such space on both sides to maximize their safety. Factor in handlebar widths and motor vehicles would likely have to move over to the adjacent traffic lane; therefore letting the cyclist take the lane. To understand what it feels when somebody gets too close to you, Santa Rosa’s Street Smarts Program produced this public service announcement.
Now this is where the creativity kicks in. As a way to remind drivers to respect the new law in a disarming and inoffensive way, Warren Huska – a local cycling advocate with a product design background – found an idea thanks in part to his daughter. With Bike Month getting started and the one metre passing rule on the horizon, he borrowed a nearby pool noodle and strapped it onto his bike carrier as an alternative to typical plastic rods with reflective flags. The intent was to create a safer passing distance between his bike and overtaking cars while riding down Don Mills Road from the Beach to Highway 401. The reaction was surprisingly positive with some friendly honks and high fives. People generally understood this was some type of demonstration project and even commented that they should borrow the idea for themselves or their children.
Bicycle with pool noodle (via Warren Huska)
I did have a question regarding how the noodle could be used on downtown cycle tracks in order to allow cyclists to safely pass. Huska mentioned this is where the noodle’s flexible bungee strapping comes in, as the noodle can be flipped back with a hand motion, parallel to the bicycle.

While this idea was not copied from elsewhere and I hadn’t previously heard of it, a similar idea was used to highlight how much space drivers take by attaching a wireframe around the bicycle resembling a car’s dimensions of approximately five metres by two metres.[2] These two measures, among others, go to show how cycling related issues can be made aware in unconventional ways.

Be inspired!
Rob Z (e-mail)


[2] Laura Bliss. CityLab. “If Bicycles Took Up as Much Space as Cars …” October 9, 2014.

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