18 June 2011

Trouble with E-Bikes

Generally I tend to have a favorable view of e-bikes (electric bicycles), but as an increasing number hit the city streets I have picked up on a safety issue that hadn't occurred to me previously.  The issue that worries me is that most of the e-bikes I've seen appear, to my eye, remarkably similar to real scooters.  The only sure way to identify them is to look for pedals or lack of a license plate.  Unfortunately, I'm not always in a position to have a clear view.

Why is this a safety issue?  When I see a car, bicycle, motorcycle, scooter, or pedestrian on the road I automatically expect certain probabilities of behaviour they may take dependent on what category they're in -- and in response to likely behaviour I can take certain defensive or cautionary actions to minimize the chances of an accident.  The safety issue comes up because it's too easy to confuse e-bikes with scooters.

This wouldn't be so much a problem if e-bikes stuck to one set of 'rules of the road'.  Legally, e-bikes are required to behave like normal bicycles but, people being people, I've all too often witnessed e-bikes driving like scooters one moment, and then abruptly acting like bicycles the next, and vice versa, making their actions appear surprising and startling.

And from a mutual safety perspective, one thing to avoid on the road, whether you're a pedestrian, bicycle, motorcycle, scooter or car, is surprising or startling the drivers around you.

15 June 2011

VW Service and Tire Pressure

The Volkswagen recommended tire pressure for the 2004 VW Golf R32 is a little unusual in that it's different for the front (35 psi) and rear tires (44 psi).  These VW bona fide manufacturer recommendations are described in my owner's manual and on the driver door jam sticker.

What puzzles me is that in the past seven years of R32 ownership, whether it be VW service departments in Maryland or Virginia, whether in the United States or Canada, they without fail under inflate the R's rear tires.  I long ago gave up mentioning it because it never makes a difference.  VW service invariably deflate my R's rear tires before returning it to me, setting all four tires at 35 psi.

Maybe they know something I don't?  If so, it would be nice if someone from VW would inform me that the tire pressures in the owner's manual and door sticker are incorrect.

Personally, I think there must be a gap in their training somewhere; or perhaps more likely that some computer R32 maintenance file doesn't match the tire pressure information in either the owner's manual or on the door sticker.

03 June 2011

Close Call

I was almost run over on my way to work, this morning.  I'd reached the middle of a crosswalk when I noticed the driver of a car rolling forward had his head turned to his left towards traffic (and away from me).

I stopped, but he didn't.  From at least twenty feet out not once did he turn his head as he continued to roll forward, at a good clip, too.  When did he finally stop looking to his left?  After he came to a full stop well over the crosswalk.  Which, of course, was when the driver, with a look of surprise, finally saw me.

If I had been only half a step further the driver would have nailed me clean before he even noticed me.  I bet we both would have been pretty surprised, then.  Idiot.