Create your own bike lane, redux

Written by adam


I love this:

> “Contrail” is a design concept that enables cyclists to increase their visibility to cars, pedestrians, and each other. Conceived by Pepin Gelardi and Teresa Herrmann, this frame-mounted device would allow cyclists to make their mark on the street with faint lines of chalk. The rear wheel spins a smooth trail of color onto the pavement as the bike whizzes along.

>Contrail leaves an impression based on the cumulative movements of many cyclists over time…Its provocative visual language lies somewhere between sky calligraphy, temporary street graffiti, and overlapping footprints in the snow.

This is reminiscent of the LightLane product concept, which paints a lane marker around you bike with a laser. Although LightLane is pitched as a safety device, I noted that it seems at least as effective as a social statement. Contrail mostly ditches the safety angle altogether, and ratchets up the social angle in a way that strikes me as much more powerful.

At first the idea struck me as pretty hopeless as a commercial endeavor — why would anyone actually fuss with such a functionally useless add-on? But I could actually see this gaining some hipster credibility, and in fact the designer may release some DIY instructions soon.

Other cool design ideas are on view at the Power to the Pedal competition web site.

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  1. Heathen

    Great, just what we need – another way to introduce more substances onto the roadway, to get washed into our sewers and out of mind. Just because it’s cool? Whatever happened to “leave no trace”?

  2. Adam Stein

    Dude…it’s chalk.

  3. Kevin Wright

    I can’t imagine that the amount of worldwide chalk usage could create a major issue, however it is a valid question. Thank you Heathen for bringing it up. As a city cyclist I welcome anything that could increase my visibility in traffic and save me from being hit by a cager. I’m also an advocate of proper cycling, not the single speed hipster brand that ignores all the rules in a social protest against cars. This chalk project might meet with some resistance within the non-bike community which means making bike safety projects harder to get passed in legislation. With that said, I like it and would consider doing this myself, it could be a valuable tool in planning future bike lanes and cataloging street usage.

  4. Anonymous

    Adam, Fascinating idea. I live in a rural area dominated by the notorious un-pedestrian friendly “country highway” with no bike lanes or sidewalks. This idea would instantly increase visibility and build the sense of community among bicyclists. As I bike and get honked at, screamed at and forced off the road all too frequently, I feel like the last crazy biker. This would immediately prove to me and other cyclists that we are not alone and in fact will build awareness for cyclists. Well worth the “chalk pollution” if it saves even a small amount of car pollution.

  5. Tom Lohr

    Great Idea…I suspect based on some things I’ve read about human behavior that this could really make cycling safer by ‘training’ drivers to be aware of the possibility of cyclers on the roads they frequent.

  6. neil cadger

    I live in Kelowna, B.C., Canada which is a completely carcentric vestigial wild west kind of place. I would start chalking my routes tomorrow just so awareness of the existence of cyclists could be raised. And seeing the paths that cyclists have taken might encourage other people to get on a bike. Increased visibility could only be a good thing.

  7. david burton

    I like the social aspect (let the other bikers know you’re out there with them).
    It could have one other side benefit. If enough bikers do it along the same street it will show that there is alot of bike traffic there and be a better argument for where to locate bike lanes. Kind of like the short cuts that students take on campuses that eventually become paved sidewalks.

  8. terri

    the question about chalk dust isn’t a trivial one. from
    “There are two separate issues buried in the question of chalk dust safety. In one sense, the main ingredients of chalk dust are considered to be non-toxic, which simply means they do not pose a threat when ingested. In another sense, chalk dust can and does accumulate in the human respiratory system, which means it can create long-term health problems due to overexposure. In short, swallowing a piece of white chalkboard chalk won’t kill you, but breathing in chalk dust for a number of years can create or trigger respiratory problems.
    Chalk dust is the natural by-product of using a chalk crayon on a blackboard. As the chalk is scraped across the rough surface of the chalkboard, particles of chalk dust are sent out into the surrounding air. Some of this chalk dust settles to the ground or is ventilated outside, but much of it falls on clothing, furniture, electronic equipment and shelves. Teachers and students also inhale a portion of this chalk dust, which usually becomes trapped in the mucus layers of the throat and upper lungs.
    A small amount of respirated chalk dust is not considered harmful. Those with healthy respiratory systems can expel the chalk dust through coughing, and the remaining material should be absorbed safely into the body. For those with chronic breathing issues such as asthma, however, exposure to chalk dust can trigger a reaction. In fact, many school systems strongly urge teachers to move students with respiratory problems away from the chalkboard area. Chalkboards, trays and erasers filled with chalk dust should also be cleaned regularly.
    Standard chalk for classroom use is generally made from calcium carbonate, a processed form of natural limestone. The traditional method of creating white chalk was to form a clay-like paste with the calcium carbonate and allow it to cure in chalk-shaped molds. This chalk worked well with slate chalkboards, but it also generated a significant amount of chalk dust that floated into the surrounding air. Teachers who used traditional chalk for a number of years developed some respiratory problems, although not generally considered severe.
    There is now a product called dustless chalk, designed to address the chalk dust issue. Instead of forming chalk crayons through individual molds, the new chalk mixture is extruded into ropes, then cut to size and allowed to dry. This dustless chalk does generate a form of chalk dust, but the particles are much heavier and tend to fall directly to the floor instead of floating in the air. Exposure to airborne chalk dust has been reduced, but the accumulation of chalk dust elsewhere is still problematic.
    Beyond the human health aspects of chalk dust exposure, there are also potential electronic hazards. Devices such as computers and digital versatile disc (DVD) players stored inside classrooms can suffer damage from accumulated chalk dust. As the dust particles circulate throughout the room, cooling fans may draw them into the computers’ inner workings. As dust builds up on the motherboard and other heat-sensitive parts, the risk of overheating increases. the question about chalk is not a stupid one. according to
    Chalk dust can also cause severe damage to sensitive electronics, such as the laser reader of a DVD player or the playback heads of a video cassette recorder (VCR).
    Chalk dust is considered an irritant and an occupational hazard by a number of occupational safety organizations around the world. If you must work around chalk dust for extended periods of time, many safety experts suggest using a filtered mask over your mouth and nose and taking a number of breaks in a fresh air environment. Use other dustless methods of communication, such as dry erase boards or overhead projectors, whenever possible.”
    i would think that in places that have rain throughout the year, the streets would get frequent cleaning and the burden to the drainage system is low. however, in places where rain is a rare occurrence, the occasional rain would clean the streets and return a lot of chalk dust to the drainage system all at once. we do have to think about the build-up of calcium carbonate in our water. i was not able to determine what the dye used in colored chalk is made from.

  9. veganrob

    Heathen, chill out. Commuting is one of the most environmentally beneficial things we can do in this country. Unfortunately there is not enough bike lanes to make it safe and it is difficult to convince government of the need for the lanes in an urban setting. Chalk is an awesome idea if done responsibly. As a commuter in Indianapolis I know the challenges faced.

  10. Jonno

    Calcium carbonate AKA chalk is a natural substance.

  11. GreenforLife

    Even if ALL bicyclists used this chalk on the road, it would NOT be an environmental hazard. Chalk on outside roads is not an irritant (I used to be a teacher so I know about this issue. This idea to mark unmarked roads is a great one! I like the comparison to pedestrian created shortcuts. I see this happen on college campuses, for one example.
    Heathen, check your facts before you jump on a red herring. The previous commentaries are accurate – chalk is natural, concrete ais not. The dyes used in chalk are fine and will not affect the waterways like the other crap coming off of roads and going into storm drains. BTW storm drains have strictly enforced regulations as to where the waste water goes. Chalk on roadside shrubbery will have no noticeable affect.

  12. spensir

    A nice idea. The illustration begs some comment, though. The cyclist on the left is not wearing a helmet, I surmise, by the fact that she has one dangling off her right shoulder. Seems to me when you are a proponent of cycling safety you should be wearing a helmet especially on a roadway.

  13. IBR

    Heathen, I bet you would get into your car to drive to city hall to sign a petition against this. Get real, the logic clearly outweighs anything else. Catch up to us Heathen, the 70’s are over.

  14. Kate fm Fall Rivva

    Natural, of course, isn’t always benign. Arsenic is a natural substance, asbestos another. And it is entirely natural for cats to attack & trophy innocent field mice.
    I suppose it’s also fully natural for predatory types to entangle entire societies in awful and self-destructive business endeavors…and for said society to arise in struggle against same.
    While I do love the graphic, near-time lapsed depiction of multiple cyclists that the overlaid chalk trails create, there may well be ways to do this which actually are more environmentally sound. Rather than kill the messenger re potential health, etc. hazards of chalk, keep a-lookin’ for a better fitting idea. Terrapass is a lovely little think tank, I think!