Archive for the ‘Cycling’ Category

Tom Menino and the Ride Not Ridden

October 30th, 2014

nicoletomDefinitely on my to-do list and almost as surely not on his, I wanted that promised bike ride from Hyde Park to City Hall, maybe with Steve Murphy too. It would be the old guys cycling to town.

Like so many in Boston, I knew Thomas Michael Menino. He died this morning at only 71 from cancer. He must be the most loved person in town. Among the many things he did to earn that affection was meeting and knowing so many of us. I’ll surely post a few vignettes.

Today it’s a bicycling story. As a blogger and podcaster, I commented about him and to him. He allegedly was prickly and overly sensitive to criticism, but I never experienced that. He was a guest on my Left Ahead show several times, like here. I’d see and chat with him at political, cycling and similar events at City Hall, at restaurant openings and tree lightings in our Hyde Park neighborhood, and of course annually at his July 12th block party to celebrate his ascendancy to acting mayor in 1993 when Ray Flynn flew away to the Vatican.

It became a bit of a running joke with us when we talked about biking together from our neighborhood to his office. (The image here is one of him at a bike event in 2008 [I think] in his silly cycling outfit with Director of Boston Bikes Nicole Freedman.)

As it turned out, long-term City Council member and president from 2011 into 2014 Steve Murphy also lives in Hyde Park, jut a couple of blocks from me on Fairmount Hill. I asked him whether he biked. He said he had a mountain bike and would be up for riding to City Hall if I’d arrange it.

Menino too was passively accepting of the concept. Before he broke an ankle bone and had other health troubles, he had a two-wheel epiphany. Like so may locals, he had been hostile to bikes but got one as a gift from a City Councillor and thought about the pluses of cycling. He rode around HP and in the gym. He hired that bike czarina and actively championed her good road work. He is a hero to cyclists.

Inariably when we’d meet, I’d talk cycling too and began to ask about when the the old guys (in fairness to Steve, I”ll note that he’s about a decade younger than I) could spin into town. The first couple of times he’d say that I’d be too fast for him, but I said we’d all ride together and it was really only about 10 miles. He joked that Murphy would have a heart attack in the effort but that we’d do the trip as soon as he was healthy enough.

Well, I kept checking but he never got healthy enough. He had lung and gut problems and then a diagnosis of advanced cancer from some unknown source. I would have enjoyed that ride and suspect he would have too.

 

 

 

AAA (kind of) helps cyclists

May 6th, 2014

triplemehTo this cyclist who is also a member of AAA, the new-to-Southern-New-England service should be welcome and praised. Not so fast.

The auto folk brag on the front of their new monthly Members can get help with bicycle breakdowns. While the feature did not note this was not a Massachusetts idea. As the Boston Globe writes, AAA has done this is two more bicycle friendly areas, Oregon and Idaho, for the past two years. The New Jersey AAA has been doing it for a year.

Unlike the sparse coverage in the AAA regional maggy, the Globe reported that what it really means is that 30 AAA trucks will have attached bike racks — a limit sure to further delay help on a bike call.

What do we AAA members who cycle get? “Transportation for you and your bike will provided to your home, your vehicle or another location free of charge within a limited range,” writes AAA.

More limits? Sure, this is AAA, after all. Consider:

  • Annual total of two bike calls.
  • No promise of repairs or attempts to repair.
  • No service off-road or bike trails or paths.

This is in fact the very least AAA could do.

While the current maggy has scattered biking items. The upper left for one writes about the chance to win a bike. Even that has a catch though. You need to go to the Facebook page and answer questions about the program to prove you’ve absorbed the marketing info.  Hazing.

So at least you’d get a ride home with an inoperative bike, twice max. Meh.

Moreover, in the Boston area, our experience the few times we’ve called AAA over the decades was extremely slow response, often in the nature of two hours. In fairness, AAA’s strength is using garages near major highways in the sticks. We’ve never had to use that but chum claim that is their forte.

Honestly, AAA, if you want to claim multi-modal transportation, you have to do better. Your rescue trucks need the gear and knowledge to patch flats and pump up both types of valves. Being a biannual taxi service for someone with lots of time to wait is nothing to brag about.

 

 

Train to Gorillas

November 29th, 2013

femalelook

 

The quasi-suburban parts of Boston can have their own simple pleasures. Mine today came from an excursion, train time, zoo time!

Here in Hyde Park, as in Roslindale and West Roxbury, we all seem proud of being part of the city, yet very aware we can’t reasonably walk across the central fist of it as you can from Beason Hill or the South or West Ends. Standout successes like the recent new stations and skeds of the Indigo (Fairmount) Line are big deals down here.

For 10 years, we lived right downtown and then for 21, we were in JP, right below Forest Hills. Now in lower Hyde Park, it’s a trek and rigmarole to get places. I and one of my sons bike frequently (it’s quicker to get to Porter Square on two wheels than by T or God forfend by four). We have to plan. Until recently too the infrequent commuter rail just down the hill from us was also $5.50 a trip and only went as far as South Station.

I’ve been taking the zap, pow, wow improved Fairmount line regularly and grokking it. They dropped the fare to subway prices ($2 a trip) and roughly doubled the frequency. There is also a subtext. This is Thomas Michael Menino’s turf also and part of the idea was to pay attention to the Mayor and District Councilor Rob Consalvo in fostering development in Logan Square, a few hundred yards from the Fairmount stop. Moreover, personally, I got my geezer card from the MBTA, so one way is half price — a buck.

Freebie Road Trip

Today was a trial run for many who had not caught the T fever and fervor. Touted in the local weekly, in flyers at the Y and such, the notice was that today at 11:45 AM, we could gather at the Fairmount Grille and head for the 12:03 PM train. We’d get free round-trip fare.

Every station had its attraction. In particular, New Market was the big honking blue-collar South Bay shopping center with anything your little heart desires. Honestly, as much as I bike and sometimes drive around there, I reeled at the mentions of Four Corners and a short walk to the Franklin Park Zoo. I had never gotten off the Fairmount line at that stop and in my rigid mind thought it must not practical…too far.

Wrong-o.

thallcosgrove

I decided to do the zoo stop, assured a lackey would appear to lead me. Turns out, I was the only fool headed to the animals in the cold. When we gathered at the Fairmount Grille before heading to the stop, people were talking about shopping, either at South Bay or downtown. Joe Cosgrove (right), the MBTA’s director of planning and development, and Mat Thall, the interim executive director of the Southwest Boston Community Development Corporation, spoke, but did not pitch Franklin Park. We heard that the $2 fare was an experiment, for both Fairmount and as a test for other Boston neighborhood commuter lines shackled to absurdly high fares despite being in Boston city limits. We heard that the Fairmount traffic had spiked 47% since the fare change, and mostly we heard that we had to talk it up.

Clearly, I”m self-interested, but I think it’s worth it. Sure to the rail geeks, Boston has a reputation far beyond our boundaries for how hard the CDCs pushed for the Indigo Line work that has produced the improvements after almost two decades. Honestly, I can attest that we are a model for the hemisphere for the accomplishments. More personally, I want to see weekend service and trains that leave downtown for my neighborhood after the current latest, 9:40 PM. I want to be able to go to the Haymarket on Saturday, thank you very much. Let’s be a real city.

Gorillas, No Giraffes

My hick mindset had the zoo out of range. Despite my frequent bike rides down Columbia, up Blue Hill, through Franklin Park, past Forest Hills, the length of Mass Ave and all of the convoluted Washington Street in various neighborhoods, I fell into the Geneva Ave/Four Corners is distant gang turf. I was ignorant.

Sure enough, I ended up being the only bozo getting off the train at Four Corners. At Fairmount, the conductor was amused and amusing. He was the veritable gang of us, highly unusual for 12:03 PM on a weekday and did a great double take as he greeted us. I was literally the only Four Corners stop requester and the only one who exited for the zoo instead of consumer/Black Friday choices.

fairmounttoot

As promised, a pleasant young man, Hanad, was there to shepherd me. Turns out, as I was the only one, he didn’t even bother putting me through the half-priced-day gate. I got in for free. So there, shoppers.

Sure, a cold November day is not primo. Many animals are not the slightest bit interested in playing the game below 65F. Even my favorite beasts of all, giraffes, were bunked or huddling inside. No tigers, a single lion, no roos, maybe a third of the areas and cages said exhibit not open. Harrumph, as the expression goes.

Yet there was plenty to see. The parents with kids in strollers and racing ahead of them squealing about dark jungles, warthogs, gorillas and such had a great time. So did I.

(I’ll post some pix on Flickr and update with a link here.)

For the logistics minded, the walk from the Four Corners stop to the zoo entrance is eight minutes. It’s exit the station to the South onto Washington, go four short blocks, then seven short blocks up Columbia to the zoo. It’s a devil of a lot easier and closer than by Orange line or some wacky bus combo.If you want to start from South Station or Hyde Park, this is it. It’s in my mental maps.

We can be as provincial as Manhattanites and a question I heard in the Fairmoumt Grille and on the platform was what can you see in late November at a zoo? Lots, sports fans. The Tropical Forest was fully stocked; the great apes, warthogs, pygmy hippo, wacky carrion birds and more are crowd pleasers.  Nearby in Bird’s World, ibises and lurid finches and parakeets play, while the huge green keas wail and shriek.

A male lion showed off endlessly and on and on and on.

I earned bragging rights for going to the cold-weather zoo, doubled by taking the commuter rail.

Bike Seconds, Car Minutes

May 21st, 2013

The widespread, irrational hostility toward bicycles continues. Despite the slowly growing number and percentage of Americans cycling — for fun, exercise, commuting, shopping — an astonishing clot of us have visceral, anecdotal reactions to two-wheelers.

happybikesIn fact, as a long-time marriage-equality blogger, I see clear parallels in attitudes. As surely as bicycling and same-sex marriage are the future in the world as well as this country, reactionaries hate those realities. They seem not to care whom they hurt in their process of protesting and impeding progress.

While not the time and place for marriage talk, yet another death of a Boston cyclist and in particular, a crackpot column in today’s Herald are apropos.  In our winger tabloid, Margery Egan builds from the false premise of her first sentence, “Boston’s streets aren’t wide enough for bikes and cars. It’s as simple as that.”

Of course that’s crap. Traffic studies by city, state, academicians and other repeatedly prove a little planning makes room for all, pedestrians included. The more than clever head of bike programs, Nicole Freeman, has judiciously added bike lanes, paths, racks and such where they don’t disrupt, as has her Cambridge counterpart, Cara Seiderman. Their successes are invisible to or ignored by bike haters.

The comments to Egan’s column are almost exclusively what one expects in the Herald. Some even literally wish death on cyclists, a.k.a. those who are reducing congestion by removing their cars from the road while they spin.

What’s most telling is how Egan and many comments use anecdotes and unprovable generalities to justify reckless driving and operating to endanger. You see, wrecks and even deaths are the cyclists fault because if a driver has to slow down, well, that’s what makes them go fast, buzz cyclists, and hit them.

In the real world though, those us who are multi-modal perceive differently. In particular, drivers are clearly irritated at having to wait behind a cyclist or even slow a little to pass safely. The same driver on the same roads at the same time invariably waits much, much longer behind other motor vehicles. They seem to accept waiting through one to four lights as a cost of driving, so long as it is a car or truck and not a bike ahead of them. What’s up with that?

For whatever good it does in no-blood-no-ticket Boston, such driver behavior is governed by state law, not local traffic regulation. That is on the side of the cyclists.

There is no legal justification for j-hooking or claiming, “I just didn’t see her.” Instead, read MA General Laws Chapter 90 and particularly Section 14. That includes plain command, “In approaching or passing a person on a bicycle the operator of a motor vehicle shall slow down and pass at a safe distance and at a reasonable and proper speed.”

There are no built-in excuses, like unless you’d have to slow down or except where the road gets narrow. The onus is entirely on the driver to pass safely. That’s that.

There again, what kind of denial or emotional pull makes drivers accept waiting behind cars but not slowing for a cyclist? Are they so identified with motor vehicles that they lose all reason and judgement?

There will be more cyclists on our roads. At a slower pace, there will be more enforcement, and not just at the Egans would it on what they see as crazed scofflaw bike types. It’s likely that as more drivers lose their licenses and pay big fines for hitting cyclists that they’ll catch a whiff of their responsibility.

It shouldn’t be so hard. If you were brought up right, you’d know not to put other people’s bodies and even lives in danger because you’re impatient or choose to be unobservant.

Two-Wheel Manifesto, Boston Version

December 6th, 2012

Time to get serious, boys and girls, rather far past time.

Today’s catalyst was the latest death of a cyclist on Boston streets. This one was Chris Weigl, a 23-year-old photographer (website up at least for now). The wreck (never call these “accidents” as though they were unavoidable fatalities) had familiar basics, as limned by the Globe report.

A tractor-trailer took a four-lane right turn on a major avenue, aiming for a tiny side street by a local university. The cyclist in a bike lane was instantly mushed to death.

As long as they are up, the comments at the Boston Herald let cycle haters drink their fill. The this-but-that versions will stay up at Universal Hub. This is no place to broach the craziness of all-cyclists-always-break-all-traffic-laws or cyclists-don’t-have-licenses-or-pay-taxes or ban-all-bikes folk. They are beyond reason as well as compassion.

Instead, Boston has started its bicycling evolution. What must be do next for safety and civility?


Simple legal stuff


Stop signs and traffic lights. We have to stop being puerile here and look to what has been successful in Idaho since the 1980s — rolling stops for bicycles.

Stops as yields. Somewhat different but a corollary is treating red lights and stop signs as yield signs.

Both of these do many of the same things. Most important is increasing safety for all concerned by taking into account the huge differences between bikes and motor vehicles.

Two emotional responses to overcome are ingrained but not immutable. Most drivers here love the dumb cliché promulgated by the likes of Mass Bike, the barely logical same-road/same-rules chant. The anti-biking types like it as a weapon to pull out and slug cyclists with for any real or perceived infraction of a traffic law or regulation.

There are two underlying pretenses here. First, all cyclists are total scofflaws and all drivers are absolutely law obedient. For the latter, I have yet to follow a driver for more than 10 miles without observing violations, such as changing lanes without signaling, failure to yield to pedestrian in crosswalks, not coming to a complete stop for a light for stop sign and before the marked line, stopping on a crosswalk, exceeding speed limits, passing through an intersection after the light changed red and on and on. If all traffic laws were evenly enforced, a tiny percentage of drivers would retain their licenses. Yet that does not prevent most of living in a fantasy world of reckless cyclists and virtuous car drivers.

The second is more childish and visceral. The sense that even if a change in law is for the safety of all, anything that gives a right to a two-wheeler that a four-wheeler does not have is morally wrong, damn it! It’s the three-year-old’s wail of “She got an ice cream and I didn’t!”

To the same-rules bozos, I have little but disdain. We can easily observe and surmise myriad differences. Cars can drive on interstates and other limited access highways. Bikes can travel bike paths and lanes. Drivers must signal before every turn or lane change, cyclists when it is safe to do so taking a hand off the bars. Cyclists can dismount and use a crosswalk. It goes on and on.

More significant are physical differences. A cyclist is hard pressed to hurt or kill anyone, but doing so is built into the one to three ton motorized vehicle. A bike can stop at speed in only a few to 25 feet, long before a driver can move a foot from gas to brake. Even then, a car  or truck total stopping distance is in hundreds of feet. Likewise, a bike has the same tiny inertia leaving a red light, so it can be into or across the intersection before a driver can give it gas.

These and many other differences beg for reasoned nuance in laws and regulations.

Yet both driver gut responses of these are so real, and both so enabled by the lunacy of same-road/same-rules that any improvement has to deal with them. Unfortunately for humankind, about half of us seem very literal minded, like rules-are-rules bureaucrats. They need extra care and attention on any topic.

I can remember when I first introduced the stop-as-yield law and testified before the MA Joint Committee on Public Safety and Homeland Security hearing and sensing that is-this-fair attitude from the senators and reps. My proposed law, dutifully introduced by my then Rep. Willie May Allen, would indeed have granted cyclists an option motor-vehicle operators would not have. I explained how as a multimode guy — car, T, ped, bike — I was aware how nervous and thus dangerous drivers were when they were beside a cyclist at a light or red octagon, when it was time to proceed. On the other hand, when the cyclist leaves first, the driver overtakes the two-wheeler and feels in control. The driver doesn’t worry about the car’s width or where the bike is.

I could feel the progress but also those present would need to hear this more than once. I didn’t think there was a cyclist there other than I. This must be what folk used to this process have told me, that you need to introduce a bill three to five times and make your arguments each time to get it through.


Hard legal stuff


Meanwhile, the pros here, bike czars in major cities here and in Europe, concur that presence equals awareness. As we get more cyclists on the roads, drivers gradually accept that they are sharing the road not only with pedestrians, trucks, buses and trolley, but also with cyclists. Wish as they might that all the others would disappear, they come to accept that they’re all there forever, like mosquitoes. They learn to deal. When they do that, they are less likely to do thoughtless maneuvers that can bring death and dismemberment.

This process has one great accelerator, enforcement.

If you read the Herald anti-bike comments, you’ll see one-sided calls for that, as of course, drivers are always blameless in any wreck. Cyclists need bike licenses, need to pay cycling insurance, and most of all need a cop on every block to ticket them for their incessant law breaking.

Those multimodal types among us, including me, snort in their general direction. If virtually any driver were ticketed for every infraction large or small, none would take a trip to the grocery or flick without multiple tickets and perhaps a trip to jail.

Instead, I have to agree with  the rules-are-rules types here, but for everyone. Ticket and even tow the bad guys!

Pause here for the self-pitying and self-righteous keens of cops. Oh, Lawdy, no. “If we have to enforce traffic laws for drivers, that’s all we’ll do. Murderers, thieves, and dealers will rule the streets!”

That’s the most flammable of strawmen, of course.

In the real world, when cops or umpires or any enforcer does the job, it’s short term. If local police enforce the laws, words gets around quickly and drivers even cyclists would show some restraint and sense. Then cops can go back to pretending they are serious crime fighters.

Boston is infamous as a city where the police live by the no-blood/no-ticket model. They hate paperwork and are insulted by the $1 jaywalking tickets, the $20 cycling ones, and other pissant enforcement. They can go decades or whole careers without a felony arrest, foot chase or detective-level investigation, but they love to live the fantasy. Any moment, their duties will call them to major crime busts.

That melodrama can’t continue to interfere here. The local commissioners, supers and unions have to know that public safety is more than a bromide. Enforce the damn laws for a couple of months. The citizens will get the idea and straighten up.

Let both drivers and cyclists (hell, peds too) be afraid they’ll get hauled away and maybe financially ruined if they cause injury or death. Make it certain. Let them sweat for a few months. They’ll adapt and we’ll all be safer and saner.

 By the bye: I’m overdue for reintroducing my cycling bills and testifying.

Hipster Skins

September 2nd, 2012

OK, I shouldn’t be surprised. Yet I am. Biking out through Dedham, Wellesley, Newton and back into Boston neighborhoods, I did not see a single one of the hundred or so cyclists who did not have a pricey jersey.

I felt like such an old hippie and I guess I am. I buy my tires, tubes, tools and gear from the biking monster Nashbar/Performance/Bikes Direct. I know those designer jerseys are $100 to $150 per, replete with the logo of the beer or such you are pandering to advertise. I own a few of those, because they were two-thirds or three-quarters off. My favorite in the drawer is Mickey Mouse; it is garish and gives me an advantage cycling with inattentive drivers.

Today though, I rolled out in an orange tee-shirt with a skeleton on a cycle. It was a memento from a Tour de Graves in Boston when Ray Flynn way mayor and before he became a drunken conservative ambassador to the Vatican. I was an old guy with a T instead of a stylish fashion statement.

I know in my heart of hearts and on the occasional radar machines on the roadside that I can skunk the 20, 30, 40 and 50 somethings in their high-end jerseys and multi-thousand-dollar bikes. Instead, I find myself glad to see so many cyclists out of Labor Day weekend. In Wellesley in particular, many dozens of deuces and quartets plied their Spandex-contracted flab on public byways. Bless their hearts.

Worthy and workman-like they are. I can’t begrudge them their need for attention. Let us allow they are exceptional, privileged folk who might otherwise stress a lawn chair and instead are trying to be simultaneously fit and pretty.

That’s OK to us journeyman cyclists. The pretty pretenders server their purpose. The more humans on cycles the better. Motorists slowly, every so slowly register, “Bicycles. Must share road.”

Sorry, hipsters and fogies, though. The really scrawny and big-bellied in their high-end jerseys are laughable. If you’d been a jock in your teens and gotten the hormones coursing, you wouldn’t be a flab bowl or a skinny-jeans joke now.

Let’s all ride every weekend…hell, every day.

Stop Sign Philosophy

August 6th, 2012

Even though their heads are muddled, their hearts mean well. When cycling and public-transportation groups chant, “Same roads. Same rules.” they do think they’ve solved the cycling/driving/walking problems.

Alas, such highly oversimplified and illogical solutions solve nothing. We can get deeper in a moment, but you might divert to read cycling scofflaw Randy Cohen in yesterday’s NY Times. The former writer of the paper’s ethics column puts a philosophical spin on the issue…from a very personal perspective. He justifies his own daily trumping of strict interpretation of traffic laws and regulations. He hurts no one and doesn’t even endanger himself by treating stop lights and stop signs as yield signs. He slows and makes sure the way is clear, then makes his own way, darn it.

Whaa. He’s cheating!

You just know that the literalists, the rules-are-rules types, will fume and perhaps send chiding emails. That is the way of the bike/ped/drive conflict. The majority of adults seem to despise, disparage or at least distrust cyclists and are quick with the hyperbolic justifications — all cyclists are reckless, running all lights and endangering everyone on the roads; all pedestrians are jaywalkers who live to imperil themselves and inconvenience drivers; all drivers obey every traffic law and rule…except maybe fudging on speed limits a tiny bit.

Unlike many European nations, we here are not ready for the physical, intellectual and emotional shift to urban cycling. We see in number of cyclists, in lack of enforcement of driving laws, and in the combined driver-oriented actions of the police, prosecutors and judges that Americans illogically and emotionally would like bikes to go away and stay in the kids’ toy class.

Yes, yes, we talk the game of conserving energy. We talk the game of reducing traffic, noise and pollution. We talk.

When it comes time to remove parking spaces to make room for cycle tracks and bike lanes, most of us stomp and wail about the unfairness of it. When we see daily what scofflaws too many drivers are, we still pretend that it’s those damned cyclists that cause the risks, congestion and injuries. The stats report, in the strongest terms, that it’s otherwise, that drivers are the dangerous lawbreakers. Yet, this is cultural and our hearts aren’t there. We’d rather point to real or theoretical bikers running red lights and pretend the problem is with others, not ourselves.

Roads and rules

Back to same roads/same rules. That’s crap. That is intentionally naive and even dumb. There are tremendous differences between cars and bikes. We can’t really set up the roads and laws properly until we become more realistic about those distinctions.

Same roads. First consider that there are numerous essential distinctions between motor vehicle and cycle roads. For example, bikes are forbidden from using limited access highways and toll roads. Motor vehicles can’t legally drive on sidewalks anywhere, even out of business districts, can’t use many designated parkways (although cops rarely enforce that even when the signs are plain that commercial vehicles aren’t allowdd) or shared bike/pedestrian paths or bike lanes or bike paths. Cyclists though can use streets and roads, even when there is a parallel bike path, and can (over the steaming objection of drivers) use a full lane if it is necessary to travel safely. The laws are OK here; they just need to be enforced to the tune of frequent, large fines for motorists.

Same rules. Here’s a huge cultural difference. Motorists in the main are oblivious to physical realities of cycling, while cyclists are or have been motorists and grok the corresponding limits and benefits. More than once, I have been cut off by or threatened by or even brushed by drivers and spoken with them. Most are truly unaware of things that should be obvious, like when a bike stops, the cyclist falls over unless a foot goes out for the pavement or there’s some skilled balancing act. Think about that as a possible driving issues. Bikes can easily go 15 to 25 miles per hours, so turning right immediately as you begin passing a cyclist is both illegal and dangerous. Bikes can stop from speed in 5 to 20 feet, while a car will go 100 feet in the time it takes a driver to move a foot from the accelerator to the brake pedal, not counting the actual stopping time. Cyclists have minimal inertia to overcome and can leave from a dead stop before a driver can being to move. Drivers behave much more sanely when cyclists leave an intersection first and the car can overtake them, otherwise the drivers don’t seem to have a physical sense of where the cyclist is and thus drive erratically.

After decades of urban cycling, I end up concurring with Cohen on the effect if not the philosophy of stop signs and stop lights. He likes to pretend that his scofflaw behavior is morally superior to literal obedience. In contrast, I think the physics and logic of treating those signals all as stop signs have benefits for all. Yet acknowledging those distinctions is what will require that cultural shifts, as they have successfully done in Idaho, even in the very citified Boise.

Consider:

  • it doesn’t take much time or distance for a cyclist to stop or get moving again
  • cyclists can clear an intersection in a small fraction of the time it takes a driver to get moving and get across
  • drivers are very uncomfortable leaving a light at the same time as cyclists beside them
  • drivers are comfortable and seem to feel in control when they overtake and pass cyclists ahead of them
  • motor vehicles are heavy, fast and deadly; they are aim-able weapons
  • silent bikes can startle inattentive pedestrians but by physical reality and by stats are far, far less likely to hit much less damage a person or vehicle

So rephrasing the simpleminded chant is limited. Think, “some of the same roads and many of the same rules.” That demands too much thinking for ordinary folk, particularly the literal minded. It is a potential big education issue and process.

Yet, that’s where major European cities and countries have arrived. We’re far from that though.

More bikes for more awareness

Many biking advocates say repeatedly that when there are sufficient bicyclists commuting and recreating on the streets and roads, people will get it. Drivers and walkers will begin to pay attention, both for their safety and those of the cyclists. A few U.S. cities are almost there, but most are quite a ways off. If preponderance is what it takes, we may be several decades away from drivers and pedestrians taking personal responsibility, as well as the chain of enforcement bring the hammer down on feckless, reckless folk. That, of course includes cyclists, although stereotypes aside, they are far from the most frequent or most dangerous offenders.

Meanwhile, skilled cyclists will likely advocate for Idaho-style sensible laws and acting out their personal versions of them. I doubt many will do the situation ethics justification that Cohen uses, but the effect will be the same. Maybe a few drivers will realize how good it is that those pesky bikers are out of the intersection where they can keep an eye on and pass them. I suspect that many more will have the puerile attitude that someone gets a privilege they don’t. There’s not a lot of prevention or cure for that sort of childishness. It will come with changing laws, the eventual matching enforcement by cops on all concerned, and that distant future of lots of cyclists.

 

 

Helmet Hell

July 21st, 2012

You gotta wonder how the increasing cyclists’ recording drivers will play out. For background, check out the biz/tech angles in a NYT piece on camera mounted on bike helmets.

The short of it is that what started out as a nice system for recording training rides, scenery and such has legal uses. Aggressive and scofflaw drivers on video have a real tough time jiving cops and prosecutors.

My wonder is whether it would change behavior if drivers learned they couldn’t count on the using the cliché that it’s the reckless, wilding cyclists, certainly not the guy behind the wheel, breaking the law. From experiential and anecdotal knowledge, as well as DOT and other stats, those who kill and maim, and those who routinely risk the lives of pedestrians, cyclists and drivers, are not on two wheels, rather four or more.

Yet it seems from newspaper reports as well as those personal tales, many cops, prosecutors and judges are eager to believe the mythology of the innocent, law and regulation abiding driver having to watch out for all those terrible cyclists terrorizing the roads with their 30 pound weapons. The extrapolation with this emerging technology leads to related questions. A big one is how will drivers and all those involved in the law deal with increasing proof that far too many drivers are reckless, aggressive, endangering or even homicidal a startling amount of the time.

From what I’ve seen as cyclist, driver, pedestrian and bus rider, a typical driver breaks multiple traffic laws on every single trip. Some are just poor manners, like not signaling turns, thus making others guess, wait, miss lights and so forth. Others could be serious, like running red lights, blocking crosswalks, failing to yield to pedestrians, buzzing cyclists, and cutting off drivers or cyclists. I invite you to follow a few drivers at a safe distance, ideally with a passenger to record what you see. It’s the extremely rare driver who goes more than a few blocks without a moving violation.

Yet the helmet-cam cyclists aren’t out for the majority of drivers who mindlessly disobey traffic laws. After all, most cops can’t be bothered with no-blood/no-wreck violations. Bicyclists are concerned with the aggressive and dangerous drivers who force them off the road, who hit and run, who j-hook them to the pavement, who threaten them first with their vehicles and then often with fists or weapons.

Without the camera, the driver has plausible deniability. After all, don’t we each know what crazies cyclists are, every one?

So, it’s legal to video someone’s actions in public, as in driving down the streets. Cops can’t really hide from their obligations when a cyclist can prove that a motorist crashed into them and sped off, or the like. More helmet cams will mean more prosecutions, fines, suspended licenses, insurance surcharges and maybe even jail time.

How will the driving community react? Will the police tweak their training to remind their officers that a cyclist might be telling the truth about a motor vehicle attack? Will judges have to step back from their identification with fellow drivers over those strange two-wheel types?

I suspect the immediate response from drivers will to try to wheedle out of the proof. Either they’ll call foul on being recorded, or ask whether you want to believe your eyes or their words. Drivers who speak or write of cyclists dearly love their dual fantasy — they are blameless and cyclists at semi-human detritus.

I’m a cautious cyclist in watching out for the loons on four wheels. I do claim a lane, but I never assume drivers will stop at red lights or go the right way down a one-way street or look and yield before entering traffic. Yet, I still get buzzed by bike haters, cut off by ditzes, and threatened by drivers who demand that I get out of “their” traffic lane.

Helmet cams are cheap, money-wise, but precious in concept. Just maybe…

Clogs that Fit

May 31st, 2012

The best of shoes for the worst of weeks…by coincidence…

Lands’ End seems sure it can’t sell red-by-God shoes to men, at least not to men who aren’t comfortable in their character and confident in their sexuality. Thus, these clearly red clogs, which I wear as I type, are in their catalog as Orange Brick.

I just recently ordered these to replace two pairs of no-longer-waterproof/resistant Hummer and Lands’ End slip-ons. I’d gone to the sizable Dedham Sears, a major LE store to hear whiny jive from the saleswoman. It was size — my 13, or as she put it when I sent her to the storeroom for slip-ons in 13, “We normally don’t carry any shoes in that size.”

Well, I happen to know that LE makes and sells virtually all their men’s shoes in 13. That the managers at the Dedham store choose not to stock the range speaks to marketing and customer satisfaction skills and attitudes of those managers.

As it turns out, the online LE store had black all-weather mocs at $10 off. I wanted a second slip-ons pair and appealing to my frugality, a $50 total meant free shipping. There weren’t many choices for the fill-in second pair to make the minimum, but for my size (ahem, Dedham managers, most of the 13s were sold out) they did have the red clog, Sasquatch size.

I never had a pair of clogs, preferring the feel of a higher rise at the heel. A few days later, I was happy to own them.

Come the bike wreck — broken clavicle, cracked or broken ribs, agony bending, shifting or rising — shoes I step into and kick off are perfect…and all I’ve worn.

 

 

Light Posting Ahead

May 27th, 2012

I won’t be putting up much here or at Marry in Massachusetts, maybe for a couple of weeks. Friday, I had a serious bike wreck. I’m limited to one hand and may need some surgery. Typing and sitting among other acts are big, painful deals.