Wednesday, July 20, 2005

Danger! Danger!

Rant Mode Switch to ON!

I'm not a fan of Huffy bicycles, unless someone offers one of those
re-badged Serottas that the 7-11 team rode back in the day.

About 10 years ago, Huffy went to its unionized workforce and said that in
order to preserve jobs, they'd have to agree to a concessionary contract.
The union agreed. Huffy went on to make modest profits through the next
contract period, then approached the union and asked for further
concessions. When the union would not agree to further concessions, Huffy
began closing their factories. We're not talking about wildly lucrative
jobs. Most paid less than $15 per hour.

Now they want to join that long list of companies eager to dump their
pension obligations on the federal government. United Airlines and US
Airways did so, and now the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corporation has a $23.3
billion deficit. Believe me, other airlines on the brink are contemplating
the same thing. What happens if Maytag, Whirlpool, or one of the automakers
takes the same path? It's unconscionable to destroy workers pensions in
order to maximize profits.

I had a supervisor who said, "Somebody has to take out the garbage." What
he meant was that in every relationship, professional or personal, someone
has to do those thankless, menial tasks. Even in our high-tech industries,
someone has to empty the dumpster. Is the guy who does that every day for
thirty years less deserving of a retirement income than the executive in his
air-conditioned suite? We've lost the common ties that bind us together as

What happened to the social contract that bound our society for the last
century? It was assumed that an expanding economy benefited everyone, not
just those at the top of the economic ladder. Productive, efficient workers
would see that their companies were competitive and their life's work would
bring some retirement income. But now those workers are regarded as
expendable. When they reach retirement age, the carpet is being pulled out
from under their feet. And the same political party that wraps itself in
both the flag and a pretense of meeting a higher moral standard aids and
abets those companies. Is it moral to maximize profits at the expense of
workers and their families? I don't think so.


(This was a response to a news story about the increasing popularity of
road cycling.)

While there's no doubt that Lance Armstrong has increased awareness of
bicycle racing in the United States, attributing increased road bicycle
sales to his popularity may be incorrect. I suspect that high gasoline
prices are a greater factor.

Regardless, it's good to see more people using bicycles for transportation.
There are many sound reasons for doing so, including the health benefits,
the environment, congestion mitigation, and others. But one outstanding
reason is often overlooked. It's just plain fun! How many commuters arrive
at work and say, "What a wonderful ride to work! I saw bluebirds, a couple
of deer, and smelled roses along the way!"

But many cyclists endanger themselves and others by riding recklessly. They
ride against traffic, or ignore red lights and stop signs. They ride on
sidewalks where the risk of collision is three times greater than it is on
the street. They ride without helmets or without lights and reflectors at

One key factor to enhancing bicycle safety is education. The League of
American Bicyclists and the Tulsa Parks Department offer the Road1 class,
designed for both beginning and experienced cyclists. The course covers
the rules of the road, basic bicycle maintenance, and practical exercises.
The intent is to educate bicycle riders and make them safe road users in a
short period of time, rather than relying on a sometimes painful
trial-and-error approach.

I like to tell people that my bicycle runs very well on Italian food and ice
cream, and 'fueling' it is lots more enjoyable than buying gasoline!


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