Monday, October 31, 2005


James of Bicycle Design asks a compelling question:

Companies that produce alcoholic beverages also have to pay for advertisements that tell people how to use their products responsibly. My question is, why don’t automobile manufacturers have to do the same thing?

This is a gem of a post! It's well worth taking the time to read. I'll likely forward it to several e-lists as well.

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Hugging the fog line...

I've taken a tiny excerpt from The Cycling Dude blog, and focused on a common cycling complaint. Since I've been in a problem/solution mode all week, of course I couldn't resist this one. The blog covers much, much more than this excerpt would imply, and it's truly worth reading. The piece is titled: "Do Cyclists have the same rights as cars?" My immediate response is, yes, within the limits of the law, they do. Debating the point is unnecessary.

Greg Dobbs wrote:

...some son-of-a-you-know-what of a driver — or maybe the daughter-of-a-you-know-what — nearly knocked me off the road. I wasn’t hogging the lane; I heard the car behind me, saw it in the mirror that hangs from my handlebar, and hugged the shoulder. But the driver came close to either accidentally killing me … or trying to kill me.

So here's the problem. Greg is riding along the very edge of the pavement, believing that by doing so he's being courteous and considerate of other road users. Yet some motorists insist on returning that courtesy by buzzing past his handlebar dangerously close. The problem is how to encourage motorists to overtake with more space separating them from a cyclist, giving the cyclist ample room for safety.

There are two solutions. First, its possible to build a bicycle lane that gives lateral separation from traffic at a cost of about $1 million per mile. I won't belabor the problems with bike lanes. They're commonly known and recognized, so there's no need to cover that ground again.

Second, and to my way of thinking, the preferable solution, is to take the lane by riding in the right-hand tire track. This is a simple solution that actually works, though many cyclists simply refuse to attempt it or even consider it. John Forester calls this "fear from the rear" and the fear is very real. The risk is vastly overstated, but the fear is real nonetheless.

Let's be clear about one thing: I'm not blaming Greg for this. It's ALWAYS the responsibility of an overtaking motorist (or cyclist, or motorcyclist, as the case may be) to do so in a safe manner.

When a cyclist hugs the shoulder, motorists will 'thread the needle' between him and oncoming traffic. Many have difficulty judging where the right side of their car is, and when they have to make a decision at speed, they dither too long. As a result, the cyclist gets squeezed.

But when the cyclist occupies the right-hand tire track, he takes away that option. Motorists are VERY good at avoiding what's directly in front of them. This takes away the necessity for a judgment call, and makes the decision much easier. They slow down, wait until it's safe to pass, then go around the cyclist. A cyclist isn't being rude or arrogant by taking the lane. He's increasing his own safety, and safety is always our first priority.

Here's another way to look at it. Riding the fog line and having traffic whizz by your elbow is obviously dangerous and unsafe. Nothing in the law requires any lawful road user to operate in an unsafe manner. So move further left.

Taking the lane isn't rocket science. It doesn't require a leap of faith like a religious experience. It can be tested if only cyclists will try. One of my co-workers was astonished to find how easy it was to ride on four lane arterials when he took the right hand lane. There's ample passing room. Cars simply move over into the other lane and go around. Like I said, it isn't rocket science, but it does work.

Scanner Fun...follow-up

Here's what I sent to our local Chief of Police yesterday:

Chief Yancey,

When I arrived home yesterday afternoon, my wife immediately asked if someone had been honking at me on 129th. She had the scanner on in the kitchen. I said that a guy in a pickup laid on the horn, revved his engine, and tried to bully me off the road on my bicycle. Mary replied that it wasn't a guy. It was a woman and she'd called the police to complain that I was blocking traffic and I'd made some rude gestures.

The dispatcher put out the call, and an officer immediately replied that he'd just passed me and I wasn't doing anything illegal. He went on to say that motorists get impatient at rush hour, and if someone were honking at him, he'd probably make some gestures too. Actually, I'd waved at the motorist using all FIVE fingers, for emphasis. It keeps my blood pressure down.

I just wanted to thank you and your officers for your professionalism. Too often cyclists confront motorists and law enforcement officers who have very limited knowledge of the bicycling laws, and even more limited practical experience of riding in traffic. My only regret about yesterday's complaint is that there was no way to educate the motorist regarding the law and safe riding practice.

Friday, October 28, 2005


hereNT responded to this CycleDog post:

"But I’ve never read anything about a cyclist refusing to pull over because he or she didn’t feel safe."

This Guy

Got pulled over and the cops have taken his protesting the 'resisting an officer' part and brought it up to a felony level. He didn't feel safe stopping and pulled into a parking lot at the first available stop...

Fritz posted about it on Cycle-licious

I won't re-iterate his post, but I will say that I've put in an inquiry to the local newspaper for more information. Also, I tried to navigate the Michigan courts websites but didn't find any electronic filings. That's hardly unusual. Most aren't on line.

One of my crew chiefs says that there's no one of us as smart as all of us put together, so if anyone reading this has better information, please post it. I'm still a digital Luddite!

With more complete information, we can post this to various advocacy e-lists and maybe, just maybe, shine a big spotlight on Michigan.

Just in time for the weekend...

I was riding home along a quiet, tree-lined road one afternoon. Fall had arrived, and although the leaves hadn’t changed yet, they were fading fast. The air was cooler, giving a hint of things to come. The road was straight and flat, and the shade under the trees gave way to patches of bright sunlight. All in all, it was a lovely day.

Far behind me, a car rounded the bend and motored along slowly. It was moving slower than I was and seemed to stay in the shade all the time. I couldn’t see any sunlight sparkling on the paint or the chrome, though I did see some chrome bits on the front and sides. It looked like an old car, something from the 40s or 50s, big, round, and all black.

But I didn’t pay much attention to a car that far behind, and since it wasn’t overtaking, I didn’t give it a second thought. It was far back, and I couldn’t even hear the engine. Soon, I reached a main road and turned toward home, the car quickly forgotten.

The next day, I saw it again. It was behind me as before, but much closer this time. Still, it didn’t seem to reflect sunlight. Since it was closer, I could make out what it was, and I was startled to realize it was an ancient Cadillac Hearse, one of the really old ones with flower vases attached to the sides. I’d never seen one except in the movies. It stayed behind me; still quite a way back, but I had a vaguely uneasy feeling about it.

That feeling ratcheted upward on my next commute. The Hearse appeared just behind me again, as if by magic. I never saw it turn out of a side street. I never heard it coming. Suddenly, it was right behind my back wheel. It didn’t even make any tire noise. But I got a better look at it that time. The car was old with its paint oxidized to flat black. The chrome was rusty, pitted, and dull. But the oddest things were the windows. Just like the body, they were flat black, even the windshield. I couldn’t see the driver or any of the interior.

It motored alongside and passed. That’s when I heard the engine. It throbbed at a low rate, sounding almost like a heartbeat. It was obviously a powerful engine with a substantial muffler. But there still wasn’t any tire noise. It swept by, and I checked over my shoulder for more traffic following it. When I turned to look ahead, it was gone!

This was very weird. I’m normally a levelheaded, calm kind of guy, but this had me spooked.

The Hearse appeared each day after that, always when I was looking in another direction. It disappeared equally quickly and I never saw it happen. And I was very nervous whenever it was nearby.

I told Mary about it and she said I was probably imagining the whole thing.

Yesterday afternoon, I gleaned another clue. As the mysterious Hearse swept by yet again, I cold faintly make out a logo on the passenger side, an area of paint just slightly less oxidized than the rest of the door. The letters were so hard to discern I wasn’t entirely sure I’d read them properly, but their faded outline seemed to be “H. Horseman, (illegible) Hollow”.

I decided to drive the car to work for a few days.

Happy Halloween!

Thursday, October 27, 2005

Thursday Musette and Scanner Fun!

My Bianchi has had shifting problems for some time. It has Campy Ergo shifters, and if I tried to shift one ‘click’ at a time, the chain wouldn’t move. Two clicks would get it to change, but I had to shift back one click to keep the chain on the cog. It was annoying, but not unrideable.

Sandra recently got the Park DAG-1, a tool for checking and aligning the derailleur tab. I borrowed it from her, and checked my frame. Not surprisingly, it was off quite a bit. The tab was actually twisted, that is, it was bent in both the vertical and horizontal axis. Now I’m looking at the derailleur itself, noting that the cage looks twisted too. Still, after I straightened the hanger, the shifting improved immensely.

I shouldn’t complain too much. This is original equipment and the bike has nearly 20,000 miles behind it. Maybe it’s time for a new derailleur.

Here’s a link for the Park Tool catalog:

Here’s another for their repair section:


Since paranoia is truly the new black, I’ve been entertaining suitably paranoid thoughts from time to time. Yesterday, I was wondering what I’d do if confronted by a clearly irate law enforcement officer, say, a pudgy sheriff’s deputy determined to get me off the road.

I was on a lonely stretch of county road that winds through a pecan grove. There’s little traffic back there. If a cop tried to make a traffic stop in such an area, would a motorist or a cyclist be justified in refusing to stop until he reached a more public area?

This isn’t an idle question. When I lived in Pennsylvania, a state trooper tried to stop a woman on a lonely country road one night. He was driving an unmarked car and claimed she was speeding. She refused to stop until she reached a gas station with lots of other people around. The trooper was pissed off, and charged her with speeding, refusing to obey a lawful order to stop, and whatever else came to mind. Mopery, maybe. It went to trial. The woman never contested the speeding charge, but was acquitted of everything else.

I’ve told my wife and daughter that they should never pull over unless they feel safe in doing so. And I’ve written previously about a woman who wouldn’t ride that lonely road through the pecan grove because she didn’t feel safe back there. But I’ve never read anything about a cyclist refusing to pull over because he or she didn’t feel safe.


It was 37F this morning on my way to work. Contrast this with record highs in the 90s last week, and you begin to see why Oklahoma weather can make me crazy! Honestly, there have been times we’ve used both the heater and the air conditioner in the same day!


One of my other hobbies is amateur radio. I’m not active these days, and to be honest, I can’t remember the last time I hit the push-to-talk button. But I still have a couple of scanners that are on almost every day, tuned to the local police and fire frequencies.

As soon as I walked in the door this afternoon, Mary asked, “Was someone honking at you on 129th?”

“Yeah”, I replied, “there was a guy in a white pickup that honked, revved his engine, and tried to bully me out of the way.”

“It wasn’t a guy. It was a woman. She called the cops to complain that you were blocking traffic! One of the cops replied that he’d just gone by as you were riding north, and you weren’t doing anything illegal. He said that people get impatient this time of day, and they don’t like to get behind a bicycle. She said you made some gestures at her! The cop said he’d probably make some gestures at motorists too!”

It’s true. I waved at her and used ALL my fingers for emphasis. It does two things: First, it keeps my blood pressure down. Why should I escalate right along with some moronic motorist? Second, it’s a lovely way to say that I don’t give a rat’s ass.

I have to write something nice to the local cops. Apparently they’re staying abreast of the bicycle laws, in contrast to another local agency that I won’t name.

But there’s another possible bright spot in this. Maybe it was Deputy Cupcake’s wife back there! That means I can expect another bogus traffic stop real soon.

Sunday, October 23, 2005

Community Cycling Project, Saturday, October 22

We had 5 students for yesterday’s class. Unfortunately, there were 5 no-shows. This had the practical effect of making the class a lot less stressful, and getting the bikes ready was a breeze. Usually, we let the students choose a bike in their size prior to the start of the classroom instruction, then attach a rack, fenders, and accessories. This makes for a busy morning. But with only 3 students in need of bikes, it was easy.

Tom Brown was there to help with the mechanical work. Tom’s a genuine, professional bike mechanic with a shop in Tulsa. He works quickly and efficiently. I’m much slower and I could learn a lot from him. One problem I’ve run into is being unable to complete some job because I don’t have the appropriate tool. Tom suggested that four of us meet at the shop after hours periodically to get the donated bikes ready. This is an idea worth pursuing.

Another idea we talked about was getting some kids interested in bicycle repair, perhaps through Scouts.

Brian Potter did most of the lecture, with some assistance from Gary Parker and Sandra Crisp.

One student was my son, Jordan. He liked the practical part of the class, but like most kids, he wasn’t too excited about sitting through lectures. He gets plenty of that in school. The kid is growing fast. He’s outgrown his old Nishiki, so I set up my Schwinn High Sierra as a single-speed for him. He was thrilled! The kid rode it like an over-sized BMX bike, bouncing around the parking lot, and just generally showing off.

We broke for a late lunch at Mexicali, a Mexican restaurant north of downtown. It usually takes some time to deliver the food there, so Brian took advantage of that to do some additional instruction. We had a leisurely meal, but then I realized we had only 3 hours until sunset and there were more parking lot drills to cover, as well as the check rides.

We managed to finish up just as it was getting dark. Jordan and I weren’t staying for the Commuter course, so we pushed off for home. He helped me unload the bikes, tools, and equipment from the car. We just stacked all of it in the garage. I was too tired to put it away. A couple of ibuprofen helped as did a hot shower. I fell asleep fast!

Friday, October 21, 2005

The Cyclist's Ten Commandments

1. Thou shalt wear thy helmet at all times, lest thou be taken for a twit.

2. Thou shalt ride on the right-hand verge of the road, through every pothole, drainage grate, and patch of glass, so that thy betters in their motor vehicles may not be inconvenienced.

3. And wave not thy tightly Spandexed bum in their faces! Some will be greatly offended, while some will be stimulated in unusual ways.

4. When a hefty Sheriff's Deputy weighing nearly as much as his SUV gives unto thee inane cycling 'advice', thou shalt tug thy forelock and bow thy head in great respect, lest he see the amusement on thy face.

5. Spittest thou to leeward, looking first to thy right and thy left, that thy riding companions will not catch a goober. Likewise with thine snot rockets take care.

6. Thou shalt stop at stop signs and red lights, lest thou become a hood ornament on a clapped-out Yugo with bad brakes.

7. At the approach of thy road-going betters in their motorcars, with horns blaring loudly, thou shalt extend verily ALL thy fingers of one hand, for emphasis.

8. Before each ride, know that thy bicycle has a spare tube and a pump attached, lest a flat tire givest unto thee an opportunity for a long walk in cleats, waddling like a duck on the roadside. Alternatively, carry thy Holy Cellphone of Antioch.

9. Dogs and skunks are thy Maker's sprint trainers. They teachest thou great speed and maneuverability.

10. Icy Hot, beer, and Italian food use thou in abundance. They are a blessing given unto you, and they make a sweet savor unto heaven.

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Paranoia. It's the new black.

Here's a brand-new reason to keep cyclists and their bikes out of buildings! Simpson ties in our oil-obsessed consumer culture with our oil-obsessed administration, and an active discrimination against sustainable trasnportation. Cyclists just could be terrorists. Critical Mass cyclists probably are terrorists. It's getting to the point that you can find terrorists hiding under your bed at night. Terrorists could be rummaging through the stacks in your local library. The paranoia would be comical if it weren't so...paranoid. It would be comical if it weren't being used as a tool against anyone even mildly suspicious or outside the cultural mainstream.

Honestly, it's OUR country. Isn't it about time we took it back? We're Americans. We're better than this.

(Excerpts follow)

Bush's war on... cyclists?

Paul Simpson lectures on the Bush administration's attempts to boost consumption of oil

Monday, October 10, 2005 @10:00PM by Imai Welch

"You're either with us or you're a bicyclist: North American car-dependency and the use of the Bush Administration's 'War on Terror' to discriminate against bicyclists, pedestrians and users of public transportation" is the name of the lecture that Dr. Paul Simpson gave at McGill last Friday.

Simpson claims that the Bush government's war on terror "has been used to discriminate against [sustainable transport users]," some of it systematically-based. "Government and business now see any investment toward private cars... as an important investment in infrastructure—public transport is now seen as a wasteful subsidy."

A specialist in internal medicine from Pennsylvania and president of the Centre Region Bicycle Coalition, Simpson contextualized his speech at the beginning by giving a history of what he called "the obesification of America."

...Further discrimination is weaved into the Department of Homeland Security's courses post 9/11. "One of the things they taught was that bicycles could be used to cause terrorist attacks and should not be allowed into [public buildings and structures]," said Simpson. He added that there has yet to be an attack using a bicycle.

However, cars may be parked underneath buildings, serving as effective means to transport bombs. Cars have yet to be restricted to the extent bicycles have.

Another effect was the general mistreatment of bicyclists by police, who are often branded as terrorists. Among the many examples Simpson cited, one artistic group promoting bicycling, the Rutabaga Flying Cycle Circus, was arrested hours after their arrival in St. Louis, Missouri. Their bicycles were destroyed, their belongings urinated upon, and their artwork defaced or destroyed. All this, Simpson noted, "while these things were in police custody."

The police claimed they had a tip that the bicycle posse was a terrorist organization.

FreeRide, a bike co-op in Pittsburgh, was branded as a terrorist organization for promoting bicycle usage instead of cars. Another Pittsburgh organization, BikePittsburgh, was declared "a domestic terrorist organization subject to investigation and harassment by the FBI," Simpson said.

Under the U.S. Patriot Act—a cluster of anti-terror legislation resulting from 9/11—a terrorist can also be defined as anyone speaking against energy production.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Guns or Butter

Ronald Utt of the Heritage Foundation has proposed that Congress rescind funding for bicycle and pedestrian special projects to cover the damage done to the Gulf by Hurricane Katrina. These transportation enhancement funds go toward many bicycle facilities and educational programs.

With the costs of the hurricane clean up and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq projected to top $400 billion, something has to give.

So far, the civilian population has felt very few effects of the war, other than rising gasoline prices. If one of the purposes of government is to set spending priorities, it would seem (to me, at least) that a Marine in Fallujah get replacements for his defective body armor and an up-armored Humvee, before I get a new bike path. An elderly couple displaced from their home on the Gulf should get priority over a new bicycle education program. To my mind, those are simple, moral choices.

But when I proposed just that on the Thunderhead e-mail list, a firestorm erupted. I was vilified as an 'enemy of cycling'. What follows is the post that started it all.

I'll take the dog-in-the-manger role here.

When we face $200 billion in clean up costs for the hurricanes this year, couple that with another $200 billion for the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, compound it with the ideological refusal to raise taxes or reconsider ill-conceived tax breaks, it's inevitable that the middle class must eventually make sacrifices to support these policies. So far, the majority of the country hasn't been greatly effected by the wars or the hurricanes. We've watched them on television and complained about ever-rising energy prices, but that's about all. It has a price and we'll pay that price via taxes. Our children will be paying that price as well because our government continues borrowing money as it goes deeper into debt.

Paying down the war debt and rebuilding in disaster areas are higher priorities than pet projects like bicycle facilities. Besides, it can be argued that building expensive facilities for a small number of road users is not a responsible use of public funds. I'm thinking about bike lanes here, but similar reasoning applies to using transportation funds to build linear parks with multi-use trails. If they're recreational facilities that have little or no transportation utility, they should be built with park monies.

This is nothing more than the classic dilemma of guns or butter. Pick one.

Ok, so that was fairly tame. After this next one, I was accused of "undermining Thunderhead's agenda". What's next - thought crimes?

This is the second time I've been called an 'enemy of cycling' because I've asked inconvenient questions or failed to fall into lockstep with the party line.

The monies for bicycle facilities are bargaining chips. They can be traded away as our legislators reach a compromise on the federal budget. Frankly, I'd be surprised to see the funds survive at all. Most senators and congressmen don't ride bikes, don't care about bikes, and don't have enough constituents who do to make a difference. The point is that we don't have the political clout to influence the outcome.

Allow me to clarify the 'expensive facilities' assertion. If we spent tax money to build something for the exclusive use of a tiny fraction of the public, say, a highway lane reserved for Lexus owners, no one (except Lexus owners) would deny that it's an inappropriate use of public funds. Yet we expect politicians and voters to approve such facilities for cyclists. If it's wrong to build something for the exclusive use of Lexus owners, it's equally wrong to build something for the exclusive use of cyclists. Is it any wonder that the public sees us as merely another group looking for a government handout?

We've spent ever more money on facilities over the last 30 years, but it's had little effect on the number of cyclists out there. If bicycle sales are any indication, the number of cyclists has remained relatively flat. Worse, their average age is getting older, telling us that young people just aren't interested. If the demographic shows an aging cycling population, a population that will decline as time passes, why should the politicians pay any attention to us? We can only hope that the recent increase in cycling gains some long-term converts, but I suspect that when fuel prices decline, the number of cyclists on our roads will decline as well.

Finally, Jxxx, if you believe that one's support for bike/ped facilities comprises a litmus test of a true bicycling advocate, you have an exceedingly narrow view of advocacy.

So, folks, that's my stab at wild-eyed radicalism!

I’m not going to change. I’ll continue working with the bicycling education programs in the area because when you get right down to the heart of it, advocacy is always local. I may write some scathing things about the unseemly grubbing at the public trough, though.

Tuesday, October 18, 2005

An open letter to Thunderhead Alliance

I approach advocacy from the standpoint of what's best for cyclists, not what's best for the bicycle industry or bicycle advocacy groups. Like most of you, I firmly believe that getting more people to ride bicycles for transportation and recreation serves a host of needs; health, environment, and congestion mitigation, among others. Besides, it's fun, and adults don't get enough opportunities to have simple, child-like fun.

Yet it would seem that stating a differing opinion of bicycling advocacy is sufficient to get onto Sue Knaup's 'enemies' list. It doesn't quite have the panache of making Nixon's enemies list, but I suppose I can live with it. I don't own a bicycle shop, nor do I receive any remuneration from the Oklahoma Bicycle Coalition. I work with several advocacy groups because I believe in promoting bicycling. Frankly, being called an enemy of cycling is a cheap shot, but not unexpected. Sue demands an unquestioning acceptance of bikeways as a public good, something I cannot do, for reasons I'll touch on in a moment. "Anti-bikeway rhetoric will never be tolerated..." but apparently insults are OK.

The condescending snobbery from John is best answered with this from Fodor's Road Guide USA:

…"Few visitors to Oklahoma leave without remarking on the friendliness of the people, who blend Southern hospitality with the openness found in the West. Many an out-of-state visitor driving in the western plains has been mystified by the number of total strangers who wave hello. "Oklahomans are what other people think Americans are like," Will Rogers said about his native state in the 1920s. "Oklahoma is the heart, it's the vital organ of our national existence."

Will Rogers wrote that over 80 years ago. It's still true today. We give better than we get. I think an apology is in order from both Sue and John, but I won’t hold my breath waiting for it.

As I said, I do not believe uncritical acceptance serves cyclists. I follow a few rules. First, question assumptions. The basic tenets we adhere to must be tested and tested again. As time passes, we experience political, economic, and social change. If organizations cannot or will not change with the times, those organizations will likely cease to exist. Anyone with experience in science and technology knows the hazard of basing actions on false assumptions.

Second, never hesitate to speak truth to power. Some of those in authority will resent this and even retaliate. Do any of us really want to work with such people? Their actions speak loudly as to their character. When the upper echelon of an organization exists in a bubble, insulated from everyday reality and truth, their actions are less and less attuned to the genuine needs of the population they're supposed to serve. We need look no further than the Bush administration for a practical example.

Sue wrote about bikeways. The MUTCD definition of a bikeway is "a generic term for any road, street, path, or way that in some manner is specifically designated for bicycle travel, regardless of whether such facilities are designated for the exclusive use of bicycles or are to be shared with other transportation modes." That's a broad definition, and I think that since it's so general most advocates can support it, but as always, the devil is in the details.

I can support facilities that benefit road cyclists, particularly signals that recognize the presence of a bicyclist, cycling-appropriate signage, and wide outside lanes that benefit all road users, not cyclists alone. And I recognize the popularity of linear parks with multi-use trails. When they serve some transportation purpose, it's reasonable to build them with transportation funds. To my mind, this is a good government issue, and as road using cyclists, we should demand the responsible use of tax monies. When a trail is built as a recreational facility, it should be built with park money, not transportation funds. The cliché is a trail that leaves the parking lot, winds around a pretty lake, and returns to the parking lot. It doesn't serve a transportation need. The thorny problem is that some linear parks serve both purposes, so how should the costs be divided?

Finally, here's a worst-case scenario - what happens if the TE money is removed from the federal budget? If Plan A is to get more money for facilities and the money goes away, what's Plan B? Does Plan B even exist? It would serve all of us to have a contingency plan, perhaps not on a national scale but on a local one. If the TE money gets cut, we’re all going to be on our own anyway.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

A fine afternoon...spent in the garage

There's another Community Cycling Program class coming up on Saturday. The CCP works with several local agencies to provide bicycles and instruction for non-violent ex-offenders and some other social services clients.

My role in this is to teach part of the LAB Road1 course, usually the fix-a-flat portion, and I adjust saddles and handlebars as necessary. There's always something to fix.

This week, I have two donated bikes to overhaul. One's a generic 'Mart bike that's actually in good shape, considering. It was abandoned at Tom's Bicycles by a customer who never came back for it. The other bike is a Raleigh, hilariously mis-named a "CityLite"! It actually has an aluminum frame, but this thing weighs a ton! I'd guess it's from the early 80s, as it has friction shifters and a mix of French and Japanese components. It's on 26 inch wheels, hell for stout, but what really caught my eye was a Maillard rear hub with a drum brake. The brake housing is cast into the left side of the hub. It's heavy, but probably bulletproof.

The Raleigh had a broken cantilever post on the fork. Tom donated another fork, so now the bike has a jaunty, bright red fork in a medium blue frame. It's definitely a funky look!

I spent most of the afternoon playing with wrenches, grease, and WD40. It was hot out there, so between the chemicals and sweat, I developed a peculiar funk of my own. But the Raleigh is mostly done. All that's left is to tighten some things and adjust the cables.

Of course, I couldn't resist working on one of my other projects too, but first, I have to digress a bit.

I cruise the neighborhood yard sales on Saturday mornings, most often on my Centurion fixed gear. The bike sees that I don't haul too much stuff home! There was a parts box at one sale. Another guy was looking at it as I walked by, and I couldn't help but notice the Look cleats, Camapgnolo chainring bolts, and assorted other goodies in the drawers. But he picked it up and bought it for $3.50! I asked what he was going to do with the parts. He didn't want them. He just wanted the box, so I offered him five dollars for the parts. He accepted, and I dumped everything into my Camelback. Then the woman who was having the garage sale gave me a set of mountain bike wheels! They were used, but still have many miles left in them. I gladly accepted, strapped the wheels to the Camelback, and rode home with my prizes.

So, today I looked the wheels over carefully. They're on Suzue hubs, anodized bright red. I've been building up an old Schwinn as a utility bike for grocery store runs, and the wheels are better than the originals. It's a no-brainer to switch them. But first, I decided to re-dish the wheel for single-speed use. That's where I left off when Mary arrived with pizza.

Now, with a full belly and too much time on my feet, I'll probably just go get a shower and prepare for the morning commute. But it's been a VERY good weekend!

Saturday, October 15, 2005

Death of the bicycle

Normally I don't use news items here, but this one was a little different. Cycle-licious, ProCycling, Velonews, and Bicycle Retailer and Industry News (BRAIN) cover the daily stuff much better than I can. But this story has a kind of quirky appeal. I like the idea of encouraging people to use a bicycle for that milk-and-bread-and-eggs run to the grocery store!

I use Google News and their news alerts to find cycling-related stories. It's a great service. I set up news alerts that send an email whenever certain keywords appear in a story. This is useful for far more than just cycling, and I use it for work related information too.

So I was curious when the following one appeared. If I'm not mistaken, the bicycle industry is enjoying near-record sales this year, mainly due to fuel prices. So a declaration of the imminent demise of the bicycle really caught my eye! This is from the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, and may require a subscription or registration for repeat visits, but I got to the article without any problems.

Excerpts follow:

Link to full article

SUVs, traffic and laziness sealed bicycle's fate

By Robert Ward
Published on: 10/16/05

I don't customarily write obituaries, but when there's been a death close to home, it's appropriate that you and I pay our last respects.

I hate to be the harbinger of such news, but the bicycle is dead.

What a shame, valiant mechanical wonder, we hardly knew ye — which is so sad on account of the price of gas, our clogged roadways and our obscene waistlines.

Admittedly, we've had our "biking" moments, a decade here or there when a good number of us rode bicycles, but it was just our sporadic foray into the use of the metallic stallion. Those ingenious transportation days are gone, much like the bicycle itself.

We've become incredibly lazy, immensely fat, and our time is excruciatingly limited because we're rushing around trying to finance our bloated lifestyles.

...Most of us jump into our venomous SUVs and charge off to destinations far, wide, and most of all, close to our homes. That's pathetic.

Don't we know the bicycle is much more economically feasible than the automobile for short trips? If you live within three miles of work, you could be commuting on a bicycle. If you live anywhere near stores, and you need to shop for something, you could be riding a bicycle. (At the very least, your household should have a beat-up, rusty "mini-mart bike" solely for those moments when you need to get a quick snack or beverage.)

If you're a basket case behind the wheel of a motor vehicle and you're sick to death of all the traffic jams, you could be riding a bicycle.

...I've been cycling for over 35 years, so let me be the first to write the bicycle's obituary.

"We the People have clearly voted with our right foot and have chosen the gas-sucking motor vehicle over the bicycle — and that bites."

Friday, October 14, 2005


(I started writing this on Thursday, didn’t like it, and revised it a couple of times. I meant to post it that evening, but I was dumped on at work. In a normal week, I’ll see 5-8 computers come into the shop, but this week it was 15 in 3 days! This happens every time there’s a terrain database change on the aircraft. I’ve been running as fast as I can just to keep up. So when I got home last night, I showered, ate dinner, and promptly fell asleep!……Ed)

“Fear is the mind-killer.”…novelist Frank Herbert in “Dune”, wonderful book but a lousy movie.

Mark posted the following:

…Now, that said, I've just never cared for street riding much. I've never understood how someone can feel safe riding on a road posted at 55 mph or faster, with all those cars racing by.

…I would like to know, though, how you don't just get the bejeepers (if you have them) scared out of you…

As a newspaper reporter living in the Ozarks, I saw and heard about accidents that made me sure that, no matter how much I might want to get back into biking, I would not want to do so on the streets.

I'm just trying to understand how you deal with the car factor. Do you think some roads should be considered too hazardous for cyclists?

Mark asks two serious questions. The first addresses fear. The second asks if I believe some roads are too hazardous for cyclists.


Whether real or imagined, fear is a powerful emotion. People do some strange things as a result of fear, and cyclists are clearly no exceptions. There’s a nagging little voice that tells us we could be hit from behind, and many over-estimate that risk. Less than 8% of all crashes involving cyclists and motor vehicles are “hit from behind” events, and the majority of those involve a cyclist riding at night without lights or reflectors. Roughly 85% of crashes occur at intersections when someone fails to yield. (Forester, “Effective Cycling”) The fear of being hit from behind greatly overstates the risk, yet it’s the one thing most cyclists dread.

Fear is not rational. It is not subject to reason. It is not easily dispelled by persuasion. The best antidote is experience, positive experience that reveals the fear as irrational and not grounded in reality. I’ll return to this thought in a moment.

Failure Analysis did a study that showed risk exposure on a per-hour basis. By that measure, cycling is a little less risky than riding in a motor vehicle. Over 40,000 motorists die on our roads each year, and about 700 cyclists. A greater number die from falls in the home as compared to cyclists, yet I never read of anyone fearing such falls.

In Effective Cycling, John Forester cites accident rates per mile traveled. Not surprisingly, children average one accident per 1,500 miles. College students average 2,000, and experienced club cyclists average 10,000 miles per crash.

But people don’t really believe statistics, or at least in my family, my wife and mother certainly don’t. They ‘know’ that cycling is dangerous, just as most people who use ‘common sense’ know it’s dangerous. I like to point out that there was a time when everyone with an ounce of common sense knew the Earth was flat, but that only gets me some stony looks from She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed.

Clearly, statistics have little real impact. And they inadequately counter fear. Fearful cyclists are convinced that motorists are all homicidal maniacs intent on running them down. As a result, those cyclists ride on the sidewalks or ride against traffic. They cut through parking lots, and run stop signs and red lights in order to stay away from all those murderous cars. Their actions make them unpredictable and dangerous. We can tell them that their fears are mostly groundless, but that does nothing to alleviate the fear.

It did little good, for instance, to point out to my daughter that the movie she was watching was merely flickering lights on a flat television screen. “Psycho” still scared the beejeebers out of her! (I simply couldn’t resist using that word! Thanks, Mark!)

I don’t think anyone rolls out of bed in the morning and thinks, “Gosh! I could DIE today!” We just go about our day, riding to work on a bicycle, driving an automobile, or walking as necessary. No one thinks about the risks inherent in each transportation mode. They just need to get to their destinations.

So with all the above as preamble, I think you’ll agree that the problem is fear. But what’s the solution?


A positive experience is the best antidote to fear.

I’ve been a roadie for over 30 years. Much of what I’ve learned came from the School of Hard Knocks. That nagging little voice never goes away entirely, though. I’ve learned through experience what others might learn from reading, writing, or listening. And frankly, I had the willies a few times after an incident about 10 years ago. The willies are best described as an unreasonable fear arising from unknown sources. They strike at random and without warning. Maybe that’s the clinical description of a panic attack. Regardless, it was annoying.

I’ve ridden at all times of the day and night in all sorts of weather. And if there’s one thing I’ve learned that increases my safety in all those conditions, it’s lane positioning, or “taking the lane” in vehicular cycling parlance. A vehicular cyclist generally rides in the right-hand tire track, well to the left of that white line at the edge of the pavement. This idea is unnerving to a lot of cyclists. They simply refuse to believe that this works. In their view, riding further left in the traffic lane only increases their chance of getting hit by a car. But motorists are very good at avoiding something directly in front of them. They have much more difficulty judging whether there’s sufficient space to pass a cyclist riding on the pavement edge.

I’ve learned from experience that it does work. I’ve encouraged others to try it with mixed results. One local guy went out on the 4 lane arterials around town, and discovered to his delight that motorists passed him with ample clearance when he took the right-hand lane. But it was more of a problem on 2 lane roads because passing was more difficult. Regardless, safety always trumps convenience. If it’s safer for a cyclist to take the lane, the overtaking motorists simply have to wait until it’s safe to pass. It’s ALWAYS the responsibility of overtaking traffic to do so safely, regardless of the vehicle they’re driving.

So when someone bitches and moans about those ‘arrogant cyclists riding as if they owned the road’ it’s just too bad. No one is required to do anything on the road that degrades safety. They’re OUR roads, for the use of the public regardless of their choice of transportation mode.

I’m not trying to say that I have nerves of steel. Far from it, in fact. But my worries revolve around my wife and kids, and those are the ones that wake me up at 3AM. Riding to work is not something that ranks high on the list. It requires an alert attitude, but not worry or fear. It’s just human nature to project our own fears onto others. A motorist sees a cyclist on the road and thinks, “I’d be terrified to try that! He must be terrified too, or at least he has a death wish!” Fear is not rational.

Riding a bicycle on the road requires awareness, alertness, good judgment, and a wary eye on traffic. But it doesn’t have to involve mind-numbing fear. Maybe that’s one advantage of regular commuting. I see the same motorists day after day. They come to expect a cyclist somewhere on the road each morning. This is no exaggeration – I rarely have problems with motorists – and I ride a mixture of 4-lane arterials and 2 lane roads in suburban, rural, and industrial areas. The daily commute is a relaxing part of my day, not a stressful dash between home and work.


Now as to roads that are “too hazardous” for cyclists – I know only a few, and that’s subject to traffic or weather conditions, time of day, etc. Hazard is another subjective criterion. A fearful cyclist sees many roads as hazardous. A competent, experienced one sees far fewer. There are roads I don’t like to ride on, mainly because they’re noisy. Riding next to high-speed traffic on a limited access road is nerve-wracking due to all that noise, and requires some extreme care when crossing ramps. I don’t like riding long bridges on high-speed roads, either.

Oklahoma prohibits cyclists from the turnpikes, but all other roads are open to them. That means it’s legal to ride along the shoulder of a limited access road with a 65 mph speed limit, and it’s even legal to do so at night when a cyclist is properly lighted. Is that a good judgment call? I don’t think so.

Our estimation of hazard is greatly colored by fear. As I said before, a fearful cyclist will see many roads as hazardous. An experienced one will see far less. What’s annoying is when someone with little or no cycling experience tries to tell us what roads we should ride, or tries to ban us from various roads “for our own safety”. (Deputy Cupcake comes to mind here.) It’s almost as if someone with no driving experience, no driver’s license, and no car wanted to tell others how to drive and, worse, how to design high-speed roads.

Hazard is subjective. Long, long ago, I climbed with a guy named Max Sapinsky. We’d look up at a long vertical pitch, and I’d say, “I dunno, Max, it looks tough.”

Max would consider it a moment and say, “I can do it.”

Objectively, we were both seeing the same thing, but our estimation of the hazard was influenced by our fears. I fell a lot, so I was more fearful than Max!

Roads are much the same. I’ve been on a club ride when someone refused to ride a particular road, saying it was too dangerous. The road in question is a wide arterial with ample shoulders, but this cyclist was just too terrified of traffic, and she flatly refused to go that way. It’s a popular route for many local cyclists, but she was too fearful to ride it. Objectively, the hazard was the same for everyone, and in fact, I’ve never heard of any cyclist getting hurt out there. But she was just too fearful to attempt it.

Some of my co-workers comment on the ‘dangers’ of cycling. I’ve told them that in my experience, the most hazardous part of the ride is just getting out of the parking lot at quitting time! Too many of them drive as if they were extras in one of the Road Warrior movies. It’s much calmer once I’m out of the lot and onto the road. We all follow the same rules on the road, and that makes everyone more predictable and safer.

So, like Frank Herbert said, fear is the mind-killer. Fear makes us over-estimate the hazards we face, and in the absence of good information to the contrary, fear makes us do things that make little sense. The antidote to fear is positive experience coupled with appropriate bicycling education.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Something weird...

Something weird happened when I changed out the drop bars on my fixed-gear commuter for some old ‘all-rounders’. The more upright seating position inspired me to ride sedately. I changed the bars this morning, ran new brake cables and cable housing, and then went out to do a few errands.

I felt slow. That is, it seemed as if I were riding slower, but when I counted revs (this bike doesn’t have a computer) they were in the same range that I normally ride, roughly 90-100 rpm.

It’s been years since I was on an upright bike, and the change was pleasant. I’ll probably leave it like this for the winter since this is the bike equipped with fenders. Sandra gave me some Hippo Hands a year or two ago, and now I’ll be able to use them.

I like to move around on a drop bar in order to alleviate pressure on my hands, and it was no different with these flat bars. I used the ends, the middle, and the innermost portions of the grips, seeming to prefer riding with my hands over the brake lever body, rather than further out. Maybe it’s a little more aero, but mostly I just felt more comfortable.

Yesterday, I went by Tom’s for a new chain for the Bianchi and another headlight. The light is a Cateye HL-EL-300, a 5 LED unit that’s noticeably brighter than the little lipstick size Cateye I’ve been using. Both of them pale in comparison to the 25 watt Turbocat light, but the Turbocat is currently broken and sitting in my toolbox waiting for repair.

It’s true that the HL-EL-300 throws more light than the little Cateye, but it doesn’t have a blinking mode. Even though it’s illegal in Oklahoma to have lights set to flashing mode, I prefer it at twilight. I think it makes a cyclist more conspicuous. So far, the cops haven’t stopped me, but then again, I haven’t run into Deputy Cupcake in the morning, either.

Saturday, October 08, 2005

Parental pride

I'm proud of my kids. Every parent should be. We all have hopes of how they should grow, things they should do, and how their lives will turn out. Those hopes are seldom realized because things are always different from what we expect.

Both raced BMX. I hoped they'd love cycling as I do. But they change as they grow, and they change in ways we never imagine.

Jordan loves football. In order to play, he keeps his grades up and I'm very proud of that. It’s a complete reversal from previous years. This time last year we were trying everything we could to get him to do his work. Nothing seemed to help. He just didn’t care. But football is a big, important part of his life. The coaches said he has to maintain his grades even in the off-season if he wants to play next year. He’s buckled down and he’s taking it very seriously now.

He had a game Monday and didn’t get home until late. But he was worried about a math assignment that had to be finished by morning. He beavered away at it for quite a while, staying up after I’d gone to bed. There was a time not too long ago that he would have shirked the assignment and not cared about the results. Not anymore.

Can you tell I’m impressed?

Lyndsay, on the other hand, is all girl. Her current favorite sport is shopping. But she loved playing basketball once upon a time, and that fire still hits her now and then. Mostly, she loves to show up some boys, catching them flat-footed and surprised at being bested by a mere ‘girl’. She has a desire to excel, and she has the will to do her best. She doesn’t mind working hard. The kid pushes herself.

She has a distance runner’s physique, long, thin arms and legs, and when she runs it looks effortless. But she wants to be stronger, so she signed up for weight training this year. Her class is a bunch of football players, wrestlers, and a couple of girls. The first day, the coach asked if she was in the right room! The girl is spindly, but the weight training is making her much stronger.

But they’re not cyclists. That could still change. Lyndsay will be in college next year and she already knows that parking is difficult on campus. Traveling by bicycle is much easier. She has her eye on one of the Raleigh Tourists out in the garage. It’s a woman’s frame but she’s never ridden it. I need to get the rims re-chromed before it will be rideable. In its day the Tourist was a nice utility bike, an ”All Steel” three-speed with fenders, but it’s almost sinfully heavy at 40 pounds or so.

Jordan has two bikes out there, a BMX bike with a flat tire, and a Nishiki road bike with two flat tires. After doing many, many tires and tubes, I finally showed him how to repair a flat and told him that the next one he’d have to fix by himself. Well, the bikes got flats, and they’ve been sitting in the garage most of the summer. Jordan walks everywhere. He won’t repair the bikes, and neither will I. In fact, he’s out-grown the Nishiki, so it’ll probably be sold soon.

Still, there’s hope the kids will re-discover cycling, if only as a means of utility transportation. Lyndsay’s been driving for almost 2 years, and Jordan will be old enough to get a learner’s permit in another 5 months. At that age, I didn’t want to ride a bicycle, either. I wanted those car keys in hand.

But I can still hope my kids will become cyclists someday.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

"Don't call me 'dude'!"

ItsJustMe wrote:

I actually like riding in the rain.

Dude, you must buy Icy Hot by the case; either that or you've got an endorsement contract; every other post talks about icy hot.

“Don’t call me ‘dude’. I’m not a stoner any more!”…Charley Sheen in Scary Movie 3.

Truthfully, there are times I like riding in the rain too. It’s similar to that peculiar kid-like enjoyment of a cyclocross race. It’s fun to get out and be sloppy with mud – sometimes. But I’m not usually keen on riding in traffic in the rain, and traffic out of the parking lot is heavy at quitting time.

Now as to Icy Hot, let me tell you a bit more about myself.

In 1983, I was in a bad car crash. My left arm and both legs were broken, the left leg crushed from the knee to the ankle. The surgeon was doubtful that I’d walk again. He didn’t tell me this, though.

Recovery was long and painful. I was afraid of falling because I was afraid of re-breaking that leg. It had a steel plate holding everything together, and the center section was a bone graft. The muscles next to the bone were damaged also, and they’re the ones that still give me problems. They have an interesting s-bend in the middle, and that’s where the cramps start. The plate was removed after a couple of years, though I still have a broken screw in my ankle. All in all, this feels like a sprained ankle that gets better or worse, but never really goes away.

I’ve found that simply keeping the leg warm is a great help. It improves blood flow. I’ve tried ibuprofen, calcium citrate, quinine, and hydration, but warmth seems to be key to preventing cramps in the middle of the night. When winter arrives, I’ll be sleeping in sweat pants. A word about quinine – it comes in both tablet form and a liquid called tonic water. Tonic is best mixed with gin – lots of gin – and it certainly takes care of cramps. But it gives me a huge headache in the morning!

Also, I’ve discovered an important principle when applying Icy Hot. Wear sweats or pajama bottoms that fit loosely. Put them on BEFORE applying the Icy Hot. Just roll up the pant leg. This is much better than applying the salve first. If you do that, you risk transferring it to some, uh, sensitive areas when you put the pants on. I speak from experience! It can really make you dance and sing, and it’s a source of enormous amusement to the rest of the family, provided they don’t object to you dancing and singing while holding your crotch like Michael Jackson.

If you reach middle age without a checkered medical history from too many misadventures, you haven’t lived enough. You haven’t pushed yourself. In my case, pain is a daily companion and pain-free days are rare. Cold wet winter days make me ache. I can’t sleep through the night sometimes.

But I wouldn’t change a thing.

Why is that? Even the bad things shape our lives, sometimes in good ways. If it hadn’t been for that crash, I may never have met Mary. I wouldn’t have my kids. I wouldn’t have the life I have today, and I’d be worse off for it.

Besides, what’s the point of arriving at the mortuary with a perfect, unblemished body? You should be completely worn out and yelling, “Whoopee! What a ride!”

Wednesday, October 05, 2005


Some of my co-workers are almost gleeful about my prospects for riding in the rain today. There’s a front coming through this afternoon, and like all cold fronts in Oklahoma, it brings the possibility of thunderstorms. Sure enough, radar shows some cells forming northwest of here, moving toward Tulsa at a sedate pace destined to put them directly overhead at quitting time! Oh, the joy.

Some of these guys find that very funny. “You’re gonna get wet!” they chirp.

“Well, I don’t drive the car much”, I replied, “unless I’m feeling sick or really puny. Sure, I’ll get wet, but you’ll get FAT if you keep driving….Oh, wait, never mind.” A lot of them are already fat guys on perpetual diets.

But I can’t get on them too much since I’m not exactly svelte myself. When I started riding to work way back when, I tipped the scales at 245. Pushing the lawnmower around the yard was as much effort as I could handle. But what really pushed me over the edge was the day I stood in front of a clothes rack, looking at jeans with a 42 inch waist. My 40s were getting a bit snug. The 42s looked ENORMOUS! There was no way I was going to wear fat-boy trousers!

So I made a decision to ride to work. That decision lead to others, most recently, a commitment to riding as much as possible and driving as little as possible. That’s not because I have ideological, ecological, or economic reasons to ride, though to be fair, they’re part of it. No, I have a teenage daughter with a driver’s license. That’s reason enough to have her in a car with air bags and anti-lock brakes.

Our budget won’t stretch enough for a second car. Lyndsay has offered to buy her own car, but for the time being, I’d rather she drove mine and saved her money. That puts her in the ‘want to work’ category rather than the ‘need to work’ category. A car would see that she was behind the counter in that fast-food place even if she didn’t want to be there. Cars are a form of economic bondage. We need jobs to afford cars and we need cars to get to our jobs. That thought gives me a headache.

But I was writing about feeling fat and slow. One of the things that happens when riding regularly is that occasionally I’ll get caught in the rain. The worst part used to be getting very grimy from the wheel spray. Tires throw up a rooster tail of water containing all the dirt from the road surface. It’s just plain nasty and it won’t all come out in the wash. I have some formerly white socks that are now a permanent off-white. She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed was not amused.

I put fenders on my Centurion fixed-gear bike. They keep the grime down very well, and although they don’t make riding in the rain a pleasant experience, it’s lots better than going without. I have a rain jacket and a hat with a bill too. I really hate getting crud all over my glasses and the bill helps with that.

(Later that evening)

I made it home just ahead of the rain! By the time I left work, the wind had changed around to the north at 20-30 mph. I rode directly into it most of the way home, with a wary eye toward a big rain shaft to the northwest. It moved off to the east before I reached it. Amazingly, the temperature had dropped almost 20 degrees in 45 minutes. It got steadily cooler as I rode.

A few raindrops hit me on the way up the hill, but I got the bike into the garage, kissed Mary, and sat down in the living room to take off my cycling shoes. The sky opened up and I watched it rain horizontally for a few minutes.

My legs are gonna hurt tonight. I expect they’ll reek of Icy Hot before long.

Tuesday, October 04, 2005

Curious George goes to Hell

George was lonely. The Man in the Yellow Hat and his friend, Jim Beam, had moved to Florida after retirement. George had never met Jim Beam, but the Man in the Yellow Hat was fond of him, so fond in fact, that he often broke down in tears when his friend was gone.

George had been on his own for a few years, not an unusual circumstance for a teenage monkey. He spent his days flipping burgers in a fast food joint, and spent evenings watching television. He liked documentaries, especially those that featured the ocean. George had never seen the ocean, but he found it fascinating. One documentary revolved around a restaurant called the Crusty Crab. It was George’s favorite.

When he wasn’t watching television, George played on his computer. He liked to bang away at the keyboard with a bunch of other monkeys on the Internet, and to his enormous surprise, he actually wrote a novel! It was a semi-autobiography of his life, chronicling the life and times of an adolescent monkey, complete with some lurid fantasies. George published it under a pseudonym, writing under the name of Sanders. He actually had the word ‘Sanders’ spray-painted on the wall above his computer.

The novel enjoyed modest sales, and George was making enough that he could quit flipping burgers. He decided it would be nice to visit the Man in the Yellow Hat at his retirement community in Florida. Since Florida was near the ocean, perhaps he could visit the Crusty Crab restaurant too. George didn’t want to fly. He didn’t trust airplanes. And he wouldn’t take the train, either, because he didn’t like trains. So he decided to buy a car.

But George didn’t have a driver’s license, and he couldn’t drive a car without one. George went to the Department of Motor Vehicles to get a driver’s license. It was in a huge brick building on Main Street. George had no difficulty finding it because there was a big “Department of Motor Vehicles” sign out front. Underneath, in much smaller letters, it said, “Forsake All Hope Ye Who Enter Here!” George thought that was a little strange, but went in anyway.

He stood in line for a long time, watching cobwebs form on the walls and ceiling. The line moved slowly, but within a few hours he reached the front counter. The clerk had just come back from lunch. George wondered if he knew the Man in the Yellow Hat’s friend Jim Beam, too, because they had the same cologne.

The clerk was a little dismayed at being confronted by a monkey. Actually, he was seeing several monkeys. All of them looked like George. He mumbled something about more dams and foreigners, stamped George’s application, and issued him a brand new driver’s license! Then he passed out on the floor.

George was overjoyed! With his new license in his pocket, he walked down the street to Ralph Sport Sport Motors. He’d seen Ralph many times on late-night television, and knew he could be trusted. Ralph saw him coming across the lot, and rushed out to greet him. George was excited to meet such a television celebrity, but didn’t understand a lot because Ralph talked so fast. Before he knew it, he’d signed some papers and Ralph dropped a set of keys in his hand.

George found himself behind the wheel of an enormous SUV. It was like a house on wheels! He turned the key in the ignition. The engine caught immediately. George put it in gear, floored the accelerator, and roared off down the road!

Next: George meets the nice county sheriff's deputy in “Curious George goes to Jail”.

(I really liked the Curious George books because he’s an ‘innocent abroad’. He means well and he’s without any deceit or guile, unlike so many of the other people around us. People could take advantage of George simply because he’s so innocent, but his sweet nature never changes. It almost seems that “Harvey” character Elwood P. Dowd (played by Jimmy Stewart) had George in mind when he said, “In life you can be either very clever or very pleasant. I prefer pleasant.”……..I know, I know, it’s not exactly cycling-related, but you just have to wonder how some people get driver’s licenses!……..Ed)

Sunday, October 02, 2005

Rules? We don't need no stinkin' rules!

My friend, Wade, says I have a problem with authority, a need to oppose rules and break them whenever possible. He insists that rules are made for a reason, and that I should learn to live with them.

He’s wrong, of course.

Some rules have good, solid foundations. They have a true purpose, like speed limits or stop signs. (Some would even argue against these. A co-worker calls them ‘cave’ people – citizens against virtually everything.)

I object to rules imposed for the sake of having rules. Some people in positions of authority have a real need to dick with our lives by trying to get us to follow stupid, arbitrary rules – ones that are in place not because they have a genuine purpose – but rather to display one’s power. In those cases, I find it hard to resist bending, breaking, or otherwise circumventing their rules and authority.

Lots of times, these are no more than petty BS, like the insistence on providing a telephone number when making a cash purchase. “Could I have you phone number, sir?” asks the pretty clerk. I’m old enough to know she doesn’t want it for social reasons, and it’s not terribly likely she’ll call looking for my companionship on a lonely evening. Besides, I taught She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed to shoot straight and hit her target. I do not want to BE her target!

Now, the clerk is just adding demographic information to her company database, but there’s no valid reason I should have to provide my phone number. Some of the clerks at a well-known chain actually get snotty when I refuse. Tough. I can do snotty too, and I have more experience.

I’m annoyed when they ask for two forms of identification when I pay by check. They always want a credit card in addition to my driver’s license. I never provide a credit card. Instead, I’ll hand them my union card or even my library card. (I’ve got a library card and I know how to use it!) One clerk refused the union card and said he couldn’t process my check without a credit card – obvious BS, so I handed him my AA flight card. It looks like a credit card and it actually gets me on flights as a non-revenue passenger. He dutifully wrote down all the numbers and processed the check.

This discussion about rules came about due to an incident on Saturday. I drove my daughter to work at 7AM, and found her cell phone lying on the seat when I got home. She wanted to call Mary when she was on her break and couldn’t do it without the phone. I went back down to the restaurant an hour or two later, well before they opened for the day. I walked in through the back door to the dining room. The supervisor said, “Sir, you can’t come in here prior to 10AM. It’s one of our security rules.” I ignored her and handed Lyndsay her phone. The supervisor was pissed. She started in on me again, so as pleasantly as possible, I started telling her a story, smiling hugely and basically wasting her time. Then I left.

Lyndsay said later that the supervisor was seething, but there was little she could do since I was being polite and cheerful, but obstinate. I suppose she could have called the police, but I’d have been gone before they arrived. It’s not a good idea to get between my kids and me. Her supervisor may have learned that.

But this is supposed to be about cycling, isn’t it?

All of us pick and choose what rules or laws to obey. Sometimes those choices are based on reasonable behavior. Other times they’re only rationalizations. For instance, (and please don’t tell Sandra!) I sometimes don’t stop at stop signs. Oh, the horror! I slow down and roll through them at 5 mph or so, just as most motorists do. I do this a lot in the neighborhood, since the city sprinkled a liberal dose of stop signs at almost every intersection. Yield signs would make more sense, and indeed, most road users treat them as yields.

But that’s still breaking the law and I could get a ticket for it. Running stop signs is one of the perennial complaints that motorists have about cyclists, too. On the county roads outside town, sight lines are often half a mile or more. It makes little sense to come to a complete stop, put a foot down, and go again.

What I said to Wade this morning was that I accept the consequences for breaking rules. I don’t evade them, nor do I insist that I’m exempt. But when a rule isn’t reasonable or sensible, don’t expect that I’ll toe the line.

Bike Texas - Cycling Bans Prompt BikeTexas Response

This is from the Bike Texas website. A few years ago, a Texas legislator introduced a bill to ban cyclists from all the farm-to-market roads in the entire state. The FM designation covers virtually all of what are referred to in other states as county roads. The ban was 'for their own safety', of course, because the cyclists were threatened by the traffic on those narrow county roads.

At the same time, someone argued that we should be banned from busy arterials and highways as well, again, 'for our own safety'.

Why is it that people who object so vehemently to the Nanny State are so willing to use its power to impose draconian rules or outright bans on cyclists?

Here's the piece:

Bike Texas - Cycling Bans Prompt BikeTexas Response

Cycling Bans Prompt BikeTexas Response
Thursday, 29 September 2005

BikeTexas members have informed Texas Bicycle Coalition of two bike bans recently posted in north Texas, one on FM 455 in Anna in Collin County and the other on FM 1709 in Keller in Tarrant County.

Coalition staff is consulting with transportation attorneys and working on a response. Staff plans to contact city officials about these issues. Depending upon the response from officials, the Coalition may need to ask for member action, so please stay tuned for an update in the near future.