Gone Fishin'


I'm not actively blogging here anymore. But if you got here because you were searching for something about bikes, you might want to check out my latest project, Vermont Goldsprints. In summer of 2014, I bought a used goldsprints racing setup and have made it a mission to get more bikes in more people's faces by putting on fun races in unexpected places. Come join me!


Who's Interrupting Whom?

This post over on Bike Shop Girl raised my ire a bit. It closed with the following:

"Next time you are out on the road, think about what is going on around you. Wave to that person that stopped for you or went AROUND you. You are interrupting their flow and their day. Just because you are able to be on the road, share the lane or take the lane, doesn’t mean you aren’t creating chaos out there. When we are riding 10 deep of 2 or 3 a breast, who is sitting patiently behind you in their car? Where did we go so wrong that we feel entitled to interrupting someones day because “we ride a bike”?
If your kids were in the middle of the street playing catch or kicking a soccer ball and a car comes down the road do you expect your kids to get out of the way or the car to stop?
I commented:

Sorry, have to disagree with the fundamental idea that I am interrupting traffic when I'm on the road on a bike. I am traffic. Most of the miles I ride are to and from work. By riding those miles instead of driving them, I am providing for my family by keeping our car costs low (we are a one-car household). I'm just another guy, trying to get to and from work safely, day in and day out. My need to get to work every day (or to the store or wherever) is no more or less important than anybody else's. I deserve the same respect as the operator of any other slow-moving vehicle.

The speed limits on our roads are maximums, not birthrights. There are lots of things that limit the "free flow" of traffic at maximum legal speeds at all times. Traffic, intersections, road conditions, weather, and yes, cyclists on the roads all keep us from driving as fast as we possibly could everywhere.

And what about when I do ride for sport? When I go out on the road for something beyond necessity? Am I the only one out there whose presence on the road is "unnecessary?" How many lumbering Winnebagos on the road are there for absolute necessity? How many tractor trailers carrying crappy cruelty-raised commodity beef across our highways are "necessary?" How many 50 miles-each-way single-occupant-vehicle commutes between a job in an urban center and a home out in the rural sprawl are "necessary?"  Those things are obnoxious, those things are disruptive.

Now, I agree. Use the road on a bike, within your rights. (I don't go on a lot of group rides with people I don't know anymore because I can't be part of the 2,3,4, abreast, stoplight-blowing bad behavior). Don't be a jerk, and be grateful when drivers are considerate toward you. I do that on the bike, and in the car. I try to do that in life in general.

I'd love to see good bike infrastructure, but I'm pessimistic about it showing up in my or even my young son's lifetime. I work in town planning, and I'm acutely aware of how expensive infrastructure is and how long and difficult the process to build it can be, even when you have the money. And the truth is, the infrastructure is there. It's our existing road system. On my commute, there needs to be a wider shoulder here, a left turn lane there, maybe. The barriers I face are not the widths of the roads or the lack of bike lanes. It's the scary intersections that were never designed for bikes to navigate, and violent (note, not obnoxious, but violent) drivers who have become desensitized to the humanity on the bicycle next to them.

Instead, communities around me are often focused on big, expensive MUP's that don't connect with each other and are crossed by driveways and side streets every few feet and have no provision for integrating back into the road system when they end. All the MUP's end up doing is upsetting the motorists around me even more, because now it's "why aren't you on the bike path?"


Sadistic Drivers

Not to be all "bikes good, cars evil," but dang:

The study showed that six percent of drivers left their lane in an attempt to run over an animal (rubber, thankfully) near the edge of the road.

Wonder what the findings would be for cyclists. I know I get intentionally "buzzed" by a driver at least once a week.


You Shall Not Pass! (Or why all cars should be mid-century British convertibles)

Here we go again!

Ok, pop quiz:

You are in your car. You are approaching an undersized, single-lane roundabout. You are about to make 1/2 of a revolution around it at which point you will be exiting the roundabout onto a 25mph street with a double yellow line. The roundabout and this exit from it are on a slight incline, making it a blind turn.

There's a cyclist in front of you. he's in the absolute middle of the lane on the roundabout, going about 15mph. There is no way for you to go around him without completely crossing over the double yellow line into the oncoming traffic. You cannot see the oncoming traffic, or if there is any, because it is behind a blind corner /hill.

What do you do? WHAT DO YOU DO?

Well, if you're the guy in the silver Subaru Legacy behind me on my bike in the Maple Tree Place roundabout this morning, you go ahead and get in the oncoming lane.  You ignore the cyclist making a frantic "stop/slow down" signal (left arm out straight, forearm down, waving frantically at the ground) and you maybe even hear him cry out "YOU HAVE NO SAFE PASS ! NO SAFE PASS! before accelerating around him. Then you make a panic braking/right merging movement so as to avoid a head-on collision with the oncoming maroon pickup truck. 

Hey, I have a better idea:

There is no safe way to pass a cyclist in or while exiting the Maple Tree Place roundabout. It is a single lane roundabout that cannot accommodate two vehicles, no matter how small one of them is. I have tried riding this thing every way possible, from cringing in the broken glass and cinders near the curb to taking the lane assertively (as I did today). Riding far to the right only encourages people to make the unsafe pass. Taking the lane usually deters them.

Not Mr. Silver Subaru.

Once again, I postulate that cars make people stupid. We have ingrained car culture so deeply in our psyches, we have assumed the risks of injury inherent in driving so completely, we don't even think about them any more.

One way to fix that would be to put everybody on bikes. Here's another:

Dad's 1959 Bugeye. 

Questionable brakes. No power steering. No roof. Stick shift. Your butt is about six inches off the pavement. You feel every pebble on the road through the wheel. No radio, no GPS, no cupholders. Put everybody in cars like this, where the risks of driving are so immediately perceptible, and half the driving public would be on the bus the next morning. Those who chose to continue to drive would do so with acute awareness.


Require Cyclists to Have a License to Ride on Public Roads

There. Do I have your attention?

Require cyclists to have a license to ride on public roads.

We hear that, along with the bicycle registration argument, all the time.

After dealing with a couple of clueless drivers this morning. (I'll spare you the details. It gets tedious, but let's just say that inattention, cellphones, close passing, and failure to yield were all on tap this morning), I have a few thoughts.
Like this, but a lady in a minivan. She passed me with about six inches of clearance,
right after we were both stopped at a light where I was in front of her.
And people wonder why I take the lane. 

Now, back to my hopefully attention getting statement above. Let's add to it:

Require cyclists to have a license to ride on public roads, and require a Bicycle Operator's License (with road test!) as a prerequisite to even applying for a license to drive a motor vehicle.

That's better.

Even further, anybody who loses their driver's license should have to re-take both the bicycle and the driver's road test. My point is this. If more drivers had to, even just once in their life, ride a bike on the road, they just might carry a little bit of that understanding behind the wheel with them.

Lest we all experience the transformation from Mr. Walker to Mr. Wheeler:

A final thought. When I lived and worked on Cape Cod, I observed that living next to the water must make people mean and selfish, as evidenced by those waterfront owner's constant bickering with one another and their relentless campaign to obscure and eliminate public access to "their" beaches. I now make a similar observation about cars: Being in a car makes people stupid, cowlike, and desensitized to their environment.