Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

08 December 2016

What Is A Cyclist's Life Worth? $700 (CDN)? Six Months' Probation?

Yesterday, there appeared in The Globe And Mail an excellent editorial by Toronto-based writer Naomi Buck.  She started with what sounded (to most of her neighbors to the south, anyway) like good news:  a woman who drove a van that struck a pedestrian who was standing on a Toronto sidewalk was convicted of "careless driving".  For that, she got a fine of $1000 and six months' probation.

Had the driver done such a thing here in the States, it's unlikely that she would have been burdened with such a hefty fine or lengthy sentence.  To her credit, she took it upon herself to appear in court:  something that, under Ontario law, is not required of someone so charged.  In most such cases, according to Ms. Buck, the defendant chooses not to appear, leaving the victims' loved ones to read their heartbreaking words to a legal agent rather than the one who took their friend's, sibling's, spouse's, parent's or child's life.   

Had the driver--one Elizabeth Taylor--had her charge upgraded to "dangerous driving", she could have received a ten-year prison sentence if the incident causes bodily harm, and 14 years if it results in death.  However, Patrick Brown, a lawyer who has handled hundreds of cases in which pedestrians or cyclists were killed or critically injured, it's very difficult, at least in an Ontario court, to make a case for "dangerous" driving unless it was a hit-and-run incident or alcohol was involved.

From the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency archives.

Still, Ms. Taylor incurred more severe penalties than most drivers who run down cyclists or pedestrians, according to Mr. Brown.  "I actually think most pedestrian cases get dropped entirely," he said.  Three recent cases he litigated involving cyclist fatalities resulted in the drivers being charged with "careless driving" or lesser offenses, and in being fined $700, $600 and $85(!) respectively.

Even those penalties, however, are more than most drivers in the US can expect if they run down cyclists or pedestrians.  Still, the families and friends of cyclists and pedestrians killed by motorists in Toronto have to bear the same burdens as their peers in Montreal, Vancouver, Boston, New York, San Francisco, London, Paris and any number of other cities in this world one can name. 

Their feelings were aptly expressed by the 8-year-old son of Erica Stark, the pedestrian killed by the van Elizabeth Taylor drove.  "I'm mad at the driver," he wrote in a victim impact statement, which his father read in court.

"In a few years, he'll probably be mad at the justice system," Naomi Buck speculates.  "Who could blame him?"

07 December 2016

Riding On Paths Through History

During my first European bike tour, I pedaled along la Cote Opale:  the French shore of the English Channel.  It was difficult not to think about all of the wars that ravaged Calais, from Edward III's siege in 1347 to the Nazi invasion of 1940.   But even when I wended along the coast through more bucolic towns like Montreuil-sur-Mer and villages like Neufchatel-Hardelot, it was difficult not to remember that, as the sea lapped on their shores, blood once ran through their streets and mortar shells strafed the air where breezes flickered leaves and flowers.

I got to thinking about that today, on the 75th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  I have never been to Hawaii, but I can only imagine what I might feel if I were to ride the Pearl Harbor Bike Path--especially if I were to see this:

Actually, there are sights other than those mothballed warships along the path.  From what I've read, though, it's far from the most scenic bike route on the islands, even if parts of it look pleasant:

06 December 2016

What Should You Bring With You On A Ride?

You've just finished a long ride on a hot day.  Or, perhaps, you've been riding up and down hills, or spent the whole day riding into the wind.  Maybe you've been tearing up the turf or slogging through mud.

Now you're some combination of sweaty, dirty and tired. So, you wash up and put on some fresh, clean clothes.  What do you do with the clothes you wore while riding?

Some of you might hand-wash them.  That's what we did back when we wore Sergal or Kucharik wool shorts, jerseys, tights and jackets.  Later on, other companies offered wool clothing that could be machine-washed on the gentle cycle.  Many of the synthetic fabrics that came later could be treated in the same way.

If you are bike-touring, you might not have access to a washing machine.  And, if you hand-wash your vestments in the nearest sink, tub, river or creek, it will take forever for your stuff to dry.  (The "spin" cycle on a washing machine usually extracts much more moisture than most of us can wring out.)  That can be a real problem when you have to re-pack them, or want or need to wear them the following day.

One possible solution to such a dilemma is to bring a washing machine with you.   Then, it doesn't matter whether you sleep in the Hilton Hotel or in the woods:  If you bring a machine with you while cycling, you won't have to worry about whether or not you have access to electricity or any other power source.  Your bicycle becomes--or, more precisely, you become--the power source.