Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

30 September 2018

Why Can't I Teach Them?

I am a cyclist.  I am also an educator.

Ergo, I should be able to teach someone how to ride a bike.  Right?

Well, I've tried and I've tried. But I just can't get Marlee on the saddle. I also couldn't get Max, Candice, Charlie I, Charlie II or Caterina. There was always some issue:  Their legs couldn't reach the pedals. Or the top tube (or stem) was too short.  Or they worried, despite my assurances to the contrary, that dogs would chase them.

Tell me:  Where have I failed?



29 September 2018

A "Smart" Ban In The Netherlands?

I've been told there are more "smart" phones than people in the US.  I am inclined to believe that.  I'm even more inclined to believe, however, that there are more "smart" phones than smart people in some places.

In the Netherlands, on the other hand, there are more bicycles than people.  But it may well be that, as in other Western countries, the "smart" phone-to-person ratio is catching up to that of the United States.



That is probably the reason why, according to Dutch News, electronic devices played a role in all bike accidents involving people under the age of 25 in 2015.  One of those accidents took the life of teenaged Thomas Kulkens, who was hit by a car while looking at his phone.

The tragedy led his father, Michael, to become an outspoken advocate for banning cell phone use on bicycles.  His efforts, and those of others, may well bear fruit:  the Dutch government is now considering such a ban.  If implemented, it could go into effect in the summer of 2019.

While Kulkens has been advocating in memory of his child, he says, "The woman who killed my son is absolutely blameless" and, "her life has been turned upside down as well."

Critics, though, point out that such a ban would be as difficult to enforce as the one against drivers using cell phones.  Also, they say, there is disagreement over just how much of a role devices play in accident rates.

But nearly everyone agrees that people, especially the young, are spending more time looking at their screens while walking, pedaling, driving or doing any number of other things. Also, (again, as in other countries) electric bike use is on the rise, which means that bike traffic has become faster as bike lanes and paths have become more crowded.  

28 September 2018

Three Feet: Better Than Nothing?

Two years ago, one of the most horrific car-bike collisions I've ever heard of occurred near Kalamazoo, Michigan.

Debbie Bradley, Melissa Fevig-Hughes, Tony Nelson, Larry Paulik and Suzanne Sippel were out for the ride they took together every week for more than a decade.  Sheila Jeske, Paul Runnels, Jennifer Johnson and Paul Gobble joined them.

As they pedaled, a blue Chevy pickup truck was barreling along the road in the same direction--"erratically", according to three people who called it in to the police.  

Moments later, that truck plowed into the cyclists.  Jeske, Runnels, Johnson and Gobble would spend months in recuperation and therapy.  They are riding again today, though with more difficulty.

Still, they are more fortunate than their riding buddies:  Bradley, Fevig-Hughes, Nelson, Paulik and Sippel were killed almost instantly.  



In response to that tragedy, and others, a law was proposed earlier this year.  It would have mandated that motorists give cyclists a five-foot berth when passing them.  The law in the Wolverine State, like that in many others, said only that vehicles had to pass "at a safe distance."

In fairness, it should be pointed out that, as I have mentioned in earlier posts, studies have reached conflicting conclusions about the efficacy of such laws in preventing car-bike collisions. For one thing, on narrow roads, it is difficult, if not impossible, to give such a wide berth, especially if there is traffic coming from the opposite direction.  Also, such laws, like the ones against texting or using a cell phone while driving, are difficult to enforce.

Still, such a law is probably better than nothing for protecting cyclists. (Also, as some have pointed out, when it's enforced, it makes driving too close to cyclists a ticketable offense.)  I think that is what Michigan legislators were thinking when they passed a law, which takes effect today, requiring drivers to give cyclists a three-foot berth when passing.  

It's too late for Debbie Bradley, Melissa Fevig-Hughes, Tony Nelson, Larry Paulik and Suzanne Sippel.  But, one can hope that it will save other lives.

27 September 2018

A Testimony And An Anniversary

Today is quite the interesting day.

One reason has nothing--that I know of, anyway--to do with cycling.  It is, of course, the confirmation hearing about Judge Brett Kavanugh's nomination to the Supreme Court.  


I have great respect for Christine Blasey Ford, who is testifying about the sexual assault she experienced from a drunken Kavanaugh when they were in high school.  For a number of reasons, I believe her, as I did Anita Hill, and am sympathetic to both.  



The other thing that makes today interesting is actually even more related to cycling than most people realize.  Twenty years ago today, the ubiquitous search engine Google was launched, when the Internet was just starting to gain wide usage among the general public.


Google, along with the Internet itself, has changed the world of cycling in all sorts of ways.  For one thing, I assume that some of you reading this found your way to this blog via a Google search.  Now, I don't think too many people type "transgender woman bike blog" into their search bars.  But I suspect at least some of you ended up here after looking up something or another related to cycling and followed other related links or websites.


Also, it's changed the way many of us find information related to cycling and purchase cycling equipment.  I'm sure that most of you have, by now, investigated a repair question or did a comparison of, say, one saddle or tire vs. another with a Google search.  And, I'd bet that a good portion of internet sales for retailers like Modern Bike, Velo Orange, Tree Fort Bikes and Harris Cyclery--and most, if not all, Amazon purchases--come by way of Google.


Through the bike-related sites and blogs we find as a result of Google searches, I think many of us are aware of a greater variety of bicycles and ways of riding them, not to mention accessories and other equipment related to them, than we had been (or might have been if we weren't around before the Internet).  Ironically, Google--a development of the digital age--has had much to do with the interest in retro (and retro-inspired and -styled) bikes and accessories. 


Finally, this increased access to products and information has led, for some of us, to contact with cyclists we might otherwise never have encountered.  Some I have met in person and accompany on rides.  Others, though--you know who you are--converse with me on bikes and a variety of other topics from California, Illinois, Finland, Ohio, Scotland, France and other places far from where I live.


I can't predict what will come of the hearings or Google.  Good things, I hope.

26 September 2018

Where Cycling Isn't All Sunshine

For years, Florida has had, by far, the highest death rate for cyclists and pedestrians of any US state.  One study found that in 2012, as many cyclists were killed by motor vehicles in the Sunshine State as in Great Britain, which is roughly the same size, but has three times as many people and about as many more cyclists.

So, perhaps, it is no surprise that the Tampa Bay area has the highest cyclist fatality rate of any metropolitan area in the US, and that Pinellas--one of the four counties that comprises the area--has the highest rate of any county.

Florida's and the Tampa Bay Area's statistics are part of a study conducted by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and reported yesterday in The Wall Street Journal.   

The article also included another interesting and disturbing--for folks who cycle in Florida (as I do for a few days every year), anyway.  Of the 50 major metropolitan areas in the US, the four with the highest rates of cyclists killed by motor vehicles--Tampa Bay-St. Petersburg, Jacksonville, Orlando and Miami--are all in Florida.  




I have cycled in Miami and near Jacksonville and Orlando.  For all the pleasure I've had in riding in those places, I can't say I'm surprised.  I do exercise more caution when I cycle in the land of manatees and armadillos than I employ even in New York, my hometown, or Paris.  I have my reasons.

For one thing, Florida, like much of the southern and western US, has an infrastructure and culture that is more auto-centric than they are in The Big Apple.  Although there are many nice side roads and trails, many of them are accessible only by highways or other heavily-trafficked roads.  And those main roads, as often as not, don't have a shoulder, let alone a dedicated bike lane.

Also, while there are more vehicles in New York than in any Florida city, people from the Keys to the Panhandle drive more often and longer.  That means traffic that can be as heavy as--and less regulated than--its counterparts in Northeastern or West Coast metropoli.

That also means drivers are more likely to be driving only themselves.  In my experience, solo drivers are more likely to take risks or simply lapse in concentration than drivers with passengers.

And, as we all know, Florida is a haven for senior citizens.  I have found nearly all of them to be careful, courteous drivers.  But--and I mean no offense to any seniors reading this--after a certain age, people's reflexes slow down, their sight dims and their hearing dulls.  I have seen at least a few people during my travels (and, to be fair, here in New York) who probably shouldn't be driving any more.

Finally, as the Journal article mentions, alcohol and distracted driving also play roles.  They also are hazards for cyclists in other places, but if my own experience is any indication, there is more of both in Florida than in other places I've ridden.  To be fair, I think the police, at least in some areas of the state, are making more of an effort to crack down on drinking or texting while driving.  But even the most vigilant gendarmes can catch only a small number of offenders and, I believe, there isn't as much of a cultural taboo against drinking and driving in Daytona Beach as there is in, say, Park Slope or Back Bay.


25 September 2018

Across Rivers, Oceans--And Aeons

It's funny how a bit of travel can make you see a familiar bike ride in a new way.



So, for that matter, can doing the ride with new partners--or with partners if you'd previously done it solo.



That's how I found myself seeing the roads and trails of the Palisades when I pedaled them with Bill and Cindy the other day.



It's also the first time I've ridden with either of them in a while:  They've been spending their weekends in a secret hideaway they told me about. 



Seeing this plant--a giant fern, a small tree or something else--made me visualize, if for a moment, some of the flora and fauna I saw while riding in Cambodia.



And this sheer rock face made me forget--even though I've seen it before--that it's just across the river from the Cloisters--which, in turn, can make you forget that you're in Upper Manhattan.




The further you ride into the trails, and the closer you get to the river, the easier it is to feel you're not within a few kilometers of the George Washington Bridge.

But something one of them said really made me see this old familiar ride in a new way:  "You can almost imagine what it was like when the native people lived here."



Yes, sheer rock faces and colorful plants seem like eons as well as worlds away from the West Side Highway.  It almost seems possible to remember that whatever structures were in the area weren't made of steel or glass--or even brick.



As we were imagining people who are long gone and vistas changed, I found myself thinking back to Cambodia, where most of the population are Khmers, the people who have lived on that land for milennia.  Much of their landscape hasn't changed in centuries, whether in jungles that haven't been touched or the Angkor Wat and other temples, which were standing for centuries before the land we rode yesterday was called "New Jersey" and the other side of the river was named "New York", or even "New Amsterdam."  



Those temples still stand today, seemingly as much a part of the land as the rock face we saw.


Note:  The penultimate photo was not, of course, taken on the New Jersey Palisades.  The others, however, were.

The Angkor Wat photo, as well as the first two in this post and the "blueberry" photo near the end, were taken by me.  Bill took the others.

24 September 2018

A Journey For Life

Here's something I never would have guessed:  This year, as many firefighters have died by suicide as in the line of duty.

That, apparently, shocked Denny Ying, too.  That, and a friend who took her own life.



They spurred the 36-year-old Marine Corps veteran into taking a ride across the United States.  Yesterday, he stopped at Denver Fire Department  Station #21, having pedaled 1000 miles out of the 3800 he plans to ride.  



While his goal is to raise awareness of suicide prevention, he says his ride was borne out of his own struggles with depression. That is one reason why his journey, if you will, won't end with this ride:  He plans to start a cycling team of survivors.




All of this is even more impressive when you realize that, earlier this year, Denny Ying didn't even own a bicycle.


23 September 2018

How Did This Little Piggy Get To Market?



If you grew up in the English-speaking world, you almost certainly heard this Mother Goose nursery rhyme:

This little piggy went to market,

This little piggy stayed home,
This little piggy had roast beef,
This little piggy had none.

This little piggy went

Wee, wee, wee
All the way home!

A piggy eating roast beef?  Hmm... What, if any, are the ethics of that?  Sometimes I still feel guilty about laughing when Matt and Trey Parker, the creators of South Park, fed bacon to Macon.





Did Macon stay home after that?

And what about the piggy that went to market?  How did he/she get there?




Let's hope that the piggy on the back of that bike didn't become Macon's lunch!


Or was that Macon on the back of that bike?


22 September 2018

The Heights Of Fall

Today is the first day of Fall.  And it feels like it, in a pleasant way:  Billowy but thin clouds waft over cool breezes.

A few hundred kilometers north of here, the leaves have begun to change color. Here, though, they're still green.  So if we want Fall colors, we must look elsewhere:




People who don't know the area don't associate these houses with Harlem.  But they line Convent Avenue, a street that bisects the City College campus in a part of Harlem known as Hamilton Heights.  




I was all smiles on my bike, and everyone and everything--including the stones of these houses--seemed to smile back.

21 September 2018

The Skies, And Days Off

If you are in North Carolina, my sympathies are with you.  Up here, in the Big Apple, we've gotten only hints of Florence.  The worst came on Tuesday, when torrents alternated with steady, driving rain.  I'm sure, though, that we didn't experience anything nearly as tumultuous as what folks in the Tar Heel State witnessed.

Since then, we've had three days of almost uninterrupted overcast skies.  A few stray showers have passed over us, and late yesterday afternoon the sun played peek-a-boo.  That, combined with the drop in daytime high temperatures from about 27C to 21C (80 to 70F) since the weekend has made for some very pleasant riding weather.



Oh, and I have to thank the Jewish people for giving me a couple of days off so I could enjoy it.  The funny thing is that, where I teach, Jewish faculty members probably outnumber Jewish students by about 20 to 1.  If anything, we probably should have Muslim--or Hindu--or, hey, maybe Buddhist--holidays off.  What about pagan feasts?  



Hmm...I'd have a lot of time to ride.  But I'd have a hard time making a living--unless, of course, those holidays were paid!

20 September 2018

Do I Want To Believe?

I have never been a fan of science fiction or anything having to do with the paranormal.  Still, one of my favorite television programs of all time is The X Files.

Really, Fox Mulder is a modern-day Captain Ahab:  He is obsessed with finding something elusive.  His obsession, like Ahab's is borne of a personal tragedy:  Moby Dick bit off part of Ahab's leg, and Mulder's sister was abducted by aliens.  The show's mantra--The truth is out there--could also have been the novel's epigraph.

Apart from that story, what I also liked so much about the show is the interplay between Mulder and Agent Dana Scully.  While Mulder seems willing to believe in just about anything, Scully is a seeming contradiction:  She is, essentially, an empiricist who believes in God.  Actually, she isn't just a Deist:  She is a full-blown devout Roman Catholic, which is even more mystical or irrational, depending on how you look at it, than Mulder's world (or should I say extraterrestrial) view.



I'm thinking about that now because I think the sky I saw near the end of my ride yesterday had something to do with the ride I took today--into Connecticut.

Turns out, I had the day off.  And the overnight morning rain brought the temperature down from yesterday's levels, which were somewhere between late summer and early fall.  Clouds blanketed the sky, but I knew (even without listening to the weather report) that there was no threat of more rain after 10 am. 

So why Connecticut, you ask.  Well, if you are a regular reader of this blog, you wouldn't ask that, as rides to the Nutmeg State have been part of my repertoire.  But you can ask anyway because I have yet another answer.

You see there have been 64 UFO sightings this year.  Why are they flying over Connecticut?  Maybe it's because aliens don't know yet that they can ride a bike up the ridge from Port Chester to Greenwich.  All they need are bikes that fit.



Do I believe that people sighted UFOs in Connecticut, or anywhere else?  On a purely semantic level, yes:  I am sure that those people actually did see things neither they nor anyone else could identify moving through the sky.  Now, as to whether they're flying saucers with alien life forms:  I don't know.  



If you are a fan of the show, you remember the "I Want To Believe" poster on the wall of the X-Files office.  Do I want to believe? No:  I have no desire one way or the other.  But I am willing to believe, if I see something I find convincing.

I didn't find it today.  But that's not why I rode to Connecticut--140 kilometers round trip--today.

19 September 2018

Seaside Archaeology

We're just a couple of days from the autumnal equinox.  I've noticed the decreasing amount of daylight although, interestingly, about two weeks ago, the days weren't much shorter than they were when I was in Siem Reap, which is around the 13th parallel north of the equator.

But I know that in the coming weeks it will be more difficult to "sneak in" a long afternoon ride. (I'm not afraid to ride in the dark; I just prefer to ride in daylight.)  So, today, I set out for the ocean and made it to Point Lookout.



I wonder when "construction" of the Lookout spot--and beach--will end.

It looks more like destruction to me.

Perhaps, one day, whatever life forms are living on this planet will chance upon sites like these and wonder what sort of creatures roamed this land.



Of course, they would never surmise that such beings ambled forth on conveyances like this:



into vistas like this:




  

18 September 2018

What's He Protecting?

The moment anyone with power uses the word "protect", I reach for my trusty frame pump.  Not only does it get my tires up to pressure in a pinch, it's great for swatting away stray dogs and other threats and nuisances.

You see, I've come to realize that any powerful person who thinks he or she can "protect" anyone or anything he or she hasn't met is delusional or lying.

And so it is with El Cheeto Grande.   He's passed another round of tariffs because he's, once again, got his knickers in a twist over China.  

Of course, the tariffs will not "protect" American industries because...well, they don't exist anymore, if indeed they ever did.  

Image result for bicycle factory in china



(Besides, all you have to do is look at Smoot-Hawley to realize that tariffs almost never have their intended consequences.  But that would be the subject of, not just another post, but another blog--or a book!)


To wit:  Back in the Clinton administration, I tried to put together an all-American bike.  Of course, I did it on paper.  Frames and forks weren't hard to find, though they were almost always more expensive than imports.  Ditto for the Chris King headset, as great as it is. Yankee-made handlebars, stems and seatposts were available, but they were mainly "boutique" items.  

The other components, on the other hand, were a lot more difficult to find.  Sun was making its rims, and Wheelsmith its spokes, in the USA.  And there were a number of small companies fabricating hubs here in the USA, such as Phil Wood and Chris King.  They, of course, cost far more than even Dura Ace or Record stuff, but at least they kept my exercise going.

That is, until I tried to find tires.  To my knowledge, none have been made here since Carlisle ceased production, apparently some time in the early '80's.  Goodyear, Firestone and other rubber companies had exited the non-motorized trade long before that.


OK, I thought:  The tires are just one part (or two components, depending on how you look at it.). Surely, I could make the rest of the bike into a Yankee Doodle Dandy.

Then I tried to put together a drivetrain.  Mind you, this was during the days when it seemed every 25-year-old in California or Colorado who had access to a lathe was turning out lightweight (and very expensive) cranksets and derailleurs in a rainbow of colors.  I thought cassettes would be my next hurdle but, as it turned out, some company--in Massachusetts, I think--was making titanium bits--including cassettes.  

Eight speeds were the standard at that time.  If you remember anything about Shimano's 8-speed equipment, you knew that not everything was interchangeable between gruppos.  Namely, a Dura Ace hub would take only Dura Ace cassettes--not Ultegra, 105 or any other.  Turned out, the titanium cassette was made only for Dura Ace--which, I supposed, made sense, given what Dura Ace and titanium equipment cost.


(Aside:  Shimano's 9-speed stuff was interchangeable.  So Dura Ace hubs could take Ultegra cassettes, which weighed a bit more but cost about half as much.  And the standard 9-speed Dura Ace cassette was made of titanium, which pre-empted aftermarket stuff.)

But there were no chains made stateside.  Back in the day, the baloon-tired coaster brake bikes had American chains; however, as far as I know, no derailleur-compatible chain has ever been made here.  Nor were any pedals, save for the rubber-block variety found on said wide-tire "bombers".

Oh--and there were no American-made saddles.

Today it would be even more difficult to put together an all- (or even mostly-) American machine.  And almost very few bike accessories are made here.  Yet they are all subject to tariffs.

And it's all but impossible to find some items made anywhere besides China.  Almost anything electronic--lights, computers and the like--come from Cathay.  

So do helmets.  Interestingly, they have been exempted from tariffs.  It's ironic when you realize that one of the rationales for the tariffs is to protect against intellectual property theft--and nearly all helmets are designed in the US!

Of course, bicycles are far from the only things to be affected by the tariffs.  I'm not sure I'd want to be a farmer who raises corn, soybeans or hogs right about now.  But I have yet to hear anyone explain how any job or industry will be "protected" in this country.  


17 September 2018

Faster Than An Airbus A340--Or Any Guy

I wrote one of my earliest posts about Beryl Burton.  Half a century ago, she held cycling's 12-hour time trial record.  No, not just the women's record, the record.  Over that historic half-day, she pedaled 277.25 miles (446.2 kilometers).  That was a full five miles (eight kilometers) more than the record she broke.  That margin enabled her to keep the record for two years--a geologic age in that world.

Now I am getting to write about someone who I see as one of her heirs.

Yesterday, Denise Mueller-Korenek rode a bicycle 183.93 miles (296 kilometers) per hour.  Like Burton, she broke not only a women's record--she broke the record.  

Another way her ride, though much shorter, parallels that of Burton is that she didn't beat the old record by a hair or a fraction of a kilometer per hour.  Rather, she rode a full 17 miles (27.3 kilometers) per hour than the previous record-holder--Dutchman Fred Rompleberg--who accomplished his feat in 1995.

To put it another way:  Ms. Mueller-Korenek rode nearly ten percent faster than the previous record holder.  And she rode faster than an Airbus A340 taking off.

What makes her record perhaps even more astonishing than Burton's is that Miller-Korenek is 45 years old and took 23 years off from cycling to raise her three kids.  But her coach isn't so surprised.  "I've been coaching mostly women, including Denise, for the past 35 or 40 years," he said. "My theory is that women are able to push that aging envelope a little further than men and are more capable of long-distance peak performance."

Denise Mueller-Korenek, center, with coach John Howard and Shea Holbrook, who drove the race car that paced her.


Her coach is John Howard. If that name rings a bell, it's because he was, arguably, one of the first world-class American cyclists since the days of the six-day races.  Oh, and because he held, for a decade, the very speed record Rompelberg broke--which, in turn, Denise Mueller-Korenek shattered yesterday.


16 September 2018

Follow That Diet

When I first became a dedicated cyclist, the term "energy foods" didn't exist.  During rides, we ate granola, GORP (good ol' raisins and peanuts), bananas--or, perhaps, other fruits or chocolate.

Of course, some made ridiculous claims for some food or another--usually one that wasn't widely available.  One was "Tiger's Milk".  The joke was, of course, that you don't need to drink Tiger's Milk: Instead, you should find out who milked the tiger and eat whatever he or she eats.

I would say the same for whoever harvested this:




After he was stripped of his 2006 Tour de France victory, Floyd Landis tried to claim that the unusually high testotsterone count found in his blood was "natural" and not the result of consuming any substance.  Then he tried to blame it dehydration caused by drinking whisky.  Maybe he should have told the anti-doping agency he'd been eating Shark Balls. 

15 September 2018

Everything In Australia Is Trying To Kill You!

When I was delivering newspapers on my Schwinn Continental many years ago, dogs chased me.   Deer crossed my path as I rode in the Bronx(!) as well as on rural descents in New Jersey and Vermont.  On another descent--in Switzerland--an Alpine ibex darted across my the road in front of me just after I flatted at about 90 KPH on a bike with loaded panniers.  A few years later, I had a close encounter with a mountain goat while pedaling--again, with loaded panniers--in the French Pyrenees.  

This summer, while cycling in Cambodia, I became wary of the monkeys after seeing one set on a tourist for her food and a pack of them attacking a dog.

And I've had cats, racoons, and other lil' critters come close to entangling themselves in my spokes.  I must say, though, that I've never had an encounter with an animal quite like the one a cyclist in Australia experienced:




Imagine being swatted on your helmet by--a magpie!  I won't accuse the filmer of paranoia when he exlaims, "Everything in Australia is trying to kill you!"

14 September 2018

From Her Saddle To A Seat On The Board?

I'll admit I've flipped off, um, a few drivers in my time.  More than likely, anyone who's cycled in New York can say the same thing.

I'll also admit there were times I could have been more temperate.  But I'll also say that there were times when said motorists deserved my wrath.


A woman we saw back in October could say the same for someone who passed her:






That is how she greeted El Cheeto Grande.  As a result, she lost her job.

Juli Briskman's suit against her former employer, Akira LLC, was dismissed.  She then saw two options:  Keep on fighting an uphill battle in court, or try to change the laws herself.  "After lots of conversations I decided I would be more effective on the board," she recalls.


She's talking about the Board of Supervisors in Loudoun County, where she lives.  She plans to run in the Northern Virginia locale where the Board is mostly Republican but voters often choose Democrats, as they did for Hilary Clinton in 2016.


People have told her that even though his views aren't hers, she should respect the office of the president.  She disagrees, saying "I think the Constitution grants me that privilege" of expressing her opinion as she did on that day while the President headed back to the capital from the Trump National Golf Course in Virginia.


Would you vote for her?  I would.

13 September 2018

Slasher(s) Targeting Bikes In Seattle

If you ride a bike from a bike-share program, you might want to check it out--especially if that bike is from one of the dockless share companies like LimeBike or Ofo.

An 18-year-old man in Seattle learned that the hard way.  The other night, he was riding a Lime bike near University Bridge when the brakes failed.  He crashed into a tree and landed in a hospital.

Shortly after the incident, a news crew from local station KOMO went to the scene. There, they found a Lime bike with its brake cables slashed.  Reporter Gabe Cohen said that on that day, he found four Lime bikes with their brakes slashed or ripped out entirely.



That is a particular problem in Seattle, according to Garrett Berkey.  "There are some big hills," says the Recycled Bicycles employee.  "You want to be sure you can stop safely" before riding a share bike, he adds.

Seattle police say that Tuesday's incident is just the latest in a series of brake slashings this summer. LimeBike says, however, that less than one percent of its Seattle fleet has been vandalized.  The company's phone app also allows users to flag a potentially dangerous bicycle, which is immediately deactivated. Or, you can call 1-888-LIME-345 if you see a problem.

It seems that lately, for whatever reasons, cyclists have been the targets of road rage and other kinds of hostility because some motorists believe we are taking "their" lanes and parking spaces.  I have to wonder, though, whether the person(s) who disabled the brakes on the LimeBikes were targeting cyclists or the bikes themselves.  Dockless share systems have drawn ire in other cities because users can leave their bikes anywhere when they're finished, which has led to complaints about bikes left on sidewalks and other public areas. 

12 September 2018

At Least It's Mist

It seemed weirdly appropriate that, on the day after 9/11, I should encounter this on my way to work:



Well, at least I was going to work, not trying to escape.  And I had the expectation, as I do nearly every day, that I will leave and make it home.

Nearly 3000 weren't so fortunate on that day 17 years ago.

11 September 2018

No Identity For Delivery Worker

Unless you've been living under a rock for the last 17 years, I don't have to remind you that today is the anniversary of one of the most tragic events in US history.

On this day in 2001, four flights were hijacked.  One crashed into a Pennsylvania field after some passengers tried to subdue the hijackers.  Another hit the Pentagon and the others, as everyone knows, crashed into the World Trade Center.

Even at this late date, remains are still being recovered and victims identified.  But there are some that, perhaps, may never be known. 

One of them, it is said, delivered breakfast sandwiches to office workers in the Towers and never came out.  His bicycle became an impromptu memorial:

Photo from Raisch Studios


To this day, no one seems to know his name.  More than likely, he was an immigrant, possibly illegal.  I can't help but to think that status, as well as his the fact that he was "just" a guy making deliveries on a bicycle, made him a low priority for those in charge of identifying victims.

I also can't help but to wonder how many more like him died that day, after pedaling down lower Manhattan's valleys of asphalt and glass to bring orders of bacon-egg-and-cheese-on-a-roll to folks at their desks.

10 September 2018

Recycling Bicycles: For Them, It's Play

One day back in the mists of time (or, at least, before I met her), my friend Millie saw a cat on her way home from work.

She took that cat home.   By the time I met her, she had a few living in her yard and basement.  Also, she was going to an industrial area near her house to feed the strays--where she rescued a few more cats.

Among them were Max, my loving orange friend who died last year, and the second cat named Charlie I've had in my life.  Other people also have feline companions Millie found--sometimes on her own, other times as a volunteer with a local animal rescue organization.

(Marlee was also rescued from that same industrial area, but by some workers in a bakery who, in turn, gave her to one of Millie's friends who was, at that time, rescuing animals.)

So, what does that story have to do with a blog about bicycling?  Well, just as my friend Millie became a "cat lady" because a chance encounter with a stray, Michael and Benita Warns now oversee a bicycle rescue program, if you will, that started with a bicycle they salvaged from scrap. Or, more precisely, a chatty 6-year-old neighbor named Zeek asked whether Michael could fix a bike he found in the trash.

Fast-forward eleven years, and Mr. Michael Recycles Bicycles is, every year, giving away hundreds of bikes assembled from the 10 garages full of bikes and parts they have in St. Paul, Minnesota.

Michael and Benita Warns. Photo by James Walsh for the Minneapolis Star-Tribune


Benita, a retired postal employee, is the president of the organization.  Michael does the mechanical work. Both are mechanical engineers by training, so they were able not only to put bikes together, but also figure out ways to make them work better.

Their project really took off after they volunteered for their neighborhood clean-up.  When they saw how many bicycles ended up in trash heaps in their neighborhood, they figured--correctly--that lots of bicycles were also being discarded in other neighborhoods.  

The way their project differs from other recycle-a-bicycle programs is that anyone can get a bicycle from them.  There are no forms to fill out.  They don't ask about your income; if you call, they ask only your height, gender and what type of bicycle you want.  It really does seem magical.

The Warneses don't take a salary, and volunteers help them, there are still expenses.  As an example, even with all of the bikes and parts they have, they occasionally have to buy stuff.  As someone who's worked in a bike shop, I'm guessing that they often need tires and tubes, which are the most commonly unusable parts from old bikes.  

To help pay for their program, they run a small shop where they sell some of their bicycles, as well as parts and accessories.  They also do repairs for $20 an hour--a bargain in today's economy.

For all of the labor they put into this project, the Warneses always want to make one thing perfectly clear.

Benita:  "Nobody works in this place."

Michael:  "We play with bicycles."