Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

18 November 2018


I'll admit that on one or two--okay, maybe a couple more--all right, a few more--occasions, I went for a bike ride instead of something I "should" have done.

Mind you, I never skipped out on anything vital.  I only played hooky from meetings and other events that written or unwritten protocols recommended or advised.  

Oh, and I'll admit that I missed a life event or two, but not of anybody who was particularly close or important to me.  And, all right, here's my big confession:  I actually skipped out on somebody's "big day"

Image result for funny bicycle images

The ceremony I missed was for a friend-of-a-friend-of-a-friend of an acquaintance, or something like that.  And, as I recall, I didn't receive a formal invitation, only a verbal one.  I'm not sure that anyone noticed I wasn't there.

On the other hand, I still recall that ride (with Jonathan) many years later.

17 November 2018

Where Your Next Bike Might Come From

In a couple of earlier posts (See here and here, I examined some of the ways in which the new tariffs on Chinese goods could affect cyclists and the bike business here in the US.

Some American bike firms, like Brooklyn Bicycle Company, are deciding whether to absorb the price increases or pass them on to customers.  Others, like Detroit Bikes and BCA, are calling for even higher tariffs and extending them to all imported bikes.  

Trek and Kent--two bike companies rarely mentioned in the same breath, let alone the same blog post!--are contemplating yet another strategy which, really, shouldn't come as much of a surprise.

Trek is, arguably, the most prestigious mass-market American bike brand.  (Specialized and Cannondale are probably Trek's chief competitors for this title.)  Their highest-priced bikes are still made here, albeit with imported components.  The rest of their bikes are made by sub-contractors that include Giant, which also sells its bikes under its own name.

Kent's offerings, in contrast, are at the bottom of the market and found, not in bike shops, but in big-box stores like Walmart and internet retailers.  Some are sold, under license, bearing the Jeep, Cadillac and GMC brands.  Although some of its bikes are assembled in South Carolina, their frames are made in China and Taiwan and assembled with components made in those countries.

So...Is Trek returning to its roots by returning its manufacturing to the US?  Well...no.  You're not going to see a revival of those nice lugged steel frames they made in Wisconsin during the '70's and '80's.

Likewise, Kent isn't going to build a factory in Parsippany, New Jersey (the location of its headquarters), or anywhere else in the good ol' You-Ess-Of-Ay!

No, they are not going to do what El Cheeto Grande told all of those laid-off blue-collar workers in Ohio and Michigan and Pennsylvania companies would do in the face of tariffs.  Instead of making their wares in the country Trump thinks he can Make Great Again, they are talking about shifting their production to a country that isn't getting a tariff wall built around it.

If you are European, what I am about to say next will come as no surprise:  That country is Cambodia.  

The Southeast Asian kingdom is already the biggest supplier of bicycles to European Union countries.  Most of the country's bike factories are in the north, near Vietnam--which some have called "the EU's China." If you buy, say, a backpack or jacket in Europe, it's more likely than not to have been made in Vietnam, just as the new bike is likely to be from Cambodia.

It will be interesting to see whether other American bike companies make similar moves.  If anything, wages in Cambodia, Vietnam and other countries in the region are lower than they are in China. And some Cambodian bikes are already coming into the US--though, in far smaller numbers than bikes from China or Taiwan.

16 November 2018

Be Careful What You Get Arrested For...

Getting arrested is generally not a good thing.  At least, that's what I'm assuming:  I haven't suffered the indignity myself, though I've come close!

I must confess that I can feel a bit self-righteous, even smug, when I recall that the times I almost found myself in the back of a police wagon, I wasn't committing "bad" crimes:  I was engaged in protests and, being young and stupid, I gave the constables a hard time when they told us to move.  

Deep down, I do have more respect for someone who's arrested for protesting an unjust war or unfair treatment of workers than for, say, beating a spouse or stealing someone's Social Security check.  I suppose most people feel the same way.  

So I guess my advice to future generations would be something like "Be careful of what you get arrested for."  Oh, and don't let the cops find worse things on your record when they run your name through their computers.

Of course, anyone who would listen to such advice probably doesn't need to hear it.  On the other hand, Roberto Carlos DeLeon most likely would not heed my pearl of wisdom, or much of anything I'd say.

Image result for cyclist passing police

During a traffic stop in San Angelo, Texas, he was found to be in possession of less than two ounces of marijuana.  When the officer checked his records, a warrant was found--for assault causing bodily injury of a family member and continuous violence against the family.

Sounds like a real charmer, doesn't he?

And what led to the traffic stop that opened up this Pandora's box?  He was riding a bicycle with "defective" brakes, headlights and reflector.

Hmm...I wonder how the cops determined that his brakes were "defective".  Was he unable to stop when he was ordered to do so?

15 November 2018

Who's On Track?

When I started to write on the Web, one of the best pieces of advice I got was not to read the comments on what I write.

Of course, I don't follow that nugget of wisdom for this blog, as you, my dear readers, tend to be supportive and well-informed.  The worst things I get are spam, which are the only comments I delete.

I have received a few mean-spirited or simply ignorant comments on my other blog.  Even there, however, such nastiness or stupidity has been rare, even though the topic of that blog is something that incites more hatred and sanctimoniousness than just about anything I could write on this blog.

Some articles and essays of mine have been published about other topics, on other sites, under my actual name (which you see on this blog's masthead) as well as various noms de plume.  Sometimes, I must admit, I sneak a peek at the comments on those.  A few are nasty but, unfortunately, entirely predictable.  But, for the most part, I have not been unpleasantly surprised.

Now, when it comes to comments on stuff not written by me, I rarely, if ever, read the comments.  For one thing, I just don't have the time to read them all.  But, perhaps even more to the point, I have seen even more ignorance, bile and arrogance than I find in response to most of my own work.

Today I read the comments after an article I came across.  Mainly, I was curious about people's reactions town (Portage, Michigan) planning to build a bicycle skills course in a local park.  One commenter, not surprisingly, railed against what he/she perceived to be a waste of taxpayer's money.  A couple thought it was an OK idea; if nothing else, they thought that it would be safer for kids to ride there and that it might encourage them to get the exercise they need.

Rendition of proposed bike ramp in Portage, Michigan

Probably the most ignorant comment, though, came from "Eddiebaseball",  who said kids should be taught, among other things,  to wear white at night and walk their bikes across intersections.  Of course, walking a bike across every intersection would make it almost pointless for kids to ride their bikes to school:  They may as well walk or take the bus.  But I couldn't get too angry at "Eddiebaseball"   because, well, I probably will never meet him (I'm assuming he's a dude.), but more important, I realized that the person was just reciting all the nonsense kids saw in bicycle "safety" films during the 1950s and '60's and, most likely, hasn't ridden a bike since then.

Another commenter, "Fullbowl", responded to "Eddiebaseball".  Now, "Fullbowl"'s comment didn't restore my faith in humanity (Actually, I didn't lose what I have of it when reading EB's comment.).  It did, at least, reassure me that there is at least one well-informed voice of reason among the site's readership.

Here is "Fullbowl"'s comment:

Reply to @eddiebaseball: and while you're at it teach drivers how to leave their smart phones alone while driving, travel at the posted speed or a speed safe for the road conditions, stop at stop signs and lights, yield to pedestrians, give bicyclists room, make turns at the correct speed ending up in the correct lane, don't turn where prohibited, look at the big picture (far enough down the road) to anticipate needed maneuvers, don't tailgate etc. etc. etc.

     I've never been to Portage, but I imagine they are better--as any place would be--for "Fullbowl"'s wisdom.  And I'm sure the kids will benefit from having that bike course.

    14 November 2018

    How Will Brooklyn Pay For A Tax Against China?

    About three weeks ago, I wrote about ways in which the recently-imposed tariffs on Chinese goods could affect the bicycle industry.

    I presented as clear a picture as I could, not being a bicycle industry insider or an economist who specializes in trade policy (or any kind of economist at all).  So, today, I am going to share part an Inc. article Norman Brodsky wrote based on his conversation with such an industry insider.

    Brodsky's friend Ryan Zagata is the founder and owner of Brooklyn Bicycle Company.  I've never ridden any of their machines, but they are praised for being very good at what new urban cyclists--particularly commuters and utility cyclists--want.  From all accounts, their bikes are comfortable and practical.  What I know is that they are stylish enough that one of their models is sold at the Museum of Modern Art's gift shop.

    Plus, I must say, Brooklyn's prices are actually quite reasonable.  That could change, although Zagata doesn't want that.

    He told Brodsky that a typical model from his company costs about $200 to make.  Right now, he pays $11 on import duties for such a bike, but the new tariffs could hike that to $61.

    That leaves him with a dilemma:  Does he absorb the increase or pass it on to customers?  Of course, he could also "split the difference" and increase consumer prices, but by a smaller amount.

    None of those options is particularly appealing because, as anyone who has worked in the industry knows, it's a low profit-margin business.  The retail markup on bicycles, percentage-wise, is not nearly as high as it is for such items as clothing and luggage.  Every shop in which I worked made a much greater proportion of its income from repairs or the sales of accessories and parts than it did from selling new bikes.  As I understand, that is the case in just about all bike shops. That's why you don't see year-end half-price or 75 percent off sales on bikes. 

    Brooklyn Bicycle Company's Driggs 3

    Brodsky asked whether Zagata could have his bikes and parts manufactured in another country like Vietnam.  It wouldn't be worthwhile, Zagata says, unless the move would shave $50 or more off the cost of producing the bike. More to the point, though, are the difficulties that come with such a move: among them,  the research and development--and travel-- costs of sourcing a new factory and having samples made and tested.  Also, he points out, every new model from a new supplier has to be sent to the Consumer Product Safety Commission for testing.  

    In addition, moving production would mean losing the relationships they have with suppliers, who understand what Brooklyn Bicycle wants and needs.  "Will a new manufacturer understand what we're looking for and give us the same level of quality?" Zagata wonders.

    He might have been thinking of Fuji's experience around the turn of the millennium.  They were one of the last major Japanese bicycle manufacturers to shift their production to Taiwan.  As a result, they didn't have the sorts of relationships enjoyed by other companies who shifted their production earlier.  Fuji's once-stellar reputation fell; it has recovered only during the last few years.

    Finally, Brodsky inquired as to whether Zagata could manufacture his bikes in the US. Even if he made the frames, and assembled the bikes, in the US, he'd still have the same problem with tariffs.  "There's nobody in the United States making rims, hubs, spokes, saddles, chains, drivetrains--all the things we'd need, in the quantities we'd need them."  He still would have to import those components, he said, and they would be subject to the same tariffis as bicycles.

    (He is right about the lack of American component-making  capacity.  Hubs are made here, but they are all high-end items like Phil Wood and Chris King:  a set would cost nearly as much as most of the bikes Brooklyn offers.  The other components, to my knowledge, are no longer made here:  even Sun Rims, designed in the USA, are made in Taiwan or China.)

    At the moment, Zagata says he can't do much more than "watch my competitors."  Without a doubt, many other small- to medium- size business owners (BBCo., at $2 million a year, is considered in the latter category) could say the same. 

    13 November 2018

    This Never Would Have Happened On The Set Of "Breaking Away". Or Would It?

    Well, now we know why studios employ stunt-doubles.  You know, they're those folks who do flips, get into crashes and put themselves in all manner of actual or configured peril so as not to risk scarring the pretty (and highly bankable) faces.

    I mean, do you really think Hugh Jackman knows any more how to fight than I know how to fish for lobsters?  Why do you think Richard Bradshaw doubled for him in X-Men:  Days of Future Passed? Surely the fact that Bradshaw is Jackman's brother-in-law could not have been the only reason!

    For every Hugh Jackman, there is at least one other actor who should have a stunt double.  I am thinking now of Joseph Gordon-Levitt.  He played a bike messenger in Premium Rush.  Although six years have passed since that movie's release, one might expect that his work in it would have prepared him for scenes in which he rides a bike for his latest flick, Power.

    During the filming, which is going on as of this writing, he landed in the ER after flipping over his handlebars.

    He says, "I have bad luck shooting on bikes," a reference to another mishap during the filming of Premium Rush.


    Surely, there must be some retired mountain bike racer who could use a payday.

    12 November 2018

    Because They Could Not Ride Back

    Yesterday was the "real" Veterans' Day--which is the anniversary of the Armistice.  Since it fell on a Sunday, VD is being observed today.

    Observed by whom? I had to go to work.  In one way, I can't complain:  After all, I am off on holidays I don't celebrate.  On the other hand, I am sure there are a number of veterans among the staff and faculty of my college, and the university of which it is a part.  Not to mention that some of my students have been veterans, or were even active military personnel while they took my classes.

    Anyway, my ride yesterday included a tribute.  On a gorgeous but chilly autumn day, I decided to ride to Connecticut.  I normally don't do the ride with much, if any, of a rationale, but I did have one, sort of, yesterday.

    Of course, if I only wanted to go to a veterans' memorial, there are plenty of those in the city where I live.  But at least I knew that if I rode to Greenwich, I could spend some time at its memorial, right in the middle of its common.


    The trees, the light, the color all seemed perfect for my moment of silence and meditation.  I never knew any of the people whose names are inscribed on the memorial, but I could offer them a remembrance, however small and brief.

    I guess we can't do much more for anyone, however he or she dies.

    Oh, and I could be thankful--as I was--that I could ride home again.  They couldn't.

    11 November 2018

    100 Years After War Didn't End

    The other day, I commemorated the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht:  the night when anti-Semitism descended from harassment to violence and, ultimately, to death.  It was also the night of the first mass deportations of Jews to the Nazi death camps.

    Today is the centennial of the event that was supposed to prevent the war into which the world descended not long after Kristallnacht.  (Some would argue that the war was already underway; I wouldn't disagree.) 

    I am talking, of course, about the Armistice. As we all heard in school, "on the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month" in 1918, the Armistice--which was supposed to end hostilities, not only between the Allies and the Central Powers, but throughout the world--was signed.

    Would it have worked if the United States had agreed to join a worldwide organization--one whose founders included the American President, no less--created for the purpose of fostering cooperation? 

    We will never know.  I could not, however, help but to note the irony of this photo:


    It's the 1940 Armistice Day parade in Yakima, Washington.  At that very moment, Europe was at war again:  During the fourteen months that preceded the scene in the photo, Germany had invaded Poland, Denmark, Norway, Belgium, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, France, Yugoslavia and Greece.  Less than thirteen months after that photo was taken, the US would also be drawn into that war.

    Nobody has ever celebrated an "Armistice" to end World War II, or any war since then.

    And, in the US, this day has been turned into "Veterans' Day" --a holiday I wholeheartedly endorse, as much as I abhor war-- which will be commemorated tomorrow.

    (About Veterans' Day:  As much as I'm in favor of this holiday, I wish its emphasis was on the ones who gave their limbs, senses, bodies and even lives, rather than on the glorification of their "victories."  I also would favor calling it "Remembrance Day," as it's known in Canada and the UK.)

    10 November 2018

    Making Bike In Minnesota

    Minnesota State College Southeast, in the city of Red Wing, has a guitar repair and building program.  That program has a waiting list.

    So, why am I mentioning it in this blog?  

    Well, folks at the college realized that the reason why so many students signed up for the program is something every educator knows:  Students will be engaged, work hard and learn well when teachers encourage students to work on something that fits their passions.  

    That is a scenario Travis Thul, the college's Dean of Trade and Technology, wanted to replicate in another program he's helping to create.  He says the college was looking for something that has "unique, tangible emotional appeal" while, at the same time, "encompassing the core competencies of mass manufacturing."  

    So what did he and the college come upon?  Well, since you're reading this blog, you may have already guessed the answer:  the bicycle.  As he says, most people have grown up with a bicycle and recall the fun they had with it.  Also, the city of Red Wing has a "bicycle-oriented culture," with trails that attract riders from the surrounding areas. 


    Also, Minnesota and neighboring Wisconsin have companies that represent a disproportionate amount of the US bicycle business, so there are job opportunities for graduates of the college's bicycle design and fabrication program.  The first classes--which include algebra and physics--will be held in the Fall of 2019, and the first graduates are expected to get their Associate of Applied Science degree in 2021 after completing 60 credits.

    While students will study traditional aspects of bicycle design, Thul says that he and other faculty members decided, "it's very important that core mathematics and physics are taken seriously" because "the force distribution on one bicycle frame is going to be different from the force distribution on another frame."  Also, he hopes that this background will help and encourage students to take on another passion of his:  designing and building adaptable bicycles for handicapped people.

    But the most important goal of the program, according to Thul, might be to help students develop transferable skills.  "A drivetrain is a drivetrain. Gearing is gearing. Welding is welding," he explained.  They are skills, he says, that can be "used at Red Wing Shoes, Fastenal, Valley Craft" and many other local--and worldwide--manufacturing companies.

    The program certainly sounds interesting,and I can't blame Thul for thinking he has the right idea.  After all, he recently received a call from the CEO of a company in Montreal, Quebec.  That CEO wants to hire graduates of his program.

    09 November 2018

    Lights Out And Broken Glass

    We often say, "There's good news and bad news..."

    Well, on this date in history, there is a bad event and a terrible one.  Neither relates directly to cycling, so if you want to skip today's post, I understand.

    Anyway, I'll start with the bad news in history.  It's an event I remember pretty well, especially given how young I was. If you are of a certain age, you might have lived through it, too.

    On this date in 1965, it was "lights out."  Yes, that's the literal truth:  The lights went out in the northeastern US and the Canadian province of Ontario.  It was the result of failures in power generating station, beginning with one near Niagara Falls.  

    My family and I were living in Brooklyn.  We weren't in the dark for as long as some nearby areas:  Around 11 pm, power gradually returned, after about six hours without.  O the other hand, some parts of Manhattan and other boroughs and states didn't have "juice" until the following morning.

    In some senses, we were lucky:  It was a classic autumn evening, crisp but not too cold.  More important, perhaps, were the clear skies and full moon.  People did what they could outdoors, but some homes (including ours) had at least some light coming through our windows.

    And, even all of these years later, I recall how calm and even helpful most people were.  My father couldn't get home from work, as the subways stopped running,  but he was able to call us from a pay phone (Remember those?)  and assured us he was OK.  There were also some funny stories, like the one about people who got stuck in Macy's furniture department and slept on the showroom beds.

    Such an atmosphere was in contrast to another blackout a dozen years later that affected mainly New York City.  It was a hot summer night and that year, it seemed, the city was in chaos, what with Son of Sam was shooting and the Bronx was burning.  Well, it seemed that the gates of Hell or some Freudian subconscious opened:  More fires were set, and stores all over the city were looted.  New Pontiacs were driven off a dealers' showroom on Jerome Avenue in the Bronx; the Brooklyn neighborhood of Bushwick suffered devastation from which it would not recover for another three decades.  Lots of glass was broken that night.

    And on the night of 9 November 1938 as well. Many fires were set, too.  On this date in 1938, what is often seen as the opening salvo of World War II occurred.  At the very least, it changed the nature of hatred in a nation.  Up to that time, Jews in Germany, Austria and other European countries were losing their rights--if they had them in the first place--in much the same ways African Americans lost rights during the Jim Crow era.  (I am not the first to draw this parallel; some scholars have said as much.)  For a brief shining period--about a decade or so--after the US Civil War, newly-freed slaves and their descendents enrolled in schools and universities, earned licenses to practice nearly every kind of trade or profession (including medicine and law) and were even elected to public office.  Those rights were withdrawn, as they were for Jews, and worse things came.

    In the US, the Ku Klux Klan as well as other groups and individuals intimidated, harassed, beat and even killed black people who stepped out of "their place."  The Jews of the Reich didn't even have to do that:  On this date eight decades ago, bands of Nazis--as well some freelance thugs--destroyed synagogues and Jewish businesses all over Germany and Austria.  The police were under orders to do nothing except prevent injury to Aryans and damage to Aryan-owned homes and businesses.  

    Although Jews were harassed, beaten and even killed--and their homes, businesses and synagogues vandalized--before this date, this event--known as Kristallnacht, the "night of broken glass"--marked the first mass, systematic terrorization of Jews.  And it shifted the means of expressing hatred of Semitic people from the legal and social to outright physical violence.  That night, more than 100 Jews were killed and 30,000 able-bodied men were arrested and sent to death camps in Dachau, Sachsenhausen and Buchenwald. (Auschwitz and Bergen-Belsen had not yet opened.) Thus began the first mass deportations of Jews (and other "undesirables") to the camps: Until then, the arrests and deportations were less numerous and widespread.

    In the US, citizens were outraged--at least for a while.  Newspaper editorials condemned the violence; no less than the New York Times suggested that the German government instigated the violence to line its coffers, both with the possessions seized--and fines levied on--Jews:  "Under a pretense of hot-headed vengeance, the government makes a cold-blooded effort to increase its funds."

    Yes, the Jews were forced to pay for the violence they "instigated."  Sadly, Nazis and their followers in the Reich weren't the only ones who believed that the Jews brought it on themselves:  Father Charles Coughlin, and influential Catholic priest, said as much in his radio broadcasts, which reached tens of millions of Americans when the nation's population was about a third of what it is now.

    Worse, though, was the initial inaction of the US government and others with power and influence.  At least some of it was a result of unconcious anti-Semitism, but I think a larger reason was that, for one thing, by that time, more Americans came from German ancestry than any other.  And people whose parents and grandparents came from other nations simply couldn't--or weren't willing to--believe that such systematic brutality could happen in "the land of Mozart".

    Homes and synagogues burned as glass was broken and the lights went out.  I guess my family and city were lucky twenty-seven years later:  Our lights went out, but there was no broken glass.  And nothing burned.

    08 November 2018

    What He Couldn't Win

    During his career, Marty Nothstein won a lot of races.  But he couldn't win one on Tuesday night.

    Most of his victories came on the velodrome, including the gold medal he won as a sprinter in the 2000 Olympics.  The following year, he turned professional and met with considerable success on the road.  In doing so, he defied common wisdom (Is that an oxymoron?) that said a sprinter couldn't stand up to the long distances of road racing.

    The other night, however, he couldn't defy the odds or common wisdom.  He ran as the Republican candidate to represent Pennsylvania's 7th Congressional District.  Although 20 of its previous 25 representatives have come from Nothstein's party, his Democratic opponent, Susan Wild, was favored to win the election, in part because district was redrawn.

    I am not a political scientist or analyst, but it seems to me that most of the district's Republican representatives were moderates.  Indeed, the most recent rep, Pat Meehan--who resigned in April amidst scandal--even supported the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act, which most of his party opposed.  Perhaps it's not surprising that politicians like him would represent the district, which includes the blue-collar areas near the oil refineries of Marcus Hook and Trainer, as well as the Main Line and Haverford College.  

    Such an area seems like fertile ground for a backlash against President Trump--which, of course, people expressed, in accordance with expectations, by voting against his party.  So, it really wasn't such a surprise when Marty lost that race.

    He might, however, win a consolation race, if you will:  He and Wild are locked in a dead heat for a special election to finish the term of Charlie Dent, who retired as representative of the neighboring 15th District.  If he wins, Marty will represent that district until the end of this year.

    After that...well, maybe he'll win another race.  He still cycles and has also driven hot rods to victory.  If nothing else, he's a competitor.  

    Now, about his--ahem-- party affiliation....

    07 November 2018

    How Bad Can A Bike Lane Be?

    How bad are the Middle Street bike lanes in Portsmouth, New Hampshire?

    Not having ridden them, I don't really know.  But I can tell you this:  They've been panned by both motorists and cyclists.  Oh, and school kids aren't crazy about them, either.

    Drivers made at least one of the usual criticisms:  They took away two of "their" lanes.  Perhaps more to the point, though, the bike paths force them, as one driver pointed out, to cross the double yellow line dividing northbound from southbound traffic when passing.  Also, the buses don't have a place to pull over when picking up or discharging passengers.

    The pupils' dislike of the lanes was observed by attorney Charles Griffin.  At a meeting of the city's Parking and Traffic Safety Committee, he recounted his own informal survey, taken from his car.  He sat at one intersection between 7:50 and 8:20 am--the time during which most kids are going to school--on 15 mornings. "On two days, there were two students;  on seven days there were (sic) one student; on six days, no students at all. Most kids who rode their bikes to school, he said, used the sidewalk instead of the bike lane.  "I suspect they did because they didn't feel safe" using the lane "because it's too close to traffic," he speculated.

    This was a poignant criticism, from the city's standpoint, because one of the arguments used to sway reluctant community members was that the lanes "would result in significant numbers" of kids riding to and from school, according to Griffin.

    As an educator, I understand that young people often know more than we realize.  That point was underscored by cyclist Roger Peterson who complained about debris, including wet leaves, in the lane.  On his ride to the meeting at City Hall, he said, he also saw recycle bins scattered throughout the lane.

    But if that were the only problem with the lanes, it could be fixed by maintenance. His and other cyclists' main issue, he said, is that the lanes are "very narrow and restrictive." Before the lanes were built, Peterson said, Middle Street "seemed to be one of the safest roads in the city."  The street was "wide enough" for cyclists "to avoid traffic and for traffic to avoid the bicycles," he explained.

    "It's puzzling as to why a bicycle lane was put in there," he addded.

    I could make--and have made--the same criticisms, almost verbatim, about some of the bike lanes I've ridden here in New York and other American locales.  Sometimes it is actually safer to have enough room on the street for cyclists and motorists to maneuver around each other than it is to have a lane that restricts both cyclists' and motorists' movements.  Moreover, making turns--especially right turns--or going straight through an intersection when motor vehicles (especially trucks) are turning right is actually more dangerous when a cyclist has to leave a bike lane than it is if he or she is riding continuously along a street or road.

    The worst part is that such lanes actually increase tensions between cyclists and motorists:  The latter believe that  lanes "take" "their" roadway away from them, while the former become frustrated with motorists' impatience.  This could lead to city planners and administrators deciding that no bicycle infrastructure project is worthwhile and to removing whatever good infrastructure might have been created.

    As I said previously, I've never ridden the Middle Street bike lanes.  So, in all fairness, I don't want to suggest that they are worse than other lanes, including some I've ridden.  But I can't recall hearing of another lane that received such resounding criticisms from both cyclists and motorists.  And those criticisms are an accurate reflection of the misconceptions--and, sometimes, sheer folly--behind the planning and building of bike lanes.

    06 November 2018

    Into The Sleepy Hollow Sunset

    Last week, I said this year's foliage seemed less colorful than that of previous years.   Well, it seems that I picked the wrong week to complain.  I saw some more color during a ride I took--to Connecticut--on Thursday, and even more about 50 kilometers north of the city.

    Bill and I rode along the South County Trail, which begins in Van Cortlandt Park, near the Bronx-Westchester border, and continues parallel to the Hudson River.  Parts of it follow the Saw Mill River.  In some places, it looks more like a drainage canal than a river; in other spots, it's a turbid pool.  But, believe it or not, there are rapids and falls--and, even better, scenes like thesw.

    Most of the trail is paved or hard-packed dirt.  But the part in Van Cortlandt seems to have been mud since the beginning of time.  There was a time when I would have said that getting myself muddied up, or sweaty, made me "deserving" of the beauty I saw around me.  But, the other day, the mud was simply another part of the picture, if you will.

    Because of the marathon, we started later than we'd planned:  So many streets were closed that we had trouble navigating our way to our meeting point.  The part of Queens where I live was effectively cut off from Brooklyn, and the bridges and streets where people were allowed to circulate freely were full.  

    Not only did we start late, we had less daylight to work with because Daylight Savings Time ended.  The day ended early, but at least, in Sleepy Hollow (a.k.a. Tarrytown), we saw this:

    05 November 2018

    When The Princess Becomes A Washerwoman

    When I was a literature student, I learned about something called the "closet drama".

    Now, dear reader, could you forgive me for believing, at first, that it was a play written by someone who hadn't admitted his or her "love that dare not speak its name."  Of course, I was in a closet myself--one from which I wouldn't emerge for a few more decades--and doing everything I could to convince myself that it was really my home.

    Anyway, a "closet drama" is something its writer does not intend for performance.  Perhaps it seems silly to write a play that you don't want produced--why not write a novel instead?, you might ask.  Well, as I understand it, the play allows for certain kinds of plot and character development that are difficult, if not impossible, in other genres of writing.  I say "as I understand it" because I've never tried to write a play.

    I would later learn about architects' "closet plans".  A number of renowned architects designed edifices they never intended to be built.  There are, I learned, even architects who've designed dozens, even hundreds, of buildings without having a single one built.  Most such architects, not surprisingly, are professors:  They design such buildings for instructional purposes or as academic exercises.

    Such an architect might be behind this bicycle:

    Of course, it began its life as a bicycle--a Pashley, the "Princess" model, to be exact.  But the Arcade Bicycle Basin not intended for you to ride to school or the park or simply to be seen looking fashionable while riding a bike--even though it retains everything the Princess normally comes with, save for the Brooks saddle, if you buy it in your local shop.

    Instead of the seat, the designers installed a shelf, which mounts to the wall and supports a vitreous china washbasin.  Interestingly, the bike retains the wicker basket that's normally supplied with it. Not surprisingly, it comes in handy for hand towels and the like.

    I guess I can understand integrating a bicycle into one's daily ablutions.  I wonder, though, whether anyone has tried to turn a washroom unit into a rideable bicycle.

    One thing I know:  That basin wouldn't be nearly as comfortable as a broken-in Brooks saddle.  Not for me, anyway!