27 September 2022

What Will Be Influenced By This Report?

The 1980s gave us, in addition to The Smiths and some really good movies and TV shows, one of the most risible failures and one of the most-needed successes of American public policy.  

The failure is the so-called War on Drugs.  It did little, if anything, to reduce the demand for illicit substances.  If anything, it made criminals, in this country and others, rich and allowed gangs to become the de facto governments of neighborhoods and even, arguably, of whole countries in Latin America and other parts of the world.

Related to it is the success:  the campaign against drunk driving.  The relation of the War on Drugs and the crusade against inebriated driving is the subject of a longer piece of writing that would be far outside the scope of even this blog! Suffice it to say that both policies were two sides of the coin of a kind of puritanism that swept over this country and continues to blanket us today.

Now, I am not condoning drunk driving or, for that matter, the excessive use of any substance, legal or otherwise.  But, while the so-called War on Drugs did nothing to stop people from using or buying--or, for that matter, bring to account those who were responsible for its worst excesses--it can be said that while intoxicated driving hasn't been entirely eliminated, there is almost certainly less of it, and lives have been saved, as a result.

That said, I had a mixed reaction to a report documenting the rise of bike accidents in which the cyclist was under the influence of a drug.  

Because the statute of limitations has expired, I can now say that while some of youthful euphoria came from cycling itself, let's just say that feeling was, ahem, enhanced.  Now, being in middle age, I can tell young people "Do as I say, not as I did."  I really and truly do not recommend riding under the influence of mind-altering substances--even if they come in pint bottles or cans, and even if Dr. Albert Hofmann did it and lived to be 102.

While I laud the intention of the report--if indeed its intention is to call attention to intoxicated cycling and, by implication, warn against it-- I worry that folks who are already anti-cyclist will further demonize us.

You know how that works:  When any member of a minority group (and that's what we are in the US) commits a crime or does anything the rest of society doesn't approve--or is simply accused of such a thing--every member of that person's group is painted with the same broad brush.  

Also, as the report states, many of those cyclists were high or impaired by drugs, including opiods (and, in some states, cannabis) their doctors prescribed.  So were at least some drivers who struck and killed cyclists, including one I reported earlier this month.  But that incident, or others like it, don't cause drivers to be tarred in the way a single incident becomes emblematic of scofflaw cyclists.

So, in brief, while I laud any attempt to bring awareness to the problem of impaired cycling, I hope it isn't used to further marginalize us. 

26 September 2022

Where Cycling Really Means "Power To The People"

A bit more than a week ago, I mentioned Nicolas Collignon's article, in which he wonders why bicycles aren't in planners' thoughts about sustainable transportation and other aspects of urban planning.

A bit more than a year ago, I described one of the rare examples in which transportation cycling has been made a part of sustainability planning:  a bike lane with solar panels in--where else?--the Netherlands.

Well, I have just learned of another bike lane with solar panels--in South Korea.  The Asian path, however, is not only much longer (about 32 km vs 330 meters), but also has a very different design from its European counterpart.

The Maartensdijk ribbon has solar cells embedded in its prefabricated concrete blocks.  The lane from Daejeon to Sejong--the country's administrative capital--sits in the middle of a major highway and is segregated, not only from that highway, but (at least in part) from the elements.  That lane is covered by a series of canopies of solar panels, which, its designers say, not only generates clean energy, but also encourages cycling in less-than-ideal weather conditions--and shields melanin-deficient folks like me from the rays that are being harnessed for power.

The Korean bike lane has been open and widely used since 2014.  Given all of the talk about sustainability, I wonder why so little attention has been paid to it.

I also wonder why there aren't more similarly integrative solutions to the problems of sustainability.  And, like Nicolas Collignon, I wonder (actually, I know some of the reasons why, but still...) why bicycles aren't included in the first place, especially here in the US.

25 September 2022

A Concrete Example

During the many years I've cycled and worked in bike shops, I've seen plenty of "innovations" that made me wonder, "Why?"

Sometimes, of course, the answer is, "because we can!"  I'm sure would've been the answer from the creators of a concrete bicycle.  

Yes, you read that right:  a bicycle made from the same stuff that lines sidewalks and encases the enemies of organized crime bosses tossed into bodies of water.

Of course, there is no earthly reason for such a bike:  It's too heavy and inefficient to move faster than a crawl.  That's probably a good thing because the bike is too brittle to survive much more of a shock than a crack in one of the sidewalks that could have been made from its material.

At least they gave me a good subject for my weekly "Sunday funnies" series.