Mid-Life Cycling

Mid-Life Cycling

05 December 2019

Delivered In A Cube, On A Bike?

Fresh greens delivered on a cargo bicycle.

It's not one of those "Only in Portland" or "Only in Williamsburg" fever-dreams.  Yesterday, it became a reality--well, sort of, and for a few people and businesses--in Midtown and Downtown Manhattan.

 UPS, Amazon and DHL entered a Commercial Cargo Bike Pilot Program, in which deliveries are made on bikes with large containers attached to their rears.  DHL is already using such "Cubicycles" in Europe. New York City's Department of Transportation is collecting data on the ones launched yesterday and the DOT's commissioner, Polly Trachtenberg said the project is intended to make deliveries "safer and greener" by using those bikes instead of trucks.

H/O: Cargo bikes 1
A UPS cargo bike in Seattle.

The "greener" part seems obvious.  As for safety, Trachtenberg noted that a disproportionate number of the city's  cycling fatalities--11 of 27 to date this year--involved trucks.

Traffic congestion and its effects have long been problems in New York City.  In recent years, however, they have grown worse.  The level of fine particle pollution in the Big Apple's air actually declined, slowly but steadily, for a decade until 2015.  Since then, the levels of those pollutants, and others, have increased.  Most of that deterioration in the city's air quality has been blamed on two factors:  for-hire car services like Uber and Lyft, and the increasing popularity of package deliveries from Amazon and other retailers. 

H/O: DHL Cargo bikes
DHL "Cube bike" in Berlin

It would be great if hundreds, or even thousands, of trucks could be replaced by cargo bikes.  Could some of those containers could be fitted to accommodate passengers?

28 November 2019

Happy Thanksgiving!

Happy Thanksgiving!

This lovely image was created by Dai Trinh Huu

I am thankful for all of the places, people, feelings and things cycling has brought me.  I am thankful I am riding at this time in my life.

This is my first holiday without my mother in my life.  I miss her, but I am grateful to have had in my life for as long as I did.  And for the people with whom I will spend today.

27 November 2019

They Need It Like A Hole In The....

A few years ago, it seemed that "drillium" might make a comeback.  A few companies, including Velo Orange, were offering drilled-out versions of  chainrings and other components. Some still are. VO's drilled-out chainrings are actually pretty:  They seemed  seemed to be covered with pindots.  I'd actually put them on one or two of my bikes.

Back in the heyday of drillium, it seemed that anything and everything that could take a drill--and a few things that couldn't--got the treatment.  In addition to chainrings, shift levers and brake lever handles commonly got drilled.  When I first began to work in a bike shop, one of the jokes about Lambert/Viscount bikes was that they came with drilled-out tires and water bottles.

Seriously, though, some cyclists were manic with drills.  I saw toe clips and other kinds of clips--for brake cables and water bottle cages--perforated, ostensibly in the name of saving weight.  Sometimes, components that really didn't need to be any lighter were riddled with pockmarks, like the Huret Jubilee, still the lightest (and to my eye, prettiest) rear derailleur ever made.  Or this derailleur I saw on eBay:

The first-generation SunTour Cyclone might be the second-lightest rear derailleur ever made.  It's certainly lighter than any made today.  Oh, and I think the silver version with the black inset is the second-prettiest derailleur ever made:  all the more reason it shouldn't be defaced with a drill!

21 November 2019

Any Bike You Want, As Long As It's...

About thirty years ago, I was a writer-in-residence at a number of New York City schools, and St. Mary's Hospital for Children, through the Teachers and Writers program.  Most of the time, I cycled to the schools or hospital.  Most of the time, I had to lock my bike on city streets.  That meant, for me, riding my "beater," whatever it happened to be at the time.

The bikes I used for the purpose weren't bad:  Bike-Boom era 10-speeds that I turned into 5- or single-speeds. (A couple were stolen; one crashed.)  But they weren't as nimble and fun to ride as my racing, or even touring, bike.  Sometimes, after my workshops with the kids and teachers, I'd go out for a spin on my "beater" because there wasn't enough remaining daylight for, or it was simply easier than, riding  to my apartment and switching bikes.

If I found myself in a really good rhythm, or pedaling into a headwind, I'd wish that my "beater" could transform into my racing, or even my touring, bike.  

Have you ever wished, in the middle of a ride, that the bike you're riding could become another bike?  Perhaps you were yearning for a bike you didn't have. Or, you own multiple bikes, took one out and, because the day's ride was not what you'd anticipated, wished that you'd mounted one of your other steeds.  

(I think now of a time I pedaled my mountain bike into a stiff headwind I didn't anticipate on a course that was flatter and clearer of debris, mud and slush than I expected it to be after a snowstorm.)

Well, you now you can have a "chameleon" bike

as long as you are happy on a lowrider or extra-tall bike!

The strange-change machine, an entry in the Make It Move contest on Instructables, started as a full-suspension mountain bike.  The rear spring was removed to make room for the gas cylinder that pivots the rear triangle.  Also, the front fork was replaced with a (much) longer one.  

Gotta love that paint job! 

13 November 2019

Retail Therapy

In the days after 11 September 2001, the US stock market incurred some of its biggest losses up to that point in its history.  Other markets around the world took similar "hits"; some feared that a recession that had begun earlier in the year would turn into a depression.

While there would be further losses, and the economy would show other signs of weakness, by end of 2001, the markets and other sectors of the economy had regained most of their losses.  And, even though tourism (particularly the airlines) experienced a major slump, the economy as a whole didn't fare as badly as some expected.  This, according to economists, was due at least in part to consumer spending.

In other words, people (at least those who could afford to do so) used "retail therapy" to deal with the stress and anxiety caused by events of that time.  They were encouraged by the President himself and enabled by low interest rates on loans and credit cards.

Now, I don't mean to equate the death of my mother with the shock of 9/11, though it's the saddest event of my life.  But I suppose that buying something you like can ease, if momentarily, some emotional pain.  And, aside from what it does to one's budget, I guess it's better than, say, taking drugs or drinking, though not quite as good for a person as bike riding--which, by the way, I've been doing.

Speaking of bike riding--with the emphasis on "bike"--I engaged in a bit of retail therapy.  Yes, I bought another bike.  I couldn't resist.  Well, all right, I could have.  But when the guy who sold it dropped the price, he lowered my resistance.

Truthfully, that bike would have been hard to resist anyway.  For one thing, it's a Mercian.  For another, it's the right size.  And the Campagnolo triple crankset and Rally derailleur definitely are rarities.

Oh, and that paint job!

One of the reasons why I got such a good deal, I believe, is that the bike has sew-up tires.  I haven't ridden such tires in about twenty years, and have no intention of riding them again.  The other things I'll change are the stem (because it's too long) and the saddle.  But, really, I simply couldn't pass up an almost-full Campagnolo bike on a Reynolds 531 frame with that paint job.  That paint job!

And it's a Mercian--a 1984 King of Mercia, to be exact.  The wheelbase and clearances--not to mention the rack braze-ons and the bottle cage mount on the underside of the down tube--give this bike a more-than-passing resemblance to touring bikes from Trek as well as a number of Japanese manufacturers during the early-to-mid '80's.  Tubular tires don't make much sense on it; I think that the original wheels were lost.  

Even after I replace the tires, rims, saddle and stem, this bike will still be a great buy.  Especially with that paint job!

12 November 2019

Home, Into The Sunset--For Now

Daylight Savings Time ended last Sunday.  That meant setting clocks back an hour.  A result is that, for at least a couple of weeks, I'll pedal through the sunrise during my commute to work, and cycle through the sunset on my way home.

07 November 2019

He Survived Combat. Then His Bike Blew Up.

Once upon a time, before X-boxes and I-phones roamed the Earth, kids actually wanted--and sometimes got--bikes for Christmas.  So, after my first bike shop laid me off early in the Fall, the owner asked whether I could come back for a few weeks in December and early January.  

I was surprised that he would want me, even for a few days, in the New Year.  I would learn that some of the bikes we sold for Christmas would be brought in for adjustments, as promised by the shop.  But other kids brought in bikes their parents hadn't bought from us.  Some of those machines were really twisted.  Even more serpentine were the stories they told us.  My favorite came from the parent of a kid whose wheels had folded into the shape of a certain Bachman's snack.  

According to that kid's supposed role model, the wheel assumed its form when the kid "turned the corner" and "the rim bent."

Now, I admit that my knowledge of physics was, at best, rudimentary.  So perhaps you, dear reader, can forgive me for not understanding how something made from two layers of steel could just fold over when a 65-pound kid turned it at a 45 degree angle.

Oh, and that kid's parent wanted us to replace the wheel--for free--on that bike, which wasn't purchased in our shop or, as best as I could tell, any bike shop.

Perhaps you can thus understand my skepticism when anyone claims that a bike fell apart as he or she rode it.  I know, well, that some bikes aren't very well-made, but very few are so shoddy that they will disintegrate under you as you ride.  I mean, I've heard of Lambert's "death forks" snapping when their riders hit bumps, and of various parts failing in one way or another under normal use.  But I don't recall any bike snapping at its frame joints during the course of a routine ride.

That is, until I came across the story of Ronnie Woodall.  

The Austin, Texas resident was riding along 4th street when the welds broke on his $1600 All City bicycle and sent him flying face-first into a construction fence.

The head and down tubes separated from the steer tube.  The result that Mr. Woodall's nose all but separated from his face.  It was "barely hanging on by this left side of my nostril, across the top," he recalls. The impact, which pushed his head back and twisted his neck,  "blew out out all of the vertebrae in my neck," he explains.

His doctor estimates that it will take $2 million to care of him medically in the future.  All City is a brand from Quality Bicycle Products.  According to a company statement,  QBP has  inspected the bicycle and claims to "have not found evidence" that "the bicycle spontaneously came apart," which is "something that, in our experience, bicycles simply do not do."

Whether or not the bike fell apart at faulty welds, or whether there was some other mitigating circumstance, there is another part of this story that is ironic, almost to the point of being incredible: Ronnie Woodall, a retired 30-year Army veteran, suffered his worst injuries, not on a nameless hill in some distant, forlorn country, but on a bike that cost more than most people in some of those distant, forlorn countries make in a year.  And it happened in the middle of the 11th-largest city in the United States.

05 November 2019

The Last Race?

Sometimes, it seems, people in other countries know the US political system and races even better than Americans known them. So it was not a surprise when, during a recent phone conversation, a friend in France asked for my opinions about the candidates for the Democratic party presidential nomination.

For now, I said, I am leaning toward Elizabeth Warren, though I also like Pete Buttigieg.  We are a year away from the election, so more than a few things could change my mind.  

Here's one:  If some candidate pledged to fund bicycling in any shape or form in the US, that might be enough to get my vote.

Of course, if it's so difficult for candidates to commit to establishing a healthcare system that doesn't leave people in poverty, or worse, when they have major medical problems, I don't think those same candidates are going to prioritize two-wheeled transportation, let alone a bike race.

That is, in essence, one reason why the Amgen Tour of California has been put "on hiatus," and why The Philly Cycling Classic, U.S. Pro Challenge, Tour de 'Toona and other major American races disappeared in recent years.  No less than Jonathan Vaughters, the current EF Education First team manager--and one-time US sprint champion--says as much.  "Municipalities or government entities are not going to sponsor cycling.  Our political system doesn't allow for that."  A result, he says, that we are not going to have " big-money, massive state-backed races like this new race in Saudi Arabia or the UAE Tour."  The money, he says, has to come from private sources.

The Amgen Tour of California was the last remaining UCI World Tour race in the US. During its 14-year history, it brought some of the world's most talented riders to these shores.  In last year's Tour, Travis McCabe nearly out-sprinted Peter Sagan, regarded as one of the world's best in that discipline.  The loss of such a race in America could be a particular blow to the cycling scene in the US because it is "aspirational," according to Adam Myerson, president of Cycle-Smart coaching services.  "We need people to watch" races like the AMTOC, he explained, "and want to be racers because of it."  Of course, they can watch footage (although it is sometimes grainy) of events taking place in Europe and elsewhere, but nothing motivates young people like seeing a hometown hero on home turf.

Kristin Klein, president of ATOC and vice president of AEG Sports (the events company behind ATOC), says that AEG is "trying to determine if there is a business model that will allow us to successfully re-launch the race in 2021." Some observers believe that while the loss of the Tour is a blow to European-style racing in the US, it might force ride organizers to reassess the organizational structure of cycling events to determine what works, and what doesn't.

While European-style racing has struggled in the US, other events, like Gran Fondos and gravel racing, have grown in popularity.  Myerson and others envision a structure similar to that of the New York Marathon:  An elite contingent of 100 or so riders would challenge for prizes and championships, followed by thousands of other participants who have helped to finance it with their entrance fees.

In other words, the US cycling scene could be remade into something different, but no less interesting, than its counterparts overseas.  Or one of the candidates could pledge some money for cycling events...

31 October 2019

In Costume

I haven't posted in a while.  Halloween might seem like an odd day to return after an absence, especially when that hiatus is a result of my mother's passing.  If she is anywhere, she knows I mean no disrespect:  If anything, she probably would be happy that I'm blogging again.  And that I've been doing some other writing--and cycling.

It seems, however, appropriate, to write a post about this:

It seems that everyone and everything in that photo is in costume.  Grant Petersen sometimes refers to lycra racing kit as a "costume."  And millennials with "ironic" beards and shaved heads are, by definition, in costume.

I couldn't help but to think, though, that the bike is in costume, too.  I mean, aside from the fact that it has two wheels, pedals and handlebars--and no motor--it doesn't bear much resemblance to other bicycles I've seen.  Perhaps it's really a tuning fork in the guise of a velocipede.

British Cycling collaborated with Lotus and Hope Engineering--British makers of sports cars and high-end bicycle componentry, respectively--to build the bike.  BC's track racing team plans to ride it in the 2020 Olympics--unless it is banned. 

Don't get me wrong:  I am not against developing such bikes.  Racers want every advantage they can get, and the hopes of a nation ride (pun intended) on its national team.  I just hope that new bikes made for everyday riders aren't made to look like that--or, more important, require the proprietary technology that is of little or no use to anyone who isn't trying to set a record or win a medal.

At the same time, if the bike is banned by the Union Cycliste Internationale (UCI) or just about any other governing body--as Matthew Beedham expects it to be--I think it would be a hypocritical and simply dishonest move.  When the UCI or whoever decides not to allow bikes that are too technically advanced, or simply lightweight, for their tastes--or when they decide to regulate just about anything else, their rationale is always something along the lines of "We want the man, not the machine, to win."

I could respect such a stance if the UCI, the USA Cycling or any other governing body were serious, or at least consistent,  in enforcing policies about performance-enhancing drugs.  But, if Lance Armstrong used drugs (and intimidated his teammates into silence about it), I find it hard to believe that the UCI, USA Cycling or any other governing body didn't know.  Given that the Tour de France's--and competitive cycling in general's--reputation was in tatters after doping scandals involving the Festina team as well as other riders, the UCI and other organizations had every incentive to look the other way when Lance--especially with his "feel good" story--won.

Perhaps the folks at UCI, USA Cycling and similar organizations are wearing costumes:  those of "concerned guardians" of their sport.

By the way:  The bearded guy in the first photo is holding an image of a bike the UCI banned twice.  First, the Lotus 108 was barred under a 1987 ban on carbon-fiber monocoque frames.  Then the prohibition was overturned, but after a number of riders raced successfully on the 108, the UCI  used its "Lugano Charter" to outlaw Lotus' racing machine once again.

02 October 2019

Starting The New Year And Saving The World

I'm not Jewish.  Well, all right, according to my DNA test, I am 8 percent.  Somehow I had always suspected I had Semitic blood because I have always, in some weird way, identified with Jewish people, if not their religion. (I don't identify with any religion, though I was raised Catholic.)  But yesterday I was, in a way, Jewish. Or I could have been.

Rosh Hashannah, a.k.a. "Jewish New Year," began Sunday evening and ended last night. As a result, I had two days off from school for a religion I don't observe. (Hmm...How do Muslims feel on Christmas or Easter?)  On Monday, I did a couple of things and didn't do a few more things I could've/should've done.  Yesterday, though, I decided to channel 8 percent of my heritage and observe a new year.

No, I didn't go to schul any more than I went to school.  Instead, I decided that one way to honor my mother--and preserve whatever exists of my sanity--was to make a new beginning with a new year.

Now, since you're reading a bike blog,  you probably have guessed that my new year began with a bike ride.   It's one I've taken a number of times this year:  over the RFK Memorial Bridge to Randall's Island, and from there through the Bronx and Westchester County to Greenwich, Connecticut.  Not surprisingly, I saw a number of people--mainly in groups I assumed to be families--on their way to or from schul, or perhaps to someone's house.  

The weather was more like early summer than early fall:  the temperature rose to about 27C (82F) along with the humidity.  Still, the ride was quite pleasant:  The sun shone enough to cheer me up but was veiled by enough clouds to not drain me.  

After riding home, I made myself a meatless concoction of vegetables:  fresh spinach, scallions, sweet peppers, corn and mushrooms, sauteed in olive oil and garlic and garnished with some cheddar cheese and red pepper flakes. It was tasty, if I do say so myself. I chased it with a small Macoun apple, Anjou pear, some blueberries and a chocolate-glazed French crueller.

Then I checked my e-mail and came across this:

With all of the things going on in the world, it was nice to begin the new year with some good news.  The cyclists are in Spain, but in rescuing that deer, they did a service to the world, as far as I am concerned.  Whoever saves a life saves the world.  Even if you haven't read the Talmud, you probably have heard that line, perhaps in Schindler's List.

19 September 2019

Their Side Of The Tracks

Most days, my commute takes me along an industrial stretch of East 141st Street that dead-ends at Park Avenue.

It is not, however, the Park Avenue that comes to most people's minds:  the one lined by canopied buildings to which well-dressed residents are escorted from taxis or limousines by white-gloved concierges.  Rather, it is the Park Avenue bound by the Metro North commuter railroad tracks after it crosses the Harlem River from Manhattan into the Bronx.

As I pedaled down 141st Street, I saw, those bicycles parked by the railroad tracks.

That, in itself, was unusual, as the few bikes one sees in the area are locked to light poles or sign posts.  But, in a move so cinematic it couldn't have been scripted, I turned to my right and saw this:

Those young men are living in that tent, by the tracks, and use the bikes to get around--just three blocks from the college.  At the end of a street where construction materials and chicken tenders are made.  Next to the tracks where trains, at that very moment, were ferrying commuters from Greenwich and Rye and Mount Kisco to Grand Central Station, where they would board subways and hail taxis to the places where they work and get paid.

Most likely, none of the passengers saw the bikes, the tent--or the men who ride those bikes in search of food and bottles, cans and other castoffs to sell.

10 September 2019

A Morning After

First of all, I want to thank all of you who sent your condolences and other thoughts over my mother's passing.

While pedaling to school this morning, I couldn't help but to think of her.  She was an early riser and often ambled by the canal behind her house.

The Bronx Kill, which ebbs and swells under the Randall's Island Connector, is not nearly as bucolic as the waterway in her backyard.  I guess it was the calm, and the softness of the early morning light, that made me think of her, again.

Or perhaps it was another early riser: 

02 September 2019

R.I.P. Mom

For the past couple of days, I've been in denial.  Yesterday, I took a ride to Connecticut on a beautiful late-summer Sunday.  Today it has rained.   I spent time with Mildred and did some work that engaged my hands and, occasionally, my mind. (It's somehow appropriate to Labor Day, isn't it?)  Among other things, I built a wheel and did some maintenance on Arielle, my Mercian Audax, and the Fuji.

There are other things I could do.  But I can't use them to escape because, at the moment, escape doesn't seem possible.

On Saturday night, just before midnight--and the change from August to September--my mother passed away.  

She had health problems, mainly stemming from her diabetes, for a number of years.  Last Tuesday night, however, she woke, her skin clammy and her breathing labored.  My father brought her to the hospital and after diagnosing her, installed a pacemaker with a battery would be "good for ten years."

I talked to her on Thursday night.  She complained about one thing and another in the hospital.  Based on my admittedly--and thankfully-- limited experience with such facilities, I can't say I blamed her. (Hospitals really do have the worst beds!)  But she seemed in rather good spirits, given what she was experiencing.  

On Friday, I called her cell phone.  She didn't answer, I thought that she might've gone home.  So I tried the landline.  Still no answer.  I tried each number again, later in the day and that night.  No response.

Finally, on Saturday morning, I heard from my brother in California.  Mom was heaving deep, guttural snores that seemed to come from deep within her body and, when my father tried to wake her, she didn't respond.  

She was hooked to some machines.  The doctor and my father watched intently.  After what must have seemed like an eternity, the doctor said there was nothing more that could be done.

My mother had a DNR on file. (So do I.)  Still, my father said, giving consent to remove life support was the hardest decision he ever had to make.  I tried to reassure him that he was following Mom's wishes.  Most important, he probably spared her a lot of suffering:  Within minutes, she had no brain activity.

Dear readers, I am sorry if I am burdening you with onerous details.  What I had been trying to avoid is happening:  I am replaying the conversation and exchanges of texts about something I was absolutely powerless to change.  My father, my brother, Millie and others I've talked to have reassured me that the fact I wasn't in that hospital was not a reason why she passed just before midnight on Saturday.  Even with her medical issues, none of us could have known how close she was to the end of her life.  Perhaps she knew; if she did, she didn't let on.

Anyway, I am writing this because I have posted every day for the past five years and most days for about four years before that.  I might not post for a while, but I am not abandoning this blog.  If nothing else, though she saw only a few posts (She never learned how to use a computer; she saw things online only when my father showed them to her), I think she'd want me to continue:  She knew how important cycling and writing are to me.  They've helped me, as she did, through some difficult times in my life.  I don't think that will change.

Nothing To Lose But Our Chains

Today is Labor Day in the US.  Some leftist historians and economists invoke the spectre of Karl Marx, although he had nothing to do with creating the holiday.  He died a decade before it was first observed, and several years before the first International Workers' Day, a.k.a. May Day.

Still, his name is invoked by some, mainly on the left, who see the erosion of workers' and unions' power in the globalized economy.  And, one of his most famous rallying cries is used to promote all sorts of events that have little, if anything, to do with honoring the contributions of working people:

From the Reno Bike Project

01 September 2019

Preparing For The Season

Whether you think Labor Day or the Autumnal Equinox signals the season's end, it's still Summer, at least for today.

But, since Fall is rapidly approaching, I find myself thinking about cycling through falling temperatures, not to mention rain and possibly snow.  When people ask how I keep warm, I say, "Dress in layers and keep pedaling."

Perhaps there are other ways:

31 August 2019

Wisdom Through Wheelies

As an educator, I've always been in search of ways to keep my students' attention--especially when it's late in the semester or the weather outside is nice.

If I were younger, I might try Chris Poulous' methods:

In 1991, when he was 20 years old, he won the Bicycle Stunt World Championships in Denmark. He also was victorious in a number of other competitions until injuries sidelined his competitive career.

Now he's a motivational speaker, with a particular emphasis in encouraging the young to lead positive lives.  Kids, as you might expect, are a natural audience for him, though I must say I enjoy his presentation, too.

Recently, he visited a summer recreation program in Northborough, Massachusetts.  He said his show was a "special treat" for kids 3 to 5 years of age because they don't get to go on field trips, as the older kids do.  From all accounts, however, everyone present--kids and adults--loved it.

I mean, what's not to like about someone who use backflips and bunny-hops to teach important life lessons?

30 August 2019

"They're Trying To Take Our Guns. Why Not Their Bikes?"

"Bicycle Accidents Kill More Children Than Guns, But You Don't See Calls To Ban Bikes."

That is the title of an editorial Dean Weingarten wrote for AmmolandAccording to statistics he cites from the Center for Disease Control's Database, there were 2467 "unintentional pedal cyclist deaths"--for a rate of 0.18 per 100,000-- of children aged 0 to 17 from 1999 to 2017.  During the same period, according to the CDC statistics Weingarten uses, there were 1994 "unintentional firearm deaths" of children in that same age group, for a rate of 0.14 per 1000,000. 

To be fair, Weingarten reports that both figures are dwarfed by the numbers of children who died unintentionally as occupants of motor vehicles, in "unknown situations, motor vehicles," or from suffocation, drowning or a half-dozen other causes.  Still, he uses the disparity between the unintentional deaths by bicycle and by firearm to try to make the case that guns are unfairly blamed for children's deaths.

He may be right about the burden of blame borne by firearms, in part because the numbers of children accidentally killed by firearms has been trending downward.  But he is using that fact, and the greater number of deaths by bicycle, to rail against proposals to require gun owners to keep their weapons locked and unloaded.  Such a requirement, he claims, keeps gun owners from using their weapons in self-defense.  

Whatever the validity of that argument, using bicycles as the "straw man," if you will, does nothing to support it.  For one thing, a child isn't going to hurt him or herself by finding a bicycle in the attic or garage, as he or she can by finding a loaded gun in daddy's desk.  

Pedestrian helping Bicycles accident victim iStock-931839776
This image was included with Dean Weingarten's editorial.  

More to the point, though, is this:  Even though guns outnumber people in the US, an American kid is more far more likely, at any given moment, to ride a bike than to chance upon a gun.  When that kid is on a bike, he or she will spend more time riding than he or she would in the presence of the firearm.  And, finally, it's harder to control where and in what conditions a kid rides than it is to keep a child away from a gun, or to ensure that the gun can't be fired accidentally.  

So Weingarten's argument that bicycles are more dangerous than guns to children doesn't hold up.  Even so, he tries to use it to bolster an even flimsier--and blatantly sexist--argument that lawmakers (Democrats, mainly) claim that they want tighter gun regulations "for the children" to pander to non-gun owners, "most of whom are women," according to Weingarten.  On the other hand, he says (probably correctly) that most gun owners are men.  

He ends his article with an even clumsier attempt to appeal to emotion:  "But the real elephant in the room is why are we not calling for bans on bikes?" (sic) Of course, that piles yet another fallacy onto an argument full of fallacies:  How in the world can he, or anyone, compare banning bicycles to keeping guns locked and unloaded? 

29 August 2019

First One In!

The new semester has just begun.

It looks like my bike is the first one in:

I have to set an example, if not a trend, you know.

If only more would follow!

28 August 2019

1934: Pedaling The Lake

I occasionally ride to, or through, Flushing Meadow Park.  If you've never been there (or haven't read my posts about it), you might recognize at least one of its landmarks:  the Unisphere, built for the 1964-65 World's Fair and featured in Men In Black as well as other movies and TV shows.  

What you also might not know is that, like Prospect and Central Parks, it surrounds an artificial lake.  During the summer, those lakes are popular for, among other things, boat rides.  

Flushing Meadow, however, offers a type of water craft not available in the other city playgrounds:  pedal boats.  While they bear more resemblance to oversized beach toys than to boats or bicycles, they are propelled in the same way as your bicycle:  Your feet spin the pedals.  

I haven't tried one, but I plan to, if for no other reason than to see whether the experience is more like cycling or boating--or neither.

Perhaps these young women could have offered some insight:

For ten cents, had the opportunity  pedal across the waters of Lake Lucerne, near Seattle, Washington.  Their pedal boat literally combined two bicycles with a boat (or, more precisely, a raft) made of milled timbers.  The women's leg power propels the contraption forward by means of a water wheel attached to the bicycle gears.

It's pretty clever, if you ask me. If only the resort's managers could have had such acumen:  In December 1934, four months after the photo was taken, the property (which included 98 acres of land in addition to 16 acres of lake) was seized and sold at a U.S. Marshal's auction to satisfy a $22,763 court judgment. 

As far as I know, there haven't been any pedal boats on the lake since then.

27 August 2019

Did He Ride Hands-Free?

I've done all sorts of things on a bicycle that, until I did them, I wouldn't have thought possible.

And I've done most of the things most people do but would never admit to doing.  Among them are at least one  most people will admit to having done during puberty or even in their teen years, but not as an adult.

I think you know where this is going.

The things I've done that most people won't admit to having done aren't all things I've done on a bicycle.  In fact, it never even occurred to me to try one of those things while astride two wheels.

Hint:  It's something that shocks people when they catch someone doing it precisely because they know they themselves have done it but would never own up to it.

It was a cause of consternation for me when, as a teenager, I was supposed to watch for shoplifters in the Alexander's department store where I was working.  

When I heard some suspicious rustling in the next aisle over--women's wear--I was ready to spring into action. The man in the aisle indeed had a pair of silky panties in his hand.  But he wasn't stuffing them into a bag or his pocket:  Filling the latter would have been difficult, as his pants were pulled down.  So were his underpants. 

As extensive as Alexander's employee training was, it didn't teach us how to deal with a man masturbating in the lingerie aisle.  Being the teenager I was, I was tempted to say something snarky (or that my young mind would have thought clever).  Instead, I called a security guard who dragged the guy away and called the cops.  

I'm guessing that the guy was charged with public lewdness, or some such thing--even though the "public", as far as I know, consisted only of that security guard and myself.

I hadn't thought about the incident in a long time.  A news story that came my way brought it back to mind, and with it, a question I never thought I'd ask:  What would I do if I saw someone masturbating on a bicycle?  Oh, and what if I were a cop and caught someone in the act?

I'm sure there must be something in police academy training that covers, if not such a specific incidence, then at least what to do if a person is pleasuring him or her self in public.  

That is the situation an off-duty police  officer in Macomb County, Michigan (near Detroit) faced recently. She was jogging on an asphalt trail in a county park when she "observed a very tall man in gray pants riding a mountain bike and fondling his genitals in full view of the public."  According to that same report, about half an hour later, another woman saw the same man "on his bike with his penis exposed."

William Benjamin Brown
Did he ride hands-free?

The man, William Benjamin Brown, was charged with two counts of "aggravated indecent exposure," which could bring him a two-year prison sentence.

Here's what I'd like to know:  Did he ride hands-free?  Or did he use one hand  to keep a straight line and the other to wiggle?

26 August 2019

A Bike Bay In The Steel City

Possibly the most difficult part of cycling in traffic is navigating intersections.

In jurisdictions that don't have some form of the "Idaho stop," cyclists are expected to follow the traffic signals as either vehicles or pedestrians.  One problem with that is that a cyclist proceeding straight through an intersection is in danger of getting hit by turning vehicles--especially right-turning trucks and buses, as their drivers often do not see cyclists who are far to the right of them. Another problem is that in very large intersections, it is all but impossible to turn left without running into danger from oncoming traffic.

Of course, the "Idaho stop" is meant to remedy the first problem:  Treating a red light as a "stop" sign or a "stop" sign as a "yield" sign (which is what the Idaho stop is, in essence) allows the cyclist to get out ahead of drivers who are making right turns.  As for the second problem, a new solution is being tried out in Pittsburgh.

In the city's Oakland neighborhood, boxes--"bays"--are being carved out in intersections.  Cyclists proceed to them and wait for their signal--which is activated by radar designed to detect their presence--before continuing through the intersection. 

Image result for Pittsburgh bike bay
I, for one, will be very interested to see how this idea works out.  In principle, it sounds good, though I must admit that I'm skeptical about a "bay" in the middle of an intersection that is separated from traffic only by lines of paint.