30 October 2020

Worse Than Getting "Doored"

I know I could've been hurt even worse than I was when I was "doored" last week.  That should make me grateful, or at least feel better, I suppose. 

So should the knowledge that she had no intention of hurting me:  Had she not opened the door of her 2015 Toyota into my side, we probably wouldn't have interacted in any way at all.  If she'd noticed me at all, I would have been just another cyclist.

I guess that knowledge should make me feel a little better, but it doesn't.  If anything, it's just as disturbing, to me, as the knowledge of what happened to Michelle Marie Weissman in Las Vegas on Sunday.

The 56-year-old was pedaling down south on the Hollywood Boulevard bike lane around 7:30 that morning.  As she passed a couple strolling on the adjacent sidewalk, she greeted them: "Good morning."

At that moment, a 22-year-old,  identified as Rodrigo Cruz, drove a 2015 Toyota Sienna van"50 to 60 miles an hour, according to his own admission. He was racing other drivers, he said.  

For reasons he hasn't explained, he swerved into the bike lane.  His passenger, identified only as "Gio", leaned from the windowsill in an attempt to strike the couple.

He missed. But a little further down, he shoved Weissman to the ground.  She wore a helmet, but it wasn't enough--probably, nothing would have been--to save her from the impact of being pushed to the pavement by a guy in a speeding van.  Witnesses tried to give her CPR, but that wasn't enough, either, to save her life.

Michelle Marie Weissman (l) and Rodrigo Cruz

In school, we all learn Newton's Third Law of Motion:  For every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.  One thing "Gio" probably thought about was that he wasn't exempt from that law:  The momentum of his hitting her pushed him backward, out of the Sienna's windowsill, and onto the pavement.  He met the same fate as Ms. Weissman.

Cruz fled the scene but, based on information from witnesses---including three women who'd been following the van in a gold Ford Focus before the incident--tracked him and the Sienna down.  He initially denied he'd been driving the van but finally admitted that he didn't go back to check on "Gio" because he was "scared."

He had good reason to be.  He's being held without bail, not only for murder and leaving the scene of an accident, but for a parole violation.

Of course, none of this does Michelle Marie Weissman any good.  But at least if he is charged with murder, it will be good to know that the authorities, somewhere, have taken serious action against someone who turned his vehicle into a deadly weapon against a cyclist.

29 October 2020

Harley Plugging Into E-Bikes

 Is an e-bike really a bicycle?  What about a motorized bicycle?  What's the difference between a motorbike and a bicycle with a motor?  And, at what point did a bicycle with a motor attached to it become a motorcycle?

That last question certainly would have been relevant, or at least interesting in the first years of the 20th Century.  That's when the first "motorcycles" were introduced.  More than a century later, they look more like fat-tired "cruiser" bicycles (like the ones Schwinn and Columbia made before the 70s Bike Boom) with motors attached than, say, something one might expect to find in a Harley-Davidson showroom.

Unless it's this Harley

Although it comes from H-D, it's not called a "Harley."  Rather, the company has called it--and the division that will offer it--Serial 1.  The machine in the photo is a prototype of what will be available in the Spring of 2021, according to the company.

It's interesting that Harley is going "full circle" in an attempt to renew itself.  I can remember when riding a Harley was a sign of marching (OK, riding) to one's own drummer: Think of Wyatt (played by Peter Fonda) and Billy (Dennis Hopper) in Easy RiderThese days, though, the guy perched on a Harley is more likely to be a dentist who's, oh, about my age than a young, footloose rebel.  Harley-Davidson sales have been all but nonexistent among millenials and not much better among Generation X.  

Could a Harley, rather than a DeLorean, be the vehicle that brings young people back to the future?

28 October 2020

No Saddle, But Plenty Of Seats

It's one thing to be forced off my bike.  It's another to be forced into this:

I know, I could have hailed a cab or Uber, or called a friend for a ride. But it seemed simpler to take the train, especially since it took me almost to the entrance of where I needed to be.

It had been at least eight months since I'd been on the subway.  I know that because I hadn't been on a train, or a bus, since at least a month before everything shut down and I started working from home.  Now that I think of it, I think my last subway trip, before yesterday, was in January, when I picked up a pair of wheels.  I've carried wheels on my bike before, but it's easier to take a train or bus.

I never imagined that while living in New York, I'd go for so long without using mass transit.  But we had a mild, dry winter before the pandemic struck, so I managed to ride to work every day.

It was almost surreal to be on the N train at the tail end of the morning rush hour and see empty seats everywhere.  And the MTA isn't even restricting the number of riders who can enter or blocking off seats:  There are just fewer people riding.

Still, I'd rather be on my bike.  I hope the more-optimistic prediction I got from the orthopedic doctor comes true!

27 October 2020

Recovery, X2

Yesterday I saw an orthopedic doctor.  My muscle strain, though painful, is not serious, he said:  "Take it easy, it'll heal itself."  He took some of the stitches out of my leg and substituted surgical tape.  

I don't know whether he's a cyclist, but he deals a lot with sports injuries.  So he understood when I complained that not cycling--when, it seems, everyone else in the world is turning their pedals and spinning their wheels through streets and paths dusted with red and gold and brown leaves fluttered down from wizening boughs--is driving me totally nuts.  "About two more weeks, if this keeps up," he said about my recovery.  That, to be fair, is a bit more optimistic than what the folks in the Long Island Jewish emergency room told me.  "That makes sense," he said.  "In ERs, they're zealous with their treatment and advice."

Of course, I don't mind now that the ER doctors and nurses were "zealous":  It may be the reason why I'm recovering well, so far.  But, oh, I want to get back on my bike.  And I don't want to gain back the weight I've lost during the last few months!

One irony in all of this is that the day after I got home from the hospital, I got a call from a doctor at the Westchester Medical Center Brain and Spine Center, where I ended up after my June accident.  The bleeding near my brain had cleared up, he said, and the latest images show no residual damage.  But, he admonished me to "be careful" because another impact to my head can magnify the trauma I suffered in the first accident.

"I will," I promised.  I didn't tell him why.

(Thank you to everyone who checked in on me!)

23 October 2020

Not Again! Is There A Conspiracy?

I don't believe in curses or conspiracy theories--most of the time.  All right:  When I read about "Vote for Trump or Else" e-mails some voters have received, I have to wonder whether the person/people who sent them saw the "endorsement" in my previous post.

After posting that "Demo-cats" video and doing a few other things, I went for a ride through southeastern Queens and Nassau county to the "Nautical Mile" of Freeport.  I was pedaling back along streets that zigzagged back and forth along the Nassau-Queens border when--bam!--I was knocked to the pavement of Lefferts Boulevard in Elmont.  

I'd just experienced one of cyclists' worst nightmares:  the driver of a parked car opened her door right into my side.  

I watch very carefully for such things, but there was no way to anticipate--or avoid--her action:  I was directly alongside the driver's side door when she opened up.

Instead of pedaling home to feed Marlee and myself, I was carted to Long Island Jewish Medical Center-Valley Stream.  Thirty stitches and three X-rays later, I was sent home.  

This year has been awful in all sorts of ways, from world and national events to personal crises, for almost everybody I know.  In half a century of cycling, I have had two accidents that resulted in my needing medical attention.  I suffered both of them this year, only four months apart.

The doctor said I could be off my bike for anywhere from four to ten weeks, as the gashes were deep and the tissue will take time to recover. (Some of the stitches I needed were internal.)  Although my lower back, knee and shoulder hurt (and still hurt), the X-rays revealed no fractures or spinal damage.   She said I should recover "just fine," but it will "take time."  But she expressed confidence:  "You're tough. And you look great for your age."  The attending nurses agreed.

If I have to wait two and a half months to ride again, that means the rest of this year is gone.  But, if I my recovery goes more quickly, I might be able to salvage some late-fall riding.  

Now, I know logically that the timing of my accident has nothing to do with my endorsement of Donald Trump's opponent.  Or does it?

20 October 2020

The Purr-fect Endorsement

 You know I would never, ever use this blog to endorse a political candidates.  Really!  I have, however, no compunction about showing cats, whether Marlee or another, whether or not they're related to cycling.

So please don't read anything into my posting this tweet:

I've already voted.  I  won't tell you who I voted for because I don't endorse candidates. Really, really, I don't! (Try not to notice my nose growing longer.)

All I'll tell you is that the major candidate I didn't vote for probably doesn't like cats--or any other animal he can't or won't eat.

19 October 2020

Bringing Up Baby (Carrier)

According to an urban legend, red cars get more speeding tickets than vehicles of other colors.  That's almost true:  Red cars came in second to, interestingly, white cars in a recent study.  Surprisingly (at least to me), gray and silver came in third and fourth, respectively.

I thought of that study when I came across a report of a Belgian study.  According to researchers, bicycles with baby carriers attached to their rears are given a wider berth by motorists, whether or not there's a baby in the carrier.  Cyclists with child-towing trailers are also given more room by drivers, according to this study.

Carlton Reid, the excellent transportation reporter for Forbes, makes an intriguing (and, I believe, valid) point:  Drivers, whether consciously or unconsciously, might give more room to cyclists they deem more "worthy."  Someone riding with a child or baby in tow is seen as doing something that contributes to the welfare and mental health of that child or baby, while the single cyclist--especially if he or she is young--incurs the resentment, and even wrath, of drivers who see us as "privileged."

Photo by Constance Bannister, New York State, 1946

Hmm...Maybe I should attach a carrier--or trailer--to one of my bikes.  Can you see someone weighing down his $12,000 S-Works rig with one?

18 October 2020

"Real" Men...

Sometimes I feel the Reagan administration had truly arrived when Real Men Don't Eat Quiche was published.

Of course, Bruce Feirstein wrote it tongue-in-cheek. (After all, a real man never would have written such a book, right?) It spawned all sorts of "real men don't" and "real men do" lists.

So what does--or doesn't--a "real" man ride?

Far be it from me to tell you what a "real" man needs, or doesn't, need.  While "real" men might not need motors, more than a few dudes I know absolutely revere pistons.

(Tell me "I'm in Love With My Car" isn't a masturbation song.)

Now, I will state with absolute certainty that the sentiment expressed on the T-shirt is right. Moreover (Would a "real" man ever use such a word?), I can tell you, with absolute certainty, that real men ride steel frames.   

As if I know about "real" men....    

17 October 2020

From Watts To Lumens...To Lux

Until recently, we chose light bulbs according to watts because the wattage of an incandescent bulbs correlated to its size.  The number of watts, however, was an expression of the amount of energy it used.

During the 1980s, halogen bulbs replaced incandescent bulbs in bike lights. Still, bike lights were rated by wattage.  That designation continued even after Light Emitting Diodes (LEDs) replaced incandescent and halogen bulbs about twenty years ago.

Since LEDs use so much less energy, watts aren't a useful way to measure a bike light.  Bike lights thus came to be rated in lumens, which a measure of their light output.  (One lumen equals one candle.)  However, Kryptonite, which has just introduced a new line of bike lights, argues that lumens don't tell the story:  While a lumen count tells us how much illumination a bike light emits, it doesn't measure the effectiveness of the beam.  We want a light that allows us to see or be seen, but doesn't blind someone driving in the opposite direction.

That is why Kryptonite is rating its lights by a new unit:  the lux, which measures the illumination of a surface at a specific distance. According to the company, this measurement takes into account the quality, rather than mere quantity, of light because it takes into account how the light is focused.

Note:  I have not seen Kryptonite's new lights, so please don't take this as an endorsement of them.  However, I use, and have used, their locks.  If their lights are as well-designed, I think they'll be very, very good.

16 October 2020

More Riders+ Not Enough Bikes=Theft

 For as long as there have been bicycles, there have been bike thieves.  That's my guess, anyway.

I also reckon that bicycle thefts increase along with the popularity of cycling.  As I've mentioned in other posts, I became a dedicated cyclist as a teenager, late in the North American Bike Boom of the 1970s.  Until that time, there didn't seem to be much bike theft and the loss of a bicycle was seen like losing a toy, mainly because almost all bikes at that time were ridden by kids.

During the "boom", for the first time in about half a century, significant numbers of American adults were riding bicycles.  While most pedaled for recreation or fitness, a few rode to work.  That, I believe, the reason why bike theft was taken more seriously.

That is, by everyone except the police.  If you were to report your stolen bike, you'd be told, explicitly or implicitly, that you wouldn't see it again.  They had bigger fish to fry; never mind that the person might have been using the bike to put food on his or her table.

History repeats itself, plus ca change, or whatever how you want to say it.  Bike sales have surged.  So have bike thefts.  Worse, methods that haven't been seen since the "bad old days" of high crime have made a comeback.  There  are reports of bikes lifted, along with the railings to which they were locked,  from the insides of buildings.  And, in the Bronx, eight men attacked a 15-year-old boy and took the bike he was riding.

Stealing the bike may not have been the ultimate goal in that attack, though the bike was a worthwhile "haul" for the perps.  Some of the other thefts may have been "fenced" for quick cash.  But, according to reports, some of bikes may have been stolen because of the current shortage, caused by a spike in demand combined with a disruption of supply chains.

15 October 2020

Lighting--And Measuring--The Way

Soubitez and Huret.

What do they have in common?  Well, for one thing, they're both French.  For another, they made parts and accessories found on constructeur bikes as well as basic ten-speeds from the 1970s Bike Boom.

Huret was best-known for its derailleurs, though it made other parts.  Soubitez, on the other hand, was renowned for its bicycle lights, most of which were dynamo-powered.

So, other than being French and found on many of the same bikes, Soubitez and Huret wouldn't seem to have much in common--or much reason to collaborate.  Or would they?

In addition to derailleurs, shifters and frame fittings (such as dropouts), Huret also made some cycling accessories.  Perhaps its most famous was its Multito cyclometer, which ran quieter and registered more accurately than other bicycle odometers because it used belt-driven pulleys rather than the wheel-and-striker system of more traditional devices like the Lucas. 

Before the Multito was introduced, in the late 1970s, Huret made speedometer/odometers that attached to the handlebars and emulated similar devices found on motorcycles and in cars.  Huret sold it under its own marque, but bike makers like Schwinn rebranded it, which is how it ended up on countless kids' "muscle" bikes of that time.

Schwinn and other companies also rebadged Soubitez lights and dynamos, including the extremely popular "bloc" dynamo-light combo that attached to the front fork. (I had one on my Continental.) 

Even with the seeming ubiquity of Soubitez lights and Huret speedometers and odometers, I don't think it ever occurred to me (or anyone I knew) to combine a light with a speedometer or odometer.  Apparently, though, it was done.  

I tried to find more information about the Soubitez 941 K N.  It may well have been exported to the US and I missed it, but I don't recall seeing it anywhere back when so many of us rode with Soubitez blocs and Huret speedometers (and derailleurs:  the one on my Continental was a re-branded Huret Allvit).  The 941 K N seems to have been supplied with a Huret speedometer cable and driver.  They may well have been the power source for the light.  Or, judging by the shape of the light, it may have housed dry-cell batteries.

If that driver and cable were indeed the light's power source, it's not hard to imagine that the Soubitez 941  K N may well have influenced modern bike computers. Otherwise, it's an interesting curiosity.

14 October 2020

Workers On A Late-Day Ride

Three weeks after the autumnal equinox, days grow noticeably shorter.  That, I feel, makes late-afternoon rides even sweeter:  Sunlight simmers into shades of sand, stone and rust just before the sun begins to set.

And, it seems, I notice things anew, or for the first time, along familiar routes.  Today, I pedaled a loop that skirted the edge of LaGuardia Airport and wiggled through an industrial waterfront area.  I had one ulterior motive: to climb the local version of Mount Ventoux.  It's nowhere near as high as that iconic French peak that has served as a "statement" climb for Tour de France winners and leaders, but the hill erupts, seemingly out of nowhere, from the cauldron of Berrian Boulevard and up 41st Street.  

After my second climb, I coasted back to Berrian, where a building I'd passed a number of times before caught my eye:

It's a waste water treatment plant, which is why it's surrounded by a chain-link fence.  The ship portal-style holes are telltale signs of an Art Deco-influenced Works Progress Administration building.  Other similarly-styled and -detailed buildings stand in other parts of this city.  This one, though, must have the least conspicuous location as well as purpose of such buildings.

WPA public works buildings like this one often feature some interesting bas-reliefs, often depicting scenes of workers, if in stylized or romanticized ways.  Ironically, works like these were made at about the same time  "social realism"--which also featured stylized and romanticized scenes of workers--was taking shape in the former Soviet Union.

The late day light and air would have been enough of a reward from my late-day ride.  But they highlighted something I noticed, for the first time, along a familiar route. 

13 October 2020

Moving Forward: Cultural Unity--Or Clash?

 In case you were wondering how I resolved the Columbus Day/Indigenous Peoples' Day dilemma:  I cooked both spaghettti and spaghetti squash.  Well, sort of:  I cooked pasta, but it wasn't spaghetti:  Instead, I made penne with a medley of vegetables in olive oil, swirled with some mozzarella cheese.  And I baked a spaghetti squash.  Ironically, it does look like translucent spaghetti when you scoop it out of its husk.  Even though it is native to the Americas, I doubt that the indigenous people called it "spaghetti squash," because they never saw spaghetti.  Ironically, I topped it off with tomato sauce and rationalized it with the knowledge that tomatoes are also native to the Americas. (Europeans didn't have tomatoes--or potatoes--before they exploited the Americas!)

Anyway, I enjoyed both, and ate leftovers from both, today.  I'm happy.  Now I need to get on my bike.  I'm not complaining!

On something entirely unrelated:  Accompanying the umpteenth "Will the pandemic bike boom last when the pandemic ends?" I've seen was this illustration:

I don't know why it was chosen, but I like it!

12 October 2020

What Day Is This?

Today is the holiday commonly celebrated as "Columbus Day."  Recently, it's also come to be known as "Indigenous Peoples' Day."

As someone of mostly Italian-American heritage, I am conflicted.  I mean, for years I like many others of my background, thought of this day as "our" day, when we celebrated our pride in our heritage. There are parades, parties and lots of eating and drinking.  

I enjoyed those things, even though I knew Columbus didn't "discover" America (people were already living here) and doubted that he was the first person to arrive here after crossing the Atlantic.  Plus, he didn't even get here on purpose.  

Our culture has turned out Michelangelo, Galileo, Leonardo da Vinci, Dante, Verdi, Sophia Loren and Tullio Campagnolo--and we celebrate a guy who got lost?  That never made any sense to me.

Now, calling this "Indigenous Peoples' Day," I can understand. Of course, I have no business being any part of a celebration, as I have no Native American blood in me.  I do, however, have respect and empathy for the way they've endured, so maybe that's something to celebrate.

Those of us who have Italian heritage just need to get another holiday!

So...What will I do today?  Well, after doing some work and taking a ride (if the downpours we're experiencing taper off), I'm going to make--spaghetti or spaghetti squash?  I guess I could make both! 

11 October 2020

Look At What Landed On My Bike

Two weeks ago, we may have witnessed the absolute low point of American political history.

After that debacle involving the president who wants to hold onto power even more than he wants to win the election and the fellow who's trying to replace him, the event involving Mike Pence and Kamala Harris seemed like an Oxford-style intellectual exchange by comparison.  Although they were more civilized, and Harris displayed more intelligence than the other candidates combined, I wouldn't call either event a debate.

I mean, what people might remember about it is the fly that landed on Mike Pence's head--and stayed for two minutes.

I couldn't help but to think about the insects that have landed on me while I was cycling--usually, when I stopped for a red light or some other reason.  Those bugs have included flies, beetles, mosquitoes and ladybugs.

Of course I don't mind the ladybugs.  I wonder, though, whether they land on me because I'm appealing or they have to go somewhere and figure I'm a free ride, for at least part of the trip.

None of those bugs will ever have have the celebrity of the fly that landed on Mike Pence's head.

10 October 2020

We're Riding. How Many Of Us Will Keep It Up?

Early in the history (all 10 years) of this blog, I wrote about the ways some people reacted to me, a woman on a bicyce.  It was particularly interesting to me because I started this blog a little less than a year after I had my gender reassignment surgery and was, at the time, was taking my first rides as a post-transition after nearly four decades of cycling as male.

The reactions ranged from encouragement to hostility and rage; a few folks--Hispanic men, mainly--admonished me to "be careful."

In the neighborhoods where I encountered such men--in the Bronx, eastern Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods like Corona (a less-than-ten-minute ride from my apartment), I was also the only female cyclist in sight.  On the other hand, in communities like Brooklyn's Park Slope, Manhattan's Upper West Side and my own neighborhood of Astoria, I encountered other women on bikes.  Some were riding to stores, classes, jobs or yoga classes; others were riding for its own sake.  But even in those neighborhoods, we were distinctly in the minority.

The pandemic is changing that picture, however slowly.  Even the Times is taking note, but what I've heard from Transportation Alternatives and WE Bike--two organizations of which I'm a member--corroborates my observation.

According to the Times, the new COVID-inspired "Bike Boom" has been fueled largely by female cyclists, not only in New York, but in other cities.  The author of the article, however, asks two of the questions that have been on my mind:  Will the "boom" continue once things return to "normal?"  And will women continue to ride.

As the article points out, a lot of people started cycling, not only because they didn't feel safe in taking subways and buses, but also because the lockdown-induced decrease in automobile traffic made people feel safer in riding a bike.  But now that some people are returning to their offices and other workplaces, their distrust of mass transit is also causing them to drive more---or even to buy cars for the first time.  

I have noticed the increase in traffic--and agression of drivers.  It's fair to wonder whether new cyclists, female or otherwise, will continue to ride if traffic continues to increase in volume and hostility--especially if this city (and other US communities) continue to build a disjointed system of poorly-conceived and -constructed bike lanes and other bike infrastructure.  

09 October 2020

Remembering Him As He Remembered His Bicycle

 As a kid I had a dream: I wanted my own bicycle.  When I got the bike, I must have been the happiest boy in (his hometown), maybe the world.  I lived for that bike.  Most kids left their bike in the backyard at night.  Not me.  I insisted on taking mine indoors and the first night I even kept it in my bed.

I omitted the name of this person's hometown because I didn't want to give away his identity just yet.  I'll give you a related clue:  The international airport of his hometown is named after him.

Oh, and he would have been 80 years old today.

He is, of course, John Lennon.  It's hard to believe he's been gone for almost as long as he was alive:  He was murdred on 8 December 1980, two months after turning 40.

That he was shot to death by someone who claimed to be inspired by Catcher In The Rye is a tragic irony on several levels.  For one, Lennon preached peace in his songs and his everyday life. For another, Catcher is as much about youthful alienation as anything else. (Not for nothing was Mark David Chapman  not the first, nor the last, killer to claim the novel as his muse, as it were.) While some of John's, and the Beatle's, songs expressed anger or sadness, they were never disengaged from the lives of the speakers, or the writers or performers, of those songs.

I mean, how alienated can someone be if, late in an  all-too-brief life in which he accomplished so much, he could count getting a bicycle as a child as one of his happiest and most important memories.

Happy birthday and R.I.P., John!

(The airport is officially known as Liverpool-John Lennon International Airport, International Air Transport Association Code LPL.)

08 October 2020

A Wrong Turn And A Good Man

I've cycled under, around and by the new Kosciuszko Bridge any number of times.  I've admired its light show, through all of the colors of the rainbow.  But I hadn't actually crossed the bridge's walkway/pedestrian path.

Until last night.  Actually, I pedaled about half of it.  I followed 43rd Street and made what I thought was the turn onto the path. 

Instead, I found myself on the shoulder of the roadway.  That might not have been so bad if the speed limit were less than the posted 45 MPH:  the same limit posted for the rest of the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway, a.k.a. Interstate 278.

No drivers pulled over to the shoulder.  But I could see that it ended with the first exit, where a steep off-ramp snakes its way down to Meeker Avenue in Brooklyn.  For once, I actually hoped a cop would stop me.  Even if I got a ticket, I figured, at least I'd be riding in a patrol car down to the street or the precinct.

That wasn't an appealing prospect.  So I stopped about halfway across the bridge and started to hoist my bike over the four foot-high concrete barrier that separates the shoulder from the path.  An Indian man was walking in the opposite direction, with his wife.  He grabbed the right fork and seat stay, boosted my bike and set it down on the path.  Then he reached for my hand, but I was able to climb over.

I thanked the man.  "No problem, ma'am.  Be safe."  His wife smiled.

07 October 2020

A Discount, Because "They're Owed"

 When Willie Mays played stickball with the boys in his neighborhood--Harlem--the media spun it as a story about his love of kids, and how they loved him.

While they certainly had affection for each other, the real reason "The Say Hey Kid" was hitting and catching what those kids hit and threw wasn't that the Polo Grounds, then the Giants' home field, was only a few blocks away.

Rather, he was on those upper Manhattan streets because, even with all his celebrity, he couldn't live anywhere else:  Realtors in other neighborhoods, or other towns, wouldn't rent or sell to him, not because they were Brooklyn Dodger fans, but  because he's black.

Although New York didn't have Jim Crow laws, there was nothing to stop them  from such practices--or to charge a black buyer more than they'd charge a white client.

While it's not possible to change the past, some people are trying, in the ways they know how, to make amends.  Grant Petersen, president and founder of Rivendell Bicycle Works, is one such person.

He's offering "reparations pricing" on some of the company's bikes and frames.  In a way, it's a revival of a practice Rivendell engaged in for two years until the COVID epidemic:  Black customers were offered discount for purchases in the company's Walnut Creek, CA store.  Starting on Monday, 12 October, that discount will be offered on select bikes, nationwide.

Petersen's response to those who object that some customers will "pretend to be black" is, in essence, "I don't care."  He's offering the discount to Black customers, he says, "not because it's a nice thing to do" but because "they're owed."

I'm not surprised that he's getting backlash about this:  Some folks believe that others "deserve" similar discounts for all sorts of reasons, such as being first responders.  I don't disagree with them, but Petersen says that he's trying to keep things "simple."  How simple it will be to identify Black customers, I don't know.  But I respect him for trying to achieve some measure of justice in some segment of the world.

06 October 2020

I Should Be Happy For This, But...

This is what I see, now, outside my window. 

It's an urban millennial's dream.  I'm supposed to be happy. 

I'm not the only one who isn't--and not only because I'm not a millennial.  Some of my neighbors hate it. I can't say I blame them, even if their reasons are very different from mine.

A few weeks ago, the Crescent Street bike lane "opened for business," if you will.  On paper, it sounds like something every cyclist in northwestern Queens (and, probably, other parts of this city) dreamed of:  a direct bike route from the Robert F. Kennedy to the Ed Koch (or Triborough to 59th Street, to old-time New Yorkers) Bridges.  

Now, if I were still riding to the college every day, or I were still working in Midtown or Downtown Manhattan, I might have welcomed the lane--had it taken a different route and been constructed differently.

One common complaint was that drivers on Crescent routinely exceeded the speed limit by a lot.  It's not hard to see why:  This stretch of Crescent is a long straightway not unlike some race tracks.  And, as I mentioned, it connects the two bridges--as well as the Grand Central Parkway (which goes to the airports) to the Brooklyn-Queens Expressway and, in effect, four of the city's five boroughs.  That is one reason it was so much used by taxi and car-service drivers, many of whose "home" offices and garages are near the RFK Bridge.

Even so, I didn't mind riding on Crescent:  Because the street sliced through the neighborhood like an exclamation point, and I knew the drivers' habits, traffic was predictable.  Plus, the drivers who regularly used Crescent knew that the neighborhood is residential and  we--cyclists and pedestrians--also used the street.

But now there's only one traffic lane, so drivers can't maneuver--and become very short-tempered and resentful, sometimes endangering cyclists out of spite. Worse, they can't see you behind the row of parked cars.  These are  real problems when taxis, livery cars and other "work" vehicles pull into the lane to discharge or pick up passengers, as they often do by the hospital.  If you're riding down from the RFK bridge, and you don't run into red lights, it's easy to build up speed. When an ambulance or truck pulls into the lane, you have no choice but to take a hard right into the traffic lane--or to end up in back of the ambulance!

One more thing:  When cars parked along the curb, where the lane is now, they served as a buffer between traffic (bicycle and motor) and pedestrians crossing the street. Even if a careless pedestrian wandered, mid-block, into traffic, he or she had to cross through the parked cars.  Now, those same pedestrians step directly into the bike lane as they're looking at their screens, oblivious to their surroundings.  

Some of my neighbors would love to see the lane removed.  I agree with them, almost.  They complain that it's less convenient, or even "impossible" to park.  To me, it's more dangerous--for me, for them and for pedestrians.  The Crescent Street lane, I believe, would be better on another street:  one that parallels Crescent (28th or 30th come to mind) from the RFK Bridge to Queensborough Plaza, where it's easy to access the Ed Koch Bridge.


05 October 2020

Garrett Lai, R.I.P.

His desk was a yard sale of books, magazines, bike parts, assorted sheets of paper, journals and probably at least one classified Pentagon report.  

No, that's not a description of my work space though, at times, it would have come close to being one.  Rather, it's how "Padraig" of The Cycling Independent recalled his friend and onetime colleague Garrett Lai.

If that name sounds familiar, you probably were reading Bicycling! and Bicycle Guide during the 1990s and early 2000s, when he was an editor at each of those publications.  Or, a few years earlier, you might've been perusing copies of Road and Track magazine.  You may also have been one of the world's more arcane subcultures (this, coming from someone--yours truly--who's spent time in the academic world):  the California community of vintage typewriter enthusiasts.

(Garrett Lai, left, with Yeti Cycles co-founder John Parker)

I was unaware of that last group of people until today.  But it makes perfect sense that Garrett Lai was part of it:  He was all about anything mechanical and anything that could be expressed in, or used to communicate, words.  A self-described "failed engineer" who could make the most technical details comprehensible, and even readable (much like the much-missed Jobst Brandt and Frank Berto), Lai had, in Padraig's words, "more sides than a round-cut diamond."

But he passed away, at age 54, last week.  The coroner is still determining his cause of death. 

03 October 2020

Will They Demand To See Our Papers?

 "Rob in VA," who's commented on some of my posts, notes increased aggression from drivers.

A couple of days ago, I posited that some of that aggression--and the increased hostility we, and peaceful protesters, are experiencing -- has at least something to do with the President's implicit wink and nod to haters.

If you think I'm being paranoid, check out what happened to someone who tried to ride through Portland's Delta Park:


Those folks had no authority to do what they did. Later that day, though, some people with authority--namely, Portland Police Bureau officers--shoved a cyclist off his bike and onto the ground for no apparent reason.

02 October 2020

The Gem, The Beaver--And The Evergreen--Stop

How would you like to get something your neighbor has...

...had since 1982?

Well, I have to admit: That question hasn't crossed my mind because, well, I didn't know my current neighbors in 1982.  And my neighbors in 1982...well, that was a different world, wasn't it?

Anyway...Last year, one state got something its neighbor had 37 years earlier.  And, yesterday, another neighbor got it. 

So, which "neighbors" am I talking about?  They aren't the folks in the house or building next door. Rather, they're three northwestern states in the United States.

What they all have now is named for one of those states.  I've mentioned it in earlier posts:  a cyclist's right to ride through a stop sign if the coast is clear.

In our world (i.e., cycling and transportation circles), it's often referred to as the "Idaho stop."  The Gem State legalized it the same year Michael Jackson's "Thriller" was released.  Since then, other jurisdictions, including a few towns in Colorado and Paris, France, have instituted versions of it. But it took Oregon, Idaho's southwestern neighbor, 37 years to do the same.

Yesterday, cyclists in Washington State, just to the north of the Beaver State, received the same right

Kudos to Washington Bikes for its work leading to the passage of the law, sponsored by Senator Andy Billig and Representative Joe Fitzgibbon.  The Evergreen State lawmakers, and the Seattle Department of Transportation (SDT), cited a study documenting decreased bicycle injuries and improved overall bicycle safety in jurisdictions that implemented versions of the "Idaho Stop."  One reason for the improvement in safety is that the "Idaho Stop" reduces the confusion--which sometimes leads to collisions--that results when cyclists stop at signs or motorists give cyclists the right of way when, for example, traffic is entering the intersection from another direction.  

Interestingly, the study cited by the SDT also mentions that cyclist safety improves because, in riding through "stop" signs, cyclists spend less time in intersections, where air pollution is greater. Also, cyclists are less likely to suffer overuse or other injuries from continuous stopping and starting.

Now there's a question to be researched: How much does strain and stress increase the risk of cycling accidents?


01 October 2020

She Was Afraid Of Breaking The Chandelier

When I was growing up, one of the most derogatory things anybody could have said to me was, "You throw like a girl." Or "you run like a girl."  

In my heart of hearts, I wanted to say, "Of course!  What did you expect?"  But, because I was being raised as a boy, I couldn't respond that way.

Any more than I could have smiled and thanked someone for telling me I rode a bike "like a girl."

Now, if the people around me knew anything about cycling, I could have retorted, "Like Nancy Burghart?" Or "Like Rebecca Twigg?"

Or Viola Brand

Forget about the latest Tour or Giro or Vuelta winner.  This young woman  from Stuttgart, Germany is my new cycling hero!  I mean, if you can pirouette on a bike, you are a real athlete--and artist.

She said that while doing her pirouettes, "I was afraid of breaking the chandelier."

I don't think it would be very difficult to replace.