31 July 2021

Bikes And Murals For The Community

Although murals have painted for about 30,000 years (if you count such works as the Lascaux cave paintings), they really weren't a major art form in the United States until the early 20th Century, when the Progressive Era engendered protest against big business and imperialist wars.  They really became a part of American life during the 1930s, when President Franklin D. Roosevelt, as part of his New Deal,  commissioned artists including Diego Rivera who, along with some fellow Mexicans, were sponsored by their president, Albero Obergon as part of a nationalist cultural program during the previous decade.  

It was as if Depression-era America and murals found each other:  the medium was ideal for expressing the hardships of the time as well as elevating workers and other everday people.  (How hard do I work if I'm writing sentences like that?)  In other words, murals are a "people's" art form, which is exactly what the nation and society needed as it was confronting the failures of an economy and culture in which a focus on individualism had run riot.

I admit that I am not an art historian, so what I've presented is a comic-book version, at best, of the history and importance of murals.  But I think it will help to make sense of what I'm about to say next:  Bicycle Recycleries and murals go together like, well, cycling and people.

If murals are the most democratic visual art form, then bicycle recycleries (like my local Recycle-a-Bicycle) are the people's bike spaces.  Not only is it possible to find reasonably-priced reconditioned and rebuilt bikes in them, but most offer bike repair classes and volunteer programs.  Some also offer internships as well as other community services and programs.

For years, Recycle Bicycle operated out of a warehouse on Atlas Street in Harrisburg which, in spite of being Pennsylvania's capital, is one of the state's poorest communities. (It tried to declare bankruptcy ten years ago but a judge blocked it from doing so.)  Its people suffer from the same lack of opportunities and health problems that afflict people in other poverty-stricken areas.  So the need for affordable transportation and recreation is as great as it is in other impoverished urban enclaves.

The mural on that building became part of the organization's identity. So, when the building was sold and Recycle Bicycle was forced to move two years ago, some feared the work of public art would be gone forever.

That is, until longtime volunteer and board member Jennifer Donnelly climbed a ladder into the loft of the warehouse.  There, among tools, she found something familiar:  the stencils used to create a whimsical scene of children and swirling purples and blues.  

Other volunteers pulled panels from the mural and Ralphie Seguinot, the self-taught artist who painted it, recreated it, with some modifications, on the new location.

From The Burg

Donnelly explained that Recycle Bicycle raised half of the funds for the project from community donations.  That is fitting because, she says, having the mural--which became closely identified with Recycle Bicycle--on the new building is important to the organization and its mission of creating a community space.  

That's what bicycle recycleries are, and what murals help to define:  community space.

30 July 2021

Hey, Sammy. Where Are You Going With That Cash In Your Hand?

 Is he the Bernie Madoff of cycling?

Samuel J. Mancini is accused of bilking 40 investors out of 11 million dollars. While that’s “chump change “ compared to what Bernie defrauded from his clients, I’m sure Mancini’s victims are no less impacted—and feel no less betrayed.

He’d raised the money, he told his investors, for Outdoor Capital Partners (of which he was the managing director) to acquire bicycle-maker DeRosa, bicycle helmet-maker Limar and De Marching, known for bicycle clothing and accessories.  He would re-launch those brands, he told his customers, as part of a direct-to-consumer business that would be a direct competitor to Canyon, at least in the US.

The deal for De Marchi fell through.  So, he set his sights on Gruppo SRL, the parent company of Cinelli and Columbus.

At least, that’s what he told his investors.  In the meantime, according to a civil complaint filed with the US Securities and Exchange Commission and a criminal case in the US Attorney’s office for New Jersey, Mancini and OCP embezzled $400,000 of investors’ money and made $800,000 of “Ponzi-like” payments to investors.

As a result, Mancini’s and OCP’s accounts were frozen and Mancini was arrested.  He was released on bail and is awaiting trial.  The charges of securities fraud, money laundering and wire fraud could bar him being an officer of any public company or selling securities, require him to pay back funds with penalties and interest, and land him in prison for up to 30 years.

Perhaps one reason why investors trusted him was that he told them he was investing millions of his own dollars.  That turned out to be as false as his claim of being an alumnus of the United States Military Academy at West Point.  

This guy sounds like a real charmer.  I hear Bernie was one.

29 July 2021

Safe Bike Parking In The “Other” Portland

An important part of encouraging people to commute—or simply to ride—is to make the experience safe.

That means, among other things, creating practical, well-maintained bicycle infrastructure. Bike lanes—again, with the emphasis on practical and well-maintained—are part of such a system.  So are laws and policies (like the “Idaho stop”) that actually make sense rather than merely mimic motor vehicle or pedestrian codes.  Education, for the general public as well as cyclists, is also vital.

But an often-overlooked part of cycling safety is security for the bicycle itself.  I’ve known a few people who gave up on cycling after parking their wheels—sometimes in the “bike rooms” of their co-op buildings—and never seeing them again.

The Bicycle Coalition of Maine understands as much. That is why they are teaming with the Sierra Nevada Brewing Company to make valet bicycle parking available at 11 Thompson’s Point concerts in the “other” Portland.

I hope that this is a sign the idea is spreading.  When the Metropolitan Museum re-opened last year, I was as happy to see valet bike parking there as I was to see an extremely interesting exhibit of early Japanese art!

28 July 2021

Roman Numerals=Postponement, Not Cancellation For RAGBRAI

Since the COVID-19 pandemic began, many organized rides have been cancelled or postponed. They include everything from local charity rides to European classics, rides with long histories and others that began in the past decade.

Now, "postpone" is a more elastic term than "cancel."  That is why it's ludicrous to call the current Tokyo Olympiad the "2020 Olympics" or its official name, "Tokyo 2020."   That allows the Olympic Movement (In the immortal words of Harry Shearer, "The Olympics are a movement.  And we need one, every day!") to say, with a straight face, that the Games were "postponed" or merely rescheduled.

Such terms can be used more plausibly when the event is denoted, not with the year in which it's held, but with a Roman Numeral.  The Super Bowl, which has never been postponed or cancelled, follows this practice.  So, it turns out, does one of the largest and oldest organized bike tours in the United States.

Register's Annual Great Bicycle Ride Across Iowa (Say that three times fast!), better known as RAGBRAI, began in 1973, when John Karras, a copy editor at the Des Moines Register (and avid cyclist) and Don Kaul, a columnist at the newspaper, decided to ride across the state and write accounts of it.  Don Benson, the newspaper's public relations director, coordinated the ride.  There wasn't much advance publicity, so it's remarkable that about 300 people turned out for the ride.  

From the RAGBRAI blog


Somewhere along the way, RAGBRAI followed the Super Bowl's practice of denoting its rides with Roman Numerals.  In a way, that makes sense, or at least for good publicity:  Instead of saying that the 2020 ride was cancelled, ride organizers could postpone the start RAGBRAI XLVIII until this past Sunday.

Perhaps some year I'll make my way to it.  In the meantime, I'm happy that something that could have just been a passing fancy of the 1970s North American Bike Boom has become enough of a tradition to be postponed, but not cancelled.

27 July 2021

Cyclist Caught In Crossfire

 Last week, I wrote about a bicycling mishap few of us have experienced:  A man fell off his bike and onto an alligator that bit him.

Today, I am going to mention another cyclist whose ride ended in a way most of us wouldn’t anticipate.  Unfortunately, her life ended with that ride.

Tikiya Allen was riding her along Pingree Street on Detroit’s west side last Wednesday.  A red Ford Taurus with “distinctive rims and unique paint” roamed the area.

Shots rang from the Taurus’ window.  A 20-year old man in another car was struck. So was Ms. Allen.

He is expected to survive.  She, tragically, didn’t.

Police in the Motor City believe that she was caught in the crossfire between one or more of the three or four occupants in the Taurus and the man in the other car—or someone else. They are searching for that Taurus and its driver and passengers.

Such a senseless loss of life is always terrible.  What makes this killing all the worse is that the 18-year-old Allen was a nursing student at nearby Oakland University—at a time when nurses and other health care professionals are leaving the field because of burnout and trauma induced by working through the COVID-19 epidemic.

Her death makes me wonder how many more people have met, or could meet, similar fates, given the increasing amounts of gun violence during the pandemic.

A GoFundMe account has been set up to help her family.

26 July 2021

Different Rides, Different Folks

 There are some things non-cyclists just don’t believe, or understand.

About the former:  my neighbor and new riding partner, Lillian, has a friend named Beverly who can’t ride. Her husband—whom I knew slightly before I met Beverly—is a gruff blue-collar Queens guy who reminds me a bit of Frank Barone of “Everybody Loves Raymond.” He’s seen me on a bicycle, and knows I ride, but simply does not believe it’s possible to pedal to Connecticut.  Mind you, he doesn’t believe that I, personally, can traverse distances: He simply doesn’t think it can be done.

Well, I rode to Connecticut on Saturday,—after trekking to Point Lookout on Friday and spending Thursday pedaling to Freeport and up to the North Shore.  Moreover, I did each ride on  different bike: 

 Dee-Lilah, my prize Mercian Vincitore Special to Connecticut

Negrosa, my vintage Mercian Olympic, to Freeport and the North Shore, and

a bike I’ll mention later to Point Lookout.

Oh, and I took a spin to Bayside on Tosca, my Mercian fixed gear, yesterday morning.

All of that brings me to the second point of this post.  I did four rides on four different bikes.  Most non-cyclists can’t understand having more than one bike.  

25 July 2021

24 July 2021

Where You Want To Leave It

One of the best ways to get people out of their cars is to make cycling and mass transportation more efficient and convenient--and to facilitate links between them.  

One way to accomplish that is to make to provide safe bicycle parking at transportation hubs.  That means more than simply installing a few racks.  Bikes should be treated with the same care and respect as other parked vehicles.  That involves sheltering bikes from the elements and damage from other bikes and vehicles.

A facility that provides safe bike parking should also be environmentally sustainable.

The Tengbom architectural firm seems to have accomplished all of those goals with its bicycle parking garage at the Uppsala Central Station in Sweden.  The eco-consciousness of the design is not limited to its energy sources:  The materials are also sustainable (and few in number) and the building's design allows for optimal use of light that enters it.

Best of all, it has a restrained, but elegant aesthetic that fits, not only with the immediate surroundings, but an overall Nordic mentality.

Send lead architecht Cecilia Oberg--and Tengbom--here, to New York and the USA!

23 July 2021

Man Falls Off Bike--And Is Bitten By Alligator

 If you fall while riding your bike, how and where you land--which may or may not be in your control--has much to do with whether, or how severely, you are injured.  (Wear your helmet!) 

Whatever you do, try not to land on an alligator!

That is what happened to a cyclist in Stuart, Florida, a town near Port St. Lucie.  The man, described by Scott Lorraine of the Airborne Mountain Bike Club as an "experienced" cyclist, lost a tire while rounding a curve in Halpatiokee Regional Park and slid into the water, where he landed atop an 8-foot female gator.

The spot where the man fell of his bike and was attacked.  Photo by Charlie Shannon

Charlie Shannon was walking his dog when he encountered the man.  "He was hanging on roots like five feet below," Shannon recalled.  He used his dog's leash as a makeshift tourniquet, which he and others used to lift the man out.  "It was hard to get him out," Shannon said.

The gator, not surprisingly, wasn't happy.  But, according to John Davidson, who trapped the animal, gators can be "extra aggressive" at this time of year.  That might explain the severity of the bites all over the man's leg.

John Davidson, with the gator he captured.

I have seen alligators while cycling in Florida.  I hope I never have an encounter closer than the ones I've had!

22 July 2021

He Didn’t Waffle On This Ride!

 Most races and other organized rides are named for the places in which they’re held, sponsors or a person or event commemorated by the ride.

Now, it seems, the name of one California race describes, if unintentionally, its terrain.

On Sunday, Peter Stetina won the men’s Belgian Waffle Ride, which includes single-track, sandy trails and roughly-paved roads near San Diego. That last feature—rough roads— makes me think the Paris-Roubaix race could be named for the beloved snack or breakfast food, depending on your point of view.

(What would a mousse ride look like?  A pizza ride?)

If Peter Stetina’s name looks familiar, you follow bike racing or are about my age.  His father, Dale, and his uncle, Wayne, were part of a generation of cyclists who, during the 1970s, helped to pull the United States out of what Sheldon Brown has called it’s “Dark Ages” of cycling.

It’s fun to imagine that family celebrating—with waffles, of course! 

21 July 2021

More From The Fires


This morning I rode under more of the haze that blanketed yesterday’s ride.  That’s one reason I limited my saddle time to the morning:  Even before I heard the weather advisory, I knew the air quality wasn’t good.  Also, the forecast included heavy thunderstorms for this afternoon.

That’s the sky I saw at the end of my ride, as I made the turn onto Crescent Street.  Just as I reached my door, I heard the first rumbles of thunder!

20 July 2021

Echoes Of Fire

 I have just ridden to Point Lookout, again.  Here, and in other coastal locales, one can ride under overcast skies, or into a misty horizon with no threat of rain.

But today’s haze is something else: smoke from the massive fires that have burned in much of western North America.  

The haze has been the backdrop of my ride, from my apartment 

to the Jamaica Bay Refuge

Rockaway Beach

and here, drawing a curtain just beyond Point Lookout.

19 July 2021

Cloud Chase To Connecticut

 Yesterday was, for me, a great day to ride:  A predawn thunderstorm dissipated the heat of the previous few days, and masses of clouds moved across the sky, revealing the sun just long enough to brighten up the ride without bearing down on my melanin-deprived skin.

So I took a ride to Greenwich, Connecticut.  Along the way I felt I was playing hide-and-seek with the sun and clouds.  The clouds caught up at the Greenwich Common, where they retreated behind the Veterans’ Monument—and trees like the ones on the Connecticut state quarter—in full bloom.

18 July 2021


For many of us, cycling is (among other things) therapeutic.  One reason is that riding helps us to put things into perspective.

From Redbubble

If you can get over the hill, you're not over the hill:  You're a Midlife Cyclist!

17 July 2021

From Work To Pleasure On The Island

 On Tuesday, I rode to Connecticut.  Otherwise, it's been a week of local rides, mainly because I've tried to get home before early afternoon, when the heat and humidity is usually worst.

Yesterday fit that pattern.  It also fit another: I rode with a neighbor with whom I hadn't ridden before.  The difference between Kevin, with whom I rode yesterday and Lillian, whom I mentioned in an earlier post, is that she is re-discovering cycling after 40 or so year, whereas Kevin is a lifelong cyclist who raced.

I didn't get a photo of him, and I'll say more about him (and Lillian) in later posts.  I did, however, take some images of a ride that combined the old and the new for me.

The old:  We pedaled along the East River waterfronts of Queens and Brooklyn to the Williamsburg Bridge, which we crossed onto Manhattan.  We continued to the "bottom" of the island, where ferries dock.


We took one of the boats I'd never before ridden:  the one to Governors Island.  Being in a place where you're never more than a few hundred meters from the water is, of course, perfect on a hot day.  If and when I go back, I'll pack a picnic lunch and circle the island a couple of times, as Kevin and I did.

I enjoyed riding with him, but I had the same sense of irony, tinged with a bit of guilt, I feel when I ride along Red Hook, Bush Terminal or other parts of the Brooklyn waterfront.  Riding there is, of course, all about pleasure, and if I exert myself, it's an attempt to augment whatever training I might be doing.  During my childhood, and before, some relatives of mine and kids I grew up with worked that waterfront--long, hard hours, most likely without much thought for the beauty of the water or waterfront--or the Manhattan skyline, so close but in another world.

Well, I had the privilege of other folks on the ferry:  We were entering Governor's Island as civilians.    My father didn't have that privilege:  Whenever he went to the island, it was part of his duty as a Coast Guard reservist.  He didn't enjoy it, in part because he was going there to perform repetitive tasks. But, more than anything, it was an inconvenience:  When the island was a military installation, access was limited, as it is on other bases.  What that meant was that only a couple of boats made the trip to and from the island every day, and if you missed the last one, you were stuck.  On the other hand, today the boats make the crossing every 40 minutes starting at 10 am.  

To be fair, my father might've appreciated some landmarks like the Castle or the officers' houses for the history behind them.  But neither he nor anyone else went there to cycle, walk, picnic, camp or do anything for fun or recreation back in the day.


I plan to return, as I ride along the Brooklyn waterfront for fun. But the irony of my presence there, or on Governors Island, is not lost on me.

16 July 2021

A New Use For A Dutch Bike Lane

 If you’ve ridden with a dynamo-powered light, you’ve converted your pedaling power into electricity.  Some cyclists have also turned their RPMs into amps that ran everything from toasters to tuners.

Now a Dutch province (where else?) is using the bike path itself to generate ecologically sustainable electrical power.

On Wednesday, elementary school students in Maartensdijk, a village near Utrecht, became the first to ride the 330 meter path. Its prefabricated concrete blocks are embedded with solar cells and coated with a transparent layer that allows sunlight to reach the cells as it protects the path. 

Solar bike lane in the Netherlands 

Arne Schaddelee said, “you have to dare to use innovation” to reach goals like the one the Netherlands set for itself: being climate-neutral by 2040.  “And this is very innovative,” the provincial official declared. 

But it’s not innovation for innovation’s sake. “We have a very full province,” he explained.  “For that reason you have to try dual use.”  

His pronouncement could also apply to his country: The Netherlands is one of the world’s most densely populated nations.

15 July 2021

Purple Reign On Herkimer Street

Today I took another morning ride to beat the heat.  I had no particular destination:  I crossed the Kosciuszko Bridge into Brooklyn, where I followed the Graffiti Mural Trail (OK, there is no thoroughfare so designated, at least to my knowledge!) through Greenpoint, Williamsburg, Bushwick, and Bedford-Stuyvesant into Ocean Hill, Brownsville, East New York and back into Queens.

I did see some great murals. One, though, stopped me in my Continental tire tracks.

Oh, Prince, Mr. Elegant One, we would welcome any rain, purple or otherwise, on an afternoon as hot as this one has become!

14 July 2021

Driver Who Plowed Into Arizona Race Charged, Cyclist Dies

 Today is Bastille Day.  On this date in years past, I have written about two of my favorite topics:  cycling and France.  Today, however, I shall relate a story I wish I didn't have to tell.

Last month, a driver plowed his pickup truck into Masters race that was about to start in Arizona.   Nine cyclists suffered serious injiuries.  On Monday, the family of one, 58-year-old Jeremy Barrett, announced his death.

Jeremy Barrett, R.I.P.

The driver has since been idenitified as 38-year-old Shawn Michael Chock. Turns out, he has a long history of encounters with law enforcement, including DUI charges.  After it was determined that he intentionally drove into the group of cyclists, he was charged with nine counts of aggrevated assault with a deadly weapon.  In addition, he was charged with fleeing the scene of an accident and unlawful flight.

Those charges, however, were brought against him before Barrett passed away. Now his family and friends are calling for additional charges. I am with them:  It's about time that folks like Chock stopped getting away with murder when it comes to cyclists. (I mean, what exactly is someone's intention when he plows into a group of cyclists with his pickup truck?)

It's bad enough when cyclists are killed or injured by intoxicated or simply careless drivers, as happened in Michigan five years ago.  But it's time for folks like Chock to be brought to account for willfully endangering and killing cyclists and pedestrians.

13 July 2021

He Wants To Make It A Place Where It Doesn't Happen (Again)

His city has a "denser, older urban core that was laid out before the automobile."  Around it, though, are neighborhoods that were "designed around cars."

That could be a description of many cities, perhaps yours.  But Tanner Thompson was describing Norwalk, Connecticut, where he is the Chairman of the Walk/Bike Commission.  He adds that as cars have gotten bigger and streets have gotten wider, cyclist and pedestrian fatalities have increased across the nation.

Shameka Fisher is relieved that her 15-year-old son did not become one of them--but understandably angry that he could have.  Last month, he was riding along Connecticut Avenue at Taylor Avenue when a Toyota RAV 4 struck him from behind.


The boy, who is "recovering nicely," jumped off his bike but collapsed off-camera.  He called his mother, who rushed him to the hospital, where police met them. One officer said they should have remained at the scene of the crash, but, as Ms. Fisher said "the mother in me" caused her to act on reflex, just as her son probably did when he jumped off his bike.

The bicycle ended up under the SUV.  The driver, whom the police are seeking, backed off it and sped away.  Thompson said the hit-and-run is "horrifying" but the Bike/Walk Commission is committed to "making Norwalk a place where this doesn't happen."

That is a goal I can get behind, and I wish Thompson well--and a good recovery for the boy and his mother, who probably is suffering from some degree or another of PTSD.

12 July 2021

Making A New Friend As She Rediscovers An Old One

 About a month ago, I snapped up a bike I saw on Craigslist.  The woman from whom I bought it said she'd posted it only a few minutes earlier.  And, given how bike prices have skyrocketed, it was a bargain.

The bike, a Mongoose Switchback from about 20 years ago, wasn't for me.  I picked it up for a neighbor I've gotten to know better since the pandemic started.  

She hadn't ridden a bike "in about 40 years," she said, and wanted to start again. So I figured a bike like that would be a good "starter."

I've taken a few rides with Lillian.  They weren't long treks, but I've enjoyed them.  So has she. It's nice to see someone taking up cycling again.  Somehow I feel that she's rediscovering an old friend, if you will, as I'm making a new one.

11 July 2021

How We Began

 I have to admit that there was a time in my life--before my midlife!--when I looked down on anyone on a bike not made of name-brand tubing (Reynolds, Columbus, Vitus, Tange, Ishiwata) and not sporting high-end components.

These days, I am happy to see anyone on a bike, even if it's something I wouldn't have test-ridden when I worked in shops and the person riding looks as if they* hadn't been on a bike since they got a driver's permit. The more who ride, for whatever reason or purpose, the better.

I remind myself that we all started sometime, somewhere, somehow!

10 July 2021

Another Way Across?

O Sleepless as the river under thee,
Vaulting the sea, the prairies' dreaming sod,
Unto us lowliest sometime sweep, descend
And of the curveship lend a myth to God.--

                            From  --"To Brooklyn Bridge" by Hart Crane

In this town (New York City), there are some things in-the-know cyclists never, ever do. One of them is to pedal across the Brooklyn Bridge.  Even if it's the Sistene Chapel or Notre Dame of bridges, it's best seen while riding across the Manhatan or Williamsburg Bridges.   

On its upper deck, the Brooklyn Bridge has a wide lane that's off-limits to cars and trucks.  Although that lane is wider than the ones on some of the other bridges, cyclists have to share it with pedestrians, scooters, skaters and all other manner of tourists who might stop dead four feet in front of you to take a "selfie."

I'm not complaining about the tourists:  Many are on once-in-a-lifetime trips to the Big Apple.  I'd just prefer not to dodge them if I'm riding to get to someplace, or even for fun. (Forget training:  You can't keep any kind of a steady pace on the bridge!)

All of that will soon change.  Construction has begun on a protected bike lane in the center of the bridge.  Manhattan-bound drivers will lose one of their lanes for the two-way bike lane.

When completed, it will mark the first reconfiguration of the Bridge, opened in 1883, since the trolley tracks were removed in 1950.

I hope that the lane includes a safe and easy transition to the street.  Too often, I've seen bridge bike lanes that "dump" cyclists into chaotic traffic intersections.

Otherwise, the best option for cycling across the East River, in my opinion, will remain the Williamsburg Bridge, which I take whenever possible. 

09 July 2021

Daring Elsa

Yesterday wasn't quite as hot as Wednesday was, but the humidity was even more oppressive.  That's one reason why I took another morning ride which, I hoped, would bring me home before the early afternoon heat.

That part of my "mission," if you will was accomplished, even though I continued in one direction when another would have taken me home for, oh, a couple of hours.  

The weather forecast was dire:  Tropical Storm Elsa was bearing up the East Coast of the United States.  Sometimes I "play chicken" with the rain:  I ride as if I'm daring the rain to start falling on me before I finish my trip.  Yesterday, the stakes were higher:  The rain would cascade from those heavy gray clouds moving across Staten Island and New Jersey on their way to Brooklyn and Queens.  

Those clouds might have moved even faster than the traffic across the Verrazano Narrows:  They don't have to pay the toll on the bridge!

Seriously, though, I reverted to a youthful delusion:  That I could actually hold bad weather at bay becasue, well, I was pedaling.  Even when the sky and the waters of New York Bay all but matched the steel and glass hues of the Manhattan skyline, I was not ready to turn around.  After all, the brownstones and blue-collar brick row houses of Sunset Park hadn't been consumed by the the gray colussus.

On 31st Drive, one block from my Astoria apartment, rain began to fall.  It cascaded into a torrent just as I wheeled Tosca, my Mercian fixed gear, into the door. 

08 July 2021

What If He’d Seen This?

 Yesterday morning, I pedaled along the North Shore.  On my way back, I stopped in Fort Totten.  Like many military bases-turned-recreational areas, it sits on some “mighty fine” real estate.  The site makes sense when you get a glimpse of the panoramic views:  Continental troops could have seen Royal Navy ships approaching from a good distance away.

Were they stationed there yesterday, they would have seen mist.  Would enemy warships have veiled themselves in it—and drawn closer than they might have otherwise?

Yesterday the mist portended something odious, if less sinister:  humid heat.  Very humid and hot, in fact—if less so than much of the West Coast last week.

Of course, being a writer and English teacher, I have to ask: What if Jay Gatsby had gazed across the cove and seen mist instead of a green light lover Daisy’s dock?

Now, I could get all pseudo-intellectual on you and blather about how hopers (Is that a word?) and dreamers, and the desperate, see that faint veridescence on the horizon and not the fog that shrouds it.  Too late! Oh well..

At least I had a nice ride—and picked up some fresh Greek yogurt from Kesso  on my way home.

07 July 2021

Whatever Is In The Water, She Knows More Biking Leads To Healthier Bodies

Flint, Michigan has become synonymous with its water crisis.  It's emblematic of all sorts of racial and economic divides--as well as governmental corruption--in the United States.  The city, once a kind of "mini Detroit," experienced the de-industrialisation--and resulting-- and resulting economic decline-- of the "Motor City" some 110 kilometers (68 miles) to its southeast. 

So, like many other "Rust Belt" cities large and small, its children and young adults have suffered the same kinds of inequities and truncated possiblities experienced by their peers in cities like Camden, New Jersey as well as neighborhoods like Mott Haven in the Bronx and Brownsville in Brooklyn.  One result is poor health outcomes:  Children in those places suffer from all sorts of diseases, including asthma, obesity and diabetes, that were once provinces of their parents and grandparents.  One reason for that is the lack of exercise:  Their parents or caretakers fear, often with justification, letting them stray much beyond their abodes.  Or, the kids may not have access to spaces or even the most rudimentary equipment that would allow them to not only burn off their often-poor diets, but also some of the stress and trauma of growing up in such places.

Also, in such places, young people grow up with little more than a comic-book knowledge of their cultural history. (Disclosure:  Almost all of my knowlege of the histories and cultures of non-white people has been gained through reading, experience and self-study.)  Knowing who one is, and from whom, what and where one came, is the only way to become a subject and not an object--which is to say a decider and not a victim--in one's own, and in the arc of, history. Which is also to say, the only way to claim and reclaim one's identities.  Trust me, I know a thing or two about that!

So does Angela Stamps.  That is why she founded the Kentakee Athletic & Social Clubs while she lived in Los Angeles.  She chose the name, she said, because she wanted to serve the African American community--
"specifically adolecents," she says--"and to teach them about our history prior to the slave trade." During that time, she also became a bike commuter.

Angela Stamps. Photo by Tom Travis, from the East Village Magazine

She returned to Flint, where she was raised, in 2010 to start educational and athletic programs for underserved youth.  Two years later, that purpose led her to start bicycle programs, including the Berston Bicycle Club.  It's so named because participants, aged 10 to 18, meet in the city's Berston Field House, where they discuss everything from bicycle safety to the best foods to eat while riding.  

The club also offers a bicycle and helmet loaner for participants who don't who don't have them.  Berston also has a nine-week program (the next session starts on the 12th), which includes bike safety and maintenance sessions as well as daily bike trips in all directions on the compass.  Participants aim for a goal of 270 miles (about 420 kilometers) and, upon completing the program, get a new bike, helmet and extras.

And, Ms. Stamps hopes, "healthier bodies."  That is not a minor goal in a place like Flint.

06 July 2021

What We Lost With Them

 It’s always tragic when someone loses his or her life in a cycling-related incident. Today I write, not to rant or assign blame.  Rather, I want to talk about a particular dimension of such losses.

Just as people ride bikes for a variety of reasons, cyclists come from nearly social and economic background. Some ride dilapidated machines rescued from dumpsters because they can’t afford to drive or even take mass transit; others pedal to well-paying jobs to stay fit or have some time to themselves, or simply because they enjoy it.  Still others ride just for fun, whatever that means to them.

And, just as some who ride out of necessity because they lack the education or skills (including, in some cases, language), I suspect that people with advanced educations may be more represented among cyclists than in the general population.

They included Allen Hunter II and Swati Tiyagi. Hunter was an Air Force Academy alumnus who earned a PhD in Physics.  After leaving the Air Force, he worked for Los Alamos National Laboratory and a tech company from which he retired. Tyagi, four decades younger than Hunter, was “one of the smartest postdocs I’ve ever had in my lab,” according to Martin Hetzer, Vice President and Chief Science Officer at the Salk Institute.

They were known in the San Diego area’s large scientific community.  And, unfortunately, both were cut down by drivers while cycling on San Diego County Roads.

While Hunter was retired, his contributions in laser development and other areas have proved valuable in and out of the military.  And Tyagi, who had just been promoted to a staff scientist position at Salk, was studying the human genome. “Her work is relevant for cancer, but also aging and neurogenetive diseases,” Hetzer said.

Tyagi and Hunter were both very smart, talented people. Moreover, Hunter’s children and grandchildren are mourning his loss. Likewise, Tyagi’s husband is grieving her—and is now the single father to their 11-month-old son.