30 September 2022

A New Regime Ushers In A Bike Boom For Half Of The Country

According to the stats for this blog, most of you, my dear readers, live in what policy-makers call "advanced" economies with relatively stable political systems.  Thus, I would surmise, many, if not most, of you are cycling by choice. You know that it's good for your health.  Or you're trying to reduce your carbon footprint, or simply your energy bills.   Pedaling to work or school may be more convenient than other forms of transportation, especially if you live in a large city or don't have to commute long distances.  Finally, you might be riding just because you enjoy it.

There is at least one place where, for understandable reasons, I have few, if any readers.  One of those reasons has to do with access to Internet content:  Whether or not its rulers have restricted it through censorship and other forms of subterfuge, as has been rumored, many people simply have no way to connect.  That has to do with a second reason:  poverty.  Not only do many people not have the means to pay for access, the ways they use bikes--if they have access to them--are very different from what I often discuss. And, finally, I suspect that the authorities might block or scramble this blog, not only because of some of the opinions (some not bike-related) I express, but because of who I am.

In that locale, some might be pedaling for their health, though I suspect that, relative to the United States, few are fighting "the battle of the bulge" and its attendant diseases like diabetes.  I doubt many are riding for environmental reasons, not because the people aren't conscious of climate change, but because their carbon emissions, currently and historically, barely register at all.  And I don't think they're cycling to work, school or the market as an "alternative" form of transportation because, really, there aren't many alternatives for them.

So what place am I talking about?  It's literally on the other side of the world--socially and economically, as well as geographically--from where I am.  That place is the capital of one of the world's more remote countries:  Afghanistan. Whether or not it was their intention, the Taliban have loosed a surge of bicycles on Kabul's streets.  

Over the past thirteen months, since the Taliban took control of the nation, sanctions have seized up banking and trade. At the same time, aid from Western countries has disappeared. As if those things weren't bad enough, Putin's invasion of the Ukraine have sent fuel prices skyward.   Owning and driving a private car was prohibitively expensive for most residents even in the best of times.  Now it's all but impossible, and the dire economic situation has put bus and shared taxi rides out of reach for many.

Photo by Diaa Hadid

So, workers and students have taken to cycling and bike shops are popping up all over the city.  While they, and the more established shops, may have new bikes for sale, most people buy used bikes or fix up old ones, not only because they are less expensive, but the condition of many streets and roads ensures that new bikes won't look that way for long.

While some may return to taking buses or cabs if the economy and their incomes recover, some say they enjoy riding and have found other unanticipated benefits.  Ahmad Fahim, a 25-year-old radiologist, observed that in addition to weaving through traffic, his bike "gets me through Taliban checkpoints" where motor vehicles are typically stopped and searched. 

There is one dark side to this new Afghan bike boom.  It, too, was sparked--if not directly, then almost certainly intentionally--by Taliban rule.  If you know anything about the Taliban's fundamentalist Islamic beliefs, you might have guessed it:  The cyclists are all of one gender.  

The Taliban doesn't explicitly forbid women from cycling.  It doesn't have to.  It simply tells women to stay home and, if they step outside, to cover up and be in the presence of a male guardian.  Those edicts effectively ended the mini-bike boom Shannon Galpin helped to create among Afghan women for more than a decade.  She recalls, "It was like popcorn.  It just took off."  There were women's bike clubs and teams, and even a coed multi-day race in the relatively liberal province of Bamiyan.

When the Taliban took power, Galpin helped dozens of female cyclists flee the country.  The ones who couldn't now watch, with sadness, depression and anger, male cyclists.  "When you see men can do that and you can't do that, it feels like  injustice," laments a woman who asked that her name not be used because she's seeking asylum in the US.

It's a sad irony that she has to seek a new life in an unfamiliar country to enjoy something the Taliban have enabled in her own. I hope she finds the refuge she seeks--and that she continues to cycle, by choice.

29 September 2022

Danger In My Backyard

As I've mentioned in other posts, for several years running, Florida is the US state where a cyclist is in the most danger of being killed by a motorist.  No other state comes close in that category.

Of course, that doesn't mean the Sunshine State has a monopoly on intoxicated or distracted drivers, supersized diesel-powered pickup trucks with bodies customized to take up an entire roadway, drag racers (though the state is home to Daytona) or inherently dangerous roads.

As for the last item on that list:  The single most dangerous road (excluding Interstates and other highways where bicycles are prohibited) for cyclists in the United States is in my home state of New York.  In fact, it's in my backyard.

All right, since I'm an apartment dweller, I don't have a backyard.  What I mean is that said thoroughfare is near me.  In fact, I've crossed, though not ridden, on it a number of times.

According to the Nassau County and Hempstead Police Departments, drivers struck 320 cyclists and pedestrians on the 16 mile-long Hempstead Turnpike (a.k.a. New York State Route 24) between 2011 and 2021. Mind you, that is only the number of such incidents the constables know about through 911 calls.  Of said victims, 13 died.  Another six were killed just during the past year.  The road is so dangerous for cyclists and pedestrians, in fact, that most of the fatalities were cyclists or pedestrians trying to cross the road so they could continue along one of the many streets that intersect with it.  

The most impatient and hot-tempered drivers I've ever encountered, anywhere were along that road.  When the light turns green, it's like a dam opening: a torrent of vehicles rushes through.  Woe be to a cyclist or pedestrian, even one in a wheelchair, who happens to be in the path of that storm surge.

OK, so I mixed my metaphors a bit. But I think you have at least a partial picture of what I'm talking about.  The drivers are indeed in a hurry to get to the store or through the next red light, but if someone wanted to design a traffic conduit that would bring out the worst in such drivers, he or she could hardly come up something that better fits the purpose than the Hempstead Turnpike.

Photo by Levi Mandel

One problem is that, in some stretches, it's even wider than an Interstate (like an Autobahn or Autoroute).  Through most of its length, it has eight lanes of traffic, with dividers that are low to the ground or nothing more than lines painted on the asphalt.  Also in keeping with the worst in highway design, it has no bike or pedestrian lane or, for most of its length, sidewalks.  

But unlike superhighways, it's not elevated or in a trench:  It's at the same level as other streets.  And, as it passes through residential and suburban residential neighborhoods, many two-lane and one-way streets cross it.  That means many people must cross in order to get to work or school or go home.

What exacerbates all of these deficiencies is that the Hempstead Turnpike begins in an area of southeastern Queens that has one of the highest population densities in the United States but almost no mass transportation.  That means people are car-dependent.  That part of Queens is also relatively low-income and has few stores besides bodegas and small grocery stores.  Thus, residents of that area frequently drive to the Nassau section of the highway, with its abundant stores (including supermarkets and chain stores), which offer more variety and lower prices.  

Also, many residents work in those stores and in other area businesses.  Meanwhile, the fact that on its Queens end, the highway connects with the Grand Central Parkway--a major artery to western Queens and Manhattan--also guarantees that many Nassau County residents drive their daily commutes on it.

When the Hempstead Turnpike isn't clogged with traffic--on most days, only from about 2 to 4 in the morning--it becomes our local version of Daytona.  Sometimes the wannabe racers even test the limits of their machines, in speed and maneuverability, when there's traffic.  The worst part is that they're not the only ones exceeding the 30- to- 40 mph speed limit.  In fact, according to a grim joke or local folk wisdom (depending on whom you believe), police officers give tickets to drivers who don't speed because they're the ones the cops can catch .

Having crossed the Hempstead Turnpike many times, I'm not surprised to learn that it's officially the most dangerous road in this region, and probably the nation.  Ironically, when I was "doored" nearly two years ago, I had just crossed the Hempstead Turnpike.  It wouldn't surprise me if the driver who opened her door into my path--or the drivers who honked their horns out of frustration over having to stop for a cyclist lying in their path--had just turned off the Turnpike.

28 September 2022

On The Hook: Old Inner Tubes

Nearly two weeks ago, I mentioned Nicolas Collignon's article, in which he expresses consternation and frustration that "sustainable" urban and transportation planning, too often, doesn't include bicycles.

The other day, I wrote about a rather surprising (in that someone hadn't thought of it earlier) way transportation cycling and sustainability have been integrated:  bike lanes with solar panels in the Netherlands and South Korea.

Today, I am going to present another, if smaller, way in which cycling and sustainability meet.

What I am about to describe is also rather surprising, but not because it hasn't been done before.  Rather, it seems almost-unexpected because it's an idea that seems to be revived and forgotten every few years--and because many people don't remember, or weren't paying attention to, its previous iterations.  What also makes the fact that it's not more common so surprising is that, even with all that we toss, I think we, as cyclists, are more conscious of, and conscientious about, recycling than most of the public.

Lots of replaced bicycle parts are tossed out every day, by shops as well as home mechanics.  Most, I imagine, end up in landfills.  Some, like old cables and housings, are difficult to re-use because the metal is rusted or has lost too much of its strength from the stresses of use.  But other parts can find new life in all sorts of ways.

One such part is an inner tube.  On my Bontrager Race Lite Mountain bike, I strapped a Pedro's under-seat bag made from an old air chamber. In it, I carried--you guessed it--a spare inner tube in addition to a patch kit, tire levers and the great Park mini-multitool. I've seen other accessories made from old tubes and once even wrapped a pair of handlebars in them.

Another way I've used inner tubes are as tie-downs. Think of a bungee cord without the hook:  I've strapped small loads to rear racks and have bound together all manner of items, on and off the bike, for any number of purposes. 

I'm sure I'm not the first to have used old inner tubes in that way.  But it took someone with a more inventive or entrepreneurial mind than my own to come up with the Daily Hook.

It's what it sounds like:  a section of inner tube with a hook at the end of it.

The difference, though, is that the hook is better-made and more practical than any you've seen on a bungee cord:  It's machined from aluminum and fits onto the end of the tubing section through a stainless steel backplate.  I would imagine that it allows the hook to be re-used on another section of tube when the original one fails.

Speaking of which:  Daily Hook's Swiss manufacturer claims--correctly, in my experience--that the tube section will last longer than fabric cords, which have a tendency to unravel or break.  And, if and when the tube does fail, the hook won't get tangled in your spokes or cogs because it has a spring clasp that holds it mechanically to your rack or wherever else you attach it.  Moreover, if your rack is anodized or painted, the finish won't be marred, as the hook is coated in grippy rubber.

The Daily Hook weighs about the same as an elastic cord of the same length.  Its only drawback, as far as I can see, is its price, though if it outlasts a bunch of fabric cords, it could be worth the investment.

And, of course, it gives old inner tubes new life. 

27 September 2022

What Will Be Influenced By This Report?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

26 September 2022

Where Cycling Really Means "Power To The People"

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

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

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

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

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

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

25 September 2022

A Concrete Example

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

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

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

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

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

24 September 2022

Riding Into Their Sunset

The other day, late in the afternoon, I rode to East Williamsburg for my monkeypox booster.  Something told me to be sure I had my lights with me.  Good thing.  On my way back, I made a couple of wrong turns then took a couple of deliberate detours through industrial areas that straddle Brooklyn and Queens.

At that time of day, factories and warehouses close and the evening exodus begins.  On some streets, I zigged and zagged among 18-wheelers, pickup trucks and hipsters on scooters--the latter on their way to clubs found, sometimes, on the same block as, or around the corner from, the workshops where workers--none on scooters--were leaving.

 My wanderings took me to an industrial area on the Queens side--in North Maspeth, to be exact--that I'm not sure any of the scooter crowd is even aware of.  A railroad track that looks like it hasn't been used in decades (but still marked by a sign warning people not to stop or loiter on it) winds  through it:  the factories and warehouses on one side, the worn, sometimes shabby, tenements and small houses occupied, it seems, by families who have been there longer than the factories and warehouses, on the other.  

Whatever outsiders see in a place is almost never seen by those who have always lived in it.  So I wonder what they might have made of me, an outsider--the fact that I was on a bicycle was almost enough, by itself, to mark me as one--taking photos of their sunset.  Or, more important, whether they see the unique light it casts on the tracks and everything it divides.

23 September 2022

We Were Doored. It Could Have Been Worse For Him.

Nearly two years ago, I experienced one of a cyclist's worst nightmares:  I was "doored."

At least the woman who opened the door into my path stayed with me as others--including a man who ran across the street to a drugstore for rubbing alcohol and bandages--stayed with me--helped in one way or another.  The woman apologized profusely and called me several times after the incident to see how I was. The worst thing I can say about her is that she was careless.

The same cannot be said for the man who opened his door into the path of Trev Walker.  The British cyclist was pedaling along a road in his native Yorkshire on 2 September when a driver, passing at what appears to be high speed, flung his door into Walker's path, slamming into his left hand.

The incident was recorded for posterity--and the local police--on a camera affixed to the rear of his bike.

Walker is a paramedic, so when he felt pain and saw swelling in his hand, he went for an X-ray.  When the pain didn't subside, he went for another, which revealed a fracture.  He says, "it could have been worse."  But I can just imagine the emotional trauma he might be experiencing:  If he is re-living the incident, it could be worse my reliving my experience because the driver who "doored" him did so deliberately.

But he summed up the seriousness of what happened to him the way I, and others, summed up mine:  Opening a car door on a cyclist could result in someone being killed.

22 September 2022

Why Did The Collage Cross The Road?

When I delivered newspapers in New Jersey (more years ago than I’ll admit!), I had to watch for dogs In thar suburban milieu, people let their canines roam in their Un-fenced yards.  Sometimes those pampered pooches didn’t realize—or care—that they were supposed to stay on their human families’ patches of lawn.

Since then, I’ve had to contend with other animals crossing my path—though, thankfully, not attacking me: cats, chipmunks, squirrels, deer, raccoons, snakes, armadillos, macaques and, yea, an elephant.

But never before have I or my bike been stopped by creatures like these:

21 September 2022

Connecting Ithaca

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while, you know thar one of my pet peeves is “bike lanes to nowhere “:  ribbons of dirt, concrete or asphalt that begin or end abruptly and do not connect common destinations in any meaningful way.  They are a reason for motorists’ animosity towards cyclists;  As long as bike paths are seen merely as “nice places to ride” rather than transportation conduits, drivers will see us as over-privileged pleasure- or thrill-seekers who are “taking “ their lanes and parking spaces. 

So, I am glad to hear news that Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, secured a Federal grant to connect the Black Diamond and Gateway Trails, two bike lanes on opposite ends of Ithaca, an upstate New York town best known for its gorges and Cornell University.

20 September 2022

Where Is His Bike?

Last week, I wrote of a cyclist's nightmare:  a bike falling off a car carrier.  Worse yet, when Dara Gannon turned around to pick up her bike, it was gone.

Another incidence of compound misery befell Nicolas Roche*, the retired Team Sky and BMC rider.  He was on his way home to Monaco from London when his Easy Jet flight was cancelled.  His checked bags--which included his custom-made bicycle--went through, however.

Needing to get home for a work appointment, he took another flight to Nice.  When he arrived, he saw his front door--but not his bags.

Nicolas Roche's custom bike. Photo courtesy of Fifty-One.

The bike, like other custom bikes, is built to his physique and riding style.  But its design also includes graphics including his Irish road race championships, Olympic participation and Vuelta a Espana stage victories, which means it can't be mistaken for any other. 

Still, eleven days later, no airline or airport employee seems to have any idea of where his bike might be.  Worse, EasyJet told him that because he flew to Nice, it is now the responsibility of that city's airport to locate the bike, despite all evidence indicating that his machine is--assuming it hasn't been "found"--still in Gatwick Airport. 

Roche explained that because he was trying to travel lighter than he normally does, he used different bags for his bike, kit and other items from what he'd used previously. So, in his haste, he didn't put any tracking tags on those bags, as he has done with his other bags. 

Unfortunately, Roche's ordeal is hardly unique.  With the return of mass air travel, understaffed airlines and airports are cancelling and re-routing flights.  That has resulted in record amounts of lost luggage--including the bikes of a Canadian pro rider on his way to the Tour de France.  

*--Nicolas Roche is indeed the son of Stephen Roche, the 1980s Tour de France and Giro d'Itaila winner.

19 September 2022

A Weekend With Dee-Lilah

I decided to spend the weekend with Dee-Lilah, my custom Mercian Vincitore Special.  There was no particular reason why I chose to ride her.  She is a special bike because I gave her to myself for a round-number birthday, but like anything special, I shouldn't need a special occasion to enjoy her.

All right...Saturday was, save for the wind, one of the best days, weather-wise, I've experienced in a while.  I chose to pedal to Point Lookout because it meant pedaling into the wind on my way out and riding the wind on my way home.  Dee-Lilah liked that idea, too.

The conditions surrounding our ride were of the kind one encounters for a few days around this time of year, between the unofficial and official ends of summer.  The day's high temperature was only a couple of degrees higher than the water (74 F or 23F), so some people swam or at least waded into the water.

Also, the sun shone but didn't bear down on me.  So, I didn't need to use quite as much sunscreen as I'd needed on other recent rides.  Thus, while I didn't feel drained as I often do after riding under unfiltered sunlight, I needed to drink as much water as I would on a hot day, because the wind brought dry air with it.

Yesterday was a bit warmer and I woke up later.  So I simply wandered along the waterfronts, and through some of the back streets, of a few Queens and Brooklyn neighborhoods.  Dee-Lilah thought the light around the Statue of Liberty and Valentino Pier flattered her.  I agreed.

This weekend was not a special occasion. But, with Dee-Lilah, it was a Dee-Light!

17 September 2022

Why Don't They Include Bicycles?

One of the more interesting (to me, anyway) ironies of my life is that I often ride in or through Flushing Meadow-Corona Park, the site of the 1964-65 World's Fair. 

My now-vague memories of having attended with my parents and younger siblings (whose memories are probably even vaguer than mine, if they have any at all!) include visions of flying cars and sidewalks that weren't because, well, people didn't walk:  They were conveyed on belts to their destinations.

It was a time when progress was depicted as inevitable, limitless and always aided and abetted by technologies that made our daily lives less arduous--and took ever-greater quantities of resources.  Nuclear energy would be the power source of the future because advances in its technology would render it "too cheap to meter." In those days, "sustainable" was not part of planners' vocabularies.

Sometimes I wonder just how much we've moved on from such thinking.  In his article for Next City, Nicolas Collignon points out that even as cities like New York  Paris Milan and Bogota invest in bike lanes and other incentives to trade four wheels and one pedal for two wheels and two pedals, too much of today's planning is based on such innovations as self-driving cars and flying delivery drones. At the same time, according to Collignon, too many planners neglect the role bicycles can play in making cities more livable, sustainable and affordable.

So why do planners have such a blind spot for our favorite means of transportation and, well, just having fun?  Well, since you, dear readers, are smart people, you probably have the answer:  money.  Specifically, where the money comes from:  automotive and high-tech companies, which have much deeper pockets than any in the bicycle industry.  

Photo by Francois Mori

Of course, those auto and tech companies--even the ones that tout themselves as "green"--have ties to the fossil fuel and military (given our recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, I cannot call it "defense") industries.  That may be a reason why those planners have similar blind spots to the effects clean-looking technologies and "cleaner" automobiles actually have--or why they bought Uber and Lyft's sales pitch that their services would reduce traffic.  If you live in almost any major city, you can see how much that prophecy has come to pass. 

I also can't help but to think that those companies--and, sometimes, the urban planners themselves--are, openly or covertly, stoking drivers' resentments toward cyclists.

16 September 2022

British Cycling Told Them To Stop For The Queen

If a US President were to die in office and your club told you not to ride during his/her/their funeral, would you?

When William Henry Harrison and Zachary Taylor succumbed to illness (Harrison just a month after taking the oath of office) and Abraham Lincoln was shot, bicycles weren't, well, bicycles as we know them.  

At the time James Garfield was shot (only four months after he assumed his role), the US and Europe were on the eve of their first bike booms.  A few years later, "safety" bicycles (with two wheels of more or less equal size and chain-driven gearing) would displace high-wheelers and fuel the fin de siecle bike craze.  A few years after that, at the dawn of the new century, William McKinley would suffer the same fate as Lincoln and Garfield.  Bicycling was still a major part of American, European and other economies and cultures. But I could find no records of any club or public official's recommendation that people not ride their bikes during those Presidents' funerals or other memorials.

By the time Warren G. Harding died of a sudden heart attack, in the 1920s, the automobile had mostly displaced the bicycle as a primary means of transportation and recreation in the US.  There were still, however, a significant number of adult cyclists and six-day races would develop an enthusiastic following.  But, as with the deaths of Garrison and McKinley, I could find no calls not to ride.

That I could find no such pleas following the deaths of Franklin D. Roosevelt and John F. Kennedy is not surprising:  When FDR died, the US was entering what Sheldon Brown called its "Dark Ages" of cycling; when JFK was assassinated, the nation was a few years away from emerging out of that benighted era.  

When Lynette "Squeaky" Fromme tried to kill Gerald Ford, the 1970s Bike Boom had recently crested; when John Hinckley tried to end Ronald Reagan's presidency, the Boom had ended but millions of American adults were still cycling.  Had Ford and Reagan not survived those attempts, would any clubs (which were numerous by then) have told their members not to pedal to work or school, or for training or fun?

Now, you might be wondering why I am asking such questions.  It's not because today is a "slow news day" or I'm not riding.  Rather, I read that British Cycling called on its country's citizens not to ride their bicycles during Queen Elizabeth II's funeral scheduled for Monday.  

Photo by Stephen Fleming

Of course, cyclists of all kinds did not take kindly to this recommendation:  One cyclist said it was "worthy of the Stasi."  A bike commuter pointed out that ceremonies "coincide with my working hours." Others called it a "joke" or "farce" or referred to it in even less flatering terms.

British Cycling later admitted that it erred and apologized for any harm or inconvenience it caused to cyclists, especially those who rely on their bikes for transportation or their livings. The organization then amended its recommendation to say that official events should be cancelled, but individuals should be free to ride.

15 September 2022

Two Drivers Struck Cyclists. One Is Being Held To Account

Last week, I wrote about Charles Criniere, the Kansas City teacher and father of 10 who was killed by a hit-and-run driver.  

On one hand, I faulted the design of the lane he rode:  It ends with a sudden merge into a multilane road. But, as too often happens in such tragedies, the driver's behavior was, shall we say, less than exemplary.

Wisconsin resident Kyrie Fields admits that she’d taken her eyes off the road to text a friend when she struck Criniere.  As if such indifference to anyone else who might’ve been on the road weren’t bad enough, she took off after she struck him.

She left the scene.  But her car left some of its parts. Detectives used them to determine that the vehicle was a white Acura MDX.  They found the rest--or, I should say, the remains--of it the following day. According to detectives, it looks as if had been set ablaze.

Oh, but what I’ve described so far isn’t the only reason to vilify her.  In addition to being distracted, she was high on Percocet when she struck Criniere.  And, upon arresting her, authorities found that she’d been driving with a suspended license and without insurance.

Distraction.  Intoxication.  And, ahem, a less-than-sterling driving record.  Those—and even-less-sterling records of citizenship—are, too often, common denominators of motor vehicle-on-bicycle crashes.  In short, the perpetrators aren’t exactly pillars of society.

Speaking of which…Amy DeGise, the Jersey City Council member who plowed into a cyclist (who, fortunately, suffered only minor injuries) has become more defiant in her determination not to apologize, let alone resign. Like other motorists who’ve struck cyclists (some of whom I’ve mentioned in this blog), her bio includes a litany of other offenses:  She has an unregistered vehicle and numerous unpaid tickets and lives in subsidized housing intended for families earning a third of what she, as a single childless woman, makes.

While some officials and many ordinary citizens have called for her resignation, too many other officials—including New Jersey Governor Phil Murphy—have not joined that chorus.  I can’t help but to think that they are afraid of her father, a longtime Hudson County Executive who is one of the Garden State’s most powerful politicians.

14 September 2022

A Wall Across A Bike Lane--In Portland

Sometimes I won't use a bike lane because it is poorly-conceived, -built or -maintained.  Other times, as is often the case on the Queensborough-59th Street Bridge lane, it's simply too narrow and crowded, especially with ebikes and motorized scooters.  Or the lane may simply not go in the direction I need to go--or doesn't go anywhere at all.

I've mentioned those reasons in other post, along with the fact that some drivers park or pass--sometimes out of spite--in the lanes.  Also, cops often plant their patrol cars in them as they're taking breaks.  

There's another reason that I don't believe I've mentioned:  debris and obstacles, sometimes deliberately placed.  They range from broken bottles, tacks and nails to bricks, cinderblocks and larger objects.  Lately, someone built an actual wall across a bike lane in Portland, Oregon.

No one is sure of who built it, but some have observed that its architect and constructers must have been "amateurs."  While that could have made the structure even more hazardous than it could have been, it made the barrier easier to take apart.  

Remnants of the wall built across the N Concord bike path in Portland. (Photo by Jonathan Maus)

There is another interesting twist to this story, though.  In Portland, relationships between cyclists and non-cyclists are as contentious as they are in other place in the US.  But the wall's construction may have had little or nothing to do with antipathy toward cyclists.  Rather, it seems to have been placed to block a passage that connects two parts of the Overbrook neighborhood.  Homeowners live on one side; homeless encampments stand on the other.

So...The construction of the wall may have been illustrative of just how politicized not only the United States, but local communities, have become.  While the target may have been homeless people, but cyclists became collateral damage, if you will, whether or not that was the wall builder's (or builders') intention.


13 September 2022

Bike Falls Off Car On Way To Ride For Fallen Officers

As cyclists, there are things we fear happening to ourselves and our bikes.

As for what can happen to ourselves, the dire scenarios almost always involve crashes and injuries.  Perhaps the biggest fear for anyone who rides in traffic--as I, a city dweller, do almost daily--is getting "doored."  It's happened to me three times--once when I was riding in a bike lane, and the worst incident two years ago, which resulted in 30 stitches.

Then there is the fear of what can happen to our bikes.  Some scenarios, like crashes, can damage or destroy both our bodies and bikes.  But when it comes to what can befall the bicycle, theft might be the primary concern for many cyclists.

Another nightmare scenario has less chance of happening to me because I don't drive.  But, on those occasions when I've gone to a ride with someone who does, I worry when my bike is attached to a rack, no matter how solid.   Bumper racks expose bikes to more harm because, well, another car bumping the bikes instead of the bumper will have more dire consequences for the bikes than the bumper.  But even on the best roof racks, there is a chance of something knocking the bike off.

I don't know which kind of rack Dara Gannon was using when she drove to a three-day training ride.  She was preparing for a Massacusetts-to-Washington DC ride that honors police officers killed in the line of duty, one of whom was her husband.  

The Yarmouth, Massachusetts resident saw her white Specialized road bike with "Gannon" stickers on it fly off her car.  As if that weren't bad enough, when she turned around to retrieve it, it was gone.

Dara Gannon with her bike.

Not surprisingly, the police in her Cape Cod community have taken interest in her case.  She and they hope that whoever "found" the bicycle will return it, as it means more than just a pair of wheels and pedals to her:  She has used it for other rides like the one for which she was training.

Anyone with information about her bike can call Chief Frederickson at 508-775-0445, ext. 2156, or e-mail him at ffrederickson@yarmouth.ma.us. 

12 September 2022

A Feast In More Ways Than One

 Saturday was warm, sunny and breezy.  Even though Monday, Labor Day, was the “unofficial “ end of summer, people flocked to the beaches. I followed them—by bicycle, of course.  On Vera, my Mercian fixed-gear, to be exact.

However we got there, the conditions were all but perfect for however one chose to enjoy the sand and water, as this couple did in Point Lookout.

There are some people, however, who make me wonder why they bothered to  go:

However you go and whatever you do when you get there, you need sustenance.

I’ve passed that house, on an Ocean Boulevard closed to traffic, many times.  But I’d never seen that giant squash.  Vines with those plants covered the side of that house. There was even an audio description of that plant species.

Of course I didn’t pick the squash.  I’d packed some Ghirardelli’s dark chocolate and a few strawberries.  They were great and the day nourished my psyche.

11 September 2022

A Generation After The Ones Who Didn't Come Home

Today, I am not going to treat or subject (depending on your point of view) you to my "Sunday funnies" feature.

Rather, I am taking this opportunity to commemorate the 21st anniversary of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, and the downing of a flight in Pennsylvania.

This anniversary is significant because at the age of 21, most people in most parts of the world have all or most of the rights and responsibilities of an adult.  So, some might argue, a whole generation has been born since that terrible day.

I also can't help, as a long-ago bike messenger, to think of all of those messengers and other workers--including firefighters and other first responders and office workers in the Towers--who never made it home that day. I am also thinking of those who were spared because they had the day off, were late or were on their way when their train or bus came to a halt.

And there are the bikes that were never retrieved.


Bike rack at the 9/11 Memorial

10 September 2022

Restfulness, I Hope

The other day, a late-afternoon ride along familiar routes turned into more of a journey than I imagined it could be.

Along the Malcolm X Promenade (formerly the Flushing Bay Promenade), workers who didn't have a "break room" were doing the best they could to take a break from work much harder than mine:

They were reclining by the water, in the way people can recline only when they're by the water.  A few miles away, in Fort Totten, I saw upright structures in, and by, the water.

Nearby, in Crocheron Park, Golden Pond allowed me, for a moment, to pretend that I'm Monet.

I hope that the men I saw early in my ride got their well-deserved rest--and, just as important, the calm I felt seeing the sailboats in the bay and blooms in the pond.