31 December 2022

From Solitude To Celebrants: A Ride From Yesterday To Today

 Yesterday was even milder than Thursday.  I had a few things to do in the morning and early afternoon, so I didn't get out for a ride until mid-afternoon.  By that time, the weather was spring-like, with a temperature around 10C (50F) and bright sunshine.

Since I knew my ride would be shorter than the one I did on Thursday, I took Tosca, my Mercian fixed-gear, out for the spin.  I did the sort of ride I often do in such times:  along the waterfront of "Hipster Hook"--the Brooklyn neighborhoods of Williamsburg and Greenpoint and the Queens environs of Long Island City and Astoria, where I live.  

On the way back, I took a side-trip into Roosevelt Island.  I enjoyed pedaling along the waterfront paths and around the lighthouse, but in one way that part of the ride could hardly have been more different from my trek to Point Lookout and back.  

During yesterday's ride, the Rockaway Boardwalk and Atlantic Beach Bridge were deserted, and I saw fewer people on the Long Beach boardwalk, along with less traffic on the roadways, than one normally encounters on a weekday.  On the other hand, all of the waterfront areas, especially on Roosevelt Island, were as full of visitors as a beach on a summer day.  Many of those who were walking and taking selfies were, I imagine, tourists in town for tonight's celebrations.  I wonder how many of them are paying hundreds of dollars a night in hotel fees for the privilege of arriving in Times Square twelve hours--with no backpacks or items-- before the ball drop and being forced to stand in the same spot for all of that time.

How do I plan to "ring out" the old year?  I feel as if I have been, during the past few days, in rides that end in sunsets.  Later, I'm going to hang out with a couple of friends who might or might not pay attention to the ball drop. Perhaps it's a sign of, ahem, midlife, that changing calendars seems less momentous than it did.  The constants, whatever they are, seem more important.  For me, they include, as they have for most of my life, cycling.

30 December 2022

A Solitary, But Not Lonely, Ride

 Yesterday seemed tropical, at least in comparison to the weather we had for Christmas weekend.  The temperature reached 45F (8C) in the middle of my ride and the sun shimmered behind a scrim of cirrus clouds.  Best of all, a very light wind blew at my back for the part of the return leg of my ride--on La-Vande, my Mercian King of Mercia.

Given that it was so mild for this time of year--and in comparison to recent conditions--I was surprised to see this:

I would've expected to see other cyclists, dog-walkers or simply walkers along the Rockaway boardwalk.  I mean, most people spent the past few days indoors and people who live by the beach year-round seem to be a bit hardier than most.  But I had that boardwalk to myself.  Then, I did a solo crossing of the Atlantic Beach Bridge. That's right:  Not a single vehicle or pedestrian--or seagull!--was present when I crossed it.  

What made having the boardwalk and bridge to myself even more surprising was that it was on a weekday--a Thursday.  Then again, it's a weekday of the "week when nothing happens"---between Christmas and New Year's Day.  I know that schools are closed so, perhaps, parents have stayed home with their kids--or have gone away.

The Long Beach boardwalk was hardly less solitary:  Only a couple of other cyclists, and a few strollers, graced it.  Finally, at Point Lookout, a couple who chanced greeted me with a shy, furtive, "Hello," as if they were as surprised to see me as I was to see them.  

I opened a packet of Kar's Trail Mix (the holiday version, with the green and red cocoa candies), and emptied about a quarter of it into my mouth.  It was like rocket fuel for the ride back--as if  I needed it!  

The ride back was a little less solitary, but not lonely.  I must admit, I enjoyed having the boardwalk, and much of the roadway, to myself on a weekday. 

29 December 2022

A Ride At Day’s, And Year’s, End

 Perhaps it’s fitting that, as this year is ending, I have been taking rides that end in twilight.

When the sun descends at this time of year, the red and orange hues feel like glimmerings of hope, or at least wishes.  The night that follows will be long, but not as long as the one that came before it. The horizon may not stay lit until I reach my destination—whether it’s home or some other place—but at least there is a view, a vision ahead.

Whoever decided to paint the bridge from Roosevelt Island to Queens in that burgundy-rust shade must have had an artist’s sensibility.  Perhaps that person, or committee (Can a committee actually make such an inspired choice?) took a bike ride like the one I did yesterday—at the end of a day, at the end of a year.

28 December 2022

Late Afternoon, Early Winter Ride

Christmas weekend included everything one expects, weather-wise, in this part of the world--except snow.  Cold and wind cut through layers of insulation on human bodies as well as buildings.  I wondered whether even fluffy, shaggy dogs dressed in wool sweaters or down vests (yes, doggie down vests are a thing!) were warm, or at least not cold, as they led their humans along concrete sidewalks and asphalt streets that, I imagine, are even colder than their surroundings.

Yesterday afternoon brought a heat wave, at least by comparison:  the temperature broke the freezing mark, if only by a degree.  And the wind died down, if only a little.  Still, conditions were more inviting for a ride than they'd been in days.  

My late-day ride took me to the Malcolm X Promenade, which rims Flushing Bay east of LaGuardia Airport.  For the return leg of my ride, I chose a route through an industrial area surrounding the Steinway piano works.  It was almost eerily quiet for a weekday afternoon:  I guess a lot of people took the week off.  I can't blame them, really:  Not much happens during this week between Christmas and New Year's Day.

What I saw while pedaling south on Steinway Street made me happy I chose that particular route.  The sun set a minute or two later than it did last week: paradoxically, a sign that we are plunging deeper into winter.  The glow that bathed the street, trees, cars and people, however, at least felt like the milder weather forecast for a day or two from now.

27 December 2022

Going For A Ride Anyway

When the weather outside is frightful….

A bikes ride would be so delightful.

Let us go! Let us go!

Let us go then, you and I.

(How many other bloggers have had to apologize to Frank Sinatra and T.S. Eliot in the same post?)

Fixed Gear eBike: An Oxymoronic Contradiction?

An a capella heavy metal band?

When I first heard about it, a dozen years ago, I thought it was a joke.  Then I heard Van Canto and the combination seemed no more incongruous than, say, Saint Andre cheese on a bagel from Lots O' Bagels. (That's what I ate the other day, on Christmas morning.) And, hey, those guys were doing something I did when I was part of a punk band you've never heard of, and never will:  making a lot of noise with musical instruments and screaming.  

So why am I mentioning an a capella heavy metal band?  Well, knowing about them made what I am about to describe seem less implausible than it might otherwise have seen.  

In case you're new to this blog, or if your cycling is experience is limited, I'll explain a couple of things.  

First, this:  a fixed-gear bike. One of my Mercians--Tosca--is of this type. A single cog screws directly onto the rear hub.  When you ride this type of bike, if the wheels turn, so do your pedals--or vice versa.  In other words, you can't coast, which turns your ride into more of a workout. That is why I often take Tosca on short rides.  It's also the reason why all bikes raced on velodromes--enclosed tracks--have fixed gears: They are more efficient, and therefore capable of greater speeds.

I have to admit that when I ride Tosca, with my legs in continuous motion, it's difficult for me to imagine riding an electric bike, a.k.a., eBike,  which not only allows coasting, but also "assists" the rider.  In other words, a fixed-gear bike seems to be the antithesis of an eBike. 

Indeed it is, in spite of claims to the contrary.  "Fixed gear eBike" is, if you ask me, "click-bait."  If you actually click onto the websites where claims for such a bike are made, you'll find that the "fixed gear" is actually a single-speed freewheel or other drivetrain without a derailleur.

If they're not being deceptive, they simply don't understand the difference between "single speed" and "fixed gear."  It's not difficult for me to imagine an eBike with a single speed freewheel.  For one thing, the two systems would work well together.  For another, folks who'd want an electric, or any other kind of, assist, are also likely to coast for significant parts of their rides.  If they could pedal nonstop, even if only for a few minutes, why would they want an assist--unless, of course, it kept them pedaling?

So...while I can't say with certainty that a fixed-gear eBike is impossible, implausible or even impractical, I don't know how it's possible, necessary or desirable?

26 December 2022

I'm Canadian. Really I Am... Je Suis Canadienne. Vraiement!

 It's the day after Christmas.  Most schools, colleges and universities are closed, and will be for the rest of this week, as is the custom for the week between Christmas and New Year's Day.

Here in the US, banks, post offices and many workplaces are closed.  I claim some responsibility for that.  You see, I am really Canadian.  Really, I am: Je suis canadienne. (Is there a gender-neutral term for "Canadian" in French?) Today is a holiday in the Great North, and in Jamaica, Australia and, of course, the UK.  

In other words, it's celebrated just about everywhere English is spoken--except for the US. When we declared our independence from the Crown, it seems that we tried to break every one of His/Her Majesty's customs and traditions--except, of course, for speaking English.  But we altered the meanings and usage of many words, and the conventions of speech of writing, to the point that George Bernard Shaw once quipped that America and England are separated by a common language.

Today things are closed in the US mainly because it's Monday and Federal law says that if certain holidays fall on a weekend, the subsequent Monday is a holiday.  

But I'm going to allow myself to think that we're really celebrating Boxing Day because, well, why shouldn't we?  According to some sources, this holiday originated with upper-class families who sent their help--who, of course, worked on Christmas Day--home with boxes of gifts and food for their families.  Other sources say that it was simply a day of charity, when boxes were given to the poor.

Today, of course, few people in any of the countries that observe this holiday think about those origins.  But many people--some of whom, like Moses and Ann Mathis,  I've mentioned on this blog--keep up with the tradition in their own ways: They collect and, sometimes, repair bikes that go to children who might not otherwise get them. 

Kellie Ward and Jason McMillan also are keeping up the tradition.  Two years ago, the Tamworth, Australia couple bought a second-hand bike, fixed it up and offered it to a family in need via social media.  They received 40 responses.  Two years later, businesses have pitched in with enough bike parts, helmets and other items for 11 kids to receive bikes.

While it's odd that a Southern Hemisphere country where Summer begins in December adopted the customs of a Winter holiday from the Northern Hemisphere, it's nice to see that folks like Ward and McMillan are, in their own way, keeping up one of England's more laudable traditions.  

Oh, and I wouldn't mind seeing Boxing Day enshrined as a holiday in the US.  After all, as Stephen Marche points out in his Times editorial, sometimes people need a holiday from a holiday!

25 December 2022

The Holiday Question

 I wish all of you health and happiness on this day, Christmas.

Now, I am going to reveal something that might cause you to wonder whether the title of this blog is "truth in advertising."  I neither give nor receive nearly as many holiday gifts as I got or gave in years past.  The main reason for that, I think, is that the people closest to me and I have what we need and, for the most part, what we want.  And if we don't have something we want, it's easier to simply acquire it (if we can afford it, of course) than to ask or hint for it.  

So, I can understand why some of you might think I'm old rather than in "midlife."  Still, I assert that as long as I don't know when my life will end, I am in the middle of it.

Anyway, one thing that might qualify me as old is that no one who has ever received a holiday gift from me has ever had to ask this question:

Nor have I.  I don't feel I've missed anything.

24 December 2022

If It Leads To Pho, Let It Snow

When the weather outside is frightful
Vietnamese food can be so delightful.

OK, the writers of "Let It Snow" probably never tasted Vietnamese food.  But Wanya Morris and Brian McKnight, I am sure, comforted themselves with their favorite foods on cold, stormy nights.

That is, of course, unless their culinary pleasures weren't available.  Depending on where they lived, they might not have had access to Vietnamese, Chinese, Mexican or whatever foods because the weather was too frightful for the delivery people.  After all, for how little they make (without benefits), who has the right to demand that they complete their appointed rounds through rain, snow, sleet or hail?

Such a dilemma confronted Philip Marciniak.  On a normal day, he makes his rounds as an appliance repairman on electric cargo bike.  His business includes, not surprisingly, electric bikes.

On Monday, roads in his hometown of Saanich, British Columbia were rendered impassible by a heavy snowfall.  And Marciniak really, really wanted his Vietnamese food. 

So what did he do?  He mounted a snowplow to his bike and soon he was enjoying his pho.

OK, so he didn't have his "light bulb moment" when he hankered for Ca Kho To.  He'd been working on his electric bike-plow prototype for at least a year before using it to retrieve his Asian treats.

While he doesn't think his contraption will replace truck-driven plows, he plans to use his bike-plow to get around when the weather is frightful. He jokes, however, that he might plow on request--as long as the right meal awaits.

If plowing a path leads to Pho

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow.

23 December 2022

A Ride Ahead Of A Storm

 The "once in a generation" weather events are happening, well, more than once in a generation.  

Such an event was predicted for last night and today.  The weather, according to forecasters, would take twists and turns that would cause a script to be rejected as too unbelievable. The day started with temperatures just above freezing.  Then the rain came:  a few drops falling as I returned to my apartment turned into downpours accompanied by high winds.  The temperature rose to springlike levels, but are expected to fall enough to give us the coldest Christmas Eve and Christmas in, well, a generation.

Now, I don't mind riding in rain or wind, or in changing temperatures.  But the predicted combination is not my idea of a backdrop for a good ride.  I think the only one in my orbit who likes this weather is Marlee because it keeps me home with her!

Anyway, I spent about two and a half hours on Tosca, my Mercian fixed-gear.  Most of our ride rimmed the East River shorelines of Queens and Brooklyn.  As familiar as it all was, I enjoyed it and, more important, noticed something that I missed because I took a turn I wouldn't normally take.

Along the Greenpoint waterfront is the WNYC Transmitter Park, from which our local public radio stations (on AM and FM) sends out the programs that are often the soundtrack when I'm home.  I guess I shouldn't have been surprised to see a mural dedicated to Black Americans who've been killed by police officers.  I think I pay a bit more attention to such things than most White Americans.  Still, I was astounded and, later, ashamed that I didn't recognize many of the names.  What was more disturbing was the knowledge that, as the creators of the murals acknowledge, the "list" is far from complete.

About twenty meters to the right of the BLM mural (or to the mural's left) is another that couldn't be more different.  

Perhaps that is the point:  The woman in the mural looks as White as the paint in her face.   She is as languid as the Sandra Bland, Eric Garner and others in the BLM mural were tense and fearful when they were confronted by constables.  

Oh, and she is lounging on what appears to be a Spring day. I was looking at her, and the BLM mural, on the second day of Winter, as a "once in a generation" storm was approaching.

22 December 2022

Before Auld Lang Syne

 The Winter Solstice came yesterday, just after sunset. 


Robert Burns is best known for "Auld Lang Syne," traditionally sung at the stroke of midnight in the Anglophone world.  Here the Scottish poet beautifully conveys the mood at the beginning of this season:

Winter:  A Dirge

The wintry west extends his blast,
   And hail and rain does blaw;
Or, the stormy north sends driving forth
   The blinding sleet and snaw:
While, tumbling brown, the burn comes down,
   And roars frae bank to brae;
And bird and beast in covert rest,
   And pass the heartless day.

“The sweeping blast, the sky o’ercast,”
   The joyless winter-day
Let others fear, to me more dear
   Than all the pride of May:
The tempest’s howl, it soothes my soul,
   My griefs it seems to join;
The leafless trees my fancy please,
   Their fate resembles mine!

Thou Power Supreme whose mighty scheme
   These woes of mine fulfil,
Here, firm, I rest; they must be best,
   Because they are Thy will!
Then all I want—O do Thou grant
   This one request of mine.—
Since to enjoy Thou dost deny,
   Assist me to resign.

21 December 2022

How "Swyft" Are Their Ideas?

 Winter Solstice arrives today at 4:47 p.m. local time. The sun will set sixteen minutes earlier, thus beginning our "longest night"  here in New York City.

That is not the reason, though, I have posted the above image.  Yes, dusk and dark will come sooner than on any other day of the year.  And it seems that some former Google employees are doing everything they can, if unwittingly, to further prolong it.

They formed Swyft Cities, an organization that aims to "revolutionize transportation and real estate." (The more likely any group or organization uses any form of the word "revolution," the less likely they are to know what it means--or to have studied any history.) Their Twitter feed claims they "save time, space and costs by reducing parking needs, freeing up land use and providing a superior passenger experience."

I can get on board with "reducing parking needs."  It seems to me that it can be done most efficiently by, well, getting more cars off the road.  But their own promotional materials don't reflect any understanding of that, or what else might make cities truly sustainable or livable--for people from all walks of life.

I mean, an aerial gondola ride at sunset (or sunrise) can be quite lovely. I know:  I've taken such airborne voyages.  But, really, how many cars can they replace.  A bus. let alone a train, can carry many times more passengers per trip and run more frequently.

What really irks me, though, is that the folks of Swyft seem--as, to be fair, too many other planners--oblivious to bicycles.  As "Hannah" on Road.cc acerbically retorted, "Just build bike lanes!"  I agree, but with this caveat:  that the lanes aren't conceived, planned or built by folks like the ones at Swyft Cities.  I've ridden on too many bike lanes that seem to have been designed by people who haven't been on  bicycles since they got their driver's licenses, if indeed they ever rode for transportation or even recreation.

As for the people at Swyft:  They confirm, to me, that people who are smart enough to bring us "smart" phones and appliances sometimes lack in life experience, or simple common sense.

20 December 2022

Making (S)Trax In The Snow

In 1995, I gave myself a holiday gift of sorts:  a Bontrager Race Lite mountain bike frame.  I just happened to get a really good deal on it and transferred the upgraded parts from my Jamis Dakota. I still had most of the Dakota's original parts, which I re-installed before gifting that bike to someone who was even poorer than I was.

Anyway, just after the New Year, I took the Race Lite on a ride Keith Bontrager, from his base in Santa Cruz, California, may not have envisioned.  One of the biggest snowstorms in the history of New York City dumped about two feet of the white stuff.  A state of emergency was declared, which meant that the only motorized vehicles on the streets were pushing plows or spreading salt.  But, as happens in such storms, the streets filled with snow, it seemed, seconds after they were plowed.  

The Race Lite--or, more precisely, the tires--made tracks along deserted Flatbush Avenue to Prospect Park which turned into, if you'll pardon the cliche, a winter wonderland. I giggled as I twisted, turned and tumbled--sometimes on purpose--into still-pristine beds of snow.

I can remember only a couple of snowstorms to rival that one here in the Big Apple.  So, unless I move to some place where such snowfalls are normal--and where the ground is therefore covered with snow for longer periods of time--I probably won't have use for something I'm about to describe.

The Austrian company FasterBikes has just released the S-Trax Snowbike Conversion Kit.  Included is, not surprisingly, a ski that replaces the front wheel.  It's paired with "crawler" unit that replaces the rear wheel. Not surprisingly, that "crawler" has snowmobile-like lugged rubber track and rollers.  It also has some new "twists":  a mechanical disc brake and an Enviolo Extreme hub-incorporated stepless gear system.  One chain runs from the bicycle's existing crankset to that hub on the drivetrain side, while another chain runs from the hub down to the track on the non-drivetrain side.

In some ways, this setup is similar to another made by Canadian manufacturer Envo.  The main difference is that, unlike the Envo setup, S-Trax doesn't come with a motor.  So, if you don't have an electric mountain bike with a mid-mount motor, you will be propelling your snowbike the way I rode my Race Lite:  on the power of your legs.

Oh, and FasterBikes doesn't recommend using the kit with a carbon-fiber frame 

19 December 2022

Clouds And Cuddles

Cold and rain.  Then, cold and wind.  

That is how Fall has been turning into winter.  The clouds' whites and grays, and even the blue that occasionally breaks through them, take on the hardness and clarity of ice. 

Long Island Sound at Fort Totten seems to open itself for the purpose of ferrying away the memories, the flickerings, of autumnal hues and sunsets.

I'm not sure whether Marlee can appreciate such things.  She, however, wonders why I want to go for a ride when it's cold and windy and overcast. She can't understand why I'd want to leave, if only for a while, when she's dozing off in my lap.

I explain that I will return--and the sensory details of my ride make her cuddles all the more comforting.  And, I suspect, my riding makes me more cuddle-able, if only for the body heat a ride generates.

18 December 2022

17 December 2022

His Little Town

 I grew up, first in a large city, then in a town that was large geographically but small in population.  That town would later become, in essence if not in fact, a suburb in the  metropolitan area of the city where I lived until I was on the cusp of puberty

So I guess I can't say what it might've been to grow up  and ride around in  "my little town."  My image of such a childhood is a collage of stills and short clips from old calendars, movies and TV shows like "Andy Griffith."  I can see a kid riding past wooden houses with yards where clothes flapped in the breeze on my way to a store to pick up a loaf of bread for my mother and some penny candies for myself.  Or to the library, to return an overdue book and pay the four-cent fine.  Then, past some more houses, barns and fields and on to another store, where the kid in my mind's eye would stop for a bag of potato chips and a bottle of Coke before rolling down to a park.

That's more or less a sketch of the ride William T. Hamilton Jr took in Hopkinton, Massachusetts--"circa 1950."  I wonder whether his account of the ride came from a diary he kept as a kid--or whether he's recalling it seven decades later.  Either way, his recall of details is amazing.

You just have to love anyone--whether a kid, adolescent or adult--who can end the story of his ride with this:  "I take a left onto College Rock Road and go to College Rock to enjoy my chips and Coke. Then it's back on the bike for the 3 mile ride home--most of it uphill."

16 December 2022

Trash Bins Blocking Our Way

If it's happening in New York, it's happening (or has happened) in Portland.  At least, that's how it is in the world of cycling.

Even in that Bike-o-topia on the Pacific, some folks aren't above using bike lanes for parking, picking up or dropping off passengers or dumping debris.  Some folks who do such things are careless or thoughtless.  But in the Rosebud City, as in my hometown, some acts of bike lane blockage are pure malice.

I'm thinking now of something Jonathan Maus, the editor and publisher of Bike Portland, pointed out in the latest issue: trash cans blocking bike lanes.

I'm not talking about the stray bin a storm blows into our paths.  Rather, I'm referring to folks who lay multiple receptacles across or along the lane.  If you're riding in the dark or in the rain, it's easy to miss them. And if you're riding in a lane, but in the opposite direction from auto traffic (as I do when I pedal north on the Crescent Street lane that passes in front of my building)--and something is also blocking the sidewalk, as is often the case--you have to thread an extremely thin line between the lane and the traffic that's coming at you.

One of Maus's readers reported that workers who work for her building's management company were among the guilty. When she brought the issue to their attention, her concerns were "repeatedly dismissed." 

Then a car struck the bins.  She emailed the Oregon Department of Transportation, which manages the section of lane in question, and the Portland Bureau of Planning & Sustainability, who are in charge of waste and recycling.  "I shudder to think what would have happened had a cyclist approached this sudden wall of cans in the dark rainy weather and darted into traffic to avoid them," she wrote.

A day later, a PBS staffer responded.  The staffer said they contacted the building's management, who said the bins would be placed upright on the sidewalk, and out of the lane.  

As Maus points out, the city should handle such matters automatically "through a mix of marketing, educating, design and enforcement."  But, until that happens, the burden will be on us--whether we're in Portland, New York or anywhere else--to file complaints.

15 December 2022

If You Throw Your Bicycle…

 Don’t.  Just don’t.

That’s what I say to throwing your bicycle.  Even if it’s a Huffy or some other department-store special.  Even if you’re really, really angry about something—or at someone.

My advice, however, might not have swayed Mohammad Noor Iszuan Noordin. I can understand how having a name like that—and having to say, spell or write it—can frustrate somebody. Still, it’s not the reason why he tossed a 25 kilogram (55 pound) bike from a 14th story window in Singapore nearly two years ago.

So what motivated him to fling his yellow tank on wheels (It was indeed a bicycle, not an ebike!) into the urban horizon?

An argument with his wife. 

Now, I grant you that if one must take out one’s frustrations, it’s better done on an inanimate object than an intimate partner. (Trust me, I know:  I’ve been on the receiving end of such an attack!) Still, I’d rather that a bicycle flies (if only metaphorically) with a person aboard than turns into a potentially-deadly projectile.

So, what was the subject of the argument that drove Mr. Noordin to send his bike plummeting to a Singapore sidewalk?  Something that would have altered the course of their lives together:  the attire for their upcoming wedding reception.

Marriages have ended, or been cancelled, over less.  Still, the couple wed. If nothing else, it grants visitation rights: Earlier today, he was sentenced to a month in jail for “committing a rash act endangering the personal safety of others.”

The prosecutor sought a longer sentence. While conceding that Mr. Noordin has “borderline intellectual functioning,” she noted that he hadn’t checked for passerby when he heaved the hulking machine.  But defense lawyer Anand Nalanchandran used that fact to argue that Noordin tossing the bike was “an emotional reaction “ and that had he looked for passerby, things could have been worse.

So is the moral of this story that if you throw your bike out a window, be sure not to check for anyone who might be unlucky enough to walk by?

14 December 2022

Connections In (And To) The CIty Of Brotherly Love

 If you've been reading this blog for a while, you know that some of my pet peeves include New York's, and other US cities', follies in creating "bicycle infrastructure."  Often, it seems that those who conceive, plan, design and build bike lanes and other facilities haven't been on a bicycle since they got their driver's licenses, or at all.  

Evidence that I am not engaging in conspiracy theories or am simply a chronic complainer can be seen in the routing of bike lanes.  Too often, they put cyclists in more danger than they'd face while riding in traffic. They force cyclists to cross intersections where drivers--sometimes of buses and trucks--are making right turns in front of them.  Or they are simply poorly marked and maintained.

One of the hazards, which seems like a mere inconvenience to anybody who doesn't cycle, is the way some lanes begin or end seemingly out of the blue:  what I call the bike lanes from nowhere to nowhere.  When such a lane begins or ends abruptly--in some cases, in mid-block--motorists and cyclists alike are caught unawares, which probably does more than anything else to increase chances of a tragic encounter.

Those lanes from "nowhere to nowhere" also help to foster the attitude among non-cyclists that we're a bunch of entitled whiners engaging in a frivolous recreational activity.  While I do ride for recreation (or, more precisely, physical and mental health), I also ride for transportation.  So do many other riders in this city, and others:  They go to work or school,  visit friends and family members as well as museums and other venues, or the store, on their bikes.  Some might go a few blocks, but others--like me--venture beyond our neighborhoods and even our cities.

It must be said that I have been cycling for most of my life and in this city for about four decades.  I rode to school and work when none of my peers did; I pedaled through neighborhoods and towns when I was the only adult cyclist most residents had seen.  So, for me, the absence or presence of cycling "infrastructure" won't affect my decisions to ride or not.  

But, for a prospective, new or less-experienced cyclist, it might.  They might decide to pedal to their classrooms, workplaces or any other place they want or need to frequent if they felt there was a coherent system of bike lanes or other routes that could take them safely for all or much of their trip.  Not only would such a system allow them to ride with fewer worries about traffic, it would make navigating a route easier.

The Schuylkill River Trail

The Bicycle Coalition of Greater Philadelphia seems to understand as much.  That is why they have been working with the city's Circuit Trails network to fill in the "gaps" between some of the lanes within the City of Brotherly Love--and the communities surrounding it.  The stated goals of the program are 500 miles of trails by 2025 that will be--and this, to me, is the more important goal--that will be part of an integrated system.

Such a network, I believe, might entice some people who live in nearby suburbs--including a few, like Cherry Hill, across the Delaware river in New Jersey--to commute or take pleasure trips into the city by bicycle.  

13 December 2022

This Veteran Was A True Hero

 The more I am opposed to war, the more respect I have for veterans.

As counterintuitive as it may seem, my opposition to war is exactly the reason why I believe that veterans—especially if they have been in combat—should never want for anything.

That said, I don’t think that the uniform is a halo.  As much as I respect military service, I’m not naive enough to believe that all former service members are heroes in civilian life.  And I don’t think that said service should be a “get out of jail free card.”

Which brings me to Paul Whelan.  I feel for his family, who are about to spend another holiday without him. On the other hand, I think that false equivalencies have been made, and blame has been misplaced, since Britany Griner has returned home while he’s still incarcerated in Russia.

The Trumpists are blaming Biden.  Truth is, Mango Mussolini didn’t do a damned thing to help Whelan, who was arrested four years ago. And, although I’d like to see Whelan returned home, he’s not quite the hero Fox News and other right-wingers have made him in light of his military service—from which he was less-than-honorably discharged.

On the other hand, Steve Pringle was a hero. The Army Veteran started Build A Bicycle-Bicycle Therapy on Michigan’s Upper Peninsula.  The shop’s name reflects Pringle’s purpose or, more precisely, mission: He wanted to help veterans who, like him, had trouble re-integrated into civilian life.  It grew to include programs for rehabilitated prisoners, people with disabilities and others who have trouble finding employment.  

Steve Pringle gives a bike to Kadence Horton of Iron Mountain, Michigan.  Photo by Ryan Gorza, Detroit Free Press.

Money was never his motivation, he said.  That is why he often offered steep discounts and gave bikes away.  His work would range beyond his home base:  He was delivering bikes in Florida, where he operated another shop like his “home “ shop in Michigan, to children and families whose lives were upended by Hurricane Ian.

In a terrible irony, he became another victim of that storm. He drove the bike-laden truck into an intersection, where another vehicle struck with such force that the truck reportedly hit a pole and rolled over.

That intersection didn’t have a “Stop” sign:  Ian’s winds blew it away.

Paul Whelan’s military service didn’t make him a hero. Nor did Steve Pringle’s.  But Pringle became a hero to many who died in the service of the people who have the most reason to revere him.