06 December 2023

The End—Or Just Change?


The past few days have been hectic.  It’s “crunch time” at work and I’ve had to attend to a few things that might lead to a change in my life. Whether that will be good or bad, or just change, I don’t know.

I did manage to squeeze in a late-afternoon ride to and from Fort Totten the other day.  I rode Tosca, my Mercian fixed gear, as I often do on short rides. On my way home, I stopped to enjoy the end-of-day light from the Malcolm X Promenade, which rims mFlushing Bay from LaGuardia Airport.

As much as I enjoyed the spectacle, upon looking at a photo I took, I can’t help but to wonder whether it portends what will come from the change, should it come to pass.

03 December 2023

Off The Rails

 When I had a mountain bike with suspension, I thought I could ride over anything.

That included railroad tracks. I assumed they were abandoned…until I heard a low rumble, clackety-clack and blaring horn.

It’s a good thing my reflexes were great. (I was younger!)

Even with suspension, riding those tracks was rough. Perhaps this is what I needed:

02 December 2023

Destroying Whar They “Didn’t See”

At the end of my block—where Crescent Street meets Broadway in Astoria, Queens—there is a row of on-street bike racks.

Like other such racks in New York and a few other cities, it’s at the end of a parking lane that’s supposed to serve as a “barrier” between the bike and traffic lane.  Too often, though, drivers turn it into a passing lane.  On one occasion, a ride-share driver barged into the Crescent Street lane a couple of SUV lengths behind me, blaring his horn and his mouth. I have seen other incidents like it.

That is the reason I don’t use those racks:

I don’t know whether the driver who “taco’ed” that rear wheel and frame did so deliberately. If they did and were caught, I can imagine their defense: “I didn’t see it!”

That is what a driver in Portland claimed after causing this:

That bike was its owner’s sole means of transportation. Worse yet, she—Cole—witnessed its destruction from across the street. In talking to the driver who made the claim she deemed “dubious,” she noticed  that his SUV, which took out a whole row of bikes in addition to hers, had no license plates. She got his name and contact information and contacted the police who, not surprisingly, didn’t seem interested.

She would appreciate monetary help in buying a new bike. I have to wonder whether the owner of the wrecked bike at the end of my block could replace it. I don’t have to wonder, however, about this: whether other bikes have met untimely ends in supposedly “safe” bike parking corrals.

If you want to contribute to Cole’s next bike, you could send to her CashApp account—$colesodcash—or to Jonathan Maus, the etditor and publisher of Bike Portland, who will forward it to her.

(The first two photos are mine. The others are from Bike Portland.)

01 December 2023

Kevin Duggan Knows


Great minds think alike.

So I've heard.  Now, I am not going to tell you that I am a "great mind."  But I know when someone is thinking like a cyclist--in particular, a cyclist in New York City.

Kevin Duggan is such a person.  His latest article in Streetsblog NYC tells me as much.

In it, he lauds a new series of bike lanes I've already ridden a few times.  But he also said they are part of the "groundwork" for a "much-needed safe transportation network in the neighborhoods of Western Queens.

Astoria, where I live, is part of Western Queens.  There is already a lane--which is far from ideal--on my street and a few others.  But those extant lanes do not form a coherent network that would allow a cyclist or, for that matter, anyone not driving, a safe, reliable and efficient way to traverse the area between its bridges, schools, workplaces, shopping areas, parks, museums and the residences of people like me.

Nor do the new lanes about which Duggan writes.  Oh, one of them, along 11th Street, is protected by concrete barriers along some stretches and a lane of parked cars along others.  And it connects, if not seamlessly, with two other lanes along other major thoroughfares--Jackson Avenue and 44th Avenue-- in the neighborhood.  But they don't offer something else they could:  a safe and easy way to access the Pulaski Bridge, which connects the Queens neighborhood Long Island City (an area about 4 kilometers south of my apartment) to Greenpoint, Brooklyn--and has a protected bike lane.

Moreover, the Jackson Avenue and 44th Avenue lanes, which run east-west, doesn't connect (yet) with the lane along Vernon Boulevard--a north-south lane like 11th Street.  And there is no lane to connect Vernon or 11th to Crescent Street or other lanes that take cyclists to the RFK Memorial Bridge and other useful, relevant and interesting places.

Kevin Duggan understands.  I can only hope that the planners will, some day soon.

(Photo by Kevin Duggan for Streetsblog.  Map from New York City Department of Transportation.)

30 November 2023

Faster Than A Speeding Merckx?

Did Eddy Merckx ever get a speeding ticket?  

I don't mean for his driving--which I never hear about.  Rather, I ask whether he was summonsed while on his bicycle.

Somehow I doubt it.  Even in his home region of Flanders, which has produced more than its share of great racers (especially sprinters), I don't think there's anyone who could have caught him, on a bike or in a car.

So what brought the question of "The Cannibal" being fined for exceeding a posted speed limit to my mind?

This:  The other day, Flemish Mobility Minister Lydia Peeters announced that new speed cameras and average speed checks will be installed on bicycle streets by Spring 2024, pending approval from the Flemish government.

Bicycle streets differ from bike lanes in that cars are allowed in them, but drivers must give way to, and cannot overtake, cyclists. According to Peeters, the cameras will help to enforce that rule--and the speed limit of 30kph (18.64 mph).  

Yes, bicycles have to adhere to the speed limit, as well as cars. Ultimately, Peeters says, the goal speed limits and cameras is to make cycling safer which, she believes, will encourage more people to ride. While identifying motorists who break the rule would be easy enough, it's less so for cyclists, who don't have license plates.  Somehow, though, I imagine that Eddy, even at his advanced age, is one of the more recognizable--and identifiable--people in his homeland.

29 November 2023

Does The Fourth Amendment Apply To Us?


Seven years ago, I became one of many cyclists subjected to “phantom law syndrome:” A police officer pulled me over, claiming that I violated a law that didn’t exist. Whether he mistakenly believed the law existed (like the driver who claimed that I shouldn’t be driving on “her” street because a nearby street had a bike lane) or simply made it up, I hadn’t, in any case, violated it!

I got to thinking about that incident when I heard about another cyclist whom the police stopped.

Nearly a decade ago, Lance Rodriguez, then 20 years old, was riding his bike in Far Rockaway—a neighborhood I often ride through.  A passing cop thought he saw something “bulky” in Lance’s pants. (Make what you will of that statement. I won’t judge you for having a dirty mind!) To be fair, that “bulky” thing was indeed a gun. 

One thing was arguably unfair:  Rodriguez was arrested and served two years in prison.  In contrast, Bernhard Goetz shot four young Black men whom he claimed were trying to rob him. One was paralyzed. Goetz served eight months of a one-year sentence for possessing an illegal gun, but was acquitted of the attempted murder, assault and reckless endangerment charges.

Another unfair aspect of Rodriguez’s arrest and incarceration, according Hannah Kon, it is that they probably wouldn’t have happened had he been driving a car, or in some other space. Not to mention that, according to Kon—who represented him in his appeal—his imprisonment disrupted the career he was starting as a chef.

A majority of judges on the Court of Appeals agreed with Rodriguez’s contention that his Fourth Amendment rights (to not be searched without “probable cause”) were not respected because, in essence, he was more exposed and vulnerable to force on his bicycle than he would’ve been in a car.

The minority of judges who voted against the decision claim that it will keep police from conducting the searches that are sometimes necessary in order to prevent crime. Kon disagrees:  “Police can still pull over anyone on the road who’s violating a traffic law.  Including cyclists,” she noted. “They can pull over anyone on the road who they reasonably suspect who has committed or is about to commit a crime. The decision doesn’t change any of that.”

The decision—or more precisely, Rodriguez’s arrest and incarceration beg the questions of what “probable cause” is—and whether it means something different for cyclists from what it means for drivers or—dare I say it—for white or non-white cyclists. Or, more to the point, will police officers continue to find “probable cause” on cyclists—especially those of us of color—because they can, because we’re more exposed and vulnerable? 

Oh, and will “probable cause” continue to include alleged violations of phantom laws?

25 November 2023

A Path Through Vermont?


Image by Markus Spiske via Pexels

Someone, I forget whom, quipped that the definition of a Canadian is someone who lives as close as possible to the United States without living in it. That makes sense when you realize the country’s largest cities—Toronto, Montréal and Vancouver—all lie within 100 miles of the border.

That same wag might’ve said that the idea of US Route 5 might’ve been a highway as close as possible to New Hampshire without actually crossing into the Granite State. That is exactly what the thoroughfare does for much of its Vermont segment along the Connecticut River, the Green Mountain State’s boundary with New Hampshire.

Route 5 is extremely popular with tourists, as it passes through many towns and villages that are more picturesque than any place has a right to be. It also links the rest of New England with Québéc.

And, having cycled in Vermont, I can’t recommend it highly enough, whether in the spring, summer or its incomparable fall foliage season. The one drawback I could see is that being mainly a rural state, you have to know it—or go with a local—if you want to ride the less-trafficked roads. That can make it more difficult to plan a multi day tour or even a commute and, perhaps, keeps cycling from being even more popular than it is.

Now the Vermont Agency of Transportation, commonly known as VTrans, is taking feedback from municipalities along Route 5 for a possible bike route that would parallel the corridor from Vermont’s southern boundary with Massachusetts to its northern border with Québéc. The route would consist of separate protected lanes for some of its length and on-road painted lanes in other parts.

One of the difficulties in building such a route is that it would require the cooperation—financial and otherwise—of the many towns and villages along its way. While some balk at the possible cost and time commitments, others—like Fairlee—also see an opportunity because such a bike route would link already-existing bike routes as well as the towns themselves.

My hope for such a project is that actual cyclists are involved in planning, designing and building it.  Too many bike lanes I’ve ridden seem to have lacked the understanding that comes from spending time in the saddle.

24 November 2023

The Cloud Over Black Friday


Yesterday was Thanksgiving Day in the US.  Today is “Black Friday,” the unofficial  start of the Christmas shopping season. Online as well as brick-and-mortar retailers offer “sales” on popular items.  Too often, “sale” prices aren’t much, if at all, less than what people  can find without much trouble when they aren’t pumped up with  Black Friday hype. That’s why I don’t participate in the spectacles that, too often, seem like the running of the bulls when store doors open and throngs of shoppers charge through .

The concept seems to have spread beyond this country’s borders and shores—and to online retailers.  The bike business seems to have been pulled into it—by necessity, some industry insiders argue.  The COVID pandemic Bike Boom seems to have gone “bust:” After the shortages of bikes and anything related to them that caused some shops to close in 2020 and 2021, remaining distributors and dealers stocked up as soon as merchandise became available again. But the demand of the peak pandemic year’s didn’t continue: People who thought about cycling during the lockdowns abandoned such thoughts when gyms and other venues re-opened. Oh, and whatever economists (or TV personalities who play them on Fox News and CNBC) tell us about a “robust” economy, many cyclists (including yours truly) don’t have much spare cash or even credit.

That said, there are good deals to be had.  Even if I were swimming in green, however, I don’t think I’d be shopping: I have what I need (at least when it comes to cycling) and I don’t want more things. Most of all, I don’t want to follow the imperative to “buy until you die.”

22 November 2023

JFK: What If?


I hesitated to write this post.  But even if what I say seems irrelevant or simply wrong, I have to say it.

As you’ve heard by now, sixty years ago today, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated.

I was a very, very young child that day.  My memories of that time are not of the event itself, but of people expressing grief or—to use a word that I wouldn’t learn until many years later.  Even in Brooklyn, where I lived at the time, there were people who hated Kennedy as much as any Klan member, and for the same reasons.

I would say, though, that grief or, at least, shock. He was the first Roman Catholic to become President, and most of the people in my neighborhood shared his faith or, at least, attended the same kinds of churches.  Most of the non-Catholics in our community were Jewish—working-class, like us—and felt as much as we did that JFK “belonged” to them.

I’ll spare you all of the hackneyed rhetoric about the youthfulness and optimism he radiated. And I won’t insult your intelligence by repeating that oft-echoed canard that the nation “lost its innocence” that day.  This nation was never innocent; nor was any other, ever.

And for all that he accomplished, his re-election in 1964 probably wouldn’t have been a “slam-dunk.” People referred to the states south of the Mason-Dixon Line as the “Solid South:”  Democrats had won most elections, from those for Congress and governors’ mansion all the way down to dog-catcher, for the century that had elapsed since the Civil War. But the “Dixiecrats” had completely different ideas about race relations and other issues from those of Democrats like Kennedy and Franklin D. Roosevelt. They, however, needed Dixiecrats’ support not only to win elections, but also to pass legislation.

It almost goes without saying that if JFK had lived and won the next election, we would be living in a very different—and, I believe, better—country. For one thing, it would be easier (though not easy; it never is) to be non-White, non-male, non-heterosexual non-cisgender and non-wealthy. I think legislation intended to guarantee the rights of people I’ve mentioned (who include me) would have passed sooner and wouldn’t have been weakened.

I also think we’d be in a “greener” country.  JFK was the first President since pre-war JFK whose guiding principles included environmental consciousness. Most of his efforts focused on coastal landscapes because those were most familiar to him as someone who sailed from Cape Cod. But I believe that his consciousness about the natural world would have expanded—which would have helped to foster an environment that encouraged research and development of cleaner energy sources—at least in part because of his friendship with Rachel Carlson.

Who knows?  If Kennedy had lived and served longer, the bicycle might be seen as a mode of transportation and not a toy for kids-or adults. Might we have more and better bike lanes? Would my hometown of New York be the new New Amsterdam?

21 November 2023

Snark Alert: If You Can't Find An Apartment You Can Afford, Blame Bike Parking

Three years ago, the city of Portland, Oregon implemented bicycle parking requirements for new residential buildings.  Last week, the city's Planning Commission voted to recommend rolling back key provisions of the mandate.  

The campaign that led up to the vote included allegations by members of "community associations" that bike parking spaces come at the expense of low-income housing.  That, of course, is a classic "divide and conquer" strategy:  pitting two vulnerable groups of people (the cyclists because of their relatively small numbers, low-income people because of their lack of resources) against each other by creating a false equivalency.

As pointed out by more than one person who objected to the roll-back--which would include decreasing the number of bike parking spaces per housing unit--would increase the number of new apartments (or other housing units) by a tiny number, and the number of units available to low-income people by even less.  

Another objection to bike parking spaces is cost.  But, as Bike Portland's "Todd/Boulanger" explains, bike parking spaces and facilities end up costing more than they should because it's usually the last item on a project, which increases implementation costs not only because the cost of everything related to a project tends to increase over the lifespan of the project, but also because the installation of racks and other facilities, which should be simple, often has to be worked around other things, such as HVAC systems, that have already been done.  

To me, both arguments sound like variations of the " take "You take up too much space!" complaint drivers who are the sole occupants of their SUVs make when they have to share the road with a cyclist.

20 November 2023

Light At The End Of My Ride

 I’m still getting used to the sun setting before supper time in Florida. (I’m not sure I ever could get used to eating the last meal of the day an hour or two after most kids’ schooldays end!) So I have to remind myself not to linger over my bagel and coffee if I want to do a 120 or 140 kilometer ride and get home before sundown.

Mind you, I have lights and reflective garments.  I am not against night riding:  It has been thrilling, surreal and revealing for me. I simply prefer to end a ride of more than a couple of hours in daylight.

Yesterday’s ride to Point Lookout and back—on LaVande, my Mercian King of Mercia—got me home just before high wispy clouds began to flicker with orange rays.  The light at the Point was even more of a harbinger of winter than the early sunset that would follow my ride.

19 November 2023

Somehow I Don’t Think Kool Herc Envisioned This

 For the 50th anniversary of hip-hop, the world needs….another Epic Rap Battle

Just imagine how much more interesting the Presidential primaries would be if Nikki Haley and Ron De Santis rattled off rhymes…oh, never mind. I mean, even if either of them were capable of rapping (or if De Santis were even capable of being anything other than a psycho-sexual-spiritual black hole), I’m not sure I’d want to hear it.

But these guys might’ve been fun, whatever one might’ve lacked In versification virtuosity and the other might lose in translation.

Somehow I don’t think Kool Herc envisioned anything like it.

18 November 2023

Will They Try To Ground Star Trek?

 I have owned a few Treks and ridden a few more.  I liked their rides, for different reasons, and was happy to have well-crafted frames made in the USA. 

As much as I liked my Trek bikes, I didn’t like the company quite as much.  While working in the bike shops that sold Treks, the company seemed, at times, to have the attitude that you should be very, very grateful to have one of their bikes.  Warranty claims took forever to settle and the sales rep whose territory included Highland Park Cyclery when I worked there remains one of the most obnoxious people I’ve met. 

So I wasn’t surprised when Trek tried to stop Washington State resident Christina Isaacs from using a trademark—Ranger Trek—for backpacks, T-shirts, jackets and other items that would be sold mainly in National Park stores.

She tried to register the trademark in 2016. Trek appealed to the Trademark Trial and Appeals Board, claiming that consumers could conflate their brand with hers.  The rationale for the Trek’s attempt to keep Isaacs from using her brand name is that the bike manufacturer has used its name to market backpacks, other bags and even lunchboxes. Also, Trek claimed, its bicycles are closely associated with parks.

When Trek lost their appealat the Board, and it wouldn’t reconsider, they brought Isaacs to court. Last Wednesday, the Federal Circuit  Court upheld the Board’s ruling.  

That Trek would keep Isaacs tied up in litigation shouldn’t come as a shock.  On a list of “Trademark Bullies” maintained by Trademark.com, Trek ranks number 4, just behind Kellogg’s, Apple and Monster Energy.

16 November 2023

Nobody Uses Citibike Anymore Because Too Many People Use It

 When discussing bicycle- or "micro-mobility"-related issues, some people can't keep a metaphor or a story straight, let alone construct a cogent argument.

On Monday, I pointed out the malapropisms and simple lack of sense of a Manhattan community board member's objection to a bill that would require, among other things, licensing eBikes--even though I agreed, in principle, that it's not a good bill.  Likewise, while I and many other New Yorkers can point to problems with Citibike's service and equipment, the City Comptroller's review of it seems to be guided, as Streetsblog suggested, by Yogi Berra's observation about a restaurant:  "Nobody goes there anymore because it's too crowded."

On one hand, the report from Brad Lander--who has been mentioned as a possible successor to Eric Adams as this city's mayor--says that Lyft, the ride-share service that now operates the bike-share program, is no longer providing "reliable and equitable service."  On the other, it acknowledges that "Citibike enables millions of trips each month" and that in 2022, there were 30 million trips: "five times as many as when the city first launched in 2013."  Moreover, the report went on to say that preserving (Italics mine) Citibike as a "high-quality transportation service is essential."

Riders pick up and drop off Citi Bikes at a docking station on the Upper West Side.
Photo by Lindsey Nicholson 


So why did I italicize "preserving?"  Well, it's notable that  esteemed Comptroller used that word, and not "restoring" or some synonym for it.  While it's far from perfect, I would say--and the phrase at the end of my previous paragraph would indicate--that Citibike is at least pretty good at what it does.  Of course, my experience with it is very limited, but on the occasions when I used it, I could find a bike that worked reasonably well (not like my own, but that's a pretty high bar, if I say so myself) and a port in which I could leave and lock it without too much trouble.  Now, I only used Citibikes between my bike-rich neighborhood of Astoria and central locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn. So, perhaps, I never had to experience what elicits the program's sharpest criticisms, to which the report alludes:  that Citibike doesn't serve low-income neighborhoods and communities of color--or, for that matter, the borough of Staten Island.

Aside from the ways the report contradicts itself, Gersh Kuntzman of Streetsblog points out that it has another problem:  the report is based on only two months--June and July of 2023, when Lyft admitted that it was experiencing problems, especially in certain areas (mainly in the Bronx) and with theft--out of nearly five years of the company's operating the service.

13 November 2023

They Won’t Obey The Law. So Why Pass It?


Community Board 6, Manhattan . Photo by Kevin Dugan for Streetsblog NYC.

People kill people. Therefore, laws against homicide and manslaughter are pointless.

Any lawyer who made such a statement probably wouldn’t be a lawyer for much longer. And anyone else who uttered it might be committed—or, in some places, elected.

While nobody in Manhattan’s Community Board 6–which includes the east side of the borough from 14th to 59th Street, one member of that wise and worldly body said something that is, at least to mind, just as logically flawed.

Or could it be that Jason Froimowitz has access that I lack to powers of reasoning. He was reactingto a bill, proposed by City Council Member Robert Holden, that would require, “ every bicycle with electric assist, electric scooter, and other legal motorized vehicle that is not otherwise required to be registered with the DMV, to be registered with DOT and receive an identifying number which would be displayed on a visible plate affixed to the vehicle.”

That sounds good on its face. But, perhaps not surprisingly for anything from Holden—who’s never met a cop or car he didn’t like—it’s not very well thought-out.  For one thing,  doesn’t address a legal loophole that allows moped buyers to leave the shop without registering the vehicle. So someone could buy a moped and the city would be none the wiser—and thus unable to enforce a mandate to plate.

The bill also does not acknowledge a major source of dangerous moped and ebike operation:  food delivery apps, which guarantee customers that their ramen will be delivered within 15 minutes or some similar time frame.  As it stands, delivery services and the restaurants that employ them face no penalties when their delivery workers maim or kill someone.

To be fair, requiring registration—from the point of sale onward—would make it easier to hold Doordash and their ilk to account, in part because the police will have one less excuse for not enforcing bans on motorized vehicles in bike and pedestrian lanes—and for not citing dangerous operation on the streets.

Froimowitz's objection to the bill, however, has nothing to do with the flaws I have enumerated.  Rather, he seems to think that passing any law to address the issue is pointless.  This would-be bastion of jurisprudential logic instead offers up this analogy as his reason for voting against the bill:

We currently require registration and license plates for motor vehicles in New York City and there is a prolific problem of vehicles obstructing, and removing, and defacing those license plates, so I fail to see how a solution requesting new implementation of  license plates would be effective. 

Before I proceed, I must say that I fail to see how a vehicle can obstruct, remove or deface a license plate.  And I am trying to wrap my head around "a prolific problem."  When someone or something is "prolific," they produce something in abundance, whether it's fruit from a tree or writing from a blogger.  A problem does not produce anything; it is produced and whatever produces it might be prolific if it is making more problems or anything else.

Now that I have pointed out the mixed metaphors and overall lazy use of language by a member of a community board that includes some of the city's most affluent and presumably best-educated residents, I will say, in fairness, that he is right on one count:  No regulation will stop all dangerous, discourteous and simply stupid behavior.  But to use that as a reason not to require registration and plating is a bit like saying that there shouldn’t be any restrictions on guns because someone, somewhere will find a way around them.

12 November 2023

Humor In Translation

 Someone, I forget whom, pointed out that the French are funny, sex is funny and comedy is funny.  So, that person wondered, “Why aren’t French sex comedies funny?”

To be fair, doesn’t always translate from one culture to another.  But other thing do.  They include some things commonly associated with the French: berets, white shirts or blouses with horizontal navy stripes, mime and, of course, cycling.

So what happens when you combine them?

Perhaps some humor translates, aprés tout.

11 November 2023

A Pacifist’s Ride For Veterans

 Today is Veterans’ Day.  It was formerly known as Armistice Day, and in other countries, it’s called Remembrance Day.

That last title is fitting.  It should be a day to remember—the living as well as those who are gone. 

As I once told my brother, I have become more pro-veteran as I have become more anti-war. Whether they volunteered or were conscripted, anyone who serves should never want for anything—including mental health care—again.

And I believe in honoring them in other ways—which can include taking a ride for a veteran who can’t. That’s what I’m about to do.

09 November 2023

Not Going Gentle Into The Good Night Of This Date

After a great weekend of cycling, I had a busy and somewhat tumultuous couple of days.  They weren't bad:  I just didn't have any time for anything besides work, some business I had to attend to (more about that later) and, of course, cycling to it.

Today I will once again invoke my Howard Cosell Rule and write a post that's not about bicycles or bicycling.  Well, I'll briefly mention some of my riding but it will hardly be the focus of this post.

Instead, I want to talk about this date--9 November--which, as it turns out, is one of the most momentous and tumultuous in history, particularly that of the 20th Century.  

I'll lead off with the event that touches, if indirectly, on my cycling.  Some of my most memorable rides took me through the countryside and among the temples of Cambodia.  Seventy years ago today, the home of the Khmers and one of the world's greatest human-made structures gained its independence from France, the country that colonized it along with neighboring Laos and Vietnam.

Now, if you ever wanted proof that correlation does not equal causation (or, more precisely, that coincidence does not equal correlation or causation), consider this:  On that very same day, in 1953, Dylan Thomas ("Do not go gentle into that good night...") died in St. Vincent's Hospital, in the heart of Greenwich Village.  He had turned 39 years old a couple of weeks earlier and, as with any artist who dies young, legends and rumors grew around him.  One I often heard--but for which I could find no corroboration--was that he "drank himself to death in the White Horse Tavern."  Though he was a heavy drinker, he didn't suffer from cirrhosis of the liver.  He did, however, suffer from respiratory ailments and, a week before he died, a heavy smog that would kill 200 people enveloped New York.  

This date also witnessed two of the most important events in 20th-Century Germany. They both involved breaking things down, but nearly everyone saw one of those events as triumphant while the other would become a harbinger of one of the human race's worst tragedies.  

Joy, at least for a time, came for many people in 1989 when, on this date, the Berlin Wall was opened.  So, for the first time since the city's (and country's) partition by the US, Britain and France on the western side and the Soviet Union in the east.  Soon after, people who lived on both sides, and tourists, hacked away at the Wall for souvenirs.  Contrary to another rumor you may have heard, this event didn't inspire Pink Floyd's "The Wall," which preceded it by a decade.

But in contrast to those who gleefully broke those bricks away, the folks who shattered glass along the streets of Berlin, Vienna and other German and Austrian cities--on this date, in 1938--were angry, vengeful and hateful, stoked by a demagogic autocrat. (Sound familiar?)  While Kristallnacht, the "night of shattered glass" may not have been the opening salvo of World War II (I believe Japan's invasion of Manchuria, seven years earlier, was, but what do I know?) it almost certainly was, if not the beginning of the Holocaust, then its signal bell.  The kristall came from windows of Jewish-owned and -operated shops, and that night, 91 Jews were murdered, about 30,000 were arrested and more than 200 synagogues were destroyed. 

Olivia Hooker 


I invoke my Howard Cosell Rule to discuss important historical events and people because I have come to understand, at least somewhat, how necessary it is to commemorate them.  There are very few remaining witnesses to Kristallnacht, just as there were only a handful of living people who experienced the Tulsa Race Massacre of 1921 when I wrote an article about it.  That piece's publication on  Huffington Post brought me into contact with one of those survivors:  Olivia Hooker, who saw the bombings, shootings and destruction as a little girl.  She was 101 years old when that article appeared and we corresponded until her death two years later.  

Eve Kugler


I cannot pretend that I understand, let alone feel, what she or Eve Kugler, who was seven years old on that awful night when those windows were shattered “in the land of Mozart” have carried with them through the rest of their lives and, in the case of Olivia Hooker, whatever came after.  But Elie Wiesel has written that when we listen to witnesses, we become witnesses.  Perhaps that is the best I can do--and why I am invoking my Howard Cosell rule.

06 November 2023

Rides On Both Sides Of Daylight Saving Time

We’ve just had a whole weekend…without rain! Saturday brought us skies overcast with silver, gray and white ripples, but none of the dark clouds that are harbingers of rain. I pedaled up to Greenwich, Connecticut. It was the last such ride I could start as late as I did—11 am—and return in daylight: At 2am Sunday, we set our clocks back by an hour.

The end of Daylight Saving Time meant that I’d have to start my Sunday ride—to Point Lookout—earlier.  I did, and when I arrived I was treated to a seascape of broken clouds and rippling sails that felt like an Alfred Sisley painting.  As I munched on my bagel sandwich, a lady named Ann, who probably is about a decade older than me, asked if she could sit by me.  

We chatted about one thing and another. Turns out, we have more than a few parallels in our pasts—including bike tours.  But she hasn’t been around the Point, where she and her husband live part-time, because “the bike I had here got wrecked by Sandy,” referring to the 2012 Superstorm. “And I never got around to replacing it.” I gave her a bit of a pep talk about getting another one. “Perhaps we’ll bump into each other again.”

That would be nice. I didn’t mind that she threw a wrench into my plans—the last 10 kilometers or so of my ride, from Forest Park, were in the dark. I had lights, but the reasons I didn’t mind included, not only Ann, but what I saw in Long Beach on my way back:

05 November 2023

How An Elephant Got There…

In Animal Crackers, Groucho Marx quipped, “One morning, I shot an elephant in my pajamas. How an elephant got into my pajamas, I’ll never know.”

I have seen one elephant who wasn’t in a zoo or otherwise in captivity.  Even if I hadn’t seen that pachyderm, and even though I am, shall we say, a bit more corpulent than I was thirty years ago, I don’t know how an elephant could get into my pajamas—or on my bike.

04 November 2023

Thanking One Of Our Friends

 He looks like a hippie who became a prep-school Latin teacher.  For me, that was his charm.

And it probably helped him to be effective at his job.

Since 1996, he could be seen with a bow tie between the wings of his shirt collar—and a fluorescent bicycle pin on the lapel of his blazer.

Perhaps not surprisingly, he’s been the best friend cyclists have had in the US Congress in, oh, a century or so. In addition to crafting legislation that allocated money for cycling and pedestrian infrastructure, and for making his hometown the “poster child” for livable, sustainable cities—at least among US cities—he helped to expand healthcare coverage through the Affordable Care Act, save over 100,000 restaurants during the COVID and—in something almost un-heard of these days— worked with a member of the opposing party to create a pathway to permanent legal status for Iraqi and Afghan nationals who directly supported US military missions in their countries.

Perhaps it will not surprise you to learn that he has represented Oregon’s 3rd Congressional District—which includes most of Portland.  In fact, he has been called “Mr. Portland.”

Earl Blumenauer has just announced that he is not running for re-election next year. I guess it is understandable:  Not only has he spent 27 years in Congress; he is 75 years old.

He has not been specific about his “next chapter.” The Democratic legislator said, however, that he plans to continue his work to “make communities more livable, people safer, healthier and more economically secure…without the burden of day-to-day politics.”

Thank you, Earl Blumenauer, for all you’ve done.  And I wish you well in whatever comes next.

03 November 2023

Bike In The Bus Lane

One valid criticism of bike lanes, and bicycle infrastructure generally, is that they’re constructed mainly in gentrified or gentrifying neighborhoods. Whenever someone suggests that the lanes, bike parking facilities and bike share programs into neighborhoods populated by people who are darker or poorer than those in Williamsburg or Chelsea, the excuse for not “sharing the wealth ,” if you will, is that “people don’t ride bikes” in areas like Jamaica, Queens.

That is a point Samuel Santella makes on Streetsblog.  He lives in Saint Albans, a southern Queens community that is a “transportation desert:” it is not served by the New York City subway system and only a couple of bus lines traverse it. So, its residents—nearly 90 percent of whom are Black—either drive or, like Santella, ride their bicycles, whether to their destinations or to the subway in nearby Jamaica.  

Many New York City neighborhoods like Jamaica have a “downtown” that is a commercial district and transportation hub. Santella, as he recounts in his piece, rides to Jamaica to take the subway to Brooklyn.  He shows how it’s difficult to cycle safely on any of the thoroughfares that lead to the train stations. Hillside and Jamaica Avenues are essentially “stroads,” while Archer Avenue has a bus lane that are, technically, illegal for cycling. And all of those streets are chaotic messes of delivery vehicles and “dollar vans” that ferry people from neighborhoods like his to the subway and Long Island Rail Road (yes, it’s spelled as two words) stations.

I know what he’s talking about: I sometimes ride those streets. As a matter of fact, I cycled them almost daily for seven years, when I worked at York College, in the middle of Jamaica.  I experienced some of the pandemonium he describes, which is undoubtedly worse than it was when I was making the commute in pre-pandemic, pre-Uber days when SUVs, while growing in popularity, didn’t dominate the roads as they do now.

02 November 2023

Not Bolted Down

The Angkor Wat, which I visited five years ago, is definitely a marvel.  Of course, I was awed by its architecture, history, art and overall aesthetics, as well as its importance to the identity of a people--and the human race. But even if I didn't care about such things, and I concerned myself only with materialistic, quantitative and practical matters, I probably would have been just as awed as I was:  The temples were built without the use of cement, nails, screws or any other materials to fasten or bind the blocks to each other.  Rather, those stones were so precisely cut, and fit into each other so perfectly, that the temples have withstood a millenium (or more) of heat, humidity, torrential rains, wars, invasions and the ravages of the Khmer Rouge.

It doesn't take much for me to remember the Angkor Wat: It's one of those things you don't forget once you've seen and touched it.  But something in particular brought back, to my mind, the temples' construction. 

Since you're reading this blog, you've probably figured that something is a bicycle, or something that has to do with cycling.  But, aside from the fact that one can ride pedal to the monuments (I know, I did), what does a bicycle have to do with monuments built to Hindu deities and later re-purposed as Buddhist shrines?

Well, the bike in question is constructed without bolts.  At least, that's how it looks.

The two-wheeler in question is indeed a real bicycle--one that pedals, with no motors or other assists anywhere on the premises.  It's billed as the "world's most bespoke bicycle":  Not only is the frame fitted to the customer's exact measurements; so is everything that's fitted to the frame.  Some of those components, like the special-edition Brooks C 13 saddle, are modified versions of what you can buy in your local shop or an online retailer. But most of the other parts are custom-made.  As an example, crank arms usually come in lengths from 165 to 175 mm in increments of 2.5 mm. But for this bike, the length of the arms can be specified to a fraction of a millimetre.  Ditto for the handlebars and stem, which are 3D printed.

Also, the maker of this bike claims that it has the world's first fully integrated brake system:

Now, the way I spelled "millimetre" should give you a clue as to where this bike is made--and where you'll have to go if you want to be fitted for one.  Gaydon, a village in southern England, is home to, well, not much.  Nearby are the British Film Institute's National Archive (which includes some highly flammable nitrate films) and the former RAF V Bomber base.  Oh, and there is the British Motor Museum, home to the largest collection of historic British cars in the world.

That last fact is a clue as to who is involved in making the bike in question.

J. Laverack builds titanium bike frames nearby, and is teaming up with a local company to build the bike.  That other company is--wait for it--Aston Martin.

Yes, the same firm that made the vehicle--a DB 5--James Bond drove in 1964's Goldfinger.  The same firm that has had a Royal Warrant, since 1982, as a purveyor of motorcars (how British) to Prince Charles/King Charles III.  Why?  Because his wife simply would not be caught dead in a Mercedes-Benz.

All right, I admit, that last sentence was a tasteless joke.  But I couldn't resist. Well, OK, I could have but, really, why would I? However, I promise nothing like it again on this blog.  Really!

Anyway, the bike can be finished in any Aston Martin colour. After all, you can't have one vehicle clashing with the other.