28 February 2023

Bicycle Licensing: An Instrument of Racial And Economic (In)Justice

Last week, I wrote about the arguments over a planned bike lane in Berkeley, California. One resident referred to it as a "culture war."

If it is, I am surprised that controversy about another bit of bicycle-related policy or planning hasn't been seen in the same way.  I am referring bicycle-licensing regulations.

While bike lane battles have garnered a lot of attention during the past decade or so, bike licensing has been mostly an under-the-radar issue for nearly as long as bicycles have existed.  

The battle-lines in bike-lane conflicts are drawn largely along generational lines and between business owners who fear losing parking spaces and people who want more walkable and cycle-able downtowns. On the other hand, the quieter battles over licensing laws divide people, ironically, pit people against each other in a very visible way--one that has defined some loud and violent protests in recent years. 

While there was little or no bike lane construction, at least in the US, between the end of World War I and the beginning of this century, many jurisdictions, from small seaside villages to major metropoli, have had bicycle licensing regulations on their books for decades whether or not most citizens are or were aware of them. As an example, in 1957 Toronto repealed such a law that had been on the books since 1935.  Several times since, the idea of resurrecting the law, or some version of it has been re-visited and, ultimately, rejected, albeit for different reasons.

When the Canadian city got rid of the requirement that stood for more than two decades, few adults rode bicycle.  Thus, according to city fathers (yes, they were all men) "licensing of bicycles be discontinued because it often results in an unconscious contravention of the law at a very tender age; they also emphasize the resulting poor public relations between police officers and children."  Translation: Kids break a law they don't realize exists until they're busted for it, so no wonder they grow up hating cops.

The cost-ineffectiveness of the scheme was also cited in scrapping it and against reviving it.  Also mentioned in the discussions of bringing it back to life is that licensing does little, if anything, to promote bicycle safety or return stolen bikes to their owners--two rationales that have been given for mandating bike registration in what one of the city's most famous natives, Drake, calls "The Six." The cost of administering the program has also been invoked as a reason to end, or not to begin, bicycle licensing and registration programs in other locales.

During the last few years, however, an objection to bike licensing has echoed something that has motivated so many protests of the past few years:  racial injustice.  As an incident in Perth Amboy, New Jersey showed all too clearly, in those few instances when the police stop or even arrest cyclists for riding without a license--or not wearing a helmet, or for violating some other rarely-if-ever-enforced law--the ones penalized are not White and/or do not conform to gender "norms."

David Martinez

That is one reason David Martinez worked to abolish a bicycle registration mandate in his hometown and state of Costa Mesa and California, respectively. Three years ago, he went to the police to register his bike.  When he asked about the program and who gets ticketed, "they said, 'we might ticket the homeless."  That motivated him to make a public records request.  He found that, according to the department's own data, most of the citations were issued on the city's west side, an old industrial area where, not surprisingly, much of the city's nonwhite and homeless populations are concentrated.  He presented his findings to safe streets advocates who, in turn, contacted politicians.

Now Costa Mesa is about to comply with an omnibus bill California Governor Gavin Newsom signed in October.  It calls for, among other things, the abolition of bicycle-licensing and -registration laws and regulations, which have been locally administered, throughout the state. Costa Mesa is the latest municipality to align itself with the new law.

I don't know whether Martinez or anyone else in the Golden State has framed the effort to end bicycle registration as a "culture war."  However, whether or not he has used such terminology, he (like, I imagine, Newsom) no doubt understands bicycle licensing--or, more precisely, how it's enforced--as a racial and economic justice issue precisely because it has never served the purposes (safety, recovery of stolen bikes) given as its rationale.

27 February 2023

Where Was Your Bike Made?

When I first became a dedicated bicyclist, the European countries most associated with bike-making were England, France and Italy. 

(OK, some will argue that England isn't a European country.  But even post-Brexit, the links between the island and continent are unmistakable.)

That was in the 1970s.  In the US, a few custom builders constructed nice frames and Japan was challenging European hegemony (Does that sound like a phrase out of my Western Civ class?) in the lightweight bike arena.  But if you bought a European derailleur-equipped machine in a bike shop, it most likely came from one of the three countries I mentioned at the beginning of this post.

Like so many other kinds of other manufacturing, bike (and component) production has moved away from those high-wage countries.  While some shifted to Asia, still other fabrication has moved to other European countries.

As a result, the European country that manufactures the most bikes (2.7 million) is now...Portugal.  To be fair, it was not without a bike industry or culture before trade barriers between it and other European Union countries were lifted. But its considerably lower wages attracted manufacturing from "legacy" bike companies and caused new bike companies to set up shop in the westernmost nation of the continent.

Interestingly, Italy, at 2.1 million, is the second-largest bike producer in the EU.  Germany, Poland and the Netherlands, at 1.5, 0.9 and 0.7 million, respectively, round out the top five bicycle-manufacturing countries in the EU. Together, they accounted for about seven out of every ten bicycles made in the EU.

France?  It's number 6, at half a million bikes.  And England, which is no longer part of the Union, produces about half as many.

Here is something inquiring minds want to know:  How is a bike defined as made in one country or another?  Traditionally, the "Made In" label meant that the bike's frame was brazed or welded*, finished and outfitted with components --which may have come from another country in that country. (As an example, from the late 1970s onward, many European and American bikes sported Japanese derailleurs, freewheels and cranksets.)  However, I've heard that some bikes have only had finishing work done in the country of origin its manufacturer claims.    

*--Frames were often made from imported materials, e.g., French Peugeots made from English Reynolds tubing.

25 February 2023

A Culture War--Over A Bike Lane?

When people talk about "culture wars," they're usually referring to contentious debates about issues like LGBTQ, racial or gender equality, what should be taught in schools or what place, if any, religious expression has in public life.  

For some time, i have suspected that arguments about bike lanes have been devolving from discussions about sustainable living to battles delineated by generational, class and other kinds of divides.  A woman in Berkeley, California has recently said as much.

She was referring to a plan to re-design Hopkins Street, a thoroughfare lined with shops and restaurants in an affluent part of the city, to accommodate a protected bike lane. In some ways, the debate echoes ones I hear in my hometown of New York, and hear about in other cities.  

Business owners fear that the loss of parking spaces in front of their stores, restaurants and other enterprises will hurt them.  And car-dependent people, who include the city's fast-growing population of senior citizens, worry that they will lose access to goods and services they need and enjoy.  On the other hand, cyclists, pedestrians and advocates for mass transportation argue that the very things that attract people to the city cannot be sustained without reducing the number of private automobiles on the city's streets.

A driver parks in front of a shop on Hopkins Street during a rally in support of a bike lane. Photo by Ximena Natera for Berkeleyside.

The discussion, according to Donna Didiemar, has been drifting away from one "about bike lanes" and instead is "turning into a culture war."  She and others are, in essence, saying that the debate is one over what kind of city Berkeley will become.  Bike lane proponents tend to be younger and, in the eyes of opponents, more "privileged," while opponents are seen as adherents to an old and unsustainable way of thinking.

It won't surprise you to know that I am, mostly, in the camp of bike lane builders and those who advocate for pedestrians and mass transit.  But opponents of the bike lane have made a couple of valid points.  One is that the lane won't necessarily make cycling safer.  That is true if the lane crosses in front of driveways, as too many bike lanes do.  Also,  cars may need to pull into the bike lane to get out of the way of emergency vehicles: something I've encountered while riding.  

One irony is that some of the entrepreneurs and residents of the street are artisans or people who were simply attracted by the very things that make an area a candidate for sustainability:  shops and other amenities close to residential buildings.  Another is that planners, including those who want to build the bike lane, still seem to be operating from a set of assumptions about what cycling and walking are and aren't.  That, I think, is a reason why a discussion about a vision for the city (and not simply a bike lane) may well be turning into a "culture war."

24 February 2023

What Kind Of LIght--Or RIde?

A night ride

or a blue light special?

Actually, it was part of an installation at the Sculpture Center--where they let me bring my bike inside! 

22 February 2023

Riding Again--And Discovering

 My energy is returning, if slowly.  I managed to ride over the weekend--including my first trek of more than 50 kilometers (just over 30 miles) since I returned from Paris.

About that ride:  I pedaled to Point Lookout on Sunday.  The wind blew at my face for most of the way out, and at my back on my way back.  I hope for that any time I do an aller-retour. But neither that, nor the length of the ride, were the only reasons why I was happy.

As I mounted La-Vande, my King of Mercia, the air was a bit warmer than normal for this time of year.  Still, I didn't peel off one of my layers:  I anticipated, correctly, a temperature drop--or, at least the feeling of one--as I approached the water.


As the sun played hide-and-seek, the wind, into which I'd been pedaling, blew straight off the ocean.  Even during such a mild winter, the water temperature falls to around 5C (40F) at this time of year.  That wind is a reminder that although the thermometer tells us "early April," it still is February.  It is probably the reason why the Rockaways boardwalk was nearly deserted.  I also encountered very little traffic along the South Shore streets and roads all the way to the Point.

That Sunday ride was sandwiched with two shorter rides.  I woke up late on Saturday, did a few things I didn't have the energy to do during the week and went for a late day ride to Fort Totten.  On the way home, I was treated to a celestial sketch of light, clouds and trees along the Malcolm X Promenade.  

And on Monday, a US holiday (Presidents' Day), I took another late day ride in which I found something that's been under my nose, so to speak.

The Sculpture Center is in Long Island City, less than two kilometers from my apartment.  I have pedaled up and down the streets in its vicinity, probably, hundreds of times.  But I bypassed the street--Purves--on which the Center is located because it dead-ends after only a block.  Also, until recently, there were no signs for the Center on nearby streets.

The young man at the front desk reassured me that I'm not the first person who's visited nearby PS 1--and any number of other museums in this city--but never knew about the Center.  The reasons, apart from its location, why it's not better known may be that it's open only when it runs the exhibit or two it happens to be running.  Those exhibits last a few weeks, then the Center closes for a few more before opening for the next exhibits. 

There is no admission charge to enter the Center.  Best of all, they let me bring Tosca, my Mercian fixed-gear bike, inside.

(By the way, on yesterday's date in 1965, Malcolm X was assassinated in New York City's Audubon Ballroom.)

21 February 2023

I Haven't Gone Away

I have not met most of you, but I have missed you.

Perhaps a week is not a long time, in the scheme of things, not to post on a blog.  But, considering that I've posted nearly daily for most of the past dozen years, it seems like an eternity.

This year has been, at once, utterly routine and strange, so far.  According to the weather forecasters and climatologists, this has been one of the mildest winters on record.  And we've had no snow of any consequence.  Yet this has been, probably, the worst winter for my health, both physical and mental.  If nothing else, that lends credence to what I've long believed:  Moving to Florida, or any place that doesn't have seasons as we have (actually, have had) them in this part of the world probably won't help me in my old age, whenever I reach, or admit that I've reached, it.

Anyway, I have been afflicted with what seems to be a "rebound" of the respiratory infection* that struck me at or after the end of my Paris trip last month.  When "catching up" with a friendly neighbor I hadn't seen in months, I mentioned it. "Maybe you didn't want to come back."

"Actually, I didn't.  Things are so crazy here."

She nodded.  "I know.  We're lucky to be here," she said, referring to New York. "But I don't know how much longer it will be before the rest of the country, and here, is like the place I left":  a state that, while it has a somewhat sane governor, has a legislator every bit as maniacally antithetical to LGBTQ equality, bodily autonomy and anything else I regard as a basic human value.

I mentioned my illness, in its onset and recurrence.  "I think you really didn't want to come back," she said.

I nodded.

"You should have requested asylum."

My eyes widened. "I would have. But how?"

"Well, look at all of the crazy people who've been elected.  They're a danger to your life."

"Yes.  I get more and more scared every day."

She took a long look at me.  Her dog sniffed around my ankles and clambered up my leg.  I stroked his ecru curls.

"I don't blame you."

"Since I came back, I don't feel as if I've been home--except for when I write and ride my bike."  And, I added, my illness has sapped me of the energy to do either.

The good news is that I finally did some riding this past weekend.  More about that later.

*--I have been reluctant to talk about it with anybody because, these days, if you're not well for more than two days in a row, too many people are quick to assume that it's COVID--which my doctor assures me that it isn't.  Not that having COVID is a marker of one's character (My vaccines are all up to date, BTW).  I just get tired of, not only the assumptions, but the gaslighting and irrelevant "advice" (thinly-disguised admonitions) that too often accompany them.

14 February 2023

Because We Take Up "Too Much Space"

 "You take up too much space."

I admit that I don't have the body of a supermodel or some triathletes.  But the driver who bellowed that complaint wasn't referring to my physique.  Rather, he was referring to a collective "you" of me and and fellow cyclists.  He believed we were "taking" space from "his" street.

That charge has been leveled against us in other contexts. It's used as an excuse for not letting us bring our bikes into business establishments or other buildings.  It's also a rationale for charging us exorbitant fees to bring our bikes onto trains and planes.

And, apparently, ferries.

Never mind that said vessels--specifically, the ones operated by Brittany Ferries--carry cars and trucks.  The company operates commuter and cruise ferries between its French homebase and the UK, Ireland and Spain.  

Anyway, that was the excuse BF gave for wanting to charge 75 GBP to allow Lee Craigie's mountain bike to accompany her from Portsmouth, England to Santander, Spain.  At that price, "can we expect a valet service," the former pro mountain biker wondered aloud.  Actually, she asked that question on a Tweet, which is sort of the same thing.

In response, she and her bike riding chums--who would have had to pay, collectively, 230 GBP--came up with a creative solution:

They brought bike bags with them, disassembled their machines and carried them aboard as if they were any other passenger carting a piece of luggage.  

For me, that begs more than a few questions.  One is this:  If they'd brought their bikes in a car and an employee spotted them, would they have been charged that 230 GBP for the "space" they took up?

13 February 2023

Riding Thunder To Reach The Un-Housed

Years ago, I rode the front of a tandem bike, with a blind woman in the rear, on a ride co-sponsored by Lighthouse.

Sometimes I envision a fleet of tandems in a local Lighthouse chapter or some regional office or warehouse.  I also think about the ways different social-service organizations could use bicycles.

Such organizations might include ones that provide services and outreach to un-housed people.  A fellow named Mark Sniff in Little Rock, Arkansas is living proof that the great minds think alike. (LOL)

He is a case manager with the Ouachita Youth Center, a division of Little Rock nonprofit Ouachita Children, Youth and Family Services.  Once or twice a week, he delivers items like socks, blankets, first-aid kits and backpacks to people in the city's homeless encampments.  He often makes his deliveries on his Breezer Thunder mountain bike, "especially when the weather is nice."

One advantage to his bike of choice, he says, is that it can "handle everything from road to gravel to single track."  That is important, he says, because sometimes those camps are "difficult to get to," especially in a van or other motor vehicle.  He uses bags attached to a rear rack (which I suspect are panniers) and, when he needs more capacity, carries a backpack.

He says he's a "middleman" that connects un-housed people, especially the young, to services and facilities.  Being on a bike facilitates face-to-face connections, which builds trust.  Those facilities include the Drop-In, a space for people under 24 years old who are un-housed or in unstable housing. "People can come in, take a shower, and do laundry and take care of some of those basic needs," Sniff explains.

Many police departments maintain a fleet of bicycles for patrols that go into places that are difficult to reach by car.  Perhaps more social service agencies, especially those who serve the un-housed, could do the same, with folks like Mark Sniff leading the way. He is living proof of something I've said in earlier posts:  the bicycle can be one of the most effective tools for social mobility--and justice.

08 February 2023

They Had It Coming To Them: They Weren't Wearing Helmets

I can recall a time when, if a woman or girl were sexually assaulted, people would ask, "What was she wearing?" or "What was she doing out at that time?"  It didn't matter if the woman or girl in question was clad in combat fatigues or on her way to or from school or work in broad daylight. Somehow, she would be turned into the provacatress.

There are still people who think that way.  Sometimes I think they're the same people who ask what someone "was doing" to cause the police to stop them for driving/bike riding/running/walking/breathing while Black.  

Or believe that a cyclist who's run down by a motorist or whose bike is stolen must have done something "unsafe."  I can't begin to count how many times people told me I had to be "more careful" after I was doored:  Never mind I was right next to the car door when the driver opened it and had no way of anticipating or avoiding her carelessness.

Now, of course, if someone makes such a comment on road.cc, you can almost bet that it's a sarcasm.  The problem is that one person's sarcasm is another person's misperception. 

I am thinking now of  the response of "hawkinspeter"  to an article about two 13-year-olds who were "deliberately driven at" and verbally threatened by someone who stole the bikes they were riding.  "Were they wearing helmets?" he wondered. "If not they were almost asking to be robbed."

Police surveillance image of the car used to threaten two 13-year-olds and steal their bikes.

To be fair, "hawkinspeter" had no monopoly on snark.  His comment followed one from "leipreichan" who suggested that the driver will incur no harsher a penalty than three points on his/her license because "the kids were wearing black."  

Hmm...That makes about as much sense as shooting a teenager because he was wearing a hoodie.   

07 February 2023

After This, How Difficult Can His Classes Be?

 How should an educational institution be judged?

Some argue that the famous--or infamous--alumni tell you what you need to know.  So, then, what do we make of Whittier College, who graduated one Richard M. Nixon?  Or Eureka College, who granted a degree to a fellow name Ronald Reagan?

Then there is the Wharton School.  It's the business college of the University of Pennsylvania*--an Ivy League institution. It includes, no doubt, any number of alumni who have succeeded in corporate and related fields.  On the other hand, its most famous degree-holder is yet another ex- (and I hope he remains so!) President:  the self-described "very stable genius."

Then again, some might argue that a more fair barometer of an institution's quality is its current students.  A Wharton sophomore I'm about to mention has accomplished things that aren't directly to the world of mergers, acquisitions and such.  But he might be able to parlay his exploits into influence in marketing, advertising or other areas--or a career as a motivational speaker.

Never mind that he's run marathons under extreme conditions or crossed the United States on a bicycle he bought for $300 on Craigslist.  He has accomplished something that perhaps no other cyclist has achieved.

And he did it on a real bicycle, not an eBike or one with any other form of mechanical assistance.

Ryan Torres, on campus with the bike he rode up Ojos del Salado.  Image from Wharton Stories.


As if it weren't enough that Ryan Torres pedaled across the driest--and one of the hottest--places on Earth, he capped it off by making the highest known climb on a bicycle.

Parts of Chile's Atacama Desert, in addition to experiencing heat rivaling that of India and the Arabian deserts, have never recorded any precipitation.   It abuts the Pun se Atacama, a high plateau that's part of the High Andes mountain range. (If you know anything about high plateaus, they tend to be dry:  something I discovered in Colorado.)  The "crown" of it, if you will, is Ojos del Salado, a dormant volcano whose peak rises 6893 meters (22569 feet) above sea level on the Chile-Argentina border.**  In other words, it's higher than the highest peaks in most of the world's other mountain ranges.  But, unlike those other summits, it doesn't have a glacier or snowcap because it's so dry.

Torres began his ride through the desert with Leo Teneblat, his friend and fellow endurance athlete. They'd planned to scale Ojos together, but Teneblat had to drop out due to a medical emergency before Torres reached the base at the summit.  That makes an already seemingly-impossible ride even more incredible.

Now, I know Wharton is primarily a business school.  But I have to ask:  Does his ride get Ryan Torres credits toward his degree?  If it doesn't, well, it's quite the line to include on his resume!

*--Someone who flunked out of U Penn is even more famous than most people who graduated from it.  I'm talking about Candice Bergen!

**--Interestingly, Ojos is not the only tall mountain to  tower above borders:  Mont Blanc straddles France and Italy and Mount Everest abuts Nepal and Tibet.

06 February 2023

A Doorway To Easier Bike Repairs

Basically, there are two kinds of bicycle repair stands.

One, which you see in most well-equipped shops, is strong and stable.  It allows for a great degree of adjustability of the bicycle's position.  They are not, however, feasible for most home mechanics as they are heavy, immobile, impossible to store--and expensive. They also take up a lot of space.

The other kind, is smaller, lighter and less expensive. Not surprisingly, however, it's less stable and adjustable and not as strong. 

The Altangle Hangar Connect aims to combine the best features of both types of racks.

Constructed of high-quality aluminum tubing anodized in orange or black, this new rack can be set up "in almost any standard doorframe," according to the manufacturer.  The tubes have rubber feet to protect the finish of the doorframe, and the Hangar stays securely in place. The clamp offers 360-degree rotation with 12 lock-out points, which allows the bike to be angled into whatever position is most convenient for the task at hand.  The clamp also adjusts to fit a wide variety of seat post diameters.

Best of all, the Hangar Connect folds to 4.5" x 4.5" x 19.5" and weighs only 7 pounds.  So, I could store it in my closet with my cycling shoes and stiletto-heeled sandals (which I haven't worn in I don't-know-how-long). The only feature of a big repair stand the Hangar Connect doesn't capture is its strength:  The HC is not recommended for bikes that weigh more than 50 pounds.

Its regular retail price will be $340, but Altangle--which also offers other bike tools and acessories--is offering it for $272.  They promise:  "We commit to a 30-day, no questions asked, return policy.  Decide the Hangar isn't for you?  No worries. Get a full refund.

05 February 2023

Only He Could Catch Me

In earlier posts, I mentioned that a long, long time ago (apologies to Don McLean) I raced.

Few people saw my meteoric rise because...well, because I was meteoric.  I rode so fast that nobody could catch a glimpse of, let alone catch, me.

Except for sculptor David Gerstein.  How he managed to capture me in my moment of glory, I don't know. 

04 February 2023

From Bicycle Offense To Jail-Cell Suicide

Perhaps not surprisingly, the most common cause of death in jails and prisons, for inmates and employees alike, is suicide.  Perhaps equally unsurprising is this: About half of all inmates who take their own lives were convicted of severe violent offenses including murder and rape. My guess is that such detainees off themselves because they are facing the longest sentences--in some cases, life without the possiblity of parole--or realize that if they are released, they will be very old or have few prospects for the future, or both.

I mention all of this because Isiah Mitchell was not charged with any such crime. (At 26 years old, he was also half the age of a typical inmate suicide.) 

Last Friday, he rode his bicycle into traffic near North Barnes Avenue and Interstate 44 in Oklahoma City.  Bryant Hodge, an OKPCD police officer, pulled him over.  "You're a bike," Hodge explained.  "Ya gotta follow the rules of the road."

But a stop for a road violation took another turn.  According to Bryant, Mitchell was on his way to buy Fentanyl.  The drug "ain't something we need to be playing with," the officer admonished.  "That stuff's going to kill you."  According the arrest report, Mitchell "was happy that I kept him from making a very bad decision."

While holding Mitchell in the patrol car, Bryant found a Driving While Intoxicated warrant from 2016.  And this:  "You didn't appear for your court date," Hodge revealed.  Mitchell claimed that he wasn't fleeing justice:  He couldn't make his appointment because he'd been shot in the leg.

Three days after his arrest, Mitchell was in the Oklahoma County Detention Center, awaiting his transfer to the Garfield County Jail.  The county sheriff said there weren't enough deputies available to transport inmates.  Just before he would have been moved, staff members found him attempting suicide in his cell.  About an hour and 20 minutes later, he was declared dead in a local hospital.

So...while we can debate how appropriate was the law enforcement officials' response to Isaiah Mitchell's bicycle offense, his admission of his intention to commit another offense and his old warrant, it's hard not to think that his riding his bike into traffic didn't have to end with with his killing himself in a jail cell.

03 February 2023

Downhill Tour Operators Fear Their Business Going Downhill

Just over a year ago, I wrote about the "downhill bike tours" in Maui.  Never having been to Maui, or anyplace else in Hawaii, I can't comment on the route or terrain.  I did, however, opine that "downhill tour" is an oxymoron.  Every multiday bike tour I've taken has included hills, or even mountains, that I rode both up and down.  And, save for a few downhill mountain bike rides I took in the '90's, when that first became a "thing," any time I've ridden down a hill, I've ridden up it, or some other incline.

So, in that sense, I have some difficulty in sympathizing with the "downhill tour" operators who stand to lose business after a new ordinance to limit them was passed the other day. That new regulation would limit which parts of the route can be used, the hours at which tours can operate and increases the minimum age limit from 12 to 15.

A line of riders on Hanamu Road in Olinda, Maui, October 2021 Photo by Matthew Thayer for The Maui News.

Tour operators are complaining about that last part because many tours include families.  They also feel that the parts of the route that are now forbidden have some of the best views. That is one way I can sympathize with them:  I would hate to lose those views, too.  

On the other hand, I have to think that residents may have legitimate complaints about the riders, almost all of whom are tourists from outside of Hawaii.  I would imagine that many don't have experience riding down long, steep downhills on roads with little or no separation from traffic or people's property.  And I have to wonder whether those tour operators are sufficiently vetting the riders, not only for technical skill, but for emotional maturity.  After all, a 15-year-old--or a 50-year-old for that matter--can be just as reckless as a 12-year-old, especially when adrenaline is rushing through them.  They are exactly the sorts of riders who give the rest of us a bad name, whether on a mountain road in Hawaii or a residential street in Queens.

02 February 2023

Does It Matter Where They See Their Shadows--Or How They Get There?

 According to legend, if Punxsutawney Phil sees his shadow when he peeks out of his burrow, there will be six more weeks of wintry weather. If he doesn't, Spring is just around the corner.

I wonder:  Does Phil--or any of his local counterparts across the country--have to pop out of the ground?  Does it count if he, or any other groundhog, peeks his or her head out of some sort of human-made vessel--like, say, a bike basket?

The question probably never would have entered my mind if I hadn't seen, again, the image of Bill Murray reprising his role as Phil (of course!) Connor for a Jeep commercial.  Although the ad is mainly for the company's four-wheeled vehicles, for a few seconds, Murray tries to escape the repetition of the time loop on a bicycle.

At least she's wearing a helmet!

All right, it's an e-bike.  But I had to admit that it was fun to see Poppy peek her head out of the basket.  I wonder what she's doing these days...or today in particluar.

Speaking of which...Phil saw his shadow.  Our local weather-hog, Staten Island Chuck, didn't see his.  Hmm...Six more weeks of winter or early spring? Does Poppy get a tie-breaking vote?

01 February 2023

A Danger Nobody Talks About

When I delivered newspapers on my department-store Murray bike (shh...Don't tell anybody), I carried a can of pepper spray.  I wasn't worried about being robbed or jumped--not by humans, anyway. 

In the then-still-smalltown New Jersey where my family moved in the middle of my puberty (talk about changes!), many yards were unfenced and dogs roamed them--and outside them--freely.  Most were friendly or at least non-aggressive.  But every once in a while, one would violate any sense of personal space I had or even give chase.

Being young, I could outride them. But once, an Irish wolfhound managed to set on me before I could take off.  I was lucky, I guess:  the dog's teeth scraped me just above my hip but didn't leave me with a deep or serious wound.  

Justin Gilstrap is not so lucky.  The 11-year-old was riding his bike near his Georgia home when, according to reports, three Pit Bulls set on him and dragged him into a ditch on the side of the road.  Now he's missing part of his ear and 70 percent of his scalp.

The dogs have been euthanized and Justin’s family is suing their owners.  One can only hope that he has a good recovery.