28 March 2023

Delivering Hate And A Death Threat

Yesterday afternoon, I hopped onto Tosca, my Mercian fixed-gear bicycle, and pedaled with no particular destination in mind.  I simply wanted to spend an hour or two riding before the rain came and I had to get back to work.

After zigging, zagging and looping through "Hipster Hook" and eastward to the closest thing this city has to a stetl--the Hasidic enclave in Williamsburg--I found myself riding down the unprotected bike lane on the left side of Tompkins Avenue, a one-way southbound street in the Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood.  Although the lane is nothing more than lines painted on pavement, I'd had no issues during previous rides along its length.  In fact, I rather enjoyed it because it passes a park and some of the most colorfully-decorated stores and cafes you'll see in this city.  

Note my use of the past tense.  It doesn't mean I'll never go back; it means only that the string of pleasurable rides was broken.

Between Madison Street and Putnam Avenue, a USPS truck parked in the lane, on the left side of Tompkins, probably to make a delivery.  Those trucks often take up more than the width of a lane so, perhaps not surprisingly, there was a traffic "bottleneck."  In that queue was another USPS truck, just a couple of vehicles behind me to my right.  The driver seemed to lean on her horn as she shouted out the window--at me, it turned out, even though I waited behind the parked truck so she could pass.

Well, as they say, no good deed goes unpunished.  She veered her truck toward me and yelled racist, "Fuckin' white tranny bitch!"  (Hey, she scored a trifecta:  racism, sexism and transphobia, all in one!)  At the next intersection--Jefferson Avenue--she pulled over to retrieve mail from a box.  I stopped and yelled, "What was that all about?"

"Mind your own fuckin' business."

"I am.  When someone tries to kill me, it's my business."

"Fuck you, white tranny bitch!".

Since USPS trucks don't have license plates, I snapped this photo of the truck number.  Then I took a photo of her, from the side, as she came out of the truck.  Proud of herself, she posed for me.

I have filed complaints with the USPS and the local NYPD Precinct.

27 March 2023

Two Shades of Blue, Two Seasons

 For two days, we experienced three months’ worth of weather at the same time:  February cold, March wind and April rain. 

Yesterday, two of those elements let up.  So, clad in a windbreaker over a base layer, I rode under clear skies in one shade of blue to water in another.

This month, however lived up to its reputation as I pedaled into a brisk wind on my way back from Point Lookout.  And, at the Point, there was another reminder that whatever the calendar tells us about the season, winter does not give up its grip on the ocean so readily.

At this time of year, the water is at its coldest—about 4 to 5C (38 to 40F).  Its hue seemed to reflect its chill, especially against the azure sky and sand and trees in shades of brown.

This is also an interesting time of year because, while I saw more people strolling and cycling the Rockaway and Long Beach boardwalks than I would have seen a month or two ago, they are not the same folks I’ll see in another month or two. Some of the people I saw today love the Sunday sun at any time of year; they were taking it in, perhaps, after going to church or before a weekend brunch or afternoon dinner with extended family. Others are the same hardy or lonely souls one sees a couple of weeks after the holiday season ends and the coldest, darkest part winter descends.

So, while the gatherings of people along the boardwalks and the azure skies signal the passing of a season, the waters in a darker shade of blue, the wind and the woman sauntering along the dunes showed me that winter isn’t dead, not yet.

26 March 2023

Don't Look Now!

I took an Art History course that  included a final exam with this essay question: "Explain the Mona Lisa smile."

I don't remember what I wrote. I am sure, however, that it wasn't profound, brilliant or original in spite of my belief that it, like everything I wrote in those days, embodied all of those qualities.  So it wouldn't surprise you to know that the grade I got--a B, if I remember correctly-- aroused my indignation. (It didn't take much, did it?)

So, being older and wiser, I won't venture an opinion about why the young woman has her hands over her eyes:

I simply thought the image is light and funny--just right for a Sunday morning.

25 March 2023

A Trans Woman Won A Women's Race. Blame Me.

Today even the New York Post--you know, the paper famous for its "Headless Body In Topless Bar" headline--claimed that Donald Trump has gone too far:

Just when I thought light and poetry and flowers were about to return to this land--OK, we're getting some of the flora--Faux, I mean, Fox News is becoming even more, in the Post's eloquence, deranged in its demonization of transgender people.

I mean, when you treat yourself to the kernels of wisdom Tucker Carlson and Greg Gutfield offer up at dinnertime, you might come away thinking that we are an "Invasion of the Body Snatchers"-type force taking over women's sports.  Oh, if I were scooping up medals and trophies in the Tour de France Femme or the Virginia Slims tournament the way the folks at Fox would have you believe, I would--I dunno--be writing this post from a duplex near the Luxembourg Gardens and hiring artists to design this blog.

Anyway, if you look at the podium photo for the Randall's Island Criterium--a race held practically outside my window--you'll see that winner Tiffany Thomas doesn't look markedly bigger or more muscular than the other two female cyclists, who finished second and third, on either side of her.  And, apparently, her hormone levels qualify her to compete in women's events according to all of the governing bodies.  

In short, she has no "unfair" advantage, any more than I now have over any other woman within a decade of my age who is a regular cyclist or engages in any other kind of sport or physical regimen. I am not merely making a claim; I am reiterating what scientific and medical researchers have found and reported.     

OK, now I'll reveal Tiffany Thomas' "secret sauce."  She got it from me.  You see, Randall's Island is practically outside my window:  After pedaling over the Queens spur of the RFK Bridge, I ride through the Island on my way to the Bronx, Westchester County and Connecticut.  So I twitched my nose and sent her those special rays--kinda like the ones from the Jewish Space Lasers—that only we, trans people, can send each other!

23 March 2023

A Barrier To What--And Whom?

If you have studied any post-Renaissance history or theology (and you thought I wasted my youth only  on the things the young waste their youth on!), you have heard the question, "How many angels can dance on the head (or tip) of a pin?"  The question was posed, rhetorically by 17th Century Protestants to mock Scholastics such as Thomas Aquinas and Duns Scotus, and of angelology, a hot topic among Catholic theologians of the time. 

Oh, by the way, one answer to that question is:  an infinite number, as angels don't occupy physical space.

(So when a former partner of mine called me an "angel"--before she knew me better, of course!--was she really referring to how skinny I was at the time?)

Now, if you are not a transportation or utility cyclist, this question may seem as esoteric as the one about celestial beings and fasteners:  How many cyclists does it take to lift a cargo bike over a route barrier? I think it's the structure of the question makes it seem, at least rhetorically, as detached from any real-world concerns.  Then again, it could sound like a joke like "How many surrealists does it take to screw in a light bulb?"

(The answer to that one is "Fish!"  What else could it be?)

The question about cargo bikes and route barriers is important, though, if bicycles and other non-motorized vehicles are going to become an integral part of any city's transportation system.  Those little fences, in zig-zag patterns at the entrance to some bike lanes and pedestrian-bike overpasses, are supposed to keep motorbikes out, but in reality, they don't. Moreover, nothing is done to enforce stated bans:  On some lanes, I see four or five motorized bicycles and scooters for every traditional bicycle.  Those barriers do, however, inhibit or prevent access for wheelchair users and the aforementioned cargo bikes.

Possibly the worst examples I've seen are the barriers on each end of the pedestrian-bike overpasses over the Clearview Expressway (a.k.a. I-295) in the eastern part of my home borough of Queens. Not only do they inhibit access for wheelchairs and cargo bikes, they also endanger cyclists or pedestrians entering exiting them because, once you go through the barriers, there is nothing separating you from the expressway's service road, where traffic enters (on the east side) or exits (on the west) at Expressway speeds (50MPH+).  I occasionally use those crossovers when cycling to or from Fort Totten or other areas along the North Shore.

If you look closely at the right side of this entrance to a Clearview Expressway overpass, you can see the zig-zag barrier.

For a time, bicycles were actually banned as a result of an eleven-year-old boy who was struck and killed by a car when he tried to exit the overpass.  In a way, that doesn't surprise me:  Most planners and politicians aren't everyday cyclists or even pedestrians, so they can be depended on to simply ban something when it could be made safer.  In the case of the Clearview overpasses--and, I suspect, the one in the Tweet I've included--accessing and using a lane should be made safer for all non-motorized (and wheelchair) traffic, and a ban against anything with a motor (besides a wheelchair) should be enforced. 

22 March 2023

Secondary Victims Of The COVID-19 Bike Boom?

The COVID-19 pandemic led, at least in places that weren't under hard lockdowns, to a kind of bike boom.  As public transportation systems shut down or imposed severe restrictions, people who hadn't been on bikes in years were pedaling to their jobs (if they had to work in person) or to shop or run errands.  And folks who were working from home were going hopping onto the saddle for exercise and to de-stress from being cooped up in front of a screen.

Like the Bike Boom of the 1970s, the COVID epidemic was great bike-related businesses--at least some of them, for some time.  During the first few months of the pandemic, bikes and anything related them were flying out shop doors and keeping Amazon delivery workers busy.  In time, though, some shops and web businesses became victims of cycling's newfound popularity.  Shops ran out of inventory as supply streams dried up.  Some kept themselves open by repairing bikes that people were resurrecting from basements and garages.  But as cables, tires and tubes became difficult to find, they took to cannibalizing other bikes--until there were no more bikes to "harvest."  With nothing left to sell or even use for repairs, a number of shops--including longstanding and prominent ones like Harris Cyclery--to close permanently.

Now there might be some secondary victims, if you will.  Among them is Moore Lange, a UK distributor that went into receivership last week after more than 70 years in business.  Their offerings included bikes and parts from a wide array of brands like Forme, Lake, Barracuda, Microshift and Vitesse. 


According to Moore Lange director Adam Briggs, the company's troubles can be traced, ironically, to supply streams flowing again.  Actually, the trickle or dry bed turned into a torrent:  "[L]ots of stock arrived in the first quarter of 2022," he explained.  "There was a year's worth of bikes arriving in the UK at that time"--just as the Boom was turning into murmur--"which meant there was a massive oversupply."

Apparently, in the UK as in other places, the demand for bikes and anything related to them is falling from its 2020-21 heights.  Distributors and some shops now are overstocked, at least in some items, which led to "significant discounts," according to Briggs.  Given that profit margins are significantly smaller for bikes than for other items, a decrease in sales has led to a "perfect storm" for some shops and distributors like Moore Lange. 

The company's inventory will be auctioned off.  If there is a silver lining in the clouds of this storm, it is for British cyclists who are looking for good buys on bikes and parts.


21 March 2023

Cycling Through The PTSD of History--My Own and This Country's

Spring arrived yesterday at 17:24 (5:24 pm) local time in New York, where I am.

At that moment, I just happened to be out on Dee-Lilah, my custom Mercian Vincitore, for an after-work ride.  I knew I'd have about an hour and a half of daylight from that moment on, and I intended to take full advantage of it.

The sun shone brightly; there was scarcely a cloud in the sky.  But the wind, gusting to 40KPH (25MPH), and the temperature, which barely broke 5C (40F), reminded me that winter would not loosen its grip so easily.  Still, the ride was delightful because of Dee-Lilah (Why do you think I so named her?) and because I'd had a full day of work- and non-work-related things.

Also, I may have felt the need to work with, if not out, the lingering sadness I felt:  Yesterday marked twenty years since the United States invaded Iraq.  If 9/11 was America's first step into the quicksand of a perennial war, on 20 March 2003, this country had waded into it, at least up to the waist. If I believed in karma, I would say that the trials and tribulations this country has suffered are retribution for that act of violence--which was precipitated by one of the more monstrous lies told by a public official.  (That so many people see such dishonesty as normal in political and official discourse is something else I might have taken as some sort of cosmic payback.)

US Marines in Kuwait, near the Iraq border, the day before the invasion.  Photo by Joe Raedele, Getty Images

I remember that time all to well.  For one thing, I marched in the massive anti-war demonstration a month earlier, where I was just a few bodies away from those horses NYPD officers charged into the crowd.  For another, I was preparing to live as the woman I am now:  I had begun therapy and counseling a few months earlier, and started taking hormones a few weeks before that demonstration.  All of the jingoism and drumbeats I heard in the lead-up to the invasion-- not to mention the invasion itself, premised as it was on lies--disturbed me because they showed how profoundly disrespectful some people can be toward other people simply because they are darker, speak a different language, worship differently (or not at all) or express their gender or any other part of their identity in ways that are not accepted by the society around them.

Sometimes I am called "over-sensitive:"  I have PTSD from a few things that have happened to me and sometimes I think I suffer it simply from having been alive when great evils were committed.  It's a good thing I have my bikes, and riding!

19 March 2023

A Ride I Never Did

 I spent a year as a bike messenger in New York City.  During that time, I did all of the stupid and crazy things bike messengers of that time (ca. 1983) did--one of which, ahem, is now legal.

(One of the great things about getting older is that the statute of limitations runs out--for most offenses, anyway!)

In the "crazy" category is holding my handlebar with one hand, and the rear of a delivery truck or New York City bus with the other.  I did that, oh, maybe a handful (pun intended) of times, and only when I was trying to make an extra-fast delivery--and was, oh, partaking of that which is now legal.  

Still, as young and stupid (and angry) as I was, I was never part of anything like this--either as pedaler or passenger!:

18 March 2023

Is Cycling Withering On The Lanes In The Rose City?

Last Saturday marked three years since the World Health Organization declared that the COVID-19 outbreaks were, indeed, a pandemic.  Not long after that, schools and businesses closed and a seeming caravan of ambulances flashed their lights and blasted their sirens through my windows, which are only a block and a half from Mount Sinai-Queens--one of the first hospitals in this city to set up a temporary morgue outside its doors.

Like other locales where residents weren't subjected to a hard lockdown, New York experienced a "bike boom."  Because the city's subways shut down for a while, and bus service was reduced, people who hadn't been on a bike in ages started pedaling to work. (During that time, I gave one of my bikes to an emergency room worker at Mount Sinai.) Though shops and even online retailers soon ran out of bikes, parts, helmets and almost anything related to bicycles,  the world (parts of it, anyway) seemed like a cyclist's dream come true:  There was very little traffic and, those who ventured outside, whether by choice or necessity, were almost preternaturally courteous and even empathetic. 

Oh, and about a year into the pandemic, a new bike lane opened on my street, for better and worse.

While my hometown of New York and the city that comes closest to my second home--Paris--experienced the "boom" in cycling I've described (which, when I visited in January, seemed to be going even stronger in the City of Light!), the city that has been called America's "biketopia" continued a steep downturn in cycling that began a few years before COVID-19 struck.

According to the Portland Bureau of Transportation (PBOT), fewer people were cycling in Oregon's largest city than at any time since 2006.

From 2019 to 2022, the number of cyclists in the Rose City dropped by 37 percent.  In other words, more than one of every three Portlanders who pedaled the year before COVID-19 reached these shores was no longer in the saddle during the pandemic's third year. 

Actually, the decline began after 2013, when almost half again as many people rode bicycles as did in 2022. But, as you can see, the drop over the past four years from 2019 to 2022 was even steeper than during the previous six years.

From KATU News

Now, some might argue that cycling was bound to fall off in "America's Weirdest City" just because it reached such (at least comparative) heights.  Well, from what I've heard and read, it did--or, at least, cycling culture did--from about 2005 to about 2010.  But there are other, more pernicious factors in play than the disappearance of custom frame builders and bikes shops--and Portlanders themselves, many of whom moved in after places like San Francisco and Seattle swelled with tech money-- only to be, in a cruel irony, priced out of Portland. 

According to at least one survey, the chief reasons for the sharp fall-off in cycling are not that people are still working from home (after all, in other places, people continued to ride to the stores, theatre or just for fun even if they didn't return to their offices or classrooms) or the sharp rise in bike theft that accompanied the increase in ridership and shortages of bikes and supplies, although both were cited.  Rather, by far the biggest reason why some people have stopped cycling is something that I haven't--as yet, anyway--seen here in the Big Apple:  homeless people setting up tents or otherwise camping themselves in bike lanes.  

(To be sure, the homeless population has exploded during the past few years in my hometown, but I haven't seen them in bike lanes.  Then again, I don't do most of my riding in the lanes because they can't always get me to where I need or want to go and I sometimes feel safer riding in traffic than on poorly-designed or maintained lanes where motorbikes and motor-scooter riders zip along without regard for anyone else or the rules of the road.)

That issue, according to Bike Portland editor Jonathan Maus, has to be addressed in any discussions of solutions and safety.  "What we've ended up with is allowing people just to sleep anywhere," he explains, "and there's never been a conversation about taking the transportation routes and making sure that people who use them can feel safe and still get to where they need to go."  That second part of what he said leads to the second most common reason Portlanders cite for giving up on cycling:  drivers who, like their counterparts in New York, seem to have become even more aggressive since the pandemic.  

17 March 2023

Cycling In the Holy Londe

 Icham of Irlaunde

Icham of Irlaunde

Ant of the holy londe

Of Irlaunde

Gode sire praye ich the

For of saynte charite,

Come ant dunce wyt me

In Irlaunde.

William Butler Yeats based a longer poem on this medieval Irish lyric.  If the Aer Lingus or the Irish tourist bureau wants to entice visitors, they could hardly do better than those last two lines.

Unless, of course, they invite you to ride in "the holy londe"

From Dublin Cycling

Happy Saint Parick's Day!

15 March 2023

A Ride Of March

Beware the ides of March...

We've all heard that warning.  You probably know that it came from Shakespeare's Julius Caesar, even if you haven't seen or read it.  It was spoken by a soothsayer--a prophet or fortune-teller, depending on what you think--who foretold the emperor's assassination.

The transition from one season to another conjures up visions of other changes.  The middle of March, in particular, carries the weight of hope for new beginnings, which can be as fragile as new buds in this month's winds or a late cold snap.

Today it's a bit colder than normal for this time of year.  That, and gusts of 80KPH (about 50MPH) push reminders into our faces that winter isn't finished with us, not yet.

Two milennia after Caesar's murder, and four centuries after Shakespeare's play, the admonition is relevant.  I'm going to sneak in a ride, however brief--and beware the ides of March.

From Ride and Seek

14 March 2023

How Much Does It Hold?

Racks, handlebar bags, panniers, saddle bags, baskets:  They come in all shapes and sizes.  About the latter: some come in "small," "medium" and "large."  But catalogues usually list their carrying capacities.  For racks, it's expressed in weight.  But, for bags and baskets, volume is usually more relevant.  So, a catalogue listing is more likely to say that  randonneur bag or delivery basket is more likely to say that it can hold whatever-number of cubic inches or liters.

I simply cannot conceptualize any number of cubic or square inches, feet, centimeters or meters.  When people ask me about the size of my apartment, all I can tell them is how many rooms I have.  Or, when I've gone apartment- (or house-) hunting, I could judge a dwelling's size--and then only in a relative way--by looking at it.  

On the other hand, it's pretty easy to visualize four, or whatever number of, liters:  We all see bottles and cans with that much water, milk, wine or some other liquid. Some catalogue, I forget which, expressed the carrying capacities of its bicycle luggage by the number of bagels or bottles of beer that could be packed into the handlebar, seat and pannier bags--and backpacks--it sold.  I liked that even better.  

What would they have said about their rain gear?  What is the difference between "water resistant" and "waterproof?"  Does a bag or jacket have to repel a certain number of raindrops to earn one designation or another?

What if carrying capacities were expressed in raindrops?

13 March 2023

Riding Among Pink And Yellow Under A Gray Sky

 I didn't stop for this:

But I did stop for this:

I can't recall seeing cherry blossoms bloom so early in any year before this one.  These trees in Greenpoint, Brooklyn aren't at "peak" yet, but they will be very soon.

Normally, the cherry blossoms here in New York bud and flower a week or two later than the more famous ones in Washington, DC, which put on their show in late March and early April.  I am not a scientist, but something tells me that what I'm seeing isn't just a symptom of a mild winter:  This has hardly been the first in recent years.  I can't help but to think that it's a harbinger of more fundamental changes.

Don't get me wrong:  I am always happy to see the cherry blossoms, whenever they blossom.  But even if the weather was still cold, those lovely pink flowers were a sure sign that Spring had indeed arrived.  So...Does this mean that Spring is indeed arriving earlier?  Or will they become another precursor, like snowdrops and winter jasmine, of a season that is on its way, but has not quite arrived?

I went looking for answers.  Tosca, my Mercian fixed gear bike, led me to this:

A psychic reader under new management?  Does that mean readings will be less vague and more detailed?  That they'll be done faster?  Or that you get your money back if what the reader predicts doesn't come true?

At least my trip to the reader's storefront--which was closed--took me through some interesting vistas.  The block leading to it, (66th Street from Cooper to Myrtle Avenues) looked like a valley of "Ridgewood Yellow:"

Not surprisingly, I saw a couple of pro-police banners.  Not so long ago, Ridgewood was home to many officers.  I'll bet that some worked here:

The former headquarters of the eight-three (police parlance for the 83rd Precinct) is now a command station for that precinct, and several others in Brooklyn.  That doesn't surprise me, though on first glance, I would've thought it was an armory.

A desk officer saw me wandering around and came to the door.  "Can I help you?"  I explained that I simply had to stop and look at the building.  He then explained its history to me and told me the part of the building in which he was posted had been a horse stable.  

I tried to imagine it when the neighborhood--Bushwick--was home to German and Italian immigrants who probably would've been dressed in their "Sunday best" for church.  Apparently, the  young woman with pink hair and they young man in a long yellow paisley coat had no such thought:  It was just another building they passed on their way to the Cal-Mex cafe.

I guess pink and yellow, wherever they're seen under a gray sky, are signs that the season--whatever it is-- is here, or on its way.

12 March 2023

Where Did It Go?

Can I continue to call this "Midlife Cycling?" 

I'm really slowing down.  I started a moonlight ride along the water at 1:30 am.  It would normally take an hour, but I wasn't home until 3:30 am.

It took me an hour longer than normal.  What's happening to me?

Oh, right:  I "lost" an hour.  We moved the clocks ahead for Daylight Savings Time.

Now I'm going to ride that route, again, and look for that hour.  Maybe it's lying on the side of the road.

11 March 2023

To Which Side Did This Ride Take Me?

The days are growing longer, however slowly.  That's a sign of Spring approaching, even if the past week's weather has been colder than a month ago--or what I experienced when I arrived in Paris during the first week of January.

But I am happy to have enough daylight late in the afternoon that I can sneak in a ride after classes.  So I took a spin down "Hipster Hook" from my apartment into Greenpoint and Williamsburg, and back through the still-bluecollar and industrial areas along the Brooklyn-Queens border.

Along the way, I stopped in what has to be one of the strangest, and in its own way, charming stores in New York.  I thought the sign might have been a "leftover" from some previous owner:  The lettering fonts and overall styles look like they're from the '50's, and delis, bodegas and the like no longer have to announce themselves as "self-service," as customers are accustomed to picking up what they want and paying for it. On the other hand, in France and other European countries in marketplaces and  stores that aren't supermarkets, you ask the fruitier or fromagier or whoever is working there--who might be the proprietor--for what you want and they pick it out for you. That was still common in the US, or at least here in New York, when I was growing up.

Anyway, the reason why I call this store "charming" is that it is unlike any other I've seen here.  It has all f the things you'll find in a deli or bodega, from coffee to cat litter.  But it also has a hodgepodge of items you might find in a dollar, or any other thrift, store:  small tools, housewares, stationery and the like.  

If you go there, you'll probably encounter something like what I saw: Gnarled, dessicated and otherwise weathered old customers buying lottery tickets and brands of beer that, I thought, disappeared 40 years ago alongside hipsters and wannabes buying craft beers I hadn't heard of, organic hummus and light bulbs. 

Oh, and the store includes something that was a veritable industry 20 to 30 years ago but is now as rare, and dated, as cuneiform:  movie rentals.  I don't know of any place in my neighborhood, or any place else in New York, that still offers this service.  I don't plan to avail myself to it since I no longer have a functioning player, but it's interesting to know that such a service still exists.  Best of all, there are gnarled, dessicated and otherwise weathered old customers buying lottery tickets and brands of beer that, I thought, disappeared 40 years ago alongside hipsters and wannabes buying craft beers I hadn't heard of, organic hummus and light bulbs.

Speaking of relics and artifacts:  On the ride back, I encountered these:

Those graffitoes have graced the wall of Calvary Cemetery that faces, ironically, Review Avenue in an industrial area along Newtown Creek.  I remember seeing them as a kid, when my family and I went to visit relatives nearby.  (Calvary wasn't the only cemetery we passed.  How did that affect my emotional development?) And I've seen them a number of times, usually from the saddle of my bicycle.

I have wondered what those people were like (or if they were real!). Did Marty and Janet stay together--get married?  Divorced?  Did one of them "come out" in his or her 40's?  And Joe?  Sometimes I imagine a blue-collar Brooklyn or Queens guy, like an older brother of one of the kids I grew up with. Was he sent to Vietnam?  Has he lived a long and happy, or a turbulent, life?  For that matter, are Marty, Janet and Joe on the side of the wall from which I encountered their "tags?"  Or are they on the other side?

09 March 2023

Dripping With Its Age

Some bikes are classics, for all sorts of reasons.  Chief among them are that they give a good ride or that they look as "right" today as the day they were made, whether that day was yesterday or 30 years ago.

Other bikes, on the other hand, date themselves.  

This Marin mountain bike may well be a good rider.  And, I admit, I still like the drip/graffiti look, although I'm not sure I'd order a new bike with it.  Still, it's hard not to look at that bike of neon colorblock tracksuits and other artifacts of the late '80s.

08 March 2023

A Ride Through International Women’s Day

 Today is International Women’s Day.

As I’ve mentioned on other posts, Susan B.Anthony—who didn’t live to exercise a right for which she fought—understood what an effective vehicle, if you will, on the long road to equality:

“I think the bicycle has done more to emancipate women than any one thing in the world. I rejoice every time I see a woman ride byon a bicycle.”

She is right in more ways than one. Bicycles themselves gave women mobility they didn’t have before.  But, just as important, it loosened women’s dress standards:  Bloomers, shorter and split skirts and the elimination of corsets were among the sartorial shifts bicycles ushered. 

Having greater freedom of movement allowed women to move more freely and perform a greater variety of jobs. I can’t help but to think it was an important step in women seeing our bodies, and ourselves, on their and our own terms rather than in the physical and ideological constraints imposed by men. I can understand, a little, how exhilarating that could feel: I think I felt something like it when I realized I could live as a woman on my terms.

And bicycling has been an important part of that journey.  When all is said and done, though I ride, not only in the spirit of Ms. Anthony, but also of Cyndi Lauper:

 Girls just wanna have fun.  Really, what better reason is there to ride?

Oh—speaking of clothing: Sophie Germain’s parents took hers away.  Why?  Because she was teaching herself mathematics, which was not “proper” for a young lady. When that didn’t work, they returned her vestments and let her go to school.

She would make important contributions to mathematics—including work in something called Elasticity Theory, which has proved invaluable to engineers—including one Gustavo Eiffel.

I learned about her when I found myself on a street named for her (rue Sophie Germain) as I cycled south from—you guessed it—the Eiffel Tower.  And, being the curious person I am, I looked her up.

06 March 2023

No Guarantee Of Safety

 On Friday, I saw this:

I have seen, if not that very truck, then others like it, from the same company.

Before the bike lane was built, delivery trucks parked in that stretch of Crescent Street—to make deliveries at the Trade Fair supermarket, around the corner and half a block away, on Broadway.

I do not mean to fault the driver:  In my experience, operators of such large “rigs” are careful and courteous.  One problem is—as they will tell you—they don’t have the best sight lines.

Other folks would blame the bike lane for the difficulty drivers like him have in finding a place to park.  The fact is, they and other drivers had trouble before the lane was built—and before restaurants, bars and cafés, of which there are many along Broadway, constructed street-side gazebos in the wake of pandemic restrictions on how many patrons were allowed in an establishment.

While bollards are better than painted lines for separating bike lanes from streets, as you can see, they (and bike lanes in general) are no guarantee of safety.

05 March 2023

I Can't Account For This Comparison

 "(Fill-in-the-blank) is like riding a bicycle."

The reason given is some variation of: 

 "Once you learn, you never forget", or

 "It's all about keeping your balance."

The second reason might apply to this profession:

I have to admit, it never occurred to me to compare accounting to riding a bicycle because, honestly, I know nothing about accounting.  Oh, I considered it as my life's work for about ten minutes because people suggested it would be a "nice, stable career."  Well, I took a class--called Introduction to Pre-Accounting, or some such thing--as a senior in high school  because I had fulfilled my core requirements and had to fill a time slot in my class schedule with something. 

That class quickly disabused me of any desire to look at rows and columns all day (Remember, this was before computers and spreadsheets!) and, beyond having used the services of accountants, I've had no other contact with the profession. So I'll believe what's on that mug, even if I don't quite understand the comparison.

(If any of you are accountants, I mean no disrespect. 

04 March 2023

It Was A Nice Ride--While It Lasted

In 2010, Minneapolis became the first major US city (Denver was the first) to launch a bike-share program.

Now the program, known as "Nice Ride," is ending.

The chief reason is an operating deficit, a result of Blue Cross and Blue Shield of Minnesota ending its contract with Lyft, the ride-share company that has operated Nice Ride.  

After reading and hearing a Minnesota Public Radio report, however, I think the end of the road, so to speak, for Nice Ride has as much to do with how bike-share programs have changed and are leaving older programs behind.

For one thing, in many cities, bike share programs have turned into micromobility schemes.  According to Nice Ride executive director Bill Dossett, only 15 percent of micromobility rides were taken on the iconic lime-green pedal bikes.  As in other cities, motor scooters and ebikes have gained popularity.

That helps to confirm two of my suspicions, based on my observation of bike share programs in my hometown of New York and other cities.  

One is that the people drawn to the share programs weren't cyclists. When bike share programs started, they used the bikes for short trips. But, as share programs began to offer ebikes and scooters, users shifted to those conveyances.  

The other is this:  People who use micromobility programs are not using them in place of driving.  Rather, they are substituting their ebike and scooter trips for mass-transit rides--or for short rides with ride-share services like Lyft.  That, I believe, is one reason why Lyft has acquired, or been co-sponsoring or operating micromobility plans in other cities.  In other words, Lyft knows its market.

One thing that ride-share companies and micromobility schemes have in common is this:  People use phone apps to access them--except in Minneapolis.  Dossett says that Nice Ride plans to sell its 1333 bikes and 198 docking stations, but admits that it might difficult to find buyers because the bikes and stations were designed before those apps came into use.  Also, not many people or shops may want the bikes because they have custom parts and, as Dossett explains--and I can attest--"it takes a lot longer to maintain one of those bikes if you just have to fix a flat." (If you've ever had to fix a rear flat on a Raleigh DL-1, or any similar bike with rod brakes, you have some idea of what he's talking about.)  So, he says, the best hope might be to sell some of the still-usable parts