30 May 2023

Who Pays For Whom?

This argument has a foundation as weak as many St. Paul street beds, with even more (pot)holes than Shepherd Road.

So wrote Zack Mensinger in a Minn Post editorial. It’s the very point I’ve made to drivers who complain that I, and other cyclists, are taking “their” lanes and parking spaces.

So what is the flimsy logic Mr. Mensinger has exposed? It’s the faulty basis for a mistaken belief that too many non-cyclists hold: They, on four wheels, are paying for roads and other motor-related infrastructure and we, on two (or, sometimes, three) are freeloaders.

The reality, as he points out, is all but diametrically opposite.  In St.Paul, and most other places in the US, drivers don’t come close to paying the cost of streets. 

For one thing, contrary to common belief, most potholes are not caused by freeze-thaw cycles, even in a place with winters as brutal as those in the Minnesota capital. Rather, most of the damage is done by motorized vehicles, especially the bigger and heavier ones. 

Think of it this way:  Sidewalks are subject to the same weather conditions streets incur. Yet we don’t see potholes on sidewalks, which are used by pedestrians.  Even the heaviest cyclist with the heaviest bike is closer in weight to an average-sized pedestrian than to a car, let alone a truck or bus.

Another argument drivers make is that they pay gasoline taxes and vehicle registration fees.  That is true, but those revenues don’t come close to paying for streets and roads. And, if you own a car but use your bike more (admittedly a rare circumstance in the US), you’re still paying the same registration fee.

Someone is sure to bring up tolls for bridges, tunnels and highways—which cyclists don’t pay because we don’t use those facilities except for bridges.  But, as with gas taxes and registration fees, they represent a small part of roadway funding.

So, if those fees and taxes don’t pay for roads and streets, what does?  In Minnesota and most other places, the majority of street and road financing comes from general funds.  They usually include income and property taxes, which we pay whether or not we drive.  In other words, some of the money that’s deducted from my paycheck pays for things I, as a cyclist and non-driver, will never use. 

So, however and for whatever reasons drivers want to rant and rail ar us, they should thank us for subsidizing them.

29 May 2023

Memorial Day By Bicycle

 Today is Memorial Day in the United States.  In other countries, it’s known as Remembrance Day—which I think is more fitting.

Bicycles have played an important, if unsung role, in various conflicts during the past century and a half.  Perhaps they were most prominent in World War I.

Anzac Corps soldiers in Henencourt, France, 1917

Let us not forget how useful and necessary bicycles have been to people who are trying to escape the horrors of war, like this Jewish teenager—Pessah Cofnas (yes, he survived)

From the collection of the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum 

or as a way of getting around when highways are blocked, gasoline is unavailable and other modes of transportation are disrupted or destroyed.

Let us remember those who served and sacrificed.  But let us prevent more such tragedies.

28 May 2023

The Colors of My Memories

 Once upon a time, I was a wannabe, unsuccessful, and then a manqué, racer. I wore jerseys—and sometimes shorts and helmets—that were veritable riots of color.

These  days, most of the Lycra bike outfits I see are in carbon-bike hues:  stealth black, carbon-neutral gray and the like.

Oh, I miss the good ol’ days!

27 May 2023

Tina Turner: She Deserved Even More

(Spoiler alert:  This is not a bicycling-related post.)

By now, you’ve heard that Tina Turner passed away on Wednesday.

For me and, I imagine, for others, her death is not merely the loss of another famous musical performer. Rather, we feel that we have lost an inspiration and role model, even if our loves and work, and our very identities, are very different from hers.

She is that (and “all of that”) for the same reason she is, for me, part of a pantheon of musical performers that includes Aretha Franklin (whose passing I noted on this blog), Nina Simone and Billie Holiday.

What did they have in common?  They sang as if their lives depended on it.  I am not talking only about a paycheck, though there is that. Rather, their singing, and their stage presence, were all that stood between them and being subsumed by the circumstances of their lives and what is commonly called “inner turmoil” but, like language that doesn’t fit the prevailing aesthetic, has its own logic and grammar that are necessary to turn the ore of experience (which may be labeled “unusual” by those who don’t understand) to the most hard-won of truths.

What I described in that previous (and, admittedly lengthy) sentence also explains, at least in part, the “sexuality” that was attributed to her performances and her very self. It wasn’t a “come hither” gesture.  Instead, it was an assertion:  She would not be destroyed by Ike’s abuse, parental abandonment, her sister’s teenage death or anything else.

That is why her answer to Mike Wallace’s presumptuous question does not seem arrogant or conceited.

Even if I hadn’t known about her backstory—or heard anything besides “What’s Love Got To Do With It?” (which itself made her a compelling performer)—she deserved every damned thing she had at the end. And more.

26 May 2023

Citibike at 10. What’s Its Future

Leonardo di Caprio with Polish model Ela Kawalec

 Citibike—the bike-share program in my hometown, New York—turns ten years old tomorrow.

When it started, journalists, policy-makers and casual observers predicted its rapid demise.  They cited problems, including vandalism, theft, software glitches, in other cities’ bike share programs.  Some complained about docking stations taking up “their” parking spots or detracting from the aesthetics of their buildings and blocks. Oh, and some drivers were simply hostile to the idea of more bikes and cyclists on the streets.

But, as the saying goes, rumors of the program’s death were wildly exaggerated.  Moreover, the blue bikes gained unexpected popularity among people and communities—like the Hasidim—not known for cycling. (An explanation why so many ultra-Orthodox Jews took to them is that many could not keep bikes in their apartments or houses because their large families gave them little space.) And the actual and perceived problems with mass transit—some of which preceded the pandemic—made the bikes and, as they were added to the program, eBikes, real alternatives for commuters.

But now there is a new threat: finances.  

Five years ago, Lyft—the ride-share company—bought Citibike operator Motivate. Like other tech companies, Lyft is experiencing changes in its leadership and has laid off a significant portion of its workforce.  Nobody knows what the company’s new direction might be. 

Even though Citibike is the largest share program, by ridership and revenue, in North America, it’s actually a small part of Lyft’s operations.  So it might be one of the first things to go when shareholders demand that the company become “meaner and leaner.”

One way Citibike differs from other share programs (except for those in China) is that it operates with almost no public funding.  Therefore, some—including Streetsblog contributor David Meyer—have proposed the city or state allocating money or, possibly, making Citibike part of the MTA, DOT or some other city or state agency.  In other words  they’re saying  Citibike should be a city or state service.

25 May 2023

Women Ride In Copenhagen. Why Not Here?

In an earlier post, I wrote about how women's greater propensity for obeying the law--or simply our risk-adverseness--actually puts us at greater risk of injury and death while cycling.

In that post, I wrote about how the "Idaho Stop" could help to close that "gap."  Briefly, the "Idaho Stop"--so named because the Gem State legalized it all the way back in 1982--allows cyclists to treat red lights like "Stop" signs and "Stop" signs like "Yield" signs.  In other words, cyclists can proceed through a red light if there is no cross-traffic in the intersection.  That allows cyclists to proceed through the intersection ahead of any traffic--including right-turning trucks and buses--that might be following them.

I got to thinking about that in reading Cara Eckholm's comparison of bicycle commuting in Copenhagen, where she spent her early twenties, and New York, where she currently resides.  She points out that in the Danish capital, female cyclists actually outnumber their male counterparts, but on the Big Apple streets, men outnumber women on bikes by a factor of three to one, even though women outnumber men in "spin" and other indoor cycling.

Some of that difference, she contends, has to do with the state of bicycle infrastructure in each city (and country).  Studies show that women's participation in cycling tends to increase when there are more protected lanes and other cycling infrastructure. But she also believes that the cultural norms around gender and cycling are perhaps more important.  As an example, she cites reports--and I can attest--that drivers are more likely to encroach on a female cyclist's space that that of a male rider's.  

Moreover, women are far more likely to be using their bikes to ferry their children to school or ballet or soccer practice, or to shop or do household errands, than men are.  For such riding and riders, the monocoque carbon frames and spandex riding outfits featured in most ad and p.r. campaigns aren't very practical.  Eckholm contends that showing women--whether on city, cargo or e-bikes--in non-bike clothing with their kids, groceries, books or other items that don't fit in a jersey pocket would probably encourage more women--and members of racial and ethnic minorities--to think, "Hey, I can ride a bike!"

Illustration of "New Woman" by F. Opper in Puck magazine, 1895.  From the Library of Congress.

That is more or less the image cycling has in places like Copenhagen.  And, ironically, it harkens back to the images of the 1890s that showed proud, confident women in their "bloomers" and derby hats astride two wheels.  

24 May 2023

Across The Bridge, 140 Years Later

Photo by Kevin Duggan, AM New York

On this date 140 years ago, the Brooklyn Bridge opened.

I recently overcame my skepticism and rode across its bike lane.  It’s better than I expected, though the Williamsburg is, if out of habit, my East River crossing of choice.

Traffic on that opening day did not, of course, consist of motor vehicles. From the images and accounts I could find, most of those who crossed on that first day were dignitaries. 

Among them were Emily Roebling.  Her husband was its architect and chief engineer until he was killed in an accident.  Then her son took over until caisson disease (commonly called “the bends) incapacitated him. Without her, the bridge might not have been completed.

I suspect that at least some of the traffic in the bridge’s early years included high-wheeled bicycles.  Today, of course, one encounters all manner of bikes—just as every kind of person imaginable has crossed the Bridge that has given all of us with access to the sun, sky and the city.

I think of cinemas, panoramic sleights
With multitudes bent toward some flashing scene
Never disclosed, but hastened to again,
Foretold to other eyes on the same screen;

And Thee, across the harbor, silver paced
As though the sun took step of thee yet left
Some motion ever unspent in thy stride,—
Implicitly thy freedom staying thee!

—Hart Crane, from “To Brooklyn Bridge”

23 May 2023

What Does Bike Parking Have To Do With LGBTQ, Gender and Racial Equality?

I, personally and cyclists, collectively have been accused of "taking too much space" on the road--by drivers of SUVs and gaudily painted pickup trucks that have never been besmudged by a tool box in the cargo area or a dirty hand on its steering wheel.

So I wouldn't have been surprised, though I would have been no less upset than Scottish cyclist Alan Gordon was to find this:

He locked his bike to a curbside railing in Colinton, an Edinburgh suburb, to attend a volunteer start-up session for the area's new free tool library.  I would assume that the library would benefit residents of the complex as well as people in the surrounding community.

Anyway, in the Twitter thread that followed, someone showed a motorcycle and a two garbage bin in another parking spot, taking up more space than two bikes like Alan's would have.  No one left a "polite notice" about them.

(As someone else noted, starting the note with "Polite Notice" was a tip-off that what followed would be the exact opposite, just as people who say "I'm not a racist" usually follow it with some stereotype or another.  Or the person who, a couple of days ago said, "I'm not a transphobe, but..."  to me.)

Oh, and someone made a comment about paying road tax.  I don't know about the laws over there, but I've gotten into that exact argument with drivers here. And I have very politely pointed out that I do, in fact, pay road tax.  The only tax I don't pay that motorists have to pay is for gasoline.

This may seem strange (of course it won't when I explain it), but recounting Alan's tale reminded me of another part of the conversation I had with the "I'm not a transphobe" dude and other people with similar mindsets. Any time a law is passed to give Blacks, immigrants, women, LBGBTQ+ people or anyone else who is in a "minority" the same rights as white, cisgender, heterosexual Christian men, such people whine that things have "gone too far" or that we're getting "special privileges." Complaints like the one Alan received in the "Polite Notice" have the same feel to them.  

As I have pointed out to such folks--including a few relatives of mine--if you have always enjoyed a right or a privilege, you don't notice it until someone else gets it--or you lose it.  The latter has happened to me in my affirmation of my female self:  I lost some of the assumption of competence, innocence and other things I once could take for granted.  Likewise, most drivers, especially if they're not regular cyclists, would never know how much of the landscape and economy are shaped by their driving--which, I grant, is a need for some.  Contrary to what some think, though, I am not trying to take anything away from them--or cisgender people.  I only want the same rights and protections they take for granted.


22 May 2023

Attacked Because He Is A Cyclist?

 These days, when I ride into Manhattan, I am most likely to use the Williamsburg Bridge.  One reason is convenience:  It’s closest to the places on either side of the river from, to or through which I am likely to ride.  Another is habit:  The Brooklyn Bridge bike lane, which opened a couple of years ago, is better than I expected it to be.  But before it became available, the Williamsburg had widest lanes and easiest access of the East River crossings.

Time was, though, when I avoided the Williamsburg.  When I lived in Park Slope, Brooklyn, the Brooklyn was more convenient.  But the neighborhoods on either side of the Williamsburg were, at the time, rough.  I knew a few people who were attacked and their bicycles stolen.

As if such crimes weren’t intimidating enough, a new wave of attacks—like the one I’m about to mention—is targeting cyclists.

Early this morning, a 62-year-old man was riding through Chicago’s South Loop.  For no apparent reason, someone attacked him with a construction sign. Then the perp beat the man with his bicycle.

While the methods and weapons used vary, one thing that the aforementioned incident has in common with others I’ve heard about recently is that police and reporters have said there was “no apparent motive.” I can’t help but to think, however that the man in Chicago, and other cyclists, are being attacked because they are cyclists.

20 May 2023

Safer Passing In Oregon


Photo by Jonathan Maus of BikePortland

I have experienced my fair share of "road rage" from drivers. (OK, "What is a 'fair share?' you ask.)  Some times it came from the perception of "privilege" I have as a cyclist and, in at least one incident I can recall, the legitimate perception of my privilege as a white person. Other times, the rage was an expression of hostility from some other source, and I just happened to be in "the wrong place at the wrong time."

But, to be fair, I have to say that some drivers become--understandably, perhaps--frustrated because they just don't know how to act.  Often, that is a result of fact that they're not, or haven't recently been, cyclists. But I suspect that another factor could be ignorance of the law (also understandable, sometimes) or that said statutes are vague or don't address the situation at hand.

Doug Parrow and Richard Hughes understood what I've just described.  Fortunately for us, they're retired, so they had time to do the considerable legwork (pun intended) necessary to bring it to the attention of Oregon State Senator Floyd Prozanski and help him to bring it to the legislative body in which he works.  The result is Senate Bill 895, which has passed both houses of the state's legislature.  Next, it will go to the House floor and the Governor's desk, where it is likely to be signed into law.

This new regulation actually amends an older regulation that governs vehicles in a "no passing" zones.  The extant law, similar to others in other jurisdictions, says that you can pass on the left in a "no passing" zone if the vehicle you're passing has turned on to another road, driveway or alley. It also says that you can move further to the left, and even cross a center line, in order to avoid an "obstruction."

That all seems straightforward enough.  But like similar laws, it probably was drafted at a time when the "obstruction" was likely to be another motor vehicle, such as a truck that's taking up the whole lane or another vehicle that's disabled or has to, for whatever reason, travel at a slower speed.  It might also be a work site, which is likely to be clearly marked and blocked by a truck.  The law's framers probably didn't know any adult cyclists.

These days, of course, that "obstruction" might be a cyclist or a group of them.  That was a frequent occurrence on Skyline Boulevard, popular with motorists and cyclists alike because of its sweeping curves, scenic views and proximity to downtown Portland.  To address such situations, the new bill says that motorists must drive at least five miles per hour under the speed limit while passing, and amends the definition of "obstruction" to explicitly include "any person who is riding a bicycle or operating any other type of vehicle and who is travelling at less than one-half of the speed limit." 

19 May 2023

They’re Not Alone In The Lone Star State

 What do New York, Paris, Amsterdam and Copenhagen have in common?

Well, since you’re reading this blog, you probably guessed that they all have large numbers of cyclists.  

They are also mostly or completely flat, dense and have relatively mild climates, many young workers and students and, perhaps as a consequence, progressive politics (at least in relation to the rest of their nations.

Save for the politics, nothing I’ve said applies to Austin, Texas:  Its sprawl encompasses many long, rolling hills.  And brutal heat smothers the city, not only through “official” summer months, but also for significant parts of Spring and Fall.  It also affects the city’s air quality.

But those aren’t the only, or even the chief, reasons why, although their numbers are increasing, bicycling comprises only one percent of all commutes. 

Rather, Austin residents, like people in other parts of the world, cite “fear of motorist aggression “ and “poor quality and condition of dedicated bike lanes” as deterrents to stepping out of their cars and slinging a leg over a saddle.

Photo by P. Owens, Warrington Cycle Campaign 

18 May 2023

Where Am I? In My Favorite Season

What is your favorite time of year for cycling?

For me, the answer has varied throughout my life.  I guess it had a lot to do with my over-arching mood at that time in my life.  For example, I have loved Fall riding at different times for the colorful foliage, the sunset light that simmers into a chill, or just the melancholy (definition:  aesthetically sad) feeling. 

Right now, I might say the month of May because--ironically--because of its colors, which include many shades of purple.  But one thing I truly love is that there is more daylight with each day:  a trend that will continue until late in June, when Summer begins.

Those extra minutes and hours of daylight mean that even if I am busy during the morning and afternoon, I can take a ride late in the day.  I have lights, but I prefer to ride in daylight whenever I can.

Which I did yesterday.  After pedaling to the World Trade Center, I took the PATH train to Jersey City and rode down to Bayonne, where I crossed the bridge into Staten Island--and the Ferry.

I took these photos with my iPhone.  Depending on which way I turned, each was recorded as a different locality.  This one is recorded as "Bayonne"

and these are "Brooklyn"

Even this

which is every tourist's vision of the Manhattan skyline, is marked "Brooklyn."  I took all of those photos within a couple of minutes, from the ferry deck, and did nothing more than turn at a slightly different angle with each shot.

Ironically, I would ride through Brooklyn on my way home.

17 May 2023

Marching, Or Pedaling, To Our Own Drummers—Or Guitarists

 I have to admit that along with the mental and physical health benefits—and sheer pleasure—cycling has given me, something that keeps me in the saddle is that it still feels subversive sometimes.

During my junior and senior years in high school, I definitely was pedaling to my own drummer (or guitar player: they were my real musical heroes, along with Bob Dylan) when my peers were leaving their Schwinn Varsities and Continentals, Raleigh Records and Grand Prixes (Is that the proper plural?) and, in a few cases, Peugeot UO8s, the moment they got their drivers’ permits.

Since then, I’ve been in the minority for most of my life: In previous posts, I recalled how I often pedaled rural roads, suburban subdivisions and city streets without encountering another adult cyclist. Then, as now, some saw me as a nuisance or even a threat:  Even during the last years of the Cold War, a man or woman astride two wheels instead of behind one and on four was linked, in some minds to socialism or communism (which, although different, were and are conflated).

Even today, as adults—mainly young ones—riding to school or work, or for fun, are more common here in New York and in other places, I still feel that bicycles are vehicles, if you will, for changes.

I was reminded of that during a late-day ride, when I was greeted by this grand dame at MOMA/PS1.

Along the way, I pedaled along a familiar path on the Long Island City waterfront.  If I were just a little more self-centered (which would be saying something!), I’d say the Parks Department landscapers were paving the way for me.

I’m told that people whose favorite color is purple tend to march, or pedal, to their own drummer, or guitarist or lyricist.

14 May 2023


With one exception, each of my bicycles has a bell.  They are effective in signaling pedestrians and other cyclists I pass (yes, even at my age).

Well, most of the time, anyway.  Sometimes folks are wearing headphones—not just any headphones, but the kind that seem to completely seal off outside sounds. I ring, I shout, they don’t hear me.  On more than one occasion, I’ve tapped people on the shoulder or brushed them.

I can almost understand why someone would design a bike around a horn loud enough to clear the way for a ship full of grain in the Bosporus Strait.

13 May 2023

Is He Speaking With A Forked Path?

 You don’t have to read much of this blog to know or even infer my distaste for almost anything having to do with El Cheeto Grande, Ron De-Sanctimonious or George In-Santos.

But, to be fair, I’ll point out that our former (I hope)President and his wanna-but-I-hope-he-never-will-be successor—or the only living being capable of telling more lies than either—are unique among public office-holders in their meanness, maliciousness, mendaciousness or pure-and-simple dishonesty. 

I think now of Ronald Reagan’s assertion: “Trees cause more pollution than automobiles do.” Oh, and don’t get me started on “weapons of mass destruction,”  Again, in the interests of fairness, I will point out that it wasn’t the first time a falsehood was the premise for bringing the United States to war.

Deliberately misinforming their constituents—or simply making ridiculous statements—is, unfortunately, becoming even more of a normal operating procedure as politicians have to prove their fidelity to the most extreme party leaders and voters. 

Even seemingly-moderate politicos are dancing in the conga line.  Mitt Romney—who may be the only presidential candidate to castigate an incumbent opponent for doing on a national level what he himself did in his state while he was governor —has fallen in line with his party’s anti-environment, anti-cyclist stance.  Or he is yet more proof that rich doesn’t always equal smart or well-informed.

Now, before I relate his coal-lump of wisdom,’I must clarify what I think of bike lanes.  I am in favor of them—if they are conceived, planned and executed in ways that actually make cycling safer, as well as more practical and enjoyable.  Too many lanes I’ve seen don’t accomplish any of those objectives and even do the exact opposite.  

So, in light of what I’ve just said, I can understand at least one aspect of opposition to bike lane construction.  But Mr. Romney claims that bike lane construction is “the height of stupidity” because “it means more cars backing up, creating more emissions.”

First of all, independent studies conducted by, among other institutions, Carnegie-Mellon and McGill Universities, show the exact opposite.  For one thing, a bike doesn’t emit the poisons that spew from tailpipes.  For another, the studies show that on streets where a traffic  or parking lane was turned into a bike lane, there was frequent or chronic traffic congestion before the bike lane was designated.

So…Mitt Romney is now part of an unfortunate tradition—and a dangerous recent development. Is he misinformed, disingenuous or malicious? Has he steered off his own path onto the one of, for today’s Republicans, least resistance?

Photo by Doug Pensinger, Getty Images

10 May 2023

Cyclist Shot For Stopping To Help

It's bad enough that there are four guns for every three people in the United States of America.  Even worse is the potential for suicide and other kinds of self-harm, and for crimes that wouldn't have happened otherwise.  I am thinking, of course, about mass shootings, of which we've had three for every two days here in the US, and mass killings, nearly all of which happen by gunfire and of which we are on track to have nearly twice as many in 2023 as in any previous year.   

But I also have another kind of tragedy in mind:  the kind that unfolded just before noon yesterday in New Haven, Connecticut.  A man was cycling down Chapel Street, between Ferry and Poplar.  He stopped to help a driver who'd fallen asleep at the wheel. Another driver started to argue with the cyclist.  Then he shot him.

The cyclist went to the emergency room and is expected to survive.  But it makes me think about the times I've stopped to help people while I was riding.  What if someone else took issue, whether for a rational reason or not?  And what if that person had a

From Edmunds

For that matter, I have to wonder whether, one day, some motorist who resents my presence on "his" road might decide to make his point with the tip of a bullet? 

09 May 2023

Sending Us Across The Bridge

Until recently, almost no transportation planning in the US included bicycles.  In a way, it's understandable:  For decades, few adults rode bikes for any reason, let alone to commute.  But in many parts of the country, people of all ages, from officers in organizations to students and retail workers, are cycling to their workplaces or classrooms.  Some cities and states have tried, often misguidedly, to "accommodate" cyclists.  Some of their efforts have been, arguably, worse than ignoring us altogether.

One such effort has been a proposal to allow cyclists to cross the Potomac River between Maryland and Virginia on the recently-opened Governor Harry W. Nice/Senator Thomas "Mac" Middleton Bridge. 

Even at my age-which is still, ahem, midlife because, well, I say it is!-- I probably could cross the bridge faster than I could say its name. But that, I suspect, is not the reason why folks like Jed Weeks are using words like "ludicrous," "unconscionable" and "malpractice" in reference to the proposition. 

Weeks is the interim executive director and policy director of Bikemore.  His organization focuses on the Baltimore area,  about 90 miles north of the bridge.  Washington, DC is about midway between them. and From the nation's capital and Chesapeake Bay, where the Potomac empties--a distance of about 100 miles--there is no other Potomac crossing.

The new bridge with a name even longer than its span replaced an old bridge called (relatively) simply the Governor Harry Nice Memorial Bridge. David Brickley, who owns the Dahlgren Railroad Heritage trail, led an unsuccessful fight to preserve that span for pedestrians and cyclists.  He argued that it would have been "good for tourism" with its views and its potential for linking bike lanes and pedestrian paths on both sides of the river, allowing for longer trips.

Aerial view of the new Governor Harry W. Nice Memorial/Senator Thomas "Mac" Middleton Bridge.  Image from the Maryland Transportation Authority

When construction began on the new bridge, Larry Hogan was Maryland's governor.  He and his transportation planners did not make any provisions for bike or pedestrian lanes.  So how does the Maryland Transportation Authority want to "accommodate" cyclists?

Get ready for this: The agency's newest proposal calls for allowing cyclists to use the rightmost traffic lane in either direction.  Upon entering the bridge, cyclists would push a button that would trigger flashing lights, alerting motorists to the presence of a cyclist.  The lights would continue to blink their warning for 10 to 15 minutes to allow the cyclist to cross--while sharing that 12-foot-wide traffic lane with cars, SUVs, trucks and other vehicles crossing the span.

No, I didn't make that up. (If only I could!)  Oh, but it gets even better or worse, depending on whether you're seeing this as a story or transportation issue. The bridge connects the Maryland and Virginia sections of US Highway 301, which is a spur of US 1. So, said motor vehicles are traveling at 50 MPH.  At least, that's the speed limit.

If someone was plotting a way to kill cyclists, that person could hardly have done better.  That's not my emotions talking.  "I wonder if (Maryland Transportation Secretary Paul) Weidfeld would feel this is a good, safe option for bicyclists to go from Virginia to Maryland and Maryland to Virginia," mused Brickley.  "I wonder whether he would feel safe bicycling over that bridge."

Weeks felt even though the issue is "sort of out of our jurisdiction" it was comment because the plan is "such a dangerous idea." He summed up his verdict thusly:  "Anyone affiliated with a decision like that has no business designing bike or pedestrian infrastructure and should be banned from the practice."

Actually, from what I've seen and experienced, I could apply Weeks' brilliant summation to the vast majority of transportation planners who design bicycle infrastructure in the US.  Sometimes I think they see us as a "problem," much as grandstanding politicians in places like Florida, Montana and Georgia portray transgender people, and their  way to deal with us is to eliminate us or, if you like, send us across the bridge.

08 May 2023

After El Cinco, Le Huit

 Three days ago, Cinco de Mayo was celebrated by, I am told, more gringos in Los Estados Unidos than actual Mexicans anywhere in the world.

Today is another holiday or day of commemoration, depending on where you are.  Or, if you are in the Americas, you might not be aware of it.

On this date in 1945, the Allies accepted the unconditional surrender of German forces.  Since then, in France and other countries, this date is celebrated as Victory in Europe Day.  (If you hear a French person say something that sounds like “wheat-may,” they’re talking about huit mai: this date). In Germany, it is a somber day of commemoration.  Here in the US, it was observed mainly by veterans—of whom very few remain—of World War II’s European theatre.

As I noted in an earlier post, bicycles played a significant role in the war and led, interestingly, to lighter bicycles and changes in civilian attire.

Here is a photo Robert John McNary Smith, who served in engineer and weather units of the US Army, took on the Champs-Elysées on 8 May 1945.  It’s part of the National World War II Museum’s collection.

07 May 2023


In a shop I frequented, a mechanic wore a lab coat and stethoscope while working on bikes.  

That was just one of his eccentricities. Turns out, he’s not the only mechanic I knew who viewed his work in medical terms: Another, who also owned a shop where I worked, told us that bearing surfaces should be “surgically” clean before lubing then.

Ironically, yet another mechanic of my acquaintance went to medical school and never talked about his work in that way. In fact, he didn’t talk about his work at all.

In case you’re wondering how the first mechanic in this story got a lab coat and stethoscope: His wife was a nurse in a nearby hospital.

05 May 2023

Fuel Efficiency

 Today is Cinco de Mayo.

So, of course, I am going to ride--and eat Mexican food.  Which Mexican food(s), I haven't decided yet.

But I think this T-shirt might influence my choice:

04 May 2023

Blamed At Any Speed

On every kind of thoroughfare from Interstate highways to dirt roads, drivers exceed the speed limit.  To be fair, it's easy to do on a deserted rural lane or when all of the drivers around you are over the limit.  I imagine that sometimes drivers think that 5 or 10 miles per hour over the speed limit isn't much, especially if that threshold is 40 MPH or greater.

What people often fail to realize, however, is how much more harm they can do by going "just over" the speed limit.  As an example, William Davies piloted his Ford Focus at 48 MPH on a road where the posted limit was 40 MPH.  Had he been a compliant driver, he would have been traveling three meters (about ten feet) slower per second when he approached an intersection in the Welsh town of Newport.

At an intersection, a few feet, let alone meters, can mean, literally, the difference between life and death--especially for someone crossing the juncture without the protection of 4000 pounds of metal. 

A report issued after the court's inquest said as much.  The excessive speed "more than minimally contributed" to Mr. Davies striking--and killing--16-year-old Joshua Fletcher.

Joshua Fletcher R.I.P.

The teenager, who was said to be a talented rugby player and was studying to be a mechanic, was riding his bike to school on 16 October 2020 when Mr. Davies struck him.  The impact fractured his skull and caused multiple brain injuries.  He was declared dead at the scene.

You may have noticed a key word in the paragraph before the previous one: "minimally."  I can't help but to think that the report's author was a lawyer or had one by his or her side:  It couldn't have been chosen more carefully or deliberately.  That word allowed them to say "but" without saying "but."

To wit:  According to that report, Fletcher crossed the intersection "carelessly" because he was distracted by the headphones he was wearing.  OK, that's fair enough:  I never have ridden with headphones.  Also, the report noted, he wasn't wearing a helmet. 

On the basis of those factors, the report, in essence, said that Joshua Fletcher--who rode his bike to school because he was late whenever he took the bus--was responsible for his own death.

Now, I am not a coroner or forensic scientist, and I have never had children (though I've taught and worked with them in other ways), so take what I am about to say for what it's worth:  Rare is the circumstance when a child, or even a teenager, should be blamed for his or her own death.  Even if we can agree that Fletcher "should have" worn a helmet and "shouldn't have" worn headphones while riding, he didn't deserve to die for making choices teenagers, left to their own devices, would make.

(I rode without a helmet as a teenager because the only ones available were the "leather hairnets"--like the old football helmets--or lids from other sports like hockey.  And I rode without headphones because, well, we didn't have them in those days.  But would I have gone bareheaded and with my ears plugged if helmets and phones were available?)

I am not saying that William Davies was some sort of homicidal maniac.  He, too, made a careless choice--arguably more careless, since he had those 4000 pounds of metal and, one assumes, more wisdom than a sixteen-year-old would have.  

Perhaps the point is not to assign blame but, rather, to look at what leads people to such tragedies.  Of course cyclists should be encouraged to wear helmets and not to wear headphones.  But drivers also need to be aware that they are, in essence, guiding a lethal weapon whose destructive force increases exponentially with incremental increases in speed.

03 May 2023

Knowing The Difference

Photo by Lauren Segal, for the San Francisco Chronicle 


One thing I’ve noticed is that in complaining about scofflaws on two wheels, people often conflate bicycles with e-bikes and what I think of as miniature motorcycles.

When I ask people to recount their “close encounters,” I learn, more often than not, that they were “buzzed “ by a delivery worker on a mini-motorcycle, a young person cavorting on an eBike or a motorized scooter who ran a red light.

So I was gratified to learn that in Marin County, just north of  San Francisco, two communities are explicitly targeting pre-adults who dart and weave among pedestrians.

02 May 2023

One Person’s Trash Is Another Person’s Lifeline

 If one were to ask most Americans which possessions they most fear losing, their cars would be high on their lists.  Especially in areas outside city cores, away from mass transportation networks, people depend on their automobiles to get to work or school and for many everyday tasks.

For people who don’t own or drive cars—whether by choice or circumstances—bicycles can be their connection to the rest of the world.  I am one such person.  Others include a club in which I hope not to become a member:  people who don’t have housing. 

In New York, where I live, and in other cities, one often sees battered, grimy and rusty machines among tents, sleeping bags, shopping carts, boxes and shipping crates sprawled under bridge and highway underpasses, train trestles and in any public space with something spread, hanging or standing over it that can provide at least a partial shield from rain and other elements. Because those spaces are often squalid, through no fault of their inhabitants (Americans never have been very good at taking care of public spaces), whatever ends up in them—including their inhabitants’ possessions and the inhabitants themselves—are seen as disposable.

At least, that seems to be the attitude (mis)guiding some City of San Diego officials.  They, who fancy themselves the finest of the self-proclaimed “America’s Finest City,” went into encampments (Would they enter someone’s house or apartment without knocking on the door or ringing the bell?) and tossed unhoused people’s bikes into garbage trucks.

As activist Jacob Mandel pointed out, “For unhoused people, a bicycle can be a lifeline, providing low-cost/free transportation to employment that could break the cycle of poverty.”

He added, “The city is destroying those lifetimes.” Not to mention that if anyone else did what those officials did, it would be considered theft.