Archive for December, 2009

Dangers of (Not) Cycling

December 30, 2009

People are often good at determining lesser dangers, but they are not always experts at the larger dangers.

One example is cycling. People are pretty astute to realize that getting hit by a car is dangerous.

However, do they realize that not cycling, itself has dangers?

Aside for the real, but rare and silly dangers of getting hit by a car while sitting in one’s house, there are other dangers of not cycling. The main one is heart disease and diabetes which are some of the biggest killers in the US.

Just sitting around, letting yourself atrophy, you are running a greater risk to your life than any out of control Hummer.

This is why I feel that it’s not accurate to compare bicycle collision rates with automobile rates. The risk of sedentary diseases also need to be considered.

Yes, you can drive to the gym, but is that “efficient” and “time effective” which are two things that the auto lifestyles was supposed to bring it. Or is it more efficient to excercise and get places?

Finally, if you look at the statistics, riding a bicycle is not far more dangerous than driving an automobile anyway. In many cases, a bicycle is safer.

Here are your ways of getting hurt on a bicycle:

1. Getting hit by a car (often fatal).

2. Falling off/collision (often just painful enough to teach you not to do that again).

Ways of getting hurt by a car:

1. Getting hit by a car (often fatal). Contrary to popular belief, getting hit by a car while in a car can be just as dangerous. Why? When you aren’t in a car, you don’t have the risk of getting crushed inside the car. If you don’t think this is common, why do you think that they invented the “Jaws of Life”?

2. Hitting something (often fatal).

3. Rolling (often fatal).

If you still haven’t grasped things, look at it this way. Bicycling, in and of itself, is a pretty harmless activity. “Bikes are harmless.”

If there were no cars or bicycles on the road, many people would still manage to kill themselves (see #2 and #3) above.

How many people died by getting hit by a bicycle. Yet how much outrage there is when a measly 4% of the population take to the pedals. At worst, bicycles should have 4% of the negativity and angers. Or less. They seldom kill people.

Finally, it should be noted that bike salmon and other crazy cyclists actually make the road safer for motorists by waking them up. That is when they are not getting stuck on the truck’s grills. 🙂

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Hungry Bear Nation

December 28, 2009

On Christmas day, I decided to open my biggest present.

No, not any crap under a tree. Rather, it was a bicycle that takes place each month: Critical Mass.

I missed the main ride because I was going to the bathroom, but I did run up with a group that called themselves “Hungry Bear Nation.” Why, I don’t know. I don’t think that’s important.

The people were really nice, which was less of a surprise to me due to living in San Diego for a year now. Still, it was a bit strange that a group of friends who didn’t know me took me in so nicely.

We rode from Balboa down Laurel where one of the riders crashed on the steepest part of the hill. She was fine.

We rode bay side and took in the grade A view of the lights of Downtown and Point Loma. Excellent route especially as most was off road.

Then we cruised around a deserted Sea Port Village. It was quite beautiful.

Then we got some beers and headed back to Sea Port Village. We talked for a while. Two of the guys have an online t-shirt shop. Some of the people are considering moving from LA to SD. We listened to Kayne West.

Finally, it got pretty cold, and we called it a night.

I got on my bicycle and headed off with one of the guys. What a wonderful night.

Each time I ride Critical Mass, I meet at least one other interesting person.

If you are opposed to Critical Mass, I suggest you spend one night out of the month riding with us. If the traffic blocking is a problem, I urge you to do your errands on a bicycle that night, at least. That way, when you come to the Critical Mass, you will meet with no obstacles. You will be one of us. Happy and free.

MADD Cycling

December 28, 2009

I just visited two pages from Mother’s Against Drunk Driving, which is an organization which I highly respect. Here are people who took a tragedy and turned it into a mission to help others.

However, I noticed one omission. I didn’t see any information on _how_ one can go to a bar, drink, and get home safely. Yes, everyone knows about designated drivers. I agree with them 100%.

However, many times in my 20’s when I went out, it was solo. I was lucky (or smart) enough to always live close enough to a bar I could walk to. Barring that, I’d sometimes cycle to the bar. This is not as dangerous as you think.

It was only a few blocks on some quiet streets especially late at night. If I crashed, I’d only hurt myself. This never happened. If I was too drunk, I could always walk my bicycle on the sidewalk.

Other ways I’d get to distant bars was by public transportation.

I think that it would be nice to have these on the front pages, and do more on alternative transportation politically.

In order to facilitate this, I wrote them a letter. Looking forward to a response. Regarding SanDag, they didn’t get back to me yet. Probably after the holidays, I hope.

MADD Letter:

I have been a fan of MADD for years.

MADD’s commitment to eliminating drunk driving gives me hope for the world.

I often think about how many people died for no reason due to drunk driving, and I have struggled to come up with some ideas on how to prevent more drunk driving.

I’m sure that it hasn’t escaped your attention that many bars can only be reached by automobile. That guarantees that many people will drive drunk due to logistical problems.

By making it necessary for someone to drive from a bar not only does society seem to suggest that it’s OK to drink and drive, but it also makes it a necessity.

If alternate transportation were made available to bars, drinking and driving would go down. This is proven by the success of the St. Patrick’s Day pub crawl buses which eliminate the need for drinkers to drive.

Eliminating bars from places reached only by highway exits and reducing parking at places that provide alcohol would also reduce drinking and driving.

I know many people who would walk or take a bus to a bar, but drive instead because this is the only way to get there! Therefore, alternate transportation needs to be available at the hours when people drink. Often buses and trains stop service far before two AM, and they restrict service on weekends which
again, enables drinking and driving.

Finally, in places where buses and trains are not available, a bicycle is a much safer way to get to and from a bar. The bicycle has the advantage that the only person at risk is the rider. Imagine how many people would be alive if cars had the feature that they didn’t endanger anyone, but the driver!

Again, in many places, due to poor road conditions, it is unpractical to ride a bicycle to a bar.

If you are interested in exploring alternative transportation methods as a means for people to get to and from the bar, please let me know. Also, please let me know some suggestions on what can be done.

Currently, I am preparing a questionnaire that will be used to prepare a voting “cheat sheet” for those who wish for more alternate transportation. It would greatly help these efforts if MADD lent its credibility to this endeavor.

Wishing you the best,

Fred Ollinger

Highway Riding

December 23, 2009

I came up with a letter, but when I went to the Sandag website, I could find no where to submit it!

There was only a way to contact the webmaster. I’m going to send it them and see what’s up.

Below is the letter:

Greetings,

I am a cycling advocate who would like to do for bicycles what
the AAA has done for the automobile, guarantee Americans, who
so desire, universal mobility by bicycle.

In the past, I had thought that the policy of keeping bicycles
off the freeway was sound. After all, why would I want to share
space with vehicles that are much faster. Add the smell of
exhaust and the constant din, it seemed like a perfectly
logical solution.

However, recently, I had the misfortune of having the last
trolley canceled without warning and without indication.

Unlike the other two dozen passengers who were now stranded in
El Cajon, I had a bicycle. I could feasibly ride the dozen
miles home.

I started out naively thinking that El Cajon Avenue would take
me straight home. This turned out to be untrue as I somehow
managed, with no intention of my own, of winding up on the
freeway. Knowing full well that I was breaking the law, I took
the first exit.

Immediately, I got lost and even turned around again. I did
have a light, but it was not the brightest. I inadvertently
ended up on the freeway again. Again, I took the first exit. I
was at Grossmont Plaza all ready. I was finding my bicycle ride
to be much quicker than the trolley.

Again, I got lost. Seeing a police officer, I asked which
direction was West. He assured me I should go straight. I did.

I was on the freeway again.

Why was I breaking the law so much? Why did a police officer,
seeing I was on a bicycle, also suggest that I break the law?

It seems that there are freeways everywhere, and they are quite
unavoidable.

From my ride, I found that even on a bicycle the freeway is
much faster and more convenient than any street that has a
bicycle lane.

At no point did I feel unsafe on the freeway. In fact, my only
fear was getting fined for breaking the law.

I feel that as long as freeway access is denied to cyclists,
mobility for cyclists will be an empty promise.

The State of California and the City of San Diego are bankrupt.
Still, there is talk of tiny improvements to build
infrastructure for cyclists. Many people in charge feel that a
dollar spent on cyclists is a dollar taken away from motorists.

I would prefer not take money away from anyone. My proposal
would cost no more than the cost of this email: decriminalize
bicycling on freeways. Just stop wasting tax payer money
harassing cyclists who are just trying to get home from work
when public transportation has failed them.

Not all of us are wealthy enough to afford a car. Some of us,
for health or moral reasons, choose to limit our driving. Ever
since I have started cycling, I have personally been happier
than I have ever been in my life. I don’t know why people like
me, people who also pay taxes, are denied mobility.

I want what’s best for motorists, best for taxpayers, and best
for bicyclists, A truly Free freeway.

San Diego Bicycle Coalition Retreat: Fail

December 14, 2009

I was invited to provide input at the San Diego Bicycle Coalition Board Retreat last weekend. The purpose of the retreat was to get more people involved with the coalition as well as more, young people.

The meeting was four hours of mind numbing back and forthing. My head is still aching from the meeting. Long meetings where nothing really gets done tire me out.

Therefore, I’ll refrain from going into detail on the meeting, but here’s an executive summary.

The retreat was a failure.

Oh, the retreat did succeed on some levels. It was the kind of consensus building format where everyone gets to voice all their opinions and only what everyone agrees on is done. Which is to say nothing is done because a small group of close friends can’t agree on pizza toppings. Thus, consensus leadership doesn’t work.

If the bicycle coalition wanted to get only things done that didn’t offend anyone, they need not exist. Everything new change can be offensive. Therefore, an effective bicycle coalition will offend _more_ people.

Needless to say, my remarks were so offensive, they were completely ignored.

My request was that the bicycle coalition start acting like every other advocacy group in that it had a long term vision of what success looked like. I also thought that they should advocate things. That is, ask the government to do things that aren’t being done all ready. I also suggested that for San Diego to
be a leading city; following other cities wasn’t enough. Even if we did everything that the leading bicycle cities did, we’d still be a follower. If we want to be a leader, we need to do _new_ things other that places aren’t doing.

Last weekend, with no push back from government and no complaints from motorists, the coalition decided that we are going to spend 2010 as followers.

With this predictable outcome, I feel that I should not have attended this meeting. My time would have been better spent on a bicycle ride that just happened to occur at the same time as the meeting: the Tweed Ride.

While the people at the coalition droned on about fun, the Tweeders were having it.

The coalition even mentioned the Tweed ride, and said, “We need to make maintenance fun.”

This was in response to the false dilemma that we spent half an hour debating. We went back and forth over whether we should focus on new infrastructure or maintenance. They, of course, chose maintenance. There’s nothing sexier than wasting our time trying to get the government to do what it is supposed to do.

I can see the slogan now, “San Diego: World Class Bicycle City; We Sweep Our Streets”.

I realize that in one year, we will not get everything we ask for. However, I don’t think that should be the goal. In any negotiation, you ask for more than you think you’ll get then back off from there.

The coalition seems to think that we should avoid disappointment at all cost by asking for as little as possible. In fact, instead of asking for new things, they feel it’s best to ask for a fraction of what is legally ours all ready.

I just can’t get excited about fighting a rear guard action. I can’t get stoked about diminishing returns. In fact, the State of California, in legislation is ahead of San Diego with its Complete Streets Act which the city has yet to begin to implement. Did the coalition think that we should try to get the city to get up to standard code?

No.

They are happy with fixing stuff that we had before complete streets.

Their reasoning? The city streets have sucked for a long time.

After the Tweed ride and the coalition meeting, both groups met at a Western Themed bar in South Park.

Here, we saw the stark duality between the coalition and the rest of the cycling world.

The coalition arrived at the bar first. They joined us at a long picnic table. For half an hour, I sat and listened to my ideas get shot down, once again. Then I got up and mingled with the Tweeders who were all over the place.

The times I did glance back, the coalition members were all still
sitting at the table.

I joined various groups of Tweeders. They were all polite and happy to talk. Many listened to my voting cheat sheet idea, and some even wanted to get involved. Many voiced ideas that were far more profound than anything we came up with at the stale coalition meeting. The conversation was stimulating and exciting. Still, no sign of the coalition, who’s backs were literally turned on the people who were most active in cycling.

How did the Tweeders get to the bar? They bicycled. Meanwhile, most of the coalition members drove the short distance from the meeting to the bar.

Neither groups really mixed. No ideas were shared. Another opportunity to meet with the community was lost.