Archive for January, 2011

My Commute I

January 31, 2011

For 2011, I am trying not to talk about myself nor my life because things are so great, I don’t want to brag. Plus, I don’t want people to be jealous; I’d like to hear about how great other people are doing.

But occasionally, I hear negativity about cycling. I won’t repeat it here. Overall, it’s all nonsense. I have the statistics to prove that my lifestyle of a bicycle commuter is sound. But I don’t need dry numbers to justify my decisions. I mainly operate on my whims and feelings; I and what I want.

Thus, I have decided to share how I feel every morning when I commute.

In the morning, I wake up, and the first thing I do is chat with my wife. We have a chat right after waking up, and right before bed because we feel that communication is important.

[Skipping a lot of stuff–see first para. Yada yada yada. Blah. Blah. Blah.] 🙂

Once I have a pot of coffee in me, I can’t wait to rush out of my house.

Ever see the most exciting scene, the climax of an action movie? That’s what my commute is like.

Everyday.

I love it.

At first, it’s a bit like off-roading because our back alley is so broken up, the only road that’s visible sticks up in places like big rocks, and it would be better if there were no paving at all.

Next, I go through the school zone where people are torn between wanting to rush away after dropping their child off, and acting holier than thou to fake concern for other people’s kid. Note to parents, if you really care about other people, you’d walk your child to school. That way there would be less pollution for the children playing, less traffic, and less danger for the child getting hit. Plus, a bit of exercise is something that children crave which is great.

God, I love ranting!

I don’t rant while I ride past here, I just smile (at the parents) and say hello. Plus, I watch to let the children go in front of my bicycle. Fear of hitting a child is a number one reason I prefer to bicycle over an automobile. I don’t know how motorists live with this fear on a daily basis.

Next, is the buzz zone, where I dodge potholes while cars dodge me. Sometimes they squeeze past me only to get stuck at the light. This happens for about 5 blocks. It’s really fun, actually, though I would prefer the pot holes not to be there.

Next step is the top of the big hill of Fairmount Ave. One more light, and things change in a big way.

Times up for this post so I’ll have to continue tomorrow.

Secret Decoder Ring I

January 28, 2011

It’s an inside joke between my wife and I that in order to really enjoy cycling in San Diego, you need to know the routes, that is, you need a secret decoder ring like the one that came in a cereal box.

Alas, there are not enough prizes in a case of cereal boxes to cut through the snarl that is the “surface streets” of San Diego.

I love the term “surface streets” because it makes the normal roads that I take everyday seem kind of freakish. It almost seems like the City of San Diego goes out of its way to make anyone who doesn’t own an automobile seem like a Luddite freak! Perhaps they do. If so, I’m proud to be one of those.

Anyway, one thing I probably mentioned before is that I get told, all the time, after I have gotten to a place on a bicycle, that “one can not possible bike anywhere practical in Southern California”.

The more I look at the world from the motorists point of view, the more I can understand (but never agree with) this point of view.

Indeed, when I first got to this fair city and started riding, I began memorizing what I called “the passes” which is the few through streets.

I won’t go on about my old home, too much, but in Philly there is no such thing as a “through street” because there were extremely few cul-de-sacs.

This made for exploring more fun because you could randomly take any set of streets to get from here to there. In San Diego, there’s usually only one route. These through streets are super-busy. Thus they make them wider. But there are too many cross streets. So they blow out of a few stop signs and make the perpendicular streets have to wait–perhaps indefinitely if traffic persists–to “speed things up”.

Knowing all this now, explains why, 15 years ago when I was in school with many Californians, why they complained so much about Philly’s poor design. Overall, I find it interesting to compare.

Also, I do find that there are some advantages to San Diego’s design which is that sometimes one can create a really quiet route by stitching together a series of streets and meander around the through streets. Sometimes.

It takes skill and a lot of knowledge of the City.

Plus, of course, a Secret Decoder Ring.

Pedaling Me Softly With My Bike

January 27, 2011

I first started doing this when I rode my fixie through some South Philly ghettos, and I noticed that I had knee pain.

I took this as a sign that I needed to settle down a bit. I had been trying to fly by these “bad areas”. On the other hand, I enjoyed my commute a great deal. In many ways things were way more entertaining.

When you are in a gritty urban environment, there’s a great deal of texture and differences to attract the eye. In these more pristine California highways that I ride on, there’s far less detail, though I do enjoy the stunning natural beauty every single day.

In both places, my concept of soft riding has its merits.

As I hinted above, a sore knee was the problem, but the solution has grown to be more of a hobby than just a band-aid.

Basically, this is as simple as riding as softly as I can. I go to a low gear even on flat pavement, and I try to ride with a gentle gliding motion. In a few days, this had fixed my knee trouble. Now when I get knee problems again, I will realize that this isn’t really a problem, but rather a signal that I need to take it easy.

When I ride softly, I don’t spin 90 rpms or whatever, I ride slower. I just press softer as well. I try to see how soft I can press on the pedals and to keep riding. This doesn’t even necessarily make me ride as slow as possible, though I do find that I have to keep redirecting my legs to slow down especially on a fast moving road.

I find that the auto traffic next to me has a profound and subconscious impact on my riding style even when I am separated from it, and even when I am not paying any conscious attention to it.

This has made me think of the other things that impact our lives in ways that we aren’t totally aware. I will never be completely aware of everything that influences me, but to ride softly has slightly increased this awareness. In the end, this makes my commute even more enjoyable than it usually is.

Hostage Negotiations

January 26, 2011

Nearly every single person I talked to, woman and man, has expressed interest in getting to work in another way than the automobile.

Yet very few have made the change. Why the disconnect?

I know that this is because mainly due to fear which is caused by lack of infrastructure. I believe that it’s also because people want their decisions to be valued and appreciated by others and when we limit the cycling infrastructure, we tell people not to cycle.

Thus to argue that no infrastructure because people don’t cycle is circular logic. The only way to break the cycle is to build something. By “something”, I mean a dedicated bicycle path that goes from the person’s house to their job just like the normal roads do this.

Even though, in some ways, people are making a “rational” choice, they are doing so based on some negative beliefs, most of which are not born our in reality.

While it’s true there is an occasional psychopath, these people kill motorists on the freeway as well as in homes, malls, and places of employment. They are very rare despite the joke–yes joke–that says, “If I see you on the road, I’ll run you down.” If only they had the stones to do so. They don’t.

I do feel that saying something like this is a legit joke because it creates a level of shock which is the opposite of what people expect, and the laughter comes to break tension. Also, it demonstrates a point of view of superiority which is the same vein as other types of frat boy humor.

Say what you will about me, but DON’T accuse me of not having a good sense of humor. It’s one of the few things in life that I don’t think is funny; it makes me angry. 🙂

Anyway, the title of this piece is Hostage Negotiations because I feel that people are held hostage by their irrational fear of the road. Even in the worst ghettos of Philly, nobody tried to run me down even though they most certainly could get away with it. Heck there are some areas where the police don’t like to go–this is pre-Operation Sunrise.

I’d like to negotiate with people’s fears and tell them that despite what they think, people are more decent than how they feel. This relates to what El called the way that cycling will “revolutionize one’s life”.

Learning that people aren’t as bad as one thought isn’t the worst thing to happen to a person.

News from A New York Bicycling Insider

January 24, 2011

You may have recently that New York Cycling is improving by leaps and bounds thanks especially to the brilliance of Janette Sadik-Khan an urban reengineer.

Well, last weekend, I got to talk about how those improvements were actually impacting bicyclists last weekend when I had a talk, on the Edible Bicycle Ride, with a New Yorker I’ll call El.

She lived in Brooklyn and worked with a bike kitchen.

Since she was well dressed, I figured she rolled with the whole Cycle Chic scene. However, she was a bit surprised when I mentioned it. On the other hand, she was aware of Copenhagen’s greatness in cycling.

In fact, she compared New York to Copenhagen and said that the former had a ways to go. I was a bit surprised to hear this, but not completely.

She summed it up like this: “In Copenhagen, the safest thing to do is to follow the law. In New York, however, sometimes you have to bend the law like riding through a red light can actually be safer for a cyclist if they time it right.”

Apparently, the way people drive still endangers people to the point where they have to make their own laws to be safe. That’s a shame seeing the amount of infrastructure I continually read about.

Most of this infrastructure is in Manhattan, though. I wonder how the other Boroughs are doing in contrast to Manhattan.

Edible Bike Ride

January 23, 2011

Today, I went on an edible bike tour of San Diego which showcased ten of San Diego’s Gardens.

We started off at the World Beat Center in Balboa Park which is one of the real hidden gems of the park.

There they spend a huge amount of time recycling water. We also learned about how if one eats raw food, one needs to consume less. Overall, it was quite eye opening how much real wealth there was to be found in the smallest of places.

It was common knowledge that farming is difficult in San Diego because there isn’t enough water. Although this may be partially true, I found the recent deluge to be a real eye opener because it seemed as if so much water was wasted. That is, water went from being a precious resource to being nuisance. I thought how nice it would be if they could capture a fraction of that water for watering plants.

The World Beat is also completely solar powered which is wonderful, but we learned that this was an uphill battle which is a real head scratcher.

From there we went to the Community College Garden which is worth checking out. Then we saw a bewildering array of back yard gardens which were all amazing in their own way. There’s so much green in this city if you just know where to look for it.

Each of the gardeners were kind enough to show us what they grew. My list of gardening techniques has really grown since this adventure.

I’m grateful that Ian and all the others involved were able to put this together. It’s an experience worth repeating.

Basquiatesque Joy

January 21, 2011

Often when I ride my bicycle, I think of a scene from the movie Basquiat where he rode his bicycle in the park. He seemed so happy to be alive that, on his bicycle, he swayed left and right. My friend’s girlfriend said, “I wish I could be that happy and free.”

The thing is, that I am that happy and free. I sway back and forth whenever I have the chance. Often this is in the drainage ditch in my work parking lot in the morning. I am so happy to be alive and to have gotten to work safe another day.

Usually, this isn’t a good idea on San Diego roads, but I have this feeling that some day, real soon now, it’s going to be possible to do this everywhere in this fair city.

I Don’t Give a Shitake About Celebrity…

January 20, 2011

I Don’t Give a Shitake About Celebrity…

With all the reality shows, there is a greater and greater urge in ordinary people to feel like celebrities.

While I maintain a nice, humble guy image, deep down, I’m the same as everyone else, and I want to feel important and unique.

Although, I do have someone who makes me feel that I’m the happiest man in the world, the urge to celebrity is the urge to be special in the eyes of those who don’t know you.

It’s a little known fact that cyclists often stand out.

For example, when I ride, up the middle, to the front of an intersection, there I am out there all alone. Everyone else is anonymous in their autos, but I’m out in the open.

Also, at work and events, it’s more noticable when I ride my bicycle. Others are pretty much all the same, but I always get a mini-interview where I get answer: how far I rode, how was my ride, and more.

As a hopeless attention seeker, I totally love it!

I Have a Wonderful Vision of the City

January 19, 2011

Note for the humor deprived, this is all a joke. It’s just language and is meant to amuse.

Often people tell me that they are worried about cycling advocacy not because of what we have to offer but because of the “slippery slope.” A bike rack here, a bike lane there, and pretty soon, we’ll be living in Copenhagen.

Seeing as it’s in the happiest country in the world, that would totally suck!

Very seldom do cyclist advocates show their hand and tell their motorist friends what the end game is.

Well, now, I drop the mask called counterfeit, and I display our true identity.

Kilroy!

Just kidding.

In reality, cyclists want little. We want to co-exist. Also, we’d like things to be a bit flatter, faster, and more convenient.

We’d like a bit more respect. We’d like to have bike paths which are sealed off from the major roads.

These paths can be created by the eminent domain of land: the govenment would pay what it thinks is market value to the home and business owners then it will bulldoze and flatten the area to create out paths. Each path will be a mile or so apart and the paths will criss cross the city.

If a motorist comes to the path and wants to cross, we’ll build some round about way sometimes a few miles out of the way to get around them. The hills, of course, will be much steeper than us on the our bicycle paths because the auto is capable of doing this with ease.

In some cases, the motorist will have to get out of his car and press a button before being allowed to go forward. We could automate this, but the bike paths cost billions so we’ll have little money to spare. Besides, the motorists need excercise, and they’ll get used to it.

Sometimes, to cross some really tough areas which are blocked off by our bike paths, the motorist will have to get out of his auto and take a bus to get to the other side. His auto will be loaded up onto a truck, and it will be waiting for him when he gets to the other side.

If anyone complains about this being unfair they will be mocked for being unrealistic, dreamers, communists and the like. They will be made to feel foolish for driving and be socially mariginal.

All the best things in life such as food, music venues, and so on, will be reached by bicycle, only. Also, in many cases, owning a bicycle will be necessary. In fact, you’ll have to concel owning a car to get some jobs. This will not be seen as discrimination.

Finally, the topic of conversation will be the placement of bike racks, how there are not enough close enough to the door of the building, and how there are too many bikes on the paths so we need to widen them.

Why Women Don’t Ride?

January 18, 2011

Sometimes, when we have exhausted most of our other conversational topics, my wife and I talk about the big question which is: why the wives and girlfriends of avid cyclist do not ride.

I know that this is a touchy subject so I suggest that the more sensitive readers should stop reading now.

I’d like to preface this with the fact, that many of my friends are women and they do ride. Some of them with a partner and some of them just by themselves. Many of them can kick my, and many other men’s asses. Some are even car free in Southern California where common stupidity tells us that you “you need a car to survive here”.

But just like a fly to sticky paper, I’m drawn to the forum thread titled, “A Couple that Rides Together. . .”

I’m not going to post any advice here, however. Like most things in life, I have more questions than answers.

Also, I feel that perhaps the whole question is due to a statistical fluke, a sampling error, and if I had a slightly different set of friends perhaps I’d be asking why more men don’t cycle with their wives.

Why am I so obsessed with this question? Perhaps because I can’t stand how people seem to think that I have somehow brainwashed my wife into cycling when in reality, she’s a bigger cyclist than I am. She logs more miles, does more advocacy, she plans more trips, and she makes more cyclist friends than I do.

It’s a human thing to expect that our experience will be similar to other people’s.

I guess the only way to really find out why these people aren’t riding, and thus pleasing their men, is to ask the women. The only problem is the only time I could see them is on a ride.

And they never come. :{P