Archive for February, 2011

Manufacturing Crisises

February 28, 2011

Only when this is done did I realize that this has absolutely nothing to do with cyling. I could have shoe-horned something in, but that would be obvious and lame.

I have been thinking a lot about primitive societies lately, partly because I’m reading an excellent book called Sex At Dawn which postulates that our ancient ancestors are not as savage as we are now a days.

It’s easy to guess why we have changed if you watch the eye-popping Century of Self (warning 4 hours) which shows how the advertising industry has sapped our ability to think for ourselves. How TV Ruined Your Life continues in the same vein.

All these thoughts in my head got me thinking of my own mid-life crisis, and whether it is innate to my species or whether it has its roots in my modern experiences. I am tending towards the latter especially since I am using the book The Nectar of Manjushri’s Speech which is actually commentary on one of my favorite holy texts, Bodhicaryavatara which is a poem that expounds on how one could properly practice Buddhism.

This book is a good antidote to the pain of aging because it helps me wrestle with the questions of what I fear with aging which is loss of youth, vigor, and life’s pleasures that come with the package.

Studies that show that older people are happier were unhelpful.

However, when I figured out what I was really clinging to, and I started to work on getting rid of that, I started to get better.

My main difficulty with these types of strong emotions is that they form a cloud over my usual preternatural insightful powers.

Now, I feel much better so I realize that my feelings are not important. What’s really important is sticking with the practice, acting with compassion, and treating my wife like the princess she is.

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Kicking the Car Wheel

February 25, 2011

Last night, I heard a story that made my blood run hot.

A friend of mine, Jay, was viciously attacked on Broadway St. while riding his bicycle.

I wasn’t totally surprised to hear this because there are a number of insane people in the world, and for all of them, the state has seen fit to put into their hands a deadly weapon, plus it provides a pile of get out of jail free cards.

“It was an accident.”

“I wasn’t looking for bicycles.”

“The bicycle shouldn’t have been there.”

However, of all the people attacked, Jay was one of those who deserved it the least.

He’s always a happy guy, and always kind who feels a strong bond to his community. He wishes to reach out to all of us including the homeless.

Of course, the attacker didn’t know any of this. He could have, of course. If he had stopped to chat, Jay would have warmed up to him.

Instead, the motorist chose violence.

I wasn’t there, but I can speculate why.

Jay is a guy that Gretchen calls a Tigger. As she states, Tiggers often piss those of us who are not so happy off.

It’s not so bad to be a miserable bastard if we feel that everyone is as depressed as us, but it really rubs salt in the stigmata when people actually smile and enjoy their lives.

Jay does both. All the time.

He must have really t-ed off this motorist because apparantly the driver jumped from his vehicle and tried to punch Jay.

At this point, I could just as reflexively and viciously attack this motorist’s character, but I won’t.

In Buddhism there’s something known as afflictive emotions that cloud one’s thoughts, and anger is a big one. I have worked out most of my anger issues, but I do realize what a huge drug this is. The power can be intoxicating, but the hang over is hell.

We don’t know what this motorist went through. Thus, I’ll say a little prayer for him: “May he be happy.”

I think we should all forgive someone’s mistakes.

On the other hand, I am not waiting for Divine Judgement, Karmic Retribution, nor the Invisible Hand to correct the imbalance created by this motorist’s total lack of humanity and proper judgement.

On the contrary, I want the Justice System in this world to dispense justice.

I trust that the police had all ready apprehended this person and he is being held for bail which according to google should be about $50,000.

Yes, I am optimistic. 🙂

Two Winds of Cycling

February 24, 2011

Though I do strive to see the positive side of cycling, only, there’s no doubt that many people look down on cyclists.

For some reason, we are both seen as wealthy elitists AND homeless people. We are seen as fitness buffs AND weaklings. We are seen as those who throw their own bodies away in traffic AND those who think only of ourselves as we block traffic.

The fact that a series of pejorative and yet contradictory statements are applied to cycling has not escaped me. It seems as if people are picking up whatever pieces of shit they can find with no rhyme or reason and tossing them at us, verbally.

How can a self-respecting person cycle?

For me, my religious beliefs sustain me. Though I’m not a practicing Buddhist, I do find Buddhist writings, as well as other holy books such as the Bible, to have a positive impact on my life.

Whenever people blame me, I realize that they are trying to sway my mind by what in Buddhism are known as the
Eight Worldly Winds.

In this case, they are “praise and blame”.

There are always those who are going to criticize your life. So if you give your life up for others to decide, you’ll never be happy.

I spent the first quarter century of my life obsessed with pleasing others, and I was so depressed. Additionally, I found that I wasn’t really an easy person to be around.

Once I started to focus on what made me really happy did I find that I could think of others, too. Cycling is a big part of this.

I find, on the other hand, that cycling doesn’t make many people happy, and I wonder why they continue to do it. I don’t know this for sure, this is based on hearsay, because whenever I hear negativity regarding cycling, I immediately shut down that channel of communication.

There is too much information out there, and we needn’t know everything. I have spent enough time studying and thinking of the pros and cons of cycling. After a certain point, we need to make a decision and stick to it no matter what.

I learned this from a recent president. Love him or hate him, he showed me that to vacillate is death. One must make a decision based on one’s facts and be strong in the face of criticism.

Fairness in Liability Correspondence

February 23, 2011

Below is a letter I have drafted and sent to certain members of City Council of San Diego:

You have expressed interest in the government encouraging cycling. Studies show that the number one reason that people do not take alternative transportation is because of fear of automobiles.

This fear is in part because the law doesn’t motivate motorists to pay attention to the vulnerable. On the contrary, it seems that due to the current combination of laws and societal conditions, we are in a “vehicle arms race” where people feel the need to purchase larger vehicles just to protect themselves from other motorists who themselves are driving bigger vehicles so they feel safe.

This cycle of escalation benefits no one, and it creates an extra cost on every household which can exceed that of federal, state, and local taxes combined.

Perhaps we can break this vicious cycle?

When a car driver injures a pedestrian, the burden of proof is on the pedestrian for claiming compensation. It appears, our legal system does not favor the more vulnerable.

Car colliding with pedestrian or cyclist:

Hundreds of pedestrians and scores of cyclists get injured or killed by car drivers every year. The 2008 road casualty figures show that 332 pedestrians were killed in car/pedestrian collisions, and in car/cyclist collisions 52 cyclists were killed. In all 390 cases not one car driver was killed. Amongst pedestrians, cyclists and car drivers, it is clear that the car driver is the most likely party to inflict injury or death upon the others.

Cyclist colliding with pedestrian:

The 2008 road accident statistics by the Department for Transport show that one pedestrian was killed in a cyclist/pedestrian collision. It is clear when comparing pedestrians and cyclists, that the cyclist would be seen as the stronger party.

I find it very hard to understand that the burden of proof would be on the more vulnerable road user and not the one who is actually more likely to cause harm: inflicting pain and suffering through causing injury, or devastating families by causing death. All this does not seem fair to me.

If you think so too, could I please ask you to get in touch with the US Department of Transportation. It would be much appreciated if you could highlight to them, that we should subscribe to a more civilized system that is favoring the vulnerable.

Liability should therefore be considered on a fair and proportionate basis to provide legal protection to the vulnerable road user. This could be achieved by establishing a hierarchy of care where the burden of proof would always be on the user of the heavier vehicle (the party more likely to cause injury or death). This would show commitment of this Government to its agenda of societal and social fairness.

This principle of proportionality described above is in place in all but five European countries. The UK being one of them; the other four are Ireland, Romania, Cyprus and Malta.

Looking forward to hearing from you.

Councilmember IV

February 18, 2011

Executive summary: Vote against Kevin Faulconer.

In previous stories, over a month ago, I have sent an email which asked whether government should encourage, discourage, or do nothing to promote bicycling as a form of commuting.

Only two council member have responded Sherri Lightner and Mari Emerald. They have both come out in favor of cycling. I met Todd Gloria on a bicycle ride, so he, too is overall encouraging of cycling as a mode of commuting.

If this were a political ad–which it is not–we’d cue the evil sounding music now.

I called Kevin Falconer’s office to see what his people had to say.

They say you should give people a happy sandwich so I can say that on the plus side, they answered the phone.

After I introduced myself, told her how many cycling commuters there are, which is .6% last time I checked, I asked the question, “does Kevin think that the government should encourage, discourage, or do nothing to encourage bicycle commuting?”

There was a pause. “I don’t understand.”

I repeated the question. “I don’t understand.”

I asked her how she got to work. “I don’t understand.”

“You drove.”

Confusion on the other end.

I explained how the government actively encouraged motor vehicle use spending billions on its promotion and I asked her if the government should do the same for cycling.

“I don’t understand.”

[I’ll pause here and say, I’m really, really trying to be nice here, but this is as verbatim as I can make it. If Kevin wants to change his tune later, I’ll put up a full retraction. I want to believe in the best of people.]

Me: “What if you could get to work by bicycle and to pick up your groceries by bicycle?”

Her: “I probably wouldn’t because I have too many meetings.”

[Again, this is a representative for a city council member who is fielding public phone calls. Yet she acts as if we are having a private conversation–as if I’m some kind of loon trying to get her to jump off a cliff or something.]

Me: “I don’t mean you. I am just asking whether the government should encourage cycling commuting.”

Her: “I don’t know what he’d say.”

OK.

Her: “Is your group local?”

Me: “I represent a couple of hundred thousand San Diegans.”

Her: “Is your group local?”

[Note: I have worked with people who are like this. They are very good at certain types of tasks, but I don’t get on with them. They are extremely literal to the point where if you answer their question, but things are not spelled out 100% they don’t get it right. They make good computer programmers and they are good with filing and nursing among other things. They are NOT good at working with people because people work takes creativity. I also got the feeling that she actually thought I was putting her on as if this were a prank call, and I got the tone of a woman who had an easy life where many people admired her as she seemed highly impatient with the task of answering an extremely simple question that required a single word.]

Me: Yes. Local to San Diego.

Her: “I’ll put you through to the media person.”

Again, there was an answering machine.

The irony is that since he represents the beaches and downtown, there are actually quite a few people who commute by bicycle relative to the other areas. Yet, his spokesperson seemed unaware that bicycles even existed or they could do anything more than go in a circle on Fiesta Island.

This also surprised me because the motorists in San Diego seem to be somewhat aware of how to deal with bicycles on the road so she had to have seen one. I am still scratching my head here.

God bless her. May she be happy.

On the other side of the happy sandwich, I am officially half way done with my survey!

Golden Rules

February 17, 2011

I really like the Golden rule–both of them actually: he who has the gold makes the rules and treat others as you want to be treated.

I find this useful to figuring out what is right and what is wrong. Another way of approaching this is to look at my behavior and to ask, if other people did this would I like them.

I find that this is true with cycling. The more people cycling the better; I don’t care how or when or why. BMX, racers, commuters, hipsters, homeless, and well, that’s about it, I love you all.

I love the motorists, too, but this kind of love wishes that they would smile more, be in better shape, and interact with other more on their commute.

Imagine being in a traffic jam and thinking, “I’m so glad all these people drove today. Isn’t it wonderful that there are so many people who are wealthy enough to afford this?”

That’s how I feel about cyclists.

Why don’t more people cycle? There’s lots of reasons which is funny I’m even writing about this because when I got into cycling, I never knew that I’d get so into psychology. A friend of mine told me that she thought it was funny that I was trying to read the mind of all the motorists around me. After a while, you can sometimes–big emphasis on sometimes–tell what they are going to do.

I was going to talk about the prisoner’s dilemma and the energy of activation in chemistry as well as how catalysts lower it, but I’ll leave that to another time. Let’s stick with the morning bicycle love fest. 🙂

The Dumbest Person in the Room

February 16, 2011

I saw the book title: The Smartest Guys in the Room and although I never read the book, I never forgot the title.

A cursory glance at the reviews shows that the title is probably meant to be ironic, but here my title is meant to be taken on face value.

It’s a comment on how people often make their decisions. Although I admit to being a creature of emotion who makes his decisions primarily based on my whims, it’s a dirty secret that I actually read statistics.

I haven’t read anywhere anything that showed that cycling–even san helmet–is any more dangerous than motoring.

This is funny because everyone I talk to seems to believe that getting on a bicycle on the mean streets of San Diego about as sane as putting your hand in the mouth of a shark. When I share the fact that I have been cycling as my only means of transport for over a decade, people just say that I am lucky.

Which is obvious as ad hoc argument at best which isn’t so interesting, we all make mistakes. What does fascinate me to no end is how many of the people who claim that cycling is insanely dangerous are scientists, academics, and engineers.

I have found them all–as well as the rest of the slice of society I am lucky enough to come in contact with–deaf to both logic and statistics.

Last night while watching the best TV show ever: How TV Ruined Your Life, I learned why. It’s the amygdala. Of course!

Humans actually have two of these tiny organs nestled deep in their brains. While this clump of neurons is as important to one’s humanity as any other part of their brain, it is actually one of the most primitive.

I don’t think that primitive, old, nor simple to always be bad, but in this case, the amygdala is the dumbest person in the room when it comes to making decisions.

However, it being part of the ancient limbic system, the center of emotions, it is easier than other parts of the human mind to manipulate which is why advertisers and politicians go for it.

Once someone is afraid, they are impervious to reason. This is why someone’s educational background does little to defend them against the disingenuous.

This doesn’t really bother me. I embrace my emotional heritage: my feelings are total assets.

However, I have been working with my feelings for a while, and I have managed to come to grasp, a little, with my sense of fear.

But it’s not that I want to tell people how to think and feel, I just wish that they would think and feel with a wider range of expression. Those who are afraid, who watch television become extremely repetitive and boring: “bikes are dangerous oh my!” So my real motivation is to hopefully inspire more interesting conversational partners.

Hard Ball Sales Tactics

February 15, 2011

A co-worker has a joke about me, he always asks me for help.

When I comply, he helps.

This is funny because I told him once that I don’t help people.

He argued that I am always helping people.

I guess it depends on what you mean by “help”.

If something is in my ability, and I am asked, nicely, I’ll help someone just like everyone else.

But I do make an effort not to meddle in places where I am not wanted.

This reminds me of a Phil Dick (a science fiction author) quote where he said that his doctor told him to quit two things: drugs and helping others. He had a problem with meddling where he wasn’t wanted, apparently.

Thus when I have the urge to meddle, I try to remember this.

Therefore, though I want people to experience the thrill and luxury of daily bicycle rides, I don’t try to talk them in to buying a bicycle.

Though I’d be happy if someone, on their own, bought a bicycle and benefited from it, I can’t really say that I want to be responsible for other people’s decisions. It’s enough for me to own what I choose to do for myself.

Someone described this philosophy as “live and let live” which I guess it is.

Therefore, I really don’t like hard ball sales tactics on how one should get around. Oh, I don’t like soft ball tactics either. In fact, I’m not much of a baseball fan. 🙂

Ride Pessimistically

February 14, 2011

Sometimes when I leave on my bicycle, people tell me to “ride safely.”

Although I do find it to be funny, being the gentleman that I am, however, my reply is, “thank-you.”

But why is it funny?

Well, to paraphrase George Carlin, “That puts it all on me, doesn’t it?”

Also, being an extreme optimist, I don’t think that I need to do anything special to be safe on a bicycle. The whole “safe” thing inherently assumes that bad things happening are likely, and my mind refuses to accept this negative assumption because it results in suffering about events that haven’t even happened yet.

Worrying about safety is one way that people have of destroying the enjoyment that they could have, and it squeezes all joy out of their world.

That’s not to say that I don’t pay attention while riding. One thing I do is try to pay attention to what’s going on every second of my ride.

Recently someone asked me if I ever spaced out while bicycling home. I have not. In fact, for me, it’s nearly impossible to space out for more than a few seconds.

Although it’s not necessary for them to say, “be safe”, I do realize that when tell me this, they are really expressing concern and love for me.

Councilmember III

February 11, 2011

Thank you for your recent email to Councilmember Lightner about her support of bicycle commuting in the City of San Diego. As her assistant to this issue, she asked me to respond and give you some of her thoughts on your inquiry. Sherri is very supportive of bicycle commuting, and she has been and will continue to work to improve opportunities for bicycle commuting in her communities. She understands the difference between recreational riding and commuting as you mentioned in your correspondence and will continue to work to improve access for all bicyclists. Some of the things Sherri’s done to support bicycle commuting include the following:

· Sherri organized a recent stakeholder group meeting with the University City Planning Group, San Diego County Bicycle Coalition, Friends of Rose Canyon, SANDAG, City Engineering Staff and others regarding the section of the Coastal Rail Trail bicycle path, between Sorrento Valley and the Rose Canyon Bike Path, to move that project forward.

· Sherri supports the construction of a bike path connection at SR-56 & Sorrento Valley Road under I-5, as well as completing bike lanes on Carmel Valley Road to Sorrento Valley Road. This is currently part of the North Coast I-5 Widening project. We’re working with community members from Carmel Valley to try to get this project separated-out so it can be completed on a faster timeline than the I-5 widening.

· Sherri continues to push for improvements to the I-5/Genesee interchange that will add bicycle lanes in both directions. As currently designed (the EIR was released within the last several months) the new Genesee overcrossing includes bike lanes. Here are some excerpts from the EIR:

“The Project would be designed to accommodate pedestrian and bicycle traffic, as well as vehicular traffic, within the Project corridor. The proposed overcrossing structure would include a Class II bike lane that is 1.8 m (6 ft) wide in each direction. The City of San Diego Bicycle Master Plan also identifies an existing Class III bike route along the shoulders of I-5 connecting Genesee Avenue and Sorrento Valley Road. The proposed interchange improvements would maintain this Class III bike route. Accordingly, the proposed improvements would include a bicycle and pedestrian link between the eastern and western sides of I-5 and would be consistent with planned multi-modal transportation facilities and goals in the Project area.”

“Both the Genesee Avenue and Voigt Drive overcrossings would be improved for bicyclist and pedestrian access and operations. The Genesee Avenue interchange would include a sidewalk that is 2 m (6.6 ft) wide on the north side of Genesee Avenue, bike lanes in both directions, striped/signalized pedestrian crossings and Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) compliant pedestrian ramps at each intersection. The Voigt Drive overcrossing would include sidewalks and bike lanes. Existing free-right turns at the Genesee Avenue interchange would be removed to avoid conflicts with pedestrian and bicycle traffic.”

The full EIR for this project is available at http://www.dot.ca.gov/dist11/Env_docs/I-5_Genesee.pdf (PDF)

· Sherri supports connectors at El Camino Real to the SR-56 bike path. This is a project in progress, but that will take time to complete.

· Sherri supports fixing the Black Mountain Road 56 bike intersection. Again, this is something that is in progress. The Rancho Penasquitos Planning Board approved a concept earlier this year, and the City is currently working with SANDAG and the Community for funding and implementation. However, this will take time because of some differences in the Community’s and Caltrans’ visions for this intersection. (Caltrans has a large role because of their land ownership at the intersection.)

· Sherri constantly works to get cracks and potholes in roadways fixed quickly to improve riding surface and safety for bicyclists.

· Sherri succeeded in pushing the City to work with UCSD to secure grant funding for their Bicycle Master Plan. We’ll continue to support UCSD in their efforts at expanding their bike commuter programs.

· Sherri is also incorporating some of the issues above into requests for Transnet funding through SANDAG that the City is applying for.

If you have any questions about the projects above, please don’t hesitate to contact me. Also, if you have any thoughts about other improvements or issues in District One that you would like Sherri to know about, please don’t hesitate to pass them along. Lastly, as Chair of the Land Use and Housing Committee (LU&H) Sherri has the opportunity to have public discussions about land use and transportation issues at the committee. If there are any policies or issues that you would like Sherri to consider adding to the agenda, please let me know. I have cc’d Nika Bukalova, who is Sherri’s consultant for the committee.

Thank you very much for your email.