Archive for March, 2011

My Commute V

March 31, 2011

At this point, I breathe a small sigh of relief. Not of total relief, but just a small sigh. This is because there’s about half a mile of straight away now with a bicycle lane.

Spots like these are the reason why I actually _like_ riding through some spots in Mission Valley. Sometimes. It’s because when you are in a hurry, you can really go fast.

Am I in a hurry? Usually not, but it’s nice to have some time, uninterrupted, to think.

During this time, I usually look to my left and see a nature preserve–no joke. It’s fenced off and everything. Fancy.

On the other side of the four lane “road” is the Eight. Everyday, I look over there a bit wistfully wondering how safe and fast my commute would be if I could ride, from mesa to mesa, without going into the valley.

Now there are certain advantages to me climbing up hill “both ways”, but I think that you can’t blame a guy for wanting his life to be more comfortable. Not as comfortable as an auto, but a bit more than having to climb every day.

At any rate, the next part of my commute is relatively flat.

Even before, I get to the turn, I start looking back, behind me, to see if there’s anyone going to pass me.

This is one way of avoiding the right hook.

Most vehicles either pass me and make their turn ahead of me which is OK or they wait behind me, which is also OK.

Occasionally, there’s stacking, but not so often.

Next, I make a turn onto Ward Rd where I pass the filled parking lot of 24 Hour Fitness.

NIH (or This Ain’t Copenhagen, People)

March 30, 2011

People, sometimes, ask me why I ride my bicycle in the street. Their tone suggests that I do this out of spite for them as motorists, which makes me laugh.

Why would I want to put my ass out into traffic, unless I was some kind of sick adrenaline junkie, which I kind of am, come to think of it. πŸ™‚

Still, for most of my bicycle rides, I’d prefer an nice, idyllic, QUIET bicycle path preferably so that I can’t see automobiles and to protect them from seeing me.

But alas, this small amount of money–a fraction of our highway system–to give the sixty plus percent of us who said YES to bicycling to work, a safe place to ride.

As an aside, I never saw something that more people wanted outside of free health care than bicycle lanes which the majority of us wanted, but we were totally denied. Heck, they even tried to make us feel bad for wanting it, but I make zero apologies for my desires.

But no, we don’t live in Copenhagen. Which I feel should be our new rallying cry and even our raison d’Γͺtre.

That is, whenever anyone asks for any kind of sane infrastructure, like the kind of stuff that people all over the world have and in Copenhagen they have the most, we are told, “San Diego is different.”

They mean that in a positive way, but hearing it over and over again makes it seem like we are differently abled. Which I think is mean because if you talk to an average San Diegan, they are quite kind and intelligent.

The whole notion that we can’t have something because they had it elsewhere first makes zero sense, but I hear it constantly.

In computer programming, this term is known as NIH syndrome, or “not invented here.” It’s an argument for not using technology just because it’s NOT homegrown.

Now, as a localvore–yes, my elitism has even pervaded my eating habits!–I am a HUGE fan of homegrowing pretty much everything. πŸ™‚

However, like a beer opened a week ago, this idea which was once delicious can turn rancid if we take it too far. After all, was the automobile invented in San Diego? No. Why do we drive?

Were freeways invented in San Diego? No, they were invented in Germany in the 30’s. Nobody has a problem with them–nor should they. If they did, they’d be miserable here indeed.

So again, after we pull the dry wall off the old building wall, we see the same old double standard rearing its ugly head like so many cockroaches.

People just hate bicycles and they feel that’s not acceptable so they need to make some noise with their lips to justify their neglect of infrastructure.

I guess, I wish people would be a bit more honest.

Anyway, I think that like Queer Nation, we should dust off this old battle cry, “This Ain’t Copenhagen” to answer the question, “Why are you in the street.”

It’s because, despite our best efforts, we have no where else to go.

Command Responsibility

March 25, 2011

I like the idea of Command Responsibility which means that the leader of a group is responsible for things that people below him do. It’s not enough for a leader to say, “I didn’t know.”

Since many leaders in the US apparantly argue in court, today, that they “didn’t know” and they seem to think that their ignorance is something that should get them out of their crimes. I think that this is doubly bad. They should pay for the original crime, and also pay back their salary for fraud as they didn’t do the job they said that they would do.

But I’m not a lawyer.

In the same way, I see a cyclist as the master of her domain. Whatever decisions she makes on the road are up to her. Thus, I don’t second guess a cyclist’s decisions nor to I bother pointing out that in some districts in some people’s opinions, she may be “breaking the law.” Oh my.

Anyone who cycles on the streets for more than five minutes will realize that the streets are not set up for our safety nor ease of use. In fact, if I were more paranoid, I would think that an engineer somewhere went out of her way to try to get me killed. I don’t feel that way; I realize that there are constraints on any plan and often cyclists are the ones who are, literally, the first ones under the bus. πŸ™‚

Thus, there is little reason for a cyclist to obey the letter of the law if it is putting her life in danger.

The laws are made to keep people safe and happy, and when they violate that principle, they are obstructing us, and sometimes even killing us.

This is why I am so upset when people obsess over cyclists following traffic laws. The real question a compassionate person would have is, “What can I do to make the cyclists happier and safer?”

Probably honking at them, lecturing them, and harassing them isn’t the right answer.

Usurper

March 24, 2011

In a writing how to book, I recalled that there were universal ways of making a character unlikable. One of the easiest is to make that character a usurper.

I found this to be really strange in the US where people generally, believe that we are all equal as this would make a usurper unthinkable.

Alas, even in the land of the free, there are hierarchies and thus a chance for a usurper.

What is a usurper?

It’s someone who takes a role which is not assigned to him. It originally comes from the times when there was a king, and the usurper was someone who had no shot at becoming a king, but claimed that right for himself anyway. In this case, it’s pretty easy to see why this person makes us angry. He’s taking something that doesn’t belong to him, kind of universal.

Plus, we all like to respect our leaders, but if our leader isn’t legitimate then it confuses the whole notion of leadership.

The best example of a usurper today, is in talks where someone keeps interrupting the main speaker or where they ask too many questions or press their own point too forcefully. Even if the usurper is smarter than the main speaker, we came to see the speaker and someone else disrupting it is a usurper no matter what they have to offer.

I have seen talks where the speaker admits that the usurper has a lot to offer and she listens to her usurper with alacrity. Still, the audience chafes at this unasked for interruption. Why doesn’t this blow hard usurper shut up so we can get on with the main speech?

Similarly, the notion of the usurper is one of the main reasons why people hate cyclists. You can tell when they say things like, “Cyclists don’t belong on the streets.”

It matters not at all that there’s no where else for us nor does it matter that it actually is legal for us to ride on the streets. They see us as illegitimate and that’s that.

Making Converts?

March 23, 2011

I know that a lot of people find this hard to believe, but while I practice bicycle advocacy, I do so in the same way that the Roman Empire, in its last days, fought battles: if you don’t keep expanding, you will shrink. Thus, I continue to expand bicyclists rights just so mine don’t get taken away. I don’t want to save the world or anything like that, and I definitely don’t try to convert people. In fact, when people copy me, I feel really strange which is why I’d probably make a terrible cult leader.

I recall the other day answering questions about my cycling habits to a co-worker, and later on, I overheard her telling someone else that I was “trying to get her to ride her bicycle to work.” I didn’t think that my assertion that my ride to work wasn’t “completely hellish, but in fact, kind of fun” is equivalent to “telling her to ride her bicycle to work” but I’ve been wrong before.

So let me straighten things out now, as a lover of all humanity, I love you whether you ride a bicycle or not. In fact, if you drive, and you are going my way, can I catch a ride? πŸ™‚

However, there are many people out here who are getting a different message.

For example, I talked to a guy today who saw me ride. He asked, so I told him my commute, and he was a bit impressed. This is funny because each time people hear about the hills I have to do, I guess a bulb goes off in their heads and they realize that their own commutes would be cake because they always talk about how they could actually ride their bicycles to work.

Note that in all of this, I am mostly a passive observer. I answer questions honestly. But the only real contribution I have is my enthusiasm.

When they mention exercise, money saved, or the environment, I always let them know that it’s also fun.

Them: Even climbing Fairmount?

Me: I always have fun.

Instant Justification

March 21, 2011

In a hotel room, in the middle of the US, my SO and I watched an interesting documentary about the Autobahn which was the German precursor to the US Highway System.

Basically, the entire idea of highways was a new one, not thought of before.

One of the main limitations of automobiles was that there was too much stuff in the way for them to go really, really fast?

Why did they want to go so fast? There are a lot of reasons, but some of the best ones were to break speed records. Race car drivers drove on the empty Autobahn…until a few crashed and burned. They put an end to all that and just opened them up to vehicle traffic.

The problem was there wasn’t enough traffic. Barely anyone rode on it to justify its existence.

The German government, seeing that the “Will of the People and the Invisible Hand of the Market” had spoken, and the smelly, noisy, dangerous Autobahn was torn up. Seeing this failure, no other country built a highway system ever again.

Just kidding.

Instead the German government did everything except bribe people to drive on the highway including making much cheaper cars and other incentives.

So the next time someone tells you that the freeways are a response to people’s wants and desires, you can tell them the whole long spiel above until they nod off. Hey, sometimes knowledge fails to fit into sound bites. πŸ™‚

No, the freeway was and still is a result of massive government intervention. I don’t think that this is wrong, but we need to realize reality before we compare apples to apples.

What I’m saying–since this is a bicycle blog–building infrastructure and trying to get people to enjoy cycling is no more or less social engineering and government intervention than the way we get around now.

Only cycling has lots of advantages especially in that it doesn’t kill so many people. I guess it’s not universal. I mean some people _like_ killing other people. I am open minded so I’m not going to try to push my beliefs on others. Jokes, only jokes here. πŸ™‚

Anyway, I think it’s funny how when a new bicycle lane is built which goes from nowhere to nowhere else without the rest of the supporting infrastructure, we get complaints that people don’t use it.

That’s not only a double standard, but no standard at all.

We don’t tear up vehicular roads when the usage falls below a certain level. I have seen roads with not a single car on it for miles, but I failed to see the bulldozer traveling behind me to get rid of it.

I can point out a road that is bigger than the main drag in Philadelphia that goes to a parking lot where there’s barely any cars, ever. Should we start tearing up these empty parking lots?

No? Why?

Because they are going to be used in the future.

So when people argue that a bike lane is not used, the proper answer isn’t, “yes it is.” The right answer is, “so what?”

We live in a market economy and each area needs to be segmented to consumers. We have 50 types of cheese in a grocery store why don’t we have more than one mode of transportation?

I know that you can bicycle some places and you can take public transportation other places, but I think that to be equitable you should split the budget in quarters otherwise, we are forcing the market’s hand.

Parking Rage

March 18, 2011

Last night, some of my wonderful friends had me and some other people over for pizza.

The pizza was amazing with not only homemade crust, but also a homemade white sauce. Plus it was Irish pizza with potato and meat that tasted like corned beef.

Perfect!

We watched a great movie called The Parking Lot Movie which detailed what happens if a parking lot is run by grad students.

The language in the movie was stunning not unlike Charlie Brooker, but with an American twist.

The thing that really stunned me about the movie was how angry most of the motorists were and also how cheap they were. Some would waste time over forty cents which to me is insane as I have that much on the bottom of my pannier. I bet if I crawled on the floor of my house, I could dig up forty cents quicker than the time the lady in the movie took to whine about how unfair it all was.

One of the characters in the movie said that he hated all motorists which I thought was totally unfair because I love motorists. In fact, many of my best friends are motorists, though I must admit, I wouldn’t want my daughter to marry one. Just joking, I can’t have a daughter. πŸ™‚

Anyway, I thought about the whole notion of the angry driver, and I think that the situation is highly hilarious.

I used to be naive enough to think that cycling was all that was needed to make people happy, but that’s obviously not true because my SO informs me that there are plenty of angry cyclists out there, too.

Cycling does make me happy, I think. I wonder how my alternate universe self, who is a motorist, feels.

Anyway, I am of two minds about the angry motorist. On one hand, I like to believe that deep down, our true nature, as humans is radiant and beautiful. I know that this is controversial and may even seem horrible because I see ALL people as wonderful deep down inside and I disagree with the crazy notions of American horror where Evil is a real thing lurking inside of each of us. I see evil more as dirt that covers up our lovely diamond of a mind.

I keep hearing people argue for the deep seated evil which is brought up when people are allowed to cover their couches with glass, plastic, and steel and to move around really fast.

Apparently, when it comes time to store that couch, theirs a huge believe that this real estate should be free. I probably said this many times, but it freaks me out that people who think that poor people belong on the streets or worse feel entitled to free real estate for their machines. Kind of mean.

Also, I spoke to a friend, and a motorist, who echoed ideas of evil that comes out when motoring. In fact, she even admitted that she became evil, too, when driving, which made me really admire her on a whole new level. Honesty of that level is very rare.

So I have a conundrum. Should I believe my happy fantasy and see people as radiant and beautiful inside or should I realize the evidence of my senses and that we are all greedy, petty, mean, cold, and very hard deep down. Where forty cents is a cause for demeaning another person, destroying their property, and then fleeing at great risk to everyone else in the world as they speed off?

I don’t know.

For now, I’m going to cling to my happy dream.

My glasses are clear, the roses are implanted in my pupils.

Gratitude for Halcyon for Frog and Toad

March 18, 2011

Every time it rains, like last week, the sand, like that of a sand castle rolls down the hill and onto just the bicycle path Fairmount Road.

Every time a crew places reflective, wooden barricades in the spot which would push cyclists a bit further into the 55 MPH road.

Lucky for me, a strange cyclist just ahead of me dumped his bicycle in the sand and walked along the side of the road like he were a model on a catwalk and he pushed the barriers out about three inches into the road. When I got there, I was able to ride safely home.

As I rode by, I shouted thanks. He waved a single finger at me.

At first, I thought he was giving me the bird, but then I saw that his fingertip was purple. I’d have taken him for a goth except that his other fingers were unpainted. Plus fresh blood gushed from the tip.

Only later did I realize that in his excitement to secure the sad joke that we call a “bike lane”, he got his fingers caught in the sign.

A few days later, I found out that some good souls, again not associated with the city, rode over with shovels and bags. They completely cleared the lane and then they shored up the side with bags packed from the sand that they just cleared.

Saints, the lot of them.

The wonderful City of San Diego, meanwhile, has still not managed to clear a few inches of dangerous dirt on the bicycle path though, of course, the rest of the stadium parking lot is totally clear.

I propose, as a budget measure to the city, that the bicycle lanes get turned over to volunteers. The city could save a lot of money if they would just sign a paper promising not to put us in jail if we fix up the city.

Overall, though, I am grateful to a city which allows good people to volunteer at a risk to themselves. It gives us the opportunity, all us, to be little heroes.

Maybe next time, I’ll help out the strange guy with the purple bird.

Horror Movie Morality

March 16, 2011

My wife and I were talking about horror movies the other day.

I used to not like horror movies, but when I started to work on my fears, especially the fear regarding dying on a bicycle, I have stopped being afraid of them. Also, I did a little research on them, and I realized that they are more than just random killing–though they often have that–but they also have some very cool and clear patterns such as the final girl, the one who lives to kill the killer.

Usually she is somewhat pure which enables her to survive.

This is when we got into the whole idea of US horror movies mirroring some of our inner anxieties regarding morality especially sex, but it includes all kinds of fun.

To paraphrase the video shop guy in _Scream_, “Don’t do drugs and don’t have sex because you will die.”

Of course, both topics have one thing in common, and it’s not that they are bad, but they are fun. They were also campaigned against relentlessly in my youth. I’m still a bit angry and resentful because I feel that I had been denied some harmless fun which delayed my personal growth quite a bit.

I think that this is related to cycling in that cycling is also fun, and like sex and drugs, it’s a kind of fun that’s seen as imposing a burden on society for the benefit of the few. The old Christian–and horror movie–morality goes that for every bit of fun we have, there’s a price to be paid which is why I feel that people are quick to blame a cyclist for their death even if the motorist is at fault.

I’d argue that with great power comes with responsibility, but that’s a separate discussion.

In fact, our rush to blame the bicyclist first or BBF, to me has actually become pretty much comedic. Life’s too short to be eternally outraged. We had our good rant and anger, and now we can move on.

It reminds of me Dave Chapelle’s routine where cops would kill blacks in DC where he was growing up and to absolve themselves of all blame and investigation, they’d just sprinkle crack on that person.

Now a days, they a cop could run someone over and they would not be held accountable if they just dropped a bicycle onto that person.

In fact, this morning, I noticed that they had orange cones and huge signs blocking the bike lane on my way to work. I thought, “cool”, because seldom do I have the opportunity to ride with so much protection.

I love the notion of us having care and gratitude for those who pave our streets because we owe it to them for a big luxury in our lives. I totally agree that fines should be double or quadruple for hitting a construction worker.

Then I thought, I ride up this hill everyday. There’s nobody looking out for me. I know that, as per horror movie morality, chose to cycle, but since we don’t live in Soviet Russia to a degree, the construction workers chose their jobs, too.

I am not thinking of NOT protecting the workers, but this thought gave me pause.

For most of the hill, I didn’t even ride behind the pretty orange force field because I had to hit the button and the button only works on the opposite side of the street and the light doesn’t activate for cyclists and there were no cars and this is one more way that San Diego says she loves me each time I cycle.

So I did the next best thing and tried to cut over when it was safe. But it was only safe on the near side so I got stuck in the–huge and safe–middle lane. For a while, everyone just rode on each other’s bumpers until some nice person let me in. I could tell because he honked sweetly and gave me room.

Once ensconced behind an orange wall of cones, I waved. He waved back and I saw that he was a co-worker who said he would hit me if he saw me in the street. He had changed for the better!

Miracles happen everyday.

Let Your Light Shine

March 15, 2011

There’s a terrible disease striking America and it affects the people I love the most, cyclists and slow fooders.

It’s based on BS advertising that’s out there to profit from you by making you life a crappier life so they can sell you things.

Their weapons are words–weasel words.

These aren’t ordinary words that describe things in the ordinary world, but rather constructions that pack in their own neurosis and judgment in order to trick and to manipulate you.

Don’t believe the hype. The antidote is available.

One of them is “elitist”.

In reality this word means nothing, but like Queer Nation, it’s a word I want to take back. I will own it.

Basically, it plays on the–usually–liberal tendency for leveling and equality. It tries to hijack well meaning humility to use against the humble.

When someone calls me an “elitist”, it’s just as if someone is called any other ignorant BS by a racist.

That is, as soon as I hear the word “elitist” I walk away and NEVER listen to that person at all. If I am reading, I toss the article away.

Done.

I _could_ sit and listen to the nonsense all day, but I choose not to just as I choose not to smash my own hands in a door. Because there’s no point, and it’s harmful to me.

Basically, this word doesn’t bother me because I am highly arrogant.

Thus I greet accusations such as “everyone live like that” and “you think you are better than everyone else” with sage nodding.

I know.

I _really_ love to hear that someone can’t possible live in So. Cal w/o out a car b/c I love to do the impossible.

Own your life.

Don’t apologize.

Don’t explain.

Don’t justify.

Don’t placate.

Just ride your bicycle and smile.