Archive for September, 2011

Biking Economics

September 29, 2011

I had a long slow leak all week. I had to blow up tire every morning before work and every evening.

Nothing worked. I couldn’t find it. Changing the tube didn’t help.

Finally, I found out that the problem is a bad tire, the wire on the edge actually cut my inner tubes.

So I went to the bike shop this morning. Total cost was $40.

Compared w/ driving a U-Haul where I had to put in $40 every few hours, $40 dollars every six months is pocket change.

Yet many seem to think that my $1000 bicycle is too expensive because I could get a car for less.

Not really. I mean I could have a hunk of steel that’s car shaped, but could I keep it running for more than 5 minutes w/o spending thousands more?

No. I did that before. Heck, I paid $700 for insurance alone for a year for a car I didn’t even drive!

That much for something that gets me around for YEARS is a total bargain.

So I don’t get it. Bikes are too expense, I guess.

Anyway, fixed my tire; it looks great.

As per Oprah’s advice, I treated my despair wit food. 🙂

Now I’m off for a fun ride: to work.

A Tale of Two Intersections

September 28, 2011

This post is mainly due to fallout of a recent battle that my princess has been fighting.

Long time readers might know that she, and every other transportation advocate who was born after the Led Zepplin broke up, has to battle idiotic killjoys. Yes, we’re back to talking about our good neighbors, the Quislings, the motorists in lycra. 🙂

Anyway, the current hubub is about whether the prophet has proven once and forever that playing in traffic is safer than cycling in a place that was, well, designed, by experts, for cycling.

Since he likes to call everyone else who disagrees with him “unscientific”, let’s perform a real world, empirical study to see how well this dogma holds water.

Let’s call it the Intersection Cage Fight!

In one corner, we have 54th and Univeristy in San Diego, the biggest, baddest intersection in the city. If all the intersections in the city were in the same movie, 54th would be the killer as it has the highest body count.

Recently, we were told, however, that the number of deaths were not important, but rather what mattered was our particular fear of the intersection. This kind of talk reminds me of John Kreese, leader of Cobra Kai in the Karate Kid.

I guess someone has to stand up for the bad guys. 🙂

The good one of this match is, well, pick
any single intersection in Portland Oregan.

That is because there were zero fatalities last year.

A scientific and facts based approach would be to ask what they did right and what they did wrong.

A stupid and egotistical approach would be to assert that we are so radically different of a civization that nothing there applies here, and anyway, the number of deaths is OK as long as we can cling to our outdated belief system.

Don’t Fear the Newbie!

September 28, 2011

It has been brought to my attention that there is a small number of people in the cycling world who, instead of embracing the newbie cyclist will actually try to drive them away.

I’m going to give some two cents to the expert and newbie alike:

Experts:

1. Don’t scare them away!

2. Seriously, if it’s a lady, don’t harass her.

3. Don’t fear newbies. They tend to be more law abiding than so-called “experts”.

4. Everyone was a newbie, even you so treat them like you like to be treated.

5. Answer questions in a manner that’s honest, but not abasive and overly judgemental and opinionated. Plus, KEEP IT SHORT.

6. Otherwise, don’t give advice. Don’t tell them that they are “doing it wrong”. A few years ago, you were doing it wrong. Maybe you are still doing it wrong.

7. Try to learn from the newbie.

Newbie:

1. Welcome.

2. Don’t listen to people on mailing lists unless they are nice. But they are mostly assholes.

3. Wear what you want, including a helmet.

4. Don’t let people bother you. Don’t let so-called experts talk at you, even me. Just walk away when you are tired of them.

Touching Taboos

September 26, 2011

Like everywhere else, there are topics that are taboo in the bicycle world.

Luckily, many of them are actually more harmless than they sound.

One of them is sidewalk riding.

In the past, I have freely and gleefully admitted that I had broken this (ever so minor) taboo of riding styles.

While I think that in many cases there are better riding styles, people usually ride in the way that makes them feel the most comfortable and safe. I fully support people’s rights to think for themselves and to make their own decisions.

Sadly, this is often not the case in the cycling world. Much of the cycling literature is littered with stern “thou shall nots”. Where’s the fun in that?

Thus, I think that riding instructions should be like condoms. Instead of telling people not to sidewalk ride, and have them do it anyway and get hurt, why not give them advice that will protect them?

I feel sidewalk riding and salmoning are phases that most of us went through on our way to riding proficiency.

Thus, I have started a book which will fill in the gaps that other “safety” courses leave out: how to ride more safely on the sidewalk, how to use cycle trakcks, and most of all how to have fun!

Since the book is to help people, I’m going to make it available as I write it here:

Transcendent Bone Shaking

Like Not Equals

September 23, 2011

Before I write my actual post, I’d like to share this link:

Mediation Flash Mob

I usually think that flash mobs are kind of dumb, and now due to my philly connections, pretty scary.

But a spontaneous group meditation is awesome. I can’t imagine how much better the energy was while that was going on.

Meditation has such a great effect on the mind.

Speaking of the mind, I’ve been thinking about how the human mind takes real world experiences and turns them into meaning through mental filters.

This isn’t a really sinister thing, it’s how higher level intelligence deals with the world, and it is responsible for all of our best art, philosophy, and culture.

However, when we are not aware of the process, we can sometimes substitute what we want with what we think we want. I think that this happens most often with modern inventions such as modern transportation because our minds did not evolve to solve these problems.

An example is high speed driving. People really want to drive fast. But they don’t–well some do, but they are in NASCAR.

When you talk to people, they really want two things more than speed which are being on time and safety.

With all the obsession with safety, from the demonization of walking in the street (jaywalking) to the hour long rants based upon the seconds lost passing cyclists, you’d think that most would favor lower speed limits.

But they don’t because they fear not being on time. And loss of control is as large of a fear as is safety.

But the real problem isn’t speed nor safety, but rather getting somewhere on time. Thus, if we figured out ways to get people places faster while driving slower, it would be a win/win.

Parking is another huge obsession for many people, and rightly so. If you can’t park reasonably close to something then you can’t get there at all and that reduces choices and increases frustration. But again, the point is to get there and not find storage for your vehicle. Most people in San Diego have free parking at home all ready.

Another example is “taking the lane” or driving in traffic. The real concern is getting places “comfortably and safely” rather than mixing it up with traffic.

Only a lunatic would assert that the zenith of “safety” is getting close to fast moving obstacles which would kill you with a minutes of distraction. On the road, we all are, motorists, pedestrians, and pogo sticks, are all a single text message away from death.

So again, the real issue is not “taking the lane” but fuzzer feeling terms as well as “the ability to choose my own route.”

This whole confusion of what people want is referred to in nursing theory as having an “unmet need.”

Patients aren’t always able to verbalize what they _really_ need so it’s the nurses (and advocates) job to figure out what that is and to satisfy people’s real, emotional needs.

Even some bully trying to dominate a conversation is really just someone who is struggling to be heard and understood.

The problem is that when people latch onto the idea that they _think_ will solve their problems to the detriment to themselves and everyone else.

The only ways to stop them are amazing rhetorical skills and the judicious use of physical force. 🙂

The Science of Cycling

September 22, 2011

This title is rather a tease because although I have years of science both in University and in the field, I don’t think that science belongs in cycling.

That’s not totally true, either. I do think that science–especially hard science–has its place in cycling, but it’s a limited one.

To paraphrase one of my inspirations, the environment affects how we cycle. It’s more than just velocities and distances. Aside from muscle memory and reflexes, we also use more subtle cues to decide how to ride.

Or should I say that subtle cues influence us more than most of us would like to admit.

A good example of this is how differently people treat me on Fairmount Road (the highway) depending on which merge I’m at.

Pretty much the same people drive the whole stretch of it–you can’t get off–so the sample is pretty even. But how I am treated differs greatly depending on if I am merging onto Fairmount from Camino De La Reina or whether I am passing another merge further down.

Why are people nice in one case and not in another? The only thing that differs is subtle cues in the road.

Few of these cues will show up on a blueprint for a road. And I if there’s a way to determine, mathematically, how people are going to respond to a certain road stimulus, I am unfamiliar with it.

This is why, when discussing my experiences, I use feeling based and gut based terms. In fact, sometimes when I ride, I don’t think at all, I rely on instinct; I’m an unthinking cyclist. I feel that when I think the least, I’m on my cycling game the most.

Probably better than being an uncycling thinker… 🙂

Engineering Odditity

September 21, 2011

I’m going to talk about something that I know almost nothing about and that’s road engineering.

I was thinking about it this morning, and I realized that it seems to be the only field where the engineers dictate the terms.

It’s as if engineering took over marketing and management. The even made themselves sole consumers of the product.

They have two chief tools of control: their titles and safety.

As for safety, who isn’t for it? Unless they are against it.

I think that if we have two situations, and they are totally the same except one is safer, we should take the safer alternative.

Unforutately few situations are so simplistic, and in the real world, we all make trade-offs regarding safety, daily. Sometimes we have to be risky to be safe.

This means that we must leave the house and meet people. This gives us excercise which protects us from chronic disease and our friends protect us from depression and other problems. So it’s not a black and white thing otherwise we’d seal ourselves off in caves.

Which isn’t a bad idea for some people. 🙂

Besides safety there are titles which tell us, “I know best. How dare you question me.”

I find this attitude to be silly.

Imagine the engineers at Apple when they first heard they were going to make a music player that had a library of music, but you could put it into your pocket!

Absurd! It can never be done. Nobody wants one. The parts aren’t available. And so on.

No, the people with these attitudes are in the food lines now.

The others did the impossible and made the product.

I’m in the same boat at work. I have to design this product that many people say is overly ambitious. All of us are working as hard as we can on it instead of whining that it can’t be done and that the compeditor has all ready made a better product so let’s just use that.

Likewise, when people are told that they want separate infrastrure, and they want it to be safe, the good engineers of the world are working hard to make that dream happen.

There’s more than one way to skin and cat, and there’s more than one way to design a road.

I’m just happy to be alive in a time when it looks like everyone is putting out their own iPod styles of roads. They are being brave and bold and experimenting.

We will have some set backs just like we did with the rocket program. But when the first rocket the US made exploded on the platform, we didn’t decide that the Russians were all ready in space and that nobody needed to go to the moon anyway.

We got back onto our feet and built the rocket of our dreams.

So everytime someone says that bike infrastructure is bad for some reason or another, recall the iPod engineers and think about the US putting the flag on the moon.

Just like we did with the space program and portable music players, the we can lead the world in bike infrastructure.

Humility and Equanimity

September 20, 2011

One of my favorite quotes on cycling is that “cycling is a very humble way to travel.”

I have been running this thought through my head for a while because I’ve been working on equanimity, and I think that humility practice could help with that.

The hallmark of an equanamous person is that they radiate calm at all times. This really isn’t something that you can force because if you bottle up your emotions, they can come out later even worse that before.

However, this danger isn’t going to stop me from practicing this skill.

One way that I am practicing is trying to see where I get out of balance, either too happy or too upset, and to see what happened just before.

I noticed that one of the most common triggers is attacks on my person or identity. That is, someone buzzed me (threated my body with harm). Or they cut me off, I believed I had the right of way. Or they put forth an idea that I disagree with.

I realize that if I had less of an attatchment to my self and was thus more humble, I could be more equanamous.

Thus, each time I get upset, I’m looking to see what sort of belief about myself got me to feel how I felt.

I have been really been enjoying this practice, but those who know me, realize that I have a long, long way to go.

One other thing about equanimity, is that I can’t talk about it for long without thinking about my princess who, to me, is the paragon of calm. She is undertaking some difficult advocacy where she’s coming into contact with people who are abrasive and argumentative. It is their nature to throw sand in your eye, and to confuse you.

After a while, you start to hate them and everything that they stand for. This is most unhelpful in advocacy where one needs a calm head, and a commitment to one’s principles.

Princess has stuck to this while I have lost my head; she has pulled me back to where I need to be, and I am grateful for this.

New Blog

September 14, 2011

In order to better have empathy for motorists, I decided to try to imagine what it would be like to be one!

I’m going to rent a car on weekends and tool around, but I’m going to pretend, for love’s sake, to commute full time by auto.

Furthermore, I’m going to ignore the concerns of real full time motorists.

Most of you know why I would do this.

Plus comedy is a harsh mistress.

VD: Vehicular Driving

Gratitude: Food and Beer

September 13, 2011
Miho Gastrotruck (food truck)

Best food in San Diego

 

One of the differences between San Diego and Philly is that Philadelphia had a great variety of food, but the best food was found in fine dining, like you’d expect.

San Diego has some really good food, too, but the BEST food in the city can often (not always) be found from a truck.

Miho Gastrotruck is one such example. The prices are really fair for what you get.

Usually the trucks park outside of bars which allow you to bring the food in. Some even give you drink tickets!

If you see one of these trucks, and you have time, do NOT pass it up.

In other news, last weekend, there was supposed to be a ride to Mission Brewery which I often pass on my bombing down Linda Vista Hill posts.

Last Friday, we were supposed to go there (I thought) so I showed up there.

Of course, there were two Mission Breweries!

The other one is on L and 12th!
 
I told that to my friend, who’s a vegan, and he said getting brew pubs mixed up shows how amazing of a beer town this is when there are so many places that brew that you get them mixed up! It’s like having so many vegan options in SD that like you get names of the vegan cup cake places mixed up.

Good point.