Archive for May, 2012

Cycle Bullying: With Malice Towards None

May 31, 2012

Recently, I have spoken about cycle bullies and the culture that causes it.

One might think that I am mad at the world; I’m not.

One of my goals in life it to finally overcome anger, and I’m getting there, though not as fast as I’d like, of course.

I really do believe in “turning the other cheek”.

On the other hand, like I said before, I’d like to make my world better on the inside and outside. Thus it’s important to get bad motorists out of their vehicles because it’s not just about my internal state.

Overall, for me, it’s been a challenging balancing act, but just knowing that I’m not alone in this, and that the distinction between the my outside world and inside is mental and arbitrary motivated me to think more about my own environment.

Overall, my premise is that ALL people are good including malicious motorists and the indifferent government employees who claim helplessness to help cyclists all the while attacking cyclists both via selfish and deadly infrastructure decisions and their lack of legal knowledge and research.

My goal is to forgive and to love them all.

However, it would be disrespectful to cyclists to stop the research. I have no illusions that this will be super-useful in helping people, but it is a hobby of mine so I’ll continue my daily, five minute, google breaks to find out how the law can help make the streets just as safe for cyclists as motorists, by spending billions of tax dollars from the general fund, paid by motorists and non-motorists alike, have done for themselves.

Thus, I’ll continue to quote this beautiful poem of Buddha:

“For hatred does not cease by hatred; hatred ceases by love.
The world does not know that we must all come to an end here;
but those who know it, their quarrels cease at once.”

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Fears About Cycling Bullying

May 30, 2012

For a long time, I thought that my role was to say nice things about cycling in a world where people want to equate riding a bicycle for transportation as death.

I _still_ want to do this, however, I have other goals, too.

On of them is talking about things that nobody else wants to talk about.

Cycling bullying is hard to talk about for many reasons, and it brings up many of my fears.

My biggest fear is my reputation. I don’t want people to think that I have no sense of humor.

Second, I don’t wish people to think that I’m a whiner. I don’t want to be known as that “bitchy cycling fred”. 🙂

Finally, I don’t want to be seen as “playing the victim” because I’m not a victim; I’m a victor. Any kind of bullshit harassment or abuse (which does not really happen) only can make my victory that much sweeter.

My self image is the guy who is in hell who is whistling while one demon whispers to another, “we’re not reaching this guy.”

On the other hand, roadway bullying is NOT going to go away. The police don’t care, in fact, later on, I’ll write how I feel that they are actually complicit in deadly roadway behavior.

Politicians are NOT going to fix the problem. They have not done much save for a few places like LA.

Most bicycle advocates are NOT going to fix the problem, either. In the VC world, acknowledging roadway bullying means admitting that the roads are NOT perfect as is and that a bicycle is the exact same as a car. This means that their classes will NOT make you safe which means that they have no purpose in life.

So how to make us safe from roadway bullying? I think that first, we need to define what bullying is, and what tools are available to stopping it. Then we can actually get on with fixing it.

For now, I’d like to break my code of silence and admit that while it does not happen often, it ruins a morning despite my meditation and other happy thoughts.

Second, it does make me not want to ride on a road which pisses me off because if they force you off the road then they win.

I’m not fighting for fighting for the Right to the Road, but rather to make routes shorter and safer by applying sane principles such as homogeneity. However, I do get angry when bad behavior is rewarded.

Finally, I do believe that through bad jokes, Hollywood mockery, online comments and more, there is an atmosphere that is created that makes hurting cyclist OK, even fun and funny.

This is no coincidence.

People respond to their environments including the culture that they swim in.

I am determined to see this culture change in my lifetime.

Cycling Bullying: Possible Motivations?

May 29, 2012

One thing that I have been obsessed with lately has been bullying.

For me, roadway bullying in the form of taunts and buzzing have been a very small part of cycling.

However, sometimes it’s the briefest of interactions that stick in your minds the most. Certainly, a motorist having a bad day can ruin my day in a short time.

After recent experiments where I found that the threat of 10 lbs of steel can scare off a few tons, I wondered, “Are there really this many shitty people in the world?”

Since I crave a life where I live in a happy bubble, I really didn’t want to know. I still don’t know if I can take it.

Then, however, I realized that I all ready had a mild case of Stockholm Syndrome. I felt that bullying came with the territory.

This is like women in the sixties who felt that a little groping came with their office job, I guess.

Not that my life is as bad as anyone who’s sexually harassed. I am trying to come up with the sanest and best analogies. I realize that I can get a car and be done with it–or can I?

Not really, when googling for roadway bullying, I have read more than one account where a motorist has been beaten by another for “cutting him off” or some other motorist nonsense of which I am blissfully unaware.

No, the reason I was googling because one day the light went on in my head, and I realized that the bad behavior we tolerate of motorists–I didn’t see him–has exact parallels with the other empty excuse: “boys will be boys.”

Boys will always be boys, but they don’t have to be rapists nor do motorists have to pose as killers.

In fact, I was working on a layman’s assessment of the legal rights of cyclists when faced with dangerous and unjust behavior at the hands of roadway bullies. I’ll write more on this later.

For now, I just wanted to link to this splendid post:

http://streetsblog.net/2012/05/17/ladyblogs-bully-free-zone-doesnt-apply-to-cyclists/

“…why do people find jerk bicyclists so harmful to society when they constantly interact with motorists who run red lights and stop signs… and engage in other dangerous behaviors that kill people every day?

…. I think it’s also because we’ve trained ourselves to think of driving as passing through an obstacle course rather than moving through a social space. Cars that do dumb stuff are a nuisance, but they do not interrupt the illusion until there’s an actual crash. Bodies that do dumb stuff are a threat to the idea that driving is a no harm, no foul activity.”
This was backed up by a UK study that said that one of the biggest fears that motorists have is that they are going to hit a cyclist.

Long time readers know that we are all motivated by a strong urge to protect our own egos. Therefore, we are not about to say, “Oops, I am risking people’s lives, I should be more careful.”

No, we’d rather say, “It’s the cyclists fault for being so vulnerable in the first place. If they weren’t there in the street, the I couldn’t hit him.”

This is one of the many reasons I like to constantly point out that the number of cycling deaths in the US–while pointless and ought to be reduced–pale in proportion to motorist’s deaths. I usually say, “You are more likely to DIE INSIDE A CAR than outside.”
Usually I am met with all sorts of noise on stats, but the point is that if more people are dying at something then we can all agree that it’s more deadly–this is tautalogy. Perhaps it’s not as deadly in a statistical sense, but it kills more people, and that has to count for something.

The reason I point this out is that sometimes people suggest that I am putting myself out by cycling too much and I ought to get around some other way.

I will!

Here’s the deal: give me a way to get around that is more harmless than a bicycle aka pollutes less and kills less victims (cyclists kill about one person a year), kills less people than 33,000 a year, costs less than cycling, provides better excercise than cycling, is less annoying to others, and is quieter on cycling while it gets me around faster than cycling.

Any takers? Until then, I’ll ride around on a terrible way of getting around: cycling. It’s awful, but less awful than the alternatives.

Sustainable Safety: Cycling Homogeneity

May 25, 2012

We all know that I can talk about Sustainable Safety (pdf) all day.

So I will.

One of the principles is “homogeneity of masses and/of speed and direction.”

In plain English this means that we should keep all the big and fast vehicles together as well as all the slow and small ones.

The end result is safety, efficiency, and comfort.

I know that this sounds like common sense, but there are many people who miss out on this one.

Both of these come from my hero, at BikingLA.

The first one was a prank where some high school seniors rode their bicycles to school.

We are going back and forth about whether they should have been punished or not. The most messed up thing is that we are missing the bigger issue on the problems that it caused.

Here we have sixty cyclists who “took the lane”. It ended up pissing some people off including the principle. I have some sympathy for her because she wants to run a school and sixty cyclists really gummed things up.

This is one reason why I suggest to NOT take the lane. Ride in the door zone or side walk to let traffic through. I have no illusions that we can change people’s minds about cycling, but at the same time, do we have to hurt people for no reason? No.

Plus, they said it was a prank which set the frame for them getting punished.

I think that cycling should be a normal part of a school kids experience and not a “prank”. But if it is, we have to look into whether we should accommodate them. I suggest a cycle track.

Now they are talking about her losing her job. Really not worth some VC nonsense style pranks.

Second we have the problem of cyclists “buzzing” others who use a multi-use path. Again, the problem is not addressed at all which is that a multi-use path is not suitable for training at high speeds. We need to go slower on these things.

I have been saying this for years, a multi-use path is great, but it’s NOT cycling infrastructure. We need our own separate locations with NO dog walkers. This means building a separate path for dog walkers.

Building two paths instead of one will save a lot of money because it will accommodate far more people who will save thousands on car payments (see my post on cycling getting us into the middle class).

Anyway, the point is that a multi-use path costs should not count as money spent on cycling. This is why I say that they spend NO money on cycling in San Diego. It’s ALL shared space.

I can ride just fine on a multi-use path. I slow down for the dogs and the moms with their strollers. I’ll walk my bike to make people not feel threatened. But again this is not an ideal situation, and I’m all about things getting better forever.

The take home message is that if we want to really spend our tax dollars efficiently, we need to make some bicycle only infrastructure which is modified for higher speed cyclists, preferably one way. That way we can accommodate these road users.

So here’s a puzzler: “:As a friend of mine said, if enough people take the lane, what’s different about taking the lane and making it a permanent cycle track?*” (Answer at bottom).

I’m glad the seniors rode to school ONE TIME IN THEIR WHOLE LIVES. It would have been better for their health and the local economy, however, if they had build a cycle track so they could ride daily.

* Answer to puzzler: Nothing.

Honeysuckle Cycling

May 24, 2012

This morning, I had a great ride into work as I usually do.

Yes, I am still taking the “Balls Out” route down Fairmount.

On the other hand, I am trying to focus on the positive.

This morning there were at least two pluses that made my day.

First of all, there was the smell of honeysuckle while I rode by the garden next to the grocery store. Yum.

Next was the freeway hum, which by the grocery store sounds almost exactly like it did in my meditation room in South Philly, which is my happy place.

Thus, smelling that smell and listening to that sound put me into my happy place while I peddled up that steep, steep hill.

When I got to the corner, there was even a walk sign because a pedestrian had all ready pushed it.

A great morning, today.

_Why Cycling

May 23, 2012

I think that I need to start a new category called people or something.

Anyway, one of my newest favorite influences in the advocacy world is _Why, who, like me, is not even a cycling advocate. That’s right, I’m not actually an advocate because I have not really done anything. I do support the bike advocacy system, however, and I root for them. I’m just not an advocate myself.

Anyway, _Why is (or was) a Ruby programmer who was very inspirational for a whole group of programmers.

He had the knack of making programming really, really exciting.

Then, suddenly, he vanished from advocacy forever.

Overall, I totally agree with this move as he needs to take care of himself, and he gave us so much. Also, some big time jerks had posted way too much info about him, and he’s a private guy.

However, there still is a great deal of material about him online (google it).

Anyway, here’s a little taste of _Why:

“I admire programmers who take risks.
They aren’t afraid to write dangerous or “crappy” code.
If you worry too much about being clean and tidy, you can’t push the boundaries.
(I don’t think!)
I also admire programmers who refuse to stick with one idea about the “way the world is.”
These programmers ignore protocol and procedure.
I really like Autrijus Tang because he embraces all languages and all procedures.
There is no wrong way in his world.”

You could say the same thing with cycling infrastructure.

Instead of greeting something new with fear, we could greet it with a celebration. Just like _Why has shown us.

Hide Your Bicycle!!

May 22, 2012

I hate to write posts like this (or maybe not, why am I writing it), but this is another of my series of Annoying Advice Posts.

You may skip it, if you don’t like annoying advice.

Basically, the premise of this advice is based on the fact that many people discriminate against cyclists.

My initial reaction to this is to hide your bicycle.

We’ll eventually change the prejudice’s of the world, but in the meantime, we don’t want to miss out on the good things in life.

Thus, if you get harassed by a driver, let them assume you are driving when you call the cops.

When you are assaulted while on your bike, let the police assume that the police did it with their hands. Don’t mention a bicycle.

And so on.

For a job interview.

HIDE YOUR BICYCLE.

Let them assume that you drive.

Red Light (and Stop Sign) Running: Pointless Timesuck

May 21, 2012

Overall, I love Mia, but I have to disagree with her in this one case:

http://momentummag.com/articles/street-cents:-the-mistake-of–ticketing-cyclists

As I said before, I follow all traffic laws. This does not mean that I never go through a red light. Sometimes, the sensor are broken and will never change. Ever. If you are driving a car and get to a broken light, what do you do? I do exactly that on my bicycle.

I do stop for all red lights, but I might not wait the several weeks for them to fix the light.

Still, I really hate these debates because they are distraction: http://www.guardian.co.uk/environment/bike-blog/2012/may/18/iam-red-light-survey-cyclist?newsfeed=true.

I see this all the time, and I think that we should not take the bait. We should merely say that we follow the traffic laws (and do it).

No more talk of “momentum” or “fairness” or “scofflaw motorists” or the fact that “following traffic laws doesn’t necessarily make one safe”. These are all true, but pointless side paths that will only get us deeper into nonsensical, rhetorical muck.

This is the whole point of these comments, to side track discussion which provides political cover for hating on cyclists.

Meanwhile, there are many problems with infrastructure, and we are being trolled and baited into a lose/lose argument.

If we just own our following the laws, we can move on.

Everytime I mention this simple fact, people shut up immediately and walk away. Fast.

By the way, I am NOT for preaching to other cyclists (other than my readers I guess) to follow the laws. I just follow them and ignore the rest.

I have found that the less I care about what other people do, the calmer I am. This is probably why I have been having so many empty headed and relaxing rides lately.

As for the gas money which supposedly builds the roads the we freeload on, we should start a petition asking for the building of cycling infrastructure to come from the general tax fund. Game over.

Bike To Work Day 2012

May 18, 2012

Although we joked about renting a pink hummer to bike to work, today, we didn’t have anything sinister planned when my princess drove me in a rental to work.

There were many reasons for this from the notion that I needed to get some beer to work for a special night to the fact that I need to go to the hospital to get stitches out and it’s a little bit easier in a car (though totally practical on a bike).

The ride was super fast and smooth as San Diego has given over most of it’s best real estate and money into getting people around as energy inefficiently as possible.

Being someone who can really enjoy and indulgence, the ride was pure bliss.

There were a only a very few die hard cyclists, most of them looking like neon fish soft of hugging the gutter in a motionless kind of way.

Cyclist’s outside rarely matches their insides. Inside I’m happy or something, but outside I look pathetic and in the way. (Yes, we know how we look.)

Anyway, now my biggest problem is little squares on my customer’s software and the fact that I have no place to put things. I never realized that I had been using my basket for years to store things. Plus, the frame of the bicycle was used to hang my clothes. Now my office is kind of empty and sad looking.

I keep wondering where my bicycle is.

Que bike to work dia! 🙂

Empty Headed Cycling

May 17, 2012

For the first time in a long time, yesterday, my head was almost completely empty for my entire ride.

Ever since I started my new job, my head had been abuzz with various things: not dying due to the commute sucking, trying to recall all my old network security tricks to impress my new bosses, fomulating come backs to people who said that cycling was dangerous, and much more.

Finally, this is all gone.

Long time readers know that I chant and meditate to take away the negativity, but yesterday, it was enough to just enjoy the white noise of the gentle roar of traffic around me.

While riding, the tiny part of my mind that was still sparking an occasional thought said, “I want every ride to be like this.”

For a few times in the past it was.

My first really great ride was with Princess while we did Valley Forge Rides for fun. After a particularly tranquil and empty headed ride, Princess wanted this to last forever so we did our bicycle trip to Texas.

This trip was good in that we learned a lot and we did enjoy ourselves.

But each day was not an excercise in serenity. It was more like an excercise in frustration in many ways.

Now, for some reason, my mind is letting me relax once again, and I’m happy for it.