Archive for August, 2012

Toward Vs. Away Thinking

August 31, 2012

LTRs know that I have been studying human motivation for a while.

At a basic level there are only two kinds of motivation which explain all behavior. These motivations are so basic that even single celled organisms follow them: away vs. toward.

That is, some people do things because they expect some kind of reward while others do them in order to avoid pain.

In general, VC shows away thinking, and infrastructure promotion is toward.

This is very evident in the language which either side uses: “They are going to take AWAY our rights to the road.”


“We can build a better world for everyone no matter how they get around.”

The VC objection to any infrastructure is that it might be worse.

Normal people engage in both styles, though usually individuals will let one form dominate their lives.

Problems occur when people try to communicate with a differing style. That will almost never work.

So it’s a complete waste of time to extoll the benefits of new infrastructure because the more you talk aobut change, the more people are going to fear losing what they all ready have: “If we have infrastructure then we’ll lose our rights to the road.” And, “Careful what you wish for.”

See the fear behind these messages?

Thus, there is opposition to the mandatory side path provision instead of arguing for making the side path awesome.

So are we stuck?

Not at all.

Both sides can agree on one thing, “if we don’t grow, we die.” In other words, “if our rights don’t expand, they will be taken away.”

Thus, I would argue that if we don’t continue to expand the importance of cycling as transportation, we’ll, instead, be constantly fighting, and
losing, rear guard actions, forever.

If we talk about how not to lose with those VC people on the fence then perhaps they can be convinced.

It’s tough, though, as my side of the debate is stuck with such phrases such as “We are winning, just not fast enough.”

For me, the take home message, is that I don’t want to tell people how to ride their bicycles, what to wear, nor what to wish for.

I do, however, want people to know that I highly enjoy being on the winning side.

I am not a bicycle advocate, but I do approve and support their activities in all ways.

Thus, when I am seventy, I hope to have a web page similar to above, but instead of talking about all the things that I have lost for cycling, instead, I will be praising the advocates for what they have gained.

Go, infrastructure!


Malicious Compliance

August 30, 2012

I just read a great blog post which talks about malicious compliance.

This is where one follows the rules, perfectly, to the letter in a way which makes things hell for someone.

To me, it’s a particularly nasty kind of “passive aggression”.

I have seen this often in cycling advocacy when people continually bring up obscure parts of the highway design code in order to shoot down safe and efficient designs for cycling infrastructure.

Whenever you see someone argue against some really good infrastructure and they say something like, “it’s against the law” or “liability”, they are probably engaging in a form of malicious compliance.

This can also be seen when there are bike lanes which are inconsistent in width, but super narrow. This is because they were measured from the curb which is not totally straight and riding in them would have one ride mostly in the gutter.

When I see cycling infrastructure, I know immediately if the makers would ever ride on their handy-work. Often the answer is, “no.”

The answer is not resignation and saying “no” to everything, but rather saying, “yes”, then making it better.

Motoring Infrastructure: Long Standing Money Pit

August 28, 2012

Until very, very recently, there was little to no accountability for motoring infrastructure.

This story made my day:

There has been an assumption that motoring infrastructure was “necessary to drive economic development”.

Time and time again, however, we find that they wind up hollowing out our cities, creating ghettos.

Still, the logic is that if freeways were so bad for regions, why were they building them.

From the article:

““Representatives of the California Department of Transportation and the Metropolitan Transportation Authority have routinely misrepresented important information while hiding the true cost and benefit of this project from the public,” he added.”

But why is this on a bike blog?

Because as a pro-infrastructurist, I have been grappling with the whole “gas money” argument for quite a while.

LTR’s know that my usual approach, instead of being defensive, “please give me some of your gas money”, I prefer to go to the other side and burn their house down.

Here we go again.

The standard for things like public transportation, for example, is for it to pay for itself. This is, in part, because it’s easier to charge people to get on a train than it is to drive their car. It would be impractical to put polling stations on every block and not worth it.

So we use the whole “gas money” which does not pay for all roads, and today it does not even pay for the maintenance for the federal highway system.

Why do we not hear more about motorists paying their way?

Because, of course, it’s politically unpopular to question motoring in any way.

As I said above, motoring is seen as an economic benefit showering their largess on the little people on the bus and in the bike lanes until they feel exploited no more and they yell out of the window of a building. Or until they cut the federal funding.

In the past, I have made the argument that money for bike paths and lanes is actually just more money for motorists because it mitigates to a degree a danger that the government created by building dangerous roads. Also, bike lanes and paths are used by motorists more often than by cyclists, only, for parking in, storing heavy equipment, dog walking and so on.

True cycling infrastructure will have all other uses prohibited and the vast majority of its users will ride their bikes there from their houses. We don’t really have any of this in San Diego so we have about zero percent of the “gas money” going to cycling.

This leads back to the main question which is WHY IS THE MOTORING TRANSPORTATION SUCH A FAILURE? It seems to require more money each year, it does not make back it’s “investments”. And despite having the lion’s share of the transportation budget, I still hear constant whining from motorists. It’s practically a way to make friends by mentioning how awful the traffic is or the parking situation is.

Of course, nobody wants to hear the cyclists complain. They’d just tell him to get a car.

But overall, despite spending almost no money on cycling, I really can’t complain too much. Or rather, I don’t. Perhaps I have been conditioned to keep mum because nobody cares?

At any rate, I still wonder how we are going to extract all the money on motoring infrastructure back from motorists? When will they completely mitigate the dangers, smog, and noise of motoring? If they do mitigate it, will they see this as some kind of “war on motoring” or as motorists, finally taking “personal responsibility” for the cost that they subject society to? How many dollars need to be spent before “traffic sucked” or “parking is tight” ceases to be a conversation starter? One trillion more? Two trillion?

I think that our elected officials need to be asked these questions.

While it’s only fair for us to crawl through glass for each and every bike lane and train line, shouldn’t each road widening get the same treatment?

Repost: Madness Defined

August 22, 2012

I loved this link .

At War with the Motorist is one of the best cycling blogs.

Here’s my favorite bit:

“The idea that somehow physical engineering is difficult and expensive and unpopular, while changing human behaviour is quick, easy, cheap and effective, is one that the British are remarkably strongly attached to.”

This is brilliant because it’s obvious that if people are willing to change the way that they live their lives, they would totally be willing to spare no time nor money at all for proper cycling infrastructure.

Thus, it’s clear to prove that those who are opposed to infrastructure are not going to be good citizens on the roads. Ever.

On the contrary, those who are willing to wait for cyclists, to not buzz us, and so on, invariably tend to support protecting us through government money.

Plus, this comment struck me as spot on:

“Certainly ‘vehicular cycling’ amd ‘educating motorists’ (sans real legal penalties, vigorously enforced) simply don’t work at all as a solution, because they are rather obviously fatally flawed in theory and falsified in practice. Its a bad-faith alternative suggested by those who don’t want to admit they don’t want to do anything at all.”

Good job, WOTM.

BAT: Bikes Are Toys

August 20, 2012

This post has two inspirations.

My first goal is to get more empathy for other people and to see other people’s points of view.

The second is my goal is, like Seinfield used to do, is to coin a bunch of cool catch phrases. In my case, this is stuff like BBF (blame bicyclists first).

This post is about the notion of BAT. There are many, many messages on message boards that presuppose this such as, “Let’s not spend MY TAX MONEY on your hobby” and even the idea that if one had the “right to the road” on a bicycle, they should have the right to commute to work in a boat.

Putting aside the notion that commuting to work in a sailboat would be AWESOME and very green, we have to address the idea that cycling is merely a hobby.

I am a working stiff who rides his bicycle to work. I probably don’t need to ride a bicycle to work, but I choose to do so.

The people who don’t want me to do this are mainly of the BAT idea aka bicycles are toys.

While bicycles can be toys, they are also the most highly efficient form of transportation.

As the political and economic system, is pushing towards more efficiency, wouldn’t it be nice if we enabled the _most_ efficient system to work well with other transportation modes?

In order to get over this quickly, I have adopted that BAT acronym. Now, in three letters, I can summarize the opposing point of view.

Overall, while I disagree with BAT, it’s good to comprehend and to anticipate arguments against spending a tiny amount of money to make cycling a viable transportation system for all who choose to do so.

Pathologies of Power and Why Cyclists are so Annoying

August 19, 2012

I have started reading a new book which is all ready mind blowing in its insights which can be used in the cycling world.

First of all, I’d to say that I finally figured out why cyclists are so annoying. It’s because they are not respected.

Imagine a car running a stop sign. Would a motorist track them down, cut them off, then lecture them? Who does this EACH TIME THERE’S A TRAFFIC VIOLATION? The person would either be in jail or dead if they did this.

So why do they feel that they can do this for cyclists? Because they don’t respect us as equals.

It’s because they feel that they can kill us, they feel that they have more rights and privileges.

I know that this sounds insane, and that’s because it is. If someone says this out loud that is. But this is how people feel.

I think that this point has to be make more loud and clear. Motorists hate cyclists because they can kill us and thus are insulted when we don’t do their will.

It’s like someone holding up a bank and the staff doesn’t cooperate. Instant anger on the part of the gun holder.

To say this again, cyclists are annoying because motorists think about killing us.

But we can go a step further like Paul Farmer does in _The Pathologies of Power_ where he talks about structural violence. That is violence inherent in the system. The whole notion that there are classes of transportation that can kill others is due to the way we spend money on transportation and our priorities. We talk about “safety” but only spend money on safety for motorists.

These hidden assumptions are why nothing is getting done, for the most part, for cycling in the US.

But it gets worse!

This paragraph was written about human rights groups and it works if we treat alternative transportation as a form of human right:

“Instead of being the currency of social justice or conscience-driven movement, ‘human rights’ has increasingly become the specialized language of a select professional cadre with its own rites of passage and methods of certification. Far from being a badge of honor, humans rights activism is, in some places I have observed, increasingly a certificate of privilege.”

To put it another way, we have to demand that our transportation advocates (and planners) take the bus EVERYWHERE. Cycling advocates should cycle!

Also, it is true that if you have a good idea for transportation but you don’t put it in the right language, you’ll be laughed at. Worse, as I said, the system has built in violence.

One example is AASTO, the highway manual which does not plan for decent conditions for cycling and walking at all. This has become one excuse to build for motorists, only, because it’s on the books. Another example is the eighty fifth percentage law for speed limits where speeding motorists determine the speed limit! Another is how the police and judges routinely turn their backs on the victims of roadway violence. Again, they hide behind the system which is designed for giving power and privilege to motorists, only.

So before you see real change, we need to change the language of how we approach the entire system.

For example, each time we spend money on motoring, it’s spoken of terms of inevitability. But when talking about cycling infrastructure, its’ a special favor done for us and that we some how “owe” motorists the money back.

With the support of the entire system, it’s not only easy to not fund cycling, but rather it would be hard to do anything else and it would put one’s career on the line.

So I think that the first thing to talk about is the enormous power and privilege that motoring has. In fact, another way of putting it is taht you must first give a ton of money to the motoring industry in order to gain access to fertile females. Romantic love and reproduction is strongly tied to petrol and the combustion engine.

This is just another way of rephrasing the myth that if you don’t have a car, you can’t get a date.

To sum it up, our system has given motoring incredible privilege. The thing that bothers me, though, is that this was done without speaking overtly about it and without a democratic vote.

I believe that before we give almost 100% of our transportation budget to one demographic, we should have a vote of a populace who is well versed in the pros and cons of this radical decision.

Naw, fuck it, let’s just do it without asking anyone. If anyone questions this, we’ll dismiss him as nuts.

Mindfulness Cycling 4/14

August 17, 2012

The Fourth Mindfulness Training: Awareness of Suffering

This is something that I’m super aware of.

“We will do our best not to run away from our own suffering or cover it up through consumption but practice conscious breathing and walking to look deeply into the roots of our suffering.”

I so love this one.

I’d argue that in addition to consumption of alcohol and other things, we also use our anger to run away from our suffering.

Blaming another person, even if they did something wrong, ultimately gets us off the hook from our own responsibility.

Does this mean that we should not look for justice? No, I’d argue that we should look for justice, but that’s not the point of this practice.

I covered this earlier, but activism (working on the outside world) is one thing and practice is another (working on our inside world). I feel that we must focus on both worlds. If anything, we work on our outside world for other people.

But there’s a time for going after criminal motorists and the like and a time to work on our internal suffering. I think that this training is focused on inside suffering.

I also would add to breathing and walking, cycling. I do a lot of good thinking on my bicycle as well as good meditations.

“We know we can only find the path leading to the transformation of suffering when we understand the roots of suffering.”

According to the Buddhist practice, clinging is the root of suffering. I have found, recently, that one thing I cling to very much is the notion of fairness on the road. I been working on tossing out that notion while I’m actually riding.

Obviously, we are all still committed to justice, but in the very act of riding, I am trying not to question a motorist’s actions. For example, was it fair that they passed so fast?

In their mind, YES, it was fair. So it’s ridiculous to try to micro-manage other people’s actions. I just have to worry about my own.

Also, I am using the double column technique from _Feeling Good_ which uses empathy to dispel anger. On one column I write down angry thoughts against the motorist. On the other, I write down my responses from the motorist’s point of view. Also, reading interviews and talking to motorists also shows that they have a kind, compassionate, and fair point of view. However, they don’t realize how scary they are when they try to impose this notion of fairness on people while riding in a huge missile.

They don’t know, but they _should_ know. The key word here is “should” which to me, thanks to reading Albert Ellis is a big red flag. Should Statements usually lead to anger and depression when they are unquestioned and automatic. In nature, there’s no reason why anyone should or should not do anything.

“Once we have understood our own suffering, we will be able to understand the suffering of others.”

I loved this part because it’s so true. Motorists suffer so much in so many ways. I won’t itemize them here, but there’s a lot of pain there.

“We are committed to finding ways, including personal contact and using the telephone, electronic, audiovisual, and other means to be with those who suffer, so we can help them transform their suffering into compassion, peace and joy.”

I see that there’s no notion of the middle finger on this list. 🙂

In general, the thing I do for these people is to leave them alone.

Again, I’m not an emotional super-hero, but some of these phrases and techniques have helped me deal with a lot of my own internal pain and they have made my riding more enjoyable.

It just keeps getting better!

Cyclists Miss Less Work?

August 16, 2012

Recently I had a conversation with a “friend” who was trying to coerce me to buy a car.

I had made the HUGE mistake of mentioning the incident where a co-worker emailed us that he was late for because of traffic. I said that I never think that’s an excuse. Well, she thought it was perfectly reasonable to be late due to traffic because it’s beyond one’s control. I realized that I don’t think this way. I try to give myself a time buffer in case I have to make a bike repair on the way.
She thought that this was ridiculous! Well, I didn’t and this started getting me thinking of a simple experiment:

I think that 50% of emails I get are based on car troubles. I almost
NEVER miss work due to bike troubles. I’ll catch a ride or fix it at
lunch or something, but not on work time.

Anyway here’s a recent email:

“Transmission getting bad. I’ll be out for a while getting it at least
diagnosed.  I’ll be back if I can.”

Wow, I’ll be back if I can.

I’d like to see a survey which compares time missed by motorists due
to car problems and cyclists due to bike troubles…

Also lateness for cycling vs. motorists. If put into the media,
perhaps a bike will be a plus for a job interview and not a black mark
against one.

More Media Driven Hatred (which can be seen as funny)

August 15, 2012

Over time, I am trying (operative word is trying) not to take cars, and traffic and cycling communting too seriously.

Here’s an example of the opposite.

It’s funny the same way that Chaplin’s, The Dictator, is funny. Pompous, self-important people who try to impose themselves on others are hilarious:

“I stopped at a four-way sign, looked all directions, and proceeded into the intersection. Out of nowhere, a bicyclist flew through the stop sign to my left, riding right in front of me, forcing me to slam on the brakes. I came inches from hitting him, but he didn’t notice.”

So she basically almost killed someone and they didn’t notice! If only I had such equanimity when my life is threatened.

Note that I do NOT endorse breaking of traffic laws in any way. Know your laws and follow them at all times while riding your bicycle. (Hello Homeland Security).

“As he pedaled along the right side of the street, I pulled up next to his rickety bike, rolled down my window, and said, “You have to stop at stop signs just like cars do.””

Haha, funny begins. She almost kills someone who was stupid enough to break a traffic law. Now she’s lecturing him like he’s a child. I bet he’s going to take that well.

I wonder if she tracks down motorists who roll stop signs and lectures them, too. Hmmm.

Then he flips her off spits on her, etc. He’s an asshole who does not represent me. My goal in these cases is to dismount and walk my bicycle. I’ll offer any motorist a free coffee so we can discuss the relative merits of traffic laws and the responsibilities of motorists who feel that they need to lecture us on safety.

But it gets better:

“I felt my Sicilian blood boiling as I kept pace with him. “Why is it you think you’re exempt from the law?” ”

My the hell does she feel the need to tail this guy? Pass him and leave him alone. He’s a crazy person.

“Suddenly and without warning, like the snake that he was, Curly whipped his head around and spit at me from the passenger side.”

Haha, there was a HUGE warning. Lecturing someone, especially someone who totally disregards the law is going to get you attacked in many cases. DUH! Also, notice how she dehumanizes him with a derogatory label?

Yes, he is crazy and mean, but he’s probably a human. I can’t be sure as I was not there.

This is what really made me laugh:

“As I hosed Curly’s disgusting spit wads off my windows, I realized he was right about one thing: there was nothing I could do about it. Had he been in a car, I could have gotten his license plate number, but on a bicycle, he was as anonymous as he was arrogant.”


You think that if a motorist runs a stop sign, I catch him and lecture him and he spits on me the police are going to take the plate number and do what?

This is so, so funny.

What a poor victim we have here:

1. She almost killed someone, yes, she didn’t mean to, that’s nice, but one of the reasons I try not to drive is that I fear I will kill someone. That’s my choice. She made her choice. Did she think that motoring was without risks or something?

2. She lectured someone as if they were a child.

3. She chased them down and continued to berate him.

4. She called him spineless while hiding in her car.

Overall, I see two people who have no manners. But notice that the article is written in a manner to fan the flames between the Big and Small Enders? I mean motorists and cyclists–people will find small reasons to hate one another.

I realize that people lose their temper all the time, but I suggest that later on. when we are cool headed to stop penning articles which promote misunderstanding, dehumanization, caricaturization, and hate.

I can forgive road rage, but not hate mongering.

(At least not yet.) 🙂

Mindfulness Cycling 3/14

August 14, 2012

The Third Mindfulness Training: Freedom of Thought

“Aware of the suffering brought about when we impose our views on others, we are determined not to force others, even our children, by any means whatsoever – such as authority, threat, money, propaganda, or indoctrination – to adopt our views.”

For this one, I’m not too bad, I don’t think.

I don’t tell people what to wear nor how to ride their bikes. Heck, I try to avoid giving advice at all, and I don’t even like to help people.

I will answer people’s questions honestly, though. I will help people, if asked in how to choose a first bike and so on, but only to not be a total asshole.

Of course, I am obsessed with all things VC, and this reminds me of them to a T.

I know I am guilty of asking cyclists not to praise VCness and I did implore people to not hurt one another and to follow traffic laws. So for this, I am guilty.

The main thing, for us, is seeing if this can help us to be better humans and cyclists. I can see how I can give up my views on the Law and on clothing.

Perhaps lycra and helmets are really hot and sexy? Perhaps sexy is bad and I should aspire to look like a dork? Perhaps I am losing my mind with this mindfulness.

Overall, to quote Husker Du, I don’t know for sure.

Here’s more mindful goodness:

“We are committed to respecting the right of others to be different, to choose what to believe and how to decide. We will, however, learn to help others let go of and transform fanaticism and narrowness through loving speech and compassionate dialogue.”

Did I tell that person how to live at my last ride? No, I was focused on mindfulness of the body during cycling.

So overall, this one is pretty easy. I know that it precludes many of my screeds, and these, my friend, I’m NOT ready to give up. Not even for enlightenment.

Long live silly mockery! 🙂