Archive for July, 2013

Are Unaccredited “Safety” Classes Putting Us At Risk

July 31, 2013

One thing that always confused me about cycling safety classes is that while the proponents claim that bicycles are vehicles which should be treated equally, when it comes to cycling classes we are unequal.

That is, one of the things that motoring has going for it is that is much government support:

“Selecting a Driving School: Preparing Your Teenager for Driver Education and Driver Training”

Where’s the link to “Selecting a Cycling Safety Class”?

The thing is that these education programs have structure that is spoken about in the government run web sites:

“California law requires a person under the age of 18 to complete one of the following classroom driver education and driver training courses:

25 hours of classroom instruction (not including breaks or time for meals), or home study or Internet training program (must be equivalent to classroom instruction requirements).
6 hours of Behind-the-Wheel training.
50 hours of supervised driving practice that includes 10 hours of driving during darkness.”

I find it to be very comforting and important that there is a standard format for classes.

In fact I think that unaccredited classes should be illegal. Or at the very least they should have to note that they are totally unaccredited and that their material has not been vetted by an expert agency.


Diamond Provides Inc, Scofflaw?

July 26, 2013

Note that this post is legalistic speculation and is only provided for “entertainment purposes”. I am not a lawyer, but I wish I had one on my bike ride today.

LTRs know that I ride, each morning through the Qualcomm Stadium Bicycle Path. This is listed as a Class I bicycle path in wikipedia:

“Murphy Canyon Road Bike Path: Southbound starts at the south end of Murphy canyon Road and exits in the North East Part of Qualcomm Stadium.”

Wikipedia is NEVER wrong! 🙂

While riding, I noticed that they were putting up a fence. Now, I don’t really mind this fence because, I know a way around it, and I realize that while to fence off a normal road would get lots of outrage because it’s disrespectful which is why there is much prior warning to such a thing, in the cycling world, we are totally used to be disrespected by people all the time. It’s like good, normal people suddenly lose all their manners when dealing with cycling. So more than anything, this hurt my sensitive feelings a little.

However, the thing that made me angry is that they left their parts behind a k-rail in such a way that I almost rode over them at high speed. I would have been seriously hurt. Despite having almost hospitalized another humans, the workers showed no remorse. Which is par for the course.

I did call the company which is Diamond Provides, Inc. Phone: 888-744-7191.

They apologized for almost putting me in the hospital, and they promised, in the future, to have prior warning with signs, a week in advance, cones to show the dangerous zone, and an alternate detour with signs on the day of the event.

Just kidding.

They hung up on me.

I tried to explain in car terms because when you talk to a motorist they just don’t get cycling as transportation at all. It’s like their mind, even in intelligent people, just fails to operate properly. I asked them if they ever had the road blocked. They said “What?”. I was put onto a different person who was also confused when I told them that they were blocking the road in Qualcomm Stadium.

It turns out that this might actually be illegal:

“(b) No person may place or park any bicycle, vehicle, or any other object upon any bikeway or bicycle path or trail, as specified in subdivision (a), which impedes or blocks the normal and reasonable movement of any bicyclist unless the placement or parking is necessary for safe operation or is otherwise in compliance with the law.”

I’m not a lawyer, but I think that a fence is “any other object…which impedes..reasonable movement.”

And thus this fence is illegal.

The Myth of “Bike Culture”

July 14, 2013

One of the more presvasive and annoying notions is that in certain European cultures, there’s a “bike culture” where people like bikes due to their upbringing. The implication is that Americans, who do not have a bike culture, will not ride bicycles even if we get the infrastructure.

While this is a nice fairy tale, it does not match my experience.

I, for one, was raised in car culture, and now I do not own a car; I ride my bicycle everywhere.

How did this amazing experience happen? Mainly, I was in the right place at the right time. Parking and other fees were too high to make a motor vehicle practical for me at the time. Destinations were close enough so that riding a bicycle made the most sense. That’s it.

Let’s look at a bike culture person, someone from Denmark who I met while she was researching here master’s thesis on bicycles. She told me that if she moved to San Diego, she would not ride a bicycle anywhere because it made no sense.

So there you go, Ms. Bike culture is not on a bicycle, while Mr. Car culture is.

Sure, this is isolated to two people. Except that it isn’t. If you go out and ask people, they know how to ride bicycles in the United States. This means that they rode a bike in the past. In fact, I think that if you ask, you’ll find that the vast majority of Americans have spent some time on bicycles. Thus, we have a “bike culture”, too. In fact, I suggest that the next person who says, “we don’t need to waste government money for your hobby”, offer to teach him how to ride a bicycle. I bet nine times out of ten, he’ll admit to all ready knowing and thus admitting that he, too, is a “cyclist”.

Now that we have debunk the notion that there’s this monolithic “culture” that each person has that solely controls all of their decisions, the critics will start to get desparate, like they always do, and they will start to break things down in to little categories and try to win that category. (This is the next predicatable fall back position).

They will admit that there are many Americans who cycle for fun or for fitness, but how many of them will ride their bicycles to Costco. My answer, I don’t care. If we make it possible for people to ride bicycles for fun then they will get fitter. Happiness and better health are enough for me. If you look at other things that are supposed to provide happiness and health and the amount of money that people spend in only ONE category, you’ll find that cycling infrastructure is an amazing bargain. For the price of a few dozen parking spots and a few million dollars, you can give the benefit of cycling for HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF TRIPS over the lifetime of that cyclist.

For example, we are considering eliminating seventy or so parking spots in a dense area of San Diego for cycling. This seems like a lot, in a given day, won’t more than seventy cyclists ride down that street? I think so. If photos of places where there are good cycling facilities are to be believed such as the board walk in San Diego, you’ll find far more than seventy people rolling down a given area per minute. Thus, if we are going to roll with “everyone needs parking” standard which means that we must provide things for what everyone needs. And we all ready have a glut of parking, but that’s beyond the scope of this discussion.

The point is that when conditions are right, there are a lot of people who will bicycle if they are given the right conditions. In fact, I’d go as far to say that _any_ able bodied person will ride given the right incentive. This is easier than one might think. In fact, I have found that those who speak out the loudest against bicycles are the ones who most want to ride. Again for the skim trolls, THE LOUDEST CYCLING CRITICS ARE THE MOST BIKE CURIOUS. I feel that this includes even Dorthy Rubinowitz.

That’s because those people who whine about bicycling are thinking about it all the time. You can’t bitch about something without putting that very thing you bitch about in your mind. Not only that, but in my experience, I have seen people who came off, initially, as super-anti-cycling to consider riding very easily. And it wasn’t me convincing them because I don’t believe in doing that. If people don’t want to ride, I respect that and don’t try to change people. These people changed over time.

One person constantly talked about how dangerous cycling was and how I put his wife in danger when I rode my bicycle because she might hit me with her car. He also mocked me in the generic Hollywood, anti-cycling way. A few weeks later, he comes back and asks me for suggestions on riding. He mentions that he wants to ride for fitness but he’s too scared. Critic to bike curious number 1.

Next person tells me that she’s super happy sitting in traffic and that she will NEVER ride to a club or to work because of her hair. A few weeks later, she’s asking for route information to work. She drops the whole thing when she realizes how hard it would be, but this is still a total reversal in attitude. She also mentions that she has a girl friend who rides bikes with her boyfriend and she wants to join them on a bicycle. Critic to bike curious two.

Another person, when she found out that I found out that I rode to work would inflict me with stories of bicycle accidents. Now she wants to get in on our weekend rides to the beach. Critic to bike curious three.

I could go on. Anyone who says negative things, initially, ultimately comes around, with no prompting from me to give me some positive connection that they have around bicycles as well as future plans that they have for riding.

Thus, the take home message is that not only do Americans like to ride bicycles, when they are not constantly bombarded by anti-cycling messages in the media, but we shouldn’t take seriously the initial anti-cycling responses that we get for people. That is, AMERICANS ACTUALLY LIKE RIDING BICYCLES THAN THEY WOULD ADMIT.

Thus, in America, we have a bike culture which, despite massive spending and coercion to the contrary, is quite healthy. This culture is underground and people are often not totally open about how much they actually do like bicycles because it’s not socially acceptable to do so. Thus I’d like to stop hearing from self-appointed bike xperts how much Americans don’t have a “bike culture”. You’re just perpetuating the problem.

Crash Data Fallacies

July 12, 2013

LTRs know that I have been working with crash data for quite some time now.

I have gone from being confused about the cause of crashes to having a good idea on how crashes occur and back to being confused. I think confused is the right place to be.

To recap, there are only a few parameters which determine whether you will live or die in a bicycle crash.

First is speed, how fast you are going and how fast the cars are going. It you stay below twenty miles per hour, you’ll probably live. If you ride in areas where the average traffic speed is twenty five or below, you’ll probably live.

That’s it. All the other data is gibberish because it does not predict future crash survival.

Deadly collisions occur everywhere and they kill people regardless of skill, lane positioning, and helmets.

Part of the problem, I think is that this is NOT what people want to hear. They want to ride fast AND feel safe.

Because of this, we get the notions of Crash Data Analysis. The idea is to look at crash data in order to determine why and how the crash occurred so you can, hopefully, learn lessons that you can use to prevent yourself from getting into a crash.

On the face of it, this is a good idea. However, there are many problems with it. One of them is that the biggest proponants of this, routinely obsess over smaller dangers while ignoring larger ones.

For example, what’s more likely? A right hook or a left one? What happens more often collisions in the intersections or in the travel lane? What’s more likely to kill you, a dooring or a rear ending?

The answers to these questions depend on how you lump the data together as well as what sources you look at. You can make “edge riding” look more deadly by combing all kinds together, legal (bike lane) and illegal (sidewalk riding). Or you can make “taking the lane” seem safer by cutting the data into sub-catagories based on time and fashion choices while concealing the total.

If you look at the data from the point of view of deciding where and how to ride, you’ll find that you matter where you choose to ride, you can find people who died riding there. This does not make all cycling unsafe but it does tell us that there are limitations to crash data analysis.

Malcolm Gladwell is guilty of making a similar mistake. []

“Yet, like a golf tournament filled with the world’s greatest players, air travel is a marvelous display of perfection: airplanes manage to land millions of times every year with very few accidents.”

The same is true for cycling. Most cyclists, whether they ride on the sidewalk, with or without a helmet, inside or outside the door zone, on a path, on a track, on in the middle of the road do so safely.

If you think about all the dangers, the lack of cycling education, the “conflict points”, the negligent driving, the rapant law breaking (by motorists and cyclists), and the lack of focus (mostly by motorists, but not always), you will wonder how someone can ride a bicycle anywhere safely. But they do. More often than not. A LOT more often than not. And most of us don’t wear helmets, don’t take classes, and don’t like to ride next to high speed cars. But we’re still more likely than not to survive a given bicycle ride.

“Like the golf gallery surrounding an errant ball landed among the trees, we surround and gawk at every minute detail of the latest airplane crash. We run through all kinds of scenarios about what went wrong, and talk about them.”

“I am not an exception; watching a tournament, I also fixate on the golfers’ mistakes. When I see a golfer hitting a poor shot, I take a moment trying to recreate the swing in my mind, trying to see if I could identify what went wrong. I picture the golfer making his approach to the ball; the stance; the back swing; the alignment of the club head when the back swing reaches the top; the down swing; location of the hip during the down swing; the follow-through. Then I think about the path of the ball flight, and try to identify which part of the swing contributed to the deviation from the intended path.”

There is nothing wrong with doing this. But we are only doing so AFTER the fact. The worst part is that we assume that what they were doing: riding with ear phones, sidewalk riding, etc, contributed to the accident. But doing so ignores all those thousands of times when we do those things and we are safe. It also ignores all those times when people do things the so-called RIGHT way, and they still die. This happens far, far more often than people think. And all the safety organizations in the world, who teach behavior modification, can not save a single cyclist from a motorist who’s out of control. There’s no place on the road or even the sidewalk that will make you safe 100% of the time.

But there are ways to make the roads safer. These methods are tested, reliable, and ought to be implemented.

Current Land Use Policies are Tools of Forced Economic Redistribution

July 11, 2013

One of the more sensible, but still stupid anti-cycling argument, often made by cyclists themselves, is that San Diego is “too spread out” to ride.

I have pointed out that this is a temporary problem which is currently being addressed by infilling projects which are the natural and proper response to both economic downturns and the increase in local population.

The fact is that people don’t want to sit in traffic for hours each day, but the state highly subsidizes this harmful and undesirable activity.

While there is always whining about the tiny number of people who are projected to use world class cycling infrastructure, from the same people, there is little complaint about the insane amount of money we squander each year to pay people live in the middle of nowhere.

This causes massive problems such as freeway congestions, cost over runs, and now these people are losing their homes to wildfires.

It boggles my mind why the so-called fiscally conservative Republicans who claim to want to “balance the budget” continue to allow those who live far from the center to bankrupt us all.

If we only built more responsibly from the start, we’d have so much money that the pension issue would not be an issue.

Instead, we have a series of hidden taxes and regulation which promote a certain “Way of Life” which benefits the very few by ripping off the rest of us.

Here’s one example:

” The U.S. Federal Communications Commission has wasted hundreds of millions of dollars on telephone subsidies, with some rich areas of the country receiving up to US$23,000 per line per year from the agency’s Universal Service Fund, according to a new study….The result of the program is that poor urban telephone customers are subsidizing rural telephone customers who don’t need the subsidy, Wallsten said. The USF high-cost fund is funded through a tax on long-distance phone service, and the tax is 15.8 percent this year.” []

There are many more ways where the government sponsored pro-sprawl lobby has taxed the rest of us for the very few. For example, the water pipes and electrical lines that go out to houses in the middle of nowhere are paid for by all of us. It takes about 3 million dollars to pay for a single mile of water pipe. So when someone whines that they had to drive 60 minutes to work so that they can live in a slighlty cheaper and slightly larger house, they have wasted up to $180 million dollars of our money!

Next time someone says that we’re too broke to build a way for people to get to work safey, we should suggest that the real freeloaders who make up a tiny fraction of our population are those who live far, far away from our city which costs far too much money and thus causes those budget short falls in the first place.

Cycling and the Abusive Uncle

July 9, 2013

LTRs may skip.

I feel really conflicted about this story:

On one hand, I agree that people should not threaten others. It’s super-weak.

I believe that the idea of a threat is a rehersal for future violence. I think that threatening people makes one feel better like killing makes a serial killer feel better. There are some people, in our world, who should feel bad not good. Nobody really thinks that people should ignore all their other values to make themselves feel good.

I’m also super-disappointed that the Powers That Be don’t use their spying powers to investigate these “killers in their minds”. We have the tools and whether or not people like it or not, we’re using them to harass people of certain ethnicities and religions. Why not go after some people who are known to kill? Motoring is the biggest threat to cyclists. Building dangerous roads, ignoring threats, and not following up on people’s deaths is to act as a collaborator in their demise because we set up the circumstances where we know, for certain, bad things will happen when we could have averted them.

However, I also feel that we should not have revenge in mind, and seeking justice is often a proxy for seeking revenge. I was inspired by that Amish family who met with the motoring killer of their son and forgave him, telling him that “God brought their families together for a reason.” I seek to emulated this and to always forgive even though it’s way, way harder for me.

But there’s an even bigger elephant in the room: Vehicular Cyclists. I know that talking negatively about any cyclist “hurts the community”, but by ignoring the damage that the Vehicular Cyclists, we are letting them run rough shod. This is like an abusive uncle who’s crimes are covered up so we don’t “make the family look bad.” I say let’s out these abusive bastards and let everyone know what they are up to. And these are not my words, but EVERYONE I HAVE EVER MET HATES VEHICULAR CYCLISTS. THE ONLY PEOPLE WHO THINK IT’S A GOOD IDEA ARE BRAINWASHED BY THE CLASSES. (See my post on tripods). That’s why I call taking a class “climbing in my tripod.”

Most people think that whatever they learn in a class is awesome. For example, I took a class on NACTO and I think it’s awesome. If taking a single class on something makes you an xpert, then I’m an expert on NACTO. 🙂

But things go deeper than just denouncing Vehicular Cyclists. The problem is that I have friends who ride a bit too far in road and do other dangerous things, and I don’t know how to talk to them about it. Then they get into problems like getting buzzed which only happens to me when I go on high speed roads that don’t have a bike lane (go figure). Since I don’t want to be a preachy asshole, I remain silent. I also remain silent when they complain about road side harassment. I don’t want to “blame the victim.” But where’s the line between blaming a victim and preventing harm? For example, if a toddler wants to jump into a shark pool should I let him?

Look at how badly Rob Ford was treated when he talked about “swimming with sharks.” But wasn’t this partly true? I mean, I don’t want to ride on a road with trucks on it. I’d rather be in a much safer cycle track. So how do I mention this to people without looking like a condone bad behavior? I don’t. I hate douchy cyclists AND douchy motorists. I hope they build cycle tracks soon so I can turn my back on the mess and let the motorists and cyclists fight it out. I mean, bikes have been around for over 100 years. At what point in time are they going to be “expected and accepted” if we spent a whole century working on “mixing it up”?

When motorists talk to me about bad cyclists, I agree with them. I let them know that I never “take the lane” and I strongly disapprove. We both walk away from the conversation feeling better about one another and I might add more respectful which is all the muderous motorists above want.


Yes, the motorists should contain themselves. Yes, we should not harass people. Yes, I should be less angry and more forgiving.

But this is not the real world. In the real world, we have to deal with real people who have not changed in 100 years. I have found a way which works for me, but I have to continue to stand silent while my friends, who are confused by asshole vehicular cyclists, suffer.

Thanks VC assholes.

Urban Futurism: Why the Future?

July 3, 2013

Before we describe the future, we should describe what the future is not.

Looking towards a better future does not mean turning our backs on the past nor does it necessarily mean sacrificing our present happiness for a happiness in a future that will never come.

Rather we must see that many if not all of our present day problems stem from our tendency to reach for a logical and fiscally responsible solution which will solve our present problems. What we fail to see if that these decisions, incrementally, will cause more problems than they solve. Thus, when we have a “solution” to a problem, we have to ask ourself a few questions.

Did we use this “solution” before? If so why do we still have the same problem? How long will this “solution” last? What happens when the “solution” no longer works? What if we apply this same “solution” over a hundred years? A thousand years?

Viewed in this light, many solutions which look good can be seen to causing more problems, ultimately, than they solved.

For example, motoring promised us to allow us to escape the city into the countryside. Then we realized we could live in the countryside and the city was a short commute away. Now that countryside is gone; it’s replaced by suburbs. So we move further out into the countryside without realizing the whole reason that we need to move is because we didn’t take care of where we were all ready. The solution has become the problem.

So the question to ask is, when does it end? When we widen a freeway today, won’t we just have to widen it again, tomorrow? Then again tomorrow? If you take this to the ultimate conclusion, there is nothing but freeway left. So you have to ask yourself when we are going to be “done”? When will be stop building freeways? Nobody has answers to these questions. In fact, we often use Thought Stopping phrases such “war on cars”. Thinking about how we are going to manage our land and transportation problem is not a war, it’s common sense.

The same goes for “historic preservation”. We look at a house and realize that it’s nice, houses like it won’t be built anymore, and it informs us of another time. Great! But when we take this logic and extend it, over time, everything will be a historic district! There will be nothing to change ever. So again, where to we stop. With this mindset, we have nothing, but super old buildings, freeways, and parking lots. There will be no place for us to grow.

The same goes for growth itself. Instead of talking about how to “stop growth” we should ask the question, “how to manage it so that our environment get better with growth?” If we assume that growth is bad then ultimately, we’ll come up with the solution that a few people have proposed all ready: wall San Diego off from the rest of the country.

Yes, this solution is impractical, immoral, and insane, but it’s what we get when we start out with broken assumptions and close our minds to solutions with such nonsense as “freedom”, “socialism”, and “social engineering”.

We’re going to grow. That’s a fact. We can continue to sprawl out until we reach the absolute limit. There’s no open spaces and everything is pretty much the same suburban eyesores that we get when we build everything to “code” which was created by a patchwork of interests and ultimately ends up favoring those who have the best legal team to sort out the snarl of red tape that well meaning “citizen’s groups” have created over the years.

Or we can start over. Let’s wipe out all thoughts save for how we can make things better.

I’m not bright enough to solve this problem, but there are people who are. Why should I stand in their way?

Thus, I’m in favor of the wholesale removal of regulations which limit development. No more CEQA nor any other “environmental regulations.” Complying with CEQA is part of why our local roads are so bloated and CEQA is the stated reason, by government officials on why it’s so hard to close streets and to build bike infrastructure. Bye-bye CEQA.

Say bye to freeway widening and road building, we have done enough destruction of real estate. People need to live somewhere.

Bye-bye to parking restrictions and height restrictions on buildings. Unless we start getting enforced sterilizations or we start shipping the assholes out of San Diego, we will grow. We need to put people somewhere. These restrictions are causing us to suck up open spaces which is the very thing many of these regulations are trying to protect.

Bye-bye historic districs. People can purchase and maintain their own historic buildings…how ever they wish. They don’t need a self-appointed commitee who gives their own biased version of history to tell people what to do with their property.

Bye-bye to fear. If you read the plans that the government has for the city, it’s scary. They have a tax and spend attitude towards transportation and they will not rest until they force each and every one of us into a car or they allow us to die and call it an “unavoidable accident.” Let’s build out the other options so we can let a truly free market rule. If public transportation, walking, and cycling are not as safe and fast as motoring then nobody will use them. There is no free market when the government spends all of it’s money on motoring–that means the government has decided to “pick winners (cars) and losers (everyone else)”. We tried that all ready and all that we got was continual complaints. When was the last time someone said something nice about parking or their commute?

And finally bye-bye to the thought stopping nonsense like “socialism” and all that junk. We don’t need people who are uniformed with the real problems facing us to toss around words that they do not understand in order to stop solutions created by those of us who are far more intelligent. Not every stupid and uninformed person needs to be heard.

Let’s wipe out all the ideological nonsense which caused all these problems to begin with and allow people to create a myriad of real solutions that can really compete in the public marketplace.