Friday, July 29, 2011

my nerves are shot.

Dear Chafed,

How is the experiment going with having the kids ride their own bicycles to camp in the morning?


- Imaginary Reader

Dear Imaginary,

I have six words for you:

Three crashes in three days.*


Crash #1 was on Monday.  We are rolling along Sand Hill Road.  We are in a bike lane but there is plenty of heavy-breathing commuter car traffic to our left and I am Not at my Calmest.  As is her wont, Sparkle Pony is allowing more and more distance to develop between her and Red Leader (aka Contraption Captain) with the result that Contraption Captain goes through a red green (sorry for the typo CC!) light, Sparkle Pony arrives at the same light and observes it turn yellow, Sparkle Pony slams on the brakes, and Rapunzel collides with her.

Rapunzel (7 years) takes it surprisingly well but her front fender is de-railed.  We limp in to Contraption Captain's place of work for a repair and continue on to camp after a discussion about stopping gradually and not killing your sister.

Tuesday brings us to Crash #2.  Different intersection but same result.  Light turns yellow and Sparkle Pony stops on a dime.  Rapunzel does not.  Rapunzel collides with Sparkle Pony and gets a long scrape on her back.  Now I'm mad and I complain aggressively to Sparkle Pony who cries.  It is not a good ride.  I mean, no one dies but I start to wonder about cars and whether I should spend more time in them. 

Wednesday and (yes, really) we arrive at Crash #3.  Rapunzel has had enough and is being towed in a wagon where she can sing and play with her toys and feel generally safe from attack by her older sister.  We are heading down a hill and Sparkle Pony (who very much enjoys signaling) is signaling a left hand turn and hitting the brakes when she flies off her bicycle.  I can't believe it.  To her credit Sparkle Pony gets right to her feet and pulls up her bicycle and resists attempts to apply sympathy and comfort.  She says she is fine and indeed she appears fine.  We get to camp without any additional incident.

This is the last week of camp.  Up until this point we were doing quite well.  Rapunzel loves to bike.  Sparkle Pony loves to bike (and apparently has had the opportunity to work out a few aggressions on her younger sister) and I...kindof prefer biking with just Contraption Captain at this point.  We're still doing fine if you ignore the big bald patches on my head =(

*That's right, my nerves are so shot I can't even count anymore.  Which is a problem since I'm an engineer (not the train kind either) and numbers Matter.

was it good for you? no. really. was it good for you?

In the morning this road is a little residential road which could stand re-paving.  In the evening it's a way too narrow road that could stand some re-paving.  In the evening there are cars parked on both sides of the road and that shrinks it down to about 1.5 car lanes, aka not really enough for cars traveling in two different directions.

This little road is a bit of a thoroughfare for bicycles.  It steers some to a bike bridge and others to bicycle boulevard.  It steers a third group towards yet another bike bridge that takes riders to downtown past a library.  The 1.5 car lanes fit a lot of bicycles because we are so skinny.  I note that the reason the cars have a hard time fitting down this road is not because the road is too narrow, it's because the cars (parked and moving) are too fat. 

It's after work and Contraption Captain and I are bicycling towards home, talking and leaning towards each other as we recount our days.  We are riding side by side and watching for car doors.  A car comes up behind us and I can tell from the way it's frothing at the mouth that it is frantic to get past these two horrible side by side obstacles.  I mentally shrug and move behind Contraption Captain.

The car passes us on the left but of course the road is so narrow, has been made so skinny with parked cars that the car is now in oncoming traffic.  And there is oncoming traffic.  Car #2 turns the corner at this moment and leans all over their horn in absolute outrage at seeing oncoming traffic in their lane, admittedly an unpleasant experience.  Car #1 gets in front of us but can't actually go any faster because we were traveling at about 15mph and that's about what this road can take. 

Car #1 gets to a stop sign but is so ruffled by having had to slow down for a bicyclist that they don't really stop which is a shame as there is a pedestrian crossing the street in the crosswalk.  The pedestrian (who appears to be a grouchy old man type of pedestrian) pauses in front of the car to scream at them and chastise them for not stopping and for their generally bad behavior.

Contraption Captain and I smother laughter. 

Car #1 finally makes it past the pedestrian and takes off with his exhaust pipe between his legs.  Or something.

This brings me to a picture I saw yesterday.  It's a picture of a supremely grief-striken girl holding a sign encouraging people to "Walk for Life" to support breast cancer research.  The sign indicates thet her mother has died of the disease.  It's a tragic and moving picture.  I looked at it for a long time, hoping that I would not die when my children were small and still needing me.  People wrote in talking about the importance of a cure so that no one else's mother dies.  All true, ok? 


I just want to say this: 

Without any research. 
Without any fund-raising. 
Without any act from Congress. is in our power to save lives now. 

Is it 200 feet to the end of the road?  Do you really need to pass that bicyclist?  Why not wait, that would be safer.  Is it a stop sign?  Think about stopping.  Do you not want to stop because those damn bicyclists don't stop?  Hey, didn't your mother tell you that just because everyone jumps off a cliff doesn't mean you should jump to?  Do right.  Turn away from wrong.

Nearly all of us drive cars at least some of the time and most of us drive all of the time.  Everyone who drives a car has the power to save a life.  Now.  Today.  Without research.  Yield and allow another driver onto the highway.  Let someone go in front of you who is signaling that they need to turn off.  Wait for that little kid on her bike who is slow to get underway when the light turns green.  Be slow and be patient and drive gently and you will be the person who saves someone's mother, someone's child, someone's friend, someone's husband.

Monday, July 25, 2011

It begins with you.

On July 24, a pleasant lazy Sunday for many of us, a well loved software engineer was driving back to his home after running a few errands.  A second car slammed into his BMW and killed him instantly.  Steve Lacey leaves behind a wife he loved and two little kids he treasured.  The person who killed him was (maybe) drunk and claims to have been in pursuit of another car "that cut me off" when they ended his life and broke the hearts of Lacey's family and friends. 

Don't drive drunk.
Don't use your car as a weapon when you are angry.
Don't use your car as a weapon!
Don't kill someone's wife.
Don't kill someone's husband.
Don't kill someone's father or mother or sister or brother. 
Don't do what cannot be undone.

Save someone.


Friday, July 22, 2011

I have seen the soldiers of bicycling. And they're very cute.

Ever since writing about The Pretties aka the Beautiful Godzillas I've been noticing cute girl bicyclists.  I saw a beautiful woman with straight black hair and an imperious gaze and a taupe bicycle with turquoise trim standing on the wrong side of the road while waiting for a light to turn.  I've seen pairs of young women bicyclists riding side by side inclining their heads towards each other to share a joke And No One Bothers Them.  I've reviewed every close-call incident I've ever had with another bicyclist and confirmed, it's never been a Pretty.  They do whacked out stuff like ride on the sidewalk or up the wrong side of the street or stopping suddenly to  check their make-up or fingernails but they do not have near death experiences like the rest of us.  Why?  They're supremely slow.  A good roadie is travelling at 26mph andwhen things get dodgy disaster strikes fast.  Pretty Godzillas?  They literally don't want to break a sweat.  Sweating is for losers.  Sweating is for Uglies aka you and me.

It was an incident of a few nights back though that sealed the deal for me.  The setting:  a pleasant summer evening.  I'd left work and biked the eight miles or so as fast as I fucking could.  My backpack was glued to my sweaty back.  My hair was stuck to my face.  I probably had bugs on my teeth, I often do.  I was delighted with the number of roadies I'd cooked on the way home and then I got to the intersection of El Camino and Sand Hill.  That was when I saw them:  Two Pretties, a matched set.

Their bicycles were boring and cheap, washed up mountain bicycles from some department store that was having a going out of business sale.  These particular Pretties looked to be about eighteen years old.  The one nearest me turned her Thoroughbred head and gave me a vapid gaze that communicated that she vaguely saw something nearby that appeared to be totally middle-aged and obsolete.  Ewww.

I looked at her with interest.  She had on a dark blue bra made of something soft.  Over the bra she had on a pale pink tank top with spaghetti straps.  Her shoulders were a little bit tan.  She had long dark honey-colored hair.  She was wearing incredibly tiny denim shorts that barely covered her rump.  Her friend was dressed similarly and they shared similarly bored expressions on their symmetrical faces.

The light turned green.  Denim Shorts had left her bicycle in a supremely high gear.  She pedals off slowly, languidly.  She has a fantastic rump.  I mean I'm female and I could see that this was the kind of rump that can make a guy cry.  And this rump with this jeans is standing on her pedals and turning the cranks in super slow motion.

I heard a pin drop.

This is the intersection where every goddamned day the light turns green for me and a dozen fucking cars run that light because the only traffic is from hapless bicyclists.  Not that evening.  This was the day not a car ran the light.  In fact, this was the day I saw one guy get out of his car and put his hand over his heart and salute.  There was another one on his knees next to the wheelhub of his Jeep Cherokee either praying and having a religious experience or moaning and having a heart attack.  I'm not sure which but he looked pretty happy about it.

I mutely followed The Rump across the street and then took off for home, a realization growing within my bitter old chest.

If we're going to be saved, it will be The Pretties who save us.  Who cares about running over a few kids?  Well as long as no jail time is involved, I mean they probably had it coming, right?  And grandma?  She likely had one foot in the grave already, you're doing her a favor.  And roadies?  Ugly clothes and weird expressions on their faces.  Commuters?  Uglier and weirder.  Also sweaty.

But a beautiful girl in tiny shorts on a bicycle?  This, my friends, is something worth stopping for.  I for one salute our new bicycle overlords.

don't be that guy (if only because it can get expensive)

My commute in to work (and towards camp for the kids) leads down a long straight hill with a divided road, two lanes of traffic going in each direction and a big wide bike lane for the bicycles.  Which is good because the traffic here moves fast and a skinny bike lane would be scary.  Part way down the hill there is an intersection.  Here the road fans out with three additional lanes (bringing our total to five lanes for just one direction!  Those lucky cars!  Has anyone ever seen five bike lanes?  Yeah I didn't think so) with two for car-people going left, two for car-people going straight, one for car-people turning right.  The bike lane turns into a skinny avenue between the right hand lane and the straight lane. 

So far so good.

Car is heading downhill towards the intersection.  They wish to take a right on red.  The straight-going traffic is way backed up however, waiting for a green.  What to do?

If you guessed "drive down the bike lane" you would be correct.  Which happens to be illegal but whatever.

So this morning we are riding down the bike lane towards the red light.  Contraption Captain, Sparkle Pony, and then me pulling Rapunzel.  As a bicyclist I am a noticer and as a bicyclist mom out with her kids I am a noticer times ten thousand so here is what I notice:

1.  The back of a black car that is pulled entirely off the road.  A person standing by the car.
2.  I see a newer generic Red Car pull out of car lane and into bike lane.

#1 is not in the bike lane at all and has no brake lights etc so it's dropping off my radar.
#2 makes me shake my head and laugh and feel annoyed all at the same time.  It's not a close call or anything but people abruptly pulling into the bike lane like this open the door to people pulling into the bike lane on top of me or one of my family.  I have no desire to be mounted by 3,000 pounds of hot red metal, thanks.

Then what happens?

1.  I see the person by the car move into the bike lane.
2.  I see Red Car pull *back* into the car lane.

What do I think?

"Ohhh, hey, that's so sweet and hopeful!!  Red Car must have seen my nice family and done the right thing."  Except maybe not.  Now I see what Red Car has noticed.  That black car on the shoulder is a POLICE CAR OMFG!  POLICE!  POLICE!!  POLIIIIIICE!  YOU ARE SO SCREWED!

Cop is holding a camera in his hand.  Cop has clearly photographed Red Car doing the Naughty.  Red Car tries to hide among the other cars but Cop gestures angrily that Red Car needs to pull over so he can be spanked as an example to all the other commuters.  Driving to work having already blown a chunk of your paycheck on a donation to your local PD is so civic minded.  Or something. 

Cop sees the three bicyclists and one wagon check their progress and gestures us through. 

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

the kids are alright.

Following recovery from her cold Rapunzel wanted to get back into bicycling to camp which made me happy.  I do not mind towing her as the trip is long and the hour early but I love the idea that she is excited about bicycling and I am proud of how she is handling herself. 

So Monday we were going along pretty well.  Contraption Captain in the lead (I'm reminded of Make Way For Ducklings) and then Sparkle Pony a dignified second, Rapunzel third, and then Chafe City.... with a packet of ninja throwing stars for any drivers who come too close to the bike lane's white line.

We clear the Stanford Mall and cross El Camino and begin our charge towards Bryant Street where the traveling is easier.  Ding ding ding!  Railway crossing.  Train.  We pull up and wait for the train to go by.  Train goes by.  Gate come back up.  Contraption Captain and Sparkle Pony head across.  Rapunzel is just on the crossing with me behind her when the bell starts ringing.  Again.  She is seven and does not know that she can just continue on and be ok, she is sure that a train is imminent and she is at least worried she might die but hopeful that her mother can save the day.  She halts and panics and tries to back her bicycle up with her still on it.  This goes:  not well. 

I pat her back and move her off the bike and steer her under the gate and then quickly drag myself and the two bikes under the gate with me and then I back us off until we are at least close to the white line.  The lights are flashing red and the bell is very loud.  Neither of us enjoy the experience much.  I pat Rapunzel's back some more and the second train hurtles by. 

I glance towards the cars lined up and waiting, gauging their level of humanity as they will be briefly held up by us.  The middle-aged woman behind the wheel of the car in front meets my eye and the look she gives me is one of purest compassion and sympathy and kindness.  Someone's little kid just had a bad scare.  Rapunzel does not cry.  She gets back on her bike and we cross the tracks and bear left towards Bicycle Boulevard.  No car honks. 

Rapunzel tells me that the gate should have just stayed down after the first train.  I agree with her.  I say "if you ever find yourself stuck on tracks with your bicycle, what do you do?"  Rapunzel says "Drop the bicycle and get off the tracks."  I agree.  Sparkle Pony adds "Because you can't replace us, but you can replace a bicycle." 


Monday, July 18, 2011

something about just past middle-aged white guys

There is a certain kind of guy who I am especially wary around.

  • They are always white professionals.  
  • Their wives have (finally) left them and taken them for every cent they have.  
  • They're forced to drive a second rate sports car when their pals are driving BMWs and Boxsters.  
  • They haven't been laid in over a year.  That last time they had to pay and frankly she didn't seem all that into it.
  • If they have kids the kids do not call.  
  • They definitely do not have a dog, dogs have more sense.  
  • At some point they figure out that their co-workers have always known that those stories about 'nam are totally bogus.

And they really hate bicyclists.

We saw one of these loser white-hole-drivers today.  Contraption Captain and I were heading home from work.  A quiet wide road is briefly un-lined.  On the far left is a turn lane for going into a strip mall with a grocery store.  The far right lane is for people turning towards several apartment complexes.  The go straight lane is for people, well, going straight towards another residential area and the intersection has a 4-way stop.

This kind of driver especially hates two bicyclists riding side by side because it reminds them that no one in their right mind would want to be by their side.  We were not riding side by side however.  Contraption Captain was in front and heading up the lane for going straight.  I was behind him.

I watch White Guy Whose Dick May Drop Off  From Inaction as he shakes his fist at my guy and takes both hands off the wheel to demonstrate his contempt for a bicyclist who has the nerve to not be on the sidewalk with the kids walking out for a fro-yo.  He steps on the gas and zooms past my guy, gesturing rudely.  I cross my fingers and Contraption Captain wisely stays calm.

Hey White Guy.  Glad you weren't overly feeling your oats.  Because.  If you had touched a hair on my man's head I would have caught right up to you, reached into your shitty vehicle and torn your nuts off and crushed them in my fist before your eyes cause that's just how I roll.

Instead White Guy careens up the street, driving way too fast for a quiet tree-lined road.  He's shaking his head at the horror of having been briefly behind a bicyclist who clearly gets more in an hour than he gets in a year.

And then he turns onto our street.

So another thing, White Guy.  I don't know how many times I have to warn you people about this.  Never never poop in your own yard.  I know where you park your car.  Keying is for pansies but you have four tires and six windows that are very naked to me.



Saturday, July 16, 2011

The Patron Saint of Bicyclists

I arrived on the West Coast a demoralized ex-bicyclist.  A year later my friendship with the Contraption Captain had blossomed and he suggested we bike to work together.  I rode an old Specialized mountain bike a friend had given him and he had repaired.  It was a ~9 mile trip but I made it pretty easily.  The next day we rode together again.  After that it was easy to bicycle to and from work and it was not until some months later that the Contraption Captain looked up and said, "hey, you never went back to driving your car, did you."  I had not.  I had found something better.

The other area mothers paid a kind of lip service of approval with responses to my bicycling that looked like this:

1.  Now I know how you stay so thin!  (not true really, I've always been relatively thin)
2.  I think that's wonderful.  Really wonderful.  But, aren't you afraid?  Of, you know, being killed?
3.  I'd love to bicycle but [ my knees are no good | my SUV would be lonely | I don't want to die]
4.  I love to bicycle but I have a friend who was badly hurt.
5.  I'm too busy to bicycle.
6.  I knew someone who bicycled a lot.  He got hit by a car.  He still bicycles!  Of course, since the head injury he can't remember much...

There was one notable exception to this rule.  The woman who I refer to as The Patron Saint of Bicyclists aka Ms. H.

Ms. H pays the bills with a job as a gym teacher at the school my kids attend.  She's not the gym teacher you remember though.  There is no "let's pick teams because it's always fun to see who gets selected last" and there is no "let's watch the overweight kid try and run a mile" and there is no "let's bean the nerds during dodge ball."  Ms. H's manner can only be described as...saint-like.  She is endlessly patient.  She is cheerfully positive.  She knows everyone's name and she has told me, without sarcasm, that she has the best job in the world.  Show up to volunteer for her class and you have your four year old in tow?  Not only is it not a problem but actually, it's full of WIN.  She's relieved you brought your four year old because now things will be even better.

...and Ms. H is a bicyclist.  She bikes to work and bikes home again.  Every year she rides from SF to LA for the annual ride to support research into a cure for AIDS.  When she signs your kid's yearbook she tells your kid to have a wonderful summer and "always wear your bicycle helmet!"  She's bicycled with people who are blind, towing their bicycles while they pedal.

Ms. H is love.  Ms. H makes me want to be a nicer person and a better bicyclist.  In fact, careful readers will notice that this is a rare posting with no bad language.

Back to the story.  So there I was, bicycling to work amidst the weak hand fluttering of the few mothers who I knew on a first name basis.  One morning I was pedaling in, feeling the wind lift my hair and getting up some decent speed on my mutant bicycle.  I saw a green light ahead.  I started working hard, determined to make it.  And Ms. H was at the intersection as I cleared that green and she yelled at me "You GO, Rapunzel's MOM!!"

Thank-you, Ms. H.


A friend pointed me at this news item where a pedestrian gets struck by a bicyclist who was apparently running a red light.  The pedestrian was seriously injured and the bicyclist stayed at the scene and has a lot of regrets.

I've been seething over this.

Let's establish something first:   I'm very sorry that someone was badly hurt.  Accidents are awful.  Being badly injured as you just try and go about your life is horrible.

But next:  I am so goddamned jealous, I really am.  I wish desperately that my chances of being struck and critically injured by a car were anywhere near on par with a pedestrian's chances of being hit and seriously injured by a bicyclist.  If a bicyclist incurred anywhere near the same risk from a car as a pedestrian does from a bicyclist I'd let my seven year old ride to the next town and my 12 year old would be on her first cross-country trip.

This stuff makes the news (and if you Google for this you'll see that this case of a person being hurt by a bicyclist is all over the news) because it is incredibly rare.  Bicyclists are killed and grievously injured by automobiles so often that it barely causes a ripple on the journalism front.  And besides, hey, we probably had it coming, right?  Sometimes it even strikes on-air personalities as humorous.

It's time to tell you about TG.  TG was a few years older than myself, his parents friends with my parents.  He was one of three sons all of whom (by the usual metrics) were destined for greatness.  All three played a musical instrument.  All three excelled at school.  One brother has gone on to be a Nobel candidate in Biochemistry and the other is a senior network engineer with a well-respected company.  TG's instrument was violin and he had already decided that he would pursue a career in his favorite area of study, Physics.  But he did not "go on."  He was killed nearby to his destination, a Palo Alto High School, by a man driving a pick-up truck.  He was dead before his parents could get to the hospital.  I'm crying as I write this.

You might be interested to know that of his two surviving brothers one has bicycled the California coast solo and the other bicycles daily to his job at MIT, aka he is a year round bicyclist in Massachusetts.  You might be interested in knowing that the driver was not charged and went along with his (hopefully more sorrowful) life.  Me?  I don't think I could survive destroying someone's son with my car but that's just me.  When I was younger and stupider I asked my father if TG had been at fault in the accident.  My father said he did not know and of course he could not ask his friend, TG's mother.  My father said, kindly, that he assumed TG had been bicycling like a teenager, aka without extreme caution.

I wish my chances as a bicyclist of being seriously injured by a car were the same as a pedestrian's chances of being hit and seriously injured by a bicyclist. I wish being hit by a car was anything at all like being hit by a bicycle.  How about you?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

giant wire attacks bicycle. few people notice.

Yesterday I was on my way in to work in one of the summer configurations:  Contraption Captain in the lead, Sparkle Pony in a strong second place and then me pulling Rapunzel in the Burley wagon.  We travel 6.5 miles this way to where the kids get dropped off at camp and then the parents continue on to work.  On six occasions Rapunzel (7 years) has ridden the 6.5 miles on her own, which makes me pretty proud.  More recently though she's had a cold and been tired at the idea of riding so I tow her along behind me. 

I could write a short book on bicycling with kids.  For instance there are the cars that usually ignore bicyclists entirely but who slam on their brakes if they see you waiting at a stop sign with your spawn.  You and your spawn smile and wave and head across the road.  The second car behind you and your spawn decides they will go across as well (seeing as that first car is waiting so nicely) but waiting first car immediately devolves into a frothing monster at the idea of waiting any longer, hitting the horn repeatedly and driving away in a cloud of bad temper.

My hair does fall out in clumps.  I ride just to the left of the kid in front of me to keep the cars from buzzing by overly close but it doesn't really help.  All those idiots doing their make-up with one hand while listening to their ipod and texting on their phones are now on the same road as the children I adore above all else.

Well why do it?

Bicycling is a lot of fun.  I want my kids to have the fun also.  I think the best way to learn good bicycling practices is by doing and observing.  I hope that riding with them will give them a sturdy foundation for safety going forward.

Ok ok, so what happened yesterday?

I hit a wire in the road that was quite long and had a small hook on one side.  It wrapped around a spoke and then quickly (as fast as my wheel turned actually) zipped around a few more times and knotted my bumper into my spokes.  I went from ~18mph to zero in a tiny space of time, skidding forward.

My poor wheel!

Rapunzel was safe in her wagon and just wondering why we had stopped.  The good news was that I was able to gently work the wire loose and unravel it from the wheel and no spokes were broken and even the bumper looks like it can be recovered (although it is currently not on my bicycle) and then continue on to camp/work.  The wheel itself stayed true.

Friday, July 8, 2011

do not beat your wife.

I was reading an article earlier this week about a Portland Oregon bicyclist who made a left turn despite having a red left arrow.  He said he made this move, that he knew was illegal, because:

...riding this area ~5 days a week gives me great insight into the saftey of the area. I had stopped at the signal and was well aware that there was no opposing traffic. In fact, drivers often are angry at bikers in that intersection when they have to wait a few seconds until the biker takes their left onto Terrwilliger from Broadway and merge into the bike lane...

Ok.  So what happened after the guy went through the red light was that a truck driver honked it's disapproval and once the truck had a green light attempted to run the bicyclist down and kill him.  And the bicyclist wrote in because he was upset about that, not the honking, he was upset about the near death experience.  The article gives brief (half of a sentence) mention to "attempting to kill people is wrong" (my words) but dwells mostly on how the bicyclist brought this situation on himself by *gasp* breaking the law.

No airtime at all is given to the bicyclist's position that no one was coming and staying to wait for the red light often makes drivers "angry."  Which is a shame because it has been my experience that both things (it was safe, and if I wait cars get angry) are true.

Here's what stayed with me though.  This quote:

“I like what Tom Miller says about bicyclists taking responsibility for their own public image and riding more responsibly,” Wyatt said.  “When they run red lights, motorists get angry.” 

The bicyclist should not run a red light because it's a safety issue ...... they should not run a red light because it makes motorists "angry."

That is so fucked up.  But it's also entirely true.  Once I started thinking about it I realized that a huge amount of my bicycling is about not making the cars angry.  I smile at them.  I wave.  I signal up a storm.  I stop at stop signs even when the cars are nowhere near and I wait at red lights even when for me there is no cross traffic.  Not because doing something else would be dangerous but because cars have teeny tiny tempers and when they lose them (it may be as simple as a bicyclist going for a ride with his kid) they are very dangerous.  Cars obey some of the laws when it suits them.  They'll stop at a red light if there are other cars around.  They slow down at stop signs if they do not see another car nearby.  They talk on phones, send text messages, and if they see a bicyclist do something wrong they get "angry" and when they're angry they are as predictable as Brahmin bulls covered in testosterone patches.

1.  Do not beat your wife.
2.  If your wife says rude things to you, see #1
3.  Regardless of whether you have a "good" wife or a "bad" wife see #1

Threatening bicyclists is wrong.  Hitting us when we do the wrong thing at a stop light is...also wrong.  And if you think cars and bicyclists are the same, consider what you can do with your car as a weapon when you are mad versus what you can do with your bicycle as a weapon when you are mad.

I'm done.  For the moment.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

Tired stuff will always be...well...Tired.

A debate started up on a discussion board I lurk.  It started harmlessly enough with one person writing up a helpful document instructing bicyclists not to ride on the sidewalk.  I didn't ask but I wondered if the plan was to fold the documents into paper airplanes and hurl them at misbehaving bicyclists.  Maybe the person was going to hand them a business card with a link to the document.  Really I don't know.

Me?  I think riding on the sidewalk is for the young and for the old.  It's for people who for one reason or another can't ride predictably enough to be safe among cars.  Did you know that people who are wheel-chair bound because of Parkinson's can still ride a bicycle?   Some places are just so frigging narrow and dangerous that the only sane place for the bicyclist to be is on the sidewalk.  I hear you saying "well then they should be in a car."  To which I say:  "Fuck you and the ugly-ass worthless piece of shit you drove in on."


The most anti-bikes-on-sidewalk person wept verbally that he had been hit by bicyclists, twice!  Twice I tell you.  However as the debate progressed (one bicyclist pointed out that pedestrians and bicyclists share multi-use trails more or less equably) it turned out that he had been almost hit by bicyclists on two separate occasions.



I've been hit by cars on three occasions that I can easily remember, more if I reach back.  Only once seriously.  I guarantee you being hit by a car and bicyclist (I've experienced both) are very different animals.

Now you're probably thinking I'm a crappy bicyclist.  Yeah well, maybe I am.  But it turns out that I've never hit a pedestrian despite the daily experience of having them jaywalk in front of me, open their car doors in my face, and show utter disregard for red lights.  So even a crappy worthless bicyclist like myself has no difficulty avoiding pedestrians.

Where was I besides "very annoyed."

1.  To that pedestrian who was "almost" hit by a bicyclist on two occasions?  Dial 1-800-people-have-real-problems.  I mean it.  If your biggest grievance is that someone biked by too close to you you should quit your job and go over to Afghanistan and volunteer.  When you get back you will feel fine about bicyclists.  I guarantee it.  You may however be jumpy during thunderstorms.

2.  Once again with vigor.  No one is pure as driven snow.  Pedestrians walk wherever the fuck they feel like it, ignoring cross-walks and traffic lights with the best of them.  Bicyclists run red lights, whip around corners, shout obscenities (well, just me actually) and have clip-failures that leave them lying on their sides like turtles on their backs.  But the biggest problem on the road are the cars.  Some are good and some are bad.  But when they're bad, they're super bad.

Let's keep our eyes on the prize people.  And it's not bicyclists noodling up sidewalks.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

yes, but you should be quite good

Yesterday the Contraption Captain and I wanted to run a particular errand together in nearby Palo Alto.  Sparkle Pony was at our place with bff visiting and so stayed home but at the last minute Rapunzel decided that she wanted to come along with I got out the Extracycle (aka The Beast, The Station Wagon, the ohmigod it's so heavy I'm gonna die) and we all trooped out.

The way in was uneventful.  We hit the target store (not a Target, just a target, WAY WAY not a Target ohmigod not a Target) on time and then went to the lovely Coupa Cafe for a treat.

On the way home we came to the intersection of El Camino and Sand Hill Road.  There's a special sign that lights up at this intersection that says "Behave like an overgrown three year old driving a tank."  I can't see it but I know it's there as why else would people be such assholes?  This translates to the cars running the red light a lot and making illegal right on red turns (it is marked as No Turn on Red.)

Here's a picture:

View Larger Map

You can see how the white van is blocking the sidewalk and you can see the multi-use path a bicyclist carrying a small child might want to take.  And yes, the cars on this shot are innocent, they have a green light.  But when I cross here the light is red, kk?

I care particularly about the turn on red thing because the cars either charge forward and threaten to kill me or they crawl forward and then delicately stop when they see me, perfectly blocking access to the bike path I am trying to reach.  I only need the bike path to grant me breathing room from their bad behaviors.

Yesterday was the latter situation.  I get a green light coupled with a walk signal.  I start forward and watch the car roll up and nicely block off all access to the bike path.  On at least one occasion I had a temper tantrum here and forced three cars to reverse before I would get out of there way.  I am attempting to learn control of said temper.

Contraption Captain gestured that she (driver) should back up but she threw up her hands.  There was someone already behind her.  What was a poor lass to do?

She had a very shiny car.  I was sorely tempted but I have Rapunzel to think about.

My lower lip is prodigious in size.  I've been sticking it out when I'm unhappy for decades.  If I am really unhappy it can be seen in the next state.

I'm now in front of her car.  I look glumly through her windshield.  My lower lip sticks out.  I'm the picture of pathos.  Just a very very very sad mom.  Rapunzel stares blankly at the car.  Slowly slowly slowly I inch my huge bicycle around the shiny BMW.  I've got one foot on the ground.  I limp as if I'd been shot.  My lip trembles a little.  I stare at the driver.  She looks around to see if anyone she knows is nearby.

And then we continue on our way and as soon as we are out of sight I start laughing.  So we go along for a bit  talking and enjoying ourselves and eventually we come to a red light.  A middle-aged female roadie walks her bicycle past me and I eye her a little frostily.  She says  "Do you mind if I get in front?"

She's already in front of us.  I say nothing.  I think:  "If you have to ask, you probably suck."  Contraption Captain says "There it is" in an even tone.  Cause ummm, you've already done it, right?

Competent cyclists never have to ask.  They just flow around the slower bicyclists, gauging speed and distance.  I considered the expensive bicycle, the arty spandex and I thought "I'm going to school you while riding a heavy over-sized bicycle while carrying a seven year old."

And I did.  She took off and I followed her.  She looked back and I wasn't pedaling.  She tried to accelerate and I followed along.  Nothing mean, nothing threatening just non-stop "you are so s  l  o  w."  We started the steep climb and then I passed her on the left and flew up the hill while she turned off.

Two morals here:

1.  If the sign says "no turn on red" stop at the white line.
2.  If you suck, don't shoal other bicyclists.