Wednesday, May 22, 2013

PG&E Pipeline Work. The gift that keeps on giving!!

I've made previous mention of the extensive work underway that attempts to ensure that no more California towns explode in a fireball.  There was absolutely nothing funny about the 2010 San Bruno gas explosion and if you stop to think about it, there is nothing funny about how much work is underway that is ostensibly required to prevent another explosion.

The traffic resulting from the road work however is very very funny.  Like laugh out loud funny.  And believe me I do laugh.

The road will be a parking lot.  People wait and wait for a green light only to see it turn yellow and red with no opportunity to get across the road.  What they do is drive their cars into the middle of the intersection.  THEN when the light turns red and they are stuck there, traffic in the opposing direction goes absolutely apeshit.  I kid you not.  Grown men and women just sitting there honking their horns over and over while sitting in their cars.  I nearly fell off my bicycle I was laughing so hard as one car driver gestured furiously at another car driver and honked his horn and turned red and none of them were going anywhere.  The place was a parking lot.  Just two fat middle-aged babies shouting at each other.  Extra bonus is when they enact this drama from their positions in cars worth upwards of $100,000.00 USD.

Which part is a little dangerous for me but still pretty damn funny?

I'll be bicycling up the bike lane.  The bike lane is bike-sized, meaning, you can't fit a Fiat into it and you extra can't fit a Bored Shovinator into it.    The cars are literally going nowhere.  They just sit there with their engines humming.  Some of them get so incredibly freaked out at their static experience that they inch over until they can get a tire into the bicycle lane.  Just a tire but it appears to make them feel better to put a toe over onto our side of the fence.

What happens when the bicycle lane widens out enough to fit a car into?

Free lane!  They start crowding into the bicycle lane and driving up.  After all it's basically a turn lane, correct?  You can drive up the bicycle lane if you are important (and of course you are important) and if you plan to turn right at some point?  Turn out the answer to that one is a big "no."  What was waiting at the top of the road?  A police car issuing tickets to all the cars driving up the bicycle lane.  So they spent 45 minutes in traffic that they could have biked in 15 minutes and just before turning off and finally going home they get a $200 ticket.  If I were nicer I would feel bad for them but I'm not nice and I don't feel bad.

What is funny but possibly stupid?

Taking their picture.  But we did it anyways!  Behold!  A zillion people who would prefer to sit in traffic going nowhere than bicycle and be awesome.  You can't see their glum frowny faces but I guarantee you, they are there.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

What's the ugliest thing about you?

What's the ugliest part of her body?
Margery Eagen says there is "no more road to share."  Apparently Boston's streets are just not wide enough for cars and bicycles alone and we know what that means, it means we must ban bicycling in the city because Boston is totally full.  No room at the inn.  Joseph and Mary can go find another city because this one is FULL baby.

Some say it's her nose!
According to herself, poor the old Margery has been driving "forever."  Forever I tell you!  She got out of her car just long enough to breed and divorce.  The rest of the time has been spent in her Toyota.  Margery finishes her short, boring and self-important troll bait by saying "this is not about disliking bicyclists or disliking bikes. This is about ever more bicyclists trying to “share” roads with cars when there’s no room to share....This is about denying reality."  I really appreciate her clarifying that for us.  It must be very peaceful to live in Margie's reality where the highest levels of C02 in millenia and melting glaciers and disappearing polar bears and Maldive Islands don't exist.  She doesn't mention motorcycles, is there room for motorcycles?  She doesn't mention sidewalks - time to axe those as well?  How about homeless people?  

I mean really, what does Boston not have room for these days?  
(a) Aging Catholic biddies with long yellow teeth (curious, did she get one of those dispensations from the Pope for annulling the marriage?  Did it say she was a virgin?)
(b) Toyota Sienna Minivans
(c) Bicycles

I picked (a) and (b) myself and poof.  Turns out we don't need Marge or her car to have a great city.

You do need bicyclists to have a great city.  Bicyclists create community.  They spare the air.  They talk amongst themselves.  They don't need much parking.  They take up way less room than Margie's minivan.  They make the city a better place for people other than themselves.  

Some say it's her toes....
Reality is a funny thing.  There is the reality of a boring old white woman who writes hack pieces for a dying old media rag and has been driving "forever."  During that time she has dumped her carbon crap all over Massachusetts a state that has some very attractive features.  She has lived way the fuck out in Fall River but commuted to wherever she felt like, oblivious to the impact of her behemoth metal ass on the people who live where she pollutes.  Her reality is that the streets are narrow in Boston and there is only room for Large Marge and her car.  That's the reality that says "if it's good for me, it's reality.   If you're a bicyclist well, go eat some cake?"

What's the ugliest part of her body?  I think it's her mind.

Monday, May 20, 2013

because the night belongs to lovers

Sometimes, not often, I have to come in to the office really early, like at 5am.  This week it was Thursday and I had to be in at 5:30.  Actually it would have been better if I'd been here at 5:15 but the calendar entry said 5:30 and that is when I arrived.  Oops.

Gettings up at 4:00 is not a great pleasure to me.  My days of unhappy infants are done with and also I am well over the hill and extra appreciate a decent night sleep.  I miss my family something awful when I do not see them in the morning, I don't mind at first but when I see that they would be getting up and I am not there to greet them I feel a bit low.  But we're talking a few times a year here, people, and I can handle the missed morning a few times a year, plus there is one thing which is totally wonderful about bicycling in to the office at 4:30 in the morning and the name of that thing is...

....pretty much zero traffic.

I love bicycling at night.  I love the way the air flows around you.  I'm reminded of those car commercials that show a car in a wind tunnel with the air flowing smoothly around it except instead of being an ugly old car I am a bicyclist, small and quiet and fast.  Something about bicycling at night reinforces the truth of air being composed of atoms of nitrogen and oxygen.  It is not emptiness, it is not a vacumn, it is a sea that parts around us as we fly along.

Traffic lights trigger immediately or are in a default state of flashing yellow or flashing red.  The occasional cars are calm and sober and easy to side-step.  The drunk cars are long gone home by 4:30am and the few remaining cars do not need to jostle for space and be aggressive horrorshows.

The lighting is not good in the bicycle lane on Sand Hill so I skip it and bicycle in one of the two empty car lanes.  Here the lighting is much better and the pavement is nice and smooth and finished and there is almost no broken glass.  Bicycling in such a huge clean lane makes me feel posh and expensive.

Friday, May 17, 2013

my bicycle stepped in something and the results were unpleasant

Yesterday (actually now several days go alas) I finish my work day and get my bicycle and roll it down the hall and into an elevator and down a bunch of floors and then out the door into a pretty California evening.  So far so good.  The lucky thing about being me is that I can park my bicycle in a secure situation that is also indoors, ensuring that when I retrieve my bicycle it still has the same parts that it had when I left it to go earn money with the added bonus that it is not sprinkled in bird poop and caterpillars.  Personally, I think every bicyclist deserves to return to their bicycle at the end of the day with this kind of confidence but many companies treat our slender theftable vehicles as if they were something dirty that should be hidden out of sight.  If it costs 4k per space to build a parking lot, wouldn't it be better to pay the bicyclists 2k for our trouble and let us put our delicate flowers into a hothouse where they can grow and flourish un-molested?*

Now outside I get on my bicycle and start pedaling and it is the same perfect experience as it is every day.**  I think this must be what a bird feels like when it takes flight.  Suddenly you are no longer clodding along on your two*** legs totally gravity bound.  You glide.  You're effortlessly fast.  You feel free.  If you do any amount of bicycling at all you barely notice the work of your legs you are just suddenly skimming through the air albeit fairly close to the ground.

So yes, that.  And then I see a bus round a corner and I touch my brakes and I hear the most incredibly bad sound ever, so bad that I briefly think somewhere someone is tearing a cat apart inch by inch and we know I really like cats.  The very awful noise turns out to be me.  The bad noise is my bicycle, specifically my front brake.  I stop and stare at it, concerned.  I try the front brake.  It open and closes but reluctantly on that second.  I eyeball it wondering if I have worn the brake pads down to the metal.  I wonder if using my brake will injure my rim.  I stare at my rim.  Arg, I want to go home!  Damnit!

I pedal some more and experimentally brake and each time the noise is worse, if that's possible.  The noise is a high pitched screaming.  The noise is nails on blackboards times ten or styrofoam rubbing manically against styrofoam.  The noise is ten excited toddlers trying to eat ten balloons.  The noise is very very bad.

I limp along until I reach the Contraption Captain in Palo Alto and he of course offers to look into the problem but I say that we should get home first.  We get home.  He swaps out my front brake pads (I love this man) and they are worn but the screaming problem is elsewhere.  My wheel, the metal part above the tire, the rim, the part where the brake pads clamp down on when I want to stop is...sticky.  Like I rolled through something clear and very very tactile with my front wheel but not my back wheel.  As if I had spent my day not working but putting duct tape down on my front wheel and peeling it off.  #wat???

The Contraption Captain is able to clean my wheel with alcohol and the next morning me and Delphinium (my little flower of a road bicycle) are back in relatively noiseless business.  Yay team!

This post should conclude with a post-mortem and a root cause for the failure but really?  I have no idea.  How did I get something all over my wheel but not on the tire?  I still don't get it at all.

Update:  Contraption Captain says to tell you that the sticky stuff was black, not clear.  I remember the black streaks now that he mentions it.  Still not sure why the front wheel got gummed up and not the back.  There was some road work on the way in to the office though, could account for it.  Thankfully no recurrences.

*Yes.  This metaphor has gone on too long and I can't figure out what I'm talking about anymore.  Yes I'm a total amateur.

**Yes.  It is a perfect experience every day.  Rain or shine.  I really really like riding my bicycle.  My only imperfect experiences are cars.  I really really dislike cars.

***Yes. If you are lucky.  If you are unlucky you are hopping along.  If you are more unlucky you have no legs and are in a wheelchair.  Interestingly enough I have seen fast bicyclists with one prosthetic leg.  I have seen very fast bicyclists with no legs at all, pedaling with their arms.  THis is because bicycling is the badass sport of all time.

Monday, May 13, 2013

in which the cars scale new heights of ickiness. there will not be pictures. you may thank me now.

It is this Friday past and I am bicycling home from work.  I am not in a one hundred percent awesome mood because of having read that C02 is at it's highest level in millions of years and reading reports like this make me uneasy no less when I am surrounded by hot cars breathing hot exhaust on a hot day.  

I look around a lot when I bicycle.  I look around a lot almost all the time, bicycling or not, because I am a tiny bit paranoid and I want to make sure no one is thinking about killing me and I also look around because the world is very interesting.  It is due in part to this looking around that my trips are never boring to me but sometimes I see things I would rather not have seen and then I have a few regrets.  Friday was such a day.

We started off innocuously enough.  A car pushed up next to me and stopped at a red light.  I look over in time to see the driver pick up a ballpoint pen and start digging around in his ear.  He extracts a clump of something.  He examines it pensively.  He wipes the pen on something I can't see, either his pants or his car seat.  He re-inserts the pen in his ear and returns to excavating.  I avert my eyes and remind myself that although bicycling with blinders on would save me from situations like this one, bicycling blinders would come with its own risk factor.  And the day can only get better, right?

At San Antonio I am in the middle lane.  In the right turn lane is one of the new Tesla sedans.  As promised, it is a very quiet car.  I dislike Tesla cars a little less than I dislike cars that are not electric.  Since I am just sitting there, and the car is right next to me, I have time to admire the way the car door handles are totally flush with the car door.  I wonder a little about how that might work.  My gaze travels up to the driver.  Mistake.  He's smiling faintly and he has his finger deep inside one of his nostrils.  He gouges around in there and withdraws some material which he gazes at affectionately and then puts in his mouth and eats.  

It's really easy to see the extent to which people in cars become divorced from their surroundings at moments like this.  Despite sitting in a box smaller than their bedroom and surrounded by windows on all sides these car drivers are totally comfortable with picking boogers out of their respective noses at eating the product.  Yuck, car drivers, yuck!!   

The light turns green and I pedal off, assuring myself that it is Friday and I should be happy and that the law of averages suggests I will be spared the sight of any other car people excavating their orifices and although this last turns out to be true the events of the evening are also not entirely complete.  

It begins in the usual way.  I am desperately trying to hold onto a lane (I don't take a lane when bicycling so much as grab onto it  by my fingertips while someone pounds my hands with a hammer) because there is no bicycle lane and to my right there is a right turn only lane and I am going straight.  Two lanes for people going straight.  Mine will actually vanish at the next rapidly approaching traffic light but the cars want to be in my soon to be gone lane because if they use the actual lane for people going straight they might get stuck behind some cruel monster who slows to take a left at the intersection.  

So there I am, in my soon to be gone lane, pedaling desperately towards a red traffic light when a large SUV "passes" me on my left.  Since I'm in the middle of the lane and since it is very wide and also since after "passing" me it has to immediately slam on it's brakes (remember, the light is red) it's kindof an unpleasant experience.  I don't die but I do scream a little girlish screen and then we are sitting there at the light and  I eyeball the license plate frame.  It says University of Arizona.  I think "I hate you Arizona bleach blonde asshole driver.  Go the fuck home and bake in a desert you ugly stupid fuck."

The SUV has a dog in it.  The dog begins to bark furiously at me, almost as if it has read my mind and does not approve.  That's cool, bark on.  I'm only afraid of cars and trucks, dogs not at all.  I pull my bicycle a little closer to that fat bumper and stare at the dog.  It barks louder.  I smile hopefully, imagining how loud a barking dog would be in an enclosed space like an SUV.  

The light turns green and the SUV tears off and I pedal off and then, tada, we are all at the next goddamned light because almost killing me is so damned worth it on a road with a traffic light every tenth of a mile.  The SUV wedges itself into the space between the curb and the car in front of it effectively preventing me from taking a right turn.  It puts on it's turn signal.  I pull up behind it.  Does the dog remember me?  

It does!  It barks with renewed frenzy and I arch my eyebrow at it and make a small growly noise for it's benefit.  It goes totally nuts.  Just as the barking seems on the verge of crescendoing the dog whirls around and I see a splash of yellow on the window in front of me.  Holy dog testicles!  The dog is peeing on me!  Yeah well this is why dogs are incredibly stupid.  If you want to pee on the bicyclist waiting in traffic behind you for all that is holy, roll the window down first, right?  Otherwise you know, you're peeing all over yourself and your owner's car you damned idiot.  

Light turns green.  Car drives away.  I try and pedal away but I am laughing so hard I can barely see staight.  My bicycle and I stagger up the road with me nearly falling off once or twice because I'm laughing so hard and then, and then...yes!  It is...another light!  Now I am waiting to turn left onto East Meadow and SUV is waiting to go straight!  Does Arizona realize that her idiotic dog has pissed all over the backseat of her car?  I'm laughing so hard people are looking over, wondering what the deal is.  Arizona looks over also.  She looks confused and suspicious, like a driver who is pretty distracted but starting to wonder what that bad smell might be.  

I turn off and get onto Bryant and I can't stop laughing.  I laugh until my legs are weak.  I stop laughing and then remember that stream of yellow dog pee and I start laughing all over again.  After I stop laughing, mostly because I'm exhausted, I still have a giant wide grin on my face which has the unintended result of causing every other bicyclist that passes me to wave joyfully in my direction because apparently I look so friendly.  

So today I wondered if this whole disgusting thing was a trend and if a whale would throw up in the road on my way to work but apparently last Friday was a one off and I got in to the office with nothing more worthy of comment then a purely blue sky.