Monday, October 31, 2011

be careful what you say about yourself. someone might be paying attention.

People who bicycle routinely are noticers by nature.  Like rabbits or deer we need to pay attention to small changes to avoid being run over by the wolves and wild dogs that surround us.  One of the easiest things to notice is the stuff people stick to their cars.

Time to use the way back machine!!  It is the year 1991 and I am a young miscreant person commuting to slavery work in that bicycling armpit of the universe whose name is Massachusetts.  The year is 1991.  Yes Virginia, there were bicycles way back then.  Each day on my way in to the office I rode by a car with the following bumper sticker:


I was earning my dubious keep as a social worker in those days.  I did not like this bumper sticker.  Eventually I updated it to my satisfaction so that it read:


Ahhh.  Now instead of feeling grumpy and annoyed every time I pedaled by I felt happy and peaceful.  And just like the car, the bumper sticker never moved.  You can fix up almost any bumper sticker you want and the drivers of the cars are far too out of it to notice.  Think of the possibilities my friends!

Back to present day California.  Monday through Friday I bicycle up a steep hill that has a nice pedal-person only lane on the side to assist me in my heartfelt pursuit of not having my thoracic cavity collaped by a Cadillac Escalade.  Each goddamn day the lane is blocked by this poo-colored Subaru Outback.  The Outback has two stickers.  One indicates it's support for the Tea Party (those asshats) and one indicating contempt for the idea of health care for poor people.  The house that is attached to this Outback has a three car garage and a giant driveway.  But parking in that driveway wouldn't allow the driver to force bicyclists out into traffic, better to park in the bike lane!

More good news.  The lawn is dotted with signs supporting different political candidates.  ROB SILANO is apparently running for office.  Guess who does not get my vote?  That would be Rob Silano.  I really don't care if he's running opposed by Minnie Mouse, I could never vote for some guy favored by a worthless Tea-Partier who leaves his car in bike lanes.

Next thing I'm at the local Farmer's Market with my husband, my kids, my bicycles, my wagon and I don't have work and life is pretty good.  I'm buying the most kick-ass delicious no-spray carrots in the entire goddamned world and they are just $2 a bag.  I'm feeding my pimiento de Padron pepper habit .  And lookee what I see parked!

It is Rob Silano's SUV!  Or should I say, Rob Silano's fucking huge honking worthless mound of environment stompage?  How do I know it's his vehicle?  It's entirely covered in giant ROB SILANO posters.  One additional reason to be annoyed?  He drives a Yukon.  I hate Yukons.

The Yukon is beautiful un-spoiled wilderness.  Here's a photos in case you have questions.

Rob Silano's SUV is an oil-consuming monster.  Here's a picture of what oil looks like.

So yeah.  He doesn't get my vote.

Friday, October 28, 2011

the bully has my lunch money and that makes me sad.

Yesterday and today the Contraption Captain and I have bicycled to Rapunzel's school, dropped her off, and then took a new route to work.

The new route is not as direct.  The quality of the pavement is not as good.  There are more traffic lights to slow you down.  But the new route does not involve a short trip on the Alameda and a left onto Sand Hill Rd.  I have every right to be on that road, to go to work that way, there's even a SHARE THE ROAD sign and a bicycle silhouette but.. 

No matter how careful I am when I need to get over to those left-most lanes where I wait for the left hand arrow, no matter how many cars watch me signaling and slow down for me, no matter how carefully I plot that the light ahead be red so that no one feels rushed...  no matter how careful I am...  every few weeks someone steps on the gas instead of letting me cross in front of them and I come within range of being smeared into the cement, my clipped feet torn off at the pedal and my chest crushed.

I know how the newspaper article would read:

Bicyclist killed on Alameda de las Pulgas while crossing in front of an automobile.

I have a family I adore.  I have a good life.  I don't want to be killed by a mean-spirited woman with big hair.    Yesterday I stopped fighting to play out in the yard with the rest of the people heading in to work.  Yesterday I handed over my lunch money to the bully.  I took the slow inconvenient route.  The cars win this one.

Thursday, October 27, 2011

What makes being caught at a red light a win? The ky00t! The ky00t makes it all ok!!

Two or so days back I was minding my own business, pedaling home from work.  Ahead I see the Oregon Expressway intersection.  I see that the light is green.  My heart sinks a touch but I begin pedaling my sorry ass off.  This light is very short and unless I am right on it when it turns, it's pretty well impossible to clear.  But there is a salient exception.  If a pedestrian punches the button for the walk signal, the light is far longer and I can clear it from a ways back.  And I can't tell if the walk signal is on until I get close in one of Pavlov's dogs I sprint whenever I see green.

I do not make the light.  I'm not entirely sorry as the bicyclist in front of me does not make the light either, and even from a distance I can tell that he has something interesting going on and I wonder what it is.  From the back his ride looks almost like a Brompton, small wheeled.  But it does not look like a folder and it's rider, a very tall older gentleman does not look like he just got off a train.  The bike also appears (it is hard to tell from the back) to have a giant basket mounted to the front. 

When I arrive I discover that there is indeed a giant basket on the front.  And in the basket is a cute little dog.  I say something like "Cute dog!" and then I think of my non-readership and ask if I can take a picture.  The nice man says "yes" so I snap a quick pic.  The light turns green and we all continue our travels.  When I last see the dog (her name is Daisy) she is leaning forward, happily sniffing the air and her ears floating back in the breeze --- kindof like your typical roadie really. 

What is good in life, bicyclist?

To ride your bicycle without fear of vehicular homicide.
To feel the air in all it's variety of temperature against your skin.
To tremble faintly inside when you take a corner at speed.
To know that no polar bear will die as a result of your trip.
To meet and be a (modest) part of a community of other bicyclists.
To grow in strength and athleticism.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

I hope your giant hair keeps breaking off until you are bald.

Contraption Captain and I are pedaling in to the office.  I am pulling a now empty child trailer after having dropped Rapunzel off at the care-before-school-place-for-working-parents-I-don't-like-it-but-oh-well.  We are on the Alameda approaching the big intersection of Alameda and Sand Hill Road.  We are not in a bike lane, there is no bike lane here although there are several helpful signs saying "SHARE THE ROAD" that the automobiles universally ignore. Ahead of us is a bank of red lights with cars waiting.  Ahead of us also is an intersection where we need to make a left, and so we need to get over to the two lanes on the left that are for people making a left turn who do not want to be eviscerated.

We stick out our arms to signal.  No car is close and up ahead, red light right?  So yay.  Nothing to see here, just two bicyclists crossing very briefly in front of you.  Car sees us signal.

Thoughtbubble over car's windshield looks like this:  OMFG.  I may have to slow down.  I may briefly be stuck behind a...a...*sob* a bicycle.
2nd Thoughtbubble over car's windshield follows quickly:  It is not too late.  If I floor it I can avoid this terrible thing.

I shriek a little as Contraption Captain has headed to the left but he's a smart guy and he gets out of the way as the car careens past.  We again try to move to the left.  Contraption Captain gestures a little with his hand in the air, nothing fancy just a kind of "Why?"

I see the driver.  She has big dark 80s hair and a tight little smirk that says "I had plastic surgery.  You did not."

I am unamused that this dumb ugly smiling broad has behaved like a goddamned zero, that she has threatened my husband.  Empty wagon in tow I pedal along until we are both at the red light that she had to get to in such a hurry.  I notice that her moon roof is up and tilted.   Now we are both waiting at a red light.  For this it was worth it to kill me?  To kill my man?  Really???

I have a deep powerful voice so when I take a breath and bellow "FUUUUUUUUUUUCKKK YOUUUUUUUUUUUUUUUU" the windows of her car tremble.  Her tight Captain Kirk smirk does not change.  The light turns green and I ride away.

Friday, October 21, 2011

when we want your opinion, we'll give it to you

Yesterday I was overtaken by a bicyclist I see pretty regularly.  We work for the same (large) company.  I really think he rides like a total asshole.  In the time I was behind him he ran stop signs, shoaled cars and bicycles alike, ran red lights, biked on the sidewalk, biked in cross-walks against the light and just generally behaved like a twat.  Despite his performance and despite his being young(er) and male we still encountered each other, again and again, at the intersections like Oregon Expressway and Embarcadero where pretty much everyone has to wait for the light or be crushed like a fat June bug on the windshield of a fast-moving sports car. 

I rode along thinking unhelpful thoughts like:  you are such a dick.  wow you are an asshole.  I'm a bicyclist and I get to make remarks like this.  You, the driver of the automobile, do not.  I can call the guy with the wonky foot an asshole but you better give him plenty of room and smile nicely.  How come?  Because you, my non-friend, are in a car and you know nothing.  People who drive cars and only cars love to tell people who ride bicycles that we're doing it wrong.  The feel that just being on the same pavement with us has kindof made them experts in what we should be doing -- just more evidence that the majority of people driving are complete and total fucktards. 

In summary:  if you aren't on a bicycle, keep your mouth shut, give the bicyclist three feet minimum when you pass them and smile pleasantly.  Can a person who solely drives a car ever make fun of a bicyclist?  Mmmm....  probably not.  It's not unlike white people using the N word.  Can you say the N word if you are white?  Mmmm....  probably not what happened to the asshole bicyclist?  Something new, and I kindof enjoyed.  He had plowed through the three stop signs of downtown Palo Alto without doing much more than checking his speed and he was coming up on the first red light of the Palo Alto trifecta.  Another bicyclist, a girl bicyclist, was preparing to cross that intersection in the crosswalk against the light - two pet peeves of mine.  Instead she saw the guy bicyclist and the two kindof muddled over to each other talking and smiling in that excited way people talk when they have a romantic connection.  I pedaled by but when I looked into my rear view mirror a moment later they were slowly pedaling up the street together, side by side, holding hands.

It was pretty cute. 

So, says the car, "Now those two bicyclists take up way too much room.  That slows me down and makes me frustrated.  And you already admitted the bicyclist rides like an asshole.  Why can't I second your opinion?"

Me:  Because you are in a car.  You do nobody any good but yourself.  You're just some dumb polluting slob.  The closest you can get to being part of any meaningful solution to obesity, global warming, noise pollution, carbon monoxide poisoning, oil spills, any of that mess is to shut your pie hole and drive slowly and carefully.  If you want to join in the conversation, you got to get out of your car first.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

very very handicapped

The uncomfortable piece of Charleston is thankfully short.   There is no bike lane.  The lane on the far right quickly becomes right turn only.  The lane in the middle and the lane to the left are for people going straight.  I take the lane in the middle as I am going straight but I admit to feeling a little exposed. A few days back two cars got into an altercation behind me, screaming at each other and banging on their horns and I worried that one might accidentally run me over in his zeal to get at the other.  It's like being chased by a an angry tantruming toddler who happens to be carrying a working chain-saw.

So I am in this middle lane approaching a red light with a car in front of me when a second car decided that they do not in fact want to take a right.  So without notice, and without room, they wedge their car diagonally into the middle lane.  I manage to stop in time and the car behind me does not go over me so I'm thankful for small mercies.

We wait like this until the light turns green.  The car that had pulled in front of me straightens out and I see that they have a Handicapped tag hanging from their rear view mirror.  Belatedly it occurs to the person (who I will call Handicapped)  that they should have signalled some time earlier today so they turn on a left turn light.  I pedal along behind.

The car signals left but moves right, gradually shifting over until they are driving up the bicycle lane. They get so close to the edge that their tire rubs along the curb and smokes.  I give Handicapped plenty of room.  Ultimately they make a right hand turn on to a different road.  Satisfied that they are done signaling turns for the time being, they turn their left signal off.

"No shit you're handicapped" I thought as I pedaled away.  "Your brain is handicapped."  That's when I had this fantastic idea!  If you get N points on your driving record, you get a stamp on your license and a tag to hang from your mirror that says "STUPID."  This will warn everyone that you don't know how to drive.

Also, if your plates say "STUPID" you will get a special parking place allocated just for you!  Too bad it's in the next town over from the store you want to visit but hey, who wants a STUPID driver in their neighborhood, right?  Speaking of neighborhoods, who wants a STUPID driver heading up the residential street where there are families and children?  No one.  So STUPID drivers will have to park in special lots several miles away from where we live.

If you get enough points on your license you become STUPIDX10 and the police send a notification out to everyone in your community so they know to stay away from you.  Yes, as if you were a sex offender.

Say you don't care.  You just keep STUPIDing right along and one day you kill someone.  It was an accident, right?  You didn't mean to, you're just, well, STUPID.  What would I do then?  Well I'd fine you way the fuck more than $42 for starters.  And for finishers, that would be it for you and cars.  No more tag, no more car, nada.  THEN how would you get around?

Not a road bike, that's for sure.

A tricycle.  Yes, we'd fine you and garnish you wages and we'd bust you back to tricycle.  Eventually, if your victim's family felt that you had paid your debt to society, if you were very contrite, we might allow you onto one of those Beach Cruiser bicycles.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

does YOUR road ever abruptly vanish as you drive home? Yeah I didn't think so.

The intersection of Santa Cruz and Sand Hill Road doesn't put me in my happy place.  Doesn't put the cars there either judging by the number of occasions on which they collide with each other as they try and make that light, beat the traffic for a right on red, or snort another line of cocaine.

The good part of the intersection for bicycles is that there are clearly marked decently sized bicycle lanes.  The other good part for bicyclists is that the rush hour traffic for cars here is 100% heinous and we get to placidly ride by on their left while they freak out about the parking lot they've wedged themselves into.

The bad part is that when we arrive at the intersection there are six lanes, uphill, that we have to traverse.  So we pant and huff and work our sorry asses because if that light turns red while you are crossing lane five those commuter cars will show no mercy.

Yesterday we got a special treat.  As we approached the intersection we saw that our crappy little filled with broken glass and flat animals bicycle lane was now also filled with a giant line of construction vehicles.  These were tidily pulled to the side so that the car lanes were perfectly available.  Two wide car lanes.  Zero bike lanes.  What's wrong with this picture people?

Because this is California where people are nice a sign had been helpfully put up.  The sign showed a picture of a bicycle and had the words LANE ENDS.  Get it?  Bicycle lane ends.  You must teleport the rest of the way up the hill.  You must grab on to the back of a passing Carrera and be towed the rest of the way up the hill.  Frankly we don't give a rat's ass what you do but FYI your lane is gone.

I made the Contraption Captain take a picture.  Here it is.

You can just see the sign.  Bike Lane Ends.  Yeah well fuck you and the construction truck you rode in on asshole.  Do you think I can't notice that the bike lane fucking ends?  That the bike lane is full of your bullshit? Next time simplify and just put up a sign saying "Fuck Bicyclists."  More to the point.

Light turns green.  Contraption Captain and I start on our way along with a screaming growling horde of desperate car commuters who are 100% freaked at the thought that they might get stuck behind us.  The construction workers wave us towards their trucks in a vague way.  We're pulling a kiddy wagon and I kindof think one guy looks like he feels guilty.  I pedaled by with giant SUVs whistling along on my left.  I stuck my lower lip out as far as it goes (it goes far) and looked mournfully at the construction workers.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

I don't feel all that well. My head hurts. And I kindof especially hate cars today.

People driving cars (I have observed this before) especially hate it when bicyclists commit the crime of riding side by side.  They apparently feel that the privilege of having someone next to you, someone to talk to, someone to share a laugh with, should be exclusively their own.  Of course the majority of them are travelling entirely by themselves but in theory they like the idea of having a companion along to stroke their ego and it makes them a little sick to see a bicyclist enjoying company when they have none of their own.

Have you ever noticed how fucking loud cars are?  Probably not.  We're so accustomed to the goddamned racket of these things hurtling along that we barely pay attention anymore.  If you are actually inside a car you are buffered from a lot of the noise your fat-ass peers are making, in fact you are buffered from the disgusting amount of noise you personally are contributing to the lives of everyone around you.  I am not buffered.  I listen to your raging muscle cars, your slouching Escalades, your grumbling trash trucks --- every time I get on my bicycle --- and I bike a lot.

Newsflash.  We bicyclists can barely hear ourselves think.  When I carry Rapunzel on the Extracycle she is immediately behind me and I still can't hear how the fuck her day at school went unless I manage to clear a green light that the rest of you get stuck at, even then it's perhaps seven seconds of mostly unimpeded conversation.  We ride side by side because we have to be about a foot apart so we can shout at each other and make ourselves heard.

"Your right to swing your fist ends at my nose."

Every day you swing your fist at us.  Sometimes it's as huge as drinking a fifth of scotch and then getting into your car and killing one of us.  Sometimes it's as terrifying as bicycling home in a bike lane and a semi is coming up behind you that is handling it's vast width by putting a wheel immediately on your rear tire.  And everyday it's as commonplace as pumping the air with pollution and drowning out the words we want to share with our companions.

Get out of your damn cars and stop beating us up.  We're sick of being punched every time we want to go somewhere.

Friday, October 7, 2011

you nutbag. what are you doing over there!

I was biking back from Rapunzel's school, carrying Rapunzel on the back of my super kick-ass pedal-powered mom-mobile customized by my favorite Contraption Captain, love you dear.  Rapunzel is sitting in the back seat, talking about her day.  I'm pedaling up a nice bike lane.

My route is a short carefully selected trip down a quiet back road, right onto a busier road with a good bike lane, and then, the one tricky part, I have to get over to the left so that I can make a left hand turn onto yet another road with a bike lane.

It's not that tricky.  The left hand turn is at an intersection with a traffic light and I choose to go left here because I feel having that light makes it just a little safer for me.  Usually.

We come to where we make the easy right hand turn and there are no cars in either direction.  Cool.  I bike a ways up this road and start to approach where I want to make my left hand turn.  Still no cars.  Cool.  Also the light ahead of me is red, so even if there were cars not like they'd be slowed down a lot.  I get over to the left side of the lane and head up the last few yards to the red light.

A car comes up behind me.  I watch them approach in my rear mirror.  I feel a little uneasy.  I got my darling Rapunzel and this car is really coming on too fast.  But it's a red light, right?  Yes, it is.  The car comes up just as the light turns green.  I signal with my hand that I will make a left turn and start heading through the intersection.

Car is in a big hurry.  They are turning left also.  They kindof want to get around me and so they get over onto my right side.  We both complete our turns.  I would like to get into my bike lane but of course I can't.  There's a Ford Explorer on that side.

The Ford Explorer is in the bike lane and I am in the car lane.  The driver looks at me like "what the fuck are you doing over there" and I look at them and say with my eyes "you look fucking ridiculous in that skinny-ass bike  lane over there!"  A car is behind me.  Another car is in front of me.  And now a car on my right.

I roll my eyes.  Finally the car in the bike lane manages to fall in to regular traffic behind me and I move over into the bike lane.

What's the moral here kids?  Don't be in such a goddamned hurry and you won't end up trying to force a camel through the eye of a needle.  Sheesh.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

You're In California. Be Nice.

I saw the subject line of this post in a cafe in Morro Bay, California.  You're In California.  Be Nice."

So a few shout-outs for the nice Californians.  And one to a not-so-nice wannabe hipster.

To the lady in the green sedan at the Bryant Street traffic circle who was nearly clipped by the Denali that ran the two stop signs.  We exchanged a look.  We both felt lucky to be alive.  Then you smiled at me and waved that I should go in front of you.  That was super nice.  I hope the rest of your commute was peaceful.

To the lady driving the ginormous Lincoln Navigator who must have realized that riding by me on that narrow street would be like having a 16 wheeler go by.  You gave me enough room and drove kindof slowly.  Because of that you missed the light.  Which should have been ok because you wanted to turn right.  Yet you couldn't turn right because that dirt bag bicyclist somehow managed to take up so much space that you couldn't go around.  You didn't complain, you just waited.  Classy.

To that dirtbag bicyclist.  Have a heart.  Would it kill you to move over a little so that the car hoping to turn right onto a deserted road can do that?  Also that pink plastic kiddy basket you stuck onto the front of your bicycle does not make you look like a hipster.  It makes you look like a pedophile.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

those funny white and yellow lines on the road

I am an unapologetic liker of bike lanes.  You found me.  Done.  Yes.  I like them.  I like riding in them and I think it's one of those situations where more is better.

I think cars who spend time with bike lanes like them also, or should.  When bicyclists are not in a bike lane they seem unpredictable.  They're in an area that was scoped out for a single car width.  A bicyclist in the car lane translates to "on your turf and now there is less for you" if you are a car.  Bike lanes mark out a territory for a bike and that gives a car the happy feeling that they won't be fucked with.  A bike lane means cars never have to deal with that frustrating but legal thing where a bike "takes" (hahahaha, as if we could take a lane..) a lane to avoid having a car door opened in our faces.

Bicycle lanes are like a truce among a powerful nation and a far frailer one.  You get 90% of the road and we bicyclists get...the bit on the side that fills up with trash where we never bother repaving.

There are a few annoying bits that I'd like to call out.

Dear Cars held up by Massive Construction traffic taking place all over the Stanford campus:

Yes, this sucks for you.  Yes your commute is botched.  Yes you can see that green light up ahead and you know the traffic is not moving and you are totally freaked out.  Yes you are very unhappy and misunderstood.

I'm sympathetic, I really am.  I mean, nothing like this ever happens to me (I commute via bicycle, traffic for me is getting dusted by an ambitious roadie) but I'm still sympathetic because California is exerting it's niceness on me.


Please please please don't cope with your misery by pouring yourself into my skinny little bike lane in a vain attempt to advance your car four or five inches.  Please don't turn on your signal indicator and then lean over and block the bike lane even though you will not be able to turn off for another three miles and traffic is at a standstill.

What you have:  two fat SUV sized car lanes and a ton of traffic.

What I have:  one skinny bicycle sized lane covered in broken glass and other trash you tossed from your car or created when you were having an accident.. and no traffic at all.

What I want:  for you to stay on your side of the line, mkay?  

It is seriously unpleasant to be riding along beside a parking lot of cars  and I am pedaling cheerfully towards the green light that I at least will have zero trouble making (your problems are not my problems, admit it) and then get some ponderous elephant of a Lincoln Navigator rolling one big fat wheel over the line and entirely closing off my lane so I have to worm my way around it and also risk getting squished.