Wednesday, November 30, 2011

I am super sick and it's really unpleasant.

I was kindof not quite right on and off but the day after Thanksgiving things took a turn for the worse and after that things took a long walk off a short cliff.  Fever, sore throat, vomiting... all of it really.  I have an important tip to share:  if you have a critically sore throat do not eat a small orange.  It's like tossing battery acid on an already bad situation.

My bicycle is down in the garage.  Un-ridden.  I just about cried the last time I saw it.  So if you do not have a non-stop fever and you do not have raw bleeding patches on your throat go out and ride your bicycle for me, go for a proxy ride or something.

I'm too sick to drive (some would say that most of the American population is too sick to drive) but I have been a passenger in a car, notably on the trip to the doctor where I got the wise and ultimately useless suggestion to rest and take ibuprofen.  Really?  Ibuprofen?  If I were a house on fire he would have suggested a damp washcloth.

We were returning from school where we had just collected Rapunzel --- a job I usually handle via bicycle >sob< --- Contraption Captain slammed on the brakes.  I watched, blankly, as a bicyclist pedaled across the street in front of me, in a crosswalk.  He looked right at me and the thought bubble over his head was "you cars are disgusting."

Couple of things.  Sure cars are disgusting but is it worth dying over?  If we had not been able to stop in time you, the bicyclist, would have been badly hurt whereas we, the car, would have been out a whopping $42.  Maybe.

I am all about bicyclists.  I really am.  I hope to be one again as soon as my body stops running this fever of 102.  But crosswalks are not great for bicycling.  A bicyclist is just too fast for a car to notice and reliably stop.

Finally though, I don't care if the bicyclist has zero lights and is coming right at you in a crosswalk with a Rottweiler.  There is never an excuse for hurting one and I am crazy glad Contraption Captain saw him in time and was able to stop the car.

So thats that for now.  I am surrounded by damp tissues.  To the person who said they were going to give a set of bicycle lights away, thank-you.  That really cheered me up.  We bicyclists should take care of each other.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

more dumb stuff people stick to their cars and a proposed solution

Wednesday I was bicycling to work alone as my Contraption Captain was at home with a bad cold.  Sand Hill Road, never smooth flowing (for cars) at the best of times has slowed down tremendously because of construction at Stanford University.  Cars stuck in traffic who peer forward and see a green light they do not have a prayer in Hell of making go a little nuts.

And so it came to be that as I carefully pedaled up the bicycle lane towards work, ever vigilant for cars that might abruptly turn right and run me over that I became aware that I had company. It was a car, awkwardly forcing it's way up the bicycle lane behind me.  The other cars were grudgingly making room for it and soon it was immediately on my tail.  I considered the driver.  His headphones.  The vapid expression on his face.  I was reminded of just how law-abiding automobiles are and how they were absolutely right to be frustrated with bicyclists who do things like slow down and not stop at stop signs.

But you know what really stuck in my throat?  When he finally got by I saw a sticker slapped on to the back of his ugly worthless car:

I'm a vegetarian.  One of my least favorite tee-shirts (yes, it does bother me) is the one with the slogan saying:  "I Love Animals.  They Are Delicious."

The world does not know how many noses I have refrained from breaking upon seeing that stupid tee-shirt. So I saw this guy on the road, behaving like a jerk, behaving in a way that no bicyclist in any circumstances should behave and then I saw that sticker and I thought, "What, you eat them?"

My friends, I think the time to retaliate is upon us.  I submit the following for your perusal.  Tidy small stickers kept in some convenient location so that we can re-align these cars with their true purpose.





Wednesday, November 23, 2011

go free, little lights!

Yesterday I left work after dark with a fresh set of lights.  I was 100% ready to hog-tie yet another dark-invisible bicyclist, brand him or her with some lighting, and then release him/her to peacefully rejoin the herd. 

I have discovered a few things:

1.  I do not like the idea of stopping a young bicyclist.  I'm afraid they'll call the police.

2.  I am resentful that these Palo Alto parents (who I promise you are awash in money) do not outfit their children's expensive bicycles with lights.

3.  There are not a lot of female bicyclists.

4.  I bicycle against the general flow of 2-wheel traffic, ie when I head towards Mountain View others are heading towards Menlo Park and vice versa.

On Bryant I finally gave up on finding a light-less bicyclist that I could catch up to and instead called to a bicyclist heading in the opposite direction.  I got his attention and then I stopped and got off my own bicycle.  This is bicycle-speak for  "help, help!"

The bicyclist stopped and hesitantly came over.

me (briskly) "you have no lights."
him (German accent) "ummmm."
me (getting out lights) "ok, this one goes on the front" (then I demonstrate how to rubber band it around)
him "ummmm, ok" (puts light on)
me "and this one on the back"
him "I think one is enough?"
me "absolutely not.  you don't know American drivers."
him "but I'm not American"
me (patiently) "I'm an American.  That's how I know you need two lights."
him "well, thank-you.  how much do I owe you?"
me (chummily now that I have what I want) "oh no charge.  It's a gift."

....and then I rode away.

Seriously, if you haven't tried this giving away lights thing, you should.  It's crazy fun. 

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

in which I (1) give away some lights and then (2) get harassed by a bicyclist

tl;dr Gave some lights away. Later, a different person tells me my light is no good (a lie) and congratulates himself for his public-mindedness.

My first night out with a set of lights to give away I struck out.  It was rainy and there were not many bicyclists and I was hoping that somehow I'd see that homeless guy again who had asked how much lights would cost. 

Night #2 was a different story.  The evening was clear and there were plenty of bicyclists.  I spotted two heading across Charleston and turning left onto Rengstorff.  One of them was riding a crappy/mid-grade mountain bicycle with zero lighting.  The traffic was crowded and he was pretty invisible.  I caught up to him at a red light.  I'm basically pretty shy so it took some effort but I squeaked out "hai!  bicyclist..."  The guy turned.  He looked to be late twenties.  I offered helpfully, "you don't have any lights."  The bicyclist smiled awkwardly and braced for middle-aged mom to lecture him.  I added "Want some?"

His face completely changed in that moment.  He could not believe his ears.  He stammered "Really?  Yeah, sure, that would be great!"  His friend could not believe his ears and said (somewhat jealously) "this is your lucky day, man!"  I got out the lights.  I handed them over.  I did not say "now you go get some lights and give them away" because you know something?  A gift is a gift.  Real gifts do not have strings.

So the light turned to green and he rode away holding the lights in his hand.  I obviously wanted to see them on the bike but I think he'll snap them on (they are the rubber band type) at the next good moment.

Now the second part of the trip home or, "What was super fucking annoying but also funny all things considered. "

The lights are long gone and I have met up with my Contraption Captain and now I am towing the bicycle wagon (sans child) the last leg of the way home.  Contraption Captain is feeling ill and we are catching up on our day and getting frustrated by the frigging ridiculous politics of Sparkle Pony's soccer league when a bicyclist slows down to tell me "you should change the battery in your back light.  It's dim."  Nodding smugly to himself he pedals off.  I say nothing and I am really proud of that.  Unfortunately I freak out to the Contraption Captain which was probably not so pleasant for the poor guy. 

Time to talk about my own lighting.  I have a headlight on my helmet so that when I turn my head at cross-streets I can be seen.  I have a headlight mounted on the front of my bicycle.  I have a nice strong red light on the back of my bike.  I have another red light on the back of the wagon.  At home I confirm what I already know, the wagon tail light looks aok.  It is fixed to a loop of fabric on
the wagon and is not perfectly straight but it is undeniably a bright red flashing light.

So why the fuck did that guy feel it was worth the breath to bother me?

1.  I admit I was bicycling side by side (in a bike lane) with my husband.  I think he had to slow down to go around us and it pissed him off.
2.  He is a pathological liar.
3.  The sperm in his nuts (from not getting any) has backed up into his brain and put pressure on his optical nerve.

Monday, November 21, 2011

but first, a word from our sponsors!!

I earn my keep as a network engineer.  I am not a LAN engineer (your work/home machine's connection to other devices in it's immediate vicinity...and I'm sorry to say that I'm a snob about this) instead I work on a large WAN that is international in scope and pushes more traffic than I am allowed to disclose.  The specialized machines that make routing decisions are called (duh) routers. 

Stay with me, do not allow your eyes to glaze over, I'm getting to the bicycle part. 

Take your average decent workhorse selected-by-engineers-not-management router with a kernel based on FreeBSD and you come away with a Juniper 960.  Configure it with IS-IS and BGP routing protocols and land a few OC-192 on it and give it a home on the global internet.  Isn't that pretty?

This router has a RIB, a Routing Information base.  This is a table that lists routes to destinations and contains some topology information.  It does not contain routes that are so incredibly bogus (literally) that they have been discarded immediately.   This router also has a FIB, a Forwarding Information Base.  The routing protocol process installs active routes from the RIB into the FIB where the information can be used to forward the route out of the best (fastest) interface. 

Translated for bicycling purposes we have:

1.  The RIB.  These are the rules that are law.  What everyone agrees we should do for instance obey posted speed limits, come to a full and complete stop at a stop sign.
2.  The FIB.  These are the rules that actually get followed, what everyone actually does and includes but is not limited to driving 10 or more mph over the posted speed limit, slowing down at a stop sign and if no one else is approaching continuing right on through, taking a right on red even if the posted sign says "no right on red" and resolutely not sharing the road despite a metric butt-ton of those infuriating "share the road" signs.
3.  The bogons.  These are the routes with an as-path that shows a loop.  These behaviors are so bad, we all agree they are worth a ticket for instance driving at 300mph through a school zone.  Interestingly enough, by it's very nature the bicycle just isn't capable of many of these behaviors and the ones we are capable of (bicycling drunk) don't cause trouble for anyone but ourselves.

Have you figured out where I am going with all of this darling non-readers?

People driving cars have a RIB installed and a FIB.  They actually follow the FIB (which means they slow down for stop signs but do not necessarily stop and they drive at whatever the fuck speed they feel like) but they are extremely comfortable with turning around and demanding that bicycles follow the RIB (at a stop sign you rock back on your tires, signal before you turn...) and they tell us that they will not "respect" us until we start obeying these rules that they themselves do not pay any attention to.

Possible solutions: 

1.  Let's make the rules of the FIB match the rules of the RIB.  That would mean an immediate automatic adjustment of all speed limits going up 5-10mph.  At which point the automobiles would all accelerate accordingly.  So I guess we can't do that.

2.  How about the bicycles get their own set of rules?  Charming but time-consuming and unlikely.  I'll put it out there on the wish-list however.

3.  Cars stop expecting bicycles to follow rules that they don't bother with?  A very good start.  Yes.  How about it.

Saturday, November 19, 2011

having a thrill 4 ways

One of the great (often unappreciated) pleasures for a bicyclist is the intersection of two streets with a stop sign facing in each direction, aka the 4-way stop.  There is much moaning and grinding of teeth about the 4-way stop from bicyclists (waste of impetus!) and cars (waste of gas!  bicyclists suck!) alike.  But...what I want to address is just a small facet of the 4-way that can be a very enjoyable experience for the bicyclist.

Try this.

Find a 4-way stop in your area that gets a non-trivial amount of traffic.  Approach it at a relatively busy time of day.  There will be cars lining up in all four directions.  Some are going straight, some are turning.  For the most part* they approach the intersection, stop, wait their turn, and then go.

What you do:  Fall in to place behind one of the cars waiting in line.  Go forward as they go forward until you reach the front of the line.  Now my friend it is your turn to travel through the intersection.  Commence pedaling.  Clip in calmly---not that usual frantic desperate clipping in because the light is too short for bicyclists.  Now pedal sedately and law-abidingly through the intersection while watched by at least four desperate sets of automobile eyes.    Savor.  Think about it, how many opportunities in bicycling do you have to pedal gently through an intersection while four cars sit and watch?  Savor.  Enjoy.  Pedal.

*of course there is always the car driven by that same kid you knew in kindergarten who stuffed extra cookies into his mouth when the bowl got passed around.  The kid who in middle school went to the front of the line and stepped on your foot, hard, if you complained.  The kid who in high school knocked your lunch tray onto the ground.  Watch out for that kid.  Some things never change.

Friday, November 18, 2011

why am I soft in the middle when the rest of my life is so hard?

There's this big intersection not far from where I live, the intersection of Sand Hill and the Alameda and Alpine. Yes, three streets.  When you cross Sand Hill it becomes Alpine.  At this intersection there are lanes for going straight, lanes for turning, traffic lights if you want to turn.. a lot of traffic, a lot of cars and a lot of accidents.

Contraption Captain and I often see broken glass and smashed lights spread out across the road.  I remember C. Captain considering a recent spew of glass and plastic license plate frame and smashed something or another.  Although there are signs posted in all directions forbidding cars from making a right hand turn on red, they can't really seem to help themselves.  Visibility is poor.  The cars make a right turn on red and get creamed by someone running a yellow coming from the opposite direction.  So it goes.

Contraption Captain:  "well, it probably wasn't a bicyclist."
Me:  "How can you tell?"
Contraption Captain:  "there would be less debris because bicyclists are so soft."

on the way home I paused to talk

I was going to title this "damnit" but that seemed overly rough.  Yesterday, on my way home from work,  I was at a traffic light when a guy who looked like he might be homeless and was walking a modest old bicycle and wearing a top hat (!) approached me.  This guy diffidently asked how much my bicycle lights had set me back.  I said that a nice set could be purchased for under $20, less even.  I wanted to say "meet me here at this time in a week and I'll give you some" but that seemed weak and unlikely.  When I got home the lights I ordered had arrived, they look great and have a nice brightness.  I would have loved to give that guy a set to light his way.  Tonight though, I'm ready.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

the Light Not Heat Campaign for happy bicycling

I am writing to announce (to all four of my readers, thanks people, I love you) the Light Not Heat campaign.

The history:  as a young and ignorant female I was on my way to a theater rehearsal at my local high school.  I was riding my bicycle.  It was late in the evening and winter.  I was hurtling down a steep hill.  At the bottom was a green light.  I arrived at the intersection just in time to be struck by a car making a right turn, the classic right hook.  I should not have been passing cars on my left like that, I should definitely have had some lights on my bicycle as it was well after sundown.  I was thrown off my bicycle and briefly knocked out.  The car drove away.  A person stopped and helped me out of the road and brought me my newly arranged bicycle.  I walked the rest of the way.  Someone I knew twisted my bicycle back together and I rode home after the rehearsal. 

More history:  Sometime after college I worked out that I needed bicycle lights.  These reflector things were...insufficient.  I went to a bicycle store and looked at the prices for the lights.  I found that I could afford one light.  I bought one red tail light.

Fast forward to the present:  Night has fallen on us, my friends, and there are many bicyclists out there with no lights.  Maybe they're too poor to have lights.  Maybe they're too stupid.  Maybe they almost never ride at night and so they did not think it was worth buying one.  Maybe their batteries are dead and they keep forgetting to get new batteries. 

What you do:  buy a set of bicycle lights.  If you drive a car buy two sets of lights and put one set in your glove compartment.  When you see a bicyclist without lights in the dark, catch up to them and say "o hai!  I noticed you have no lights and I happen to have a set I would like to give to you."  Fish the lights out and hand them over.  Do not be critical.  Do not use bad language or be superior or unkind in any way.  Appreciate the bicyclist for being out on the road and making your life fractionally better by reminding the cars that they need to watch for us.  

What you do NOT do:  Do not steal the lights off the bicycle of the cute girl/boy at work and then chase the person home and say "hey, I have some lights for you, also can I get your number?"  That's stalking.

What not to say:  "Bicyclists like you fuck things up for the rest of us!"  Remember, it's cars that screw things up, not other bicyclists, even hapless ones who do not have lights and ride on the wrong side of the street. 

Which lights do I suggest?  Get something a little nice that is fast and easy to install.  The entire exchange should be very quick.  The bicyclist stops and a minute later they are on their way with nice lighting.  Don't buy something crappy.  You can do better.  When you give a set away consider buying another to replace it.

I chose these.  Affordable and attractive, imo.  Near instant install.

Why "Light Not Heat" - because I am sick of gutless jackholes who yell "I can't see you" at bicyclists.  That's mindless heat.  Let's light the night for bicyclists, not curse them out.

don't wave at me. I do not forgive you.

Something which makes me mad no matter how hard I try and meditate and be compassionate is people who are willing to run me down so that they can get to a red light a little bit faster than the other guy.  It really really hurts my feelings.  I'm worth that little to you?  Really?  I got kids, man.  I got a family.  I got a job and I'm trying to get home to eat the fabulous dinner my husband is going to make this evening.

And once my feelings are hurt of course I start to get mad.  I'M WORTH THAT LITTLE TO YOU?  O RLY.

Before you accuse me of showing constant bad behavior I beg you to consider that I ride over a hundred miles every week in all weather and yet I have only yelled "you disgusting worthless cock-sucker I hope you get cancer!" ...once.

Of course arguably, when my behavior gets bad it gets very bad to which I have to say it gets way way way worse in my fantasy life.  In my fantasy life I have a sling-shot that fires rocks at cars when they treat me with contempt.  In my fantasy life when that jerk runs the red light and the girl walking her bicycle shrinks back I shoot a gun at the offending car that unfurls a giant banner across their windshield that reads "YOU SUCK.  WE ALL HATE YOU."

So a few days back I am sitting at a red light.  I'm a tiny bit nervous.  The light will trigger for me but I know from previous experience that it won't give me quite enough time to actually get across the intersection.   The light turns green, it's a green left arrow.  I am going left.  I start hustling across the wide intersection that is immediately before an overpass spanning the 101.  Cars getting off the highway are stopped at their own light which

The first car sizes me up and takes a right on red.  I am now halfway across.  The second car considers me and thinks "I'll do it too.  She's just a bicyclist, right?  I heard the fine for smushing one of those little weasels is a mere $42.  I sneeze $42."  The light is yellow.  I can't stop here in the middle of the wide dangerous intersection.  Her car rolls forward, hesitates, and then she steps on the gas and I summon my voice and bellow "STOPPPPPPPPPPPPP  IT!" *  And she stops.

I am now almost entirely across the intersection.  The woman behind the wheel waves her fingertips at me.  Drivers do this to say "hey, I almost killed you, I gave you a bad scare, but no hard feelings, right?"

I had hard feelings that day.  I'd already been cut off on a few occasions.  I did not feel like accepting this weak-fingered wavelet that was not actually an apology.  I noted that the moon roof on her car was tilted up.  I bellowed once more, "FUCK YOUUUUU" and then fell into the bicycle lane and continued on to work.  I saw her at the next light, as an aside.  She nearly ran me down for..nothing.

*I've been considering the addition of "it" to my yelling.  I realize that what I was yelling at, what was in my heart, was a scream to all cars everywhere.  Stop it.  Leave me alone.  Let me cross the intersection with my green light un-harassed.  Just.  Stop.  It.

cool dark evenings. little wind. good times.

"The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but I have promises to keep and miles to go before I sleep."

Substitute roads for woods and you have bicycle commuters amidst the opening chords of winter.   The weather will vary but no matter where you live, be it Minnesota or Ottawa or Vermont or California the days will get shorter, the dark will get longer.  The onset of daylight savings accelerates the process and instead of leaving work in early twilight you leave work in the deepness of the night.

The night is not a friend to bicyclists who share roads with automobiles.  We push back the threat with our lights but our ability to materialize on a distracted driver's radar, never very good in the best of times, is made worse by a dark sky and the flash of high beams.

Last year as I was riding home on the first truly dark night I felt…discouraged as I threaded my way through the maze of headlights.  That feeling continued until I turned onto Bryant Street, the road on which I can unwind as it is bicycle focused.  I looked forward and on the right side of the road was a long string of twinkling and solid red lights, tiny and twinkly.  On the left side of the road was a second line of twinkly lights, this time white.  

It was the other bicyclists, people like me who were finding their way home in the dark and my mood lifted immeasurably.  

This year has been better.  The cool nights have arrived and brought fast riding with little wind.  What was good:  two days ago a bicyclist caught up to me at a red light and asked about my route.  After that he asked me how often I biked and then told me he had started bicycle commuting in May and loved it.  He asked for suggestions on bicycling to work when the weather is rainy.  We parted ways before Portola Valley but I know he is out there riding every day just like on good days I believe that more people will bicycle and more cars will treat bicyclists with respect.  

Friday, November 11, 2011

that happy good mood from the morning is still hovering in the air

What happens in the first mile:  my various middle-aged pains sort themselves out and I start to feel pretty fantastic.   I'm free.  I feel fast and agile.

What happens in the next few miles:  I see that the sky is exceptionally beautiful.  There are huge pillows of cloud in all shades of grey and silver piled onto each other.  I watch for cars and bicycles and pedestrians but I also watch the shifting clouds as they move across the wide sky above.

And in the next mile or so:  There are leafy trees on either side of the road, tall with branches that arch over the road.  It's autumn in California which means it is really spring in California.  The air is cooler and there is rain and the plants and trees are ecstatically getting their moisture fix whenever they can and replying back with an exultation of new leaves and flowers.  Some of the leaves are tugged loose by the wind, they filter down, spots of pale green light against a darkening sky.

In the next mile the clouds darken subtly:  Mixed in with the occasional drifting leaf is a silver thread of rainwater.  I shift my focus out and back and can see the drops as they fall.  Within a minute I smell the change in the non-paved areas around me, the air is suddenly a thousand times more complicated with scents of leaves and dirt and water.

I pedal faster.  The cool air brushing over me makes me feel alert and ready.  Pedaling seems effortless.  The pavement gets wet and I go even faster.  I ride fast in the bicycle lane and faster and then the bike lane disappears and I fall in with the cars and ride with them.  We stop at a red light and head forward when the light changes to green and I'm amazed that I can accelerate as they accelerate and I ride with them easily, peeling off only when the bicycle lane re-materializes. 

And then I am at work, putting my bike away and going to my desk.

All of this (and more) can be yours for the price of a bicycle.   It is otherworldly but it is also not otherworldly because all of this incredible color and life is entirely real and entirely of this our world. 

Slow down. Get out of your car. See us.

It is not sufficient to say that you did not see us

I would also like to add that if a bicyclist had hit not just one fourteen year old girl, but had instead somehow managed to collide with two fourteen year old girls (two!) then I fucking guarantee you that one child would not be brain dead and the other in critical condition.  So stop putting us in the same box with your huge metal death-dealing behemoths, we do not belong there.   

Sunday, November 6, 2011

on screaming loudly

Yesterday I was driving Rapunzel to her weekend gymnastics class.  Some families have a first kid to go to college but in our family we lean more towards over-educated than first to school.  However.  Rapunzel is the first in her family to do a split.  The rest of us have not been inspired to flex our bodies into a capital T but we enjoy watching her do her thing.

So I am driving along and ahead there is a red light.  I stop.  This particular road is a lovely bike ride with a very nice bike lane so it is always covered in a generous layer of weekend bicyclists.  I like these folks.  I think on weekdays they are the car drivers who are more likely to give me a decent amount of room when they pass.  So I am sitting at a red light and there are a few bicyclists waiting also and life is pretty calm.

I am looking around.  In the other direction cars are of course stopped also and as I watch a bicyclist hauls ass up to the light, his face twisted into a skewed mask of rage.  He pulls up next to a minivan.  I arch an eyebrow.  I can tell this will be interesting.  Inside the minivan I see a soccer mom (Sparkle Pony plays soccer, I know a soccer mom when I see one) tuned out mindlessly eating a slice of pizza (jesus christ lady, pizza?  It's barely 11am) and then I see Outraged Bicyclist pound on her window while screaming the immortal words:

What the fuck did you think you were doing?  WHAT THE FUCK DID YOU THINK YOU WERE DOING!  W H A T    T H E   F U C K !

"I was right" I think to myself smugly.  "He's mad."

I can see the woman in the minivan.  She glances at the light which resolutely refuses to change.  She glances at the bicyclist who is still screaming.  I can see the froth bubbling up at the corners of his mouth and the flecks of foam that are starting to dot the glass of her car window.  Woman gives bicyclist a blank cow-like look.  It is obvious to me that she has no idea why this psychopath is attacking her.  She has never seen this guy before in her life.

Which is of course the problem.  She did not look and so she did not see the bicyclist a mile or so back.  Because of this not seeing she nearly ran him over.  In that moment the bicyclist was terrified that he would spend the rest of his life as a quadriplegic being fed Cream of Wheat by his doting but no longer faithful girlfriend.    Soccer Mom drove away mildly wondering if there was any more pizza in the box and if eating a last slice would make her fat and meanwhile Bicyclist came after her with his terror converting rapidly into mindless rage.

Now before you car drivers congratulate yourself on never losing your temper Google "road rage" and shut the fuck up.  Ok with that done, let's consider losing our tempers, pros and cons.  Attentive non-readers may have observed that I came after a big-haired buffoon who came near to taking out my dear husband a week or so back.  I am not above using the immense power of my bicycling-enhanced lungs to attempt public humiliation of the automobile class.

Good things about losing your temper and shrieking at the top of your lungs:

1.  you go away with the pleasant feeling that you have inflicted a little of the panic/terror that was just recently visited on you.
2.  you remind the person in the car that bicyclists are operated by humans with feelings who may take down a license plate numbers if they feel personally threatened.
3.  there is a slim chance that the car-driver will wonder why an otherwise ordinary middle-aged mother bicyclist hates him/her and is indicating that she wishes you were dead and cremated.

Bad things about losing your temper and shrieking at the top of your lungs:

1.  The driver may get angry and come after you and kill you =(
2.  The driver will be confirmed in their opinion that bicyclists are maniacs.
3.  The driver will not ever be swayed in their opinion that only cars (who have actual important business to conduct) should be on the road and so the bicyclist just wasted their breath.

What do to do if you are a car being screamed at.  Slow down.  Say "I am sorry."  Say the words with absolute sincerity.  Feel free to add "I was lost" or "I should have been more careful" or "I'll do better."  This will have an amazingly calming effect on the bicyclist who just had a near death experience.  Only if it's true, say something like "I just found out I have cancer and I was distracted."  In those instances, the bicyclist will actually apologize to you.

What to do if you are a bicyclist wanting to scream.  Remind yourself that you are one of the lucky few, a bicyclist.  Cars are to be pitied.  Remind yourself that it is pretty common for the drivers of cars to use their vehicles as a weapon.  If the driver decides to fire their car at you, a bicyclist, your chances of survival are on par with a person who holds a wooden shield up to a hydrogen bomb.

So in sum, to defuse yourself:

1.  be glad you are still alive.
2.  feel pity for the jackass who is (a) in a car and (b)a crappy driver who will undoubtedly have many expensive accidents.
3.  consider that if the driver gets really angry they may kill you for real this go around.

..and if you must go on the offense?

1.  be creative and please please project your voice so that everyone can hear you.  move away from classic insults and reach for a personal touch.  "Choke on your lipstick you disgusting walrus!" "No wonder your parents put you up for adoption you miserable pinhead!" and "your car is as fucking ugly as you are you worthless whore!"

2.  Shout what you would say in person.  If they pull over because they couldn't hear you correctly say "I said "You are a disgusting dripping douchebag."

3.  be ready to get on the sidewalk if things get hairy.

Friday, November 4, 2011

ok ok one more thing and then I'll be done for the moment

Dear bicyclists who are riding along carrying your bike helmet slung over your handlebar.

What the fuck is your plan?  When the car heads towards you to have an accident you're going to put the helmet on your head and close the clasp and then collide with that SUV?  Really?

What the fuck?  Did Mom tell you to wear your helmet so you brought it along and took it off the moment you were out of her sight? 

Well here's a newsflash you goddamned Einstein.  Your Mom (we talk all the time) doesn't want to spend the rest of her life spooning baby food into your drooling mouth.  She made that scene once with you thanks very much and once was fucking enough. 

So.  Either grow some and say "No, Mom.  I won't wear a helmet.  It makes me look dumb and I'm scared I won't get laid."  Or just suck it up and wear the fucking helmet.



but I didn't WANT a giant bridge with matching roadblocks

Rapunzel is now in 2nd grade, but when she was in preschool I would bike the two or three miles to her preschool, settle her in to my double-wide Burley wagon, bike ten miles home and collapse face down in the driveway.  The trip from work to the preschool was mostly nice, I rode on this cute multi-use bike path (the Stevens Creek Trail) and it was just about a straight shot.

The non straight shot piece involved crossing a busy road.  No problem though, there was a light.  You pull up, press the button, wait, and then go across the busy road in safety and relative comfort.  All was well until the city of Mountain View thought "damn, it's a hassle having to stop for those goddamned bicyclists whenever they push that fucking button" and the city of Mountain View thought "wtf do we do with all this extra money we have?  give it to the area schools?  lame!  No way!  what was it that was so annoying, yeah, stopping at that red light was annoying.."

What did the city of Mountain View decide to do?  Build a bridge over the highway for bicyclists and pedestrians.  I should be overjoyed, right?  Yeah well I was not.  Overjoyed.  I was annoyed.  Here's why:

1.  We did not have a problem.  We had a spot where we whoa'd up and pushed a button and then continued on.

2.  The city of Mountain View spent a metric butt ton of money on something I ended up hating.  Instead of stopping and pushing a button I had to weave through their bicycle-slower-downer with my big wagon and then pedal up a steep hill and then scream down a hill on the far side and hit the brakes so as not to be trapped in the 2nd bicycle-catcher.  It sucked.

3.  What did I want?  Some paint.  There are multiple locations in Mountain View (for me the critical area is in front of the new PJCC on Charleston) where the bicycle lane abruptly ends for about a block and bicyclists become open game for passing automobiles.

What's the moral of the story?  Stamp out giant infrastructure projects that drive bicyclists onto tall skinny walkways with gates on either end.  Give us our place on the road and stick some paint on it to make it official.  It's not the 1800s and we aren't your schizophrenic first wife so stop locking us up in the goddamned attic and forgetting to feed us.

What you give us:

What we want:

Thursday, November 3, 2011

because they're beautiful. and you are not.

Today I was on my bike waiting for a red light to turn green so that I could continue on towards work.  I checked over the cars around me to see if any of the drivers looked drunk or mentally ill --- usually people on their morning commute are merely hungover but it's always good to be careful.  Immediately to my left (I am in a bicycle lane) is a large shiny reddish-brown SUV.  It's driver is an artificial appearing blond woman who is earnestly talking on her phone and looking about as self-important as people do when they are ensconced in a giant machine and so busy and in demand that they have to talk even while driving.  I notice that the car is a Toyota Sequoia.  Sequoia trees are monumentally beautiful. 

Nearly twenty years ago I knew this person, Jenny (not her name) who had a lot of problems.  She was mentally ill, her diagnosis being schizo-affective which operated then as a bit of a catchall.  She was on a huge number of medications.  She was tremendously overweight.  Her skin was an unhealthy greyish pink.  She shuffled along very slowly because her legs were so fat and swollen and despite being relatively young she often needed a walker.  She lived with a nominal boyfriend who the social workers agreed was abusive but it was better than the alternative which was a group home except there were no available spots in the area group homes so really the alternative was homelessness.  Every now and then Jenny would have these spooky moments of lucidity and attempt suicide.  Not the "cry for help" stuff, the "jump off a tall building" stuff. 

Jenny's one great passion and pleasure in life was cats, specifically kittens.  Cute fuzzy little kittens.  She wore this pale pink sweatshirt, very stained, with the print of a soft pretty sleeping kitten on it.  Just mentioning the word "cat" would make her squee with delight.  So Jenny was squeeing over a picture of a cat one day and I said idly, "What is it about Jenny and cats?"  And a co-worker heard me and said "Kittens are little and cute.  And she [Jenny] is not."

Back to cars.  You can't be alive and not have noticed the naming structure for SUVs. 

Tahoe:  a beautiful lake and forest in California. 

Yukon:  a majestic wilderness in Canada. 

Acadia:  a spectacular national forest in Maine.

So what does any of this have to do with poor Jenny?  Jenny loved kittens because they were soft and beautiful and loveable and she was huge and mentally ill...and no one loved her.  The Sequoia is one of the most beautiful trees on this planet.  They can live for hundreds and even thousands of years.  When a Sequoia is struck by lightning it's children rise again in a circle, growing from the parent root system.  To stand in a grove of Coastal Redwood trees is to experience a natural cathedral, to experience something timeless and powerful and precious.

Those SUVs get the names that they do because it is a vain grasp towards being beautiful, to being part of something grand and meaningful.  The reality of the situation is that no name can change the Toyota Sequioa I saw today (and it's trying too hard faux blond driver) from being just another big ugly SUV that threatens other people on the road and compromises the very tree it is named for.  But that doesn't stop the driver from hopelessly wishing that she was a little more.  Jenny would understand. 

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Hell froze over.

I have a favorite intersection, don't you?  I encounter my favorite intersection on the way home from work, the same route in reverse is not so pleasant.  Some intersections are like that:  ok one way and the suck in the other.  So on the way home I am travelling on Charleston.  There are four lanes of cars with a bike lane on the far right.  The two lanes on the left side are for people going left.  I go left so that is where I want to be.

What I love:  getting in my lane and waiting for the light with cars in front and behind.  The light turns and the cars start rolling forward.  I am right with them.  They accelerate.  I accelerate!  We're all hoping to make it to that green left arrow before it turns amber and red.  I can pace cars travelling like this, I've hit that intersection at 26mph with cars fore and aft.  I love it.  I feel fast then, and as if I have a place in the pack.  It is love.  And the cars which try and cut me off can't do it because I am sandwiched between a Toyota 4Runner and a something or another Tundra.  Haha on them!

Here's the annoying thing.  The other bicyclists spot the red light and then ride in the bike lane to the very front.  Then they waddle their bicycles over and put themselves in the left turn lane in front of everyone else.  Then the light turns and they slowly waddle through the intersection fucking things up for the rest of us.

But here's what happened yesterday!  I was waiting in line and a bicyclist approached.  Instead of cutting everyone off and going to the front he fell in beside me as if it was the most normal thing ever.  I goggled.  I said "It's pretty cool you took a place in line.  Most bicyclists push their way to the front."

The bicyclist looked over at me with an expression that said "I hope you are not a sociopath."  He must have decided that I was ok because he smiled and said pleasantly (with a slight accent) "But that would be cheating."

I beamed.

We went on to discuss how if you lane split to the front, you find yourself on the far right which is the lane for people getting on the highway, how it is far better to be in the 2nd from the left lane and in line because then you are in the lane for people going straight which of course is what we want because the on the far right is the on-ramp for interstate 101, the 101 being notoriously unfriendly to bicyclists and the cars getting on the 101 being notoriously unfriendly to bicycles crossing in front.

I don't often meet a kindred spirit on the road!

We both cleared the intersection when the light turned green!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

actually. just a nice day.

I woke up this am feeling super rough, probably ate too much candy last night or something - yesterday being Halloween.

How do bicyclists do Halloween?  They get together a bunch of little kids and load them into a giant tricycle illuminated with individually programmable LED lights, woo-hoo!  In Black Rock City a giant tricycle covered in lights is not all that unusual a sight, but in California proper it still has a little bit of cachet.    We pedaled that big pretty thing down to the area party street and then parked it and trick-or-treated until we were ready to fall over.

This morning it was back to our more regular rides but the weather was beautiful and my mood was more than usually calm and no one made an overt attempt to run me over.  I love the reminders that the giant vehicles bring of just how much fun pedaling can be, that it is not just a way to get from town to town but a way to experience life.