Friday, February 24, 2012

California weather has put me at war with my own bad temper.

Just this Tuesday past I was pedaling up the road muttering about a large ugly broad whose chest was so wide and shelf-like that it looked to be resting on her steering wheel.   She had run a stop sign and made a left and now her car was a few feet in front of me and we stared at each other, bull and matador.  I stared into her tiny saurian eyes and saw reflected back exactly...nothing.  She was waiting for that obstacle to move so she could continue on her way.  

I still love bad language but I intuitively know the situations in which the best expletive is dust in the wind and this was one of them.  Instead I gave her my best "I Know Why Your Grandchildren Never Call" look and slowly pedaled on.  I could write an entire post on the different looks I cultivate for different Situations.  You have your looks too, if you bicycle for instance I have yet to see a bicyclist who has not perfected their "I Was Just Shot In The Back" look.  Mine is Oscar ready.  

So now I'm bicycling along grumbling and I do alright at this for the first quarter of a mile but as soon as half a mile from ground zero I start to notice the way the pale green on the trees meets the deepening blue of the sky and I'm smitten.  The air is warm and light and caresses my head, at least where it can reach it around my "pompous plastic helmet.*"  Thinking about that twat makes me mad all over again.  

But the weather is so fucking nice.  Christ riding on the hood of a '88 Saab 900S covered in liberal bumper stickers but the weather is beautiful.  By the time I arrived at my usual destination all I could do was lie down on the sidewalk, still clipped in, and slur something about how warm the air was and how I could smell the trees flowering and how it was February but I was riding in shorts and a tee shirt.  One of my co-workers had to un-clip my feet from the pedals, pull me off the bicycle, slap me a few times and then carry me up the stairs to my computer where I started to recover in my safe relatively window-free environment.  

*wtf.  No srsly.  Wtf.  To the Guardian columnist who described those things we stick on our heads in the sad hope of protecting our brains as  "Pompous plastic helmets"?  Your neighbors called.  Your verbal flatulence polluted the entire neighborhood and they're ticked off about it.    People in other countries than your own dislike you. 

Friday, February 17, 2012


About twenty years back I lived in Washington DC and worked in MD as a social worker and moonlighted occasionally as a bicycle courier* in the city. 

When I first arrived my mother told me not to go outside after dark because it was dangerous but I threw that advice to the wind early on (my cheap studio apartment was unbearably lonely) and discovered that I could bicycle through the most dangerous parts of the city with the only risk being that of an incidental casualty in a drive-by shooting.  Yes.  At least for me, no one cared.  No one even saw me.  The dankest parts of SE could be biked at any hour of the day because the denizens knew at a glance that I had nothing to do with them.  The roads did not have bike lanes (then) but they were huge and wide.  Some nights, restless and lonely, I'd bicycle down the middle of Constitution Ave.  There wouldn't be a car in sight and the air was so thick with moisture it was part biking and part swimming.   I would bicycle to the Zig-Zag Cafe and write short stories.  I would bicycle up and down the steps of the Capitol (this was before 9/11) and I would bicycle around the museums of the Mall and I would bicycle from DC to Bethesda where I had a job.

True story follows.

I was at work and had the opportunity to observe a conversation between two managers of different departments.  Race is going to be important so you should know from the start that Bea was caucasian and a manager and high-strung (she was a married woman having an affair with one of her reports) and Pamela was African-American and the company CFO and calm and sang gospel music at her church. 

Bea was complaining about being late to work because of a slow bank teller.  She described in painful detail about how she had only asked for $foo and the teller had walked so slowly, had gotten her the wrong form at first, had asked her several questions that did not have bearing on the matter, that the teller had, in short taken an endless amount of time to accomplish was was a very straightforward task and it had been very frustrating for Bea and she was still upset.

Pamela smiled broadly.  "Was the bank teller black?"

Uncomfortable pause in the mostly white liberal workplace where we did not really care to acknowledge the variety of naturally occurring pigment density that may be observed in homo sapiens.  I can tell that Bea is trying to figure out how to extract herself from the situation.  

Bea gives up.  "Well, yes."

Pamela's smile gets even broader.  "That was BPT."

Bea:  "BPT?"

Pamela nods, "BPT.  Black Person Time.  That's our way of saying, "don't be in such a hurry, whitey!  Slow down!  Take it easy." 


Fast forward to life in the bay area.

At the intersection of El Camino and Sandhill only bicyclists can cross El Camino and continue on to Sandhill.  In fact this is a major bicycle crossroads.  There are bike lanes to Bryant, bike lanes up Sand Hill, and a confluence of multi-use paths in three different directions.  We bicyclists have two options for halting car traffic so that we may cross busy El Camino.  We can pause in a nice safe spot and wait.  This triggers the light for specifically for a bicyclist meaning, the duration of "safe" time is relatively short, as bicycles are fast relative to pedestrians.  The other option is to reach around and push the button for a walk signal.  This gives a much longer "safe" period complete with nice countdown to when the traffic will start again.  Guess which one the cars prefer.  If you guessed, "no bicycles at all!" ding!  You are a winner. 

For quite awhile I just sat there and triggered the light for bicycle duration.  I was a bicyclist after all, so bicycle, right?  ...  but now we press the button for pedestrian traffic.  How come?

Because so many cars run the red light that I would encounter situations where by the time I had an opening to cross the six lanes of road in front of me...the light was already turning yellow.  Yay!  Wait some more!  I love to fucking wait for my turn and not get a turn and then wait again, it's awesome!  It's not as big a deal if the cars just run the red light, but they were routinely being caught in the middle, filling up the box and creating a situation where I had to weave my bicycle and wagon through a parking lot that might start moving at any moment.

So the Contraption Captain and I started pushing the button for the walk signal, mmm, much better.  Quite a bit more time no matter how many automobiles behaved like asshats.  Once, a roadie with a European acccent politely told me that I did not need to push the walk signal, teh light would trigger for me.  "Watch" I said grimly.  Our light turned green.  We were blocked by a bus.  We waited.  He shook his head several times.  I guess drivers in Europe have better manners. 

And so, my little automobile driving non-friends I give you BPT aka Bicycle Person Time.  You drive too fast and run too many red lights.  You scream obscenities at us if you are merely presented with the idea that you might have to pause in your acceleration.  I'll respond to your bad behavior by pushing the pedestrian walk signal.  This will let me get across the street with a modicum of comfort and may remind you not to drive like a stupid fucking muppet whose ass caught fire.  

*The other couriers were not fooled by my uncool bicycle, my uncool clothes and my backpack not messenger bag and I was never in the club which just goes to show that some things do not change.  

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

"This is why we hate bicyclists."

My morning was not so great.  I like to put a good spin on stuff but if I am honest with myself my morning was exceptionally bad.  It left me feeling anxious and vulnerable and afraid and ultimately angry. 

What happened?  I got harassed by an angry old white man driving an old model very shiny robin's egg blue Mercedes Benz.  It was scary and I was not bold or aggressive and I definitely did not pull out a gun and shoot him.  I don't have a gun. 

The Contraption Captain and I were bicycling on a wide and quiet residential road.  We were not exactly side by side but my front wheel was even with his rear wheel because we were talking to each other.  There were few other cars, there wasn't much of anything going on. 

A car came up and the driver was clearly angry.  He honked and called out something along the lines of "YOU SHIT" and then he drove slowly gesturing like a lunatic from inside his car. 

I had recently seen this graphic.  So I waved a little.

Now his rage knew no bounds.  He screamed a long stream of not very inventive obscenities.  He shouted about bicyclists riding side by side and that this was against the law.  He continued on and so did we, our ride spoiled.  He was up ahead and pulled over, shouting more invective including "THIS IS WHY WE HATE YOU."  I'll come back to that later.

He drove on and invited us to get out of our cars to talk to him.  He had pulled over again.  Contraption said politely "We need to get to work" and he screamed "FUUCK!" at us and we pedaled on.  At this point we usually part ways and I head to my own office but on this occasion I rode right into Contraption's parking lot, and then through the gate and then to his office building.  Contraption closed the gate behind.  We locked up the bicycles.  We went in and had a nice breakfast and we talked. 

We don't get it.  We were not running red lights.  We were not delaying traffic.  We were not "taking a lane."  We were riding close together.  This is worth harassing and threatening a couple of middle-aged engineers on their way to work?  Really?

What I thought about was his screaming "This is why we hate you."  Ok.  You, a driver, hate us, the bicyclists, because sometimes we ride close together.  How about we talk about why I fucking hate you.

  • I hate you because you do fucked up shit like scream and shout and threaten two people who haven't done anything more exciting then ride close enough to each other to have a covnersation.
  • I hate your kind because your inability to see beyond your windshield (aka the "I didn't see them" defense) results in countless pedestrian and bicycle deaths every year.  
  • I hate you for running over children and animals.
  • I hate you for parking lots.
  • I hate you for the wretched stink you exude.  

I promise you this.  Your rage is right up at the surface, able to boil over at the mere sight of two happy people talking and laughing as they bicycle to work on a quiet residential street.

My rage is safely stowed.  But it is very real.  I am not exaggerating when I say to you that if you harm so much as a hair of my Contraption Captain's head I will find you and I will pin you to the ground with my bicycle and tear your testicles off and toss them in your gas tank.  So take that you miserable asshole.

ps.  Also, I called the police and reported you.  You are welcome.
pps.  your generation are dying.  hope your turn comes soon.  we won't miss you. 

Saturday, February 11, 2012

these mist covered mountains

The job worked me like a horsie this week past, day and night, which makes for not a lot of opportunity to write things down and post them here even though (as always) it was an interesting week filled with the ridiculousness and triumph and calm of bicycle commuting.

The sky was all shades of beautiful blue this week.  It was the dark endless and cloudless blue of tranquility.  It was the thin pale blue that fades into the horizon.  It was the clear blue dotted with tiny lamb clouds.  It was blue with a deep shroud of grey on one side and a coming storm.  I do not ever get tired of the sky.

Friday and I'm at my desk probably being baffled by something.  This guy I know to be a bicyclist (actually same guy who shared the "run the red light video") makes a circuit past my desk and then another.  He asks me something work-related.  He hesitates.  Then he says "were you hit by a car today?"  I think and shake my head.  "Nope.  Not today."  He looks relieved.  "Apparently a woman pulling a Burley wagon was hit on Shoreline.  And I know you have a Burley and so I was wondering if it but I thought "she looks okay, not limping or anything...""

So there you have it.  I have much to catch up on but no, it was not me who was hit by a car on Friday.  And from what little I can determine, both bicyclist and wagon made it through that encounter in good shape.

Friday, February 3, 2012

exciting news

I ran a small test and the results are in.  Bicycling does not ruin your eyesight.

Far Away

I'm on this message board composed of people who complain.  I'll stop here while you try and get over your surprise.  The topic of complaint, earlier this week, was crappy drivers.  Specifically a resident of NYC was excited to get home because he would no longer have to deal with those horrible Norcal drivers.  The next message was from a resident of Massachusetts trotting out the usual material on "Massholes."  A lively debate ensued as to where the worst drivers were located which degenerated quickly into who had the grossest homeless people.

There was no clear winner.  I don't like drivers anywhere so I definitely had no horse in the race but I watched with lackluster eyes because I know that conversations about bad drivers inevitably turn into general rants about bicyclists who run red lights.

Blah blah blah.  Personally I think running a red light is kindof lame for a bicyclist, sets a bad example blah blah blah but the truth is that red light running bicyclists just cause car people a pain in their genitalia because the bicyclists are doing what the car people for the most part can't quite get away with.

And indeed the conversation turned to those horrible bicyclists and how they run red lights and how awful they are in NYC, Boston, and San Francisco and the debate became who had the worst bicyclists.  For your edification:

Norcal drivers:  annoyingly slow.
Norcal bicyclists:  stupid
NYC drivers: crazy but smart
NYC bicyclists:  smug and well-dressed
Boston drivers:  fast and dangerous
Boston bicyclists:  flaunt the law

A bicyclist friend of mine had this contribution to make:  "Those bicyclists are awful.  I hope they all get what's coming to them" and he posted the following video.  I personally think it answers any questions people might have about bicyclists who run red lights.