Dave Moulton

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Monday
Aug252008

The Party’s Over

It is time to call it a day. This weekend I made an extremely tough decision, to quit writing here on this blog.

For the simple reason I have run out of things to write about, or rather worthwhile stuff that people want to read.

People like the tech stuff, and history. The tech stuff, I have just about covered it all. The beauty of the bicycle is its simplicity, you push one pedal down and the other one comes up.

How much technical stuff can there be, I have used up all I have. I have not kept up with the new stuff, I have no reason to, I am no longer in the business,

As for history, "You can't make that stuff up.” Some I write from memory, but as with the tech stuff, I have covered most of my personal experiences already.

I have written about the riders who were the heroes of my youth, others who were not my heroes I do not care to rehash stuff from the Internet that anyone can find.

All I am left with is commenting on current events. However, I am not a political animal, and I hate the fact that people use the bicycle as a political tool. These days, I just want to ride my bike, and I like to think I write for people who want to do the same.

I am not out to save the planet, or ban automobiles. In my real life, I have cut back to one small car, but I did that for economic reasons, not political. A person can survive without a car if they wish, but that is not my wish. I enjoy the convenience of owning my own car.

Why is it, the extreme left wing, eco-nuts think they own the exclusive right to the bicycle? And why is it, if you ride a bicycle everyone thinks you are an extreme left wing, eco-nut?

Looking back on my most recent posts, I am not happy with them; it is not work I can say I am proud of. Not that I didn’t make the same effort to write it, as with any other post, or choose words any less carefully. The subject matter is negative, and I am only using it because that is all I have.

A comment on my last post was a reality check for me. It read:

Interesting comment - about one possibly insignificant, irritated old man. From where I am, a long way away, it looks a lot like over-reaction though - merely one grumpy old man complaining about another.

The last way I want to be remembered, is as a grumpy old man. This is not the first time this comment has been made. Yes I get angry, anger is passion, and without passion in life, there is no life. You may as well give up and die.

My only desire when I started this was to share the knowledge and memories I have gathered over the years. I have done that, to keep going is to do so just for the sake of keeping going.

I have been writing here for almost three years, there are 286 posts, enough material to fill a book. Having filled a book with all the knowledge and memories I have, how can I write another?

This was not an easy decision; my readership is the highest it has ever been. I felt I had an obligation to those readers. However, I have an obligation to myself; this blog is not my whole life. I am involved in many other creative endeavors.

In the end I decided the best time to quit is now, while my readership is at the highest, not a year from now when it has dwindled to nothing, and everyone says I have lost it.

This site is not going away; about 70% of my daily hits come from Google searches by people seeking bicycle knowledge. The blog material will stay, and after I have taken a break, I will develop the site for people who still own and ride bikes I built.

There will be more photos of owners bikes, and possibly a bike registry. I have a backlog of about fifty emails I need to answer, maybe now I can finally catch up.

I'm sure there are many readers who have not even come close to reading all that is here. Now is your opportunity to catch up.

Not all recent comments have been negative, in fact quite the reverse. I what to thank the many who have been supportive, and for giving me the feeling that it has all been extremely worthwhile.

 

Friday
Aug222008

The San Fran’ Fiasco

California, often seen by the rest of the USA, if not the World, to have more nuts and flakes than a box of muesli than their share of eccentrics.

It is no small wonder when there are people out there like San Francisco’s Rob Anderson.

A wanna-be politician who last time he ran for office got 332 out of 34,955 votes. He lives in one room, on a hand out from the government welfare because he cares for his 92 year old mother.

And he has a blog. Well whoop-de-fucking-do, who doesn't have a blog these days?

Yet, in spite of his overwhelming insignificance being relatively unknown, Mr. Anderson, single handedly has managed to halt San Francisco’s plans to make that city a better and safer place for cyclists.

Anderson managed to persuade a judge that encouraging more bikes on the streets of San Francisco would cause more traffic jams, thereby causing more pollution from idling car engines.

No one pointed out that with more people commuting to work by bike, means less cars, therefore less traffic jams, and less pollution.

Now the court has ordered that San Francisco do an Environmental Impact Study before they can implement this plan. Of course, the city is going to take its own sweet time about doing that. It will be at least another twelve months before they even think about it.

Why is Anderson doing this? He doesn’t even own a car. It is a personal vendetta against cyclists, in particular Critical Mass. It seems a bunch of rude cyclists pissed our Rob off one day.

How can one individual like this yield so much power, and hold a city’s cycling community to ransom? Well it is a lot easier to stop something, than it is to implement something.

Cycling is a political hot potato anyway. I’m sure from the city’s point of view, they have plenty more pressing issues on their plate, like crime, the homeless, etc., to be worrying about a few cyclists.

The Wall Street Journal’s Blog commenting on the WSJ article on Rob Anderson said:

Why does San Francisco, the city that gave the world Critical Mass, seem to lag other American cities in becoming bike-friendly? Maybe because San Francisco gave the world Critical Mass.

See what happens when you make cycling a political issue.

Thanks a lot, Rob Anderson, and thanks a lot Critical Mass. You know what? You are perfect together, you deserve each other.

However, San Francisco and the rest of its cycling community deserve better.


  

Wednesday
Aug202008

Right-Hooked: Almost

Here is a story with an interesting video clip, out of Rochester, NY. A cyclist is almost right-hooked by a police patrol car; the cop then pulls the cyclist Gabriel Zayas over, and lets him off with a warning.

I would hope the cop stopped him to apologize, although I doubt it. The cyclist did nothing wrong he was riding his bike, in the proper place on the right hand edge of the road, as required by law, when the police car makes a right turn in front of him. The police driver is clearly at fault.

To add insult to the situation, the local TV News Station ran the video as an example of police zero tolerance on crime. There was no crime, in fact there was a traffic violation against the cyclist.

The commentator states, “A patrol car is about to make a right turn when a bicyclist darts out from the side, narrowly missing the patrol car.”

Not true by what I see on the video; the cyclist is riding straight down the road and is clearly there before the police car attempted his turn.

I’m pleased that the cyclist did not get hit, and this video just goes to show how quickly the right hook can happen. When approaching an intersection like this, be aware of cars passing and slowing down at the same time; the engine sound is a clue.

An experienced cyclist would be about three or four feet from the curb at this point, making themself more visible. If you are directly in front of a car it is clear that your intention is to go straight. The best way to avoid the right hook is, if possible not let a vehicle overtake you as you approach the intersection.

I think the Rochester Police Department, and the News 10 NBC owe Gabriel Zayas an apology.

My thanks to Chuck Fujita from Rochester for this link.


Monday
Aug182008

The Times they are a Changin’

In 1963 Bob Dylan wrote “The Times they are a Changin’.” I see the times a changin’ for cycling, I see it here in the US. Suddenly bicycles and cyclists are newsworthy.

Recently there have been a spate of cycling related articles in major newspapers. The LA Times did a story on July 21st, about cyclists and road rage.

The Wall Street Journal, no less, then ran with a story on the plight of the bicycle commuter in Los Angeles. Yet another article in The Economist, on cycling in the US, and then there was the piece in the New York Times that I mentioned in my last post.

Some of these stories dwell on negative aspects, increase in bicycle/car accidents, road rage, etc. But the media always dwells on the negative, it seems they can’t report a story any other way.

Placing this aspect aside, the main benefit I see in all this is that people are being made aware of bicycles and bike riders. Imagine the combined readership of these major publications, and how many people these stories reached.

People who otherwise may never have considered riding a bicycle to work, or for short errands; on seeing images of others doing just that, may think, “If they can do it, so can I.”

A recent story from Austin, Texas of cyclists being ticketed for running red lights, and for riding on the sidewalk, would appear at first glance to be anti-cyclist.

One of the main complaints used against cyclists, is that we don’t obey the rules of the road. It has become a cliché, one that will automatically be recited whenever someone mentions cyclists.

Enforcing the law for cyclists and being seen enforcing the law, will take away one very strong argument used against us by those who would rather we not be on the road. Enforcing the sidewalk law, takes away the argument that cyclist belong there.

I would much rather see bike riders voluntarily observe traffic lights, and not ride on the sidewalk. Let’s face it, if cyclists did just that, the action by police in Austin would be unnecessary.

In the accompanying video that runs with this story, is a shot of a bike commuter whining about motorists running red lights. Pointing the finger at other lawbreakers is always a feeble excuse for breaking the law.

Some may view the Austin story as another one of police anti-cyclist bias. Maybe so, maybe not; the question I ask myself is, in the long run will this be good for cycling. I believe the answer is yes, and it is already a good thing that stories like this get media attention.

The images on the video of what appears to be experienced cyclists, riding exactly as they should in traffic, I think leaves a good impression. Nowhere in the video do I see cars being inconvenienced by cyclists, and every bicycle on the road means one less car, actually easing congestion.

There are other signs of changing times. In Pittsburg, the City has announced plans to become bicycle friendly. They have started by appointing a cycling and pedestrian czar to oversee, and coordinate efforts to improve the lot of those who choose an alternative means of transport.

Could any of us imagined a few years ago that major US Cities would be even be thinking of accommodating bicycles, let alone making serious efforts, and spending money to do just that. We know that given time, other cities will follow.

Finally, I recently came across a blog by Tom Cassidy, who is a Chief of Police, in Lincoln, Nebraska.  He posted a piece on cyclists titled Share the Road, in which he wrote:

Sharing the road is not just polite, it's the law. Bicycles essentially enjoy the same rights and responsibilities as motor vehicles on the public streets. Motorists need to accord bicycles the same right of way, following distance, and passing protocol that they would another automobile.

Refreshing indeed coming from a police chief. Tom Cassidy was once a cyclist and triathlete. He also commuted to work by bike for a decade.

Be happy that bicycles have become newsworthy. Bicycle related stories are the hot ticket right now, it won't last and bicycles will soon be "old news."

However, the media shapes public opinion and it may become cool and trendy to ride a bicycle, and it could become un-cool to harass or behave in an impolite manner towards a cyclist.
 
In the last verse of his song, Dylan wrote:  
 
The line it is drawn
The curse it is cast
The slow one now
Will later be fast
As the present now
Will later be past
The order is
Rapidly fadin'.
And the first one now
Will later be last
For the times they are a-changin'.


Thursday
Aug142008

What’s wrong with this picture?

The above picture is from an article in the New York Times titled “Moving Targets.”

The piece focuses on the turf war on our roads and city streets between cyclists and motorists. Negative stuff, which I hate; however, the negativity is not all biased towards one side or the other.

As they say in show business, any publicity is good publicity; at least the press is giving considerable space to the subject and possibly, if we get enough of it, people will begin to see how ludicrous the whole “Us vs. Them” situation is. We are all just people trying to get somewhere or other.

With high gas prices, we are seeing more bikes on the road, which is a good thing. Or it would be, except we now have a bunch of people in the mix who often don’t have a clue. Look at the guy in the above picture.

The traffic light in the background is about to turn red, which means this person on a bike was trying to get across the intersection while the light was against him. His near side pedal is at the bottom, not up where it should be, ready to push off when there is a gap in traffic.

And look what he has on his feet, flip-flops. In the midst of his scramble to get across the street, he is likely to stub his toe or lose his footwear altogether.

(On a totally irrelevant side note, I’m curious, don’t young guys get in fights anymore? You can’t kick someone’s ass wearing flip-flops. You can’t back up, and you can’t run away; you are screwed all around.)

Behind the cyclist, a lady in red is down on her haunches taking a picture, in the middle of the crosswalk just as the light is about to turn green and the yellow car waiting is about to run her over.

Of course she is a pedestrian and they don’t follow to many rules, but when people get on a bike and act with the mentality and lack of responsibly of a pedestrian, they are a menace to themselves and everyone else on the road.

This is what we are seeing, just pump the tires up and off you go.

“You can’t ride a bike in the city as an adult the way you did as a 10-year-old in a suburban cul-de-sac,” he said. “I see people riding like children on a sidewalk, or going the wrong way down a street.” (Cyclists should ride with traffic, not against it.) Bike Snob NYC

Or they ride their bike as they drive their car, in other words paying little attention to what is going on around them.

“They pull out without looking at traffic,” she said. “They don’t signal.”

Well of course they do, this is how they drive a car.

A pandemic of obliviousness, ear buds, texting, further ramps up the tension. Recently, Steve Diamond, ride coordinator for the Morris Area Freewheelers, a New Jersey cycling club, saw what he called a trisect of irresponsible cycling: “A guy riding his bike without a helmet, talking on his cell phone, with his kid in the bike attachment behind him.”

Is there anything those of us who a serious about our cycling do, amongst all this craziness?  We could lead by example, and start by watching our own behavior.

"The ability of drivers and cyclists to trash talk and then disappear into the anonymity of traffic further poisons the atmosphere."

“Share the road” means just that. We all learned about sharing as a kid, if we are not prepared to share, how can we expect others to share with us?

I was out riding alone last weekend on a busy two-lane highway, with a shoulder. I dislike habitually riding on the shoulder; too many drivers have their wheels over the edge, while driving too close the vehicle in front. I was out in the lane where drivers can see me, and where they have to make a conscious effort to go around me.

However, at one point I could see traffic coming toward me, and was aware of a vehicle slowing behind me. I moved over on to the shoulder to let him pass; he was towing a large boat, and gave a friendly little “Beep-beep” as a thank you.

He had recognized that I had made an effort to accommodate him, and just maybe here is one driver who will see cyclists in a different light in future.

We none of us have control over how others behave on the road, be they cyclist, or motorist. However, as individuals we all have control over our own behavior. I always find I can be assertive as I ride, but still show respect for other road users. By showing respect, I get respect.

I am appealing at least for this time, that any comments on this post be positive. There was enough negativity in the NYT article, and we all have stories of how some Bozo in an SUV tried to run us down. The bike blogosphere is full of such stories.

What have you seen, or done lately that sheds a more positive light on this whole crazy situation? What ideas do you have to improve things? I don’t know about you, but I am growing weary of reading stories of cyclists being run down, attacked, etc. etc, etc.