Dave Moulton

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Fear and Negativity: Don’t even think about it

Before I posted my last piece about the Australian road rage incident, I faced a dilemma; should I post the story or not. Most times, I shy away from posting negative articles.

However, I decided to go ahead, because I knew others would run with the story anyway. I felt that bringing a story like this, involving high profile riders, to public attention might cause others to think twice about the seriousness of doing something similar.

It was never my intention to strike fear into cyclists. Fear is one of the basic instincts we share with all creatures of this earth. Fear of death or injury ensures survival of the various species.

Politicians and the media play on this primal instinct to benefit their own ends, with negative advertising and negative reporting. However, I see a difference between reporting something that actually happened, as opposed to discussing what could happen. The media does this all too often.

Do you remember Y2K and how all kinds of terrible things would happen at the stroke of midnight on January 1st. 2000. That time and date came and went and nothing happened, and the media moved on to find other items to scare us.

Whatever happened to the Bird Flu? Did it suddenly disappear, or did they find a miracle cure? Because a few short years ago we were all going to catch this terrible disease, old people and children would die from it. It was spread by birds and mosquitoes, those little critters are everywhere.

I quit watching the news on TV because it is so negative and depressing, and the terrible thing is it is not news. At worst, it is fiction; at its best, it is irrelevant issues grossly exaggerated and blown out of all proportion.

I get the news I need from the Internet; and I often see the same negativity there; however, I can be selective in what I read.

The problem is, being constantly fed a diet of fear and negativity; it creeps into people's lives and their everyday thinking. We speculate on the worst that could happen.

I see it on the various bike forums and blogs, where cyclists recall the near misses, and their run-ins with aggressive drivers. The problem is, the person posting is re-living the event, and causing others to re-live their bad experiences. We cannot erase bad events that have happened in the past, but we can learn from them and move on.

Is it any wonder that some, who would ride a bike, are afraid to ride on the road? A person might wonder why anyone rides there at all, if it is that bad. The truth is it is not that bad, if you look at the situation from a more positive viewpoint.

A few years ago, lived a wise and holy man from India named Sri Nisargadatta. During the 1970s he gave interviews with anyone who cared to sit with him and ask questions. These interviews were recorded, then translated into English, and published in a book called “I am that.”

Many times throughout the book he is asked, “How do you feel about all the wars, death and destruction around the world, and what about all the disease and suffering?" He would always answer, “This is in your world, not mine.”

On the surface this seems a somewhat uncaring attitude, however, I can understand this answer, having just read an online post by a cyclist. The writer asks why the hatred from other road users, why do they scream abuse at him, throw trash at him, and try to run him off the road?

The cyclist is from another state in the south, not far from South Carolina where I live. How different can drivers be, between the two states? Yet none of these terrible experiences he relates, ever happen to me. Like Sri Nisargadatta I could answer, “This is in your world, not mine."

The difference is, when I set out for a bike ride I do so with a positive attitude and I am not expecting the worst will happen. I go riding with the attitude that most people on the road a simply a cross section of the population and for the most part are inherently, good, decent people. Only a tiny minority are criminally inclined, and malicious.

We all know that many drivers are inattentive, however, they are not inattentive 100% of the time, so the chances of them being distracted at the precise moment they pass me is remote. In other words, the odds of my not being hit are far greater than being hit, so why should I dwell on the thought that that a slight possibility might occur.

Most successful people believe in the power of positive thinking; the problem is negative thoughts are just as powerful. We attract to ourselves whatever we hold in our thoughts. A person riding a bike with the attitude that all drivers are morons will attract the behavior they expect.

It is natural to have negative thoughts and to fear the worst, not only are we bombarded with negativity from the media, we get it constantly from work colleagues and those around us; plus as previously mentioned, fear is a basic instinct.

However, as humans we are capable of rationalizing, and do not need to live our lives in constant fear. We are all freethinking spirits and we do not have to dwell on the negative.

Something else I have learned; the things that annoy me as I go through life have a tendency to keep repeating. I try to recognize these re-occurring annoyances, observe them as such, but try not to get angry. After doing this a few times, the annoyance stops re-occurring.

If bad experiences are happening to you every time you ride, realize these bad incidents involve different people. The only common denominator in these totally random incidents is you.

There is a tendency to find whatever we look for. If we look for the worst in people, this is most likely what we will find. Turn that around and realize that there are more good people in this world than bad.

I try to fill my mind with good positive thoughts before I even set out on a ride; I have no control over the thoughts and actions of others, only those of my own.

I don't worry if negative thoughts slip back in, because I know they will. I am conscious of these thoughts and replace them with a positive one. A positive thought will always cancel out a negative one, as surely as light will overcome darkness, and good will overcome bad.

If you are skeptical, try it anyway; what have you got to lose? Just your bad experiences.


Furious driver takes out 50-strong cycle pack

A group of about 50 top Austrialian cyclists were involved in a hit and run, road-rage incident this morning.

The group made up of professional riders, Olympic hopefuls, and top amateurs on a training ride in Sydney, Australia, at 6:30 am. A driver, agitated with being held up, accelerated in front of the pack and then slammed on his brakes, giving the riders no time to stop.

The group piled into the back of the vehicle and each other, bikes were smashed and there were injuries, by a miracle no one was killed. The resulting smash forced a semi-trailer to lock up, jackknife behind the cyclists while cars had to swerve to avoid the fallen riders.

The group included Australian racer Kate Nichols, Kate's father Kevin Nichols, former Olympian Ben Kersten, (Top right, inset.) Graeme Brown, Michelle Ferris and Matthew White.

Thankfully no one had to die in this one, although it is serious enough. I only hope this story of a group of high profile cyclists, will make the mainstream media world wide.

Drivers need to realize that being held up is part of driving today, it happens all the time, not just from cyclists but also on freeways, everywhere. Taking revenge on a vulnerable group of cyclists is both criminal and cowardly.

The driver would not have slammed on his brakes in front of another car and risked more serious damage to his own vehicle.

You can read the full story in The Sydney Morning Herald. My thanks to Luke Burton for sending me the link.


A little bit of history: Update

At the end of last February, I wrote “A little bit of history sold on eBay.”

A custom touring frame that I built in 1982 came under the virtual hammer. The bike had previously featured in a Bicycling magazine road test.

The bike’s new owner, Ron who lives in the Bay Area, recently sent me pictures. He wrote:

“I took the bike to Terry Shaw, who took the bike apart, cleaned it, and put it back together using the parts from my Fuso.

Currently it is set up for commuting to downtown San Francisco. Fat tires are for all the bad roads in SF and fenders are for all the fog in the morning. When winter comes again, the rack will come off and become the training bike when it is wet.

This bike is great, top tube is 1.5cm longer than my Fuso so I raised the handlebar and set it up for less aggressive riding position, my Fuso is a 53cm, this frame is a 55cm.”

As I thought it would, the original paint on the frame cleaned up nicely; it was simply covered in dirt from years of neglect.

It does my heart good to know that another of my bikes, has found a good home, and is being ridden. Which, after all is what this bike was built for.


The Paris Galibier Frame

In 1950 as a 14 year old, I attended Luton Technical School, some 30 miles north of London, England.

Adjacent to that school was a Technical College for older engineering students. Many of these students were racing cyclists and would leave their bikes in the bicycle rack in the school yard.

Lunch time would find me scrutinizing every fine detail of these bikes; it was the beginning of love affair with the bicycle that ultimately shaped my life, and lead to a career as a framebuilder.

One of the most unusual and eye-catching bikes was the Paris “Galibier” model. Paris was the brand name of London framebuilder, Harry “Spanner” Rensch. His last name sounded like Wrench, hence the nickname “Spanner.” During WWII Rensch was an oxy-acetylene welder in London’s shipyards.

Paris Cycles started during the war in 1943. Harry probably chose the name Paris rather than use his own German sounding name, because of obvious wartime anti-German feeling, especially after the London Blitz.

He used a “Bi-laminated” construction for his frames, that is a sleeve brazed over the ends of the tubes, and the actual joint then filet brazed. Referred to as “Bronze Welding” in the Paris literature.

Beside the Galibier model, Harry Rensch also built conventionally designed frames. The most popular of which was the “Tour de France” model. (Click on picture above for a larger image.)

Paris frames often sported very flashy paint jobs, especially for that time. I remember red, white, and blue fade paint for example. There was a large Eiffel Tower decal on the seat tube, and the Paris name was stenciled on the down tube.

Ever since the introduction of the Galibier, and to this day, many a fierce argument has been held over this style guru’s dream machine. Is it just a style gimmick or is there real merit in this design?

I never rode a Galibier, but I will say this, a bicycle frame twists as it is being ridden, about a line from the head tube to the rear dropout. So placing a single large tube along this line, (Or there abouts.) does have merit. The seat tube is also split to form an interesting cantilever design.

One thing cannot be denied is the superb craftsmanship of Harry Rensch. Like many artists before and since, Rensch was not a good businessman. Paris Cycles was always plagued with financial problems, and lasted just 10 years, closing their doors in 1953. Harry Rensch never returned to the bicycle business and died in 1984. The Galibier is his legacy.

In recent years Condor Cycles in London bought the rights to the Paris name and are reproducing the Galibier model. (Picture above.)

Pictures from Classic Lightweights, UK


Cyclists live longer

The chances of being killed on a bicycle are less than the odds of dying in an automobile.

Statistics actually confirm the statement is true; that is, with the exception of one. When comparing the fatality risk by miles traveled, every one million miles cycled, (1.6 Million Kilometers.) produces 0.039 cyclist fatalities, compared to 0.016 fatalities for motorists.

Both figures are very low but it would seem in this straight up, mile for mile comparison, that cyclists are more than twice as likely to die on a bicycle than in an automobile.

However, this statistic is flawed to the point that it can be ignored, for the simple reason it would take a cyclist riding slightly under 385 miles per week, 50 years to ride one million miles.

Most of us will never come close to that kind of cycling mileage; 500,000 miles in a lifetime would be very good. Compare this to driving, and we all know how relatively easy it is to put 100,000 miles on our car speedometer, two million miles in an automobile in a lifetime is not unreasonable.

When you consider the lower mileage covered in any given year, the chances of a bicycle fatality are greatly reduced. This is confirmed in another statistic that compares hours cycling with hours driving.

For every million hours spent cycling the fatality rate is 0.26, compared to 0.47 deaths per million driving hours. Therefore, driving a motor vehicle has nearly twice the risk of fatality as riding a bike for a given duration.

If you rode your bike non-stop for 114 years, which is one million hours, your chances of being killed on the road would be roughly 1 in 4. In that same period, your chances of dying of natural causes would be at least 99.999%.

Another statistic compares fatalities per million people. According to the US National Safety Council, for every million cyclists in the US, 16.5 die each year, whereas for every million motorists, 19.9 die each year.

How about the chances of dying as a result of injuries from a bicycle accident? One would suppose that crashing on a bicycle has a higher risk of death than crashing in a motor vehicle, but according to the NHTSA, bicycles compare rather well.

The odds of dying from a bicycle crash are 1 in 71. This compares to 1 in 75 for an SUV, truck or van, 1 in 108 for a car, 1 in 26 for a motorcycle, and 1 in 15 for a pedestrian.

In other words, the odds of dying in a bike crash are about the same as the odds of dying in an SUV crash. The false sense of security that comes from driving an SUV tends to produce far more dangerous driving behavior.

Many cyclists fear being hit from behind. This type of accident only accounts for slightly over 10% of all bicycle accidents, and half of these occur at night when the cyclist does not have lights.

In 90% of cases where a cyclist is hit from behind, injuries were minimal. In explaining the high death rate when pedestrians are hit. A pedestrian hit by a car doing 40 mph, the pedestrian is practically stationary, and the 40 mph impact is directly on the body.

Whereas, a cyclist traveling at 15 mph, hit by a car doing 40, the impact is 25 mph if hit from behind, and it is often not a direct hit on the body.

The most common accidents occur in front of you, and by defensive riding, many can be avoided. These are, vehicles coming towards you and turning in front of you. Vehicles pulling out from side roads and driveways in front of you. Drivers passing you then turning right in front of you (The right hook, or left hook in the UK.)

Statistics confirm that you can also reduce your risk of an accident if you don’t do the following: Don’t ride on the sidewalk and suddenly appear in front of motorists at intersections, especially if you are going the wrong way.

The same goes for riding the wrong way on a one-way street. Motorists are looking one way and not expecting traffic from the other direction. Don’t ride at night without lights or reflectors is another obvious one that will greatly reduce your risk of an accident.

I can’t vouch for the accuracy of some of these statistics, and individuals must draw their own conclusions. For example, in a risks per million hours of an activity comparison, scuba diving is 7 times more dangerous than cycling; however, a person is likely to spend far more hours cycling per year than scuba diving. How do you compare the two?

However, I think the figures are generally positive for cyclists. You can get out and ride your bike knowing the odds of survival are in your favor, and if you ride smart, your odds are even greater. Here is another one.

According to a study by the British Medical Association, the average gain in "life years" through improved fitness from cycling exceeds the average loss in “life years” through cycling fatalities by a factor of 20 to 1.

So you see, cyclists really do live longer.

Further Reading

Adult Bicyclists in the United States
Bicycle Almanac
Comparative Risk of Different Activities
Cycle Safely (RTH)
General Background on Bicycle Risks
Ken Kifer's Bike Pages: The Risk of Bicycle Use
Toronto Bicycle/Motor-Vehicle Collision Study (2003)