Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Be Thankful: Good Policy to Live By

Give thanks for crazy bike events because here in Pittsburgh we have two of them coming up.

First up is the Dirty Dozen. This is a road race on the Saturday after Thanksgiving connecting 13 steep and unforgiving climbs in and around Pittsburgh. There are no posters or advertisements, the roads are all surging with hostile drivers, the weather is miserable, but it is well attended and all the information can be found on Danny Chew's website.

The Punk Bike Enduro is put on by the fine folks at Dirt Rag magazine, and is a long standing and very well run drinking contest off road bicycle race. Probably the most fun you might have on a bicycle during the month of December. Again, no one makes posters for underground races, so check out the folks at Pittsburgh Alleycats for the details.

If you live in the US then have a happy Thanksgiving from all of us at Rigid! If you live outside the U.S. then carry on knowing that we'll all be over eating, watching TV, and misunderstanding American history. Cheers!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Pass the Bugles and Peanut Butter: It's Time to Get Lifted

This video has nothing at all to do with bicycles, but signals, for me, the moment when humans prove that there is nothing left to explore on Earth. Time lapse photography from the International Space Station has been compiled and enhanced into visually stunning internet-consumable chunks. I can't stop watching this.

Earth | Time Lapse View from Space, Fly Over | NASA, ISS from Michael K├Ânig on Vimeo.

Monday, November 14, 2011

Music for your Monday

Well, after all the preaching last week, here's one to blow out the pipes. Haha, you knew it was coming; bikes are everywhere. Sorry for the advertising if you're seeing that (this is why I rarely use youtube).

Friday, November 11, 2011

A Day for Veterans

Well today is the US national holiday reserved for honoring those men and women who have served in our armed forces. Although I have little respect for the policies and decision making that have led America into so many (unsuccessful) foreign conflicts, I do have tremendous respect for those individuals who end up on the front lines. I admire soldiers. I admire especially those soldiers who have been misled, those who have been cajoled into service by the promise of education or financial stability; I know their families have a huge challenge in recreating some type of normal home life. Most importantly, I am humbled by the amount of lives that have been lost from all these wars. Political and religious leaders are not the ones whose sons and daughters are doing all the dying.

Speaking of unnecessary loss of life, the state of Pennsylvania this week joined about 35 other states in passing legislation that bans texting while driving, only hours before a local teenage driver was killed while sending a text. Every single day that I ride my bicycle on the street I see people using their "smart phone" computers while driving. Some of them are at stop signs or red lights, but many are actively driving while using their devices. In fact, I would say that hostile drivers can pretty much be categorized into two groups: a small number of people who are deliberately rude and angry about cyclists on the roads; and a much larger percentage who drive too close, turn without signaling, and pass in dangerous situations all because they are distracted. This second group is largely unaware that they are endangering me while I ride. They don't even realize how close they just came to killing me at that last intersection.

To that first group of obstinate angry drivers, I don't have much to say; I've grown immune to insults, shouts, and middle fingers. But to that much larger second group, I believe we need some public safety messages that accompany the texting bans.

How about this?

It's OK
if you need to send a text.
Just pull over first.

Seriously man, just find a driveway, or a parking lot, or an alley, or a safe road shoulder and pull over for a few minutes.  That extra five minutes could save a life.

Sorry for all the shouting everyone, I promise to head back to stories of falling down in the mud as soon as possible. Catch you next week.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

War! What is it good for?

Like many folks out there, I imagine that the sense of purpose, the thrill of a steep hill, and the bristle of wind noise, like a stiff brush, scrubbing ever louder as your speed increases can all help to create a perfect moment, even a thoughtless few minutes, while cycling to work on these blustery Fall days. I love this feeling. Not just on Fall days, but at all times of the year, these serene moments of quite, glimpses of water shimmering, or smiles from passing pedestrians keep me motivated to jump on my bicycle everyday. And then there are other days however, when you feel like you're under attack: literally dodging salvos of speeding vehicles and deflecting insults from harried drivers. It's as if there is a war going on, and it's cyclists defending themselves from every other possible form of transportation; slow moving city busses, buzzing motorcyclists, and irate car commuters all have a taste for blood (even the rollerbladers have taken sides, I imagine; they have sharpened blades, easily retrieved from their fanny packs, like a prison shiv, ready for a quick kidney puncture on the bike path like two inmates passing in a crowded hallway). The only thing left is for the rear windows of right-hooking minivans to be painted with outstretched arms and a flashing neon font that says "Come at me, Bro".

So who started this war? How can we negotiate a lasting peace, you might be asking yourself?

Let's start by considering that all transportation is multimodal. After even the most resolute driver parks his car downtown, he has to walk into the office building, right? Those committed buss riders? they have to walk to get to and from the bus stops. People drive to get to the light rail stations, people bicycle to get to the rideshare lots, people carpool to get to the football games, people skateboard to get to the subway, people take a bus to get to the airport, and on and on and on. We use many forms of transportation; let's get over that. Now, let's build a transportation network that incorporates equally many different types of transportation and lets encourage people to use those forms that use less energy and create less pollution. Let's create an integrated transportation system. Why is this so hard?

Here is a concept video that shows how something like this might work. Take a look and try to ignore the smugness and the funny sounding voices.

mo - mobility for tomorrow from LUNAR Europe on Vimeo.

My biggest criticism of this is how heavily it relies on the so-called "smart phone" computers. Afterall, a large part of the bus riding demographic are the poor people who can't afford a car and I am here to testify that not everyone has a smart phone, or even a cell phone (or even a government ID for that matter--since it is election day). But otherwise I am really excited about this type of thinking. Also, I do recognize that the video is very Your-o-pee-'in. I know the chances of an actual US soccer mom tossing her kids, and a bag of groceries, into a pedal powered wheel barrow are nonexistent. But maybe if we somehow got some of the Budweiser clydesdales', or the Coca-Cola polar bears' kind of marketing money into changing commuters' behavior, don't you think people might respond?