Roberta’s Rules

January 8, 2019 § 9 Comments

Roberta Walker, a local Bicycle Advocate and Executive Director of the Encinitas 101, was hit from behind while riding on Hwy 1 in front of the Leucadia Post Office on Saturday, December 8th. Her injuries are severe.

Roberta faces a long recovery.

My good friend Michael Marckx has been a board member of Leucadia 101 for seven years, and has been active in North County San Diego’s cycling community, to put it mildly, from the moment he relocated there from the South Bay.

Roberta’s collision led Michael to spearhead the creation of a simple list of riding rules that the community’s cyclists can implement and encourage others to adopt. It’s simple, elegant, friendly, and for those of us over 50, easy to remember … which is yuge.

Roberta’s Rules aren’t just for North County San Diego. They’re for everywhere that bikes and cars are traffic.

____________________________

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Cycling Unsavvy

December 20, 2018 § 20 Comments

I have for years supported the bike education and riding techniques developed by Cycling Savvy. They are awesome and they work.

However, in their latest newsletter they ran the following post. I’m going to leave aside the fact that this is exactly the kind of crap that makes people refuse to ride bikes.

Wait. No, I’m not.

Because this is exactly the kind of crap that makes people refuse to ride bikes.

Looks matter

This guy looks like an insane person, and that’s okay. Bicycling has always been a refuge for the weird. But as a bike advocate, this is not okay because the single biggest factor in bike safety isn’t wearing reindeer mirror-hats or reflective jackets, it’s motorist behavior.

And motorist behavior doesn’t change until motorists have to confront cyclists in large numbers, as part of the normal traffic scheme. Countries where there are shit-tons of cyclists, i.e. Eurobikedisneyland, have far safer environments for cyclists, than, say Florida.

That’s one of many reasons it’s uncommon to see anyone with a helmet in Vienna, and absolutely fucking inconceivable to see someone decked out with goofball car mirrors on their head like a tin-hat Republican.

In other words: when you tell people that bike safety requires you to look like you just got kicked off Santa’s sleigh, most people aren’t gonna ride bikes–and that makes the roads deadlier for those of us who do.

Good luck charms and shit

What’s worse about this “instructor’s” “manifesto,” Cycling Savvy explicitly teaches you to learn to turn yer fuggin’ head and look before you swerve across forty lanes of freeway traffic. Using a mirror is a complete waste of time at worst, and at best it’s a lame crutch that supplements what you should already know how to do, i.e. turn your fuggin’ head without jerking your handlebars into the next county.

The dork with the mirrors subscribes to the talisman theory of cycling safety, which basically says “I have this special thing that keeps me safe and unless you have it too and use it exactly as I prescribe, you will DIE!!!!”

It’s like the high priest’s mumbo-jumbo where you have to eat the raw newt testicles, boil the spider vag, and turn around twice under a full moon when Aries is in Liposuction, and then, and only then will you be safe. The net effect is that normal people look at that shit and say, “Um, I think I’ll go ahead and drive.”

Taking the heat off the wrongdoer

The real perps in traffic aren’t bikers without mirrors. They are cagers who hit and kill them. And it’s the cager’s behavior that has to change, not the biker’s. Biking is a safe activity, it’s healthy, fun AF, a great way to torch calories and friendships, and if you bike commute, it’s also the very best part of your day.

Bikers shouldn’t be lectured and shamed by idiots who dress up like space aliens. They should be encouraged to use the lane, learn the tenets of Cycling Savvy, and get on with their day, not told to BUY MORE STUFF CUZ OTHERWISE YOU WILL DIE!!!!!

As a pointless aside, this fool’s helmet protuberances will easily turn a harmless fall into a spine-destroying injury the minute those horns get caught on something, hit at an angle that causes a violent twist, etc.

Save your hate mail

Please don’t comment or email telling me that you have a mirror and that it saved your life, helped you make a smart buy on the stock market, got you laid by your brother’s wife, or made a snazzy impression at the Little League draft. Rather, please do, but be aware that I don’t care because I think mirrors are like helmets. They are fine if you want to wear one, just like the guy biking in a leotard-thong on the bike path a couple of months ago. If it makes you feel jolly, then scratch that itch.

But don’t pose as an expert on bike behavior and make gimmicky stuff the sine qua non for staying alive. It’s fake, it’s false, and it makes people choose the car.

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Dreamy …

Another salvo in the helmet wars

December 11, 2018 § 10 Comments

It would be so nice if we could say that wearing helmets is always better than not wearing them, and the great news is that if you live in the South Bay, where people love to shout “WHERE’S YOUR HELMET???”, you can certainly live out your cycling life believing that the little styrofoam and plastic doohickey atop your skull is making you live longer, safer, healthier, more happily, and without having to consider facts, science, competing ideas, or, dog forbid, studies.

Two doozies recently popped up on my radar screen thanks to friends who, like me, wear helmets, just not all the time, and who, like me, find it amusing that so many cyclists screech and wail about helmets as if they were the panacea to everything from head injuries to herpes.

The first study was a confirmation of an earlier study which found that cagers are more likely to subject riders to dangerous punishment passes when the riders are helmeted. This means that in many situations wearing a helmet actually encourages motorists to endanger you, and of course some of those punishment passes result in collisions.

To repeat: In some instances, helmets INCREASE your risk of injury or death. Here’s the study, so fascinating as it shows how a dedicated researcher spent five years validating his results after they were attacked by helmet nazis, and it shows how truly disturbed and careless many motorists really are. Passing someone closer because they wear a helmet?

FML.

Hold on there just one darn minute!

Before the anti-helmet forces burn down all helmet factories and declare victory, another study popped up that sort of debunks the risk compensation hypothesis, which states that cyclists with helmets engage in riskier behavior than those without.

Anyone accustomed to wearing a helmet knows that when you take off your lid you feel more exposed and try to be more careful, at least for the first few minutes until you are overwhelmed with the joyful free feeling of the wind in your hair, but this doesn’t necessarily mean that once you strap on the helmet you become a kamikaze.

You can read the abstract here; it’s kind of a plus for helmets unless you are unlucky to run the thing by America’s best bike analyst, John Forester. John basically says all of the studies are crap because of one tiny little detail: None of the studies can define risky behavior; safe cycling isn’t as cut/dry as safe sex. Here’s his analysis:

I have read the summaries presented in the article listed below. The question is whether or not the wearing of a cycling helmet induces more risky behavior. It is believed that this is a question that is worthy of consideration. In some kind of theoretical consideration of the science of psychology this issue may be worthy of consideration, but in this specific and practical case consideration is completely worthless. Why? Because nobody knows which cycling behaviors are safe and which are risky. Consider whether obeying the traffic laws is, or is not, risky. There is plenty of evidence that many Americans believe that cyclists obeying the traffic laws are riding in a very dangerous manner, whereas obeying the traffic laws is the key to safe operation.But which traffic laws? Those which make vehicle operation safe, or those intended to restrict cyclists for the convenience of motorists under the excuse of cyclist safety? The article repeatedly referenced the relationship between fear of danger and risk aversion. However, it is well known that those who most fear traffic dangers are also those who ride in the most dangerous style, curb hugging. Dutch-style slow and helmetless cycling seems to be safe, while faster cyclists seem more likely to use helmets. Does that mean that fast cycling is a risky behavior? To some extent it does. The faster the cyclist in a crash, the more likely is he to be carried forward (by his own momentum) and therefore the more likely he is to land on or near his head. So it is reasonable that faster cyclists tend to wear helmets. But does that mean that fast cycling is risky behavior? Or only that slow cycling is inconveniently slow? As long as opinions about cycling risk are in such contradictory confusions, any attempt to analyze cyclists’ habits in terms of risk homeostasis is bound to fail.

John Forester, 2018

Of course anyone who can use the words “risk homeostasis” in a sentence wins the Internet for the day, so those who would force everyone everywhere to always helmet up … try again.

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Death comes to the BigLaw(yer)

November 16, 2018 § 12 Comments

My #coachnotcoach sent me a happy news article about a lawyer who loved his job so much that one morning when he got to work he blew his brains out. This is apparently common, as attorney jobs go. Many lawyers hate their fucking jobs so much that a bullet to the head is preferable to another day on the job.

Fortunately, I’m not one of them.

But the story behind the death of Gabe MacConaill, the LA BigLaw partner who shot himself, is instructive for a lot of reasons. Of course the primary victims in the story are MacConaill and his wife, Joanna Litt. I know firsthand that suicide wrecks more than the life of the person who is wheeled off in a gurney. If the person was close to you at all, his death is your fault, and you carry that around with you every single day for the rest of your life.

But the idea that MacConaill was somehow victimized by his firm is a false narrative, or at least a distorted one. MacConaill worked for Sidley Austin, a huge firm that, like all huge firms, thrives on the misery of its employees.

No one goes to work for BigLaw thinking that anyone there gives a melted plastic fuck about them. BigLaw, and you, are there for money and money alone. BigLaw doesn’t make the world better, people safer, or promote justice. It exists to fuck the faces of everyone and anyone who stands in the way of corporate profit.

I know plenty of BigLaw attorneys, and some of them are fantastic people, especially on the bike. But in the cubicle jungle of the skyscrapers they work in, they sweat blood in a competition-promotion hierarchy that eats the weak. Death, illness, addiction, divorce, insanity, and horrific personal misery are not simply risks of the trade, they are often its inevitable wages.

MacConaill, a partner at a monstrous firm, was ground up by a corporate Chapter 11 filing by the Mattress Firm; apparently he was the point guy on this very big case–“very big” meaning “lucrative for The Firm.” Such jobs are similar to working for the Mafia in this way: Everyone who belongs, knows they belong. No one is an “accidental” hit man or a “How’d I get this corner suite?” partner. Unlike the Mafia, though, with Biglaw you can always walk away. In theory …

Both MacConaill and his wife, a fellow lawyer, knew that they were sacrificing short-term happiness so that he could cash a partner’s paycheck that would, they hoped, some day lead to long-term happiness.

THIS IS HOW ALMOST EVERYONE IN THAT MEATGRINDER THINKS: I WILL BE MISERABLE TODAY SO THAT I CAN BUY HAPPINESS TOMORROW.

But it turns out you can’t, and it’s not simply because happiness isn’t for sale, it’s for a reason far more profound: Tomorrow isn’t for sale. The only thing for sale is today.

Ride yer fuggin’ bike

I continually run across people who have thrown away their lives cycling. Steve Tilford is the best example. He could have done anything and been anyone, but he chose to ride his bike because it brought him pleasure and because it allowed him to bring pleasure to those around him.

When his life ended, no one bemoaned the life he had chosen. No one regretted the piles of money he never made, the fancy cars he never drove, the luxurious vacations he never took. All they did was reflect on what a passionately good, honest, bike-loving, bike racing guy he was, and how he had spread that happiness in word and in deed.

There’s a moral there somewhere.

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No time for life

November 10, 2018 § 15 Comments

I went for a ride today, my first pedal in 30 days. It was tiring but it felt great. I needed a break, and a break I got. While riding, a friend was telling me about a guy we knew who used to ride bicycles. “Yeah, Ol’ Joe doesn’t ride anymore.”

“How come?”

“He got busy with work.”

“Does he still like riding?”

“He’s crazy for it.”

“So how come he doesn’t ride?”

“Like I said, he got busy with work.”

“Does he need the extra money?”

“Nah. But you know. Business is busy.”

Cart before the horse

I thought the whole point behind working was to make money that you can use to help lead a quality life. Unless it’s out of necessity, if you are working so much that you can’t do the things you love, what is the point of working?

I see it everywhere here in the South Bay. People have nice homes, nice cars, nice clothes, nice vacations, all the trappings of a “good life.” But most of them are still gutting out a day job that they don’t really like. The saddest ones are the (mostly) guys who are retirement age but keep plugging away simply to keep the paycheck coming, the paycheck they don’t even need.

What is wrong with people? Don’t they know that virtually everyone who was alive in 1918 is dead?

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Feed your children well

October 31, 2018 § 4 Comments

I remember coming home from kindergarten one day, all excited. “Dad!” I said.

“Yes?”

“We can get free lunch at school!”

“You can?”

“Yeah! A bunch of the kids get free lunch! They don’t have to PAY!” I couldn’t believe that you could go through the lunch line and not have to give the lady a nickel for your milk and fifteen cents for your lunch plate.

“That’s great,” Dad said, not especially excited.

“Can we get free lunches, too?” I asked.

“No,” he said.

“How come?”

“Because,” he said slowly, looking at me. “We don’t need them. Other people do.”

Lunch and recess

I started school at Booker T. Washington Elementary in Galveston, in 1968, the first year that the schools on the island desegregated, fourteen long fucking years after it was ordered by the Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Education. The best two parts of the day were morning snack, recess, and lunch.

The cafeteria was always open an hour before school started and you could go in, pay a nickel, and get chocolate milk. For another nickel you could get a mini-box of corn flakes. I had breakfast at home but loved the chocolate milk and if I had an extra nickel I’d make sure to buy some.

There were always kids who got to the the cafeteria in the morning as soon as it opened, and who would eat two or three mini-boxes of cereal before joining the rest of us outside as we played four-square, hopskotch, basketball, or covered ourselves in dirt and sand in the long jump pit. In fact at Booker T., most of the kids cycled through the cafeteria before class started, at least to get a free carton of milk.

Free.

It wasn’t until many years later that I realized those kids were in the cafeteria early because for many of them it was the last meal they would see until nightfall. Maybe for a handful, those two bowls of corn flakes were their meal for the day.

As a grown man with grandchildren, the world can sometimes seem complex. But here’s something simple: If one out of every six children is hungry, you have failed as a nation.

Chefs cycle, chefscycle

A peculiar aspect of grand fondues is that they often link up with charities, encouraging donations and giving a percentage of their proceeds to a cause. For four years I was vaguely aware of the charity recipient at Phil’s Cookie Fondo, ChefsCycle. It’s a group that raises money on the bike and donates it to No Kid Hungry, which in turn is a group that lobbies for school breakfast/lunch funding and puts money directly into schools to allow them to feed kids for free.

The idea that we have a Congress where free food for kids is an issue that requires lobbying is mind-boggling until you consider that our nation also builds and maintains concentration camps for immigrant children. It’s a tiny jump from the one to the other, yo. The idea that the weakest and smallest among us need advocates, rather than the idea that every human being is OF COURSE an advocate for children, is unfortunate and true.

Since 2015, ChefsCycle has raised $6M for No Kid Hungry, and they have done it through a simple concept formulated by chefs Allan Ng and Jason Roberts: “How can we get out of the kitchen, onto our bikes, and do something that puts food in the bellies of hungry kids?”

Mushed banana

Now that I am old and going very gray, I am reaping my reward. It is not financial. It is not material, as anyone who has analyzed my wardrobe and Timex watch knows. Nor is it spiritual, as Dog hasn’t spoken to me with any more clarity today than he did when I was three.

No, my reward for raising a family is this: I get to see my son-in-law mush up a very ripe banana with his thumb and carefully feed it to my 6-month-old grandson. My reward is the smile and eager smacking, and the bits of drool and banana that spill out from his tiny mouth as he happily and with pure pleasure defeats for a few hours the hunger that is within us all.

His small reward of a mushy banana is my reward. You can make it your reward, too, in some classroom, in the stomach of some little kid who you will never even know.

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Suntan

October 27, 2018 § 4 Comments

Charuka’s mom was from Sri Lanka and her dad Saju was from a village in Gujarat. She had three older brothers who were very light skinned like her mother; Charuka was very dark like Saju.

Saju moved to Houston with his family in 1990. They left India, lived in Mexico City for a few months, and then hired a coyote to take them across the border. Charuka remembers the smell of the open truck they rode in. It was piled high with empty burlap bags that had been used for green coffee beans.

It was a 2-day drive to the border in McAllen, and the merciless sun beat down, as they say, relentlessly.  Throughout the trip Charuka’s mom would scold, “Keep your head out of the sun! It will make your skin dark!”

When they got to the border they burrowed down to the bottom of the bags, the truck was subjected to the most cursory of checks, and they were across. Many years later she wondered why, during such a perilous trip, the only thing her mother had been concerned about was the color of her skin.

No bicycling for you, young lady

Charuka’s brothers all got bikes for their birthdays, but she didn’t. “It is too sunny in Houston,” her mother said. “It will make your skin dark.”

“But my skin is already dark!”

“The sun will make it darker!” her mother angrily replied, so Charuka contented herself by sneaking rides when one of her brothers’ bikes was free.

The family eventually got legal status and became citizens, but no one ever voted. “Voting is stupid,” Saju always said. “Make money, save money, go to bed. Your vote won’t change anything.”

Charuka never voted.

You’ve got mail

One day Charuka got a letter that looked official. “Due to your past traffic violations, you are not eligible to vote in future elections,” it read.

She panicked and went to the DPS to sort the matter out. She had never gotten so much as a parking ticket. “Your record is clear, miss,” the lady told her. Charuka showed the letter. “It might be something to do with the county clerk. They handle voting registration.

Charuka went to the voter registrar’s office. “This thing is a fraud,” the clerk told her. “Republican operatives send these out to people in your zip code so they won’t vote.”

“Why my zip code?”

“Because it’s where poor people live.”

Family affair

Charuka drove over to her parents, who she lived near, and told them what had happened. “You don’t have any rights here unless you use them,” she said in disgust as her father began his mantra about money.

Her mother looked at her disapprovingly. “You should be wearing sunscreen and gloves when you drive and not worrying about politics. Your skin is getting very dark.”

“What’s wrong with you, mom?” she asked. “What in the hell is wrong with all of you?”

Two months later, on election day, Charuka’s father called. “Are you voting today?”

“Yes,” she said.

“Okay,” said Saju, and hung up.

Charuka went over to her neighbor’s house. “Can I borrow your bicycle?” she asked.

“Sure,” he said.

She put on a t-shirt and shorts and felt the hot Houston sun on her neck, face, arms, and legs. In moments she was sweating. “If mom could see me now,” she laughed grimly to herself. The polling place was only about fifteen minutes away but by the time she got there she was drenched. Houston can be fiery hot even in November.

As she stood in the long line she saw her father’s car drive up. He piled out with her mom and three brothers. Her mom, for the first time in Charuka’s life, wasn’t wearing a head covering, long sleeves, or gloves. The merciless sun beat down, as they say, relentlessly, on her too.

END

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