Kind of a long commute

January 9, 2020 § 17 Comments

Yesterday’s commute to Yucaipa using MetroLink + bike came out to just over 100 miles. I left at 5:10 AM and got home at 6:00 PM. It was pretty glorious, starting the ride in the middle of LA, then hopping off the train and pedaling from San Bernardino to Yucaipa.

There were snow-capped mountains in the background, zero traffic, wide roads, and even adventure. I got lost and had to pedal through an avocado grove as I tried to find my way onto a dirt utility road that “I was sure” led to pavement “somewhere.”

An angry farmwife came running out. “Get out of here! This is private property!”

I was already out of the grove and onto the utility road. “Sorry!” I hollered back. “I’m lost!”

“I don’t give a damn! DON’T COME BACK!”

The utility road was rough, so rough that I punctured my rear 36mm tubeless. It was my first ever puncture on a tubeless, and aside from covering my ass and backpack with sealant, it worked perfectly and I pedaled on. As I surmised, the dirt road led to pavement, then to a beautiful, short climb up Sand Canyon Road down into Yucaipa.

On the way home, while waiting for the train in San Bernardino, I ate lunch, a roast beef sandwich with cheese and bell pepper, bookended with two pieces of my homemade sourdough rye-wheat-seet bread. I washed it down with coffee.

Inside the train a guy parked his bike next to mine. “Hey, man,” he said. “How far you going on that thing?”

“About a hundred. You?”

“I don’t know how far, man, but I ride every day to the station, that’s about thirty minutes one way, then I get to San Bernardino, and that’s another thirty minutes to my job, so about two hours every day.”

His bike was a cruiser with fat tires and wide handlebars. “How long you been doing that?”

“Six months, man. I lost my car from a DUI. At first I was bummed because all my friends was like, ‘Man, you riding a bike? That’s bullshit.’ But then I lost a ton of weight man.”

“I bet.”

“Yeah, I still got a little bit to go but I feel great now and my friends don’t say shit no more. They’re still real overweight, man. And you know what?”


“I used to be angry all the time. I had all these voices in my head, man. And since I started riding this bike, man, I don’t hear no voices no more. And I ain’t angry for no reason no more. It’s weird.”

“That’s great.”

“And you know what else?”


“My cholesterol and shit is way down, man. I ain’t got no blood pressure no more, neither.”

“Blood pressure sucks,” I agreed.

“Yeah, man. But you know what my old lady says?”


“She’s like, ‘You smiling all the time.’ She likes that a lot, man. When your old lady is like down with you being in a good mood then she gets in a good mood and you know what that means.”

“Indeed I do.”

He chuckled as if he were thinking of something pleasant. “Yeah, I used to be grumpy and scowling and shit all the time but now I’m just smiling. Like, I’m happy, man.”

“Why do you think that is?”

“Shit, man, I know why that is.”


He pointed to the bike. “This baby here, man. Right here.”


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Who's zoomin' who?

January 7, 2020 § 5 Comments

Today is Carmaggeddon #104. Things have changed since Day 1, way back in the Stone Age on August 17, 2019.

I saw Ryan Dahl at the BWR movie a few weeks ago. “Are you over it yet?” he asked with a knowing smile.

“Yes,” I said. “Way over it.”

And I saw Kevin Nix at a New Year’s Party. “Do you miss driving?” he asked with a knowing smile.

“Yes,” I said, “like I miss drinking beer.”

Those two interchanges sum it up. Commuting all over Southern California, plus the occasional group ride when I can, is not exciting anymore. It has become a dispassionate calculation of time and energy. “How long will it take to get there and how will it fit in with the other riding I have to do?”

Have to do.

Not want to do.

Have to do.

And the second part is that driving has a wistful allure to it, like being drunk does. I know it is sweet and comforting, and know that with it in my life things have a dreamy quality. But I also know that without it my life is better. Harsher, less forgiving, more comprehensible, more clear, a chocolate cake without the frosting, maybe without the chocolate, but refreshing and beautiful, like clear water.

I’m thinking about that a lot right now as I plan tomorrow’s commute to Yucaipa. Even with the train it will be a 100-mile+ day. Followed by the Flog on Thursday …

But even when I have my doubts, someone will end up sending me something juicy that convinces me that I’m doing the right thing the right way. Like this article, emailed to me by Jordan Schaffel, which pins the fucking tail right where it belongs, not on bike lanes and infrastructure or even on vehicular cycling, but rather on CARS.

The reason kids and adults keep getting hurt and killed while on bicycles is the same reason that skunks and possums and armadillos do. People in cars run them over. The more people you have sitting in cars, the more they will run over people who are walking or bicycling.

This story about Oslo, and what it really takes to hit Vision 0, is a hard fact that infrastructure dorks like Peter Flax and vehicular cyclists like John Forester have a hard time acknowledging: the cheapest, fastest, most efficient, safest, and healthiest way to improve the quality of life for all people–whether they are sitting within cars or without–is to reduce the number of cars. The Vision 0 is the vision of zero cars.

Oslo points strongly to this conclusion: that people in cars aren’t compatible with people outside them. We now have over 1 billion motor vehicles on earth, or roughly one for every 7 people. Is that too many? Only if you ever plan on getting out of the vehicle and using your legs, and don’t laugh. That is for sure the plan of the great majority of people in the USA.

At this intersection, the opposing poles of Flax and Forester run into trouble, because they both love cars, depend on cars, and can’t imagine an environment without them, or even one that greatly restricts their range, ownership, and use. NYC as a no-car zone? That would fix the problem. DTLA without a single car? The city’s green paint budge would be zero.

This sounds about as sane and achievable as not letting people have guns.

As the questions by Ryan and Kevin reveal, something much stronger is at work than the safety, happiness, and quality of life for kids and adults who walk and bicycle. It’s the convenience of being able to do so many things without having to exert your own body. I could tell you that a gallon of milk on my back, along with a 5-pound lock and cable, climbing 900 feet to my apartment, is a very different proposition from hauling those same items in a 5,000-lb. car by simply pressing the gas pedal.

But you know what?

Until you have to do it, you probably won’t ever know.


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Today's weather

December 5, 2019 § 3 Comments

I stood in line at the post office. I had parked my bike in the foyer, lights still blinking. My hi-viz rain jacket was dripping a bit, making a little puddle around my feet.

I recalled something I’d once read. “There are no successful people at the post office.”

Like that part in Alice’s Restaurant where everybody on the jail bench moved away from Arlo when they found out he’d been arrested for littering, the patrons were giving me a wide berth and looking through me.

I thought of the corollary to the above rule: “And people at the post office on bicycles aren’t people.”

I got to the window. “How’s your day going?” I asked the lady as a raindrop splopped onto the counter.


“How come?”

She nodded at the window. “The weather. I hate the rain. Just hate it.”

She was so big that there were two of her. “How come?” I asked.

“You can’t do anything on days like this.”

I was standing there in my rain gear, rolled up pant leg, and bike visible in the foyer. “You can’t?”

“Nope,” she said. “Days like this all you can do is sit inside and drink hot cocoa. Which is EXACTLY what I’ll be doing in four hours’ time.” She said it with the sadness you’d expect if someone had told her that Sara Lee had gone bankrupt, or was now vegan only.

I loved the way she made it sound like the rain was preventing her from engaging in her normal active lifestyle, all that bungee jumping, rock climbing, and hang gliding she normally did after work when the sun was out. As if her today wasn’t the equal of her every day, always indoors or wrapped in a steel cage, shuffling from chair to sofa and back again from the moment she awoke to the moment she went to bed.

“Yeah,” I agreed. “Days like today you just have to stay put.”

She nodded without looking up, weighing my letter and slapping on a stamp while breathing heavily from the effort of existing. “You said it, my friend.”

I kinda did.


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What do you do when your bike advocate works for Satan?

December 3, 2019 § 25 Comments

One of the most confounding things for bicycle riders trying to objectively decide about how to make safer streets is knowing the motivation of any particular advocate. Most present themselves as bicycle riders who simply want to get around without being frightened, harassed, injured, or killed.

And whether the advocate works on Wall Street or at Taco Bell, votes for Warren or for Trump, that commonality of interest is what brings advocates together. However, at least in the LA advocacy community, the political leanings of most advocates are left-ish, and some are far left.

Why is that? It’s because leftish politics view the environment, multi-modal transportation, and social justice regardless of income as part of a political worldview. This worldview contrasts and is often in conflict with rightish politics, which tend to support cars as the preferred mode, don’t think that environmental issues are paramount, and believe that the more money you earn, the more rights you should have.

Of course there are many Trump-loving cyclists in LA, and a whole bunch of left-leaning drivers who hate bicycles, so you shouldn’t simply judge a fish by his political preference. Nonetheless, when an advocate presents an idea, and more importantly when he presents himself as “one of us,” we have a right to know if he really is.

This isn’t because conservative bicyclists don’t have great ideas or support smart, sensible things as related to street safety. It’s because transparency is what allows us to factor in a person’s other interests with the interest they are presenting to us as solutions for safer streets.

I read over the insults of Peter Flax in my Sunday blog and wondered, “Why is this guy so mad at me? I hit him for writing a crappy article and pointed out what I thought were inconsistencies and a horrible philosophy, i.e. his belief that a dead cyclist was a silver lining for bike infrastructure, and he went after me as if I’d called him a fake and a fraud.”

I chewed on that. “Well,” I thought, “maybe he is.”

What did I really know about Peter Flax? Who is he? I’d read some of his work online before and generally liked it. But what are his credentials as a bike advocate? What is it about being upbraided by a leaky prostate blogger that would set fire to a guy who is the editor in chief for Red Bulletin?

So I googled, and the more I read, the more surprised I became. Former editor in chief of Bicycling Magazine. Former features editor for the Hollywood Reporter (knew that). Regular contributor to Outside and Red Kite Prayer. Then I scrolled through some of his stories. Legit stuff. Carefully written. Pro-cyclist. Anti-car. The guy has chops, period.

None of it made sense. Why was he hurling personal invective and challenging me to a debate, of all things, as if a writer couldn’t defend himself adequately in print and wanted to “settle this in person”? What was next? A challenge to a bike race? (I would win that, btw.) So I thought back to an earlier comment I’d made on Facebook about an interview he’d done with John Forester that had really angered him, suggesting that he’d eased off on his advocacy now that he was repping the corporate interests of Red Bull.

And then I thought about how I’d led off my Sunday blog by remarking on how corporate-ish he seemed lately. Could it be that these comments, along with my jabs at Bicycling Magazine, had wounded his pride? Or was he hiding something? Or both?

Back to Google, where I started reading about Red Bull, the drink, and its health effects on small kids. Guess what? No studies show that this stuff improves either physical or cognitive performance, or that regular users grow wings. Guess what else? The American Academy of Pediatricians says this:

In a new clinical report, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) outlines how these products are being misused, discusses their ingredients, and provides guidance to decrease or eliminate consumption by children and adolescents. The report, “Sports Drinks and Energy Drinks for Children and Adolescents: Are They Appropriate ?” is published in the June 2011 issue of Pediatrics (published online May 30).,-and-Rarely-Need-Sports-Drinks,-Says-AAP.aspx

This of course is the tip of the iceberg. Red Bull is banned in Denmark and Norway, and was banned for years in France. At least one randomized clinical trial shows that energy drinks like Red Bull cause increases in blood pressure, indicating that the drinks may be dangerous for people with high blood pressure. Most interesting is the language in the abstract that talks about how these drinks are marketed to children, which of course is chapter and verse out of the tobacco industry’s manual. More about that later.

Another study concludes that

… although energy drinks may have beneficial effects on physical performance, these products may also have possible detrimental health consequences. Marketing of energy drinks should be limited or forbidden until independent research confirms their safety, particularly among adolescents.

On its face I suppose you could shrug and say, well, a fellow has to make a living, and Peter makes his pimping Red Bull. Sure, he probably doesn’t let his own kids drink it, and he probably knows that it’s not the healthiest choice in the checkout line, but it’s not as if he’s selling drones to kill kids in Syria.

Of course this is also what you’d have to say regarding his stint as editor-in-chief of Bicycling Magazine. It’s a corporate advertising rag whose mission is to sell shit to new riders. That’s their demographic and why they pump out the same old stories every year. If you have to make the same excuse for someone twice, is that a pattern? I don’t know.

But back to Red Bull. Would you want to know that your bicycling advocate is the head magazine editor when it comes to marketing unhealthy and potentially unsafe drinks to little kids at the same time he’s advising you about things like the safety of highly controversial things like bike infrastructure? I guess I would want to know it, but maybe once I did, I wouldn’t really care … that much. Everyone has to make compromises, and Peter’s clearly moving up in the world. He lives in one of the richest zip codes in America, right? And since when is the pursuit of wealth in America a crime? Most importantly, in general ideas need to stand and fall on their own merits, regardless of who’s pushing them. But as with disclosures of financial support that are required in clinical trials, knowing who has a dog in the hunt matters.

And I felt bad, too. Why couldn’t I cut him some slack? He writes good stuff on the side of cyclists. We may disagree about methods but he’s hardly the enemy, and it’s these internecine battles that full blown cycling opponents use to fracture our unity. And of course it reminded me that getting in people’s grill is my way of life and it has a lot to not recommend it, both as a personality trait and as way of fitting in.

Problem? I couldn’t get Red Bull out of my head. So back to Google.

Who is Red Bull? What does it stand for? Why does it matter?

I quickly hit pay dirt in the form of an interview given by Dietrich Mateschitz, the billionaire owner of Red Bull, in 2017. It’s in German, and the complete interview is behind a paywall. However, big chunks of it have been excerpted, also in German, and after subscribing and reading the full interview, the more outraged I got. Not because Mateschitz is a reactionary, Trump-leaning, anti-immigrant businessman who gives a regular platform to the most extreme right wing ideologues in Austria, but because Peter Flax, bicycle advocate, cynically steers Red Bull in the USA to young kids while never talking frankly about this corporate ideology. What follow are excerpts from the interview with Mateschitz:

Q: Ist das schon eine positive Kategorie? Viele sind schockiert über Trumps erratische Sprunghaftigkeit.
A: Diese Frage bietet sich schon an, natürlich. Aber vor allem halte ich die derzeitige Hysterie für lächerlich. Nur weil etwas außerhalb der eigenen Ideologie ist? Das Schlechte an der Demokratie ist, dass die Mehrheit nicht immer recht hat. Das Gute ist, dass das Irren korrigierbar ist, dass jeder genauso schnell abgewählt werden kann, wie er gewählt wurde. Man soll Trump Zeit geben.

On immigration in Europe:

Q: Was stört Sie konkret?
A: Zum Beispiel das unverzeihliche Ausmaß der politischen Fehleinschätzungen und Fehlentscheidungen bei der Nichtbewältigung der Flüchtlingswelle oder, besser gesagt, der Auswanderungswelle. Ich glaube nicht, dass es ein klarer Ausdruck politischen Willens war, die Grenzen unkontrolliert offen zu lassen. Man hat aus Angst und politischer Opportunität so entschieden. Schon damals war für jedermann erkennbar, dass der Großteil der Menschen nicht der Definition des Flüchtlings entsprach. Jedenfalls nicht der der Genfer Konvention.

Kleine Zeitung, 2017

These and other utterances criticizing political correctness, lambasting Brussels for supposedly trying to wipe out homogenous (i.e. “white) cultures, attacking the current political atmosphere in Austria, and voicing support for the now-disgraced, right-wing ex-chancellor Sebastian Kurz, by themselves aren’t much more than evidence of a very right-leaning billionaire. So what else is new?

But with Mateschitz, it’s never just opinions, it’s also actions. And his actions are like his sports: they are extreme. His TV program Hangar-7 is a regular platform for some of the most hard-core right-wing extremists in Austria, including booted Interior Minister and immigrant hating racist Herbert Kickl (guest speaker at Europe’s congress of extremist right wing parties), reactionary anti-feminist Birgit Kelle, and politician Marcus Franz, famous for insisting on a man’s right to grab women by the ass and also holding that homosexuality is immoral and that poor people should have their right to vote revoked.

This is the real Red Bull with all the advertising, glossy photo covers, and slick prosemanship stripped away. It stands for something, and I think that a large proportion of the community of cycling advocates would agree that what it stands for isn’t good. Trump. Anti-immigrant. Reactionary feminism. Legitimized sexual assault. Homophobia. Hatred of the poor. Are these your shared values? They aren’t mine. And if they aren’t Peter’s he damned well needs to step up and distance himself from them.

Unfortunately, he works for Mateschitz, so that ain’t gonna happen. The closest we get is this piece of bootlicking on Twitter.

The Hangar-7 TV show is Mateschitz’s full frontal push to gain acceptance for right wing extremist ideologies, “Under the cover of freedom of speech,” according to Jerome Trebing, a Viennese sociologist and specialist on Austria’s extreme-right scene.

As is always the case with things like this, there’s more. Cyclists who throw in with Red Bull are also throwing in with Mateschitz’s deliberate choice to use athletes like Felix Baumgartner as the product’s spokesman. “Who is that?” I wondered. He’s this charming guy:

“You can’t get anything done in a democracy. We need a moderate dictatorship, where a couple of people out of the business world really know what’s up.”

Wow. A couple of businessmen, maybe one named “Donald” and the other named “Dietrich” and all of our problems will be solved. Heck, we’re halfway there.

Which brings me back to Red Bull’s magazine and its explicit marketing of an unhealthy, potentially unsafe drink to children. Because this, not TV shows in Austria, is what Peter Flax really does for a living. When the American Academy of Pediatricians said that “Sports and energy drinks are being marketed to children and adolescents for a variety of inappropriate uses,” Red Bull hit back.

“We do not market our product to children and other sensitive people.”

This is pretty black-and-white. Either they do, or they don’t. So I went to the Red Bulletin web site and looked at “Latest Stories.” First article? It’s about Zion Wright skateboarder, age 20. So I googled “skateboarding demographics” and learned that there are six million skaters in the U.S. and the vast majority of them are under the age of eighteen. Pair that with Mateschitz’s interview in Kleine Presse where he talks about new younger customers replacing older ones, and with Mateschitz’s emphasis on planning, creativity, and growth through constant fine-tuning, and it all makes sense. Red Bull may be terrible for kids and the company may say it doesn’t market it to them. But it does and it lies about it. And Peter isn’t a cog in the machine, he’s the editor-in-chief of Red Bull’s major English language publication in the company’s largest market. Don’t think for even a second that Dietrich Mateschitz doesn’t read every single word.

But are these Peter’s real beliefs? They don’t seem to be, judging from his work in Outside and other places.

It’s a fair question to ask him, I think. If Red Bull doesn’t market its products to children, who was the target audience of the article? MAMIL’s? Hoary commuter cyclists with lights and mirrors trundling down bike lanes? Soccer moms? Or … kids? And I think it’s fair to ask him how he reconciles his corporate ideology with his advocacy.

When I finally came up for air I had to shake my head. What does any of this have to do with Peter Flax and bike infrastructure? With a guy who described dead cyclists as a “silver lining” for infrastructure building? With someone who writes a lot of good stuff in favor of cyclists and in opposition to motordom?

I suppose it doesn’t mean too much, except this: It’s okay with me if you work for Satan if you’re genuinely advocating for safer streets. And it’s okay with me if you’re sprinkling holy water on the devil’s footsteps. But maybe if people knew that’s what you were doing, they’d think more critically about what it is you really stand for. It might not make a difference either way, but here’s the funny thing about transparency:

Maybe it would.


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The most dangerous activity

December 2, 2019 § 10 Comments

It’s a bummer that so much is written about the dangers of cycling and how to avoid getting killed on a bike.


Because riding a bike is one of the healthiest things you can possibly do.

Check out the top ten causes of death in the USA last year:

  1. Heart disease. Yep, cycling helps cure that.
  2. Cancer. No study has ever shown that cycling causes cancer. However, intense physical exertion in polluted environments is probably bad for you, at least until you tote up the cost of being inactive.
  3. Unintentional injuries. This includes cycling-related deaths, but guess what? The risk of dying on a bike is dwarfed the risk of dying in a car. This analysis sums it up nicely.
  4. Chronic lower respiratory disease. Cycling improves lung function.
  5. Stroke and cerebrovascular diseases. Cycling improves vascular health.
  6. Alzheimer’s disease. There are a couple of studies underway to see if cycling has a positive effect on Alzheimer’s, but so far there’s no evidence that cycling delays it or speeds it up.
  7. Diabetes. Cycling definitely ameliorates this.
  8. Influenza and pneumonia. Fit cyclists get sick less often, so maybe.
  9. Kidney disease. Exercise provides clear benefits to slowing the decline of kidney function.
  10. Suicide. Unsure, but a lot of people say they ride because it is mental/emotional therapy for them.

So why is all the focus on cycling deaths and injuries? One reason is that it seems gruesome, getting mashed up by a dump truck. Diabetes seems really genteel in comparison, as do all diseases where you simply waste away and die over a period of years.

Of course people who are doing the wasting will tell you that these chronic illnesses are horrible, but that’s beside the point when people are presented with the dump truck scenario.

Another reason it’s popular to talk about the dangers of cyclin is that talking about the dangers of cycling discourages people from cycling. American society doesn’t want YOU on a bike. If YOU start riding, you will drive less. If you drive less, you’ll contribute less to the structure we live in, which is built around driving.

That structure is financial, and it’s social, too. It’s a structure that separates white from black, rich from poor, healthy from sick, and it’s built on the individual separation that begins when you cram yourself into a little steel box. The structure is designed to keep you emotionally and financially enslaved to your car and to your position in society, i.e. running on a treadmill.

Anyway, at least for me, bicycling is safe and fun and exhilarating and economical. I think I’ll go ride mine now.


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Dead cyclists

December 1, 2019 § 106 Comments

If you want to read a meaningless puff piece about cycling fatalities, check out this stinker by Peter Flax. It’s no surprise that it’s published in Bicycling Magazine, a publication that exists only to Sell More Shit.

What is a surprise is that Peter wrote it. He’s normally a great writer but lately his work has a pretty ugly corporate aftertaste to it, and this is perhaps the worst piece he’s ever written. Basically, he falls into lock-step with motordom, arguing that the solution to cycling fatalities is more bike lanes.

Which is crazy because the article he writes says exactly the opposite. It’s as if someone walks you through the principles of arithmetic and then announces at the end, “See? 2 +2 = 5.”

To sum up, the article claims that more cyclists are dying because of larger cars, more smartphone use, more people driving more miles, more cyclists, and Zero Vision (a/k/a A Bike Lane in Every Pot) has stalled. I’ll get to the ridiculous conclusion that we need more bike infrastructure, but first a word about the cause, singular, that Peter and like-minded advocates refuse to analyze: Cyclists get hit because motorists don’t see them.

That’s right, folks. If larger cars and more miles and more cell phone use were the cause of collisions, then we’d be seeing more car-on-car fatalities as well, or at least a parallel uptick in collisions. We see the opposite. Cyclist deaths have increased 37%, whereas auto fatalities are up about 14% over a 5-year period, less than half that of cycling deaths. While cycling deaths rise, traffic fatalities as a whole have leveled off; there was actually a 1% decrease between 2017 and 2018.

To repeat: Cyclists get hit for the most part because motorists do not see them. It’s that simple.

And it’s a horrible analysis for the purposes of Zero Vision advocates, because these people are convinced that the solution to not being seen is to create segregated bike lanes and the like, even as they admit that such programs are stalled, or that they are long-term, or that implementation will more less always be blocked by angry motorists … like Flax’s co-residents in Manhattan Beach, whose rage at losing a lane of traffic on Vista Del Mar resulted in de-striping a Zero Vision bike lane.

Any logic or fact that points to something simpler, faster, and less expensive than a billion-dollar pork barrel infrastructure project gets ignored because Zero Vision advocates aren’t really interested in fixing the problem so much as they’re interested in the political process of allocating and spending the public pork. The best example? This incredibly damning paragraph in Flax’s article:

So while the NTSB analysis focused primarily on encouraging or mandating greater helmet use, as well as things cyclists, road designers, and carmakers should do so riders are more conspicuous to motorists, those factors don’t really explain why a serious, sustained uptick of deaths began in 2011. It’s not like helmet use had a major decline, or cities ripped out quality protected bike lanes, or high-viz apparel or auto headlights got worse. These factors, especially related to road design, might have an impact on fatalities going forward, but they don’t explain why more cyclists have been dying in the past decade.

Let’s break this down. First, Flax lists the flawed NTSB analysis about how to decrease cycling fatalities. He rightly notes that encouraging or mandating greater helmet use doesn’t explain increased deaths. If more people are riding and wearing helmets, why are more people still dying?

But he lumps “things cyclists, road designers, and carmakers should do so riders are more conspicuous to motorists” together with helmets as if more steps to encourage cyclist visibility to prevent fatalities is the same as wearing more helmets to mitigate the effects of getting hit. They are emphatically not the same. Helmets, to the extent that they do anything, protect you after you’ve been hit. Wearing more helmets won’t decrease collisions, and the cause of cyclist fatalities is the collision. As advocates have long noted, putting the blame on the cyclist, “You didn’t have a helmet so you deserved to die after that soccer mom hit you while texting,” is the epitome of victim blaming and abdication of responsibility for making the streets safer for bikes.

No, the things that cyclists can do to be more conspicuous to motorists is the absolute core of savvy cycling because it’s the one thing we absolutely know: Except in the most extreme cases, drivers do not intentionally hit cyclists. They hit them because cyclists are inconspicuous.

The corollary to this is key. Whereas more helmets won’t prevent collisions, more conspicuousness will. And bike lanes do not foster conspicuousness, they shunt riders off to the edge, where poor design and narrow roads force riders into the door zone or onto the far edge of the bike lane, next to the giant SUV mirrors and bumpers of passing traffic. Bike lanes are especially hazardous when they are random tack-ons, as they are here in LA, where you have a nice, wide green stripe that cars generally respect … until the stripe goes away for no reason at all.

The only thing that will keep you off mom’s windshield is being seen. And the only ways to reliably be seen by every car are to 1) park your ass in the travel lane when it makes sense to do so, and 2) illuminate yourself like an emergency vehicle rushing to a train wreck. I’ve found that even when splitting lanes or playing gutter bunny, huge lights alert cars and they take pains not to hit me.

Flax’s conclusion that we need more bike lanes is as horrific as it is nonsensical. He concludes that the death of a rider in NYC has a silver lining because it has caused a push in major bike lane/infrastructure construction, even though fatalities continue to increase as bike lanes continue to be built. “Hi, ma’am, sorry your son got run over by that dump truck. Here is a bike lane for you along with that one he was in when he got hit. Enjoy.”

This idiocy is on me-too parade in places like Encinitas, where North County planners, in response to more dead cyclists, have approved construction of a short “protected” bike lane (materializes out of nowhere, ends randomly) that will protect cars, but not the riders who are forced to dodge moms, dads, kids, surfers, walkers, strollers, and other traffic funneled into the Zero Vision solution.

Why won’t people simply admit that the best way to prevent getting hit is to be seen, and spread the word? Unless you’re willing to build a national network of protected bike lanes, at some point every rider is going to see that dreadful “Bike Lane Ends” sign and know that she is back in traffic, to say nothing of riders who pedal outside the inner city limits of LA and NYC, which is virtually all of them.

Riders do a great job of teaching others to do things like wear helmets. Public shaming, private admonition, and a whole host of other peer-pressure tools are instantly brought to bear that result in near-uniformity in cycling behavior when it comes to helmets. Similarly riders do a great job of teaching others lane control and conspicuousness when they understand it.

When I began teaching lane control on PCH several years back, the leader of my riding club publicly scorned the effort as dangerous and crazy. This very guy now leads every weekend ride down PCH … in the lane, and everyone in the club now knows that you’re safer when you’re seen. This behavior has converted hundreds, if not thousands of riders on PCH to take the lane when it makes sense to do so. And it hasn’t cost a penny of public money or required a single drop of green paint.

Cyclists don’t need infrastructure that’s never going to be built to keep them alive. They are perfectly capable of understanding concepts and passing them on, especially when survival is at stake.

But ridiculous articles brushing aside cyclist conspicuousness in favor of hiding cyclists from the traffic flow actively work to endanger more people, all under cover of a publication supposedly dedicated to cyclists written by a guy who ferfuxake actually commutes by bike.

The sad answer is that it’s easier to blame SUVs and cell phones sipping coffee at your keyboard than it is to take a Cycling Savvy class, move two feet over, and dump $500 into a legitimate bike lighting rig.

Oh, and don’t forget to wear your helmet. That’ll keep them from running you over, for sure.


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Sleepless in Seattle? Or carless in SoCal?

November 30, 2019 § 5 Comments

Yesterday I sold my 2017 Chevy Volt.

I got my driving license when I was 15.

I drove my mom’s and dad’s cars until college started. They were a Chevy Impala, a Vanagon, a Firebird, a Celica, an Olds 88, and an old Silverado they got very cheap; it had been used to carry mail from one company office to another, right down the street. I think it had 23,000 miles on it.

They took away vehicle privileges when I moved out because they figured I would kill myself as a freshman with a car.

My sophomore year I got a 1974 Alfa Spyder. The engine melted because I didn’t put oil in it.

My junior year I got the pickup back. I drove it until I graduated and went to Japan.

In Japan I didn’t have a car but I didn’t need or want one.

Back in America I got the family pickup back.

Then I moved to Germany. I didn’t want or need a car there.

Then I moved to Japan. I didn’t want or need a car there, still.

Back in America I got an old Isuzu Trooper.

Then I moved to Japan again, where I went without a car for five years.

Eventually I bought a Toyota Lucida.

I left Japan and returned to the USA, where I got a stripped Silverado with a manual transmission. It was so stripped I bought it without a rear bumper.

I sold it a year later and got a nice Silverado with leather seats.

Then I got a Camry to go along with the truck.

I sold the pickup and got a Prius.

I gave away the Camry, then I gave away the Prius and bought a Volt.

The Volt was a lemon, so I got it replaced.

Now it too is gone but it’s not going to be replaced with another car.

It feels weird. It’s kind of scary, like someone yanked away your security blanket. SoCal is the heart and soul of this nation’s misbegotten car culture. Can you live high on a hill in the South Bay without one? Where every trip ends with a 1,200-foot climb?

I don’t miss it, though it’s only been a day. When I handed over the title I felt like I was handing over a 5,000-lb. weight that had been standing on my big toe.

Is this the future? Bring it.


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