Big City, Bright Lights

October 21, 2017 § 8 Comments

Where you sit in the roadway or the shoulder while pedaling your bike is up to you. I simply hope you’re doing it with a lot of lights.

After the recent smashback here in L.A. from cager trolls and the pitchfork peasants who were enraged that a safer, cleaner, cheaper, sexier, healthier, happier mode of transportation might slow them down fifteen seconds on their one-hour commute, it has become even more evident that cyclists themselves are riven. Lane control advocates shrug at the loss of bike infrastructure; they never wanted it to begin with, beyond sharrows and BMUFL signage. Infrastructure lovers are heartbroken and trying to rally themselves for the next big beating, like kids shuffling into dad’s bedroom knowing he already has the belt off.

I’m happy to report that there’s a solution. We lane control advocates should stop poking a thumb in the eye of the infrastructure lovers. We should stop sharpening our rhetorical sticks, hardening them with fire, and jabbing them into the tender fallacies of those who want more things built in roads to protect bicycles. We should let them go about their business.

In fact, I’m happy to give infrastructure advocates all the rope they want. They can take it out to Playa del Rey, Manhattan Beach and Palso Verdes, do their advocacy, show up at meetings and present factual data, but when they do, here’s a pro tip: Don’t do it near any trees with sturdy, low hanging, horizontal limbs. Because when the pitchfork peasants see your bike infrastructure rope, and understand that it’s a threat to the hegemony of their cages, they will know what to do with it.

Rather than poking holes in the infrastructure lovers’ arguments, we should make common cause with them in this way: Tell them, without judging, that while we’re waiting for the amazing infrastructure that will protect us from cagers (for example, the Santa Monica bike path where no one ever gets hurt by other bicycles and where no bicycle has ever run over and seriously injured a pedestrian), we will all take the fuggin’ lane while lit up like Christmas trees. This includes the infrastructure lovers.

bmufl_car

And then, after my cremated ashes have been dispersed by the winds of time, been blown to Jupiter and are circling its outer moon, eventually, I say, when the great infrastructure project is completed such that it has constructed those supremely segregated, superbly striped, sexily signed, perfectly protected, and beautifully barrier-ized bike path/lane/road/highways to cover every alley, every back road, every country lane, every cul-de-sac, every county road, every byway, every dirt road, every highway, every city street, every parking area, and every other possible place where cars and bikes might possibly be at the same place at the same time, then we will be able to have another discussion about whether bike infrastructure is better, safer, preferable, cheaper, more efficient, cheaper to maintain, more popular, and more conducive to expanding cycling than following existing traffic laws and exercising lane control in a lawful manner.

‘Til that happy day when The Infrastructure Saints Go Marchin’ In, however, let’s all take a deep a breath, swallow our ideologies, and take the fuggin’ lane. Lit up like Christmas trees, of course. Mirrors optional.

END

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Science won’t save ya

October 20, 2017 § 42 Comments

For a brief blip I saw salvation in the offing when I contemplated autonomous cars. “What,” I wondered “could be dumber than a human behind the wheel of a two-ton, speeding steel box?”

“Nothing,” was the obvious answer. “Certainly not a computer.”

Next, I read an online article in Consumer Reports about crash avoidance systems in cars and felt even better. In addition to replacing the dummy behind the wheel, sciency things were going to turn the driving over to an inanimate thing that didn’t text or drink lattes or scream “Faggot!” or live on Via Horcata. Bicyclists would only benefit.

Plus, a friend of mine who flies giant commercial airplanes seemed to think that airplane crash avoidance systems were a predictor of how cars might eventually operate. Airplanes don’t run into each other (much), and that’s because they have some sciency stuff that keeps big, fast-moving objects from hitting other fast-moving objects, such as the ground. “Why don’t they just stick airplane sciency stuff into cars and be done with it?” I wondered.

The frightening answer is that airplanes don’t use sciency stuff at all to avoid collisions. They use acronyms. Big, long, complicated, similar-sounding, confusion inducing, memorization-defying acronyms that scramble up the English language into a foul sounding soup of letters that do nothing but bring on a migraine when you try to commit them to memory. TCAS, PCAS, FLARM, GPWS, TAWS, SV, and OCAS are the acronyms that work in airplanes, along with the actual spelled-out word of “radar.”

More about that later, but about the time I started worrying about the acronymization of car driving, I ran across this gem on the Tweeter: “Semi-autonomous BMW Will ‘Fight Driver’ to Deliver Close Passes to Cyclists.”

“Huh?” I thought, so I clicked on the link and learned that my pilot friend was right. Airplane crash avoidance systems will indeed be the template for semi-autonomous cars, with the overwhelming problem being the word “semi.” In other words, the technology that will make cars safer will ironically require much better driving skills. In a society where there is a race to the bottom in every conceivable metric for driving skills–physical fitness, situational awareness, mental response time, physical response time, behind-the-wheel training, alertness, familiarity with the vehicle and its handling characteristics, patience, a safety mindset, heightened concern for vulnerable road users–we are suddenly going to be presented with vehicles that require all of those parameters to increase, and increase drastically.

Should work well in a rapidly aging society filling up with crotchedy old blind farts.

Heightened user skill makes sense, because crash avoidance systems in commercial airplanes operate in an environment of highly trained pilots who are continually tested, re-tested, and required to pass regular physical exams. No multiple DUI pilots at United, folks, and you gotta have that 5th Grade reading level, at least. As the article above emphasizes, “The key to autonomous vehicles is training, training, training. The skill of driving must be robotic before the software can be developed. The skill of driving is being eroded and this can be seen every day.”

Training? For U.S. cagers? For the idiots who throw shit at cyclists, drive while severely impaired, blame the victim, recall elected officials who support road safety, troll pedestrian/cycling advocates, and who are routinely given a pass for carelessly killing bicyclists? Those assholes? Train them how, exactly? With a rolled-up newspaper and a cattle prod to the testicles? If you think adding bike lanes brings out the rage, wait ’til you tell Joe Q. Driver that he has to actually possess driving skills before he can go rampaging down the freeway. You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

Every piece of technology that relies on a smarter, better, more experienced and well-trained U.S. driver is operating on a massively flawed assumption, because U.S. drivers aren’t simply horrible, I’ve always contended that they aren’t drivers at all. They are pointers. They start the car and point it, unable to do even the most basic emergency maneuvers such as brake or turn without skidding. The minute that operating the vehicle transitions from point to maneuvering, 99% of drivers are f-u-c-k-e-d, or rather the bicyclist/pedestrian in front of them is.

As a cyclist who almost got clocked yesterday by a fully autonomous idiot who decided that the No. 1 Lane was inconvenient, and he’d rather whip into No. 2 without checking any mirrors, I can tell you that in Los Angeles drivers are older, meaner, angrier, more stressed, stupider, less skilled, more impulsive, and nastier than they were even ten years ago. Thanks, Obama.

And it’s not just my anecdotal experiences. The dumbphone has crazily accelerated the trend, making the “semi” half of the semi-autonomous car nothing more than an airbag dummy for all the crash avoidance systems that have to rely on drivers who can perform at least some minimal dum-dum maneuvers, such as, say, not switching off the autonomous systems.

Fortunately, virtually all of the problems with distracted cagers, and with systems that require cager responsiveness as it concerns cyclists, can be minimized or eliminated entirely by taking the fuggin’ lane. Even the most rudimentary systems will significantly brake if not completely halt when the object (we’re “objects,” folks) is directly in front of them. Close passes and clipping will happen to gutter bunnies, but not to Christmas Tree riders smack in the middle of the lane.

So there it is. The dumbphone dummies are taking over. You’ve been warned. Science won’t save ya. But takin’ the fuggin’ lane WILL.

END

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Low Fidelity Podcast No. 5: Lance’s date with destiny

October 7, 2017 § 8 Comments

My fifth podcast …

Bleak House. Jarndyce v. Jarndyce. The lawsuit that never ends …

https://southbaycycling.podbean.com/e/low-fidelity-podcast-5-lance-armstrongs-date-with-destiny/

That’s what Landis v. Tailwind Sports is like, an epic mountain of paper, hearings, and court filings that is now a veritable Mt. Everest. Filed in 2010, the case has finally reached maturity. Scheduled for trial in November, Armstrong made a last-ditch plea to the court to kick the can down the road until spring of 2018, which will possibly give cycling’s perennial bad boy a chance to settle.

Make no mistake, delay is the friend of the defense, and Lance has spent an estimated $15 million defending this assault on his personal fortune, which remains considerable.

How will it all shake out?

Tune in!

END

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For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blogcast, or podblog, and get none of the news that’s fit to print but all the news that’s fun to read. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

PS: Don’t forget the Wanky’s. As if you could. And I may have forgotten to mention that there is free food and beer for the first 350 guests, so get there early.

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White out

October 6, 2017 § 37 Comments

A few hours ago it became really clear that my right rear knee’s banjo wasn’t going to be ready for the Donut Ride on Saturday. The first part of my treatment plan, “Get off yer fuggin’ bike,” I had followed religiously for 24 hours. Okay, not quite 24 hours, but almost. I didn’t ride at all while I was in bed. Several people had emailed and posted curative comments such as “ice,” and “RuggedMaxx 2,” but it was too complicated for me to implement so instead I cleaned my shoes.

1

Then on Tuesday I decided to “give ‘er a try” so I pedaled up and down the street a few times and it felt okay. “Road to recovery,” I decided, and cleaned up my shoes some more.

On Wednesday I “gave ‘er another try” and pedaled up and down the street and it still felt okay. Well, okay, not okay, but it didn’t hurt. It felt a little tender, kind of like when you were a little kid and your brother had smashed you in the face twenty times the day before and the next day if something pressed against your lips, like air, it was tender. Tender like that.

On Thursday I was 100% sure that I was good to go because the day before I had spent five or ten minutes or two hours hand washing all of my white Base Cartel “South Bay Cycling” socks and they were screamingly ready to be worn along with my white shoes which had been rubbed down with some saddle soap, then glossed over with neutral wax and white scuff cover.

If crazy clean white socks and spanky white shoes won’t fix a raw banjo string, nothing will.

I put on my bicycle suit and rode across the street. I knew that it would be a bad idea to immediately ride anything hilly, especially anything steep, so I rode and up and down Old Hawthorne, which is completely flat except for the steep uphill parts which were in my way. My white socks and white shoes were firing on all cylinders, but what really got all of my tendinitis-curing white blood cells swarming was my bleached white shoelaces, which were sparkling in the sun. It had only taken a couple of hours to hand wash them and soak them in bleach and then rinse them out and then sun-dry them on the balcony; totally worth it.

After five minutes my banjo started hurting like a fucker, but that was just because it had been sitting there mostly unused for a few days and it was going to feel great once the white blood cells warmed it up. After ten minutes it was hurting like ten fuckers, so I stopped and adjusted my white shoelaces, thinking they hadn’t been laced up tightly enough to squeeze the white blood cells out of my feet up to the affected area. After fifteen minutes my tendon or my ligament or my bone knob or whatever it was, was hurting so dogdamned bad I could hardly pedal, so I limped back home and wrote a nasty letter to my sock supplier and to Giro shoes, advising them how badly their products had failed to cure my tendinitis.

Today is Friday, Donut-minus 24 hours, and it’s not looking good for the leaky prosate team. Does anyone out there have a white summer kit and some RuggedMaxx 2 I can borrow?

END

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For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blogcast, or podblog, and get none of the news that’s fit to print but all the news that’s fun to read. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

PS: Don’t forget the Wanky’s. As if you could. And I may have forgotten to mention that there is free food and beer for the first 350 guests, so get there early. Gussy, you can show up this year, just to say hello.

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Guns ‘n bikes

October 5, 2017 § 38 Comments

There’s a reason that Stephen Paddock massacred 58 people in Las Vegas. There’s also a reason that people driving cars have killed 49 people so far this year in Southern California. The reasons are the same.

In the first instance, Americans have decided that mass shootings are a reasonable and acceptable cost of being able to easily and legally obtain weapons of virtually any kind. In the second, Californians have decided that individual killings of cyclists are a reasonable and acceptable cost for being able to drive as fast as possible to get where they want to go.

The shootings appear gruesome but they are not. Bullets do not make nearly the mess of a car smashing into a cyclist. But shootings are better for news media because they correspond to TV, movie, and video images that we have internalized as “dramatic.” Shootings are also better entertainment because the good guys always get the bad guy with even more shooting, even when the bad guy shoots himself.

Shootings are also more entertaining because victims get prayed over, flags get lowered, and the human story behind each victim gets told in horrifying detail. Memorials spring up and the event is commemorated each year by survivors.

Not so with people who kill bicycle riders. As the rider’s family finds, there is rarely any criminal proceeding of any kind. The killer almost always walks free and goes back to his or her job. “Sorry I’m late for work. I killed a bicycle rider and had to talk to the cops.”

Dead bicycle riders don’t get their stories told much beyond their club or their family or the local paper. President Trump certainly doesn’t visit their next of kin to offer condolences and paper towels.

Despite the difference in treatment, the cause is the same. Both are acceptable and reasonable costs of the activity that society has chosen to permit. When I read about people who have been killed using guns, I have no expectation that guns will somehow be limited in any meaningful way. Americans like guns. Americans like killing people. Americans like the entertainment of mass shootings. In order to have those things, you have to allow mass murder. Freedom isn’t free, and in this case, neither is slavery. In the same way that Americans believe health care is a privilege and guns are a right, Americans believe that cars are a right and bicycling on roads is a privilege.

You cannot discuss or negotiate this latter point with drivers any more than you can negotiate the unlimited right to weaponry with those who choose to misunderstand the 2nd Amendment. Deaths and horrific injuries are not mishaps, tragedies, accidents, or collateral damage, they are a necessary product of a system that everyone embraces in more-or-less democratically enacted laws.

If it is your right to drive as fast as possible to get to a destination, then your exposure to civil and criminal penalties for killing people should be minimal. If it is your right to own any weapon you choose, then mass killings will happen. If you think that there should be fewer mass murders and it disturbs you greatly, or you think that bicycle riders shouldn’t be killed with impunity, then perhaps this is the wrong society for you.

As Senator Thune wisely said, and I believe it applies to bikes as well as Las Vegas concert goers, the only real protection in America today is simple, if hard to achieve: “Get small.”

END

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For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blogcast, or podblog, and get none of the news that’s fit to print but all the news that’s fun to read. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

PS: Don’t forget the Wanky’s. As if you could. And I may have forgotten to mention that there is free food and beer for the first 350 guests, so get there early.

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French Cat 3 dude wins asterisk

October 2, 2017 § 15 Comments

When I put on my headphones yesterday to listen to the news while I was frying up a pan of green coffee beans, I got a surprise: “Blah blah blah,” the announcer said in French, “cycliste blah blah blah” he continued, my ears perking up at hearing one of the only six works I know in that language. Then I got really excited when he said the other five, “velo équipé d’un moteur.”

I tried to pay attention to the rest of the blah blah blah but it didn’t work. The beans were starting to smoke, my grandson had landed and was scuttling the ship, and it was hard to concentrate and stir and block him from pulling out the carving knife from the drawer and jabbing it into my thigh.

Fortunately, a friend sent me a link to the TV interview, which allowed me to listen to it slowly and carefully, and after seven hours of review and Google translate I was able to pick up a couple more key words: “Cat 3.” Basically, a Cat 3 wanker (redundant) got popped for using a moteur electrique in a local bike race. And it made the national news. And the news guy asked, all in earnest, “If some wanker is moteur doping to win a local Fred fest, one must ask the question whether or not moteur doping is also occurring at higher levels du sport?”

To which I can confidently reply, “Non, non.”

The person accused of moteur doping, Henri Percival-Escargot d’Chatenay, was immediately available for a telephone interview with CitSB. I reached him at his chateau in Dordogne, a hellish little dump on the outskirts of Bordeaux known for some of the finest wine and cuisine on earth.

CitSB: So, did you really moteur dopage?

HP-EdC: Non, non, mais bien sur, non.

CitSB: So what was the deal with the moteur electronique in votre Cervelo?

HP-EdC: Eet was mistaken consumption.

CitSB: Beg pardon?

HP-EdC: Eet was mistaken consumption. I drink by mistake, pas d’idee que zere was moteur electrique in my water bottle.

CitSB: No, no, you didn’t drink the moteur electrique. They found it underneath your boteille d’eau.

HP-EdC: Ah, oui, oui, le bidon, En francais on dit “bidon.” Masculin avec “le.” But someone puts le moteur electrique zere and I don’t know it, comme avec le tainted beef de Alberto Contador, vous savez?

CitSB: So you’re saying someone stuck it there on le Cervelo beneath le bidon and you had no idea you were doing the ol’ dopage mechanique?

HP-EdC: Oui, oui, comme ca. Et aussi I was, comme dit-on, un vanishing twin, exactement comme Tyler Hamilton.

CitSB: What?

HP-EdC: C’est tres rare, mais j’avais un vanishing twin and zeez ees pourquoi they have found le moteur. C’est definitivement le moteur de mon vanishing twin. N’est-ce pas mine. Imposible et sacre bleu et etcetera.

CitSB: Okay, so it was your vanishing twin’s motor, not yours. That seems un peu incroyable, as they say in France.

HP-EdC: And I must tell you, I have passe les testing dopage 500 fois. Neffer positive, vous comprenez? 500 foix ils ont pris mon pee-pee, et neffer, neffer un positive. Je deteste telle tricherie. Je suis un sporstman très, très honnête.

CitSB: I’m not sure what the passed testing dopage has to do with anything. This a moteur electrique we’re talking about, Henri.

HP-EdC: Et je vous dirai anozzer sing. I would neffer do ze dopage electronique par ce’que on ne sais pas que serais les effets a mon santé. In fife ou six years, peut-etre le cancer, n’est-ce pas? Ou, how you say en englais? Le acne.

CitSB: I haven’t ever heard of motorized doping causing cancer or acne. That’s a stretch.

HP-EdC: Anyways, je n’ai aucune motif pour cette tricherie. Je suis tres fort. Je fait le training tous les jours. Vous voulez savoir what I am on? Je suis on my velo, zat is what I am on.

CitSB: We know that you were on the velo, the problem is that there was also a moteur electrique on the velo. So you + velo + moteur electrique equals cheating masters d-bag.

[Noise in background.]

CitSB: You okay?

HP-EdC: Oui, oui, deux visitors ont arrivée. I must go now. Merci pour le entrevue.

CitSB: Hey, what’s that clicking sound? Is someone cuffing you, Henri? Henri?

HP-EdC: Adieu.

END

———————–

For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blogcast, or podblog, and get none of the news that’s fit to print but all the news that’s fun to read. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

PS: Don’t forget the Wanky’s. As if you could. And I may have forgotten to mention that there is free food and beer for the first 300 guests, so get there early.

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Your tiny niche is now a global plumber’s crack

September 28, 2017 § 25 Comments

The day you knew your weirdness was now mainstream? That’s the day that Men’s Journal came out with an article praising Strava as “The Only Fitness App That Matters.”

Notice I said “your.” Not “my.”

I remember the first day I heard about Strava. I was in Bull’s living room. We were talking about something bikish and he said, “Hey you gotta check out this really cool program, it’s called Strava.”

Notice he said “program.” Not “app.” And certainly not “fitness app.”

Bull walked me through it on his laptop. “See?” he said. “It records everything and has these segments where you can look at parts of a ride and a leaderboard. See?”

“Stupidest fucking thing ever,” I said.

“It’s super cool,” he added, unfazed. “You’re gonna love it.”

I think that was in 2012. I did Strava for a couple of years until it became as unbearable as my power meter had been, a relentless reminder of quantified suckage, and what was worse, accelerating suckage. One day I took it behind the outhouse and shot it. Then, a year or so ago, shortly after my nutsack-breaking-incident, I resuscitated it.

But Men’s Journal has now anointed Strava as the only fitness app that matters; the killer app. Before you go proudly clapping yourself on the ass, please check their home page and note that Men’s Journal features:

  • A giant, inflatable Irish pub.
  • Kelly Slater paddling his surfboard.
  • Some tatted up dude tossing an exerball.
  • How to break in raw denim.
  • Killer indoor exercise machines.

In other words, the mag has zero cred unless you’re a drunk surfing tatty-poo fashionista who exercises in front of a giant mirror.

The article is long on words but short on substance, which is like Strava itself, robustly empty. Basically, Strava is a killer app, the writer says, because it has a slick interface, yo. And segments, yo. And everyone’s on it, yo. This last part is the thing that makes it most killer for the author and therefore the type of person likely to read Men’s Journal. It’s kind of like a restaurant review that says “The food is incredible because everybody likes it.” Ah, yes. I see.

What the article missed is that Strava succeeds because it’s the digital equivalent of  the giant mirror in front of the free weights where you can stare forever at the tiny bumps between your shoulder and elbow masquerading as muscle. Every Men’s Journal subscriber will understand.

Strava lets you ogle, stare, admire, note tiny differences from the last workout (“See! A new vein! I think.”), and just as importantly gaze at the lifter next to you, the one whose arm is twice the diameter of your torso. A few more reps and you’ll be exactly like him because you both belong to the same gym.

The digital narcissism of Strava has perfectly melded with the desire to watch yourself in motion. Nextgen versions will integrate with the four personal drones that follow you on the ride, and it will also connect with Zwift riders who virtually challenge you in their basement on the live video feed while you pedal the actual street. The live feed on Facebag will show realtime power/HR/elevation/speed and a 3-D topographical map running along the bottom of the screen. After the ride you’ll relax with some diet water, eat some raw almonds, compare your performance with people who are similar enough to beat but not similar enough to beat you, and review the whole thing in a video podcast that you upload through your glasses. The world isn’t all about you. The world is you.

And really, the author did get it right. Strava is the killer app. And the thing it killed? Fun.

END

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For $2.99 per month you can subscribe to this blogcast, or podblog, and get none of the news that’s fit to print but all the news that’s fun to read. Click here and select the “subscribe” link in the upper right-hand corner. Thank you!

PS: Don’t forget the Wanky’s. As if you could. And I may have forgotten to mention that there is free food and beer for the first 300 guests, so get there early.

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