Sunday, November 30, 2008

Red pill, Blue Pill time

Haven't posted for a couple of weeks- life happens, huh?

I also haven't been riding much. Since I moved my office to my home, I no longer need to ride 70 miles a week to commute.

Things are different now. I am not certain how deeply involved with the religion of bicycling I want to be. One fly in the ointment for me has always been that I think deeply about things. In this culture, that can be a liability.

Remember the movie "The Matrix"?

"This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the Blue Pill - the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the Red Pill - you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes."

~ Morpheus, a character in The Matrix

The protagonist had a choice to swallow a Red Pill, which would free him from enslaved humanity's collective illusion, or he could take the Blue Pill, which would allow him to forget that he had ever wanted to know what was real and true.

I took the Red Pill a long time ago, but I just haven't known how to live in a world where so few realize that they can even choose to wake up or not.

Bicycling was something I could believe in- a way to talk across the veil to the Blue Pill People. Now I am just not so sure I want to play that game anymore.

Some of my deeper thinking has been stimulated by Derrick Jensen- he writes well and thinks well. Here's some of his stuff:

Premises of Endgame

Premise One: Civilization is not and can never be sustainable. This is especially true for industrial civilization.

Premise Two: Traditional communities do not often voluntarily give up or sell the resources on which their communities are based until their communities have been destroyed. They also do not willingly allow their landbases to be damaged so that other resources—gold, oil, and so on—can be extracted. It follows that those who want the resources will do what they can to destroy traditional communities.

Premise Three: Our way of living—industrial civilization—is based on, requires, and would collapse very quickly without persistent and widespread violence.

Premise Four: Civilization is based on a clearly defined and widely accepted yet often unarticulated hierarchy. Violence done by those higher on the hierarchy to those lower is nearly always invisible, that is, unnoticed. When it is noticed, it is fully rationalized. Violence done by those lower on the hierarchy to those higher is unthinkable, and when it does occur is regarded with shock, horror, and the fetishization of the victims.

Premise Five: The property of those higher on the hierarchy is more valuable than the lives of those below. It is acceptable for those above to increase the amount of property they control—in everyday language, to make money—by destroying or taking the lives of those below. This is called production. If those below damage the property of those above, those above may kill or otherwise destroy the lives of those below. This is called justice.

Premise Six: Civilization is not redeemable. This culture will not undergo any sort of voluntary transformation to a sane and sustainable way of living. If we do not put a halt to it, civilization will continue to immiserate the vast majority of humans and to degrade the planet until it (civilization, and probably the planet) collapses. The effects of this degradation will continue to harm humans and nonhumans for a very long time.

Premise Seven: The longer we wait for civilization to crash—or the longer we wait before we ourselves bring it down—the messier will be the crash, and the worse things will be for those humans and nonhumans who live during it, and for those who come after.

Premise Eight: The needs of the natural world are more important than the needs of the economic system.

Another way to put premise Eight: Any economic or social system that does not benefit the natural communities on which it is based is unsustainable, immoral, and stupid. Sustainability, morality, and intelligence (as well as justice) requires the dismantling of any such economic or social system, or at the very least disallowing it from damaging your landbase.

Premise Nine: Although there will clearly some day be far fewer humans than there are at present, there are many ways this reduction in population could occur (or be achieved, depending on the passivity or activity with which we choose to approach this transformation).

Some of these ways would be characterized by extreme violence and privation: nuclear armageddon, for example, would reduce both population and consumption, yet do so horrifically; the same would be true for a continuation of overshoot, followed by crash.

Other ways could be characterized by less violence. Given the current levels of violence by this culture against both humans and the natural world, however, it’s not possible to speak of reductions in population and consumption that do not involve violence and privation, not because the reductions themselves would necessarily involve violence, but because violence and privation have become the default.

Yet some ways of reducing population and consumption, while still violent, would consist of decreasing the current levels of violence required, and caused by, the (often forced) movement of resources from the poor to the rich, and would of course be marked by a reduction in current violence against the natural world. Personally and collectively we may be able to both reduce the amount and soften the character of violence that occurs during this ongoing and perhaps longterm shift. Or we may not.

But this much is certain: if we do not approach it actively—if we do not talk about our predicament and what we are going to do about it—the violence will almost undoubtedly be far more severe, the privation more extreme.

Premise Ten: The culture as a whole and most of its members are insane. The culture is driven by a death urge, an urge to destroy life.

Premise Eleven: From the beginning, this culture—civilization—has been a culture of occupation.

Premise Twelve: There are no rich people in the world, and there are no poor people.

There are just people. The rich may have lots of pieces of green paper that many pretend are worth something—or their presumed riches may be even more abstract: numbers on hard drives at banks—and the poor may not. These “rich” claim they own land, and the “poor” are often denied the right to make that same claim. A primary purpose of the police is to enforce the delusions of those with lots of pieces of green paper. Those without the green papers generally buy into these delusions almost as quickly and completely as those with. These delusions carry with them extreme consequences in the real world.

Premise Thirteen: Those in power rule by force, and the sooner we break ourselves of illusions to the contrary, the sooner we can at least begin to make reasonable decisions about whether, when, and how we are going to resist.

Premise Fourteen: From birth on—and probably from conception, but I’m not sure how I’d make the case—we are individually and collectively enculturated to hate life, hate the natural world, hate the wild, hate wild animals, hate women, hate children, hate our bodies, hate and fear our emotions, hate ourselves. If we did not hate the world, we could not allow it to be destroyed before our eyes. If we did not hate ourselves, we could not allow our homes—and our bodies—to be poisoned.

Premise Fifteen: Love does not imply pacifism.

Premise Sixteen: The material world is primary.

This does not mean that the spirit does not exist, nor that the material world is all there is. It means that spirit mixes with flesh. It means also that real world actions have real world consequences.

It means we cannot rely on Jesus, Santa Claus, the Great Mother, or even the Easter Bunny to get us out of this mess. It means this mess really is a mess, and not just the movement of God’s eyebrows. It means we have to face this mess ourselves.

It means that for the time we are here on Earth—whether or not we end up somewhere else after we die, and whether we are condemned or privileged to live here—the Earth is the point. It is primary. It is our home. It is everything. It is silly to think or act or be as though this world is not real and primary. It is silly and pathetic to not live our lives as though our lives are real.

Premise Seventeen: It is a mistake (or more likely, denial) to base our decisions on whether actions arising from these will or won’t frighten fence-sitters, or the mass of Americans.

Premise Eighteen:
Our current sense of self is no more sustainable than our current use of energy or technology.

Premise Nineteen: The culture’s problem lies above all in the belief that controlling and abusing the natural world is justifiable.

Premise Twenty: Within this culture, economics—not community well-being, not morals, not ethics, not justice, not life itself—drives social decisions.

Modification of Premise Twenty: Social decisions are determined primarily (and often exclusively) on the basis of whether these decisions will increase the monetary fortunes of the decision-makers and those they serve.

Re-modification of Premise Twenty:
Social decisions are determined primarily (and often exclusively) on the basis of whether these decisions will increase the power of the decision-makers and those they serve.

Re-modification of Premise Twenty: Social decisions are founded primarily (and often exclusively) on the almost entirely unexamined belief that the decision-makers and those they serve are entitled to magnify their power and/or financial fortunes at the expense of those below.

Re-modification of Premise Twenty: If you dig to the heart of it—if there were any heart left—you would find that social decisions are determined primarily on the basis of how well these decisions serve the ends of controlling or destroying wild nature.

More later, perhaps. Perhaps not.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Shady Grove is striped and signed for Bike Lanes

Partially, at least.

If you ride in Memphis for long, you will eventually ride Shady Grove. It is a good east-west connector route- pretty yards with lots of trees and flowers, slower, lighter traffic, and lots of other cyclists riding during great weather.

It has been partially striped for a bike lane now- from roughly Wolf River Boulevard on the east to Yates on the west.

I have ridden the new lanes from Yates to Wolf River Blvd twice- I think the lanes are properly designed. Coming from someone who is mostly anti-bike lane, that is a huge compliment!

And now the game is afoot- bike lanes can create as many problems as they solve. Many cyclists and motorists have dangerous and erroneous ideas about how bike lanes should work.

I'll be writing a more in depth post soon about how to ride (or not) in bike lanes, the "smart cycling" approach to bike lanes. There is the law, there is what people think, and there is what works-- they do not always correlate!

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Overcoming Generational Weakness and Plastic Car-Culture / Toward a Re-Dedication to Conserving

I liked this - it has a lot that I believe in. I have been reading Jan "Depaver" Lundberg for years- his writing is one of the reasons we took out our concrete sidewalk at our house a few years ago. ~~ Cliff H

Reprinted in in its entirety from the Culture Change website at:

Overcoming Generational Weakness and Plastic Car-Culture / Toward a Re-Dedication to Conserving

Culture Change Letter #209, November 3, 2008

This essay asks what we Americans should expect from our leaders and ourselves when we are in a greater fix today, from climate distortion and petrocollapse, than in the 1940s when we had to go all-out to embrace Victory Gardens and conserve with a vengeance. Our resolve back then went far beyond encouraging the making and consuming of better cars! - JL

The idea of “progress” for succeeding generations of U.S. Americans and others comes increasingly though "conveniences" identified with science -- as our ecosystem, food security, civil liberties and financial well-being slip away. To speed us along we use more techno-products and procedures that are passed along, almost always unquestioned, through corporate marketing and our acceptance of agribusiness-derived fast food. When combined with the alleged “march of history" and other propaganda, the notion of our supposed “progress” and the more dangerous "progress" itself have been successfully foisted upon an unwary populace.

This trend has made people ever weaker as well as unskilled in critical ways. Whether mainly from petroleum dependence or from other factors, a change in the species has occurred in modern societies that was unanticipated by the previous generation. While signs such as rising obesity rates and birth defects tell us a lot, complete evidence and consensus are not forthcoming as conclusions aired on the nightly TV news. But we can observe intuitively and use historical perspective.

Weakness is more visible in recent years, as more human specimens are “untough” compared to previous generations of people who lived or worked outside and "enjoyed" fewer manufactured products. With our rapidly changing habits in modern civilization we are more susceptible to disease such as cancer. We lack awareness about our true relationship with our surroundings. Our weakness is reinforced the more ignorant we are, as we are constantly manipulated to believe in the benefits of sophisticated, devious social control that is seldom acknowledged.

Skills are defined for the masses of citizens only by the employer class and their lackeys in government and the education sector. Technical knowledge increases while general knowledge and wisdom are devalued. Specialization for employment is increasingly antithetical to practical or traditional skills, in that there is almost no relevance in modern job-skills toward physical survival or building community.

The modern consumer is part of a sad lot: piggies as depicted in the film WALL*E (reviewed on Culture Change), or surplus humans consuming each other as in the film Soylent Green. The notion of modern humans as less able and more helpless than ever is objectionable to those who “accept the deal right off the shelf” (from the song I walk the Earth). These include revolutionaries too if they have completely bought into industrial culture and do not question social control that developed since the agricultural and industrial revolutions. One thing revolutionaries and reformers don't bring up: the more people there are the weaker we are.

Safety through "progress"

One way we are pacified and tamed is through the relentless promotion of the myth of safety. We are told and convinced that today’s world is safer from barbarity or wild beasts than in past centuries. No more bloodthirsty hordes who swoop down, rape, behead and burn. Or threat from wolves or lions. Or from highwaymen who no longer lurk because highway interchanges have fossil-fuel lighting and corporate outlets to comfort us. This way of life must be protected, we are told, so we pay through the nose for wars that are more about profit and oil dependence than safety.

We are also told we are safer by use of chemicals and sterilization and antibiotics. But these products' injudicious use makes us weaker. For example, resistance to bacteria is through contact with it, according to recent findings. Building our strength and resistance (e.g., through detoxification) is not a significant concern or accomplishment of the capitalist medical cult.

Trusting experts or worshiping credentials is a scam. It disempowers perfectly intelligent and capable people so that they stay in line and believe bullshit. Of course, much wonderful knowledge is sometimes only gotten through hard work and focus. The concept of “genius” can be little more than the ability to focus and concentrate. But, for whose benefit?

The environment - a problem outside of ourselves?

One danger from trusting experts and specialists is ironically at play most heavily and tragically in the environmental movement. I don’t refer to the direct-action wing that brings out the best in many (but all too few) activists from all walks of life. I refer to the mainstream environmental movement that follows the ground rules of the polluting establishment and power structure. It’s ironic that most of those claiming to professionally defend Mother Earth -- which they do do in a fashion and to an extent -- are locked into conventions and rules that sell out the planet. The big environmental groups have obviously not succeeded in their mission to improve the state of the environment. They decided to stay in business above all. For example, not one of the big groups dared join or endorse the Alliance for a Paving Moratorium during its 1990-2001 run, although they lamented urban sprawl (only Friends of the Earth U.S. seemed to support our APM). They do some good things, but the ecosystem is clearly failing. Hoping for a different result by doing the same thing is called insanity. Lesson: DIY, do it yourself, don’t let anyone "save you" because they may be tied to Wall Street values (foundation funding, like political campaigns' support, comes from stock-market and other holdings). The environmental movement has paradoxically weakened us and the ecosystem by being a force for moderate reform instead of systemic change.

Questions that really question

One basic question the funded environmental movement and the education-establishment will not admit or teach us to ask: How can we condone the creation of this socioeconomic system –- the U.S.A. -- when it sprang entirely from invasion, racism, genocide, ecocide, and sexism? Such questions are avoided so that people do not question the legitimacy of the present society and its investments.

Another “unaskable” or "strange" question: What if no one is in control, in terms of understanding the whole system? The economy is so huge and diverse that it cannot be completely grasped in words and numbers. There's no one trained to have a commanding knowledge of key industries, consumer behavior, social influences, ecological factors, banking/fiscal/monetary workings, etc. This brings forward the disturbing question, "Does anybody understand fully what's going on?" A specialist can seldom be a generalist, and vice-versa.

When the populace is not looking any further than the struggle to survive or to divert itself (the word for “fun” in French is divertir), we don’t ask questions that can lead to meaningful political movement and change. Today most of us are asking, “What’s happening to my money?” rather than “Where is my money really?” A better question is, “Why is money the only measure and arbiter? What other power is there, and do I have some of it?”

Money is expected for doing just about anything and everything: activities spanning survival to enriching daily life and building a beautiful dream. In the absence of a real life with full potential, we settle for making our existence as comfortable as we can. Thus we do not obtain fundamental change in our surrounding physical and cultural environment. Ignore your dreams and you get waking nightmares.

A "solution"

As profoundly difficult as it may seem to solve these problems, we do have the guidance around us today that we need -- although it’s like a frail elder or ghost that we are too busy to notice. We have evolved and survived almost entirely thanks to traditional ways of indigenous and “primitive” peoples. They happen to be the only real model of sustainability, but you won’t hear that at your run-of-the-mill sustainability conference. An analogy for understanding the value of our past success -- before we literally loused it up with civilization -- is the track record of life itself: For the majority of the Earth's 4.5 billion years existence, since life began around 3.5 billion years ago, Mother Nature has been designing herself for efficiency, balance and harmony. We are her children. Speciation and diversity fit into niches for symbiotic relationships -- one grand family of life. To blow that off and knowingly cause extinctions is the act of a parasitic cancer that cannot see the benefit of preserving the host which is the web of life. So, nature’s design as the bulk of Earth’s successful, changing experience can be compared to tribal, traditional peoples’ being the key to and the bulk of human experience.

How can we compare this to today’s “reality” of what car we think we should buy to impress other people? If we can stipulate that at some point there are enough roads or too many roads, because we cannot afford to fix the vast, crumbling network, then we need a halt. This means using just the roads we have (for whatever purpose, which in future times without oil may be for other activities as much as transport). Therefore, at some point we would not fund or build any more roads. We need to think of cars in the same way: we have plenty of them, indeed too many. The 136-million car-population in the U.S. -- 251 million total motorized passenger vehicles -- is part of an ongoing and accelerating ecological disaster, and we have exported the car everywhere as best we could. Surely there are enough cars for us to use if we share them and limit them to essential use -- assuming we could keep using them if we deep sixed the oil industry by ceasing to buy all the products that refiners need to push on us. So, like the enough-roads policy, the policy on cars should be to make no more new ones; simply repair the ones we have as they do in Cuba. Here's what all this has to do with our generation's strength (or lack of it):

Toward a re-dedication to conserving, a la Victory Gardens

Through all the "infotainment," "news" and other distractions of modern life, we are occasionally reminded of all the recycling, rationing and other features of the successful effort in the U.S. during World War II to conserve and meet a national goal. The grassroots phenomenon of Victory Gardens is one of the best examples of making due through common sense. We need them now when our food supply is threatened by globalization, economic collapse and oil shortage ahead.

In World War II the U.S. citizenry was told, “If you ride alone you’re riding with Hitler.” Heeding that warning or accepting the sentiment was characteristic of a strong nation doing the rational thing at the time. Because,

(A) our great-grandparents were wiry-tough and were trained by their families for survival;
(B) Our grandparents were almost as tough as their parents;
(C) our parents less tough than theirs; and
(D) we are less able, less rounded (although more technological) than our parents; and
(E) our children are considerably weaker than our ancestors, if we only consider people's lack of skills and increased plasticization and radiation as reason to doubt our species' strengthening;

we can see what we have to overcome: to realize we must reject that the strongest thing we can do is hope for or call forth “clean, efficient cars made right here in America.” We can do far better. Just as we also are encouraged by Barack Obama to “Turn off the TV” for the sake of our children’s education, we need to turn off the killing CO2-spewing machine that eats farmland with road building: the car. This stance and cultural change will go a long way to removing the physical, moral, economic and political weakness we have allowed to be placed on us.

* * * * *

"WALL*E – A push-button fable," by Albert Bates:

I walk the Earth by Depaver Jan, a monaural one-track demo(MP3) from 2003 for the next Depaver Jan eco-song album

Car population statistics:

Friday, October 31, 2008

Wounded Warrior Bike Ride November 7th 9am

I got this from a friend- unlike most of how we ride every day, this looks like a very worthwhile ride ~~Cliff H. 

You've may have seen the information on their website,  The Soldier Ride coming here is called the Honky Tonk Challenge.  They have a number of rides around the country.  In some places it's huge with hundreds of riders joining the vets and a big event. 
They are arriving from Little Rock on Nov 6 and staying at the Hilton Hotel.  They would rather have stayed downtown but COGIC is in town. 
They are eating dinner at the Rendezvous that night and maybe spend some time on Beale Street.  There are about 20 coming which includes about 15 wounded vets and several Wounded Warrior staff and mechanics. 
They've got a couple of vans and a U-Haul truck (one of their sponsors) for the bikes.  Woody Groton, the Soldier Ride National Tour Director, said one of the mechanics owns a bike shop in Hopkinsville, KY, outside Fort Campbell, called Bikes & Moore.
On Nov 7 they will gather at Tom Lee Park and begin the ride about 9:00 am.  I think the ride goes down Union to Walnut Grove and ends at Macon Hall Elementary school. 
The map of the route is:  I believe there is some police assistance but I do not know if it is for the whole route or just certain areas.  I think the route is about 22 miles.   The speed will be slow (10-12 mph) as a number of the vets will be riding hand cycles due to injuries.
I do not know if there is lunch at the end or somewhere during the ride.  Woody's email is and his phone number is 603-727-1294.  Feel free to email him or call to obtain more specific info.  I told him I would help advertise the event with the Memphis Hightailers and whoever else I could dream up.
One big note is the group will be heading directly to Nashville at the end and not coming back downtown.  So, anybody riding will have to make arrangements to either ride back downtown or have some other transportation arrangement. 
Please forward this email or any other with information about the ride to all your riding friends.  This group came through Memphis last year and had maybe one or two riders.  The ride is on a Friday which will make it tough for some people but what a great reason to use leave time.  We need a big crowd to join the ride!
It would be fun to join them Thursday night for dinner and/or drinks.   It would be great if you could put this info in the next couple of newsletters and maybe even send a special one out.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Friday, October 17, 2008

Bicyclists pay their own way

I found most of this at the Marin County Bicycle Coalition website. They invented the hottub and the mountain bike out there in Marin County-- those are two of the 20th centuries greatest contributions to world civilization, imho.

I expanded the piece and rewrote a little of it- parts of the text were kinda unclear or clunky. ~~Cliff H.

Bicyclists pay their own way

Automobile driving in the United States is subsidized. Gasoline taxes pay for only 60% of BASIC road infrastructure. The remainder is paid by all taxpayers through local, state, and federal taxes, whether we drive or not.

Because bicycling puts so little wear and tear on our roads, and because cycling-specific infrastructure is far cheaper than general road costs, a cyclist who never buys gasoline easily pays his or her fair share. Add to this these monetary inequities:

1. Bicyclists are often denied bridge or highway access that their tax dollars have paid for

2. General taxes pay for environmental and health damages caused by cars

3. Defense taxes to support our oil interests abroad, of which the most oil goes to cars

It's clear that it's not bicyclists who are getting a free ride.

Wednesday, October 1, 2008

Hi y'all - I have been moving---

Low posting rate recently- I have been moving my business. That's a lot of work! I moved 5 loads with my bike trailer- at least that part was fun!

I'll be back to more frequent posting in a week or two.

Roll on, y'all.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Police Enforce Bike Law To Combat Crime

Hey, any of y'all been "just ridin' around" in West Memphis?

Police Enforce Bike Law To Combat Crime

West Memphis, AR -- Police in West Memphis, Arkansas are enforcing a decades old bike law in effort to fight crime.

The law requires bikes to have a white light on the front and a red reflector on the back. The light must be visible from at least 500 feet.

Police say someone committed a rash of residential car break-ins in the city’s North Ward from August 6, 2008 to September 10, 2008. They believe the same person committed the crime and may have used a bike to get a away. They believe enforcing the state bike law will help keep would be criminals on the right path. “E
nforcing the bike laws, the restrictions on the lights, gives you legal opportunity to make contact with people to see what they're doing,” said West Police Captain Donald Oakes.

Anyone not abiding by the bike law can be cited and fined. Anyone with information about the recent car break-in is asked to contact the West Memphis Police Department.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Playing around with Wordle

I have been playing around with Wordle. I input the text from my recent post Funeral for a Bike Friend. Here is what it created (click it to make it bigger):

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Today I attended a funeral for a bike friend... favorite bike, my beloved Redline 925. It died on January 29th, 2008, but I just got around to having the funeral today, September 7, 2008. You can do that with bikes- they don't decay and stink like humans and other creatures- they just lose air pressure and take up space.

I didn't bury it, I just took it apart-- that's how you have a funeral for a bike. It was damaged beyond repair in a tragic crash-- luckily, I myself was not killed or damaged beyond repair. But my trusty 925 is no longer with me.

The frame and the fork were hopelessly bent. I stripped the rest of the parts off of the 925. I will keep some and the others will be donated to Revolutions Co-op. I guess it is kinda like organ donation- the stem, seat post, saddle, wheels and handlebars will go into other bikes, with other riders.

The Redline was all steel. It had a flip flop fixed/free rear hub - 42 x 15 for those who care about such things. I bought it to ride fixed. I probably spent about 99.9% of the time riding fixed. Once or twice I changed a flat and, in my haste, I made an error and put it on the freewheel side. I never rode the freewheel intentionally. As the late, great, Sheldon Brown said, "Coasting is a pernicious habit".

I bought the Redline in February of 2006 to be my primary commuter bike- it was perfectly suited for the job. It was cheap (retail about 525 at the time) and came outfitted with fenders. I already had lights and panniers, so I just had the dealer attach a rack and computer, and I was good to go.

Since it had fenders and was cheap, the 925 was also my designated rain bike. If skies were threatening I would ride the 925 to my bike club group rides with my friends. Those fenders paid off more than once.

The 925 gave me almost two years of service before it died in the line of duty. At the time of death the odometer read 8393.4 miles. There were probably another 100 or so miles on the bike- sometimes I would change a flat on the front and absentmindedly put the wheel on wrong so the computer magnet was on the wrong side. At other times when I had a flat I would swap the front wheel for that of another bike if I was in a hurry. So, I figure that even though the odometer reads 8393.4, I would be ok in saying that I put about 8500 miles on the 925 as a commuter in two years. Not bad for a sub-$600 bike.

I rode primarily two other bikes a lot while I owned the 925. I have a Serotta Rapid Tour, a light touring all-steel bike Serotta made for a few years. I bought it new in 2001. It has an Ultegra triple group on it and I consider it to be my 100 mile bike.

I also rode my Specialized Langster a lot. I bought it new in 2005. Like the 925, the Langster is a fixed-gear bike. It is great for 30-40 miles on mostly flat terrain. I rode it when I wanted to go faster. The Langster weighed in at 18 pounds, the Redline was "about 30".

But I really loved the 925. It was smooth, it was steady, and it was predictable. After I had the cheap factory wheels rebuilt with quality spokes, the 925 never gave me any trouble at all. I would change flat tires, clean and lube it now and then, but mostly I left it alone. It ran just fine without much intervention on my part. It died with the original chain, chainring, and rear cog. I replaced the brake pads once during the 8500 miles.

I did have to change the handlebars- the original bars broke while I was riding. Luckily, I was just accelerating from a dead stop at a redlight when the right half of my handlebars folded and broke. Too much torque, too much repetetive stress. Cheap bars break eventually.

Not to worry- I had some wonderful sturdy steel handlebars just waiting for a bike. When I was in New York in 2007 I had visited a tiny little shop that specialized in fixed gear bikes. I had bought some Soma Major Taylor handlebars. After the original bars broke, I put the Major Taylor bars on the 925.

At some point I upgraded to Arkel panniers for the 925. Arkels are great-- you can carry a ton (well, not a ton, but a lot) of groceries in the Arkels. Like the 925, the Arkels are simple and sturdy.

One night I had stopped by the grocery to pick up a lot of stuff. When I got home, I weighed my panniers and found that I was carrying over 30 pounds of groceries. What made the ride very interesting was that I was riding into a 30 mile an hour headwind, uphill, in the rain, at night, on a fixed gear bike that weighed over 60 pounds including those groceries. It was hard and I went pretty slow, but I really felt like I had accomplished something.

Another time I rode the 925 to the early club ride-- we did about 30 brisk miles. Then I rode to the Farmer's Market downtown, bought a watermelon and some other stuff, packed it all into one of my Arkel's, and rode home with it.

I had a lot of fun with the roadies when I was riding the 925 on group rides. I remember many rides where people were exasperated that they were getting dropped by an old guy on a cheap Chinese all-steel 30 pound single speed with fenders and a rack. They weren't cognizant of the fact that I had ridden about 7500 miles a year for the past few years while they were mostly just weekend riders. I imagine that high mileage and daily riding probably helped a lot with my conditioning...

But I mostly loved just riding the 925 back and forth to work. I am so sad that it is gone.

If you are curious as to how my 925 died, I wrote an article a few days after the crash that killed my 925 and nearly killed me. It is posted in the archives on this blog here.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Bike Friendly States - Tennessee ranked at #36

Well gee, I'm surprised TN is ranked so highly. Chattanooga has bike-friendly city status, so that probably helps our overall state ranking. ~~ Cliff H.


The League of American Bicyclists has announced our first annual ranking of Bicycle Friendly States, scoring all 50 states on more than 70 factors. The states were scored on responses to a questionnaire evaluating their commitment to bicycling and covering 6 key areas: legislation; policies and programs; infrastructure; education and encouragement; evaluation and planning; and enforcement. The highest and lowest scoring states overall were:

Top 5

1. Washington
2. Wisconsin
3. Arizona
4. Oregon
5. Minnesota

Bottom 5

46. North Dakota
47. Mississippi
48. Alabama
49. Georgia
50. West Virginia

More details on how each state ranked can be found by going here and clicking on each state.

Andy Clarke, president of the League, said, “While every state has room to improve in making bicycling a preferred mode of transportation and accessible form of recreation, Washington is making the greatest strides to make this a reality.” Clarke points to Washington’s model bike laws, signed and mapped statewide bike route network, dedicated funding from the state for bicycle related programs and projects, and an active statewide bicycle advisory committee as a few examples of why Washington ranked the highest.

The bottom end of the ranking paints a different picture. “West Virginia may offer some great trails and mountain biking resources, but otherwise fell short in every category," said Clarke. "Their low bicycle usage rates and high cyclist crash and fatality rates are indicative of a state that does not adequately provide for the needs of cyclists.”

The annual state rankings are the first part of this new program. States are encouraged to further apply for award recognition of bronze, silver, gold or platinum status, similar to the League’s popular Bicycle Friendly Community program, now recognizing 85 communities across 32 states. Award recognition will be accompanied by technical assistance and further support as states work to become more bicycle-friendly.

The League of American Bicyclists promotes bicycling for fun, fitness and transportation, and works through advocacy and education for a bicycle-friendly America. The League represents the interests of 57 million American cyclists, including its 300,000 members and affiliates. For more information or to support the League, visit

The Bicycle Friendly State program is generously supported by program sponsors Bikes Belongand Trek Bicycle Corporation.


1 Washington
2 Wisconsin
3 Arizona
4 Oregon
5 Minnesota
6 Maine
7 California
8 Illinois
9 New Jersey
10 New Hampshire
11 Utah
12 Michigan
13 North Carolina
14 Hawaii
15 South Carolina
16 Massachusetts
17 Vermont
18 Wyoming
19 Nevada
20 Florida
21 Iowa
22 Colorado
23 Virginia
24 Indiana
25 Kansas
26 Louisiana
27 Rhode Island
28 Missouri
29 Kentucky
30 Texas
31 Delaware
32 Ohio
33 Nebraska
34 New York
35 Maryland
36 Tennessee
37 Idaho
38 Pennsylvania
39 Arkansas
40 Alaska
41 South Dakota
42 Connecticut
43 Oklahoma
44 Montana
45 New Mexico
46 North Dakota
47 Mississippi
48 Alabama
49 Georgia
50 West Virginia

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Bike Bus Ride Report

Pictured above is Mason and his family bike train from this morning's Overton Square Farmer's Market ride. That rig must be 12 feet long-- he has to make rather sweeping turns. A 4 year old commands the trail-a-bike in the center, and a 2 year old mans the trailer in the rear. They bike to the market, eat donuts, maybe buy a couple of things, and roll back home. A great family event.

My wife and I have ridden with the Overton Square Bike Bus to the Farmer's Market the past two Saturday mornings. We intend to keep doing it as long as the Farmer's Market is open. We like supporting utility biking like this, and we like supporting local food. And, it is a light weight social event- interesting people choose to ride bikes to the market.

This morning we had some coffee and then we bought some sweet potatoes from Jina who was working at, I think, Jim's Farm booth. When I paid for the sweet potatoes, I realized that my wallet was missing. Carol dashed off to the coffee booth- I was lucky-- someone had found the wallet in the coffee booth trash can. Evidently it was knocked into the can while we were putting in the creamer and stuff. Nothing was missing, all the debit cards and such were there-- A close call.

About 10-12 riders have attended the rides that we have been on. The pace has been social and conversational - probably 12 miles an hour. All sorts of bikes, all sorts of riders, all sorts of clothing-- definitely not a typical high tech Lycra crowd, but that would be OK, too.

Consider starting a Bike Bus in your neighborhood. We leave home at 8:00 to rendezvous with the Overton Square ride which rolls out roughly at 8:30. A great way to get the shopping done, get some exercise, and have fun.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Ride more- start today. Here's how to overcome biker's block

(Thanks to Melinda at One Green Generation for the term "Biker's Block -- Cliff)

Do you want to bike more often to more places, but you can't seem to get started?
For the past few years have you been saying "I'll bike more next year"? Does getting on your bike instead of getting into your car seem like an overwhelming, impossible task? Do you have a decent bike gathering dust in the carport? Too much to think about to ride? Too many obstacles? Details, details details? Too inconvenient? Keep putting it off until... ?

You might be suffering from biker's block.

Like any habit change, starting a new habit of riding your bicycle more often takes time, persistence, and some planning. Overcoming 'biker's block' might be a problem you need some help with.

First of all, I would recommend that you find some casual opportunities to ride where there is very little pressure to perform. Sometimes local bike shops or clubs have rides for beginners or for casual, relaxed riding. Simply following other, more experienced riders is a great way to learn traffic cycling skills and is also a great way to learn some more bike-friendly routes through your area. You will make some friends and develop more comfort with your bike.

Or, ask around- find a riding buddy or two. Schedule a weekly ride with your buddy to a park, a coffee shop, or to a market for groceries. It is easier to start a new routine when you make a commitment to do it with a partner.

Publicly announce your commitment to ride. Track your progress, and report your progress to important people like family, friends, coworkers, or neighbors. To make it easy, try, a cool little free website which allows you to track any sort of goal. You can even share your goals with others. For example, if you set a goal like "I will ride my bike to get groceries 2 times a week" Joe's Goals can send that info to your family and friends and will allow them to follow your progress (or lack thereof). Humans change better with a little accountability and public commitment.

Take a Bike Ed class with an instructor. Bike Ed? Yep, just like Driver's Ed for teens, there is Bike Ed for anyone who wants to learn how to ride legally, efficiently, and more safely on city streets. Most of us were not taught to ride bikes by cyclists, and we were not taught the proper rules of the road. We might have misconceptions and bad habits to overcome before we are highly competent riders. Visit the League of American Bicyclists Ride Resources Page, punch in your zip code, and see what resources are in your area that can help you become a more skilled rider.

On another blog a reader, LHT Rider, left these comments about starting to ride more which I think are pretty good ideas. Definitely some things to think about if you are suffering from biker's block. I have added some clarifying or editorial comments in parentheses for some of LHT Rider's ideas.

LHT Rider on 14 Jul 2008 at 8:42 pm 22

It is a sad commentary on the culture we live in that so many of us are afraid to exercise our right to use the public roads in a non-polluting manner. Believe me, I know how you feel. I went from not riding my bicycle for many, many years and have since become a 4-season rider in the northern midwest. Here are some things that have helped me make the transition.

1. Set small, achievable, progressive challenges for yourself. Baby steps are important. See for yourself what you’re truly capable of and question your assumptions. If you are willing to test your preconceived notions, you might be surprised at the results.

2. Allow yourself to do what you need to in order to feel more comfortable. For example if the road immediately adjacent to your house is too scary, allow yourself to ride on the sidewalk for a short distance until you can get somewhere safer. This is legal in many communities (Sidewalk bicycling is legal in the city of Memphis, but I am not sure about the suburbs -- Cliff). Just remember to: be nice - yield to pedestrians, be careful crossing driveways especially if you do not have a clear line of sight, and do not under any circumstances shoot out into intersections from the sidewalk as car drivers do not expect you to be there.

2. Get a mirror & learn how to use it. It’s much less scary if you know what’s coming up behind you. While some people have no problem just turning around to see what’s behind them while still maintaining a razor sharp straight line, a mirror allows you to check things out more quickly and without the risk of weaving (into traffic, the curb, a pothole etc.) (Mirrors help a lot in urban traffic cycling. You can get mirrors at all local shops- I prefer one that mounts on my glasses, but others prefer mirrors that mount on the handlebars or on the helmet - Cliff)

3. Plan your route. On a bicycle you would almost never take the exact same route as you would in a car (because that’s where all the cars are!). Your city may have a map of official bicycle routes (maybe even online!). This can be extremely helpful and make for a much more pleasant ride. (Ride your commute route on a week-end morning to check it out before you ride to work. Consider time shifting if possible-- if I leave my house at 8 am to ride to work, there is a ton of traffic to deal with. If I leave at 9 am, the traffic is very light. Ask people who ride a lot for advice on routes- they often know the calmer, safer back streets and parallel routes that motorists generally tend to avoid - Cliff)

4. Educate yourself. Read up on how to ride in traffic or refresh your memory on the rules of the road. Learn how to use your gears. A bicycle should give you a mechanical advantage over walking. It doesn’t have to be hard (or racing fast). In addition, as Heather @ SGF says, think about what you’re afraid of happening & figure out what you would do if it actually happened. There’s lots of good advice out there on everything from gear to how to change a tire. (By the way, riding a bicycle really does not require spandex or lycra).

5. Be sure your bicycle fits you. (This is getting easier, but can be difficult for many women.) Also make sure it works properly. There may be adjustments or changes in equipment that can make your ride much more comfortable and enjoyable. I have only recently come to appreciate what an amazing difference tires can make in the of your ride. Think about getting a basket or pannier so that your bicycle can haul more than just you!

6. Demand cycling (and pedestrian) improvements and safety in your community. The only way it will get easier/better for cyclists is if we stand up and say that this is something we care about and should be a priority for where we live. (And, the more of us there are cycling on the roads, the more likely local officials will listen to our needs. Historically, improvements like 'share the road' signs, law enforcement, and bike lanes do not happen until the government sees a need for the improvements. They won't see a need if they don't see bicyclists. So, instead of "build it and they will come" in biking it is usually "Bike more and they will build it". -- Cliff)

Thanks, LHT Rider.

You can overcome Biker's Block. Ride on. Start today.

One more decent resource to check at - Get Motivated.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A great overview of the craziness drivers and cyclists can get into

This is a great overview of the craziness drivers and cyclists can get into. I highly recommend Bob Mionske's book (below)

Legally Speaking with Bob Mionske - Bikes v. cars

By Bob Mionske
Posted Aug. 15, 2008
You've gotta fight for your right to ... pedal.
Photo: Agence France Presse

To the casual observer, it may seem as though tempers have been rising along with the temperatures this summer, but as we’ll see, we know that the summer heat has nothing to do with it. Nevertheless, add higher gas prices, more bikes on the road, and — why not? — alcohol to the usual tension between motorists and cyclists, and you’ve got a potent cocktail for conflict.

On July 4, two southern California cyclists ran headlong into that conflict as they made their way through Brentwood’s Mandeville Canyon, a popular weekend destination for cyclists who want to put in a maximum of miles with a minimum of traffic signals. Ron Peterson, 40, a southern California cycling coach, and Christian Stoehr, 29, a member of the West Los Angeles Cycling Club, and both members of Team Cynergy Cycles, had joined some 300 cyclists for a holiday ride up Mandeville Canyon Road — a five mile climb without a single traffic light. On the descent, somebody crashed. Peterson and Stoehr stayed behind with the injured cyclist until the paramedics arrived, then continued their descent towards Sunset Boulevard, two abreast, along the twists and turns of Mandeville Canyon Road. A late model Infiniti sedan approached them from behind and honked; Peterson obligingly pulled ahead of Stoehr to let the driver pass. Not quite ready to hurry along his way, the driver buzzed Stoehr and Peterson, passing within less than a foot of their handlebars, and shouting his profanity-laced advice to ride single file. Peterson fired back with some choice words of his own; the driver then quickly veered into the path of the two cyclists and braked hard — “as hard as he could,” Peterson recalled.

Peterson went face-first through the rear window of the Infiniti, breaking teeth and nearly severing his now-broken nose. Stoehr, riding just behind Peterson, nearly steered clear of the car, clipping it just enough to catapult him over his bars. He landed on the road just ahead of the car, separating his shoulder on impact. The driver, Dr. Christopher T. Thompson [Note: NOT the same Dr. Christopher Thompson who has been threatened and harassed by angered cyclists since the incident], exited his car, identified himself as a doctor, but according to Peterson, “from that point on, he never offered any help” — despite having spent 29 years as an emergency room doctor.

Dr. Thompson was arrested on suspicion of assault with a deadly weapon; he was later released on $30,000 bail. Dr. Thomspon, who lives on Mandeville Canyon Road, and whose wife Lynne sits on the board of the Upper Mandeville Canyon Association, was subsequently described as “a great guy who has been active in the community” by board president Wendy-Sue Rosen. "People here are very, very angry at bicyclists and their disregard for the laws of the road," Rosen noted. Reports that residents had been spat upon by cyclists only further fueled the anger; reports of what had triggered the spitting incidents were not as forthcoming from the angered residents.

Speaking on behalf of Dr. Thompson afterwards, his attorney emphatically denied “that there was any road rage incident. It was a very unfortunate accident.” Unfortunately for Dr. Thompson, the “accidental” nature of the alleged assault was quickly called into question when it was revealed that he had been involved in a strikingly similar incident a few short months before, in March of 2008.

Cyclist Patrick Watson, one of two cyclists involved in the March incident with Dr. Thompson, recalled that, as on the July 4th incident, the driver had braked suddenly and hard, sending a cyclist to the ground; the driver “then ran me off the road and as I jumped back onto the pavement he slammed on his brakes right in front of us.”

According to Watson, the driver then drove straight at the fallen cyclist, then again “drove straight at me.” The quick-thinking Watson entered the driver’s license number into his cell phone and reported the incident. Although the Los Angeles Police Department promptly investigated the March incident, the Los Angeles District Attorney Steve Cooley declined to file charges against Dr. Thompson, saying the case wasn’t “a winner.”

If this coddling left Dr. Thompson feeling enabled to continue assaulting cyclists, the feeling didn’t last long. His luck with prosecutors ran out after the second assault in Mandeville canyon; in connection with the July 4th incident, he has been charged with two felony counts of reckless driving causing injury, and two felony counts of battery with serious bodily injury. Although no charges have yet been filed in the March assault, Patrick Watson’s quick-thinking and subsequent complaint to the LAPD present a serious obstacle to any defense claims that Thompson’s actions on July 4th were just “a very unfortunate accident.”

A few days after Dr. Thomson’s second run-in with cyclists, another road rage incident broke out in Portland, Oregon, again between a driver and a cyclist, but this time, with a twist. Colin Yates, 47, a bike mechanic, was driving home with his family on July 6, when he alleged that a cyclist who was riding erratically nearly collided with him before running a red light. Yates reported that he pulled up next to the cyclist — later identified as Steven McAtee, 31 — and told him that he was making other cyclists look bad. McAtee’s response? He allegedly urged Yates to get out of his car and fight. When Yates refused, McAtee raised his bike over his head and began slamming it into the front of Yates’ car. Yates, finally having had enough of McAtee’s behavior, exited his vehicle, and was promptly attacked by McAtee, who now began slamming his bike into Yates. While Yates was being assaulted, a passer-by punched McAtee, knocking him down. A crowd of passing cyclists gathered, and assuming that a motorist had injured a cyclist, many began taking photos of Yates. When the police — who had received a report of a car-on-bicycle crash — arrived, they heard conflicting versions of which party was the aggressor in the incident, but after talking with a witness who was too afraid to speak openly in front of the crowd, eventually decided that McAtee was the aggressor, and placed him under arrest; he was charged with third-degree assault, criminal mischief, disorderly conduct, and driving under the influence of intoxicants.

One week later, a speeding driver who passed a little too close to a Portland cyclist — 37 year old Jason Rehnberg — on a residential street elicited an admonishment to “slow down, gashole!” Tires smoked as the driver, 21 year old James Millican, screeched to a halt and leapt out, threatening to beat the cyclist. The cyclist attempted to escape, but after a few moments, jumped off his bike and onto the hood of the car when the still-enraged Millican drove straight at him, crushing his bike. The event made national news when a bystander got cellphone video footage of the driver careening down the street with the terrified cyclist clinging to the hood of the car. Eventually, Millican slowed down enough for Rehnberg to escape from his perch on the hood. Later that day, Millican was arrested and charged with kidnapping, second-degree attempted assault, driving under the influence of intoxicants, third-degree criminal mischief and reckless driving.

Incredibly, two days after Millican assaulted Rehnberg, Portland was witness to yet another spectacle of road rage; this third incident began when 23 year old bike courier Adam Leckie allegedly cut off a vehicle; riding in the vehicle was cyclist Patrick Schrepping, 30, and a co-worker of Colin Yates, the bike mechanic involved in the July 6th road rage incident. As Leckie cycled on his way, Schrepping yelled at him for cutting off his friend who was driving, and then delivering the coup de grace, yelled at him for not wearing a helmet. According to Leckie, he had his helmet with him, but was not wearing it because he wanted to cool off — not that he owes an explanation to anybody. But more to the point, Leckie claims he had had a bad day, and the “get a helmet” comment was just the straw that broke the camel’s back. After yelling back at Schrepping, Leckie apparently reversed course, and followed the SUV containing Schrepping and his friend to the restaurant where they planned to have diner. While Schrepping and his friend were inside, Leckie rode by and keyed the door; unbeknownst to Leckie, however, Schrepping was watching, and he ran out to confront Leckie. A brawl erupted, during the course of which Leckie’s u-lock fell to the ground; Schrepping alleges that the u-lock fell when Leckie swung it at him. Schrepping dove for the u-lock, and in a turn of the tables, delivered some “u-lock justice” to the messenger, opening up a 1-inch gash in Leckie’s head. At that point, a bystander stepped in and broke up the fight. When police arrived — Schrepping says that he called the police — they cited Leckie for criminal mischief and arrested Schrepping on suspicion of assault. Subsequently, Leckie and Shcrepping apologized to each other, and dropped their respective charges; the District Attorney is still reviewing the case.

Something about these incidents, occurring in quick succession during the first two weeks of July, captured our collective attention; for the Portland, Oregon-based The Oregonian, each new incident was evidence of a “bikes vs. cars” war, and as such, merited successive, almost daily above-the-fold headlines in the newsstands. And then the national media took notice. First, Newsweek declared that a surge in ridership had spurred a “new kind of road rage,” in the July 28 article Pedal vs.
. Of course, for anybody who has actually been on a bike before this summer, Newsweek’s discovery of this “new kind of road rage” was very old news indeed.

The New York Times weighed in one week later, addressing the clash between cyclists and motorists head-on in the August 8 article Moving Target .

Of course, despite national attention being focused, even if only briefly, on the issue, “bikes vs. cars” violence wasn’t winding down. On July 25, just three days before the Newsweek article was published, “bike vs. cars” violence broke out again, when the monthly Critical Mass ride crossed paths with a driver who was taking his passenger to her birthday party. It began as other Critical Mass incidents have, with some of the riders corking the driver as the rest of the riders rode past. The driver — identified only as “Mark,” a 23 year old travel agent and former bicycle commuter — reported waiting patiently, at first, but after tiring of waiting, he decided to back up and take a different route. As he tried to back up and leave, the cyclists responded by surrounding his car, preventing him from moving in any direction. That’s when the situation began to deteriorate; the driver reports that some of the cyclists began pulling on his mirrors, taunting him with threats that they would tip his car. His response? Feeling intimidated, and “concerned for my safety," Mark began revving his engine. “[I] was going to…try to be macho and scare some people. I didn’t realize my car was in first [gear].”

As he popped his clutch, Mark’s car lurched forward, striking two of the cyclists who were hemming him in. He was immediately swarmed, and reports that one cyclist tried to punch him. At that point, fearing for his safety, he drove off, with one cyclist — Seattle Attorney Tom Braun — still under his wheel, and another cyclist who had jumped onto the hood for safety clinging to his roof rack. A block away, he heard somebody shout “Someone’s really hurt,” so he stopped his car. “I thought I just knocked two bikes over,” Mark reported. “I wanted to get away from the situation but if I’d hurt someone, I didn’t want to flee.” When the cyclists caught up with him, they began smashing his windows and slashing his tires, reportedly to “in order to make sure that he did not continue operating his vehicle through the city like a madman.”

As Mark exited his car, somebody, attacking from behind, hit him in the head with a U-lock, opening up a large gash in Mark’s head. Cyclists David Maxwell, 23, and John Lawson, 24, were arrested on charges of Malicious Mischief, but charges have not yet been filed in the case. Outside of the courthouse, arguing that Seattle police should have investigated the driver’s role in the altercation, Maxwell said "I think the driver should be in the position we're in.”

The cyclist who opened up Mark’s head with his U-lock was interviewed as a witness by police, before another witness identified him as the assault suspect. Seattle police, who have his name from the interview, are still searching for him, and expect to file charges when he is found. Speaking afterwards about the violence, Lawson noted that "Critical Mass is supposed to be a positive thing. This isn't what it's supposed to be about."

One week later, on August 2, “bikes vs. cars” violence spilled into the headlines once again, this time from just Utah. It was on the Mirror Lake Highway, between Salt Lake City and Kamas; the highway was posted for the Tour de Park City that day. Cyclist Shane Dunleavy reports that as he was on a morning training ride, a pickup truck pulled up alongside him.

"The guy pulled up next to me and was already in a rage,” Dunleavy recalled. “When he started screaming out his window at me, I said something back about having a right to be on the road."

That only further enraged the driver, who began swerving into Dunleavy. The truck’s passenger door was now being repeatedly pressed against Dunleavy’s knee, pushing him off the road, and the mirror was in position to topple him over, so Dunleavy attempted to push off the truck’s mirror; as he did so, the mirror broke.

Now the driver was really mad — “He went nuts," Dunleavy said. "He gunned it right into us and knocked me over. I was dragged along for a little while and pulled my knees back just as he ran over the bike."

Miraculously, Dunleavy wasn’t injured…But the driver wasn’t done with his rampage. After running Dunleavy down, the driver stopped, and jumped out of his truck, intending to continue his assault on the cyclists…at which point, he soon discovered that without his pickup truck, he was no match for the cyclists he was threatening. Dunleavy’s training partner, Patrick Fasse, reportedly grabbed the driver — 41 year old Alexander Barto — by the hair, and began punching him in the face. Dunleavy and Fasse then threw Barto against his truck and held him there while they waited for police to arrive. Other cyclists who arrived on the scene immediately afterwards informed Dunleavy that Barto had just harassed them moments before. When the Utah Highway Patrol arrived, Barto was arrested for investigation of aggravated assault.

For the media, and for the new cyclists who, lured by the combination of warm weather and high gas prices, are venturing out onto the road for the first time, these stories of road violence, one after the other, may indeed have seemed like “a new kind of road rage.” For seasoned cyclists, the stories were more an indication that the daily violence cyclists encounter had finally managed to capture the attention of the public-at-large. But underlying the “bikes vs. cars” eruptions of violence, the larger questions remained unasked, and unanswered in the media: Why are cyclists the daily targets of road violence, and what can cyclists do to change that reality?

Fortunately, for every cyclist who has ever asked those questions, there are answers; next week, we’re going to delve deeper into this issue for answers to those deeper questions.

(Research and drafting provided by Rick Bernardi, J.D.)

I’d like to thank everybody who has contacted me to request my appearance at their event. I will be speaking as extensively on "Bicycling & the Law" this year as my practice will allow, and will make plans to appear before any club, bike shop, or other engagement that is interested in hosting me. If you would like me to appear to speak at your event or shop, or to your club or group, please drop me a line at (and if you would like to contact me with a question or comment not related to my speaking tour, please drop me a line at I'm looking forward to meeting as many of my readers as possible this year.

Now read the fine print:

Bob Mionske is a former competitive cyclist who represented the U.S. at the 1988 Olympic games (where he finished fourth in the road race), the 1992 Olympics, as well as winning the 1990 national championship road race.
After retiring from racing in 1993, he coached the Saturn Professional Cycling team for one year before heading off to law school. Mionske's practice is now split between personal-injury work, representing professional athletes as an agent and other legal issues facing endurance athletes (traffic violations, contract, criminal charges, intellectual property, etc).

Mionske is also the author of Bicycling and the Law, designed to be the primary resource for cyclists to consult when faced with a legal question. It provides readers with the knowledge to avoid many legal problems in the first place, and informs them of their rights, their responsibilities, and what steps they can take if they do encounter a legal problem. If you have a cycling-related legal question, please send it to Bob will answer as many of these questions privately as he can. He will also select a few questions each week to answer in this column. General bicycle-accident advice can be found at

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Wal-Mart Bicycling Shopper Strips

Try this on your next trip to WalMart- be sure to have someone available with bail money.

I found this on . The rest of the post is from that blog, which I highly recommend if you are a Memphomaniac.

The Consumerist is one of my favorite blogs (tho, for the life of me, I can't figure out why) and today they have a little bit about a Wal-Mart shopper who wasn't allowed to bring her $600 bike into the store.

Because there were no bike racks at that particular location, the cyclist thought she'd just take the bicycle with her into the store, something she'd done in the past. But a Wal-Mart manager argued that she couldn't bring it into the store because the store sold bicycles.

From her posting on Bike Forums:

"I was starting to get really frustrated since I had ridden all the way there seemingly for no reason, so I asked her if they also sold shirts in the store. She said yes so I took off my jersey and said well then I'd better not bring this in either. She got kind of flustered and said that it was a different situation but couldn't explain why. So I said that if they also sold shorts in the store that I'd better not wear those in either and I took off my shorts. Same goes for the shoes and sunglasses. Now I'm standing there in my spandex and a sports bra and I ask here if I can leave my things behind the customer service counter where they will be safe until I finish making my purchases and she said that I couldn't come into the store without shoes on, to which i responded 'but I certainly can't wear shoes into the store because you sell those here and someone might think I've stolen them.'"

Saturday, July 26, 2008

Scenic Commute Cuts Stress --- Even with more traffic, driving through the woods increases patience.

Maybe this is one of the reasons I like riding to work via Shady Grove so much.....

Scenic Commute Cuts Stress --- Even with more traffic, driving through the woods increases patience.

By: PT Staff

Finding a shortcut to work may not be the only way to improve your morning commute. People have more patience for on-road stresses when they drive through scenic, nature-lined streets. This is the case even when judged against roads that have less traffic, but are surrounded by sprawl.

"Not only do we like natural scenes, but they have a physiological effect. People are, in fact, calmed down and relaxed by them," says coauthor Jack Nasar, professor of city and regional planning at Ohio State University.

For the study, 106 participants watched a simulation of a morning commute. Some were shown a four-lane road passing woods with little development. Others were shown commutes with fewer cars on the road, but with more strip malls and less vegetation.

Before the simulation, the participants had been given tests designed to increase frustration—for example, anagrams that had no solution. After their "drive," researchers measured the participants' stress levels with a questionnaire. The drivers who had been on the greener but more congested road were less frustrated.

Nasar gives an evolutionary explanation for the calming effects of natural scenery. "There is an innate response to nature: it has a healing and restorative effect," he says.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

A method to avoid major problems when biking at night

There is a major misunderstanding among cyclists that can cost you a lot of money and get you killed. You need to get this right or you might die riding your bike. Pay attention.

Here is the misunderstanding- If you ride in the city at night, you don't need a headlight. Street lights and your reflective clothing will suffice.

Wrong. You need a headlight for safety (and a tail light, too!). Good lights reduce your odds of being hit. The brighter, the better. And, headlights are required by law in all 50 states in darkness or low-visibility conditions. It is illegal to ride a bicycle on public roads without a working headlight.

1. Safety improves with a headlight

The number one reason motorists give for hitting a cyclist? "I didn't see her."

If you have been riding any length of time in recent years, you probably have a story or two about a close call with a motorist who was driving while distracted. Cell phones, kids, food, GPS, music, smoking, all of the above at the same time--- motorists are distracted.

Increasing your visibility is the best thing you can do to increase your safety.

Here is the cognitive process that transpires in a human mind in a split second: I see something- I recognize that it is a cyclist - the cyclist is on the road with me- I need to drive properly - I do it.

The sooner that decision process starts in the mind of the motorist, the sooner the motorist can start comprehending how to handle the car-bike traffic situation.

"But isn't a bright tail light enough to keep me safe?"

Nope, not at all. Here's why: Over ninety percent of all car-bike crashes happen from the front or side from turning or crossing traffic. A red rear blinky doesn't do you any good in preventing 90% of the crashes!

Increasing your visibility makes it more likely that you will be detected sooner by a motorist. If they detect you soon enough, the have a better chance of doing the right thing. If they don't see you in time... Well, I hope you are lucky that night.

Psychologists say that a motor vehicle presents a visual field that is seven times bigger than the visual field of a bicycle. Smaller road users need to do something special to be more easily detected by the bigger road users.

2. Cops, Lawyers and Money might not be so bad if you have a headlight

Not using a headlight at night can become a legal and financial liability. If you are not using a headlight and you get into a crash with an automobile, you might be held responsible for the crash and for all your costs and even for the motorist's damages. Your medical insurance company might try to deny payment for your injuries if you are found negligent. If you ride illegally (without a light at night) you might be seen as negligent and contributing to the accident even if you are otherwise doing everything right. Collecting damages from motorists is much more difficult when you are riding illegally.

If you don't have a headlight, you can be ticketed because you are breaking the law. In many places you absolutely will be ticketed by the police if you are not using a head light on your bike when it is dark. This happened to several friends of mine when I lived in Germany- the police there enforced the laws for all road users. Cyclists around the more enlightened parts of the USA have been cited for not having working lights at night. This does not yet happen in Memphis, but I think that as more and more Memphians turn to cycling for basic transportation needs, enforcement of the law will become necessary.

3. It is cheaper than you think, and they don't weigh that much.

"But, headlights are too expensive! And they are heavy!" some say.

Headlights are not free, that's for sure- the best and brightest can cost several hundred dollars! However, you can find a "Be Seen" light-- one that clips on to you handlebars or helmet, that is in the $20-30 range. A small price to pay to keep your bike, and yourself, from getting crushed by a motorist who cannot see you in time.

And, modern lights are much lighter than they were a few years ago-- you no longer have to lug around a 2 pound battery to power your lights. There are plenty of powerful lights that run on AA batteries. No hassle, no big deal. The best ones attach in seconds-- no excuses for not using one.

How much is your life worth? If you are unlucky and get into a crash becaue you are not seen, think about this for a moment, grasshopper. An ambulance ride to The Med costs about $550-- the ER costs are astronomical. And then, there is your pain, suffering, and possible death-- and, OMG! Your bike gets smashed!

4. Bottom Line

Almost all the cyclists who are hit at night believe that the motorists could have seen them and should have seen them. Almost all the motorists say the same thing "I didn't see him." What the motorists should really say is "I didn't see him IN TIME."

Lights get you recognized faster. Lights help a lot. Friends don't let friends ride without lights. Check out the Youtube video below.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Bike Generators? Let's build some

I feel some hope now and then when I see efforts like this. I should build one for my house as an emergency back up - power the Fridge, a fan or two, some lights--- my laptop, my broadband modem---- Hmmm. I'll have to pedal a lot!

You think we have enough mechanical tech expertise to build these here in Memphis?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Police enforcing traffic laws regarding cycling

This is a little short police training video showing enforcement of bicycling laws.

Opinion-- I don't like getting tickets, but I think that we cyclists need to (mostly) obey the laws of the road in order to be seen as legitimate road users by everybody. Motorists need to mostly obey the laws too, and most motorists know that when they blow a stop sign or red light a ticket may be issued. In Memphis I have not heard of any cyclists ever getting a ticket (Am I just uninformed? Let me know!)

Same road, same rights, same rules, right? Until enforcement of the laws for all road users is a priority, our progress in sharing the road will be limited.

The video - produced by

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Bike Bus - An idea to help grow Memphis cycling

If bicycles are so great, why don’t more people use bikes more often for simple bikeable errands? The number one reason people say they don’t ride is fear of crashes with automobiles. They perceive that riding mixed in with traffic is dangerous. (That's a subject for a different post)

I have been bike commuting off and on for 24 years so I am pretty comfortable riding in all sorts of city traffic. Others, however, are not comfortable at all—they might not have much experience in traffic or they might have had one or two bad experiences that have scared them off from riding solo.

However, most riders (urban traffic novices in particular) feel much safer in a group, especially if they trust the group leader. I have taken some traffic novices through some pretty complex traffic quite safely. The experience was usually exciting for them, but not too scary, and we were definitely safe. When they follow an experienced leader through traffic, they gain competency.

So here is the point for this article—to help less experienced people learn to negotiate urban traffic on a bicycle, consider starting a Bike Bus Ride in your area.

A Bike Bus is a group of cyclists riding together to a specific destination on a schedule with an experienced leader. Bike Buses were originally started to allow commuters to ride together to work. However, a Bike Bus can be adapted to go anywhere groups of riders want to go- church, shopping, the zoo, parks—If a road goes there, a Bike Bus can go there.

The Bike Bus rides two abreast (where legal) and will single up as needed. The Bike Bus rides legally and courteously—Bike Bus members are ambassadors for cooperative legal road sharing, adhering to the “Same Roads, Same Rights, Same Rules” slogan. The Bike Bus stops at traffic lights and stop signs. (Well, we may slow down and not stop dead still if it is safe to roll, but we will slow down and act like a, uh, act like a Bus.)

The pace of the bike bus is agreed upon by the members that day. Since the Bike Bus serves a safety and a social function, dropping slower riders is generally not a good idea. However, if there are enough riders, splitting the Bike Bus into two or three groups riding different paces can be a good idea. Smaller groups are easier for motor vehicles to pass as well.

A group of 4 is big enough to feel like a Bike Bus. I think once the group reaches 12 or so, splitting into more than one Bike Bus might be a good idea, depending on the situation. If there is only one leader, don’t split it. Recruit competent co-leaders.

MidTown Bikes is leading a Farmer’s Market Ride on Saturdays. Bill Draper is leading a Downtown Memphis History Bike Tour a couple of Saturdays a month. In my own neighborhood, I think that a good thing to do would be to create a Bike Bus ride to local grocery shopping. I live just 2.5 miles from Wild Oats, Super Lo, and Kroger, so it is very bikeable. To me it is bike friendly, but to novices riding down Southern and crossing Poplar looks like certain death.

Consider getting on the Bike Bus! Here’s a website from down under-- be sure to check out the video.