Rain Pants

If I’m wearing rain pants, I can just wear my pajamas underneath, right? No need to put on big boy clothes. Also, will my slippers fit inside my galoshes, animal faces and all?

December 9, 2009 at 6:27 am 9 comments

Taking Positions

If I was the person in charge of making and enforcing bicyclist law in regards to how we use the road, this is how I would do things.

Bicycling laws that I would like to see introduced in my state:

  • Bicyclists should be required to have an illuminated tail light when riding after dark on any roads shared with motor vehicles. Currently, bicyclists are required to have a front light, which is completely unenforced. In the absence of a tail light law, a headlight law is pretty ridiculous. Not that I would mind a law requiring both, mind you, but a tail light is far more important.
  • Bicyclist should be forbidden from passing vehicles from the right when crossing intersections. Passing on the right is illegal for all vehicles in most states, but not in mine. I watched a bicyclists zoom to the right of a line of 10 right turning vehicles yesterday. I still haven’t recovered from the anxiety of waiting for him to be struck without even realizing how much danger he was putting himself in.

Bicycling law violations I would like to see actually enforced:

  • The use of headphones in both ears while operating a bicycle on roads shared with motor vehicles.
  • Riding in the opposite direction as traffic. Apparently, a huge percentage of cyclists are still under the false impression that riding against the flow of traffic is safer. Me being snotty and using the brief second we are squeezing past one another in my lane to scream “Traffic goes THIS WAY,” does not seem to be effectively getting the word out. Perhaps if people were ticketed, police officers could use the time it takes to write the citation to inform the bicyclist of the safe and legal direction to ride.
  • Cyclist blowing through stop signs, cross walks and stop lights. When I say blowing through I mean blowing through, at full speed, which leads to…

Bicycling law violations police should continue to ignore or only enforce when said action exhibits perceptible danger:

  • Controlled running of a red light after coming to a complete stop when crossing a lesser street with no traffic. Without bike boxes at intersections, I believe wholeheartedly in the studies that show cyclists that wait for green at red lights are in greater danger of being struck by right turning vehicles. Jumping ahead of traffic in such situations protects cyclists from danger. Bike boxes and 5 second bicycle head start lights would be preferable, but in the absence of such infrastructure, practical safety realities should take precedence over principle when enforcing cycling action at intersections.
  • Slowing down to below 2 mph and crossing an intersection with a stop sign without coming to a complete foot to the road stop. Of course, I have no valid argument in support of such a stop being safer than a complete stop, just as nobody as a valid argument that such a complete stop would be any safer for a cyclist. Common sense should dictate how a cyclist treats a stop sign, not the dogma of pretending that bicycles and motor vehicles are the same. Of all the instances I have read of police setting up bicycle complete stop traps, it is painfully obvious that the motive was to minimize irritating bicycle use, not to promote increased bicycle safety.

Maryland state bicycle law that is dangerous and stupid and really pisses me off:

§ 21-1205.1. Bicycles, motor scooters, and EPAMDs prohibited on certain roadways and highways; speed limit…

(b) Roadway with bike lane or shoulder paved to smooth surface.-

(1) Where there is a bike lane paved to a smooth surface or a shoulder paved to a smooth surface, a person operating a bicycle or a motor scooter shall use the bike lane or shoulder and may not ride on the roadway…

Seriously, if you want to have a law that demands that I ride in a bike lane (or on a shoulder?!) if one exists, then stop placing half assed class II bike lanes in door zones. I’m really not a fan of laws that place me in greater danger and risk my life.

December 4, 2009 at 2:04 pm 7 comments

The Unreasonable Man

This morning I noticed this adorably produced video making its way around the cycling blog file of my feed reader:

As you can see, the video portrays a stop-motion cyclist innocently stop-motion cycling around a stop-motion city, all the while an angry stop-motion driver is stop-motion screaming into his cell phone. Being stop-motion detracted and angry (as stop-motion drivers that scream at cell phones are want to be), the driver opens his car door, causing the cyclist to be doored, shattering into multiple pieces and lying in a pool cutout bits of photographs on the pavement. Driver feels grief and regret. The creator’s hearts are certainly in the right place, and the message is clear; drivers, check before opening your door to make sure you are not about to inadvertently injure or kill a cyclist.

Here is my take on dooring. As far as I can tell, there are two basic ways to combat the dangers of car dooring:

    a) One can take the advocate approach and work to teach 200 million American drivers, and hundreds of millions more in other countries, about the the dangers of car dooring. We can remind drivers that, technically speaking, they are legally required to make sure the lane is clear of traffic before opening the door.
    b) One can train oneself to never ride in the car door zone, ever.

It seems to me the former approach, if properly implemented, might win the hearts and attention of a maximum of 1% of the driving population, thereby making one 1% safer from being doored. The latter course, if properly implemented, will make one 100% safer from dooring by guaranteeing that such an accident is physically impossible. Not that the second option isn’t without its challenges, especially in cities with poorly designed class II bicycle lanes, and angry drivers that think you have no right to ride 4 and a half feet away from parked cars, but the angry driver that can see you is far less of a danger than the oblivious driver that does not.

This all leads to the cliched Shaw quote, “A reasonable man adapts himself to his environment. An unreasonable man persists in attempting to adapt his environment to suit himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” I just don’t have the energy for progress, I guess.

December 3, 2009 at 9:12 am 5 comments

Your Empty Symbols Make Mother Earth Cry

Sorry to be a no fun grouse, but these pedal powered “green” displays really annoy the heck out of me:

Why? Because as efficient a machine the bicycle is to transport human beings, peddling human beings are probably the most inefficient energy source to generate electricity. The food consumed to illuminate a Christmas tree, or run a margarita blender, is about 100 times more expensive, and 100 times more detrimental to the environment, than any other energy source. And don’t get me started on the methane produced by a bunch of sausage sucking farting Copenhageners. The only thing green about these empty exercises is the waste material that is produced.

Update: Look, just tonight some BBC1 series called Bang Goes The Theory is doing a feature on how phenomenally stupid pedal powered whatever is, and that simply feeding the turbines uses as much energy as the turbines produce. Well, actually, I think their point was that a typical British family uses so much energy that it would take a room full of 100 human powered turbines to provide the electricity, but that’s largely because pedal powered human turbines are remarkably inefficient. Bicycles are efficient human transporters because they exploit momentum, not because peddling rawks. [via The Guardian]

December 2, 2009 at 9:38 am 3 comments

Nice Short Video

Here’s a very handsomely edited short documentary about Baltimore’s Halloween Critical Mass put together by a MICA student:

Critical Mass Short Document from Clayton Lee on Vimeo.

Handsome enough, in fact, for me to post even though Critical Masses can really piss me off. I apologize for posting a video of a mass of cyclists running a red light without so much as even a symbolic stop, but I really liked how the city photographed. I noticed an odd thing about my reaction to the interviews. When the adults were interviewed I had a positive reaction and was somewhat prone to agree with them, but the kids really made me angry when they were extolling the virtues of taking over the entire road. Oh well. I guess that means I’m an adult or something.

[via cyclosity] who contributed photos and some of the ride shots. Apparently, there’s a Black Friday Critical Mass, which, as cyclosity said “word on the street says : relaxed and friendly. Less macho-shit than at the Halloween ride.” I won’t be there, partially because I heard the same thing about the Halloween ride, but I’m willing to pass the word.

November 25, 2009 at 1:39 pm 12 comments

Gravityschmavity

If you are like me you have a weird growth live in an apartment and own more bicycles than you are able to store gracefully.  I would say that I have enough extra space in my place to comfortably store one bicycle.  I own three, which as any mathematician out there could tell you means I have two bicycles that have been clumsily getting on my last nerve for some time.  One of the extra bikes has been in my bedroom, standing in front of a bookshelf between my bed and bathroom.  Apparently, I love kicking it in the middle of the night, because I seem to do that every time I get up to pee.  The other bike is in my living/dining room space, which I’ve decided is a barbaric and horrible way to live.  Grownups shouldn’t have to keep bicycles in their living/dining room space.

Luckily, the other day when I was in a hardware store, buying hardwarey stuff, I stumbled across one of those gravity bicycle stands that I’ve read about, and as it was reasonably priced, decided to take it home with me.  Just so you know, the whole point of this post is to give me an excuse to post a picture of how I carried a three foot tall box in my bicycle basket:

How awesome is that?

I swear, nothing seems to make me happier lately than when I successfully carry big clumsy crap in my bicycle basket.  Those Xtracycle people think they’re such hot shit.  I can carry big clumsy stuff too.  See?  SEE?!  Two miles, baby.  The top of that box rested about an inch below my chin, and was shockingly stable.  Although I gave myself a little extra braking space, I was able to corner normally and ride at a normal speed.

Now, this isn’t a product review per se, so I’m not going to mention the product in a googlable manner.  I really don’t know and don’t care if this product is better or worse than any other gravity stands on the market.  Those other stands weren’t available at my local hardware store.  Whatever brand this is took about 50 seconds to assemble and lean up against the only available spot in my apartment, the bookshelf in my bedroom between my bed and bathroom, flush enough so that I shouldn’t be kicking it in the middle of the night anymore, and clearing the other bike out of my living space.

How uncluttered is that?

I’m not really sure if this is a practical solution for everybody else.  I have A LOT of furniture for my apartment, and don’t have a square foot of space to put this anywhere else.  The bookshelf is mounted into the wall itself, so it’s sturdy.  It’s also dirt cheap pine so I didn’t mind mounting the gravity stand onto it.  All my other bookshelves are hardwood or teak, and there was no way in heck that I was going to drill this stand into one of those.  This is just the storage solution that worked best for me.

Although, I did come across one issue in the mounting process, so if you found this post by googling “mounting gravity stand” learn from my mistake.  If you look at the above picture, right next to the crank arm to the top bicycle, you’ll see a seam in the tubing between the top and the bottom part of the stand.  Being a stand supported by gravity, as the name obviously implies, these two parts are not bracketed together.  If you plan to bolt the top part into the wall (or bookshelf) bear in mind that the weight of the bottom bike is going to compress the bottom part of the stand by a couple of millimeters, causing the wall mounted part of the stand to not be supported by gravity at all:

D'oh!

Feck.

So, before you mount the top part of the stand into the wall, actually weigh down the bottom portion with the bike first.  Otherwise, whatever you mount the top portion to is going to carry 100% of the weight of the top bike.  Since we’re only talking about a couple of millimeters at most, drilling a new pilot hole into the mounted surface isn’t an option.  Luckily in my case, the top portion is very stably mounted and capable of carrying the weight, so now I just have to decide whether I can live with my mistake or drill a new hole into  top portion of the stand.  Oh well.  You win some and you lose some.  At least now I won’t be kicking bicycles in the middle of the night anymore.

November 23, 2009 at 3:50 pm 3 comments

Over the Rail Yard and through the Hoods…

I’ll be posting videos of some of my more frequent routes here from time to time.  My idea is, as it takes nearly no effort at all to mount my Flip camera and record my routes, I might as well upload them.  After some time, this should add up to an interesting city portrait.  Or not.

This first video is from the Midtown/Belvedere section of central Baltimore to Hamilton, a semi-urban/semi-suburban area in the northeast corner of the city.

I compressed a 6+ mile Sunday morning ride down to a little over four minutes, fast forwarded and red-light edited to alleviate some of the boring.  I also erased the sound because nobody wants to hear your wind whistle and squeaky brakes (seriously, cycling uploaders – erase your sound).  I added the hoity-toity classical music, not because I’m some fancy pants lover of baroque concertos, but to let you listen to something while trying my darnedest to not grossly violate copyright.   Of course, I’m violating some orchestra’s copyright, but it isn’t their song so screw ‘em.

Oh, and here is a map of the route for context:

routeamap

November 16, 2009 at 2:19 pm 3 comments

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dukiebiddle

I'm not actually a neo-Marxist or a dog lover and I hate clowns, despite what the blog title and this avatar might lead you to believe. Wof.

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