Archive for May, 2007
Friday, May 25th, 2007
What on earth would possess someone to promote and sell promotional materials that makes light of – even legitimizes – hitting and verbally abusing cyclists? Ask the folks at CafePress, because I’m not sure I can answer that for them. They are an on-line store that has loads of other products that are clever, humorous, ironic, pointed, self-deprecating, off-the-wall.
And then they have artwork that shows a cyclist getting hit by a motorist, with an accompanying explicit epithet that anyone that’s ridden a bike in the last 24 hours will likely have heard, along the lines of “excuse me, but I think you are in my way.” They have it for bumper stickers, mugs, T-shirts.
I wonder if they also have klever klan merchandise encouraging folks to break race laws. Perhaps snappy graphics showing people being persecuted for their sexual orientation or religious beliefs of other lifestyle choices. Is there a line in humorous “I support torture” stickers that flout international law as well as domestic laws and good taste?
So why would they think it is OK to glorify violence against cyclists? Free speech – to promote behavior that kills and injures people every single day of the year already? We’ll be waiting to hear from them.
And thanks to Dean Schott at the League of Illinois Bicyclists for calling out this awful example of anti-cyclist nonsense. State and local advocacy groups are the eyes and ears of the cycling movement – yesterday it was a radio station in Baltimore, tomorrow it could be someone in your neck of the woods going off on cyclists. Make sure you are a member of your state and local advocacy groups as well as the League. We need to stand up to this crap.
Thursday, May 24th, 2007
Yesterday morning, WBAL (Baltimore) Talk Show host Chip Franklin did what all “shock jocks” eventually get around to doing (I’ve always likened it to chimps at a keyboard…) and picked on cyclists as a bunch of arrogant, lycra-wearing, law-breakers who don’t pay their way, etc.
As usual nowadays, while the premise of his rant was small-minded, factually dubious, and certainly obnoxious, he made a point of not advocating harm; equally predictable was the chilling attitude of the callers to show who really do appear to want to hurt cyclists.
We learned from folks who listened to the start of the broadcast that what set Franklin off was an altercation with a cyclist on his way into work that morning. Interestingly, two years ago, an Iowa legislator – chairman of the transportation committee, no less – got into a verbal fight with cyclists and introduced legislation to ban cyclists from certain roads in the state. Bicyclist access to one of the Atlanta area’s premier cycling loops was jeopardized earlier this year after harsh words between riders and a powerful resident of the street in question.
Now, I have no doubt that the cyclist that “got in the way” of Chip Franklin was probably just where he should have been in the road and that the Iowa legislator and Atlanta big-wig were at least partly to blame – and goodness knows I have had my share of close calls and heated “discussions” with taxi drivers, diplomats, double-parkers, and drivers who just don’t want me on the street.
But the WBAL story reminds me that you just never know to whom you might be giving the finger, and what impact that person might have once they get out of their car! Be careful out there!
Monday, May 21st, 2007
Congratulations, and thank you to drivers of America! Thank you for driving just a little bit less this year than you did last year. After decades of seemingly inexorable increases, the number of vehicle miles traveled has actually leveled off in the past year, according to figures from the Federal Highway Administration.
Whether the reason for this is increasing gas prices, frustration with traffic congestion, or the efforts of communities across the country to promote bicycling, walking and transit use, this is actually good news for America and good news for the planet. The transportation sector, primarily cars, contributes between a quarter and third of all greenhouse gas emissions and to our dependence on foreign oil – we might finally be turning the corner and reducing our over-dependence on cars for most of our trips.
Let me be clear, we are NOT anti-car. There are a lot of trips and a lot of tasks for which a car is ideally suited and often the only option. We aren’t asking or expecting people to throw away their cars keys. What we are saying is that more than 40 percent of all trips in the country are two miles or less; one quarter are just one mile or less – and two-thirds of even these shortest of trips are being made by car. These short trips – which are by far the most polluting – are ideal distances to do on a bike.
As folks contemplate the highest average gas prices ever in this country, we encourage every American to consider making one or two trips a week by bike or foot that they would normally make by car. What better ways to save money, get some exercise, reduce pollution, and have some fun into the bargain.
The impacts are not trivial. Cyclists who rode to work on Bike to Work Day alone will
• save more than 56 tanker trucks full of gasoline from being burned
• save $5.7 million in driving costs
• prevent 4,580 tons of carbon dioxide and 230 tons of carbon monoxide from entering the atmosphere
• burn 410 million calories
If you multiply these numbers to cover a year’s worth of commuting, the benefits start to add up fast for individuals, communities, and the nation as a whole.
Thursday, May 17th, 2007
You never know what a visit to Capitol Hill is going to bring. I was up on the Hill yesterday to deliver our testimony on the role bicycling can play in combating climate change – read all about it here – with Walter Finch, the League’s advocacy director.
I got up to the Hill first (cos I was riding….!) and found myself standing in the security line next to the guy from the Discovery Communications empire that does Lance Armstrong’s website. Evidently it was Livestrong Day on Capitol Hill and Lance was in town with other cancer survivors to raise awareness for their issues.
The hearing itself was a long-drawn out affair – not because of the witnesses or even the statements from Members of Congress, but because of frequent lengthy interruptions for a series of quorum votes on the House floor. My five minutes of fame took about four and half hours to complete – like the last few minutes of a basketball game, I guess – but I did get a couple of questions from Members who were in attendance.
The nicest surprise was that Congressman Dan Lipinski (D-IL) from Chicago introduced himself as a League member, and then asked a couple of good questions about the Federal government’s potential role as a model employer for bicyclists.
And then before we’d even gotten back to the office we were contacted by the Association for Commuter Transportation – the ridesharing, vanpooling, commuter services people – to follow up our testimony and see if there are ways we can work together.
Tuesday, May 8th, 2007
Yesterday we heard the awful news that Stan Oldak of the New York Cycling Club was killed by a hit and run driver while completing a 400km brevet outside Houston, Texas this past weekend. The crash happened about 210 miles into the ride in the town of Columbus, Texas. Stan was completing the ride as part of the qualification series for Paris – Brest – Paris later this year.
You can see from the NYCC cover story that Stan Oldak was a great cyclist and a tireless volunteer. He was the NYCC club representative to the League for a couple of years and had been a League member for many years. Our thoughts go out to his family, friends, and colleagues in the cycling world.
Stan’s death comes at that time of year when we should be celebrating bicycling. It’s National Bike Month, for goodness sake. The weather is turning nice (at least in the DC area). And bicycling is such a healthy, worthy, and enjoyable activity that people shouldn’t pay for enjoying it with their lives.
We don’t know all the details of the crash – except that, yet again, the driver couldn’t be bothered to stop. I don’t know what the actual numbers are, but it seems to me that each year more and more fatal and severe bicyclist and pedestrian crashes involve hit and run drivers. Given the pretty pathetic punishments handed out to many of those that do stop and face the consequences, this is even more disappointing.
What do we do? We express our sincere condolences. We hope the driver has the courage to turn themselves into the authorities. Maybe we join a Ride of Silence (May 16) and honor Stan and the other 700 cyclists we can be pretty sure will be killed this year on our nation’s roads.
Somehow it doesn’t seem like that’s enough.
We’ll carry on with our education programming and our exhortations to build better roads to accommodate cyclists. And we know that somehow we need to do more to instill in people in this country that cyclists are people too, with real talents, value, skills, family, and friends. Our lives should not be cheapened or diminished because we happen to wear Lycra on occasion and ride a bike. We must drive home the idea that driving a car is a responsibility, not a right, and that the privilege given people to drive can and must be taken seriously or be taken away. For real.
Tuesday, May 8th, 2007
Definitely a first. I’ve never had a song sung for me before! The kids at Williams Elementary in Flint, Mich., almost brought tears to my eyes belting out the words to this song and swaying through a series of accompanying bicycling motions. Not only that, but there were signs welcoming “Andy Clarke” and the Farm Bureau sponsors to school to mark May 3, “All Children Exercising Simultaneously” day. I was even made an honorary Williams Wildcat.The kids had a great time walking and running around a short “track” enough times to clock up a mile, and were wonderful hosts. I was in Flint for several days of workshops, presentations and meetings designed to help the home of GM become a more bicycle-friendly community – and ensuring there are Safe Routes to School is one key strategy.
Ironically, Flint’s fall from its heyday could yet be its salvation. Flint was a booming city of more than 200,000 when Buick City and Chevy in the Hole were churning out cars hourly by the train-load in the 1970s and 80s. Now the city is barely half that size and there are conspicuous gaps on most city blocks where buildings have been razed rather than remain as eyesores, drug havens or fire hazards. One small bright spot is that the streets are anything but congested!
Additionally, the city has some terrific higher education institutions that once served the car industry and an incredible enthusiasm for recovery led by various Mott family foundations and community activists who help make up the Safe and Active Flint coalition (and many other groups beside). Indeed, the city is rediscovering itself as a college town and planning to use extra street capacity to crate two-way streets and gateway boulevards – hopefully all including bike lanes, sidewalks and street trees.
The one big worry has to be the disconcerting absence of the city – staff, elected officials, anyone – from any of the meetings of which I was a part. I did a one-hour briefing and half-day workshop, attended a regional trails committee meeting, participated in a Community Dialog session, and met with the local Health Coalition without once seeing anyone from the city participate. I’ve never had that happen before.
And frankly, the wonderful kids at Williams Elementary deserve better than that from their city administration if they are to have a real future in this proud city.
Tuesday, May 1st, 2007
Floyd Landis’ doping case has been getting a lot of ink lately as it winds towards some sort of conclusion (hopefully) in May. He’s on the cover of your latest issue of Bicycling; his story even made it two days running into the Washington Post this week – a rarity for any cyclist outside of the three weeks in July that the sport is actually noticed!
Now, I’m not an expert on any aspect of the case. Not a doctor, nor a racer; and the League doesn’t really cover the competitive side of the sport at all. But our mission is to protect the rights of cyclists, and it seems to me that Floyd Landis is getting a pretty raw deal from “the authorities” right now.
Why do I say that? If you’d asked me at the start of the 2006 Tour de France which rider I thought was least likely to engage in doping, out of 200 or so riders Floyd Landis would have been at or near the top of the list. No question.
Last November, I listened to Dr. Arnie Baker present his defense of Landis at El Tour de Tucson (which, incidentally, is hosting our very own national rally this November). Again, I’m no expert, but the overwhelming impression Dr. Baker convincingly left with me is that the various testing labs and anti-doping agencies are almost comically inept in their handling of this and other cases – except it really isn’t so funny when they are affecting lives so fundamentally. The way the French labs are reported to have handled the latest round of tests and results simply confirms that impression.
This March, Floyd came to the League’s National Bike Summit in Washington DC and stood in front of 400 bicycle industry leaders and advocates and took questions. Without any preconditions. He talked of his love of cycling and the impact it had on his life growing up, and then it was open microphone time. I’m not sure that someone with something to hide would do that.
Full disclosure: I got a chance to hang out with Floyd a little. Just an hour or two – we’re hardly IM’ing each other or sharing pictures of the kids just yet! And believe me, I’m no Allison DuBois from the TV show Medium, who can see into people’s souls simply by shaking their hand. But once again, the overwhelming impression I got is that this is a man with nothing to hide and everything to lose by so publicly and visibly challenging the injustice that is being done to him. He is prepared to put himself and his career on the line in the full glare of the media just as he did in the Alps on his heroic ride last July.
I want him to win again. I want him to get his day in court just as I do every cyclist who is treated poorly by the police, the courts, or the judicial system. I want to enjoy watching the Tour again, and I want Floyd Landis to be able to enjoy the ride.
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