Monday, January 31, 2011

Mountain Biking Bill fails on Party Lines

In which I explore a train of thought that makes me sound profoundly anti-Mountain Bike

Colorado Senate Bill 36 was written to acknowledge the inherent risks of mountain biking, and to limit lawsuits against property owners, equipment renters, etc. over injuries sustained during the activity.

The bill died tonight, having never made it out of committee.

What I find interesting about this bill is that it was a wholly Republican endeavor from start to finish. [1] It was sponsored by a Republican, and the vote on it was strictly down party lines: Republicans for, Democrats against.

This speaks to a suspicion that I have long had. Mountain biking is largely a Republican activity, because Republicans insist on seeing bikes as toys.

One blogger recently wrote about how in her community bikes were considered suitable for kids to play with, but were completely inappropriate for an adult to ride.

There's some kind of mental trigger that produces this mindset, and I don't know what it is. But I think that whatever it is, it's the same thing that causes motorists to get angry at cyclists for being in the road. The other side of the "They think they're entitled to the road" coin has to be "I believe they have no entitlement," which means that to the coin flipper, the cyclist is a kid playing at grown-up games and should be riding bikes on the sidewalk. Or playing hop-scotch in the alley. Or kicking a tin can in a dirt field. The idea that a bike might be used for grown-up reasons—going to work, grocery shopping—is not reasonable, nor even plausible, to this person.

(This coin-flipper is the same person who honked at me twice this week for not riding in the bike lane when it was full of snow and slush and ice and muck.)

To this person, the idea of spending Department Of Transportation money in multi-modal transportation is ridiculous. Because bikes are toys, and who walks anywhere?

"Bikes are toys" is the mantra that allows anti-bike people to embrace mountain biking. In this activity, bikes are safely confined to recreational use far away from cities and roads and traffic.

As proof, I submit the most—the only?—outspokenly anti-bike politician in Colorado, or anywhere else, Dan Maes.

From the transcript at
The bike program in and of itself is fine. I'm a biker, I rode the seat off my mountain bike last year myself.
So. Cycling in the city is a UN conspiracy to rob us of our freedoms. But cycling outside the city, in the mountains and in the woods, is peachy-keen and supports family values.

I am not against mountain biking. I find the idea of it appealing. I am simply interested in the apparent mental break that exists in people who are for it, but who are against cycling in the city and who are against infrastructure that supports it.

Because in one case, cyclists are simply kids playing with toys. And in the other, cyclists are humans, people who are just living their lives, doing their jobs, trying to live simply, and to simply live.

[1] One caveat from
This bill was conceived by past Senator Chris Romer after encountering many liability obstacles in trying to host a mountain bike event.
Romer is a Democrat currently running for Mayor of Denver and who appears to be very fond of the cycling demographic.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Denver Bike Cop Hit By Truck

Cyclelicious tipped me off this afternoon to the news that a DPD officer was struck by a truck while on bicycle patrol.

I don't see tons of bike cops on Colfax, but I see them there enough to know that it's a thing: bike cops on Colfax. They're there.

I've even observed them perform the highly dubious Sidewalk Ride + Red Light Run combo.

More of the same kind of riding no doubt caused this accident.

The Denver Post—
Denver Police say two officers on bicycles were pedaling west through a crosswalk at the corner of Lafayette Street and Colfax Avenue just before 9 a.m. when the crash happened.
—strongly suggests that they were on the sidewalk and riding against automobile traffic.


The Denver Cruisers claim, as I shared earlier, that uniformed officers can legally ride on the sidewalk while on duty.

And while that may be the case, I think this unfortunate incident proves that it's not a good idea.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Boulder Winter Bike To Work Day

I signed up to participate in three events/programs this winter to promote, de-mystify, and enjoy cold weather cycling.

  1. BikeDenver's Winter Solstice ride, the successful completion of which is three years in the telling.
  2. Salvagetti's winter Commuter Team, which is a on-going commitment.
  3. And the city of Boulder's Winter Bike To Work Day, for which I was able to register despite the fact that I don't live or work in Boulder.

There are few things better than a good ol' BTWD to get people, who otherwise would not be riding, onto their bikes and onto the road. The inciting qualities of a BTWD are these.
  1. It's a holiday with a clearly defined means of celebration/definition of success. On Halloween you dress up and eat candy, and you win. On New Years Eve, you dress up and drink champagne, and you win. On BTWD, you dress up and ride your bike, and you win.
  2. Breakfast stations. Handouts range from water to Starbucks, and from a banana to breakfast burritos, but it's all free and it's all good.
  3. Other freebies. I've gotten water bottles, blinkie lights, stickers/decals, and cinch sacks.
  4. Group ride! The main attraction of BTWD might be the promise of riding with a large group of people. Denver even organized pelotons, with ride leaders and everything, that struck out at strategic times along strategic commute routes.

A good BTWD in June might bolster enough confidence for me to commute through the rest of the summer and into the fall. But perhaps not enough to carry me through the winter.

The obvious solution? A winter BTWD! An opportunity to talk with other cyclists about routes, maintenance, and clothing. And an opportunity to get out on the roads and realize, hey, this ain't so bad. I might could do this.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Mandatory registration sweeping the nation!

The year 2011 is barely two weeks old, and is already proving to be quite challenging for cyclists and for personal liberties.

  1. January 4, 2011: the LA Times runs a story about $400 in fines levied against one teenage boy for operating a bicycle without a license.
  2. January 12, 2011: New Jersey Assembleywoman Tucker proposes legislation requiring a $10/year registration for all bicycles and a $100 citation for each offense.
  3. January 13, 2011: Tucker back-pedals and withdraws her proposal.
  4. January 14, 2011: the New York Post runs a story about a legislator from Queens proposing similar registration laws.

And today, the city attorney of Santa Monica is proposing to the city council an ordinance that will require bicycle registration for all residents of Santa Monica at a cost of $4.00 per bike, and which sets the fine for operating a bicycle without a license at $10.00.

In response, local (to Santa Monica) inter-blogger and pedal-masher Gary has written a letter raising several logistical concerns about redundancies and enforcement that bureaucrats and politicrats will likely find more ponder-worthy than my ideological "bikes are like libraries" flight of fancy.

Some of my favorite bike personalities—bloggers, photographers, advocates—are in and around LA, so I'm anxious to see the coverage of the meeting and reactions to the outcome.

And as for things on the home front, I'm a little nervous about the spread of this apparent anti-bike brush fire. I would feel confident that bike-friendly Denver, home of the country's first bike share program, would be immune from the craziness if it weren't for two things.
  1. Dan "It's A Plot" Maes is headquartered a stone's throw away in Evergreen and his influence, if felt from New York to LA, is surely felt here in his back yard, and
  2. Even Portland, where cyclists hope they go when they die, is suffering from restrictive bicycle legislation! This proposed law would prohibit, with the threat of a $90 fine, children under the age of 6 being carried on bicycles.

Basically, I can't take it for granted any longer that this couldn't happen here. I denounce this kind of legislation, and I need to make sure my legislators know this.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The Bike Lane Is Nice To Ride On!

There doesn't really need to have been a story written. Just look at the picture, and you pretty much know what's going on.

click through to nytimes story

People Holding Signs always stirs in me a certain proud, teary-eyed emotion. You can't be any more honest or true than you are when you stand up and hold up a sign in support of something in which you believe.

Especially when said belief is as simple and pure and innocent as this one is.

I'm eight years old, and this I believe: THE BIKE LANE IS NICE TO RIDE ON!

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Bike registration continued: the real source of the problem

Eric Ulrich, lawmaker from Queens, is "floating the proposal" that all cyclists pay for mandatory bicycle registration.

Ulrich is the Republican/New York complement to Cleo Tucker's Democratic/New Jersey anti-bike agenda, proving that Bike Hating is a bi-partisan issue behind which we all can get.

It goes without saying that we are witnessing the beginnings of a movement. A movement no doubt masterminded by the most paranoid, anti-bicycle conspiracy theorist of our time.

Dan Maes. Is Crazy.

Yes, you can almost hear the sound of Dan "Corny" Maes' weird grin all the way up in Evergreen, Colorado. Deep down in the Maes Cave, in the center of a nondescript Evergreen cornfield, Maes is accumulating politicians by the handful and is encouraging them to introduce anti-bike legislation in order to cull the Red Threat.

In the article, both of the city of Denver's stated reasons to register a bike are addressed with varying degrees of bizarritude.
  1. The recovery of a stolen bicycle. Ulrich himself couldn't offer us a way that this law could actually benefit actual cyclists. It was left up to a gentleman named One Biker (aka Audio "Engineer Chvad" Bernhard) to find one.
    One biker saw an upside, saying lost or stolen bikes could be identified. "Right now, [recovered] bicycles just get auctioned" by police, said audio engineer Chvad Bernhard, 37.
  2. The identification of an injured cyclist. Okay, so in a weird backhanded kind of way, Ulrich conveys concern for cyclists here. His proposal will help identify cyclists, which cannot at present be done because
    many cyclists don't have identification on them if they get into an accident because "they're in Spandex or whatnot."
    It is absolutely, entirely true that all cyclists are at all times either in Spandex or in whatnot. Whatnot, in my case = corduroy slacks and a long sleeved cotton t-shirt. But neither my corduroy slacks nor my long sleeved cotton t-shirt prevent me from carrying identification.

    Furthermore, look at the picture included in the article.

    Does it look like this cyclist is prevented by his whatnot from carrying anything whatsoever?
But none of this is even the interesting part.

The interesting part is this. Both Ulrich and Tucker say their legislation was inspired by frightened, elderly constituents.

In New Jersey:
[Assemblywoman Cleopatra Tucker (D-Essex)] proposed it after several senior citizens in Belleville and Bloomfield called her to complain about kids on bikes. "They had been knocked down, knocked over and they had no way to register a complaint. They couldn’t identify the person," said Tucker.

In New York:
Ulrich says that many of his constituents are seniors and that "people on bicycles scare the hell out of them. Sometimes they can be an intimidating presence on the city streets."

So what we obviously have here is perception problem. The perception that Evil Mastermind Dan Maes wants us all to believe is that old people are being intimidated and tipped over by cyclists.

In reality, the truth is that old people are slow moving and easily startled, and are better off doing laps around the mall.

Frankly, old people scare the hell out of me. Sometimes, when they wander into the middle of city streets, they can be an intimidating presence.

What I'd like to see is a piece of legislation requiring that old people be registered and stickered at the DMV so I have some way of identifying and reporting them when they wander into traffic.

Freedom of Access: Bicycles, libraries, and mandatory registration

On Wednesday, a New Jersey lawmaker named Cleopatra Tucker proposed a law requiring bicycle registration, inciting a peloton of protesters, comprising penny-farthings and twelve year olds, into a frenzy of action.

There are five penny farthings in that picture. Five pennies and five farthings. That's four more than I've ever seen in person, and possibly every such bike in New Jersey.

Cleo Tucker must have been overwhelmed by all the big wheels, because the very next day she was back-pedalin' and retractin'.

At which point the big wheels and the twelve year olds all turned around and went back home.

Arguments in favor of registration are often of the type, "If you're using the roads you ought to be paying for their upkeep." It's hard to argue against that. Fortunately, one doesn't have to, because nearly all cyclists are already paying city and county taxes.

The city of Denver offers—but does not require—bicycle registration for two cited reasons: to assist the police with-
  1. the recovery of a stolen bicycle, and
  2. the identification of an injured cyclist.

I have a hard time imaging a successful outcome in either of those scenarios resulting from having registered your bicycle, but click here to do it anyway.

Some places, like Long Beach, actually do enforce bicycle registration. With $400 fines.

Which is utterly ridiculous.

Mandatory registration, especially as proposed by Cleo Tucker and especially as enforced by Long Beach, is in direct opposition to the idea of freedom of access, which is a major pillar of my personal belief system.

Freedom of access empowers any person to grab one (of whatever it is you have been granted access to) and use it it for what-so-ever-the-hell pleases them.

It's the primary function and purpose of public libraries. The material is there, and the user has access to it. It's up to the user to decide what it means to them and how to use it, how to apply it in a way such that they achieve their vision of success.

Bicycles and libraries serve critical functions—far beyond mere entertainment value—for twelve year olds, homeless adults, and everybody in between. People often need access to these resources and these opportunities in order to thrive.

Libraries and bike kitchens caulk the cracks in the sidewalk of society because libraries are bastions of knowledge and bicycles are instruments of mobility and transportation. People crave and are entitled to knowledge and mobility. They are human rights, and as much as abstractions can want something, they want to be free.

Ultimately, bicycle registration will never work because there will always be people salvaging bikes out of dumpsters to ride to work, or the drug store, or the unemployment office, or the day laborers office, or to the library to work on a resume and apply for a job, and that simply has to be allowed to happen freely and unhindered by the threat of a $400 fine.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Boulder B-Cycle and Google

B-Cycle announced today that Google donated $25,000 to the soon-to-be-launched Boulder bike share.

click through

The donation will cover roughly half the cost of one docking station, according to a story in the Denver Post.

The cost to install a station is about $45,000 to $65,000, depending on the size of the site and how much work needs to be done, he said.

One thing that stood out to me in this story is that the annual membership in Boulder will be $50, as opposed to the $65 annual Denver membership.

Cost of living difference? Except, it's more expensive to live in Boulder. What gives?

Monday, January 10, 2011

As easy as falling down

Showering after my morning run, I noticed a nicely colored bruise on my left shin. I couldn't remember banging it on anything, and was ready to just assume from its position that I had just caught a pedal on the backspin at some point, a common enough occurrence that I don't remember each time it happens.

Then I remembered that I fell off my bike last week. It was a real minor spill, but I probably bumped that shin at some point during the tumble.

click through

Falling is Gloria's Valid Concern. An inevitability, really. Especially if you choose to bike through the winter. There are things one can do to minimize the chance of it happening like installing grippy, knobby tires. Maybe letting a few pounds of air out of them to increase surface area. Lowering your seat/center of gravity.

But it'll still happen from time to time. Now, I'd be interested in studying more closely what to do while you're falling. I think falling should be included in bicycle safety courses. Not in Biking 101, necessarily. After all, you don't want to scare any newbies. But maybe in the masters course, invite somebody from the local Clown College to give a guest lecture on how to tumble effectively and safely.

Principles of cushioning. Tuck and roll technique. Clearing the bike frame. That kind of stuff. I feel like there should be 3 - 5 little tips to keep in mind that can prevent you from nursing a banged knee for weeks after a spill.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Modern Family

So the funniest thing on television right now is Modern Family. I pretty much watch it every week, and I don't even have a TV.

One of the show's subplots this week was about how neither Gloria nor Manny knew how to ride a bike, eliciting from Jay an exasperated, "Two thirds of my family can't do what a billion Chinese do every day!"

There are two good angles on cycling presented here. One is Jay's pre-flight checklist, and the other is Gloria's fear of bicycles. Those are pretty much the two aspects of bicycling for people with little experience with bikes, and for overprotective worriers. Safety and fear.

Laces, mirror, bell!

Jay's bicycle wisdom is that before you start pedaling, you check to see that your shoelaces are tied, that your mirror is adjusted, and that your bell works.

I agree with "laces" in that you need to be sure that you aren't wearing anything that will get sucked into your chain or wheel. I tuck my laces into my shoes and cuff my pants before riding each time. Unless I'm on the Lady's cruiser which has a chain guard. Then I don't worry about it. And, truth be told, not worrying about it is so nice that I've considered putting a chain guard on commuter.

Mirror and bell? I have neither and honestly don't consider them necessary. As far as safety accessories go, I'm all about lights and don't think I can have too many. I turn my lights on, front and back, before every ride, night or day.

The only other thing I do before each ride is give my tires a squeeze to see if they could use a top-up.

So my pre-flight checklist would be Laces, Lights, Tubes!

That's how they GRAB you!

During Luke's cycling lesson, Gloria admitted her fears of cycling were falling down, looking silly, and getting "snatched up!"
  1. Falling down. That happens. I've fallen down a dozen times, mostly during the winter, and it is ... not a fear, but a concern of mine. Valid fear, Gloria. I just put on some grippy tires and try to lower my center of gravity when it's slick out.

  2. Looking silly. Sometimes that happens, too. But it's all perspective. Lycra/Spandex racers and utilitarian commuters look pretty silly to each other. And from the perspective of a nice warm car, all cyclists probably look silly in 20 degree, snowy weather. I don't worry about it.

  3. Getting snatched up! A hilariously unlikely fear, despite Gloria eventually being snatched up by Claire. (Who didn't pedal off before completing a quick "Laces/Mirror/Bell" check.)

One of the real winners of the show was when Gloria dismissed the bicycle, saying "There's no way it should stay up," and Jay in turn dismisses that argument, "There's no reason you should stay upright, either. It just works."

Female anatomy and the physics of riding a bike: it just works!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Sometimes dismounts just happen

Six days ago, we got our first "for reals" snow of the year, followed by days of thoroughly iced, utterly scary roads.

I was not hardcore enough to bike these roads. I saw other people biking these roads and I celebrated them in passing, thumbs-upping if we caught each others eyes.

Four days later I decided to try out the roads. I mounted up, made it two blocks, turned around, went right back home, and put my bike away. Still not hardcore enough.

Funnily enough, an Internet Cohort of mine successfully completed a ride that same morning, but he did declare it to be scary in the "holy crap" levels.

click through

So this morning I decided to try out the roads again.

And here, in an unsorted list, are some reasons that it was still too soon to brave the roads!

  • I fell off my bike!

    It happened really fast. The road looked clear, but apparently there was a well placed patch of ice that kicked my bike right out from under me. I was instantly put down, gently, on my side on the road, and I think I even continued to pedal air for a second before I realized I was no longer upright, much less no longer on my bike, which lay about a foot to my left.

  • A truck slid towards me on the ice!

    The truck approaching from my right was going slowly and only slid probably six inches, and successfully stopped at its stop sign as I continued through the intersection. Still, I think that's one of the most nerve-wracking things you can see while on a bike.

  • The bike lanes were full of slush and unrideable!

    This was the first time I noticed how badly the city bus tears up the bike lane! At nearly every bus stop, a wide pile of slush and ice had been smeared and frozen across the lane where the bus had pulled back out into traffic.

    I eventually settled into a pattern of riding mostly in the traffic lane, and periodically sliding over into the odd patch of clear bike lane to let traffic pass.

Over all, the ride was manageable. I'll probably keep doing it and am glad I'll be able to get some riding in until the next time it snows and freezes. After two or three days in a row, I just get to feeling uncomfortable being boxed into having to use the car.