Wow. Thanks to TheWashCycle for the video.
Wow. Thanks to TheWashCycle for the video.
One wonders how important stopping drunk driving is to this office.
During the last few bicycle trips I’ve noticed yard signs popping up in the Crestview neighborhood. Apparently there is a campaign to convert a small parcel of Austin Energy property into a small local park. I like parks, so I became intrigued and went to their web site.
Interesting proposal and looks like a good spot for a small park. If the property isn’t being used for anything mission critical for AE, this would be a good move. This area is the target for transit oriented development (near the Crestview MetroRail station) and a park would add value to the property around it. I like the connection to the rail station in the plan.
The association has posted a brief presentation that includes analysis by the City of Austin on parks. It’s not so much that we’re losing parks and park acreage (although there may be a little of that here and there). It’s that the population of Austin is growing and we’re not including parks in our development.
COA gap analysis on city parks. Each park is on this chart is highlighted with a quarter mile and half mile ring. This chart shows how much of the city is NOT within easy walking distance of a park. Although I take exception to these short distances and lament the fact that Americans can’t seem to walk farther than that.
The second interesting tidbit is this chart showing the decrease in per capita park area. Again this probably being driven by population increase. Other factors are decreasing amount of land available for new parks and our attempts to build dense in-fill. With continued population growth the existing parks could see increased usage with attendant stress and degradation if not managed properly.
What does this have to do with cycling?
First is that bicycle transport can help with the gap. The bicycle can easily increase movement radius for many people to 1 to 3 miles or more. This is important because we’ll need to pay attention to the road and street network to provide safe, convenient cycling to parks while we preserve current parks and try to add others.
Second, vibrant cities are about places and how we get to those places. Parks are important places. One of the finest activities for a human is to ride a bicycle to a park. Healthy, fun, low impact, joyful, social…
Frenetic. Everybody in a big hurry. Must get past this excruciatingly slow bicycle. Are those groceries he’s carrying? And why is he carrying a wheel?
Experienced four or five close attempts at right hooks. None of them required evasive action but discomforting. One was at high speed and the driver almost hit the car in front of her trying to get by me. Then did a radical lane change and into the far right turn lane to get on the Mopac access road. Huge hurry.
Powered by donuts
Quick utility trip. Met customer at the library to get his wheel. Spoke replacement and truing. Then on to the store for edible bounty. A few staples, dinner ingredients for tonight and some fuel (two donuts).
The usual stares while I loaded up Mongo. Fortunately no stupid questions requiring snarky answers (“uh…it’s a bicycle”).
Homeless Safety Advice
Received a well-intentioned “be careful” from a hobo standing on the Parmer island looking for spare change. I can call him that because one of his signs read “road rage special, yell at a hobo 50 cents (o.b.o.)”. I thanked him with a few coins. Seen this guy hang out at Parmer and Metric a lot. He sees all the silliness of the scurrying vehicles. Be careful is right.
Came up with a pretty cool idea: Wheel Prosper. More on that later.
In the words of a famous singer, songwriter, poet:
Well you roll on roads over fresh green grass.
For your lorryloads pumping petrol gas.
And you make them long, and you make them tough.
But they just go on and on, and it seems you can’t get off.
Oh, I know we’ve come a long way,
We’re changing day to day,
But tell me, where do the children play?
I Hate Cars
Had to take my aging auto to the doctor this morning. Apparently, windshield wipers are important–even in drought ravaged Texas–and mine don’t work. Couple of other minor issues like a burned out taillight (which is a fucking sealed unit and can’t be serviced by the owner). Oh, and there is a recall notice on the stupid transmission fluid line. So for a low, low fee of $115, the technician will troubleshoot the wiper system in order to tell me it’s not the fuzes which I already checked.
I departed the dealer in my trusty escape pod. Some people would call it a Dahon folding bike. I was amazed at the observational powers of my service representative when he asked me ”is that your bike outside?” I suppressed a couple of snarky answers and he bid me farewell with a “will give you a call” and “be careful.” More self-discipline not to spout sarcastic retorts about my risk management skills.
I eagerly anticipate the up-sell call: ”sir, we noticed that your [insert expensive component name here] is worn and needs replacing.” No doubt the fourth engine mount or some such bank emptying doodad (the other three having already been replaced over the last year).
Observations On The Ride Home
Open The Pod Bay Doors, Hal
Arriving home. Oops, no garage door opener. That’s on my other bike. Sigh.
Various thoughts and emotions have been warring all day ever since I read the latest e-mail (in a long string of e-mails) about tomorrow’s “Chat With The Chief.” The first such emotion is relief that a family obligation prevents me from attending. In my present state of mind I’m not sure I could be civil and temperate in his presence. He is, after all, a consummate politician and that usually triggers another emotion: contempt. Then again, he is just another person on a bicycle (or some would have you believe).
Or at least that’s what I thought until I read the details. Apparently the little social ride before the question and answer session will include police escort. I see. Yup. That’s contempt I’m feeling. The police chief requires escort to ride his bicycle but us normal everyday people get to fend for ourselves. Interesting.
Then there is the laughter triggered when contemplating the Thursday Night Social Ride participants. I imagine the mental anguish they must be experiencing trying to decide whether to listen to him and his colleagues or go on a fun night ride with a few hundred like-minded people.
This snark is not meant to detract from the hard work of the organizers. I’m glad the chief and a representative from the district attorney’s office deign to try to explain themselves. And it must not be fun trying to coordinate schedules and protocol. Herding cats comes to mind. I just don’t think the audience will hear anything new or positive. In fact, there is the very real possibility that they’ll hear condescending lecturing and obfuscation. Blah blah yada yada.
It Would Be Impolite Not To Accept
On this morning’s commute to Yellow Bike I witnessed another example of how hugging the curb can get you in trouble. I was queued up in the right hand lane at the intersection of Lamar and North Loop; traveling east on North Loop. Another bicycle traveler was queued up in the left lane. At the time I thought it odd but then I noticed that all the cars in front of me in the right lane were signaling a right turn. Strategic move on his part. He gets through the intersection without having to wait for the right turners and then can merge back to the right to continue on North Loop.
Which is exactly what he did. Only when he merged over to the right, he moved all the way over to the right. Hugging the curb in a clear invitation for motor vehicles to share the lane with him. Only on that portion of North Loop, the lanes are not wide enough to have a car and cyclist at the same time, despite the repeated attempts by motorists to do so. The risk in this section of road is further exacerbated by the fact that the left lane transforms into left turn only and through traffic needs to merge into the right lane. I always position myself in the middle of this lane, making cars either wait behind me or move into the left lane to pass.
As I was following my fellow two-wheeler I was suddenly lamenting that I had neglected to attach my helmet camera. This could be a great teaching moment. Because I spied a car in a big hurry accept his invitation to share the lane with him. The pass was easily within the minimum 3 feet required by Austin ordinance. I saw it before it happened and was pleasantly surprised that a mishap didn’t happen. A stray steering movement by either person and I would have been administering first aid and then providing my contact information as an accident witness. What’s even more disturbing is that I’m not sure the cyclist even perceived the close call and so will continue to make these provocative invitations to motorists to endanger his life.
Far Right As Practicable
The “FRAP” rule in Texas has several important exceptions. One of the most important is that if the lane is too narrow to safely share, the the cyclist has the right (dare I say obligation) to use the whole lane and motorists are required to move into the adjacent lane to pass. The state vehicle code is a little ambiguous about what constitutes safe passing distance. The City of Austin (and other intelligent communities in Texas) are less ambiguous with their 3-foot passing laws.
Another close call. Another lesson. Some will learn from it. Some will continue put themselves in danger in a misplaced attempt to be “courteous” to motorists.
This morning’s internet and coffee session included the usual scan of Facebook. What are all my friends doing? What’s going on at various organizations? Any cool events or opportunities at the bike shops? I click on the “Pages” feed and bang, I’m greeted with a smiling picture of our police chief standing in front of a world famous bicycle shop.
A little too early in the morning for that kind of mental stimulation. For you see, the picture triggers an internal war within the great echo chamber of my head. So many voices all clamoring for attention. Fortunately, the executive committee took control and restrained the gushing enthusiasm, the snark, the criticism, the sarcasm. One little snide comment did manage to make its way to the photo post. Still wondering if anybody will understand the joke and why I posted it.
Hey Art! Where is your helmet?
I can still hear the patronizing speech our esteemed Chief gave at the last Pedal for Safe Roads rally on the state capitol steps. His admonishment to angry cyclists that smacked of victim blaming. His authoritarian advice that completely ignores crash physics and the less than efficacious nature of a cheap piece of styrofoam. His complete failure to speak to the causal factors of bicycle mishaps and how helmets do absolutely nothing to prevent the incident and are rarely effective in many cases.
So you’ll have to forgive my easy dismissal and ambivalent response to this little piece of celebrity news posted by a bicycle shop.
But it’s a good thing right?
At the same time I’m saying “good on you Art, way to go!” Any time a person buys a bicycle is a time for a little celebration. And it can’t hurt that he is a celebrity. Public officials on bicycles are helpful. That is assuming he will ride the bicycle with regularity and in plain view.
Another doubt begins to sneak in. Looks like a recreational purchase. No way that somebody as busy and important as the police chief will commute to work on two wheels. And when he recreates will it be on trails safe from the vehicular madness of Austin streets? Or will he deign to experience some of the risk that every day bicycle travel presents in this city? Will his cycling approach the ridiculous like our governor who enjoys DPS escort cordons when he pedals?
But in the end…
….he’s just another person on a bike. No better than any other person on a bike. No worse.
So welcome Art. Hope to see you on the road. Can’t wait to see what glaringly colored lycra you choose.