Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Stop, Dismount and Walk

The best advice I can give fellow bicycle commuters when faced with challenging traffic conditions is not necessarily the most popular.  Stop, dismount and walk.  It is the most sensible to do and there is no shame in it.  It happens that, like anything else, the bicycle commuter experiences a learning curve and while you're learning go easy on yourself.  As I've emphasized in the past, the rules regarding bicycle commuting are written, yet still developing and widely unenforced as a result.  The traffic patterns are not designed for bicycles, nor do I think they all necessarily should be, but they do need to be friendlier to cyclists.  The hardest thing remains making a left turn, but its not the only problem.  There are intersections that are not even safe for motorists and pedestrians for whom the patterns are designed, so once again, walking is safer and will get you safer treatment when things get crazy.  I recommend it instead of the over-utilization of wrong way cycling that is so common, yet terribly unsafe, or riding on sidewalks.  Go with God friends, and do whatever you must to get from point A to point B safely, while not endangering others.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

"The Bicycle Thief"

The title of this post is also the title of an old foreign film I recommend.  I have not been robbed.  The inspiration for this post came after I rode with my son and stopped for a bite at Wendy's.  We ordered from the Value Menu mind you, but my debit card wouldn't work--my wife had warned that she had to pay the car insurance and we'd be short 'till pay day.  Suddenly, those cheap bikes I ride around on seem a whole lot more valuable.  I was mindful of the fact that my lock wasn't much, so I sat where I could keep an eye on the bicycles.  I used credit to get the boy something to eat, which I am usually loathe to do, but the kid was hungry.  Nevertheless, watching over my bicycles and the cognizance of the fact that I needed them to go to work this week, brought to mind the film I refer to.

The film is set in post-war Italy.  Apparently, unemployment is very high and there is a mob of men waiting for work.  One man is lucky enough to get work, but he needs a bicycle to do the work.  The job involves hanging signs, advertisements, and the bike is the mode of travel used--it's quite a thing to see!  The bicycle has to be redeemed from the pawn shop, which requires some sacrifice for the man and his wife.  Finally, the man is employed and then while he's working someone steals his bicycle!  It's a heartbreaking situation and I won't divulge anymore.  The film was on "instant play" on Netflix, which is how I saw it.  Amazing though, that I should feel a relation to that character, and in this day and age.  I am a frugal man, yet I still have to worry about money.  Not good.  Anyway, here is a link to a trailer I found on YouTube.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Ah, cool weather cycling has arrived!

As the weather slowly chills, the fair weather cyclists pack it up and get off the road!  Good riddance!  Not nice, I know.  However, cycling in the warmer months was not only less comfortable, but way too crowded!  It was dangerous as well.  Just because cyclists are separated from automobiles in some way whether that be in a bike lane or a recreational path doesn't mean they're safer.  Sometimes I swear, cyclists are a danger to themselves and each other!  They are often oblivious to one another.  Speed is not the issue, the lack of consideration is the issue.  The wrong way cyclists make me bonkers!  Some have the decency to pause and allow one to pass, but some are fresh and test one's temper.  Then there are bikers who try to squeeze past you on the left in the middle of traffic without warning--they provoke most evil thoughts!  However, this is merely the human condition at work and almost to be expected.  The trouble is that it's dangerous.  It's also very hard to regulate.  When cyclists are in the midst of traffic with cars, they usually behave better with one another.  Perhaps it unites us!  All I know is it's cool, I am hardly sweating, feeling strong and riding real nice.  I'm gonna be good for the next three seasons ahead.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Fare HIkes and Flat Tires

I got a flat yesterday, which really sucked!  I was still pretty far from the train station, so I had a good walk ahead of me.  Riding the train always reminds me why I bike to work--slow, crowded rides are no way to start the day.  You will not meet your fellow humans at their best in this way.  This morning, watching the news, I saw that the MTA (Metropolitan Transportation Authority) board plans to raise rates as planned regardless of public outrage, or the fact that they will have a deficit next year as well.  I was inspired to fix my flat (patch the tube) and change my tire as well, which I accomplished while drinking my coffee and eating my breakfast in under a half hour.  This evening I'll do the other tire.  I replaced the old Kenda tires with Panaracer Pasela tires, and I like them.  They've got a good tread to them. 

This process got me thinking of a few things.  First, it deepened my attachment to my the bicycle.  I've often wondered whether I should just pass the bike on.  Even though I act like I don't care, I am a bit self-conscious of the fact that I am riding a ladies bicycle.  Also, it is a bit small for me, however, with a few adjustments it serves well.  I am considering adding a different stem, which raises the height of the handlebar perhaps an inch, maybe an inch and a half and extend my reach by about as much as well.  I already have a longer seat tube.  I've got a wrap for the handlebars and now new tires just about clinches it--the bike can stay.  In fact, I think I'll dub her "Victoria."  I always liked the name.  It's feminine, yet strong--it means victory. 

This led me to consider my efforts at keeping my life simple, which I find both convenient and cost-effective.  Here a bike that was written off and sold for thirty bucks, has gained a whole new life of usefulness several decades post-manufacture I might add.  I maintain her for a minimum of cost by using my own labor and using non-specific products like the same lithium grease I would use for automobile ball bearings.  I am careful to keep my debt contained and reasonable.  These days many Americans are doing the same, yet the MTA is not.  It is probably not alone, but today I am concerned only with the MTA.  There is no plan for addressing recurring deficits.  The usual response is to lay it on the workers, but it is evident that that is not the main problem.  The problem is borrowing.  The MTA has borrowed a lot of money, which makes no sense to me, but then all of government, from top to bottom, has borrowed too much.  The time to pay the piper has come and the question is, "Who is going to pay?"  Trying to get it from the riders is only going to go so far, and getting it from the workers is not a long-term strategy either.  Looks like the MTA is going to need "a check-up from the neck up" and real soon too!