Now every cycling fan is trying to be a lawyer

I’m not a lawyer, nor do I play on one TV. But I nonetheless found myself spending a whole lot of time yesterday reading over legal documents. It would be cool if I were trying to gain understanding into my legal liabilities if I lead a ride and someone gets hurt. Or perhaps finding ways my auto insurance is legally required to cover myself and/or bicycle in the case of an accident in the saddle. Or how about the technicalities of home owners or renters insurance and a stolen bike.

Nope – as you probably guessed, I was all wrapped up in the USADA Reasoned Decision in the Lance Armstrong case. Across the internet, everyone seems to be writing that as “Reasoned Decision” – in quotation marks – as if it is a sarcastic remark.  Turns out that a reasoned decision is actually a specific type of document that the USADA was required to release. From the publication itself:
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Viva la Zealotry!

Nothing makes an article worth reading like prodigious use of the word “zealot.” And I’m in luck! Today’s round of randomly picked (by Google) bicycle related web happenings returned two different posts that were fortified with 200% of my daily allowance of claims of zealotry. Oh yea – and a couple of straw men thrown in for good measure.

The first of these two appeared on a blog titled Cal Watchdog, written by Katy Grimes. This piece, titled “Bicycle nuts driving local traffic issues,” caught my attention because I could relate to it in a very specific way. This OpEd piece is about the desire to get bike lanes on a specific stretch of road in Sacrament, CA. It just so happens that I used to live in one of the neighborhoods served by that road, and I’ve in fact ridden on the stretch in question. As with many OpEd type pieces, it was full of hyperbole (good thing I never do that in my articles. *cough* *cough*). But there are some rather specific statements from Ms. Grimes that just beg for rebuttal:

 The City of Sacramento, run by mostly arrogant liberals, has been trying to ram through approval of more bicycle lanes on very busy streets and major arteries of auto travel.

Here, Ms. Grimes is strategically framing her argument to be as polarizing as possible. Specifically, she’s maneuvering towards the all-to-often used tactic of making it an “us versus them” argument. The emotional reaction by many is to read “cyclists (the “them”) are specifically targeting busy streets to take away lanes for cars (the “us”). We’ll see more of this tactic later. What she refuses to acknowledge is that bicycles take up significantly less road surface compared to cars. What does this mean for the cars? Well, the more people that feel comfortable using bicycles as a means of transportation, the fewer actual cars on the road, and thus those “very busy streets” become not so busy – for everyone.

Moving on….

Freeport Blvd. is a heavily traveled street and frequently backs up in the downtown areas.

Well this is just factually inaccurate – and anyone that lives in Sacramento (as Ms. Grimes claims to) would know that. Freeport Blvd in fact ends at Broadway, no where near downtown. The normal course into downtown from Freeport Blvd would be to veer onto 21st, which is already a one-way street with existing bike lanes. Nothing being “taken away” from the motorists in the downtown region here. The only logical conclusion about her throwing in this obviously erroneous statement is an attempt to further persuade her readers into the “us vs. them” frame of thinking.


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The utopian bicyclists, who unabashadly state that there should not be autos on the roads, keep finding ways to keep this project alive.

This is my favorite part. I especially love the line “…who unabashadly state that there should not be autos on the roads…” Really? Who says that? More “us vs. them” – this time stopping just short of telling the poor, poor motorists that us cyclists will also steal children in the night. The “us vs. them” argument frankly just doesn’t hold water. The vast majority of cyclists also … wait for it … drive cars too! We’re not anti-car, but we may be a little anti-getting-killed-by-cars. We own vehicles, purchase gasoline, pay property taxes – all the things Ms. Grimes seems to be implying that cyclists are a threat to.

For those interested, the actual proposal can be found on the City of Sacramento Department of Transportation website.

But that wasn’t the end of the claims of zealotry for the day. In fact, I found a second article, this one entitled “Bicycle Zealots Run Over Common Sense with New Laws.” But wait! Check out that byline. Why, this article is also by none other than the prolific Ms. Grimes! Now, if I were to adopt her style, I’d immediately decry Ms. Grimes as an “Anti-Cyclist Zealot” with an agenda to “deprive me of safe riding conditions and continue to push for policies designed to endanger my life and well being.” But luckily, I’m not like that, so I won’t make such statements.

This second piece is an attack on recent legislation related to cycling:

The California Legislature just passed three bills allowing the state’s bicycling extremists the upper hand on streets designed for autos.

Sigh. “…bicycling extremists the upper hand…” Yet more “us vs. them” propaganda. One of the bills in question is SB 1464 – the so-called “3 Foot Passing Rule.” Not sure why she picked this one to complain about. This isn’t actually a new law, but rather clarification of a somewhat vague existing law that requires motorosts to pass cyclists at a “safe distance.” This law clearly defines “safe distance” as 3 feet. What’s wrong with removing ambiguity from laws? We updated our laws from “to drunk to drive a car safely” to “blood alcohol level equal to or above 0.08.” Was that a wasteful law too?

Ms. Grimes goes on to characterize the previously passed Complete Streets Act with this gem:

In 2008, the Legislature passed the California Complete Streets Act, which required roadways to be designed to accommodate all users: bicyclists, pedestrians, transit riders, disabled people, children, older people and motorists.

Obviously, no one talked with a physics professor before writing this legislation.

I’m actually not sure what relevance a physics professor would have in this discussion, given that the folks that were actually involved know how to make this a reality. How? Well, among them were planners and representitives from cities all over the world where roadways already exist that were designed to accomodate all users. Sorry Ms. Grimes, your attempt to question the intelligence of the legislation by implying that it is impossible to achieve falls apart when you can find existing examples of the goal already achieved in real life.

For me the real clincher was her closing remark though. Keep in mind that her article started out by claiming in the title “Bicycle Zealots Run Over Common Sense…” So she throws in this final thought:

I am hoping that legislators introduces a bill mandating bicyclists to follow traffic laws. If California is really going to become bicycle-friendly, it’s time for cyclists to follow all traffic laws; because when bike-auto collisions occur, often the bicyclist is part of the problem, and not always the victim.

So her “common sense” approach is to hope legislatures pass a law, that will mandate that cyclists follow the laws. Not only is that an absurd and ridiculous idea, it is a tired old argument that doesn’t hold up. I grow weary of the “cyclists never follow the laws argument.” Or worse “I’ll share the road when cyclists follow the rules of the road.” Implicit in that statement is the idea that motors actually follow the laws themselves. Every hear of the California Stop Ms. Grimes? An illegal maneuver so common it has a nick name in common parlance. Ever drive the speed limit on the freeway only to find that every other motors it changing lanes to pass you? And frankly the characterization that all cyclists are law breakers is yet more of the apparently standard Ms. Grimes attack strategy: “us vs. them.”

Oh… but wait! Let’s go back to the first article regarding the bike lanes in Sacramento where she writes this statement:

Bicycling on this street is not safe, and never will be. There are too many businesses and too many cars. When I am on my bike, because I have a stong sense of survival, I avoid riding on Freeport Blvd.

Huh. So on the one hand you claim to be a cyclist yourself, then on the other hand claim that cyclists are a danger that don’t follow the laws.

Sorry Ms. Grimes. I love a good, passionate opinion piece as much as the next gal. But I call B.S. on your drivel.

How to properly handle a traffic altercation

It is far too easy to write nasty articles about “those damned motorists” and how they endanger all of us cyclists on the road. Because it is so easy, there are probably far too many of them. This inadvertently presents the image of cycling on the road as an inherently dangerous, hostile experience to be undertaken only by the most seasoned of cyclists. In truth the overwhelming majority to trips I make by bike are completely uneventful. I can probably count on one hand the number of times I’ve exchanged words with a driver from the saddle (and I can tend to be a little hot tempered too.)

That being said, there are going to be times when something will go amiss. Someone won’t see you, or will assume you are going to move in a direction different from your plans, or whatever. This risk exists no matter what your vehicle of choice is – car, SUV, bicycle or favorite pair of Pumas. These situations are stressful by nature, but the person that stays calm almost always comes out on top.

So, I submit for your approval the following video. Consider it a training video. A demonstration of precisely how to act when you do end up in a conversation regarding a traffic incident.

I’m glad Lance isn’t fighting

I’m quite frankly sick to death of hearing about Lance and his apparently inexhaustible ability to be targeted by, and just missed by, doping investigations. More importantly, I’m tired of it being the only story the main stream american media seems able to cover related to cycling.  Well, that and a cyclist killing a pedestrian. For americans this was an amazing year in bike racing, but you barely heard anything about in on the talking picture box. Two major pro level stage races in the United States. An American team battling it out in the olympics. American cyclist Chris Horner apparently inheriting the reigns of Cycling Media Ambassador for the american Audiences. These are exciting times for those of us in the states that are paying attention. For the rest of the population, apparently cycling is only about allegations of cheating from over a decade ago.

With all of this hoopla, you think that the Armstrong events were absolutely critical to the sport of cycling. But what impact with the USADA / Lance debacle actually have?  Well, only one of two.

Scenario One: The (still) immortal Lance

There will be continued bickering, lawyering-up and public statementifications (read that carefully) until ultimately, some obscure court that no one has ever heard of will completely side-step the doping allegations, In this scenario, the Court of Arbitration for Sport will decide that the USADA has no authority to strip medals and wins. If this happens, historians will need to rewrite the name “Armstrong, L. United States” across the white out they just recently placed across his name.

Scenarion Two: Lance only had 9 lives (and already used up 8)

Alternatively, the ruling may stand. Lance may be stripped of his wins for all posterity. The sport will be cleansed of the evil dopers – oui? No. In fact, almost all of the 2nd place finishers that would be promoted to first if Armstrong is stripped of his titles are themselves accused and/or convicted dopers. That’s progress, right?

Lance’s characterization of these allegations as a “witch hunt” may be true. However, unlike the madness in Salem of oh-so-many years ago, this time around thar be real witches in the woods.

If May was bike month, what is June?

May is bike month. We all know it, and many of us go on about it. We get bike to school day, bike to work day, and in addition a whole bike to work week! Local coffee shops, bike shops and assorted business get the excuse opportunity to set up tables along popular bike routes and paths giving away free swag and looking very bike-friendly. This should be a month for me to rejoice – to share enthusiasm and passions with the greater cycling community. A time for us to pat ourselves on our collective back and take stock in how far advocacy efforts have come. And May is action packed with a lot more than just advocacy and riding to work. On the racing front, we had not only the grand american race Tour of California, but also the Giro d’Italia.  The Tour of Cali was especially engaging for me this year, as I watched one of my personal favorites – and fellow old guy – Chris Horner appear to struggle through the Time Trial with an anchor on his bike. The setback would have crushed the spirits of other folks. But the drama unfolded in the final significant climbs of the race as Horner, Jens Voigt (another personal favorite and fellow old guy) and others took a flyer off the front. Slowly riders from the break away dropped one by one, until Chris Horner had actually made back all the time lost in the TT and then some.  He climbed his way into first place on paper – as Phil Liggett likes to say – and had me on the edge of my seat. Unfortunately the herculean effort was not enough and he was eventually caught. But what a way to highlight what bike month is supposed to be about – enjoying all aspects of bicycles. Rolling the cruiser, commuting to work, or ripping the peloton apart.

Unfortunately, this time around all Bike Month managed to do for me was remind me that the other 11 months are not bike month.  June came this year to punch me in the gut and drive the point home. June has brought us the apparent implosion (again) of what should have been the best team in the peloton – RadioShack Nissan Trek. Andy Schleck has been plagued by … something … all season. There are already rumors of the Schleck boys leaving the squad. When the team announced their Tour de France lineup, Chris Horner was not on the list. This lead to all kinds of speculation and drama as to why that happened. Shortly thereafter, it was announced that the presumed Tour de France GC contender Andy Schleck was not going to make it due to injury. Ahh, but poor Bruyneel wasn’t done with bad news yet. Just when we thought it was over, Bruyneel and Mr Armstrong find themselves in the spotlight for all the wrong reasons. Yup – doping allegations again. What is a cycling enthusiast to do.

But hold on a second…

I once again started my commute on a bicycle this morning in beautiful San Francisco. I passed numerous folks doing the same thing. I continue to ride my bike and enjoy it. And despite the fact that folks are predicting a guilty finding for Armstrong would “destroy cycling” my bike will still pedal and roll regardless of a USADA decision regarding Armstrong.

So that’s what I’ll do. I’ll let June suck for Bruyneel and Armstrong. Come July, I’ll be keeping track of the Tour de France and enjoying it. Bike Month is irrelevant to me, honestly. I don’t have a bike month, or even a bike year. I have a bike life, and plan to until I can’t turn my pedals any more.

Top 7 best bike music videos

There is a rather large and growing collection of humours, self-deprecating, but often true songs and music videos that folks have made regarding cycling.  Usually these poke fun at some of the more eccentric aspects and stereotypes of the cycling culture.  I thought it was about time someone put together a list of the best of them. Of course, this is just my opinion, and is therefore fact…

 

 

Number 7: Bike-Friendly City (funny song about bike safety in Toronto)

Obstensibly a bicycle saftey piece, but we all know that no one listens if we talk about bike safety seriously.  So lets try it with a little humor:

Number 6: SRSLY

Just try and make it past the Cliff Shot slurping scene in the beginning…

Number 5: Le Velo

The first entry from Robin Moore – the only guy to make my list not once, but three times.  This video probably would have ranked higher if he had chosen a better wine.

Number 4: Get Dirty

After poking fun at the euro crowd, Robin Moore goes after the MTB set.  Truth be told though, you may want to hold off on watching this one until you’ve watched the rest of the list.  There are references in this video to the number one video on our list.

 

Number 3: All You Haters ( Suck …censored… )

Something about making fun of anger is hysterically funny to me – and a heck of a lot better than actually being angry.  Warning – if you would be offended on a Juniur High School camups by the language, you should skip this video…

 

Number 2: Motherf<censored>ing Bike

Yes.  They swear.  A lot. But again, making fun of anger is just too enjoyable. Yes – this is the genesis of that famous “Tour de F*** You.”  Nearly every stereotype of urban cycling culture is in here.  In truth it was a very hard decision to decide the actual order of the top two.  Ultimately it came down to seniority alone.

Ooooh – and it is in HD!

 

Numero Uno: Performance

For me this is the first and still best bicycle music video.  The third entry from Robin Moore.  If you do nothing else in your cycling life, get this stuck in your head on your next ride.  Eminently quotable – ‘Cause its all about performance…

 

 

And speaking of quotable, one final thought:

Cyclist that killed pedestrian is a pain in my arse…

Taking a cue from the NBC Bay Area article, I've inserted a completely arbitrary photo of cyclists at an intersection that has absolutely nothing to do with the story being written.

I’ve been watching this story for a bit, biting my tongue (and my fingers) trying to stay out of it. But I’m fed up.  San Francisco cyclist Chris Bucchere, according to numerous reports both local and national,  caused fatal injuries to a pedestrian in a crosswalk in the Castro area of San Francisco.  Accidents are a terrible thing, but unfortunately somewhat inevitable in a crowded urban landscape such as San Francisco.  Clearly that does not diminish the loss to the victim and his family, nor does it absolve the cyclist of any wrong doing should he be found to have been negligent.

No – what’s pissing me off is the ridiculous amount of media coverage being given to this event – admittedly a tragedy.  Actually, to be more clear it isn’t exactly the media coverage I’m frustrated with, but rather the perceptional bias that is indicated by the media coverage.

My frustration is that a pedestrian being killed by a cyclist garners national coverage.  Meanwhile, pedestrians are struck by autos every day in San Francisco and barely warrant a mention in local media.

In a statement you may rarely find me typing, The San Francisco Bay Guardian got it right:

Yet activists also sought to place this case in context, noting that an average of almost three pedestrians are hit by cars everyday in San Francisco, even though that rarely makes headlines. There were 220 pedestrians killed in San Francisco from 2000-2009, the vast majority hit by cars whose drivers rarely faced criminal charges. In fact, the same week that Sustchi Hui was killed there was another pedestrian killed by a motorist and another one by a Muni bus.

Yup – that’s my gripe.  Cyclist kills a pedestrian and we can’t write enough words about it.  Automobile kills a pedestrian and we (the collective we – the “sheep” we) chalk it up to an unfortunate necessity of living in an auto-centric society and remind pedestrians to look both ways before crossing the street.

Tell me I’m not the only one that feels there is a bit inequity in this coverage.

 

Season starts with more doping nonsense

Headline:  “Cycling has another week riddled with news of doping and not much else”

Well, at least that is what you’d think if all you read is the mainstream press, or even the mainstream cycling press.  We’ve already had racing action this season.  First in Australia with the Tour Down Under, and the Tour of Qatar just started.  Now honestly though – how many folks do you suspect actually know the standings of the early season races?  I’m betting a fair sight less than the number that know that 1) Lance Armstrong is off the hook, and 2) Contador has been stripped of his 2010 wins – including the Tour de France and Giro d’Italia.

And this season is promising to be a great showdown.  The combination of some of the riders from both Leopard Trek and Radio Shack into one team.  Renshaw free to clash sabers in the sprints without having to focus on delivering Cavendish to the front.  This is real racing drama – happening now.  Armstrong doesn’t race anymore – remember?  And now Contador won’t be racing this year until the Giro either.  So let’s focus our attention on the people out there trying to beat each other on the roads and single tracks – not in the court rooms, press rooms and headlines.

If only we could get as much coverage of our race winners as we do the doping circus…  Just one man’s opinion.

Thanks LeBron

Nothing draws attention to cycling like a celebrity spotting.  I mean, if celebrities are gonna jump on the saddle, then maybe— just maybe— us mere commoners can.

OK.  Enough with the snarky comments on my part.  When I ran across the link whose title started with “LeBron Rides His Bike To Work…” I thought I’d have to at least give it a glance.  However, I found that the actual title had a little more to say than that: “LeBron Rides His Bike To Work, Thinks Safety First” [emphasis mine].  I could feel my eyes rolling.  Sure enough, the predictable helmet stanza was highlighted in the otherwise short article:
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Amtrak Capitol Corridor to change bike policy

I’ve heard rumors through the grapevine (or on the mailing lists, if you want to get technical) that the Amtrak Capitol Corridor trains were considering changing their policies regarding bicycles aboard the trains.  Currently, they allow you to take a complete, assembled un-boxed bike on board the train and store it in one of the spaces provided.  These spaces include a standing floor rack, or hooks you can hang the bike from.  These accommodations vary by train car and equipment set configuration, but cars generally have space for either 3, 8 or 13 bicycles at a time.

Currently, if and when all spaces become full and more bikes want to get on, passengers are allowed to continue to board the train and place their bikes … wherever.  There is a walkway with a handrail that has been a particular favorite of many, as well as a large empty spot allocated for wheelchairs.

The rumors flying around are that conductors were going to start denying passengers access if all “official” bike spots were already taken.  The facts behind this rumor were revealed in a blog post on the CapitolCorridor website:

You may have heard or read public comments about the Capitol Corridor’s Joint Powers Authority’s (CCJPA) new on board bike storage policy. I want to clarify that on February 1, 2012 we will start our “get acquainted period” to help educate riders who bring bikes on board the importance of proper bike storage. We will begin implementing the new policy several months afterwards in order to give riders time to prepare and acclimate to proper bike storage practices that allow for adequate access and safety.

David Kurtrosky

Kurtrosky further explained the need for this policy change by citing “…our [Capitol Corridor trains] growing ridership and the corresponding increase in bike usage over the past few years.”  However, the official policy statement stops short of saying that people will be denied the right to board, using much gentler language:

Several months from now, when the Capitol Corridor’s new bike policy is in place, passengers who board trains with bikes will be required to:

  • Secure bicycles to prevent the sudden or uncontrolled movement of bikes in the event of a sudden train stop; and
  • Store bicycles so that all passengers (including those in wheelchairs) can safely navigate the train aisle-ways.

Kurtrosky’s blog post gives further details, and a response to the anticipated “why don’t you make more space for bikes” questions.  I’ll personally be keeping a close eye on this, as I’m on the cusp of changing from once weekly commutes to 4 times a week.  Of course my bike is an integral part of that commute.

Thanks to VeloReviews member, and fellow Amtrak rider Paul Crescione ( @paulcrescione ) for bringing the Amtrak blog post to my attention