Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Public Domain

With schools soon reopening, must expect the many torments of traffic to multiply. Advocates speak of a locale’s “bikeability”, a term coined over 20 years ago. Everywhere on land where you can walk presents some degree of bikeability, even deserts, mountains, prairies and unpaved trails. What they imply is relative ease of getting around by bike according to factors upon which not everyone agrees.

Compiled this intense list of preferences from B&C's Chapter 16, internet searches, league questionnaires, pamphlet excerpts, and surveys personally conducted among avid cyclists, and ordered by importance to those who’d rather pedal than pollute:
1. Streets without faster traffic, especially busses, private cars and trucks (hard to find but still exist by place or time)
2. With some traffic, road shoulders without debris, gaps, grates, holes or sand
3. With heavy traffic, crossable intersections, designated bike lanes, no-motor over/under passes, permeable curbs, rollover islands
4. Unbroken pavement: no crevices, potholes, speed bumps, sunken pipes
5. Cyclists can ride flattest/straightest streets, shun hilly/twisty routes, as desired
6. Minimal detours and impediments (caused by airports, banned/narrow bridges, bays, coves, highways, hills, RR, rivers, turning lanes)
7. Continuous bikenet (all compass points from border to border) with no unfriendly segments; aligns with adjacent cities; matches from state to state
8. Alternatives to on-road (bikeways, bike-ped bridges, shared sidewalks); must be lit, maintained, patrolled, shoveled, and swept
9. Demonstrated state and town support (federal compliance, installed facilities, law enforcement, public service announcements, and unwavering policies)
10. Infrastructure favoring bicycling over motoring (Only for motoring: boulevard stops, no parking, no passage, one-way, parking lot fly-out deterrents, 25 mph limit on bike routes)
11. Bikenet passes parks, places of refuge (fire/police stations, libraries), schools and stores for safe child routes
12. Car-free approaches to air terminals, bus stations, malls, schools, train stations, transit hubs
13. Bike specific route signage (esp. around impediments) and traffic controls
14. Frequent access to bike infrastructure (barrier breaks, enter and exit intervals, fence openings, stanchions to keep cars out)
15. Racks at municipal buildings, public libraries, retail outlets, schools
16. Erosion deterrents (logs, rocks, straw bales), railings at steep runoffs, root barriers, sensible sight lines (not limited to set backs, trimmed hedges at intersections)
17. Availability of bike parts and service
18. Bus rack-n-ride service; subways/trains/trolleys that take bicycles
19. Accessible controls and wide shoulders where bikenet meets roadnet
20. Advocacy, clubs, community events, group rides

One could award a descending number of points for each factor and tally them for any area, region or state, or perhaps just move to Portland, Oregon once comparisons are made, but wouldn’t this be rather compulsive? The object is not to rate for awareness’ sake, but to react with real improvements that decrease fear and inconvenience, the 2 leading barriers, and increase ridership. City planners need to consider everything in the public domain; compliance typically involves less than 5% of roadnet and usually only after segments are repaved when repainting stripes, which must be done anyway. Costs almost nothing.

Your sense of safety will never foremost influence official decisions; distance, hazards, hills and ice persist for which you must prepare. Advocacy groups capitalize from your feeling exposed to criminal behaviors and crushing vehicles, yet you’ll always be safer cycling than driving. Crowds don’t necessarily present risk, sometimes shelter self propellers. But when states make situations difficult or impossible to ride a bike or walk, they illegally limit, according to federal laws 23 CFR 652.5 and 23 CFR 652.7, those who’d choose these alternatives. Every road 24’ or wider must either directly facilitate cycling and walking or factor in a nearby parallel bikeway or bikeable road, preferably indicated by signs. They can’t just construct highways that ban bicycling. This also implies zoning code that denies retail stores or strip malls permission to locate on busy roads if they neglect access from adjacent neighborhoods.

Cyclists are supposed to ride in travel lanes, not stick to gutters. Shoulders are what permit them to ease over and let cars pass. Despite their slow pace they do not otherwise have to give up lane. Motoring is a privilege, not a right; a driver license is a contract never to endanger the vulnerable: animals, bicyclists, children, walkers, wheelchair users. All self-propelled uses of public thoroughfares fall under an inalienable right to be motile for living and thriving. Impatience is the main reason air-conditioned, comfortably seated motorists can’t wait and must deprive others of their rights. Direct your anger at city planners, not creeping cyclists, who just happen to be present.

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

Nose Retrain

Late in summer a cyclist expects smells of asphalt, compost and creosote, maybe mixed with sour must of laundry and sewer drainage, possibly acid tang of old mills and toxic remains. Yet, a week after a gale, instead got an Autumn note of cut wood and dried leaves, reminiscent of tea you brew. Never much cultivated sense of smell, though dogs delight in exploratory, olfactory outings that exercise their glomerulus bulbs, mitral cells, and receptor neurons.

With fruits and vegetables finally ripening, farmer markets pop up around cities. You arrive by bike, drop by valet, follow your nose, and taste samples from stall to tent to umbrella, where an emperor of ice cream on a trike hawks treats as a finale of seem then packs up and pedals home. You assume freshness but question comparative quality, high prices, and lack of refrigeration or sanitation. Patrons buy to support local agriculture lest open expanses become housing developments. But prices reduce by half if you visit actual farms with their inherent odors and intimidating remoteness.

Mingling in crowds presents an opportunity to assess area residents. Big talk of collaborating universally will be choked irreversibly when you witness in person who you have to work with. Because banks made debtors of everyone, most are too worried about paying mortgages or rents to ponder anything else. When you can’t earn and don’t contribute to Social Security anymore, insurance houses, nursing homes, tax collectors, and utilities providers revel in draining your savings. Threats of becoming homeless forever loom, worse when your too old to shove what’s left into a van and simply take off.

An exodus undermines power, which is why conservative tyrants consider as a political ploy keeping dissidents moving. You don't have to submit, but should feel entitled to retaliate by running for office yourself or supporting candidates that promise more. Too bad you’re forced to hold your nose when you choose. But voting isn't the end of involvement, since you must monitor performance and recall elected officials if they don't serve your interests, though it's hard to do. The age of career politicians will be over when citizens demand more from elected officials.

Heard a celebrity host and local “philanthropist” discussing the good deeds done by dead business leaders and them. Who can bend their arms so far as to pat themselves on their own backs? When community treated them so well as to amass assets, it became their obligation to return some. Seems the bar gets set at crass greed, and however little you selflessly do merits applause. Charity does more for giver than receiver. Politicians, for example, squeeze constituents so thoroughly they create the need for welfare, then take credit for their presumed largess distributing among the needy while voting themselves enormous pay raises and tax cuts. Another way to dominate the poor is put them on the dole, paid for by middle class and small businesses, and reward privilege so rest believe they too can similarly rise.

More communicate now than ever in history. Both demand and supply are growing for written content. What's not growing is paid expectation. Writers, like most people, are slipping from poverty into slavery. When only 400 families own 95% of all wealth, your chances of selling human smudges on immaculate pages has declined to a modern nadir. Not enough readers can afford small cost of another volume after paying monthly fees for cell phone and internet access, where famous books and media comments can already be perused without additional cost. Ever smaller living quarters in crowded tenements means no room for home libraries, which is why book sellers have been closing or consolidating and ebooks taking over. Newspapers, too, have declined with preference for radio and television reports, often paid for by cable fees. People do go to movies, but try to sell an original story upon which all films are based. Delivery paradigm has irrevocably shifted, but that doesn’t stink so much if you think about it.

Thursday, August 13, 2015

Lake Champlain

Concerned about roadnet nexuses that challenge cyclists and motorists alike, note infamous Boston intersection of Beacon Street and Massachusetts Avenue, where lots of people get killed and maimed, which typifies such lapses in safety planning. Contributory distractions include confusing controls, lack of shoulders, noise, multiple poorly marked lanes, sudden change from one-way to two-way, and too many signs. Due to bad city planning, certain intersections must distribute traffic in many directions, not just gather feeders into main flow or interrupt straight crosses. This usually happens because impediments as bays, buildings, railroads, or rivers force all into a single confluence. Businesses huddle together and squeeze highways that support arriving workers. Everyone wants to occupy same space at same time. Long natural barriers with few crossings, like Lake Champlain, create huge detours that cyclists can’t easily tolerate. Awareness of this could lead to new infrastructure (additional bridges, crossing islands, parallel roads, underpasses) to avoid and improve.

Much is made of designating bike lanes, against and for, when they are hardly needed where shoulders exist, except approaches to intersections and within a nexus. Bike lanes for a dozen car lengths right before a crossroad help align all types of traffic. But in a nexus motorists must have heads on a swivel trying to identify the lane that lines up with direction they wish to go. Circulators or rotaries used to be how they kept cars moving and let drivers choose. The best way to keep cyclists safe is construct an alternative route for them alone that completely bypasses worst intersections. This could easily be provided, since bikes can sometimes share sidewalks with pedestrians, especially where foot traffic is light. City cul-de-sacs present opportunities, since motoring is deterred yet alleys and walkways might poke through to areas beyond.

Spent an afternoon trying to go only a few miles through a pathetically designed suburb with both an airport and train terminal, neither of which feature bikeways or racks. Didn’t even try to visit, just meant to skirt. Went though parking lots and wriggled though fences. Explored a vast housing complex with only one entrance; if it had to be quickly evacuated, most would die, which surely suggests bad planning and code violations. Tracked sidewalks where traffic forced cyclists off streets. Buzzed by speed limit breakers, treaded lightly, and turned tightly at corners. Oddly, a bunch of recent films address these issues:

Bicycle (Michael B. Clifford, dir., 2014), retells the story of its boom in development, sport, and transport in England after first invented in France, then government policies in the 1970’s that assumed bicycles would disappear, so neglected to construct and maintain suitable infrastructure. Or, England reacts to a fellow countryman Chris Froome winning Le Tour de France in 2013, a feat he duplicated in 2015. World’s foremost battlefield for cycling glory has become a billboard for corporate sponsors, while riders invite investigations for drug and rule violations. Seems they matching status of football, where winning breeds contempt and jealous comments.

Bike vs Cars (Fredrik Gertten, dir., 2015): Bicyclists despise Big Oil rackets that despoil environment and won’t stop riding despite increasing traffic fatalities among them.

Tracers (Daniel Benmayor, dir., 2015) stars Taylor Lautner and Marie Avgeropoulos. Bicycle messenger in debt to violent gangsters is forced to join a crew, who use parkour, acrobatic leaping and running, to pull heists for increasingly bigger payoffs and risks.

Turbo Kid (Fran├žois Simard, Anouk Whissell, dirs., 2015) stars a comic book obsessed scavenger (Munro Chambers) in a post-apocalyptic wasteland, who becomes a reluctant hero after he meets a mystery girl (Laurence Leboeuf). Armed with an ancient turbocharged weapon, The Kid embarks on quest to defeat their nemesis, a sadistic warlord (Michael Ironside), and save girl. Without petroleum, BMXing supplants motoring.

Just out, un®eal (Jones Brothers, dirs., 2015) celebrates beautiful places in the Pacific Northwest where mountain bikes rule and features downhill racer Brandon Semenuk. Increasingly, riders are taking to MTBs to avoid dealing with motorized threats altogether, although wild wooded single track can be tougher to negotiate than pavement with animals, rocks and roots. What about maybe not mythical monsters?

Overlooked older film Zookeeper (Frank Coraci, dir., 2011) has scene with Kevin James racing a tricycle on city streets against a rival bicyclist. Trike is so low that he’s able to squeeze under a tractor trailer to gain advantage, a stunt so stupid that it should’ve been accompanied by a “don’t try this at home” disclaimer. Typical of Happy Madison (Adam Sandler) productions, it appealed to airheads, earned well ($170 million), featured bicycles gratuitously, but got panned by critics. What do they know?