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Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Schemes to Maintain

Leave it to The Atlantic to exaggerate the horror: Cyclists riding on sidewalks! Rather than being a problem, it attests to bad infrastructure and dereliction of duty by responsible DOT. Under certain conditions it’s perfectly legal. Ambiguity rules elsewhere, only prohibited in a few states. Federal policies already require equal infrastructure for biking, hiking and motoring. Highways cannot bar cyclists from crossing at reasonable intervals including bridges or riding parallel. Biking routes can’t stop any more than motoring thoroughfares. Boulevards must have shoulders into which drivers can pull over in an emergency, if only to take a cell call or text. Gore areas and shoulders are all cyclists need to coexist with motorists on busy roads, and you need nothing on side streets other than smooth, swept pavement. Formal bike lanes or paths are often unnecessary except where conditions force too much traffic into too little space, but painted stripes are cheap and easy.

Registered drivers complain that they pay for roads and so deserve to drive unencumbered. Nonsense. First, they don’t pay alone: Revenue gets collected from many sources including taxes on $6 billion in bicycle sales every year. Second, cyclists and walkers hardly ever slow motorists unless driving illegally in bike lanes, gutters, or on sidewalks. Third, other/unlicensed drivers threaten everyone, not unmotorized, vulnerable users. If frustrated they are in your way, blame your DOT for not accommodating them separately. Nobody is disrespected and inconvenienced more than cyclists. The Atlantic’s agenda doesn’t address worse hazards. Why don’t they report on bus, SUV or tractor trailer abuse? Commerce declines upon bad news. Schemers construe their own taboos.

Roads are empty most of the time. You can monitor this for yourself by sitting attentively and ticking off passing vehicles. Experts calculate the collective footprint of 214 million cars in America at 760 square miles, smaller than Rhode Island. Somewhat less than two hundred million registered motorists drive on average only 1.7 hours/day. Nation’s 4 million miles of roadways combined with parking spaces occupy an area estimated at 61,000 square miles, bigger than 30 of 50 states including Florida or Georgia, 3/4 the size of all farmed land, a wide swath that would wrap Earth’s equator 156 times. So, moving vehicles take up <1.1% of pavement, leaving 98.9% of roads empty 22.3 hours per day. Nation allots each driver 80 square miles of paved space. Nevertheless, idiots still collide >5 million times per year. Yet many drive their entire lives without the least mishap. Some of this can be explained by everyone wanting to commute through congested areas at the same time. But the more lonesome a road, the more ridiculous the chances drivers will take. Every long straightaway has a suicide curve at which scores have already died without any remediation or even signs. Perhaps they should make such situations safer by providing alternatives. Only <1% of budget goes to bicycling and >99% to motoring with a focus on flowing ever more cars through areas that exclude cycling. This is illegal and lacks any balance whatever. Cyclists consider such points every time they take to roads.

Facts made available on Internet is now so numerous you wonder if anyone can make sense of them. Depends greatly upon what question you want answered. If official sources can deceive and pervert with statistics, why can’t Labann entertain and expose follies with them? Situations that kill sustain certain industries, coffin makers, emergency rooms, funeral parlors, insurance companies. Commerce flows and death spirals on nation’s roadways, while cyclists spin and take it all in. Rants majority ignores echo hollowly.

Friday, April 18, 2014

Efflux Riparian

What attracts humans to water? Endless thirst? Despite floods, people pay a premium to live alongside bays, coves, estuaries, lakes, ponds, or rivers, sometimes want burial at sea. Frequent fog and rain cut any sense of posh riparian space. During storms a rising sea is an unseen menace. Droplets of water exhibit cohesion; they are chemically designed to chase and cling. Humans flock and gang together, or insist, even stalk, whenever ignored. Tears sting with salt. Also like seawater, blood dissolves, foams, pulses, perhaps stains, and rushes to intermingle. A body wants to be inside another body, back in a warm, wet sack. At 7 weeks embryos of fish and humans appear identical.
Aquatic craniates are man’s earliest ancestors, evolutionarily speaking, and everybody still has structures related to fins and gills. So, a woman does need a man like a fish needs a bicycle, after all, which is to say a partner for species propagation if not traditional monogamy.

In contemporary Russia, Pussy Riot rejects patriarchy and pretty much has had it with Putin’s repressive politics. Barely adults, they’ve already spent years incarcerated for their dissent, as portrayed in recently screened HBO documentary, A Punk Prayer, directed by Mike Lerner and Maxim Pozdorovkin. Not confined to Eastern Europe, female issues peaked in 2013, a year of gender controversy. Conservative policies that exclusively cater to state religions endlessly result in tentacles of inequality. Yet without prayer and respect world would definitely be poorer, perhaps unlivable. Studies in America report that females get 75-93% as much as males for same jobs. Their view to the top is clear through a prohibitive glass ceiling. Why let an eroding undercurrent poison business, governance and interpersonal relations? Why ignore 50% of the population? Why not listen instead and proactively act? After effluxion over time, any social contract expires.

Routes cyclists take are not quite as fluid, more like taffy; you squish to hurry up, stretch to get in more miles. Firmament will always be fiction. Nothing lasts. Solid ground crumbles, sometimes turns into rushing mud. As a book, Bike&Chain likewise runs all over the place, torn in a thousand directions. Yet there’s an arc and center, even denouement, if no plot or purpose. Who isn’t pushed and tugged all over these days? Writers only mirror events, milieu, what’s happening. You weren’t born onto one side of issues promulgated only to exploit you. Matriarchy or patriarchy? Why not equality? Humanity moves forward united, will fall divided, wouldn’t survive without diversity. Growth and improvement can distance self from persistent deceptions and transitory illusions. To get there you must swim in facts within a school surrounded by sharks, not remain stuck on a shore of suppositions. This was B&C’s departure from fiction.

Agreed, novels have enormous influence, yet legitimize violence, whitewash root causes, and worsen insanity. Criminals and terrorists are inspired by novelists who write details that can be used to harm and maim. Fiction tends to fit into genres, tired plots with only names and places changed, and worship conflict. Instead, life itself resembles long stretches of boredom punctuated by rebellious bursts against inhuman oligarchs, not a scenario that fits neatly into a derivative genre. Devoid of any entertainment distractions, B&C tried to fathom the emotional bottom of interpersonal ethics. Is that even possible? Feel readers would rather be fishing for themselves than getting along by sharing.

Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Essex Terraplane

Remember running backwater routes in the 1970’s and seeing an “authorized” Hudson dealer, really a junkyard for a defunct brand. Rusting hulks sat and sulked awaiting rare enthusiasts to restore in mirth and terrorize roads with their girth. The Terraplane, an economical (as low as $425 new), fast model introduced in 1919, was lamely advertised, “In the air that's aeroplaning, but on the land, in the traffic, on the hills, hot diggity dog, that’s Terraplaning.” Imagine bicyclists resented sharing byways and terrain with these flightless turkeys, yet aviatrix Amelia Earhart hawked them, bluesman Robert Johnson droned on about them, and robber Dillinger drove one. Private transportation spread and still permits crime sprees. During the 1930’s Depression, Essex merged with and outsold the more profitable Hudson, so they abruptly discontinued production. No wonder Hudson subsequently had to sell out to American Motors, neither of which survived.

When I feel so lonesome, you hear me when I moan / Who been drivin' my Terraplane for you since I been gone… Mr. highway man, please don't block the road, 'Cause she's reachin' a cold one hundred and I'm booked and I got to go.—Robert Johnson

A website commenter said you shouldn’t discriminate cyclists from motorists, suggest a them-us dichotomy, since most both drive and pedal intermittently. Makes you consider how autos became popular a century ago. Origins fascinate, although no one thing will ever totally instigate, rather the sum of conditions. It was a no-brainer that a bicycle’s motility and a biplane’s power would merge into motorized cycles, then multi-wheeled versions for the balance challenged. Oil became available as a cheap energy source, instant compared to coal or electricity. Yet it took a celebrity to convince masses to give up cycling. If not for hard hills and heavy loads, motors may never have caught on. Chores and contours of course occur; they cannot be contravened without conflict. Stalwart riders know climbing builds and descending thrills, but who can blame workers trying to earn livings for choosing perceived convenience? One can’t just grovel in fear and hide at home.

There are hundreds of videos on Youtube showing mtb’ers going where no car could ever go, often downhill catching big air. Others present relevant songs.

By London indie rock band Bombay Bicycle Club, The Hill wants to rewind the clock and seal Pandora’s Box...
And, alright, let's go outside, / And rise, rise, rise to the meaning of life. And we're trying but we're all falling out. I want to go back to old times.

Comedian Benny Hill slyly reports on cycle sports...

By Avenger’s composer and Madison native Joel McNeely, Bicycle Ride scores final credits of TV series Dark Angel starring Jessica Alba as a bike messenger. Many miles later, she looks fabulous in that Fantastic Four skin suit. Surprised she hasn’t yet cameoed on The Big Bang Theory having rubbed elbows with Marvel obsessed cast at MTV Movie and People’s Choice Award Shows, though her name was mentioned.

By Noah Drew, This Hill Again describes a notorious night commute after happy hour.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Common Refrain

Browsing and grazing, almost too easily uncovered hitherto unmentioned bits of cycling culture. The Chemical Brothers, Velodrome [edm], single, Universal Music Group, 2012 - This accompanied an animated video played before each velodrome trial at the 2012 Olympics.

Thanks to The Wizard of Oh for collecting the following European bicycling songs among scores more already mentioned in B&C’s appendix or subsequent blogs:
Alex Roeka, De Muur Van Geraardsbergen [Dutch] Wolfshonger, Raaf Rec., 2002. This wall of misery is a cobblestone climb which culminates the Tour of Flanders.

British Sea Power, Lucky Bicycle, Valhalla V.I.P. EP, Rough Trade, 2011.

Immer diese Radfahrer, Lied - Mit dem Rad, Kamerad [German].

Kees Ruiter, Moin Fiets [Dutch folk], Live telecast; video shows a cyclist riding along dikes in the Westfries area of Northwestern Holland.

Les Thugs, Biking [French punk], As Happy As Possible EP, Sub Pop Rec., 2008.

Miranda Eve, The Bicycle Song, single, circa 2012.

Nora Jane Struthers, Bike Ride, Carnival, Blue Pig Music, 2013; video has songstress riding a retro bike throughout.

Robert Long, Vader op een fiets (Dad on a bike) [Dutch], Achter de horizon, EMI, 1986.

Found independently was this trio of older songs:
Antoine, La Troisième Roue De Ton Velo (French), single, 1970.

Jean Narcy, Bravo Eddy [Belgian], Ah! Quelle Histoire, Decca, 1970; about supreme cycling hero Eddy Merckx.

Manuel “Canario” Jimenez, En Bicicleta [Puerto Rican Jibaro] circa 1960 on retrospective album Y Su Cuarteto, Codigo, 2009.

A band in the burgeoning cycling center of London, Me for Queen has an innovative idea for an all-cycling, crowd-funded album called Iron Horse. Now you too can claim blame for adding to this song stampede. Says group's singer Mary Erskine quoted in a Guardian article, "This whole album has come from the time on my bike. You're kind of operating on two different levels: you're going through the motions, you're hyper-alert ... and, at the same time, the rest of your brain is off just free thinking. That's where all my good ideas come from; it's pretty much 99% on the bike." She expresses frustration with motorists and sensations of danger, realizes album won't change the world, but shares her perspective as a cyclist. Same as Bike&Chain. One finished cut, White Bike, is a folk ballad about ghost bikes; proceeds go to a charity that supports victims’ families.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Betray Fain

This blog expands upon topics in book, to which is appended hundreds of blog entries no longer hosted on-line. If you don’t believe in bicycling culture after 1500 pages, you’re either hostile or misinformed. Willing to grant that automotive culture exists, modeled directly on preexisting bicycling. Even lament collision fatality of Paul Walker who starred in those car adoring, death defying, mayhem manifesting Fast&Furious flicks. Ironically tragic. Modernity kills to assert itself. What of the hundreds of souls on Malaysian 777 gone missing? Challenger and Columbia shuttle disasters? What is society doing to analyze risks and prepare for inevitable failures? They would fain sacrifice you, who they value least, than proceed proactively.

On Amazon you’ll find hundreds of bicycling books… now. A small fraction were around in the ‘90’s when Bike&Chain was written. Internet has been inundated with anti/pro commentary. Yet B&C remains relatively unknown despite a decade of circulation. Does pro-bike literature enhance bike sales? Record spikes occurred every 5 years since 1985, then dipped slightly. This tracks an average bike’s duty cycle. Seems to indicate a stable ridership replacing worn out units at predictable intervals. World production of bikes hasn’t equalled cars since 1965, rather has grown to more than triple in 1985 and at least double thereafter. Estimates suggests there are a billon of each present worldwide.

Still dissatisfied, bike retailers ask what can be done to boost sales, but won’t find simple answers because culture, habits, infrastructure, government, limitations, and vested interests conspire against. Blogs and books may not convince, but economy and example do gets others off their duffs. Naysayers spread pedaling paralysis. Gollum of Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Mordred of Authurian legends, peddler Padan Fain of Jordan’s graphic novel Wheel of Time, and those so seduced by fear and greed betray friends and themselves. How can cyclists feel so lonesome surrounded by a billion others?

Strangers don't want to help or know you. When you try to hook up by saying email addresses or twitter handles, results can be lame. You have to repeat 3 times using military call letters (alpha, bravo, charlie...), but how is that different from phone numbers? Later they can't read hurried scribble, lose your business card, or recall you only as easily forgettable. Every attempt to ease access to you spurs a further disconnect. Barriers were erected both to consolidate wealth and keep out rabble, stalkers and thieves. But hope springs eternal that enough cyclists will crank outdoors to make motorists realize they have to respect others, speed less, and take care.

Living at an intersection on a street that doesn’t cut through with SLOW CHILDREN and STOP signs, watch dozens of cars and trucks race through every day. Hasn’t changed in 3 decades. Cops could fill their monthly ticket quotas right here in a few hours. Where can kids learn to ride? Not going to encourage them without controlling scofflaws. Despite federal and state initiatives made law 15 years ago, officials lack the will to prevent harm. This rant will rage until carnage retreats, velorution retakes streets, or when Labann retires, whichever comes first. Neither a negative nor positive note appears to affect anything.

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Biopics Appertain

You don't unlock culture completely through a bicycle, which only existed after da Vinci’s concept, de Sivrac’s celerifere, Drais’ dandy, and Michaux’s boneshaker. Bicycles didn’t mobilize legions of Imperium Romanum. Never had Chinese emperors mandated or Greek philosophers contemplated, but modern men and particularly women have surely made up for lost millennia. It's still the conversation and transportation choice for dowagers, eggheads, heiresses, kids, and whoever isn't blessed with cash to blow on a motorized jumbo that dominates byways.

Saw Aronofsky’s period film Agora in which Rachel Weisz plays early philosopher Hypathia, who made her mark as astronomer and educator before being pathetically stoned to death by a Christian mob. An agora was an open place in an ancient city where people convened to exchange ideas, whereas separate markets were for trading goods, together what then constituted public space whence civilization eventually thrived. Private interests now control colleges, government offices, shopping malls, and supermarkets. Today, only parks, roads and virtual reality remain for residents and visitors to share. Yet bicyclists mostly cringe along edges, marginalized beside motoring carnage. Who knew it was a war with tens of thousands maimed and murdered every year, more than all soldiers in wars since WWI? Tenuous connections nevertheless persist. Bludgeoned-by-religious-bigots became instead crushed-by-automotive-morons.

Weisz walking while filming Bourne Legacy on location in bicycle infested Philippines.

On a spin of only 6 miles, got buzzed, pinched into gutter twice, and told to “ride on the sidewalk”. Wondered whether the old lady who opened a window to yell felt automotive frustration, out of sorts with lingering winter, or really concerned for my welfare. After all, people constantly try to warn others to avoid danger. In this case, cycling on sidewalk is actually less safe than obeying traffic codes that apply to both bikes and cars. Maybe her maternal instincts overcame measured reason, or she just couldn’t apportion a lane twice as wide as her subcompact. Felt bad for saluting her rudely. You’d have to be an April fool to not notice flower tips breaking through and people suddenly pedaling around despite phobia of the open. Who was she to tell a stranger how to behave?

Labann has been giving unwanted advice for decades. Just who does he think he is? Really, B&C meant from the start to remain neutral, strike a balance between cordial encouragement and social criticism. Conflict surrounds any center stance, pulls you in opposite directions, suggests you choose sides. To be a cyclist you must learn that leaning leads to toppling. You can describe survivors as those who are conservative on safety standards while liberal on harmless choices, intense in family care yet modest in personal appetites, quick to exploit sensible opportunities but slow to try what’s new. Avant-garde, explorers, and original thinkers absorb abuse, become burnt offerings to gods obtuse, yet refuse to pay the deuce’s dues. Instead of cursing or stoning, you ought to thank them for their sacrifice.