Thursday, November 29, 2007

Like father, like son?

(Image from Movie City News, "Shaun of the Dead")

Jordan lost his job when Camille's closed about a month ago. He was hired at Panera Bread Company almost immediately afterward. He's worked only a few shifts and last night was the first time he's been there at closing. Mary and Lyndsay were out shopping, so they offered to pick him up. They waited and waited as the crew cleaned the store. Finally, the manager walked over with a bag of goodies consisting of bagels, cookies, and those wonderful brownies. They were surplus and couldn't be kept until morning.

But a couple of female co-workers talked with Jordan, chatting him up shamelessly as his sister watched. “Do they always flirt with you like that?” she asked later.

Huh?” It's what passes for witty repartee from my seventeen-year-old son. “They were flirting?”

Now, you may recall that Mary said I'm stupid when it comes to women. Apparently it's a familial trait and Number One Son inherited it quite strongly.

I don't know whether to be proud of him or worry that he's far too much like me.


Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Help! Help!

I'm trying to find the website for a new bicycle built around an infinitely variable drive system. I vaguely recall seeing something about it, something that I noticed only in passing. The reason I ask for help is because I simply cannot find it, and my increasingly porous memory doesn't help at all.

We were talking about electric cars at work today, and someone mentioned this drive system as a better alternative to an automotive automatic transmission.

Sunday, November 25, 2007

On-line driver's test

36 Million Licensed Americans Unfit To Drive According To GMAC Insurance Study

Failure Rates Double in 3rd Annual GMAC Insurance National Drivers Test

GMAC insurance is offering an on-line driver's test. Notice that according to the chart, one in four drivers would be C students, and that only 2 states scores were in the green. However, the spread reveals something even more interesting since the highest was only 81.9% and the lowest was at 70%. That seems to indicate that ALL the drivers missed at least 18% of the answers. That's pathetic.

There are no questions regarding cyclists. One deals with pedestrians, and another with school buses - which is almost a pedestrian-related question. This could be a reflection of the statistics regarding cyclist and pedestrian deaths, and since fatalities among cyclists are relatively low, they're not going to be included in a 20 question quiz.

I scored 95% - not that I'm bragging about it - because the one question I missed had to do with a practice that is legal, but it something I greatly dislike doing. I won't tell you what it is here in the main text, but I'll include it in comments so it won't be a spoiler.

From the press release:

ST. LOUIS, MO. (May 24, 2007) – Results from the 2007 GMAC Insurance National Drivers Test indicate that one in six drivers on the road - roughly 36 million licensed Americans - would not pass their written DMV exam if taken today. The third annual survey by GMAC Insurance gauges driver knowledge of the rules of the road by testing licensed Americans on actual questions from state DMV license exams.

(Link to full text)

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Saturday Swap/Sale in Tulsa

I went into Tulsa yesterday partly to see the fixed gear swap meet at the Sound Pony and partly to take She-Who-Must-Be-Obeyed on a furniture hunting expedition. Oh, the joy of furniture hunting. I must be outta my mind.

We drove through the north side looking for the swap meet. Mary asked, "Why are all these strange people wandering around?" She'd never been in that area. I told her about the Day Center for the Homeless and the Salvation Army. "This looks like a set for one of those zombie movies," she said.

I found the site and got out to look at the bikes. I met Nomco who runs a small business refurbishing old bikes by repainting them and converting them to fixed gears.


As the saying goes, steel is real.

He had an assortment of parts, including some very nice Brooks B17 saddles. With Christmas coming up, I'm tapped out of course, so if I bought another bike or even some parts, She-Who-etc. would likely just shoot me.

Various road conversions, some with brakes, some without.

Let's hope this catches on and becomes a popular venue for local cyclists. I'm thinking that if Nomco sets this up again, I'll have to drag some of my old junk out of the garage. Well, the junk I can part with, anyway. Not the good junk.


A new form of censorship...OT

If this is true, it's a particularly insidious form of censorship because the person whose voice has been silenced is unaware of it. Click on the Investigate the Media link for the whole post. It's very long and currently has 65 comments.

Found via Batesline:

Investigate the Media

Friday, November 23, 2007
The San Francisco Chronicle deceives its readers through comment-deletion trickery

[UPDATE 1, Sat., 11-24-07, 12:30pm: Software Exec Brags About Crypto-Deletion Feature; see below.]

[UPDATE 2, Sat., 11-24-07, 2:20pm: Reader Documents "Graylist" of Banned SFGate Users Who Don't Know They're Banned; see below.]

[UPDATE 3, Sat., 11-24-07, 3:25pm: The Scandal Spreads: Other Sites Caught Red-Handed Doing the Same Trick; see below.]

The San Francisco Chronicle has recently activated a devious system by which it deceives commenters on its website, Here's how it works:

If you make a comment on an article posted at SFGate, and if the site moderators then subsequently delete your comment for whatever reason, it will only appear as deleted to the other readers. HOWEVER, your comment will NOT appear to be deleted if viewed from your own computer! The Chronicle's goal is to trick deleted commenters into not knowing their comments were in fact deleted. I'll give evidence below showing how they do this.

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Saturday, November 24, 2007

Stunning sequins of events: A Wally Crankset Tale

(Image from Tomorrow Pictures)

Wally and I were comfortably settled into a booth at Larry's Café, swapping lies and intermittently watching a football game when Elvis walked in. Yes, THAT Elvis. He's been living in Broken Elbow since staging his own death all those years ago. Most people thought he was just another Elvis impersonator, and not a very good one at that. Others were certain he was the real deal and they tried to sell the story to the national media. The reporters assumed it was just another crackpot Elvis sighting, and then returned to trying to find the whereabouts of Bat Boy. They probably couldn't locate Oklahoma on a map, anyway.

Elvis was an upright, respectable citizen although his habit of mowing the lawn in a sequined cape had caused some talk. Not enough to label him as an eccentric, of course. We had Wally for that.

He walked up to the table and said, “I want you guys to help me. I want to get on my bike and start riding with you!” Wally had done some odd jobs for Elvis, jobs that didn't involve plumbing, natural gas, or electricity so the dangers of a catastrophe were fairly low. But we'd never seen him on a bike. We didn't even know he owned one.

“My bike is out in the truck. Would you take a look at it?” he drawled.

With our beers in hand, we dutifully trooped out to the truck, a ratty old Ford that had seen better days. In the back, a new (name expunged until they cough up some advertising money) lay on its side. Campy Record components gleamed. The frame, made of shiny unobtainium, inspired some of the most avaricious thoughts I'd ever had. Wally and I were deeply envious.

After stammering about the bike awhile, Wally said, “Well, Elvis, we're going to ride on Saturday morning at seven and go out toward Killer Hill. You're certainly welcome to join us.”

On Saturday, seven AM came and went without any Elvis sighting. We figured him for a no-show and pushed off. For once, no ex-wives, former girlfriends, or law enforcement officers were stalking Wally, so we didn't have to look behind us, checking for “Huns in the sun” as Wally put it. We were halfway up infamous Killer Hill, a nasty, brutish and short climb that too often reduced me to pedestrian status, when we heard an odd sound coming up the hill. “Hunka-hunka-hunka.” Whatever was making the noise was lost behind one of the s-bends, but it kept getting louder. In an instant, Elvis rounded the corner, caught us and dropped us! He flew up the hill without stopping or looking back. Just before he went over the crest, we could hear quite plainly, “Are you lonesome tonight?” Then he giggled. The cape flashed and he was gone.

Wally and I were stunned. We'd been dropped by a chubby old guy! We'd never hear the end of it down at Larry's Café, so without a word between us, we got into the drops and started chasing the tell-tale flash of sequins off in the distance.


Saturday Musette

I can do the innuendo...

As a former baseball team owner, is George W. Bush connected to the use of illegal steroids by players? Where's the Dick Pound when we really need him?

I can dance and sing...

And I stumbled across this:

I have to assume this is written in bureaucratese, but I'm not entirely sure I'd want to have a bike that shifted in response to my physiological changes. For one thing, there wold be a lag between inreased load and increased heart rate, something I can anticipate in normal riding. And since I break things with depressing regularity, I have to wonder what happens in the event of a power loss in the physiological monitoring unit (assuming this is a heart rate monitor) or the bike's receiver.

An automatic speed setting system is adapted for use with a bicycle that includes a gearing mechanism having gear ratios. The automatic speed setting system includes a physiological parameter detecting unit adapted for detecting a physiological parameter of a cyclist riding the bicycle, a physiological parameter processing unit coupled to the physiological parameter detecting unit and operable so as to calculate physiological parameter data of the cyclist with reference to the physiological parameter, a signal generating unit coupled to the physiological parameter processing unit and operable so as to generate a drive signal with reference to the physiological parameter data, and an automatic shifting unit coupled to the signal generating unit and adapted to operate the gearing mechanism of the bicycle in a selected one of the gear ratios in response to the drive signal. Inventors: Jwo, Star (Miaoli Hsien, TW)

When it's said and done I haven't told you a thing...

Cue Monty Python:

This charming bit of spammery showed up on a couple of local e-lists:

Dear Sir/Mrs, I want sell (wholesale) miniature bicycle. This product unique and good shape. Made by skilled person. For more information please contact me. Thank You. Best Regads, (Name removed)

Normally I'd go off on a rant about using spammers as test subjects in an investigation into whether water boarding is indeed torture. Something about testicles, electrical wiring, and bench vises comes to mind, too. But this example is so pathetic I almost feel sorry for the guy. Almost. But not enough to contact him about buying miniature bicycles.

And finally...

...some minor peeves.

I read No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy. I have to assume it's based on his novel The Road, but I haven't received a copy for comparison yet. Regardless, No Country for Old Men is one hell of a story. But it includes a few things about the dialog that I find annoying. First, there are no apostrophes used in contractions, so can't is spelled cant. That's minor. But the other annoying bit is the omission of quotation marks, making dialog harder to read. Honestly, these are like speed bumps forcing me to slow down.

They sat in the little diningroom and ate.

She'd put on music, a violin concerto.

The phone didnt ring.

Did you take it off the hook?

No, she said.

Wires must be down.

In longer pieces of dialog, it's difficult to determine who is speaking. On balance, though, this book is a real page turner. I'll see the movie, eventually.

But there's one other writing peeve to include today, and that's the annoying habit some have of putting too many quotation marks into a sentence.

They sat in the little "diningroom" and "ate".

She'd put on "music", a violin "concerto".

The phone didnt "ring".

Did you take it off the "hook"?

No, she said.

Wires must be "down".

I have occasional correspondence with someone who writes like that, and again, it's difficult to read quickly. Worse, since this implies sarcasm or skepticism, it's hard to determine the writer's genuine intent. Since much of this is shared with others, I've light-heartedly threatened to put quotation marks around every noun in my replies. Brian Potter, an English instructor, begged me not to do so. "That would give me a headache. You don't want to know about the papers I have to grade!"

As if that would stop me.


Friday, November 23, 2007

It's 3 AM

And I'm up making a latte and muffins for Number One Daughter who has to be at work by four. Working in a retail shop the day after Thanksgiving really sucks. Their biggest local competitor opens at four. Lyndsay's shop opens at five.

"You know what gonna happen", I said. "They'll mob that store, then mob yours an hour later." I doesn't help that they're offering discount cards to the first 200 customers.

I'll see her off to work. In fact, since her truck has a low tire that I didn't notice until last night, I may drive her to work.

Finally, just for Fritz, she has that Stepford Wives bolted-on smile too, but in her case it's probably because she's still half asleep.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving 2007

I grew up as part of a large extended family. Mary did too. It was a rare week that didn't involve a dinner with aunts, uncles, cousins, or grandparents. When the whole family got together for a holiday dinner, we kids had to sit at our own table in the living room. You may remember that old television commercial with the line, "Bring out the second turkey!" My family actually did that. I am not exaggerating.

But after moving to Oklahoma, it's just the four of us. My friend Wade will join us for dinner later today. We have much to be thankful for this year. In fact, we have much to be thankful for throughout the year. I have a steady job that puts a roof over our heads and food on our table. It may not be grand, but it's certainly good.

There are some families in this suburban community who need help with basic necessities. The VonFranken food run is underway down in Tulsa again this year, collecting canned goods for needy families. Our own Owasso Community Development will be doing something similar over Christmas, and just like last year, I'll help out.

Wherever you are, look around and be thankful for what you have. Cherish your family and friends. Enjoy this day.

....because tomorrow is Black Friday, our annual celebration of wants over needs, grasping acquisitiveness, and conspicuous consumption. Some are calling it "Buy Nothing Day" as a symbolic way of turning their backs on materialism and consumerism. I won't go that far. I'll probably buy a cup of coffee.

My daughter has to work tomorrow. I offered to bring her lunch on my bike. She was worried about all the traffic, but I said it would actually be fairly easy. "They'll be gridlocked. I can just ride around them!" I don't know why, but I get a great deal of enjoyment out of that.

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Send a text message of thanks to our troops...

From Michael Bates on Batesline:

Text your thanks to our troops

This may sound like an urban legend, but it's the real deal.

From now through Thanksgiving Day (November 22), AT&T, Verizon, Sprint Nextel, and T-Mobile customers can send a text message of thanks to American troops abroad, free of charge.

Just text your message of thanks to 89279, and it will be delivered to an American serviceman overseas. You'll get an acknowledgment that your message was received, and you may even get a few replies. You can see some of the recent messages others have sent above.

Learn more by visiting I first read about this in Amanda Carpenter's recent column on TownHall.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

From Tulsa Now

This is my favorite web forum because it deals with local issues and it's generally civil, unlike some of the more contentious forums or Usenet....Ed

As many of you are likely aware, the website and forum have been unavailable this week.

There are a lot of gruesome details, but in laymen's terms, TulsaNow is not currently in control of the domain name. That issue is being resolved, but it will take some time, especially during the holiday season.

As a workaround for this issue, we have temporarily relocated to with all associated website and forum information running at that address with the exception of email, which will effect newsletters and private message notification.

We apologize for the inconvenience and hope to have the whole ordeal resolved as quickly as possible. forum staff

Monday, November 19, 2007

This just in...

(Image from BestOfTulsa)

Nomco left this comment on the Swap Meet post from a few weeks ago:

Hi! GUESS WHAT? We have a Fixed Gear Swap Meet this weekend ! Yes, the Saturday after Thanksgiving ! Noon to Nine ride at 5PM...At the SoundPony...Fixed is the focus, but road, mountain, BMX, cruiser, anybody everybody everything welcome...there is a myspace page (see via Soundpony) or you can write nomco at for any other details.... I just printed some more flyers....Thanks, Happy T Day & COME TO THE MEET ! -nomco

The Stone Pony is located at 409 North Main Street in Tulsa.

(Nomco....if you see this, it would be helpful to know approximately when the swap begins, assuming it's before the ride. Put it in comments and I'll re-edit this....Ed....oh, and BTW, I'll try to be there.)


Friday, November 16, 2007

Home Depot and Zero Water

(UPDATE 18AUG2009. Please be aware that the comments following this post most likely originated with people connected to the Zero Water business in some way. Their perky, upbeat attitudes could only come from company shills -except for those coming from the anti-fluoridation wiggers. Honestly, if you need good information on water filtration systems, you shouldn't be looking for it in a bicycling blog! But if you truly need more authority than I can offer, Dr. Crankset may be along to address this issue sometime soon................Ed)

I was in Home Depot this afternoon. A salesman offered a small cup of water from his Zero water filtration system, and showed me the difference between tap, bottled, and filtered water. His gadget looks like an electronic thermometer, but he says it measures the "stuff" in the water. He wasn't exactly sure what the "stuff" was, but he could measure it. Naturally, the Zero system guessed All the other water was between 90 and 170 on the stuff-o-meter.

Then I asked if it removed giardia or viruses. "Well, not yet", he responded. "But we're adding a biologicals filter soon."

I asked if this was a reverse-osmosis device. "No", he said, "it's a triple filter." I thought triple filters were for vodka.

Then I asked if it removed fluorides. "Oh, yes! it removes all the fluoride." I said I have kids in the house and fluoride is good for their teeth. "Oh, no, fluoride is a poison. Read the label on a toothpaste tube. It says if you swallow it to seek medical attention."

Now, I don't mind talking with a salesman just doing his job, but I do object to the use of misinformation and fear mongering as a sales tactic. I'll give the guy points for doing a good presentation, but when my personal nut job alarm started sounding, I left quickly.

But there's a question in this after all - should a retailer permit on-site sales by an outside company when that company engages in deceptive sales practices?

Demo Day in Tulsa

This came in overnight from Adam Vanderburg, owner of Lee's Bicycles:

Saturday November 17 at 41st/Riverside & Sunday November 18 at Turkey Mountain from 10 to 3 each day. Trek Bicycle Store and Lee's Bicycles will host Tulsa's biggest demo day ever! Two large Trek trailers full of the newest, coolest, and greatest designs in bicycle technology. Trek and Gary Fisher will have the new Fuel Ex's & 29er mountain bikes as well as the new Trek Madones and Lemond Tete's road bikes in full sizes! They will be presented by Ken Derrico of Trek Co. and Ross Rushin of Women's Specific Designs. Don't miss it!!! Come this weekend and test ride your next dream bike!!! For more information please call 250-8130 or 743-4285.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

WKRP in Cincinnatti

Image from DVDTOWN.COM. Les Nessman (standing) and Dr. Johnny Fever on WKRP in CINCINNATI.

There was an episode of WKRP in Cincinnati in which a severe thunderstorm spawned tornadoes across the state of Ohio. Les Nessman, the station newscaster, was asked if he had an emergency announcement warning the area of the threat. “No,” he replied, “but I do have one in case we're invaded by the communist Chinese!”

OK, use that. But every where it says 'Chinese' substitute 'tornado'.”

The resulting announcement was bizarre, to say the least, as Les warned the listeners about the “godless tornadoes” roaring into the area. So I've done something similar,'ll figure it out.

The following is satire, I think:

I respect automobile drivers. I even drive myself from time to time, but there's no excuse for some of the behavior I've witnessed recently, particularly the wanton disregard of traffic lights and the speed limit.

I pay my taxes just like everyone else, and I expect our government to use those tax monies wisely. I object to the use of those monies to provide facilities for those who break the law with impunity by running red lights, speeding on our streets, scattering pedestrians, and imperiling everyone else on the road. The actions of these drivers are a stain on the whole of the driving public. I watched an intersection one afternoon as cars and trucks rolled through the stop sign one after the other. The only ones who stopped did so because there was cross traffic. Even a police car blithely rolled through without stopping.

Many of these people regard speed limit signs as mere suggestions or even a challenge. They routinely drive at 5 or 10 miles per hour over the limit, the 'fast' speeders stacking up behind the 'slow' speeders in the passing lane, forming a conga line of lawbreakers.

I strenuously object to paying for facilities set aside for the exclusive use of these people who are bent on terrorizing the rest of the population. Don't they know that their gasoline money goes to countries advocating violence against good, honest Americans? In effect, those lawless motorists are in league with terrorists, using their vehicles to mow down fellow Americans, and giving their money to those who would destroy us.

It's time to put a stop to all of that. Do it for the children orphaned by these reckless drivers. I'm not implying that all motorists are a danger to themselves and others, but the law abiding ones are few and far between. If their lawlessness continues, I see no reason to extend respect or consideration for any of them. I see no reason to spend my tax dollars to build wider, smoother roads so they can kill people more efficiently – and not be late for work. Frankly, until they begin to behave as responsible adults and obey the traffic laws, they don't deserve better roads. They'll only drive faster, anyway, and the new roads will be just as congested as the old ones.

If we want safer streets, we need safer drivers. A first step would be to forbid the use of any cellular telephone while driving. Likewise, we could reduce the incidence of distracted driving by removing all radios and cup holders. Eating or smoking in a motor vehicle while it's in motion should be outlawed as well. Motorists will still manage to crash, however, so we can make crashes more survivable by requiring the use of 5 point seat belts and mandatory crash helmets.

Any fool can get a drivers license and usually does. It's time we made the process of getting a license far more difficult and costly. A drivers license costs LESS than a hunting license, but apparently it too is a license to kill.

I look forward to a day when we'll be able to convert highway medians into parks where our children can play without fear of being dismembered by a runaway truck or a drunken motorist. I hope to see major intersections converted into baseball diamonds where children can play whiffle ball without being reduced to a puddle of bloody, ground meat with a few teeth sticking out, next to a broken pair of glasses and a torn sneaker.

"As God is my witness, I swear I thought turkeys could fly!"

I just had to say that!...............Ed

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Regarding Dave Moulton...

Know this right from the outset. I have the sensitivity of the average cinder block and as much subtlety as a punch in the nose.

Now, if you're thinking this is a case of one old dog honoring another's point, there's some truth in that. Those of us who write our opinions and post them in public have to be somewhat thick skinned. This was driven home for me when I posted what I thought was an innocuous piece in a local newsletter. Some of the responses were extremely rude, questioning my intelligence and even my children's parentage. People said things they wouldn't dare say in person, hiding behind a pseudonym or the ever-popular 'anonymous' post. One rule I've followed in all my posts – if you wouldn't say it face-to-face, don't say it on-line.

Honest, officer. I was just cleaning my fist when it went off and hit him right in the nose!”

I've written about rights and responsibility as they apply to cycling. Let's extend that to writing. Each of us has the right to speak our mind, and in fact, I believe we have a duty to do so in some situations. And I believe conflicting ideas should be discussed, because conflict forces us to think, and thinking is a Very Good Thing. Merely shouting slogans at each other is not a substitute for dialogue yet it seems to be the most common avenue of discourse these days. We're poorer for it.

Dave Moulton wrote a piece about 'masculinists' and took a lot of flack for posting it. I'd read it in passing and although it was a bit different from his usual posts, I didn't find anything offensive in it. Some of the comments, though, read as if western civilization could end due to Dave's ideas. Some were huffy and immediately dropped their subscriptions to his blog. I suspect their underwear is a couple of sizes too small, but that's merely speculation on my part. Regardless, the implication was almost childish. “See things my way or I'll take my marbles and go home!”

Don't let the door hit you in the ass on the way out.

Here on CycleDog, you'll find a simple point of view. Much of the content is opinion, and like Dave, I'm old enough to speak my mind and not worry about the consequences. I'm not here trying to get laid or butter someone up for a job change. I really don't care if someone takes offense.

Engaging in a dialogue requires we adhere to some rules, the very first of which should involve treating your opponent with ordinary civility. Small courtesies are the grease and oil of our social interactions, serving to reduce conflict and engender respect. Dave allows anonymous posts. I do not. Partly that has to do with squelching comment spam, but it also enforces a minimum level of accountability. Just as we are accountable for the contents of our posts, any of you choosing to comment should be responsible also.

Dave wrote that American men have little style sense about clothing. It's true. Americans are slobs. If you need proof, just pick a spot outside a department store, a coffee shop, or a mall and count the people who dress nicely. They're a tiny minority. Don't pick a spot outside WalMart especially if you're already depressed.

Once long ago, I worked for an Austrian ski retailer. He was appalled at the slovenly Americans who trooped in the front door and he reserved his most scathing criticism for American tourists in Europe. Naturally, he didn't breathe a word of this while he smiled and took their money.

Even so, I can't get too worked up about it even though I'm a member of the slob majority. I'm usually in work clothes even when off-duty because I won't hesitate to get down in the dirt or slide under a car. Mary says I'm particularly destructive toward trousers and shoes.

Dave wrote - “But my old tee shirt, baggy shorts, and flip-flops, are comfortable, you say. Let me ask you this; how would you feel if women, started dressing in this fashion? No make-up, or hair style, no attractive shoes and clothes. For me the world would become a dull and less beautiful place.

I'm really tempted to write something facetious about how women dress stylishly (for the most part) until after they get married. That's when they forego make-up, styled hair, and attractive shoes and clothes, especially if there are little children in the house. I know when my kids were small, we covered the essentials and struggled to get enough sleep. Mary's provocative lingerie went away a long time ago. When it's cold these days, she sleeps in one of my sweat suits. “They're warm and comfortable”, she said. These are about as sexy and attractive as, well, a sweat suit. But she stays warm and that's what counts.

I have old school habits, ones ingrained since childhood as yet another set of ordinary courtesies. I (gasp!) hold doors for women. I (oh the horror!) call young women 'honey' if I know them. I even reach for items on high shelves and offer to carry heavy stuff. Now before some of my more liberated female readers start having a hissy about my ingrained attitude reeking of male domination, let's make something perfectly clear. This isn't about you. It's about me. It's about treating people with ordinary courtesy, courtesies taught at a young age and allowing me to maintain a connection with those men and women who went before me. It's about honoring my father, my mother, and especially my wife. Opening a door or offering a hand when they get up from a chair isn't about showing my own superiority. Far from it. I was there when my children were born. Mary is tougher than I can ever hope to be, and while she's perfectly able to open a door for herself, I prefer to do it for her if only as a small way of showing my love and respect.

So, I'm an old fart with old habits that won't change easily. I don't respond well to attempts at pressure or intimidation. Let's put that down to having been a sprinter once upon a time, and sprinters, as you should know, are not noted for their anger management skills. The thin veneer of civility can be surprisingly fragile. But if I write something you find offensive, rude, arrogant, or simply wrong-headed, don't hesitate to comment about it. Just keep it civil.

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Tulsa Tough News

This is good news for women's bicycle racing in Tulsa! The Tulsa Tough is the premier regional racing and touring event, combining several races for the go-fast crowd with two tours for us more sedate types.

Malcolm McCollam posted this to the Tulsa Wheelmen last week. I intended to post it here and received his permission to do so, but as is often the case in our chaotic household, family intervened and I simply forgot all about it. Mea culpa...................Ed

For those not on USA Cycling's distribution list:

Tulsa Tough was recognized as one of the top events in the U.S. this week when USA Cycling awarded NRC status to our Women's Pro 1/2 race. The Tulsa Sports Commission & Tulsa Wheelmen, co-promoters of Tulsa Tough, sought this designation for the women's field only. Tulsa Tough overlaps the CSC Invitational in Arlington, VA, which annually attracts the top men's teams in the country. We saw an opportunity for Tulsa Tough, however, and decided
to more fully develop the Pro 1/2 Women's event. It is a testament to our staff and volunteers that after only two years we have achieved this status, and are excited about taking Tulsa Tough to the next level. Read more, below.

Malcolm McCollam
Tulsa Tough Event Director

* More than $1.2 million is again up for grabs to elite-level cyclists as USA Cycling announced its 2008 National Racing Calendar (NRC) on Wednesday. Entering its 12th season, next year's NRC features 35 events across 23 states and will again crown the nation's top domestic individuals
and teams. Of those 35 races, 31 of them will feature women's events while 28 will include men's racing. Beginning February 19 with the Santa Rosa Women's Grand Prix in California, the 2008 NRC lasts seven months before concluding with the Priority Health Grand Cycling Classic in Grand Rapids, Mitch., Sept. 6-7. The season-long calendar will once again feature the top
Pro-Am races in the nation as both professional and club-level teams will compete in all disciplines of road racing including criteriums, multi-day stage races, circuit races, road races, time trials and omniums. Seven events are new to the NRC including three women's-only events - the Santa Rosa Women's Grand Prix, the Susan G. Komens Cycle for the Cure and the Tulsa Tough Ride and Race. Men will see one new race on the NRC in 2008 with the addition of the Cox Charities Cycling Classic. Other new additions which will feature both men's and women's fields include the AT&T Austin Downtown Criterium, the Louisville Metro Police Foundation Criterium and the Priority Health Grand Cycling Classic. Also included on the 2008 calendar
are four past NRC events that weren't a part of the calendar last season including the Tour of Utah and the Fitchburg-Longsjo Classic. Two events that were a part of the USA Crits SE Series in 2007 - the Sunny King Criterium and the Nalley Historic Roswell Criterium - return to the NRC as stand-alone events for 2008. Of the 35 races on the 2008 NRC, 18 are criteriums. The calendar also features 10 stage races, four circuit races, one women's road race, one women's time trial and one omnium. A total of $688,000 is on the line for the men, while the women will be competing for a combined prize list of $523,000. The 2008 NRC also includes three internationally-sanctioned women's events by the UCI - the Tour de Leelanau in Traverse City, Mich. on May 24, the Mt. Hood Cycling Classic in Oregon, May 13-18 and the Commerce Bank Liberty Classic in Philadelphia on June 8. The men's portion of the Tour de Leelanau is also sanctioned by the UCI and therefore will again be part of the USA Cycling Professional Tour. The three UCI women's events, as well as the Nature Valley Grand Prix, the International Tour de 'Toona and the Presbyterian Hospital Invitational Criterium, have been designated as Category-1 events - the highest ranking a race can receive from USA Cycling. With a $50,000 prize list for men and $25,000 on the line for women, the Presbyterian Hospital Invitational
Criterium offers the richest single-day purses. The richest men's stage race is the $75,000 Tour of Utah, while the International Tour de 'Toona tops all women's stage races with a $57,000+ prize list. One noticeable change to the NRC model is the absence of six USA Cycling Elite National Championship events. Removed from the NRC for 2008 are the men's and women's road, time trial and criterium national championships - a decision made primarily because of the advantage given to clubs and teams with a greater number of American riders on their rosters.

2008 USA Cycling National Racing Calendar:

2/18: Santa Rosa Women's Grand Prix - Santa Rosa Calif. (Circuit Race)*
3/15: Sequoia Cycling Classic Time Trial - Visalia, Calif. (Time Trial)*
3/16: Sequoia Cycling Classic Criterium - Visalia, Calif. (Criterium)*
3/29: Susan G. Komens Cycle for the Cure - Macon, Ga. (Criterium)*
4/3-6: Redlands Bicycle Classic - Redlands, Calif. (Stage Race)
4/13: Garrett Lemire Memorial Grand Prix - Ojai, Calif. (Criterium)
4/19: Sea Otter Classic - Monterey, Calif. (Circuit Race)
4/30-5/4: Tour of the Gila - Silver City, N.M. (Stage Race)
5/3: Sunny King Criterium - Anniston, Ala. (Criterium)
5/4: Nalley Historic Roswell Criterium - Roswell, Ga. (Criterium)
5/8-11: Joe Martin Stage Race - Fayetteville, Ark. (Stage Race)
5/13-18: Mt. Hood Cycling Classic - Hood River, Ore. (Stage Race)
5/17: Bank of America Wilmington Grand Prix - Wilmington, Del. (Criterium)
5/24: Kelly Cup - Baltimore, Md. (Criterium)
5/24: Tour de Leelanau - Traverse City, Mich. (Circuit Race)*
5/26: Tour of Somerville - Somerville, N.J. (Criterium)
5/30-6/1: Tulsa Tough Ride and Race - Tulsa, Ok. (Omnium)*
6/1: CSC Invitational - Arlington, Va. (Criterium)
6/8: Commerce Bank Liberty Classic - Philadelphia, Pa. (Road Race)*
6/11-15: Nature Valley Grand Prix - Minnesota (Stage Race)
6/18-21: Tour de Nez - Reno, Nev. (Stage Race)**
6/21: AT&T Austin Downtown Criterium - Austin, Texas (Criterium)
6/28: Cox Charities Cycling Classic - Providence, R.I. (Criterium) **
6/29: Manhattan Beach Grand Prix - Manhattan Beach, Calif. (Criterium)
7/3-6: Fitchburg-Longsjo Classic - Fitchburg, Mass. (Stage Race)
7/19: Wells Fargo Twilight Criterium - Boise, Idaho (Criterium) **
7/21-27: The International Tour de 'Toona - Pennsylvania (Stage Race)
7/30-8/3: Cascade Classic - Bend, Ore. (Stage Race)
8/2: Presbyterian Hospital Invitational Criterium - Charlotte, N.C.
8/3: Hanes Park Classic - Winston-Salem, N.C. (Circuit Race)
8/13-17: Tour of Utah - Utah (Stage Race)**
8/16: Louisville Metro Police Foundation Criterium - Louisville, Ky.
8/24: Chris Thater Memorial - Binghamton, N.Y. (Criterium)
9/1: US 100K Classic - Atlanta, Ga. (Criterium)
9/6-7: Priority Health Grand Cycling Classic - Grand Rapids, Mich.

*Women Only
**Men Only

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Saturday, November 10, 2007

Photos and advice wanted...

(Image of armored Canon EOS 20D from RentKamera.No)

Brian Potter and I are doing a commuting presentation for the Tulsa Bicycle Club sometime after the first of the year. I'm looking for photos of commuting cyclists, their bikes and equipment, and all the other paraphernalia that gets attached to bikes and riders in order to make their commutes safer, more comfortable, and more enjoyable. In my case, that means an obligatory shot of the Melitta coffee maker stuffed into the top of a stainless steel water bottle.

I've already gone fishing through bicycle commuting photos on Flickr, and I've collected many showing ordinary people on bikes. Of course, I couldn't pass up a few of the very stylish images from Copenhagen Cycle Chic, nor some from Cycle-licious.

Since I want to make this relevant to local cyclists, I need photos of local cyclists. This is a good excuse to get out with a camera in my hands. We're going into Tulsa later today, so I'll be sure to take some pictures.

Now to the advice portion - I talked with Patrick Fox about using a helmet cam to show off some of the trails and cycling opportunities around the Tulsa area. I know NOTHING about helmet cams, so I'm asking all of you for advice regarding what to look for in a good one. Type slowly and use small words.

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Thursday, November 08, 2007

Tulsa Bike Lanes (LONG)

(Image from Alan Snel)

This was written as a response to a charge that the local bicycling advocacy group pursues their own narrow agenda, one that doesn't include all shapes, sizes, and abilities when it comes to riding a bicycle on the road. I'm trying to explain in detail why we oppose bike lane construction...............ed.

Kenosha said, “Like every good idea, the devil is in the details...I gotta be honest. I think they were/are wrong on at least two fronts: their strategy and in calling themselves bike advocates in the first place.”

This is a corollary to 'the large print giveth and the small print taketh away' – something anyone involved in advocacy should take to heart. The devil is truly in the details, and those details are worked out in utterly dull committee meetings. It's the nasty but necessary part of advocacy, sitting through endless meetings. It's where a good idea can die the death of a thousand cuts or a good proposal can become Frankenstein's monster.

Balancin' ain't bikin'!”...Preston Tyree

Preston Tyree is the education director for the League of American Bicyclists ( ) and he was one of my instructors at LCI class. That quote was his way of saying that knowing the physical aspect of riding a bicycle is far removed from knowing how to ride it safely in traffic. Similarly, I can teach my teenage son how to operate a car – where the controls are and how they work – in an afternoon, but it will take several years of driving experience for him to learn all the critical judgment skills he needs to be a safe, confident driver. Driver's education is a way to shorten that learning curve, just as bicycling education can shorten the learning process for cyclists.

I'm a League cycling instructor. That isn't meant to imply that I know everything about cycling and cyclists. Far from it, in fact. The League looks for the ability to teach, not an all-inclusive knowledge of bicycling. So in order to teach well, I have to study too, just as writing requires a lot of reading.

As for the local advocacy group, we are not bicycle advocates. That is the purview of manufacturers and businesses that exist to sell bicycles. We are bicycling advocates engaged in an effort to educate cyclists, motorists, law enforcement, and public officials regarding the best practices that make cycling enjoyable and safe. This demands an approach that reviews what's effective. By and large, bike lanes are not effective at providing real safety since the crash rates are essentially the same whether a bike lane is present or not. Bike lanes have an undoubted psychological effect, because people believe they're safer. However, statistics do not support this belief. People fear being hit from behind, the one type of crash that bike lanes are supposed to prevent. Yet hit-from-behind crashes are only about 10% of all bicycle/motor vehicle accidents, with 6% attributed to cyclists swerving in front of cars. Of the remaining 4%, about half result from a motorist not seeing a cyclist. These crashes are nearly always at night and involve a cyclist without reflectors or lights. The majority of bicycle/motor vehicle crashes, 85%, involve turning or crossing movements. Typically, that means intersections. Bike lanes make intersections more complicated. (Source- Effective Cycling by John Forester)

The division between facilities advocates (bike lane supporters) and vehicular cyclists (who believe cyclists should act and be treated as merely another vehicle on the road) is a fundamental disagreement about human nature. In very broad strokes, on one hand you have a camp that tries to influence behavior through engineering, paint, and concrete. The interstate highway system is an excellent example of this approach. On the other hand, you have a camp that tries to change behavior through education and training. Driver's Ed and the League's Bike Ed are examples of this approach.

While it's true that rigorous engineering standards can produce a very usable bike lane or system of bike lanes, eventually those lanes come to an end. Then what? When a motorist exits the interstate system, his behavior changes as an adaptation to the surface street network with its lower speed limit and myriad intersections. Some cyclists cannot or will not learn those adaptations that permit them to operate comfortably on a road surface shared with motor vehicles. That is their choice, but should the whole street network be changed to accommodate them? Would we think it's a good use of tax monies to re-design the roads to accommodate new drivers, in effect, using engineering to counteract their numerous driving errors as they learn?

We've all heard the complaint, “You can't get from A to B because there aren't any bike lanes!” Some cyclists, and sadly, some bicycling organizations, are utterly dependent on them. The advocacy group here in Tulsa has had the luxury of reviewing successes and failures in other regions, and takes a wider view of promoting cycling, one that empowers cyclists themselves so that they may ride safely on any roadway regardless of the presence or absence of a designated lane. We invest in people, not paint.

Kenosha complains that we are not trying got get more people onto their bicycles, that we don't care about increasing ridership. The “butts on bikes” approach to advocacy is widely endorsed by the bicycle manufacturers and the advocacy groups that rely on those manufacturers for large portions of their operating funds. While it's certainly desirable to get more people out of their cars and onto their bikes, and the Tulsa advocacy group does as much as it can to encourage and educate them, economic factors play a larger role. Every time the price of gasoline spikes, more people decide to use their bicycles for basic transportation, whether that's going back and forth to work or running errands. And every time that happens, we all see more sidewalk riders and wrong-way riders. Getting back to Preston's quotation up above, these people know how to balance, but they don't know how to ride on the street. They're intimidated by motor vehicle traffic so they ride on sidewalks where they have a 3 times greater chance of crashing. (Source – Effective Cycling)

Would any of us be in favor of turning more untrained drivers loose on the streets or re-designing our streets to accommodate untrained drivers? Probably not. Yet facilities proposals almost always get hyped as efforts to increase ridership, presumably because people can use them without any education or training. Again, statistics do not support this. Despite the ever-increasing expenditures on all types of bicycle facilities on the national scale, and the lobbying efforts of bicycle manufacturers, bicycle sales have remained essentially flat while spending increased by an order of magnitude. Indeed, the Thunderhead Alliance Benchmarking Report stated flatly that cyclist numbers have been declining since 1960. Bicycle Retailer and Industry News (BRAIN) had a statistics issue in April of 2007, using the National Sporting Goods Association figures of 40 million cyclists (those who use a bicycle even once are counted) and another figure of 5-6 million who used their bicycles more than 110 days per year. (Source – BRAIN and NSGA)

We're being asked to set public policy and spend public money to entice motorists from their cars, and get those occasional cyclists – roughly 35 million if that figure up above is accurate – to ride their bikes more often. We've spent ever-increasing amounts of money to do so, yet the number of cyclists remains flat. In 1992, we spent $22.9 million. In 2006, it was $394.9 million, more than 17 times the 1992 figure. Why promote the same policies and initiatives that presume to increase the numbers of cyclists when those proposals have no effect?

We agree on many things like smooth pavement and signals that reliably detect cyclists, yet because we do not agree on the benefits of bike lanes Kenosha insists that we cannot be bicycling advocates. Instead, we're a “special interest group.” I find that more than slightly odd, since to my way of thinking a special interest group wants something from government, usually something that involves spending more tax money on their pet projects. We don't do that. We merely ask that the laws be enforced and that public monies spent on our roads and streets benefit all users. “Cyclists fare best when they act and are treated as drivers of vehicles.” I don't see any demand for special treatment or exclusivity in that.

Kenosha said, “Anyone who doesn’t ride the way they do; with confidence, in traffic, on EVERY road; shouldn’t be riding a bike. If you’ve ever ridden on a sidewalk, you are out. If you are too scared to ride in the street, you are not one of them. If you think trails, like the Creek Turnpike Trail are a good idea, you’re out.

Let's take these one at a time. First, riding with confidence. Were any of us born with the confidence necessary to ride a bicycle or operate a motor vehicle in heavy traffic? I certainly wasn't. I distinctly remember that death grip on the steering wheel the first time my Dad let me drive. Going around street corners was difficult because I would not let go. I was scared. But in time I learned to drive the car and with experience came confidence. Riding a bicycle in traffic is no different. It's a skill that can be learned and doesn't require any steely-eyed macho bullshit.

Next, sidewalk riding, wrong-way riding, and fear. I lump these together because fear is the common denominator. People are terrified of riding in traffic, so much so that they'll do some things that appear to be safe, yet have the opposite effect. Forester calls this the cyclist inferiority superstition, yet I think a simpler description is ordinary fear. It need not be rational or justified to have an impact on behavior, as anyone who's sat through a horror movie can attest. As I said earlier, sidewalk riding has crash rates three times that of riding in the road, because every other sidewalk and driveway is an intersection, and intersections are where the crashes occur. Wrong-way riders are equally fearful in traffic, but their position on the roadway puts them where motorists do not look. How many of us have had the unpleasant experience of having a wrong-way cyclist suddenly appear in front of us? As motorists, we're effectively programmed to look for vehicles approaching in the proper lane as we pull out at an intersection. Wrong-way cyclists simply don't register.

Someone in the crowd is sure to say, “Statistics don't mean much when you're the one being loaded into an ambulance!” Specifically, that would be my mother. While it's a common response to all those dry statistics, it's an emotional argument that ignores their true impact. Decisions and public policy should be based on rational discussion, not emotion, however appealing. There's no denying that emotion, specifically fear, is a common subject when the idea of riding on the street is presented. If you remember your first driving experience, it's likely you were nervous or fearful. I distinctly remember sweaty palms and a death-grip on that steering wheel. But as we learned to drive, we can also learn to ride bicycles safely and confidently. None of us were born with that confidence. It had to be learned. For some, it was a long, slow process involving years of trial and error. For others it was much faster, either through club riding or a more formal education plan. The point is it can be learned.

Trails. I don't know of anyone who opposes building trails or linear parks other than the NIMBY types who hate these projects until they see the positive effect on their real estate prices. I've written previously that I oppose the use of transportation money for some trail construction, particularly when a project has no transportation value. An overly-simplified example would be a trail that leaves a parking lot, winds around a pretty lake, and returns to the parking lot without any connection to another destination. When such a facility is clearly intended for recreation only, it should be built with parks and recreation funds, not transportation money. That's not really a bicycling issue. It's more in the realm of good governance. But most trails in the Tulsa area could justifiably be called transportation projects since they connect people with popular destinations. So it shouldn't be surprising to learn that the various entities responsible for trail construction and maintenance try to push off expenses onto somebody else's budget. That's one reason trails can be difficult to construct and maintain. They cross between city, county, state, federal, and tribal lands, and various departments of each level of government may have some responsibilities.

Bike lane deficiencies

Design. Anyone with even a little cycling experience has encountered poorly designed facilities like the magical, vanishing bike lane on Archer, the abrupt corners on the Creek Turnpike trail, or a host of others. Too often a public works department will design and build a bicycle facility as cheaply as possible in order to conserve funding for more 'important' projects. A shoddy facility is tossed out as a sop to local cycling interests, and sadly, some cyclists are happy to get any facility, even a bad one. AASHTO standards are ignored. As motorists, should we accept poorly designed roads?

Maintenance. Poorly maintained bike lanes are simply dangerous. Debris collects because car tires do not sweep it away. An amazing assortment of car parts can be found in bike lanes too, many of them hazardous to bicycle tires. For particularly bad examples, look at Mohawk Boulevard west of Mohawk Park, Archer Street on the North side, or the shoulders of 46th Street west of Mingo Road. What inspires motorists to throw bottles out of their windows, strewing glass all over the road side?

Dependency. As noted above, some cyclists cannot imagine riding on the road with traffic under any circumstances. So if a bike lane isn't available to their destination, they simply won't ride there. Some so-called advocacy organizations feed into this dependency by insisting that these fearful cyclists must be accommodated on area roadways. These organizations exaggerate the dangers associated with road cycling, generating more fear (as as a byproduct, more dues monies).

Complacency. Both cyclists and motorists regard the solid white line delineating a bike lane as a wall between their traffic lanes. Cyclists think that motorists will never cross it to the right, and motorists think cyclist will never cross it to the left. In reality, the painted stripe merely provides the illusion of safety. People will swerve across the line when necessary, and the danger is that the unprepared motorist or cyclist can be caught unaware. I've witnessed people making left turns from a bike lane, and I've also seen motorists make a right turn across the path of a cyclist (a maneuver commonly called the 'right hook'). In that instance, a bike lane traps the cyclist into a smaller area on the road, giving him less room to maneuver and try to avoid a car. Likewise, a bike lane puts the cyclist closer to the curb where he's less likely to be seen by a motorist pulling out from a side street in front of him. Being further left in the travel lane makes him much morre visible and give him maneuvering room.

Disingenuous concern. A motorist pulled up beside me and said, “You really shouldn't be riding here until the city builds some bike lanes!” It was more polite than the common, “Get the hell off my road!” but the intent was the same. Ultimately, bike lanes are more beneficial to motorists than cyclists, putting those slow-moving bikes off the roadway so more 'important' traffic can speed by unimpeded.

Bicycling education deficiencies

Here's the biggest one – most people believe that since they learned to ride a bicycle in the fourth grade, they don't need bicycling education. That their knowledge hasn't progressed much since then just doesn't occur to them. Surprisingly, the most resistant group is composed of experienced cyclists.

In conclusion.

Recent tragedies in Boise, Portland and Seattle, where cyclists were killed in the bike lane, highlight the perfect storm of bad law, bad design, and bad choices on the part of both drivers and cyclists. It's truly sad that it takes some deaths to make cyclists, motorists, public officials, and law enforcement re-think the issues regarding bicycle lanes and question the initial assumptions that lead to their implementation.

Finally, as an example of the futility of bike lanes, consider the following examples. In Portland where bike lanes run continuously to the intersection, some cyclists are now referring to them as 'suicide slots' because motor vehicle traffic is required to make right turns from the lane to the left of the bike lane. In California, on the other hand, motor vehicles are required to merge into the bike lane before making a right turn. New York City is experimenting with a physically separated bike lane, where the bike lane is to the right of parked cars. All of them illustrate the basic flaw in trying to gold-plate a large chunk of fecal matter.

It's time for a new approach, a fresh sheet of paper, and that could involve lowering speed limits, re-purposing city streets, adding new licensing requirements, and incorporating more extensive driver and cyclist training. I'm open to ideas, but not the failed ideas of the past.

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Wednesday, November 07, 2007

I had this dream, see...

Dream Machine?

I've been off the bike for the last couple of weeks. First, there was some persistent knee pain and a saddle sore that just refused to heal. I tried various balms and potions on the sore, but eventually I came around to considering a drill press, the Pace machine at work, or even the nuclear option. The Pace soldering/desoldering station was really attractive, since it has a grinding attachment and thermal tweezers in addition to the usual soldering accoutrements. I gave some thought to the potential for traumatizing my co-workers by heating the tweezers, dropping my trousers, and....well...never mind.

Then shiftlessness set in. I was overwhelmed with simple, cussed laziness. Driving the car was just too easy, though I have to admit that the saddle sore made me sit kinda funny, with one cheek slightly elevated. This put a strain on my neck, shoulders, and back, so they hurt too. Fun, fun.

One morning, I stood on the bathroom scale for the first time in a long time. After it stopped spinning, a process that seemed to take minutes, I was appalled to see that I'd gained a LOT of weight! More dummy me, continuing eating like a horse without getting any exercise.

So is it any wonder I dreamed of bicycling?

I dreamed that I was riding in the Tour de France. And true to form, I was way off the back somewhere behind the vehicle caravan. I can't even win in my dreams! What does that say? A following vehicle was a mile or two behind me, following stragglers even slower than I was. I had to reach an airport to catch a flight to Oklahoma City, where that day's stage would end. But I was so slow that I missed the flight. It left without me. The only other aircraft was an old Cessna 4-seater that a mechanic was working on as I arrived. It obviously wasn't going anywhere.

The airport manager walked up and told me that I could still reach OKC. "We'll drive you there!" he said proudly. His car was an old Simca that was in worse shape than the Cessna. How we were to drive to OKC from France was never mentioned.

It was 4AM when I awoke. The dream was so preposterous that I sat in the dark chuckling about it.

At 5AM, I was up getting ready for work. I rolled the Bianchi out of the garage and pushed off down the hill. It was like meeting an old friend I hadn't seen in some time. We spun along happily with the help of a cold but friendly tailwind, and we didn't speak of the Tour.

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Sunday, November 04, 2007

Randal O'Toole

(Image from Canal Houses of Amsterdam)

The Wash Cycle, a blog about cycling in Washington, DC, has an interesting interview with Randal O'Toole from the Cato Institute - a conservative think tank - about the futility of encouraging bicycle commuting. He said,"I don't think encouraging cycling is going to reduce congestion or significantly change the transportation makeup of our cities." O'Toole is a bicycle commuter.

"There really is very little evidence that any of (these efforts) are reducing the amount of driving. They're just making it more annoying to drivers....While I think some cycling and bus projects might be cost effective, I don't expect anything but road improvements (and road pricing) will make a significant dent in congestion."

Regarding Copenhagen and Amsterdam and their high bicycle usage rates above 30%, O'Toole said, "The high rates reported for those cities only apply to the very dense central cities. The suburbs of those cities tend to be low in density (one urban planning historian wrote that they were "indistinguishable" from American suburbs, which isn't really true, but functionally it is true) and have high rates of auto usage."

I'm wary of people who tout Copenhagen as a kind of cycling nirvana, and by extension, seem to think that we can do the same. There are huge differences between those cities and any American city. First, outside of a few of our oldest city cores that were constructed on a pedestrian scale, low density building is the norm. Greater commuting distances require motor vehicles or mass transit to get people between their homes and their jobs. The anti-sprawl zealots would gladly combine the two in one neighborhood, but it seems most American people don't want mixed use development. We're happy to keep zoning laws that separate homes and industry. And come to think of it, since much of Europe has been high-density for a millennium or so, maybe those people who left to settle here did so for a reason. High density is just a more polite term for over crowding.

Another contributing factor to high bicycle use is simple economics. Gasoline is far more expensive in Europe than it is here. If I recall right, a gallon of gas sells for the equivalent of $8. I can't speak for everyone, but I know that in our house, if it cost nearly $100 to fill the tank of the family sedan, I'd bike more and drive less.

Finally, I want to point out that for some of those who label themselves as bicycling advocates, their motives have more to do with hating and fearing motor vehicles. It's true. As O'Toole said, some efforts are aimed at making driving more annoying, and as I see it, much of the anti-sprawl advocacy has this at its heart. Being pro-cycling is not the same as being anti-car.

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Some questions...

(Image from Hello Kitty Hell)

Since there's no one of us as smart as all of us put together, I have a question for the crowd.

I'm working on a post that needs some statistical support, specifically, good estimates of bicycle usage here in the US. Now it's fairly easy to come up with some figures in Google, but they vary from a low of about 40 million to a high of 80 million. Statistically, that qualifies as a wild-assed-guess.

But I had an idea. What about estimates of tire sales, tire manufacturing numbers, or tire imports? Tires wear out much faster than bikes, so that while bicycle sales numbers may be relatively flat, tire usage may better indicate short-term variations.

I'm speculating that some people will get their dusty old bike out of the shed, put new tires on it, and ride it to work or the grocery store. Bike usage goes up. Bike sales do not.

Any ideas?

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Saturday, November 03, 2007

The DARPA Challenge

(Image from Tom's Games)

Wired has a defense-related blog called Danger Room. I've been following the lead up to the DARPA challenge, a contest pitting robotic vehicles against each other on a real world road course. The DoD has an interest in this, because if they're able to develop robotic vehicles that can operate unassisted, they do not need vulnerable humans behind the wheel and exposed to IEDs.

But as we all know, cutting edge technology trickles down into civilian applications. How would you feel about sharing the road with a robotic bus or delivery truck? I haven't seen anything about how these systems react to pedestrians or cyclists, and I certainly wouldn't want to be the cyclist who tests whether it can reliably detect and avoid us.

But rest assured, if the costs come down as they always do, these systems will be used to get rid of those pesky humans (and their unions) who operate trucks and buses.

Excerpts follow.

Urban Challenge Bots Ready to Race on Saturday

By Michael Belfiore

...The robot cars--all stock vehicles outfitted with laser range finders, cameras and other sensors, and crammed full of computers--will line up on the starting line early tomorrow morning, and take off at 8:00 a.m. on perhaps the strangest auto race ever.

The cars will all have to obey a 30-mile-per-hour speed limit, will have to stop at intersections, signal their turns, and obey all California traffic laws. And absolutely no one will be driving--not by remote control, and certainly not in the driver's seats.

Along with the robots will be 50 brave souls wearing crash helmets and driving Ford Tauruses to provide circulating traffic for the robots, whose purpose is to test the technologies for fully autonomous vehicles. The Pentagon wants robots to drive convoys in Iraq.

...For complete race coverage, keep your browser pointed right here at the Danger Room. Also look for DARPA's webcast at

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Friday, November 02, 2007

This just in...

The phone rang a few minutes ago. One of the managers from Camille's here in Owasso called to talk to my son. The short of it is this - the restaurant has closed and Jordan lost his job. He's a bit upset. He liked working there.

So it looks like after football practice tomorrow morning, he's going to be out looking for another job.

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Tulsa Bicycle Club Meeting 1NOV2007

"We're gettin' the band back together, man!"

(Image from Century Novelty)

Tulsa Bicycle Club Meeting
Martin Regional Library

(Note: This is a preliminary post and may be subject to further editing.)

The first presentation was from Matt Meyer, Executive Director of Tulsa River Parks. He noted that River Parks maintains 23 miles of trails on both sides of the river, as well as the festival park. Since it's inception iun 1974, Tulsa River Parks has had 57/47 split between public and private funding. They rely heavily on donations and grants. The Kaiser Foundation is giving $12.4 million for trail construction and the design is being done by Land Plan Consultants. He covered much of the financials for Vision 2025, the 4 to Fix, and the third penny sales tax since they fund the low water dams, shoreline beautification, and more.

Vision 2025

$5.6m low water dams

$1.8 m shoreline beautification

$2.1 m upstream catch basin

4 to fix

Zink dam 650K

Katy trail 200k

3rd penney sales tax

$7.6 million Festival park

$2.9 m widen trails

$500 K park facilities rehab

Patrick Fox gave the other presentation. He's the bicycling and pedestrian planner for INCOG and describes his job as multimodal transportation planning. He had a 1999 copy of the Tulsa Trails Master Plan as well as a copy of the Thunderhead Alliance benchmarking report. (I would have liked to read both and discuss them with Patrick, but time didn't permit.) Tulsa currently has 150 miles of trails and bikeways, with another 283 miles planned for the off-street system and 207 miles planned for the on-street system. That will give the area a total of 490 miles.

He talked about the 5 E's of bicycling: engineering, education, enforcement, encouragement, and evaluation. Each of these were discussed in greater detail. Much of his talk centered on trails, bicycle enhancements like visual detection, surveys, statistics, and maintenance issues. Patrick asked that if anyone has a question or concern regarding maintenance, they should call him because many of the trails are maintained by different agencies.

Patrick described 4 categories of cyclists, mainly as a way of highlighting the different requirements they have. They are:

The strong and fearless. These folks will ride anywhere.

The enthused and confident. Mainly club cyclists who are comfortable on the road and in group rides.

The interested but concerned. They're fearful in traffic, but the group offers the greatest potential for growth

No way, no how! This is pretty much self-explanatory.

He gave a brief trails update. I didn't manage to write it all down. But the one project I asked about was the Haikey Creek bridge, also known as the infamous FEMA bridge. The feds approved the project and it's been languishing on a city desk for some time. But the good news is that the prefabricated bridge is supposed to begin construction in January. “Which January?” was the immediate question from someone in the crowd.

Political support for bicycling projects is at an all-time high right now, with a 'perfect storm' of political, private and grass-root efforts. This is unprecedented, according to Patrick. The Tulsa area enjoys the support of the Kaiser Foundation for trails, the Warren Foundation for T-townie bikes and police bikes, the TU yellow bike program, the Tulsa Tough, Little 100, Tour de Tulsa, and the MS150. Mayor Taylor was directly involved in the Bicycle Friendly City application to the League of American, an unusual level of support.

LAB did not approve the Tulsa BFC application. In doing so,they pointed out 2 areas for improvement: a comprehensive bicycle plan and a complete streets policy. Tulsa needs these to increase usage and provide benchmarks for safety and ridership. A complete streets policy is meant to accommodate all users of all ages and abilities on our roads.

Patrick wants to reconvene the INCOG bicycling subcommittee soon. One caveat – he knows that LAB thinks bike lanes are a good idea, but the local LCIs do not. He's wondering how to get around this.

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Thursday, November 01, 2007

Thursday Musette

(Image from Vintage Velos)

Fritz reports over on Cycle-licious that natural disasters are good for search engine results. And it was good of him do do so because it reminded me that Oklahoma just had eruption, followed by a tsunami....and a dust storm. The big wave met the dust storm and it rained mud everywhere. We're just digging out from under it, in fact. Mud. Honest.

Also, Fritz appeared on the Spokesmen Podcast! He has a deep, almost gravel-like voice. I'll bet when he has a cold, he sounds like Barry White. Oh baby, baby.

I'm off in less than an hour to attend the Tulsa Bicycle Club meeting. I gave some thought to doing live blogging from there since the library has a free wi-fi connection. But I want to take photos too, so instead of the computer bag I'll carry the camera bag and a notepad. There was a bad moment earlier when I thought the camera's SD card had gone Tango Uniform, but it was only a brain glitch on my part.

Kristen Glover is on the TV doing yet another car commercial for daddy's lot. If her voice were a little bit higher, she'd only annoy the dogs 'cause I wouldn't be able to hear her. Just like those ring tones that only my kids can hear.

The news is doing a bit on performance enhancing drugs. It's the lead on ABC. Investigators have the names of over 30,000 customers of illegal labs producing steroids. As another blogger noted, in professional baseball, a first offense gets you counseling. In professional bicycle racing, it gets you fired.