My name is Jason and this blog is about bikes and biking, plain and simple. I don't claim to be a gear head, a former pro, a hipster or an afficionado. I just like to ride my bicycle.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

"Oh, you're going to get it..."

Do you remember that feeling you used to get when you were a child and you knew you were going to be in trouble? Not just 'trouble' but life ending, seriously deep, capital T-trouble.  At the time you were committing whichever atrocity it might have been you knew that if you got caught then that would be the end of you. The fundamentally ominous foreboding experienced at the words, “Wait until your father gets home,” or “Go to your room until I talk to your mother.” Only prisoners on death row dining on their last meals can relate to the sense of knowing terror awaiting the child caught with their hand in the cookie jar; awaiting the inevitable spanking, chewing out or interminable grounding to come.

Riding in today amidst the warmth of the rising sun, a cool 30 morning on this eve of Thanksgiving, I gave thanks. I gave the thanks of a cyclist, the thanks of a child, who knows he is about to be punished. I’m so thankful for all that I’ve been given…and while I’m at it…I’m really sorry too for a whole bunch of stuff and whatever…amen. On the north western horizon of the metro area stands a wall of seriously heavy dark clouds. The blizzard, arriving as promised to the northern and central front range. By nightfall our temperature may be 6 degrees. The winds might be blowing at 30mph. It also might be snowing…or raining frogs…or both, who knows? All I know is that I’ll be on a bike headed westbound at about 4:30pm…preparing to be spanked.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Swinging Back

"I'm going to be swinging my arms like this, and if any part of you should happen to get in the way, that's YOUR problem!" - Bart Simpson

On July 3, 2010 Martin Joel Erzinger, a fund manager for Smith and Barney, ran into visiting New York cyclist Dr. Steven Milo with his Mercedes in Vail, CO. Rather than stopping like a responsible citizen, Erzinger drove home and called--wait for it--the Mercedes Benz body shop to come out and take a look at his wounded car. Meanwhile, Dr. Milo lay on the side of the road with a broken knee, shoulder, spine and brain damage. At least he was in a scenic place to bleed to death. In true salt in the gaping head wound fashion, the Vail District Attorney just announced that they're going to drop felony charges against Erzinger in favor of 2 misdemeanor traffic charges. If, like me, you're a math person then please allow me break it down for you math style otherwise your logic minded brain may struggle to digest this:

Nearly killing someone + Cowardice<=Broken Tail Light + Speeding

Brain damage and cowardice traded for a slap on the wrist because of the clout and power of Erzinger's employer and deep pocket local connections to the well heeled in Vail.  Very well done indeed. Apparently big time money managers don't have to play by any of the rules: they can help muddle up Wall Street wrecking our economy and taking our bail out dollars and they can run you off the road and drive off without a second thought...that is unless their precious beemer is somehow tarnished. I for one am planning a career change. I wanna be one of these guys seems so glamorous and thoughtless; like watching Jersey Shore in your underwear all day while eating caviar.

If you doubt me and think that I'm making up such a fanciful fairy tale of blatant stupidity, ignorance and favoritism, please feel free to check out the Vail Daily article. If you check out the link and are as 'mildly annoyed' as I was with the DA's disregard for our injustice system in favor of padding pockets and coddling his fellow rich neighbors, then sign the petition on this site asking that the felony charges not be dropped. Some are even calling for a boycott of the Vail TT stage of the upcoming Quiznos Pro Challenge race as a means of sending a message to the Vail fatcats and bike hating attorneys that this type of under-the-rug-sweeping is not to be tolerated. While I've been to Vail many times and have ridden there on several of those visits I have to say I'm on the fence with this strategy. Vail is a great place to ride both around town on their many paths as well as through the surrounding mountain side trails and mountain pass peak climbs. People in Vail (the real people in Vail not the fake cardboard ones cut out and placed in the windows of $2.5 million dollar vacation homes to make them look occupied in the 'off season') really love their bikes, skis and outdoor environs. They're not the type who'd support a bike bashing, car fixing, head wound causing, felony charge dropping attorney and his havoc causing money manager sidekick. I know from reading some of the forums and comment boards related to this story that the locals are pissed. I too share in their pissed-off-ed-ness.

But this tragedy brings up stark reminders of the other countless examples of the law siding with the driver and not the victim in these car vs. bike encounters, like the story of Kevin Flock who was killed by Aaron Stapleton a Virginia Army Recruiter.  Stapleton got off completely with similar wrist slapping (only to be caught driving recklessly 30 days later after running through a fence)...oh yeah Flock, he's still dead at least according to Google.  Under no other circumstances can a person do catastrophic and negligent physical harm to another person and face the prospect of easily getting off quite like running over a cyclist with your car...unless of course you're Dick Cheney and you shoot your hunting buddy in the face. As I've said before, our justice system somehow seems to sympathize with, or at least relate to, the trials and complications facing motorists; it 'understands' how such accidents can happen. Silly cyclists shouldn't be on the roads anyway, they're dangerous places what with all the reckless cars driving about on them. When a woman in a large SUV ran over an 11 year old girl riding her bike in her north metro neighborhood she got off because the girl was going the wrong way. It doesn't matter that the driver was on the phone and not paying attention: the stupid wrong way riding child apparently got what she deserved not 3 blocks from her home. What happened to the postal worker who killed Shahram Moghadamnia on 32nd 2.5 miles from my home? Not much from what I could find, and the family's case is bogged down in civil court (its been 2 years); that sounds like good old American justice doesn't it? We all understand, accidents can happen, and yet where's the responsibility for owning one's mistakes should the accident cause severe injury to the victim or be the result of negligence?
In Erzinger's case he didn't even stop. With all his money, clout, professional skills, he couldn't even stop to man up to his actions. Our money craven society worships Erzinger's business accumen, financial achievement, economic impact and monetary value, and holds him up as an exemplar of the great American capitalistic ideal and yet this guy's a coward and a loser...and in my opinion not worth the spit or piss it would take to put him out if he were on fire...ok so now I'm just ranting in quite a childish manner and to no real end. So to my starting point, a-la Bart Simpson, and in homage to the spirit of the great American, bullying, motorist public, I'm going to continue the childishness by swinging my arms wildly when walking around in public. If I happen to hit someone then it won't be my fault...cause everyone has now been duly warned. I'm swinging. I'm swinging with purpose but not intent and so come what may...Maybe when swinging I'll be distracted. Maybe I'll have an important meeting to go to, or I'll be late for coffee with Buffy and Bobo.  Sure I might cause a black eye or two or some with it. You shouldn't be walking where I'm swinging anyway. That's essentially how it works right? Cyclist you've been warned: cycling is a dangerous and foolish activity to do around motorists. Cars are big and comfy and drivers are distracted and in a hurry and self important, so if you happen to get hit then its YOUR problem. Well, we'll see who hits who first.

Friday, November 5, 2010

Farewell Sunshine

This afternoon I greeted the final rays of daylight savings light with the same knowing of one who knows their last days are nigh. To add insult to injury, the fleeting sunshine carried with it a warmth and comfort more akin to a May evening than an early November one. I concurred with Kate’s sentiment entirely, I could kept on riding as well. Instead, as I climbed the driveway after a long, meandering, detour filled, ride home tonight I turned and looked towards the growing shadows all around me and heading inside turned my back on one more summer. This is a bittersweet time of year. It marks the end of what is generally a hectic season of activity (riding or otherwise) and ushers in the season of long nights inside reflecting and relaxing. On the other hand it marks the onset of a 4 month stint of cold, dark rides home, the roadway illuminated solely by the passing lights of cars and the small lumen output of my CatEye headlight. There’s something isolating and saddening about riding home on a chilly 32 degree night in the dark. The prospect is not something to anticipate with enthusiasm or relish. I enjoy being seen clearly while riding. I enjoy seeing clearly while riding. I don’t exactly enjoy feeling my way dumbly in the dark. But there’s no use hoping against the inevitable; its time to ‘fall back’. So, popping the top off my festive, snowy bike bottle cap on my New Belgium Two Below, I toast the fading light of summer; all hope, warmth and memory saved within their diminishing glow. Here’s to another summer put to rest, and a fine one at that.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Golden Finale

 Last Tuesday Kate and I trucked it out to Golden one last time for the final Golden Cruise ride of the 2010 season. The afternoon's cold winds and dropping mercury made the farewell even more bittersweet. A good sized crowd of costumed riders gathered at Woody's Pizza at 7:00 for a Halloween themed procession through the streets of Golden. There were witches, cowboys, ewoks, Star Wars speeder bikes, dead girl scouts, hippies and hipsters alike and even Chuck Norris made an appearance.

Chuck Norris
Kate...I mean Chuck at the Golden Cruise
Although it was really freaking cold, it was a great time and with everyone in a festive spirit, the atmosphere was lively despite the chill.  For my costume I went as a farmer; straw hat, plaid shirt, jeans, boots and leather gloves. Otherwise an unassuming costume, but I made sure to bring my John Deere with me as well...what farmer doesn't have one right?
John Deere Tractor Bike

John Deere Tractor Bike
The Golden tally:  6 nights of cruising, 125 pieces of pizza scarfed (approximate figures), a few beers consumed, 1 striped alpaca beer cozy crafted, some ninja kickin', cruiser rollin', John Deere green cardboard wheel totin' cruiser fun. Until next year cruisers, see you in March!

Thursday, October 21, 2010

Personal Space

Let’s talk about a very touchy subject called:  personal space. Outside the scope of certain friends and intimate relations it is generally considered rude in American culture to 'get up in one's grill' in the parlance of our times, or otherwise invade one's personal space. Even without direct contact, the sheer presence of one averse to the fundamental understandings of proximal relationships can make an otherwise normal occurrence very uncomfortable. The close talker, the casual shoulder toucher, the close passer, hand grabber, awkward chest looker...these are all creepy intrusions into the private sphere of personal space. Unless you're standing on a crowded bus, elevator or playing rugby people generally respect boundaries and try not to engage in too much unsolicited bumping, grinding, touching or encroaching.

So with such a well understood concept governing our interactions with strangers walking down the street or pushing our carts at the store, why then do we struggle to apply such courtesies to the road; its a mystery to me. Let's play a little Rorschach style game and try and figure this mystery out if we can.

What do you see here?
Clearly it’s a sign that says “Bike Route”, but what could be meant by this? It might mean…that the designated roadway is--a route for bikes. This would then mean that bikes could be routed along it, which thusly could also mean that people could actually ride their bikes on this surface (and in fact are encouraged to do so.) So if you happen across such a bike propelled by such a person on such a surface designated with such signage, then you should perhaps do your best not to run them over and in missing them narrowly show your disgust at their very presence on the same plane of existance as you with your colorful hand gesturing.

So now, how about this one?
This is a trickier one, while both symbolic and declarative its not entirely specific. “Ahead” is a very vague term in the grander sense of the entire space time continuum. But unless you are Steven Hawking (or his clone), then this sign means that BIKES have a LANE...AHEAD....generally meaning right freakin' there. This would indeed be separate from the normal general use lanes of traffic commonly seen on either sides of the dashed yellow line.

As in this picture for example:
Now clearly the symbols and copious use of paint show us the exact distinction of spaces for use by bicycles (hint:  it’s the one with the picture painted on the ground) and the other general use traffic lane (hint:  the one without the picture of the bike on the ground). Now you might think that such a sophisticated species with unwritten social mores around personal space would appreciate the actual designation of separate physical spaces as outlined by these markings. And yet not everyone seems to get this. Take this example:
Clearly law is not enough if the business people of the law cannot seem to unravel and decipher its tangled intricacies. How can I expect the average Joe to know the difference? Clearly the half dozen or more Joe's on my ride home from work today really struggled with the concept about as much as the professional law enforcement types depicted above. Well I suppose that’s the crux of it. Taken as a whole, the Bike Route, Bike Lane, Bike Pictures and Solid White Painted Line SHOULD suffice it to say to the general motoring public: STAY OUT OF MY DAMNED PERSONAL SPACE and yet that seems to challenge some who see this congruence of pictures and paint and think: passing lane, turning lane, parking lane, u-turn lane, my lane. Well guess what, its actually MY LANE, so its my space when I’m occupying it. That means get your close talking, shoulder touching, close passing, hand grabbing, chest looking, bike lane driving ass out of it!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Orange Ride

Today Bike Denver, and the Denver Broncos hosted the NFL's first bike to a game promotion. Called the Orange Ride, 4 large group rides left separate Denver area bars for a massive cruiser convergence at the afternoon's Bronco's Jets game. All told over 450 riders made the trip to Mile High Stadium for the pre-party and game. A stalwart crew of volunteers manned 3 shifts to organize the parking area, handle the crowd of eager bike riders and park bikes for the duration of the game.  Kate and I made the trip down to volunteer on the first crew and had a great time. Hopefully the successful debut of this event encourages not only Denver, but other cities to support the concept. Seeing the gridlocked throng of cars attempting to file into narrow $30 a spot parking near the field, the close in comforts of an easy bike ride and secure parking at the threshold of the stadium makes biking to the game the clear winner. If there are other Orange Rides in the future, I'd definitely recommend them.
Kate's Puch cruiser prominently displayed at the Orange Ride.
Bike Parking at Invesco Field at Mile High.
Denver B Cycle
One of the first rides to arrive.
Packing them in at the bike corral.

This ref isn't holding anything back.

Bike tail-gating for the Orange Ride.

Denver Mayor and candidate for Governor, John Hickenlooper leads the last of the VIP bike rides.

An entire herd of B-Cycles in the corral.

Wonderful bikes...over 450 of them.

A willing designated driver for after the game.
Unfortunately the warm weather, clear skies, rally towels and bike powered fan base couldn't cheer the Broncos to victory this afternoon. At least it was a great day for a ride.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

I'm a Person for Bikes...Are You?

So I found my way to the People for Bikes website, an organization looking to build support for bike related needs at the national political level by collecting e-signatures for 1 million bicycle supporting individuals. Their major aim is to create demonstrative clout for lobbying local, state and federal legislators for enhanced funding and support for cycling related transportation projects. To accomplish this goal, essentially all they ask is that you sign their online pledge for support.  They don't give many more specifics than that, but at face value it definitely is a worthwhile effort. Below is some pasted info from their website as well as a link. If you're feeling inclined to be 1 in a million, then complete their online pledge.

"Every day, millions of Americans like us ride for their health, for the environment, for their communities, and for the pure joy of bicycling. But until now, only a tiny fraction of riders have stood up to help improve bicycling in America. is going to change all that. They're building a national movement with the clout and influence to get things done. That means promoting bike riding on an individual level, but also sending a unified message to our elected leaders, the media, and the public that bicycling should have their full support."

Check out their great new website to take a pledge for biking and learn how you can help: