Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Bicycling in the Tundra

It snowed a little bit in Washington and it was kind of cold.  This sent everyone into a panic.  Schools closed.  The government closed.  Climate-change deniers claimed the weather was "evidence" that the planet was not warming and they issued statements through their experts - most of whom migrated from cigarette harm denying about a decade ago.  The city ground to a halt.  As I was riding to work in a car (dreary), I saw something flashing in the distance.   It was bathed in an iridescent glow, like a winking angel afar.  As I neared, I saw that it was a snow plow clearing the bike lane.  I half expected the driver to lean out of the window, wave his red knit hat, wink with mirth, and blow a kiss to the city.  He did appear to blow his nose out of the window, but I was filled with joy and forgiveness, and waved giddily, especially since none of it landed on our windshield.  I plan to return to my bike Friday, dreading the motorists who shout to me: "Are you nuts, Lady?  It's freezing out here."

The Commonwealth of Virginia, named for allegedly virtuous Queen Elizabeth I (oh sure), has a number of bicycle-related bills pending before the House of Delegates.  They include a prohibition on following any vehicle, including a bicycle, too closely, and a requirement that motor vehicles stop for bicycles and pedestrians in marked cross-walks.  The Washington Area Bicycling Association is circulating a petition to have Virginia cyclists encourage their representatives to vote "yes" on these bills.  Suggested punishment for offenders is not listed in WABA's summaries of the bills, but I suppose they could include . . . speculating here . . . time in the pillories, the rack, the iron maiden, or almost eternal damnation.  The petition can be found here:
Suggested punishment cannot.

An ocean and continent away, in Tokyo, Japan, bike advocates are asking citizens to sign a petition demanding more bicycling infrastructure: a bike sharing program in advance of the 2020 Olympics, and more bike lanes than the measly nine kilometers that presently exist.  In a dense, expensive city, turning people to cycling would seem logical.  Also, it would eliminate the need for people to be shoved into commuter trains like sardines.  The petition is here:

If they can build 140 miles of bike lanes in the city of Baltimore, they can certainly do it in Tokyo.  And if you are picturing "Divine" or any other transsexual character from a John Waters film atop a Gary Fisher while noshing on a crab cake, just stop.,0,3236443.story

In Las Vegas - known for its gambling, shows featuring washed-up performers, dizzying lights, and free buffets - bicycle couriers are attempting to gain some traction.  They would surely have to make deliveries when the strip was less crowded.  Perhaps during hang-over, hock-your-wedding-ring-to-feed-your-gambling-addiction hours.  At all other times, the strip is a stand-still traffic jam.  They do have cyclists in Vegas, on trapezes at Circus Circus Casino, which Hunter S. Thompson described as what the world would have been like if the Nazis had won.  But I have not seen a bike in Vegas on the street myself.

In Los Angeles, California, home to the car and the freeway, a new bill would take away the driving license from anyone who leaves the scene of an accident, even if the other party to the accident was bicycle and not a car.  Oh dear, so loosens the Occidental Petroleum grip on politicians in the city not known for having its own water, political integrity, real hair color, pedestrians or cyclists.  Yippeee.

The London borough of Southwark is apparently going to bring in a Dutch, and maybe even a Danish, expert to discuss cycling infrastructure and provide advice.  Building cycling infrastructure without some expertise strikes me as similar to performing open heart surgery after acquiring an MBA.  I'd rather have a cardiac surgeon cut on me than the CEO of a chemical company.  But surely an MBA would know that protected bike lanes strengthen economies, according to several recent studies.  This leads me to amend my earlier statement, but not about the heart surgery.  Perhaps Dutch or Danish experts would find some support for their recommendations from those with higher degrees in business.

On the subject of MBAs and how they can contribute to bicycling growth, Bixi, the Canadian company that declared bankruptcy late last year, is going to receive some relief from the Canadian government in the form of several million dollars.  But will that be enough?  The question on many urban cyclists' minds is whether Bixi's troubles will have a negative impact on the bike share companies around the world.  Alta, which operates the bike share systems in the United States and Australia, claims that users will feel no effects from Bixi's miscalculation.  Citi bikes in New York has issued a bold statement that they will be fine.  The Black Knight in Monty Python's Holy Grail commanded, "Come back here.  I'll bite your leg off."  Could an MBA at the helm of Bixi have prevented its troubles when no MBA could stop the subprime mortgage crisis of 2008?  Could a Danish or Dutch municipal employee save the future of cycling share programs?

To increase the numbers of cyclists, we have to include more women, more older people, and more of every ethnicity.  If we don't, then it will be harder to get more cycling infrastructure and pass good laws to protect cyclists.  Simple.  As I have noted before, Black Women Bike DC has done a lot to reach to out to African-American women to encourage them to ride their bikes.  Now Red, Black and Green wants to do even more.  They have launched a touching campaign to get more people of color to ride bikes.  No matter where you came from or what you look like, now, if you graduate from college, you are likely going to have debt and a job that will not make you rich immediately.  Not to predict an American dystopia, but the reality is that college grads owe a lot of money, and paying for a car is not a good way to save money.  Red, Black and Green was founded by a Howard University grad who needed inexpensive transportation.  If you are a red, black or green spandex speed demon, ride on.  The group prides itself on going slow, patronizing minority-owned businesses along the way, and including all ages.

So, if I see you in the bike lanes, let's be smug, even if our teeth are chattering.

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