Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Accidents Can Happen

I wish I was referencing the Elvis Costello song, but no, it's just the latest foray down the 66 to see a show,.

I caught the bus without much wait or incident and was well on my way to the Launchpad with time to spare.  There were a handful of people on the bus, and we were blowing past empty stops like we were a Rapid Ride.

In Edo, a stop requested shook me from my thoughts as we slowed for the stop just east of Edith.  The guy across from me got up with his three bags of groceries and held onto the rail as we slowed then stopped.  The driver dutifully opened the back door and he stepped out of the curb.

Suddenly a loud clunk and a groan.

On the curb where he stepped off, someone or something had laid a carpet of loose sand and stepping off, his feet slipped out from under him and down he went.  It sounded like it hurt and he got up, slowly, as the security guard went out the front door to circle back around to him.

He wasn't visibly hurt, but hard thumps can come back hours or days later.

The driver asked, "Do you want to file a report?"

He checked his groceries.  "Yeah, I think so.  The city should have to pay for this."

The driver unclipped his seatbelt and said, "Well, we're going to be here a while."

I was out the door and down the street, finishing up my trip by foot.

Monday, February 5, 2018

Bus Chronicles - #92

Hemingway, Mimosas, and a Soiled Bus

I like to sit toward the front of the bus so I can hear the radio conversations between the dispatcher and the drivers. It’s actually interesting if you’re into transit gossip. You hear about accidents on the route, police activity, construction updates, and when someone is raising hell on one of the buses. And sometimes, like one evening last week while riding the #92 Taylor Ranch Express, you get a compelling story that sticks with you for days. That night I heard a story over the radio that rivals Hemingway’s famous 6-word story “For sale: baby shoes, never worn.”

By the way, if you haven’t taken the #92, do yourself a favor and find a reason to come to the westside at rush hour. The bus is usually a newer model, the seats are rarely stained, it never gets over half full, and it’s a social club of regular riders and drivers. This bus is where I realized there is such a thing as “bus friends.” (Well, they're not my "bus friends." I'm too busy eavesdropping on their conversations to make small talk.) Plus, if you're lucky, you'll get a WIFI signal. It's so luxurious that sometimes I catch myself looking for an attendant with a tray of mimosas.

Sorry, I digress. One evening last week I was listening to the happy hour chatter of the commuters when the dispatcher came over the radio. I missed the route number, but he told the drivers to, “Keep an eye out for an elderly woman, straight gray hair, carrying a bright shopping bag and a walker in two pieces…she soiled herself and a bus. Recommend you don’t pick her up.”

Man, that's a lot to take in, and people will gravitate to different details of this scene to try to piece together her story. But damn, can you think of anyone who ever needed a ride more?

Wednesday, January 31, 2018

Bus Passes Stick to Everything

At two dollars, Day Passes are cheaper than catching the Taxi, Lyft, or Uber, and if you are riding on one route, they are pretty darn convenient.  You step into the bus, pay your two dollars, and the machine pumps out a card with a big date stamp that allows you ride any bus for a certain period of time.

Yet, you slip it into your pocket and if, you're like me, the bus pass will stick to your wallet, your phone, your handkerchief and if you don't pay attention, you'll end up, like me, leaving it at the bar or coffeeshop or restaurant where you last were.  You don't even notice that it stuck to the bottom of your phone, just hung out attached to something that you pulled out of your pocket.

So, word to the wise, make sure you know where that Day Pass is before you board the bus.  It'll be a pain in the ass to break a five dollar bill for a trip you already paid for.

Tuesday, January 30, 2018

Bus Chronicles

I'm thrilled Don has invited me to be a guest contributor to this blog. I'm a daily Westside rider of the ABQ transit system, and aside from the financial and environmental benefits, interacting with fellow Burqueños is my favorite thing about public transportation. Periodically, I'll be posting Bus Chronicles, which highlights fun, interesting, and sometimes bizarre experiences on the various routes I take throughout the city. Enjoy.

An Albuquerque Love Story in One Act

(A woman climbs aboard the #50 talking away on her bluetooth headset.)

"Yeah, Shannon made it official"
"I know, 2 ½ years, right?"
"He came into the bedroom and told me if I was down to go to jail with him, I was down to live with him."
"Yeah, then he handed me the lease and my name was right there on it next to his."
"I know! I asked him how he got all that stuff, my social and stuff..."
"I don’t know, but it was the best sex of our lives."


Epilogue: As I stepped off the bus, I heard her say, "I don't care if he's the daddy or not. If you sign that birth certificate, you're responsible."

Tuesday, January 23, 2018

Normalizing Bus Travel

With the slew of bad news regarding the Albuquereque Rapid Transit, I thought rather than just shake my head (SMH) and walk away from what I see as an important step in reviving Central Avenue as well as reaffirming my philosophical support of mass transit that I should start taking the regular buses more frequently.

This is not to say that I am embarking on some sort "Nickel and Dimed" project because in reality Mindy and I only have one car, so on many occasions if I want to go get a drink, eat dinner I have to walk or ride my bike.  In many cases that means I'm usually eating at the same places.

And frankly, I'm kind of bored with the food in my 'hood.  So why not combine my very practical need for food with riding the bus?  Too often, the complaints about the bus center around "disgust" of riding in a dirty bus and coded racist/classist language directed at the people who have to use the bus.  And I want to do my part to change that.

So, over the past couple of weeks I've been trying to navigate the bus system to do what I want.  And I thought I'd share some of the things I've learned.

First, the ABQ Ride App is not that good.  I'm not an App creator but there's no real way that I've found to figure out where the next bus is (especially on a Google Pixel screen).  Maybe this could be fixed if they optimized it for smaller screens?

Second, the schedules aren't optimized either so you have to enlarge to get the times (which don't seem correct in practice) and then have to scroll down and back up to match the station with the time.

Third, there are at least three buses that go up and down Central (66, 766, and 777), so figure out where the stops are for all three and if you are going to the Launchpad for a show or going to O'Neills for some good Fish & Chips or justing wanting to go to Nob Hill for a local beer at Tractor you can get there pretty darn quick and for much cheaper ($2.00 for a day pass) than taking an Uber or Lyft (though admittedly those services come in handy when you try to get back home after the buses stop running).

Riding the bus means I don't worry about parking, don't have to worry about if I've had one too many, nor have to engage with every random stranger who wants food or money or worry about whether people "see" me on my bike.

So, give it a try, and let me know what your experience was like.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Objects in the Mirror are Closer than They Appear

I was lucky enough to give a talk at TedXABQ in September.  My talk was about biking, of course, and they taped it and host it on their You Tube Channel.

Here it is.  Objects in the Mirror are Closer than They Appear

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Just Ride

So, doing a reading at Bookworks last night, when I spot the above book on the shelf.   Not one to let a book about biking (that's pretty much staring at me from across the room) pass me by, I buy it and crack it open while I'm working on sleep. 

Now, as any good biker knows there are lots of arguments on how to negotiate the roads when you are on a bike.   In fact, there's a whole "school of thought" about it called, "Vehicular Cycling" versus Segregated Cycling (even some elements are labelled as Urban Cycling).   The arguments go back and forth, talk about the efficacy of one over the other, the safety of one over the other, etc. but the bottom line is that neither argument really wins on the one issue that really matters:   creating a society that is structured in such a way as to make cycling normal not the exception.   That's what I want.  

I'm tired of having to make the argument again and again that cycling is not dangerous.  I'm tired of having to explain to people that getting around Albuquerque on bike doesn't make me some sports enthusisast, adrenaline junky.  It doesn't.   I get around Albuquerque on bike (mostly) because I find it a cost effective, environmentally friendly, safe, and fun way to get to where I want to go.   For me, it's not about the ride...its about the destination and how I choose to get there.

Thus, Petersen's book, is a good fit.  He even points it out with the very first sentence, "My main goal with this book is point out what I see as bike racing's bad influence on bicycles, equipment, and attitudes, and then undo it."  Broken into 8 short sections:  Riding, Suiting up, Safety, Health and Fitness, Accessories, Upkeep, Technicalities, and Velosophy, the book has short chapters that offer practical, non-nonsense solutions to many of the vexing questions people have about cycling if they are not a racer.   Most of the points are no-brainers (No...the shirts, shorts, gloves, shoes aren't necessary), but I was also pleasantly surprised about how candid he was when he talked about wearing a helmet.  

In almost every piece of literature that is widely distributed one of the first pieces of advice is "Always wear a helmet."   Now I'm not opposed to helmets, but I do feel there is a false sense of security that comes with wearing a helmet.  By it always being point number one (the one point that almost everybody reads) novice cyclists get the impression that that's all they have to do.   It's not!   As Petersen points out:

       Helmets increase risk compensation.  Any protective gear you wear or use--
       a hazmat suit, a bulletproof vest, a parachute, snake-proof boots, or a bike helmet--
       increases the likelihood of you taking a risk.  That is the point:  protection so 
       you can do the thing that would be dumb to do without it.

I almost jumped out of bed when I read that.   Here is a book on cycling, and he isn't toeing the party line on helmets.   By extension, he is also implying that when every bicyclist, organization, government entity aggressively advocates for helmets (a piece of safety equipment) they are also sending the message that cycling (any kind of cycling) is dangerous and requires wearing safety equipment.   Thus, if the goal is to increase the number of cyclists, then stressing the dangers of cycling is working against that.  For example, what if on your first day of teaching in a rough urban school they said, "'s really not that dangerous, but here's your bulletproof vest in case things get out of hand."   I'd certainly want to teach there.   So do our words match our actions? 

For the record, I always wear my helmet when I mountain bike (because mountain biking is dangerous), but almost never wear my helmet when I ride around town (because bicycling around town is not dangerous), but I get lectures about it all the time.

What troubles me is best illustrated by the link to Adventure Cycling that has "Always Wear a Helmet" as item #1 and "Always Bike Carefully" as item #10.   Really?  The single most important point in bicycling safety is "Always Bike Carefully" and its the last item on the list?  

Not wanting to stray too far off topic, I'd say that Petersen's book, thus far, lives up to its promise.   So, if you know someone who is new to cycling, I'd recommend this book as a good way to get acquainted with bicycling, and as an adult who doesn't race its nice to know I'm not the only one.