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.

Friday, April 27, 2012


So found this via the interwebs and thought I'd post here as well.

Basically, it's a helmet cam actually capturing a car swerving into the bike lane and taking out two cyclists.

Here it is, from Berkeley

Yes, people have commented on the cyclist running the stop sign well before the accident (actually taking a right turn without coming to a complete stop), which I see all the time.   But there's not an equivalency going on here.  You can't argue that because I turn right at a stop sign without coming to a complete stop, that I deserve what happens about two minutes later.

Monday, March 26, 2012


So was playing hooky from work and napping with my door open.   Slowly, as if almost in a dream, I heard 2 people yelling at each other.

I got up and looked out, and it's a biker and some body in a car.

I made out this exchange.  "What am I supposed to do?  There aren't any bike lanes..."

"Why don't you get a car?" and something else that I couldn't quite make out.

Then the biker says, "Fuck you," and walks off.

The car peals out, and the biker, angry walks his bike up the street.

As I fully wake up, I notice the biker is my neighbor and I pull on my shoes and go and find out if he's okay.

He is.   He wasn't hit, and the confrontation started when he finally called out the driver on being overly aggressive, revving her engine, crowding him as he took the lane.  He, like a lot of us, wasn't just willing to let the cars intimidate him and he spoke up.

I don't have any answers. and admit I'll generally take the biker's side in almost any car-bike conflict but want to point out a few things:

1) Bikers have the right to travel any road, at any time.   Now the road in this case was Gold Ave, which is not a major thoroughfare.   I've written elsewhere that while I, as a biker, may have the right to travel any road that doesn't always mean its a good idea.   But, in this particular case, Gold Ave. is a perfectly fine road for a bike.   I live on Gold Ave. and if you think its a good way to bypass Central Ave. or the Lead/Coal debacle, think again.   People, some with kids, live here, and we don't take too kindly to choosing our road for your shortcut and in most cases its not a shortcut at all.

2) A car is not an extension of you.   It is a large, almost 2 ton vehicle that can kill.  So, if you don't have the wherewithal to keep your temper in check, then don't get behind the wheel.   We are an overly violent society anyway, so we don't need your contribution.

3) Not all bikers, in fact most of the ones I know, bike because they 1) can't afford a car, or 2) lost their license.  Most of the bikers choose bikes because they want to.   It's a cost effective, efficient, environmentally friendly way to travel.   So, we are going to assert our rights to travel on our streets.

Share the'll make for a much smoother trip.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Burque Bioneers 2011

Come check us out at the National Hispanic Cultural Center on October 21 and 22nd. There will be discussions from Homesteading on the Urban Edge to Accounting for Water in the Middle Rio Grande, from Permaculture, Activism and Solutions to a discussions of the Impact of Puebloan Water Settlements...and so much more.

In fact I will be on a panel on mobility called To Drive or Not to Drive: What are the Options?

Check out the information on the blog below:

Burque Bioneers

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Accurate Statistics

I was out the other night and I glanced down the Harvard Mall.

There were a few cars navigating the narrow road, but what really struck me was how many bikers were out.   I started ruminating as I listened to the band playing in front of Cellar Door.   We're missing the whole point in our discussions about how bike friendly ABQ is.   Yes, we should pay careful attention to the bike commuters, but if the number of commuters is the only metric by which to measure how bike friendly or bike embracing Albuquerque is, then we've screwed up. 

Here's some quick math.  For argument sake, let's say I average 7 hours of sleep a night so during a week I'm spending 49 hours a week sleeping, and let's say I average 8 hours a day working and have 2 full days surprise that's 40 hours a week.   A week has 168 hours in it.   Thus if you subtract the number of hours worked and the number of hours slept, you get79 hours that are pretty much not really accounted for.   Now, just getting back and forth to work adds another sort-of definable metric, commuting.   Let's say that the average person spends about two hours a day commuting to and from  work.   Thus now we subtract 10 more hours from our weekly total.   That leaves 69 hours that people have to eat, recreate, socialize, exercise, etc.   Now what if, as I suspected from the other night, that all those bikers that were buzzing up and down Harvard did that all the time.   What if the bike was their main source of "get around" transport?   What if a good deal of those people actually drove to work, then we'd miss their numbers when planning a way to make the city better for bikers?   I speculate that there are more people who bike (for recreation, entertainment, errands, etc.) than we realize.   I speculate that by using commuting as the standard metric for how successful, how mainstream biking is, we're missing the real story.  

The real story is most people spend only a fraction of their time at work, thus why is increasing the number of bike commuters the main goal of a lot of bike organizations?