Bicycle Diaries: July 2007

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It's solved by rolling

solvitur volubilis

I thought I'd start today's post by brushing up on my high school Latin. I don't think any Roman or Catholic ever said this. My inspiration is a more famous Latin phrase that I've always loved: Solvitur Ambulando.

It is solved by walking was first said by Diogenes the Cynic. It's come to be an appeal to practical experience when confronting any problem. Diogenes believed that pragmatic reason rather than tradition is the only guide for living one's life. If folks don't use reason to guide their conduct it would be better to treat them like animals and lead them on a leash.

Diogenes was considered a royal- pain-in-the-ass by his fellow Greeks. His devotion to practical experience was an overt criticism of the herd mentality of conventional Greek society; so much so that Plato referred to him as a Socrates gone mad. Later, Diogenes Laertius, in his Lives of the Eminent Philosophers, described this approach to life:
Most people, he would say, are so nearly mad that a finger makes all the difference. For if you go along with your middle finger stretched out, some one will think you mad, but, if it’s the little finger, he will not think so.
It should come as no surprise then that I believe that Diogenes's words offer a good guide for rollers. I've been finding all kinds of examples of folks who have solved problems by rolling.

For example, between 1952 and 1953, Willem de Kooning, the Dutch Abstractionist, painted
Woman and Bicycle. Art critics generally agree that this painting is an attempt to come to terms with de Kooning's inner conflicts over women. Some even believe that the aggressively angular image of the woman sitting on a bicycle is inspired by Freud's dream theories of sexual repression.

Like de Kooning, Charles Wilson Peale, America's first preeminent artist and all around renaissance man, was fascinated by the possibilities of rolling. He invented his own velocipede, Latin for fast foot, "as a welcome diversion from his arduous painting projects". As David V. Herlihy's writes in his new book, Bicycle,
Whenever his back began to ache, he would take a few spins atop his velocipede in the salubrious air of his garden, and return to his easel thoroughly invigorated.
In our own century, many bikers have realized that it is solved by rolling. Setting out from his home in Nepal on 29 November 1998, Pushkar Shah circumnavigated the world over the next eleven years. Why? In 1990, the Nepalese government arrested him for participating in the country's democracy movement. When he was released, Shah decided to spread the message of peace and hope for his country and for the world. This mission was not about material gain or international fame. It was simply about spreading the message of peace.

Whether for peace or future opportunities or relaxation or psychological closure, solvitur volubilis recommends itself because the open road is where anyone can think and reflect on their life and times. Utility is certainly important. Many bike just for that. Nevertheless, it is solved by rolling opens us up to many amazing possibilities.

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Going 'round the bend

so many handlebars
so little time...

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Mission accomplished!

2000+ massers
reach the Berwyn Car Spindle
28 July 07, Chicago Sun Times: Chanting "Save the Spindle," about 2,000 bicyclists took to the streets Friday night to protest the proposed replacement of a Berwyn art piece - made famous in a "Wayne's World" movie - with a Walgreens.

The bikers, who typically take part in the monthly Chicago Critical Mass rides, rode 14.8 miles from the Daley Center Plaza in the Loop to Cermak Plaza in Berwyn, in an attempt to save the endangered Spindle artwork, also known as the Eight Car Pileup.

The automobiles are stuck on a steel pipe.

"A trip to the Spindle is a bike ride that a lot of us have made," said Dan Korn, a 36-year-old Little Village resident who has participated in Critical Mass rides for years. "So many of us didn't mind using this ride to support the Spindle today. The Spindle is a metaphor to me of the car or perhaps the end of the car. There are a lot of riders who advocate against over-car usage."

Riders cruised through neighborhoods like Pilsen and Little Village, and through Cicero, passing spectators shouting support like, "Happy Friday," as well as some motorists who were angry because they blocked streets.

Once at the Berwyn plaza, riders repeatedly circled the Spindle, chanting, "Save the Spindle."

"This is the great kitsch monument of Chicago," said Garth [sic] Catner, 46, of Lincoln Square, after completing the hike with a replica of the Spindle on his helmet with a large nail and matchbox car[s].

"This gives the town character,'' Kit Shelton, 24, of Berwyn,
maintained. "It is going to make Berwyn lose its personality if it is knocked down."

The Spindle attracted attention when it appeared in the 1992 movie "Wayne's World," starring Mike Myers and Dana Carvey as Wayne and Garth, a couple of weird rock 'n' roll afficionados. The Spindle also is now touted in several travel guides, including one listing it under "Road Cheese."

There's a possibility the Spindle could be moved to another location, but Concordia Realty, the strip mall's management firm, estimates costs could be as much as $350,000. Concordia now is considering whether the Spindle can be relocated for a lower cost.

"We are all for artwork, but at the same time, we are running a business," said Concordia owner Michael Flight.

Flight added that the piece would need repair work soon because the artwork, created in 1989 by Dustin Shuler, might become unsafe. Upkeep costs are estimated at $100,000, he said.

"The last thing that we need is a new Walgreens," said Josh Tammaro, a 23-year-old Lincoln Park resident. "This is corporate piracy."

Police said a pedestrian was struck by a vehicle near the bikers' route but confirmed no other incidents, despite riders' claims that some of their group were also struck by a car but not seriously injured.

And from Save the Spindle:
Wheelman, I can't thank you and Steve and EVERYONE for last night. It moved us all more than you can possibly imagine to have your support for our efforts. We appreciate your respect of our position and that everyone was peaceful and positive.

Several members of the Berwyn Police Department said they'd never witnessed such great behavior in such a large group before.

I was deeply saddened to hear that one of your cyclists was injured on the way over by some horrible driver who was evading the police. Please let us know his/her status. We at Save the Spindle are sincerely concerned and hope this person will be okay.

Again, thank you for doing this for us and bringing attention to our cause and to all the people who signed our petitions.

I heard that it was on CLTV and maybe NBC5-TV news last night--I wish I'd gotten to see it. I read the article in the Sun-Times today. Very positive and wonderful, as well.

We hope to have photos up at our site very soon. If you or any of your fellow cyclists have pictures or videos you are willing to send us, we will be more than happy to post them at as well.


Maggie Ragaisis
Web Administrator
Save The Spindle

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The end is nearer...

for Chicago Critical Mass
and the Berwyn Kar Ka Bob!

Dear Friends:

Recently, I've received many grateful missives from
bicycle enthusiasts regarding my beneficence in allowing Critical Masss cyclists continued access to many of the streets in our great metropolis. I will say for the record that while there is no immediate plan to eliminate cycling from our city, Critical Mass's days are numbered.

Though it may seem counter-intuitive, the lab-jacketed boys in my Traffic Management Authority say that while walkers and cyclists are annoying obstructions, they ARE NOT the major cause of Chicago's ubiquitous gridlock. They tell me that the over-abundance of unpaved green space in Chicago is to blame. Who would have guessed?

But don't worry, the highway engineers in TMA are
devising a plan to relocate all the city's greenspace to rooftops and improve traffic flow. And yes, this plan will undoubtedly necessitate that Critical Mass rides end in September.

Rest assured that you will be duly notified after the final decision has been made.
Thanks for helping make Chicago the best big city in the world for traffic!

Yours Truly,

Major Delay
And now from Time Out Chicago, Leah Pietrusiak writes:
Chicagoans were hit with a double whammy recently when local news outlets reported the demise of two area icons: Chicago’s monthly Critical Mass bike rides and Berwyn’s car-stacked Spindle. It turns out Critical Mass’s rallies—in which pro-bike participants take to the streets to protest car dependency and its effects—seem to have many miles left to go, and the suburban sculpture isn’t headed for the scrap heap yet. And ironically, the destination for the next Critical Mass ride, set for Friday 27, is the reportedly doomed Spindle.

In the July 13 Chicago Sun-Times, bike activist Michael Burton was quoted as saying the tenth-anniversary Daley Plaza ride in September “should be the last ride—to commemorate the original values on which the rides were based: civility, self-reliance, fresh air and fellowship.” He said the monthly jaunts had gotten too big, with drunken cyclists starting fights with motorists.

The article caused an uproar in the bike community: Burton says he was only giving his opinion in what he thought was part of a larger story; but as the only participant quoted in the piece, he came off as the spokesman of the group, which has no formal structure.

Proof that the monthly rides, which depart from Daley Plaza and zig-zag throughout the city, aren’t going anywhere can be found on the group’s newly-designed website. Under the headline chicago critical mass: still we ride, veteran “Masser” Steven Lane notes Critical Mass has no leaders to report to about what action to take.

Another Masser, Travis D., told TOC, “It would be exceedingly difficult for even Mayor Daley to stop Critical Mass. You’d have to convince not most people, but every single one.”

Burton, along with other Massers, is interested in a “radical change” for the group. He’s in favor of the smaller neighborhood rides that have been cropping up instead of one huge ride, like the Mass in June that attracted 2,000 people, clogging intersections for 30 minutes and interrupting public-transit routes.

“Factioning ourselves is not what it’s about,” Lane argues. “It’s about bringing as many people as you can into a city center and letting the numbers speak for themselves…. It’s not about the people who started it controlling what it becomes.”

Although it is a beloved public icon that earned a prime cameo in Wayne’s World, Berwyn’s famed Spindle sits on private land, which makes it vulnerable to the whims of the property’s owner. And on July 4, the Berwyn Life newspaper reported the eight-car stack will fall to make way for a Walgreens. But people in Berwyn hope the owners of the Harlem-Cermak Shopping Plaza—where the tourist attraction stands—will reconsider and relocate it.

Initially, the plaza owners planned to move the piece, according to spokesman Michael Flight. But the work has become severely rusted from 18 years of exposure to the elements, and the $350,000 moving and reconditioning cost was too expensive. “If we can get it down to a manageable dollar [amount]—and no one has decided what that is—we will relocate it,” Flight says.

Berwyn Mayor Michael O’Connor believes some solution can be found. “I’m pressing the owners to pay…and if there’s gaps, we’ll see how we can fill it [before September],” O’Connor says. “There’s a real good possibility it will be saved. I don’t think people want to let it die.” Some Critical Massers, too, don’t want to see the demise of their Daley Plaza rides. “A dedicated group of riders are committed to…another ten years,” Lane writes.

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Cascadian traffic taming

The Sightline Institute (formerly the Northwest Environment Watch) is running a series of articles on bike issues in Cascadia. Founded by Alan Durning in 1993, the think tank's mission is to encourage sustainability in the US states of Alaska, Washington, and Oregon as well as the Canadian province of British Columbia.
Bicycle Shame (Bicycle Neglect #6) Is biking for children and losers?

More of What Bike-friendly Looks Like (Bicycle Neglect #5)
Blue lanes, cage locks, and cyclibraries.

What "Bike Friendly" Looks Like (Bicycle Neglect #4) Is your town?

The Wheel World: Cascadia (Bicycle Neglect #3) Leading (the laggards)!

The Weakest Link (Bicycle Neglect #2) Bike-ifying bridges makes all the difference.

Car-head (Bicycle Neglect #1) How our mindset limits bicycling.

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Robin Hood is back

or how I'm spending
my summer vacation

Every self respecting roller should have a summer bike project. Originally mine was to build a bamboo bike with instructions I got from Carry Freedom, a UK non-profit. I haven't started. Frankly I don't need it. The Steele Bitch has a black Wald basket over the rear fender. It's certainly big enough for my shopping needs; besides, where would I store the thing in my third floor flat?

Instead I've been working on that which rolls, my other bike: a '71 Raleigh Robin Hood. It was basically an impulse buy. At the beginning of the summer, Beaterbike Simmons and a new buddy, John, discovered it in a pile at the back of the 2nd floor warehouse of WorkingBikes. We'd all gone there to volunteer and scrounge for parts.

I had absolutely no intention of getting a second bike. On the one hand, if there wasn't enough storage space for a bamboo bike cart, why would I compound the issue with a second bike? And on the other, I've tried to steer clear of the dreaded bike fetish. As a confirmed utility biker, who's trying to simplify his life, I'd rather avoid the slippery Lycra slope towards rolling around on a different bike each day of the week.

That being said, I was sorely tempted: first by my buddies and then by the fact my first utility bike, that which rolls, was a '56 Robin Hood. Was is the significant tense here. It got ripped off 4 years ago when I was away working in China & India. The new Raleigh was also in pretty good condition with nearly all its original parts.

So I got it ...

And over the next few weeks I'll be posting a blow-by-blow on the joys ... and THE frustrations of restoring a classic ride.

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Why I love the BBC


This month's critical mass...

could Save the Spindle
in Berwyn

Walgreens is going to topple over a beloved public sculpture to make way for yet another "convenience" store filled with junk food to make you sick and medicines to put you back together again. Concordia Realty Management is their partner in this culture crime in progress, but public resistance is mounting to keep Cermak Plaza’s iconic Spindle statue standing.

The Spindle, aka Car Spike or Kabob, was created by California-based artist Dustin Shuler. His sculpture is the most notable of a variety of giant public art works that give Berwyn's Cermak Plaza it's unique charm. The car spike was featured in a memorable scene in the movie "Wayne's World", which helped cement the sculpture as an American icon and put Berwyn Illinois on the pop culture map, so it's pretty easy to see why local residents are angry about corporate interests erasing their town's identity.

Berwyn, we feel your pain and Chicago Critical Mass is sending a cavalry of 2,000 cyclists to protest predatory corporate development that whitewashes our communities and trades civic pride for shareholder profits. When the Spindle is torn down and replaced by a Walgreens store, part of Berwyn dies and a sacred community space will look no different from any other stripmall in any other town. The participants of Chicago's Critical Mass will not quietly pedal by as corporations deface our communities transforming the world into a characterless monoculture.

Why would a group of cyclists care about a monument to car culture?
Perhaps we see the Spindle as a prophetic symbol of a future where cars are reduced to fossil remains as they go the way of the dinosaurs that fueled them. We know the car spike will become more meaningful and infinitely more valuable when America finally closes this dark chapter of unsustainable living and ecological destruction. It is an Ozymandias for the industrial age, mocking the moral insanity of planned obsolescence and providing a deliciously twisted look into our throw away junk culture.

Now the dark forces of indifference, convenience, and profit are conspiring to dispose of this great work of art, but what Walgreens and Concordia Realty Management have not bargained for is that great art connects with people in subtly profound ways as we emotionally connect with our cultural landscape and develop a sense of pride for the spaces and places we call home.

Chicago Critical Mass bike rides have been gathering at the base of the Picasso sculpture in Daley Plaza the last Friday of every month for the last 10 years, we understand how public art and places can galvanize a community. If some greedy developer and heartless corporation came along and tried to take our sculpture and plaza, we would raise hell. We feel strongly enough about these values that we are biking from the Picasso to the Spindle to give the citizens of Berwyn the back up they need to preserve our cultural heritage and save an important work of art.

What we want: an end to cultural identity theft.
If Walgreens and Concordia Realty Management
want to move the Spindle, they should pay for it's restoration, transportation, and installation. It's time corporations stop turning our communities into company towns that resemble board games filled with generic pop-up box stores that make every city and town look the same.

We invite the citizens of Berwyn to join us at the base of the Spindle this Friday July 27 around 7:30pm. We are working to help you get the story out and to make corporations and developers accountable to the communities they claim to serve.

Act now by signing the Save the Spindle Petition at the website for the Berwyn Arts Council. Fund raising T-Shirts are available at SWF Products, 7003 Ogden, Berwyn IL 60402. Click here to stay informed on the latest efforts to Save the Spindle!

Steven Lane
Critical Mass Participant and Website Volunteer
July 22, 2007

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Joan Bushwell

yep, that's who I work for...

I haven't posted this week because I've been at a staff retreat in the DC area. This weekend I'm staying in Eastern Market in the southwest of our nation's capital.

All in all, it was a fantastic five days. I finally got to meet a lot of my fellow Roots & Shootsers face to face. Since taking the job back in January, the only contact I had with most of them was by phone since we're spread all over the country. But this weekend I'm renting a bike and hitting the trails!

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More on Akhmatova

and Isaiah Berlin

I've been in poetical mood these last few days. So bear with me. I'm not the only one who has spent a sleepless night or two reading the bards. And this is what I read about several years ago: a clandestine Moscow meeting between Isaiah Berlin and his intellectual paramour, the great Russian poet, Anna Akhmatova.

Yes, yes. I go on and on about him. Berlin, I read to understand; but Akhmatova I read to survive. And crazy indeed, they both met one fateful night just at the end of WWII in Leningrad, now St. Petersburg ... again. For just one short evening: no sex, maybe flirtation, just talk. Well, that's what they said at least. Nobody knows for sure. But every one wonders what exactly happened like John Stallworthy.
a triptych


In November 1945, Isaiah Berlin, then First Secretary at the
British Embassy in Moscow, was visiting Leningrad and learnt
from a conversation in a bookshop that Anna Akhmatova was
living nearby. Telephoned, she invited him to call at her flat in the
old Fontanny Palace on the Fontanka.

Their meeting that afternoon was interrupted, as he describes in his Personal Impressions:
‘Suddenly I heard what sounded like my first name being shouted somewhere outside.
I ignored this for a while - it was plainly an illusion - but the shouting became louder
and the word "Isaiah" could be clearly heard. I went to the window and looked out,
and saw a man whom I recognized as Randolph Churchill. He was standing in the
middle of the great court, looking like a tipsy undergraduate, and screaming my name.'
Berlin hurriedly led him away, but himself returned that evening to continue his
conversation with the poet.

They talked all night of their respective Russian childhoods, of such of her early
friends as Modigliani and Salomé Andronikova, of the war, of Tolstoy,
of what she had written - and read him - of ‘Poem without a Hero'.
In the small hours of the morning they were joined by her son, Lev Gumilev,
bringing the only food they had in the flat.

This meeting, because of Churchill's interruption, came to Stalin's attention
(‘So our nun is receiving visits from foreign spies'), altering the course of
Akhmatova's life and, she believed, the course of history. She became
convinced that, fuelling Stalin's paranoia, they had caused the
first move in the Cold War.

Berlin came to say goodbye to her, before leaving the Soviet
Union, on 5 January 1946. The next day, uniformed men screwed
a microphone into her ceiling. That summer she was denounced
by the Central Committee of the Communist Party and expelled
from the Writers' Union.

On 6 November 1949, her son Lev was arrested for the third time and
the following day Akhmatova committed her poems finally to memory
before burning their manuscripts; among them, the completed
‘Poem without a Hero' in which Berlin appears as ‘The Guest from the Future'.

The doorbell a tocsin tolling
as if the Huns were at the gate
told nothing that was not foretold
in this room and on this date

when the stranger turned left from the bridge
along the Fontanka and knew
the gates by the iron lions
that growled and let him through

Who shadowed him Lachesis
the Eumenides knowing what now
I know and do not know where they
have taken you and if But how

gladly I heard his step
on the stair his touch on the bell
as shy as a boy's fingertip
touching his first girl

He brought me no lilac no ring
but something more precious than love
As the terrible downpour ceased
he brought me like Noah's dove

a green word out of the blue
A Russian bird rinsing the air
of its thunder and ash and if
he flew off he returned later

and Europe again put out her leaves
behind my Amedeo's head
the drawing on his knee my wall
Modigliani famous dead

He brought me leaves and he brought
me stone He brought me Salomé
back from the dim pharaonic vault
of the Stray Dog cabaret

and up it seemed the deeper stairs
those others had descended who
as memory turned the key
came at her shadow trooping through

the hall to meet the guest whom I
admitted to the Masquerade
when destiny called the tune
But whose was the tune I played

the music to which we moved
in the candlelight pouring wine
dividing between us the clutch
of potatoes your hand and mine

and his hand with a cigar
conducting Something by Mozart
Donna Anna dreams a dream
Footsteps and the dreams depart

He brought me leaves and he brought
me stone a guest of stone
to drag you from the candlelight
Now Donna Anna sits alone

and will do what must be done
if you in some cage tonight
are to lie beyond the range
of the poem's fatal flight

Let it be lettered in flame
translated into air
to be printed and reprinted
anytime anywhere

under roof or under stars
on the one press that survives
the listeners the watchers
the searchers with their knives.

From the year 1940 I look
As if down from a tower on it all,
As if I were taking leave again
Of all I look leave of long ago,
As if I had made the sign of the cross
And went to the vaults below.

25 August 1941
Leningrad under siege

New Year's Eve. The Fontanny Palace. Instead
of the man expected, shades of 1913 appear to
the author in the shape of mummers. A white hall
of mirrors. Lyrical digression: the Guest from
the Future. A Masquerade. A Poet. A Ghost.

I have lit my sacred candles
To halo the New Year,
And I welcome 1941
With you who do not appear.

Good God!
The flames drown in crystal
‘And the wine like poison burns'.
Rough shards of speech resurface
And old hysteria returns
And the clock still does not strike . . .
In mounting anxiety
Like a shadow on the threshold
I guard my sanctuary.

I hear a bell's insistent ring
And feel my blood run colder,
And turned to stone, ice, fire,
I look over my shoulder
As if remembering something,
And in a low voice say:
‘I'm sorry. The Doges' Palace
Is next door, but today
You might as well leave all
Your masks and cloaks, your crowns
And scepters in the hall.
I've a mind to sing your praises,
New Year's Eve hell-raisers.'
Here is Faust, and here Don Juan,
Dapertutto, Iokanaan,
And here the Nordic Glahn,
Or the murderer Dorian,
All of them whispering
To their Dianas some
Old Story. One has brought
A Bacchante with a drum.
And the walls have opened for them,
Light has erupted, sirens wail,
The ceiling swells to a dome.
As if scandal could make me quail . . .
What to me are Hamlet's garters!
Or the dance of Salomé
Or the Man in the Iron Mask!
I am more iron than they . . .
And whose turn now to be afraid,
To back away, wince guiltily,
And ask forgiveness for old sins?

I see:
What do they want, but me?
Supper was not laid for them,
And our worlds are not the same.
Those coat-tails conceal a tail . . .
How elegant he is, how lame . . .
But . . . surely you have not dared
To bring the Prince of Darkness here?
That face or mask or skull
Displays an anguished sneer
That only Goya would dare paint.
Prince Charming, Prince Derision -
Compared with whom, the worst
Of sinners is a saint . . .
On with the carnival!
But why am I alone alive?
Tomorrow morning I shall wake
And no indictments will arrive,
And the blue beyond my windows
Will laugh into my face.
But I am frightened; shall go in
Hugging my shawl, my lace,
Smile at them all and say nothing.
I do not want to meet again
This side of Jehosophat
The woman that I was then
In a necklace of black agate.
Can the Last Day be here . . . ?
I have forgotten your lessons,
False prophets of yesteryear,
But you have not forgotten me.
The future in the past draws breath
As the past in the future rots -
Dead leaves in a dance of death.

The sound of invisible feet,
Cigar smoke blue in the air
Over a parquet floor,
And in all the mirrors there
The man who did not appear
And could not enter that hall.
A man much the same as the rest,
The grave had not made his flesh crawl
And there is warmth in his hand -
My Guest from the Future - a light
In his eye. Will he really come,
Turning left from the bridge, tonight?

Tonight and every night the bell
the stove and the candles burn
Before the tocsin tolls again
hell-raisers must return

The stove window reddens
with a city in flames
redoubled in a river
the Moskvá Nevá Thames

debouching into Phlegethon

I saw there some up to their eyes in blood
and the great centaur told me These are the tyrants
who from mass-murder made a livelihood

They choke in the smoking torrents
from springs they unstopped themselves
Napoleon is treading blood
the vintage of 1812

That swastika forelock signals
dreams of a higher race
The blood of jews and gypsies
accuses him to his face

and there is the Children's Friend
islanded in midstream
eyelids moustache encrusted
but that is not his scream

Great centaur shaper of war and peace
what of your argument
that power is the people's will
transferred with their consent

to him and him and him Because
you legitimate their claims
you do your sentry duty
in this abyss of flames

I have called you too a monster
and hated you with all my heart
but in the night of history
you played a homeric part

Under the comet's peacock tail
your city like Homer's Troy
is still an active volcano
a city flame cannot destroy

a torch by whose shuddering light
you show me what you were shown
a road a blizzard prisoners
turned in their sleep to stone

Great centaur I thought of you
and the prisoners I thought of them
in the line that shuffled towards
my smouldering Requiem

And so it begins again
the snow starting to fall
At a darkened window I look
as if down from a tower on it all

as if I were taking leave again
of all I took leave of long ago
my son dragged out by a stone guest
a pattern without purpose No

The pattern must be the shadow
of purpose by which I know
that my Guest from the Future turned
left from the bridge because Clio

dictated it she who dictated
the lines on a page of snow
in a wind too cold to let
the tears it loosened flow

preserving them for a future
the past may no longer rot
when spring winds can bear witness
to what the chronicles do not

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Blue danube grip

I'm not talking
about handlebars

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Chicago Critical Mass: R.I.P

citywide bike ride
may end in autumn

Chicago Sun Times, 13 July 2007, Celeste Busk writes:
A victim of its own success, come this autumn, Chicago Critical Mass' 10th anniversary bike ride on Sept. 28 might be the last time the cycling group officially pedals en masse, some participants say.

Longtime critical mass participant Michael Burton said that "as the rides have grown [to as many as 2,000 bikers], some feel that it has strayed from its original altruistic roots and has become just another big bike-a-thon.

Others have been offended by public drunkenness, nudity, noisy sound systems and ill manners that now are all too common on many mass rides." Still others have complained the large group rides create traffic jams.

Even so, Burton said that in the past decade, the rides have fostered friendships, brought communities closer together, and have spawned programs to help the city such as the Campaign for Free and Clear, which put basic bike facilities on the lakefront.

"This [September] should be the last ride -- a grand finale to commemorate the original values on which the rides were based: civility, self-reliance, fresh air and fellowship," said Burton, who has been biking with Critical Mass for 10 years.

For the uninitiated, Chicago Critical Mass is not an organization, but a group ride that has been leaving at 5:30 p.m. on the last Friday of the month from the Daley Center Plaza in the Loop for the past 10 years. It has no leaders, but is autonomous. Before each ride, participants submit maps of proposed routes and the group takes a vote (via bullhorn). Most of the routes have a destination neighborhood.

Part of a national movement, Chicago Critical Mass began in 1997 with about 200 cyclists and has grown to include as many as 2,000 riders, as in June's ride. The group's Web site -- -- says Critical Mass bike riders believe strongly that the city and country are too car-dependent, that cars devour too many resources, occupy too much space, and do too much damage to the environment.
Bikes, they say, are a partial solution to car-glut.

Although some longtime participants predict a September swan song, Burton is quick to point out that the citywide ride has spawned smaller, more manageable, group bike rides in neighborhoods throughout the city and suburbs.

"There are rides now in Pilsen, Evanston and Oak Park, and I've been hearing that there is talk of having rides in Humboldt Park and Hyde Park," Burton said.
"Having a bunch of rides throughout the Chicago area is easier to deal with than having one central ride," Burton said.

"Personally, when our huge group rides stop traffic and CTA buses, it misses the point. Public transportation is sustainable, and we shouldn't be stopping buses."

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Анна Ахматова
(Anna Akhmatova)


When I wait, at night, for her to come,
life, it seems, hangs by a strand.
What are honour, youth, freedom,
next to the dear guest, flute in hand?

And now she enters. Throws aside
her veil, gazing deep in my eyes.
I ask her: ‘Was that you, Dante’s guide
Dictating, in Hell?’ She answers: ‘I’.
Translated by A. S. Kline
© 2005 All Rights Reserved.

This work may be freely reproduced, stored, and transmitted, electronically or otherwise, for any non-commercial purpose.

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Crimes of Carelessness

From the "Weird Al" Yankovic - Live! DVD:
Bicycles are also very dangerous - you could break your neck.

If you have to ride a bike, make sure to ride it really, really slowly.

Or better yet, why not turn your bicycle over and peddle it upside down.

It's also a good idea to check for bombs planted by Commie spies.

Make sure you wave hello to pedestrians before you run them over.

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California traffic taming

high school bikers
tackle climate change

From the BBC, 11 July 07:
While the federal government has refused to impose nationwide targets, local communities are taking action themselves. Sonoma's Climate Protection Campaign (CPC) is aware that to reach its objective, the county has to act on every level - not least in schools.

"It's young people that have to take on the burden of this issue," says Jessica Kellett, co-ordinator of the CPC's Cool Schools
programme. "We need to have young people to be leaders today - not just to be educated but to understand how to start engaging with elected officials, with their parents, because we need to be taking action now."

Analy High School challenged students to reduce their emissions, primarily by changing the way they got to school. By promoting walking, biking and car-pooling, they reduced single-passenger car journeys by 21%.

"When you're at school you get your licence, so you want to hop in the car and drive everywhere," says 17-year-old Christine Byrne, who does her best to resist the temptation and cycle whenever possible. "Through the educational programmes that we've begun, like
Cool Schools, people are becoming more aware. It's slowly beginning to grab more people."

Nicole Caughell, 18, helped implement a similar programme at
Windsor High School. "It's pretty cool, it seems really revolutionary - we're the ones spearheading this issue, while still in high school," she says. "There's a lot of people out there who are listening to us and trying to make a change because of what we're doing. We're really being the example."

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No more car kabob?

a cherished landmark threatened

The car kabob; perhaps the best known anti-cager monument amongst us here in Chicago's bike communities, is coming down in west suburban Berwyn. The decision has prompted us as well as other kitsch fans to moan No way! Way, says the Berwyn's mayor, Michael O'Connor.

The Associated Press, 10 July 07: Suburban Chicago's "car kabob" will soon be no more.
The kitschy landmark that once made a cameo in the 1992 movie "Wayne's World" will be dismantled to make way for a pharmacy. Officially named "Spindle," the towering sculpture features eight cars impaled on a massive steel pipe. Despite years of rust and layers of bird droppings, it continues to draw movie fans to Berwyn.

Mayor Michael O'Connor said the quirky sculpture will be removed this summer to make way for a Walgreens. O'Connor adds that he's enjoyed the attention Berwyn has gotten because of the sculpture, which is also known as the "Eight Car Pile-up."

California artist Dustin Shuler built the piece in 1989 and called the dismantling "painful."

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Mangalore traffic taming

Have bikes become
a thing of the past [in India]?

There's a pretty heated set of comments over last week's Chicago traffic taming post. I'm fascinated by the fact that this seems to be the only debate over the CBF Sunday Parkways initative that I've seen anywhere online or off. During the June Chicago Critical Mass, I brought up the article with a former CBF employee. Their only comment was how great it was to have appeared on the front page of The Reader ... hmmmm ... so here's yet another example of local folks taming local traffic all by themselves; without the help of their more urbane, sophisticated neighbors %)
The Mangalorean, 17 May 07, Joseph Vinay writes: The movie Bicycle Thief directed by Italian director Vittorio De Seca portrays the struggle of an out-of-work man in the post-war economically depressed Italy. The plot revolves around a father and son duo trying to search for a stolen bicycle, which is vital for his job.

Gone are the days when we use to see people striding on their bicycles. Thanks to the state government's efforts whereby free bicycles were given to girls below poverty line, cycles are back in news again. With the burgeoning traffic and wide range of cars available one is forced to think that cycles have become a thing of the past. Just take a moment out of your busy schedule and watch the number of cycles on the road. You will get an answer.

Bhaskar Rao, an octogenarian nostalgically said: "In the earlier days roads were lot better and less congested. I and my friends use to cycle to and from our work place. Mangalore was less polluted then and there were fewer potholes. "It was quite common in the 70/80's to see an entire family commuting around on a single bicycle. Usually the father would pedal; the child would be perched on an improvised seat squeezed in behind the handle bars, and the wife sitting side-saddle on the rear rack." He adds, "This scene is fast vanishing with the improvement of living and economic standards. Nowadays I only see the newspaper boy and the postman coming on a cycle."

Govind V K, a resident of Suratkal said: "Roads have become quite treacherous especially the BC Road connecting Mangalore to Udupi. A cyclist can only venture into that road risking his life. NH 17 is really pathetic. Some of the stretches of the NH17 and NH48 are severely damaged. Cycling would be risky on these roads, earlier it was not so. Poor maintenance of the roads have led to inconvenience for the cyclist."

Meanwhile, in countries like Britain, it is undergoing an extraordinary renaissance. Not only it is an energy-efficient means of transport, which cuts down on the usage of petrol but is also a great way of keeping oneself healthy.

Retired army officer Maj Joseph Thankachan said: "I had put on a lot of weight and was advised by the doctor to reduce it. The doctor told me to cycle daily for an hour's time. Cycling was a great way to burn the excess of calories. It is a good form of exercise, less stressful and more fun."

Researches have also found that cycling causes less wear and tear on joints and muscles than any other form of exercise. Hence, it is safe for aged people with joint problems and disabilities. It burns around 300 calories per hour. It improves the functioning of the heart and lungs, which reduces the chances of coronary heart disease, obesity, stroke and other illnesses.

Researches abroad have also shown that it can offset the physical effects of ageing by improving the metabolism, reducing muscle wasting and also boosts mood. It also tones the lower-body muscles.

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