Bicycle Diaries: March 2008

Recent Posts


Scottish taffic taming

biker films
dangerous cagers

The UK's SkyNews reports:
David Brennan, a Glasgow doctor, uses a camera strapped to his helmet to catch offenders in the act as he bikes to and from work. He has filmed near misses, dangerous over and undertaking as well as drivers speeding through red lights. [He] also posts footage of cyclists and pedestrians behaving badly - say[ing] he just wants to get the road safety message across.

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Hillary's Bosnia war...

and why
it pisses me off

Embellishing wartime experiences is an ancient, if untrustworthy, tradition. Having spent the latter part of the Bosnia War in Tuzla, I remember many a late hour hearing graphic war stories from both local Tuzlans and refugees from Eastern Bosnia. Many even made their own grainy home movies of the war.

But when Hillary embellished her 1996 trip to Tuzla on the campaign trail, it really, really, really pissed me off. Not only does it smack of the worst kind of war tourism, it also insults the real experiences of the locals and internationals who fought daily just to survive.

As the monument to The 1995 Tuzla Massacre states:

Here you don't live

just to live

here you don't die

just to die

here you die

just to live.

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Stupidist bike lane in America?

from Slate V Editor
Andy Bowers

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The 3 foot rule...

The Chicago Cycling Chic offers a novel way to monitor cager compliance with the new Illinois 3 foot rule.
Received a foam claw from a Freecycler. I plan on painting it either orange or yellow or something that glows in the dark. Then I'll incorporate the IL 3-ft minimum to pass law information on the claw as well as my milk crate. The claw is about 15" wide so if anyone hits it, they neglected to give me the additional 21" MINIMUM they are legally required to give me.
As described by Gary Washburn in The Chicago Tribune, the 3 foot rule requires that:
[d]rivers better steer clear of bicyclists in Chicago or they will face big fines under a new ordinance the City Council approved Wednesday. The ordinance includes fines on motorists who turn left or right in front of someone on a bicycle; pass with less than 3 feet of space between the car and a bike; or open a vehicle door into the path of a cyclist.

Fines for violations range from $150 to $500.
The measure also adds fines for parking or otherwise obstructing marked bike lanes. Aldermen did not debate the measure before approving it. But in committee discussions last week some council members told aides to Mayor Richard Daley that something should be done about dangerous bike riders as well. The mayor, an avid cyclist, backed the new measure. Daley wants to launch a new fleet of as many as 1,500 rental bikes in Chicago. Based on programs in the French cities of Paris and Lyon, the bicycles would be available to renters at sites around the city at a minimal cost.

The bike safety issue was highlighted in February when a cyclist was hit and killed by a sport-utility vehicle during an unofficial street race. Witnesses said the accident took place when a group of riders competing in the "Tour Da Chicago" attempted to ride through an intersection against a red light.

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Sexing up your ride

w/happy feet

Here's one way to sex-up your ride. It might even be useful in those heavy snow areas like here in The Windy City.

Or if you're not very krafty, then you can get these Windride Bicycle Clips from The Conran Shop:
This clever and stylish pair of bicycle clips with its 'wing' design by Gijs Bakker is designed to be worn when one's pants are in danger of being caught by a bike chain, etc. The bicycle clips are made from reflective PVC material.

Gijs Bakker was born in 1942 and studied industrial design and jewellery in Amsterdam and Stockholm. As a designer, he worked for companies such as: Polaroid, Hema, van Kempen en Begeer and Artifort. Gijs Bakker has been a teacher at the prestigious Design Academy of Eindhoven for over 20 years and in 1993, he created with Renny Ramakers the famous collective Droog Design, where he is still the co-operational and artistic director.

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Dictatorship of the velotariat

Lenin rolled
Paris & Cracow

During his 1909-1916 exile from Imperial Russia, V.I. Lenin, like all refugees was too poor to afford a car. So Lenin, ever at the Forefront of the Proletariat, got himself a bike - model unknown. It seems, though, that he wasn't a very skilled biker. In Paris, he even tangled with a cager! His wife, Nadezhda K. Krupskaya, reports in her Reminiscences of Lenin:
Studying in Paris was very inconvenient. The Bibliotheque Nationale was a long way off. Vladimir Ilyich usually cycled there, but riding a bicycle in Paris was not what it was in the suburbs of Geneva. It was a great strain. Those cycle rides tired him out. The library closed at lunch time. There was a lot of red-tape in the arrangements for ordering books, and Ilyich swore at the library, and while he was at it, at Paris in general...

Ilyich made the round of all the libraries mentioned but none of them was suitable. In the end his bicycle was stolen. He used to leave it on the stairs of a house next door to the Bibliothetque Nationale and pay the concierge ten centimes a day for it. When he came for the bicycle and found it gone, the concierge declared that she had not been hired to look after the bicycle but only to let Ilyich keep it on the stairs.

Riding a bicycle in Paris and the suburbs required great care. Once, on his way [to watch an air display at] to Juvisy-sur-Orge, Ilyich was nearly run over by a motor-car. He barely managed to jump clear, and the bicycle was wrecked.
Then in June 1912, Lenin & Krupskaya moved from Paris to the ancient Polish city of Cracow:
...In the morning Lenin would swim in the Dunajec, little mountain river, before breakfast. Then he would drop in to the post office, receive his correspondence, and quickly glance through it in order to answer urgent telegrams and letters on the spot. After breakfast he would sit down to work which lasted until 7:00 in the evening with one short break. Then he would take his mail to the train station on bicycle. In nice weather Lenin would take his work and climb up to the hill Galitsova Grapa. A splendid view of the Tatry Mountains could be seen from there.

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Liberal smackdown


Do the test...

from across
the pond

Transport for London has launched a new bike safety campaign: Look Out For Cyclists.

A passer-by asks you for directions. As you talk to him, two workmen walk between you carrying a door. In a flash the passer-by switches places with one of the workmen, and you are left giving directions to a different person. Do you think you would notice?

Researchers at Harvard University played this trick on some unsuspecting people and over 50 per cent failed to spot the change.

This phenomenon is known as "change blindness" - only a tiny fraction of all the information going into your brain enters your consciousness. People often fail to see a change in their surroundings because their attention is elsewhere.

Even stranger, if you are concentrating on something, you can become blind to other events that you would normally notice. This "inattention blindness" is possibly the reason why motorists collide with cyclists.

Just as it is important for road users to keep an eye out for cyclists, cyclists must also take steps to ensure they are seen by motorists.

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A gut feeling?


Frustrations w/work?

from JibJab

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Bikewinter's last gasp

the north side?

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Bikes by the millisecond

This nifty world clock of constantly updated global statistics includes worldwide bike production - lower right hand courner.

These stats may be verified at the listed websites:

World Population
US Census Bureau

Population growth rate
CIA World Factbook

Prison Population
UK Homeoffice

Divorces (US Only)

US Illegal Immigration


Mothers dying during botched abortions
World Health Organization

HIV infection

Cancer incidence

Earth Temp

Species Extinct
National Wildlife Federation

Oil Production
CIA World Factbook

Cars produced
Mation Master

Bicycle Production
Earth Policy

Computer production
Top Secret [?]

Death stats
World Health Organization

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NYC bombing

this bike
is a pipe bomb?

The NYPD is still investigating Friday's early morning explosion at the famous Times Square Armed Forces Recruiting Center on Military Island at 43rd & Broadway. They've looked at dozens of security videotapes, hoping to identify a bike bomber.

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Ultimate bike security?

not if the bike-jacker
is 8 ft tall!

Romanian photographer, Ovidiu Cincheza, was born on 21.04.1982. His first camera was his father's EXA 1a. At that point he didn't realized exactly what he was doing. Much later he took the thing much seriously. The direction in which Cincheza went also doesn't have much to do with photography. He has a BA in Computer Science and an MS in automotive embedded systems.

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Swiss traffic taming


At the big HQ of the Touring Club Swiss, workers and guests park and secure their rides with the help of these space age mushrooms. Oddly enough the TCS is an auto club not unlike our AAA.

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Alsatian traffic taming

is bikes

CaféBabel, the premier online Euromag, announces that Strasbourg is challenging Fribourg, Germany as the model of bike-driven sustainable growth.
Strasbourg is bikes; it is tramcars; but it is also urban projects aimed at creating small self-sufficient, ecological communities; such is the project ‘Éco-logis’ (eco-housing) that will be developed in the Neudorf neighbourhood over the next few years, following in the footsteps of the German city Fribourg. Cars: your time is up!

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Winter humor

with Yehuda Moon
& the Kickstand Cyclery

November 2007
1st Snowfall:
6 inches

New Years Eve Snowfall:
21 more inches

January 2008 snowfall:
another 14 inches

February 2008 snowfall:
23 more inches

Snowfall so far?
55 inches!

so done

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Grow your own helmet

with the
Roof R06

After Fritz commented on my post petroleum post I found an answer to his question here. It's a tad pricey at £189, or $378, especially given our plunging dollar. But the UK-made motorcycle helmet is at least a start on combining green transportation alternatives with accessories produced from renewable resources.

Why bamboo? It's the fastest growing woody plant on the planet. It grows one third faster than other tree species. Some bamboo species can grow up to 1 meter per day. This growth pattern makes it easily accessible in a minimal amount of time. The Environmental Bamboo Foundation in Bali, Indonesia lists 11 reasons:
  1. The fastest growing plant on this planet
  2. A critical element in the balance of oxygen and carbon dioxide in the atmosphere
  3. A viable replacement for wood
  4. An enduring natural resource
  5. Versatile with a short growth cycle
  6. A critical element of the economy
  7. An essential structural material in earthquake architecture
  8. A renewable resource for agroforestry production.
  9. A natural controllable barrier
  10. An ancient medicine
  11. Integrally involved in culture and the arts.

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Our bill of rights, Part II

Last Sunday, Matt was instantly killed by an SUV going east on Irving Park Road as he was crossing a 3way intersection north on Lincoln Avenue. In ordinary circumstances, this would've been a personal tragedy for Matt's wife and family and a public tragedy for our bike community if it weren't for 2 extraordinary facts:
  • Matt was racing in the Tour da Chicago.
  • And to win, he blew through a red light.
But first some background: The race is a six-stage alley cat that's been going on for 8 years here in The Windy City. Alley Cats are illegal, or at the very least condemned, in every city where they take place. The usual rules of the road do not apply. Winning requires each biker to take extreme physical risks buzzing through often busy street traffic. Not surprisingly, many of them acknowledge that it is precisely these risks, as well as the illegality, which are the biggest thrills of an alley cat. As Rob Sadowsky, executive director of the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation, has commented:
It's an event inherently designed to have people break rules and break laws. It provides a competitive incentive, almost, for people to run red lights.
The risks of the Tour da Chicago are at least no different, and perhaps greater, than other alley cats. Daniel Burnham's famous north-south & east-west street grid is shot through with is 26 diagonal streets, 6 of which form the city's busiest intersections. And I personally know how dangerous The Irving Park 3way can be. My commute to and from the Loop takes me through it every work-day.

Unlike 2way intersections, this particular 3way forces bike commuters to navigate through soft left and right turns as well as the more usual hard ones. This poses increased risk for 2 reasons: There are only left-turn lanes on each of the three streets and cagers won't necessarily indicate how hard to the right they're going to turn.

So when a biker consciously disregards the lights, they're certainly courting death. The prizes for a win in The Tour da Chicago are a bike jersey & bragging rights. Why a successful catering executive with a wife would die for those is beyond me.

One thing I do understand is that I'm angry. Matt's tragic, illegal choice has thrown the bike community, and me, into an inane controversy over our legal responsibility to share the streets with cagers.

Just how inane it has become is illustrated by the ABC Chicago 7 report from last week. In it, comments by Alex Wilson, the founder of West Town Bikes, are taken completely out of context. Here's an email he subsequently sent to the reporter.

I am disappointed with your investigative report titled "The Alleycats" about the death of bicyclist Matt Mager. I feel that my points on the dangerous environment that we all live in because of auto use were not represented and that your report misrepresented me as an organizer and supporter of these unlawful and dangerous races.

I was skeptical to speak with you on camera during our phone conversation before filming and even asked what the tone or view of what the piece would be about. You assured me that you were just trying to get details and perspectives on the event that led to Matt's death and that it would not be an editorial piece. The piece "The Alleycats" reported very little on the actual events involved in Matt's death and chose to focus generally about unsanctioned bike races on city streets.

Over the phone and in person I gave you my perspective that we live in a culture and infrastructure that has been designed to let tragedies like this happen. I brought up that we all know someone that has been killed or severely injured because of car crashes and that as a culture we choose not to address the larger issues that car use causes, such as over 40,000 Americans being killed each year, hundreds of thousands severely injured, health related illnesses, environmental damage and the poor political position it has put the US in because of our world policies to acquire resources to feed our car addiction. I also commented that it is your responsibility as a journalist to report this larger story to the public but I was skeptical that you would because of the media's funding through advertisements by the auto and oil industry. You assured me that your reporting is not affected by these influences and that my point would be fairly represented. Boy, was I ever duped into being a sucker.

"The Alleycats" report was a sensationalistic piece of work that took a complex issue and simplified into a radical dichotomy that quoted me out of context in order to make compelling sound bites that polarizes the viewing audience into believing that one individual interviewed was the "good" cyclist and the other the "bad" without ever really raising my points. I am not an organizer of alleycat races, I do not advocate breaking the law and this was not clearly made out in your report.

I have received several emails in response to your investigative report insulting me and the work that I do without knowing me or the true causes that I believe. I have been told in these emails things such as "Do us all a favor, Alex.....hop on your bike, and ride into the lake.", "You have to be kidding, because if not, you should just die now." and "Any decent attorney is going to tell you that your appearance on ABC 7 opens you up to a "deep pockets" liability suit to be brought by anyone who was injured by one of these unsanctioned, illegal races that your store clearly supports.". I don't believe that any of these people received the message I meant to purvey and surely viewed me in a poor perspective because of how this report was presented.

Your report has damaged my and West Town Bikes reputation and done nothing for car/cyclists relations. I have learned to be even more skeptical of the media and not step in front of the camera especially if a controversial topic is being reported. You have also showed me that there really is no such thing as journalistic morals or ethics, just whatever it takes to write a story. I will look elsewhere for informative and unbiased reporting.

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The new gentlemen cyclist

from Punch

(rescuing his assistants,
who have failed to satisfy customer):

"Are you sure you know what kind of cap you do want?

New Gentleman Cyclist:

"Well, ye see, it's like this—I've bought a bike, and I thought as 'ow I'd like a cap wi' a peak at the back."

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