Fri, 30 May 2008

Wimped out

Bike pulling refrigerator Earlier this month, when the refrigerator died, I shopped by phone and Internet and had the replacement delivered. Seems I wimped out. I could have hauled the refrigerators by bike.

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Thu, 29 May 2008

Do cyclists pay their way?

Every Wednesday evening, I meet a group of fellow cyclists at our local bike shop for a ride. (We have a Facebook group. If you're in the area on any Wednesday evening, we'd love to have you along.)

Last night, as we gathered, we exchanged stories about some run-ins with motorists. Three or four in the group had ridden on the Palouse, Sunday, and encountered an angry, local motorist. He went off on them, red-faced, bulge-eyed, screaming, "You don't belong on the road. Cyclists don't pay their fair share of the taxes and fees!"

It's an argument we hear often, but before I address the validity of his assertion, let me address how I think it is best to respond. A heated argument with a motorist is probably counter productive. You're not likely to sway his opinion. An automobile is a lethal weapon when controlled by an enraged motorist. For your safety, you want to be as far away from him as possible and as soon as possible.

It is probably best to say, "I'm sorry to trouble you. I'll be on my way and won't be on this road any longer than I have to."

If you can safely and calmly say more, you might say, "I understand your concern, but you are talking about how things should be. Currently, the law gives me a legal right to ride on the road and I'm exercising that right. If you don't agree with the law you need to contact your legislators and lobby to have it changed."

This topic has been discussed at length, online, and a quick Google search will give you plenty of material to read. I found the exchange in the comments of this BlueOregon post interesting. TR, the anti-cyclist poster at least states his position articulately, so it is a good source for the argument that bicycles and cyclists should be taxed.

However, I think TR and the irate Palouse motorist my fellow cyclists encountered this past weekend are dead wrong. Cyclists do pay their fair share. The post titled Cyclists Pay Their Fair Share! on the Saint Louis Regional Bicycle Federation site is a thorough argument supporting that view.

According to the statistics cited there, 92% of the funds for local roads and transportation infrastructure come from property, income, and sales taxes. Cyclists are taxed no differently in that regard than motorists. The remaining 8% comes from user fees. Most cyclists own automobiles. So they pay the same vehicle registration and licensing fees all motorists pay. About the only fee they do not pay is the fuel tax.

Riding a bicycle reduces congestion. It increases the lifetime of existing infrastructure because it has a negligible impact on the road surface. It decreases demand on the fuel supply which directly benefits motorists with lower fuel costs.

And there are many indirect benefits. Joe Johnson, a very good friend of mine and an avid cyclist once told me about a discussion he had with a co-worker who was trying to make the case that cyclists don't pay their way. The co-worker was an overweight diabetic, his condition quite likely due to, or at least exacerbated by his lifestyle and lack of exercise. Joe is the picture of health.

Let's not talk about the gasoline tax, Joe said, "Let's talk about health insurance premiums. We both pay the same amount. Why should I pay the same amount you do when you refuse to ride a bike or do any sort of exercise to maintain your health?"

Cyclists not only pay their way, they reduce costs for other road users, too.

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Tue, 27 May 2008

A small dose of bigotry

Sunday, I ran several errands on my bike. The weather was nice and I felt great. I even used the drive up window at the pharmacy and when they told me their printer was down and it would take ten to fifteen minutes, I rode the two miles home to let the dogs out and play ball with Jake instead of waiting there. Riding was much more enjoyable than waiting.

On my way back to the pharmacy, two lanes in each direction, a small pickup passed in the left lane with the passenger shouting, Faggot! Faggot!

It wouldn't have matter much what he was shouting. My blood boiled instantly. Here I was, enjoying the day, feeling strong, riding fast, and someone decides I shouldn't be allowed to do so in peace.

The anger made me ride a bit faster, perhaps. In fact, I passed the truck at the next light. The passenger, a young man perhaps twenty years old, continued his insults, this time whistling and cat calling as they passed a second time.

I passed the truck again at the next light, and would have been right with them at a third, but I'd reached my destination and left the street.

It puzzles me. What is it about riding a bike that makes me a faggot? Is that just the worst insult he knows or does he actually think a cycling jersey and shorts indicate sexual preference. Is riding a bike unmanly? Does he think Lance Armstrong and Mario Chipollini are sissies? Would he shout insults at me if he didn't have the protection of his steel and glass cage?

If I felt the need to shout insults at someone, I don't think I'd pick someone fit enough to keep pace with auto traffic on a bike.

Thankfully, incidents like this are rare, but they are maddening, frustrating, and sad. I feel exposed, vulnerable, and helpless. I feel angry—very angry. The attacks aren't provoked. The attackers don't know me. Yet, it feels so personal.

I'm a white, middle class, heterosexual, American male living in a predominately white community. Racial persecution, any kind of persecution really, isn't part of my personal experience. Moments like this give me a small taste of what that must feel like.

So, unknown to the bigots shouting insults and making fools of themselves, when the anger of the moment subsides, I emerge a stronger, more understanding person. They've done me an unwitting and very unwelcome service. I understand more about who I am, what I believe, and certainly what I do not ever want to be.

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Mon, 19 May 2008

Lost and found

Before yesterday, I'd never found anyone's drivers license before. In the past 24 hours, I've found two!

While riding the Centennial Trail east of Spokane, I nearly ran over a driver's license, face up, on the trail, just past one of the trail heads. Looking back, I couldn't see anyone in the parking lot. It couldn't have been there long. The first person to happen upon it would certainly pick it up—and that was me.

After mentally noting the name and taking a close look at the picture, I tucked it in my jersey pocket and continued on my way.

About a mile later, I glanced over at a cyclist I was overtaking—he certainly looked like the photo. Are you Richard E.? I asked.

Yes, he said pulling to a stop.

You dropped this, I said, handing him his drivers license.

I have truly never seen anyone so grateful. He was amazed that I'd found it and returned it so unexpectedly. With a trip to Canada planned for this week, he would have been greatly inconvenienced if he hadn't found it.

Richard told me he lives in Liberty Lake, gave me his address, and offered his private beach any time I want to go swimming. I almost took him up on the offer on the spot. It was nearly ninety degrees.

It felt great to have made someone's day. I almost felt a bit guilty, though. There was almost zero effort on my part. His gratitude outweighed the good deed.

Having never found someone else's drivers license before, imagine how surprised I was this morning when I pushed the lawn mower out front to clip the grass before the heat of the day and found one laying in the yard. There was eighteen year-old Brena H. looking up at me.

The license was punched to indicate it had been replaced. But just a few feet away was the temporary license that had replaced it. Strewn along the edge of the street in front of our house and our neighbors' were a dozen or more receipts, paycheck stubs, and business cards.

The temporary license had expired over a year ago. Nothing I examined was current.

Using the white pages tab on Dex Knows, I found a phone number with an address and last name matching Brena's drivers license. The number has been disconnected.

I called the Sheriff's Department and not long afterwards an officer arrived and collected the items a neighbor and I found. It's probably the contents of a stolen purse, dumped on the street after everything valuable was taken.

The second find was certainly less rewarding. Hopefully, Brena H. suffered no great loss.

[/cycling] [link]

Wed, 14 May 2008

14 days down

I've completed over one-third, 14 days, of my 40 day challenge of bicycle only transportation. I have 26 days to go.

For the most part, it's been easy. I love cycling.

Each day, I've made a point to do at least one trip, somewhere on the bike in addition to my training rides. One afternoon, I rode to the video store and rented a couple of DVDs to watch. Another evening, I met friends for dinner at a restaurant about 7 miles away and rode home in the dark (properly lighted, of course). Last Friday, I made a stop by the grocery store, then rode to my oldest son's apartment where he prepared dinner for me and his fiancee. After watching a movie with them I made another after-dark ride home.

On Sunday morning, May 4th, I rode downtown and watched some of the Bloomies finish. The first friend I recognized was Steve Waco. He finished with just one second to spare to secure a second seed start, next year. That was an amazing finish considering the injuries he suffered almost 2 miles from the end.

Then I saw Joe Johnson less than a minute behind Steve.

After that, the swarm of Bloomies started the thicken and it became more and more difficult to scan all the faces passing by. But I did see my son, Christopher. I shouted and he gave me the thumbs up. I checked the time and was concerned he may have beaten the family record for Bloomsday held by yours-truly. I hope I can get trained up for Bloomsday next year without injury, because Christopher is gunning for me and I need to be prepared to defend my title.

I've done my banking and shopping by bike. I can fit the equivalent of two, full, plastic grocery bags in my bicycle messenger bag (it's bigger than it looks). So far, that has been sufficient.

There have been some minor challenges, though. I'm training for a 100-mile mountain bike race, the Cascade Cream Puff. As much as I enjoy cycling, I don't particularly care to ride my mountain bike on the road. It's half as efficient as a road bike on pavement, so riding the 10 miles to the trail head, then 10 miles home after an exhausting workout on the cross country course is not entirely fun.

Last Saturday, after riding 30 miles on the cross country course and making the 10 mile slog home, I arrived completely exhausted to discover the refrigerator was emanating death rattles. By the time I realized it a hopeless cause and was no longer cooling, it was too late to call neighbors looking for some extra freezer space.

Fortunately, almost everything stayed frozen overnight. Our next door neighbor had a nearly empty chest freezer. He let me throw my frozen goods in while I found a replacement for the twenty-plus years old unit that had died. We have a mini-fridge in the garage. Between it and an ice chest I was able to find a place to stash the refrigerated goods.

I wasn't looking forward to shopping for a refrigerator on a rainy Sunday on a bike. Thanks to the Internet and the telephone, I didn't have to. I called a couple of local appliance dealers, found out what they had in stock that matched my specifications, reviewed those units at the manufacturers' web sites, and placed an order.

The new refrigerator was delivered Monday and they hauled off the old one. Hopefully, the new refrigerator will be worry free for the next twenty-plus years like the old one was.

Jenny likes to bag the grass clippings and haul them to the dump when she mows the lawn. I raised the mower a bit and mulch instead of bag so the trip to the dump isn't necessary. That's supposed to be healthier for the lawn, anyway. I probably only have enough gasoline for one more mowing, though, so I'll have to figure out how to get gas home by bike. I'll probably just bungee strap the can to the rear rack of my old mountain bike which has been converted into a wet weather commuter.

I declined an invitation to attend a Spokane Shock arena football game with a friend. I had planned a long training ride on the mountain bike the day of the game and knew I would be exhausted. I've gone to a game with him before after a long ride like that and sitting in the arena seats that long with sore, tired legs is uncomfortable. And to adhere to the rules of my self-imposed challenge, I would have to ride my bike to the arena and back. That's about a 30-mile round-trip. It wouldn't be a bad ride under normal circumstances, but in the dark, after a grueling training ride earlier in the day it probably wouldn't be much fun. So I stayed home and went to bed early. Sleep after a long training ride is delicious.

I'm looking forward to the remainder of my challenge. It has been fun and rewarding, so far.

[/cycling] [link]

Thu, 01 May 2008

Two moose and a turkey

Two moose near the trail

I rode the cross-country loop on Beacon Hill tonight. Between the two peaks, I saw a wild turkey. She disappeared before I could get a picture.

On the way back, just east of the west peak, two cow moose were eating bud laden shrub branches beside the trail. I passed within about 15 yards of one of them.

Since moose are big, unpredictable, and sometimes aggressive, I gave myself some distance before snapping a couple of pictures with my cell phone camera.

[/cycling] [link]

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