Spokes(Wo)Man

Scared of traffic ? No bike infrastructure ? Too Far ? Helmet hair ?

 

Fuck it, ride anyway

A Nation of Numpties

One of the (many many many) astounding moves from last week's US tax "reform" vote was the removal of the $20 per month subsidy for cycling commuters while retaining the $255 subsidy for car commuters.

(Yes, there were more devastating and inequitable amendments, but remember this is a cycling blog and I do try and keep on topic. Until I don't want to, coz it's my blog and I'll say what I want.) 

Non-US people who read about this subsidy pretty much said "WTF?" so I thought it worth going into a little further. I didn't have to go far to arrive at this; $7.3 billion USD. Per annum.

$7.3 billion USD. That's the total annual cost of subsidising daily parking costs for US car commuters. Naturally the wealthier you are, the more of the up-to $255 per month you can write off on your taxes.

So you have this "interesting" situation where the CEO of Goldman Sachs drives to work daily and parks for free, but if you're the person who catches the bus to go clean the toilets at Goldman's, it'll cost you $13 a day in bus fares. And I don't always pick on Goldman's as my example of profligate entitlement, it just looks that way, and also, it's because I hate them. I work with them here, and the entitlement transcends continents, let me tell you.

There's a lot of good things you could do with $7.3 billion USD a year, and paying already reasonably wealthy people to increase peak hour traffic and pollution in the most congested cities on earth does not make my top 1000 list.

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But you know, "Make America Great Again" ...

 

 

 

Tejaswani Priyadarshani

Here's a story I missed from over a year ago about a 14-year-old girl, Tejaswani Priyadarshani from India who designed a new type of bicycle which runs on air.

Instead of pedal power, the bike is propelled by the air from a 10 kg cylinder of compressed air mounted on the bicycle carrier and can run up to a distance of 60 km.

Tejaswani’s innovation comes at a time when the world is trying to mitigate the oncoming global armageddon caused by climate change by eliminating fossil fuels such as coal, oil, gas, petrol and diesel; and opening up to greater possibilities of using renewables like solar and wind energy. Some of the comments were a bit nit-picky about the cost of compressing the air, what does the compressor run on, etc etc.

LOOK, IT RUNS ON THE TEARS OF OUR DYING PLANET, OK ? JFC people, she's 14. She'll refine this and get it right, or some big corporation will. Regardless it's better than paying huge amounts of blood money to a repressive regime who ignore human rights and buy gold gulf stream jets with thrones in them, m'kay ?

Tejaswani came up with the idea when she visited a bicycle-repair shop and saw the mechanics using air guns to detangle knots in a bicycle tyre. I've never looked at an air compressor and thought "means of propulsion" myself; our airgun is used for dusting, cleaning upholstery (boy do humans shed a lot of skin in a week!) and its intended use, which is pumping up the approximately 9 million bikes tyres we have in use at any one time. You try pumping up a fat-bike tyre. I'll come back in an hour and see how you're going. AND YES OUR COMPRESSOR RUNS ON SOLAR POWER, SO SUCK IT.

Tejaswani's dad helped her with her experiments, after several different design processes, they bought an air tank with an inlet for filling water. A starting knob and a safety valve were also connected to release excess air. When the knob is turned on, the air from the cylinder is transferred to the air gun placed near the paddle that rotates the gear with the help of six different blades, which also sets the cycle in motion. I'd prefer you had to pedal a bit as well, because without it we've basically got an air-driven motor-bike, but you know what ? It's not aimed at me, so I should STFU.

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The technique used in the cycle could also be applied to motorcycles and cars.

Imagine this bike being used by the elderly, the differently abled, farmers, whoever needs a bit of extra help and for whatever reason (like, they live in India and might not be able to afford a car, or even that they live in India which has deadly car pollution crisis).

Tejaswani has won several accolades for her brilliant invention. Good for her ! I'm going to go look her up and see how far this project has progressed in the last 12 months.

In contrast with this idiot;

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For fuck's sake.

 

 

 

The Cat's Meow

For our lovers of felis catus here's a heart-warming story from The Otago Daily Times in New Zealand, about Mac the cat.

Jan Murch takes her Burmese cat, Mac, for a ride on John Wilson Ocean Dr yesterday. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery

Jan Murch takes her Burmese cat, Mac, for a ride on John Wilson Ocean Dr yesterday. Photo: Stephen Jaquiery

The 7-year-old Burmese has developed a taste for pedal power, riding along perched in the front basket of Dunedin woman Jan Murch’s mountain bike. Over the weekend, she took part in a 35km ride on the Taieri Plain with the AOK Wanderers  group, with Mac in his favourite position.

However, Ms Murch told the Otago Daily Times the weekend trip was not the longest the pair had taken together.

They had been riding together for over a year, and now went out at least once a week, including one memorable jaunt from St Kilda all the way to Taieri Beach, she said.

Ms Murch had even bought Mac a harness and seat belt for his protection, although Mac was "happiest in the basket" and not at risk of suddenly jumping out, she said.

She had the idea to take Mac on her bike with her after watching the film A Street Cat Named Bob, and kept taking him after seeing how much he loved his first trip.

Mac now jumped up, bugging her to take him for a ride  and it was completely "Mac’s choice to come with me," she said.

The unlikely pair met 18 months ago when Ms Murch’s daughter found the stray cat hanging around her flat and brought him home.

Ms Murch, who confessed she did not like cats until then, "knew there was something special" about Mac and fell in love with him.

She has always wanted her daughter to ride a bike with her and bought a basket to go on another bike, just in case.

"I’m hoping now she will  start riding Mac around too."

Check out the video at The Otago Daily Times.

When you protest against dedicated cycle lanes

You're not pissing off the mamils, let me tell you. Nothing short of stealing their bike from under them is going to stop the dedicated hard men and women of a certain cycling mindset. You want me to stop cycling ?

Make me.

Nope, protests about separated bike lanes only hurt new, uncertain cyclists, and children on bikes, forcing them onto the roads to slow you down.

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But did you know you're also actively discriminating against the less-abled ? Yep, for some people dependant on a wheelchair or mobility scooter  to get around, a hand-cycle and safely separated bike infrastructure would be increased independence the like of which they can only dream about in Sydney at the moment.

Yesterday Sprocketman and I zoomed past an unhappy-looking man in a wheelchair. He was a middle-aged guy, and he looked tired and a bit dispirited. I looked at the long long long bumpy and buckled concrete footpath he'd already pushed along, and looked at the long way he had to go before reaching either the local shopping centre of the train station, whichever was his destination.

The instinct to go ask if help was needed was strong, but as I watched he took a deep breath, readjusted the tough gloves he wore to protect his hands and he pushed himself out of the dip created by a sagging footpath. JFC, this is no way to treat members of our society.

On my bus route there's another young man in a wheelchair, and his journey home from the train station is at least 8 km; and by no means is every bus on our route wheelchair access equipped. Want to know how to treat someone like shit ? Schedule a bus that can't take their chair, zoom off without them, while they push themselves along 8km of sub-standard footpath, complete with dog-shit, detours and obstacles created by local developers, in the rain.

Say you can get a wheelchair equipped taxi, or a family member to collect you, you're still dependant on someone else turning up where & when you asked them to. I can't imagine what the loss of independence feels like on top of ooh, say a crash or accident and the physical trauma of losing mobility.

Why can't we provide a safe way for people to maintain their independence ?

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I see pics of Isabelle cycling all over London, she goes to work, goes to about a gazillion meetings for Wheels for Wellbeing, goes out socially; she's living an awesome life.

She's an independent person, contributing to society. She's no-one's object of pity. "Bored to tears with physio exercises" ? Jaysus, aren't we all. Does anyone do their physio exercises?

Handcycling has been added to the Olympics, and even more recently added as a category on Strava, but it should be No Big Deal; part of our daily life.  

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I mean, would you rather your taxes went on one-time separated infrastructure for [hand]cyclists or on taxi vouchers, carers, expensively equipped wheelchair fitted cars and Christ knows what else for the rest of their lives?

Whether born with a condition, whether acquired through accident; give people a hand instead of a hand-out to live a meaningful and independent life.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Democracy dies in the dead of night

Those of you following the news this weekend already know the US Senate passed a $1.4 trillion Republican-led tax bill yesterday.

Billed as tax relief for the middle-class of 'Murica, it is no such thing. It grants massive tax cuts to corporate USA, while hurting lower & middle-classes.

These guys seem totally stoked at the removal of taxes for private jet owners.

These guys seem totally stoked at the removal of taxes for private jet owners.

And the pain's not over, because in order to pay for the corporate tax cuts promised and soon to be delivered, US Republican Senators plan future related funding cuts, such as stripping away funding away from Medicaid for instance. Yeah, not many Yanks on welfare are there ?

Watching footage of corporate lobbyists gleefully hand-writing amendments onto the document was just astounding; no pretence at the public interest; instead amendments were inserted to for instance grant large sums of money to individual institutions favoured by Republican donors; 

Pat Toomey (R-PA) apparently added an amendment to p289 of the #GOPTaxScam bill that would exempt Hillsdale College, and only that school, from a particular tax. The college is in Michigan and gets large donations from the DeVos and Koch families.

DeVos and Koch being the rabidly conservative and insanely wealthy donors to the Republican party, and who are given plum roles in government in return for donations of $200M (USD) and $890M (USD) respectively. You can buy your companies a lot of beneficial deregulation and tax cuts for gifts like that.

You people make me sick, and I sincerely hope you're the first against the wall when the 99% of America gets off it's collective fake news watching lardy-arse and pays attention to what's going on.

That is certainly unfair to the few people who are doing the work of the entire nation by standing up to a tax bill which mysteriously includes a proposal to allow drilling for oil in Alaska's Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

And OMG, where was the ALL POWERFUL BIKE LOBBY when this amendment was slipped in ?

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Today, the Senate voted to eliminate the $20 per-month tax benefit available for those who bike to work while maintaining the $255 per-month vehicle and parking benefit.

“What is the Senate thinking? Why single out a modest incentive that encourages people to bike to work, increasing community health and reducing congestion, while maintaining a significantly larger and more expensive incentive for people to drive? We encourage the conference committee to include this popular and common sense bike tax benefit as the House did in its version of the bill.”
— Tim Blumenthal, President of PeopleForBikes.

In order for this Bill to be passed into law by The Worst President Ever, I beleive it now has to pass the House vote; and hopefully the outrage generated by some of the most public displays of self-serving and greedy politics will see this watered down or defeated. While the House is also Republican dominated and has the numbers, hopefully individual representatives of the people will at least consider their chances of re-election when they have to explain face-to-face with actual voters, why they supported this massive wealth grab by the richest citizens of their country.

Anyone who has a passing interest in history often wonders (before they start actually studying) how something as wide-spread and powerful as the Roman empire could fall in such a short time.

Wonder no more.

Why Hi-vis isn't always the answer

I'm not a fan of those of who just bleat "helmets and hi-vis for all cyclists" while using their phone/putting on make-up, watching a movie on in-car displays as they drive over the speed limit.  The thing you need, apart from motorists actually paying attention, is contrast. Hi-vis in situations like below, pretty much useless.

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Demanding hi-visibility clothing for cyclists, and god help us now, for pedestrians is just a way for drivers to feel better about not driving to the conditions.

Taking bread to the Top of the World

Oh, a little tear in my eye... watch this

And here he is many many years later ...

via the wonderful @GuyEdwardes landscape & nature photographer

via the wonderful @GuyEdwardes landscape & nature photographer

Were it left to me, Mrs Woman'd be getting no bread until Spring ...

Well, colour me absolutely appalled.

I work with two highly moral, intelligent, whimsical yet serious, responsible men. The others in the office are a ragtag crew of shady fucks, but these two are long-standing titans of ours industry, our company directors who steer the helm of the multinational global conglomerate where I like to spend my free time in between bike rides.

They have a clearly stated, zero-tolerance for any corporate shenanigans; this is written into policy, stated at company meetings and reiterated in conversations with either of them. It is inculcated into our company DNA, and we all toe that line.

And yet.

Today, one off them announces his teenage daughter, who has held a driver's licence for less than 6 months, has accrued her second speeding ticket.

I'm shocked, but not as stunned as when he goes on to say that he's going to lie to the police and claim responsibility as the driver for one of them, otherwise she'll lose her shiny new licence to drive a 2 tonne speeding metal projectile.

Dafuq did I just hear ?

And earlier this week, the other one needs help with the printer as he's writing a reference for a former colleague.

She's been charged with a drink driving offence, and he's written a glowing character reference to mitigate her sentence.

WTF ?

You know what I really cannot understand about either of them ? They both ride bikes.

They're both occasional vulnerable road users who apparently think nothing of helping two different people evade the consequences of their actions and putting them both back on the road with me.

Thanks a big fucking bunch guys.

And this is what two people I thought were bastions of morality and honesty are casually willing to do. A straw poll of the rest of the office and the dude who happened to call me right in the middle of the discussion showed no-one else thought anything of it of it either; so god knows what the rest of the country's prepared to compromise on.

 

Is this how most people think ? Wow. I guess anything's back on the table, right ?

[Edit; well what did we spy in the Sydney Morning Herald two days later ?]

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OH RLY ?

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Oh ? She also lied to save her son losing his licence ? Do go on ...

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Snort. Good luck with that one you lying hound.

Oops, my bad

Dear Car Driver from this morning,

I note the demolition and excavation trucks were all over our local streets this morning, caught mid lane-change so they effectively took up two lanes, and caused a back-up of stationary car traffic far further back along our main road than usual.

I note that in filtering through this clusterfuck at a walking pace, that my rubber-clad handlebar touched your wing-mirror, making a sort of a "thwack" sound.

This is the face you pulled;

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OH THE HUMANITY !!

May I point out that I immediately stopped and apologised ? Like this;

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But that you continued to make this face at me;

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So I kind of made this face back;

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After literally a full minute you continued with this face;

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Ultimately forcing me to pull this face;

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Look pal, I touched a piece of plastic on your car at an extremely slow pace, with a piece of soft rubber. Nothing was broken, I'd be surprised if you could show me it even left a mark.

The overly dramatic reaction, the huffing, the OMG of it all  - all of that just made me lose any sincere regret for my error in judging the gap between you and the other peak-hour hog driver, and just made me not give a fuck about you or your stupid car.

You're a 40 year-old white dude driving a car with "Blossy" personalised number-plates.

Examine your life choices.

Fuck it, we're moving to Bologna

Now I've actually stayed in Bologna, and while it was all a great adventure and all that, no offence to the Bolognese, it just never really struck me as a place I was super keen to return to; until now.

Because last Friday a new shopping centre opened in Bologna. "Big whoop" I hear you all saying. "What of it?"

"Well, the shopping centre has it's own share bike scheme". I would say to you in reply.

"Meh". You'd shrug and start filing your nails.

But how's about it's own bike share scheme which you can ride in the centre using the bikes as a shopping trolley ?!

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BOOM ! We are SO there...

Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni has opened a Bianchi concept store in Bologna. Its sited within FICO Eataly World, said to be the “biggest agricultural theme park in the world.” (FICO stands for “Italian Farming Culture”.)

Visitors to the €120m 100,000-sq-m shopping mall, which opened today, will be able to use Bianchi ‘Fico’ cargotrikes developed by the company last year. The trikes are equipped with front and rear wooden baskets and have a tillting front end. Visitors to the FICO indoor mall can use the bikes to get around the Ikea-style aisles. 500 of the trikes have been provided via the bike-share operator Bici in Citta.

The Bianchi store displays and sells the company’s bikes, apparel and accessories.

Sprocketman and I have done our grocery shopping by bike, and it has its charms, as well as its challenges. A weekly shop involves multiple panniers, backpacks and a bike basket, and while you're all "I'm saving the world, I am." about it, it is a bit fiddly. 

Also, I don't actually love leaving my bike in some of the public parking spaces made available for them, so riding around on a Bianchi shopping trike would be a hoot.

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The next step is being allowed to ride your own bike to the shops and continue around with it as your trolley, just like those lucky bastards in their mobility scooters.

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Well, that escalated quickly.

But at least it stops this sort of nonsense.

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