Friday, December 19, 2008

An "Orderly" Automobile Bankruptcy

I think I figured out what this means...

An "orderly" bankruptcy refers to the assurance from the captain and his officers, that no matter what happens, they'll be the first ones to board the escape boats when the ship goes down.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Rainy Day Musings

Back on the bike after a 2 day rain hiatus. I just couldn't do it. Too much hassle - the suiting up of tights underneath the pants, the rain pants over the pants, the thermal top covered by the sweater covered by the jacket covered by the light rain slicker and then a pair of socks and helmet that were going to get wet anyway. Just not worth it. Took the bus, read a book during the ride, watched the silhouette of birds huddled together on the wire before a gray morning light...thinking about budget cuts, and cut trees on "science" hill, and dead auto factories, and all the possums, raccoons, and skunks that those auto factories indirectly killed. And oil production cuts, thanks to the greedy criminal oil-cartel swine called opec. Riding a bike this morning never felt more honest.

Monday, December 8, 2008

Custom Bike Builders

Here's a piece from the LA Times about custom bike builders - Some amazing work here. Not that I could ever afford any of them....

http://www.latimes.com/business/la-fi-bicycle8-2008dec08,0,3326146.story?page=1

Friday, December 5, 2008

re: The Short, Disgusting Life of the Hummer

Salon's sounding the death gong for the Hummer brand. As much as I wanna say, let us treat this like Sara Palin and never speak of it again, I'm reserving the right to kick this thing even if it's deader than fried chicken.

http://www.salon.com/news/feature/2008/12/05/hummer/

p.s. This morning's ride was COLD. Anyone have a spare balaclava?

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Auto Manufacturers Repent, Beg Forgiveness

Didja hear? The corporate executive officers of the big three auto manufacturers are traveling to Washington D.C. via train, bicycle, and horse drawn carriage to ask Congress for money. They released a statement on Tuesday saying they recognize the error of their ways; that the earth cannot sustain producing more and more cars; that the marketing and de facto imposition of automobiles into everyday life for the last century has drastically altered every American city for the worse, and by extension, our health; that they're going to immediately cease production of the said machines, come what may, and encourage others to start building bike paths as well as rebuilding railroad tracks and barns.

Should Congress agree to send them the money, the CEOs of General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler plan to redistribute the wealth to every low-wage employee affected by the collapse of the American auto-industry. In the words of General Motors CEO Rick Wagoner, "For generations, the titans of industrial capitalism have gotten fat off the labor of the common man and woman through ruthless exploitation and violence. Though this small token of wage-restitution does not make up for the centuries of working class people who've died in industrial accidents or wasted their lives away in factories, we feel it is a small but necessary step to right the wrongs perpetrated against humanity."

The remaining CEOs of Ford and Chrysler went on to apologize for the thousands of people who've died in car accidents, the smog that engulfs entire cities, and the insulting ads that equate driving with freedom.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Great Juxtaposition of 2008

There were many contenders this year, but with only a month left before the first of January, I'm pretty confident last week's news cycle takes the cake...To recap:

11/26 India's upper classes suffer terrorist attack - When poor folks get massacred, it's not news; when the wealthy get killed, it's international news, and hot damn if the corporate 4th estate isn't quick to decontextualize this tragedy and start branding it "India's 9/11." But the real issue here is two rival nuclear powers staring each other down - Is an Asian Bay of Pigs scenario unfolding? Probably not, but Condoleeza Rice ain't taking any chances.

11/30 Thailand's Government Crippled by Democracy Protesters - Whether you regard the protesters who've effectively shut down not only government buildings but the international airport as well, as a misguided rabble or as freedom fighters, you have to admit, from an activist perspective it's pretty impressive. Personally, I view the protesters like I view the Pakistani lawyers who rose up against Musharaff, or the teachers of Oaxaca Mexico - That is, a powerful testament to the resilience of the human spirit in the face of oppressive state power.

but here's where the newsreel gets weird. cynical. dystopian...

11/21 American Teenager Commits Online Suicide, viewers keep watching - Only a nation of lonely, spiritually warped voyeurs and exhibitionists could create a situation where a 19 year old invites people to watch him die, broadcasts it online, and garners a crowd to look on through the dehumanizing portholes of cyberspace. In our desperate search for the real, viewers found themselves unable to tell if what they were seeing was legit. A few folks with some semblance of moral duty contacted the police. The kid died anyway. And now it's news.

and finally...

11/28 Low-Wage Temp Worker for Heartless Immoral Corporation Dies in Stampede of Vacant-headed Propertarians. Yeah, it's a long headline but it tells like it is. Black Friday has taken on a whole new meaning. And like, wow, while the poor and working class from Port Au Prince to Cairo riot for bread, America's working class will actually stomp someone to death in order to get a flat screen TV. It was bad enough when the dominant culture would pretend that standing outside a big ugly box store for 24 hours for a sale was something to be proud of, but damn....

....and there's so many ways to break down this week long hallucination - Like, the utter lack of public spaces for people of all classes, ages and creeds to interact in America; the inability of Americans to come together in mass for non-state/corporate sponsored causes and experience the wonder of independent collective action. At least, that's how I'd explain why people get so worked up over after-Thanksgiving Day sales or political campaigns - The rush of involving yourself in a larger movement is really exciting, it's just a shame it's been completely co-opted by the Matrix.

(Good examples of Americans bucking this trend would be the Dia De Los Muertos celebration in the Mission District of San Francisco OR the Last Night DIY parade in Santa Cruz, which, might I add was infiltrated and surveillanced by the ever-watchful/suspicious authorities).

This is to say nothing of how horrifying and embarrassing these two last bits of American "news" fit into the context of India's tragedy and Thailand's democratic uprising. It is, in effect, the ultimate juxtaposition of 2008. If there's any silver lining to this ongoing hysteria, it has to be the fact that shopping malls - the killers of proper downtowns and free speech, are going out of business. http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20081128/ap_on_bi_ge/meltdown_coming_soon

that news made me laugh.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Bike Safety vs. Safety Officers














Which is safer? A) A bicycle parade that stops at every red light, thereby breaking up into smaller and smaller segments, leaving open spaces for cars to get stuck in between? Or b) a bicycle parade that stays together by temporarily blocking an intersection and moves past as quickly as possible? Give up? Here’s a hint, if you answered a, you’re most likely a cop or a traffic light. If you answered b, you’re most likely a reasonable and intelligent person.

Such are my thoughts after Sunday’s People Power and Greenways sponsored King Street Bike Parade. Organized in response to the spate of bicycle deaths on Mission Street, the parade was a wonderful and worthwhile event - From the families decked out in a multitude of colors that would make a Mormon faint, to People Power’s Micah Posner ox-hauling the Santa Cruz high ukulele club on a bike trailer float as they belted out Van Morrison’s “Brown Eyed Girl,” and of course, the message of creating a safe corridor for bicyclists riding near Mission Street. It was almost the perfect group ride, that is, if it weren't for the presence of police officers intimidating riders and inhibiting public safety.









(Parade organizers trying to communicate with policebot)

How else can one describe the actions of Santa Cruz’s PD, who among other things, went out of their way to constantly photograph the 100% peaceful ride and interfere with “corking” safety efforts by parade volunteers? Anyone familiar with group bike rides knows that the best interests of drivers and bicyclists are served when the bicyclists move past whatever intersection they’re using as quickly as possible. “Corking” - the process where a bicyclist pulls up in front of cars and holds the space until all the bicyclists have passed accomplishes just that.

The utter silliness of the PD’s insistence that bicyclists blindly obey the two traffic lights the parade passed through came to a head as riders entered the intersection of Bay and King. As instructed by the organizers in an effort to comply with the policeman, the 100-plus strong bike parade stopped for each time the light turned red. The problem was of course, the parade being big and slow, had to stop 4 times, and each time bike volunteers had to block access to King St anyway lest a car get sandwiched in between the parade. In other words, rather than take the initiative to block one green light on Bay so as to allow a group of bicyclists to pass as one, the officer-on-a-motorcycle remained idle as volunteers ended up having to hold the space through four green lights, redirecting cars onto Escalona, and dragging the entire process out an extra 10 minutes. This only served to break up the ride into smaller and smaller segments, thereby endangering the slower riders and causing more car traffic congestion.

As the ride continued south towards Walnut, officer-on-a-motorcycle sped around to various volunteer corkers, instructing them to not block traffic if there were no cars present, and to not block traffic if there were cars present. When asked if he could do it for us, he replied, “This isn’t a permitted parade.”

Let me get this straight – Because the parade organizers did not go through the hassle of asking the city for permission to ride half a mile, down a residential street, for maybe a half hour, on a Sunday, officer-on-a-motorcycle was not only unwilling to ensure the safety of the families riding (and there were a lot of children in the parade) by temporarily stopping car traffic, but was in the same breath more than willing to stop those of us who were.

You know, a cynical person might get to thinking that perhaps the Police Department is less concerned about public safety and more concerned about maintaining a monopoly of power. After all, if average citizens started organizing in order to take responsibility for their own safety (at least for benign things like bicycle parades), police departments might be put out of business.

And that’s the crux of the issue – the state insisting we need permission to be free. Had the parade organizers not shown such good intentions by approaching the watchful cops at the beginning of the parade, it’s debatable whether the latter would have started issuing tickets and arresting people once we reached the intersection in question. This is not to argue that walking up to the PD and saying, “We’re gonna blow throw these red lights whether you like it or not” would have been any better but rather, to say that perhaps it’s best to leave well enough alone and ignore the cops unless they approach you. After all, it is only by our acknowledgment of their control over us do they derive their authority; if we do not acknowledge them, then they’re just as likely to leave us alone and not assert control over us. And that’s an idea I don’t need permission to express.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Fun Rides Coming Up...

Upcoming Santa Cruz Rides:

Tonight, Friday, Nov.21st
Lost Boyz Vampire Ride
Tour the Historic Bite of Santa Cruz Vampire Geography. Wear Black and Red. Bring Blood in a Bottle (two buck chuck), Meet at 5:30, Fly at 6:00. in front of Oneills at Cooper and Pacific.
All vampires welcome traditional or hipster. Capes and costumes welcome, watch out for the wheels! Lead by Juan. Pick up flyers at Bike Church or new leaf.

And on Sunday, Nov. 23rd



















Saturday, Dec.6th @ 3pm
CAKE Ride meet @ Bike Church
Involves riding steep hills and eating cake
questions? santacruz@gmail.com

Friday, Dec.12th
Solstadas Full Moon Mystery Ride
meet @ corner of Pacific/Cooper 5:30pm

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

In Defense of Somali Oil Pirates

Perhaps I have an overdeveloped sense of irony but I find this Somali oil pirate shit deeply amusing. I mean, American hipsters have for a couple of years now adopted the pirate theme (along with ninjas and vampires) as a soup "du jour" of sorts for parties, fashion, and jokes. Shit, I've been to at least 3 pirate themed events in the past 4 years.

But enter the modern Somali pirate (or the Puntland Navy as they'd refer to themselves) - Seizing big ugly ass oil tankers or commercial fishing ships with nothing more than a few speed boats and a ton of chutzpah, taking the crew hostage, demanding payment from the rich countries who's corporations are dumping toxic waste off the Somali coast with impunity. Some of this waste is apparently even nuclear.

In any other universe, this would be a simple case of Robbin Hood on the high seas. Justice and restitution for the poor, who let's face it, are always getting screwed. According to a couple of pieces I've read on Al Jazeera, many of these so-called "pirates" are former fishermen who've been put out of work by illegal big time fishing operations from Europe and Asia. And really, does that sound like such a far fetched claim?

To add insult to injury, the Western press is accusing the Somali city of Puntland of being a hub for organized "pirate" crime while ignoring the involvement of Italian mobs who have been negotiating toxic disposal deals with a Somali government of dubious legitimacy. (This is the U.S. and Ethiopian military backed government mind you, not the Muslim one that probably has the support of the population).

Either way, the basic premise behind all this Somali pirate brouhaha is that when it comes to oil, piracy is no laughing matter. It's not news to us if our corporations take a big dump on your country, but if you so much as touch our oil, well now you're taking it too far. One could cynically predict that it's only a matter of time before the U.S. Navy, on behalf of Saudi Arabia, starts shelling Puntland, just to remind them who they're dealing with - But then again, the United States has been sporadically attacking Somalia for the past 5 years.

http://www.democracynow.org/2008/5/5/thousands_of_somalis_protest_deadly_us

Here's some of the Al Jazeera reporting...

http://english.aljazeera.net/news/africa/2008/10/2008109174223218644.html

Maybe next Halloween, the hipsters will be dressing up like dead Somali pirates...I mean, that would be so unironic, it would almost be funny.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Automakers Stumbling, take cover!

*sigh*

When forests, rivers, or mountains are destroyed to make way for mining, logging, or hydroelectricity, it's not news - it's called production.

When the big three U.S. automakers show signs of having a malignant tumor, threatening the livelihoods of millions of people, that's news - and it's called a recession.

You know, if I had to explain to a child how our system works, I'd say, "What's good for industrial economies, is bad for Earth; what's good for Earth, is bad for industrialized economies."

The kicker is of course, given the choice between working a crappy factory job and saving our home (Earth), most Westernized people will pick the former option. I mean, it's really not even up for discussion. But, over time, as the Earth fights back against industrialization, it makes life that much harder for us humans anyway.

Quiet a predicament isn't it? I mean, you could make a very good case that that's precisely the point we are at now - Flooding, wildfires, hurricanes, landslides, tumors, these are all signs of a system trying to fight off another one. And that's not even counting the general social strife that comes with all class-based, industrial societies - i.e. poverty, murder, prisons, depression, domination.

What I find incredibly ironic about all this is that while human beings will probably never reach a consensus that makes us give up our teevees and cars in exchange for a green and wild earth, industrialization actually does provide for a soiled earth AND a soiled soul. Or to put it another way, as if 8-10 hours in a factory assembling cars wasn't horrible enough, you also, as an added bonus, get to live in a run-down (or at best deteriorating middle class) neighborhood with trace amounts of the very pollutants you've been working with. Industrialization is a cancer that just keeps on giving.

My thoughts after reading this article...

http://www.latimes.com/news/la-fi-suppliers17-2008nov17,0,3945857.story?page=1&track=ntothtml

Monday, November 10, 2008

UC Davis Bike Co-op In Trouble

http://urbanvelo.org/bike-church-gets-eviction-notice/

A press release i got forwarded from some friends...

The Davis Bike Church is a volunteer-run bicycle cooperative and
toolshare that has served our community for the past five years by
keeping people on their bicycles and out of their cars. We believe in
bicycling as a primary form of transportation, and repair and reuse of
materials. Through sharing bicycle parts, tools, and knowledge, we
have become an integral part of Davis.

The Church helps hundreds of people every month. Every Wednesday and
Saturday, people come by the dozens to exchange parts and bike
know-how. Volunteers guide cyclists of all stripes through
maintenance through various procedures as intensive as building a
bike from scratch, or as simple as oiling a chain. Outside of normal
operating hours, our volunteers are serving the community in variety
of ways. We have participated in multiple 'Bike to School' days with local
schools. In conjunction with the University, we built a pedal-powered
laptop station, and have received grants from the UC Davis
Sustainability Advisory Committee to build infrastructure and obtain
solar energy to power the Church. Volunteers have started other
important bike programs in Davis such as the Davis Bicycles! advocacy
group, the Velolution radio show, and built pedal-powered ambulances
to serve communities in Africa. We support local bike shops by
keeping people on their bikes and showing them how to recognize when
they need parts and maintenance. We were voted the #1 bike shop in
Davis by the Davis Wiki in 2008. Above all, we are a collective of
volunteers dedicated to teaching the art of the wrench.

After five successful years on the property of UC Davis, University
administrators are in the process of evicting the Church from its
location at the Domes. As we are finding a solution to this issue, we need
your support.

You can show your support and solidarity simply by riding your bike,
but in this time of need, we are asking for extra help. We are
collecting letters of support to present to the University, and to
obtain support from the City of Davis should we need to move to a new
location. You can send letters to the Bike Church, c/o Tom Denton, 2
Baggin's End, Davis CA 95616, or send an email to
bikeministry@ucdavis.edu <mailto:bikeministry@ucdavis.edu>. You can also
sign the online petition:
We will continue holding services Wednesday and Saturday from 12-6pm;
get information and directions at daviswiki.org/bikechurch

News articles:

Monday, November 3, 2008

The Ballot, the Bullets

Less than 12 hours before the election and I'm being bombarded with emails from friends telling me to remember to vote...Specifically for Obama.

*sigh*

Most of the emails are forwards from the likes of groups like MoveOn.org with links to videos extolling how wonderful Obama is, how he's gonna change this country around, and bring about a brighter future. Sure. Whatever.

On days like this, I wish there was some alternative organization against voting that would sponsor a youtube video extolling how voting is for the most part, a total waste of time, and that when it comes to the stuff that really matters, you really have NO choice. Maybe a mash up of Noam Chomsky and George Carlin, just something to shake up American's delusional belief that entering a polling booth once every 4 years is the personification of civic duty.

And yeah, I'll be a relieved when Obama deals McCain a knock out blow tomorrow - Obama's clearly an intelligent, decent human being. The problem is, he's an intelligent, decent human being taking control of a position that is inherently authoritarian and always a breath away from unleashing massive amounts of violence against helpless people (whether they be in Kabul or Oakland). To me, a black man becoming president of a historically racist and patriarchal country doesn't make the country any less racist or patriarchal, no more than hiring black police officers guarantees that black civilians will be safer from police brutality (Ask anyone in Inglewood if they believe that). It's the system that's the problem - Listening to my liberal friends talk about how wonderful an Obama presidency is gonna be, I can't help but think of peasants arguing over whether the new king is going to be a bad one or a good one when, at least to me, no king would be much better.

And just so anyone reading this doesn't think this is simply an ill-informed petty argument from an apathetic anarchist, here's a couple of things that didn't get discussed during this past election cycle, and will most likely not be discussed or addressed after tomorrow's election (and the one after that, and the one there after):

- The United States will continue to maintain over 700 military bases throughout the world.

- The political system within the United States will continue to be controlled by two-ruling parties that will conspire whenever possible to keep any other upstart political entities from gaining power.

- Corporate media, food, clothing, and culture will continue to dominate the thoughts and conversations of the average citizen via commercial television, billboards, and the internet.

- The United States will continue to have a prison population that hovers around 2 million people, by far, the largest in the industrialized world.

- Genetically modified food will remain unlabeled and widely diffused throughout the American food supply.

- The United States will continue to supply Israel with machines that can kill a lot of people very quickly, thereby perpetuating Arab nations utter hatred for Americans.

- The United States will continue to execute people.

- The destruction of wild spaces in the search of riches - be it mineral, energy, timber, whatever, will continue.

- Most people will continue to work meaningless dead-end day jobs for at least 8 hours a day, 5 days a week (if they're even lucky enough to find employment), then go home to microwaveable dinners, and spend hours alone on the couch watching TV - A completely regimented, mechanized existence. The 20 hour work week will remain a personal fantasy...

- The energy debate will continue to revolve around whether we have enough, and how can we have more, rather than questioning whether we really need as much as we consume.

- The state, from the national, to the local level, will continue to retain the right to punish people for every minor act, whether that be walking on the grass, to sleeping in their cars.

These things just come with the territory of the presidency and the modern industrial state. They are not negotiable. And yet, the emails keep pouring in...Obama is going to change everything! Sure, whatever.

Thursday, October 30, 2008

In Remembrance




















"That which is remembered lives."

A friend set up this ofrenda at the Bike Church this week in remembrance of all of this year's fallen bicyclists. If it's still standing after Friday's storm, go check it out...


Friday, October 10, 2008

$20 Rider Rebate

If you're a regular rider, by now you've surely heard about how as part of last weeks $700 "Oh fuck, screw public opinion, the house is on fire!" BILLION dollar bailout by Congress, bike commuters will be eligible for a $20/month tax credit/rebate/reimbursement for bike expenses.

The SF Chronicle article is here:
http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?file=/c/a/2008/10/09/BA1D13DRO7.DTL

Here's some more info:
http://www.bikesbelong.org/node/1222278

Dubbed the "Bicycle Commuter Act," the legislation has been in the works for almost a decade by Oregon house reps but didn't get passed until, well, Nancy Pelosi REALLY needed the votes. Or to put it another way, these being desperate times, Congressional "leadership" (and really, that's a stretch) was willing to cut deals with Congressmen and women who were against the unpopular bailout - Not so much because they give a flying fuck about us, but because they might be tarred and feathered when they come home and have to explain to their constituents why they voted to throw money at something that ultimately hasn't made one iota of a difference.

Call it pork barrel spending or good old fashion politiking - "Um, I can't vote for this bill unless every child in my district gets a pony and a red balloon." I think bribery or extortion might be a better word for it - Extortion for the most obstinate (principled?) House Reps like Brad Sherman
(http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HFstmclOQG8) and bribery for us bicyclists.

While most bike folks I've talked to are stoked about the bill, I think we sold ourselves short. I mean, if you're gonna bribe us, $20 a month is nice and all, but I'd be just as happy if you taxed the shit out of Hummer drivers or Lockheed or Monsanto and gave the money to local schools. Or better yet, how about kicking some money down for bike path infrastructure (you know, like the ones they have in the Netherlands?) so I don't have to flirt with death every time I ride to work....?

*sigh* fine, I'll take the twenty bucks, but I still want a pony.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

UCSC Bicyclist Shot Dead

I just heard about this today...

www.santacruzsentinel.com/localnews/ci_10597772

A UCSC graduate and bicyclist was shot dead outside his Richmond home. Don't know what to say or think - I've heard Richmond is a rough town but, well, this is horrible.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Viva Bicicleta Banditos!

Sweet!!!

Sunday Car Free Streets in Mexico City:

http://www.latimes.com/news/la-fg-mexbike26-2008sep26,0,2301785,full.story

San Francisco is also closing down their streets to car traffic on the weekends too:

http://www.sundaystreetssf.com

Sigh, it almost makes me miss living in a big city.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Spineless

The Democrats have once again put their tail between their legs and caved in to the Bush Regime/Oil Companies demand that the offshore drilling ban be lifted.

From Democracy Now:

"...congressional Democrats say they’ve agreed to let a ban on offshore drilling expire. The move would pave the way for oil drilling just three miles off both coasts unless the next president reinstates an executive ban. Democrats say they caved to the White House to avoid a showdown over the broader government funding bill....Both Senator John McCain and Senator Barack Obama have come out in support of oil drilling, although Obama has called for stricter limits."

Wow. You know, I've come to expect such behavior from the jackasses, but not when they're the majority party in both the House and Senate. The only difference I can see between Nancy Pelosi and her invertebrate cousin the worm, is that worms are useful in breaking down shit. The Democrats do the opposite.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Let It Collapse

Seriously.

Why bother pretending like I wouldn't enjoy seeing the entire industrial Capitalist system collapse? I mean, I long ago stopped believing that each individual consumer has the power to make a difference in the degradation of the environment by shopping wisely - I mean, I know there are plenty of adults who do believe this, or at least pretend to, but then again, there are plenty of adults who buy lottery tix and talk to Jesus too. And besides, I'm fucking tired of being referred to as a consumer, as if there weren't nobler aspirations for each individual human being.

And yeah, if a total financial collapse does occur I'll probably be one of the first casualties, either out in the bread lines, or put in prison like everyone else for protesting the power of the state. But I'll be comforted knowing that the bulldozers and oil rigs will stand still and with any luck begin to rust as fuel supplies shrink and all the capital that has greased the cogs of this horrible machine that's been raping the earth for the past 200 years disappears. I'll be comforted knowing that there are still indigenous peoples not polluted by industrial societies that will be safer because of its demise.

What's the alternative anyhow? Keep propping up this system in hopes that it's going to reform itself? Get fucking real. It wouldn't/couldn't happen if we elected Ralph Nader or Dennis Kucinich to the presidency.

Regardless of who wins in November, this mad rush to concentrate total power within the hands of the state will continue. I'm not just talking about FISA, but the ubiquitousness of surveillance cameras in everyday life, the excessive use of force (often lethal for poor people) by the police against dissent (see the RNC and DNC), the detention centers for "illegal aliens," and the recent disclosure that the U.S. Army will be deploying a unit inside the United States next month in case of "civil unrest" and "crowd control." We are much farther down the road of fascism that we realize - the very fact that I'm cautious about even writing these words is a testament to that.

So yeah, the bailout, it looks like once again, the bad guys are going to get away while the rest of us are left holding the bill and since there's no guarantee this won't happen again (Enron, Arthur Anderson - and that's just within this decade), I'll be real happy if it doesn't do a god-damn thing to resuscitate the economy and everything completely falls apart.

Let it collapse. I'll see you in the streets.

Friday, September 19, 2008

My Perfect Score

Never mind all that shit about the world's financial markets teetering on collapse, this week i broke a new record in getting harassed by drivers!

Honestly, i don't know how i did it. In the 4 instances (one for every day this week so far, and Friday ain't over yet) that i managed to raise the ire/almost get hit by a driver, I'd been riding 100% within the law. Here are the highlights:

Monday afternoon - Heading home, the intersection of Center and Pacific by Depot Park. i've come over the bike bridge and am waiting patiently at the stop sign for my turn. The problem is, all the drivers seem to view this as a 3 way intersection as there's no oncoming car traffic from the bridge, when in fact, the bike path makes it a 4 way. I start to cross the street for Pacific, a black compact making a left in the opposite direction doesn't see me and stops mid-way in the street. Luckily for me, he doesn't accelerate.

Tuesday morning - Riding in the full lane heading south on Soquel where it intersects w/ Front St. The road is practically empty (hence i'm riding in the middle of the lane) and everything's green including a left turning signal which i'm about to take. Unfortunately, a woman in a compact doesn't see me coming head on and starts to make a right - right into my lane. As i'm breaking, i don't have time to reach for my bell and end up yelling, "hey, Hey, HEY!!" Woman stops in the middle of the lane and i pass with maybe 3 feet between us.

Wednesday morning - The signs on East Cliff Drive right by the train bridge state something like "Bikes May Use Full Lane" or "Watch for Bicycles" - For about 30 feet I have to take the full lane in order to make a left to get on the bridge path. On this morning, i do as i always do, and signal to the cars behind me i'm about to make a left. As i do this, a guy in a truck rolls down his window and says sarcastically, "NICE SIGNALING!" Maybe he didn't see me?

Thursday afternoon - I'm at a stop light at the intersection of Morrissey and Soquel, heading south, trailer in tow. It's "rush hour" and the cars are thick. I'm in the bike lane but once the light turns greens, my intention is to move two lanes over so I can get onto Soquel again as going straight would take me onto Water St and that's not where I wanna go. But i dread this intersection - the space for getting into the left merge lane is short and hard enough to do in an auto. The issue here being drivers have a short temper when it comes to being behind something slower and smaller than them, which translates to me having much pressure to haul as much ass as possible.

Luckily today, there's a backlog of cars ahead which means I don't have to ride like there's an angry multi-ton mechanical bull breathing down my neck. The light turns green, i pass the intersection and get alongside cars merging to the left. I signal left and look directly at the closest driver and mouth "can I get in?" - she lets me in, and because of the trailer, I take the full lane. As we're all slowly inching forward, a large truck with a moose logo and something about electronics passes me on the right, and yells "ASSHOLE!"

Maybe he used to bank with IndyMac.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The Bird Watcher Spotted Me

the bird watcher spotted me
i was flying by on my bike
feeling
so angry
so angry at the pig
who warned me not to post a flier
for a bike ride
"Don't do it!" he growled from his car/tank
but i waited for him to leave
and put one staple into the telephone pole
for every time a pig has threatened someone
for being free
but the bird watcher spotted me
brought me back to my senses
said
you are a crow
you are a heron
you are a sparrow
your bones cannot carry anguish
so fly my friend
that is one thing a pig
will never do

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

A Quiet Statement Against Argumentative White Men














"So let me ask you something...What kind of war would you support?"

"None," I say with a smile and return to my book. It was a hot hot day and I'd been sitting in the shade after a long ride, reading and eating artichoke bread from the bakery next door. The guy posing the question had also been on a long ride too from the looks of it - yellow spandex, gray hair, expensive racing bike - a bona fide weekend warrior.

Upon first spotting him, I had thought to offer up some of my bread as it was still warm and exceptionally tasty but had figured nah, this would invite conversation and I'm really tired, and this is a good book. He decided to question me anyway.

"What if you were being attacked by someone?"

"That's different. That's between me and whoever is attacking me..."

"No. War is the same thing," Weekend Warrior says testily.

At this point, it dawns on me that this guy is looking for an argument; that the "Bicycling - A Quiet Statement Against Oil Wars" sign on my pannier had somehow upset him which was surprising considering he was also on a bike. I should have seen it coming. His initial snickering of "Ha, I'd like to get rid of all the horses on the road," and "the Sierra Club, that's what really needs to go," had failed to rouse my interest, but now, well, he insisted on verbally sparring.

Weekend warrior continues...

"The Iraq War isn't about oil."

My back stiffens, and for the first time, I put my book down and give him my full attention.

"Who said anything about Iraq?"

"Isn't your sign about Iraq?"

(yes to a certain degree. But it's also about any military involvement over oil with Iran, Somalia, Nigeria, Israel, Saudia Arabia, Venezuela, Pakistan, etc).

He continues, "The British and the Turks fought over the oil there. But we aren't there for oil." (Pausing to wait for my response. I say nothing). "We just liberated 60 or 70 million people."

"Do you always go around picking arguments with people you don't know?" I ask.

"Do you always carry ridiculous signs on your bike? SADDAM WAS ONE OF THE WORST DICTATORS THE WORLD HAS EVER SEEN!"

I look at him, and ask, "Really?"

"YES."

I nod my head, turn my back to him, and return to my book. He begins to walk towards the bakery...then adds,

"JUST SO YOU KNOW. I'VE HAD MANY FAMILY MEMBERS DIE IN WARS JUST SO YOU CAN HAVE THE FREEDOM TO CARRY THAT SIGN."

I yell back, "So if I understand you correctly, you're upset because I'm exercising the very freedoms you've sacrificed so much for?"

He walks away.

* * *

A couple minutes later he comes back and says there's a water fountain out front if I need to fill up my water bottle (I already did). I offer him some of my bread, he declines, gets on his bike and says, "Peace bro."

Monday, August 18, 2008

Gas prices are down....*sigh*

I'd like to think that if someone from another planet were to arrive in the United States and spend a couple of weeks talking to folks and taking in all our amenities (Wallmarts, shooting ranges, freeways, etc), they'd quickly deduce that one of the most important tasks we are faced with as a society is keeping the economy healthy....that and low oil prices.

At least, that's been my take on things over the past few months. The relationship between plentiful, cheap oil and the viability of industrial societies is so intertwined, so deeply ingrained in everything we're taught, it's rarely discussed at any length. But as many Peak Oil folks point out, Hubbert's Peak isn't something up for negotiation - as oil production peaks, industrial economies go down, and very possibly, completely crash.

Even small cent by cent increases in the price of gasoline over a few months for example, are enough to give the economy a conniption of epic proportions. So, you'd think, with gas prices easing down (still of $4 a gal here on the Coast) now, perhaps this would be a good time to take stock of how we've been living and start to steer a new course, right?

Wrong. As a friend pointed out a few years back, knowing the mentality of Americans, it's very likely that when the going gets tough, most folks are gonna be willing to support anything to bring back the status quo. Even if the behavior exacerbates the problem.
Even if the status quo of freeways and fast food sucks.

Case n' point: Off shore oil drilling. Late last week, Nancy Pelosi, the biggest disappointment out of the Bay Area since Jerry Garcia, said she's considering allowing legislation to go through that would permit new offshore oil drilling.

According to the L.A. Times, Pelosi, like Obama, is softening her stance on a longstanding offshore oil ban enacted by Congress. The fact that only a few weeks ago, the golden asshole in the white house made a symbolic rescinding of the ban in an effort to influence public opinion in our oil oligarchs favor is really only salt on a wound. No, I take that back, it's more like being beaten by a meat tenderizer just before being put on the grill.

I'm old enough to recognize that most politicians are unprincipled, power-hungry, egotistical-swine, who will whore themselves out to anyone who can deliver votes or campaign contributions (whichever comes first) but come on Nancy, how can you even look at yourself in the mirror?

Then again, to use the language of our ever-accurate pollsters, the democrats and the American public deserve only 40% of the blame. The rest really goes to the oil barons, the republicans, and the 4th estate. The former, for buying up ad space to push more lies about "clean" coal, offshore drilling, etc; the latter for selling the airspace to them in the first place and running front page stories (SF Chronicle in particular) with headlines reading "More Americans Support Offshore Oil Drilling Now"; and the GOP, for placing a higher priority on political power and the "health" of an economy destined for failure rather than on the health of the planet.

In a future where oil supplies are uncertain, there will be simply no shortage of blame,
and if there's one thing I'm sure of, we ain't seen nothin' yet.

http://www.lifeaftertheoilcrash.net
http://www.latimes.com/news/la-na-drilling14-2008aug14,0,4387266.story?track=ntothtml

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Taking the Lane

These past two weeks I've had the opportunity (misfortune?) to test out People Power's call to take the full right lane when riding on Mission Street.

It's been a couple of months since the aforementioned local bicycle lobby held two separate group rides down the right lane on Mission, one, to commemorate the death of Christopher Rock and assert our legal right to take up the full lane when no bike lane is available, and another to lobby the city council to support putting up signs that read, "Bicycles May Use Full Lane."

But taking up a lane with over 100 bicyclists is one thing, doing it by yourself is another. And believe me, it really wasn't by choice - Out of the 3 or 4 times I "reclaimed the lane", it was only because I had businesses to visit that were on the street. In any other circumstances, you'd have found me on King or Delaware.

Instead, I found myself hauling ass between Almar and Union (where the shoulder starts to get real slim), trying my best to keep pace with the autos, not piss anyone off, and not get killed. Enjoyable? When the road was all mine, hells yes. When cars were present, which was most of the time, it was kind of like being chased by pit bulls, naked, across a football field...during the superbowl.

Bike lanes, bike lanes, bike lanes - why oh why aren't there any bike lanes here?!

At stop lights, in keeping with the principle of acting like and taking up as much space as an auto, I decided not to cut ahead on the right side. The idea really being more about making my intentions clear to the drivers than "playing fair." (If there was any parity in infrastructure between automobiles and everyone else, I probably wouldn't be writing this blog).

This worked and it didn't - I mean, as the light would turn green, it was pretty easy to sense how the drivers were barely tolerating me. Traffic congestion not being too bad, most drivers kept a good 10 foot distance behind, and when the opportunity presented itself, passed me on the left. It's hard to tell how different this scenario would have played out had it taken place during rush hour.

As for me, it's annoying enough to be in the bike lane and have to listen to and smell engines running, it's worse being wedged in between cars at stop lights. But feeling cozy just isn't an option when you're doing as cars do when you're clearly not a car. Riding in the middle of the right lane is really just a last resort, it takes much of the joy out of riding. Maybe it'll get better with practice...I dunno.

That being said, so far, I've only gotten honked at twice.

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Riding Past Traffic Yesterday...

Passing car after car. My bike wagon full of groceries. What a great feeling. I start to head downhill where Soquel splits into Capitola Rd, there's a Lexus in the bike lane, trying to merge to the right. I ring my bell but I don't think he hears me. The weight of the wagon working with gravity makes me break hard, I move real close to the Lexus and politely tap on the trunk.

The guy turns around and gestures that he can't move. If I could speak to him face to face, I'd point out that this is clearly the bike lane and that the right lane for cars is still at least 15 feet ahead. But there's engine noise, steel (or whatever metal they make cars out of), and glass between us; there's really not much I can do other than wait for the light to turn green or for him to get back in the car lane. The light turns green and he pulls forward. I pass him half expecting to hear some indignant swearing but nothing. I continue riding home...

Upon reflection, this is a relatively common occurrence. Cars want to get a head start in making a right turn OR think they can squeeze their way past but get stuck. They don't see bicycles in the bike lane so they figure it's okay. Then I come out of nowhere, honking my horn or ringing my bell (depending on which bike I'm riding) - If they can, the driver usually moves back into the adjacent lane and I ride past, sometimes giving them a dirty look. Can you relate?

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

This is what justice looks like...

From Democracy Now 7/30/08 (www.democracynow.org)

NYPD Officer Stripped of Badge After Tackling Cyclist

A New York City police officer has been stripped of his badge after he was videotaped body-checking a bicyclist during last week’s Critical Mass ride. A video was posted on YouTube showing the officer, Patrick Pogan, violently knocking a cyclist off his bike. The officer then arrested the cyclist and charged him with attempted assault, disorderly conduct and resisting arrest. The police have said the charges against the cyclist will likely be dropped.

Here's the raw footage of the assault from last Friday:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oUkiyBVytRQ


Monday, July 28, 2008

Get These Kids Bikes!

I grew up getting bused across town in L.A. and lemme tell you, it was a miserable experience. Even so, it's a sad state of affairs when kids can't even get to school because the buses just aren't available due to high gas prices. If the standard over protective American parents have any wisdom what so ever, they'll soon be demanding more buffered bike lanes so their kids can ride to school safely.

http://www.latimes.com/news/education/la-me-bus28-2008jul28,0,5126734.story

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Some Silver Lining In a Dark, Dark Sky

It's been over a month since i've written anything extensive and a lot of big and little things have happened since then - A 12- year old girl on a bicycle was killed by a car in San Jose www.kirotv.com/news/16592268/detail.html ; Santa Cruz hosted a Wild Cat race that had me carrying my Benotto over a river half nekkid; American capitalism seems to be on the brink of total collapse (yeah!); People Power has kicked off a campaign to create a bike blvd on King St www.peoplepowersc.org ; and last Friday, I blocked off a portion of the street w/ 2 orange cones so 2 kids could ride their bikes figure 8 style. But of all the big and little things, the one that i find especially poetic is the sight of bicyclists riding around town talking on cell phones - Apparently, that's still legal.

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Sweet Crude Week in Review Part II

This week I pulled three flats on the back wheel of my Benotto and had to resort to riding the Trek which sucked. 26 inch wheels suck, I'm over mountain bikes. fucking over them. Road bikes with 700 wheels are the ONLY WAY to ride on streets...Okay townies too....okay cruisers too.

And gas prices are on everyone's lips. Those weekend trips up to SF my friends like to take are getting too expensive. And folks are filling up their tanks only half way, resorting to Costco stations because gas is a little bit cheaper there. It makes me nervous knowing that the situation is only going to get worse and that most folks don't realize this is just the beginning of what James Howard Kunstler calls, "The Long Emergency."

Speaking of Costco, this week a doctor got arrested after brandishing a tire iron and confronting another motorist who cut him off at a Costco gas station.
http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/ci_9540726?source=most_viewed

I don't know which is worse - the fact that people are already acting desperate for fuel or that the pigs actually arrested a man for such behavior (as opposed to detaining him, or you know, just having a stern talk with him).

And half a world away, fuel protests have racked the governments of Spain, Portugal, and many parts of Asia.
http://english.aljazeera.net/NR/exeres/9CB0C480-68A7-4380-BA0C-1BEDD1DCBA1D.htm

As a friend put it via email, "This is crazy, these protests are really effective. This is the only way to get the government, nay, the world to listen to your plight. You have to hit them where it hurts, it's all about money. Although these governments cannot control the actual rising in oil prices, it sounds like they can control how much it gets taxed. If more people mobilized in this country including myself, we could change many problems with this country."

Crazy? Shee-it, it's crazy to me to think that many of these strikes are union led and that the United States has one of the weakest labor movements of all industrialized nations. Americans ain't organized along labor lines, and we're going to pay dearly for it.

But at least one group still has the huevos to take a stand for what they believe in - the ruling class, and their political party, the Republicans. For the 2nd week in a row, the GOP minority in the Senate thwarted plans by the jackass Democrats to enact energy reform in general and tax the oil barons in particular.
http://www.cnn.com/2008/POLITICS/06/10/congress.oil.profits

You gotta hand it to the Grand Old Party for being consistent - they were dragged kicking & screaming during the desegregation struggles of the 1960s, and they're now being dragged kicking & screaming into the powering-down era of the 21st Century.

Friday, June 6, 2008

Sweet Crude Week in Review

In case you missed it, on Wednesday General Motors announced the closure of four truck & SUV factories and is also considering dropping its production of Hummers due to a 30% drop in sales. Reason? Soaring gas prices.

News stories about the impending death of the SUV and Hummer era are already hitting the wires. (An understatement if I ever heard one)

Airlines are also teetering for the same reason.

On Friday, the Senate Republicans successfully filibustered a climate change bill, effectively killing it for the year.

And as this is being written, Wall Street fell like a fat man without a parachute after oil prices hit a new record of $139.12.

Fun times ahead of us, that's for sure. On that note, I'd like to share the following video for just the occasion...http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qSz6X5NMXnM

For a more comprehensive review of the crude hitting the fan, check out http://www.energybulletin.net/

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Carry Me Home

This morning I rode to work with a new set of handle bars wedged between my backpack and shoulders, the plan being to hit up the Bike Church (http://www.santacruzhub.org/bikechurchfrm.html) in the afternoon and replace the old ones. It felt awkward but good, not so much because this was the first piece of new bicycle equipment I've been able to afford in a while but because I'd managed to carry it across town with relative ease.

Next to getting a little sweaty, transporting groceries and other miscellaneous goods is a common excuse I hear from folks who don't ride. I recall how a couple of years ago, a veterinarian friend asked innocently, "But how do you get the kitty litter home?"

"Saddle bags if it's a small box, my bike trailer if it's a large one," I said or something like that.

To be fair, there's always a certain level of improvising that comes with transporting items on a bike, but that's what makes riding so enjoyable. Many a' time I've carried a bag of spinach tied to the shoulder straps of a backpack full of groceries and few pounds more in a saddle bag. Heavy? Yup. Difficult to ride? A little. Worth the hassle? Fuck yeah.

Compare this to everything else in modern life that places comfort and convenience above creativity and resourcefulness. Evidence? Exhibit A: a gourmet S'mores kit http://www.chefsresource.com/goskit.html - I rest my case.

The other thing people forget about riding a bike is that it automatically makes you think twice before bringing something home that you didn't plan to (or don't need). An impulsive purchase of a brand new singing rainbow trout on clearance at the mall is pretty much out of the question. (Of course, most bike punks wouldn't be caught dead in a shopping mall in the first place).

This is all to say it felt real sweet this morning to once again go about life without feeling dependent on a car. And to think, only yesterday I spotted a woman riding with a painting carefully hung from her backpack. Brilliant!

Monday, June 2, 2008

Ride, Scavenge, Scrounge.

It's around 9:30pm on a Friday night and I'm racing around downtown Santa Cruz looking for Wasabi and a copy of Pootietang. Memories of the Crank Mob incident three weeks ago echo in my head but tonight's "Scrounge" scavenger hunt is only about 25 people and we're all riding in different directions so there is little worry about getting hassled by the cops or worse, drunk, aggressive drivers.

The streets are aglow with faces eager, anxious for excitement. Sadly, the options for adventure on a Friday night in 21st century America are fairly limited to conversations about Ninjas vs. Pirates, Grand Theft Auto, Hollywood premiers, expensive bars, and tons upon tons of corporate coffee shops. It's a desperate, ravenous spectacle, all juxtaposed against an imperial government that kills people living on land where the world's remaining barrels of oil are buried. And it's all so we can keep this ugly spectacle going.

And then there's this psychotic scavenger hunt. Psychotic because we have 2.5 hours to get a list of items as far away as Aptos and UC Santa Cruz, and as hygienic as taking your picture next to a sleeping homeless person. Psychotic because most of the items outlined do NOT require purchasing massed produced goods and then taking them home to collect dust. No, tonight we're grabbing what's free or cheap - handfuls of sand, movie ticket stubs, deflated basketballs, it's absurd and I'm not sure why I'm doing it. Oh yeah, it's better than the spectacle.

I poke into record stores, bookstores, and videostores looking for a copy of Pootietang. But it's a nay-no on the runny tine, and I leave quickly. I head for the parks and "forbidden" spaces in search of Poison Hemlock and maybe a picture of an alley cat. On the outskirts of downtown, the streets are quiet, and you can smell the fresh ocean breeze, the wild skunks, the marijuana. It's lovely and I think about how this may be the perfect balance between feeling compelled to buy some shit at a store because there's nothing else to do and riding aimlessly throughout the night because there's no place in particular to go.

Except, I'm getting sweaty. I'm also getting tired. I secure a deflated basketball, a fistful of redwood duff, I ride out to Arana Gulch in search of Socrates' last drink. It's dark and I'm technically not suppose to be here but it's worth the risk of watching the stars obliterate the memories of television screens and I think about how living rooms are cages, as are cubicles, and classrooms. I can hear a party somewhere, female laughter, there's no Poison Hemlock here and I kick myself for not remembering that it's a plant that grows closer to riparian areas, i.e. I'm looking in the wrong place.

I race back towards downtown with only 5 minutes before the rendezvous time with my team. San Lorenzo Park, like so many American parks, is closed at night but I ride through nonetheless and find a huge patch of the plant that killed Socrates, take a sample and head back downtown. In the distance I spot an alley/feral cat - I pull out my camera but it quickly bolts into the bushes. Call of the wild I guess.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Green Light, Black Dress

"The light's green dude."

I hadn't noticed the bicyclist who'd rode up behind me as I waited at the intersection, my attention was on the blond in the short black dress to my left across the street. He was right though, the light had turned green, and before I could say, "Sorry, thanks for the heads up," he was already past me, pedaling away.

As I turned my attention back to the road, it occurred to me how mellow our exchange had just been: "The light's green dude," not "Hey asshole, quit staring at sugartits and go!" I'd like to think this says as much about how bicyclists tend to interact with each other as it does about how easily I get distracted by the opposite sex.

If you ride, you know that on a whole, bicyclists are pretty friendly towards other bicyclists. We're more likely to greet each other with nods or "Good morning" and unlike drivers, much less likely to start screaming at each other if someone cuts us off. The main reason for this (I'd argue), is the medium of the bicycle lends itself to peaceful, less confrontational exchanges simply by virtue of the technology involved.

When the guy behind me told me the light was green, it wasn't an urgent message - I wasn't really blocking him and only had to move over a tiny bit for him to pass me up. Contrast this with being stuck in a car behind another car, where your options for maneuverability are severely limited. There probably isn't a driver in the world who hasn't fought back the urge to go completely batshit when trapped in traffic, sporadically tapping the gas pedal, blood pressure shooting through the roof. Between bicyclists on the other hand, there is no such thing as road rage.

Even when it comes to dodging other riders coming in the opposite direction, I rarely get angry. (Okay, there was this one time when a homeless guy and I accidentally got into a game of chicken in the middle of an empty street. Luckily, I'd had enough sense to see he was a little bit more deranged than me and backed off). West Cliff Drive for example, has tons of bike and pedestrian traffic going in both directions on the wide sidewalk and no one gets hurt. Bicycles simply don't bring out aggressive behavior.

There are exceptions of course, but this usually boils down to the presence of cars. Notice, you rarely have pedestrians and bicyclists trying to square off. Drivers on the other hand, when not honking or shooting at each other, are always quick to get furious at bicyclists.

Speaking of honking, it's interesting to consider how the gentle "ding-ding" of a bike bell is really meant for pedestrians and other bicyclists but not cars. That is to say, while bicycles engender a friendly and peaceful atmosphere, there's just no way for a driver to tell another driver in a polite manner "The lights green dude."

Friday, May 16, 2008

Bike to Work Week, A Group Ride & $128 a barrel
















Out of all of this week's bicycle related events, the highlight for me had to be decorating the front basket of my townie w/ flowers, drinking a glass of wine, and then riding throughout the neighborhood as the sun set. That is to say, Tuesday's People Power sponsored group ride down Mission Street (above) in the right hand lane in support of installing "Bicycles May Use Full Lane" signs didn't do much for me. It was assertive but lacked spontaneity, but obviously that wasn't the point of the ride - How else was the city council gonna feel like there was a mandate?

The sad part is, despite hundreds of riders showing up to the City Council mtg, People Power didn't get approval for either of the two signs they were hoping for:




























Instead they got a picture of a figure on a bicycle riding in the middle of the road in front of a car. (Sorry, couldn't find a pic but the article about it is here: http://www.indybay.org/newsitems/2008/05/15/18499646.php)

I suppose you could make an argument about how a stick figure on a bicycle is more aesthetically pleasing than a "BIKES MAY USE FULL LANE" sign or conversely, how it's important to spell things out for the driving population. Either way, the bureaucrats and lawyers spent many-a-hour detailing the legal nuances of all the sign options and the City Council folks made a decision that People Power will have to live with. I certainly wouldn't call it eating shit but I wouldn't call it getting what you ordered either.

Fittingly, this year's Bike to Work Week festivities also left me w/ mixed feelings and for the same reasons. For all their good intentions, the Bike to Work Week folks' method for getting people out of cars and onto bicycles is the time tested carrot and stick technique only there's no stick. I mean, not for nothing, but if we're going to close down the north end of Pacific Ave for the free breakfasts, why not close down the whole street for the entire day? Because that would be inconveniencing commerce and cars, and we can't have that.

The truth is, we cannot simultaneously create a proper/modern infrastructure for bicycles without cutting into the privileges of cars. As anyone contemplating leaving their car at home and riding a bike will tell you, the fear of getting hit by a car is a huge factor in discouraging people from riding. And yet, if we had more bike paths (i.e. completely separate and buffered spaces for pedestrians and bicycles to move) where cars would be banned, you'd see many more people riding.

I suppose that's why so many bicycle advocates are secretly smiling as oil prices skyrocket - It's accomplishing precisely what we haven't been able to do by asking nicely. Of course, $5/gal is a stick that doesn't discriminate who it hits, so I'm smiling while I can.

Monday, May 12, 2008

My First Crank Mob Experience

If the sight of a bicyclist being tossed in the air like a baton by an oncoming car wasn't enough to sober me up - the sight of some bro's Nissan Pathfinder's back window being smashed by angry bicyclists surely did the trick.

For the record, the bros had been asking for it when they made the mistake of trying to muscle their SUV through a mob of bicyclists who'd just seen one of their own have an unexpected meeting with a windshield in the opposite lane. They'd made a bigger mistake by getting out of the car and starting a shoving match. For the record, it was plain stupidity on the part of the bicyclist who'd pulled out onto oncoming traffic and gotten hit that had set the whole thing off in the first place.

And to think, we hadn't even been riding for 10 minutes.

For almost half a year now I'd been hearing about the famed bicycle street party known as the "Crank Mob." From what I'd been told, it was a departure from Critical Mass in that there was a small group of folks that knew the route ahead of time and more importantly, the idea was not to try and tie up car traffic. It was suppose to be a chill party on wheels.

Arriving at the town clocktower a quarter till ten (the start time) Friday night, I had briefly considered popping into the Rush Inn for a last minute pint but the atmosphere outside was too alluring. It was like New Year's Eve for bicyclists, with close to 200 riders, all crowded onto the concrete island generally known as the town protest site - everyone just itching to tear up the road.

But this was a party, not a protest. The tone being more Andrew W.K. than Fugazi. Case in point, when the clock struck ten, and hoots and shouts reached a fevered pitch, the party organizers stood on the nuclear attack monument and briefly stoked the crowd with what sounded like, "We Want Fun!" peppered with "USA, USA!" Upon hearing this, I turned to a fellow rider and asked, "They're joking, right?" He just shrugged.

* * *
With one foot on the sidewalk, I am watching sirens approach. A crowd has gathered outside the Front Street parking garage across from Longs and Trader Joe's. The girl who got hit is standing and seems to be fine. A middle aged man is commenting to his wife, "Those guys in the SUV should have just waited for the crowd to disperse on its own." He's right - As the cops arrive, most of the riders have already disappeared, and the bros are standing around w/ a broken window.

Figuring I'd seen enough action for the night, I start to make my way home. A few riders pull up next to me asking for directions to the 711 on Ocean Street - Apparently, the ride is only just beginning. I tell them just up the street on the right, figure what the hell, and follow along.

At the corner of Broadway and Ocean it's as if the accident never happened. There are more bicyclists out here than even the Mystery Rides of years past. (At least it feels that way) Someone blows a whistle and we're off again, this time, heading up hill towards Seabright.

The road is a dark sea sprinkled with little blinking red lights. Of the occasional cars that come by in the opposite direction, most slow down to a crawl, either out of concern or consternation at the spectacle of so many people on bicycles. We ride in both lanes, kamikaze style, I'm cringing at the thought of witnessing another collision but so far, everything seems to be fine. We reach an intersection and circle around waiting for everyone to catch up.

The more impatient drivers start to honk and rev their engines but more and more bicyclists keep coming. Before the situation comes to a head we're back on the road, aiming for the boardwalk.

Despite whatever disapprovals mainstream bike advocates may utter when put on the spot about unpermitted (e.g. uncontrollable) rides such as these, none will say they aren't exhilarating experiences. Given the choice between spending a Friday night dishing out $10 for a few hours inside a theater and riding with hundreds of people down a wide mostly empty road, anyone with a pulse will pick the latter.

But the dominant culture doesn't appreciate unexpected glitches in the TGIF, dinner, movie, bar-hopping, max-out-your-credit-card-because-there's-nothing-else-to-do matrix of post-industrial America; No, by the time the Crank Mob started circling the intersection at the entrance of the Pier, tempers were flaring up again.

As car horns began to blare, the circling Crank Mob continued to hold the space, then as often happens, one driver decided to push their way through the crowd, leading to a few bicyclists yelling and spanking the car in retaliation, leading the driver to step out and do his best John Wayne impression. In an effort to de-escalate the situation, Crank Mob organizers tried to coax folks away from the intersection towards the Pier. But like any party that has had too many fights, the mood was going sour. Some bicyclists yelled at others to quit antagonizing the drivers, while others took the opportunity to cool the angry cars off with water (this resulted in some very intense shouting/posturing from said drivers).

As I rode away, figuring this was about as good as it was gonna get, I kept thinking back to what a bystander had asked me at the site of the first incident, "What happened here?"

"Gas prices protest. Oil hit $126 a barrel today, haven't you heard?" I replied, too embarrassed to say this had all been a bad case of one bicyclist's reckless riding amplified by a bunch of fools in an SUV, amplified by a mob of rebellious bicyclists, amplified by a dominant culture that leaves no room for any adventures outside of the ones that can be bought and sold.

"Are you being facetious?" She asked.

"Yes, no. Sort of..." I really wasn't sure. What I am sure of is if the intentions of the Crank Mob had simply been an apolitical party on wheels, it certainly didn't seem to be ending that way - if not in words, at least in deeds. And for me, that's the definition of a good party.

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Peak Oil is knocking at our door

$100 a barrel. Wow - Is it okay to freak out yet? $112 a barrel - How about now? $122 a barrel - Um...am I the only one getting a little nervous?

For years I've been riding a bike and doing everything I can to encourage others to do the same. Still, I've always been conscious of how the bicycle is no panacea for the ills of industrial society and the limitations of individual action in the face of a dominant culture that simply will not voluntarily change.

And although I've come to the conclusion that the fate of industrial societies ultimately rests not in the hands of humanity but in a power much greater (Earth), for what its worth, I'd like to offer a few general "public policy" suggestions for the years ahead...

Land reform: Gas prices will eventually make transporting produce and meat hundreds of miles via trucking to far-flung cities no longer a viable option. We must immediately begin rezoning urban areas for farming purposes. In other words, the parking lots and single-use business spaces gotta go. Considering it's going to take a while (some folks say at least a decade) before the soil underneath the pavement heals, we really ought to start tearing up the asphalt now.

Waste reform: Our world of cheap disposable goods in coming to an end. Reducing consumption, reusing and repairing what we already have should be emphasized over recycling (that's been the slogan for years but for some reason, no one gets it). Composting organic materials at home should be commonplace; the permit process for composting toilets should be streamlined - Water is too precious to be flushed down the toilet.

Labor reform: Reduce the work week substantially. If big box supermarkets aren't going to be able to supply affordable food because transportation costs have gotten too high, people must be allowed to spend more time at home, growing and cooking their own food. Furthermore, limiting the hours of offices and stores will save energy and allow the economy to slow down in a more graceful way as opposed to the crash and burn scenario that is unfolding now. In other words, we need a 6 hour work day, and a 4 day work week, more people doing less work - as opposed to the corporate down sizing logic of less people doing more work.

Well there you go - Consider the aforementioned suggestions just brain seeds for anyone reading this to think about as oil climbs to $200 a barrel.

Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Just Because You're Paranoid...

A few weeks after bicyclist Christopher Evan Rock was run over by a semi-truck trailer on Mission Street, I am still feeling extra cautious around cars.

A friend has insisted that due to the aftermath of having another guy on a bike killed on Mission and Bay, drivers are being extra careful around us. But I don't buy it. To me, the whole "good responsible driver" argument will forever be negated by the technology of the automobile - i.e. cars are heavy machinery that move quickly and have blind spots, the intentions of the driver has little to do with it.

That being said, the folks at People Power are excited at the prospect of Cal Trans giving in to their demands that large "Bicycles May Use Full Lane" signs be added to Mission Street. It is for them a political victory, one I must admit, may help our cause.

Then again, a few days ago as I was trying to cross the intersection of Western and Mission (where Western ends from a steep downhill), a cement truck made a left hand turn right in front of me, even though I had the right of way. Fine, I figured, it's a cement truck, it was going downhill, I won't get upset. Right after the truck though came a woman in a Mercedes who did the exact same thing, I had to brake to avoid her, and gave her the open handed gesture I've seen in Arab countries. She responded w/ a sheepish "my bad" look and kept on driving. Ah, the romance of Spring.

Two words for folks riding out there, "stay alert."

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Screeching to a halt

This morning, while sitting at a red light stuck behind another big ass SUV, I noticed two drivers squaring off. Young guys - stereos booming, one in a mustang, the other in a compact. Well dressed, good looking. Part time drag racers.

The light turned green, SSSCRREEECH! As I watched them peel away I didn't immediately think of the multiple accidents Los Angeles streets have been subjected to due to this juvenile shit, no, instead I thought, "10 years from now, those guys will be remembering this time as the good ol' days." Then, for a moment, I twinge of sympathy hit me.

As the American auto era slowly draws to a close, I've often delighted at the thought of middle class suburban soccer moms having to forgo their appointment at the estheticians cause' gas prices have gotten too high. But what about the 60 years (approx) worth of urban auto culture? What about all the lowriders, the detailing services, the blue collar shop mechanics?

For folks in the inner city (at least from the city where I come from), cars are everything. I mean, where I grew up, people would spend hot L.A. summer nights sitting in lawn chairs NEXT to their cars with the stereo on. For capitalist America, cars are one of the few acceptable expressions of ethnic pride - for Persians, the center piece of the Iranian flag as a decal; for Mexicans, serapes in the back window; for Chinese, red and gold good luck charms from the rear view mirror; for Jews, a mezuzah on the dashboard, and for Chevyists, a "fuck Ford" sticker on the bumper.

There's little doubt in my mind that the urban subcultures that have evolved around automobiles are going to have a real hard time adjusting in the years ahead. It would kind of be like Hinduism having to cope with a mass extinction of elephants. Maybe cars will become like trains, and parents will take their kids on buses or bikes to see the parking lot museum where the remnants of Hondas and Chryslers will lay, deteriorating under the sun. Okay, maybe not.

Who knows what the future holds once gasoline hits $5 a gallon? I hope for emptier streets where pedestrians can walk and not have to shout over engines to be heard. Oh yeah, and the only folks challenging each other to a friendly race to the next light will be bicyclists - you ready?

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Road lite!

"Esteemed council members, while I can't speak for other bicyclists, I'd like to say that for me, the 3 most important safety issues I am concerned with are cars, proper roads, and cars."

This is the scenario running through my head as I'm racing downhill close to 10pm on a Monday night. Only, there are no cars around - just darkness and a deteriorating bike lane I can barely see but definitely feel.

thunk, crack, thunk.

I need to slow down, there are no streetlights here.

thunk, crack, thunk.

What is that up ahead? A pothole? Damn this whussy headlight and the rechargeable batteries in it!

I run over a heavy crack in the pavement, my whole body shudders. The fat wheels of a mountain bike sound pretty good right now. Even with my hands on the brakes, I'm still moving at emergency room speed and I know there are more cracks and potholes up ahead, I just can't see them.

When I am safely at the bottom of the hill, teeth and limbs still intact, I start to figurin' - okay, cars get big ass street lights, what do bicyclists get?

It seems like a fair question, as installing those alien probe looking streetlights on the aforementioned stretch of road would definitely take away from the lovely hills and trees that border it. Plus, there's the whole other issue of light pollution. But what about low level bike path lights? Like the soft and welcoming 2-3 foot ones rich folks use to highlight the paths to their noble estates?

I picture a scenario where bike lanes or paths are lit up with these lights and conclude it could enhance the space. Especially when contrasted w/ the nasty orange lights that tower 30 feet over most residential streets. I also picture a scenario where bike paths are kept separate from car roads with dividers and therefore require much less maintenance due to our lightness. It's a nice scenario, but one I try not to let distract me too much as I continue on home in the dark....Thunk, crack, thunk.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

A bad experience, and a little sunshine
















When the memorial ride for bicyclist Christopher Evan Rock started shortly after 5pm in downtown SC, I was already feeling emotional. In less than a year, 4 bicyclists had been offed by cars in our city - 2 in the same spot we were riding to. As 100+ riders waited for the lights to change, I spotted a Hummer in an opposing lane and gave him the bird - Immediately, I felt disapproving eyes on my back.

There are as many kinds of bicyclists as there are people. Some ride because they can't afford a car, others ride for exercise, still others as a statement against cars - of the latter kind, there runs a spectrum of those who avoid any direct confrontation w/ automobiles and those who welcome it. I happen to fall within the "welcome" group.

Usually the differences between these two groups of bike advocates aren't that pronounced as the mainstream folks tend to be busy lobbying city council members for more bike lanes while those of the more radical ilk are busy getting arrested and tying up the streets during Critical Masses. Usually these two sides of the same coin get along just fine, sometimes they don't.

"To the right! to the right!" I am being yelled at by fellow bicyclists. You see, the plan was take up only one lane of the large street, thereby letting cars pass us on the left, and um...not making them angry. The thing is though, scoring points w/ people in cars isn't the reason I'm riding and I never said I'd adhere to the "plan."

As we reach the next intersection and stop for a red light, some folks also spill out onto the left lane but are quickly reprimanded by other bicyclists shouting, "stay to the right! We're only taking up one lane!" Most of them comply, I don't.

The stretch of road from downtown Santa Cruz to the site of Tuesday's accident is maybe a mile, 5-10 minutes worth of riding, tops. 5-10 minutes of riding in the middle of the street outside the confines of painted lanes vs. a lifetime of riding in the gutter, wincing as giant semi trucks roar past you, hoping the filthy exhaust you're breathing won't be your last taste of air - Um, I'll take option A thank you.

I articulate this loudly to everyone around me, "Come on guys! Take the whole street. When are we ever gonna have another chance like this?!"

This is met w/ a level of indignation I would think should only be reserved for cars.

"There are tons of cops out here, you're going to get us in trouble."

"This is part of the plan, you're being a jerk!"

"This is not about you."

My response: "I'm sorry I didn't hear the plan, but even if I did, I wouldn't have agreed to it. And no, this isn't about me. A guy died yesterday, we should be angry, we should be confrontational. And hey, you guys are yelling at me, I'm not trying to pick a fight with you." Or at least, that's what I try to say but I'm met with more yelling. A woman who I really admire says, "fuck you," and it feels like a butcher knife cutting my jugular vein.

What the hell? Maybe she's right, maybe I am making this about me. I want this to be about freedom though, I want this to be about not compromising with the machines under any circumstances. What would Christopher think? What about John Myslin? What about Benjamin Mora? What about Lucian Gregg?

I back off, and move a little to the right. A million thoughts run through my head - why are the majority of folks here more willing to get into a confrontation w/ me than they are with cars? Is it the Democrats-blame-Nader game? Are these the same spineless middle class liberals who sold the anarchists out in Seattle 99? Or am I really just egoizing?

By the time we reach the intersection where Christopher was killed, most of us have moved to the right lane and cars are beginning to pass. Rather than circle around and tie up the intersection in a show of strength, we are directed into a parking lot across the street. All the while, a small platoon of cops watch at a distance.

It occurs to me that the organizers of the event probably notified the police about the action and most likely assured them that car traffic wouldn't be impacted very much. The thought of this makes me sick to my stomach. A young bike punk walks up to me and asks if this is it, if we're going to stay here or are we going to take the street? I don't know I say, I think this is it. I recall a 2006 May Day march where thousands of students held the very same intersection for a good 20 minutes while cops had to look on; I conclude that this is not going to happen today.

But I try to focus on the bright side - this is a great turnout of bicycle solidarity. Though the message about bicycles being allowed full use of the lane was ignored by the local paper (http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/ci_8878182), at least the signs that got posted up stating this will stay up for a while. Christopher Evans Rock will hopefully be the last dead bicyclist we memorialize this year and that's what this is really all about.

Friday, April 4, 2008

Don't Sell That Bike Just Yet...

The last few days, I've been switching between the Benotto (road bike) and Trek (mountain hybrid) and realizing I'm way over the latter - For daily rides, road bikes win hands down.

Which has brought up the issue of ditching my two mountain bikes and trying to upgrade to another road bike that isn't as old as the Benotto.

This may still be a good idea - I already grapple w/ the guilt of owning 4 bicycles, even if I use them all, even if they're all hand me downs...

But then I read this headline:

"Energy Dept. Sets Aside More Oil"

http://ap.google.com/article/ALeqM5juSIIS9i28uFaXSOoQGNe6M9cwPQD8VRAMAO3

and I think...maybe I oughta hold onto all those bicycles. They may be very valuable in the near future...


Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Oil Execs In The Frying Pan

At least, that's the headline as I would have written it given the chance...

http://www.sunherald.com/business/story/466309.html

http://biz.yahoo.com/rb/080331/usa_oil_congress.html?.v=2

















"I'm reee-atch bee-atch!"
- J. Stephen "Swine" Simon, Exxon Mobile

Seriously though, after listening to the top 5 oil execs of Exxon Mobil, Royal Dutch Shell, BP, ConocoPhilips and Chevron snub their noses at the Select Committee on Oil Prices and Energy Independence (the best reporting on this can be found at www.democracynow.org), it's hard not to feel like our so-called elected representatives aren't really the folks in charge.

"Politicians are there to give you the idea that you have freedom of choice...you don't. You have no choice, you have owners." - George Carlin

For the most part, I tend to view the central function of contemporary governments in industrialized nations, as an enforcement agency for property rights. The majority of written laws and corresponding judicial system revolve around this premise.

True, on occasion, the 4th estate finds a juicy story exposing the injustices perpetrated by our corporate rulers upon poor working folks, the corporations back off, and we all celebrate how the system works. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2008/apr/02/walmart.us)

The problem though, is the system itself. And, to that end, what I find disturbing is that while the people at the end of the economic ladder are already the first to be suffering the fallout from record high oil prices; no one, at least not the Select Committee on Oil Prices and Energy Independence, seems to be interested in challenging the premise of cars and our dependence on 24 hour electricity itself.

It is a difference between starlit skies and streetlight pollution; the enormous spatial requirements of a car culture vs. the humble spatial requirements of bicycles; the flush toilet vs. the composting toilet; the noise of lawnmowers on Sundays vs. drought resistant landscaping; the reliance on written laws, courts, police, and punishment vs. encouraging autonomy and public trust.

Monday, March 31, 2008

Peaceful streets
















Car free streets. A rare but beautiful sight.
















This kind of thing only happens during races and special events (and usually for only a few hours) but this particular street closure is due to construction. It's only a short stretch of West Cliff Drive, maybe a quarter of a mile, but lemme tell you - the difference between this and riding alongside car traffic is amazing!
















No noisy engines, no competition for space, no hassles. A bicyclist and pedestrian paradise! Don't know what the construction is for, or how long the street will be closed to pinche cars so enjoy it while you can. In the meantime, I'm gonna contact the city and see if they can keep it closed permanently...