Category Archives: equality

At Home on the Road

Today was a special day.  The last day of the Tour de France, but more immediate in my life, it was a beautiful rain touched Arizona summer day filled with conversation, bicycling, and friends.  I started out the day with Macy’s Costa Rican coffee and breakfast with Mai.  I rode over to Louis’s for his Champs-Elysees party.   While Louis was introducing me to his dog named Buddy, Buddy pressed his soft furry head to my leg.  Right, you’re Buddy!  Then I met the whole family and was handed a hot plate of food.  I said I’m trying to lose weight but they said you’re training today, you’ll need this.  Right!  We watched the Tour’s final stage with Corky and talked about ways to better support bicycling here at home.  The conversation, coffee, and special drink with orange juice were so good before I knew it I had to fly to keep my training commitment with Eric.  That was an awesome party for a Sunday morning.  Thank you Louis and Louis’s family!

Eric is training for the Tour of Colorado.  We met at Late for the Train Coffee and I said I’m game for whatever kind of workout.  On our way out Hwy 180 we crossed paths with Shawn, who told me he was almost hit by someone’s trailer the other day on this same stretch of road.  So close he was shaking for the rest of his ride.  Hard to tell why it happened (they forgot they were towing a wider trailer or did not see Shawn) but a related point came up with Corky earlier in the morning, and would come up with Eric later–if motorists were cross trained as bicyclists prior to drivers licensing,  a stronger connection between people would be forged that would bridge the gap of understanding across mode types.  Better training creates stronger mutual understanding and enhances reciprocal respect.   For bicycling to seem alien to anyone is not normal, but we are encountering a regular insensitivity for bicyclists.  I am working on Bike Yogi Consulting to implement action plans to change this.

Eric wanted to do two eight minute power efforts during a ride up Snowbowl Road.  He has a power meter on his bike so he could dial in the efforts and hold them exactly at the threshold he wanted to train.  I never use a power meter so this was a new kind of workout for me.  I learned efforts on the slighter grades felt harder for me than the same power output on the steeper sections.  This is basically because I’m a climber I’m guessing, and I naturally want to push harder when the mountain is pushing harder against me.  The first interval always feels kinda cruddy, especially after a day of relatively hard training the day before.  The second interval felt better.  My body must have flushed out some of the lactic acid and other leftovers from yesterday during the first effort.  We filled up our water bottles at the resort thanks to AZ Snowbowl’s complimentary cooler.  I told Eric I got married at the Grand Canyon four years ago and loved coming up here, looking out there, and remembering that turn in my life.  He had a wondering look on his face.  The paths are many, enjoy the one you’re on!  We descended and he said let’s climb it again.  Yeah, an easy one would be great.  Then Eric said same routine.  Oh mercy.  It was good gulping down all that pure blue mountain air a second time.  We kept the same power up over both runs and all four intervals.

Between efforts in the middle part of the climb we discussed ways of building a better understanding with drivers of what bicyclists’ experience.  We hear a lot of people lamenting that bicyclists are riding too far left or over the white “fog” line, but most often there are excellent reasons.  Most bike lanes and shoulders are not regularly maintained and glass, steel wire from burst tires, other puncture hazards, bad pavement, rocks, deceased animals and miscellaneous debris can cause a crash or blow out a tire.  Wind and wind gusts from passing vehicles can push one off the road.  Those “right edge” hazards are the number one hazards for bicyclists.  Motorists don’t necessarily think about that.  Riding too far right reduces one’s visibility, leaves bicyclists vulnerable to squeeze passes, and creates more lateral movement when cyclists have to move over to pass slower cyclists, runners, walkers, parked cars, and avoid road hazards.  The number one rule for bicyclists is to ride a predictable line.  If the pavement is not consistently good towards the right, one cannot ride there without creating a weaving in and out pattern to avoid the hazardous spots.  Motorists can help by developing a default disposition for respecting a bicyclist’s position in the road, slowing down, and navigating a pass only when it is safe to do so.  We are all the same, simply people using the road to get to somewhere important to us.  There are no classes, or priority categories.  We are all one.  When we act as equals, and treat one another as equals, we all feel more at home on the road.  This is good.

Kudos to Dave A. and his daughter who rode all the way up Snowbowl Road on their bicycles together, and then rode back down.  How old is your daughter Dave, nine?  That was amazing and inspirational to share the road with you today!  Way to go!

 

Your Love for Lake Mary Counts

The next two weeks Coconino County is counting bicycle traffic on Lake Mary Road.  The data will be used as part of a grant application for funds to resurface and widen sections of Lake Mary Road and Mormon Lake Road so that they are better accommodating for bicycle traffic.  You’ll see the strips cast across the bike lane just north of Lower Lake Mary.  Make sure you ride over the strip and be counted!

I ran into the county transportation planner, Tim, on my Lake Mary bike ride yesterday while he was placing the counting strips in the bike lane.  Tim has had past success receiving grant funds to resurface and widen Lake Mary Road from Stoneman Lake Road to the junction with Hwy 87 at Clints Wells.  It is a smooth and safe shoulder out that way if you get a chance to do a longer ride and travel further away from town.  With the section from Stoneman Lake north to Lake Mary improved, and the Mormon Lake Road loop improved, the Flagstaff region will be further along the way to providing the facilities deserved by the world class health-minded community that resides here, and will better serve Olympic, professional, and local masters and recreational athletes that currently recognize this as one of the best places to live, train, and vacation to in the nation.  Thank you!

when cars turn against people

Yesterday on the Saturday community bicycle ride down Lake Mary Road south of Flagstaff, a chevy pickup driver steered his vehicle into two bicyclists, hitting them with his truck, while screaming “get out of the road!”.  Unfortunately during the summer tourist season bicyclists receive low level harassment and are endangered by motorists regularly.  This is not the first incident I’ve been present at when a motorist forcefully used her/his vehicle to “teach us a lesson”.  The kind Sheriff responding to our 911 call yesterday must have been wondering, why would we keep coming out to do this ride when our safety continually is threatened?  First, it is an appropriate road to do a group bicycle ride on (more on that in an upcoming post!).  Second, well, we are Americans, and Americans don’t compromise their passions for living just because hate criminals and people willing to take advantage of power differentials are out there on the prowl.  We are a courageous not cowardly people.  Third, intolerance is antithetical to American values, and we stand up for those values, not run away from attacks on our common bond of civility.  Hostile traffic and road rage is not unique to bicycling, it is a problem for everybody.  We believe in equality and justice, the sanctity of human dignity in every individual, the right to pursue happiness, and recognizing our common humanity beyond the labels that describe our differences.  There is no better place than the United States for these ideals to thrive.  We need to support victims, not reprimand them, and teach vehicle operators that escalating a misunderstanding or trying to punish someone, or even being rude to a fellow road user, is a non-starter.

Law abiding bicyclists riding with consideration for others have no need to apologize.  After repeatedly being treated like they are doing something wrong, most cyclists I know end up thinking from someplace deep inside themselves that can’t quite be pinpointed that there is something wrong with riding a bicycle on the road, that there is something wrong with them.  These are symptoms of being a recipient of continual abuse.  This is a rather traumatic “normalized” state for people to be functioning in.  It is a drain on society, the families and children of bicyclists, for our employers, for reaping the full service potential from our citizenship.  The most common reaction is for people to turn away from road biking and retreat to mountain biking, or some other calming activity.  The closing of opportunities is a huge problem we can reverse with a concerted, unified, sustained effort.  Often times law abiding bicyclists’ safe and predicable road manners are misinterpreted by motorists who don’t understand other points of view exist on the road besides the one from their own windshield.  I sent a letter to the editor to the Arizona Daily Sun knowing this educational component was not universally understood.  The Pima County Sheriff’s Office put out a nice memo clarifying the commonly misunderstood rights of bicyclists.  http://azbikelaw.org/cases/PCSO-2abreast.pdf  It would be beneficial for Flagstaff Police and the Coconino County Sheriff’s Office to jointly develop a uniform enforcement policy confirming the same rights, and for the motor vehicle department to initialize educational campaigns and training modules informing the public of the shared road guidelines.  Check out the “Bicycle Law Enforcement: Enforce Laws with Mutual Respect” article on Flagstaff Cycling.  There are more good resources for bicyclists on where to ride in the “Street Smarts” publication, and it is ok for motorists to cross train in this realm too, even if you don’t ride, perhaps especially if you don’t ride.  The law is on the side of bicyclists, but the public perception needs to come around so differences are better understood from our shared common ground as legitimate citizens on the shared road:  http://azbikelaw.org/blog/take-the-lane/

We have a big mountain to climb in front of us to put these principles into motion as normalized best practices on the road, and to stop the discrimination against bicyclists.  The best thing we can do is to understand why these crimes are happening and make sure drivers have the tools, knowledge and support they need to make peaceful decisions going forward.  We can forgive, warm up our hearts with compassion and move forward, recommitting to relating to each other on equal, mutually respectful terms.  I hope the riders that were hit yesterday are healing up OK, in their bodies (they appeared OK, they were very lucky, and highly skilled to stay upright), but equally so in their psyches, where post traumatic stress syndrome can sneak in and start strangulating the state of feeling well.  Keep riding, be rolling ambassadors, take care of each other, come forward and voice your concerns so everyone hears from you, and never stop working to make the shared road a microcosm for the democratic values we formed this wonderful nation to preserve.  We can do better than bashing each other around.  Let’s give hope some legs.  Time to go for a ride!

In the Beginning, Bicycles Were Equal

Bicycles are equal to cars and have the same rights to the road.  Is this as difficult for you to imagine as it is for me?  Coming from a background as a commercial truck driver and growing up primarily using the roads with motor vehicles, it has been a challenging learning experience for me to understand how bicycles should interact on the road.  Sometimes when traffic is thick, heavy and suffocating, it is hard to even see there is room for bicycles.  But sure enough as I keep pedaling–in recent years on my bicycle I passed the 200,000 plus miles that I drove as a commercial truck driver–and learning the principles governing the shared use of public road facilities, I’m realizing bicycles make perfect sense and there is room for bicycles to share the road safely providing we all drive in a way that is compatible and respectful.

The roadscapes don’t always look like there is a place for bicycles because for a long time roads were designed without taking bicycles into consideration.  That legacy of discrimination has been a big problem!  And there was no good reason for it at all, simple neglect, fear of diversity, overpowering homogeneity ruled, a big mistake.  This article provides good background on the history of marginalizing bicyclists:  http://iamtraffic.org/equality/the-marginalization-of-bicyclists/  But the United States is truly a progressive nation with a long and strong history of overcoming injustice and inequality.  Plus we are intelligent.  Planning and design guidelines have increasingly embraced the bicycle as an efficient means of moving beautifully synchronized with planning, environmental, and human needs.  Increasingly design standards are being evolved to integrate bikes and not ignore them, even induce demand for bicycles.  Here is a hub with some of the latest design resources transportation planners reference:  http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/bicycle_pedestrian/guidance/design_guidance/design_flexibility.cfm The Federal Department of Transportation crafted some excellent policy language that urges everyone to fully embrace bicycling and walking as basic building blocks of our core transportation system, and see active transportation as means of moving that should be fully respected and accommodated: http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/environment/bicycle_pedestrian/overview/policy_accom.cfm

The momentum is rolling for bicycles.  The soft side of the transportation planning paradigm–by soft I mean adapting attitudes and perceptions to change human culture–is educating and training driving behaviors that are compatible with the increasing diversity on our roads.  This realm is the primary focus of Bike Yogi’s services.  All roads are good bicycle roads (except where bicycling is explicitly prohibited, such as urban interstates), with or without special infrastructure such as bike lanes, providing users share the road respectfully.  The first problem is educating everyone of the fundamental rights of bicycles to share the road as equals, and not as a class subservient to motor vehicles.  Sometimes bicycling safely means counterintuitive strategies, for instance, if a lane is too narrow for an average sized motor vehicle to pass a bicycle without leaving the lane (moving left), then a bicyclist is usually best off riding further into the lane, or “taking the lane“, to discourage a too-close pass and possibly being squeezed too far right off the road.  Bikeyogi.com is focused on building cross-cutting resources to illuminate the principles behind the shared road, expounding on practices and methods that help traffic run safely and smoothly, and creating innovative pathways forward for people, organizations, and communities that want to fully embrace and empower the bicycle as a means of moving with many benefits, all this with an emphasis on the joys of discovery one can make by venturing out into the world on a bicycle.