The changing face of biking (and the media)

I love my community, especially when the local public radio station does a story on biking around my favorite city. I still remember the days when biking was considered not only perilous, but was considered to be a renegade group by our own mayor.

Now that gas prices are up, the sun is out, and there are over 4,000 members of the SF Bike Coalition, biking is making more headway than ever! Families are joining up and getting bike skills for their kids, road improvements are on the rise (thanks to Prop K) , custom-built bikes are where the top execs are now conducting business instead of the golf course (at least in Silicon Valley), and even cops are getting to understand cyclists better:

Quaker guilt?

I’ve been pondering this one for a while–is there such a thing? Somehow, I seem to also ascribe a “saving grace” to preserve my own desire for whatever I feel guilt about. If there were a list of things I feel guilt about include:

  • Enjoying my motorcycle too much (guilt: gas/environmental impact/pollution; saving grace: smaller footprint than a car)
  • Computing (guilt: environmental impact for cheap construction/labor, hazardous materials, digital divide; saving grace: less paper use, greater equality among who controls media sources)
  • Television/Movies (guilt: less focus on interpersonal relationships; saving grace: greater storytelling possibilities)
  • Listening to my iPod (guilt/saving grace: see television/movies)
  • Living in a city (guilt: greater impact on the environment, dependence on “the grid”; saving grace: options for transportation, smaller “footprint”, shared resources and systems)
  • Working in a private school (guilt: separate school for money; saving grace: ability to openly combine religion with education)

My Quaker guilt seems to have less to do with Scripture and righteousness and more to do with whether I am living equally with others and within a sustainable, environmental life for the Earth.

Bicycling your way out of SF

So, it’s goodbye to my friend, Jason, who leaves for Minneapolis with his family–one more to leave for a home that costs half the price, some land, and weather that sucks :-). And last night was his last Critical Mass ride and he went out with a bang; he somehow raced to the front of over 200 cyclists and wrangled control of the Mass to steer them for about two turns, then lost control. It was a beautiful thing.

Strangely, this week, I seem to have seen not one, but TWO bicyclists riding on the freeway. Despite the signs, the highway patrol, and, simply common sense, it seems these rebels are either 1) realizing this is the fastest way to get from place to place and ignoring reason or 2) crazy. I’ve never seen this before in my life and, in one week, have seen it twice. Neither was wearing a helmet and was riding a mountain bike. I’m wondering if the word of mouth is getting out that it’s okay to do this. I hope not.

And, crazier still, the Mass kept zooming around South of Market last night encountering on-ramps to the freeway. It was a strange coincidence that the Bay Bridge was closed for Labor Day weekend and it rippled through the Mass that it would be cool to go on up to the freeway where no cars would be. Umm…yeah, cool except that 1) you’d have to turn around and come back after riding one way (boring!) and 2) the cops were there for, as one rider put it, “a serious beatdown” if you tried it. The message? Take control of the city streets in protest, but don’t f*ck with the freeway. Actually, since it’s an interstate I’m guessing it might be a federal offense. Yikes.

Congrats, Jason! You’re free to roam the about the country!

Biking and violence

I’m actually a big fan of Critical Mass but I’m not a fan of the violence, no matter what the concern I have for the safety of cyclists, there is no reason to take out your anger on a motorist. I’ve participated in the Mass several times over the years, and almost witnessed one of my oldest friends get his leg crushed by a frustrated taxi trying to make his fare. As MLK Jr. said, “Violence will only beget more violence; only love can overcome hate.” It’s hard to practice this when, but once a month, you can ride safely through a metropolitan area and not be threatened by 2000 lb. crushing vehicles coming at you.

What’s so disturbing about this article is how biased in favor of the driver it is, despite its journalistic inclusion of both sides. No one coordinates the route before the ride, it’s simply the will of the Mass to control itself, the start and stop, the pattern. It’s a basic freedom guaranteed by our Constitution to peaceably assemble, so, to me, this type of gathering has its roots beyond this confrontation. In fact, I dare say the motorist will lose in the long run.

Freeways are basically the cars’ right to assemble and jam up a pathway from use–what about bicycles?