Wednesday, August 12, 2015

Per Arlington VA Police, Cyclist=Scofflaw but Motorists are OK

Cyclists need to obey those darn laws

Motorists? They just need to be careful

This is of course absurd. It makes sense only if cyclists are presumed to be scofflaws and motorists are law abiding folks who probably would be well advised to be careful of those scofflaw cyclists. In fact there is no evidence at all that cyclists are more (or less) law abiding than people driving cars. There is considerable evidence of course that when cyclists or motorists do dumb things and have accidents involving cyclists and cars, the cyclist suffers much greater consequences.

This is particularly ironic given the location, which is right where a major bike trail crosses a busy street. Under VA law, if the cyclist is required at this location to walk his bike and not ride in the crosswalk then this needs to be specifically posted, otherwise the cyclist is free to cross the street on his bicycle in the crosswalk. The obvious for accidents with the bike trail+crosswalk across Walter Reed is with left-hook and right-hook turn accidents from cars turning from S Four Mile Run Drive where the driver doesn't see the cyclist in the crosswalk because the motorist failed to exercise due care.


Sunday, August 9, 2015

Lanterne Rouge: the Last Man in the Tour de France (Book Review)

Lanterne Rouge: The Last Man in the Tour de FranceLanterne Rouge: The Last Man in the Tour de France by Max Leonard

My rating: 4 of 5 stars

I recommended this to a colleague who I know occasionally reads books about professional cycling, who surprised I had read it given that I had announced I had not watched any of the current Tour de France or read much about it.

Oh well. Some things don't necessarily make sense.

I have read at least a dozen different books on the TdF, some that are like this that coverage the entire history of the event and others that focus on a particular race or individual or team. Thanks I guess to doping and the present evolution of the bicycles themselves in directions that seem less and less like a bicycle I might ever have anything to do with my interest in the TdF races of the 21st century seem to have disappeared, but I can still enjoy reading about races of the 20th century.

The trick is to find a book that has some new or interesting angle, and with its focus on the "lanterne rouge," that is, the official last-place finisher of each of the Tour races. This theme makes it possible for the author to recount different anecdotes than those that have often appeared in more than one previous book.

I also came away feeling I had learned a few things about the TdF - for example, that the race at times officially recognized the last place finisher in some way but generally has preferred not to, and in some cases changed the official rules to discourage riders from attempting to place last. (At certain points the "lanterne rouge" rider would be invited to criterium races after the TdF that were much more lucrative than anything that might be offered to riders who places say next to last.) And I gained some additional understanding why some riders finish towards the end, such as sprinters and domestiques.

It was a good and easy read. If some of the material about the early (or late) races is not so interesting, the generally chronological organization makes it easy to skip over such things.

This is a small thing, but I am puzzled by the lack of any effort to edit books like this published by English authors for the U.S. market other than having a computer go through and replace "colour" with "color" and the like. Oh well.

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Thursday, July 30, 2015

Gironimo! Book Review

Gironimo! Riding the Very Terrible 1914 Tour of ItalyGironimo! Riding the Very Terrible 1914 Tour of Italy by Tim Moore

My rating: 2 of 5 stars

I got half way through this and put it down and didn't pick it up again. That was enough.

This is a sort of travel/cycling/cycling history book. The author, who has written a book of this sort before, was inspired by the terrible-horrible-very bad Giro of 1914 to attempt to recreate that race today with his own individual grand tour attempt. The somewhat unusual touch was to do this using a period-correct (mostly) bicycle that he purchased and rebuilt for this purpose.

Much of the first third of the book focuses on acquisition of the right (which turns out to be wrong) bicycle for the trip and getting it into condition to be ridden. This part was amusing even if a little silly sometimes and I enjoyed it. The author does have this shtick of putting himself down that gets a little tiring.

Once the book transitioned to the actual trip, I gradually became less and less interested. For this genre an author will move back and forth from describing his present travels to some historical anecdotes that somehow relate. The way that this was executed in this book didn't hold my interest.

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Monday, July 6, 2015

Cycling in Moscow

I spent the last week in Moscow (for work). Moscow how has a bike share system now and I saw bikes from the system being used, but I did not attempt to take pictures of people riding around, mostly because of my reliance on my phone for photography for this trip.

Moscow bike share station on Tverskaia

Generally in the center of the city where we were we did not see that many cyclists given the density of population, but we did see some. They were usually riding on the sidewalk at a modest rate of speed, not in the street. A few arguably crazy people did ride in the streets, but it didn't seem for the most part like a good idea.

Bike to work day poster Moscow 2015
A "bike to work day" poster in a Moscow Metro station

For whatever reason, some events and products are advertised in English, so "На работу на велосипеде" is described on a site named

На работу на велосипеде! — 21 мая, Москва from Let's bike it! on Vimeo.

The 2015 Bike to Work Moscow video

There were occasional green bike lanes, both around the Sadovaia ring road and up near Moscow State University, and they got some use, although of course we saw one police car on several occasions that regarded the bike lane as its parking area. Out near Moscow State University we saw a fair number of riders who seemed to be out enjoying the weather. There is a path along much of the Moscow river that was also a popular cycling venue.

Moscow State University
Note the green painted bike lanes

Sunday morning on the way to the airport there was a lycra-clad fellow working away on a road bike, riding on the ten lane (or whatever it is) road. It seemed completely crazy to me but apparently legal enough - it isn't a highway in the usual sense but cars are mostly traveling at a pretty good clip.

Helmet use was fairly infrequent. Their Moscow bike share bikes had steady headlights rather than blinking ones, which for winter when it is pretty dark much of the time would seem important. (I guess they run the system through the winter?).

A typical Moscow cyclist in most respects - not riding on the road (this is a pedestrian-only street) but atypical in wearing a helmet

Away from the center of Moscow on a work day, we would see the occasional person riding, again generally on the sidewalks - but on the main thoroughfares these are pretty generously sized, so there is room. The typical rider was not wearing business type work attire - this isn't the Netherlands by any means.

At least people in Moscow are seeing some cycling going on. What they think of this activity and the cyclists in particular I don't know.

Sunday, May 31, 2015

"Older" Diplomats on Bicycles & Accidents

Secretary of State John Kerry had a serious bicycle accident while getting his recreational cycling in while in France, taking time from negotiating with the Iranians. Kerry is 71.

One tends to think of recreational cycling at 71 as an activity taken up only recently by people of that age but there are examples from 100 years ago, even among high level diplomats - Alvey Adee, a career diplomat of the late 1890s up through World War I, made regular cycling tours in Europe before WWI and rode to and from work by bike.

Alvey Adee of Dept of State Riding Bicycle to Work(1914)
Alvey Adee riding his bike to work at age 72

If Adee looks a little tentative in this photo, perhaps it is because he had an accident of his own wile cycling the previous year:

Secretary's Machine Wrecked and He Narrowly Escapes Receiving Serious Injury.

Assistant Secretary of State A. A. Adee had a narrow escape from serious injury this morning, when he rode his world-famous bicycle, which was carrying him to his office in the State Department, into the automobile being driven by J. E. Baines. of Browning Baines, coffee manufacturers, as Pennsylvania avenue northwest. Mr. Adee'a bicycle was damaged to such an extent that he was unable to ride it. He escaped serious Injury, however, although miraculously. Following the collision, Mr. Baines jumped from the car, assisted Mr. Adee to his feet, brushed the dust from his clothes, and after making an inventory, found that the aged cyclist was practically uninjured. The accident happened at Sixteenth and Corcoran streets. Secretary Adee was going west on Corcoran, and was turning into Sixteenth when he came immediately in front of Mr. Baine's automobile, which was going south. Mr. Baines turned his machine about, but not in time to keep Mr. Adee, who had not till that time seen it, from colliding.
I suppose one difference is that in the press reports of Kerry's accident he has not been referred to as an "aged cyclist" (or for that matter, aged diplomat).

Monday, May 11, 2015

The Tsar of all the Russias - Riding Incognito?

From The Wheel and Cycling Trade Review, November 27, 1896 - a filler piece that is perhaps apocryphal. Tsar Nicholas II began his reign in November 1894.

Accidents are no respectors of persons. The Emperor of Russia, who in his cycling excursions wears the uniform of a colonel in the Russian army, recently met with some misfortune to his wheel, and, dismounting, proceeded to correct it. While doing so an old general from the provinces passed. Not receiving the salute due to him, the general walked up to the wheelman he thought was an ordinary colonel, and requested an explanation of the omission. The Emperor politely informed the irate general that he had not had the honor of becoming acquainted with him during his short reign; otherwise he would, of course, have saluted the general as befitted his rank.

I could not find a public domain photo of Nicholas with a bicycle, although there are at least several photos of him mounted on a bicycle or with one, all taken (I think) after he abdicated. So this will have to do.
Sankt-Peterburg oldfoto 13633
Emperor Nicholas II and his family for a walk. On the bike Grand Duke Mikhail Alexandrovich, in a wheelchair - Grand Duchess Olga Alexandrovna, behind stand the Grand Duke Alexander Mikhailovich and his wife Grand Duchess Xenia Alexandrovna. 1902.

Tuesday, May 5, 2015

Barrier Arm Hits Me on the Head

The gate shown up here came down and hit me smack on the helmet as I stopped

On April 22, I left work and the Capitol Police decided to test my helmet. I wrote the message below to one contact and started to make an official complaint, but the process is more trouble than it is worth, in my view. These barriers built into streets have always made me nervous, and apparently for good reason.

Yesterday I left the Madison garage at about 5:15 pm. I usually turn right, but I was going to the ball park and turned left. I stopped immediately and talked to someone on the sidewalk for a few minutes, then I proceeded in the regular traffic lane down the hill. As I approached the intersection, the gate was up, the plate was down in the ground, the light was green and the pedestrian walk signal showed 20+ seconds. I was traveling between 15 and 20 mph in the center of the right side traffic lane.

As I approached the intersection in full view in the middle of the traffic lane the arm was activated and lowered. The plate thankfully did not come up. I managed to stop just as the arm hit me right on my head (not by intention, that is just how it worked out), but since I was wearing a bike helmet, I was mostly just surprised and not injured. I pulled over about 50 feet from the observation post where I guess the person operating the arm is located (although I don’t know for sure). Two police officers were outside talking and one eventually asked if I was OK.

I did not stop to talk to the police further about this at that time. I felt both foolish and angry and the police didn’t seem interested in any event.

In short, be careful.