Saturday, September 27, 2008

How fun? That fun.

Tomorrow (Sunday) kicks off the Northeastern Ohio weekend cyclocross season with Race #1 of the Bike Authority/Team Lake Effect series at Wendy Park/Whisky Island right outside of downtown Cleveland. Info about the series can be found here.

How much fun is cyclocross racing? Well, you can potentially have as much fun as the attendees at the function below are having:

Completely unrelated to cyclocross, but completely related to the Velvet Underground, check out this video of them playing Femme Fatale live with Nico on vocals. (The embed feature of the video was disabled). Such a rare and neat find.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Southern (Ohio) Discomfort

I think I am in the process of being roped into going to the Cincinnati area in a few weeks for 3 days of cyclocross racing. (If I was truly hard core, now is when I would mention that they are UCI races, which I think means nothing to a middle of the road Cat 3 cyclocross racer like myself, but it sure sounds bad ass.)

Here is a video of one of the elite races from last year. I'm pretty sure those guys are running faster over that first set of barriers (while carrying their bikes) than I could sprint on flat pavement without a bike. Dumb.

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Repetitive Noise

Yes, we all know that Portland's bike culture is way ahead of pretty much any town in this country. And we're all pretty sick of hearing about it (mostly because we're jealous).

But, sometimes I'm still amazed at things I read about that town. Take, for instance, this photo. Its link was posted on the comments to this article on From what I can tell, this person threw a party at his house and had to rent a giant bike rack to accommodate all of the people who rode there on bikes.

The photo makes me think about a League of American Bicyclists (LAB) get together I attended at a member's house in Shaker Heights, Ohio about 3 or 4 years ago. It was on a Friday evening in October with clear skies and temps around 60. I can personally attest to the fact that most of the attendees at this meeting lived within 4 miles of the event. One other person and myself were the only two people who rode bikes there.

This post is not meant to judge, condescend, or preach. It simply is me thinking aloud, and wondering how we can change ours and other cities' cultures to be a wee bit more like, well, you know.

Monday, September 22, 2008

I should report that guy to the police... a phrase we often find ourselves saying after being intentionally buzzed, swerved into, or "brake checked" by the occasional aggressive driver. We usually don't, however, because of laziness, it not being worth the hassle, or the perception that the police won't take our complaint seriously.

Well, local cyclist/racer/generally good guy Mehul experienced an incident with an automobile in the Metroparks that caused him to take action and pursue the matter with the proper authorities. His correspondence, and the written responses from the Metroparks, are included below. The only thing edited from these e-mails is Mehul's address. Although some of the e-mails do not have dates, they were all sent within a week or so in late August. After the last e-mail from the Metroparks, Mehul had a telephone conversation with the author of the last letter, and Mehul's summary of that conversation is also included.

Mehul Gala

August 25, 2008

Captain Dan Veloski
Ranger Headquarter
4600 Valley Pkwy
Fairview Park, OH 44126

Dear Captain Veloski:

On Sunday August 24th,between noon and 12:30, I was on a bike ride southbound on Valley Parkway between Mastic Road and Puritas Road by Big Met Golf course, a stretch of road I have ridden on many times before. I was passed very closely by either a Ford Crown Victoria or Mercury Grand Marquis (Ohio plate DCE 8094), after he passed he put his brakes on hard. So hard, I had to make an evasive maneuver to the left of him. The hard braking made me realize this was not an accident. As I passed he rolled his window down, and I asked him what his problem was. I did use a lot of abusive language, but I felt threatened after almost being run off the road. I told the gentleman that I was going to call the police as he smugly offered to do the same but left instead. I continued on my ride in the same direction. I saw the vehicle turn left (eastbound) onto Puritas. Out of curiosity and also a desire to achieve some justice, I went left also, but lost sight of him. Frustrated, I turned left into Rocky River Stables and there was some sort event taking place. I asked one of the volunteers directing traffic if they had seen this beige vehicle, but before she could answer, I spotted it. I rolled over to it, and took a photo of his license plate. Again, I engaged the driver with some pretty angry words (I was charged up on a lot of adrenaline after feeling my life threatened by his actions).

I saw Ranger Tim Garris and explained to him what happened. Another Ranger talked to the driver of the vehicle. I explained to Ranger Garris (who was very polite and professional) what happened and he explained to me that there was nothing that I could do. He passed along your information and I am now writing to you.

Had this guy fired a bullet past my head, he would be charged with assault with a deadly weapon. I wish he could be charged with the same. My other concern is now this guy gets to get away with this thinking it is okay and without punishment or warning of any kind.

The Cleveland Metroparks are one of the greatest assets Northeast Ohio has. As cyclists, we are constantly being harassed and threatened by motorists. What is being done by the rangers to patrol and enforce the traffic laws in the Metroparks. Specifically: speeding, cars passing too close to cyclists, and passing with unsafe conditions (around a curve or oncoming traffic). 'Share the Road' signs alone are not enough, they are vague and do not work.

What can be done? What further actions should I take? What can I do to make sure that this guy doesn't actually succeed in hurting me or one of my fellow cyclists? I would love to help in this process if possible.
Mehul Gala

Good morning Mehul,

Thanks for taking the time to write back to us concerning the incident with the other motorist. I also appreciate the kind words about our Ranger personnel. I am going to hand your complaint off to the Western Division supervisor, Lieutenant Terry Bernath. Lt. Bernath will consult with our traffic unit and others in the building to determine what could be done and he will contact you with his findings. Certainly, there is an opportunity for you to file charges against the operator (and he/she may feel compelled to do the same based on your contact with him that day). I'm certain that on-scene Rangers identified him on the day of your incident. It may be a difficult case as there are many circumstances that could affect prosecution. Nevertheless, it warrants our review.

Generally, Rangers from all divisions are on patrol in marked vehicles, unmarked cars, bicycles and afoot. They are tasked with monitoring traffic concerns like the one you have brought to our attention and do write citations and make arrests for traffic violation, ranging from reckless operation, to speeding, to OVI, etc. Incidents like yours give us the opportunity to remind cyclists and motorists that we have a shared use approach in Ohio, that there is room for both to share the roadway. As you are aware, recent legislation has made it safer for cyclists to share the roadway with motorists, BUT that legislation still requires patience on the part of motorists who drive behind cyclists awaiting an opportunity to safely pass. Cyclists must stay as far to the right as possible and should refrain from passing stopped cars at red lights and stop signs.

Just last week, our staff was asked to add the cyclists/motorists issue to their specific patrol assignments based on a complaint from a motorist who claims that cyclists in Rocky River ride in the center of the lane and do not use the trails as they should. That motorist was reminded of Ohio law that permits cyclists to be on our roadways – but is correct in his report that the riders should stay to the right.
I'll look forward to reading Lt. Bernath's response to you and invite you to write back if you have any follow-up concerns. Stay safe.

Daniel J. Veloski, Captain - Field Operations
Cleveland Metroparks Ranger Department
4600 Valley Parkway, Fairview Park, OH 44126
(440) 331-5745 - office
(440) 331-5530 - dispatch
(440) 333-4911 - emergency line

Mr. Gala,

I received your concerns from Capt Veloski concerning an incident on Sunday, August 24th. I have talked to both officers that were approached at the stables. I have read the response that you received from Captain Veloski.

We receive weekly complaints from cyclist about vehicle traffic and vehicle traffic complaints about cyclist. The ranger department actively and aggressively enforces the appropriate laws that govern any given situation concerning traffic issues. While rangers cannot be everywhere, it is incumbent upon the cyclist and motorist to share the roadway, be respectful of each other, and get along. This however does not happen all the time as you have indicated.

In reviewing your incident there is not a reasonable charge that we can prosecute. You both have different accounts as to what happened. There are no witnesses to the incident. Your opinion as to what is a "safe distance" and what another person's opinion on what is a "safe distance" is subjective. The law does not and cannot reasonably address the issue of "Safe Distance" in the context of the law. Is 6 inches enough or is 2 feet enough? The fact is: he did not make contact with you or your bike, and it then becomes your word against his word as to how close he was.

As far as what action should be taken in the future, I would not suggest a confrontation. The use of profanity only escalates an already volatile situation. Remain calm and report the incident to the rangers or local PD if not in the park and let us investigate the incident.

Please feel free to call me if you have any questions or comments.

Lt Bernath
Terry Bernath, Lieutenant
Western Division
Cleveland Metroparks Rangers
4600 Valley Pkwy
Fairview Park, Ohio 44126
Phone (440) 331-5414
Dispatch (440) 331-5530
Fax (440) 331-5342

Lt. Bernath,
I understand rangers cannot be everywhere. I also understand that the cyclists and motorist must share the roadway.

I am usually very comfortable cycling on the road. I ride my bike to work for transportation, in the park for fitness and recreation, and in races for competitions. Sunday I felt very vulnerable on the road. I was passed at a distance that was unsafe and then intentionally 'brake checked" at least twice. Had I not avoided this action, I certainly would have hit his car and been thrown off my bike.

I am appalled that it seems like motorists can do what ever they want towards cyclists lawfully using the roads unless they actually hit someone.
I do encourage my fellow cyclists to obey the laws of the road: stop at stop signs, obey traffic signals, ride on the correct side of the road, etc. Also, we do go above and beyond to accommodate traffic by riding single file when traffic is heavy.
Sincerely and with all due respect Lieutenant, I think that you are not offering me much confidence in this situation. On one hand I am led to believe that since I was not physically contacted and not physical harm was done, nothing is wrong. This is not the case. Cyclists are yelled at, harassed, 'buzzed' every day, and basically menaced [most of the time without witnesses other than fellow cyclist] for taking part in an activity permitted by law! On the other hand, I am being told to report the situation during future incidents. Why? I have no physical evidence of harm or menacing so isn't it going to be my word against his?

Believe me, I would have loved to remain calm in this situation. I felt threatened.

My profanity does not, provide an after-the-fact excuse for his driving behavior. It helps show the state of fear that I was facing. Your Rangers, however, did a fantastic job of making me feel much safer and calming me down. Your response after the fact disappoints me.

Mehul Gala

Mehul: That was the last letter that I sent to Lt. Bernath. He then called me and we talked for about a half hour.

The conversation led no where then. We discussed how motorists are getting mad at cyclists and vice versa. He stated that motorists complain about riding in the center of the road. I told him that we have to do that occasionally because the road conditions are poor, so if we do have to do that, it is usually only a few hundred feet at the most.

I asked him if the same priority was given to that motorist complaining about cyclists as me complaining about almost getting hit and he said, "that complaint is important to that person".

I was blown away. He wouldn't say that he gives it the same priority, but he wouldn't concede that it was frivolous complaint.

I told him that I want to press charges against that guy. He told me that he would have to charge me with disrupting the peace or disorderly conduct. I told him that I was fine with that, but he didn't seem to want to take me seriously.

I felt like I was not getting anywhere and decided I was wasting my time. He apologized for not being able to offer me 100% satisfaction. I told him he was hovering close to 0%. I told him that it seemed like there was a mild prejudice against cyclists and that it was a shame.

My final impression was that the Cleveland Metroparks' Rangers are hand cuffed and pretty much useless because of poor attitudes.

My brief initial thoughts:

If someone unsuccessfully tried to rob someone at gunpoint in the Metroparks, and the victim was able to positively identify the robber, would the Lieutenant have the same response: no witnesses, no hard evidence, no charges?

What does the fact that some cyclists (in the opinion of some drivers) ride too close to center have to do with the fact that a driver tried to nearly kill Mehul?

Just remember that our tax dollars are paying these people's salary.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Things to do in Vermont when not getting your butt kicked by a bunch of thirty-somethings in a bicycle race

Go on a hike up a mountain that is way too technical for flatlanders like us.





Interact with the many, many sled dogs on site.


Stand on rocks.


Participate in a Wii Tennis Tournament.


Friday, September 12, 2008


Today I dusted off my clubs and ventured to the driving range in preparation for a golf date next week with some out of town relatives.

Forgive me father, but it has been about six years since my last game of golf.

In that time, I certainly did not improve, yet my skills also did not deteriorate. They just stayed mediocre at best, the level at which they remain even when I golf on a regular basis.

The funny part about visiting a golf course and/or driving range is my initial inclination to judge these people with their ungodly expensive golf clubs, ridiculous outfits, and way too serious attitude about hitting a little ball in a hole.

Then I think about the fact that I spend hundreds of hours a year riding a bike while wearing a lycra costume with what is supposed to be a menacing looking snake on it. I also more than occasionally race against other like minded individuals and put way too much emphasis on the results of these contests between what is usually a bunch of mid to upper class white guys with way too much time and disposable income on our hands.

Then I decide to stop judging golfers.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Road rules

I just came across this well organized summary of Ohio bicycling laws, which was compiled earlier this year by the recently deceased Cal Kirchick, an avid cyclist and attorney. It is a must read for anyone who rides the roads of Ohio. (Scroll down a bit on the page after clicking on the above link.)

It is definitely a must read for the gentleman we encountered today on our ride who insisted that we should ride single file on the four-lane Shaker Blvd. because, according to him, Westlake forces cyclists to ride single file (which is likely an invalid law) and in bike lanes when available (which is even more likely an invalid law). Sorry Dorothy, but you're not in Westlake anymore.

Sunday, September 07, 2008

Ride for Miles

Here is a link to information relating to a ride to honor the life and work of recently fallen local cyclist Miles Coburn, which will take place on Saturday, September 20th from John Carroll University.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

GMSR crit and final GC

The Monday GMSR crit was 25 laps around a 1k course in downtown Burlington. It was a hilly, tight, and fast course with lots of spectators and some brick roads. The pace of the 30+ race was brutal from the gun, and the fact that we could not pre-ride or warm up on the course didn't help matters. I think we started this last stage with 40 or so riders, many of which were dropped and pulled on the first few laps after the field blew up. My group was pulled at 11 laps...ouch.



The finish


The day improved greatly, however, after we visited the way cool Magic Hat Brewery in South Burlington for some samples and a jug of Jinx to take home, straight from the tap.

That officially wraps up the GMSR. My 30+ field started with 45 riders, mostly Cat 1, 2, and 3. I finished 27th overall on the GC. I can't really complain about that, given the studs in this field and their stage race experience.

The race itself was pretty remarkable. That doesn't mean much coming from me, but the fact that people from all over the east and beyond keep coming back every year shows how good it really is.

So now I am here until the weekend, relaxing on a mountaintop property in a rustic cabin on 75 acres with our dogs and the 28 sled dogs that reside here.

I guess it's now time for cyclocross.