Saturday, January 30, 2010

Driving while dumb

According to this article, a recent insurance industry study found that state laws banning the use of hand held mobile devices (for texting or calling) do not reduce crashes.

Let the arguments about the validity of this study begin. In the meantime, we will continue to ignore the elephant in the living room: In this country, we just about let anyone with a pulse get behind the wheel of a car, and we treat driving on public roads as a right, not a privilege.

Stupid people do stupid things. Irresponsible people do irresponsible things. Stupid and irresponsible choices lead to car crashes. If you outlaw texting, the person who was going to text his or her way into an accident will probably just find another way to cause a wreck while reading, applying makeup, combing hair, eating, drinking coffee, changing the radio channel, or doing countless other things that can lead to accidents.

In 2008, over 26,000 people died in this country in auto accidents. Instead of being outraged, most people view this figure as an acceptable risk of driving.

The only way to make roads safer is to make it more difficult to obtain a license. I bet that it's possible to devise a yearly test that accurately assesses a person's ability to safely drive. And maybe we need yearly driving maneuverability tests. And maybe we need to crack down on people who routinely cause accidents by revoking their licenses sooner than we already do.

Yes, it would be costly and annoying to have to take a yearly driving test. And I dare any state politician to support legislation that could potentially cause thousands of drivers (aka voters) to lose their driving privileges, especially senior citizens.

But, until that happens, all of the talk of safe driving, distracted driving, and the like is a bunch of hot air.

If 26,000 Americans died of terrorism in a single year, there would be a revolution.

When 26,000 Americans die every year in auto accidents, we shrug and blame texting.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

My own anti-bicycling screed

Well, not really. But even I have to call "bullshit" once in a while, even when it involves one of the country's most well respected cycling advocates.

Portland attorney Bob Mionske is a former pro, a former Olympian, and a widely published bicycling advocate. I've never met him, but he seems like a good guy, and I usually find myself screaming "Amen" in response to his writings.

Last week, the L.A. Times published an opinion piece authored by Mionske, which was written in response to the recent sentencing of the violent criminal Dr. Christopher T. Thomson, who attempted to kill cyclists (on more than one occasion) with his car.

I agree 100% with Mionske on his outrage over the fact that it took more than one assault by Thomson to land him in jail. And that the legal system is rigged in favor of motorists over cyclists. And that distracted driving is a menace to everyone.

I do, however, take issue with other points made in his article. For example, he states that:

"...The roads are common spaces, and their use is an ancient right for all -- except motorists.

Referring to the arcane common law doctrine that roads were built for pedestrians, carriages, and (later) bicyclists is not going to win the hearts and minds of most people. Yes, that it how it was back in the day. These days, most roads are built for cars and, in enlightened areas, they are built for mixed use (cars, bikes, and pedestrians). Our country's transportation priorities are severely flawed. Our car culture is unsustainable. But, arguing with a straight face about the bicycle's superior right to the road over cars in 2010 just makes you look out of touch and compromises your credibility with the readers you are trying to persuade.

He also says that:

"...Every cyclist you see on the road represents one less car contributing to congestion. Yes, you may occasionally have to slow down for a few seconds, but those few seconds are offset by the time you save for every car that is not on the road ahead of you. Cyclists also neither consume gasoline nor contribute to climate change, and they cause far less wear and tear on the road than cars. These are benefits that accrue directly to motorists in the form of less demand for limited resources, driving regulations and limited tax dollars."

So true, if only cycling was limited to utilitarian purposes.

This is an area where recreational cyclists and racers are routinely dishonest with themselves. I will freely admit that my involvement in cycling has done more harm than good for the environment. The environmental benefits of any commuting or errand running I do by bike are highly outweighed by my driving to races all over creation, driving to bike shops, driving to (some but not many) rides, and the stupid amount of resource intensive food I eat when doing high volume training. I'm pretty sure that the same can be said for the vast majority of cyclists who own cars. For example, the local bike paths around here are very crowded during the warmer months. And so are their parking lots.

The issues of safe cycling and bicycle advocacy are dear to my heart. Let's try to keep the movement going forward by only using honest arguments and refrain from the type of insincere rhetoric reserved for political campaigns and recent Congressional debates.

Monday, January 18, 2010


The Rural Alberta Advantage
Beachland Tavern - sold out
Cleveland, Ohio 1-18-10

Saturday, January 16, 2010

At a loss

Now estimates are at around 200,000 casualties in Haiti.

All of the images of the utter destruction and tragedy are overwhelming. In fact, most images and news stories about Haiti, even before the earthquake, depicted unrest and dysfunction.

How about a change of pace, just for a few minutes?

Haiti, by the Arcade Fire. Shot in Haiti.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

"Dr. Thompson is not a criminal"

Tell that to the guy whose head went through Thompson's rear windshield.

The statement in the title of this post were the words of Michael Oana, an X-ray technologist at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center in Los Angeles. Thankfully, over 270 people from around the world think differently than Mr. Oana, according to this article.

According to Dr. Robert Padgett, "He [Thomson] is a very wise man and caring physician."

Except for that little streak of murderous tendencies.

Dr. Thompson (well, actually, I don't think he's a doctor anymore) is the waste of human life who tried to murder those cyclists in that high profile California case.

Calling all California cyclists...wouldn't it be fun to organize a boycott of Dr. Padgett's practice? Or maybe let Mr. Oana's employer know that you don't appreciate its employee siding with a violent criminal and menace to society?

What if Dr. Thompson was a child rapist? Or a KKK member who attempted to kill someone? Are those actions any more excusable than what Thompson did? Would these people be standing up for their colleague? Of course not. Nor would the employers of these sympathizers tolerate it.

At the very least, every single cycling blog, website, and magazine should publish the comments of these medical "professionals" who sympathize with people who purposely try to murder human beings. Include their names, addresses, and their photos. In fact, any blogger, website, or magazine with a conscience (bicycling related or not) should do so. Just to shame them and humiliate them.

Kind of like how the cyclists were humiliated with a lacerated face, broken tooth, and separated shoulder.