Monday, December 31, 2012

Tuesday, December 25, 2012

Deadly Weapons in the Hands of Loons, Part II

Actual Loon

William Spengler, Jr

Or, Yes, Dorothy, We Do Have A Double Standard Here

Well, the Bushmaster .223 caliber civilian assault rifle (i.e, a military spec rifle designed to deliver high rates of automatic fire in battlefield conditions, slightly modified to only fire semi-automatic but still capable of several rounds per second and often equipped with high capacity magazines) used to execute 20 elementary school students and six of their teachers made the news again this week, and this time much closer to (my) childhood home. As reported in the NY Times, 62 year old William Spengler set fire to his home in Webster, NY,  as a way to set up an ambush and murder two firemen and wound a second two, who are currently recovering from serious gunshot wounds in Strong Memorial Hospital. According to Webster Police Chief Gerald Pickering, Spengler chose the 223 Bushmaster (note added later: as a convicted felon, Spengler obtained his rifle via a straw purchase.) It seems these military style rifles are becoming the weapon of choice of those wanting to go out in a blaze of blood and infamy. In a goodbye note to humanity, Mr. Spengler said he wanted to go out of this world doing what he likes to do best, "killing people".

“He was equipped to go to war to kill innocent people,” the Webster police chief, Gerald L. Pickering, said of Mr. Spengler. 

Elsewhere in the NY Times, we learn that those extremely violent video games that NRA honcho Wayne LaPierre complains about are actually used by gun manufacturers to market guns. Gee...I guess Wayne ought not to bite the hand that feeds him.

Finally, in the Albuquerque Journal today we learn from AP writers Suzanne Gamboa and Monika Mathur that 561 children 12 years old or younger were shot dead in the USA from 2006 to 2010.

Not to pick on the Bushmaster too much but I've had enough. We need to control weapons of mass destruction,  not to mention, control our dark side. No right is absolute, and although the Founders, as recorded in such places as the Federalist Papers, argued that "a well regulated militia" was inexorably tied into the people's individual right to bear arms, that doesn't mean they thought every farmer should have a twelve pounder double-shotted with grape and canister aimed at the front porch. Neither does it mean we should all be carrying around enough firepower to fight a land war in Afghanistan. One has to balance individual rights with the public safety. Yes, finding that balance is a real chore and requires trust, individual responsibility, and logic. The more freedom one has, the more responsibilities one shoulders for the public good.

But what about those gun death numbers? The elephant in the room is here: In those same five years that we killed 561 children with guns, or about 112 per year, we probably killed, on average, between 1400 and 2,000 children per year aged 14 and under with motor vehicles. Here's the most recent data I scraped up. That is a ratio of roughly between 14 and 20:1  Worldwide, the leading cause of death among children is car mishaps, not gun mishaps.

One might ask why both cars and guns are marketed so irresponsibly. For every awful gun ad I've seen in Guns and Ammo telling us that every home needs an assault rifle to protect us against a mythical Armegeddon, I can find you a few car ads that sell cars that will give us outlets for our aggression, that we can drive like maniacs ("professional driver on closed course, don't try this at home"), so we can get laid, or so we can revel in yet more meaningless horsepower. Citizens who will fight to the death to protect their right to keep and drive cars fight traffic cameras, speed limits, and cell phone laws. As cyclists, we see the results of that mentality and are four times more likely to die at the hands of a reckless, careless, or drunk motorist than by the hand of a gun-wielding criminal or lunatic.

The problem isn't guns, its us. We don't want any restrictions on our freedom to screw up, even if we take out others with us. Cars should be about transportation, and guns for sport shooting, hunting, and defense, both individual and national. Instead, guns and cars are tied into our silly and our dark sides, too. Its not just the individual's lacking self control, either. Its the manufacturers and advertisers who will take their money now and let us deal with the mortal consequences later.

We are not a few million horse riding and musket wielding farmers spread out thinly along the East Coast any more; when one of us screws up with our high tech contraptions, whether it be a Bushmaster in the hands of a lunatic or a Buick in the hands of a texting driver, we hurt others. Until we meet each other halfway with some sense of safety and civility, not to mention reasonable laws based on risk analysis rather than fear driven politics, we will continue to kill each other in higher than necessary or reasonable numbers. And please, unless you are a better driver than I am or are car-free, don't rant about the NRA until you rant about the National Motorists Association.

 I'm left thinking that here in BombTown, we are more likely under normal circumstances to kill each other with a motorized cell phone than with a gun, although neither, famous last words, is a high likelihood event. Given that the community is  concerned with active shooters, I suggest if we really want to save lives, we teach each other to be active safe drivers as well as worry about whether mass gun violence will arrive on The Hill.

Finally, of course, be careful and be civil out there, whether it be with your bike, your car, or your gun.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

The deadliest "weapon", and its not an M4 Bushmaster

Kinetic energy of a 4,000 lb car at 35 mph: 164,000 ft-lbs
Kinetic energy at the muzzle of a .223 cal, 62 grain full metal jacketed bullet at 3200 ft/sec: 1410 ft-lbs

Gun homicides per day: 23
Traffic deaths per day:89
(from Mark Plotz' post below)

I've been mulling over this comparison, and Mark Plotz at the National Center for Bicycling and Walking beat me to posting it, when he put up the note appended below on the NCBW e-newsletter. Deaths are deaths, and there are too many preventable ones happening due to carelessness, recklessness, criminal intent, and the lack of society upholding the requirement that a nation of free people demands the best in citizenship, not the lowest common denominator. We tend to focus on the unusual big catastrophe when a gunman shoots up a school, and ignore the constant, low level violence going on around us as 89 people die in traffic crashes every day, most of them easily preventable.  --Khal

By Mark Plotz, Senior Associate / Program Manager
The National Center for Bicycling & Walking

Last week NHTSA released its injury/fatality numbers for 2011. The news is great... for those of us who travel ensconced in airbags, crumple zones, and fine Corinthian leather: there were 632 fewer deaths and 22k fewer injuries than in 2010. For the rest of us, the news isn't so good: 130 more pedestrians and 54 more bicyclists died on our roadways than in 2010. Our numbers amount to nearly 12 percent of all road deaths. Fewer drivers are dying and more pedestrians and cyclists are being killed.

"NHTSA's numbers:
32,367 killed and 2.2m injured for all modes
21,253 killed in passenger vehicles (cars and light trucks)
4,612 pedestrians killed and 69k injured
677 bicyclists killed and 48k injured"

What do these statistics mean? Those numbers work out to nearly 89 traffic deaths per day of which 14 are pedestrians or bicyclists. If that still seems too abstract, ask yourself whether a relative of yours has been injured or killed in/by a motor vehicle. Odds are the answer is yes.

As I did the math on the NHTSA numbers, I couldn't help but draw parallels with the shootings in Newtown, CT: firearm ownership and driving are treated as inalienable rights; because of the former characteristic, both are shockingly ease to access; and the carnage caused by each--23 gun homicides per day, and 89 road deaths per day--is thought of as the-cost-of-doing-business (with some exceptions). Yet, as I awoke this morning, the nation seems to be on the cusp of meaningful reform of gun laws and the NRA has gone dark.

I am left wondering: When will our Newtown reckoning arrive?

In the decade I have been in this business, I have watched the core mission of safety be subordinated to allegiance to funders, programs, and partners. It has happened to me; who can resist the seductive idea that more biking will save the world? As we grapple with how to ensure no more Newtowns happen, let us look at our work and remember that many of us became involved in advocacy because one too many #&%#@ drivers got too #&%#@ close when we were doing nothing more extraordinary than crossing the street or biking to work.

Walking and biking should be safe, convenient, and accessible for all.

Traffic Safety Resources
NHTSA's 2011 traffic safety statistics

FBI's violent crime statistics

Strong safety advocates [Ed. Note: click to close the donation page to see 'Vision Zero NYC: Zero deaths, zero injuries, zero fear of traffic' article]

America Walks resources

For enforcement ideas and resources (see right side)

Sunday, December 16, 2012

LA Bikes reminds cyclists of winter safety considerations

The County is reminding folks who drive cars to take proper precautions during winter driving. I saw a few folks out there who didn't take that advice on Friday morning and one abandoned car blocking the right lane of Diamond on Conoco Hill. .Proper tires, lights, and cleared windows are minimum. Some talent driving on snow and ice would not hurt.

Likewise, cyclists who are out on the road owe the public some consideration, since some poor fellow will have to answer to your loved ones as to why you and your bike are under his car or you might have to answer to a pedestrian why you knocked her down.  Please equip your bicycle with lights and reflective surfaces if out at night or during inclement weather. Especially the Stealth Cyclist who rides past the CMR every night at about six and others like him.  In the event the roads are covered with snow or ice, please have tires that will give you some control and remember that being on two wheels requires more talent than on four when the roads turn white.
The Long Haul Trucker fit with an HID lamp 
and winter rubber
Studs optional

Note: REI used for reference only.

Motorists likewise should remember to allow that full five feet when passing. I was once passed by a motorist who waited to the last minute to move left on snow and then proceeded to do a full donut, putting both of us in a bad situation.

As Sgt. Phil Esterhaus says, "let's be careful out there".

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

In other news from the roadway battlefront.....

Carol Clark reports that a second NM-4 rollover crash in two weeks has put a Los Alamos resident in the hospital and with a citation from the Santa Fe Sheriff to boot. A previous head on crash and resulting rollover killed a thirteen year old boy riding in one of the vehicles. I'm still waiting to hear if anyone was cited on that one. Finally, a cyclist riding on NM4 said a Government vehicle recently ran an oncoming car off the road on NM-4 while unsafely passing the bicyclist. Sheesh.

Many of us have complained about the sorry state of the pavement on NM-4 (narrow broken surface, zilch for paved shoulders, steep drop-offs from recent chipseal application) and the sorry driving of many of the motorists using it, but until the political issues of land ownership, funding, and roadway responsibility are resolved (the land is a state route set on a narrow San Ildefonso Pueblo easement and the state is broke), permission given to widen the road with decent shoulders, and money found to fund it, all of us have to be extra careful out there. That message seems to be ignored by a lot of people, at least based on my own observations and those of other cyclists who write to local email and blog forums. We can't always have great roads, so our only other choice is great operators--both "us" and "them".

For the long term, an improved NM4 will help not only cyclists but help all of us on the hill in the event of an evacuation, and help all of the commuters coming on and off the hill to go to work each day. I therefore suggest we all write the transportation board, the county council, and the Governor to keep them aware that we need to solve this problem.   Think about that, and meanwhile....

"In the interests of justice....charges dismissed with prejudice"

This morning in Los Alamos Municipal Court, "in the interests of justice" (the county's words, not mine) the charges against Joe Wermer were dismissed with prejudice by Judge Alan Kirk during the initial hearing.

Thanks to all who supported Joe in this, especially Diane Albert, Esq, who prepared the Motion to Dismiss, to Joe for his perseverance. and to Los Alamos County for realizing that justice had not been served with this citation. Thanks too to Steve, the motorist involved with the collision, who showed up in moral support of Joe (note added later--Steve was apparently there because he was subpoenaed by the county, but it worked out well anyway). I've often said that in a small place like Los Alamos there is only 1.5 degrees of separation, and indeed, Steve is the neighbor of one of the cyclists who showed up to support Joe's case.

Actually, it was interesting. As soon as the court was in session, the County's own attorney, standing next to the investigating police officer, immediately introduced the County's own motion to dismiss "in the interests of justice". Judge Kirk, after asking Joe if he was OK with this, dismissed the charge with prejudice, meaning it cannot be re-instituted.

I did offer to the county's attorney, A.J. Salazar, to continue to work with the P.D. and community on this stuff, and it was taken with interest.The best outcome of this case is that we all (motorists, bicyclists, police, road designers) understand the law and traffic and create in us better, safer riders and drivers. I'd rather we not be going to court after crashes have happened because even if an investigation is done technically to perfection, its after we are scraping people off the ground and that's a little too late. Been there myself and can't say I enjoyed it much.

More later as I think on this. Sometimes silence is better than shooting from the lip.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Support Joe Wermer and your legal rights as a cyclist

I'm posting Joe's request here as it is of interest to the general bicycling community. Please read on, and show up for the court hearing on 5 December. This could affect any of us.
Relevant article HERE in the Daily Post.



In May 2012, I (Joe Wermer) was involved in a bicycle-car accident during the morning commute. I was riding from my house in North Community to my workplace just before 8:00 am. I was wearing a “highway yellow” long-sleeve jersey and other gear, including a helmet and gloves.

As I passed Metzger’s Mobil across from the high school, the car traveling beside me made a right turn into the Metzger’s parking lot (in front of the service bays). As the car crossed into the bike lane on the right turn, it struck the left side of my handlebar, causing me to careen off into the parking bay area and wipe out. Bicyclists commonly call this a “right hook” collision, and this is one of the perils of the road for bicycles. I sustained lacerations and a separated shoulder in the crash. The car driver said that he had “checked his mirrors” before the crash. That tells me that he did not turn his head to check the blind spot.

In the most bizarre turn of events, the LAPD officer gave me a citation for the crash. He cited me for a violation of statute 38-454, “Crossing at other than crosswalks.” This comes out of the pedestrian section of the code, and applies to jaywalkers. With the help of Diane Albert, a Motion to Dismiss was submitted to the Court. However, the Court refused to dismiss the charge without a hearing.

The Motion to Dismiss is scheduled for Wednesday, December 5, 2012, at 10:00 am before Municipal Court Judge Alan Kirk, at the Justice Center (entrance near Ashley Pond). If the charge is not dismissed, then a court trial on the charge will begin right away. Municipal Court meets in the Los Alamos County Justice Center next to Ashley Pond. As this type of incident affects all of us, I would like to see as many of my fellow cyclist in the courtroom as possible.
--Joe Wermer

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Change We Can't Believe In.....

Interesting ride to work this morning. Riding out of the roundabout from North Mesa in the inside lane of Diamond, I was checking to see if I could merge over into the bike lane as there was a car coming in from Barranca in the outside lane and that often results in me being overtaken on my right. What I do is look over my right shoulder and either wait to be overtaken or negotiate crossing the lane.

So while gauging that situation, the lady in the small black sedan following behind me from North Mesa with the Obama bumper sticker in her back window got impatient and went over the DOUBLE set of double yellow lines to pass me in the oncoming lane rather than wait five seconds. And we wonder why motorists kill people. 

I guess that “change we can believe in” doesn’t include YOUR changing to a more responsible driver, eh, love?

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Comments sought on State Transportation Improvement Program

Found this in the Daily Post.

The public is invited to comment on the New Mexico Department of Transportation’s sixth amendment to the State Transportation Improvement Program (STIP.)
The program will serve as a four-year plan for the state’s federal aid highway program. 
The NMDOT has posted the 2012-2015 STIP amendment on the Internet asking for public comment until Dec. 19. Final Public comment will be held at the NMDOT General Office in Santa Fe 1-4 p.m.,  Dec. 19.
The STIP contains proposed road and bridge projects and is required under the federal legislation. Projects on the list are on federal and state highways (roads with I, U.S. or N.M. designations.)
The STIP is developed by the NMDOT, working in cooperation with state, local and tribal transportation agencies as well as regional planning organizations. 
Projects included in the STIP are funded with a combination of federal, state and/or local funds. The document is posted on the NMDOT website at

Note added by KJS. The actual location for the program management page is here and for the pdf (311 pages) is here.

The NMDOT STIP Coordinator will take comments via email at For more information, contact Melissa Dosher, NMDOT Public Information Officer, at (505) 469-5698.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Driving is not a right

As published in the Daily Post.

The Sunday morning Monitor reminded us of just how close we came to killing some children at the Montessori School on Canyon Road. Why? Because as County Engineer Kyle Zimmerman tells us, our safety is held hostage by a few "irrational" drivers.

Not only do we not control them, but it seems difficult to even know who the people are who are trying to kill us, including another driver who crashed the same week on Main Hill Road while, according to the Daily Post, driving aggressively and passing another vehicle. Often, we don't even know if the motorists were even cited!

Perhaps the first level of dealing with dangerous drivers is not to ask the County to spend more money on traffic studies to change speed limits, but to arrest and prosecute reckless and careless drivers, put their faces in both newspapers, and take away their driver's licenses. After all, these are often not "accidents" caused by bad weather or poor facilities. They are caused by deliberate risk taking - because there seems to be no risk to being held accountable by the community.

Driving is not a right. When you abuse your driving privileges and endanger the community, you must lose that privilege. 

It's about time we made that stick. Preferably, before there is innocent blood spilled in the road.

Added later, just here:

Indeed, the driver who narrowly missed all those students at the Montessori School could have been as effective a killer as the Aurora, CO shooter. I wish we would take driving seriously. Instead we treat it casually, with predictable results.

In these two cases, the Daily Post told us both drivers were teens. I therefore hold the parents equally responsible for not teaching their children to take driving seriously. Or, for that matter, taking other things seriously. Recently, a teen bicyclist riding on a sidewalk (in a business district signed as private property where bicyclists are not supposed to be riding on sidewalks) plowed into a local storekeeper's door. Fortunately, no one hurt, but its not a huge leap of logic to see where a careless teen on a bicycle will end up in a couple years.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Kwage Mesa Trailhead Blocked by Construction Company

Note 11-15-12. The trailhead is now open after discussion between the County and the construction company.

Yesterday I was riding on the singletrack at the back of North Mesa and noted that even though the County trail folks (aka Craig Martin) re-routed the Kwage Mesa Trailhead and its extention to the North Mesa tennis court parking in order to avoid the construction of the covered equestrian center, the contractor fenced off the trailhead completely. I put in a call to Craig Martin and he is contacting the contractor about that.

If Craig gets the run-around, I'll be happy to raise Cain with the county about this completely unnecessary blockage. The county went through the trouble to move the trail, and now the contractor has blocked it anyway. The trails should remain open. If anyone wants to assist in grumping about this, should it become neccesary, let me know.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

In Remembrance

Thanks to Ian Cooper for reminding me to do something besides run up the flag. Follow the embedded link in the title to read the story of the poem.

In Flanders Fields

By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Canadian Army
In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

Get Your Gobble Going on Thanksgiving Day

Courtesy of Jim Rickman over at Little Jimmy's Wheelhouse.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Thursday, November 1, 2012

"Only bicycles seemed to be rolling"

One Way Around the Traffic Muddle in Brooklyn: Riding a Bicycle

With power out, gas stations not able to pump, and subway lines still flooded or without power, New York City is working its way out of gridlock  as it tries to recover from Hurricane Sandy (note added later--no sooner did the area start to recover from Sandy than another 'Noreaster hit the area!)  Commutes are lasting hours and I wonder what happens as folks sit in stalled traffic with the gas gauge dipping towards Empty. According to the Times article, Gov. Cuomo has declared a transportation emergency in the NYC area.

1979 revisited?
A couple quotes from the NY Times article: "Only bicycles seemed to be rolling."..."With no underground route from Queens to Manhattan and car traffic stalled, some crossed the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge on bike or foot. One Twitter user described cycling over the bridge as “escaping zombie apocalypse.”

Typical 1979 East Coast gas line during the the oil
 crisis. This one in Md but Eastern LI was bad, too.

Streetsblog tells a different story of those who are more adaptable: "...The commuters who had the least to worry about from post-Sandy traffic were those who rode their bikes..."

Indeed, twice while I was on Long Island during grad school, the bicycle proved why it is without question the most reliable and robust vehicle, needing only air in its tires and food and beer in its engine. These were during the 1979 Oil Crisis, and in 1985 when power in the Stony Brook/Port Jefferson area was out for close to two weeks after Hurricane Gloria roared over Stony Brook on its way across the island, leaving downed trees and severed power lines in its wake. Not needing gasoline and being able to filter around storm damage (and mile-long gas lines) helped a lot. I started my habit of riding my bicycle to work in the spring of 1979 rather than face hours sitting in a gas line with my wife's car or my motorcycle (my wife usually rode her bike, too). 

This latest crisis reminds me of a cartoon my Ph.D. advisor, another avid transportation cyclist, once sent me. Gil provided an email caption along the lines of "in case of emergency, pump tires". Just change the dates.

Late Note: Gasoline is now being rationed on Long Island and in NYC. From the 11-8-2012 New York Times.
A 2012 Gasoline line in New York City. From the 11-8-12 NY Times

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Albuquerque Journal: Fix the Careless Driving Law So Justice is Served

I cut out the part of the op-ed about the definition of burglary, which was the first part of this Journal Op-Ed. Go to the original to read the whole thing. My thanks to the Journal, and not just as a bicyclist, for writing this.

Editorial: Lawmakers Can Wrestle With Burglars, Bicycles

By on Wed, Oct 31, 2012

(snip)..."Similarly, the Legislature is the only recourse for families of victims and bicycle safety advocates who think sentencing options for drivers who kill or severely injure bicyclists are inadequate.

Case in point: Carol Svinarich, who struck and killed a bicyclist with her SUV in January — could have gotten 90 days in jail and a $300 fine for her no contest plea to a misdemeanor charge of careless driving. But Svinarich, who had a DWI arrest after Scott “Dwane” Lane’s death, was sentenced Friday to 90 days of home arrest with an alcohol-sensing ankle bracelet. She will have to pay the $300 fine and $17,560 in restitution to the family for medical and other costs, but to the family the sentence is an insult.

The Duke City Wheelmen bicyclists group intends to ask the Legislature for tougher punishments and also says clarifying the distinction between careless driving, a misdemeanor, and reckless driving, a felony, would be “a huge step.”

Whether through a clearer or expanded definition of burglary or through penalties that better take into account to severity of harm a motor vehicle can inflict on a bicyclist, at the end of the day the public should feel justice has been served.

If the law needs tweaking, then the Legislature should give these two issues thoughtful consideration."

Monday, October 29, 2012

Politics and the English Language

Its election season, and attack ads are upon us. Attacks based on emotion come as nothing new to cyclists, though. Nice piece at Slate about this:

Why You Hate Cyclists: Partly because of jerks like me. But it’s mostly your own illogical mind.   By Jim Saksa.

I've written my own $0.02 regarding the attack ads I've been getting in regards to the New Mexico House District 43 race. Carol Clark is posting it on the Daily Post. I will link to it when it appears. Here it is.

The title of this post, of course, refers to the excellent essay written by Eric Blair, aka George Orwell, in 1946.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Kill a bicyclist, watch TV, Part II, (essay by Jennifer Buntz)

Jennifer Buntz, President of the Duke City Wheelmen Foundation (DCWF), penned this (so to speak) to the BikeABQ, the Albuquerque bicycling listserve. Worth posting here, so here it is with my blessings:

Traffic Safety
"In the complicated world of bicycles and motor vehicles sharing the same streets and highways, things usually go right, but sometimes they can go wrong. When they do go wrong, DCWF along with the New Mexico Motorcycle Rights Organization have been working to strengthen the penalties that can be imposed on offenders.

We will again be working with Rep. Miera on a "vehicle neutral" piece of legislation that would up the penalty options for a "Careless Driver" (as defined in NM State law) who causes the death or great bodily harm of another road user.

The morass of "Careless" vs. "Reckless" driving and when "Homicide by Vehicle" can be charged is described at

It is confusing at first, mostly because it just doesn't make any sense that a death (or great bodily harm) can be punished so lightly. I have talked to several people from the District Attorney's office and the office of the NM Attorney General about the situation. They all tell me the same thing, that currently other charges (and the associated stiffer penalty options) are not applicable to the most common type of circumstances that surround crashes that claim the lives of cyclists (or motorcyclists or pedestrians for that matter).

In 1993 a driver was charged with involuntary manslaughter for the crash that she caused (the person who died was a passenger in the car at the time). Although convicted, the conviction was ultimately overturned because NM law specifies deaths in traffic crashes be charged under the "Homicide by Vehicle" statute. This in turn requires the charge can only be brought under the circumstances of "Reckless Driving" or "Driving Under the Influence."

State v. Yarborough, 1996 NMSC 068, 21, 122 N.M. 596, 930 P.2d 131 - Which determined in part that merely careless driving cannot form basis for involuntary manslaughter conviction, which requires showing of criminal negligence.

We saw in the trial of Miranda Pacheco for the death of cyclist David Anderson how difficult it is for the prosecution to convince a jury "beyond a reasonable doubt" that the circumstances actually meet those required for the actions to be deemed "Reckless Driving." In this case, although Ms. Pacheco was charged with "Homicide by Vehicle, Reckless" the jury convicted only on the "Careless Driving" alternative charge.

Alternatively, the driver who killed cyclist Matt Trujillo, Memori Hardwick, was charged with (and plead guilty to) "Homicide by Vehicle, Driving Under the Influence" and was sentenced under the much harsher penalties allowed.

Please take the time to educate yourself about this issue.
For the law to change, we will need everyone who feels incensed by the situation to write to their State Representative, Senator and to our Governor.

No law or safety device will ever take the place of driving your bicycle with safety ALWAYS in the front of your mind. Same goes for time you spend driving a motorized vehicle too. Or when you are walking your dog for that matter. Any time we are on the road we need to think for ourselves and the other road users out there. We need to obey the rules of the road as we are most predictable when we do.

Wave at motorists to get their attention, to acknowledge when they do the right thing and to let them you know they are there. This simple action can go a long way towards giving you hassle free, pleasant rides and keep you safer all at the same time!"


Jennifer Buntz
President, Duke City Wheelmen Foundation

Friday, October 26, 2012

New Mexico: Kill a bicyclist, watch TV

90 days of house arrest. Go figure. One would have thought that considering the consequences, the sentence for killing Scott Dwane Lane could have been 90 days in the Greybar Hotel instead of 90 days chained to the TV and eating in your own kitchen.

This is the third case in recent weeks (see Saturday Journal article) when a careless motorist has been sentenced to a wrist slap for killing a cyclist. Join cyclists and motorcyclists in the Roundhouse next legislative session to add more teeth to the law.

By Olivier Uyttebrouck / Journal Staff Writer on Fri, Oct 26, 2012

Carol Svinarich was sentenced today to 90 days of monitored house arrest in the death of cyclist Scott “Dwane” Lane. (Roberto E. Rosales/Journal)

A District Court ordered the maximum sentence of 90 days of monitored house arrest for a woman convicted of careless driving in the Jan. 10 death of cyclist Scott “Dwane” Lane.

Carol Svinarich also was ordered to pay a $300 fine and $17,560 in restitution to Lane’s family for medical and other expenses.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Beer Face/Crash Relief Fund for Patrick Brady at Red Kite Prayer

Patrick Brady, aka Padraig, the person who has given us Red Kite Prayer, recently did a serious faceplant at speed while cycling and is facing the usual staggering out of pocket expenses. The folks over at RKP have set up a Paypal account for anyone wanting to chip in to help out. Details are here.  I've dropped by the beer(face) fund already.

Having being scraped up off of Mr. Pavement myself, I can attest for the pain and the bills. Do what you think is right. Thanks.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Agression in its most elegant form

If we're gonna have a war out there, we might as well declare it. Thanks and a tip of the hat to Ian Brett Cooper for noting this.

And for violence in a not so elegant form, look at this crap if you have a strong stomach for senseless promotion of video game violence. Small wonder life imitates art.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Lights, epilogue (Updated)

We got down to Albuquerque Friday night to visit our friend Ellen and take in the simulcast of the Metropolitan Opera on Saturday morning. Getting off I-40 and heading south towards Central, we saw a barely visible bicyclist who was about to cross Carlisle Ave from a side street. She was wearing dark clothing and had no lights and it was well past sundown with a lot of Friday night rush hour traffic going by.

Saturday morning, while having breakfast in Albuquerque before the opera, we heard from one of our opera friends about a cyclist who had crashed into the rear of a parked car a couple nights before, in front of her neighbor's house. Although our friend said he crashed through the car window, I just spoke to someone at The Kickstand who said he did not penetrate the window, so no one is yet sure what cut him so severely.

I don't know whether the cyclist, Javier Garcia, had lights and if so, how bright, but for whatever reason, he didn't avoid the hazard and sadly, we will never know why. Perhaps jumping to conclusions, lights do two important things. They make you visible to others, regardless of where their own headlights are pointed (reflectors have serious limits as far as safe nighttime riding is concerned). They also illuminate your path for your own safety. I've avoided chopped wood, potholes, abandoned roadway hazard warning signs (ironically), and wrong-way blacked out riders because I was equipped with some good illumination. The wrong-way rider, whom I narrowly avoided while riding home at high speed on Kalanianaole Highway in Honolulu, would have been a particularly nasty head on crash, avoided thanks to an old Nightsun dual beam headlight similar to this one that I luckily had running on high beam at the time of the near-miss back in the '90's. It paid for itself that night. Stuff nowdays is better,lighter, and cheaper.

 The Kickstand has put up this memorial to Javier Garcia. So long, Javi. Sorry to see you go. Meanwhile, the Albuquerque Journal covered this story and sadly, the police didn't do much of an investigation because, according to the reporter, Javi was on a bicycle rather than on a motor vehicle.  Go figure.

In the way of a postscript to this call for good lighting on your bike, a recent Science Daily posts an award winning publication on bicycling safety, to wit, bicycle facility designers are just now realizing that its important to design bicycling facilities that properly identify hazards. "...What the authors found was that in those crashes where a single cyclist collided with a bollard, narrowed road or other obstacle, or rode off the road altogether, poor visibility and especially poor visual contrast played a significant part...As a result of their study, the authors question the common assumption that cyclists 'can do without a minimal level of guidance and conspicuity of (design-related) obstacles'...."

Gee, no shit, Sherlock!

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Forswearing Normal, epilogue

In his latest post today, Ian Cooper offers this"...there is something to be said for glorifying cyclists. Cycling does have a certain refreshing iconoclasm to it. In the US especially, it represents a kind of new frontier of independence and rugged individualism in a culture that has always secretly despised all those things even as it pretends to be defined by them..." 
Sheldon Brown

In a comment on an earlier version of Forswearing Normal, Jim Rickman, who rides the Los Alamos trail system to work, sez "I switched it up the other day and rode my steel road bike into work while wearing some awesome spandex and a messenger bag to hold all my stuff. It was fun! ...On the way home from work, some guy in a giant Ford truck slowed way down next to me as I stood up to ride a hill and yelled, "Nice ass! I took it as a compliment. Shake it if you got it!"

Eve DeCoursey
I guess those comments, in a nutshell, explain a little of my ruffled feathers regarding the LAB post the other day alluding to a posited dichotomy between cycling and "looking normal". In a nation where "normal" often means conformity (not to mention obesity and poor health), and where conformity uses more energy per capita than virtually any other nation on earth, why should a cyclist want to be seen as anything other than that the iconoclastic, energy-saving, healthier break with the past paradigm? Even without the forementioned political baggage, what's wrong with looking like a cyclist, whatever that means?

Patrick O'Grady, self-portrait
When everyday cycling becomes normal in the U.S., we won't be wondering how to make cycling look normal. It will be what it is: the new normal. Without the straitjacket. The folks pictured here got past false dichotomies. Why shouldn't you?
Gail Ryba
Bruce Rosar
Neil Allen Smith
Jennifer Buntz and Annette Torrez
Jennifer Buntz

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The other cleat drops: USADA Report out on US Postal

Patrick O'Grady nailed this topic a decade ago. 
With permission of
Moving on from lycra-clad vs. "normal looking" cyclists to yet more cycling irrelevance, the big story in sport cycling is the release of the USADA report on the U.S. Postal Service Bike Racing and Pharmacological Experimentation Team. I've linked to the VeloNews copy, but its elsewhere. Not exactly news that doping was going on, but the depths and extent of the operation, according to USADA,was pretty impressive.

Back when I was a Cat IV in Honolulu, one didn’t have to worry about doping. We looked for an edge in races by experimenting with Gatorade vs. Cytomax and banannas vs. BanannaWham. Gosh, we were lucky to be so low level and pure. When I went off the back in a race, I knew it was due to my own lack of training and talent, not that my competitor was racing on hi test and a needle in the arm.

What this investigation is showing is how drugs were an intrinsic part of the sport from top to bottom, all teams, all the time—if anyone is still that na├»ve as to doubt it. Its a public health issue more than one of cheating. Since so many top teams have been implicated as cheaters, it seems like a level playing field to me, at least "level" for those teams that could afford to develop good doping operations–the hidden competition was amongst the team doctors, team owners, and team leaders.  (As Ian has accurately commented, other, non-doping cyclists could come in last or find other jobs--and be ostracized along the way, for example, Christophe Bassons). The real question is this: do we really want people who are coming up in the sport to have to inject to win? That’s where it gets sickening.

The pro cyclists have to clean this mess up themselves, since they are the ones being cheated the most. Its really a working conditions argument, kinda like giving coal miners EPO and testosterone so they can hammer away in the mines for longer hours a day than the competition and boost coal output for the bosses, only to find the miners down the road are also running on chemical overdrive. Where is the cyclist’s union on this? If there ever was a workplace justice issue in cycling that screamed for labor action, it’s the notion that to have a job, you have to have arms that look like a junkie’s and break the law. These guys were either co-opted or cowed and cowed by their own teammates, which is even sadder. Its all about the money, and I’m not sure the cyclist would be paid any less if they were all going a little slower by the end of three weeks.

How Armstrong Beat Cycling’s Drug Tests

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Forswearing normal?

The lead-in to a recent post on the League of American Bicyclists blog:

“Riding a Bike vs Looking Normal” (WBS12)

Maria Boustead doesn’t call herself a cyclist — despite the fact that she rides 15+ miles per day. In fact, she started her company, Po Campo, because she recognized a growing market of women just like her; women who want to ride their bikes without the obvious baggage of being a cyclist...

The "obvious baggage of being a cyclist"?  Hmmm...who defines baggage, us or those folks parking a Chevy Tahoe or Ford Expedition on the city street? Ok, a little bit later on, Maria comments further (in an excerpt from her own blog) "...There are lots of things to like about biking to work (more to come on that). My least favorite part was entering my office carrying so much more stuff then everyone else, with my bags inside of bags and helmet and lights… I felt like I was being forced to choose between riding a bike and looking normal...."

Later on, commenter Brad chips in "...I see around me on my commute that the look of the spandex wearing “athlete biker” is rare anymore. ..."

Three cheers for looking “normal”...whatever that means to you.  What I fail to see is why those who wring double duty out of our dreaded “spandex” (i.e., wearing it both to commute and on weekend non-commute rides) are increasingly subject to put-downs not only from motorists but also from the “new normal” of cyclists and not to mention, an organization founded on cycling, the League of American Bicyclists.  Is Spandex too lurid for the public, only suited for bike races among our own kind, or Bicyclist Pride/Coming Out Day in places like Santa Fe, The Village, and San Francisco?  Does bicycling only become acceptable if we cyclists are "closeted"? Is there something wrong with a bright yellow lycra jersey for visibility and lycra shorts for someone who commutes 5-10 miles at a high cycling speed? Does form still follow function?

Baggage. I sympathize with others who lug their helmets, lights, and panniers into the office because there is no secure storage elsewhere. Companies need to embrace cycling. The difference between Maria Boustead showing up with her “baggage” to stow and Maria’s colleague stowing a car in a 10×20 foot parking space is a fine point lost on me--the two differ only in where they must stow their baggage and in the tonnage of baggage a cyclist gives up to a motorist. I bet Maria is saving the company as well as herself some money by stowing bags instead of a Chevy.

There is a running subtext in the cycling advocacy world lately. We are being encouraged to become “Copenhagenized”, i.e., ride slowly on bicycles, in our street clothing, on cycletracks, and forswearing helmets. Sounds a little stifling to me. Kinda like a cycling equivalent of the burqa.

The New Normal?
In our quest to make cycling universal, lets not make it boring or stifling. Embrace the bicyclist. Don't worry about the togs, even the proverbial Tour de France silly outfit. That's what change rooms are for.  If you want plastic bags in a wicker basket, great. One of Maria's really chic and organized bike bags, even better. Its about enjoying life and riding the bike, right? Without the burqa.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Lights, Camera....oh...hell.....

I'll try again tomorrow to get some less blurred pics up. REI had its 20% member sale this week, so I picked up a 650 lumen NiteRider Lumina. Its tiny compared to past NiteRider models. So here is a series of pics of my current selection of lights. My old NiteRider 500 lumen Trinewt, the new 650 lumen Lumina,my old 700 lumen Light and Motion Li-ion Cub (HID or high intensity discharge lamp) and the Light and Motion 700 lumen lamp combined with the Lumina 650. I shot these all while pointing across the street at our across-the-street neighbor's house.

The HID lamp throws a wicked amount of light and remains a favorite, but I don't think the HID bulb is as robust as the new LEDs that theoretically last thousands to tens of thousands of hours and are relatively impervious to the bouncies and on/off cycling. I worry not only about the HID failing but how long it would take to replace a blown HID bulb in this obsolescent unit, so its now on my helmet (OMG, the H-word!) rather than being on the handlebars and therefore subject to more road shock.

Bottom line is the lumen per dollar value is definitely going way up; not to mention, bulk going way down. Any of these individually will provide a lot of light at fast bicycle speeds and increasingly, not break the bank. With the Light and Motion Cub on my helmet and the two LED lights mounted on my two commuters, the headlamp can be aimed where needed (such as flashing motorists at side streets, checking for deer crossing the road, or just pointed up the road) while the bike handlebar lights point where the bike is generally going.

This ain't an endorsement of these brands above all others. Just what I happen to have bought. Bottom line is with winter and short days coming upon us, you better think about lighting if you are going to commute to work.The Trinewt at 500 lumens used to cost about four hundred dollars plus. The 650 lumen Lumina is now about 140 bucks and there are good LED lamps pumping out hundreds of lumens and costing less than a Ben Franklin.  A lot cheaper than a typical ER visit. And as Steve says, there is plenty else out there. Just found this at Amazon. 1200 lumen for forty five bucks.

NiteRider 500 lumen Trinewt

NiteRider 650 lumen Lumina

Light and Motion HID lamp at 700 lumen

Light and Motion 700 lumen Li-cub plus 650 lumen Lumina