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

Thursday, October 4, 2012

Albuquerque: Another Single Witness Suicide Swerve? Update.

From Jim Devenport on BikeABQ:    "Hate to jump to conclusions again. The same day Miranda Pacheco is slapped on the wrist for killing cyclist David Anderson, another cyclist is killed on Route 66 in Tijeras Canyon, and the Sheriff's Office seems to blame it on the "Cyclist who rode into traffic".
Sigh. No data yet on whether the cyclist had lights, helmet, etc.

SEDILLO HILL, N.M. — Highway 66 just east of Sedillo Hill is back open Thursday morning after a fatal crash. Bernalillo County Sheriff's Deputies said that's where the cyclist, who family members identified as Mario Maes, rode into traffic and was hit and killed. The driver is not being charged, but the case will be forwarded to the district attorney's office for review.

Scant details. But this writeup reminds me too much of that old expression, the "single witness suicide swerve"

Lucky we live in Los Alamos.

From an updated Albuquerque Journal report: Definitely a SWSS...God, I hope someone carefully marked tire tracks and vehicle positions.

UPDATED: Route 66 Reopened After Bicycle Fatality

3:17 p.m. –Police have released more information and identified the victim from an evening bicycle fatality that happened on Highway 66 east of Sedillo Hill.
Mario Maes, 34, was riding his bike east on the highway when he lurched toward the center lane for an unknown reason, police said, into the path of a Ford Explorer. Maes was pronounced dead at the scene.
The driver, who was not immediately charged, was not injured. The DA will review the case once the police report is finished.

Bernalillo County Sheriff’s officers have reopened Route 66 after investigating a bicyclist fatality near Sedillo Hill.
According to the department, the bicyclist rode into traffic and was hit by a Ford Explorer.
The driver of the car has not been charged, but the case will be forwarded to the District Attorney’s Office for review. The identity of the bicyclist is being withheld pending notification of his family.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Dr. Barry Commoner, 1917-2012

“I don’t believe in environmentalism as the solution to anything. What I believe is that environmentalism illuminates the things that need to be done to solve all of the problems together." --Barry Commoner

From the New York Times article

-Everything is connected to everything else. 
-Everything must go somewhere. 
-Nature knows best. 
-There is no such thing as a free lunch. 

Interview here, ironically enough sponsored by chemicals and big boxes: