Sunday, December 29, 2013

Col du Coffee Run

On a small knoll up on the Mitchell Trail
LHT in go-anywhere, do anything mode.
Ok, it lacks fenders.
I wish Richey still made these tires. 
The blue sidewalls match the bike paint rather nicely
The Surley Long Haul Trucker, which is getting to be one of my favorite bikes in the fleet, rides quite happily on fat tires. I have a pair of 26" x 2.1 inch folding Richey Speedmax WCS tires I bought some years ago but which don't feel quite right on the Stumpjumper, although I've ridden the Stumpy with them and they are fast, if not incredibly grippy in soft stuff. The Speedmaxes end up doing winter duty on the LHT in the event I get caught in snow. They roll easily but also ensure the LHT can go almost anywhere. Anywhere includes riding a little ways up the Mitchell Trail, just for shits and grins, on the way to get some coffee beans at Fusion Cafe and Coffee Roasters.

Riding up was not a problem, other than Mr. Gravity told me I should swap out the 26 tooth granny ring for a 24 if I am going to do that more often--lower is better when an old fat guy is grinding up loose trail at a steep pitch. Riding down on a bike without suspension was a bit jarring but very controllable.

Got to the coffee place in time to snag a bag of beans. I also waved hello to Neale Pickett on the way back from town, as he was waiting at a bus stop on Central. Interestingly, the beans were a medium roast rather than a dark roast, as Brian Booth used to prepare. Not sure that they are changing style or if this was an oddball roast. I guess next time I will stipulate "dark roast, please".

Happy New Year.

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Ride that tandem with whomever YOU want.

Not sure who they are. For illustration only.
“Prohibiting same-gender marriages is not substantially related to the governmental interests advanced by the parties opposing same-gender marriage or to the purposes we have identified. Therefore, barring individuals from marrying and depriving them of the rights, protections, and responsibilities of civil marriage solely because of their sexual orientation violates the Equal Protection Clause under Article II, Section 18 of the New Mexico Constitution. We hold that the State of New Mexico is constitutionally required to allow same-gender couples to marry and must extend to them the rights, protections, and responsibilities that derive from civil marriage under New Mexico law.” -- Justice Edward Chavez, who authored the unanimous opinion of the New Mexico Supreme Court.

The entirety of the ruling is online here (pdf).

Back in Hawaii, when I was president of the Hawaii Bicycling League (HBL), editor Eve DeCoursey and I would put together the monthly HBL newsletter. She did the lion's share of the work. I pontificated from my SOEST office and wrote the President's Column and sometimes solicited input for articles.

For one issue, a prominent HBL ride leader sent me an essay, which we published, titled "Why All Cyclists Are Gay". The author, who insisted on anonymity, correctly pointed out the nonsense that cyclists and gays face on a day to day basis that sometimes leaves us picking ourselves perpetually off of Mr. Pavement, figuratively as well as literally. He got it from both directions and I guess he would know. In the 1990's atmosphere in Hawaii during the interval between Baehr v. Miike and  Hawaii Constitutional Amendment 2 that atmosphere was pretty toxic, as I sometimes witnessed firsthand as an active participant in the debate.

So to that ride leader, as well as to several close friends, a deceased relative, a former Ph.D. student who I mentored, and many others. This post is for you. One small step for a state. One giant leap for equality under the law.

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

If they can see and hear everything, why can't they keep that *&^%$ from right hooking me?

Yeah. I'm watching YOU
So finally, a Federal judge has called the NSA to task for its unwarranted, Orwellian, and uncontrolled snooping on American citizens. Its about time.

Get off the road and
submit to electronic monitoring
Frankly, all this Orwellian nonsense doesn't make me feel one bit safer in real life, since the closest I've repeatedly come to death has not been at the hands of some nefarious terrorist, but at the hands of some clueless or careless fellow citizen from Anytown, USA. who is ensconced in his or her cage and oblivious to my safety.  I doubt I'm alone, either. Bin Laden and his gang killed 3,000 of us in one brutal attack on NYC. We kill about 11 times that number, year in and year out, on our own, using our cars as speeding weapons.

"Our constitution guarantees a system in which the people have the right to argue their case against the government in an open forum before an independent judiciary. But until recently, this debate has been carried out primarily in a secret court in which only one side — the government's — is represented. With this case, Americans got their day in court. "  -- U.S. Senator Tom Udall, as quoted in the Daily Post.

Americans 33,000: Terrorists 3,000. 
Anywhere else this would be called a lopsided game
NHTSA would be rich and NSA begging

Saturday, December 14, 2013

"Affluenza": Just when you thought it couldn't get worse.

Thanks to Patrick O'Grady for sending me this cartoon
the last time it came up
Patrick's own thoughts on that version of judicial
malfeasance are here,

Once again, readers can see why I put the Zappa quote up above.

Remember your Plutarch. In his “Lives,” writing of the Athenian statesman Solon, Plutarch said the philosopher Anacharsis “laughed at him for imagining the dishonesty and covetousness of his countrymen could be restrained by written laws, which were like spiders’ webs, and would catch, it is true, the weak and poor, but easily be broken by the mighty and rich.”  --Patrick O'Grady, in a "Friday's Foaming Rant."

Damn. I miss those rants.

 From yesterday's New York Times: " recent days, the implications of being rich have set off an emotional, angry debate that has stretched far beyond the North Texas suburbs, after a juvenile court judge sentenced a 16-year-old from a well-off family to 10 years’ probation for killing four people in a drunken-driving crash...Judge Jean Boyd did not discuss her reasoning for her order, but it came after a psychologist called by the defense argued that Mr. Couch should not be sent to prison because he suffered from “affluenza” — a term that dates at least to the 1980s to describe the psychological problems that can afflict children of privilege."

That should worry us in BombTown. With the highest per capita wealth in New Mexico, our county has sufficient examples of spoiled, irresponsible people, and at least one judge who has been quite liberal, dare I say soft-headed, with "get outa jail" cards for very serious offenses, as described in this victim's statement.

I think most of us have always known that the scales of justice can be tipped your way if you add enough status, power, or money.  Judge Jean Boyd in Texas has just made that a de jure rather than de facto rule. No more need for even a wink-wink, nudge-nudge when collecting your Get Out of Jail pass. Just include your (or your parent's) tax return in your exculpatory evidence packet. Of course, that's what happened when Martin Erzinger splattered a cyclist, Colorado Dr. Steven Milo, all over the road up near Vail and and that District Attorney and Judas Iscariot of justice, Mark Hurlbert, pleaded for mercy for the wealthy motorist because “felony convictions have some pretty serious job implications for someone in Mr. Erzinger’s profession.”

Fer Fuck sakes! Felony behavior has some serious implications for the victim, such as the guy being scraped up off the road dead or with life changing injuries or, closer to home, the homeowner walking in unexpectedly on an armed burglar and losing his faith in the community, if not his or her life.

So be careful out there. If the guy who splatters you all over the road is driving a shiny Mercedes or has parents in the top two percent, the courts can now add "affluenza" to "gee, Your Honor, I just didn't see him" in the list of valid defenses.

For the flip side of this lame excuse, "Povertenza", go here.

And to leave on a positive note.....

Cash leading the way back down to Camp May from the ridgeline on Friday the 13th
Dogs don't let this shit get them down.

Sunday, December 8, 2013

Does Specialized make toilet paper?

Put your trademark on this
Specialized makes some great merchandise. I have one of their Stumpjumpers in the garage, which has proven to be all the mountainbike I'll ever need. But as long as they are acting like the schoolyard bully that this article (see link) describes, TP is all I'll ever buy from them from here on out:

War veteran forced to change bike shop’s name after threat from U.S bike giant Specialized

From The Explainer (Charles Pelkey) at Red Kite Prayer: "...By now many of you have seen the story making its way around cycling-related social media about the Afghanistan war veteran in Cochrane, Alberta, who opened up a small bike shop over an ice cream parlor and his encounter with a @#$%ing bully..."

Sigh. Once again, life proves that Frank Zappa was right about hydrogen not being the most prevalent element in the universe.  Can someone up in the CEO office at Specialized turn this around and use a less heavy handed method to protect their brand against "brand confusion"?

As Warren Zevon might say, lawyers, guns, and money are nice to have around in a crisis and at least two of those three have been offered to our friend in Cochrane. But when mishandled, lawyers, like guns, can result in self-inflicted wounds and the suits at S need take notice. Perhaps better even than lawyers, the social media unleashed a shitstorm of criticism on the Big Red S. Lawyers and money may not be needed. Stay tuned.

This upbeat update in BRAIN, via Patrick O'Grady at Maddogmedia.

Exhibit A from Counsel

Saturday, November 30, 2013

Sport Utility Vehicles?

"...the new V6 is a guilt free pleasure because in addition to its brisk acceleration, fuel economy climbed to 21 mpg..."
 --Jan, 2014 Consumer Reports review of the new Mercedes-Benz GLK350, which gets 14 city/29 highway, real world driving

On the weekend when everyone is supposed to be out buying yet more crap to support the economy, I did my best to avoid being mauled, er, malled, at least the big box variety.  I started out Black Friday walking the hounds back towards the stables on North Mesa. Ran into another guy walking his two pups and we marveled at how much nicer it was to walk dogs in peace rather than try to rush the counters to buy CSFC (cheap s*** from China). I did have a few groceries to pick up and a couple errands to run in Bombtown, so I put the panniers on the Long Haul Trucker and daisy chained my errands for a 20 mile Tour de Cat Food (Smith's), Art Shoppe (Village Arts), and our Food Co-Op.
Back in the '80's when I was working on my dissertation, 
I pulled a roll of freshly developed black and white film 
out of the developing spool wet and slipped with the tongs, 
gouging the end of the roll. That created this weird pattern 
that I called "llama" so I printed it.  Found the damn thing 
the other day while cleaning out old files and framed it.
The "art" made it back in one piece in the LHT pannier.
Long Haul Trucker in typical form
Today it was time for a run down to Santa Fe for some stuff I can't find here in easy bicycle striking range. Rather than use the car,  I put the travel luggage on the Large Two Wheeler and headed off the hill, filling the saddlebags and top box with groceries (and, of course, locally brewed beer) from Trader Joe's as well as picking up some maintenance parts I need down at the Santa Fe BMW shop so I can do some winter maintenance on the big bike.

Providence shines kindly on two-wheelers
Sun rays courtesy of a late afternoon return to Bombtown
Frankly, although the ride was glorious, it was not so much fun in the City Different. I was sitting alongside the bike in the Trader Joes et al, parking lot eating an instant lunch bought at Trader Joe's and it seemed every third motorist in the parking lot was beeping and muscling for a space. They have hired parking lot attendants at the TJ's shopping center to keep the peace between aggressive, careless motorists.  I finally decided to pack up my rollup sandwiches and find a more peaceful place to eat--perhaps the business end of a machine gun range would be an improvement.

A beautiful weekend to be on two wheels, at any rate. Enjoy it while you can. Next weekend should bring significantly more cold.

WARNING: Foaming Rant* follows. The title? Well, the Surly and BMW are extremely sporty and yet can be quite utilitarian, scaled to their size, as well as frugal in their operation. This weekend, I had no need for heavy hauling capacity, if you don't include my fat ass in that calculation. Furthermore, I'm not sure I agree with CU that 14/29 mpg in an age when it is well accepted that anthropogenic impact to climate change is driven by fossil fuel emissions, can in any way be "guilt free". Nor do I think CU even knows what consumer "guilt" means any more--they have become part of the consumer-as-glutton problem. Hence I may cancel my subscription. Why one needs a "small" (4200 lbs) SUV with minimal storage space and an engine powerful enough to accelerate "as quick as a Porsche Boxster", to quote Consumer Reports (and with worse gas milage than the Boxster), is a question I don't have an answer to, esp. since its emergency handling and avoidance maneuver capability (and probably its brakes) undoubtedly are not as good as the Porsche, which means the untrained bozos pushing the limits in the M-B Narcissist's Special are likely a little closer to the ragged edge.

Sure, bicycles and motorcycles don't fit the picture of a stereotypical SUV, but neither do they guzzle gas, take up a lot of space, or hit with 4200 lbs of impact. Either can carry a week's worth of groceries, at least with me eating.  How about an SUV that sacrifices blinding acceleration while providing for other people's safety, some real utility, and some fuel economy instead? I suppose it wouldn't fly very far in the Benz market. Besides, maybe its better to go whole hog and just hasten our extinction. (I used the Impreza as an example because Subaru shrunk the engine and vehicle weight to improve gas mileage while maintaining respectable performance. Yeah its still a "cage", but Subie did go marching in the other direction compared to the "bigger, faster, meaner" crowd.)

The Real Long Haul Trucker
Environmental Footprint?
In the final analysis, and if I recall correctly, Steve Avery has said this, riding a bicycle doesn't necessarily provide you with environmental saint status because one's lifestyle in totality and the energetics of food production trump mere riding efficiency. A good discussion of that is here. Depending on how and where your food was grown, that bike can look an awful lot like an SUV in its real environmental footprint. Indeed, perhaps driving an Excursion and dying young and childless of cardiovascular disease is better for the planet!

*Foaming Rant borrowed from Patrick O'Grady, without permission. I'll buy him a beer.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Happy Thanksgiving or Hanukkah, or Thanksgivukkah, if you prefer

As a Jewish friend from down the street told me over dinner today, the confluence of Thanksgiving and Hanukkah will likely not happen again for another 79,000 years. Wow.

The Arlo Guthrie song, for those unfamiliar, is based on actual history.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Commuter Trails?

Uhh...I'll be late for work today...
I got an e-mail from the local media today asking if I would comment on the idea of commuter trails. Apparently, these were suggested as an idea in a sustainability plan but there was some official dismissal of the idea. I won't go into this further until I have times, names, and quotes. I need to call the media back in a couple days, so if you have comments or curses, fling them this way. Note added later--please read Little Jimmy's comment in the comments section.

Here is my first take on the idea. Los Alamos is built on several distinct mesas and there are a limited number of easy ways to move between them in vehicles, bicycles being vehicles in practice if not always in law. Diamond Drive is a good example of one of the few well engineered ways to get from Here to There and Back Again; its our transportation backbone and we put in pretty good bike lanes. Along the golf course, there is a parallel multiuse path. Elsewhere, right of way limitations make a parallel path impractical. Indeed, that is the case for most of our major roads.

On foot or perhaps mountainbike, one has several more direct options to get between the mesas (take a look at the excellent county trails map and talk to county trails expert Craig Martin for examples) that offer routes closer to those that the venerable crow flies, but they are often not easy to ride, become snowbound and muddy, and may involve technical ascents and descents (as Jim Rickman might agree, based on his comment, many of our trails are pretty tough singletrack). Trails run steeply down into the canyons and up again and are primitive and often quite challenging. Others, like the Perimeter Trail, go pretty far out of the way and ain't always easy to ride unless you are a very adept mountainbiker. As we all know, transportation is best when it provides the option to be direct and swift and can be navigated by mere mortals. We can find diversions when we wish, but when we need to get somewhere, we often feel the need to get there posthaste. My commute to work is usually direct as I have stuff waiting that often makes my teeth grind at night. My commute home is often more adventurous; I love to take the opportunity our wonderful Northern New Mexico terrain provides to beat myself up.

Narrow bike/ped bridge with low speed limit and 
 with dog on leash restrictions.Speed in kph.
Calgary, Alberta, 2005

Then there are projects like the Canyon Rim Trail. A beautiful opportunity to build a multiuse path connecting Townsite to the east-end sprawl at the Airport Basin without sharing poorly designed NM502 with lunatics. I was on the Transportation Board when this path was planned and executed. I don't recall that we were consulted on the layout. Maybe I missed it, but doubt it. My criticism of the Canyon Rim Trail is not its beauty, vistas, intent as a parks and rec project,  or its artistic merit; in all of these I think it absolutely excels.  Furthermore, I think most agree. I rarely see it empty and we walk it a lot with the hounds and our breakfast burritos. But as far as a "trail as transportation", it has some serious drawbacks in the form of a low design speed, several very sharp, limited sight curves where a cyclist could hit or at minimum, scare the crap out of walkers or have to dive into the weeds to avoid a crash. And of course, crossing 50 mph NM-502 with not even a marked crosswalk to get to to Airport Basin can be tricky. Plus, while it has published rules, these seem to be suggestions. Imagine a county road without curve signs or speed limits, no keep right rules, and trip wires in the form of dog leashes waiting for you. Paths like Canyon Rim work best when everyone is thoughtful. Clearly, whoever built that trail did not design it as "transportation". That's OK, as long as we understand that.

That brings up the basic problem. If the county is designing trails as transportation or overtly encouraging their use as transportation, I think one has to strongly consider adopting standards set down for transportation when designing and building. That's for both safety and to avoid litigation when someone gets hurt. One can always work in artistic merit, natural beauty, a bit of primitive quality, multiuse rules, and the like.  That might be both expensive and might be an obscene suggestion to those who want trails to remain as unencumbered by civilization's clutter and as close to their "natural" state as possible. Keeping trails as "trails" implies a philosophy of "use at your own risk" and that doesn't work for transportation systems.

Wide multiuse path with higher speed limit (kph)
Calgary, Alberta, 2005
Roads, and I suppose, urban multiuse paths, differ. They are the backbone of surface transportation. We, in theory, build them to well accepted and published standards. We worked hard to improve our roads for bicycling via the Complete Streets and 2005 bike plan. We explicitly design our roads for motor vehicle and bicycle transportation and to provide pedestrian access along and across the streets (well, usually). The Bike Plan was explicitly designed around making sure cyclists could get where they need to go via good roads. Further, these two plans rely on published, tested, engineering standards designed around transportation. Yes, some stuff still sucks, but roads are both engineering and political compromises. Believe me, we worked hard on that bike plan and everyone (T-board, staff, Council) was on the same team.

Obviously, individuals can use trails as transportation to their heart's desire and I know some folks who do that. If it was more direct, I might too as it is pretty neat out there. I think if we want to officially identify trails as foot or bicycle transportation rather than as recreational resources, we need to pick them carefully and decide on the basis of terrain, funds, intended uses, compatibility with other intended uses, political feasibility, and whether they connect sources that need connecting in an efficient manner. They in no way replace our need for good roads. Extending the Canyon Rim Trail as a transportation option, to run along the south side of the main mesa towards the west, might be a good idea, but it would need to be engineered and regulated properly and maintained year round if for no other reason than to avoid lawsuits.  It should be vetted by transportation professionals. It should have published rules and limits, as do the multiuse trails in Calgary (Alberta), Bremen (Germany) and elsewhere.

The devils, as we know, are in the details. Ask the right questions and you might get good answers. Or not.
AASHTO Guide for the Development of Bicycle Facilities (1999 version, since revised)


Saturday, November 23, 2013

Fusion Multisport Opens Its Doors

Let's welcome another member of the Los Alamos cycling community, Fusion Multisport. Across from CB Fox and Starbucks, they have a great location.

Co-owner Brad Nyenhuis said he is hoping to hear from local cyclists as to what sorts of stuff he should stock, especially with regard to road bike goodies. I guess he is more familiar with mountain/triathlon, and hopes to hear what works for us roadies in Bombtown. I thought he had a really nice selection of cold weather clothing and I picked up an Endura Baabaa merino wool base layer with a turtleneck top that I hope to use for both cycling and cross country skiing. (added Sunday morning--I used it to walk the hounds in the wind and snow this morning and it was certainly warm.)

Brad's email is on the photo of his business card, below.  Click it for a full size view.

Unlike our previous brick-and-mortar bike shops that were either out on the outskirts of town (Dome) or in hideaway places (Oz), Fusion is right up front and center where it is hard to miss. I imagine their rent check is hart to miss, too; previous brick and mortar shops could not compete against the huge retail outlets in Santa Fe, so I hope Fusion's strategy works where other's apparently did not. Plus, I hope this actually grows the market so Little Jimmy's, Dome, and others see an uptick.

Check out the shop. Personally, and with nothing against Jim, Scott, Mark, other folks who are laboring to make cycling succeed here in a tough market, I hope this time the storefront idea works.  (I think The Bike Doc left--anyone know for sure?)

Its "AFLAN" Season Again (As Far Left As Neccesary)

Bike Lane on Canyon in wet winter conditions.
Ice, especially after road salting or in the evening and 
morning, add to winter's hazards. Shaded or 
topographically low lanes, 
such as this one, get the brunt of ice.
I took this picture a couple years ago after a winter storm, over on Canyon near the Catholic Church. Once again, due to a storm that could dump as much as a foot of snow over the next couple days, we can expect snow, ice, plowed snow, and other conditions to be present that will make some or all of the bike lanes, road shoulders, and in general, the areas near the right side of outboard lanes unfit for riding much of the time. Therefore, both bicyclists and motorists need to be aware that cyclists will be riding As Far Left As Necessary for our safe passage.

 If you get out the two wheeler to get around town, be equipped for winter conditions and be careful out there. Don't feel compelled to ride on bike lanes like the one shown here or to try to thread the needle along the edge of ice and deep snow. AFRAP means as far right as practicable, (our AFRAP law in Los Alamos is pretty accommodating to adverse conditions). AFRAP does not mean to ride as far right as is suicidal.

If you are out in your four wheeler, be prepared for that road to be a little bit narrower than the last time you saw it; you really will have to "share the travel lane" even if it had a bike lane yesterday. Regardless of who you are, take it easy and don't get on each other's case.

Meanwhile, what trees that are left up there in the mountains are rejoicing at the moisture and I already feel my cross country skis calling me.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

"A Law Like No Other", by Keri Caffrey: A discussion of the flaws in AFRAP and Bike Law

In the Commute Orlando blog, author and Saavy Cyclist co-founder Keri Caffrey discusses, in the context of her appearance as an expert witness in a court case, how traffic law that regulates cycling activity promotes confusion among the courts, police, cyclists, and motorists, and because of that, contributes to a decrease in cycling safety and enjoyment. Indeed, we have seen the results of both the confusion and the hazard right here in Los Alamos.

In a comment after Keri's article, John Geminder notes that AFRAP ("As Far Right As Is Practicable") and generic FTR ("far to the right") laws may be challenged under the Void for Vagueness doctrine, i.e., laws that are so vague that they cannot be clearly understood by the public are unconstitutional as violations of the Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments.:

John Geminder November 20, 2013
"I have observed this problem of inequity for years and have wondered why this FTR law and all of its corollaries have not been challenged as unconstitutionally vague. If experienced cyclists cannot agree on how to legally operate a bicycle on a given road, something is wrong with the law."

I have observed this problem of inequity for years and have wondered why this FTR law and all of its corollaries have not been challenged as unconstitutionally vague.
See –
If experienced cyclists cannot agree on how to legally operate a bicycle on a given road, something is wrong with the law. - See more at:
I have observed this problem of inequity for years and have wondered why this FTR law and all of its corollaries have not been challenged as unconstitutionally vague.
See –
If experienced cyclists cannot agree on how to legally operate a bicycle on a given road, something is wrong with the law. - See more at:
I have observed this problem of inequity for years and have wondered why this FTR law and all of its corollaries have not been challenged as unconstitutionally vague.
See –
If experienced cyclists cannot agree on how to legally operate a bicycle on a given road, something is wrong with the law. - See more at:
I have observed this problem of inequity for years and have wondered why this FTR law and all of its corollaries have not been challenged as unconstitutionally vague.
See –
If experienced cyclists cannot agree on how to legally operate a bicycle on a given road, something is wrong with the law. - See more at:
I have observed this problem of inequity for years and have wondered why this FTR law and all of its corollaries have not been challenged as unconstitutionally vague.
See –
If experienced cyclists cannot agree on how to legally operate a bicycle on a given road, something is wrong with the law. - See more at:
I have observed this problem of inequity for years and have wondered why this FTR law and all of its corollaries have not been challenged as unconstitutionally vague.
See –
If experienced cyclists cannot agree on how to legally operate a bicycle on a given road, something is wrong with the law. - See more at:
Should be required reading by serious cyclists and advocates. Go here.

I would add that when not just experienced cyclists, but experienced police officers cannot agree on what the laws mean (case in point: Joe Wermer being cited for jaywalking because while riding in a marked bike lane, he didn't stop and yield for a motorist turning right across the bike lane), we are in real trouble. We need to work to reform the laws and educate both the public and the law enforcment/judiciary community about cyclists rights and responsibilities, but most importantly, our rights.

Note added later. I spoke via email with one of the attorneys who advises LAB, who suggested the laws will stand up just fine and are deliberately written to allow discretion rather than bright lines. What is really needed is more understanding of cycling by the law and citizenry.

Monday, November 18, 2013

League of American Bicyclists Board Elections-Two Endorsements

There is a LAB Board election in progress. I urge any LAB members to vote for the candidates of their choice.

As some of you know, I've had my bones to pick over the years with the self-selection process employed by the LAB to keep the Board on the straight and narrow, i.e., to protect present policies, procedures, and political points of view by having the Board approve candidates, internally select increasing numbers of its own successors (50% of the present Board members!), and making it practically impossible for an outsider to challenge the status quo. Some think I am being charitable in not being nastier here.

Having said that, the present slate of candidates is very good, there are some fine people on the Board, and LAB remains an organization deserving of our support, albeit not unqualified support for its official points of view.  Politics (short of war, as Clausewitz might say) is the art of peaceful struggle, and that is what is needed here. I especially urge any LAB members out there to vote, and to vote for two candidates who have the North Mesa Mutts Seal of Approval (i.e., I don't speak for Greg, Neale, or Scott if they are still lurking). Those candidates are Diane Albert, our own BCNM President, and Georgette Yaindl of Hilo, Hawaii.

Diane, who supplied her own blurb below, has strongly and tirelessly represented New Mexico cyclists at the state and national level. She was a key player in cycling issues in Los Alamos and later in Albuquerque before becoming active statewide and nationally as a BCNM and LAB Board member. She is also the only Board member who signed our petition in 2010, thus reaffirming her support of real, transparent LAB elections. She deserves your support.

Georgette, who I have known and consider both a friend and cycling advocacy colleague since the 1990's was, like me, a transplant to Hawaii from the East Coast. We worked together when I was President and she a staffer on the Hawaii Bicycling League. Geogette has been deeply involved in bicycling issues for over two decades, was a founding member of the Thunderhead Alliance, and recently obtained her J.D. from the U of Hawaii Richardson School of Law; she has established a law practice in Hilo on the Big Island.  Hawaii is very isolated from the Mainland and is its own multicultural enclave with strong ties to both the U.S. and the Pacific Rim. I think Hawaii deserves a board member and Georgette will be an excellent one representing fairly the plethora of issues facing cyclists both in Hawaii and elsewhere.

If you are a LAB member, please vote for strong, independent voices on the Board. 

Info here on the election process.

Now, Diane's blurb.

If you have been a LAB member as of November 1, 2014, you can vote in the Board elections until Dec. 27: see

I (Diane Albert) am running for re-election to another three-year term on the board, and I respectfully ask for your vote.  I am the only Board member from the SW part of the US and believe that I represent your interests on the LAB Board.  I am committed to continuing to fight for bicyclists’ rights during the next term, if elected.

One effort that I am interested in promoting this next term is establishing a strong LAB Legal Affairs committee that could help local bicyclists with litigation involving bicyclists’ crashes.

Please contact me if you’d like more info.

And, if you are not yet a LAB member, please consider joining!


Diane E. Albert, PhD
President and Board Member, Bicycle Coalition of New Mexico (BCNM)
League of American Bicyclists LCI #2292

LAB National Board Member

P.O. Box 30548
Albuquerque, NM 87190-0548

join us on Facebook!

Monday, November 11, 2013

11 November, 2013

The last of my uncles died this year, closing out my relationships with the blood relatives of that generation. In this life, anyway. Roy Bonati, who served under Gen. Patton in the European Theatre in a railway unit, actually took some incoming. Like most vets of WW II, he never talked about it. He and I got pretty shitfaced at my mom's, his sister's, wake in 1992 and Roy pulled out his picture book and explained some of the action he saw, where bullets were coming his way. Pages and pages in that album were carnage and destruction he photographed on his way across France and Germany. Uncle Roy later worked for Bell Aerospace here in New Mexico, as an electrician in Buffalo, once owned a circus shooting gallery, and finally retired in his late eighties as the host at the Anchor Bar in Downtown Buffalo.  When I get to Buffalo, I'll see if my cousins still have that picture album.

Ralph Bonati during a happy moment in Southeast Asia
Uncle Ralph was more fortunate in avoiding incoming. With some engineering training, he landed a gig as an aide to Gen. Raymond A. Wheeler in Southeast Asia. I guess that's how my uncle then landed a gig as an Army Corps of Engineers guy at the building of the Mt. Morris Dam south of Rochester, N.Y.  Uncle Ralph and his family settled down in Rochester in the 1960's, where he was an IRS agent.  He checked out in 1990.

My first wife's father, John Zeh Jr, probably had the hardest job. He landed on D+3 on the Normandy Beaches and was involved with what one could euphemistically call the cleanup. I didn't know that fact until one day when my brother in law Jack and I made venison for the family. John found a piece of hair in his meat and suddenly left the table in silence. He told us later why he left, which was pretty much a flashback.

When John Zeh died in the late 1990's after a career as an architectural engineer, I gave my copy of The Greatest Generation to his wife Marie. It was the least I could do.

My good friend from my undergrad days, Police Officer Fred "Woody" Woodard in Rochester, NY, lived the most harrowing existence in WW II. As a member of the 101st Airborne Division, he fought in both Bastogne and Normandy, if I recall correctly. Woody would never tell serious war stories--he lived enough of them and came back with so much shrapnel in him he used his badge to board airplanes after setting off the metal detectors.  He joked about the weird things soldiers did when they were not fighting for their lives. One day, for some reason, the Malmady massacre came up in a conversation, probably over one of those innumerable breakfasts we all ate when we got off graveyard shift duty as Univ. of Rochester Security Officers (Woody moonlighted there, which is how I got to know him). He got really quiet and then said something to the effect that any German soldier with SS emblems was wise to not be caught by the GIs wearing any of them.

May we all live up to the standards and dedication that generation laid down for us. Whether in peace or war, and much preferably in peace, let's work as hard as they did when duty called. But without taking away anything from those brave people who have served, let's not glorify war. One has to remember that war is a continuation of politics by other means. A continuation that involves immense destruction, loss of life, human and physical carnage, a waste of resources, and in the final analysis, it is brought on by a failure of politics involving more peaceful means or by a failure of conviction to solve a problem forcefully before it becomes more immense, i.e., the Munich Agreement.

War, in the final analysis, is only acceptable if the alternative is worse. That's gotta be pretty damn bad.

Today we took a hike. This photo is looking southeast from the Mitchell Trail above Los Alamos. In the background, the Sangre de Cristo Mts and Rio Grande Rift. The twin water towers in the center bracket TA-21, the first purpose-built nuclear research and development facility built at Los Alamos at the end of WW II.

Friday, November 8, 2013

New bike shop to open soon

While we were gearing up to ride home from CB Fox yesterday, a lady came running out of the building behind us with business cards. She wanted us to know that they were opening a new multi-sport shop, complete with ski and bicycle repair.

Brad Nyenhuis and his partner (whose name wasn't on the business card and, therefore, I instantly forgot, because I am lame) are new to Los Alamos, coming to us from Chicago. The couple is planning to provide ski, cycling, and running merchandise, just across the street from CB Fox. I heard the ski waxing machine running as I took this photo. There was even talk of the Los Alamos Co-Op helping them set up an espresso machine in the store.

My daughter checks out the wall of tools
I'm not good at writing copy, but I wanted to let our loyal readers know that this store shows all signs of really opening, hopefully before January.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Does W16-1P do us any good?

W16-1P example
W16-1P is the classic "Share the Road" sign. Sometimes yellow. Sometimes otherwise. Its function is described in the MUTCD: " In situations where there is a need to warn drivers to watch for other slower forms of transportation traveling along the highway, such as bicycles, golf carts, horse-drawn vehicles, or farm machinery, a SHARE THE ROAD (W16-1P) plaque (see Figure 2C-12) may be used."

The problems I see with W16-1P are several fold. One, it is an advisory sign. Advisory signs carry no firm requirements as to how to follow them. While it may be wise to slow down for a hairpin curve, and if you eat it on the curve while speeding you could be cited for imprudent speed, the yellow speed advisory sign on the curve is...advisory. You can, if you are of the mind, continue at the posted speed limit albeit you are responsible for any damage that comes out of an ill-advised headlong rush around the curve. So what does it mean to advise motorists to share the road? Besides, what situations exist where there is NOT a continual "... need (for) drivers to watch for other slower forms of transportation...". So if there is not a "share the road" sign nearby, are motorists absolved from having a reasonable expectation to see a cyclist on the road? Can they be less observant?

Indeed, what does it mean in practice to share the road? What's your share? Does it mean you can only share it if you and the motorist both agree? Do you and the guy in the Super Duty agree on what's your share and what's his? What does this advise about how to pass a cyclist? How to pass a motorist when a cyclist is oncoming traffic? Where on the road you should ride? What are the criteria?

 Share the Road doesn't say anything about your rights to the road as a cyclist. Sharing does not clearly define ownership. In fact, it is your legal right to be on that road. You own that right. No kindness by a magnanimous motorist is necessary for you to be there, and no grumpy motorist can rescind your right.

If instead, we posted W16-1P in white with black letters, it would be a regulatory sign, like those 35 mph signs on Diamond Drive (because the MUTCD convention is warning signs are yellow while regulatory signs are in white with black lettering). Share the Road because a cyclist has the legal right to be there and that's the law. At least then you could cite regulation.
My idea of a revised W16-1P
Its not an option. Its the law.

That's why black on white signs like R4-11 (Bicyclists May Use Full Lane or BMUFL) carry some teeth--they have the force of law and regulation behind them. The five foot rule when passing (LAC 38-545) sign, if you can still find one, has force of law. An AFRAP sign ("As Far Right As Is Practicable") onerous as it can be, would at least have regulation written to explain it.

W16-1P may have a technical basis in the advisory lexicon of the MUTCD, but in practice, I think it is a nice, feelgood political sign whose meaning has been muddled. The technical basis, if backed up by well understood rules, is good as far as it goes, but without all that other detailed stuff, one might just as well post the Golden Rule. They both say what we ought to do, but have no teeth behind them (at least in this life) and I'm not sure we agree on what exactly S-T-R means as far as implementation. Perhaps we should dispense with it and stick to signs that tell us something that actually has the force to regulate behavior (like BMUFL) or that at least don't ask us to do something that is so ill defined. W11-1 is simply a picture of a bicycle. Just to remind people we are there.

W11-1, R4-11, and W16-1P, respectively. Illustration from Streetsblog.

Thanks and acknowledgements to Streetsblog and Angie Schmitt for the interesting discussion, which came out of Delaware's decision to drop the W16-1P.

Link to MUTCD sign descriptions.

Your thoughts?

Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Daylight Savings Time Ends This Weekend. Are You and Your Bike Prepared?

10-31-13 Addenum: First ice of the year out there, including some along Diamond at TA-3 and some hard to see ice in the San I roundabout. Be careful out there.

Bob Mionske on lighting here at

Since even Congress can't create light indefinitely, Sunday means we turn the clocks back and thus this Monday will greet our home commute with some serious darkness. Make sure you have dug out and tested your lighting systems and found your reflective gear. Reflection below the waist, where a car's low beam headlights shine, and preferably on something like the ankle that rotates with pedal stroke, works best. Good lighting is getting cheaper and brighter as technology improves, so seeing your way down the road without accidentally finding a log bounced out the back of a pickup truck or a fresh pothole is getting easier all the time. This obviously applies to sidewalk or path cyclists, too. Several years ago a lightless cyclist hit a friend of mine's wife who was walking on a multiuse path, injuring her severely. Choose your light according to your riding style and budget. Speed, along with legal requirements below, determine optimal light output, since you need to see far enough ahead to react to a situation before it encounters you. You also need to be seen by motorists and others sharing the public space with you.

Note: County code says this about lights and reflectors:
Sec. 38-547. Lamps and other equipment on bicycles.permanent link to this piece of content

(a) Every bicycle when in use at nighttime shall be equipped with a lamp on the front which shall emit a white light visible from a distance of at least 500 feet to the front and with a red reflector on the rear of a type approved by the division which shall be visible from all distances from 50 feet to 300 feet to the rear when directly in front of lawful upper beams of headlamps on a motor vehicle. A lamp emitting a red light visible from a distance of 500 feet to the rear may be used in addition to the red reflector.

My own favorite item, aside from those items already mentioned, are fenders. Mainly to keep crud from coating your lights and reflectors on a potentially grimy day (hence making you invisible), as well as to keep the subfreezing brine off of yourself. Unfortunately, they don't keep brine out of the mechanical bits and I've had my freewheel freeze up on really bad days. Fenders can be a bit of a pill to mount on some disk-brake frames (like the one I ride, shown below) and they can limit your choice of oversize tires (I use cycle cross rubber in winter and studded bike snows should be considered for serious winter riding--go to the link for Peter White's excellent discussion of studded bike snow tires), but hopefully, both bike and fender designs will improve. Since days are short and cold, a heavier bike that takes more effort to go short distances could keep you in better shape. Keep the gossimer plastic fun bike for warm weekend rides, not everyday commutes.

If you don't normally ride with a helmet and consider helmets one of those hot button issues that turn normally rational people into raging lunatics, you might still consider wearing one for winter riding. Winter means cold and darkness, which means more chances to hit ice, roadway obstructions you would normally see clearly by the light of day, or could mean not being seen by the bozo making the right on red. As Andy Cline over at Carbon Trace and I apparently agree, there are risk-elevating factors, including some of these, that argue for more personal protection, not less. Plus, you have an option to add an auxiliary light to that helmet and point it where you want to see while the bicycle mounted light points where your handlebars are headed. I use my helmet light to give a heads up to people at side streets, as added forward illumination at high speeds, and to watch for suicidal coyotes and deer bounding out of the golf course and onto Diamond Drive as I spin downhill towards a cold beer in the North Mesa fridge at over 30 mph. One concern, though, is something on the helmet that can catch and twist the head in a crash. My helmet mount for my Light and Motion light has a quick breakaway attachment. Some further thoughts on helmet mounted lights are here at BHSI. Mind you, a helmet doesn't make a klutz safe on a snowy ride home nor does it ward off evil spirits. Competent riding, making good choices, and maintaining situational awareness are your best defenses against mishaps.
Helmet Mounted Light
Without breakaway mount. 

I'll leave clothing opinions out of this for the most part. One thing to keep in mind is that you do work up some body heat when riding with any effort, so make your clothing choices on the basis of your riding style, not mine. Ears, hands, and feet get cold fast and you lose a lot of heat through the scalp, so pay attention to those parts. REI, the online bike stores, your local bike shops, and CB Fox have good technical wear available. There is a new brick and mortar multisport shop opening on Central Ave across from Starbucks, but I've not checked them out.

Add any suggestions for winter commuting to the comments. Hopefully anyone with serious questions can find someone to answer them here, at the safety page at LANL, on the Web, or at the Local Bike Shoppe.

The Salsa LaCruz in Winter Dress. Fenders make a nice place to hang reflective tape (I've added some to the sides of the frame, too). On this cross bike, they fit over 700-32 cyclecross knobbies to handle light snow. The rear SAE reflector was bought at Metzger's and mounted with a 90 degree steel bracket bought at same. It augments the rear strobe. That dated Light and Motion HID headlight (550/700 lumens) is now on my helmet (its very light, pun intended) and a Niterider Lumina 650 is on the bike in its place. LEDs rock.