The King is Dead; Long May He Whine

As a connoisseur of bad news for Cadel Evans, the defending champion of the Tour de France, I can’t help but savor the bitterness in this hometown report of his latest Tour travails:

“Cadel Evans’s Tour de France miseries have continued with more struggles on the final mountain phase of the race. The defending champion finished the 143.5km stage from Bagneres to Peyragudes in 18th place, 2mins,10secs behind convicted drug cheat Alejandro Valverde.”

That is a thing of beauty. The hero is struggling. But let’s put the spotlight on someone who was once busted for doping (and has served his penalty. If memory serves, he’s the second rider on this Tour, along with Garmin’s David Millar, to come back from a doping ban to win a stage).

As for Cadel: Yes, I half-ashamedly admit I’ve rooted against him for most of his career. And he reminded me why yesterday, when he blew up during a brutally tough stage in the Pyrenees and then explained it all happened because he had a bad tummy. That is the Cadel we had come to know and love before last year’s victory: the one who was quick with an alibi for every bad day. You just wonder why he doesn’t do what most of the other riders seem to do and say something like, “You know, I just didn’t have it today.”

In the end, I think Phil Liggett had it right in his recap for Australian TV: Evans didn’t have the form he had last year, “and the Tour always finds you out.”

Top Reasons Not to Ride Your Bike

1. No more altercations with surly, clueless motorists.

3. Carry your spare tire with you everywhere, not just on the road.

5. Fewer saddle sores and miscellaneous numbness issues.

6. Drive more, do your part to hasten end of Oil Era and onset of Clean, Green Age

8. More couch time for aerobically challenging sports on TV.

9. More leisure to drink beer, set up empties in a “pace line.”

Bikes on BART: An Inconvenient Truth


Once upon a time, the Bay Area Rapid Transit district required bicyclists to obtain a permit to ride its trains. You could get the permit by schlepping down to BART’s Lake Merritt station, or you could obtain it by mail. Our recollection is that you had to sign some paperwork stating you understood BART’s bike rules–most notably, to our mind, NO BIKES ON STATION ESCALATORS OR ON THE FIRST CAR OF TRAINS–and agreed to abide by them. Those were the days before the still-unfolding Cycling Enlightenment. Some years ago, BART dropped the permit requirement and pretty much welcomed all two-wheeled comers as long as they STAY OFF THE ESCALATORS AND PLEASE SIR WITH THE BIKE IN THE FIRST CAR MOVE TO ANY OTHER CAR ON THE TRAIN.

In theory, it’s swell to be able to travel with one’s velocipede on the BART system. Many’s the time we’ve ended rides at the far-off Dublin/Pleasanton and Fremont stations and taken the train back home. BART also provides a way of getting across the watery impediment known to locals as The San Francisco Bay. It’s not the only way of course–you can get a bike shuttle (a trailer service that hauls bikes across the Bay Bridge), take AC Transit (which has front-mounted bike racks), or, best of all, take the ferry. But BART is the most available option.

In practice, we’ve found the trains to be less than ideal for traveling from the East Bay to the city or back. The main reason is that the cars just aren’t designed to accommodate full-sized two-wheeled machines. If one sits, one almost by necessity takes up two seats. Not a big deal if it’s not a busy time of day; if it is, then taking the extra seat seems a little inconsiderate (this is a sermon delivered from the perspective of an offender).

The bigger problem with bikes on BART is that so many of the cyclists who bring their two-wheelers on the trains appear so lacking in care or respect for other passengers. For instance: If you’ve ridden the system at all, you can anticipate which door on the cars will open at which stations. But it’s common to see cyclists crowd their bikes into the exit door and block it when they have no intention of exiting (oh, sure, we see other passengers doing this too; we just expect cyclists to exhibit a little less lameness than the dopiest rapid-transit rider). It’s also typical to see riders station their machines in the aisles without regard to how it affects other passengers.

Take the specimen above (at left), photographed on a recent Sunday. He parked his bike in the exit door and for bonus points positioned it most of the way across the aisle. When someone sat opposite him, it was just possible for other passengers to squeeze by. He situated himself thus even though several other seats were available that would have allowed him to stay out of the way. After planting his rear end in his seat, he either affected obliviousness (or actually was oblivious) to all around him.

Part of the problem is that BART cars aren’t designed to accommodate bikes in the first place. A few have been refurbished with a sign that says “bike space.” But if more than a couple passengers bring their bicycles on board, the usual awkwardness ensues. Seeing that the physical space isn’t quite fit for bikes and passengers to co-exist, something’s got to give. The change has got to happen in the social space. Cyclists on BART need to be attentive to how their presence affects other passengers; just as attentive as they want the rest of the world to be to them and their needs.

Flying Pigeon, Manhattan Style


Flying Pigeon, at the East 35th Street ferry pier in Manhattan. The bike’s got classic good looks, and the locking strategy–using the cable lock as the bike version of The Club, preventing the front wheel from turning–I haven’t seen before. We came back to this spot several hours later, but I didn’t notice whether this machine was still there or not.

Bike Crashes, Mapped

Russell Neches, a blogger in Davis, California, produced a beautiful and compelling map of bike crashes in the city over four years, 2004 through 2008. He also mapped data from all traffic accidents in the city, including those that did not involve bicycles. The map represents high-accident areas in red, as hot zones. Areas with a lower incidence of accidents are depicted in cooler yellow, green, and blue. The purpose of the exercise is more than a flat informational report. Neches says in an accompanying blog post:

“In particular, this is map is intended to examine bicycle accidents. I hope people will look at this map, and think about how they behave on the roads, weather on foot, on a bicycle, or in a car. How you behave on the road has direct, and sometimes dire, consequences for you and for other people.”



On rare occasions, I’ll see a cyclist in Berkeley try this: riding a bike while holding an umbrella. I saw dozens of people doing so with seeming ease today. This guy was negotiating his way past a tour group on a sidewalk outside the Imperial Palace. Elsewhere, I saw a woman whose bike appeared to be fitted with an umbrella holder–a unit that also incorporated a headlight.

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Bicycle for a Day


Bicycle for a Day, a project founded by actor Matthew “Private Joker” Modine. The rationales/goals:

“• a fun, open and proactive invitation designed to inspire individuals, communities, governments and corporations to take a step towards solving the current environmental issues.

• a global initiative bringing together people who choose to ride a bicycle rather than use gas-powered motor vehicles, immediately reducing their carbon footprint.

• supports organizations that restore and protect our environment and make biking safer and more accessible for everyone.”

And if you like the idea and want to flaunt the logo, you can buy a special edition bike messenger bag ($295 — !) or dog tags (was that Joker’s idea?) for $20.

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Art Racks

From today’s New York Times: David Byrne, Cultural Omnivore, Raises Cycling Gear to an Art Form With Bike Racks:

David Byrne is an installation artist, author, blogger, recording
executive, photographer, film director and PowerPoint enthusiast. He’s
even been known to dabble in music. But in certain New York
neighborhoods he may be most visible as a bicycle rider, a lanky figure
pedaling around the Lower East Side, or from Bay Ridge out to Coney
Island in Brooklyn or up to the Bronx Museum of the Arts.

In recent years his interest
in bicycles has expanded from riding them to thinking seriously about
the role they play in urban life, as he has started making connections
with politicians and international design consultants keen to keep cars
from taking over the city. So when the Department of Transportation
asked him to help judge a design competition for the city’s new bike
racks, he eagerly agreed — so eagerly, in fact, that he sent in his own
designs as well.

They were simple shapes to define different
neighborhoods around the city: a dollar sign for Wall Street; an
electric guitar for Williamsburg, Brooklyn; a car — “The Jersey” — for
the area near the Lincoln Tunnel. “I said, ‘Well, this disqualifies me
as a judge,’ ” he recalled, “but I just doodled them out and sent them
in.” He figured maybe they’d be used to decorate the contest Web site,