Category Archives: Dumbness

Dumbness

Ebola Bike Ride!!

Ebola craziness has come to this: completely asymptomatic nurse Kaci Hickox – whose only crime was to treat unfortunates in West Africa for Ebola – is trailed by police when she defies a state-ordered home detention to go for a bike ride.

Go, Kaci – ride your bike!

Here’s my take from yesterday on the nuttiness of letting our reactionary “laboratories of democracy” create quarantine policies based on fear rather than science.

Puget Sound Bike Share

Seattle Bike Share Nears

With Seattle (finally) getting a bike share system later this year, the Puget Sound Bike Share program has put together an interactive site showing proposed bike share station locations.  You can vote up the stations you like, and propose other locations.

I expect the system will be fairly limited at first, but could expand rapidly if bike share proves popular.  The problem, of course, is Seattle’s helmet law, which our City Counsel hasn’t seen fit to eliminate (preferring to spend time on priorities like protecting the taxicab monopoly and running experiments on the continued viability of Seattle small businesses).  As a result, every station is going to need these god-forsaken “helmet vending machines,” which will add further friction to anyone’s decision to take a spin on one of the yet-to-be-named system bikes.

Of course, I will plunk down my annual membership to support the system.  Having used bike share in other cities, I love the idea of having this option here.  But I’m not optimistic about the success of the system as long it has to labor under nanny-state restrictions. 

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Lukewarm on Seattle Bike Share

Hub and Bespoke blog wrote the other day about Seattle bike share, with some nice links to posts about how great these systems are in other cities. And they are great; I love the systems I’ve used when traveling (like Capitol Bike Share in DC). When done right, urban bike share is a revelation: easy to use, super convenient, a whole new and freeing way to move about and experience a city, whether you are a resident or a tourist.

But I’m worried that Seattle’s system will turn out more like Melbourne’s – tepid and underused due to the requirement that all riders wear helmets. And it’s our own fault, for not seriously entertaining the possibility, that maybe – just maybe – we could get out of our nanny-state mentality and question whether Seattle really needs a mandatory bike helmet law.

Or whether the bike share system could have an exemption from the law.

Instead, we’re going to “solve” the problem with helmet vending machines.

Much as I’d like this to work, and as much as helmet vending machines are great for those choosing to wear a helmet, I fully expect that Seattle’s system is going to be a pale shadow of what it could be until and unless the mandatory helmet law is lifted.

Rep. Orcutt Still at it

I had thought perhaps Rep. Ed Orcutt was concerned with environmental or economic justice. But via Bikehugger, we learn that Orcutt has walked back his silly comments about the environmental impacts of cycling while doubling down on his view that cyclists should pay a separate tax to support “their” infrastructure.

Never mind that we’re already paying our fair share: As I mentioned earlier, 96% of transportation funding coming from sources, like property taxes, that aren’t based on direct use of transportation infrastructure. And while it’s one thing to look at the (currently $0) contribution cyclists make to transportation on a usage basis as compared to gas tax, let’s flip that around – how fair is it that auto usage only accounts for 4% of total spending? After all, there’s no question that this 4% radically under-represents the use motor vehicles place on roadways, both in terms of capital demands and maintenance needs. Where’s the fairness in that?

But actually, and unlike Orcutt, it doesn’t bother me a bit that I pay so much for roads despite hardly ever using them as a driver. That’s because I benefit from having them there, and not just for riding on.

It’s a point that should be blindingly obvious, but clearly needs reinforcing: Transportation infrastructure is what enables so much else of our economy to click. It’s why I can get fresh produce at the store. It’s why we can have an interconnected economy with jobs and options and recreation and entertainment in myriad different locations. And it’s why we can have politicians from remote rural areas influence statewide policy (oops).

Same goes for sidewalks or protected bike lanes. Yes, they benefit the direct users – just as roads benefit those driving on them. But they also help connect everything together and provide options other than cars for moving around (which, incidentally, directly benefits those having to drive by reducing congestion). There’s a reason it’s called infrastructure. Well-designed transportation spending that accounts for the different modes people use to move around is core to keeping our society closer together and our economy and cultural life humming. It’s time for politicos like Ed Orcutt to get past the blinkered view that spending on – and benefits from – transportation is limited only to those who directly use it.

WA Proposes $25 tax on Bicycles

Democrats in the Washington legislature have just announced details of the next decade’s $9.8 billion transportation budget.  Included in the budget?  A proposal for a new fee (likely a sales or excise tax) on sales of bikes costing over $500.

This is lunacy, and whichever bike-hating representative tossed it into the proposal deserves a speedy and unceremonious exit from office.

And it’s not even the fact that it lards more cost onto bikes that’s got me galled (although that IS galling, for reasons that should be obvious).  No, the bigger problem is that you’ve got one or more legislators thinking nothing of proposing a new tax – along with the concomitant set of reporting, payment and enforcement obligations – that is expected to raise $100,000 per year.

One hundred grand?  You can barely pay for one Olympia bureaucrat for that kind of money, let alone what it’s going to take to administer this new tax.  It’s the same issue that makes virtually all efforts to license bikes ineffective – the revenues generated can’t possibly cover the costs.

But hey – if you’re a legislator who hates bikes and love big government, what do you care?  Just pop your symbolic measure into a massive transportation bill and sort it out if it ever gets enacted.  Pathetic.

Nuts at Nutella

I’ve posted before about trademark bullying. It’s a classic example of letting legal process take precedence over good business judgment – and it illustrates starkly why it’s often a bad idea for a company to give their lawyers too much leeway.

The latest entrant in the trademark bullying hall of shame? Nutella, whose lawyers sent a cease-and-desist letter to a Boston smoothie joint for having the temerity to note on their menu that a certain smoothie contained the delicious chocolate-and-hazelnut concoction.

Which they’d been selling for 14 years, no doubt buying thousands of dollars’ worth of Nutella over that period, and driving free viral marketing for the brand.

So yes, by all means let’s make them stop that.

Bike Deaths and Fixie Fashion

This has been a sobering ending to what passes for summer in Seattle, with three recent cycling deaths on and around Capitol Hill. I was down in South Lake Union today for lunch and saw the sobering “ghost bike” at the corner where Mike Wang was killed in a hit and run accident; Cafe Vivace manager Brian Fairbrother suffered fatal injuries in a crash only blocks away; and this last weekend brought news of a Jimmy Johns delivery rider, Robert Townsend, dying after a crash in the U-District.

I’m sure to a certain extent this is just tragic coincidence. Cycling in Seattle doesn’t feel any less safe to me. But it’s distressing all the same. And in the case of Townsend, the investigation may well reveal that his choice of fixed gear fashion (he was apparently riding a fixed gear bike with no brakes) contributed to the result.

Folks, if you’re going to ride fixed-gear in Seattle, either get some brakes or stick to the bike polo courts. Stripping off the safety gear for fashions’ sake is as pathetic as being the latest hipster sporting a full beard and porkpie hat – and a hell of a lot more dangerous.

Aloha Means Goodbye

I don’t know what it is about the stretch of Aloha Street eastbound from 19th to 23rd Avenues. There’s a four-way stop at 19th. A light and “T” intersection at 23rd. Two schools (St. Joe’s; Holy Names). A single narrow lane in each direction. For whatever reason, this stretch seems to be the epicenter – indeed, the Hellmouth – of anti-bike behavior on my commute. Downtown? Pike Street? 12th Avenue? I hardly ever have issues. But this scant stretch of Aloha, which I only travel on for 2-3 blocks . . . I’ve been tailgated, honked at, flipped off, passed on the right and passed on the left.

I take the lane, but it’s THREE BLOCKS. And they’re short blocks. And I ride through there at close to 20 mph. I have no idea why so many of the drivers on this stretch are such asshats.

Sure, it looks peaceful . . .

I could avoid this stretch of Aloha, but the alternate route has less visibility. Plus, this is my neighborhood, for christsakes.

Brain Donors

My experiment with riding fixed gear has made me more attuned to other fixed gear riders. I don’t usually see too many, but yesterday I had 3 separate sightings as I chugged up Pine Street out of downtown. None of them had brakes. None of them were wearing helmets. Two had earbuds in.

Oh, and it was raining.

Look, I am certainly growing to appreciate the skill and technique it takes to stop a fixed gear bike without brakes. It’s chaotic, but elegant if done correctly (and I’m a looong way from getting there). But it’s also pure affectation. And on a hill where it’s easy to go 25 MPH while descending, a potentially lethal one.

Is there a plausible defense of brakeless fixie riding other than “fashion statement!”