Single Speed Seattle http://singlespeedseattle.com Bikes, Business & Barratry Tue, 14 Oct 2014 00:23:26 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Pronto First Look http://singlespeedseattle.com/pronto-first-look/ http://singlespeedseattle.com/pronto-first-look/#comments Tue, 14 Oct 2014 00:05:10 +0000 http://singlespeedseattle.com/?p=1202 read more]]> IMG_3045-0.JPG
“Pronto,” Seattle’s bike share system, launched today, with some 500 bikes spread across 50 stations. A couple of those stations are mere blocks from my office, so I took one of the shiny green things for a quick shakedown cruise.

The system operates similar to those found in other cities – insert your key fob (if you’re a member) or use the kiosk to buy a pass (if you’re a visitor), press a button to unlock a bike, adjust the seat height if needed, and off you go.

Unlike the 3-speed bike share bikes I’ve ridden in flat places like D.C., Denver and Columbus (yeah, freaking Columbus freaking Ohio got bike share before Seattle!), the Pronto bikes have a 7-speed internal hub. The shifting mechanism works well, but as you’d expect with heavy bikes that need to cater to a wide swath of people, the gearing is set pretty low. These things aren’t built for speed, and those accustomed to riding single speed are rarely going to need to shift out of gears 6 and 7, even climbing Pine Street.

It remains to be seen how well the helmet system will work. Right now it’s on the honor system, with the dreaded helmet vending machines expected sometime next year. I really hope the system proves popular, and the stations expand around town. It’s a great addition to Seattle’s transportation infrastructure, particularly for quick point-to-point trips around downtown and Capitol Hill. I’m excited to use it more in the months to come.

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I Don’t Like the 2nd Ave Bikeway http://singlespeedseattle.com/i-dont-like-the-2nd-ave-bikeway/ http://singlespeedseattle.com/i-dont-like-the-2nd-ave-bikeway/#comments Mon, 08 Sep 2014 16:55:56 +0000 http://singlespeedseattle.com/?p=1191 read more]]> It’s a bit out of my way, but I took a detour this morning and rode into work along the entire length of the new 2nd Ave bikeway, which opened bright and shiny and new this morning.

For those not familiar with Seattle, the bikeway runs down a particularly busy street in the heart of downtown.  It replaces a traditional bike lane that was the scene of a tragic death just days ago.  Like most bike lanes in Seattle, the old 2nd Ave lane was dangerous for putting riders directly in the “door zone” of parked cars.  And it was doubly dangerous because it ran downhill, on a busy one-way street also running downhill, and was on the left where fewer drivers would expect to see bikes.

The new bikeway is still on the left, but it’s separated from traffic and benefits from a system of bike-specific lights designed to prevent collisions with left-turning vehicles. This morning had a bit of a festive air, with lots of riders trying out the bikeway, and earnest volunteers from Cascade Bicycle Club cheering riders along and offering ready-made postcards to send to the mayor thanking him for adding this bit of cycling infrastructure.  The bikeway needs a little more work – better demarcation between the uphill and downhill lanes, and some surface smoothing in a lot of places – but it’s certainly an improvement over the old lane . . .

if you like riding in the bike lane.

If this morning was any indication, riders are going to rely on the bike signals at their peril.  I had not one, but two cars blow through red turn signals (and green bike signals) across my path.  Fortunately for me, when I do ride in bike lanes, I always ride assuming cars can’t see me – which means never, ever, ever going through an intersection when a car traveling the same direction is next to or slightly ahead of me.

I fear that the bikeway has the potential to make matters worse, at least until a critical mass of riders are passing through downtown.  At several intersections, a line of parked cars separates the bikeway from traffic.  That’s great, but it also prevents left-turning vehicles from seeing downhill bicycle traffic, and vise-versa.  If those vehicles don’t mind the left turn signal (as the cars did to me this morning), there will be more collisions on 2nd.

For riders, the bikeway can’t be a panacea.  It’s not a replacement for critical thinking.  Those little bicycle signals may look pretty, but riders will continue to need to pay close attention to what vehicle traffic is doing.

And for me?  The next time I ride downhill on 2nd, I’m going to do what I’ve always done – take the lane.

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Seattle Bike Share Almost Here http://singlespeedseattle.com/seattle-bike-share-almost-here/ http://singlespeedseattle.com/seattle-bike-share-almost-here/#comments Tue, 26 Aug 2014 21:02:17 +0000 http://singlespeedseattle.com/?p=1186 read more]]> Despite some website difficulties (and my skepticism about the program’s success, given Seattle’s nanny-statish helmet law), I signed up for a membership with “Pronto,” Seattle’s new bikeshare service.  It’s scheduled to launch in mid-October.  Although the nearest initial station is a mile from my house, I figure it will give me yet another option for closing shorter distances downtown and on Capitol Hill.  And I want to support the program, of course.

One system that doesn’t need any additional support?  Any bike share system in China.  Vox reports today that China has over 400,000 bike share bikes – and growing, very, very rapidly.

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Bicycle Overdesign http://singlespeedseattle.com/bicycle-overdesign/ http://singlespeedseattle.com/bicycle-overdesign/#comments Tue, 05 Aug 2014 00:11:40 +0000 http://singlespeedseattle.com/?p=1179 read more]]> So, this “Seattle” bike won some sort of bike contest for the “Ultimate Urban Bike” and is going into production.  While it’s vaguely cool looking, at least in a “Breaking Away” meets “Aliens” sort of way, it’s just another piece of evidence showing that bicycle design reached its evolutionary limits in the 1960′s.

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Sure, there are performance improvements and useful add-ons to make.  But when you starting compromising the handlebars by having them double as a lock, and replacing perfectly adequate fenders with some sort of crazy brush system that you KNOW is going to underperform and get clogged with junk, and adding another inverted triangle to the headtube geometry just because you can, you’ve gone beyond expanding the vernacular into design for design’s sake.

And I bet that headlight is WAY too bright for riding in the city.

Harrumph.

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Takes One to Know One http://singlespeedseattle.com/takes-one-to-know-one/ http://singlespeedseattle.com/takes-one-to-know-one/#comments Wed, 09 Jul 2014 00:13:28 +0000 http://singlespeedseattle.com/?p=1172 read more]]> This excellent piece by Carl Alviani, titled “Why Bikes Make Smart People Say Dumb Things,” tackles the cognitive dissonance at work when people spew vitriol at the occasional scofflaw cyclist (or worse, tar all cyclists with that brush) while blithely accepting the carnage and lawlessness committed all around them by drivers.

As Alviani notes, the vast majority of people don’t ride bicycles, particularly in urban settings, leading to:

The social psychology term for this bias is “fundamental attribution error”: the tendency to attribute the actions of others to their inherent nature rather than their situation, and the less we sympathize with their situation, the greater the bias. A 2002 study from the UK’s Transport Research Laboratory found that it plays a starring role in our perceptions of traffic behavior, with drivers far more likely to see a cyclist’s infraction as stemming from ineptitude or recklessness than an identical one committed by another driver. 

This lack of sympathy for cyclists is also related to the failure of drivers to understand why someone on a bicycle might do something – even if that “something” is breaking the law.  A driver might understand and sympathize with another driver who cuts off a pedestrian in a crosswalk, but is aghast at the cyclist who rolls through a red light.

It also probably explains why I always feel safer riding on Capitol Hill. You see, it’s not only the relatively lower traffic speeds, but also the fact that so many of the drivers are bike-sympathetic riders who just happen to be driving at the moment.

Thanks, hipsters!

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No Surprise in Hobby Lobby http://singlespeedseattle.com/no-surprise-in-hobby-lobby/ http://singlespeedseattle.com/no-surprise-in-hobby-lobby/#comments Mon, 30 Jun 2014 17:32:05 +0000 http://singlespeedseattle.com/?p=1166 read more]]> As this blog is at least partly about the law, here’s my brief take on today’s Hobby Lobby case: although it seems strange and petty to me that it’s 2014 and we’re still having debates about contraception, it’s an unsurprising decision.

Why unsurprising?  Two reasons:  First,  if the government admits that some groups (e.g., non-profit corporations) have rights under the Religious Freedom Restoration Act, and it also admits that for-profit business owners have such rights, it’s pretty hard to make a cogent argument why for-profit corporations shouldn’t also have such rights.

Secondly, whether the RFRA precludes a particular form of regulation often comes down – as it did here – to a question of the “least restrictive means.”  As in “is this regulation set up in a way to achieve the government’s goal while interfering as minimally as possible with religious rights?”  And again, it’s really hard for the government to win this point when it has already granted exceptions to the contraceptive mandate for religious non-profits.  

Ultimately, it comes down to the fact that Congress enacted a law – in response to a Supreme Court decision that many felt was unduly dismissive of religious concerns - that offers sweeping protection for religious rights. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the government is going to be held to task in showing that it is complying with that law.  And on these facts, in this case, the government had a steeply uphill climb to make.

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Cantor’s Loss Shows Why We Don’t Need Campaign Finance Regulation http://singlespeedseattle.com/cantors-loss-shows-why-we-dont-need-campaign-finance-regulation/ http://singlespeedseattle.com/cantors-loss-shows-why-we-dont-need-campaign-finance-regulation/#comments Wed, 11 Jun 2014 04:53:37 +0000 http://singlespeedseattle.com/?p=1161 read more]]> Eric Cantor, the House Majority Leader, just suffered a humiliating loss in the Virginia primary. Overnight, he goes from being one of the most powerful people in Washington to just another K Street insider.

I don’t feel sorry for him, and even will indulge in a little Schadenfreude at the idea of a politician being humbled – even if the guy who beat him has even more reprehensible politics than the soul-less Cantor.

But his loss helps bring into focus one of the key points I’ve been trying to make to those apoplectic about the Supreme Court’s perceived loosening of campaign finance regulation in the Citizens United and McCutcheon decisions: money just isn’t as important as it used to be when it comes to campaigns.

But first, I need to point out a couple of key points that many of those in favor of campaign finance regulation gloss over:

  1. Political speech of all stripes is at the core of the First Amendment; and
  2. The government carries a very high burden to show that regulation of speech that is otherwise protected by the First Amendment is both necessary and narrowly focused at a particular harm.

This is why quid pro quo, direct campaign contributions are an easy case, and why broad restrictions of the sort at play in Citizens United and McCutcheon were doomed to fail.  It’s hard to regulate speech – you’ve got to have a very real harm and a very targeted, effective means of addressing that harm.  And this is how it should be; it’s no place for “feel good” legislation.

But for those frustrated that the First Amendment prohibits the sort of government speech control they’d like to see, the Cantor result should be seen as a panacea.  Perhaps they don’t need to wail about the injustice of it all, propose ridiculous constitutional amendments, and engage in spin (“Corporations Aren’t People! “Money isn’t Speech!”) worthy of the most hackneyed campaign. For Cantor’s loss – which follows the poor ROI of campaign spending in the 2012 and 2014 national campaigns – demonstrates that it’s getting harder for money to “buy” elections.  For grass roots groups, it’s never been cheaper and easier to organize and get the word out.  If you’ve got a message that resonates, social media provides the sort of publishing platform that only the most plutocratic of plutocrats could afford a generation ago.

In Virginia tonight, a challenger with less than a quarter million in campaign funds knocked off the second-highest ranking member of the House, an incumbent with millions of dollars at his disposal.  This should be seen as very good news to those who want the “corrupting power of money” out of the process – even as it provides further evidence that attempting to regulate campaign speech may be as unnecessary as it is unconstitutional.

 

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Cycling Columbus http://singlespeedseattle.com/cycling-columbus/ http://singlespeedseattle.com/cycling-columbus/#comments Thu, 08 May 2014 04:53:51 +0000 http://singlespeedseattle.com/?p=1156 read more]]> My travel schedule has been nutty of late, so even fewer posts than usual. But here’s one: about my trip last week to Columbus, Ohio, a city I visited for the first time.

I was impressed with Columbus.  What I’d pictured as a rust belt city was in fact a thriving town that seems to be rapidly reinventing itself.  The “Short North” neighborhood between downtown and Ohio State University campus is a rapidly-gentrifying area full of bars and restaurants, most of which look like they’ve just opened in the last five years (not unlike Market Street in Ballard, in that respect).  There’s all sorts of construction along the river, with a newly built esplanade along the downtown bank.  And to top it off, Columbus has some of my favorite transportation options: Uber, Car2Go, and a bike share system – “COGo,” which I used to see all that I could around town.  

I’ve lauded bike share here before, and I try to use it whenever I come across a new system.  Because of the vagaries of getting between Seattle and Columbus, I had more time than I usually do when traveling on business this time.  Instead of using the bike share to make a single trip or two to meet people, I was able to use it for an afternoon to play tourist.  And it’s the best way, hands-down, to see a town.  It helps, too, that Columbus is very flat, and has wide, empty sidewalks (the streets are highly suboptimal for riding, I learned). It may be a different story when the weather gets oppressive, but on a 62 degree day it was darn near ideal.

The flatness also encourages a lot of single-speed and fixed gear riding; I saw these bikes everywhere.

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Purple single speed in the Short North, near one of the arches from which Columbus draws its “Arch City” nickname.

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Seattle Bike Share Nears http://singlespeedseattle.com/seattle-bike-share-nears/ http://singlespeedseattle.com/seattle-bike-share-nears/#comments Tue, 08 Apr 2014 23:18:21 +0000 http://singlespeedseattle.com/?p=1151 read more]]> 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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Negotiating for Dummies (Ph.D Version) http://singlespeedseattle.com/negotiating-for-dummies-ph-d-version/ http://singlespeedseattle.com/negotiating-for-dummies-ph-d-version/#comments Mon, 24 Mar 2014 15:41:00 +0000 http://singlespeedseattle.com/?p=1143 read more]]> This Slate story, about a candidate for a philosophy professorship who had her job offer rescinded, attempts to make the point that academic institutions are cavalierly running roughshod over job candidates. Or as the article’s lead-in states, to gain entry to the academy, “it’s not ‘lean in’ so much as ‘bend over.’”

It’s very likely the case that institutions wield disproportionate power over candidates; tenure-track jobs in philosophy departments have always been a buyer’s market.

But so what? The interesting thing about this story isn’t Nazareth College’s decision to rescind the offer as it is the ignorance of a highly-educated professional to understand how negotiations work.  Here are a few lessons other job-seeking academics can take from this sorry tale:

It’s All a Negotiation

The eponymous “W” made her first mistake in thinking negotiation is some separate part of the job seeking process. Apparently she told the school, upon getting the offer, that she was going into “negotiation mode.” Say what? The whole process of seeking a job is one big negotiation. Sure, the brass tacks come at the end. But it’s a package of relationship-building and dialogue. You can’t think that you can abruptly shift that all aside at the end.  Any list of asks communicates something about you to the other side.  In sensitive or emotional negotiations, the wrong asks – or asks at the wrong time – can blow the whole deal.

Did W have any understanding of this dynamic?  Nope:

“This is how I thought negotiating worked, how I learned to do it, and, for that matter, how I think it should work: You ask about a number of perks and maybe get some of them. I was expecting to get very few of the perks I asked about, if anything … I just thought there was no harm in asking.”

There are plenty of times where “there is no harm in asking.”  And there are plenty of things that you can ask for that won’t cause any harm.  But ask for big things, at the wrong time, and you may well bring the negotiation to a screeching halt.

Preparation

You can’t really get a sense for where the sensitivities lie unless you’ve taken the time to figure out and account for what’s important to your counterparty.  And here W’s fatal error is obvious.

Nazareth College is a small liberal arts school.  It is, as W’s rejection letter noted, “teaching and student focused.”  Yet 4 out of 5 of W’s asks were for things that would reduce her time in the classroom: special maternity leave, a guaranteed sabbatical, a delayed start date, and a reduced maximum course load for her first few years.  This set of asks sends a powerfully negative message about W’s commitment to teaching and student life.

What’s more, two of these asks also raise additional problems.  Asking in advance for a semester off for maternity leave comes off as naive and entitled (as institutions have existing policies for maternity leave).  And I suspect that asking to delay the start date for a year came off as “retrading” – the bringing up of an issue at the 11th hour that the other party thought settled.  Retrading has been death to many a negotiation, and experienced negotiators know to avoid it at all costs.  There had likely been discussions about the need to fill the role, the timing, etc.  If this was the first time the school had heard that W wanted to delay her start, that would be offputting indeed.

Know Your Leverage

Besides knowing what’s important to the other party, you’ve got to know how much negotiating leverage you’ve got. Leverage determines how much you can ask for, and how hard you can press for those things.  What a superstar, experienced professor can ask for is worlds apart from what a first-timer like W can expect.  About the only leverage a first-timer has is inertia – the fact that the candidate selection process is long and time-intensive, and the school may be reluctant to re-open it.  But this is a thin reed to rely on in a job search.  There may be another candidate who is a close second.  Or your selection may have been a narrow one, with factions of the department opposing it.  Objectivity about your attractiveness as a candidate is key; having friendly, collegial meetings and a job offer is not the same as being heavily in demand.

Don’t Overreach

Understanding the sensitivities of the other side and knowing your leverage will give you a good sense of what you can acceptably ask for.  Even the superstar professor can overreach and fatally offend the sensibilities of the institution; it’s just that such an individual has far more negotiating room than a newly-minted professor will.  It’s here that W got it so wrong – you can’t just assume that “there’s no harm in asking” for your wish list of perks.  With the prize so close to being in hand, she stumbled over this most basic of negotiating principles by badly overreaching.

So does this mean, as the Slate article suggests, that candidates for first-time academic positions are completely powerless and can’t negotiate?  Of course not; it just means they need to recognize the relative leverage of the parties and calibrate their negotiating strategy accordingly.

It’s almost never a good idea to “shoot for the moon” in any negotiation.  But it’s a particularly bad strategy when you’re in a low-leverage position.

h/t: Simple Justice

(Image: The Academy of Fine Arts (1578), from the J. Paul Getty Museum)

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