Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Remember Your Manners Folks

As frustrations over high fuel prices reach a fever pitch, those unwilling or unable to find alternatives to automobiles are increasingly butting heads with the ever-increasing droves of cyclists on major city streets. Both parties are to blame: cyclists often disobey the rules of the road and drivers do not always give cyclists the space or respect they deserve.

In Portland, Oregon, the oft-awarded #1 bike-friendly city in the country, tensions are resulting in on-street brawls between cyclists and motorists. I implore you folks, remember your manners! If you read into all these stories, between the taglines and radical anecdotes, you will find that often the confrontations arise due to disrespect.

Cyclists who plow through red lights, ignoring the rules of civil society, invite the rage of motorists who would all love to ignore laws now and then too when they are in a hurry to get through the city. We should all respect the law.

Conversely, many motorists make the mistake of trying to teach cyclists a lesson by passing as fast and close as possible without actually hitting the cyclist. This poses a serious danger to cyclists and it makes sense that the cyclists are infuriated by it--resulting in the keying incidents and U-lock attacks mentioned in the above story. Both parties make the mistake that they are somehow invincible to the other--motorists safely protected by their steel shells and airbags, cyclists protected by their ability to make quick getaways and inspire the sympathies of society (Let all this be a lesson to you cyclists. Though you may feel that you are doing "the right thing" and that "everyone" agrees with you, this is not the case. Self-righteousness is ungentlemanly.) Both assumptions are dangerous.

Image from a Torontoist story about a cyclist/motorist clash.

Cyclists remember: if you are riding on a street with cars, behave like a car and never forget that cars have just as much a right to be there as you. Stop at lights, pass only when safe, don't "jayride" to get a head-start on green signals, and make yourself seen with reflectors and lights--no matter how "ugly" or "heavy" they may be. Motorists remember: bicycles have been around longer than cars and have just as much a right to ride on public roads as anyone else. They are not trying to make your life more difficult or your commute slower. In fact, many cyclists feel that they are doing their part to reduce the traffic congestion and pollution that make urban commuting so frustrating in the first place. Everyone could learn to have a little more respect. Wave hello to your fellow citizens, no matter how different they may be. Say nice things like "pardon me," "sorry," and "thank you." Smile at each other.

Cars are not the solution to traffic and the global climate crisis, but bicycles are not either. Bicycles can never replace cars for certain uses. Around-town, sure. But long hauls and family vacations, no. Cars are not going anywhere soon and the bicycle business is booming these days, so don't expect any less of them either. As society feels the pressures of population, resource scarcity and climate change we will need to learn new ways to tolerate one another.

Remember your manners gents. Respect your fellow citizens. Give them a smile and a wave. Let them pass when they are in a hurry (a Gentleman never rushes things, as you know). Never expect anybody to change their habits for any reason, ever. Remember that every person is entitled to their own opinions and habits. The only opinions and habits you can change are your own, and you should only do so for the better. To make society more enjoyable for everyone else, that is the Freewheeling Gentleman's creed..

Friday, July 25, 2008

Vancouver Bicycle Fashion Show

Highlights from the "Bikeosphere" in Vancouver. Warning: short skirts.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

The Gentleman Goes Car Free

Mark Benjamin from Salon.com explains how, using a "sport-utility bike," he can do all the errands he used to do in the car.

Watch the video to see how the makers of his Xtracycle also make a pedal-powered blender that mounts on the back.

Monday, July 21, 2008

The Gentleman Helps His Lady Friends

For you ladies out there, a Canadian article about bicycle fashion and an Observer piece about the biking beauties of NYC.

The Gentleman Takes A Compliment

Bike commuting with style is a hot topic these days and I've been noticing articles popping up in newspapers across the nation. Even when a gentleman knows he's been right all along, he resists the urge to say, "I told you so," and is simply happy to know that the world is moving in a more gentlemanly direction.

This New York Post Article takes a novice's look at the phenomenon but leaves out one important cycling archetype: the Freewheeling Gentleman!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Robert Ariail Cartoon

From Robert Ariail's website.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Mr. Bean vs. The Peloton

Borrowed from Bike Snob NYC.

Road Rage Does Not Become the Gentleman

This shocking LA Times article caused quite a stir in the bike-blogosphere. The Gentleman donates his two cents.

A 59-year-old motoring doctor (yes, a doctor) got in an altercation with two cyclists as they drove and rode respectively down Mandeville Canyon Road in Los Angeles. Apparently the man honked at the riders, then narrowly missed hitting them as he passed them, then veered in front of them and slammed on his brakes--sending one cyclist crashing through the rear window of his red Infinity and the other tumbling to the side of the road. According to the article, authorities believe that the man, Dr. Christopher Thomas Thompson, may have been responsible for an identical hit-and-run incident months earlier. Of course, these were cyclists of the lycra-clad, carbon-fiber variety riding side by side down a very fast road at very high speeds, but the story is tragic and even those more casual riders among us can relate.

I'm sure many of you cyclists have experienced enraged motorists. So it is easy to imagine this tragic scenario. Dealing with infuriated drivers is a truly frightening experience. It is easy to react with malice towards the frustrated drivers, but I implore you all to remember your manners and appeal to the laws of decency. It is too easy to assume that all motorists driving luxury sports cars are hell-bent on running over cyclists, but it is simply not true. One bad apple. One truly rotten apple at that.

I have seen many younger cyclists in altercations with motorists in downtown San Francisco in my years as both a driver and cyclist. I can assure you, from both sides of the issue, that letting tempers fly NEVER produces a favorable outcome for you--because no matter how fast you are behind your steering-wheel or handlebars, your opponent will inevitably catch up with you at the next light.

Honking or driving too close to a nearby cyclist will hurt their ears (remember that your soundproof car muffles the volume of your horn, and pedestrians/cyclists get an earful) and may result in you having your windows or lights smashed at the next light. These are relatively safe times, but it happens. In certain cities you must also be aware that cyclists sometimes have posses--especially couriers-- and you could invite a lifetime of terror for yourself. Remember that starting the fight is never acceptable--and you should expect a retaliation if you make that mistake. This not to say you should retaliate if you are wronged. You should always be the "better man." Missing a traffic light is not such a big deal as it seems when you are speeding to make it. If you are in such a hurry to get where you are going, you should have left earlier, with time to spare.

The same is true for cyclists. If someone has broken the rules of road-decency and you have been wronged, do not catch up to the driver and spit on/through their windows or scratch their paint with your keys (as I have seen many do in my hometown of San Francisco) . Remember what Gandhi said: "An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind." Just grin and bear it. Turn the other cheek. Be the better man. Maybe your decency will rub off on the driver, maybe it won't. But leave the spitting and eye-jabbing to the thugs. And believe me, there are plenty of thugs out there hell-bent on ticking-off motorists, but they generally do more harm than good.

The problem is that driving and cycling in today's over-crowded, traffic-plugged society leads to the condition of "road rage." Cyclists are no exception. Put five cars and five bikes in the same traffic jam and I assure you everyone will be frustrated. The slow pace and inefficiencies of modern traffic are frustrating indeed. Time and energy wasted sitting behind someone else's exhaust pipe is time and energy wasted indeed.

This gentleman readily admits to getting quite flustered behind the wheel. That is why I forswore driving in favor of walking and cycling for around-town errands, and using my metropolitan area's public transportation for my weekday commutes. Commuting by car across the Bay Bridge and dealing with a 50-year-old bottleneck that just gets worse by the day made me angry before I even set foot in the office Monday morning. Add to that arriving home infuriated after a long drive of delays and you can imagine the stress that driving put on myself as well as my coworkers and family. What a terrible way to start and end the day! Despite my change in lifestyle and my embrace of trains for long-distance travel, I still find myself behind the wheel now and then when borrowing a truck for hauling or renting a car for an out-of-town trip. It is amazing how quickly I revert to my old road-raging ways just moving a piano from San Francisco to Berkeley! Or getting stuck in Bay Area traffic when I rent a car in an attempt to get away from Bay Area traffic!

Road rage is a fact of modern existence and I hate to say that like traffic, it doesn't seem to be getting any better. All you can do is attempt to avoid situations when road rage can harm you. Take alternate routes. Encourage your municipality to set up "Bicycle Boulevards" or at least bike lanes.

The real solution is, and this may be hard for die-hard motorists to swallow, less driving. Ask any city planner or transportation engineer and they will tell you that traffic NEVER gets better. It just gets worse and worse every year as the population grows, because more cars mean more congestion. Even adding lanes to existing freeways does little to solve the problem because backups will inevitably occur at every bottleneck. What can you do? Skip the rat race (the true gentleman has always been a non-conformist) and blaze your own path. This can be as easy as taking the bus over that same highway commute, but using your travel time to write a journal instead of fuming about the bad manners of the motorists around you. Or work close to home and eliminate the expenses and time you would otherwise be giving to oil companies and sitting in traffic.

I hope this reflection has been constructive. When tragedy strikes, the Gentleman always consoles his friends and family in any way he can.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

One Got Fat

Bizarre, nightmare-inducing old bike safety film from 1963. Made in a time before helmets, but also before road rage. Features some great old bikes! Including a green Schwinn just like mine (the one with Slim on the handlebars). It's still running strong--a testament to he lasting durability of those heavy steel 3-speeds the industry forsook so long ago.

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Budget 650b Wheelset

Rivendell now offers a "budget" ($250) 650b wheelset. If you're not so sure about your wheel-building prowess, this is just about the cheapest way to convert your road bike from 700c to 650B.

Why convert from 700c to 650B? There are many reasons, but mostly that 650Bs allow you to mount fenders and install much fatter tires than 700c wheels allow. Install fenders and fat tires on your road bike and wah-lah: instant class and a more gentlemanly ride. More supple tires just look and ride better. Why do you think the all-'rounder bikes of yore had 26" wheels and fat tires? It also lowers the stand-over height--which benefits us gentlemen with aging bodies.. I will post more when I becomes a true expert on the subject, but for now simply suggests that any gentleman wishing to re-purpose a road bike, read up on 650B conversions.


Cardboard Bicycle

English design student Phil Bridge designed this functional cardboard bike as a way to make a bike so valueless it would not be worth stealing. Read the original post.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

RVCA x Cinelli

The Gentleman believes in style over fashion. Style is timeless, fashion is fleeting.

So when it comes to the track bike mania of late and "art bikes" like the ones featured in this RVCA video, the Gentleman is reluctant to accept their true value. But when Antonio Colombo of Cinelli bicycles endorses it, it demands my attention.